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Being evil is expensive

April 5, 2006 by Artem Marchenko

Once upon a time in a continent far-far away (from Europe) there was a mighty spreadsheet software vendor called Lotus Development Corporation. Their product Lotus 1-2-3 dominated the niche with its almost 100% market share. There was a neglectibly small competitor product named Microsoft Excel. The Microsoft's product better met user needs, integrated well with the word processor and in general was a good product. Unfortunately the Lotus'es overwhelming user base left not a lot of chances for any competitor whatever good he was.

The Microsoft worked real hard to lower the enry barrier. They mailed demo packages by post, built the Lotus-to-Excel convertors, even created a special version of the Windows OS, that could be started without the installation and could run the MS Excel trial only - pretty much everything, that could eliminate the trialing efforts. And the most cunning trick of the Microsoft generals was to introduce the really good Excel-to-Lotus convertor. Yes, you heard it right, Microsoft released the tool that customers could use to switch back to their old good Lotus 1-2-3 whenever they decide that Excel isn't worth any further trials.

Help the customer

As we all know, the results have been amazing. The ruse was in that almost nobody actually used the covertor to switch back. It was used to exchange the files with the friends who still use Lotus and was a backup option also.

The moral of the story is that your business enemies might very well be your customer best friends. And the customer likes to see that you value his opinion. Don't push your offer too much, let your client know that you appreciate his inclinations, not yours, it will pay off.

Does it work for you?

Are you building a product that operates with the potentially competitor-generated content? Is the customer able to try your prduct in five minutes? How easy is it for a customer to switch back, to his old good competitors of yours?

About the Author: As the Editor-in-Chief for AgileSoftwareDevelopment.com, Artem is charged with overseeing the direction for content, advertising, and the overall management of the site. Nowadays in his day life, Artem is a product manager in a global telecommunication company where he leads the development of a product developed in extremely distributed environment. Artem has been applying Agile and researching Agile since 2005. Contact Artem

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