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  8.6. During Test 2: Discover the Market Infrastructure (6 min.)

Understanding the customers' buying process is essential. However, selling to customers is rarely a direct communication channel from your company to your customers. Instead there are many intervening participants in the process who can affect your success. Marketing expert, Regis McKenna, calls these various participants the market infrastructure. In other words, the market infrastructure consists of all the players between you and your customer who ultimately influence the customers' purchasing decisions. Therefore, at its heart, the process of understanding the market infrastructure is closely linked to your eventual sales, branding, and business development efforts.

During the Prototype Test, you should begin mapping the market infrastructure. The market infrastructure is made up of two distinct yet tightly intertwined components: the market communication infrastructure and the market distribution infrastructure. The market communication infrastructure represents a set of stakeholders whom customers directly or indirectly reference when making a purchase decision. Using a modified version of Regis McKenna's model, these stakeholders are: your company (what you can do to influence the purchase decision), strategic partners, influencers (the media, industry analysts, thought leaders, etc.), and advertising/marketing/social media efforts. The distribution infrastructure is the chain through which your product moves to reach the final customer (as know as the "value chain"). Each partner in the distribution chain has unique motives, requirements, etc. that you should be aware of.

Once you understand the market infrastructure and the motivations for each group of stakeholders, you can begin to shape a strategy to influence key leverage points with the goal of making early customers comfortable with their purchase decision. Your strategy, and the resulting tactical plan, should include both the activities you will undertake and the order in which you will tackle the stakeholders. For example, we emphasized that startups often need to prepare evidence of customer interest and performance before successfully capturing the attention of certain influencers, such as analysts. The actual tactics you use will vary by market, but the guiding principles are 1) map the key categories of the market infrastructure, 2) identify the top three partnerships in each category 3) understand the motivations and needs of each player, 4) create measurable and time-bound objectives for each potential partner and a strategy to leverage the infrastructure based on your interactions with customers, and 5) assign an owner to each partner.

(See Nail It Then Scale It, pgs. 142-155)