Give Your Product a Beard

Published: Mar. 5, 2015

My friend John is a good looking guy. Not over the top good looking, but solid. I’d give him an “8.”

He and his girlfriend split a few months ago and he grew a beard. No real reason. He’d always wanted one, so he grew one.

I’ve been friends with John for a long time. I’ve never seen him get attention like this. I imagine his pre-beard days consisted of most women noticing that he was good looking enough, then going about their business. “Good looking enough” isn’t noteworthy. In the words of Elaine Benes, it doesn’t put asses in the seats.

Growing a beard — and it’s a great beard — changed all that. It made people make a decision. People are (apparently) either beard people or not, and for people who are beard people, he’s now a 10. For non-beard people, he’s a 5. He’s no longer an 8 to anyone. But a 10 is something people act on — girls started coming up to him and speaking with him out of the blue. It was surreal.

I’m not saying you should grow a beard. I’m saying that if you’re an entrepreneur, you should figure out what a beard is for your market. If your product, or the existing market leader, is an 8 for 80% of its users — how can you make something that’s a 10 for 20%? How can you create something that makes people care enough to make a choice?

This is really, really hard. Maybe the hardest thing an entrepreneur can do. Because you’re going against what exists and what has worked. A lot of times this means taking a competitor that most people love and saying “I can give 5% of this userbase something exceptionally better than what they have now.” It’s so tempting to say things like “Spotify doesn’t offer this specific Indie music genre, and I know there’s a market that wants it but deals with Spotify anyway. I’ll build something with this specific Indie genre... and I’ll have pop music so everyone will have something.” No. Don’t do it. You can’t grow a beard then throw on a preppy shirt, a leather jacket, throwback JNCO’s and Tuxedo shoes. Pick your differentiator and focus on it. If not, your message will get muddled.

A muddled product isn’t sticky, a muddled product isn’t authentic, and a muddled product doesn’t spread. A product with a clear, differentiated value prop will delight specific users and find it’s way to new, perfect customers because it’s easy to know who to tell about it… “I know you love beards, you gotta check this guy out…”

You don’t need a huge audience to start — you need a small audience that loves what you’re doing. Make people make a decision, grow your product a beard, and put asses in the seats.

Brian Scordato