The Whammy Bar: Product Development Lessons from a Missing Guitar Piece

The other day, Jason was hunting for the whammy bar that came with his newest guitar.

After a bit of searching, he found the missing part. I heard him yell out “found it!”. Then, “oh cool there’s an allen wrench in here that’s the exact size I need.

A seemingly mundane event that sparked a big thought.

Jason's pink guitar with a rainbow guitar strap and the whammy bar attached

The IKEA Analogy

Have you ever bought furniture from IKEA? If you’re like me, when you hear the words allen wrench you also get an instant flash back to your first apartment.

Hours and hours spent piecing together a 6-drawer dresser with a tool that fits in your pocket.

You see, when you buy furniture from IKEA, you receive two things:

  • All the bits and pieces that make up your dresser, and
  • The very tool needed for its construction: the allen wrench.

IKEA sells an incomplete product. You have to build it yourself. But they give you all the tools you need to get it done.

You don’t have to go searching around for additional tools.

Applying The Allen Wrench Philosophy to Your Product

As a product developer, this made me think:

  • Am I selling an incomplete product?
  • Does everything I sell include an allen wrench?
  • What can I do to ensure that customers receive all the essential tools to get it done?

Tools for Success: What’s in Your Product’s “Bag”?

Every product has its own allen wrench. That small but crucial element that enhances the user experience and makes it possible for your customer to accomplish their goals in buying your product.

If I tried, I could probably find fifty different sized allen wrenches throughout my house. But when Jason found the allen wrench, he was delighted. So delighted, in fact, that he had to exclaim out loud how cool it was.

He wasn’t lost without the wrench, he was delighted that it was right there.

What unexpected goodies could you bundle with your product that create an inspirational moment?

How can you be more like IKEA? Deliver complete solutions.

Here are some ideas to consider:

  1. Comprehensive Guides: Just as a furniture manual guides assembly, provide clear, user-friendly instructions for your product.
  2. Essential Accessories: If you can’t include everything, tell your customer where to go to get the necessary accessories to get it done.
  3. Accessible Support: Offer easy-to-access customer support.
  4. Courses and Educational Content: Not just for your specific product, but for any other roadblocks and decisions they have to make.
  5. Pre-Configured Templates: When people are setting up your product, is the experience better if they have some pre-built templates or importable demo content? Pre-built templates for common use cases save your customers hours of fiddling.
  6. Seamless Integrations: Does your product connect to something else? Do you control that other thing? Sometimes making sure your product plays nice with others means you have to build the connection yourself.

What can you include so people don’t have to go hunting for other tools?

Tweet me with your ideas now »