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Staying Ahead of the Curve

Markets begin, grow, decline and end based on what customers are willing to buy, not on what sellers are willing to sell.

As technologists, we find there is often considerable prognostication about the idea of markets and our positions within them. The most common image used to illustrate and/or predict market behavior is the bell curve: a sloped cycle of early adopters, majority adopters and late adopters, including corresponding definitions of the types of customers that are most likely to adopt a particular offering at each stage of market maturation.

While real-world activities do not always map identically to the stages of market definition, the most useful attribute of the market curve approach is that the stages are mapped to customer behavior--not seller behavior.

Using the customer filter to understand “when” we are in a given market requires sellers to think of what customers are trying to accomplish and how they evaluate the options available to them before thinking of the new products or services the seller could sell. In other words, markets begin, grow, decline and end based on what customers are willing to buy, not on what sellers are willing to sell.

From the customer’s point of view, market maturity stages reflect an attitude about risk and reward. Some customers are willing to adopt very new and unproven technologies as a strategic investment that creates competitive advantage. Other customers are willing to adopt established technologies as a way to improve their productivity in current business operations. And still others are only willing to adopt mature technologies that are proven to reduce costs and eliminate risk.

None of these customer attitudes to technology risk is wrong or bad--they are just different. Our job as MSPs is to understand our customers’ technology risk personalities and present them with the right options at the right stage of maturity.

Seller's Point of View

From the seller’s point of view, market maturity phases reflect an attitude about business development investments. At one stage the seller needs to test a market and determine its relevance to target customers. At another stage the seller needs to invest aggressively to ramp capacity and capture opportunity. And at still another stage the seller needs to decrease investments and reallocate resources to other offerings that can yield more value.

The crucial point of understanding is that the curve for customers is not linked to the curve for sellers: The two curves may look the same, but happen independently according to the priorities of each party. 
This seemingly obvious bit of logic yields two extremely important conclusions in the context of agile business development:

1. You will not always (or perhaps even often) get involved in a market at the beginning.

In order to enter a market that is new to you (but not necessarily new in itself), you must determine the stage of maturity that market is in, which types of customers are most likely to be buying in the current stage and the next stage, and how those customer types align with your “ideal customer.” The right time to get into a particular market is not the point at which you become interested in a given solution, but the point at which your customer is soon to be interested in that solution.

2. The go-to-market process for a seller must match the dynamics of how customers are buying a solution--and those dynamics change in each stage of market maturity.

In other words, companies cannot use a “standard” approach for selling products or services that are new to them. Some new offerings will align with your customers’ demands at an early stage; other offerings will align with your customers’ demands at a late stage. If your sales approach is based on how new/relevant the offering is to you rather than how new/relevant the offering is to your customers, many of your launches will be incompatible with your customers and produce poor results.

To give yourself the best chance to succeed in any new offering launch, begin by determining the maturity stage of the market and the types of customers most likely to buy. Then develop your launch process so the go-to-market strategy is aligned to customer buying behaviors.

Dave Sobel, Director of Partner Community at MAXfocus, is responsible for fostering the growth and success of MAXFocus Partners. As Director of Partner Community, he helps promote collaboration, education and innovation among MAXfocus Partners and among the industry as a whole, ensures they have access to business, technology and market resources, and are utilizing the MAX Platform to achieve positive growth, enhance their offerings and become best-in-class solution providers. Guest blogs such as this one are published monthly and are part of MSPmentor's annual platinum sponsorship.

 

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