02 Mar Product Growth Hacking Dilemma: Do You Build It or Integrate With It?
I’ve spent the last few months trying to find a simple task management/collaboration tool to assist with a couple of projects and ideas I’ve been working on with others. This hunt for Nivana has brought me across the current popular apps Wunderlist, Slack, Evernote etc. and this got me thinking about the whole SaaS growth hacking dilemma of “Collaborate or Compete” for growth.
One of the best growth hacking strategies for SaaS and cloud businesses is integrations with other systems. It opens doors, generates PR, illustrates continued progression etc. as well as proving useful to customers. It’s an important part of the early growth cycles and technology adoption curve particularly in the B2B and enterprise markets for successful SaaS companies.
There is however a flip side to the coin. As products mature and real-life customer use surfaces, competitive features with synergistic applications inevitably arise. For example, Wunderlist & Evernote started out doing different things, one made notes, the other made lists. With the trend towards ‘collaboration’ they have now evolved to do very similar things and whilst these two companies run some co-op marketing, neither currently have a direct connector or are available on the popular integration platform IFTTT (correction Evernote is now on IFTTT). Two other relatively new players in this space of collaborative task management areSlack & Flow, who have a historic relationship, and then add Box & Dropbox who are both now positioning themselves as collaboration platforms and you can see this emerging market is starting to shift from where the likes of Microsoft, Google and even Apple started from, plus of course Facebook is rumoured to be entering the space in a more intended manner.
I suppose my point here is that as these companies vie for more customers further up the value chain it makes sense for them to discourage certain integrations and compete, as justification for subscriptions of one or more apps is limited. For example why wouldn’t Evernote develop better list management to sway customers away from Wunderlist or for that matter why wouldn’t Wunderlist expand their discussion features to allow discussion against lists, turning lists into true projects (which is probably how users see them), and also compete with say Pocket to allow you to easily create a formatted reading list. With such similar functionality to other products these companies will find it difficult to make integrations viable in their quest for growth when landing in the ‘early majority’ of the adoption curve. For me the interesting watch point is what effect VC ownership will have on any outcome, will co-ownership help or hinder? Could Sequoia Capital back both Wunderlist & Evernote in an IPO, or would they have to sell one off in a trade sale?
Back to the original point, I think it’s very important to keep the ever changing landscape front of mind when product planning. Here are two great resources that every product person should find useful in their decision making and planning:
Continue building bridges to other apps, but watch your speed, there may be bumps ahead!