Do Not Build A Product You Don’t Use

What’s the point? How could you possibly believe in what you’re doing? How could you understand what you are doing? Or why you’re doing it? Or who you are doing it for? If you don’t use the product you’re building, how can you really understand the value it provides? The way it works and the way it doesn’t? How and where it fits in the marketplace? If you do not use the product you are building, how can you truly inspire your team to believe? Inspiration, relevance, and quality comes from the top. If you don’t do it, how can you expect anyone else to? How can you genuinely market to customers and ask them to? How can you build a successful business you’re not invested in?

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Profit Is Not the Point

The goal is sustainability. We make money to cover our basic needs – food, water and shelter. The great businesses of our time have figured this out, too. Great product comes before profit – because only great product will keep customers coming back for more. We like steady paychecks and loyal patrons because we can sleep at night and know that life will go on.

The goal isn’t to make money; the goal is to exist. Once you’ve figured that part out, the next goal is to exist longer. Once you realize no one lives forever, the ultimate goal is to leave a legacy.

The only way you can leave a legacy is if you concern yourself less with profit and more with giving life all you’ve got. Sure, you should have a plan to make money. But if greatness comes first on your priority list, then have faith that the rest will follow.

Service Beats the Hunt

We now live in a world where we can expect things to come to us directly. News, messages, deals, and ideas push their way to us instantaneously. To compete in today’s innovative world, you must play this game. You can no longer expect customers or users to come to you; you must find ways to reach them directly. In many ways, this has always been an issue for businesses. The challenge is not just getting people to come through your door, but to keep them coming back. In an era where infinite options compete for our attention, you must fight harder to stay relevant. The 24-hour news cycle is shriveling up. Windows for theatrical film releases are collapsing. Tweet trends often last less than an hour. Before long, consumers will miss you entirely.

If you want your brand or product to have a presence in your audience’s lives, you must find a way to remind them you exist. You must continuously roll out useful content to keep things fresh. And you must go out of your way to deliver it to them directly as soon as it becomes available. From here on out, most people will prefer services that bring to them what other services would expect them to hunt. If you want to stay alive in this feeding frenzy of a world, you must become your own paper boy.

Two Options? Or Just One?

While people do not enjoy an overwhelming number of choices, they enjoy even less not having a choice at all. Pretty obvious day to day, but how does that apply to business, entertainment, and marketing beyond? When you give customers or audiences only one choice, they are quicker to create another one of their own: “No thanks.” By providing more than one option, you expand your chances at inspiring them to consider the options first before considering their exit. That contemplation period is irrefutably valuable to marketers looking to convert users or customers. Depending on how you position the product and alert everyone to his or her options, you at least stand a chance at starting a conversation. That’s half the battle.

Product First, Everything Else Second

Why try to market, organize a business for, or sell a product if your product doesn’t even exist yet? I’ve been guilty of this a thousand times: recognize a great idea, get excited, and run outside to get everything off the ground. I’ve filed Limited Liability Corporations, printed posters, made announcements, and tried to raise money – for projects that hardly even made it on paper.

There are several problems with this. First, you’re spending a ton of time doing work that is not relevant until you have something to show for it. Time spent on “extras” means time not spent developing great content, executing ideas, and bringing your vision to life. Product is at the core of every great business and must come first (pray tell me one organism that grows from the shell inward?).

Moreover, the execution of ideas seldom aligns with the vision outlined in the first place. After facing obstacles and discovering new approaches to the same problem, the end result may look or feel nothing like the thing you set out to build. Any time you spend marketing, filing papers, and chasing investor deals for your project before you realize it will most likely be a complete waste of time. There will be a major disconnect between the core and the shell trying to promote it. Everything you did outside the lab will be invalidated by the discoveries within.

If you don’t have a product or story to tell, nothing else matters. Forget all the extra bullshit and get to the real work.