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Building a better mousetrap? It had better catch more mice.

Written by Justin on April 6, 2012

Mousetrap Cars by Ben+Sam, on Flickr

How is your mousetrap better than the one I already have?

If you’re building a better mousetrap, it had better catch more mice.

Ultimately, the products we build have to provide value for our customers. This means that if we’re trying to build something better than what exists, it should represent a superior benefit to our customers.

When you’re selling to businesses the overriding factor is utility: does this mousetrap help me catch more mice, or not? Does your software help me to get more done, in less time? Does your service earn or save me money? These are factors that represent value to a business.

This should actually be encouraging for entrepreneurs targeting business customers: if you can solve a real problem, right now, you have a sale.

Let’s talk about building products for businesses

What concerns me in the enterprise space is the number of startups who are trying to sell new products like this:

Buy our mousetrap! It comes with built in speakers, and the ability to connect to your iPhone via Bluetooth.

Buy our mousetrap! It’s built with the same springs that NASA uses.

Buy our mousetrap! It’s red.

Decisions on engineering, design, colors, fonts, servers and databases must ultimately answer to this: does this product represent superior value to our customers?

As a Product Manager I’ve made this mistake before: I get excited about a new coat of paint, or a new widget that we’ve built. My product mentor, Gregg Oldring, has brought me back to earth a number of times by asking:

Is this new feature significantly more helpful to me as a customer?

Or put another way:

How is your mousetrap better than the one I already have?

That’s the question we need to answer.

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