I had one of my weekly entrepreneur lunches yesterday with a gentleman who took his first technology company public in 1995 and is currently in the process of building his second company, while remaining chairman of his original venture. We had a great conversation about our respective businesses and current challenges.
One of the comments he made stood out to me — he was battling being in a marketplace no man’s land. The idea is that they are still struggling to find their place in a new market that is rapidly evolving. After we left, I spent a few minutes thinking about how to determine if a company is in marketplace no man’s land. Here’s what I came up with, based on my experience:
- The length of the sales cycle for your goods or services fluctuates wildly on a regular basis (e.g. one deal takes a week while the next one takes six months)
- The positioning of your product in the market is hard to articulate
- The last three sales have been to very different companies, and it is tough to find overlapping need
- The leads being generated aren’t consistent or predictable
Part of what I’ve described can come from an immature market while part can come from the difficulty of finding a place in an existing market. Positioning is a critical part of success and comes with significant trial and error. If you find your product in marketplace no mans land, I would suggest spending more time talking with customers and letting them guide you. Customer input is invaluable.