Winning with Product

Essay published on February 7, 2013

My favorite companies win with product. Your favorites probably do too. These companies are (or have been) underdogs in every sense of the word: fewer people, fewer resources, no name recognition in a crowded market. But they achieve extraordinary success by making something people love.

I love Timbuk2 backpacks.

It's borderline silly how much I trust their brand name. Yet I've never talked to anyone at Timbuk2, nor do I know anyone there. I feel the way I do about their bags because they win with product. There's a level of care, craftsmanship and passion that goes into their bags, which I feel every time I use one.

Timbuk2 doesn't make bags to make money (although it's a bi-product), they make bags because they want to make the best bags in the world. They don't cut corners. It's the best or nothing. I don't have to talk to them to know that, I feel it when I strap one on.

My feelings about Timbuk2 bags are the result of what we at Help Scout call trumpeted reciprocity. It's a fancy way of saying the product delivers value so far above and beyond what I actually paid for it that I feel compelled to not only continue buying their products, but to share the value I've experienced with people that I know.

My favorite thing about winning with product is that it scales for so-called little guys. Great products make people happy every time they use them. You don't have to have a relationship with every customer, the product builds the relationship for you.

Even if there was a better bag (which there's not), I wouldn't try it. I've built a relationship with Timbuk2's products and they make be happy.

Trumpeted reciprocity is more powerful than ever today. Look no further than the explosion of American micro-breweries in the last decade. Dozens of small companies that care deeply about making the best beer in the world have garnered worldwide prominence and millions of loyal customers because they win with product.

Whatever product your business sells, priority one is making sure it delivers extraordinary value to customers and makes them happy. Every other part of the business works better when you stay focused on winning with product.​

Nick Francis headshot
Thanks for reading! If you have any comments or feedback, I'd love to hear from you on twitter.