Make Sure You Support Each Point in the Golden Three

The Golden Three requires every feature, product, business, etc. to be desirable (do people want it?), viable (will it make money?), and feasible (can we make it?). Sometimes, a new product idea might fit right into our overall product strategy — but unless the answer…

The Golden Three requires every feature, product, business, etc. to be desirable (do people want it?), viable (will it make money?), and feasible (can we make it?). Sometimes, a new product idea might fit right into our overall product strategy — but unless the answer is “Yes” to each of these questions, it’s not something to pursue.

Des Traynor of Intercom calls it the Golden Three:

  • Feasibility
  • Desirability
  • Viability

According to Des, even if a product or feature seems like a strategic fit, it shouldn’t be a part of your focus as a product person unless you can affirm each of the following questions:

  1. Can it be built?
  2. Does anybody want it?
  3. Can it make money?

But, is Des right?  Do you really need to worry about all three of these things?  Is one more important than the other — so much that it may not matter as much of if the answer is “no” to one of the three questions?  Well, let’s evaluate. Let’s consider three situations — each of which where we can answer a “Yes” for two of these questions, but not the third.  We can determine this for ourselves.

Situation #1:  It can be built, people do want this, but it can’t make money.

There are lots of situations like this.  This is a classic case of a company that could very well find product-market-fit… if there was money to be made.  Most recently, Moviepass might fit this example. In 2017, Moviepass — which had already existed for years — restructured their offerings with a very simple value proposition:  For around $10 per month, a subscriber could see any movie they wanted at any theater every single day. If somebody could go to the movies every day, they would pay $10 for what might have cost $360.

Of course, now Moviepass is in dire financial straits.  Why? Because their business model wasn’t sustainable. For every customer they signed (and there were plenty), they were losing money.  Lots of it. The expectation was that volume would allow them to adjust and actually start making money, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Situation #2:  People do want this, it can make money, but it can’t be built.

There are so many examples of potential products that fit this description.  But they’ve never reached farther than the “potential” status because they simply can’t be built.  

A time machine, for example, would certainly have a lot of demand.  And we’d bet that people would pay a lot of money to take a trip back in time to experience pieces of history, re-live important moments in their life, or just drop in… well… anywhere, anytime.  But, alas… it simply isn’t possible. (Yet?)

Situation #3:  It can be built, it can make money, but nobody wants this.

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Why didn’t somebody think of that?”  But this scenario is one where the phrase “Why did somebody think of that?” might be more relevant.  Founders or product people sometimes get so excited about a novel solution that they’ve come up with — that they forget that it may not be solving a real problem.  Eric Ries created the entire concept of “The Lean Startup” to fight against this. In fact, he gave a talk at Stanford aptly titled, “Building Products Nobody Wants” talking about this exact scenario.

So, of the three scenarios above — which is better?  Can any of the three be pursued, with reasonable expectations for success?  Des Traynor doesn’t think so… and we agree with Des. Of course, sometimes answering these questions can be tricky.  But we think that product people should think long and hard about these questions before moving forward with that next best idea.

 

Paul McAvinchey
Paul McAvinchey
paul@productcollective.com

For over 15 years, Paul has been building and collaborating on digital products with fast-growing startups and global brands, including AOL and WMS Gaming. Currently, he's a co-founder of Product Collective, a 15,000+ strong worldwide community of product people. Members collaborate on Slack, meet at INDUSTRY: The Product Conference, listen to Rocketship.fm, learn at Product Lunch and get a weekly brief that includes best practices in product management. In recent years he led business development at DXY, a leading product design firm in the Midwest, and product innovation at MedCity Media, a publishing startup acquired by Breaking Media in 2015.