Needy Wants

Giving a customer what they want can be a bad thing.

Long ago, I was on both the product management and product marketing side of some new technology. We had a few early adopter customers. One in particular was very engaged, right down to near daily communing with our software architect. Like all customers, he had a wish list of features and functions he wanted the product to sprout. Unlike most customers, he had money to spend.

Wants are not needs | marketingI had to turn down a lot of his feature requests, sponsored or not.

There is a difference between what customers want and what they need. There is even a difference between what one customer needs and what every customer needs. Creating products based on wants becomes a stress-inducing cycle of unicorn hunting that never works. While trying desperately to create the perfect product for one or two customers, typically for the sake of short-term cash, you quit creating a product for every customer.

Which in the long-run means you create a product for nearly nobody.

Disappointing a customer by not delivering a few wants will be forgotten. Not delivering what they need will never be forgiven. The vendor has to make this decision, for the individual case but also for the market and for their company. At times it is like juggling greased hand grenades – you are always fearful of dropping the live one and not the dud. But you must think in terms of what makes the most customers happiest over the long haul.


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