Comedian Kathleen Madigan has a routine where she describes the objects that a single woman has in her household toolbox. As you might imagine (since it’s a comedy routine) there’s nothing in the toolbox used for the purpose it was orginally designed. The “hammer,” for example, is a man’s shoe.
This might be humorous to many people but to my product manager sensibilities Madigan’s comedy routine is closer to a horror show… like the scene in Psycho where Anthony Perkins cuts short Janet Leigh’s shower. (eeet!..eet!..eeet!!)
I’m quite sure that some commission-oriented salesman thought it was, well, “okay” to sell a shoe for a purpose it wasn’t designed. In product speak – the salesman sold the product outside of its target market segment.
What’s wrong with selling outside the target market segment?
Let’s fast forward to a client conference where shoe consumers attend a voice-of-the-customer session to provide feedback on which features should be modified or added. So, what does the toolbox owner request for new product features for her “hammer”? New leathers, or colors or perhaps softer soles? Unfortunately, no.
She feels that her product needs a handle so it would be easier to grasp… a metal insert on the heel so it would drive the nail with more force… and the laces should be removed completely since they don’t have any function. Of course, all this makes complete sense because she is using the product outside the segment for which it was designed.
There are very good reasons why markets are segmented in product management. Customer market segments define product features which in turn drives the product design for that segment.
All products are designed for a specific target market – a specific set of users who have similar product requirements and who use the product in a similar manner. Selling a product outside of the defined segment boundaries is dangerous… and is guaranteed to create a horror scene for product managers. (eeet!…eet!…eeet!)