Build. Iterate. Protect!
"Don't worry about defensibility, focus on building products that lure the customers and do it better"- This is the most common notion which all of us have experienced more often than not.
While talking about product defensibility how can we not address what is the most trivial fear of the entrepreneurs and product managers today?
People have worked for years, experimenting a lot to find the right voice and delivering real value to their customers. In this process, they have indeed built a loyal audience. What happens next is that as it all starts to pay off, competitors start to emerge out of the woodwork being inspired by their success. Having gathered venture capital money, there comes a stage when the entrepreneurs and the product managers feel that the competitors are undercutting them and they have to fight for what is rightfully theirs!
As a thumb-rule, most first time founders spend way too much time worrying about having their ideas stolen, that's where building product defensibility early on matters.
If you all are still perplexed about what a defensible product means, let take a shot with a generic definition: A product that wins in the market segment or the category of the market segment and then becomes hard to replace by any other competing product is a defensible product.
In my opinion, if you are building a product it is important to have a conceptual framework, to think about where the emphasis should be placed on, and how the product is positioned in the market. Whenever we hear people in the industry talk about products it is more on the lines of its features, rarely we come across steps that build a defensible product!
How the game really changed? How do we build\product defensibility?
What we are left today, is just a concise list of competitive advantages and just a handful of true defensibilities.
Let us look at some of the key steps that can act as differentiators:
Build the Technical Framework/Brand Innovation
Having a technology that your competitors cannot replicate is one of the most effective ways to build a defensible product. To be honest it's tough and that is why building a technology differentiator is both expensive and time-consuming.
Choose a Small and Growing Market
While talking about building defensible products, figuring out the right market for the product is key but the question is how to go about it?
Over time you would have to develop a knack for it but for starters try asking these questions: Is the product targeted at a small and growing market?
What are the indicators that prove it is targeting a small and growing market?
If the product tends to target other markets, how can we pivot the idea to a small and growing market? Etc.
Know your competition but more so understand your customer needs better
This is self-explanatory however you do need to build your own community. Focus on building ownership and a sense of belongingness.
The defensibility in the ecosystem lies in the difficulty of building a platform where all the players get value and are willing to work together.
One of the key takeaways here is to understand how to build a hook to pull users towards your product. It can be as elementary as an ad-campaign just it has to be something that goes where users are and bridges users to get to the product.
Encash Brand Value
When we think of something we need, 8/10 times we do have a brand name that pops up in our head. Am I right?
A good brand leads to trusting among customers, which eventually leads to customer loyalty. This solid perception, which needs to be reinforced with time, can be enough to ensure that your customers do not go to your competitors. The psychological barriers make it very hard for competitors to break in.
Think Network Effect
A well-known defensibility mechanism: "The Network Effect"
What is the network effect? It means that the product becomes more useful as you gain more users.
The prerequisite for this is to have strong multiple user utilities. Most Enterprise products built don’t need to have a network effect. To build the product as a defensible product it has to have a strong network effect and will reduce customer acquisition cost.
It is important to think about the network effect because it makes the virtuous cycle of instant gratification, single-user utility, multiple-user utilities stronger and faster. It locks the users because it’s too costly for them to leave the product.
Provide Instant Gratification
The above-mentioned strategies will definitely bring the customers towards our defensible product but it is also important that the users find the product use without investing anything in the product. It should provide instant gratification.
Retrospect this with How to create instant gratification for the user? Is the onboarding easy? How are we delivering and demonstrating value to the user without any input?
Let us know your thoughts about these tactics used to create product defensibility. However, no single tactic can guarantee a product from never been overtaken by competitors.
Keeping close to the customer needs and consistently innovating is a mindset that will help ensure the right defensibility strategy is being employed and iterated over and over again.
Written By: Areeb Sanadi & Kashish Pahwa