The quality and relevance of your product will determine how long you’re going to stay in business. A relevant product must have the capacity to grow and should be open to due development.
Apple is still in business today because her flagship product, iPhone was and is a major success.
As one of the core requirements of a successful startup, products should be given its due attention. I recommend you read the article on how to get great startup ideas as this is pivotal for building great products.
What Is A Product?
This question is one of those that have “perspective” answers. This means that the answer is determined by one’s point of view. For a grocery store owner, products are groceries, to a fashion designer products are clothes, while Samsung’s are phones and other electronic stuff.
While growing up, we were taught that it’s either one is selling products or he is offering services. From this school of thought, a dry cleaner doesn’t have any product to sell, but has services to offer. Afterall, you only contract one to do your laundry and nothing else. You don’t buy stuff from him. Well, that school of taught is wrong.
A product is actually anything (good, idea, information, service, method or object) that can satisfy a need or want. It must not be a physical object that can be felt with the human hands. It can be a website or a mobile application. As long as it has the capacity to offer services, then it’s a product.
For dry cleaners, products can range from websites for placing laundry orders to any other laundry equipment or washing agents that were launched by the company.
HomeJoy was one of the biggest cleaning company in America and clocked a net worth of $30million before they shutdown. They offered a range of cleaning services. But their only product was their website which was launched in 2013.
Through this website, they offered an array of cleaning services across the U.S. So a product is whatever that you designed that can give users their desired satisfaction irrespective of it tangibility.
Building A Great Product: Democratic Mindset
The purpose of building products is to solve problems that users face. No matter how beautiful the masterpiece is, without being used, its relevance will not be appreciated. Thus, it is pertinent to always take the users into account when building.
I want to buttress this point using the democratic system of government. A democratic leader cannot make decisions arbitrarily. There is the legislative arm of government which has representatives from all parts of the country. These representatives are to make laws on behalf on the citizens.
On their part, the citizens have a duty to criticize and protest against laws that were not made in their best interest. A democratic leader’s decisions must always be consistent with the constitution.
Okay! I have said a lot of political jargon. Pardon me for that. This analogy explains how an entrepreneur should behave when building products.
Just as the president cannot make decisions that are not consistent with the people’s constitution, an entrepreneur should not build products that are not consistent with the demands of the people.
When we discussed ideas and how to get ideas, I stated that ideas should be able to solve problems. This means that an entrepreneur must have a concise understanding of the problem(s) at hand. This is best achieved by meeting users of the potential market.
During the building process, you should have identified the problem that needs to be solve. The next thing is to know how to solve it. The next thing is to know how to solve it. Two good heads are always better than one.
After conceiving a possible solution to the problem, there is a need to get the perspective of the potential users on what the best solution should be.
Sales And Marketing
What is the first thing that comes to your mind after you’ve built a great product? Publicity right? Sure. You’ll certainly want to let people know about what you’ve done and want them to try it out or patronize you as the case may be.
You will also want to advertise on any platform that your funds can afford. What if I say that’s the wrong move? Well, let me just say it any way — It’s the wrong move.
Sales are marketing are two sides of the same coin. The both are targeted towards business growth and increase in revenue. I’ll write an extensive article on these terms much later, but for now, let me clear the dust that I created myself, because I know you might be thinking that I’m crazy for asking you not to market your product.
When a product is being developed, the first version of that product that should be launched is the beta version. Beta means a version that is released for testing. It can be called an experimental version. This is released so that users can try it out, criticize and give recommendations. Recommendations and bugs will subject the product to further work. The cycle continues until a perfect or 97% perfect product is achieved.
You get these free reviews by meeting people on one-on-one basis. You don’t have to shout it loud for everyone to hear, rather you meet small groups of people who you think will be willing to try your product. This act is referred to as Sales.
No successful startup starts with marketing. Trying to bypass sales is a slap on the face on your potential users. It’s like telling them, “I know all you guys want, I’ve thought it up, I’m sure you must like it and I don’t need any more of your opinion before I launch.” I see it as a form of business arrogance that comes before failure.
The Collision brothers, Stripe founders, know this principle of sales. Little wonder they walked around with their product anywhere they go looking for people to try it out. By the way, Stripe is one of the leading online payment companies. But they didn’t start by advertising on CNN or E!
As at when they launched, they had 53 users who have tried their beta product a total of 575 times. At one point in time, one of the beta users encountered a problem when trying to make refunds, and they sorted the issue within 20mins. That issue when encountered by a large number of users would have discredited their product. But that wasn’t the case, because the error happened during the beta phase.
Sales is concerned with getting as much patronage as possible from small groups of people using limited resources while marketing is more about spreading the word about your brand to a large community of people with the intention of getting sales. Certainly, marketing will give you much more coverage than one-on-one engagements.
But are you sure you want to launch your product before the whole world when you have not had the product properly scrutinized by a small group of those that will use it.
One of the reasons why many startups fails is that they launched too early. They launched without having a beta version. Or they launched without having enough people try their beta version. Either way, the launch was too early.
When the whole world tries the products and some developmental shortcomings, they will be quick to discard it. You know, “you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.” It is better you mess up before a small group of persons than to have your brand messed up before the whole world. Trust me, it’s difficult to bounce back from it.
Rather than to market your product before a large and mixed community of people with diverse interests, it is better you start by gaining traction before a small people of concentrated interest. It gives your product the esteem due to it and also makes it refine and refreshed for marketing to the whole world.