Mandatory Use Means Your Product Sucks

2010-10-28 11:29:07 by chort

I was recently reading excerpts from an interview with Melinda Gates in the New York Times. What struck me is she forbade her children to have iPods when they asked, and instead offered Zunes. This is consistent with past articles I recall reading where Microsoft employees were criticized by supervisors for having iPods or iPhones.

It's easy to use the Microsoft examples, but I'm sure there are many others. Your initial reaction is probably along the lines of "how dare a company try to dictate what their employees use for personal entertainment", but really there is a more interesting aspect: What does it say about your products when you have to force your employees to use them?

It seems that many companies are built around the model of: Engineering writes some code, then it's the job of Marketing to make everyone interested and Sales to get people to buy it. To me that is completely backwards. Why are you building stuff in a vacuum and expecting your externally-facing departments to put lipstick on a pig?

What these companies should be doing is: Figure out what people will love, produce it, verify that people love it, then go magnify the natural ground-swell of support into an earthquake, so in the end your product sells itself and the salespeople only exist to get it into customer's hands as quickly as possible.

You can't generate excitement by telling someone they have to use something. When was the last time you loved anything that you had to do? If your employees (or kids) want to use a competitor's product so badly that they will face the distain of the people they see every day, obviously the competitor has done a far superior job in design and execution. Instead of stubbornly insisting that people use your product to their detriment, go back and figure out what will actually be useful to people and build that. You should be thankful that your employees and/or kids are being bold enough to point out your failures, because there are bound to be millions of people out there who act like they do.

The next time you see one of your employees using a competitor's product, instead of giving them nasty looks, approach them in a non-threatening way and ask them to explain what is it that they enjoy so much about the experience with the competing product. You might learn something.

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