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Go to Market Success Requires Discipline and Focus

August 25, 2011

Some new-market ventures attempt to be all things to all people.  They fail to take the time to discover the optimal roadmap to winning customer/users who will become advocates for downstream success.  Instead, such startups attempt to throw a lot of launch marketing time and resources at the wall and hope something will stick.  The discovery process to determine the top discrete markets that need your product/solution the most and are most apt to advocating you down the road is key to maximizing time and resources as well as the odds for success.

I recently happened upon two blog posts that address this topic from completely different perspectives.  First,  this post by the founder of MySpace, (actually an argument for why Google+ will win), does a tremendous job at chronicling how Facebook and Twitter carefully selected micro-markets to launch their products.  Upon success in the initial market, both carefully migrated across additional niche markets tangential to the original launch market.

Let’s go back in social networking history a bit, to 2006 when MySpace was dominant and Facebook was small. Did Facebook launch to the world and try to take away MySpace’s audience all at once? No. FB grew by capturing one small market at a time. At first, it was one University at a time. Once they’d cornered that market, they moved to community colleges. Next was high schools. Then they invited companies to create company-specific networks — all Apple employees, or all Google employees. This strategy did a few things for FB — it allowed them to create small, tightly networked groups of fanatical users that became evangelists. Those users “stuck with the program” because all their friends were there. That’s necessary, of course, in a social network that’s about communication with just your friends.

Now take Twitter. When the 140 character wunderkind launched in 2006, it was only used by tech nerds. Just one community, that knew each other by name, if not in person. Then John Mayer signed up. Now there was two communities. The tech nerds, and the John Mayer fan club. Then there was Diddy. Suddenly Twitter was of interest to people who liked hiphop & rap. One celebrity at a time started to build sub-communities on Twitter. And make no mistake, Twitter went out and recruited them. Like Facebook, they realized that to gain scale in the social networking space and take mind share from others, they needed to target sub-communities. But unlike Facebook, these communities were not built around your friends. In fact, it doesn’t really matter if your friends are using Twitter at first, because the communities there are largely built around interests.

The next blog post juxtaposes two G2M-focus strategies many web-startups consider these days:  Winning individual users vs. winning brands.  In ‘Users First, Brands Second’ a top consumer-web VC argues why, while both approaches have been used successfully, his firm likes disciplined, User-focused strategies.

The biggest problem with a Brands First, Users Second approach is you can get caught up in product development efforts to satisfy the brands and as a result you can’t put enough energy into satisfying the users. And if that happens too much, you end up servicing the needs of the brands over the needs of the users and then you are a service business not a platform.

These are only two examples of how new-market entrepreneurs can leverage G2M focus to concentrate their efforts where they will get the greatest degree of traction in the shortest time while consuming the least resources.  The key is careful planning to map your G2M execution to the market sector(s) most able to to take swift action and experience and appreciate remarkable results.

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