It’s easy to get swept up by the excitement of a new idea and creating something that will disrupt the industry. Many well-intentioned organisations start out their product development journey by hastily diving right into the build stage, usually because they feel pressured to get to market as quickly as they can. However, this is a recipe for failure.
Many of these organisations soon discover their product doesn’t gain any traction in the market or even worse, it outright fails its customers. That’s why having a well-defined, and validated, product strategy before kicking off the development stage is so important.
Is your product strategy market-ready?
A product strategy is a high-level plan for creating value for the customer and your organisation. It should explain what kind of a product you will develop, who it's for, how it creates value for its users, where it fits into the market and how it will help your organisation achieve its goals. Having this strategy validated and market-tested before you start building is critical to realising the full ROI potential of your product.
In practice, your product strategy should address four key areas:
- Why it’s the right time to go to market with the product
- What your customer needs and is willing to pay for
- Your organisation’s product development capabilities
- How the product lines up with your organisation’s mission and culture
A validated product strategy serves as the foundation for successful product scoping, design, development and execution, as well as its success in-market. Without a product strategy in place, you will always be in crisis-mode, trying to put out fires at every stage of the product lifecycle, with no certainty of its success in-market.
If you don’t test for product market fit, your product will crash and burn
Making sure you’ve done your due diligence for product-market fit is essential to creating valuable, usable, and marketable products. That means the biggest part of any product strategy is ensuring it's well-grounded in market insights and customer validation.
Does the product address an underserved user need? Are the current solutions in market sub-par? If so, then you have a strong window of opportunity for your product to succeed in. But you need to move quickly. If the need for the product is real, other players are likely to pick up on it, and it won’t stay underserved for long.
Carrying out research, testing and validation for product-market fit will not only help you iron out any wrinkles in your product plan, but it will also help you shape the tangible, compelling features your customers will fall in love with. Defining these features in concrete terms at the strategy stage gives you an early indication of whether the product aligns with your organisation's goals, as well as visibility into the kind of technical infrastructure and resources you will need to make sure the product can deliver on its promise.
Testing for product-market fit involves developing a prototype based on the hypothesis about your customers, their needs, and the differentiators that set you apart from other offerings in the market. This stage is iterative, as you’re validating your hypothesis and altering your course of action based on the feedback you get from your test customers. Based on the input you receive, you might decide to pivot or persevere with the current product strategy.
Once you have the findings from your product-market fit research, you will be in a better position to iterate and refine your product, de-risk the product development cycle, optimise its features and its design, all of which greatly increase its chances of becoming a hit with your customers.
How to accelerate product success and boost ROI
Ensuring a new product’s success in-market is challenging. Not only does your product-market fit need to be on-point, but you also must make sure the right customers get the right message at the right time. Let’s look at the key levers involved in a product’s success and how they impact product ROI.
1. Testing the need in the market
The size of the market opportunity, current state of play and customer needs all have a major impact on how well-received your product is likely to be. Having a rich picture of the market will help you frame the product in a way that resonates with your audience. Customer surveys, testing, and polling are just some of the techniques you can use to gauge the appetite the market has for your offering.
2. Framing the product’s benefits
If you’re a team leader neck-deep in product development, it can be hard to put yourself in the shoes of the customer. You might reason that the product’s features speak for themselves, and it’ll be a no-brainer for your audience. But the reality is, customers can have very different expectations from the product than the ones you’re envisioning. Far too often, there is a disconnect between what the product offers and what the customer expects, which can lead to frustration on both sides. Marketing can provide some support here, but ultimately, the quality of your product-market fit will determine how well you’ve framed the product for your customer.
3. Creating differentiation
To maximise your chances of commercial success, you need to stand out from the competition while still being clear about the benefits you offer to your customer. You need a clear market positioning grounded in competitor analysis and differentiation. If you’re launching a product in a crowded market, customer decisions can become very arbitrary, and turn into a matter of perception as much as product function. Creating a singular, simple customer value proposition that sets you apart from your competitors is key to winning them over.
4. Generating buzz
They say advertising is dead...until, that is, you need to make a sale. Sales, marketing and promotion have a huge influence on a product’s commercial success. Choosing the right message and the right media is going to be a critical driver for product adoption. Far too many products have died a premature death because of poor marketing. Market testing and customer feedback is invaluable for making sure your advertising and sales messages do your product justice and resonate with your customer. But promotion is a dual-edge sword; your product must deliver exactly what’s advertised, otherwise the bad publicity around failed expectations is toxic to nascent products.
If you’re shooting for the moon, you need a proven navigator
Creating and launching a product are enormous challenges under even the best conditions. And making sure it’s commercially successful on top of that is a very tall order. However, having a well-informed product strategy in place can go a long way to minimising the inherent risk involved, and dramatically improves the chances of creating the next big success story.
Having an experienced product development partner to support you from product inception to launch and beyond can be a tremendous asset to have on your side. If you’re looking for help in creating your next ground-breaking product, we should talk.