Sometimes entrepreneurs invest hundreds of thousands of dollars to create a product with all the bells and whistles they think their audience will love. But when they make it available to the public, it doesn’t get the traction they expected.
In short, it totally flops!
Product failure is one of the most frustrating outcomes an entrepreneur can face, and many won’t rebound after experiencing this kind of defeat. Product failure can demolish an entrepreneur’s wallet, ego and motivation to succeed in business. They may question whether they’re truly up to the task of business ownership or if they should return to a 9-to-5 workday.
Myriad factors could cause product failure. While you’re not always in control of every issue, you can employ several effective strategies to boost your chances of product creation success.
Tips for effective product creation
Successful entrepreneurs suggest the following five strategies to improve your chances of creating a well-received product.
1. Use surveys and customer feedback.
There’s no better way to determine the features your customers want your product to have than to ask them directly.
Ask existing customers and your target audience for feedback through customer surveys and interviews, and pay attention to what’s being said in your online reviews. Talk to your customer-facing employees to understand customer requests, comments and wishes. Then create your product (and your buyer persona) based on the insights your research provided.
If this is your first time doing surveys, here are some tips for gathering valuable customer analytics:
- Use a survey platform. Don’t just send your customers an email asking your survey questions. Use a platform like SurveyGizmo. With a survey platform, you can track your customer feedback in real time instead of manually opening emails to tabulate replies. Survey platforms are efficient and give your customers a better experience using custom-designed surveys.
- Ask insightful questions. Don’t ask vague questions like, “What kinds of features would you like the product to have?” Your customers often don’t really know what they want. Instead, ask, “What are your challenges and difficulties in using our product?” and “What would you like to be able to do to solve the problem that you can’t do now?” Asking specific questions will yield more realistic feedback.
When designing products, consider industry trends such as omnichannel selling, sustainability and the Internet of Things.
2. Create a realistic buyer persona.
Buyer personas are characters your team synthesizes to summarize and model your ideal customers. They aren’t real people; they’re representations of who you think your customers are based on your research.
Conceptualizing your product based on a realistic buyer persona is crucial to creating an outstanding product. A realistic buyer persona helps push you in the right direction about features and pricing while giving you insight into effective marketing.
To create a realistic buyer persona, start with the following details:
- Financial situation
- Location area and type (for example, southern U.S. – suburbs)
- Family situation (single, married, parents, etc.)
- Education level
- Common problems they deal with (pertaining to your industry)
- Buying habits
- Hobbies and interests
- Price sensitivity
- Time availability
These are only some of the details you can add to your buyer persona. The more specific you are, the better.
For example, if you’re selling high-end baby products, your buyer persona might start out looking like this:
- Parents, around age 30, with graduate degrees
- Household income $150K
- Having first child
- Live in a large urban area
- Have professional jobs
- Always pressed for time, juggling work and personal life
- Anxious about the new baby
- Looking for ease of use, expensive-looking design and high product quality
- Willing to invest in safe, quality baby gear
As you find out more about your target market, you can add more details. You can even add pictures to your buyer persona to help you (and your team) conceptualize your ideal customer.
Once you’ve created a realistic buyer persona, craft your product based on their dynamics.
3. Learn from your competitors.
Competitors can give you crucial (and free) marketing intelligence, a clear idea of what’s working – and what isn’t – in the market. Check out competitive products’ specifications and features on company websites and product review sites. Pay attention to features customers praise and aspects that cause frustration, anger and disappointment.
Use this information and your customer research to design something better. If you can discover information about competitors’ sourcing and fulfillment, as well as any processes that make their product profitable, feel free to replicate that.
4. Use the skyscraper technique.
Brian Dean’s skyscraper technique is often used in the context of content marketing, but much of it is also applicable to product creation.
The skyscraper technique is a three-step process:
- Find link-worthy content.
- Make something even better.
- Reach out to the right people.
To use the skyscraper technique for product creation, you should do the following:
- Compile a list of your competitor’s best-performing products (in terms of sales).
- Mash everything up (and then some) to make something better.
You’ll come up with a super product your customers will surely find valuable.
Ideally, your product will be a one-stop shop for your customers, allowing them to get everything they need from your product instead of buying two or three different products to solve their problems. For example, when Apple introduced the iPhone, people no longer needed to wear a watch and carry a mobile phone, music player and camera.
5. Test, test, and then test again.
After researching and designing your new product, you might think you’re ready to sell it. Before you do, ask yourself these questions:
- Does it do what it’s supposed to do?
- Is it durable?
- Is it reliable?
- Is it the right size and weight?
- Is it easy and intuitive to use?
- Is it visually appealing?
- Is it distinct from competitive products?
Ensure you test the product with people in your target market, not just your design team. Consider creating an exclusive VIP club for your best customers, asking them to test your products and offer feedback in exchange for early access.
Design required accessories like charger cables, cases, and straps along with the core product so that your launch won’t be delayed and loyal customers won’t be frustrated.
What not to do when developing a new product
Along with best practices for effective product creation, consider some crucial traps to avoid during the product development process.
1. Don’t do it alone.
You may consider yourself a genius inventor, but when it comes to new product development, no one is an island. It is all too easy for an inventor to fall in love with their product and develop it without considering customer demand, needs, limitations and competitive pressures.
A narrow focus is a recipe for product development cost overruns and anemic sales. Outside perspectives can inspire features and uses you may not have thought about on your own and can talk you out of elements that will add cost but no value.
2. Don’t ignore the cost.
Creating a brand-new product can be expensive. While you might be tempted to ignore the mounting costs of engineering, programming and prototype building because of all the money you think the product will make, don’t. Most new product launches fail, and a sinkhole of product development costs can swallow your whole company.
Also, keep in mind that the idea is to mass-produce these products, so their materials and components must be affordable and available.
3. Don’t avoid the issues.
Sometimes you build a product with one or more fatal flaws. If your idea or prototype doesn’t test well, don’t make excuses and market it anyway. Take a serious look at the critique and make needed adjustments – or, if it’s too far along in the process, scrap it and go back to the drawing board.
4. Don’t keep a team that isn’t working.
You may have someone on your product development team who you think is brilliant but ends up impeding the process. Or you might discover that the people you selected don’t have the creativity or expertise to do the job. Make any necessary changes, keeping in mind that your team requires technical expertise and skills along with personalities that get along and work together well.
If you must let someone go, make sure you understand wrongful termination and illegal firing regulations so you can stay compliant with local and federal laws.
Product success not guaranteed
Even following every product creation best practice can’t guarantee a successful product. However, being diligent and thoughtful about your process can significantly increase the chances of product creation success.
If you keep an eye out for trends and customer and competitor insights, you can tweak your product and end up creating something your audience truly loves.
Jimmy Rodela contributed to the writing and reporting in this article.