The Secret to Happy Relationships (Between Web3 Products & Users)
On a recent date with my boyfriend, I realized, a happy relationship and a successful Web3 product have more in common than you may think.
It all started when I asked my boyfriend if he could bring me flowers on the next date.
He nodded, smiled, and said “of course,” followed by an apology for not having done so before.
“No problem, we can always openly share our needs and expectations with each other,” I comforted him.
Seemingly confused and unsure, he responded, “Umm, okay.”
“Don’t you like the idea?” I asked.
“Oh, no. You can always express what you want. But I’m not sure if I’d be comfortable doing the same.”
And I knew exactly where this was going…
So, my boyfriend, you see, is a software engineer — super geeky and introverted. He can understand the world’s needs and design products for them, but he’d hardly ever been able to communicate his feelings or desires.
For one, I knew he always needed more intimacy in our relationship, but he never freely communicated the same.
So, this time, I wasn’t giving up.
“Oh, why?” I enquired gently.
“Well, I think it’s a terrible strategy. In a relationship, you should guess what the other person wants through trial and error… And then see how it goes,” he stared into my eyes as if it was not obvious.
At that moment, I completely zoomed out. Not because of what he said — it’s very likely that a huge proportion of the relationships today operate that way. And few ever seem to complain about it.
As irrelevant as it may be to our relationship-focused conversation, I zoomed out because my first thought after he said that was, “Sh*t. That’s how most Web3 founders operate with their products too.”
It struck me how a romantic relationship is similar to the relationship between a product and a customer.
Most web3 founders, like my boyfriend, think that they need not tell the users about the product. The assumption they back that thought with is, “if a product is really good enough, the customer WILL use it and share feedback.”
No wonder this often doesn’t work well for them.
In the case of a relationship, you need to understand that the person you’re with sees the world differently than you do.
It’s stupid to put your partner to the test by seeing if they bring you flowers or buy you a gaming console, and then decide if they win.
For the majority, this wouldn’t make sense, and they would still simply expect the other person to try and meet their needs without asking.
The logic: if my partner “loves” me, they should offer what I want without me having to ask for it.
Most first-time founders feel the same way about their products.
Founders put months or even years of effort into building a product. Then they launch it and put it to test by sharing it with their audience and seeing if they “like it.”
And to me, it makes total sense.
That’s the way you know if you made a good product, right?
Unfortunately, NO. It doesn’t work like that. Neither in relationships nor with products (sigh).
So, Where Do We Start?
When I asked my boyfriend for flowers, there was a fundamental assumption that he loves me and means well.
Because if it was not, my first thought could have been, “He never bought me flowers. Maybe he doesn’t love me or doesn’t consider what would make me happy.”
Unknowingly, in a lot of relationships, this is exactly what the troubled person tells themselves. As a result, they resent their partner, or in extreme cases, decide to part ways.
In my case of conflict, I started with the fundamental question, “does this person love me, and is this the person I want to be with?”
If the answer is no, I’d have had a bigger problem to solve.
But for me, it was a sure yes.
I know that my boyfriend is loving and caring in his own beautiful ways, but probably he never considered that bringing flowers would make me happy.
Or maybe he wanted to, but he never prioritized it or forgot about it. Either way, I wouldn’t know what he “wanted to do for me.”
And the only way to get what I wanted (flowers) was to simply express.
Now, to be honest, it stung to have to tell him that I wanted him to get me flowers. It would be better if he just “knew it.”
But clearly, he did not.
So, even though asking for what I want is a lot of “work” (mostly because we are not trained to think of it like that), it’s important that we do.
Put another way, you start by defining the goal.
The goal of a relationship is to make you feel happier, more complete, and good about yourself when you are with your partner compared to when you are not.
In this case, it wouldn’t make sense for you to test the other person without clearly communicating what you need.
It would be wrong to judge them based on whether they bring you flowers or make efforts for more intimacy if you haven’t clearly stated your needs/desires.
You need to think of this as a tennis doubles game. Both of you are not on different teams. You’re playing on the same side—playing to win. And you want the other person to make the right moves so that both of you can win together.
For your relationship to work out in the long term, you both first have to understand that the other person sees the world differently than you do. Same applies to your partner. And that’s why, both of you may need/want different things to make you feel you’re in a happy relationship.
You have to openly and clearly ask for the things you want without judging them or making them feel bad for asking it. And you want to make sure you make your partner comfortable to ask for what they’d want.
You ofc cannot force the other person into this. The best you can do is help them understand that communicating what they want is the only way you’ll know of it. There’s just no other way out.
A very similar logic applies to Web3 products and services.
It would be amazing if people just saw the world through a Web3 founder’s lens and knew/understood how great their product is.
