Today, we’re taking a big step forward with RunKeeper 4.0 for iPhone! The launch of Apple’s new operating system, iOS7, gave us the opportunity to make the app feel lighter and cleaner, as a way to focus on your data and progress. In fact, the phone even feels lighter while you’re out for a…
We feel heartbroken. What is usually the best day of the year in Boston was ripped apart by violence. We had a few members of the RunKeeper family running the Boston Marathon, and many more cheering them on, and we are so thankful that everyone on our side is safe. It hurts us deeply…
"You never get a second chance at a first impression."
It’s frustrating how many people either don’t care about, or dismiss the importance of a user’s perception of their product. It doesn’t matter if someone is hearing of your product for the first time or if they are a seasoned user, the perception they have of the quality or usability of your product is EVERYTHING. Even if the code is beautiful or you have done some really crazy hacking to get something that shouldn’t be possible to work, if the user perceives it as clunky or unreliable or slow, you’re sunk.
Many people completely neglect this fact. I know so many people (and products) that seem to focus on it being built or coded really well, or how well intentioned their efforts are in how they’d like it to work even if it doesn’t deliver, or the expectation the user will understand that it’s a “really hard problem” and be understanding of it.
Ok that’s probably a little dramatic… some will depending on how you handle that relationship with them, but the general public is absolutely flooded with options, have a very short attention span, and fleeting loyalty. If you rely on them thoroughly getting to know your product, and all other competitors products before deciding who truly is best, you are missing out. Big time.
One problem is many technical people see marketing as the art of tricking someone into buying something. The belief by many is that only the products that suck need marketing’s help. Completely untrue. It IS true that some products can’t deliver on the perception delivered by marketing and promotional efforts, but that doesn’t mean ALL marketing is disingenuous. The solution isn’t to avoid marketing, it’s to build a better product that can deliver a reality that matches the perception.
Companies that avoid marketing fail or create an incredible uphill battle for themselves. Companies that know how to market a favorable perception of a product that they can’t deliver on will enjoy short term success but it won’t last.
Truly great companies know how to leverage both, and match both the perception of the product with the reality of the product at a high level.
Innovation is supposed to be the primary focus of so many companies these days, yet I’m frustrated by the number of people or companies who claim innovation when what they’re doing isn’t truly innovative. Specifically, there are a number of companies out there who are basically photo copying someone else’s product and focusing on a different market segment. MAYBE good business, but certainly not innovation.
In addition, it’s amazing just how many people (myself included at times!) think they “know best” when it comes to the products and services people want. Even Steve Jobs got it wrong some of the time, and he’s widely credited with having a pretty great track record of knowing what the general public will want before even they do.
But I’m reminded of a quote I’ve heard over and over again throughout the past 6 years I’ve spent working among different startups and developing a number of different products:
"If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses." - Henry Ford
Now, customer feedback is invaluable to ANY business as a gauge on what to build and what problems to solve, but customers themselves tend to think in terms of what already exists and want someone to build better versions of what they already know. They often include the means as well as the ends in their feedback or product, which just as often limits the ability to truly solve the underlying problem in the easiest or best way possible. But disregarding customer feedback entirely is, in my opinion, one of the chief reasons so many companies end up failing in the end. Many smart people let their egos get the best of them, and they end up building something they think is awesome but doesn’t end up really solving a problem that anyone has (or that anyone has yet).
So what’s the deal? This guy Henry Ford seemed to do alright for himself, so how’d he do it? The answer is customer input should provide you with the ends, but it’s up to you to step back a bit and create the best means possible to achieve it.
In the case of Henry Ford, his customers were identifying the existing means of transportation and requesting ways to make it better. While this provided a good indicator as to what those customers were looking for, it was Ford’s job to take the existing means out of the equation, and decipher what customers really wanted in an effort to truly solve the problem they had. This required some true innovation (actually invention in this case) where the solution to the problem everyone thought they had was something they would never have thought of on their own.
This applies even more to company’s today where customers have much more of a relationship and dialogue about not only the kinds of products and features they are looking for, but the problems they need solved. Not to mention, the marketplace for any given product is much more competitive than it was back then.
The moral of the story is, you should ALWAYS respect, appreciate, and seek out customer feedback and input on your product. If you know how to listen and what to listen for, they will tell you everything you need to know in order to solve the problems they know they have with products they never thought they would need.
There’s a reason my side projects have favored the Twitter platform: I’m a fan of the service, and earnestly want to improve the experience of her users. No more: Twitter is a hostile partner to developers and has bluntly terminated my projects without so much as a reason.
First it was Proxlet…
Do yourself (and the world!) a favor and don’t just listen to this song, LIVE IT.