Your True Product May Be Hiding Right Under Your Nose
Take a moment to consider the word “product”. Envision a product - ANY product. Maybe something you’ve heard of, made use of, or plan to one day create. Got it? Great - now one question for you: did you envision something tangible?
Per the PDMA (Product Development and Management Association), the term “product” is used to describe all goods, services, and knowledge sold. When most of us think of the term “product”, we imagine something we can see; likely a physical object or software application. There are times that the application sincerely IS the product being offered, but at the onset of development it is important to take a step back to truly define your product and its unique value. When we have an idea for a new service that we want to offer via an app, it is easy to unintentionally shift our focus away from the heart of what we’re offering and get lost in imagining how we will deliver it.
Let’s imagine we want to create a new dog walking app that tracks your walking path and saves all your dogs’ favorite “sniff spots” so you can make sure to visit them again in the future. It’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole of all the geographical tracking capabilities you might implement, automatic time tracking to determine doggie dwell time at different points along the route, creating a “sniff rating” algorithm, the social sharing aspects of notifying other walkers where the good sniffs are….but wait, we’re about to embark on a lengthy (and pricey) development journey and we haven’t even validated the service we’re offering yet! How should we be going about development?
Step One: Identify our unique value. There are already other means of tracking where you’ve been, but there aren’t any services that tell you where the best sniff spots are. Unique value = sniff spot identification.
Step Two: Determine how the unique value can be delivered in the quickest, simplest way possible. We COULD develop an app to help us determine the best sniff spots based on our walks…or we could simply set up a spreadsheet and manually record our observations. Create an online form to gather information, find your first group of users, and start gathering data and user feedback. To offer value back to your users, send out a periodic newsletter featuring new and popular sniff spots. You’re ready to get started, all for very little cost and a few hours of your time.
Step Three: Use what we’ve learned from Step Two to take our next steps. You may learn something that completely changes your original direction. If you still plan to develop an app, you are now better prepared to determine what features are required for your MVP and what features can drive future releases. In our example, let’s say we learned that our users don’t care about historical routes, only the sniff spots themselves, and in filling out their forms we’ve learned many of the qualities they consider a good sniff spot to have! We just saved ourselves a ton of time developing tracking features AND now we’re better equipped to develop a rating system. You may also discover new revenue opportunities. Perhaps an interest is expressed in sharing spots among private groups rather than the population at large - you may be on your way to developing a premium membership subscription package. Oh, and the owner of the local bakery who signed up for your pilot program? She’s interested in paying you to sponsor a sniff spot near her storefront and wants to offer a discount to users who pay it a visit - 10% off human treats and 20% off dog treats for each socially posted sniff spot check-in. Continue gathering user feedback with each new release and you’ll be setting yourself up for continuous success.
Recognizing when your product really is an intangible such as a service or dataset is key to ensuring the success of such products. The way in which that service is presented should be viewed as a means of delivery rather than as the product itself. We’re not saying you should develop a sudden development-phobia, but there are often ways you can validate your idea, provide service to customers, and even generate revenue before taking on major costs. Many companies look to de-risk through user interviews, clickable prototypes, and similar investigative means, but there is no better way to de-risk than by having users engage directly in a service and provide feedback - even if the delivery vehicle is not yet in its final intended form.
Stepping back to consider our unique value reminds us that while the delivery method is indeed an important factor, sometimes the true product - the service - is hiding right under our nose!