by John Boudreau
Ever been to an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet that doesn’t really focus on Chinese cuisine? Often, just a few heat lamps down from the General Tso’s chicken, you’ll find French fries, chicken wings, or frog legs. But that’s not what you came for, and it’s not what the restaurant makes best. Chances are, you’ll cross your fingers and dig in to the crab rangoon instead.
Many companies today are obsessed with developing as many products and services as possible to serve as many customers as they can, growing bigger and more fearsome to competitors as they expand their offerings. Often, however, companies can become so obsessed with offering everything that they actually lose focus on their core competency.
While a fortunate few companies may find ways to serve many diverse clients with success, that’s not the story of the vast majority of businesses. It’s certainly not the way a successful startup functions! Let’s take a moment to examine why trying to be all things to all people isn’t the path to startup success.
You Can’t Be All Things to All People
President Abraham Lincoln said it best: “You can never please all of the people all of the time.”
Of course, everyone wants to offer the next “magic bullet” product or the app people simply can’t live without. It’s the thing that solves problems people didn’t even know they had and, once created, will sell like gangbusters and take little effort to market. But just because you have more stuff to sell doesn’t mean you’re better at meeting your customers’ needs. That’s just a numbers game. Sustainable growth is achieved through product quality, having the best solution, and developing a reliable reputation.
Do one thing. Do it very well. Examine it, then fix it. Make it better. And don’t worry about making anything else.
Practice Makes Perfect
I’m sorry if I just reminded you of hours spent at a piano, holding a violin bow, or kicking a soccer ball. The advice that parent, coach, or mentor gave you was right, though!
Most successful people I know eat, sleep, and breathe their business product offerings. Remember, more products means dividing your attention and distracting yourself from the problem your product is trying to solve. Most problems aren’t static. Trying to tackle multiple problems at once will weaken your offering and dilute your leadership position.
Think of a fine wine that gets better with age. So should your product. Focus on one thing until it’s as close to perfection as possible, then move on to the next.
Constantly Fight to Make Your Product the Best
Once your product is released and you’re serving clients, you may feel a sense of relief. Don’t let relief turn into complacency. The advantage you hold today is only as good as your efforts to maintain that edge over other products. Here are some ways to stay vigilant:
- Make it fail. Examine your product as cynically as possible. Try to find its faults. Then, get to work on fixing them.
- Ask a newbie for feedback. If someone hasn’t used your product, he or she may not know much about what it’s for or what its advantages are. That’s good. Having to explain the basics will likely elicit good questions, meaning you’ll have to get back to the nitty-gritty. It’s like testing products with kids. A good novice user will provoke questions or point out aspects of your product that need improvement.
- Reminisce. As you worked to bring your product to release, a lot of good ideas were left on the cutting room floor, right? Look back at some of them and determine whether they may now be worth implementing.
- Talk to your clients. Organize a cross-section of your current client base and ask it to produce a “product roadmap.” This should tell you which features your customers like, which ones they don’t utilize, and what they’d like to see next.
- Use your data. If you have the ability to observe or record customers’ experiences, use that information in concert with the product roadmap to improve your offering. Mint.com, for example, can tell which parts of its product customers are using by examining utilization rate data.
Doing One Thing Well Is a Recipe for Success
It’s simple: If a product isn’t the best fit for a customer, that customer won’t use it for long. And no business survives with a customer base of individuals whose needs are almost being met.
Think about Spanx (yes, really). It addresses a very simple need that its customers continue to have, and the only things you’ll see from that company are products made to keep everything in the right place. Look at Dropbox. Cloud storage isn’t a new concept, but Dropbox just raised $250 million to continue its service, improve what it does well, and push that same solution to a new industry. It doesn’t get much simpler.
Just like Spanx, your product isn’t for everybody – and that’s OK! There are plenty of customers who need what you offer. Many businesses function well with this implicit understanding. Focusing on just one product will make it the best, bring you more loyal customers, and keep your business growing.
John Boudreau is the CEO and co-founder of Astonish, an insurance marketing and sales platform for local insurance agencies. Astonish collaborates with insurance agencies to provide an optimized online Marketing presence, automate tasks with technology, and create an effective sales culture through hands-on coaching. Their platform drives growth in round-outs, retention, referrals, new opportunities, lead conversion, and team performance.
courtesy of author | Mark Hunter