People First Product Creation
There is an age old saying in the marketing practice, “A salesman asks you if you want to buy some fertilizer. A marketer asks you about your farm.”
Yes, the fertilizer is a metaphor for the product of roughly the same quality and usefulness.
Yes, I am comparing these products to a pile excrement based nutrient soil.
Yet most innovators are still creating some product that THEY think people might want, and then changing features to fit what the customer originally wanted. This is the absolute wrong way to approach your market.
Before we get started, I would like to explain a situation I was recently brought in on. I product team developed a self-cooling water bottle using kinetic energy, similar to a Shake-Weight. Cool Right?
The problem was in the product delivery. The product would have to be at least $25, forcing it into a luxury market. Furthermore, they wanted to market it to troops in combat.
Noble though it may be. As a prior service Marine, this immediately sent up several red flags. The problem is circumstance. Marines that landed in Peleliu in WWII would have killed for such a device, since they were stranded on an island for 30 days, and no drinkable water, as long as the bottle was full when they got there. Troops face a similar problem today. Water in Afghanistan, and Iraq, is undrinkable. The native water will make you very sick, if not kill you. This is the reason why every garrison base in these zones are stocked with pallets of bottled water. With this customer, the demand essentially drops to zero, no matter how desirable a cold bottle of water might be on a 140 degree day.
The self-cooling water bottle is a fantastic device. In the right hands, it would be extremely desirable. That is why these five steps are so important.
Five Steps to Create That Awesome Product
Step One: Pick a group of people and erase any bias information you may have.
Do you want to open a retail shop in your hometown? Great! What if your hometown is Brooklyn, and is home to every possibly different kind of culture and mindset that exists? Finding a, “Group,” of people might be a little more difficult.
Answer questions like, “How old are the average people living in this neighborhood,” and, “What is the median income for this area.”
Step Two: Scientifically collect data about these people, and find commonality among them.
Do these people walk around in this area like Brooklyn, or do they drive everywhere like Idaho Falls? This is a very important question. Idaho Falls is only a few miles wide, but their distinct lack of sidewalks, would cripple a foot traffic business. On the other hand, if you place a business too far away from the New York subway, you might as well leave that, “Closed,” sign in the window.
Step Three: Find an area or industry that these people are not being served.
What do these people need? “Go after the hemorrhage, not the papercut.”
Step Four: Test if there are any likely reasons why that market is lacking that industry.
Is there any particular reasons why this product is not available here? A cupcake shop might not be a good idea for downtown Manhattan, no matter how much Hedge Fund Managers love baked goods.
Step Five: If there is sufficient demand for that industry hole, fill it with exactly what they want.
If you made it this far, you likely spent weeks finding out exactly who needs what. You have now created all the cost structures and forecasts. You are now having that, “If you build it, they will come,” moment.
Go Forth, and be the water bottle at the end of the marathon.