Who are you stealing from?

If you're building a product, you should be able to answer this question:

"What product is your product stealing time and attention from?"

For example:

  • When Uber launched, they stole customers from the taxi industry.

  • When the iPhone launched, Apple took customers from Kodak and the film industry.

We only have so much time and attention. Most people aren't going to use Instagram and Snapchat and Vine. Who's going to carry an iPhone and a Samsung? We're going to choose just one.

Teams are the same. They won't use Slack and Hipchat and Campfire. They'll make a decision. They'll pick one.

You might not have thought about this side of running a business. When Alan Klement introduced this idea to me, of stealing customers, it took me aback.

But that's what business is: it's competition. When customers start using one product they stop using another one (just ask Blackberry).

You might say:

"Well, my idea is brand new. Nobody is doing it. I'm carving out a new market."

But people only have so many resources. Whatever time, attention, and money they spend on your product they're going to have to take away from something else.

What does this mean for you?

Your product has to make a customer's life significantly better than it is right now.

People want to make progress. If you can show them how your product helps them move forward, you can earn their business.

Steve Jobs was an expert at observing people's behavior, and finding the gaps. Here's a great example:

"You know, everybody has a cell phone, but I don't know one person who likes their cell phone. I want to make a phone that people love."

When Steve introduced the iPhone, he was able to meet a need that folks had felt but weren't yet able to articulate. Getting an iPhone felt like a huge step forward. So people switched. They left their Blackberries behind.

Look at where people are struggling right now. They're unsatisfied with their current solution. They're ready to switch.

What could you build that would help them make progress?

Justin Jackson

PS: if you're a software developer looking to learn marketing I'm re-launching devmarketing.xyz on Oct. 15!

PPS: a lot of these thoughts come from my recent chat with Alan Klement. You can listen to it here.

Published on October 1st, 2016
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