Product Scaffolding

Similar to construction scaffolding, entrepreneurs can use 'scaffolding' to construct the concept of their venture.

I frequently get into discussions and debates with friends and founders about the viability of new products and services.  Product scaffolding makes it easy for me to rapidly evaluate the opportunity size, branding, and believability (is it possible).

In my experience, if you can’t describe your product or service using simple, harmonious product scaffolding, your venture will struggle.

Product scaffolding is ONE sentence:

  • When Haley wants to be transported across town, Haley will use Uber to instantly obtain inexpensive, on-demand transportation.
  • When Haley wants to remember a song, Haley will use Shazam to rapidly acquire essential song information.
  • When soccer enthusiasts want to play, they will use Rocket Soccer to instantly schedule a convenient, competitive match.
  • When artists want to record a music video with their fans, they will use FanStudio to effortlessly schedule a live, professionally orchestrated recording.

Use This Template:  When A wants to B, A will use C to get D.

  • A)  a character, actor, persona, or segment  
  • B)  the job-to-done by your product or service
  • C)  your brand name (actual or under consideration)
  • D)  the value proposition you intend to deliver

Erecting Your Scaffolding

  1. Choose a segment to target.
  2. Nail the job-to-be-done.
  3. Settle on a value proposition.
  4. Come up with a brand that fits.

1)  Choose a Segment.  You should know, and be willing to love, your customers.  Anything less creates an uphill battle.  When choosing customers to serve, I rely on this simple metaphor:  Don’t back a hiphop artist when all you listen to is rock and roll.  

2)  Nail the Job-To-Done.  The ‘want’ or desire to get a job done causes people to contemplate and/or seek a product, service, or solution.  (See “want” in the sentences above.)  Consumers then HIRE (with their time or money) a product or service to do the job.

The best ways to determine true ‘want’ are to ask and observe.  Set aside biases, preconceived notions, your habits, and your rituals.  Ask: What do you want to do?  Observe:  What are they trying to do?  Dig deep.  Repeatedly ask and observe.  

When someone is hanging a picture on a wall, are they decorating a room, hiding a hole, sharing memories, or showcasing art?  What are they hiring the picture to do?   Ask and observe.  Ask and observe.  Ask and observe.

Nailing the job-to-be-done is the only way to deliver the right value proposition.  If your observations reveal that people ‘want’ more art in their busy lives, do you ‘want’ to sell empty picture frames?  Learn more...

Avoid Run-On Jobs-To-Be-Done.   For new ventures, I am a huge believer in the “No Ands Rule”.  Avoid the word “and” in your product scaffolding.  Get a foot in the door, a wedge in the market, or a prominent slice of mindshare by picking a SINGLE job-to-be-done.  

Here’s an example of bad, run-on scaffolding (using “ands”): “When artists want to record a music video with their fans, and acquire new fans, and build a simple website, they will use FanStudio to….[to get lost and confused]”

3)  Settle on a Value Proposition.  A value proposition is the reason humans ‘hire’ your offering.  Peter Sandeen has the best definition of ‘value proposition’ on the web:  “A strong value proposition is a believable collection of the most persuasive reasons your target customers should do what you’re hoping they will do.” 

I am going to add: if you can’t deliver it on day one, don’t say it.  For example: you can’t deliver a “global network of passionate fans” to user number ONE.  However, you could pitch (to early adopters), your product’s capacity to simply enable: paid, private showcases, or fee-free, online tipjars, or some other “believable collection of persuasive reasons”.

To sum up: the WANT or desire to get a job done causes people to contemplate and/or seek something; while your value proposition is the reason WHY humans HIRE your offering.

4)  Come Up With a Brand That Fits.  I like adaptable brand names that you can pour meaning into (e.g.: Google, Mint, Twitter, Square), or harmonious brand names that conjure the embodiment of WANT + WHY (the ‘want’ or desire to get a job done + ‘why’ humans will hire your offering), (e.g.: Facebook, Salesforce, Linkedin, Travelocity).  

Adaptable brands make it easy to pivot, while harmonious brands make it easier to communicate value.  If you really think that you have uncovered true ‘want’, and if you know with unflinching certainty that you can deliver a unique value proposition, consider a harmonious brand name.

A final word on brand names:  It’s often hard to secure the .com for harmonious brand names.  However, if you can get the .com (recommended), you probably don’t have to worry about trademark infringement.  Alternatively, secure the best, pure (no hyphens), adaptable .com name that you can imagine.


Also read:  The Haley Pitch Every Founder Should Know