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Startup Insights: Putting a Product in the Marketplace

Bringing a product into the marketplace is just the first step on a long and arduous journey to make the product liked, respected, actually used by people on a consistent basis.

Having a product is obviously better than not having a product at all, but not by much.  Bringing a product into the marketplace is just the first step on a long and arduous journey to make the product liked, respected, actually used by people on a consistent basis and ultimately massively adopted. In this article we will go over the 10 typical considerations of bringing a product to a market.

1) No One Cares About Your Product

By now it has been well-documented that “if you build it, they won't come."  The indifference level of web consumers is depressing.  There are already too many products out there and not many people want to learn to use new ones.  Existing sites are likely already doing much of what you do, and they probably do it much better since you are new. Your differentiation factor is not necessarily compelling or obvious, and you have on average about 15 seconds to win over each person over who visits your site or product - no chance.  As difficult as it is to get people to your site, most of them will come to take a look and leave without a trace.  That is a reality of the web.  The indifference is deafening. [login]

2) Iterating and Improving Your Product

It is not too much of a problem that no one cares about your product at first.  You can just look at it as a challenge to overcome.  The best way to overcome the indifference is to talk to many people who come in contact with your product that you manage to get a hold of, and ask them where the product came up short for them, and how their current solutions stack up.  This will give you a sense of what to improve and after you improve those parts of the site or product, you can reach out to some of those people again. Most likely you will still face strong indifference as just a single product iteration isn't going to do miracles for you, but over time such efforts will keep a steady buzz around your product, help you develop some strong relationships, and you will earn the respect of your customers by adhering to their needs.  Most importantly, as your product gradually matures and improves, the indifference level will naturally ebb and the excitement level will slowly increase since there will be something to get excited about once your product is at a high quality level.

3) When to Listen To Customers

Your customers and non-customers who are potential customers know about the shortcomings of your product better than anyone.  They can tell you what is bothering them about the product and what is preventing them from switching over from their current solutions.  Pay close attention to what is most bothering your clients and near-clients.  If it is something they require is simple to implement and is in-line with your greater product vision, implement the improvements they need. It will improve your relationship with them and your product at the same time.

If their requirement is something that is very difficult or resource intensive to implement, but makes sense for your ultimate product vision, inform the clients that you are going to be putting it on your to-do list in the near future.  In cases of perspective clients, you can even use the short-coming to your advantage and simply ask them whether you can count on their business if you will impleent what they require.

4) When Not to Listen to Customers

Customers are always right, correct?  Wrong!  Sometimes the customer requests do not match your bigger vision for the company and the product. Sometimes one customer comes up with a laundry list of changes that may be good suggestions, but are 4's and 5's on a 1-5 priority scale.

If you try to please such customers, you may lose focus of your vision and waste resources (employee time and money) building features and are not the most important for your company. If the requests are reasonable but low-priority, be open with your customers about adding them to the product-improvement queue.  That way the customer feels that their requests are respected and you give yourself the flexibility to get to those features when the most burning features are already created.

If the requests and suggestions are unreasonable, you should not jeopardize your product in order to please customers.  You are probably better doing something else that may please the customer like explaining to them why that particular suggestion was not taken and making sure they feel that their option is respected.  Another approach is to say that the suggestion was added to to task list and is delayed by a backlog of features.

5) Importance of Flexible Design

As you are battling consumer indifference, iterating on your product, and doing your best to make your customers happy, your product will go through a whirlwind of changes, improvements, bug fixes, and usability fixes.  This will put the initial architecture of the product through a great test.
When you originally design the product in both its branding and its core technology architecture, keep things general, unspecific and flexible as possible.  No one knows what the future will bring and during the innovation and iteration phase of the product, flexibility is one of the biggest assets.

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