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Melbourne, Australia

How to become your own disruptor (before somebody else does)

October 2, 2016

It's easy to get caught up in a feature race when new competitors come along. Comparing their ability to sort by popularity versus your ability to plot on a map. The seemingly endless list of things they are now doing after launching 5 minutes ago, that take you months to roll-out. Once you reach a market leading position, there is so much more at stake and decisions take longer. It can feel like you're never going to keep up with them and soon, you'll become irrelevant.


But you're actually missing the point. Customers buy benefits and not features, its about how they feel about you and whether you actually deliver on your promises. Focus on what it is about the new competitor that is better and how it makes the customer feel, not just the feature matrix.


There are some pretty ugly sites that do very well, because they deliver first time and so users don't need to keep looking. Buyers have found what they needed and they'll come back again next time. They're not going to sit and develop a feature matrix before deciding what site to use next, they've already got what they wanted. It is only you, the Product Manager and all of your team that are comparing at such minute detail.


It is time to get back to basics and figure out the problem you're really trying to solve

If you're competing on features, you're at serious risk of disruption. If you can't connect with your customers on an emotional or values level, you'll always have to fight through features or price. You'd be amazed at how powerful this is, once you remember how it affects you and your own choices every single day.


This is where most people talk about the Apple brand and how it makes their customers feel about themselves - different. Apple products are innovative, but they're no longer ground-breaking - there are many more products with arguably better features, which don't get a look in. Because people wouldn't switch to a Microsoft product, because it doesn't make them different. But what about some less obvious examples, how can you feel connected to a job site or a real estate database?

  • Real Estate

    • User Problem

      • I want to find a home in a competitive marketplace. I don't want to waste time on viewing homes which are out of my budget or don't live up to the promises on the listing. I can't buy something I can't afford and I won't buy something that doesn't meet my needs. My time and money is precious.

    • Actual Proposition

      • You can visits dozens of properties that don't look anything like the pictures, are over your budget and have been on the market for months, but we've edited the listing to make it look fresh. You're going to be frustrated, your time will be wasted and you will use our site because you have to. But as soon as something else comes along, you'll try it out. Because you have no reason to be loyal to us.

    • Disruptor

      • You can find your next home here - whether you want a fixer upper or a perfect palace - we'll be upfront about the price and condition and we'll help you get the most out of your agent when you sell. No excuses.

        • Lets break it down

          • People want a home, not a house, it matters - a lot

          • We care about what you want, we won't fob you off just to get numbers

          • We will save your precious time by holding our agents accountable for their content

          • We will share the price range, because then we can provide qualified buyers to our sellers

          • It's really hard to do and that's why you know you can trust us

  • Job Site

    • User Problem

      • I want to be top of the list for my next perfect job opportunity so that I'm never 'looking' for a job. I'm working, I don't have time to apply for hundreds of jobs and I don't want to be fobbed off with If I do have to 'look' for a job, I will look everywhere and I will look all of the time, because I need to be doing something proactive about my situation.

    • Actual Proposition

      • You're going to need to search a few times to find the jobs that are relevant to you, they'll be listed a few times as they're on with different agencies and they'll post fake jobs to get your name on their database first. We won't put salaries on most of the jobs and so you'll never know your worth. You can add your CV and get random calls from lazy agents who haven't read them and you'll be pushed into applying for roles which aren't relevant.  You'll only ever visit the site when you're searching for or out of a job and so we'll never have the correct details for you. Even worse, we don't recognise your lifetime value as you'll be working for 60 years and you won't use us to find your next candidate, because you know that so many applications are irrelevant.

    • Disruptor

      • You can trust us to bring your next job opportunity to you.  Connecting you with real jobs and guiding you through all stages of your career by putting candidates first.

        • Let's break it down

          • Trust is important, you don't have to have all the jobs, you have to have the right jobs.

          • Bringing you the next opportunity, you don't have to search.

          • Guiding you through, means they have a reason to keep coming to the site even when you are not looking for a job. You could offer a mentoring program, advice blogs, stats on where the skill gaps are in your field (from your vast database) etc.

          • Putting candidates first will force agencies to play straight - no excuses if they want to access the best candidates who are proactive about their career development

These are both examples of two sided marketplaces where the business connects buyers and sellers of some kind. A marketplace is particularly difficult business to run because you can't have buyers without sellers and visa versa. You'll feel pressure from Sellers to develop features which get them more sales, but don't necessarily add up to good value for Buyers. In the Real Estate example that could be in showing surrounding suburbs by default instead of where the Buyer wants to live. Or in the Job Site example, allowing agencies to post fake jobs without any repercussions. So once you get to a decent size, it is really hard to move fast and you get caught up in developing more features and forget about the reason you existed in the first place - because all of those problems are outside of your control. But the truth is that the sellers will go wherever the buyers are. So make sure your buyers are at the core of your proposition and have an emotional connection, because if a new marketplace comes along (without your baggage) they'll be the first to go and check it out and your Sellers won't be far behind.

So take another look at the truth behind your product and the problems you're trying to solve. What would you do if you could do it again and why can't you do it now? What could be more important than becoming your own disruptor in today's market?

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