When a product fails — strategic or tactical?

Excerpted from an interview with Mariya Yao:

A strategic failure occurs when–as Paul Graham is fond of saying–you build a product no one wants. This means that you can’t easily get users through the door despite solid marketing efforts, they aren’t proactively inviting their friends and colleagues, or no one is paying for your product. A tactical failure occurs when you do grow quickly or easily attract passionate users, but see major drop-offs at key points in product usage due to poor implementation and user experience.

When you build a product that is clearly performing poorly from the get-go and you’ve ruled out basic technical, marketing, or executive issues, it’s very likely the product is a strategic fail. However, what often happens is a startup builds a product people like but don’t love. They’ll typically appear to do well early on, but won’t have enough of a passionate following to achieve meaningful growth or revenues.

Notes:
– It’s not clear from the excerpt or the rest of the interview whether Mariya thinks that “like but don’t love” indicates strategic failure (core idea isn’t strong enough) or tactical failure (fine idea, poor execution).

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