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Lead Your Team Strategy

Launching Your First Product? Listen to Your Customers

Launching Your First Product? Listen to Your Customers
Credit: iQoncept/Shutterstock

What makes a great product? This is a question that many new entrepreneurs ask themselves when planning and developing their first product offering. Some may think that unique and never-before-seen products are the only ones that will succeed, but an innovative new solution to an old problem may outsell even the most hyped-up novelty item.

"The best products are those that address a customer pain point [and] clearly communicate how inefficient or clunky current processes or solutions are," said Mary Kay Hyde, senior director of marketing at restaurant management software Red Book Connect. "A great example of this is Uber. Who knew we needed another solution for taxi cabs until they came along and showed us why?"

"Great products are approachable," added Kyle Henderson, founder and chief product officer at customer research firm YouEye. "Using a great product makes a person better, smarter and allows them to easily impact the people and things they care about."

While the basic formula for a great product is fairly simple, the reality of developing and selling it is a bit more complex. Henderson and Hyde offered the following tips to help new startups successfully create, launch and market their first product.[Ready, Set, Sell: 5 Steps to a Successful Product Launch]

Determine and communicate your value proposition. Product failure often stems from one of two mistakes, Hyde said: Either your product doesn't address a true customer pain point, or you have not adequately communicated the value proposition to your audience. If the issue is the former, you need to take the time to better understand your target customers and what they want. But if it's the latter, you just have to figure out how you can better demonstrate your product's value. To do this, Hyde advised using succinct, clear, digestible language, instead of technical jargon, and sharing testimonials from other customers.

"Providing examples of what actual customers in your space have gained or benefited from using the product is key," she said. "[If] those customers are thought leaders or respected in your industry, then their [feedback] is even more valuable."

Keep it simple. It's natural to want to implement every idea and detail you've pictured for your new product, but don't let your vision get in the way of creating something that customers will really want to buy and use.

"An entrepreneur can see all the details of a better future, and that can be troublesome at times, especially when a product needs to be simple," Henderson told Business News Daily. "Though it can be painful to remove features or capabilities for the sake of simplicity, the best entrepreneurs can make the hard decision to choose what a product won't do. This single decision can make or break whether their customers 'just get it' when they see the product."

Run thorough beta testing. One of the most critical steps in the product development process is running a pre-launch beta test. If you don't put your product in front of real consumers from your target demographic and gather their feedback, you may miss a lot of glitches and frustrations that will ultimately cause the product to fail, Hyde said. Henderson agreed, noting that the best course of action is to get your private beta version in as many hands as possible and in as many iterations as you can.

"Entrepreneurs must learn how to speak, show and deliver their product because this will lead to a confident and well-supported launch," Henderson said. "You also want to learn what [customers] value in your product, what works great, and what needs improvements. The easiest way to accomplish this is by regularly testing use of your product with real target customers in their natural environment, so at home, at work on the go."

Keep the 'lifetime value' in mind. When you create a product, you must be in it for the long haul. If you want your customers to keep coming back and using your product, you have to be sure they'll have your support long after they've purchased it.

"Nothing will irritate customers more and make them abandon you faster than if you give them a product and then wash your hands of them," Hyde said. "From the complex to the simple, customers need to know you are there for them to answer questions, guide and train them or assist them if there are issues.Always consider the lifetime value of a customer, not the one-off order."

Even if you've done everything right, your first product still may fail due to circumstances beyond your control — consumer needs may change, the timing may be wrong, or someone else may have beat you to market. But don't let this setback deter you from picking yourself up and trying again. In fact, it should be your motivation to go back to the drawing board and come up with something even better.

"Failure is the simplest form of education," Henderson said. "The best companies and startups don't win because they have a great idea, but because they execute and eliminate all the bad ideas faster than anyone else."

Originally published on Business News Daily.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misidentified Mary Kay Hyde's title at Red Book Connect.

Nicole Fallon
Nicole Fallon

Nicole Fallon received her Bachelor's degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University. She began freelancing for Business News Daily in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. She currently serves as the assistant editor. Reach her by email, or follow her on Twitter.