Whether you’re a startup that is working on a new game-changing innovation or an established company adding a product to your growing portfolio, you likely experience a very common and real issue: You’re not quite sure if the product you’ve been working on is ready to be launched.
On one hand, many people feel that getting their product out into the real world as early as possible is the best route, as it allows you to replace internal hypotheses with fact. After all, once people start using your product and giving you real feedback, any assumptions you’ve made can actually be tested. You can truly understand whether your product is solving the problem you set out to alleviate.
Of course, you can only launch a product once. Therefore, there are many that feel that every last detail should be ironed out before launching. Every potential issue or possible problem should be thought about and planned for. Then, and only then, should a product even be considered ready for prime time.
While these are two ends of the spectrum, neither is necessarily right or wrong. It’s true that you should have a well-thought out product plan and your launch should be green-lighted when you’ve accomplished your plan. However, you should also realize that not every detail can be resolved or even imagined before launch. As the quote by Mike Tyson goes, “Everybody has a plan until you get punched in the face.” You should realize and even assume that once your product is launched, there are going to be times where it feels like you’re getting punched in the face. No matter how many times you’ve thought through certain scenarios, know that certain issues will arise that will simply never have been thought of before.
Regardless of what end of the spectrum you feel like you fall on when considering a product launch, there are three things that you absolutely should do before considering launching any product — whether it’s physical or digital:
1. Understand the real problem you’re trying to solve.
This may sound very basic, and it is. But so many times products are launched without actually solving a problem that exists in the real world. Instead, they are solutions first — without a real problem to solve. If you’re unsure if the product you’re developing is actually solving a real problem, ask yourself this question: What was the genesis for the creation of this product in the first place? How did it actually begin? Was it an issue or roadblock that somebody kept running into? Or, was it a brainstorm of “Hey, what’s the next new cool thing we could launch?” If it’s the latter, you may want to take a giant step back and do some soul-searching. If your product isn’t alleviating a problem for somebody, it may be very difficult for people to see through to your value proposition. This doesn’t mean that you should scrap that product. But you may take some different approaches with design or consider different features once you’ve realized the true problem you’re solving.
2. Get face to face with customers.
The only way that you can understand if you’re solving a real problem is to talk to the very people with that problem. Identifying your target base of potential customers and literally talking to them is critical, and no launch should take place unless you’ve had several conversations with these potential customers. Also, by talking with customers — I mean just that. I’m not talking about holding a formal focus group or sending out surveys. Those things could be helpful, too. But regardless, you should have real-life conversations with actual, real-life customers. Understand where they’re coming from. Learn more about the problem that your product is trying to solve for. You’ll learn so much more about the context of their problem once you have a real conversation with them. Have the conversation in a setting that they’re comfortable with — ideally, with context to the problem you’re trying to solve. For instance, if you’re developing a new detergent — perhaps the conversation could be in their laundry room. If you’re developing a mobile app for travelers, perhaps you could have the conversation in a city’s visitor center. Regardless of where you have the conversation, be sure that you have the conversation.
3. Put a prototype in your customers’ hands.
Now that the lines of communication are open between you and real-life customers, open it back up once you get to the prototype stage. After all, it’s not enough to know that your product is intending to solve a problem that actually affects your customers. You should get feedback on whether your solution is just that — a solution. Allow customers to give you this feedback well before you launch into the real world. When you put a prototype in your customers’ hands, you’ll quickly get a sense of where they’re gravitating towards. You’ll see first-hand what features and attributes actually resonate with them, and which are overlooked. These nuances are important, as you could quickly see if you need to go back to the drawing board, or if you’re on the right track.
Yes, it’s true that some things can only be learned once you launch your product into the real world. And getting to that point requires a lot of focus and dedication. But don’t do it in a vaccum. If you ensure that you’re doing these three things before you launch your product, you’ll be in a much better place once your solution is out in the real world.