In the last blog, we dwelt on creating a solution to problems as a fundamental basis for a startup. We also touched on connecting your customers to the solutions. The second part of this blog would be centered on the product/solution validation and launch activities.
Market Product Validation and Product Strategy.
A lot of solutions and products have been thrown to the market either too early or too unprocessed for the market to accept. Some others go without a clear go-to-market strategy. Developing a good product is great but it is not enough. Efforts have to be made to try to check if the market would accept the product and the price. This could be like taking a sample of the product and testing it in the market directly or indirectly. This step is very important, especially when introducing a new product or service novel to the market. It has to be built into the overall strategy of the product or startup.
Sampling promos, customer testing, or trial versions (beta or demo versions, for software) could be forms of product validation. If customers would not buy your product or service during any of these trial stages, it may be an indication of the market reaction when the product gets released fully.1 If on the other hand it is well accepted, then once could decide to launch, sometimes with minor adjustments from market feedback.
The critical thing at this stage is to be very receptive to the feedback and to collate those data for analysis and decision-making about the launch. Listening to the customers is always a good way of knowing exactly what they want in your product. The overall strategy for the product would detail how the product would be validated in the market, how it would be launched, and the post-launch strategy to create a successful brand.
Ultimately, one has to plan to launch the product into the market as a way of introducing it to the customers. As part of the overall strategy, the start-up should not take too long to get this done. Neither should they create unnecessary delays just to make it perfect. These delays could be fatal for the product in the end as competition may set in. The real taste of the product or the startup is when it has gone live. A lot of adjustments could be done post-launch.
A clearly defined strategy should have captured the launch phase. These would include the launch method, customer base, launch financing, and feedback mechanism to capture post-launch corrections. As a startup, you need to meticulously plan and execute this. It may be a key factor in determining the success of the solution/product or otherwise. In addition, the method to launch is also important- would it be physical or digital means (through social media accounts). Would the launch involve roadshows or visits to key target areas? What is the budget available for the launch and what are the expected outcomes for any activity undertaken? As most startups have limited financing, one has to make judicious use of any available funds. Remember that funds would be needed for some post-launch activities.
Some great books exist that talk about product validation and launch. One is titled ‘Product Leadership How Top Product Managers Launch Awesome Products and Build Successful Teams’ by Richard Banfield, Martin Eriksson, Nate Walkingshaw. Additionally, one could also get their hands on ‘Launching for Revenue: How to Launch Your Product, Service or Company for Maximum Growth’ by Jennifer S. LeBlanc MS.
Post Launch Activities.
After the product is launched, then the post-launch activities commence for the start-up. These would involve gathering market feedback on the product. Others include tracking and fulfilling demand, adjusting the product based on market input, checking prices, market location for product, and reconfirming go-to-market strategy. It could be daunting but when issues arise and the challenges seem much, just remember to think about the customer. Match whatever options you have to the customer to what the customer would want.
So these are some basic steps before jumping into that start-up. It is critical to understand these steps and think thoroughly about them before initiating the move. Going into entrepreneurship or startups is a two-edged sword and only the toughest, bravest, and most well-groomed entrepreneurs achieve success with these startups. It appears easy when you look at the successful ones. However, take the time to go through their stories and endeavors to learn and be sure you can go the full mile before you get started.