Building cool technology can be the first step in creating a product that changes the world. But just because companies have the knowledge to develop a revolutionary technology doesn’t guarantee success. They may fail to understand how future customers will use their final product to solve critical problems, or even how that product will be profitable in the long run. As a result, many companies end up launching their change-the-world technology based on market assumptions and siloed opinions.
The only way to predict the market’s need for new technology is to get out of your insulated office and ask the right people the right questions. As Pragmatic Institute Rule #7 reminds us: “Your opinion, while interesting, is irrelevant.” If a product is truly going to change the world, it requires market insight, commitment to solving market problems and a plan to get there.
A company called Renesys faced this challenge. Renesys had the ability to measure global Internet performance through a core technology that used a state-of-the-art global sensor grid to continuously monitor, collect, analyze and correlate Internet routing and performance data. Renesys’ customers understood how the Internet changed in real time and could make decisions to ensure their products and networks were continuously available to customers and connected in the best possible way. Although interesting, the information was squarely targeted at a particular set
of customers: the business development groups and network engineering staff at Internet service providers (i.e., Comcast and British Telecom) and network service providers (i.e., Level 3 and NTT).
Dyn, the leading Internet performance provider, acquired Renesys in May 2014 and leveraged years of research and development to bring the Internet Intelligence product line to market. Dyn knew it had something unique, but not all stakeholders in Dyn’s existing customer base understood the need for this technology, or what it would mean once the companies combined. Dyn’s challenge was to translate its value to the broader enterprise IT market as it prepared to transition to the cloud.
Dyn understood that simply rebranding the Renesys product wouldn’t be enough to create an immediate market demand for Internet Intelligence. While Dyn knew that its 3,000-plus customers needed the Internet performance products it could now produce to provide a comprehensive view of their Internet presence, their customers did not. Dyn needed to explain the value from the customer’s perspective; it needed to understand its customers in a new way.
Dyn immediately understood its challenges:
1. A few large design partners drove revenue and the roadmap. Renesys products typically targeted the service provider space.
Work on a market-expanding product was just getting underway, but the product roadmap for the new product suite was driven by a handful of key design partners that continued to drive revenue and requirements. Dyn needed to consider the needs of its larger customer base and how the product line would broadly appeal to them.
2. The product was designed for technical users. The Renesys Internet Intelligence product was regarded as a best-in-class solution. Technical users loved the information and detail, but to take full advantage of the solution required a high level of expertise and training. In order to gain value, non-technical users needed to have a base knowledge of the Internet’s inner workings and specifics on the product. Relatively few users had this type of knowledge.
3. Specific customer problems were not defined for a broader market. Just as enterprises needed the technical skill to use the original product, they also needed the technical foresight to understand how the new technology could help them. Refining current use-cases for broad market appeal became an immediate priority.
Dyn quickly recognized its need to create a process to overcome these challenges. Dyn contacted Neil Baron from Baron Strategic Partners to lead an objective, third-party effort to remove ambiguity and bias as it brought its new Internet performance products to market. The companies began work to reposition and establish customer-centric value propositions for the Internet Intelligence product line. Dyn’s leadership set an external launch date of September 16, 2014, which gave Dyn something to work toward and effectively raised the urgency on the difficult process.
The Approach: Refining the Value Proposition
Any product refinement process begins with identifying the key questions that will eventually impact customers. Unfortunately, companies often make assumptions about their potential customer market. This tends to differ from actual market data and prevent a company from developing a product or service that customers value.
For example, Internet Intelligence was an innovative product for Dyn because it could tell users how the Internet was performing at any given time in any part of the world. But the relevance of these analytics would be lost on most of the potential customers that Dyn already knew. It was not a commercially viable go-to-market strategy to assume that the prospect of a “cool” technology would impress customers. Dyn needed to focus on translating the technical features of a complex product into business value that customers and prospective customers could understand.
To develop a successful go-to-market strategy, the Dyn team established a process to answer the following questions:
- What customer problems does Dyn’s Internet Intelligence product line solve?
- Where is the best market fit for Internet Intelligence?
- What is the value proposition to Dyn’s existing customer base?
- What does Dyn actually know about its customers, and what assumptions has it made about them?
