Getting to the core: Focusing on customers to unlock product-market fit
October 12, 2023
An interview with Vatsal Shah, Litmus CEO and Co-Founder
Litmus is an industrial edge data platform that unifies device connectivity, data intelligence and data integration in a complete Industry 4.0 solution. Rapid-to-deploy, easy-to-use and built-to-scale, Litmus is a fast way to connect to all operational technology (OT) assets and put data to work at the edge and across the enterprise.
Prylada recently sat down with Vatsal Shah, Litmus CEO and Co-Founder, to discuss their journey from startup to industry-leading industrial data operations company. This article is based on the expert opinion of Vatsal and useful insights from our talk.
Leveraging customer insights to fuel your go-to-market strategy
In today's highly-competitive industrial market, companies are leveraging any insight and feature to gain a competitive edge. Close collaboration with customers, partners and a healthy review of competition are often-discussed methods for developing product roadmap inputs. However, Litmus has taken customer input and collaboration to solve problems faster and more innovatively.
To develop the roadmap, Litmus talks to direct and indirect customers. The direct customers, or their real customers, come across different industries like oil and gas, manufacturing, high-tech, breweries, etc. Google brings them another group of indirect customers, who are equally vocal about their expectations towards the product. The right aggregation and analysis of the feedback and, the key thing, meeting the customers’ requests is what makes Litmus the market leader in their domain.
However, you shouldn’t expect customers to always know what solution will be the right fit for them. Sometimes, companies need a larger picture to get new ideas or clearly define how to fulfill their specific needs. You, as a solution provider, can become that very information source that brings the missing expertise based on the luggage of implemented projects. By drawing analogy with other industries, you can help customers explore the depths they hadn’t touched before.
The synergy of providers and customers makes the right recipe for success for both the parties. The requests and feedback of customers generate the most accurate business requirements to cover by their providers. The capability to meet the demand in turn allows the latter to achieve product-market fit and occupy the top position in the market chart. The main prerequisite for both is to establish a convenient communication channel and to learn to hear each other.
Constant learning from customers
Litmus started its journey in 2014-2015 with a real problem statement. The market at that period offered a huge number of control systems, but all of them communicated differently. Data transfer channels varied from network and serial protocols to different communication media.
The initial goal of Litmus was to eliminate the gap between all control systems, and thus enable customers to aggregate complex data for actionable analysis results. The company was always driven by the feedback from customers, who want to use collected data more efficiently and to solve business problems. To make this goal a reality, Litmus often brings many control systems into the Litmus office to test scenarios and simulate the OT systems for customers.
This approach allowed Litmus to create a product that completely satisfies a strong market demand and reaches 95% of the product-market fit. No matter if it’s a small company or a manufacturing giant, they all use the same version of the Litmus platform.
To stay competitive in the current fast-paced technology landscape, companies should be open to their customers, while the customers should be also vocal about their needs (even if the final solution is not obvious to them). This is the most straightforward way for the both parties to learn what they are supposed to be doing for such a compliance-driven industry as manufacturing.
Litmus demonstrates a bright example of a customer-focused company. They openly accept and consider new requests for the platform enhancement and additional data usage capabilities. Their compliance to the new cybersecurity laws is also powered by the customers’ demand.
Tough decisions in the early stages of product development
Customer feedback does not only serve as a driving force for improvements of a ready product. Sometimes, it may even cause 360-degree changes in the initial concept. Once it becomes obvious that the offered functionality does not fit the current market demand, companies and manufacturers face a tough choice between saving the ongoing projects or redesigning the product completely.
Not every small company is ready to sacrifice early projects for a better future. This decision may simply leave them without their business. However, the perspective of following a wrong direction does not look attractive either.
The companies that take a higher risk of adjusting the development direction and replacing a significant part of the product, typically gain more value in the long run and are more likely to occupy the leading position in the market. Throughout this thorny way, they have to go through the corresponding shifts in the company dynamics, marketing vector, engineering leadership, and customer success team.
Litmus was one of the companies that preferred to re-think the strategy in the early stages of its development. They found themselves in the situation where they had to shut down their only selling product to focus on a more compliant solution. According to Vatsal, that was one of the toughest decisions in the company's history. Yet, it brought Litmus to success.
The four doors to open when entering the market
The best way to define who is the correct customer and how to better adjust the product to the industry needs is to learn the requirements from inside. It means that a company should already be in the target industry. But how to break into the industry world and get the first customers?
There is one golden rule that Vatsal kindly shared with Prylada. It can be called the rule of 4 doors. The golden rule is to identify where customers buy their products. In the case of Litmus and other platforms for manufacturing, there are actually 4 doors to open. By knocking at the vendors’ doors, you increase the chances to gain access to the treasury of customers hidden behind it.
These four doors open from time to time. So you should “stay on guard” around the clock, not to lose a single opportunity. The right moment, the right product, the right price will play the key role in unlocking the door.
When entering the manufacturing market, you should be ready that your product might need serious adjustments to fit the real industry needs. Staying close to your customers and understanding where they buy from become the two crucial things in the struggle for leadership.
And finally, your success depends mostly on your efforts. Be willing to see the swinging doors in front of you and keep knocking at them until they open.
For more information about Litmus, go to litmus.io.