The product-led scaling shift
It's always painful. What got you here won't get you there.
Solving distribution problems with your features never works. The result is overwhelming backlogs, obscure customer requests, and a complete breakdown of the organization essentially treading what feels to be water.
But why? Let’s map it out and look at 4 common behaviors that hurt companies specifically.
It might be true to assume that you are building for the same customer over time when you achieve product-market fit and start to get a grip on the market, but scaling what got you here doesn’t always work, even if it’s in a big enough market and your pipeline looks healthy.
We should not look at our customer base as a homogenous group that exerts the same buying and usage behavior, even if they are having the same problems as each other to solve.
A common concept (first coined by books like “Crossing the Chasm”) divides our markets roughly into early adopters and the majority of the market. And in between is the famous “chasm” that’s so hard to cross between the two.
The usually given explanations for that are:
"Early adopters don't care about price or the quality that much, they need bleeding edge features, the newest stuff."
"For the Early Majority, you need to focus on the quality, unit economics (and therefore price) and a broader feature coverage"
While true, that leaves out an important to understand the difference between the two: their behavior to acquire solutions
Early adopters and their behavior
Early adopters are not only a small portion of your market. They *behave* differently in how they shop and acquire products.
They not only want different features they also seek out new solutions actively. And that can go through all segments of B2B too. You have a CMO in a big corp on the bleeding edge of Martech, trying to level up their org. They are early adopters.
And they will actively search for new solutions. That's why you can put a perfect distribution focus to the side at the beginning and focus on creating a great product. Prove that you can retain them first, and you're off to the races.
In other words, focus on the product like a maniac first. Do not let go of this search for product-market fit until you have it.
The party is over. Hangover is here
Suddenly trying to address more of the same aka "scaling" means the party stops. We have to deal with things that are painful at scale:
Geographical friction (culture, language, local competition, etc.)
Defending existing growth
This is especially relevant for ANY product-led business. Shifting gears from PMF to GTM will hurt.
It's not your competition. It's whether you can stop your organization from breaking down while you try to build your product suddenly for a majority that's looking for a sustainable, stable solution.
But all you did so far was to innovate and ship ship ship. Now is the time to evaluate, slow down, and sometimes even unship.
And for that, you need to expand what you understand under "product". It's including the post and pre-experience, not your features.
Behaviors that get startups into trouble
Let’s look at 4 typical behaviors that get companies into trouble:
1. Triggering “scaling” because of wrong signals
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