A question that plagues me when I’m feeling “off” is whether or not I carry around a “know-it-all” mindset. I’m very sensitive to the “common knowledge” that entrepreneurs are blind to places where they are not doing the right things. However, my ego is such that I really want to be perceived as doing the right thing or at least knowing what needs to change when I’m not doing the right thing. I’m sometimes defensive “in the moment” but I (think I) almost always recover and pay attention to the feedback . I hope this sensitivity and willingness to constantly evaluate what is happening is enough to avoid crashing on the rocks of founder-itis.
This comes up because I spent the morning in a BCTIA / ACETECH CEO seminar on Positioning for Success. The purpose of the seminar was to clarify the position of each company in the market and lay out some key “best practices” to help ensure success. Twenty four CEOs from a variety of tech companies (some startups, some operating for years) were there. The program leader was Ralph Turfus, a well known and well respected serial enterpreneur, angel investor and tech industry advisor to the BC Government.
I’m proud to say (even if it is blowing my own horn) that we are strongly in alignment with best practices for creating a successful technology company. While others in the room struggled to understand the concepts of narrow market focus, early adopters, early mainstream customers, competitive differentiation, strategies and tactics for crossing the Chasm, bowling pins, tornados and all the rest of the world view of Geoffrey Moore (Crossing the Chasm), I was cruising along, nailing the exercises and taking away some key insights into what we are doing well and what we need to do more of.
I felt so good about what we’ve done in the first few weeks of this startup that I questioned the value of joining the ACETECH Growth Strategies program. This program is frequently used by tech startups to coach the CEO through his changing roles as the company moves from concept to customers. Some tech companies take a year of coaching to reach the point we are already at! However, in spite of our great positioning I’ve decided to attend the program for the coaching and mentorship that comes with it and the visibility it will provide us to the Angel investing community in Vancouver.
How does all this relate to the theme of “know-it-all or not”? During the seminar, I kept saying to myself “I already know that”, “we already did that”, “we are planning to do that in X months”, etc. It took me quite a few minutes to come up with the missing ingredient in our strategy. But find it, I did. For all those who’ve seen it already, you can laugh. It’s OK.
We have a marketing problem. It is probably the biggest issue we have. It has been easy to gloss over in the early stages but now it is evident we don’t know how we will get customers to find us, see the value and sign for the service. We don’t know if our potential customers are even looking for a solution. We know they feel the pain; that is very clear from everyone we talk with. We will have a great solution but a better mousetrap is not enough. We need to figure out how we can get our customers to make the connection that we have the way to reduce their pain and goad them into action to solve the problem.
Search engine optimization (a suggestion from my table mates) will bring us some customers who already know they want to solve the problem. That is good but, in my opinion, not good enough. We need to figure out a way to cost effectively directly reach the team managers OR AT LEAST SOMEONE IN THEIR NETWORK so that we reach the large group who have the pain but assume that there isn’t a solution available.
It is a solvable problem. We just need to figure out the best strategy. More as it develops…