Most entrepreneurs fall on 1 of 2 sides of the fence.
They either fall on the:
1) product/engineering side
2) sales/marketing side
This post is mainly for those that come from the product/engineering side like me…
When you start a new venture based on your experience with product, it’s easy and natural to then become obsessed with product…
However, once you reach a certain threshold of product/market fit then this obsession must be tamed and you must transition to a new obsession: sales/marketing.
One of my favorite entrepreneur bloggers David Cummings shared a great post on this topic yesterday. He states:
Overall, the biggest takeaway is that there has to be a serious shift on the entrepreneur’s part going from product / market fit focused to customer acquisition focused. Lack of customers, and the resulting revenue, is the number one reason startups fail (no revenue = no business). Assuming there’s a good market out there, building a customer acquisition machine after finding product / market fit is the difference between success and failure.
You may or may not be familiar with American football. For me, it is as much as part of my life as entrepreneurship, so let’s start with the basics.
Blocking and Tackling
Any championship football team excels at these two things. Blocking is what you need to win on offense, and tackling is what you need to win on defense. At the end of the day, these two things are the only things that matter in football.
Entrepreneurship Ideas vs. Execution
In American Football, everybody copies each other offensive and defensive scheme if it is the hot thing working around the league.
Whether it’s the Wildcat or the West Coast on offense, or the Tampa 2 or zone blitz on defense.
If it works, it will be copied.
The same goes with ideas in business. Your competition will copy your idea if you prove it works.
Execution is about blocking and tackling. Execution can’t be copied.
Execution is the fundamentals. Ideas come and go. You don’t win with ideas, you win with execution.
What is the equivalent of blocking and tackling in business: Marketing and customer service.
So there is the answer to the age old business question. What is execution? Execution is marketing and customer service.
Be good at those two things, and you have a better than average chance of winning. Be great at those two things, and you will win.
On the other hand, get those two things wrong and you have no chance at all.
A crazy analogy like this can only come from the one and only Seth Godin.
Yesterday he blogged about this analogy and it immediately resonated with what I think all entrepreneurs go through in the beginning days of launching their venture.
Godin on why marketing is a thermostat:
Valuable marketing campaigns are the result of time and user experience, not media and more media. Tweeting more often doesn’t make your tweets have more resonance.
Godin on why product is a frying pan:
Extraordinary products, remarkable stories, intense connection via user interaction–these things actually do scale quickly.
In short, marketing doesn’t scale fast but product does. Read Seth’s full post titled The thermostat and the frying pan here.
Coincidentally, two of my favorite entrepreneur bloggers pinned a blog post covering the same topic yesterday. The first was from David Cummings in a post titled The Power of Sharing Ideas – Pivoting Pardot 1.0. The second was from Fred Wilson in a post titled You Are Working Too Hard And Not Getting Anywhere.
Both articles cover the topic of pivoting a business model. In the David Cummings post, the key trigger to know that it was time to pivot the business model came when an experienced mentor shared a new market idea. In the Fred Wilson post the trigger came when the team found they were working too hard to get too little results.
Both are worth reading. The key secret sauce is to always have your antennas up looking for signals that an alternative market may be a better fit for the product or service you are selling. In Fred Wilson’s words:
The moral of this story is sometimes you have the right product but the wrong business model. Fixing the business model can fix the company.
Today’s secret sauce may be one of the most important ingredients for startup success. This advice comes from startup evangelist and developer advocate Don Dodge. I went really digging in the crates to find this on his blog as it is from March 2006. The post is titled Is your product a vitamin or painkiller? Don’s advice is that all entrepreneurs should know if their product is a nice to have or a got to have. If you have a nice to have product, then you must find out what, if any, triggers can convert it to a gotta have. His key recommendation is the following:
Make a list of the pain points your product solves. Make a list of trigger events that cause the pain to happen. Now think about how to identify these “trigger events” as they happen among the hundreds or thousands of potential customers.