Be End User Friendly

Be End User Friendly

Successfully developing a product means knowing your customer

If you are going to attempt to compete in a trending sector, you need to think long and hard about how you will differentiate. Get serious and highly creative about this.


I once knew an entrepreneur who loved basketball. In his professional life, he was a doctor. He put the two together when he developed a shoe designed to prevent ankle sprains.

He had done his homework and found that ankle sprains were the No. 1 basketball injury, and there was a multibillion-dollar market for basketball shoes. But it was not until he had 26,000 pairs sitting in a warehouse—and spent a lot of money on marketing—that he realized this wasn’t going to fly.

Another inventive soul who was in the printing business learned that the nose of dogs was as unique as the fingerprint of a human, so he conceived a dog noseprint product as an identifier for lost pets.

It was a fabulous, noninvasive idea that bypassed injecting a chip into a dog. But what he did not consider was that for his noseprint to be a valuable identifier, he also needed to create a national database as the place to look for a lost dog. He had already gone into production, spent money on packaging and thought he was ready to go.

Both entrepreneurs lost their shirts, so to speak, because they didn’t consider the end customer before they spent money and time creating their product.

A good idea isn’t enough

Many products and services are created by someone who is passionate about solving a personal problem. Often, products emerge from those who were doing something else in their careers when an idea popped into their head, and they were courageous enough to do something about it.

However, so many products are created without a thought about the end user.

An idea is only as good as a customer who not only wants it but will pay for it. Otherwise, it will die a sad death, and someone will have exuberantly spent time and money on something that never sees the light of day.

Don’t be that person.

Sometimes products have customers who would want them, but they are so expensive to produce that they will never sell. Other times, entrepreneurs create something that appears to have a large market opportunity, but they cannot compete. Or, they miss an important psychographic about their customer.

In the case of the basketball shoe company, there was a huge market for basketball shoes. But those brand-conscious 12-16-year-olds he found in his research who were buying 5-7 pairs of shoes a year were literally killing for name-brand sneakers only.

Nike and Adidas had tied up contracts with every level of basketball from the high schooler to the NBA, so would-be ambassadors were contractually not able to put anything on their feet other than Nike and Adidas no matter how many ankle sprains they endured.

Prioritize packaging

Some entrepreneurs see a market or a trend first and attempt to compete.

I call these copycat products. Sadly, so many spend a lifetime thrashing about in a bloody red ocean (reference to one of my favorite books: “Blue Ocean Strategy” by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne). Without a truly meaningful differentiation, they get nowhere.

I hate to see so many products like this and entrepreneurs so infatuated with their concept that they are blinded to what should be driving them: the customer.

No product will ever become a success without a customer. No business is a business without a customer, no matter how great the product.

If you are going to attempt to compete in a trending sector, you need to think long and hard about how you will differentiate. Get serious and highly creative about this.

And, news flash: A “new fragrance,” “cheaper,” “faster,” or “great customer service” are not differentiators.

Sometimes that differentiator is simply the packaging. This is typical in the beauty and the tequila business. What’s inside is usually not that different, but what it looks like on the outside is what customers remember.

When you are competing in a highly saturated category like this, incredible packaging is the way to go. And it had better be eye-poppingly cool, gorgeous or interesting.

Aesthetics success story

An example: The cannabis industry is red hot right now. There are gazillions of products that use these ingredients for skincare, foods, sports and spa applications, and recreational use.

Many entrepreneurs have come to my company’s doorstep showing yet another marijuana leaf-emblazoned, badly executed package. We usually turn them down because we can’t market something like that; we will surely fail.

For a sector like cannabis, there is too much competition out there. Your packaging or marketing has to be dazzling.

Another way to compete, as did a company called Doist, is to create a unique delivery system with incredibly attractive packaging.

Doist created a dose-controlled cannabis therapy line delivered in a proprietary precision delivery system. The tagline is “Targeted Formulas, Precise Dosage.”

Each package is a super clean, white-sleeved box with lots of elegant whitespace simply labeled, “sleep,” “bliss,” “calm,” “arouse.” The box slides open to reveal a solid-colored carrier, each one that differentiates its contents: calming blue for sleep, hot magenta for arouse.

I think the company did an amazing job.

This went a step further by marketing the product to lovers of aesthetics. I saw ads for Doist in Architectural Digest, not a place where one might see such a product. But the company knew its customer was someone who appreciated something beautiful.

Do not spend another dime or moment creating a product until you are superlatively clear on who your customer is, why he/she would want to buy and how much the person would pay for it. Only then, move forward with your prototypes, sourcing and finally distribution and marketing.

Ideas are only ideas without this intel.