The marketing group within an emerging company plays a crucial role in the development process for the company’s initial products. Unlike established firms, emerging companies have no existing product line or track record and thus have no room for error as they develop their products and look to introduce and sell them to customers that have no familiarity with the company or any brand reputation upon which to base their purchasing decision. It is therefore essential for emerging companies to seek and obtain feedback from prospective customers as soon as possible to make sure that there requirements are recognized and integrated into the product development process at an early stage. The marketing group should take responsibility for identifying and qualifying potential lead customers that can be part of the feedback process. Qualification is an important point since listening to the wrong customers at this point can send the development process off in the wrong direction and lead to an emphasis on features that are ultimately perceived as having little value by most of the parties in the target market.
The marketing group serves a valuable purpose in keeping an emerging company focused on identifying and vigorously pursuing carefully defined product niches in order to gain a foothold that can ensure early survival and provide the company with the freedom to eventually expand into newer and larger markets using the core competencies developed during the launch phase. Emerging companies lack the financial and technical resources, as well as the time, to satisfy all of the needs of all of its potential customers and the key to success is to concentrate on one segment of the market at a time. From a marketing perspective this means getting to know customers in that segment intimately and discovering the product specifications that meet their needs and which can be readily and efficiently distinguished from competitors. Differentiation is essential since a small company that simply offers essentially the same product as entrenched incumbents cannot hope to compete on price or reputation. Of course, differentiation alone is not sufficient unless it touches on a feature that is valued by the customer.
Finally, the marketing group should use the information that it collects from prospective customers to develop strategies and tactics for distributing and supporting the company’s products, both areas that are often dominated by opinions from the sales group. While obtaining feedback from the marketplace on product features the marketing group should also survey customers to determine their preferences with respect to the procurement process and their expectations regarding service and support once the decision has been made to purchase and use the specific product. Without having appropriate channels and support system in place even the most innovative product will prove to be a hard sell and may lead to erosion or complete loss of any advantage the emerging company might have had by being the first to market with new technology and/or features.