TODAY’S LEAN WAY
Push and Pull strategies usually refer to the point of Product Launch. If the entrepreneur built a product based on his vision and estimates of what people want and then releases it and promotes it – that is Push. If the entrepreneur build a product based on customer research, doing interviews about needs and then interviews and tests on the solution he suggests, pivots and iterates to adapt to customers, and then launches it – that is Pull.
Almost all startup advisors and mentors nowadays lead entrepreneurs on the second version, especially since the Lean Startup movement started.
Entrepreneurs, mostly product oriented and with no expertise in research, tend to listen to customers literally, failing to understand the actual reasons behind their statements and their real wishes. Or they embrace the culture of “customers don’t actually know what they want”, so it is up to the entrepreneur to come up with solution concepts and eventually get feedback on them.
And once they get more or less some feedback from customers, the entrepreneurs run around to find co-founders, investors, developers, designers etc. All they need to build the product and release it to the public (subject to feedback again, so they can iterate and pivot if needed). And then they attempt to get customers. Eventually they form a community, sometimes even from the time they were testing the concept. They gathered a mailing list, they wrote on a blog or they opened a Facebook page and twitter account or…something like that.
Sounds familiar to you?
BUT WHAT IF THERE IS A BETTER WAY?
What if Push and Pull strategies would refer to the point of Product Market Fit? In the end that is the first milestone to reach in an early stage startup.
Now everything that seemed Pull before Product Launch becomes Push for Product Market Fit. Why? Because you convince people to interview them, you ask the questions, you come up with potential solutions, you blog and they comment, you write on Facebook page and they comment, you design it, you develop it, you market it. The downside? Limited innovation in a centralized system, less engaged potential customers, having to pay developers and designers (and most probably not being able to work with the best) etc.
The better alternative? Open source or open innovation communities, out of which the entrepreneur can still form a business he/ she owns.Like this, the community can come up with solutions or refine them, get engaged with the product and produce network effect, can help with development and design and can even crowdfund it. And you might even find a great co-founder there. Open innovation would beat even the strongest company because it can tap into the total pool of talent (they work on the project, no matter they day job), while a company cannot hire them all. It helps design and document better, bring better innovations, do it faster and cheaper; products developed by a community are more likey to be embraced by one
Customers don’t know what they want? You would be surprised of the magic happening when you unite a crowd of people with the same problems and interests and you empower them.
Need some inspiration? Here are two examples of entrepreneurs adopting this real Pull in Product Market Fit. One is work in progress, one already established a successful business using this technique.
LUTZ VILLALBA MAKING A B2B MARKETPLACE IN BERLIN, THE OPEN WAY
Lutz already experienced how to make something by the community for the community by initiating Tech Open Air Berlin, a crowdsourced and crowdfunded event that became real, and a real success. After that experience, he started developing a business concept, he resonated with b2b marketplaces, started doing some research…and also started creating an open innovation community for people with interests in b2b.
No blog, no Facebook pages, but a Facebook group. The first platform was European B2B Startups. People with same interests joined in and contributed. This lead to what he calls “open meetings”, where people from the online community can meetup face to face and debate on certain topics, reaching certain outcomes. And they are also working to put up a conference as well. This lead Lutz closer to a product concept and he opened now another collaborative platform: Disrupt the Enterprise. This approach enables him to shape his concept, validate his concept and work on his concept with the support of others, instead of working alone (or with one or two founders). And chances are high that he will turn this into a successful business.
While this is work in progress, let’s also take a look at an already successful business that came up from an open innovation platform.
CHRIS ANDERSON MAKING 3D ROBOTICS IN SILICON VALLEY, THE OPEN WAY
Chris, Editor at Wired and Author of Free and The Long Tail, resonated with DIY digital manufacturing. He started a collaborative platform on Ning in 2007, called DIYdrones.com where people were encouraged to participate. His entrepreneurial instinct kicked in and he started 3D Robotics out of it, which developed into a factory, third industrial revolution style. Chris found his co-founder in this community, someone engaged with who he worked the best, realizing afterwards that he was just a 19 year old from Tijuana. Now they are 3D robotics which made 3M $ revenues in 2011. Read more about it in his new book, Makers.
“Word of mouth is the best way to sell anything, and what is better word of mouth than the word of people who had a part in the creation of a product, or at least witnessed it? [...] All making in public is marketing. [...] At the end the competitive advantage when you are open source is the community.” said Chris Anderson.
(image source: followgram.me)