Let’s do this!

So you want to launch a product people will love?

You have an idea for a new product. It is actually great and you think to yourself: ‘If I find this useful surely others will, too. People even say they can’t wait to get their hands on it. Let’s do this!’. That is great, and I’m rooting for you, just be prepared to hit some speed-bumps on your way to achieving product launch success. And they will definitely affect your mood.

In my experience you will go through 5 stages before you see orders rolling in:

  1. Naive enthusiasm when you see the opportunities.
  2. Concern when you see the near-infinite number of competing products already on market.
  3. Confidence when you realize that most of these products offer no real value to the user and are horrible to use. Your product will be so much better!
  4. Concern again when you realize that these products might not be so bad after all and that the value of your product in itself won’t be enough to set your product apart from the competition. This is where most people quit.
  5. Determination to make this work.

The fact is that most designers fall in love with their own idea. It happens to all of us at some point. We get that great idea that we cannot shake. Not even when presented with evidence that the idea might not be that good after all. This cognitive bias is known as the IKEA effect and describes the fact that we place disproportionately high value on self-made products. The experienced Design Thinker is always aware of this bias, and actively re-frames the challenge during concept development to work around it.

One of the best tools that you can use to really overcome this is to make a fake-door pretotype. The fake-door pretotype could be a website that pretends to be selling your product. However, when people show interest in buying they are signed up for a newsletter keeping them informed about launch date, etc. A great example of this is the Tesla Solar Roof. The product looks like it already exists, they even added tech specs and tests of durability.

You will need to spend some resources on getting the website out there and on exposing it to your future customers. But the method is effective. Not only will you be able to measure how many people click your ads, subscribe to your newsletter, and how interested visitors are in different aspects of what you present in the pretotype; you also get the contact details of what will become key advocates for your product. People who see and understand the value of your product – perhaps more clearly than you even do yourself. These advocates are obvious co-creators whose insights you leverage in the refinement of your product and the surrounding service and experience.

As the above subtly suggests, customers showing interest in your product is not enough to ensure a product launch success. For a true success to happen, users must fall in love with your product. So much so, that they want to use it again and again and again.

The human attention span is dwindling. A Microsoft consumer study from 2013 shows that the attention span was 8 seconds, down from 12 seconds in 2000. Given the age of the study this might be even lower today. Compared to the average attention span of a goldfish being 9 seconds, you are up for quite a challenge. Not only do you need to grab the attention of your customers, you need to retain it for the full amount of time it takes for them to use your product and interact with your services.

To achieve success in product launch, you need to focus not only on the usability of your product, but also the value that you create in each handling step your consumer goes through. If your consumer finds no immediate value in a performed task, they will stop doing it and ultimately stop using your product.

This cognitive bias is know as hyperbolic discounting and entails that we will accept smaller payoffs now over larger payoffs later on – you have probably been exposed to this yourself if you have tried to stop smoking or tried to lose weight. I know I have, when it comes to choosing between exercising to be more healthy versus watching Netflix. I often go with the short-term payoff of the latter, rather than the long-term payoff of the former.

To design this value creation, I find making detailed user journey maps is the best tool. You should try it too.

Your product might be highly functional and technically superior to the competing products. But in today’s technology-fueled world, having a great product is no longer enough. According to a report from 2017 it is the entire experience that makes a user decide whether to keep using your product or move on to the next.

One of the most central reasons for this is that the consumer has moved from being passive to being active. They have changed from being satisfied with consuming products to expecting to be part of shaping the product, the service, and the experience. To succeed, your product needs to meet these new demands from your future consumer, also known as the active customer.

To meet these expectations, your product needs to …

… allow interactivity

… promote the relationship sense of intimacy

… be based on proximity

… be authentic

… be unique

… be involving

… be vivid

… allow learning

… be interesting

… be relevant

If you do not have the resources or the capabilities to complete the journey of developing a great product, then ask yourself what you need to succeed. I do not say this to make you run out of steam – quite the contrary. In my experience, the sooner you know the strengths and weaknesses of your organisation, the sooner you can focus your energy on finding who and what is needed and delivering on the things you can do yourself.

I hope I’m kicking at an open door here: To succeed your product needs to deliver on all three of these expert areas to win.

  1. Desirability: Will your consumer really want to use your product?

  2. Feasibility: Can your product be developed using your internal resources and expertise?

  3. Viability: Can you refine the product towards a scalable business concept?

In which area(s) is your organisation strong, and where do you lack expertise or manpower? If you run short anywhere, then seek help, it works!


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