Dear CMO:

When you ask customers about the problem that your product solves, what do they do? Do they get that glazed look that says, “wow, I’m so sorry… your lips were moving and I know that words were coming out, but the stuff you were saying was sooooo boring that I just tuned out after a few seconds”? Or do they involuntarily recoil and make that face that says, “yep, that hurts”?

That’s the acid test, isn’t it? The wince. The ‘tell’ that gives away a glaring need. You brought forth the visceral, emotional pain that someone is feeling about something. “Me-too” products scratch the itch that has already been scratched — only better! Yawn. “Wow” products always seem to be those, “don’t you wish we had something that did THIS?” things.

Tivo did a good job of this. How many late-night comedians did their best to pad their routines with that “… still blinking 12:00” reference? Tivo made time shifting easier. And thanks to Sex In The City, we all know what it is now, too.

Don’t have a pure, never before conceived, breakthrough product in a blue ocean market? Don’t fret, there’s still hope. Let’s take a great example from my old friends at Plantronics in the almost ubiquitous Bluetooth headset category. “Just what I needed… another charger to travel with… and another mobile communications device that can run out of juice, exactly when I need it,” now solved with a very smart, very unique secondary charger you plug into that looks like a cigar case. That’s nice.

I spoke to about a dozen people over the past few days about how they protect their digital work. People whose livelihoods depend on not losing their stuff — videographers, digital musicians, medical imagers, post-production houses, and the like. Every time I talked about ‘backing up your data’, I got a wince. “Yeah, I know, I’ve got thirty to forty current projects on the hard drive right now… and it isn’t backed up… I really need to do something about this…”

Of course, they all have something already in hand to do this. They have Maxtor “One-Touch” external drives, or they have DLT tape drives, or they have something. But, like your ADT home security system, you never use it. Why? “Oh, yeah, we back our stuff up to tape… one of the girls does it… not sure who… I guess every few weeks or something…”

It’s distasteful, apparently, and requires you to do something that isn’t interesting or sexy. It’s flossing. It’s tax preparation. It’s maintenence. No one wants to do it. Everyone knows they need to do it. Therefore, it’s pain.Thus, the wince.

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Key Takeaways:

> Are you solving or “me-too-ing” a problem? Words are fine, but watch the reaction you get from your customers. This tells you the truth.

> What is the one thing that your customer likes to talk about the least? What ‘really isn’t my job’? What is that one thing that ‘we just don’t do a great job of handling’?

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Are you marketing the 6-Minute Abs video? Or are you solving a wince?


Copyright (c) 2006 Stephen Denny