If you have experience running a startup as a blossoming new entrepreneur, you’ll know that it’s quite difficult to get people to try out your new product.
Potential customers often operate unaware of whether or not you will still exist in the next 3 months. Therefore, it’s much safer for them to ignore you instead of spending their precious time getting to know your product.
Still, we are all too familiar with the startups that managed to get people to try out new products and have millions of individuals using them. These people picked products and customers that managed to satisfy two critical conditions.
Solve A Pain Point
If you desire for your business to survive, your startup needs to relieve pain for customers in a manner that no existing company can solve.
For example, Evernote is a note-taking storage tool that allows scatterbrained minds to keep track of interesting things they discovered online each day.
The founder initially conceived the product as a way of protecting himself from his failure to organize. Because he failed to find an existing service that was able to satisfy his need, he started up a company to fix the problem.
If your new business wants any chance to earn revenue from solving customer pain, it must solve a problem significantly better than the competition that may exist.
Those who are especially smart and lucky may get a chance at a head start. However, success inevitably attracts imitations, and customers will switch over if they find that the copycat did a better job of solving their issue.
The question then becomes how are you able to handle the nuts and bolts of a product’s general idea to something actually tangible that people will eventually buy and use.
If you run a venture technology company, you’ll often be tempted to perfect a product prior to giving anyone a chance to use it.
Unfortunately, this often results in running out of money before discovering you missed the mark to solve an unmet need.
Your business has only so many resources and time at disposal to develop products and make mistakes that customers want to use.
Creating the right product means charging a team with developing prototypes that customers can try out and critique.
Below are six essential steps to surviving as a startup:
1. Find Out The Unmet Needs Of Customers: It helps to develop interview questions, meet suffering customers in their painful environment, and listen to their issues when you ask questions. Through such listening, you can discover more details regarding the nature of their pain and attempt to assess the kind of product that could turn them into a customer.
2. Establish a Hypotheses: Utilizing the observations of customers and their needs in combination with your vision of the solution, you need to make a series of educated guesses related to the most essential features that your product will have to lead to widespread adoption.
Furthermore, you need to establish a numerical estimate surrounding the customers that you believe will use the prototype containing the features.
3. Build a solution: After acquiring the necessary data, you need to work on crafting an inexpensive, quick prototype to develop the features.
Of course, the first version won’t succeed in meeting every single customer’s need, but it will help you get a proper understanding of what’s necessary to close the gap between the capabilities of the prototype and what the final product will have to include to satisfy customers.
4. Test It Out: Customers need to be provided with your prototype and observe the proper way to use it. You need to keep track of how many individuals are actually using the product and find the pros and cons.
Generally speaking, the objective of such a step is to collect information that will either affirm or refute the initial hypotheses.
5. Detect Variance: You need to compare the observed results with an expected outcome. Such a comparison will provide insights designed to shape your overall position.
6. Strategize: Results that are better than initially expected will likely confirm your ability to acquire market share if you turn the prototype’s current version into a product that is aggressively marketed.
If you find that the results are worse than you hoped, you need to take the lessons from what failed and iterate on a new prototype.
This process must repeat over and over until the observed results are superior to expectations, or it becomes clear that you need to start over from scratch.
Even if you manage to wow your test audiences with a successful prototype and subsequent product, that does mean you should stop improving.
By definition, improving products means constant iteration of meaningful changes that result in increased benefits that are realized by new and existing customers.
Two of the most popular methodologies for making improvements to products include adding new features or fine-tuning existing ones.
How to Add Features
Adding features allows for the expansion of an existing product’s scope, resulting in a massive version bump, new marketing splash, and maybe even press releases. Such fanfare attracts customers and new product use cases.
Normally, these new features are the only elements of the product that new potential customers will hear things about.
It’s important to note that adding new features to an existing product is quite risky. You need to have significant confidence that they will be of value.
Improving Features That Already Exist
You are able to improve existing product features in several ways. This includes deliberate work to make things better, fix the rate of use, or increase the adoption.
Making deliberate improvements when you understand the reason behind why a feature is used and what is appreciated about it is necessary. This means seeking to only make an existing feature better.
Making frequent improvements means giving customers a reason to use product features more often. Adding additional items to activity feeds more search tool options resulting in more reading, or using the product for more daily tasks.
Such an improvement turns a feature used perhaps once a week into an everyday feature is important.
