Growth5 Blog

Monday, February 8, 2010

What Specific Problem Are You Solving?

Hey Startups:

A) Are you providing an end-to-end solution?
B) Do you have your customers needs covered from A to Z?
C) Are you a one-stop shop solution?
D) None of the above.

I hope it's D. A lot of startups we see think they need to have A, B or C in their presentation or we as investors will think they aren't comprehensive enough. The problem with the "catch all" strategy is that it often catches nothing, or whatever it does catch is not helpful to your business. Why? Both the strategy and the supporting marketing are too broad, it's not specific enough, it's not differentiable.

The well funded billion dollar competitor might have most of A to Z covered, but do you really want to compete with them for eyeballs and the corresponding sales that follow? You don't, you will lose.

Pick a very specific problem that exists in your space and isn't being solved right now - come up with a solution that people will appreciate/use and then market to them directly. If your solution works, your customer will complement your marketing strategy via word-of-mouth.

You can use iPhone apps as an example of this type of specificity. AroundMe and Shazam solve very specific problems for me. I use them and tell others about them.

From A to Z, maybe you will only have M covered, but so what - you can have a successful business and create value for your shareholders by being the best at M - your own blue ocean.

Our Chief Marketing Officer, Greg Conderacci, uses a hunting example to describe the difference between the "catch all" approach and the "specific solution" approach to both business and the marketing behind it.
You and a friend are competing against each other in a hunting competition that starts on Saturday morning at 7 am. You are busy, don't have a lot of time to prepare, but you have some money and a great solution that you are going to employ Saturday morning.

Your friend heads up to the hunting cabin a day early. She goes in the woods and does some research to figure out where the prey is. She sets some traps in the likely places and heads back to the cabin to catch up on this blog (she brought her MiFi, obviously).

You arrive at the cabin around midnight the night before, wake up Saturday morning at 6:55 AM, walk out onto the back deck of the cabin with your machine gun and start firing aimlessly into the woods at 7 AM for fifteen minutes. Confident you've won, you go back in the cabin and go back to sleep.
Shocker, you lost. It's not surprising you chose this approach because that's how you run your business. Unfortunately for you, the machine gun approach doesn't work in the hunting competition or for your business. You need to get more focused and start with one thing your business can do really well, perfect that solution, then tell people about it - don't confuse them with other ideas/solutions for things they don't care about - own that space and grow your business from there.

I was talking to a vc colleague this morning who is having a similar problem with a portfolio company and how they approach their marketing. The company is getting no results in their machine gun approach so they have decided to spend less money on it.

I reminded my colleague that this is the equivalent of being the back deck machine gun user trying to save money for the next competition by buying and shooting less bullets. It might save you money, but you're not getting any closer to winning.

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