I frequently see new products. Companies ask me about their new product all the time. They are all very happy about what it does. They are enthralled with their vision for where it is going. They are a bit concerned about how much money it is costing to build the product. They are a little worried about how long it will take before they start making money. Sometimes, in dark moments, they will admit to feeling some pressure over all the stress. There’s a reason that they feel that way.
Product development is misnamed. We focus so much time and attention on developing products that we forget why we are developing them–to make money. And the only way we can make money is to sell those products to customers.
So, why do we think that we have to build the entire spectrum of our product vision on faith? Why do we go all in before we see our hand? Shouldn’t there be a way of developing products that only requires us to ante before we see our cards?
There is–it is called the Lean Startup methodology. I think it’s misnamed, too, because it makes you believe that only startups should adopt it. I think it is how every new product ought to be developed.
It has many facets to it, but the basics are simple. Instead of focusing on developing your product, you focus on developing your customers. First, find out what customers will pay for and then develop it.
It sounds simple, and in many ways it is. Sometimes it is hard to to imagine how you would test the market without building the product, but that is just lack of imagination. One commonly-used method is called a concierge product, where you manually solve the problem for the client before automating that solution–but there are other methods, too.
If you’re still building products and then hoping they sell, it’s time find another way. Not only will you create a more successful product, but you’ll spend less time and money getting there.