The lean approach to software creation has brought market testing much earlier in the life cycle of a product. Its aim is to try to find market acceptance as soon as possible so that companies minimise the risk of building products that turn out to be not sufficiently compelling.
How does this translate for non-software technology products?
If a product is based on new IP, it’s likely to have quite a long period before a first trial version is market ready. So how early should you start your commercialisation?
There is a concern that ramping up commercialisation efforts too far in advance of production readiness could lead to a loss of any momentum that has been built with potential customers and go-to-market partners. There is a temptation to think that it is better to put your head down and focus on getting to a production-ready model.
However, it’s important to remember that engaging the market serves a number of purposes:
- There are often multiple parties that will be involved in the sales, implementation, operation and maintenance of a technology. Engaging with them is essential to understand what is required for each of them to adopt the technology. This will be central to the go-to-market strategy
- Working with these parties will give a clearer sense of where the orders for the product will come from in the first 12 to 24 months post-launch. This is a period where sales velocity must be built. Only when they are prepared to shape up distribution or sales deals will it become clear that there is product-market fit. Confirming in advance where the actual orders are likely to come from will help mitigate commercial risk for investors and support valuation
- Understanding why and how these parties will engage and buy is key to structuring a go-to-market strategy and sales process
- In the process of verifying the needs of the market, it is quite possible that information will emerge that will result in changes to the product development path.
If market engagement is left too late, this information may not be uncovered. The cost of this in terms of lost time and missing targets will be considerable.