Company founders who dare disrupt the status quo and change the world continually face unprecedented roadblocks and deadends as they navigate the highly challenging world of business.
In this two-part series (you can also check out Part 1 here), espresso co-founder Scott McKeon discusses key learnings from their early challenges and wins. We talk about how they cemented their award-winning portable monitor’s place in multiple markets despite being an underdog facing stiff competition.
We share pivotal insights into the most pressing challenges that espresso was faced with during their company’s beginning stages up to the present, including:
- How they found their target audience and solved their problems
- How they leveraged a strong company vision to guide their product roadmap and future plans
- Why consistent storytelling and messaging empower brands to cross the chasm from early adopters to mass market and how BeingIconic helped espresso achieve that at every touchpoint
Ready to become an iconic brand? Let’s begin.
Because they were then-underdogs who wanted to pitch a mass-market consumer electronics product, espresso struggled to find its target audience.
“espresso Displays is for anyone who wants a second screen for their laptop or for anyone at a desktop but wants to go elsewhere,” says Scott. Eventually, the team realised this was not going to bode well with investors.
“Investors want to hear a specific narrative, while the scope that we were attacking was so broad. And since we didn’t have the momentum we have now, it just wasn’t that exciting for investors.”
A big part of the start-up/scale-up dilemma is targeting the widest possible audience that products prove useful to. The idea behind this is that the wider the net you cast, the bigger the fish you catch. As we all learn, the opposite is true.
Ask yourself, “Who is the immediate market we can target?”, “What gaps can we fill?”, and “What is the messaging that resonates with that particular audience’s needs?”
Doing so increases your ability to focus on specific pain points, drivers, triggers, or barriers to entry for that audience.
Once you have locked down your primary target, that is when you can start asking questions like, “Is there a secondary audience we should focus on?”, or “Is it the right time for us to expand to a wider audience?” If so, you can then expand your value proposition and supporting messaging to a wider crowd.
Resonating with early adopters and crossing the chasm into the mass market are two completely different things.
“There are two sides to our market. On the one side, HP, Dell, and other massive companies with incredible supply chains and reliable traditional distribution channels are great, especially with features and specs,” Scott muses.
“However, they are not necessarily products that customers are passionate about. We believe they lack the storytelling and relevance for right now. We want to know what people feel like when they use our products. Are we providing ‘meaning’ beyond delivering a portable monitor?”
“On the other side, you have the cheaper portable monitors that have specs and user interface that are below par.” While these products can never hold a candle to espresso Displays’ superior quality and look and feel — they make up for it in accessibility and affordability.
So, how does espresso compete?
For espresso and many other up-and-comers, being able to go head-to-head with industry giants, as well as cheaper, more accessible products in mainstream markets means:
1) refining their messaging, and
2) being able to tell a strategic narrative that evokes emotions.
Doing so increases the likelihood of people picking your product over someone else’s.
One reason that espresso is able to outshine their competitors is because they provide a premium product as well as tell a story that builds loyal customers who are motivated by not just simple utility, but also an elite on-the-go lifestyle.
To replicate this, start-up and scale-up founders need to ask themselves two questions:
1) “Have we sorted out our value proposition and messaging to compete at the level we want to compete at?”, and
2) “Are our customers currently product-led or brand/audience-led?”
Product-led customers are easy to target if your product measures up to their requirements in terms of specs and features. Unfortunately, you cannot create evangelists out of them. Once they find a better product, they can easily shift toward that.
Simply put, you do not want to be product-led.
On the other hand, brand-led customers are more complex but worth the investment. Convincing your audience to choose your product requires more than quality, specs, and features. They also need to buy into your brand.
But once they do, they have the potential to become evangelists who consistently recommend your product to their peers, resulting in long-term growth.
“We continually listen to customers and work on building those audiences, segment channels, and relationships. For example, we know the creative industry is a big user market for us — from musicians to artists, producers, videographers, advertisers, strategists, and everyone else in that industry,” Scott says.
So, ask yourself, ”Are we building evangelists for our brand?”, “Do we have the right messaging in place to enable that?”, and “Do we have a consistent brand experience to facilitate that evangelism within our brand?”
Remember that even though there are plenty of people who have the same pain points as your ideal client, not everyone will be a customer. This is why you need to get clarity around who you are targeting, who your pricing is meant for, and what steps you need to take to truly speak to that audience.
Another reason espresso is able to compete with industry incumbents is that they are dedicated to quality consistency — from their products to every interaction customers have with their brand.
“If we’re able to create a consistent brand experience across all channels that appeal to our target users all the time as we release new products, they will already know about us. I believe that’s where we see the most success.”
Working with the BeingIconic team, espresso is able to help tell a consistent story throughout every touchpoint, from its website to its packaging and marketing (to read more about how BeingIconic showed the path toward positioning business strategy with short- and long-term targets, check out Part 1).
Going through the painstaking process of ensuring that every single interaction a customer experiences is the same top-tier quality as your products creates a consistently delightful journey.
This consistency then pays off ten-fold, allowing you to charge the price that you want, target the audience you want, and increase your overall conversions.
So, ask yourself, “Is my company’s customer journey and brand experience consistent from the first time my customer engages with us to when they receive our product?”
If yes, then are you making space for those “lightning-strike” moments that continue to surprise and delight your customers? What are you doing to foster the feeling of being a trusted leader in your industry? And do you have the expertise to go the extra mile when it comes to serving your customers?
Consistently providing multiple “ah-ha” moments for your customers, throughout their purchasing journeys, will be the strongest strategy you can deploy to boost your brand’s sales channels and allow you to take giant leaps toward the mass market.
Being the first to market is not always the go-to winning methodology, as evidenced by espresso’s staggering success. However, when they did launch, approaching their market the right way using a heavily strategic lens was their key to success.
“We bring something to the market that companies like Lenovo, HP, Dell, and others don’t. These companies don’t really speak to people who want to take a second screen and go anywhere else. These people go to us,” he concludes.
BeingIconic is extremely proud to work with espresso in creating enduring value for mass markets, as they continue to scale successfully in their journey. Working with them daily showed us how dedicated they are to leveraging innovation and focused planning in order to bring amazing products that solve real-world problems.
When espresso approached BeingIconic, we set the wheels in motion by appointing a senior marketing partner to guide their business planning, branding, sales channels, and partnerships in order to match their global business plan.
In the beginning, espresso was going down the route of expensive agencies and media houses. We saw that what they needed was experienced marketing support that will empower them to move with magnitude without having to spend tens of thousands on a creative idea.
By looking at their overall business objectives, BeingIconic was able to develop a marketing budget focused on ROI, help with significant cost-savings across the business, and increase sales by 1000% in just ten months.
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