What if the Market Isn't Ready for Your Innovation
May 31, 2021
Imagine creating an ingenious solution, yet, when you try to offer it to people, they seem unperturbed by it. The truth is that it's relatively easy to introduce a product upgrade based on previous experience, but not to launch something completely unfamiliar to the market. In this interview, we're talking with two experts from our team: Aistė, Head of Product, and Šarūnas, Marketing Project Manager, for NordLocker, about their struggles with product-market fit and how they turned things around, making their innovation into a sought-out commodity.
The product-market fit dilemma
Could you give a bit of the background story, what is it that you do, and how did you realize that the market wasn't ready for your initial product?
Š: Our goal is to build an easy-to-use encryption tool for sharing and storing files and promote its value for daily use. Only a year ago, we rolled out the first version of NordLocker. It was the simplest and the most beautiful piece of software compared to other alternatives in the market. But we've soon come to an unpleasant realization that we've overestimated the total number of people who would be interested in using it for their day-to-day. It turns out people don't pay much attention to securing their data 'til something happens. The popular thought is that no one would hack them, which you know is false since it happens daily.
OK, so you came out with this excellent solution, but adoption was slow. What did you do next?
A: Well, we needed an action plan, stat. And basically, came up with two ways out of this situation.
First, we considered building the product's market: explaining and teaching people why it's essential to secure sensitive data.
Our second option was changing the product in a way that appeals to a broader audience. In this case, we also wanted to keep the best parts of it in place.
Since we had the product, the next logical step was to grow it. We could've picked the first option, but that would've taken a lot of time and resources, so we decided on the second one. The next step was to explore how we can change our angle, and we did just that.
The solution and implementation
Did you refuse the first option entirely?
Š: We didn't entirely refuse the idea to enlighten the market about the benefits of securing data. As we all see, the market is slowly shifting towards that understanding on its own. Nowadays, sensitive data quite often end up in the hands of third parties. Step by step, people are starting to look at how to protect themselves. So we're not going against the flow, quite the opposite - by promoting our product, we support the growing awareness around cybersecurity.
When you picked the second option, how did you decide what alterations would bring you the sales?
A: We've listed four possible directions. To choose, we ran surveys for existing customers, and the general target audience did estimations on the market size and evaluated potential revenue streams for those options. That's how we picked the best direction.
We based our decision on the collected data and started developing. Yet, the risk was still there. There's this thing with IT. You can never be sure of your product's success even after the most detailed research. Many things can go wrong: timing, pricing, implementation, etc. The best you can do is to minimize the risk - move fast and test your product sooner than later.
Supply, demand and their effect on innovation
When creating a product or innovation - do you pay more attention to your competitors' work or the demand itself?
A: It's not so black and white. Most often, you do both. If you're building a product that has alternatives available on the market, by all means, take a look at the competition. Analyze their business models and developments, survey their users, make use of their best ideas, but don't copy - make them better.
In other cases, when you're feeling adventurous and want to build something that doesn't exist, aka disrupt the market, you'll have to rely on an unfulfilled demand or intuition of how the future should work. Many try to do this - libraries are filled with stories of such cases, so I won't go into it too much. But to finish the topic, trust your experience and don't disregard silly hunches that may turn into ingenious solutions to future problems.
How does the technical progress correlate with sales in your work - is it often that you have to make adjustments to the technology to satisfy the market needs?
Š: Our eyes and ears are always open. We look at the data, look at what people are telling when using the product, and adjust intermediate steps based on their input. However, we implement these tweaks only when they serve our vision. The market may want a hundred things at a time, so you need to be very selective about what you want to build here and how the end product is supposed to look.
People and creativity
What about the team - do you think it's better to have people who dealt with innovations before or regular professionals to develop original ideas?
Š: Every person is capable of coming up with original ideas no matter their experience. It would be best to build an atmosphere where they would be more inclined to share their ideas with you. And even more important - that they would be willing to work on that idea together with the team.
Finally, what would you say is the key thing necessary to come up with ingenious ideas and inventions?
A: Having an idea is just the first step of many if you want to create a successful product. But working on it is always fun when you have a well-skilled set of people around you. When you first get into something unexplored, you tend to be pretty optimistic. And basically, you know nothing: no scope, no details, and little clue of how long it'll take. However, it's easier to commit to the project if you don't know all the bits and pieces. It doesn't scare you then. And once you commit, you're halfway there.
Š: Getting help from Nord Security people who amassed a ton of experience working with other products helps to cut some corners. The only challenge here is to locate the right colleague in a fast-growing company. And last but not least, to nurture the drive is to stay true to yourself. Show up and, of course, don't forget to share memes and gifs along the way of creation.