The 10/90 Rule of Products…

There are many rules of business and engagement, but there’s one that acts like a guiding principle to all product developers.


In 1994, Mr. J taught me a lesson that I didn’t understand back then, but have learned first hand its true nature.

As a coder, I thought that the world was in the bits, bytes and IDEs that resided on my system. I never was much of a marketer or salesman and vehemently believed that if I build a great product, people will buy. I was wrong, as are the legion of entrepreneurs who didn’t have the good fortune to learn this early in their lives or didn’t have the pleasure of meeting Mr. J. twenty-three years ago.

source: unknown

One day he called me into his cabin (after my bickering of being made to make sales calls for two hours every day). He asked me to sit and told me,

“A product is only 10% development, the rest 90% is marketing (and sales).”

You can imagine why I was offended. My work in the product reduced to 10%? Almost blasphemous to a coder’s ears! But if you read it again and again, you’ll see how true it is, no matter how much, it may hurt your engineering mind.

Here’s what he meant.

You can build an awesome product. Yes, physically, it may exist 100% in its form, but a product in a shutdown warehouse or on a cloud drive that no one sees, buys or uses, is a dead product and technically just bare bones of a thing (the 10%).

What gives it life and meaning and existence is when people are aware of it, want it, desire it, use it and most importantly buy it. That’s when a product really becomes a product.

There are tons of products out there, but there is an even larger heap in the graveyard of products that no one even knows exists. They are not products for anyone and never will be.

For a product to be a product, it needs to made known and available and then used. Marketing and sales, gives it life. The rest 90%.

I didn’t get it then, but it’s one of the most important lessons on products and business I have learned in my life. Hope this post is to you what Mr. J was to me.


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