Citing Amazon’s process of writing a press release before building a product, and Questlove’s writing a review before he makes a record Robin Sloan concludes:
The review or the press release is just a tool for thinking about how your work will interact with the world.
Robin Sloan, Working backwards
This is in theory the sort of thinking and planning that a marketing requirements document (or in my experience product requirements documents) are supposed to generate, but often fail to. By creating an externally targeted document, rather than that kind of internal one, it seems to force a certain focus and clarity. It’s not expressing what is important to customers in an abstract way, it’s trying to express those things explicitly to that audience.
I have heard that Microsoft’s equivalent was to decide “tentpole features” of a product release as one of the earliest elements of product planning.
With Kickstarter, we’re seeing this kind of marketing driven product development taken to a new level. Instead of conceptual faux marketing, we have actual marketing that will (at least in some cases) determine the viability of the project.
We also have the actual feedback from prospective customers, who vote with their dollars and social capital to support the conceptual products they want to make real.
(The dark side is when marketing gets ahead of what the product can actually deliver.)
It will be interesting to see if the equivalent of “intranet Kickstarters” in organizations emerge as a tool to focus and assess product concepts in coming years.
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