You are building what? Five Rules of Products

Product Management is an unknown discipline to many people and it is so necessary that we must spread the word.  There are visionaries and entrepreneurs out there who are coming up with wonderful ideas and then spending precious time and resources pursuing these ideas without considering some basic information first.  This blog is designed to showcase a handful of questions that Product Management asks before you commit to building the “next big thing.”

Image Source: http://wildieck.com/tag/how-to-stop-procrastinating/

Image Source: http://wildieck.com/tag/how-to-stop-procrastinating/

1. What is the business problem you are trying to solve?

This question is usually answered by most idea people.  They see a pain point and they want to address it.  Awesome.  As long as you can clearly articulate what you are trying to achieve, you are headed in the right directio

2. Who are we trying to solve it for?

Here is where things start to get a bit murky.  Do you want to cross-sell this new product to existing customers?  Or do you want to attract new customers?  Do you see this product being purchased by the masses?  Exactly what you build, the complexity of the product and the required feature set will all be shaped by knowing exactly who your target market is.  And if you say “all consumers in the US,” you might need some refinement to your strategy.

This is a question that requires research and digging and talking to actual consumers.  This is a roll-up-your-sleeves activity.  Sit down with who you think is a target customer and understand their issues and what type of solution they are looking for.  Assumptions are the enemy – only with good data and real conversations will you discover if your vision aligns with your target market.  Which leads us to the next critical question…

3. What are they willing to pay?

It is one thing to build a cool product and your friends and neighbors will probably be very supportive and interested in your efforts.  But will they pay for it?  Erin Rollenhagen from Entrepreneurial Technologies recently hosted a seminar on this topic and she says that product ideas need to be vetted early and often.  Per Erin, “Don’t ask if this is a good idea. Ask if they would sign up for it.”

Pricing is at the heart of your business model and this is an area that requires thought, research and skepticism.  What you think your product or idea is worth may not jive with the marketplace.  Pragmatic Marketing is laser-focused on this concept as it states: “Only build solutions for problems that are urgent, pervasive and the market will pay to solve.”

Erin’s presentation also addressed the building of apps as many App builders envision their business model based on advertising revenue.  In order to achieve this, you have to have a large number of users – enough to capture the advertisers attention.  For every one Candy Crush or Angry Birds, there are thousands of apps without enough critical mass to make it worth the advertisers time, which compromises the entire business model.  Creating apps that charge the end user – in an era when consumers expect most apps to be free – can inhibit adoption but may be a more sustainable revenue model.

4. Is there existing competition?

We recently worked with a client who had a great product idea, a decent understanding of their target market and had already set their price point so they were cruising down the path of product development.  However, they never looked at the competitive marketplace to learn that there is already a solution provider in place who solves this exact business problem for this exact target market.  Useful to know!  Even if it is as simple as a Google search, do the due diligence to know if your solution is unique.  The Go-to-Market strategy for a “me too” product is totally different from a brand new offering.

Competition is not necessarily bad, you just need to understand how your offering is differentiated from the others out there.  Being able to articulate your unique value proposition is critical and one of the key factors for enduring success.

5. How are you going to get the word out?

This is Marketing and it matters.  Some of the most brilliant products have never made it to the mainstream because technical visionaries can come up with the idea and build the product, but they cannot generate attention and attract the necessary buyers.  Great entrepreneurs either have a marketing strategy or they know they need one and they get some help.

Product Managers know all of these points (and much more) and can work with the best ideas and turn them into great products.  Products are more than just software code or packaged goods – they are pricing, messaging, competitive analysis, usability research, customer feedback, sales enablement and much more.  And this is where Product Managers come into play.  We make it real – and repeatable and scalable – and profitable.  Oh, and did I mention fun? Product Managers help to ensure success and success is fun.  Let’s go have some!

 

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