TEMPE, Ariz. — At the core of every successful startup is a great product. But actually coming up with a solid idea, building something that people in a specific target market will pay for, and finally launching said product — this process is difficult to master.
Thankfully, there are entrepreneurs who have been there, done that, and are willing to share their knowledge. Lindsay Bayuk, director of product at InfusionSoft, offered up a simple step-by-step guide on Wednesday at Phoenix Startup Week for those that want advice on building long-lasting software and hardware.
“Great products boil down to two things: solving a problem, and great storytelling,” Bayuk said. “Solve a problem that people will pay you for. It seems so simple, but this something that is obviously really hard for startups and even large companies who are challenged to innovate in their space.”
Here’s a quick crash course from Bayuk:
Imagining great products
Bayuk cited a CB Insights study that asked entrepreneurs why their companies failed. About 42 percent of the founders said their startup wasn’t solving a market need.
“Don’t build a product no one needs,” Bayuk said. “Please, don’t do it. If you’re just building things and making stuff that doesn’t help people, then you’re just making stuff. We don’t need more stuff. We need to help people and actually solve problems.”
An essential part of imagining great product is focusing on a target market to sell for. You can’t sell to everyone, Bayuk said.
“If your market is everyone, you can’t solve all things and be all things to all people,” she said. “If your target market is too narrow, you can’t build a business in a market that’s too narrowly defined.”
Bayuk noted that once you nail down a target market, you must go poll your potential customers to understand, at a deep level, what challenges they face in the environment they are in.
Once that research is completed, your company will be able to develop a user persona.
“This is a photograph, a drawing, a story about the folks you are out to serve,” she said. “It’s important to document this and create this as a North Star as you start to build and launch your products so you always come back to how are you helping your user, and how you can improve their day-to-day life.”
Gathering this data and doing research about a target market is crucial to the “imagining great products” stage. At InfusionSoft’s office in Chandler, Ariz., the 600 employees like to abide by this quote: “Your opinion, although interesting, is irrelevant.” Bayuk said it’s important for founders to remember this.
“Part of imagining a great product is letting go of the idea that you have all the answers and you intuitively know what the solution is,” she said. “You might have good intuition and that is important, but far more than that, it’s about empathy and understanding.”
Building great products
Once you’ve articulated the problem you are out to solve, it’s time to experiment with potential users. Bayuk cited a quote from Nest founder Tony Fadell: “Learning by doing is the only way I know how to learn.”
“This so applies to building a great product,” Bayuk explained. “You have to go do it, test it, and get that feedback.”
Companies, specifically those building software, must develop a road map and understand how they’ll measure success. Bayuk offered up a hypothesis-driven development statement that founders can use and fill in the blanks with their own specific goals: “We believe that [insert capability] will result in [insert outcome]. We know we will have succeeded when we see [insert measurable signal].”
“This critical because you need to know what value you provide to customers and users,” Bayuk said.
At this point, companies can start building the “smallest, lowest cost version of your solution so you can start to get that feedback,” or often referred to as the minimum viable product. It’s also important to remember “minimum lovable product,” too, where the solution not only works, but people actually like using it.
Launching great products
Launching something is different than shipping a product, Bayuk said, because a launch involves a strategic marketing plan. Bayuk borrowed a statement that Proctor & Gamble uses to help anchor launch and marketing efforts: “For [your audience], [your product name] is a [category name] which provides [main benefits] unlike [primary competitor], which provides [competitors’ main benefit].”
“This should be easy to fill out if you’ve done all your homework in the ‘imagine’ phase,” Bayuk said.
Once the positioning is down, companies must think about messaging and storytelling. Bayuk explained how Apple, when launching Apple Pay, didn’t create marketing material that described the product as “an account device number that’s encrypted in a secure element.”
“It said, ‘now more secure payments,'” she said. “That’s what I care about. That’s the difference between benefits and features. Features are all the bits and parts of your products; benefits are why does it matter to me and what is the value that I get out of it.”
Finally, it’s all about designing a launch strategy that drives early adoption, whether it be a limited beta or using a tool like Launchrock. It’s crucial to track all the analytics with an initial release to make sure you can iterate on your MVP.
“A great product is not a one time thing,” Bayuk said. “You are constantly tackling the next problem on your road map. You keep going, keep learning, keep experimenting.”