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« The invisible crossroads | Main | Half life »

Articulating your preferred use case (what's it for?)

It's possible to open a can of paint with a $500 Kramer knife. Not likely, and certainly not a market segment that's going to help Kramer's business flourish.

At many suburban libraries, the majority of patrons do nothing but 'rent' popular movies on DVD. This isn't an efficient use of the space or the staff, but that doesn't make it any less common.

Some non-profit organizations are organized to get donations in dollars and dimes, and while they won't turn away a $50,000 bequest, it's not something they're focused on.

Every organization starts with a (usually unarticulated) use case. The founders imagine the best use of their product or service, the situation that they're organized around. It can involve answers to the following questions:

  • How does someone find out about what you do?
  • How much do they pay for it?
  • When they're engaging with you in the very best way, what happens? What's accomplished?
  • What do they do after they use it?
  • How often do they return?

If you put a fancy restaurant on a fancy street, your use case doesn't involve nannies with a few kids coming in for just a cup of coffee. On the other hand, that might be exactly what a cafe down the street is hoping for.

If your blog is designed for regular readers and a thoughtful dialogue over time, then generating traffic with linkbait, while possible, isn't going to make the blog work better.

There are two reasons to articulate your use case. First, it helps your staff, your designers, your marketers and your sales force get on the same page about what they're building and growing. And second, it might be unrealistic. You might be hoping for a market that's far bigger than it is, or to solve a problem that's too easy (or too difficult).

When Apple designs a hardware device or a singer records an album, the question must be asked, "What's this for?" Sure, people can run an accounting business with an iPad, or play one particular song on the album at a party, but is that what it's for?

Many organizations will take any customer, any time, and bend and writhe to accomodate money in whatever form it arrives. Other, happier organizations understand the benefit of optimizing for a certain kind of interaction, and they have the guts to decline the part of the market that doesn't want to use their tool/organization the way it was intended

You'll often be wrong about what the market is and what it wants. When that happens, time to either shift your use case (and the way you're organized around it) or stick it out but be prepared for a long, tough slog.

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