The best thing about cracking a new market is working with customers. Not only is it necessary from a company standpoint – revenue is the end goal, after all – but it also offers numerous benefits with regards to product development. Not to mention: the alternative is so, so much worse.
To put this In binary terms:
On the one hand, most startups don’t get over the hump of product-market fit (i.e. customers don’t find enough value in the early product offerings). This is bad, but not only for the most obvious reason: in addition to serving as an indicator of flawed strategy, it also eliminates the opportunity for important feedback and guidance on product direction that only customers can provide.
On the other hand, consider a company that manages to secure a toehold in its target market with its initial product: not only does this bode well for the company’s immediate prospects, it also accelerates customer discovery and guides development. The feedback and accountability that accompanies authentic use of the product is hard to overstate.
Interestingly, the process feeds on itself. A really-well designed product leads to an engaged customer base which, in turn, generates ideas for product strategy… which then leads to expansion both with existing customers and new prospects.
In the right environment – a focused company which is 100% focused on disrupting a particular market – this can be pretty magical.
As the only provider of modern, compliant software for the Notes solution for carriers’ Statutory Financial Reporting, Gain’s company-customer feedback loop is rich and vibrant: the more customers we have, the better the product becomes. Notably, this is not always related directly to features, but sometimes extends into core functionality as well.
For example, earlier this year, several customers notified Gain regarding idiosyncrasies in the NAIC guidance. Certain regulators were providing critical feedback on filers’ disclosure states for Note 24 which was not articulated in the instructions.
Gain received real-time data derived from customers’ interactions with regulators; this was incorporated to improve accuracy and compliance: importantly, this feedback was from a geographically distributed and disparate set of customers whose individual experiences, taken together, highlighted inconsistency in the application of NAIC guidance (a so-called “desk drawer rule”).
Gain’s cloud-based architecture allowed for an immediate update to the contextual guidance in the software, improving compliance results for all other users.
At the end of the day, the best software is informed very, very heavily by authentic customer usage. It makes for a virtuous cycle.