Every company crosses several major hurdles on their journey from inception to success and possibly failure: Sales Force crossed a major hurdle when they realized that they needed to sell their product to the sales individuals and not IT people; Facebook crossed this when they got adoption outside of the major universities, and most of the service based/delivery service (Ebay Now, Postmates, WunWun, Seamless, Grubhub, etc.) companies will face a major hurdle as they deal with employment law, job supply and demand, margin on services (funding can’t curb this for forever), and the ability to scale outside of major cities. But we don’t do it justice by simply calling these moments “hurdles”, which sounds more like a mere bad day, instead as entrepreneurs we must see them for the true treks they are.
I recently read the book Crossing the Chasm (3rd Edition) by Geoffry A. Moore, and he defines these hurdles as chasms, which has a more impactful denotation. During the journey of building a business it is up to the executive team to spot these chasms, embrace the struggle, and maneuver through them. Unfortunately, most people can’t spot the chasm unless they’ve seen them before, e.g. have experienced successful AND failed ventures (failure allows you to acknowledge that it isn’t luck that pushes you over the chasm).
During countless conversations with managers, venture capitalists and fellow entrepreneurs I’ve noticed that often, even smart people, fail to identify these rudimentary rights of passage.
While most people might see a chasm as a dead end with no way to cross, or fail to see them all together; the opportunistic entrepreneur will leverage a chasm as the turning point to take their business from good to great.
At Klick Push we believe the best way to cross our early chasms are by building lasting relationships with investors, advisors, customers, and partners. This ensures you and your team have the stamina to plow through the abyss while keeping the relationships that matter most to an early stage company.
Communication has allowed us to become a team that constantly absorbs feedback to make a better product for our customers and better serve their needs. Hopefully, we can repurpose that transparency here, and our journey can help awaken some of the struggles you are having in your office, company, or life.
Below, I’ll walk you through the 5 stages of our company and how we approached each major milestone. But first, let me give you a brief introduction to Klick Push: we are an ad technology platform that makes it easy for marketers to place digital media (music) inside display advertising to help drive direct response, build communities, and increase ROI. We allow any marketer to associate themselves with artists from Elvis, AC/DC, Kings of Leon, Beyonce, Justin Timberlake, Frank Sinatra, to Shakira.
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1. Inception In order to validate our ideas, we had to get enthusiasts to believe in our vision and help us make it a reality. We looked at problems in the industry, breaking points, and ways to disrupt and innovate the market.
Ways we got enthusiasts on board:
Emphasized our industry expertise and background
Developed a narrative on how it will benefit the enthusiast’s life (career, hobbies, passions etc.)
Showed something different and unique
Built relationships (these are the people that are going to help you off the ground)
2. Post Tech Enthusiasts Adoption: The vision was accepted (and long days (years?) spent finding these people) and we successfully brought on partners like Reverb Nation, Sony Entertainment, The Orchard, to supply us content to fulfill our vision of building new distribution channels for media (music) and how media would drive engagement in advertising. Additionally we integrated products into apps and games to help us distribute music into live environments, build data sets, and develop a prototype.
Then we brought on advertisers like Live Nation, Subway, Ford, etc to help provide case studies to get us up and running. By the end of our first 8 months of pushing our relationships into production, we had several different products and over 30 million data points.
How we developed our relationships:
We were humble (and still are), honest, and real (don’t act like a big shot)
Gave our customers something free (they are putting their neck out there for you)
Made major efforts to accommodate the relationship- move to NYC, schedule in person meets, custom creative proposals, and sent them thank you notes and kind gestures.
ASK! Asked for help, references, and let them get involved with the company
3. The Chasm after 8 months of live data, we spent time reviewing and analyzing our various products — we had to pick a path! This was the Chasm. Klick Push’s prototype had presented music in apps and games, to over 2 million people and had delivered about 1 million free songs (that is a 50% conversion on a product!). We also ran a handful of ad campaigns that did EXTREMELY well for clients like Ford and Live Nation. There was a lot brewing and we needed to focus on one solution, productize that, and scale tech and sales to a broader market (pragmatists).
How we decided which product to focus on and be dedicated:
Evaluated the integration cycle for our various products (is it going to take 5 minutes, 5 days, or 5 months to get integrated with a partner?)
Questioned revenue channels and consumer usage (for a b to b company we needed to focus on where the revenue would come from and how easy it would be to scale it)
Asked if there was significant market for this product (even if it is innovative, is there common sense that this would be adopted)
Reflected on whether we there was a compelling narrative around the product
Most Importantly we asked ourselves, “Are we excited about it and would we consume this?
4. Crossing the Chasm: Deciding on a product and strategy meant narrowing our focus to building a solution that could easily be digested by customers and easy for them to integrate. This included tightening the sales pitch and building out target customers while asking for TONS of help. Sounds obvious, but when you have a lot of good things going on, you have to weigh the pro’s and cons — verrrrry carefully. As a team, we all needed to be excited about this and feel that there was a future and genuine intention behind what we were doing.
How we approached the chasm
Sales, Sales, Sales, Sales, Sales….SALES (we started building strategies and lead lists on people we needed to talk to)
Marketing, marketing, marketing, marketing….MARKETING (communicate with your customers, build landing pages that explain your product and drive people to interact with your product without you having to be on a call — This is what we did: http://prod1.klickpush.com/pages/ads-that-work)
Decided to build a user friendly interface product and platform for our customers (I had my mom create an ad on the Klick Push platform. She doesn’t work in advertising)
We mindfully approached the process and acknowledged past learnings and made them applicable to today.
5. Gut. At the end of the day, we had to trust our gut and where the business needed to go. Our investors and advisors trusted us and brought a lot of encouragement to our decisions. We did what felt right — we went on a metaphorical diet and trimmed the fat off the company by honing in our product offering and making it easy for our customers to understand.
As we approached the chasm, we listened to what our customers wanted and what the market demanded. You will have (or maybe you already have had) the same experiences. Whether it’s trying to “listen” to another person as a relationship grows, or knocking on the doors of your ideal clients in order to understand their needs and thus understanding how your offering can fill their void, take this time to reflect, focus, and be aware and mindful to see where you are going and how you are doing it.
Remember, part of disrupting and innovating is making sure your are disrupting an industry that needs/wants to be disrupted and innovating in a way that customers want/need to be innovated.
Ben Jorgensen — CEO, Klick Push, Inc.