Good Enough is an extremely powerful force that works against startups.
It’s easy to identify “problems” with market leaders. Take the recruitment space as an example. How many people look at big job boards like Monster and say, “They’re broken! They suck! They’re useless!” And then what do they do? They launch a startup to take on Monster. How about eBay? Google? Craigslist? Match.com? Take a look at any incumbent in a market and chances are you’ll find a bunch of startups that are taking them on … after all, the big guys suck, right?
Big companies do have their problems. They tend to be slow to innovate, they get bureaucratic, lazy, distracted, bloated and bored. They milk their revenue cows as long as they can, even if those cows are drying up.
But here’s the rub — often, they’re GOOD ENOUGH.
Good Enough is a powerful force. And startups regularly underestimate its power. So they go after the market leaders with features, functionality and strategies that aren’t meaningful enough to customers. They assume that what they’re doing – whether it’s a slicker UI, simpler system, social functionality, etc. – is an obvious win. And then Good Enough bites them in the ass.
This means the bar for startups to succeed at any real scale is way higher than the market leaders. The market leaders are already there, and even if they’re losing ground, it’s generally at a slow pace. Startups need to scale as fast as possible. They have to be 10x better than the market leader before anyone will really notice. And they have to be 100x more creative, strategic, sneaky and aggressive. Market leaders may be losing touch with their customers, but they know them better than anyone else. So startups have to work extra hard to catch up and get the customer information and validation needed to build their business. Startups can’t just look at the “obvious” flaws of the incumbents like a “crappy” design and assume that’s what needs fixing. They have to dig way deeper to find the real customer pain points and then make sure to address those quickly.
When looking at your startup or deciding whether to launch a startup, ask yourself, “Is the competition Good Enough?” If that’s the case it may very well explain why they remain in the lead while countless startups have tried to knock them off their pedestal. That shouldn’t stop you from attacking them, but don’t do it unless you really know how to beat the power of Good Enough.