[Design] What's the 'pony in the product'?
Phillip J. Eby
pje at telecommunity.com
Fri Dec 21 16:15:49 PST 2007
At 12:26 PM 12/21/2007 -0800, Mimi Yin wrote:
>I agree with the sentiment that we need to market Chandler in terms
>of what people already 'know' they want or need a solution for. I'm
>not sure it should start with calendaring.
Fair enough. It's simply the most obvious and fully-grown pony, as
far as I can tell. :)
>For one, how do we differentiate ourselves from other web calendar
>services? The offline functionality doesn't seem compelling enough on
Doesn't that depend on who the user is?
>Second, I *have* had success demo-ing Chandler to people by pitching
>it as something that ties all the bits and pieces of information you
>have floating around in your head, Inbox, random text files together:
>Personal and shared 'source of truth' manager. I agree that this is a
>hard pitch to get right, but I don't think we've given this angle a
>fair shot yet. We're only starting to articulate it in the long-hand
From a marketing perspective, this is a bit backwards. You don't
make a product and then figure out how to sell it, you figure out
what people want to buy and then make it. What specific pain do
people have that they would be motivated enough to spend money (or at
least time/effort/learning) to eliminate, and what emotional payoff
will they receive from eliminating it?
We still have to answer this question, even for calendaring, it's
just that having a well-defined space like "calendar" allows you to
e.g. look at what's being advertised via AdWords to check out the competition.
In contrast, the only existing word I know of for the broader mission
is "PIM", and we can't win in that category.
>In many ways, the design
>we have today is in response to the 'just build a filtered view'
>approach to information management.
So what about it is better (as opposed to merely different)? (Where
better is defined in terms of ultimate impact on the person using it.)
>This 'thing' we've had trouble articulating doesn't have to be what
>we communicate in the marketing pitch. But I think that to come up
>with a compelling pitch, we need to start with a clear understanding
>of it. Otherwise, how can we go about helping others to see and
We need to start from the other end: who needs this, what is their
pain, and what *emotional* payoff will they get from the solution?
My extremely limited perspective on this is that I see IT guys whose
users are bugging them for a calendar. Their pain is they don't want
to do Exchange, but they want something better than some random PHP
intranet app, especially if they have remote users. The competition
for this niche is low, especially under 25 users. (E.g., Zimbra
sells in blocks of 25 seats, and their marketing is a little too
corporate-speak for smaller groups, anyway.) The emotional payoff is
that they save the day and the budget and look good for picking the
However, this is only *one* potential niche. There are likely others
that I'm not aware of.
What niche(s), if any, did you have in mind?
>This is part of our target. But I think we can reach beyond this
>audience. People start using tools like OmniOutliner on their own, I
>don't see why Chandler can't reach the same kind of users.
To a PIM geek, Chandler isn't even in the same league with
OmniOutliner (or its likely inspiration from the PC, Ecco Pro).
Now, it might be that I'm wrong, and there are non-PIM geeks who buy
things like OmniOutliner. Certainly some of them must be. But my
general impression has been that PIM enthusiasts and other people
with the "productivity" otaku are the primary ones who already *know*
they want a PIM. And Chandler compares less well within that
category, IMO, than it does in the calendar category.
As Katie has put it, we have a few different centers of gravity:
"Outlook killer" -- we simply don't stack up
"GTD" -- Chandler's design philosophy directly contradicts that of
GTD on occasion, doesn't accept GTD's premises in other areas, and
doesn't provide any GTD-specific tools that aren't done significantly
better by other PIMs (even ones that aren't specifically designed for
GTD). The only differentiating factor here is open source+GUI. Note
that there are open source GTD tools based on text-only/command-line
operation, which just goes to show how *much* demand there is for
good GTD tools. If we built an actual, scripturally-correct GTD
application, we'd have GTD fans all over us -- but that would be a
non-trivial effort, to say the least.
"small team collaboration" -- this is the only niche we actually have
any competitive oomph in right *now*, but even so we will not compete
without defining a *new* subcategory/niche to be the leader
of. That's primarily a marketing question, and it's primarily
directed *outward*, to the question of what people want, as opposed
to what we have.
Unfortunately, I am not a "real" marketing person, so all this is
perhaps not as clearly elaborated on my part as I would like it to be.
In any case, those three areas above are areas where people already
know they need something, and might thus pay attention to messages about it.
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