Slow Down and Remember the Customer

May 17, 2016

7:00 pm

With the pace the tech industry runs at, it’s easy to buy into the idea that speed is a deliverable – “Move fast and break things”; “Release early and release often.” These sayings are core to the notion of the Minimum Viable Product – and they hold a lot of merit especially in the startup space. The attainment of perfection is an enemy all entrepreneurs face down at one point or another.

But too much of a good thing can be bad. Tech companies large and small are guilty of moving too quickly, but sometimes it’s important to stop, take a moment and ask “do my customers even want this?”

Think about it. How many devices or applications that you use have become needlessly bloated versions of their former selves? Do you remember your reaction to that new feature/UI/login/what-have-you? Was there a real need for it? Did it make things easier?

Did you even care?

The thing is: most people aren’t tech-oriented. They won’t appreciate a new button design or nav reorganization if it adds even one more step to what it is they’re using your product for. This is especially true in the consumer space, where simplicity rules. People don’t want an extra tap or screen to get where they’re going.

I’m not condemning iteration and testing. I understand that’s the only way to refine and polish a good idea. But I have seen way too many examples of “improvements” that a product team or marketing executive get excited over only to wonder “what the hell were they thinking? Why?” Because it delivered zero additional benefit to the end-user.

The reason this happens is usually a mix of things:

  • A lack of critical thinking in the company.
  • Everyone on the team is, and thinks alike.
  • An adoration of new for the sake of new.
  • An engineer/developer culture that grows into myopia.
  • Lack of a clear vision.
  • Boredom.

Whatever the cause, instead of racing for more, slow down and strive for less. What step can you remove? What element can you subtract that will deliver faster?

Stop rushing to ship the next feature or version and remember who actually uses your product. Ask if it makes sense for them. And when I say ask I mean physically go and talk to them. Don’t try to “think like they do” because you won’t (sorry, you just won’t). Go get true, unfiltered objective feedback to what you’re thinking. It may surprise you.

Yes, it’s an uncomfortable thing to do. Yes, it will delay things. Yes, it will likely challenge your thinking.

But take the time; your ideas and your customers deserve it.

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Currently Founder + CEO of FOUNDATION – a marketing consultancy for technology and technology-related organizations that need to position and brand their product or service. Graduate of the Ringling School of Art & Design with over 25 years experience as an Art Director/Graphic Designer in consumer and B2B marketing. Past clients include Lenovo, IBM, GE, RCA, Visa, Harrah’s Entertainment, Gaylord Hotels, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Dollar Tree, Visa, Wells Fargo, BB&T, American Red Cross, PPD, Quintiles, Shire, Merck and Novartis. Wood sculpture artist in spare time. Halloween aficionado who transforms outside of his home into one-of-a-kind Disney-esque Haunted Mansion. Vices include 80s music, Martinis, the occasional cigar and old-school Speed Racer.

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