Chip Shots by Chip Griffin

Products that Sell and Products that Work

The other day I found myself telling someone that a company I know of has “a product that demos well, but it doesn’t work well once you buy it.” We all know the type, right? At the extreme end are some of the gimmicky items you find sold on TV infomercials. Some of them actually do work well, but a whole lot of them look a lot cooler in 120 seconds or 30 minutes than they work in your own home.

But any of us who are in the online software arena know that it isn’t a phenomenon limited to late night TV sales. And it isn’t just about physical products. Software as a service can suffer the same fate.

As an entrepreneur, my goal is always to build a company that puts out a product that sells well and works well once the user rolls up her sleeves and starts using it regularly. But as with most things perfect balance is rarely possible. Personally, I know I skew toward products that work well because I am fundamentally more of an ideas and product person than a marketer.

That just means I have to put special focus on designing products that sell to compensate for my inherent bias.

Others are just the opposite. I know some folks who have a phenomenal eye for marketing and apply that to their product development activities. I know that those folks will show me a product that demos amazingly well. Often, though, the long-term efficacy the product may not match the glitz and glamor of demo day, however. So they know they need to focus on the long-term functionality in a special way.

Without balance, you have a serious business problem. Products that demo well but don’t work up that same level are destined to have unhappy customer word of mouth and high churn rates (if they are subscription based). Those that work well but demo poorly suffer from the “build it and they will come” fallacy. Without customers to sustain the business, it doesn’t matter how good the product may be.

If you’re an entrepreneur, developer, or marketer, just make sure that you know what your own leaning is and take steps to compensate for whichever side you are weaker on. That means focusing your own energy but also partnering with others inside your organization – or outside – to make sure you achieve the balance necessary for long-term success.

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