New businesses have a hard time launching new products. Last year — while being a particularly hard one for most — offered much the same obstacles as any other year, whether it was lack of funding, a good product-market fit, efficient management, or a suitable pricing strategy.
This article outlines the five main steps you need to take to prepare for launch. But before you can even get to releasing a product or service, you must have a viable idea in mind in order to start a business that can hope to survive and be profitable in the long run.
The most important step at inception is to meet your potential customers and choose an issue (or a set of similar, related problems) you’d like to solve for them. Don’t try to build something for everyone. Don’t try to develop solutions for all sorts of industries. That requires massive investment from the get-go.
Do unique, unscalable things first while focusing on amazing customer service from the very early stages of product development.
1. Survey the Market
The first stage is all about research. There are a few areas to focus on when surveying your market. Determine niches you want to explore, and draw out hypotheses about pains, needs, and wants people in these niches might have.
Start thinking about revenue streams from there, figure out who will pay for your product and how. There are companies such as Purrweb which help with minimum viable product (MVP) launches focused on user experience. An MVP indicates a product or service with enough core features that can be trialed by early customers who can then provide feedback for additional product development.
An MVP release lets you avoid time-consuming, unnecessary work in preparation for the final product launch. It can be very useful for nipping early issues in the bud. Utilize all kinds of tools that exist to help you with this stage – from services like SurveyMonkey to focus group surveys to deep interviews.
Be prepared to spend more time on research if you want to build a B2B product since selling to another business is likely to require a bigger budget. Hence, there’s more to lose. You will need to research both the challenges of your target business and issues their customers or users may have.
Use data. Data about markets and companies, and the investment dynamics between them are available at Crunchbase and Pitchbook. From there, you can look at the most popular solutions in the niche you’ve chosen. See what they’re offering and how users are talking about them.
More detailed accounts regarding customers are easily obtainable by reading their social media. Customer behavior trends are also insightful statistics to follow. Take them with a pinch of salt though. Trends are not a solid basis to draw business hypotheses on.
2. Determine Your Unique Advantages
The next step is all about understanding what gives you a competitive edge. In business, it’s all about having the best product. People want to use the best toys (or services), and the best toys are the ones built for them – products that make them feel seen and special. So you have to know what they don’t have. If you can implement this in your product or sell something that fulfills such a need, it will offer you a unique advantage.
Get to know your customers and the product or service they use from your niche. Answer these three questions:
- Who is this product for?
- What problem does it solve?
- Why would customers use your product over someone else’s?
Market research and surveys will help you understand if someone’s already trying to solve your audience’s issues and what exactly they lack.
3. Prototyping and Testing
After you’ve figured out how you can differentiate your product from the other solutions in the market, you need to make a prototype. Think of simple, quick-to-build features. This phase of product delivery is rewarding because it’s the first time you’re interacting with your customers and figuring out if you got the details right.
You can identify design flaws and wins, finally test your assumptions, and look closer at user behavior. Also, show the prototypes to the investors or stakeholders of the business you want to sell to if you plan to go B2B. They will want to see if their users are enjoying your product.
4. Gather Feedback and Implement Changes
Once you’ve found the flaws in your prototype, address them through gathered feedback. It will also help you gain insights into what else you can do to enhance the product. BUT fix the flaws first, and then engineer additional features the majority of responses mentioned.
With the feedback analyzed and solutions applied, you’ll technically be ready for the launch (or beta launch, if you plan to go slow at first).
5. Launch and Share Your Product
Before you launch the product, there is one more thing to do. This last stage of the process has to do with product marketing. Ideally, if you had a prototype tested among potential users, they already know when you plan the launch. Using surveys and market research, it’s vital to find out how to talk to your customers and where to find them.
Build your marketing strategy in a way that reaches both the people who will be using your product and the people who will be paying for it (if that’s two different groups.) You can use both digital and physical means. We’re talking social media advertisement, blog posts, YouTube videos, landing pages, going to interviews or conferences and more.
Try customer acquisition strategies like providing users with free trials, discounts for pre-orders or pre-purchases, outlining flexible refund policies, and so on. Alternatively, you can build an online community around the challenge your product is solving. Then your users will be interested in sharing their experiences while waiting for your release as they are already a little bit engaged in the story your solution creates.
These guidelines are not exhaustive. Often a startup cycle go through a few prototype, proof-of-concept, and minimum viable product stages before launching. This is done to confirm and re-confirm their theories on user behavior, improve operational results, and so on. Your method of launch depends on how responsive the market is and your marketing skills. Sometimes, when businesses nail a good product-market fit, they have eager customers waiting from the survey stage. At other times, things don’t go as planned after the launch.
So before you embark on your mission, lower your expectations. It’s important not to treat a launch as the point of no return or a fixed moment in time. If things go south, it’s not a sign to stop. A launch is a continuous process, and often opportunities to get more users come after the big day.