This month’s National Geographic spotlights explorers and the history of exploration. There is an interesting infographic that charts major scientific discoveries over time. One of the earliest navigational devices, the astrolabe, was used for navigation for over 400 years before the magnetic compass was invented. 400 years is a long time, compare that to the relatively short 34 years between the first moon landing by Neil Armstrong in which the entire mission had access to less computing power than what is now currently available in a common smartphone. Technology is moving at an incredible speed.
When I grew up as a kid there were no cell phones, computers, or the Internet. Today, my kids cannot imagine life without them. Today, the Internet brings instant gratification. If you want to research what an astrolabe is, you need only to enter the term into an Internet search box and within seconds, you have your answer.
Today, you need only to walk into an electronics store to see the rapid advance of technology. In addition to smart phones, we have smart tvs with internet access, smart homes you can manage from any where in world, whats next? I stumbled across an article on Bit Rebels discussing new technology that will allow viewers to touch virtual objects. The applications range from helping the blind see virtual objects through touch, enabling viewers to feel art objects, or shoppers to feel textures before purchasing online.
Its truly amazing to watch how quickly technology advances compared to centuries past and the creative thinking involved in new discoveries. Remember, throughout human history, up until 120 years ago, the most exciting mode of transportation was the horse! What will the next 20 years bring? Exciting stuff and I am grateful to be working in the technology industry and being able to interact with folks like you over a medium like this.
There are a number of problems that start-ups face. We can list all of the standard business problems of hiring and firing, building a team, managing cash flow, under-capitalization, over-capitalization, and about a million other variables. Interestingly, when it comes to technology start-ups, there are two particular problems that almost always arise and can be seen as opposite poles on the same magnet. Both have to do with bringing your product to market and they illustrate the balancing act that entrepreneurs face.
The first problem occurs when the desire to hit the marketplace is greater than restraint mechanisms in place to ensure the product is ready for the end user. This is especially common in the software industry, where phased rollouts and corrective updates reign supreme. Software products and bundles have become so feature-rich that effective quality control is often abandoned and companies rely on the users to point out errors that are corrected with updates. The model, though irritating, works for the giants like Microsoft because of the overwhelming share of the market commanded and the simple reality that most users have no choice but to accept the new products in order to ensure continued business operations. For a start-up, however, the tactic is dangerous. Without a commanding share of the market, releasing a subpar product not only diminishes goodwill and hurts the company, but it also presents clone companies with the opportunity to create copycat products that may work as well or better than the original. I’m not suggesting you have to be perfect in every respect before allowing a product out the door. Technology is complicated and fluid, and there will always be unforeseen events in relation to your product that will require you to focus on fixes. Make sure, however, that you’re not calling an alpha or beta product a finished product. If you sell through the channel route, your VARs will hop off of the train in no time.
And here’s the balancing act. You have to get to market. Far too many companies spend millions developing a product that never sees the light of day. If you’re too focused on perfection, you’ll never get anywhere. Oftentimes, it makes more sense to release less robust products that work simply and efficiently. Save the bells and whistles for the later versions. A solid product limited in scope may not be the ego-blooming technological advance that lands you on the cover of a tech magazine, but I can guarantee you that sales will give you the opportunity to develop the next product. With a solid stream of revenue supporting your company, you’ll be able to accomplish far more. You don’t want your company to be one that codes brilliantly for four years without ever producing a marketable product, destined to sell far below the value of the time and money put into it, and only then so the code can be torn apart and integrated into someone else’s dream.
When working with the channel, Value Added Resellers (VARs) in particular, do you provide the tools and training necessary to ensure VARs know what the “V” is in your product? Too often, software publishers only recognize the VAR’s technological expertise and don’t provide enough detail on the solution’s return on investment, impact on profitability of the end user company or cost avoidance afforded with its installation. A lack of the business knowledge necessary to close a sale or shorten the sales cycle is often overlooked in the VAR education process.
What does your technology produce, and why is it valuable to the end-user? What is the result / outcome they require? If your product is data backup and restoration, what differentiates your product from the competition? Not just a feature matrix, what about the intangibles – customer support picking up the phone as opposed to the voice tree found at most companies or custom scripts written for end users that have unique requirements. Your resellers should learn more than the technical aspects of data protection and recovery. It is up to the software publisher to provide the details here to empower the VAR to be successful.
The value to the end-user is not necessarily data protection. The value is the security of relationships with customers, operational stability, prevention of fraud, and a host of other benefits that a disaster recovery solution can provide. Beyond these, and perhaps most importantly, the end user values someone being there when things go wrong and they need help. We should not sell recovery points and recovery times without translating those into operational benefits.
Make sure your channel is working at its best for you. Focus them on the value of your solution rather than the features. Sell based on the operational impact on the companies who use your solutions and your sales are sure to stick.