Filter Customer Requests Against the Vision

One of the human behaviors I’ve seen many times, and fallen prey to myself, is trying to do all things for all customers. A feature request comes in from one customer — let’s do it. A “must have” request comes in from a prospect — let’s do it. An item is listed on an RFP that won’t do have — let’s do it. Ultimately, if you do this, and stay alive long enough, the result is a Frankenstein of a product. Sure, it does a multitude of things but it’s only OK at a number of items and not incredibly good at any of them.

Many more entrepreneurial dreams die of indigestion than starvation.

For every request that comes in, ask the question: how does this fit our vision? Not the vision of where we are today, rather the vision of where we want to be in five or 10 years. It’s easy to get caught up in keeping the lights on (important!), pleasing investors, and making progress, but don’t do so without critically thinking through how this impacts where you’re headed.

Need help deciding what fits in the vision and what doesn’t? Paint a picture of your ideal customer. What does he or she do? What problem are they solving? Why are they buying from you? Why do they absolutely love your solution? By continuously refining the vision for the ideal customer, and comparing incoming requests to their need, it’s easy to see what does, and doesn’t, fit.

The next time a request comes in, filter it against the vision. The strongest products have an opinionated view of what they will, and won’t, do. Build for the ideal customer and avoid being all things to all people.

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