How can I buy your product? Let me count the ways

If you want to be a bad product manager, provide as many ways as possible for customers to buy your product. Different customers have different needs, after all, and you need to meet the needs of your customers. The more choices you have, the more people will buy/use your product, right? For subscription products, offer hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, annually, and bi-annually subscription options. Of course, you have to offer each level of access — at least ten based on usage, features, security, and any other options you can provide. Let people choose whether they want software download or web-based access. Naturally you need a different version for Mac, PC, Linux, Blackberry, PocketPC, Palm, Newton, and ColecoVision. With all these different options, how could anyone not purchase your product?

If you want to be a good product manager, provide a reasonable but limited set of ways for customers to buy your product. While it’s admirable to try to meet every possible customer need with a seemingly unlimited set of purchasing options, the benefits will not outweigh the cost. As described nicely in The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, the more choices a person has, the less likely they are to choose any of them. Rather than jumping at the preferred choice, the person is so confused by the multitude of options that they end up choosing none.

There are some additional considerations to be aware of. More customers is not always better — serving some customers may actually help you lose money, making it more important to focus on the most profitable customers. Many businesses find that a large part of their revenue comes from a small number of customers. For example, DropSend, a web application allowing people to email large files, reported that 50% of their revenue comes from 11% of their customers. Product managers who understand the economics of their customers will realize that more ways to buy your product does not usually equal more profit.

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