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What product managers need to know about entering a crowded product category
Today we are discussing crowded product categories and the challenges when trying to enter them with a new product. For context, we’ll use the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) category, which is indeed crowded. Joining us is Jeroen Corthout, co-founder of Salesflare, the simple yet powerful CRM.
This is a topic I’m close to as I have been evaluating CRMs to keep track of the guests I have on this podcast as well as the companies I have the pleasure of helping to improve their product management and innovation. In full disclosure, Salesflare gave me a license to use their CRM at no cost. For this episode, what I’m interested in is what Jeroen learned entering such a crowded market.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[3:20] Why does the world need another CRM solution?
Eight years ago I had a software company, and we were looking for a CRM tool to help us follow up our sales leads better. I had used Salesforce in the past and knew it wasn’t a great practical tool for the end user. We found some small business CRMs that still fell short for us because they only worked if we did an enormous amount of work—constantly typing in information. We wondered if we could build our own CRM that collects information automatically. We created a CRM system that collects information on your contacts from your emails, calendar, and phone. That became the basis for Salesflare, a tool with which you can follow up leads, prospects, and customers in a much easier way because the system provides you all the information about them, which you can then build on and organize.
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[8:19] Tell us more about your product journey that led to creating a CRM company.
As we tried several existing solutions, we noticed what worked well about them and what problems we still had. We did a lot of experimentation. We built a prototype and got excepted in an incubator and accelerator. After that we started building the CRM tool and did customer interviews, because we knew what we wanted, but we didn’t know what other people wanted.
[17:30] How did you find people to interview and what did you ask them?
We had an idea of the types of companies we wanted to go after—companies that sell through email and phone calls. We decided to interview VPs of sales and salespeople. I reached out to people I knew, and at the end of each interview I asked them if they knew three other people who would be interested in being interviewed.
We showed people the product and got feedback. We discovered we needed to make the software a bit more clear and simple. Our software can be used like a normal CRM, even though it works differently, but sometimes people try the software and don’t see it’s different. When you’re entering a crowded category, you want to differentiate yourself sharply, but if you differentiate too much people won’t get it.
[21:28] What good decisions did you make and what did you get wrong along the way?
A lot of SaaS companies put up a webpage and let people try their software, but this doesn’t allow you to get much information about people’s experience. Instead, I got in contact with all the customers who wanted a trial version. I gave them a demo, understood their needs and context, showed them the software, and took notes about their experience. We set up the software together and saw the moments when it didn’t work like we expected. Staying close to the customer saved us in the early days, because if we hadn’t done that I don’t think we would have been able to evolve the product as well as we have.
In the beginning we were very bad at structuring and prioritizing feedback. If we had done it earlier, it would have saved us a lot of time. We were just scribbling feedback in a Google doc, and it was very badly organized and prioritized. Now we have a clear system We know what to tackle first and why customers asked about an issue.
Action Guide: Put the information Jeroen shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide.
- Learn more about Salesflare
- Check out the Salesflare YouTube channel
- Connect with Jeroen on LinkedIn
“Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.” – Forrest Gump
Thank you for taking the journey to product mastery and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.