You’re looking to launch a new product, but not sure from where to start. Launching a new product comes with a range of challenges. A new product requires a lot of time, resources, and energy to get off the ground. That’s why it’s critical that you take the time to develop a strategic plan that gives you the best chance at creating an impactful product.
In this post, you’ll learn four strategic areas you need to consider before launching your next product and outlining the processes you can use to give your new product the best chance at success.
“Customer First” Approach: Needs vs. Wants
Instead of focusing on people’s wants, focus on what people’s needs are, because needs are the major driver for consumer behavior and ultimately impact every decision a consumer makes, while wants tend to be more superficial and can often be ignored by customers.
When thinking about your new product, you want to ensure that it addresses a customer need and not simply a want. This is not to say that wants can’t be part of your product idea, but by creating something that a customer can’t live without, you have a much higher probability of your product succeeding.
In many cases, you can identify needs simply by observing consumer behaviour in your market and then leverage surveys and interviews to dig deeper based on those initial insights. Ultimately you want to capitalize on the things that customers enjoy and alleviate pain points for the things they don’t. Once you get in the needs headspace, you can approach your product and customers in a completely new way.
Let’s take the installments service by PAYFORT as an example which has stemmed from the idea of creating an affordable online payment method for customers.
At this stage, when you think you’ve identified a particularly useful need amongst the audience you are studying then start listing them out as nouns and before you start sketching up your awesome idea, ask yourself how deep the need is. It’s important to test your theories as often as possible.
Think about the ideal customer you have now [or want to have] and practice figuring out a need he or she might have by answering the below:
By taking Installments service as an example the result will be:
My ideal customer might need affordability, and I think it’s because they need to buy now and pay later. I’ll take this verb phrase and plot it on the external/internal need spectrum to help me find a deeper underlying need which my business’ online payments solutions can address.
Determine Your Product/Market Fit
Product/market fit (PMF) is a fairly new concept but it has quickly become a staple within the business world. Though there are a few different definitions for PMF in the most basic sense, it means positioning yourself in a good market with a product that that satisfies the needs of customers within that market.
To develop a strong PMF, you’ll need to layout a business hypothesis that clearly outlines the high-level concepts associated with your product. This initial hypothesis will serve as the blueprint for taking your product from an idea to reality. Ideally you should try to be as detailed as possible when forming your hypothesis but at the bare minimum ask yourself:
Once you’ve created your business hypothesis the next step is to create the simplest version of your product that will allow you to test that hypothesis, often referred to as a minimum viable product (MVP). Your MVP should try to use as few resources as possible while still demonstrating to consumers that you can solve their problem.
The idea is to prevent large loses if your product doesn’t succeed so at this stage it’s best to focus on a single compelling feature of your product rather than the final form it will take. This way if a product doesn’t meet expectations you can easily step back and focus on a more compelling product feature, redesign for a new market, create a different hypothesis and solution, or find an entirely new idea. Regardless, it often means major product revisions or possibly starting over again.
For example, Airbnb wasn’t a community-driven hospitality company. It used to revolve around air mattresses on a living room floor. Originally called airbedandbreakfast.com, Airbnb started during a popular design conference in San Francisco. The founders offered attendees their airbeds in their living room as well as breakfast. They had some early success, but wanted a better PMF. So instead of focusing on just conferences, they go after travelers who needed a place to stay anywhere in the world. They began to bill their service as a way for travelers to find local, authentic accommodations and network at the same time. And, of course, get free breakfast every morning. After listening to feedback, they became Airbnb and started helping anyone list or book any type of accommodation (castles, private islands, etc.) in 34,000 cities around the world. And the rest is PMF history.
Create your business hypothesis by answering the below:
Again we can take the installments service as an example:
Installments is designed to help people buy now and pay online later in installments plans to help the credit card online shoppers who can’t afford paying the full amount now, by paying for their online purchases in installments without calling their bank and with a low interest rate or 0% interest.
Innovative Prototyping through “Intelligent Failure”
Often when people hear the term “prototyping” they think 3D printing and exposed circuit boards, but the term can be applied to so much more. In a broader sense the term is really about building and testing various “draft” versions of your idea, with each new version helping you to better understand your idea and further develop it. It could mean building one of those wired-up gadgets, or it could be as simple as drawing a sketch on paper. But what kind of ideas or products can you prototype?
Anything can be prototyped. You just have to get into the right mind-set which extends to your potential customers. The reality is that when you ask for feedback on an abstract idea, people will often respond with hypotheticals which may not relate to your actual objectives. By providing those same customers with a working prototype (even a simple one), you give them something tangible they can interact and experiment with. You’ll find that in many cases this can eliminate a lot of confusion around your product and will actually provide you with more valuable feedback about your idea.
“Think about it this way: Prototyping is about failing early so you don’t fail late.”
At its core, a prototype should be driving your new product idea forward so it’s important that you leverage your prototype to ask questions and not simply show off your idea. At every iteration, think about what you need to learn to keep improving your idea and try to incorporate those questions into your prototype. For example, if you’re trying to decide between two menu options in an app, provide both in your early versions and see which one users naturally prefer. Remember that at the prototyping stage things don’t need to look pretty so you have a lot of flexibility in how you present your ideas, don’t worry if it doesn’t look exactly like the final product you’re envisioning you’ll be able to focus on polishing after you get the info you need.
Prototyping may seem like a daunting process at the start but once you get comfortable with the objectives it’s not so bad. Just remember it’s not about getting your product right the first time, or even the second or third time, your main objective when prototyping is simply rapid improvement through trial and error.
“You can prototype anything” Work meeting. Seriously, you can. In all examples, prototyping isn’t a one-shot deal. It’s about building, testing, tweaking, building, testing, tweaking, building, testing, tweaking…
Get Effective Standard Operating Procedures by FAQs
Develop a complete set of frequently ask questions (FAQs) where you answer questions that a customer or internal stakeholders may ask after showing or discussing the new product idea. FAQs provide details and data. There are two types of FAQs to include – Customer FAQs and Stakeholder FAQs.
If you were to put yourself in the shoes of your customers would your questions will be answered? By writing questions and answers you would expect a real customer to ask. Ask peers or your manager if there are specific FAQs to include in your document based on the customer type your team serves.
The most difficult part is that Product Managers generally have no direct staff responsibility. They have to use their super stakeholder management skills to get information, support or buy in from staff across the organization to help them do their job well. So by listing Stakeholder FAQs which are business questions you expect your VP, partner teams, and internal stakeholders to ask and by including answers to these FAQs are crucial in making team meetings more efficient, project decisions more transparent, and identifying risks early on. Use stakeholder FAQs as a mechanism to document decisions that your team has made, so anyone reading your document can quickly get up to speed.
As we mentioned at the start of this post, launching a new product is a challenging task that comes with a wide range of potential pitfalls. Unfortunately, there is no way to guarantee that a new product will succeed but by taking the time to plan out your product development strategy and leveraging the concepts discussed in this post you can set yourself up for the best chance at achieving a successful product launch.