In this episode, Scott and I are going to be talking about identifying and focusing on the core strategy of your business. We'll discuss evaluating your market and figuring out where you business fits.
Robert: In this episode of The Stretch Goals Podcast Scott and I are going to be talking about identifying and focusing on a core strategy of your business.
Scott: This is The Stretched Goals Podcast where each week we’ll share insights and lessons learned based on our experiences as entrepreneurs. We’ll challenge you to create ambitious goals as you start and grow your business. I’m your host, Scott Davis.
Robert: I’m Robert Dickerson. So, Scott I wanted to get your opinion on something this week. I wanted to talk about Mapout, what I’m doing with Mapout and get your advice.
Scott: All right. Yeah, I’m down.
Robert: So, I feel like a lot of business owners have this similar problem and it’s something that I’ve kind of been thinking a lot about with Mapout and so, I was at a conference for the last two days just kind of talking to potential customers and different people in the industry and trying to flesh out my vision and they all come from, all these people come from different areas. The conference was on healthcare. So, I was focusing on how Mapout, how we’re helping patients and caregivers use basically educational courses to educate them about different conditions and diseases. So, the example that I was showing was breast cancer.
Scott: Uh-huh (affirmative).
Robert: So, the idea was that breast cancer patients have access through their mobile phones to a library of educational materials to kind of help them during their care to learn about the process, learn about chemo, learn about what the expectations are and so they have kind of a hub that they can go to learn about that stuff, and for Mapout I, I have three different areas of focus. I have businesses where I help businesses do training and that sort of thing. So, like sales, sales training or just training to, on skills that employees need within the business. So, that’s one area and then the area I was demoing at the conference was within healthcare.
So, like I said, helping patients and caregivers and then the third market that I’m focusing on is higher education. So, helping students you know and educate them and so those are really three separate areas, distinct areas right and each of those verticals has different customers, different feature sets, and so I started thinking a lot about it that maybe I’m spreading myself too thin by focusing on all those different areas at one time, because you know, Mapout we’re a small team and I’m doing a lot of the sales, a lot of the customer engagement and It’s, it just seems like a lot. I mean, what are your initial thoughts? I mean, am I spreading myself too thin by doing that?
Scott: Yeah, I mean, the initial thought is you should probably pick one of those verticals and go with it but there’s nothing wrong with diversifying, right?
Scott: So, yeah, you know I mean it’s easy to get into that realm where now you’ve spread yourself too thin just because you’re interested in these different verticals and you’ve got solutions for them. I almost think, you know just looking at it from the outside, I would say pick one or two and get some traction there and then let that traction afford you the opportunity to maybe get another resource and then when that resource is in place you can take yourself out of the mix and focus on the third. You know what I mean? Like, it gives you some opportunity, but get some traction, get some revenue and then when you do, put somebody in place and pull yourself back out and then focus on something different.
Robert: Yeah, I mean, I think, I’m still trying to figure out product market fit in some of these areas, because I’m not, with the platform that we built, the educational platform. I mean, you could put any type of content on there and it would solve problems in all these different areas but it’s still identifying really what the product market fit is and exactly what problem I’m trying to solve if that makes sense. I mean, for patients you know, I thought a lot about just focusing on cancer as opposed to like all the different you know, diseases and thing but just focusing on one and so that’s kind of the path that I’m going now is that for healthcare, really focusing in on cancer and helping patients around that and then I can focus on companies that are interested in that space, right, and kind of target them?
Scott: Yeah. I think that’s a safe way of doing it. I think, I don’t know. I’ve, I’ve been in your shoes though where you’ve got a product that could be extended in multiple directions and a lot of people face that. Right? You know, so …
Scott: It is hard to try to figure out the best path there. I would say for you though, like what would help me make the decision is what are you most interested in? Maybe not even what, what the best fit for your product is but like, what are you most passionate about or what are you, what will you enjoy the most, because if you’re spending the bulk of your time on it it should be something that’s rewarding.
