As a product leader having worked in several industries, I have frequent conversations with colleagues, clients and friends about what they think makes a great product. While these conversations can vary widely, a few factors manage to always surface, and have built what I have come to know as the gold standard for a great product. A great product is one that tells a clear, simple and compelling story and solves a potentially complex problem in a simple way. Allow me to illustrate with a personal story:
Several weeks ago after arriving home from a long day at the office, I laced up my running shoes to head out the door on a long evening run in the foothills of Salt Lake City, Utah. As I prepared to leave, I grabbed the items I always take with me, including my phone and my house keys. My running tights had no pockets that would fit anything more than one key, and I couldn’t tuck my phone anywhere in my pants that was secure enough to prevent it from falling out and potentially shattering on the trail. So, what was I to do? I tucked my phone into my sports bra and took off on my run. No more than 10 minutes into my run, I was a sweaty mess, meaning that my phone was also now a sweaty mess. Not my finest hour.
After this experience, I was airing my grievances to a group of girlfriends, when a friend piped up and told me about a company that had created a sports bra for active women with waterproof, secure pockets to hold your phone and other items. The company was called Swoob, and I knew I had to have one of these sports bras. I ordered one from their website the very next day. When it arrived, I took it out on its maiden voyage. It was designed well, simple, with great materials and three waterproof pockets that fit my items snuggly and comfortably.
This product was a simple and sleek solution to an everyday problem that fit my needs and has now become a staple in my active wardrobe, along with the wardrobes of many others. I contacted the CEO and founder of Swoob, to inquire about their process in creating and getting this product to market. What I discovered were five of those standards that I want to share with you today:
Five Steps to Launching a Successful Product
- Understand your product’s value proposition from the outset – Is there an opportunity for this product in the market? If so, how big is the opportunity? What will make your product different than what is already out there? Swoob founder, Kyle Muir came up with the concept while on a climbing trip with a group of friends. One of his girlfriends used her bra to stow her phone. Once they started climbing the problem was evident. Kyle came back from that trip and started his research. Through his research he found that there wasn’t anything great out in the market to conveniently stash or hold items in a bra for active women, yet so many of them used their bra for that particular reason. Kyle had discovered that there was a market for this product with little competition.
- Know your market – Who is your target audience? What is the problem you are trying to solve for your audience? Kyle realized that there were many women that participate in a variety of activities that would need this. He reached out to them, not just in the climbing groups, but also to runners, yoga studios, gyms etc. Once you know the need is out there, ask yourself the tough question: “ It isn’t whether my audience CAN use this product, but WILL they use this product?” Look at your potential barriers, including price, habit, the cost of switching products etc.
- Validate your idea – Put a prototype together. Take it to your audience, find out if you are on the right track. Iterate. You may have to repeat this process several times to reach your desired goal. Kyle consulted a friend who was the marketing director for Salt Lake Running Company at the time, and together they put together a simple prototype using a quality running bra that was on the market at the time. They took that sample to their target market to get feedback and confirm the need.
- Get quickly to market – Once you have prototyped, tested, and received feedback, don’t be afraid to put a minimum viable product out there. After Kyle had validated his prototype, he worked quickly to get the product produced so that they could get it to market quickly. Within a matter of months he had a product ready to sell and presented at the 2013 Outdoor Retailers show in Salt Lake City, Utah. Don’t let a good idea stew. If you don’t get it out there, someone else will. It’s not a bad idea to consult with an intellectual property at this stage to make sure you are protecting any potentially patentable ideas or trademarks.
- Reach out to your audience – There are so many opportunities out there to reach your audience. Blogs, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. Get out there and find groups where your target market is present and get them buzzing about your product. Swoob, in building their social presence has developed a social reach of over 12 million across Blogs, Instagram, and Pinterest. They have also started influencer campaigns and are working with partner companies to continue to market their product.
Following these steps ( and potentially many others) can help you to create a great and lasting product. Now, get out there and create the next great product that will solve some of my other problems. Or someone else’s problems. But mine first, please.