Love Your Product Fans – And Your Critics!

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Product Managers (and start-up CEOs for that matter) sometimes fall into a problem one of my mentors described as “falling in love with your product”.  You think the widget-a-majig you’ve built is so cool everyone’s got to love it. And you tend to neglect critical product or marketing input.

This is a recipe for ultimate failure.

This is especially true in the early stages of a new product or company.

As one of my coworkers (Ben) and veteran of many start-ups told me, “When you have a new idea or technology product, there is a small segment of your market that will try anything new.”

There’s always some tech renegade at both small and established companies that may buy into what you are selling.  And they’ll try it.  And even pay for it – at least for a while.  They are risk takers by nature.  They are the “early adopters” in Geoffrey Moore’s chasm model. And yes, they are important and vocal champions early in the product life cycle.

And they can be your worst enemy because with them you may hear more praise than criticism, and you may miss key challenges your product has to overcome.

The problem early adopters and fans they don’t represent the bulk of your market – the mainstream and late adopters.  These are the guys who are more critical, more selective, more cautious.  And it is their input that you should seek as early as possible – even if it means taking a few lumps.

At one of my companies, an industry analyst repeatedly warned us that we occupy a niche that may be too small to sustain.  That we were perceived as a feature in a broader solution and not a full solution.   And while doing everything an analyst suggest is not how I would run a business, ignoring such criticisms is also not wise.

So keep your best customers and fans close.  But don’t neglect your critics – because overcoming the problems they pose is key to your long-term success.

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