Its Not For You

When creating a product you have to be clear about who it is for, and who the product is NOT for. When you get feedback, you have to decide whether it is feedback that you need to listen to. Or if it is feedback from someone who is well-meaning, but the product isn’t intended for anyway. We have to be brave enough to say, “Thank you for your thoughts. But this isn’t for you.”

It is scary excluding people. All of our lives we are taught that we need to share and be open to all people. This is true in what you do, and how you help people. The prohibition on excluding people isn’t true when it comes to designing a product that is useful for people.

When someone invented bikini wax, they said: “it’s for a certain group of people. But if you don’t get it, it’s not for you.” It’s like the saying from Jeep: “It’s a Jeep thing. You wouldn’t understand.” And if you do understand, it is for you. According to some computer ‘geeks’ if you don’t understand that Linux is the best operating system ever, it’s not for you.

The thing is about each of the groups that I just mentioned want to keep people out. They don’t see any reason to try to invite you in. It’s not for you, and that’s the way that it is going to be. They are the ‘in’ group, and you aren’t. It is either your group or not.

When you are designing a product or service, maybe you should start by defining who it isn’t for. What group of people do you want to exclude? What group of people do you want to include? If you were to draw a circle, who is in and who’s out. Then design for those people.

It’s a scary thought to design with an “It’s not for you,” attitude. You are excluding people. You are limiting the people who might become customers. Worst of all, you might be targeting a ‘for you’ group that doesn’t even want what you are offering. What if you are wrong and you alienate the rest of the group that you have just told that it isn’t for them?

But you have to take the risk. Define who is in and out. Define who should understand, and who won’t. It’s better that you target a village with all of your energy than a continent with diluted power.

For your next project, who are you going to tell, “It’s not for you?”

I should note that “It’s not for you,” doesn’t mean that people aren’t willing to have you explore, or even join their tribe. You probably won’t ever hear a Jeep dealership tell a prospect, “We can’t let you buy a Jeep because you just don’t seem to understand our culture.” Linux lovers will never say to someone exploring, “You should just keep using windows. You don’t seem to understand our movement.” (I don’t know how bikini waxers would respond. I’m definitely not part of that tribe. It’s not for me.)