Lessons we can learn from Dropbox

As a Dropbox user, my attention was captured by an item on the BBC website this week called ‘Dropbox and the failures behind it’. The article is about Drew Houston the founder of Dropbox, the failures he endured prior to launching Dropbox and what he learned from them.
On reading the full article, I was struck by a couple of marketing related learnings he shared:
“Make something people want”
It sounds obvious doesn’t it? Who would set out to create something people don’t want? And yet, when I thought a little more about his statement, and some of my experiences in new product development and market research, I felt there was more to it. Perhaps it could be expanded to say “Make something people really want, not just what they say they want, but something they will use.” Dropbox addresses a real need, it fixes a tangible pain for many of its users and it’s a pain that people feel and are emotional about.
“Good distribution”
Another contender for the “obvious” category, but again when you consider how Dropbox has grown it’s the way that distribution has been built that is really interesting. As a tool that supports collaboration, usage spreads via the very collaboration it supports – the user base recruits more users!
So what practical value can we take from this?
When testing customer reaction to a new idea, I think we need strong emotional appeal, and we need to be wary of a rational “yes that sounds like a good idea” that we want to hear. If people aren’t excited and can’t explain how they will use it and the difference it will make to them, perhaps they won’t really use it.
Secondly, are we using our customer base to help market and sell our products and services to others? We might not be able to copy the Dropbox model, but if every delighted customer who says “I would recommend you to others” could be given a simple way to do so, what would that do for our business growth?