It’s not us, it’s them

I Skyped with Adam Clark the other day. We’re both planning on launching new products in 2014. He’s launching a WordPress theme built specifically for churches under the Lift Themes banner and I’m planning on releasing another book plus a software product for dev teams.

(Sidebar: I like chatting with Adam: he has a warm, inviting quality that makes you feel like you’re sitting on his back-porch, sipping sweet tea in Tennessee.)

It wasn’t long into our conversation that some of our insecurities started to come out:

“How would a failed launch affect my reputation on the net?”

“What would my peers think of me launching this?”

“I understand I need to connect with my audience, but I’d rather blog about things that are easy.”

Then we stopped. We realized we’d been chatting about ourselves a lot. What wasn’t getting as much attention? Ahem – how about our customers? You know: the people who might actually shell out their hard earned cash for the wares we might produce?

Me, me, and more of me

I regularly get questions from people looking to build products. When I ask them: “Who are the people you’re going to serve?” I get blank stares. We all spend way too much time thinking about “our idea”, “our design”, “our code”, and “our dreams” … but not nearly enough time thinking about “our customer”.

Building great products is not about “us” – it’s about “them”.

“Evolution does not favour selfish people”
writes BBC science reporter Melissa Hogenboom.

This is also true for product development: if you build a product that’s “all about you”, you’ll find you’re the only one who cares about the darned thing. But, if you build a product “all about them”, there’s a greater chance that “they” will care.

Who are you going to serve?

Our culture celebrates self-centeredness. To build great products, we’re going to need to re-align ourselves to a different paradigm: it’s not about us, it’s about them.

Here are the questions you need to ask:

  1. Which group of people are you best suited to help?
  2. Can they afford to pay you for your help?
  3. What do they really need?

I’ll be covering this topic in more detail in a future post (you can subscribe here, and get notified as soon as I publish it).

More reading

There are so many great thinkers talking about this right now. Here are a few selections from Clayton Christensen, Amy Hoy (this too), and Brennan Dunn on the topic.

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Published on December 27, 2013