Robert: Yeah. I think that that’s a really good question. That’s something actually I was thinking about as well. I mean, I would love for this product to be able to help patients and be able to, to help people’s lives, right, and to be a way to empower people to live better lives and I feel like each of those areas kind of allows me to do that. Healthcare is just something that’s like really started to resonate with me more, because I feel like it can be impactful and there’s a lot of products and you know, there’s a lot of products in the business space and the education space.
I mean, there’s just a ton of different products out there and so I’m also competing and trying to find my niche within these markets as well and I feel like, a lot of entrepreneurs have this same kind of dilemma. Right? They’re trying to figure out like, when they’re getting started exactly where their niche is within the industry and like, what specific problems they’re trying to solve, because If you can figure out the specific problem and identify that customer then you can scale it. Right?
Scott: Uh-huh (affirmative).
Robert: So, it’s, but it’s a lot of time to kind of, to talk to people in those different markets and figure out exactly what is their problem and then how can you solve that problem for multiple customers, because once I identify kind of the customer set then it’s easier to go out and kind of replicate that.
Scott: So, correct me if I’m wrong. Are you targeting, you’re targeting a small subset of needs within an industry? Is that accurate?
Robert: Yes. Yeah.
Scott: Okay, so you’re not looking for like a one size fits all solution that takes over healthcare? You’re looking to take pieces of this industry and then using that let that credibility expand from there?
Robert: Yeah. I think you, that’s where you have to start, right?
Robert: What I really want to do is start piloting with people to show, to have the data to be able to show the value of my solution, right, and that’s, when I was, when I was talking to people you know, that was a lot of the questions that came up is like, you know, what companies are you working with? How? You know, what kind of value are you seeing? What’s the ROI, and sometimes the ROI isn’t monetary, right? Especially in healthcare space, the ROI is you’re improving patient’s lives or you’re improving outcomes, right, and so that’s, a lot of times that’s not a monetary thing and so, you know, a lot of the talks I had with peoples was how do I show that. How do I show that to you that that’s a positive outcome, and to do that you have to have to pilots. You have to have data behind it to show that with your tools, with your products that you’re achieving a better outcome that might be a monetary in nature.
Scott: Yeah. Well, one thing that comes to mind and you know, I don’t know if our listeners want to hear it but I’ve got people that i could put you in front of that are in this space. So, after we’re done recording here shoot me that and …
Scott: Yeah. No, but I mean …
Robert: No, I think that’s, I mean yeah I think that’s another great point is that that’s the reason why I went to the conference was to get out in front of people and I think if you’re pitching your product you can’t be afraid to get out in front of people and have people question what you’re doing and take that feedback and kind of incorporate it into your thoughts because for me that was very valuable to talk to people from all different parts of the spectrum within healthcare and to get their feedback on what I was doing and to try different ways of explaining it to people to see how they responded or see how they accepted it and that, so that was kind of interesting as well is certain ways that I’d explain it didn’t really resonate with people as much as maybe other ways. So, I was able to kind of refine my pitch at the conference but then also get that feedback and to kind of incorporate it but you know, as you know and probably other entrepreneurs know you start getting all this, this overwhelming tsunami of feedback and so then you have to sit down and part through it and figure out, you know, what direction do I take this thing in.
Scott: Yeah and it’s really hard these days with you know, so many products coming to market everyday, you know, advertising and marketing are more critical than ever, because you’ve got to stand out in this sea of everything. So, it’s difficult to, to try to differentiate yourself.
Robert: Yeah. I think the other, the other thing I was talking with some of the other entrepreneurs there and we were just, we were just kind of chatting about how your product is really, it really makes up such a small percentage of like, of your company in terms of people buying in you. Right? There’s all this other stuff over product development you know, I know in the last episode we talked about having a great design but you know, a lot of the conversations I had, people would take a cursory glance at my product but it was really talking to me and trying to internalize what we were doing, like what the scale of it was, like what the market was, and I feel like as an entrepreneur, like you’re not only battling building a product. You’re also battling all the other pieces of communicating what you’re doing and marketing and selling it and you know, getting people to buy into your vision.
