Reduce the “fear-of-fucking-up” friction

Products are not bought, they are hired to do jobs for people as Clayton Christensen puts it using milkshakes as his example. Snickers practices what Christensen preaches in their marketing – and they do it in videos much better suited for a Friday afternoon than a Christensen talk. They don’t sell you on more nuts or better quality chocolate in their bars – they sell you on the job a Snickers can do for you: help you be your charming self instead of a hangry diva.

Product features and integrations are the nuts and chocolate of software products, important to have but not necessarily what should be the center of attention. I think of this every time I see a detailed list of what a product can do and all the services it integrates with.

Building good product is all about reducing friction, enabling people to do something in a simpler way than what they did before. Usually that means things like accomplishing something in fewer clicks and automating stuff that was previously manual. Reducing friction in the ways people interact with tools is all great, but sometimes I think we overemphasize that mechanical friction, and pay too little attention to emotional friction. To helping users escape the fear of fucking up. Often that is the real job a product is needed for.

Startup founder and small business owners do many, many jobs at the same time. The jobs are not necessarily very complicated, but they are each associated with a certain level of anxiety. One or maybe two of those jobs are the most important ones, the stuff that moves the company forward, the stuff no one else can really do (yet). The other jobs not so much, and this is where a tool that does some level of automation comes in. But when delegating that job to a tool (just like when delegating it to a person) I want to feel comfortable that the tool will not only do the job, but will do it in a way that takes the fear of fucking up off my shoulders. I want a tool that says “don’t worry, I got this”. I don’t care if it has fewer features, I just want to be able to trust it to do a good enough job. For any of those secondary (but important) jobs I don’t want to hear about advanced features, powerful integrations, or spend much time getting things up and running. I want to pay, get it going, and get on with other things.

Making it emotionally easier to get something done is not a bad selling point at all.

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