by Granville Triumph
Every organization that launches a new product uses adjectives like revolutionary, game-changing and transformational. But is the product also well-researched and properly developed? Is the launch strategy well-planned? The answer to these questions is usually “no,” which is why the vast majority of new product launches fall flat.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t innovate and launch new products. For most organizations, launching new products and services is essential to ongoing success and growth, but there is also tremendous risk involved. If the product isn’t ready and doesn’t live up to the hype, the perceived need is much greater than the actual need, or the target audience just doesn’t understand the product, failure is likely. Most organizations aren’t prepared to handle the consequences of failure, and many don’t even have a plan for how to handle a successful launch.
As with any other strategic business initiative, preparation is key. Before you invest in developing and publicizing a product, you need to invest in finding out if you have a good idea on your hands. Too many organizations rush a product into development before they’ve determined if people will actually want it.
There are three general steps to vetting a new product idea.
- Write it down. What is your idea and what are your business model assumptions? Include the problems your product will solve, the value proposition, target audience, activities that you’ll need to measure, and how you plan to get your product to your target audience. Of course, a cost structure will need to be created, including factors such as customer acquisition, distribution and staffing. You also need to identify a monetization plan, including revenue streams, pricing and profit margins. This isn’t a formal business plan. At this point, you haven’t tested your assumptions, and many will be proven wrong, so you need a brief, flexible document.
- Assess risk. What is the riskiest business model assumption? In most cases, the biggest risk involves the problem you’re trying to solve. Is it a real problem that real people want solved? Can the problem actually be solved? Will people want your product enough to pay for it?
- Conduct problem interviews. Remove your product from the conversation and focus on the problems. What specific group of people is most likely to have the problems that you assume your product will solve? Find out how much value they place on having solutions to these problems. Do other solutions exist? Or is the pain not severe enough to motivate someone to look for a solution? This will tell you if the problems are worth solving and help you prioritize them. You may also uncover a slightly different problem that may require you to refine your solution.
If you learn that a problem exists and your product idea seems to be on the mark, invest in market research to support this qualitative analysis with quantitative data. Focus less on products and features and more on problems and solutions.
In my next post, I’ll discuss steps for developing, launching and promoting a new product.