That’s such a huge part that I think a lot of people you know, especially maybe technical people they focus more on just the product instead of all these other pieces that really will make you successful as an entrepreneur. So, I think you know, one of the challenges is in deciding the trade-offs between you know focusing on a specific topic and being more general and I’ve worked in a lot of different sectors and businesses. Especially the services side and you know, I know you’re a service business and I’m interested to hear your thoughts. As a service business I mean do you have a specific industry that you focus on or are you really like, I’ll accept any kind of app design that comes in? I’m kind of interested in hearing your thoughts on that.
Scott: Yeah, for me, it’s I’ll accept any type of work that comes in. I don’t focus on anything specific but I do like to target startups because that’s what I enjoy most, right? That’s why I asked you the question earlier like what are you, what are you passionate about? I like to build things from scratch because it’s more of a challenge but it’s also more fulfilling. You get to execute an entire vision versus just you know, a piece but I mean there’s something fun and sexy about building products too because you get to shape the whole, the whole thing and constantly evolve it. Right? So, as a software developer you know this. Like, we have the flexibility where we could just go build a product at any time if we wanted to and focus on it and the problem with that is like I don’t like to market. I don’t like to advertise. I don’t like to do anything like that. I like to just build. So, for me …
Robert: So, how do you solve, I mean how do you solve that problem though, because I mean I feel like that was one thing you know that I kind of got from the conference is that building is such a small part. I mean, your product is such a small part. I mean, it’s, you’re really selling yourself as to people when you’re telling them to build an app. I mean, yes, you have a backlog of apps that you’ve built and you have that knowledge but really people buying into you and your company and trusting you that you’ll, you know, you’ll take them on this journey to the right place that they want to go, and you’re selling your story. You’re selling them a story, right, and that’s, that’s really the biggest thing is you got get people to buy into the story of what you’re selling.
Scott: Yeah, and that’s the problem. Like, you probably know this but as the owner of a small business you end up becoming the product. Right?
Scott: It’s not the people you’ve got working for you. It’s, it’s you. So, that is hard and that’s where you get to the overextension, right, that you were talking about earlier. You know, you’re the one out there in front of everybody and that takes up all your time which again prevents you from doing other things. You know. I was telling somebody the other day that it’s great you’ve got projects, you’re working on things, and you’ve got revenue but in the back of your mind you’re always like, but this isn’t really what I want to be doing. I want to be focusing in on these other ideas. Right? So, when you’re in the service business you’re working on other people’s ideas. You’re not working on yours and so the ultimate goal is to streamline and automate everything in the service space and so that you personally can focus on the things that matter to you, like you know, a pet project or whatever it may be.
Robert: Yeah, I mean I think we talked about this in some of the past episodes is like using that service as a revenue stream to drive the products, right?
Robert: I really like that business model where you’re doing that. I mean, but it does take your time away from maybe your core, your core strategy so that I mean it is directly relevant to what we’re talking about now is that you know, you have to identify that core strategy what you’re going to go after. Especially if you’re, if you’re trying to take your services and like migrate over to more of a product, launching a product, right?
Scott: Uh-huh (affirmative). Yeah, and I mean it’s weird though. Like whether you’re on the product side or the service side there’s always something sexy about the other half, right? So, if you’re just doing services you’re always like man, I should take a step back and build a product and then when you’re building a product you’re like, I hate my customers. So, I’m just going to go do services. You know what I mean? Like …
Scott: The grass is always greener, you know.
