12 January 2012

Identify a market or identify a problem? How you approach your idea makes a difference!

The other day, my business partner Jackson Lin and I had a rather interesting discussion. 

It all started by an article discussing the differences between Tumblr and Wordpress, how Tumblr was able to build a service that looks similar to Wordpress and yet, able to build a huge base of audiences to themselves. 

I started by expressing that the reason in my point of view is that they identified a crowd, a market who are looking for "light blogging", an environment where NOT all piers create long postings that seems as if they took an hour to write, an environemnt where it's fun, light and easy to record something quickly and share with their friends as well as strangers. 

In my opinion, they identified a market, came up with the idea of Tumblr and then started to think about how to tweak a blogging service to fit this market. 

Interesting enough, Jackson expressed a rather different view, however equally as valid. 

Jackson expressed that Wordpress platform itself is not as "friendly" of a service to a lot of people. It's not as easy to use and it's more intimating to beginner or light blogging users. The workflow / UI in a way, forces you to think about what to write, how to write and definitely try to write well.  Tumblr recongized that fact and build a friendly UI/Workflow where it's extremely easy to blog, you can quickly categorize what type of posts you want to blog, might it be Text, Pictures, Links, Movies or whatever.  By implementing these critical features, it succeeded in pulling in their unique base of audiences. 

In Jackson's opinion, they identified a problem in an existing software / platform, by fixing the problems, it generated a new base of users that is both unique and loyal to its services. 

As we discussed, we realized that we've always been this way. Jackson would always find one services or two and identifies the problems with them, how it would be nice if they did do or did not do certain things, how a service failed because they provided too much or provided too little of this feature or that feature. He wants to build an alternative service that fixes these problems. 

While I, most of the time don't think too much in terms of " features & problems". When you tell me there are people and a lot of them are looking for certain things or if there are a lot of people are unhappy of a certain service due to a range of things? I see a market. I get excited because there is a potential for us to build something and grab their attentions. I want to build an alternative service for these people. 

Solutions and Problems
Jackson and I often would agree on this one service that we both want to build, however, we never realized that we wanted to build for two different reasons. Without realizing this, there are problems when it actually comes into implementation. 

Jackson would build a product from feature perspectives, and we would discuss what features to put it, what to get rid of and what to improve. Throughout the process, I would think of  features as well that are super cool and make the software more "powerful". In my mind, the more, the merrier, the more powerful that is, the happier my customers will be.. 

The problem is, we would both go off the rail and forget completely the reason why we wanted to build it in the first place.
Jackson would explain the product from the feature perspectives, what it offers and what it does. If potential customers, whoever they are like what they see, they then would form a unique customer base themselves. 

Me, on the other hand, try to satisfy my audiences as much as I can. As long as our competitors don't offer it, then we will try to implement it. I want the market.  I try to make it appealing in all different types of scenarios. The problem is however, the product will end up loosing its focus,to a point where customers can't identify what is the software EVEN THOUGH it offers all the features they need. When customers can not associate with your service, they simply don't buy it nor join it no matter how powerful it is. 

Lesson and Conclusion
The lesson here is, know your audiences and knows yourself, what is your identify and who you are.   Don't lose your focus and try to do a little bit of everything. Even if you mange to do everything well, but if you can't identify who you are, your customers certainly won't be as well. 



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