So what?

January 3, 2006, 9:29 am

I’ve been in several situations recently when people have been extolling the virtues of their Great New Idea but I’ve been unable to share their enthusiasm. Probe a little deeper beyond their excitement (with a healthy dose of cynicism) and things often get vague and the idea isn’t as bright as it first appeared.

There are three questions that every Great New Idea must surely answer.

1. “So what?”
If you can’t tell me in thirty seconds or so why I should share your excitement, we are on dodgy ground. Successful propositions will have a succinct, easily understood and compelling response to the “so what” question. If a customer comes to your website and they there is no clear proposition for them to stick around that old adage “your competitor is just a click away” is likely to become a reality. If you’re a developer and you’ve got some great new technical wizardry that you want the whole project to get excited about, there must be a clear answer to the inevitable “so what” question from the not so technically minded business sponsors.

2. “Who needs it?”
The next question is “who needs it?” You may think it’s a great idea, your friends and family are equally convinced, but how about the broader market? There may be a niche in the market, but is there a market for that niche?

3. “what’s in it for me?”
The final question that a Great New Idea must answer is “what’s in it for me?” Why would someone else get excited in the idea? Why should someone go with your Great New Idea rather than a competitor? Why should the business buy into the idea of sacrificing functionality for technical stories that speed up the build?

Sadly there are far too many initiatives out there that fail to address these three questions. If someone can’t see the point of your Great New Idea, can’t see what it will do for them and can’t see why they need it, why are they going to use it? Customising software is a good example of this – stakeholders often get excited about the ability of customers to customise the web portal to their needs, but go beyond the technical / business community it’s not something people do. How many people have the same desktop settings that came with their computer? How many people have changed their browser homepage from that their ISP set as default?


  1. dancingmango » What’s in it for me? · Monday, 23 July, 2007

    […] Social networking is all the rage at the moment. I’m attending meetings where clients are buzzing about creating a community… and I find myself challenging their enthusiasm. I return to a simple question: “So what”. Put yourself in the shoes of your customers and ask “What’s in it for me?” Leisa says this succinctly: If you’re thinking of joining the bun rush (or your client has insisted that they must), I think the first and most important question to ask is from your potential users perspective – what’s in it for them? What’s their motivation to sign up, to find and make friends, to participate, and to come back, ever? […]

  2. dancingmango » Enterprise twittering · Wednesday, 2 January, 2008

    […] its Ruby on Rails). But I’ve had a problem with it; I can’t answer the question “what’s in it for me“. What is the point of Twitter? I signed up a while ago and invited a few friends, but the […]

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