Robert: Yeah, I always seem to fall like in the middle of the two where you know, I’m building a product but then I’m customizing it for people and that’s kind of where Mapout is is that we, we have a platform that could be a software as a service but we also then customize it for customers because I feel like that’s a niche area that maybe other people aren’t providing a solution for, and so If you can really say that you’re delivering value to your customers by really focusing on their problems and developing a solution that you customized just for them that solves their particular problems, especially for Mapout where we’re doing training.
Right? I mean, I can put a bunch of like common training courses on there but a lot of the people I’ve talked to are saying, hey our company culture is different. What we’re doing inside our company is different, so we need to customize the training that we’re providing our employees to match what our culture is, to match what our values are, and so you can’t just go buy that off the shelf. So, it’s, it’s providing them a customized solution that they can then create their own content and leverage their own content out to the employees that really provides the value of what we’re trying to build.
Scott: Yeah, and I think, something you mentioned made me think that in a lot of cases when you’re a product company you’re still are a service company because you’re, you’re always having to customize to one of your customer’s needs. Right? So, unless you’re a large enough product such as like Instagram or something where it’s like, oh you want to use this to market? Okay. Well, you’re going to have to use it exactly how we built it. You know? Versus if you’re trying to establish a part of an industry or a credibility for yourself, you have to be willing to customize so that you can obtain customers. So, but again, no matter what you have a product. Let’s say you’re a small business. You’re not trying to be the next Instagram or Facebook, you should probably have an engineer or two who can work on custom development because there’s going to be times when your product sales aren’t good and being able to do some service related stuff will help your bottom line.
Robert: I mean, one strategy that I’ve been using to kind of help myself kind of focus on a core strategy is you know, out of the conference I started listing what the opportunities were within a particular industry. Right?
Robert: So, then I tried to figure out, okay what customers would be there within those opportunities and so then I could reach out them or if I, you know If I already know people in those industries I can talk to them in more detail, right, and so you try to flesh out how big are these opportunities there? Where does my product already fit? You know, what’s the easiest path for me to get products to market in that industry, right, and then I can kind of scale it up from there and so, that’s what I’ve kind of done is identify these different healthcare industries and say, okay well to get into this industry I’d need this couple more features to really have like a minimal product that people would use, right and so then I can kind of balance that out to say, okay how much more development time do I need to get into that space. How much, how many connections do I already have in that space and that’s a big one, that, don’t underestimate how much time it take to make connections into a new industry.
So, if you already have existing connections you can really leverage those to get feedback quickly and bring your product to market and so since for myself I don’t really have a lot of connections in the healthcare industry, I’m probably you know, going against my own advice of, of pushing it down but I, I just know. I have to have in mind that it’s going to take longer for me to gather that information since I don’t have established relationships and so, you know, if you have that in the back of your mind that it’s you know, going to take six months, it’s going to take a year to kind of get enough information that you need and the timeframe too is, you want to push stuff quickly but it just, a lot of stuff doesn’t happen very quickly. It just takes time to establish those relationships.
Scott: Sure, but if you sell yourself and you sell your product then you’re going to be able to get in front of people quicker. You know and that worked for me in baseball, in sports, and in the startup space. So, if you’re natural and you’re authentic people will connect with you easier but you know, it sounds like you are looking to build upon Mapout as a framework to hit some of these new niches or are you talking about building new products from scratch?
Scott: The reason I ask is because you know, in either case you’ve got development costs but starting from scratch is you know, time consuming.
Robert: No. It’s, it wouldn’t be starting from scratch. It’d basically be features that I already have in my roadmap but just kind of prioritizing those features to hit the market. So, you know, like some areas in healthcare for continuing education, for nurses, for doctors, things of that nature, and they want things like quizzes and tests and that sort of thing and that’s an area that I’m still working to build out and so it was be prioritizing that. That would kind of be part of the minimal viable product is to incorporate those kinds of features into the product.