Making adoption improvements means targeting the customers that do not use existing features. For instance, if you have a calendar that is only used by half of your user base, improving the adoption means securing the remainder.
Adding connections or features may not improve the feature for everyone, but it will increase the likelihood that non-consumers will start to adopt it.
Examples of Product Improvements
To use an existing example, let’s observe a business messaging application that allows companies to speak directly with their customers.
At first, it used pop-ups to begin a conversation.
However, this doesn’t always work. For instance, if you desire to send a message and not begin a conversation, interrupt users, or want to send an image filled with images, the effect results in not every customer using the messaging system.
Adding notifications and announcements helped address this. As such, it is an adoption improvement example.
With new types of messages sent out, the company wanted to provide customers with a proper way to see how effective every message is at driving click-thru rates and replies.
This resulted in a re-design of the view for message results, to place such information anywhere a message is visible. As such, it is a deliberate improvement example.
Customers use filters to discover the who and how of their product use cases. Previously, the company’s filter failed to scale for large swaths of data and complex queries.
Furthermore, there were too many clicks for frequent, sample queries. To solve the problem, the filters were redesigned and repositioned. Many of the common queries became faster, and the more complicated ones were easier to configure.
Big teams with immense user bases require a way to share the insights of customers that come out of development meetings, calls, and various offline activities.
User tagging is a great way of sharing discrete knowledge. But notes are better for telling a story that has context. As such, it is a new feature example.
Ongoing Product Improvements
In the early years, startups have many advantages over those serving as industry incumbents.
They can adapt faster, move with greater ease, and lack issues related to compatibility, legacy, or technical debt. Often, such agility can result in startups pivoting too fast instead of improving what already exists in meaningful ways.
To adhere to ongoing improvement, those who manage products must balance two different goals. The first includes finding improvements that benefit customers and businesses.
The second includes ensuring such improvements successfully make it out of the door.
Embrace Communication Channels
Talking is the make or break of any business. The ability to interact with clients regardless of context results in higher rates of satisfaction, increased sales, and good referrals.
By communicating with customers, you are able to gather insightful feedback, ask leads for requests for features, and understand demand. You can delegate a support team to report the data to a dedicated product manager.
This individual will process requests and decide the features that should be made as additions or how to upgrade existing features. Consequently, you are able to develop a complete plan for product improvement.
An omnipresent communication platform for customers is the best solution to better interact with clientele. It offers on-brand, consistent interaction that helps cover every touchpoint. Furthermore, it provides a seamless user experience and helps to achieve marketing goals in a much more rapid fashion. With this approach, you are able to serve customers in a large variety of ways, boost credibility, and the business’s brand image.
When defining the goals of features and the user’s reception of the prototypes, it’s important to use metrics for tracking.
The Internet is full of essential tools to help businesses test products. Unfortunately, there is no approach that is one-size-fits-all.
If services like Airbnb or Booking.com measured their value exclusively by daily active users, for instance, they would be gone tomorrow.
Instead, these companies perform well consistently. It all depends on the products and niche you are specifically engaged with.
When designing an application, it is important to take into account metrics like monthly active users and daily active users. You also need to correlate supply and demand.
Every product needs to not only meet feature demand but also be distributed in a way such that as many people as possible can have a chance to check it out.
The buying process must be as simple and painless as it can be. This requires a clear plan of action related to accepting and processing payments to secure hard-earned money.
As you accept the payments, you can then start leveraging personalized databases of information on prospective customers and existing customers.
Ideas are fun to experiment with and theory craft, but without necessary sales, the company will fail. Those who succeed in business are exceptional at selling. Preparing an ideal plan for selling will minimize mishaps and place the business on the path to maximum success.
Selling businesses have a huge impact on taxes. If gains on a sale are long-term, the tax rate could reach as high as 30%. This does not include additional taxes from the county or state that may be posted on these gains. You need to prepare for this prior to selling to avoid penalties and maximize deductions.
Selecting the right strategy for the way your product will be priced includes cost, customer-value, and competition based pricing.
Cost based pricing factors in materials, what employees are paid, and the value of a business’s time. It’s important to ensure that the price of a unit is more than the cost of making a single unit of the offering.
Competition based pricing understands what others in the same industry charge and whether it’s worth it to match, exceed, or undercut an offering.
Customer-value pricing takes into account the customers themselves, which are driven by an understanding of their willingness to pay and their perception of value.