Picking a Winning Product

HBS Working Knowledge has an article by Eric Mankin on the “four benchmarks for predicting the success of your product or service:”

A new product or service will be successful if it does a better job than existing products at satisfying the needs of a targeted customer group. But “doing a better job” actually has four dimensions. If a new product or service can exceed existing offerings across all four of these dimensions at once, then we can guarantee that the targeted customer group will purchase it.

The four dimensions fall into two categories, purchase motivators and purchase barriers. The new product has to excel at:

1. Providing high purchase motivators
A. It must be less expensive than existing products (lower price).
B. It must provide better features than existing products (greater benefits).

2. Eliminating purchase barriers
A. It must not have any switching or adoption costs (easy to use).
B. It must be readily available (easy to buy).

Customers for whom all four conditions apply will purchase the product or service because there are only benefits and no barriers. The closer any new product comes to succeeding in all four dimensions, the greater the chance that the product will be a winner. And, of course, the innovation will be a financial success if these conditions can be met at a profit.

Trust and Transactions in Media

Tim Oren writes that “from an investor’s perspective, there’s the possibility that one of the major value chains in modern society – media and advertising – will be rearranged, at least in part. That makes an economic analysis of the issue rather interesting.”

Google’s business model is provocative in partially reassembling the bundle from the advertisers’ point of view. Through search related ads, bundling around declared interests rather than demographics can be achieved. Adsense goes further in attempting juxtaposition of ads with actual content on the same basis. I’m awaiting with interest the form that advertising will finally take on Google News. Google is leveraging cheap cycles and a lot of algorithms research against the bundling needs of advertisers, but largely leaving the readers to fend for themselves. But, it has the advantage of a clear business proposition.

RSS aggregating software and services are a provocative attempt to let the readers build their own bundles. This is impossible in the legacy media, and creates a sharp differentiation from the old style of bundling. The juxtaposition of citizens’ media (blog posts) with legacy media content ripped from its home site goes one step further in exploding the apparent value of the old bundle. Reader side aggregation can thus destroy old value, but hasn’t so far shown an ability to extract serious revenue from readers.

Technorati is another cut. It’s not a bundling solution at all. Instead it seeks to reduce the ‘search costs’ associated with following threads of interesting discussion across the Web. If the transaction costs of retrieving individual information bits is reduced, the need and attraction of bundling is reduced. But, there’s also the problem of a lacking business case. Perhaps that can be found from the advertisers’ side. If promotion to demographic or general interest bundles is giving way to selling by influence, then tracking the conversation becomes of value. Technorati appears to be a radical unbundling hypothesis on both the reader and advertiser sides.