“Should” Is Not A Great Marketing Strategy

Is the better mousetrap you’ve been peddling being presented to customers with the admonition “You should use this” or “You ought to use this”, with no clear understanding of the immediate pain point that you can solve?

Example #1.  OpenID. Yeah, in theory it’s great that I can use one identifier to get me access to all of these current future services, and yeah, we *should* move to a saner identification and authentication scheme, but that’s not enough for me to overcome these issues:

1) Complexity: I don’t want to understand what an OpenID provider is, or why I need one.  I want to go to WordPress and say “Make this an OpenID”, and have them prompt me for whatever additional info they need.

2) Chicken-and-egg: I don’t want to go to OpenID until one of my daily services requires me to.  They don’t want to do that until enough people use OpenID.

Example #2: RDF, markup, and the Semantic Web. This is another case where in theory it would be great if we all tagged everything and let robot overlords do all the dirty work of aggregating meaningful information and finding the needle in the haystack, but why am I going to invest a bunch of time, with mediocre tool support, to do that today?  What pain am I feeling?  Google does fine by me.

Example #3: Open Source. A lot of the arguments for open-source come down to a theoretical argument against capitalism, closed knowledge systems, info-tyranny, the archaic intellectual property rules, or what have you.  Frankly, all of those arguments pale in comparison to free-as-in-beer.  What pain am I feeling?  The empty pocketbook is painful.  Everything else is grad-school rap session bullshit for your customers.

Example #4: Twitter Clones. I included this one because we may be at the cusp of a real change, with Twitter’s recent uptime problems and turnover in the engineering staff.  I’m on Twitter because (a) it’s simple and (b) all of my friends are on Twitter.  If it goes down for a short bit, it’s not a huge hassle – why move to Pownce or some hand-forged RSS MacGuyver replacement?  I’m not (yet) feeling the pain.  But if there is  more extended downtime, the evidence that we need to move to another platform will be incontrovertible.  Attention Twitter: the pain is starting.  Make huge strides now in your reliability or risk losing your franchise.

Everyone should  now go read (reread?) Clayton Christensen. (pun intended).

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