Nivi · September 11th, 2009
In Steve Jobs does customer development, I asked readers to find a customer development lesson in Steve’s interview. There were a lot of good responses that I didn’t anticipate. But Reece came closest to the answer I was looking for:
“The subtler customer development point from Jobs is ‘We don’t need to add new stuff.’ He realized the feature set is fine — instead of cramming in new features that most users won’t touch, Apple can instead focus on positioning the product via marketing and pricing.”
In other words, Apple didn’t add a camera so they could deliver on their positioning (“lowest-cost way to the App Store”), increase market share (“everyone can afford it”), and maybe even increase revenue.
I think Reece made one small, important error; so let’s pick on him for the sake of our education.
“But if we just add feature X”
Reece implies that a camera is a feature “that most users won’t touch.” But adding a camera is probably a good idea. Maybe it’s the key to selling a billion more iPods. Who knows for sure?
Go to any group meeting at any startup and you’ll hear employees arguing for their own camera: “but if we just add feature X we’ll get more customers.” That’s a reasonable hypothesis. More people might buy the product with feature X. Should you build feature X?
Not necessarily. A startup’s cash-on-hand is shrinking every day. You want to add the features that will do the most to stop your losses. You don’t execute every random idea without prioritizing it.
The optimal plan may be to slow down product development, commit more resources to customer development, and find the right positioning for your product. The lesson here:
Once you reach a certain level of product/market fit, the best plan may be to add no new features, focus on positioning, make more money, and move up the startup pyramid — even though the team has a million obviously great ideas for new features that will make a buttload of money. You can improve the business without improving the product.
Can you find other examples where Apple and Pixar did customer development?