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The essence of marketing

Imagine you’re a recreational tennis player, looking for a new pair of shoes.

You find yourself in front of a shoe wall, where every pair of shoes has approximately the same price tag and description. All but one, to be precise. There’s a single pair of shoes, in the upper left corner, labelled as clay-court specialist: if you only ever play on clay, what are you going to buy?

Shoe wall picture Photo by Mick Haupt

I read something similar to this story when I was around 20, and it stuck with me ever since. I think this is the essence of marketing:

You need to provide a product a specific person wants.

While this may seem trivial, it is the typical lesson you’ll need to learn over and over again. Your natural tendency will be to widen your message as much as possible:

  • you’ll be afraid of betting on the wrong niche. Why clay courts?
  • you’ll suffer from the fear of missing out, of not serving a big slice of the market. What about all the people that play on hard courts? Wimbledon is played on grass😱
  • you’ll be afraid of being unable to scale: isn’t the end goal creating something huge?

Casting your net wider won’t be the solution to these problems: try to please anybody, and you’ll please nobody.

Here’s how you can do it: form your best hypothesis on a specific target, then aim for it.

If it turns out to be a miss, you’ll have another shot at a different one. And don’t be afraid of scaling - if you’re a student of corporate history, you know that companies don’t get big thanks to what they start with (see Microsoft and BASIC).

Connhex started out as an on-premise-only IoT platform, dedicated to customers that just wanted to gather data and store it on their local servers. We had gathered feedback from the market before starting out, and interest seemed to be there.

In reality, it turned out to be a complete failure: nobody cared. Granted, my inability to sell might have played a role in this. But I’m still the same now that there’s a growing interest in Connhex: what changed?

We gave it a second try, understanding what a true unserved need was: supplying device manufacturers with a complete suite of services.

The bottom line is this: accept your first shot(s) will miss the target. Truly internalizing it might take you a bit of time - you wouldn’t believe how long it took me.

You’ll just need to get through it a few times to get vaccinated and acquire immunity.

Published Jul 23, 2023

Mechatronics Engineer, machine learning enthusiast, busy building Compiuta.