Good MVP built but “not better enough” to competitor to get traction

Having identified need within an industry, having worked in it for ages, we canvassed customers about building a new cloud SAAS product to compete with old school PC based products.

We got a positive reaction and went ahead and built it as stage 1 of a much bigger project covering functions not part of any other package.

Now launching stage 1 and struggling to get traction because customers are saying its “not better enough” and “too unknown that they’ll wait to see how it does with other customers”.

We’re slightly cheaper than the main competitor and much cheaper than the other 2 in quite a specialised marketplace. I’m reluctant to cheapen the price because a) I think it would make it seem ‘cheap’ and ‘unprofessional’

Stage 2 and 3 would put the product out of the park with the competition, but we cant get there without some sales momentum.

Whilst my day job business is its first customer and beta tester, prospects wont take that as a reference because I’m head of both.

What to do?

  • Seems like you’re not getting questions about price, so price is not your issue. It almost never is..

    I’d suggest you choose 2 or 3 prospects, give them a year free, in return for allowing you to use their logo, testimonial, endorsement on your website and anywhere else. In other words: fake it till you make it.

    Give the others a reason to trust you, and while at it, learn the hell out of your ‘early adopters’.

  • If they’re telling you your product isn’t “better enough” you may be pushing for the sale too hard. Customers often don’t know why they’re not willing to commit and if you push them for an answer they’ll make something up on the spot. Disregard what they say. The only kind of feedback that’s valuable is “I need feature X, give me that and I’ll buy”.

    It’s possible that you’re trying to sell to people who would normally never do business with a startup. You should be selling to early adopter types if at all possible. If you’re dealing with a really conservative market then you should use yourself as the major selling point. To the competition they’ll be just another customer, but if they choose you they’ll have a direct line to the CEO who is willing to do whatever it takes to make sure they’re 100% happy with their decision. Use this to get the sale.

    • It is bad advice to suggest that pushing too hard for a sale is the problem.. Pushing when you do not have the pain points and perceived value is a problem.

      It is bad advice to recommend that you only build features based solely on singular data points.

      It is bad advice to recommend that a company differentiate by having a CEO that will bend over backwards for them because he has no other clients

      Just saying my friend.

  • There’s a saying in business that no one ever got fired for buying IBM.

    In this case your competitors are IBM – a known quantity. Your customers can’t take a risk to try you so you need to give them a reason to. Whether it’s a free trial period or over the top customer service or some other perk that differentiates you from your competitors, you need something that incentives them to take a chance.

    Also make sure you’re talking to decision makers at firms. It’s sometimes easier for an executive to take a chance with a new service rather than someone less senior who actually could get fired if it turns out your company isn’t able to meet their expectations.

  • +1 for speaking to decision makers. Related, you should target smaller/founder managed companies instead of the larger corporations. I find selling to companies where the owner is still involved much easier as they understand your concerns and have been through it themselves. They are also a lot more focused on business resultants vs. employees who could be more concerned with showing off their own personal knowledge or power.

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