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The Best Product Doesn’t Always Win, Except When It Follows This Category Design Principle
Designing a perfect product is not the path to exponential success.
Dear Friend, Subscriber, and Category Pirate,
This week’s Category Design Tip squashes a common product myth.
Many entrepreneurs, executives, and investors think “the best product wins.” And the path to creating a “winning” product is:
Step 1: Launch a Minimum Viable Product
Step 2: Chase demand and prove Product-Market Fit
Step 3: Give users the ability to invite their friends and, wabam, Product-Led Growth
But this is not the path to exponential success.
We’re here to remind you why.
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The Best Product Doesn’t Always Win
The phrase, “The best product,” is ironic.
“Best” in relation to… what?
Most entrepreneurs, executives, and investors don’t realize what they’re saying when they say, “The best product.” These 3 words root their thinking to “what is,” and trick them into thinking their job is to FIT their product better into an existing market. But no legendary company (ever, in the history of ever) created a product that FIT into an existing category.
There was no “video doorbell” category before Ring.
The “hobbyist drone” category didn’t take off before DJI.
The “ride-sharing” category didn’t exist before Uber.
To successfully differentiate yourself, you have to reject “what currently exists,” and evangelize a NEW and DIFFERENT way of doing things.
You have to take a risk.
When you assume “the best product wins,” you are making the assumption the product will FIND its place in the world.
But why take that chance?
If you’re going to invest years (or decades) of your life building a product you believe will lead to a legendary outcome, why wouldn’t you give your product the best chance for success? Why wouldn’t you invest as much time, energy, and resource into Framing, Naming, and Claiming what your product does for the world as you do building the product itself? Why assume customers are just going to “get it?”
Unfortunately, entrepreneurs do this every single day.
They design a beautiful website. They launch a demo video. And then they sit back. “We’ve built an unbeatable product,” they say. And then they wait for customers to “get it” on their own.
They assume their product will find its place in the world.
One of the biggest tragedies in business is when a legendary breakthrough fails to make the difference it could have because it failed to make its place in the world.
That happens for a few reasons:
People don’t understand what problem the breakthrough solves
They don’t understand the opportunity it creates
They don’t know why it is different
They don’t know how it fits into the landscape of their thinking
When a breakthrough dies, the world is deprived of its outcomes, benefits, and transformation—until someone else comes along and reframes the opportunity in a new and compelling way.
In reality, you have to MAKE a place in the world for your product.
This is no different than how many founders turned to entrepreneurship because the world did not have a place for them.
They looked, and they looked, and they could not “find” where they fit in. So, instead of accepting their fate as the next-best alternative, they took it upon themselves to MAKE their place in the world.
That place is called a category of one.
And the way you get there is not by building “the best product.”
To Build A Legendary Product, Build It For People
A legendary product alone is necessary, but not sufficient enough for success.
FANS are what make a product successful.
CUSTOMERS are what make a product successful.
OTHER PEOPLE are what make a product successful.
It’s human nature to believe we are the main characters of the show, we are what matter, we control our fate and destiny, and we are the geniuses behind all the greatness in our lives. (We wrote about this phenomenon in our mini-book, The “Me” Disease.) And sure, to some degree, that is true (you are the captain of your soul). But it’s a dangerous place to root your thinking.
Because the truth is, it’s the fans (aka the category) that make it successful.
And at any moment, the fans can take its success away.
To create a category-defining product, what you really want is Founder-Problem Fit.
You can dive deeper into what this means, and what it reveals about a product’s success, in our mini-book, The Big Product Lie.
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