Launching a new product or business is a daunting prospect. It seems like there are a million and one things to do, and it can feel like a very isolating process. Sitting alone, or with one or two co-founders can be a difficult place from which to imagine what is really going to hit it off.
How do you know if an idea’s going to work? And how can you take steps from the very get-go to ensure that yours will be one of the few that defy the odds. We’ve put together a timeline of events to give you an idea of one solution to the problem.
T-5 months: Understand customer problems and build for them
This is the very beginning of shaping your product. It’s the foundation, the basis to build upon, and the very first time you can make—or avoid!—mistakes.
According to CB Insights, 42% of startups fail due to lack of market need. And as for new product launches? 75% of consumer packaged goods and retail products fail to earn even $7.5 million during their first year.
Harvard Business Review put this down to the difficulty you’ll face trying to divert consumer attention away from what they know and towards something new. According to this research, American families use the same 150 items on repeat, all year round. These 150 regular purchases constitute 85% of their overall buying habits, so you can start to see how tricky it is to get something off the ground.
This early stage is the perfect time to eliminate the possibility that your company or new product launch will fall into these two statistics. There are several way to assess market need. A good, and easy place to start is Google Trends. Here you can use the wealth of search data Google has up its sleeve to determine whether there’s already an appetite for the product you’re thinking of. If you’re not sure how, click here.
Focus groups are another option, and there are certain advantages to this approach. It gives you an in-depth opinion, and a chance to chat properly with a select group of people. That said, your sample size is inevitably small, and it can be an expensive way to gather narrow results, while there are many documented issues with bias in focus group settings.
We advise you take advantage of a tool like Attest, which will give you access to a huge number of consumers all at once. You can pick their brains from the comfort of your laptop, and ask them questions over and over as you iterate towards the perfect product.
Read more on why consumer audiences trump panels when it comes to getting real insight.
T-4 months: Drill down into who your audience will be
Thinking broadly about how your product might fill a need in people’s lives, is a great way to make sure you’re not missing out on any potential consumers.
It can be easy to think that the people you initially design for, are the only people who will be interested in your product. And while it’s useful to have a clearly defined idea of who you’re speaking to, you shouldn’t limit your scope too soon.
Have an idea of all the different needs your product is taking care of for different groups of people, and think about crafting various messaging, and targeting different trade shows and channels to be sure you’re connecting with each of these different groups.
Thinking about your audience as a whole, but made up of various segments, is particularly useful. This means if you’re trying to target the online mortgage sector, you might want to think about how you connect with first-time buyers (emphasising ease, convenience and simple explanations) and pensioners looking to downsize (emphasising the money you’ll save them and the trustworthy element of your service).
To get started thinking about how you should segment your audience to tailor your messaging to these various groups from the off, click here.
T-3 months: Understand your competitor landscape
Unless you’re going down the route of trying to define a niche, chances are there will be other companies operating in your area of the market. Knowing who these competitors are is only just the beginning. There will be many things they’re getting right, but also certain elements of their offering that frustrate customers.
Fully unpicking consumer attitudes to competitors is an excellent exercise in understanding people’s behaviours and interests in relation to your market niche. At this point, it’s really useful to work through a framework like SWOT or PEST to start considering all aspects of the landscape in which your product will find itself.
Exploring how consumers are talking to the market can reveal new and effective ways to target people. For example, the crisp market was very saturated by bright neon colours, and aggressive messaging majoring on the energy-value of their products.
When more recent brands like Tyrells and Kettle Chips came on the market, they opted to diverge widely from the tactics of Walkers, McCoys, Monster Munch, and other more established brands. They realised that few brands were targeting crisp buyers with more refined, quality-oriented messaging and based their product (including colour schemes, price points, flavour wording etc) around this gap.
T-2 months: Test ideas on a small scale
Understanding the market, your competition, and the needs of consumers will no doubt leave you raring to go. By all means, get brainstorming and whiteboarding, wireframing and sketching out logos or packaging. Once you have, though, make sure to bring it back full circle and test all your hard work on real consumers.
This can be done simply and cost-effectively through surveys on a tool like Attest.
Another great strategy (particularly for startups) is to create an MVP—a minimum viable product. This is the idea of getting a product to market as quickly and as simply as possible. Think of it as a ‘bare minimum’ product. It’s the no-frills version, that does the job consumers want it to do, but with none of the added extras that might have been included in your dream version.
This is a really successful technique because it satisfies the one main consumer need (so is focussed, and unlikely to be trying to do too much) but also means you can tap into a constant stream of early feedback. If you can get a version out, and use a tool like Attest to listen in to what early adopters like, and what they’d like to see next, you have the chance to develop your products in an environment led by consumer opinion.
Read more about startups who have used the MVP approach to rocket them to success.
Nothing should be off-limits when it comes to testing. Go through every area of your customer-facing business and ask people what they think. Quiz them on what they think of your images, your pricing strategy, your loyalty card scheme, your in-store experience, and your packaging. Think how much insight it will bring to your roadmap and planning processes!
T-1 month: Align product and marketing on how to tell your story once the product is ready to go
This is all about the creative. Just like you iterate for products, be sure you afford your outbound communications the same chance to thrive.
If you’re not reinventing the wheel, but adding to an already competitive market, it’s imperative to get this right to coax people out of their old habits and into giving your brand a whirl. Think back to how Tyrrells and Kettle Chips weren’t offering anything more than just another crisp: they had to emphasise why they were better than what already existed.
Equally, if you are reinventing the wheel, you need to ensure you’re clearly conveying what exactly it is that you do. If Airbnb hadn’t got this right, people might have thought they were just an online directory for B&Bs, for example.
Ask people about the emotions your adverts evoke, and the associations your taglines come with. In the day and age of dynamic media planning, you can get feedback right up to the moment you launch your social media campaign, or your TV ad. So make sure you take full advantage of this.
Launch your product!
When the time comes to set your product loose on the world, you’ll be so confident in the knowledge that you’re going to watch it thrive, that you’ll spare yourself sleepless nights and be able to actually enjoy the process.
Of course, once you’ve launched (particularly if you take the MVP approach) you’ll want to keep your ear to the ground. Retesting is where you’ll be able to iterate your approach until it’s perfect.
When you come to thinking about upcoming marketing opportunities (Halloween, Black Friday, and Christmas to name a few on the horizon), you’ll want to understand how people most like being targeted, and what you can do to win their business.
Additionally, it’s a great idea to launch a brand tracker to keep an eye on how well you’re doing in your niche in comparison to your competitors. And if you find you’re not doing as well as you’d like, or something’s not quite landed, you can ask consumers why what you’re doing isn’t working.
Our team at Attest is willing to walk you through the whole process, to make sure you feel completely confident that you know exactly the right questions to ask to turn your consumers into expert sources of feedback. Click here to find out more and to start building with us today.