I envy the naivety of modern startups that I see every day pitching their value propositions over and over again, and completely ignoring the competitive landscape. These fellows usually get some seed investment from the same breed of Angels and Accelerators, and also… customers.
The sheer amount of solutions out there is inconceivable. It takes months to figure out even a corner of solutions at your disposal for a variety of problems to solve. Everybody competes with everybody on some level. Features and capabilities overlap, if they don’t, with certain configuration or customisation changes they do, and big time.
The entire idea of a value proposition has boiled down to uninformed customers and investors. You create just another CRM system, do a sales pitch before anyone else, twist it in a sauce of verticalized solution, and you got yourself a deal….until customer or investor finds out. And starts questioning. Or it finds out he already has the thing, just didn’t know about it. By that time, you are more or less done.
Other scenario, which plays out when competitive landscape is not looked into enough, prior of developing something, is that sales stall. Your SMB customer, that you probably attack first, given that it is more accessible and sales cycle is shorter, is no longer stupid, or you run out of those easy ones, so your sales begin to slow down. You hit more and more informed customers, who understand your competition better than you do, and you are stuck or worst case scenario… dead.
It’s not that there is not way out of this. But you have to be unique in an entirely own way. You have to find a way your solution is not just another configuration or customization or addon of Salesforce, SAP, Oracle or Microsoft platform of any kind, awaiting to crush you, when they run out of large enterprises to compete for.
Some companies, like Zendesk, HubSpot, Slack and others have found clever ways around RFPs and standard inquiries for certain value propositions. They don’t go head to head with ITSM, CRM and Email systems respectively. Instead they use Blue Ocean strategy, carve out their own niche, become exceptionally good at it, create superior and cost efficient self-service onboarding experiences, and enter market from bottom-up, rather from top-down.
Think about Your unique value proposition. Are you a me-too system, or something that does one thing and does it well end-to-end?
And, by the way, a decent CTO will give you invaluable insights to figure this out.