Stoa Daily Challenge #2
Today, play the role of Sundar Adibas, 47, who is the new CEO of NFG, which sells sports celebrity-branded fashion goods.
Your job: Help the company pivot to a better market segment and line of products to revive its stagnant growth.
Are you ready to wear the shoes of someone with 20+ years of experience?
Now, to today's essay.
"After I left Substack, I had so many people ask me what made the company different. Why was it successful when there were so many failed tech companies that tried to serve writers?
The answer is simple: they were the first competitor in their market that had writers in their DNA. Whether it was refusing to call their sales motion a sales team (writers typically hate being sold things) or starting most discussions with some variation of “What you are reading?”, they worked really hard to ensure that a writer ethos permeated the company. The team understood what made writers tick and simultaneously identified a gap in the market that their product could fill. The intellectually lazy way to describe this is customer obsession, but it's more nuanced than that."
— Evan Armstrong
Sometimes, it really is that simple — knowing the target market you're serving from the inside out versus from the inside in.
There is a lot of difference in the data you get out of customer interviews versus all the subtle cultural signals, philosophy, and attitudes you can leverage in your product decisions and communication when you're a part of that culture yourself.
And when there is no data to support decisions, to justify them, or make them the "right" decisions, this deep relationship with the community you're serving acts as your compass. When you understand the vibe of the market you're targeting because you're also a part of the same market, you're able to create value better and communicate that value better. You know the nuances, the little everyday struggles... pain points and motivations that may not necessarily come out as a part of user interviews.
So, the best thing to do if your company culture doesn't fit the market you're serving from the ground up is to hire a few product people who have a great employee-market fit and allow them to guide product decisions. They've lived through the space and are ideally positioned to be customer whisperers.
"The way to get startup ideas is not to try to think of startup ideas. It's to look for problems, preferably problems you have yourself.
The very best startup ideas tend to have three things in common: they're something the founders themselves want, that they themselves can build, and that few others realize are worth doing. Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo, Google, and Facebook all began this way."
— Paul Graham