Yesterday I had an interesting talk with a friend about being a Micro ISV. I am not sure how good a source I am for advice in the matter, but I did have some. Including one that I think is good enough to talk about here.
Currently my company have two products:
- Uber Profiler (NHibernate Profiler, Entity Framework Profiler, Linq to SQL Profiler, Hibernate Profiler, LLBLGen Profiler)
Both of them came into a market that already had strong competitors.
In the case of Uber Prof, I am competing with SQL Profiler, which is “free” (you get that with SQL Server) and the Huagati suite of profilers which are significantly cheaper than Uber Prof. In the case of RavenDB, MongoDB and CouchDB already had the mindshare, and they are both free as in beer and as in speech.
One of the decisions that you have to be aware of when creating your product is what are the products that people are going to compare you to. It doesn’t really matter whether that is an accurate comparison or whether they are comparing apples to camels, but you will be compared to them.
And early on, you have to decide what your answer is going to be like when someone will ask you “why should I use your stuff instead of XYZ?”.
Here is a general rule of the thumb. You never want to answer them “because it is cheaper than XYZ”. Pricing has a lot of implications, some of directly affect the perceived quality of your product. It is perfectly fine to point out that it has a much cheaper TCO, though, because then you are increasing the value of your product, not reducing it.
But those are general advices that you can get anywhere. My point here is somewhat different. Once you decide what you are doing with your product that gives you a good answer for that question, you have defined your competitive advantage. That thing that will make people choose your stuff over everyone else.
Remember, competing on pricing is a losing proposition – and the pun is fully intended here!
But once you have the notion of what your competitive advantage is going to be, you have to design your product around that. In essence, that competitive advantage is going to be the thing that you are going to work on. Every decision that you have is going to have to be judged in light of the goal of increasing your competitive advantage.
Can you try to guess what I define as competitive advantages for Uber Prof and Raven DB?