Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Is it better to please everyone, or just the ones that matter?

A few different blog posts I've read today have somehow converged in my mind to make this point.

First is Seth Godin's Mean vs Median. This is a very important distinction that I first made a few years ago in analyzing statistics. Mainly, that Mean (average) means almost nothing. That's a blanket statement, but as far as analyzing marketing data, website statistics, etc, especially when your database is small, looking at the Median can give you a much clearer picture than looking at the Mean. The Median often gives you much more polarizing information.

Which brings me to my second point. Jason Delmore asked what people wanted from the next version of CF. He got a huge variety of disparate answers, they were all over the map. John Nack announced the new PhotoShop logo (which, by the way, I think is excellent - maybe I'll get around to writing more details about why) and got a hundred acid responses from designers about how their 3-year old nephew could have done better.

My point here? You can't please all the people, all of the time, and really - why would you want to? Pick who matters, pick the audience who is going to affect your bottom line, and do what they want. To hell with what everyone else wants. Be prepared to be unpopular, be prepared to be reviled. As long as those who hate you aren't the ones you're trying to please. I've worked in too many situations where people are afraid of polarizing opinions. But really that's the information that is most useful, because it gives you a very clear picture of what you need to do to improve. The worst feedback you can get is "average, so-so, 5 out of 10..." - how does that help? A product/service/widget that is only measured against an average can only ever be, well...average!

More on the importance of polarization in marketing:
Jeffrey Zeldman - "Maybe is one option too many"

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