Stakeholders learned how to engage in objective conversations to identify ideal target customers and their reasons for buying. This was critical, because for a company to deliver superior value in a profitable way, it has to choose the right customers: those who will get the most value from a vendor’s offering. These customers are most likely to buy a new product and become loyal customers, with minimal discounting required by the sales team.
A company must also be absolutely clear about what value customers will receive when they buy the product and the entire organization must understand its role in profitably delivering this value.
Steps to Providing Superior Customer Value
Options for collecting customer information include surveys and sales anecdotes. But nothing is better than actually talking with customers who have used a product. By leveraging his third-party status, Neil managed to avoid common barriers and ask tough questions that he could translate back into unbiased data for Dyn. He also encouraged Dyn to sit in on his interviews to get a feel for this unbiased approach. The interviews were crucial to knocking down organizational silos by ensuring that Dyn put customers at the center of the conversation.
Segmenting and Targeting Customers
Segmenting a market typically starts by focusing on the vendor. However, Dyn honed in on market need for its Internet Intelligence product line. It segmented customers based on urgency of need. This was an important distinction, because at launch, the Internet Intelligence product line was a future technology for many potential customers. Segmenting by urgent need, non-urgent need, no-need and need already met helped Dyn articulate its go-to-market strategy.
Neil and Charlie Baker, Dyn’s director of product management, conducted workshop sessions where they used market segmentation data to refine the customer value proposition for the product line. Dyn looked at which customers needed the product line and examined whether there was a value proposition for those with no current need. This allowed Dyn to make critical decisions that tailored the product to true market demand.
Objective Customer Interviews
It’s sometimes difficult to speak objectively with customers; you can become excited by a customer’s reaction to the product, or defensive if the product doesn’t impress. But it’s critical to building a successful go-to-market strategy. Much time was spent honing these skills on Dyn’s product team. Post-launch, Dyn continues to cultivate a stable of customers who are open to honest conversations and educate its employees about how to conduct these interviews.
Dyn successfully launched its Internet Intelligence product line in September 2014 with a SaaS-based product that provides real-time visibility into critical Internet connectivity and routing data. The go-to-market process identified similarities between Internet service providers and the largest enterprise businesses in the world. The target company size for the initial Internet Intelligence products, therefore, was Global 2000 businesses, because these companies fit into the urgent need segmentation category.
Urgent Need Example—A Global 2000 company is growing globally and expanding its current data center footprint. These enterprises dedicate a tremendous amount of energy in the decision-making process and execution of network expansions. What information is available for them to make a decision? Will the new data center location serve their target customers and critical business partners well? Will performance meet expectations? Which transit providers are key to consider?
By identifying the potential customers based on their current and future needs, Dyn knew where and whom to target.
More than 10 publications—spanning business, tech and trade publications and top analyst firms—wrote about the launch of the Internet Intelligence product line. These included reviews in Network World, in additional IDG publications and a feature story in Quartz about the need for tools like Internet Intelligence. If Dyn had not changed its product focus to address customer pain points, a value-focused review like Network World’s would have been impossible.
Slow Internet links got you down? It’s Dyn to the rescue. Internet Intelligence is an interesting product and has solid value. Before it was available, if you wanted to ping any IP address or Internet provider, you would have to know the location of either and try to piece together what is happening from the results. It was time-intensive and tedious. Internet Intelligence makes this process easier by having several basic troubleshooting routines that are available.
Beyond coverage, Internet Intelligence saw success where it matters most: with customers. Large brands looking to grow their international footprint, such as LinkedIn, became Internet Intelligence customers. Fitting in with Dyn’s initial strategy, existing enterprise customers, like Ustream and Interxion, also bought the product. Now, almost a full year after its launch, interest and sales are driving key initiatives across the business.
To begin the process, Dyn acquired a unique, state-of-the-art technology from a highly talented team at Renesys. Partnering with a third-party consultant, Dyn objectively determined the exact market need for its product, based on hard data. With a customer-centric focus, Dyn successfully launched its Internet Intelligence product line, spoke to actual market demand, and transformed a specific market technology into an important tool, applicable to a broad market.
The process, however, remains ongoing. Dyn understands that its product line is useful to new market verticals with specific use cases and is using these customer-first, unbiased methods to determine exactly who these customers are and what these uses include. As the progression of Internet Intelligence products unfold, Dyn will unveil them to an even larger audience.