How to fit in and stand out?

How to fit in and stand out?

Isn’t that an oxymoron?

To win in the market, you need to provide something “better” than the rest.  That can be achieved a few ways: better pricing when you are cheaper, better quality, better innovation, better speed, better user experience…

Some of these are easier to do than others, as they do not require a massive change in the ecosystem you sell into.

Take Nest the smart thermostat for example.  It looks different than the rectangular designs of the incumbents.  It provided great user experience, analytics, an app to set your temperature remotely, and many other cutting-edge features.

However, it still connected the SAME wires the old thermostat you owned connected to.  That is a classic case of fit in, and stand out.

Should Nest require you to get an electrician to install, or change the wires you already have, or change the voltage you need to provide it… the innovation would not take hold.

I am sure the designers and engineers at Nest would be able to dazzle us much more if we provided them the leeway, and told them there is no “legacy” they need to fit into.  After all, they are innovators, right?

Innovation in a vacuum is never going to catch on fire, like innovation that understands the status quo, and attempts to break it cleverly.

So while the steps to install the Nest are evolutionary, the results are revolutionary.

In software, you have the same considerations when you want to create a category.  You can say that the HTTP protocol is old, and basic, and for your innovation the customer should first upgrade to HTTP2 (fake example) – and that is not fitting in, and it will not allow you to stand out.

Meeting the market where it is

You have to go with the market.  As in, meet the market where it is, not where you wish it to be.

In my last startup, we invented the BEST authentication the world have seen.  It’s the best because it was the first to get real insurance, from an underwriter.  So if you used this product, and wired $1M, and it ended up not being you who authorized it, you get $1M back.

Not from the coffers of the startup, but from an insurance company.


So, why isn’t this product used everywhere?

Because this product is revolutionary, and not evolutionary.  It began with solving the security problem (get me $1M insurance) and THEN was designed to do that.

It did not ask the users, “Will you be willing to do the following as part of the registration process?” as part of the total product, as part of the user journey.

While a few prospects said “If you build an authentication product that is insured, we will but it!” – they also did not account for the fact that the innovation has to fit in, and then stand out.

If no other authentication ever asked you for an in-person identity proofing, scanning of a passport, and carrying a token with you – then you may not want to go through that EVEN if the reward is the ultimate protection, from any harm on the internet, and a whopping $1M insurance.

Said differently, while many people say they want their privacy… they are also sharing what they had for dinner online, their favorite movie, where they go on vacation and their pets names.  All of which, they may also use as their passwords.  But, I digress.

We had to adjust from pitching the most secure authentication with $1M insurance, to something less secure, less revolutionary, as that is where the market is.  Sell to the market where it is, not where you wish it to be.

While I think the market should have the ultimate security, the market is not there.  So better to sell the evolution the market is able to consume, than the revolution they can not.

References and Quotes:

“Why fit in when you were born to STAND OUT!” -Dr Seuss

Installing NEST – which fits in your home’s wires, and stands out

Dr. Seuss Quote: “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”