Anyone can dream up great ideas, but an idea is nothing until it’s realized, be it as a website, a physical product, an app, or a user interface. – Jens Martin Skibsted
I had an email recently asking if I wanted to join a copywriting course. I read through the full email, because it was a good example of long-form copy. The kind of thing that you see being done well and done poorly all around the place. And somewhere in there was a comment, a point made by someone about having “a good product”.
This caught my eye for a simple reason – we really need to remember to check if what we’re selling is worth selling in the first place. Every YouTube advert you see appears at first glance to be a scam. Not all of them, actually, just the ones with a photogenic person promising to change your life if you join their course. You can spot the good ones because they talk about their product. You can spot the bad ones because they talk.
I’ve been watching teaching videos recently and noticed that teachers like to start with definitions. I never liked this as a student, it seemed mechanical and boring and I was instantly switched off. I’m starting to think differently about them because what happens in real life is that we all have different perspectives on the same thing, we see the world differently. A definition is a way to start from the same place, with a form of words that tries, not always successfully, to capture what we mean. Definitions are like axioms, they are statements that need to be accepted in order to develop successive logical statements. And, like axioms, you don’t try and prove them but accept they are true as long as they don’t lead to a nonsensical result.
I thought I’d start by looking for a definition of a product. Glen Urban and John Hauser, in their book “Design and marketing of new products”, talk about what success looks like for a new product. It’s something that has a set of benefits that address user needs. You can list out what it does – with a functional specification – and it’s something that can be given to someone else – it’s realized in some way.
So let’s look at a few products and see how they conform to this definition. A car, for example, is pretty easy to map to it. What about an online course in copywriting? Well, that could map to the definition as well. What about your idea for a new business? Do you understand what users need, what they are looking for? Can you articulate how your product will make their lives better? Can you list what your product actually contains or has or does? And what does the user actually get in exchange for their money – is it a thing or an experience or knowledge?
I suppose if I created a graphic to help cover this it would be a four-box matrix looking at user needs, product benefits, product specs and deliverables. Something like this.
The next time I come across an idea for a product I’ll try this out and see if it helps. What I’m hoping is that if this helps you create a good product, then the copywriting bit will be a whole lot easier.