The key to building a valuable enterprise tech company is identifying and solving a problem that customers are willing to pay for. If you're able to find product/market fit and customers are willing purchase your solution, other competitors will rush to take a piece of the pie. But you can't worry much about the competition -- after all, a market with no competition isn't a market. The key is to stand out in a crowded market.
So, how do you prepare to face numerous competitors and win? It boils down to building a superior product underpinned by consistent customer feedback. Here are four tips to get you headed in the right direction:
1) Have a Clear Core to Build On: Upon entering the market, your core product must be something that can become large and significant -- it shouldn't been seen as niche or a utility. You should be able to build upon your core with room to grow and create new kinds of value for customers.
Okta's core was (and still is) single-sign on technology that solves the problem of too many passwords across cloud applications. We have since built on top of that core, creating a comprehensive identity and mobility solution that serves as the foundation for secure connections between people and technology. Having a solid core allowed us to continue to create new kinds of value for our customers.
2) Deliver Value, Immediately and Consistently: Successful enterprise companies must have a product that solves a clear problem and quickly delivers customer value. Customers need to be able to ramp up quickly and easily so they start using, seeing value in and loving your product right away. It's very important to find the right ways for your company to measure customer satisfaction, to give yourself a benchmark to continually improve against.
At Okta, customer success is our number one company value. We have invested a lot in customer training, we have a Chief Customer Officer who oversees a strong customer success team, and we have a range of different metrics to monitor our customer health.
3) Listen to Feedback and Act on It: Once you've entered a market and have customers adopting your product, they are going to find new uses for it uses that probably weren't in your initial roadmap, and likely in areas you weren't prepared to invest in initially. Listening to your customers and adapting to support off-label usage will take your customers and your business to new heights.
Our team originally targeted internal employees as the primary users of our product. We quickly found that external parties -- partners, customers, contractors -- also needed secure and easy access to shared cloud apps to collaborate and work more effectively. External identity management wasn't in our initial roadmap, but we listened to our customers and invested heavily in this space. It's been a good thing for our customers and our business.
4) Keep Your Frenemies Close: The tech industry is wrought with co-opetition. Companies compete and partner at the same time, all the time. As tech consolidation continues and as companies expand their services, co-opetition is only going to increase.
At Okta we partner with Microsoft on their Office 365 efforts as so many of our customers use the productivity suite. We also go head-to-head with Microsoft in the identity market, but we won't allow that competition to impact our partnership. As we see it, the more apps and services (like Office 365) in the cloud and the more value our customers see from our service.