Success by design

Having a good idea for a product is great! But now what?

General guide to identify your product

This is what causes most products to fail. If you have a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist, then you don’t have a product.

I want to make it easier for ___ to do ___. Why?

  • Who is this ___ that they need your help?
  • Can you actually help them accomplish ___?
  • What are you doing differently than your competitor to help them do ___?

How are you promoting to ___ that they can now do __ with your product?

  • What are you requiring of them to accomplish to use your product?

If you are providing a service that works as an intermediary between two parties, who is party 1, and who is party 2?

  • What does party 1 have to do to seek the benefit of party 2?
  • What does party 2 have to do to seek the benefit of party 1?
  • What is the benefit to party 1, and what is the investment from party 1 to do it? (Time, Money, Resources, Access)
  • What is the benefit to party 2, and what is the investment from party 2 to do it? (Time, Money, Resources, Access)

For social applications, such as FB, Twitter, and Indeed, what, or who is the product, and what or who is the customer?

  • Assuming that customer is the one who is paying money, who is the customer?
  • Why are they using your product?
  • If the other party is the product, why are they soliciting themselves as products on your platform?
  • Do they know that they are the product on your platform?
  • Can a user of your service use it without being a product? If so, how can you monetize their use without causing problems for your regular customers?

Company Specific Examples

Lets look at Facebook:

  • You, the user, including those of you who post ads on their site are the product. Your eyes on the advertisements posted as ads, and as articles, are the product being sold to their real customers.
    • Their goal is to create just enough positive user feedback, that they can continue to bring in new product for their customers.

This isn’t only Facebook, but look at the job site Indeed.

  • Customer: Employer who paid for the listing.
  • Product: The prospect employee who is job hunting.
  • Reason to use their site? The provide enough of a positive user experience to keep customers coming back.

Burger King

  • Customer: The people buying food.
  • Product: The speed and accuracy of the labor producing and packaging the food.
  • Reason to use their service? You are too ___ to prepare food for yourself, and this seemed like a viable option.

Why isn’t food the product of Burger King?

  • You can buy food at a grocery store.
  • You can buy food at a vending machine.
  • You can grow and pick your own food.

Burger King is not providing anything that you cannot do yourself. This is why when labor increases, restaurants lay off staff and replace them with more self service options.

If you increase your product cost, you lose money. If you increase the selling price, you lose customers, and money.

Just about every online, non-social, software company out there

What are they selling?

  • Efficiency

That’s it. You can say that they also sell accuracy, predictability, and mobility, etc… However, all of these things are for a lean, mean, fighting machine.. efficiency.

  • With accuracy, you have to clean up on misses less often.
  • Predictability reduces waste too, in both lost time and money (Time is money, to that is lost money and money).
  • Mobility allows for flexibility to resolve tasks, which is also being efficient.

If you don’t need efficiency, and your customers don’t need efficiency, why would you both with using software?

It is for the holy grail of efficiency that companies burn millions of dollars in research, design, and marketing, to produce a product that people wont use. It doesn’t matter how amazing your product is, or how feature rich it is, if they won’t use it, then you don’t have a customer.

Allan Cooper wrote an amazing book called “The inmates are running the asylum”. This book is all about horrible, horrible, design mistakes, and how to avoid them. It is all about moving forward to make sure that your team and product are actually solving problems and not just looking pretty on paper.

Some of the most amazing failures

Some of the most amazing failures fall into one of three categories: Too little, Too late, Too obfuscated.

Too little:

  • There are reasons that most text editors and now even development tools are free.
    • There are just not enough high demand features to justify charging for these tools.
  • Why have low end cars failed: GEO Metro
    • No power, space, comfort, etc.
  • The one and two item fixed structure restaurant.
    • There a limited menu establishments, but I remember places that only had 1 or 2 drinks, or fish sandwiches.

Too late:

  • Why did Star Office become Open Office, and is now Libre Office? Too little, too late, and I emphasize the too late.
    • Now Libre Office is making money off of their other services, but not on the product any more.
  • Microsoft Phone
    • This product became so bad, so fast, that it became the joke of all phones.

Too obfuscated:

  • For every successful software package sold, there are now hundreds that fail. Many of which never get off of the launch pad because the product owners have no idea of what they are actually having engineering to build. How they are going to make money off of it. How they are providing service or content.

Bottom line:

Know.. and I absolutely mean KNOW, what you are working on before you start working on it.


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