Product Development: Think Like A Consumer

At the recommendation of the Proof team, I’ve been reading Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier. If you haven’t read it yet, hop on Amazon and buy yourself a copy. There’s a chapter titled “Scratch Your Own Itch,” in which entrepreneurs are challenged to develop new ventures based upon their own needs as a consumer.

“When you build a product or a service, you make the call on hundreds of tiny decisions each day. If you’re solving someone else’s problem, you’re constantly stabbing in the dark. When you solve your own problem, the light comes on. You know exactly what the right answer is.”

Most successful companies were born out of someone’s efforts to solve a need of their own. In fact, Nike and Dyson started as solutions to issues their founders experienced firsthand.

Find the Gap

You’ve heard the entrepreneurial phrase “find a gap in the market and fill it.” Instead of taking a swing and guessing what the market needs, use your personal experience as a consumer to develop a product that won’t leave you striking out. recently featured the remarkable accomplishments of twelve-year-old Mo’s Bows founder, Moziah Bridges. While most kids his age are spending countless hours on PlayStation and at soccer practice, this kid is running a $165,000 business. And like corporate giants Nike and Dyson, Mo’s Bows started with a need.

“I couldn’t find fun and cool bow ties, so one day I decided to use my Granny’s scrap fabric to make and sell my own. I like to wear bow ties because they make me look good and feel good. Designing a colorful bow tie is just part of my vision to make the world a fun and happier place.” –Moziah Bridges

It’s a relatable story. How many times have you needed and struggled to find that pair of jeans that fits just right? Or that piece of technology that solves all your time management dilemmas? Why not examine those needs and fulfill them?

The Call to Action

When you’re branding a service or product that addresses a need you can identify with personally, your messaging and call to action will be, undoubtedly, more impactful and relevant. And if you’ve already developed something based on your own experience, share that story.

One of Dyson’s tag lines is “James Dyson launched the first bagless vacuum cleaner in the UK in 1993. It was the result of 5,127 prototypes and 15 years of frustration and perseverance.”

Why is this powerful? As a consumer, you can resonate with the frustration of vacuum bags and poor suction. And, frankly, that much time and dedication to one problem certainly qualifies a bragging right. Perhaps most importantly, as Fried puts it, it’s a love story.

“Best of all, this ‘solve your own problem’ approach lets you fall in love with what you’re making. You know the problem and the value of its solution intimately. There’s no substitute for that.”

[Tweet “You’re a consumer, so don’t be afraid to think like one.”]

Don’t complicate the simple to seek “innovative” and “essential”—if it’s something you find useful, chances are, others will too. Scratch your own itch.

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