What Are You Building and What Does It Do?

Phin Barnes wrote:

I struggled to describe what we were building and what it did. I would say something that made complete sense to me and in return I would get confusion, doubt, disbelief and the silent nods of nothing. Either it was a bad idea or I was explaining it wrong. Being an optimist, I assumed the latter.

She goes on to explain how she formed this statement for her company at the time. It’s a good read.

I have found that I generally need a few of these of different length or aimed at different groups: a one sentence version, a short paragraph version, one that focuses on the customer with benefits and features, and one more that includes long-term vision for fund raising (if you are doing that).

Apple likes to use a simple form for their product statement: your differentiator, your solution, your audience. For instance, Apple described the Photos app to us as follows: Easy to use digital photo sharing for casual photographers.

Another example I recently found was as a comment to a blog post:

o WHAT: Equals is the ONLY___________________
o HOW: that _______________________________
o WHO: for _________________________________
o WHERE: in __________________________________
o WHY: who ________________________________
o WHEN: in an era of __________________________.

With an example as follows:

o WHAT: Harley Davidson is the ONLY motorcycle manufacturer
o HOW: that makes big, loud motorcycles
o WHO: for macho guys (and macho “wannabees”)
o WHERE: in the United States (mostly)
o WHY: who want to join a gang of cowboys
o WHEN: in an era of decreasing personal freedom.

This one is very heavy-handed and makes for a long statement I would never remember to say.

Traditionally, I have found it very hard to get across a product in a single sentence but I’ve also found that when I could the product was ready to ship. Before that… keep working.