Marketplace No Man’s Land

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.

4 thoughts on “Marketplace No Man’s Land

  1. Hey David,

    I’ve been following your feed ever since “Demo Day.” This post got me wondering: could this be due to a product being developed without a clear need of a well-defined customer in mind first?

    It seems that sometimes an entrepreneur will develop a product that he thinks is “neato” and then struggle to find a need it can address. Academics seem to do this a lot.

    1. Thanks Justin. I agree that not having a customer in mind is definitely an issue for many entrepreneurs. In this case, the entrepreneur has a market and $2 million in recurring revenue already, so there’s plenty of customers.

  2. David,

    As I read your post, I couldn’t help think of a quote I believe came from Geoffrey Moore, “when in doubt, cross the chasm.” In other words, pick a beachhead segment and focus like crazy on delivering value to this market. It’s tough to have the discipline to do this in a rapidly evolving marketplace, but worth strong consideration.

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