The Minimum Marketable Difference

There are lots of reasons that startups don’t make it. Sometimes they build the wrong thing. Sometimes they build the right thing too early. Sometimes, amongst all the others, they build something great but can’t convince the world to use it. That’s what this post is about.

There is a concept in the world of market called positioning. By far, my favorite book on this topic is Obviously Awesome by April Dunford ( The idea behind positioning is that your job as a marketer of your product is to help people understand where it lives. To convince them that they should spend their money or time on your product.

If your company is young and you don’t have a team, or even a person, with marketing in their title then this falls on you. If you’re a founder this job always really lives with you because positioning is just as important in a pitch deck as an Instagram ad. But I digress.

One way I see positioning go wrong is when products send out a stream of all the ways they are better. All the new features, all the underlying technologies, all the outcomes. These messages become overwhelming and are often very full of buzzwords. 

Having been in this position myself I know that sometimes this comes from not wanting people to miss all the hard work you have put in. You want others to see all the things you built, all the cool new technologies you used and all the ways you are the same, and better than your competition.

As a consumer of products, this messaging is exhausting. Paragraph after paragraph of prose which never quite seems to talk about anything concrete. An exhaustive list of new hype filled technologies that power whatever it is you do.

Instead I am going to pose something much smaller. Something simple, to the point and intentionally restrictive. Because I like three letter acronyms, I am also going to give it one.

The Minimum Marketable Difference, the MMD. That’s what you need to focus on. You can have page after page of detailed specifications but you’re front and centre should be your MMD. Why did I pick these three words?

Minimum. People are busy, don’t ask them to learn a new language to understand your product. Give them something small, something quotable, that they can remember as why your product is different from the others. If you’re selling B2B software, think of this as the line your internal champion will take to their boss.

Marketable. It doesn’t matter a damn what you think is cool if your customers don’t care. You need to find the line between too much hype to feel real and too mundane to warrant a second look. If you’re selling to users the best approach here is to look at problems and focus on one of those.

Difference. When everyone has AI (or an App, or Crypto or whatever else), it really isn’t a stand out feature any more. Chances are your product isn’t brand new. There are others in your space. Find the words that help others understand why you’re not one of many even if you’re working on the same problems.

Putting this together, your job is to find the smallest interesting thing that sets you apart from everyone else. If you can do that well you’ll find that people start talking about you in a way that helps with growth.

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