As an entrepreneur, you know there are so many reasons why your business could fail in a month or in a year. What makes entrepreneurs is this irrational attractiveness for building new things despite a high risk, but also with a tiny chance of success, that all drive us.
One common cause of failure is the product, however great it is, that does never match/meet his market and find customers in sufficient quantity with sufficiently added value to secure sustainable revenue. Most of the time those projects fail because of overconfidence in the initial direction and not enough questioning about the product strategy to adopt in order to keep sticking with the market evolutions & your users’ expectations. Let’s talk today about how you shall perpetually step back and rethink your product idea and its execution according to your audience’s perspective and intention. First, this suppose that you opted for an iterative strategy that lets you free to change direction at any time according to the factors you decide. If you’re clear with that then you are aware of the challenges to face when it comes to define every iteration: what will be your next move, to construct a successful product – and avoid failure? Entrepreneurs’ life is fast-paced by choices, and there are several ways to make a decision or another. At any point, you can decide to trust yourself –guess, or ask yourself-, or to rely on your audience (ask, or deduce from their behavior). So what should drive your next move?
Guessing (or, asking yourself) what will be your next move is still the easiest option to make a decision, and it may be a good one especially before you launch your product on the market. Let’s remind that your are here, thrilled to dedicate a vast majority of your time on hard work, for a reason. You have this idea, and conducted your project on tracks until now so it can bring something to the world. This is how innovation works and it’s good to rely on your gut feeling. Having faith in your product and your choices is essential to make your own voice or specialty in your market. However, relying too much (or only) on your vision without taking care of the market signals can lead you to hit a wall, hard. Keep in mind that guessing is the most subjective and irrational approach you can adopt to make your decisions, and that you may be wrong sometimes. For some people, including me and many visionary entrepreneurs, accepting that we don’t have the absolute truth in our hands is probably the most difficult idea to deal with, and a major factor of failure for many young start-ups. Once you decided to adopt an agile product development strategy, you must accept to step back on the choices you will make at the operational level, and use from external influences to help defining your next moves. Then in the execution process, your ideas, assumptions and identity must step back in, to bring coherence in the product development strategy. Your Entrepreneur’s vision also remains essential to define the major directions you’ll take in the future, anticipate market moves and keep one step ahead.
Asking your audience or users about their feedbacks to define your next move is possible through many ways: user testings, feedback surveys, or direct email for example. Being aware of their expectations and intentions with your service is essential to conduct your product development strategy. This approach is very effective to dig in specific topics you want to investigate in, for example to give a feedback on a specific feature or to ask for a choice between directions to take that you already pre-established. It will deliver valuable and rational insights based on a large crowd of people already using and aware of your service. This research is however sometimes not easy to manage and probably imperfect. User testing requires a lot of energy which makes it impossible to run on a large scale ; using feedback tools to ask your audience on open questions (for example asking what’s the next feature they’d like to have in your service) will without doubt lead to disparate feedbacks that you could never action ; and on the other hand asking direct feedback on specific topics requires you to adopt closed questions with limited propositions of answers – that may bias results. As you don’t want to make decisions that will influence your product’s life based on incomplete or biased data, asking your audience or community shall then remain a supportive action to your product development strategy. You shall use it (sometimes) to confirm hypothesis and ideas you established already.
Astronomers are able to predict next eclipses, Amazon quite knows what and when will be your next purchase, french startup TinyClues finds the perfect 1.000 people to target among your 1.000.000 customers to flow off those 50 barbecues you want to sell today, and 8seconds adapts your email’s content in less than a minute to the most converting design. How? Data. If you think about it, performing user testings is in fact paying people that won’t use your service for real (or buy your service) to run simulations and exercises in order to determine how they perform some actions and understand what should be improved in their journey. This, while you already have an audience which is moreover intentioned to use your service. You should realize that having this audience means you already have some useful data about every page or feature in your service ; and that this data is a very wise advisor to define your next moves. This data-approved approach is even definitely the most rational approach you can adopt to understand your audience’s behavior and needs. This is a game-changing information for the future of software building and experts say it will be more and more true in the future. This will lead startups to invest in new resources (like Chief Data Officer for example) and tool up with analytics softwares able to process large amounts of data about context, content, visits, users, sessions etc, and deliver insights about what needs to be changed, improved, or even what is missing in your product. However, it is overestimating machines to think that they could lead any product development strategy. Like for the previous section “ask”, this must remain a part of your decisional process and actioned in combination with other approaches.
Product development is not Logic versus Faith
Let’s not proclaim what is product development (there are so many ways to conduct it that a lot of product owners would fire at me). But let’s state an easy assumption: new coming entrepreneurs rely mostly on their faith, while skilled product owners rely mostly on logic to decide their next move. Well I, as an humble entrepreneur, would preach for a mixed combination. If you are at a very early stage you must rely on your vision but also should start taking care of your audience’s feedback the sooner possible and implement an agile product development strategy. Then the more your product will be advanced and the more you should count on logic to guide you for your next moves. First, by validating your choices and ideas thanks to users / audience feedbacks. Then, by conducting full scope user research in time, thanks to data and analytics. Logic shall nurture (*deduce) your strategy and confirm (*ask) your ideas, while your faith (*guess) shall bring coherence to your product plan and guide its execution.