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How to Shift Your Company to an Enterprise Model

As the annual invite-only Scaletech Conference continues, bringing together leaders and experts from across North America’s start-up and technology sectors, we’re sharing key takeaways and thoughts from this year’s panel of experts with the Georgian team. 

Next up is Scaletech faculty member Sean Lynch, who is co-founder and chief product officer at Census Data.

Transitioning from consumer-led growth to enterprise

In a consumer-led growth model, you’re focused on expansion through consumer-facing interactions. These tend to be linear. As you transition to selling to enterprise, you may need to reconsider the value you’re delivering to your end customer. 

Take cloud storage, for example. When consumers want more of your services, demand for your company or offering will inevitably grow. With enterprises, however, internal conversations of value are more complex and can include considerations like how services are being offered and whether these are sustainable, and/or the cost-benefit analysis of whether your potential customer should buy from you or build a solution in-house. 

This added value can be measured through ROI research and calculations – things like real time-cost savings, how are you making your customers’ lives easier and more. Although these calculations can be difficult to justify – these evaluations can create tailored solutions for your business.

Hiring your first senior product role

There’s a moment in a startup’s journey where the founders need to hand off some amount of product ownership and responsibility off to a new person. At this point, as a founder, you’ll have to decide what your expectations are of your first senior product hire. 

You may be looking for somebody who can take on the team management – like building the team, hiring and mentoring – but not necessarily take control of the product direction. Or, you may be ready to fully hand over the reigns of the product decision-making. If this is the case, make sure that you’ve really considered what that separation will entail – including a new direction. 

Your expectations may also lie somewhere in the middle of these two directions. Have honest conversations, on both sides, about what you want these new hires to achieve. Either way, this decision will impact the type of person you should be looking to hire. 

On backgrounds and experience, Sean noted:

Great product leaders don’t necessarily have to come from an engineering background. I’ve found great product managers with customer success or sales engineering backgrounds — places where they have lots of experience or deep understanding of the actual customer pain.

Ideally though, for a product leader, you want somebody who has been part of scaling a company. For a leadership position at a growing startup, along with assessing fit, consider lieutenant-level candidates who have experience with managing a product team, performance management, strategizing product-wide organization and experience liaising to the board.

The difference between a product manager and a product leader

If you have a product manager that you delegate product tasks to, they will tend to do things that make the product better. If you have a product leader, they will tend to do things that make the business model better. 

The good product managers know what to build; the great ones, know what not to build.

Use your interview questions to differentiate the two roles. If you ask a product-related question and their answer lies solely within product box, that’s great, they’re a product manager but not the right fit for a VP of Product role. But, if they start asking questions about your sales cycle, then that person likely has a mindset better suited to product leadership and improving your business.

Create standardized scalability

If you’re engaging with service providers and a concern is scalability and standardization, one way forward is to create specific pricing for that channel and, from there, build. 

By doing so, you’re working from a predetermined path that is designed for growth. Could you bring a service provider in-house? Can you bring in people who have pre-existing relationships with service providers to acquire their contacts and credibility from the start? By creating a matrix for standardization within at least one channel, you can save yourself from tackling all channels at the same time.

Effectively collecting feedback at launch

You’ve done the hard work and are ready to launch an awesome product to thousands of eager waitlisters! How can you collect their feedback systematically and separate signal from the noise without getting distracted?

It’s important to define your north star in terms of target metrics for engagement. Is it time on content, return visits, community engagement, or something else? Having your key targets defined will give you a sense of whether you’re driving in the right direction.

Since you may only have one shot at making that first impression, an early consideration is capturing onboarding data and product analytics as soon as your initial waitlist audience joins. There will be some inevitable drop off and capturing their reasons for bouncing will help improve the experience for your next 10,000 customers.

The next step after collecting that feedback is analyzing the root cause of the issues you’re receiving feedback on. Consider using a framework like the ‘5 Whys’ to get deeper than the surface level request from users. Then, prioritize the solutions that will have the biggest impact to your target users or to strategically meet your strategic business goals.

Justify value-based pricing

In general, people don’t like to pay more than they have in the past, which can make justifying an adjustment to product prices or expanding costs internally difficult. So, what’s the solution? How can you effectively convince people, both externally and internally, to increase their spending? 

Although we’d all like to make swift progress, making changes incrementally by tackling different markets or vertical over potentially months or years is not an unreasonable approach either. 

When it comes time for renewals, having that conversation about moving up that higher tier may put you in a better place to negotiate. By then, you may have been working on improved technology or product features that will allow you to better defend the higher value.

Interested in learning more? Check out the Scaletech Conference or apply to join CoLab Georgian’s collaborative pre-investment program for early-stage startups.

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