You’re walking through the desert, the sun beating upon the back of your neck. You are sweating, or at least you were, until the dryness in your throat seemed to dry up your skin as well. With sand in your eyes, you see a store on the outskirts of town selling bottled water. You pay whatever price the clerk asks for a couple of bottles. You sit and down a couple of liters of water. Feeling much better, you get up to go find something to cure the ache in your stomach. On your way into town, a clerk runs out and asks if you’d like to buy some really amazing tasting water from a magical spring nearby. He guarantees it’s the best water you’ve ever had and it will only cost you a little more than you paid for that generic water you’ve just finished. What do you do?
There are many startup companies that act like this second clerk. They believe that just because they’ve got a better product, they will succeed. They neglect the fact that timing matters. Any thing that brings comfort at the peak of desire and relieves it, is good enough. As a result, when a better solution comes around there is no longer a motivation to choose it.
This is why, in many instances, an inferior technology wins in the market against the superior one. When you’ve finished drinking a liter of tap water, it doesn’t really matter how purified and electrolyte filled the “better water” is. They’re no longer looking for it. Many times they don’t even want to think about it because it just gets in the way of solving a new problem. When there is a pain that customers are feeling, the one who offers the good enough solution soonest is often the one that wins.
There is a possible exception to this. There are some desires that recur, providing additional opportunities to address them. If a product not only meets the initial need, but other needs as well, it can break in. The next time you’re thirsty after your walk through the desert, you wait for the man with the magic water. When you find out that not only is it better, but it also cures your hunger — you’ll never look back.
Another more practical example: Relief from boredom is a recurrent desire. Even if you owned a Creative Zen MP3 player, the iPod still wins because it not only provides you with an escape, but it also make you feel cool. It’s more than a one trick pony.
As one of my friends says, some things are only worth doing good-enough. There isn’t money to be made in being perfect, but there is lots of money to be made by being the water salesmen on the outskirts of town, providing the good enough solution soonest.