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Making a "Better" Mousetrap

Updated: Jul 6, 2021

As a child, I was intrigued by an old quote I heard in school:

"Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door." The quote has been credited to Ralph Waldo Emerson.

But what is a 'better' mousetrap? Google Dictionary says better, adjective: of a more excellent or effective type or quality So, better doesn't necessarily mean novel or different or unique. Much of my life has been focused on making things around me better. I've learned that there are several ways to make a better product: Think about how your product will differentiate from the competition. Cost: Reduce your manufacturing cost relative to your competitors. Find an innovative new manufacturing technique that reduces COGS. Everything else being equal, your product will be competitive and you can sell your product at a lower cost. Marketing: Increased visibility of your product or service. Marketing your device or service to your ideal customers will generate more awareness. This raises your product above the others that don't/can't spend the same on marketing. Features: Added features or improved usability This one is the most obvious when people think about inventing. What features are not present in the market today? Availability/Distribution/Speed: How can someone can get your product? Is it something that is typically available only in-stores? Can you make it available on Amazon Prime or ebay? Or is it something that's only available online, and can you bring it to local stores? Quality/Reliability: Improve only the quality, all other things being equal. Sell your thing for exactly the same cost, same marketing, same packaging, etc. But know that your product is 'better' when it comes to durability. Packaging/Quantity/Bulk: This one sometimes is associated with Cost Reduction. Packaging your product into a bundle/kit reduces unit cost to customer. My friend sells 10mm sockets in bulk on Amazon. He's cornered the market on a commodity item, sold in bulk packs that meet a market need. Experience: How does the user feel when purchasing/using your product? The new Protolabs dashboard is an example. They've turned a commodity (quick-turn manufacturing) into a delightful experience. Customer Service: There's nothing new or novel or innovative about selling shoes on the internet. But Zappos is "maniacal" about good Customer Service. They have customers for life, because the customer service and personal attention is real. If you're designing a product or service, just focus on what your customers want. Let me know if I can help you design a better mousetrap!

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