Trying something new here. In my “Fail Predictions”, I pick on bigger teams than us that are building silly products, so we can all avoid making the same mistakes.
Don’t build an app like Sunshine Contacts. Despite it being from a funded startup with investors with clout (Marissa Mayer, no less), the product itself won’t work.
Whether you’re bootstrapped, or even if you’re VC-funded, building an app like this won’t make you money.
There just isn’t enough of a struggle in people who might want to use an app like this. The forces don’t check out.
What Sunshine Contacts Offers
Think of what’s in your contacts app on your phone. You know it has outdated information. Sunshine Contacts will use AI to fill it up with up-to-date information.
It sounds sophisticated, a little too good to be true. It’s invite only, no mention of an eventual price for all that time saved, and they have a “privacy pledge” to re-assure visitors.
I don’t buy it.
Looking for a Struggling Situation
In a previous article, I mentioned that there are three levels from which to understand the buyer:
- Not Sharp Enough: Understanding the Role, the Market and The Benefits
- Sharp: Understanding the Problem and the Aspiration
- Sharpest: Understanding the Situations That Are Ripe for the “Switch”
It looks to me like if you stop at Level 2, “Understanding the Problem and the Aspiration”, you’ll find enough of a problem to solve to build a product like Sunshine Contacts.
- The problem: “My contacts app is a mess of outdated information”.
- The aspiration: “I’ll be able to have a reliable source of information in my contacts app”.
But that understanding isn’t enough.
At Level 2, you think you found a product idea, but there’s a good chance you’re just deluding yourself.
A “Level 3” understanding requires to find switching “moments”. Situations that contain enough of a struggle to warrant a “switch”, a switch away from the old, toward the new.
We need to find something of an “enough is enough” moment, a ⚬→ Struggle that will be felt strongly enough that will propel the person to start a search for something better.
Then the buyer finds this app, has enough of an →⚬ Attraction towards the solution to clear any ←⚬ Anxieties putting brakes on the momentum.
And, overall, that momentum has to compete against ⚬← Habits of the present , the mish-mash of “goog enough”, “I’ll just” alternatives that the buyer will most likely revert back to. Those “I’ll just” are legit competitors. They have the strongest pull of all the forces.
Struggling Situations, None of Them Clear The Forces
The product has to clear the Forces of Progress, the back-and-forth forces operating in the mind of the buyer.
(Struggle + Attraction) > (Anxieties + Habits). The first two forces must be greater than the last two forces. Otherwise, there’s not enough buyer momentum.
So let’s see if we can find some struggles around the need to contact people.
Here we’re using “When” statements. Describing the struggle, the next step, and the aspiration, all in one.
- When I’m looking up for a contact and I see the information is outdated and useless, I want to search online, on LinkedIn or the person’s website for the latest info so I can reach out and make my project happen.
See here, we see that the search online is the actual good enough “I’ll just”. And no mention of “I’ll then update the information in my Contacts app”. It was useless then, it’s going to be useless even after.
But sometimes a switching-worthy struggle swells up after several bad experiences. Let’s look for a recurring annoyance…
- When I’m contacting the fifth person in a row and every time the information in my contacts app is useless, I want to find a way to press a button and get all my contacts updated at once using the web so I can get my contacts app back on track for when comes time to contact 15 more.
Nobody uses their own contacts app to contact 5 people in a row (let alone 15 more). That is, unless you’re a venture capital douchebag. All the sales creeps use a proper CRM tool. Does Sunshine Contacts populate CRM tools using AI? Maybe that’s what they should concentrate on.
But what if the struggle isn’t directly related to the problem with contacts? Almost every time a product is bought, it’s actually “hired” for a broader “job-to-be-done”. You’ll see what I mean.
The Broader Context, Maybe There’s Something There…
Recently, I published a list of underserved struggling situations and recurring aspirations. Let’s pluck a few from the list to see if there’s a struggling moment + broader aspiration combination that will fit.
Underserved Struggling Situations:
- When I’m trying to get a promotion
- When I’m considering a change in career
- When I can’t find an answer to my unique question
- When I'm running out of time to do it myself
- When we’ve just changed the size of the team
- When I've run out of decision-making energy
- When I notice that a problem isn’t going away
- When I've just moved to a new place (new company)
- When I’m running out of people to delegate to
- When I’m realizing I might be wasting my time
- When things start piling up and nobody’s picking the ball
That’s interesting, I highlighted a few that seem promising.
Aspirations that keep coming up:
- So I can say I’ll have organized my system
- So I can be equipped for when I make my move
- So I can improve my odds of making it work long-term
- So I can move the needle
- So I can have a breakthrough
- So I can be on the map
- So I can get moving on the bigger goals
As we see here, the thing with the contacts app appearing useless is just one symptom of a bigger need for progress. The messy contacts were always an annoyance, but now they might be part of a huger problem. The buyer wants to get moving in their career. That’s interesting.
Let’s pick two broader struggle + aspiration combos:
- When I'm running out of time to do it myself … So I can be equipped for when I make my move
- When I've just moved to a new place (new company) … So I can have a breakthrough
Now we’re talking.
But let’s check how reality will pull back. Let’s look at Anxieties and “I’ll just alternatives”.
- The price is too low, how will this be around forever?
- The price is too low, there must be a catch
- I don’t want to have to learn all of these features
- This will take time away from other things I’m committed to
- I don't want my stuff to be locked in this system if I want to leave
Plenty of anxieties already. That’s not a good sign.
The thing about the price being too low, that’s legit. People smell a con when there’s no public price.
Are they going to milk my private information to resell to others? How will they make money?
And then there’s this anxiety:
- If I brag about this app to others, they'll feel like I'm stalking people.
Finally, there are “I’ll just” alternatives:
- I’ll just continue doing it the way I’ve always done
- I'll just find the person on LinkedIn when comes the time, or search Google
Those are plenty fine alternatives.
The broader context of wanting to make a career move is there. There is energy and momentum. But the actual Sunshine Contacts app as a lever on that journey has too many potential anxieties, potential “costs”.
If it’s not a “Yes, this, now”, it’ll likely be a “Not now”, if not a straight out “Not this, not ever.”
Sunshine Contacts won’t work. Avoid building apps like this. Focus on struggling moments and you’ll find something better to work on.