Between 65% and 95% of new products (or services) fail. I’ve helped many businesses decide what, when and how to launch a new product or service. I’ve learned that patience is a virtue and sometimes the answer can take weeks, months or even years to uncover. Several years ago, I trained with Dr Rob Adams and have adapted his process to suit the needs of New Zealand businesses selling in domestic and international markets. A “Ready, Aim, Fire” process can help you to be sure you have covered the bases, giving you the best chance of a successful launch.
These three phases can help you manage this process and (potentially) avoid spending time and money on a dead end.
This is about deciding whether you have something worth pursuing. Start with online sources, social and traditional media. Research may be available from government agencies or industry bodies. Look for multiple sources for corroboration, and cross reference against alternatives to test and challenge what you’ve learnt. Be clear where you have made assumptions and double-check wherever possible.
Comparing an idea to the macro trends is another way to strength test. If an idea is counter to the trends in consumer tastes or technology models, then you need to look at it and scrutinise even harder.
Mapping the competitive landscape is key, but it can be challenging. Look for alternatives and less obvious competitors. Checking in with experts and industry commentators can be helpful here. Check out this blog post on how 9 entrepreneurs validated their business idea.
This phase is about testing with potential customers and a lot of time should be spent here. It’s ideally done in person and may take time to set up meetings or at least one-on-one calls.
This is where you look for that unique insight to really understand your target market. Test the pain points that you hope to solve. Unpack the current solutions and the value customers place on solving them. You will need to invest the time for direct interaction - going beyond online surveys is critical. This can also help you build a pipeline of potential customers.
This is often an iterative process – conflicting information from different sources can be frustrating and several rounds of testing may be required. It’s better to check all avenues before pressing ‘Fire’.
This is where the rubber hits the road! The time and effort put into understanding customers pays off here, but the really hard work starts on launch. Set team and investor expectations around the need to iterate your Minimal Viable Product (MVP) in response to customer feedback.
As you continue to evolve the MVP stay connected to key information sources and in touch with what the industry influencers are saying.
To get you off on the right track, here are 4 tips to make sure you're 'Ready':
- In the beginning - to assist research and communication try describing this new service or product in 100 words. Make sure it identifies the customer(s), their key pain point, your solution to solving their pain point, and the outcome for the customer.
- Research, research, research - Don't overlook the obvious, yes use your favourite search engine, but plan what you are looking for, Undertake detailed research and reference all information. Make sure you can identify which parts of your pitch are based on fact and which are assumptions.
- Competitor insights – Start with a SWOT analysis and then build. Take time to understand what business factors apply and the vision you have for this new service. List those factors and then take another look at your competitors and see how they’re tackling these issues. Don't forget to look for those competitors who are doing part of what you are thinking about (rising stars) or those that could collaborate to do what you are thinking about (Trojan Horse).
- The customer – Even if current customers express interest, it’s still key to understand the unique selling points of your new product or service. Define the customer’s view, create your vision of the customer experience, re-examine what detail you have on the possible pain points or needs from a customer perspective.
Armed with this information, you are ready to take Aim and gather in-depth customer insights. Or maybe your research has shown that you need a total re-think before spending more time and money on development.
This blog is written by Nick Egerton, a business coach at The Icehouse.