Back when I was working in tech, the phrase “Total Addressable Market” (TAM) would often be uttered. This was the potential size of the market that would buy our software and services. It signified the size which we could scale to and thus implied just how much money we could make. It was understood that if TAM can be even further increased and captured, it should. Leaving money on the table seems criminal right? However, is there ever a point where enough is enough?
Recently, I’ve been reflecting on how fulfilling it has become to cater to the same crew despite calls to think about scaling, attracting new customers, upselling, doing more more more. I’ve worked in and interacted with companies before that sought to destroy the competition and be the sole market leader. Many of these companies described themselves as “families” but the industry’s prevailing quest for dominance seems to evoke instead some Lannisterian conquest where the best family wins rather than the feeling of community one would expect (granted many of these companies are improving lives in some way).
Recent events have shown the dire need for better collaboration in the face of crises instead of the mistaken idea that take-no-prisoners competition breeds better results. I propose that instead of measuring our TAMs – the total market we can address by selling to – we define our Optimal Serveable Community. This is broken down as:
Optimal – the right amount of people where you can maintain the proper amount of messy intimacy, non-automated attention, and unscalable space that relationships – not annual recurring revenue – deserve.
Serveable – as opposed to the pure functionality of “servicing” customer personas and generalized demographics, the mentality that you are there to serve the unique needs of the flesh and blood people you are building relationships with. Needs that can only be fulfilled through mutual vulnerability and non-transactional commitment.
Community – as opposed to a transactional market (contracts imply a primarily transactional relationship, no matter how much marketing spins it as familial), a community is one where your contributions lift all boats rather than the corporate equivalent of selling guns to both sides.
Not chasing quarter-over-quarter growth until you’ve captured the entire TAM seems anathema to this society of ours. But when an unfeeling virus lays bare the ties that bind us – invisible as they are during the good times – perhaps there’s nothing wrong with serving your home crowd. Who is that for you?