Finding Your Niche for Mobile Growth
Everything is mobile. Everyone is mobile. That is the world today. Wireless mobile connectivity is a very addictive commodity. As 5G becomes a reality, mobile players are carving out their place in a continually more competitive market. Now, the satellite industry is wedging its way into the mix as well – promising to partner with terrestrial wireless to connect places cellular cannot. As a newcomer, solid business insight, some luck and a lot of persistence is required to become and remain relevant.
I had the opportunity to speak with Emmanuel Cotrel, CEO and Founder of FMC GlobalSat. His company provides mobile communication solutions to offshore and renewable energy facilities and commercial vessels and private yachts. Notably, FMC GlobalSat is an early partner to disruptive flat panel satellite antenna maker, Kymeta. As a serial entrepreneur, Cotrel shared with GuideForce five lessons he has brought to the launch and growth of his latest start up.
Lesson 1: Find your niche for growth
First, Cotrel recommends becoming very precise in terms of the mobile markets you plan to support. Even going down to the specific individuals you will work with inside the organizations you serve. “The less specific you become the less success you have. Every market is different and every buyer group is different,” says Cotrel.
As an example, Cotrel shared that he works with many engineers and key stakeholders in the organizations FMC GlobalSat serves. “You need to be very precise and very knowledgeable when working with engineers. Nobody wants to take risks. It requires an ongoing dialog,” says Cotrel. His central point is how important it is to ensure the customer feels confident you know what you are talking about and you fully understand their concerns and requirements. It’s more than just personas everyone has been talking about for many years. It is really about putting yourself in the customer’s shoes and walking with them in partnership to bring the optimum solution, not just your original planned solution.
Lesson 2: Demonstrate a successful track record
When you’re the new kid on the block, not having a track record can be challenging. Sharing relevant customer references can be critical. To create the domino effect, you need several large players in your target market that have successfully implemented your solution. It’s usually very difficult to start with established corporations. To get there, you sometimes have to go through the “cracks” of these organizations by providing an immediate solution as a pilot or test phase. This will allow you to demonstrate your ability to fulfill customer requirements and benchmark your company against other vendors. “Once you establish trust it becomes easier,” says Cotrel.
The best way to get there is to ensure the solution you provide matches customer requirements, while anticipating future needs. When there’s a need, there’s a buyer. Cotrel uses a process. First, he recommends clearly describing your primary customer set. Do this by identifying those with common requirements for your solution, but with specifics for each market, industry, buyer segment and user. Next, identify where you provide the greatest value. It must be something noteworthy and outstanding in some tangible way that matters to your identified customer set. Then, you create specific offerings pertaining to each market you are targeting. This is critical. Which brings us to lesson three.
Lesson 3: Test multiple paths
Instead of trying various options sequentially, and wasting a lot of time, Cotrel suggests testing multiple paths simultaneously. This is much more efficient than a serial approach. “Don’t act on gut feeling which can be problematic,” adds Cotrel. “You can get lucky with a few sales, but having market validation points will save you a lot of time and could ultimately save your startup from failing before it even gets off the ground. You cannot fully anticipate what the customer wants and where the market will shift,” Cotrel continues.
Cotrel suggests using pilot phases. He says you need to remain very open-minded so you hear what the customer is trying to tell you. It will also provide you the flexibility to work out the details and finalize your solution by managing customer expectations. Don’t become so set on a specific approach that you miss the clear advice your customers will openly share if you are willing to ask and listen. Don’t over communicate at the beginning since you may not have your market validation confirmed. Anything you say may become confusing at a later stage. Start communicating on your success once you have completed customer references and market validation. This will allow your company to pivot as required and adapt from your original assumptions as you clarify your go-to-market strategy. Once you have it, stick to it. Market validation is key to fine-tuning your business models. Once you have obtained a validation of your business model, it simplifies your ability to raise funds to secure a proper launch and expand your operation.
Lesson 4: Add significant value
The key to standing out is bundling significant value based on customer knowledge. Cotrel focuses on delivering value in the ongoing service and support his company delivers to its customers. In the telecommunication and satcom industry, hardware is the supporting infrastructure, but what the customer wants is the output. The value resides in the output, not in the hardware that enables it.
Significant value is delivered through innovation, which can take several forms but always starts with what already exists. Avoid reinventing the wheel, just make a better wheel.
Lesson 5: Be prepared – launching is hard
As a serial entrepreneur, Cotrel emphasizes that it often takes years to grow a thriving business and always more money than originally anticipated. In this process, he says you need to learn from mistakes along the way because you cannot predict everything. At the same time, he suggests there are ways to avoid missteps in the early days, but expect to have unforeseen challenges. First, adapt quickly to where the market is going. Second, hedge your bets based on trends. Third, think long term. There is always a certain lag between the launch of a product and its market acceptance. You need to be prepared and stay on top of market shifts and macro and microeconomic fluctuations.
Most importantly, Cotrel says if the direct customer-supported market validation is there, you can rest assured you have a winning plan.
Let’s review the lessons we can take from Cotrel and the FMC GlobalSat team.
- Find your niche for growth.
- Demonstrate a successful track record with a handful customer references.
- Test multiple paths simultaneously.
- Add significant value.
- Be prepared – launching is hard.
The one theme that came out of our conversation is that you must walk in partnership with your customers and take their view. Clearly identify their needs and find a way to address their needs in a very cost-effective manner. Cotrel’s focus on market validation based on direct feedback from customers is without a doubt a winning strategy.
Learn more about FMC GlobalSat at www.fmcglobalsat.com.
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