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Dec 14th, 2021 Share: Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn

First Lesson of Marketing: Saddles versus Horseback Riding

In 2014 Stewart Butterfield, founder of Slack, wrote an internal memo to his fellow teammates, reminding them that Slack is new, different, and thus requires a unique approach in it’s go-to-market strategy. It was subsequently published by Stewart as a blog post on Medium — and heralded as an important primer in how one ought to think about building, launching and marketing a product. He titled the memo “We Don’t Sell Saddles Here”.

The core thesis of his memo is a good reminder of how we all ought to think about our products or services: We all have a choice — we can sell saddles, which means we emphasize the quality of the leather, the craftsmanship which went into making the saddle, the specific shape or form, and the features of the particular saddle. Or we can sell horseback rides — the joy of being in nature, the adventure of exploring the world on the back of a horse, the connection to the animal.

Seemingly the same product but in the end entirely different things, which speak to a fundamentally different reasoning of why we chose to buy things. Arguably the market for horseback rides is significantly bigger than the market for saddles — and likely less price sensitive (we tend to pay more for experiences than features of a product), therefore also higher margin.

Nothing wrong with selling saddles — but do know your product and your audience and sell what they are looking for. Sadly, too many companies are still trying to sell their saddles to the folks looking for a fun day out horseback riding.

What is it you are selling?

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