Technology innovators with products in flux should have minimal to no expectation of sales.
What are products in flux? Products in flux are conceived by marketers who opt for the “ready, fire aim” approach to product development rather than a more conservative “ready, aim, fire” approach. I am using “in flux” as a synonym for “in play”. Changing either products, or the method of distribution for products, subsequent to market introduction confuses buyers. Confused buyers generally are in no position to buy anything, especially if a confusing product presentation alights atop a heap of additional internal confusion within the business. Therefore, be especially careful not to opt for this product development technique for products that require a commplex selling strategy.
If you’ve already gone and polluted your market space with this lack of product clarity, then the best way to deal with your soon to be sales-less situation is to drop any/all pretense of selling and revert to listening and surveying customer prospects to garner their best thoughts of markets that you intend, ultimately, to serve with your ever evolving product. How to catch an early indication that your product might need retooling? Consider your market pricing, and preliminary estimate of the length of a typical sales cycle for your product. If realities are way off of your assumptions, then you need to reconfigure your product.
Real life example: a client of mine has built a product for a market serviced by channel partners, meaning resellers who add value to manufacturers by configuring products for end customer implementation and supporting these same products after implementation. My client opted to offer products directly to end users, without availing of channel partners. Our attempts at direct sales were characterized by very lengthy sales cycles, and a rather low level of buying interest. When we landed orders, the orders were landed at low prices. General consensus, we would not be able to achieve revenue “escape velocity” via our direct to the end customer approach for our market.
We decided to reconfigure our distribution plan. We approached channel partners with an interest in discussing their expectations for products like ours in their market, etc. We also reassembled his product to better conform to channel offerings. All of this work transpired during his initial “go to market” effort. Revenues lagged, but we had taken a promising turn that bodes well for the future of his product.
If your product is unclear, better strive for clarity before expecting much of sales. Your time will not be wasted. Once you’ve repositioned your product you may be able to hasten revenue beyond the timing you assumed in your product plan.
© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2011 All Rights Reserved