We recently talked about how it’s prime time to think about developing that product or idea that you’ve always wanted to get off the ground or bring to market. Early research shows that the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to continue to foster waves of innovation and entrepreneurship as the economy evolves into a post-COVID market.
The skills that entrepreneurship teaches – resiliency, comfort with risk-taking, and, of course, pivoting, have primed entrepreneurs for post-pandemic success despite in post-pandemic recovery. We predict a surge or growing interest in the entrepreneurial model in the coming future – but an idea for a product or venture is only part of the journey.
What does it take for an idea to become a successful venture? We’re sharing three crucial pieces of the development and go-to-market process (and a bonus!) to keep top-of-mind that will help you test your product’s viability and set you on the path to success to bring your innovation to market.
Put Yourself in the Customer’s Shoes
Understanding the needs and motivations of intended customers is the fundamental determinant of success. Customer discovery helps identify your customers’ pain points, the problems they need help solving, and how you can help solve them. Thorough customer discovery provides the tools for systematically testing and revising your hypothesis and is a critical piece of building a customer-centric product or service.
There are various ways to pursue the customer discovery process, but we’ll let you in on the big secret for successful customer discovery – talk to people! Thinking locally is a great way to do this. What are the needs of your potential customers in your community? Connecting with as many individuals in your customer demographic as you can is essential to understand your customer’s elements and concerns.
Don’t Let the Perfect Be the Enemy of the Good
AKA: Building a minimum viable product (MVP)
Your product does not need to be perfect initially. In fact, it probably will not be (and that is fine!). Part of entrepreneurship is maintaining a constant eye for improving and evolving. Focusing on perfection can create stressors and unnecessary roadblocks to development. For example, the Lean Startup method takes a “build, measure, learn” feedback loop approach.
Building minimum viable product (MVP), or the most basic version of a product that early adopters can test, is a way to build quickly and efficiently leaving room to course-correct following testing. An MVP usually has the core features that make the product work, serving as a guide for future development. By utilizing the MVP approach, companies can quickly discover what is working and what is not and iterate based on that feedback.
Test It, Test It, Test It
Once you have gleaned the insights need from customer discovery, made any adjustments or tweaks to your hypothesis, and have your base product, it’s time to take it out for a spin through testing. Too often, this is the step that is so easy to move too quickly through – after all, you have done your due diligence, made adjustments, made more adjustments, and are feeling as ready as ever to launch.
Testing is where the rubber meets the road in determining how your customers use your product or service. This can take several forms – one standard method involves recruiting those in your network as A/B testers. Friends and family make great testers – we recommend looping in any contacts and your network to provide additional insight from an industry and customer perspective with a critical lens. This will ensure you’re good to go when it’s time for users to test the final market-ready product in a field setting.
Make Lemonade Out of Lemons – Bonus Points for Creativity
When it comes to innovating, it is an integral part of the process. In product development—much like life—unforeseen challenges spring up often. This is where building an MVP comes in handy, along with having a good sense of your customer’s needs and a solid network of testers. You might have to course-correct quickly and often – but how can those challenges turn into opportunities? How can they help you dive further into your customer’s needs to make tweaks to the initial product in the early stages to deliver a final product that exceeds expectations? What piece of your go-to-market strategy can you adjust to solve these challenges? This is the time to really dig deeper and get as creative as possible – you never know what you might come up with!
Are you a DC-based entrepreneur? The Entrepreneur Development Network of DC (EDNDC), The George Washington University, and Howard University are offering free introductory workshops to help Washington, DC entrepreneurs, small businesses, and startups test the viability of an idea or product, develop successful business models, and go-to-market strategies. Stay tuned for more information on the second cohort coming soon!