Can scruffy be good?

scruffy dog

Here’s a heated debate we were having a few days ago:

“We need to get a presentation box so that we look slick when we are showing people our product.”

“I disagree, we actually want our presentation to be a bit scruffy.”

“You’re mad…”

… or something to that effect.

So, why on earth would anyone argue that we want anything less than a slick presentation when showing a prospective customer our product?

This comes down to what phase of development we are at. Once we have identified a need, devised a solution, found product-market fit and moved into sales mode then everything does want to be as smart as possible. Whatever drives more sales is good at that stage.

But that’s not where we’re at. We’ve got a tentative idea and are still trying to determine if there is a need for this product, and if there is a need whether our prototype might fulfil that need. At this stage we’re looking for a customer who bites our arm off. We want a strong signal that we have found a real pain and potentially have a solution that will be attractive.

The danger at this stage (and I write from painful experience) is that we get a few lukewarm receptions. And that we interpret these as real interest and move forward towards scaling and sales. Enter a whole world of pain where every sale is a struggle (and so expensive) because people aren’t really that bothered by what we’re offering. And now we’ve scaled so our overheads are higher too. What do many end up doing in this situation? Pushing sales and marketing even harder assuming this must be the problem… enter a downward spiral of mounting costs.

To avoid this miserable fate we must be as sure as possible that we have found a real need and have created a viable solution. We want to avoid any risk of lukewarm positive receptions and be sure that positive feedback is based upon the fact we’ve identified a real pain. So, show something a bit half-baked, a bit rough around the edges and far from polished. Do we still see people’s ears prick up? If we do, we’re much more confident that people really are keen.

But now the tricky bit (and what caused our discussion to drag on a fair while the other day). How scruffy is just right? Too scruffy and we may not be taken seriously. Too slick and we risk false positives. I guess this is where business turns from science to art and experience of the market we are operating in becomes invaluable.

What have you used as a prototype? And how scruffy was it?

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