Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Some thoughts on identifying potential marketplaces and customers in the face of novelty and innovation – 1

Posted in book recommendations, startups, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on December 22, 2011

In a fundamental sense I find myself walking into the middle of a busy conversation with this posting. Much if not most of marketing is based on market identification, stratification and analysis, and in understanding the trigger points that would prompt people to buy. The rest of marketing is about developing a message that would effectively respond to this insight and understanding and to the potential customers it reveals. But much if not most of that is based on an assumption that the product or service to be marketed is fundamentally known in the marketplace. That at least in principle leaves out truly novel innovations and the unique value propositions that would underlie blue ocean strategies. That leaves off those products and services that would perform and thrive in new markets that until them had not even existed. So my goal here in this posting is not to reinvent or recapitulate a great deal of standard knowledge and practice for marketing a new variation on some already existing product or service. My focus here is on marketing when you are breaking new ground and when the public you would reach out to is not even thinking yet, in terms of what you would offer.

Unique value propositions are an important and ongoing theme that runs throughout this blog. And in this regard I would cite my postings in Business Strategy and Operations and its Part 2 continuation page and also Startups and Early Stage Businesses. For purposes of this posting I will use this term in a more restrictive sense then usual, where I more generally use it to indicate any unique source of value that would be perceived as such in the marketplace. So for clarification I will refer to the innovations of this posting as emergent unique value propositions. And more formally:

• An emergent unique value proposition is a value proposition that when effectively marketed becomes the basis for a new and unique blue ocean strategy.

A key word for this posting is uncertainty. A business that seeks to develop a truly emergent unique value proposition generally has an idea as to what their novel new product or service can do, but they generally do not know what killer app uses, real world customers will find for it – and certainly for technology products. I find myself thinking of a set of examples that would support this contention that I have cited before in this blog – next generation computer storage technologies where each one has generally found its initial success in a customer base that had never looked to computer storage technology in the past (see

• Christensen, C.M. (1997, 2000) The Innovator’s Dilemma. Harper Business.

These potential high value, high engagement customers correspondingly at least start out unaware of what is coming, or of its value to them. So this posting is about connecting the dots when both you and your customers start out without a map for doing that. And I add that what I write of here represents one of the greatest challenges that the truly innovative face.

I would like to be able to say that I have a simple and even algorithmic approach to managing and resolving this set of challenges, but at this time at least I can only outline some of the basic parameters that have to be dealt with. And I do that on the assumption that knowing what types of dots have to be connected, and planning and executing a business with them in mind is more likely to lead to success than an unplanned, completely ad hoc approach.

• Know your product, and with a view to usability that allows for greater range than just the first potential uses that you started with when designing your core innovation. Think through precisely what it is that you offer that confers unique value, and draw people into a conversation to help you identify new potential markets.
• The goal here is to not simply leave it to chance that a new type of marketplace and customer base will find you and entirely on their own.
• And as a final thought for this posting, be open to ideas and approaches to usability and user context that might go against your expectations and that you might at least initially see as the wrong approach to take. Your best market may be in an entirely unexpected industry, marketplace and user-defined need. But this may be where your business success will come from if you are to reach that at all.
• The more fundamental your insight and innovation and the more fundamental the technology involved, the more likely it is that you will see your best customers coming from unexpected places and with unexpected uses for it in mind.

I am certain to come back to this topic area in future postings and add that I see this posting simply as a foundation for further discussion. And to finish this, I add one final thought.

• The more disruptively innovative a new product or service, or a new underlying technology the more difficult it is going to be up-front to see and anticipate where it will have the greatest impact and where it will hold the greatest potential.
• But at the same time the more disruptively innovative a new product or service, the more potential it will have for building greatness for any business that does manage to connect it to the right target audiences.

This is an important challenge.

You can find this and related postings at Business Strategy and Operations – 2 (and see also Business Strategy and Operations.) You can also find this and related postings at Startups and Early Stage Businesses.

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