Scott: Do you provide feedback to them? Like let’s say they come to you with a bad idea and the reason I’m going down this path is they come to you with a bad idea, you build it for them, it doesn’t hit the spot. Now, you potentially lose future engagement with that customer because they don’t really have a need for it. So, do you try to steer them away from things or do you just build what they want?
Robert: No, I try to, I try to figure out across the different custom sets what’s kind of a commonality of things, because that’s an area that I worry about is that they say, oh well we see X Y and Z features to even like purchase your product. So, you go forward and you build X Y and Z and then they see, and then they say, oh but we really needed A B and C also to kind of like before we get started, right? So, there’s always that kind of fear that you’ll kind of enter into this loop. So, I think you have to be, you have to accept their feedback but then you have to figure out well what makes sense for your business? What makes sense for this opportunity, because a lot of times if you talk through it with them those things might not be something they need right now, right? It might be something that they, they, that it’s a want more than a need.
Scott: Yeah. Well, I hate to think like a business person but you could always get them into a contract that says, we’ll develop these three features for you with a commitment right? So that you’re protecting yourself against that additional iteration and then stalling to sign a contract but you know, that’s not always the best way to do it. Especially if you’re in a new industry, you want to establish yourself and be flexible but that’s something to consider, if that’s a recurring pattern.
Robert: No, that’s a really good point and something I’ve been thinking about a lot is that having a pilot or having some customers that will take a chance on your idea and your product and to say get out it out there and then to show value, so that’s what I’m trying to do is really find those, those strategic partners and that’s another area when you’re kind of building your, if you’re building into a new industry of establish strategic partnerships with people that already have the connections in the industry and so then I can work with them to kind of like leverage their networks to grow, right, and so they already have the industry knowledge and they can kind of help guide me.
So, if you can find some of those strategic partners that will help you that definitely will push you forward and then finding people that are open to trying new ideas, because there are definitely people within industries that want to push the boundaries. Right? They want to be the first person to market with different things. So, you need to actively look those people out because they will help push your stuff forward and then other people that may be slower, doctors and stuff, they’ll start seeing the benefits of what everyone’s doing and then they’re going to be and I mean it’s similar to your baseball apps, right? You went with the, the person that was you know, The Squirrels were the early adopters in Richmond and then other people kind of saw the benefits and so they started latching onto to that idea and then it just scaled out from there.
Scott: Yep. Yep, and I think knowing somebody, well you know, either knowing the industry that you’re going into yourself which in this case you don’t, or knowing people who are in the industry that can give you some insight as to what some of the needs are but also you know, who to talk to and some of the things to watch out for. Having somebody that you can trust, a strategic partner as you said will be you know, very very beneficial because it gives you that additional insight that you didn’t have. Right? So, I highly recommend that. I’ve done that many times myself. So …
Robert: So, hopefully in this episode it’s helped you know, other people and helped other people listening to kind of think about their ideas and you know, who know you’re not the only one kind of having these things go through your heads. I mean it’s something that both Scott and I think about as well and I think really ever business owner thinks about is kind of evaluating the market and figuring out where you fit and so, just feeling out those opportunities, establish partnerships, really try to you know, maybe list the industries, list the opportunities and try to figure out the best fit that you can start piloting things and going forward.
Scott: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it’s an constantly evolving, this, this path isn’t easy. If you’re not, hey if you’re a hundred percent comfortable you’re about to lose your business. That’s basically how it works. You’re always working on something new.
Robert: Yeah. All right. See you next week.
Scott: Peace. Thanks for listening to this episode of The Stretched Goals Podcast. You can access the show notes for this episode and listen to other episodes by heading over to stretchgoals.fm.
Robert Dickerson is the Founder and CEO of Mapout a mobile learning platform that uses video courses to educate customers and train employees. He helps companies develop and launch their products.
Scott Davis is the Founder and CEO of MobX, a mobile development software agency. He has 20 years of experience developing software for Government, Finance, Sports and the Telecommunications industry.