Better Strategies Become Apparent With Customer Interactions

Back when Adam and I started Pardot in March of 2007, the original idea was to build a lead generation as a service product where we’d generate leads for technology companies and sell them to multiple vendors. For the business model, the goal was to spend $100 on Google PPC ads to generate one qualified lead (e.g. someone searching for the term “email marketing”) and we’d in turn sell that lead to five companies that fit the buyer’s needs for $50 each (so, turn $100 into $250).

Within six weeks we’d built a prototype system that managed simple landing pages and had light business rules to forward leads to different companies. Google happily took our money for AdWords ads and we ended up spending several thousand dollars to get our first batch of leads in the system. With leads in hand, we then went to technology vendors and said we had a few qualified leads for them at no-charge and that we’d like to setup a conversation to talk about our new business. Quickly, within a few conversations, it was clear that the technology companies were much more interested in the system to generate the leads than to buy leads from us. After much internal discussion over the course of a week, we decided to change the business to focus on building a marketing automation platform.

While we shifted our business to go from selling leads to selling software, we stayed in the same area of B2B lead generation. To me, this was an iteration in the startup and not a pivot since we could use the core of our existing technology and we continued to go after the same buyer (marketing managers). Here, the key takeaway is that the right strategy often reveals itself as more time is spent in the market, especially when getting honest feedback from customer interactions.

What else? What are some more examples of better strategies emerging after customer interaction?

One thought on “Better Strategies Become Apparent With Customer Interactions

  1. Hi David, great post and it’s something that hits home for me. Our company, Pathgather ( initially started as an online education and MOOC aggregation platform in the B2C space. We wanted to essentially be the for learning. However, after a fortuitous meeting with Qualcomm, we saw an opportunity to change direction and focus on providing a better learning experience for corporate employees by aggregating content wherever it exists (learning management systems, shared drives, TED Talks, 3rd party providers, etc) and doing so in an elegant and easy-to-use platform. I’d contribute much of our successful change in direction to luck (Qualcomm as a customer, funding raise, Techstars grad, etc) but you can’t underestimate the value of putting your earliest product in front of buyers. Too often we make broad assumptions about what the market wants/needs. In your interactions with ATV members and prospective members, what is your advice on when you should get in front of buyers? Pre-product, MVP, idea written on a napkin?

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