Over at Mobile Opportunity today, Michael Mace makes a point that’s true not just for technology products, but for virtually any kind of product development:
Very often tech companies will fall in love with a concept that is compelling to people in the company, but not to non-technologists. They’ll convince themselves that people will want it because, well, they ought to want it.
A related problem: A company will come up with a product that’s nice, but doesn’t really address [a pain point]. You know you have this problem when someone in the company says that need a marketing campaign to explain to people why they should want the product. The really good products need marketing for visibility, not persuasion.
I think this is the underlying problem behind most failed web applications. They do something interesting, as opposed to something compelling.
What makes this whole problem especially tough is that you can’t just ask customers what they need.
I’ll add the caveat that the line between visibility and persuasion is not cut-and-dried. Look at the advertising for the iPhone. Most of the spots are product demonstrations. Clearly, you’re raising visibility by showing what the product can do, but isn’t that also a form of persuasion?
And as always, one person’s “eh, interesting” is another person’s “OMG must have now!” But even so, the point is valid.