If you’re unfamiliar with this concept, Critical Mass is a term the industry adopted and altered from the original physics term. In both cases, it refers to the chain reaction that happens after a certain volume of something is reached. In the case of business and this article, the volume is the amount of users and a chain reaction is satisfied customers sharing their experience with others, who then also become a user. Therefore, Critical Mass is the point of a business lifespan where the business becomes self-sustaining and no longer needs external investment but rather can continue to grow by its own revenue because it has began earning a profit from users creating chain reactions. With that profit, it can reinvest in itself and reside above the Critical Mass point, by expanding its resources to create more products that create the same kind of reactions.
Ripples in a Pond
The most important thing to keep in mind when reaching for Critical Mass is the user base – a minimum amount of users required for a product to function as intended. If there are too few users, the odds of someone learning about the product from word of mouth is low because the chance of a nonuser encountering a user is slim. Consider the recent video game fad Fortnite: the challenge and fun of the game is to create your regular teams but play against new people each time. This was achieved by having more than 300 million people using it; if only one hundred people downloaded and played it, then the players would have grown bored and tired of it quickly. Fortnite took off because the players enjoyed the product and shared it among their friends. Ergo, estimate the minimum user base requirement to make your product function properly, listen to early participants, adjust and adapt, and watch the chain reactions multiply.
For the marketing sector of a business, the same concept of a wide user base is used with having a variety of content. Use multiple avenues and don’t put all the eggs in one basket. The goal is that someone continually comes across new ways to interact with content by a company’s marketing efforts. If the ads, the posts, the emails, etc., aren’t well constructed and are painful to navigate or misleading, a potential user may not find anything of interest, become frustrated and leave the funnel. This is where knowing the target audience and the ideal consumer’s journey is pivotal. The forms of content needs to be well enough interconnected to where it’s a natural journey for the user and leads to a ripple effect of purchasing and sharing with others. As the volume amount of people using your product – having been attracted by various ways – continues to climb the more users it will attract because there’s something exciting happening. When there are enough of these ripples, Critical Mass is reached and the business then becomes self-sustainable.
Note: loyal, satisfied consumers generally share their experience with others, thus growing the product user base. Staying committed to the goals that have been set, given that they are S.M.A.R.T.* goals, will be more effective at creating loyal consumers than continually jumping between industry trends or hasty remedies – this will confuse consumers. Listening to the first users is going to be crucial because this is when you find out early enough what can be improved and changed before too much loss of resources. Only the firms that listen to their users become successful and the earlier they begin to listen, the sooner and better chances they have to reaching above the break-even point.
There is no straight answer when Critical Mass is reached since every industry and company is different and requires a different amount of users to fulfill the base requirement. For example, a social media or live game play typically needs hundreds of thousands or millions of people to work as intended, where as a small town local market may only need a few hundred customers to begin thriving. The attempt is to map human behavior which is a difficult feat for anyone. There are tools available to use to measure and gauge when it has roughly been achieved, though.
KPIs (key performance indicators) are going to give the most visual clues for reaching Critical Mass. This may include brand engagement – how much the public is engaging with the brand, whether in-store, on the website or on social media, or it may include measuring a positive cash flow, meaning a profit is being earned. Chances are high you’ll need to use more than one KPI. There are many other KPIs available – what a company uses depends on the product or service they produce, the marketing techniques they use and the amount of competition that exists within that market. Having tools and graphics helps put things into perspective and motivates employees to keep reaching for the ultimate goal – the sustainability found from reaching Critical Mass.
Obtaining Critical Mass is a highlight and celebration for any business. It involves figuring out how to achieve chain reactions from users to the point of self-sufficiency and the amount of time and steps it will take to reach this. Essentially it is the defining point between a business that is failing and a business that is successful. We at Logical Inc. understand how momentous and vital it is to reach Critical Mass for a business – so much so that the definition lives on our home page serving as a constant reminder for us and our clients of what to strive for!
Is your business at a Critical Mass level?
*S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym used to describe a method of defining goals. It stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely.
Want to learn more about Critical Mass? Check out these references!