Startuphacks: 5 Secrets To Building A Product That Sells Itself
If you are into tech startups, you probably love Google, Apple, and PayPal. Yet, have you ever wondered why you feel so passionately about these companies? The answer is simple: novel ventures turn into awe-inspiring brands thanks to useful, fascinating, and cutting-edge products – that change the way we work and lead our lives.
Right about now, you may catch yourself thinking “Yes, I know that already”. Point taken. There is absolutely nothing new to this particular piece of information. Just one catch: a great product is required to enter the highway to growth and success, yet most founders tend to overlook it and focus more on the great investment hunt.
Ultimately, creating an awesome product should be the most important part of your entrepreneurial journey. And, yes, it takes quite some time to get it right. In fact, it involves pretty much every form of intelligence and skill known to man: patience to get you through the initial trial and error stages, devotion to get users on board, dedication to develop your product further, and passion to stay on top of the market game.
During The Accelerator 2016 we will make sure you do not get lost in translation – until then, we present you with a quick-and-clean guide to building a game-changing product. Are you ready to find out what it takes?
#1. Know your Market – Leave the Thrill of a Big Short Behind
In the common mind, entrepreneurs are usually considered “the crazy ones, the misfits, the troublemakers”. We love Steve Jobs for these beautiful words that –in our mind at least– could not describe Richard Branson any better, yet we feel a clarification is in order.
We are sure that if you look deep inside yourself, you will find a glimmer of madness –enjoy it, this is what makes you special. Entrepreneurship, though, does not mean you should open sail to the unknown and start taking huge risks every day – quite the contrary. A crazy initial idea is where it all starts from, still building a business is actually about learning to reduce uncertainty. So before you decide to throw yourself and your product deep into startup waters, take your time to think, research, and evaluate. In other words: get to know your market.
How is your product different from what already exists out there? How big is the opportunity for your product in its target-market? Is the timing right for you to launch it? Observe the trends, the customer types, the latest technology, and estimate the limitations the market itself poses on your product.
Who do you think these are exactly? Where can you find them? Learn what they value and what would make your product absolutely irresistible to them. Understand what they love and what they fear – the two most powerful forces that will shape their behavior.
If your research indicates that your product can and needs to be built, then make haste and start working on your prototype, the infamous Minimum Viable Product. And so begins an incredible ride!
#2. Get your First Customer – Build Something That Counts
What is the difference between a great idea and an actual venture? Market validation and traction a.k.a. customers! And it is the early adopters and the feedback you get from them that can make or break your success – especially since you rely on bootstrapping and small investments to venture forth.
So, yes, you absolutely need to build something. Because it is the surefire way to kickstart your process of learning more about your product and start asking whether and why some of its features work. At this point, establishing your MVP is critical.
What is an MVP? Let us describe it as a prototype with minimum features (because your time and money are limited) and just enough to get your startup engine going. Now minimum is neither minimal nor just any. It can even be a single feature, as long as it is the most essential and value adding one, i.e. the one feature that is totally absent from the market and utterly craved for.
Once this is built, it is time to start asking questions. Take your MVP in your hands and get out there: introduce it to potential customers, let them interact with it, get them to pay for it (got to have skin in the game!), seek their feedback, and start optimizing it. Believe it or not: this is the easiest and fastest way to build a great product.
And while you are out there, doing all the meeting and greeting, make sure to spend some time with your customers: get to know what they like about your product and what they do not, what features draw them in, what things drive them away. All this info will lead to a better version of your product, a version that will get your clients more engaged and keep ahead of the curve.
#3. Prove Your Product Fits – Invest in A Concept that Works
Somewhere along your way to global domination, you will find yourself in the middle of a Cinderella-like story. Okay, not in the middle – more towards the end of it. Except unlike the famous fairytale heroine, you will not get to try on a diamond shoe to see if it fits (you wish!). Instead, you will be called to fit your product to the market, the world.
Now, if you have been working on your product for quite some time, we are pretty sure you think it is worth the time and effort. The real question though is: Is it worth the investment?
Unlike your gut feeling, a proof of concept addresses how your product will support actual business goals. And as you may understand, getting that right is a major step along your business journey and something you –and all founders out there– should swear by.
This documented evidence will confirm if your potential product can be successful and help you assess potential threats that might interfere with your company’s growth. Even more it a great way to grow stronger. How? The Accelerator Expert Benno Groosman explains “At this point you get to identify the challenges and plan accordingly. Embrace your failures and learn from them.” Tweet this!
#4. Make Your Product 10 Times Better – Shake Things Up
So you have proven your concept and it is time to start developing your product. This is a happy place to be in startup life, yet it involves a lot of grit and hard work.
Product development is all about making your brainchild better, more innovative, and more competitive. This involves a lot of testing and decision-making. Do you need to add new features? Is your product in need of a user interface lift? Do you have to formulate an entirely new product for a niche market?
At this stage, it is your vision, your team, your strategy, and your experience that will get you through the tough decisions and the compromises that you will have to make.
There is just one guiding rule for your product – and your business for that matter: do things x10 better. Do not just offer something incrementally superior. To create an irresistible, force-of-nature product it needs to be x10 faster, stronger, more effective in what truly matters for your users and customers. In our instant-gratification and product-overflowing world, only x10 will grab attention and, equally importantly, will maintain it.
#5. Seize the Value – Get that Price Right
We are sure that you have heard how behind every great man, there is a great woman. The startup analogy of this legendary saying goes a bit like this: behind every business success story, there is the right pricing.
So how can you get your numbers right? Throw in the mix a dash of good old marketing strategy to help you recognize your target and your positioning in the startup world. Then use the right marketing blend to map out your promotional tactics. To that, instead of the old economy cost-based ingredient, add the value you are creating and your customer is willing to pay, an account of where your market and your competition is headed, and an estimation of your target revenue.
At this point, it is also crucial to “explore all possible Revenue Streams, so that your business model can become feasible under various circumstances”, states our friend and valued The Accelerator Expert, Alexis Komselis – tweet it out! All this should lead you to the perfect number. Yes, we mean the right price tag for your product.
Also beware of the pitfall of being shy with pricing. It is rather glamorous to be going for users rather than profit. Revenue at the early stages is neither evil nor a growth-slayer. It is simply: difficult. This is the invisible reason why so many first-time venturers avoid it – the same way as they eventually avoid success. Indeed, there are many thriving startups that have taken the user route; there are even more, though, that have not.
All in all: pricing is one of the most strategic issues you will come across in your journey as an entrepreneur. Getting the right value on your product can catapult you to growth and prosperity. Getting it wrong can be your Titanic – we are warning you now to watch out for this iceberg!
And finally, the code to making your product magnificent, superb, undeniable great is finally cracked, founder – we hope you make magic happen! Liked our blogpost? Spread the word!
If you want to know more about building an inspiring company, check out The Accelerator. Applications are currently open – submit your company by April 27.
Want to know more about product? Here are some things to get you started:
- How To Build Products Users Love
- How To Create An Effective Proof Of Concept for Angel Investor
- Minimum Viable Product
- Tools for Entrepreneurs: Finding Product Market Fit