(excerpted from the upcoming book, Launching for Revenue: How to Launch Your Product, Service or Company for Maximum Growth)
Before you jump off the deep end and launch your new product, let’s check in on a few simple questions you can ask to make sure the product is indeed ready for prime time.
There’s a popular saying here in Silicon Valley: “Build a disruptive product and the product will sell itself.” That, my friends, is the thinking of many a ruined entrepreneur.
Products do not sell themselves. To be successful, they need to solve a problem or enhance life, be designed for a specific market, be tested in that market and refined accordingly. Products do not sell themselves. To be successful, they need to solve a problem or enhance life, be designed for a specific market, be tested in that market and refined accordingly. Click To Tweet
The first thing to consider before launching your new product is “Is it FULLY functional?” Before you can answer “yes” to this question, you must be able to answer the following questions positively:
1. Is the product is fully developed and does it works in the environments most users prefer?
For example, if it’s an online service, does it work on all the major browsers (not just your engineering team’s favorite)? Your engineering team may hate working with Microsoft® Internet Explorer and while it’s true that the overall internet usage of IE is just over 4%, it is a commonly mandated corporate browser. If you are targeting a corporate audience, you may find your overall audience usage is much higher, so it can’t just be ignored as a result of the engineering team’s personal preferences. This is but one example of the kind of customer-centric thinking that will need to go into the product development.
2. Can people learn how to use the product without taking a week-long course?
Long, long gone are the days of functionality over form in engineering. Great design now thankfully makes the difference between wildly successful products and ones that never get past five users (three if you exclude your mom and your brother).
3. Have you received user feedback from a cross-section of your target market? And have you integrated that feedback into your design?
Designing for just you and/or your engineering team is a great place to start. Great companies can be founded on solving problems the founders have had in their own lives. But do not fool yourself into believing that what is obvious to you and your engineers is obvious to your target market. Your prospective customers have busy, complicated lives, and your product or service is a solution to but one of those complexities in their lives. Seek out honest feedback from your target market, listen carefully, and integrate that feedback into your design.
Tip: When getting user feedback, do not lead the witness! One of my favorite hacks is to hand your product to a variety of user personas* in your target market and ask them to make it work. Video record their responses. Resist the temptation to show them how this button or that function works. Simply watch. See where they stumble in taking the next step or completing a process. This has long been a staple tool for Intuit, for example, and has helped them develop several successful products.
*User personas are profiles of the types of people that buy your product. For example, one of your buyer persona profiles may the Chief Technology Officer in a high-tech company. It’s important that you understand what the pains are for each of the personas who will buy, or influence, the buying decision.
4. Does the product work consistently?
Do not launch if it only works on Tuesday or when your engineers have a specific setup for demos working. That product is not ready. It must be stable. A product only gets one chance to make a first impression – don’t blow it with a buggy product.
If you can answer yes to these four questions, then you can honestly say that your product is fully developed from a marketing and customer perspective – at least developed enough to launch. Of course, there will be iterations, refinements and even whole new generations of products along the way as you launch and learn more from your market. You should never stop getting feedback into your organization, but at this point, your product is good to go from a marketing perspective.
To your revenue success,
How does your product strategy compare?
Check out our free online quiz about the 10 Elements of a Successful Launch, including the product element, to see where you fit and what you need to do next. Or simply set up a call and we can talk about your situation and how to make sure your product will be successful in the marketplace.