Features tell, benefits sell

The most common thing that pegs an entrepreneur as an amateur is when they come in and immediately start talking about their amazing new technology, and forget to start the discussion with, “What big problem in the market am I trying to solve?” If they don’t start with the problem, then I know they are green.”
Dina Routhier
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In the post from Christmas Day, I used a quote from Steve Jobs about starting with the customer experience and working back. This intentionally ties into one of Steve’s / Apple’s biggest successes, the iPod.

The story is a famous one, where Apple was beaten into the MP3 market by many competitors, but the market was fragmented and no organisation had quite resolved all the technological issues. They did all have one big advantage over the existing market (ie CD players) however, the number of songs that they could store.

The success of Apple’s iPod has been credited to two key points (amongst others):

  1. Apple’s competitors were selling features (1 Gb of storage), whereas Apple sold the benefits (1000 songs in your pocket). Gigs of data is an intangible fact that few people can relate to. Having a thousand of your own favourite songs in your pocket relates directly to how you will benefit from the product
  2. The iPod’s streamlined, revolutionary design and simple user interface

OSS is as similarly fragmented as the MP3 player industry was prior to the iPod moment. A solution built around these two points would be a great starting point to building an OSS that re-defines the industry:

  1. What is your OSS‘s “Thousand songs in your pocket?” benefit statement?
  2. How can your current highly complex OSS solution be pared back to solving the essential elements of the problem that it exists to solve?

Let me close with a lengthier Jobs quote, “When you first start off trying to solve a problem, the first solutions you come up with are very complex, and most people stop there. But if you keep going, and live with the problem and peel more layers of the onion off, you can oftentimes arrive at some very elegant and simple solutions. Most people just don’t put in the time or energy to get there. We believe that customers are smart, and want objects which are well thought through.”

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