Hey, we just got a 30M Series A, our pitch and positioning must be perfect!!! It’s an all-too-common story that I’ve experienced in nearly every startup I have been at. The impressive and energetic startup has built amazing new technology and is convinced it’s the next big thing. In their enthusiasm, they succumb to the temptation of wanting to be everything to everyone. They pursue an expansive total addressable market spanning diverse industries and applications.
This seductive path is fraught with peril. Spreading yourself too thin across many markets dilutes your positioning and strains limited resources. It’s better to intimately understand and serve the needs of a well-defined target segment.
A narrow, laser-focused approach differentiates you amidst noise and fragmentation in your category. It enables crafting solutions and messaging that precisely matches your beachhead market’s priorities. With expertise in their specific pains, you can provide unmatched value.
So how can startups avoid the wide-eyed tech infatuation trap? A key is soliciting unbiased external perspectives. Engage a third-party expert to objectively assess your technology, which you’re inevitably passionate about. Leverage their outside-in viewpoint on positioning and which segments to pursue. Don’t be afraid to workshop your story and get it right. Your key investments in sales, marketing and partnerships all have to be fueled by a story that is focused and on point to be successful, otherwise that $30M in funding can disappear in a heartbeat.
Some examples of companies that benefited from external perspectives to shape their focused positioning:
- Stripe‘s founders have mentioned how Y Combinator’s Paul Graham impressed upon them the importance of narrowing their target customer to small internet businesses first, not trying to be everything to everyone. Y Combinator’s advice was crucial in getting Stripe to avoid prematurely chasing “everyone” as a customer. By concentrating on small internet businesses first, Stripe could get product-market fit and expand methodically from there. This initial positioning guided by YC became core to Stripe’s brand and path.
- Intercom similarly got feedback from tech incubator AngelPad to hone their messaging for product-led SaaS startups managing customer messaging, rather than business communication broadly. Within a year of joining AngelPad and adopting this focused approach, Intercom’s customer base doubled. The company gained traction and was able to layer on additional segments over time. But AngelPad’s outside perspective played a key role in Intercom avoiding prematurely chasing an overly broad market. It helped cement messaging rooted in a niche target customer.
- Benchling received guidance from early advisors to concentrate on becoming the R&D cloud platform purpose-built for biotech. The biotech-centered positioning guided by advisors became core to Benchling’s strategy and brand. It provided a concentrated area to gain customer traction and expand from. Avoiding broad R&D positioning early on was key to Benchling’s rise as a leader in biotech R&D software.
With a focused beachhead backed by a segmented go-to-market plan, you can validate product-market fit efficiently. Get your positioning right, deliver targeted solutions, and achieve critical mass with a core customer segment. From there you can expand strategically, but avoid mistaking enthusiasm for a massive TAM as a strategy. Staying lean and targeted at the outset gives your impressive innovation the best chance for startup success.
DiStasio Consulting Group offers fractional partner business development services including messaging and positioning workshops. We specialize in fostering strategic AI and cloud partnerships to drive business innovation and growth. Leveraging our expansive network and deep industry expertise, we create bespoke strategies that help clients form synergistic collaborations with the right partners. We are not just consultants but nurturers of long-term partnerships that evolve with your business and the technology landscape.
Schedule a free 30-minute consultation with one of our fractional business development executives, and take the first step towards unlocking your business’s potential through the power of partnerships.