As product developers, we need to ask ourselves early and often whether what we are creating has any value to a customer.
There seems to be a belief that anything can be sold, no matter how rubbish it is.
That may only be the case in movies or in urban myths about salespeople – it’s not what we see in real life.
The action of buying and selling is so fundamental to human society that it cannot be based on anything other than the transfer of value from one person to another to be sustainable.
So, how should we approach the act of understanding the potential for value, creating it and communicating it to a customer?
Geoffrey Moore in Crossing the Chasm has a model that we can use to think our way through this as illustrated in the diagram.
We start looping round the model with FOR.
There are customers out there for our product, and there is everyone else. We are focused on creating something for our potential customers.
The quickest way to failure is to try and please everyone, so we need to be laser focused on the set of people that could buy what we have to offer.
The next stop in the model is WHO.
Only some customers need our product right now. The others may later, or may already be using something else.
The customers who are effectively thrashing about in the water and are in danger of drowning are the ones that we should focus on.
So then we move onto THE.
The product, that is. Our product may be a inflated rubber tube attached to a rope, or a heavy duty iron bar.
That may be how we think of our product – as a set of features and attributes. Our products were created using specific things and perform in a certain way.
Customers don’t care…
What they are concerned about is the next step in the model – the IS A.
Our product is a lifebuoy. Or an anchor. One is clearly a more appropriate one to throw to the person in the water.
Because of what happens in the next step – THAT.
The lifebuoy is something that the person can hang onto until being rescued.
The final part of the model is UNLIKE.
This is an important step that is often missed.
We might have lifebuoy to hand. We might also have a life jacket.
Which one would we throw into the water?
Both will float, but the lifebuoy is clearly easier to hold onto and float, unlike the life jacket.
If we can put all these elements together in a simple statement, we will be able to say why our product is valuable to a customer.