As many as 95% of new consumer products fail, according to Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen. Given the odds stacked against success, product owners should do everything they can to maximize the potential for a successful product release. Below are six things we’ve learned based on our experience working with companies on product design, development, and release.
designing your product
1. your product starts with the customer
Often companies design products around features that cater to company agendas rather than customer needs. Ever heard of the Facebook Phone? We hadn’t either. This HTC smartphone that provided integration with Facebook failed miserably due to its poor user experience and below average camera. Once 50% of user reviews gave the phone a one-star rating, prices dropped from $99 to 99 cents. The lesson to be learned:Ensure that customers are driving product features—**not the business or development team.
Pro Tip: Expedite product development while staying in tune with your customer through design sprints. By incorporating rapid prototyping and user testing, the five-day workshop generates immediate feedback that reduces time spent on secondary research, speeding up the go-to-market process.
Pro Tip: Bring a development team lead, product manager, or user experience designer along when a sales representative visits customers Directly interacting with the customer in a natural setting enables your team to understand how customers perceive and interact with the product. Your team can leverage this knowledge to inform the design of your product.
2. understand how your new product relates to your brand
Once you understand customer needs, remember that the function and use of your product should encourage customers to buy other products from your company rather than compete with your current offerings. Apple is notorious for introducing new products compatible with their core products, e.g., the iPhone, which drives sales of both the phone and the accessories. For this reason, Time regards Apple’s iPhone as one of America’s most profitable products.
Pro Tip: Know the limitations of your company’s brand and expertise.Colgate’s introduction of frozen meals into the market performed so poorly that they made their way into LA’s Museum of Failure instead of your mouth. The brand proved to be so strong that customers associated toothpaste with the beef lasagna line—not a recipe for success.
3. check-in with customers beyond design
After you have a minimum viable product (MVP) built, it is essential to eradicate all customer hesitations and concerns when interacting with your product. Running pilot groups serves as an effective way to uncover potential issues with your product that enable you to pivot before it’s too late. Ideally, a pilot group should be the same group that provided direct customer feedback during the ideation phase of product development to ensure the new product accurately addresses previous concerns.
Pro Tip: Do the riskiest things first for learning during the discovery phase. Integrate features that customers are likely to have a strong reaction to early on so there’s time to adapt the product before it’s too late.
crafting support for the product launch
4. secure buy-in from those who directly interact with the product
Set goals early to drive commitment on the business side and designate a strong business leader who is fully engaged with employees to own the product.An internal respected leader who acts as your “corporate champion” can generate excitement around the new product within the organization, while gaining the support of employees. Credera talks more about coordinating enterprise-wide leadership in our recent whitepaper on the 7 Keys to Unlocking Innovation Strategy.
Pro Tip: While gaining buy-in from executives is important, sales representatives are also key players in driving adoption. The sales team interacts with customers daily and can get their customers excited about the product. Ask for their feedback and offer for your sales representatives to demo the product themselves to their team to cultivate buy-in from both sides.
5. craft a go-to-market team & strategy during early phases of development
Program management and cross-functional planning are essential for driving product adoption and a timely launch. Launch processes can become stove-piped if you choose to craft a team afterward, and your marketing strategy will fall apart without leaders to shepherd the strategy.Set up a comprehensive team covering product support details, sales and service enablement materials, PR and marketing, media agency management (if videos/commercials), roll out plans, localization, and communication plans to ensure success from all angles.
Pro Tip:Time your product launch** to optimize the perception of your company. If you are releasing an innovative product, consider investing more money to set yourself apart from competitors. If you’re the last to join the market, a large promotional launch may inadvertently highlight that you’re trailing competitors.
Pro Tip: Define and size your target market to set product adoption and revenue goals prior to pilot release. This allows employees to gauge progress, and they can enhance the employee push if adoption falls short.
ensuring long-term success
6. don’t stop at a minimum viable product
Your work isn’t done once a product is released. It can be tempting to move on to the next shiny object, but companies need to maintain focus on the current product. Groupon began as aWordPress blog that founder Andrew Mason characterized as “totally ghetto.” Had Groupon stopped improving after the initial product, it’s highly unlikely it would be engaging almost 50 million customers today—it wouldn’t even exist as an application.
Pro Tip: Assign a long-term product owner and finalize documentation to ensure that someone is responsible for the upkeep of the product. Designating accountability for the outcome of a product ensures long–term success.
Interested in learning more about product development?Incorporating design thinking and lean concepts can be a great start. Reach out to us here to find out more!