In the previous post, I talked about the 6 steps to take product from Idea to reality. Here, lets go into the details and explore each of these steps.
Step 1 – Document Idea and all related user stories. What would customers want from this product?
This step, like all the other steps in product development is Iterative. You want to start with the details that you have and continue building on it. During this process you want to validate if your idea is worth a product or may be break it down into smaller ideas which could be a worth while product. May be, during this process you find out that a related idea, that you could pivot into, would be a better product than your original Idea. Continue this exercise until you are 100% sure that (1) the idea can be converted to product, (2) there is a market for it – doesn’t matter small or big (3) You are willing to go all the way for this idea.
Having your passion for the final product, and especially for the actual problem that you are trying to solve is very important. Otherwise, it will seem so easy to quit when things won’t go your way.
Step 2 – Prioritize product features that are must-have vs nice-to-have. Think about what gives the most value to the customer. Build Your product!
From Step 1 to Step2, we are not going into the details of the product development. So you listed 100 things that your product is supposed to do. If you try to build it to do all 100 things, you might as well give up now. It’s practically not possible for a user to use all the features of the product. In a survey that Microsoft did a long time ago, they asked users for new features or expectations from the product. 80% of the feedback they got, were already existing features in the product but users were not aware of them.
So, the focus is key here. When we (at EnchantApps) built our product SQLConnect we focused on 1 use case. How to make it easy for users to query the data they want. All other features came in later. We sold the product for a 20X ROI. You can read about it here.
Think about the one feature that solves the most critical part of the problem, and start with that!
Step 3 – Market your product!
Now that you have the product MVP that solved one problem the best way possible – and no one else does it the same way. Its time to market the product. Find out from your initial market research data where will you get most bang for the buck when marketing. Are your potential customers on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or Shopping Malls? Wherever they are, what is the best way to reach them and educate about your product. Are there top bloggers or influencers who would be able to test your product and talk about it to others?
We did this for SQLConnect via LinkedIn and talking to bloggers/Oracle cloud enthusiasts who were facing the same challenges and were looking for a solution. It was easy once they saw how their problem was solved by our product. They became our allies. The same goes for early customers. Ask them for feedback and referrals. A customer referral is a warm prospect that is hard to find otherwise. Always ask for referrals.
Step 4 – Sales, customer feedback and continuous Improvement of the product. ITERATE!
Once you are able to generate sales for your product – collect all information that you can. Use a CRM system if you don’t already have one. You can use one of the free CRM services like Hubspot. Gather customer feedback, user feedback and then see which of these feedbacks align with the prioritized list of features you had in Step#2. That should be your next value add to the product. Build a feedback loop mechanism in the product itself – to track where users a clicking. Where do they get stuck?
Remember- its an iterative process!
Step 5 – Support and Enhance
While you are enhancing the product, continue to support the existing customers and users – they are an important part of your feedback loop. If your customers are not happy with the current product – there may be a little value in adding new features. As much as it’s important to gain new customers, it’s also important to keep existing customers.
If your product is not adding value or being useful for customer, it doesn’t have a long life.
Step 6 – Exit or Expand
Every product has a life and a lifecycle. From product introduction to product growth to maturity, and finally end-of-life. Sometimes, the product may continue to be useful as it evolves but there are parts of it that will need to be modified to keep it relevant. Alongside the products, even the users go through a transition from not knowing about the product to resistance to acceptance and finally ownership.
One big question that will face any entrepreneur or product owner at some point is should you continue to Expand, or Exit when it’s the right time.
This is very personal decision. One of the early product that I built is not profitable, but I still have it in my portfolio. Even though I am not investing anything significant in that product, its still there – not making profits but I have a plan for it and that is why I don’t want to exit it – just yet. Another product, that was in the growth phase, we exited. You may say that we exited too early but that was depending on the situation at the time which made most sense. My advise to you is that if you have built a product that you believe in, and their is market validation – then keep going!
More to come in future posts. Let me know your thoughts, feedback, and suggestions so that I can make these more useful for you!