LET CUSTOMERS HELP YOU DECIDE WHEN YOUR PRODUCT OR SERVICE IS READY
“If you build it, they will come.” This rationale makes a great movie premise, but almost always leads to disaster when it comes to launching a product or service. A high-flying idea without any grounding in market demand can not only fail to serve its intended audience but the concept can balloon until it’s so elaborate that it can take years to develop and launch – if you ever get started in the first place.
A better startup mantra is, “It’s all about the customer, stupid.” By keeping a tight focus on the need you intend to fill, you’ll not only boost the likelihood of finding an audience for your product or service; but your production timeline will stay realistic and your offering will make it to market sooner.
To right-size the right product or service:
Put product development in the hands of your customers.
In today’s startup culture, where the cutting-edge is often prized over the practical, it can be hard to put customers first. Many entrepreneurs believe their idea is so unique or innovative, consumers just don’t know they need it … yet. But while Steve Jobs made a fortune staying one step ahead of the market, for most of us, business success comes from meeting an existing customer need.
That’s why it’s essential to begin development with a clear understanding of the customer problem you’re trying to solve. By outlining how your business will address that problem, you’re developing a blueprint for launch that’s an organic response to a need in the marketplace – and you’ll focus on precisely the features and services to serve that need.
Use an MVP to test your problem/solution hypothesis.
The MVP – or minimum viable product – is the simplest offering you can deliver that addresses the most important customer need at the core of your business. The idea is to identify what components of your offerings are truly essential, launch with them, and then use customer feedback to iterate and flesh out the concept until the full-fledged offering is complete.
Rather than waiting until every possible feature or service module is up and running before launching, with the MVP concept you quickly receive feedback on whether your core business proposition is valid. You learn whether you can, indeed, solve customers’ problem, and whether that problem is important enough that they’ll buy what you’re selling. And as an added benefit, with an MVP approach you launch sooner and begin earning revenues that help defray ongoing development costs.
Other concepts born in the world of software – such as beta testing and prototyping – can similarly give you valuable customer feedback before investing in a larger rollout. Whichever model you choose, the key is to validate your product or service premise, and plan to adapt to input going forward.
INSTAGRAM AND THE POWER OF ITERATION
Remember Foursquare? Once upon a time, the social network that let you share your location with friends via a “check-in” was all the rage – so much so that it inspired a knock-off called Burbn. In addition to copycat Foursquare features, Burbn offered photo sharing capabilities. Initial metrics told a surprising story: users were bypassing check-ins in favor of sharing pictures. The developers pivoted to simplify the functionality drastically, focused solely on photo sharing and commenting, and relaunched as Instagram – now the world’s most popular social image platform.
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