Listening to the Marketplace

We were ahead of our time.

That’s the only conclusion I could draw from the looks in their eyes, as we sat across the table from a nameless, faceless, wall of rejection.

We had a product, we targeted a market, but we were still working on the “fit” part as we tried to sell lead nurturing systems and marketing automation to the mid-market.

They loved what we were saying, agreed that there was a bright future in automation. But it wasn’t their most pressing problem.

Their most pressing problem was finding quality leads. They weren’t ready to invest $10k+ into a system, only to put 100 names into the funnel. The economics just didn’t work out if they didn’t have more leads.

“Is there any way that you could fill our funnel with leads? That’s our biggest need!”

A PPC agency was born. 

Celebrate hearing no more often?

Among the biggest fears of rejection faced by a business owner, hearing “no” in a sales call has to rank right up at the top.

Entrepreneurship is already hard enough. Take away validation and it feels impossible.

Some entrepreneurs hear NO and put up a fight. They will not stop until they figure out how to win the sale. Their skin thickens and their resolve strengthens with each failure.

Others will hear no and choose flight. They will quickly move on to chasing the next easiest niche or shiniest object. Their skin remains thin, and their only resolution is chasing after something easier.

Which is the best approach? The answer lies somewhere in between.

We didn’t find our core service offerings: they found us

There are some products that will never sell, no matter how hard you try to make it work. There are others that are simply ahead of their time, and need to wait for the market to mature. A visionary knows where the market is heading, and stakes their claim.

If you believe that your product has a place in the future, double down. Celebrate hearing “no” and wear it like a badge of honor. Realize that while you are ahead of your time, the market will eventually come around; and you will be positioned as an authority.

Had we started doing this in the field of marketing automation back in 2005, we would be legends.

But instead, we listened to what the marketplace wanted and pivoted. We delivered what people wanted (lead generation through PPC campaigns) and delivered at scale.

And it was a brilliant choice.

Near term, middle term, long term

Many entrepreneurs will go bankrupt while waiting for a market to evolve. Or invest massive sums of venture capital in staying afloat while building a market for their products. In tech culture, we celebrate the survivors.

But the economics of agencies and consulting firms don’t work the same way. It takes tremendous mis-management or crazy market shifts for a services business to go bankrupt. And there’s not really a need for venture capitalists to get started (nor a desire on their part).

A service provider needs to focus on what will grow their business in the near term, or else they won’t ever get to see the long term vision play-out.

Yes, I believed that marketing automation had a brilliant future. No, I couldn’t afford to wait until it finally started to take off 5 years later.

Time is the most underrated aspect of success. It touches everything and it cannot be stopped.

Do you have time to listen to the marketplace? Or does the marketplace make the decision for you?

Life is too short to sit on the sidelines.