But in the majority of situations that doesn’t happen.
In such a case, as a Web3 founder, your response could be that your product is not good enough because people clearly can’t see how good or useful it is.
And you can give up (which unfortunately most do).
Or you can recognize that your customers “don’t know” how good or useful your product is. Then, you start with the question: do I believe in this product?
If the answer is yes, ask again: what are we trying to accomplish?
To get more people to use this product.
Clearly, right now, people don’t understand the usefulness of the product. So, what is it that I can do to communicate it to them (through marketing)?
As your customers don’t see the world the way you do, you have to spend time communicating why your product exists and how it can help people.
Now, this is not a fix for a bad product. And ironically, the only way you can know if this is a product problem is to get people to use it and share feedback.
Not having adoption, in a lot of cases, doesn’t mean that your product is bad. (And even if it does, you can get feedback and reiterate).
It could very well be that you do not know how to communicate what the product can do in a way that can be heard and understood by users.
Like in a relationship, this is not a one-way street. Your customers have to be willing to give you feedback and work with you on the product you’re building.
So, you want to start with people who experience the pain that your product solves most and are open to trying new products.
What if I’d been wanting to get flowers from my boyfriend for a long time, and when I finally asked him, he forgets to bring them on the next date (for whatever reason).
And let’s assume that it was for a valid reason.
What would be a healthy response? (especially, if I know that the person means well and loves me)
Maybe, I would try to tell him that it would’ve meant the world to me had he brought some flowers. I would also try to define why that’s so important.
Again, flowers are just a random example. It could be anything — boundaries, rules of engagement, love language, and so on.
To be able to come to a place where you “need” the other person is to ‘guide’ them for what you want. And both parties need to do it. If we do it in the spirit of we are both on the same side and we win together, we lose together, then communication is key.
The punchline of all relationship advice is (and it’s been said thousands of times by different people in different ways) communication. But no one ever takes out the time to articulate what they mean.
You’ve to say in a way that can be heard (your intentions can be heard by the other person) about the things you need and want; and you’ve to say it far more frequently and pointedly than you think you would ever have to say.
If your frame of reference is that this is ‘manipulation’ or the other person is ‘dumb and stupid,’ it would be gut-wrenching to ‘guide’ them.
But if your frame of reference is that this is the person that I love the most and I am ‘guiding’ them to a treasure, and they too will communicate what they want and guide me to a treasure, then it will turn out to be amazing for both of you.
Likewise, if you launch your web3 company thinking your product or service is amazing and people would love it, and it does not work, and you try to communicate what it does and people still don’t get it, what do you do?
First of all, it would help for you to understand that communicating about the product or marketing/distributing is going to be as big of a task as building it, or even more important.
(Exceptions always exist, but for the vast majority of products this holds true)
It’s unfortunate that a lot of bad or average products learn how to communicate/market better and, more often than not, win over the better product.
Once you know this, you have to acknowledge that getting people hyped up about the product and the technology is a “process.”
A process where, like in a relationship, you have to be able to communicate (in a way that your intentions can be heard) about what the product can do for them; and you have to say it far more frequently and pointedly than you think you would ever have to say.
If your frame of reference is that this is ‘dumb’ or that customers should ‘get our product’ then it would be gut-wrenching to find out how to say what the product can do (in a way that can be understood) and then ‘saying it over and over again.’
But if your frame of reference is this is a product that I believe in and I am helping my customer see how this can change their lives for the better, then it becomes a beautiful journey where you’re discovering how the customer wants to consume the product (and if we need to make changes to that) and how best to communicate and help them see what it can do for them.
When you know that just ‘knowing or loving’ someone is not enough and there’s a lot of work that goes into making a successful relationship, you can reset your expectations.
You would know that feeling attracted to someone is only 50% of it and the rest 50% of the work is going to have to do with communication.
Similarly, in a web3 startup, once you know that building is only 50% of the work, the rest has to do with distribution, customer feedback, and marketing. It’s easy to balance expectations.
You would know that a product not getting adoption isn’t necessarily a product problem, it could be a marketing problem.
And that, most importantly, solving the marketing problem, like communicating and understanding the needs and wants of your partner, is a process.
A process that has a lot of parts and nuances to it, and a process that’s never over. You keep working on it, understanding what works, doing more of it, and constantly experimenting more.
A lot of early web3 startups including Namecoin, EOS, DigixDAO, etc failed to see the light of day for this very reason.
The founders of the project were tech people through and through who understood very little marketing. Their founders believed that the product they were building was great and that the community would just “see” and “understand” its value.
As history has it, it didn’t go very well. We need to learn from their mistakes and ensure that we take the time to communicate the utility of our products so that they don’t become one of them.