Can you leapfrog the competition?
“We’re really behind but with our new plan, we’re going to leapfrog the competition.”
Have you heard this one?
If your product is deficient in capabilities that your competitors have already delivered, you expend the majority of your development resource just catching up. After all, there are must-have features in every product—the ones you need just to be considered viable. But to jump ahead, you need to address these basic competitive features and also allocate resources to do work beyond the basics.
To “leapfrog the competition,” you need to out-spend them.
But more than that, you need to out-learn them.
To jump ahead, your team needs to learn what your competitors have already experienced.
One way to out-learn the competitor is to narrow your focus. Instead of matching them feature for feature, focus on a specific persona in a narrow market and build only those features the market segment requires. Learn everything there is to know about this persona and you can win against any competitor offering a generic product. But focusing on a smaller market is a tough sell internally; executives and sales people have tremendous difficulty staying focused on a niche.
Honestly, I can’t think of a technology company who has had success with a leapfrog strategy—unless they made the leap through acquisition. With an acquisition, you acquire the knowledge—at a premium. Your product team didn’t learn; you bought the learning.
At every stage of the product life cycle, you’re balancing resources against demand. In the startup phase, you’re striving to meet 100% of the needs of your clients. Focus is the best way to stay ahead of the competition.