Product development is a very exciting, time consuming stage in any business. It sits at the very core of your business. Many books have been written about it and blogs abound with the five things to do to make a great product. Be customer-centric, use agile methodologies, hire the best people, do continuous user-testing, data-driven feature development. Amidst all the catch-phrases, many entrepreneurs underestimate the complexity, time and money it takes to get your product to your customers. We were no different. Our product was great, and we have been great at owning customer-centricity but our Go-To-Market Strategy delayed our timeline with over 2 months. Let us help you prevent the same pitfalls we made!
Where is your customer?
In our case, we had a very limited time to attract our customer (we provide digital and offline healthcare services for pregnant women). Only in the first 6 months of pregnancy would the service make a difference for the mother. For us, to get back our investment, we needed to hook the mother in the first 3 months of her pregnancy.
Yet typically, women only come in for their first pregnancy checkup around the 8th week, which brings us to our challenge no.1: we have less than a month to truly attract the mother to our services.
First where do we find the mother-to-be in this time frame? There was no predictable concrete touchpoint to access a pregnant mother other than the hospital, the lab or the pharmacy, thereby limiting our marketing channels. This also meant we had to onboard these stakeholders as marketing partners, which cost us extra time. Our customer in India also barely searches online for pregnancy information or services. Second, profiling educated consumers with smartphones as ones that can be reached with online marketing is inaccurate. A very small percentage of digitally enabled customers search for health information online. Knowing this, we were not able to harness the power of online marketing for our product. However, even to the proportion of people we did reach through online marketing, the conversion rates turned out to be much lower than anticipated – The Indian consumers mistrusts the digital interface for healthcare decisions.
Learning number 1: Market where your customer is and is open to think about your service. Get the required partners and reach well-up front to be able to do so! You will lose valuable time if you only start developing your marketing channels after your product is ready to go.
What does your customer want to hear?
Pregnancy is a volatile state. You are excited and happy, but also nervous and stressed. There are so many questions, too much information to make sense of, a lack of quality healthcare providers and too many costs. Our product was built exactly for these problems together with pregnant women and providers.
Even though our product was right, we were not able to get in touch with enough mothers once the product was ready to be sold. Our research and user-testing suggested that we were solving their biggest problem, but they were not interested enough to start a conversation with us. Even by giving free information, nutrition counselling or discounts we could not attract the mother`s attention and thus we were not able to sell our product. She recognised the problems are the right problems, but did not want to hear about how we solved all her problems, she just wanted one problem, her immediate problem, to be solved at that moment. That problem differed per mother, per moment and thus was hard to market for.
We had to change our marketing strategy. Instead of us telling her how we solve her problem, we let her tell us what she wanted and then we solved her problem. We did not name our services. We listened and offered the solution. Operationally, the solution was the same, just the go-to-market strategy was different. This is working but did cause our sales cycle to be much longer than expected. Instead of immediately talking to the mother about our app or healthcare services, we had to slowly built a connection. Only then our services came into the picture.
Learning number 2: Listen to your customer. How does she want to be addressed, when does she want to be talked to, and about what does she want to talk. And solve only what she is asking for then. Only after that you can market a novel product or idea.
Did you test your go-to-market assumptions?
We tested our app many times, before and during design and development. We checked whether they knew how to log-in, whether they understood the user interface, the graphics, the language, the content. Yes we failed to sufficiently test one core assumption: How does the app get onto their phone and more importantly how do they reach us. This had a huge impact on our Go-to-Market Strategy.
We knew women did not know how to navigate app download through Google playstore and that they are most comfortable with Whatsapp. and as such we had planned to send them a link on whatsapp to download. It took us a long time to figure out that women do not know how to send a whatsapp message if the phone number is not already in their contact list and they do not know how to create a new contact.
In case of offline marketing, getting women to type a link did not work (as we had feared), as women did not know where to type the link. In other words, we had to go back to the basics: a phone call. This prolonged the sales cycle, as well as increased our operational effort significantly. It took us 3 months to figure all of this out. In these three months, we tried over 7 types of marketing channels and over 30 types of messaging / tone of voice / colours / branding /CTAs before we figured out that our most simple CTA (which we thought could not be made simpler) was the problem.
Learning number 3: Study the behaviour of your consumer. Every step, and not just the one pertaining to usage of your product. You will not change their behaviour, so reach them the way they want to. Do not make assumptions about your go-to-market strategy. No assumption is too simple to test.
Start your Go-To-Market Strategy immediately
Maybe your Go-To-Market strategy is even more important than your product development. Without enough customers you cannot assess the value or impact of your product. Whereas, if you have enough customers, you can iterate an awful product in a good one. It is your Go-to-Market strategy that needs an agile approach, user-testing, your best people and data-driven decisions.
For us, these lessons have been invaluable. We refocussed our energy from product development to building and testing our Go-To-Market strategy. And as we begin to find answers, we hope you will put your on-paper go-to market strategy to the same rigour of testing and optimizing that you gave to your product.
This Thought Leadership Article is written by Anne Reijns and Dr. Sumiti Saharan at Avegen.