How to Take Your Next Product from Idea to Market in Record Time

Have you ever poured your blood, sweat and tears into a product only to see it flop when you finally announce it’s on sale? Odds are, it’s a quality problem. It solves an actual problem for your customers. Your customers might even love the idea of it.

But it just doesn’t sell.

In over five years of coaching business owners on how to generate more revenue with less work, I’ve seen this scenario over and over again. It’s demoralizing, exhausting and expensive, especially when you’re in love with your product. Often, it’s the very reason people seek help with their business to begin with.

And that’s why I encourage business owners to take their ideas to market as quickly as possible.

Don’t wait until you’ve perfected every last feature. Don’t wait until the design is flawless. Get it in the hands of the people who matter most right away.

So how exactly do you do that?

1. Think about the people you want to help.

Understanding your customers isn’t about generalization, it’s about personalization. Traditional customer profiles ask you to generalize what you know about who you serve. Instead, I ask clients to think about individual people. Who exactly are you creating this for? What problem or need is at the top of her mind right now? What would be most important to her about the solution she buys?

2. Move on to the idea itself.

Where do new product ideas come from? They come from the people you want to serve. You listen for the details they’re describing about the problem they have; you look for the ways that they’re trying to resolve that problem. And you figure out what information or tool they’re missing based on that data.

That information or tool is your new product.

3. Start creative selling.

You might be familiar with creative thinking versus critical thinking. It’s the difference between generating a new idea and analyzing, testing and examining that idea. Well, you can do something very similar with product development and sales.

In creative selling, you put together an offer. That offer might include a prototype for a product, it might be what the tech startup world calls a Minimum Viable Product or it might simply be an offer of help or service. It’s what you think will sell, even though you can’t be sure until you actually present it to the people who need it most.

Now, I’m going to propose something crazy: you actually sell this. You take your idea and your offer and present it to the people you think could really use it. That presentation might be an email, a sales page, a phone call or an in-person pitch.

It’s not necessarily polished and it’s certainly not ready for prime time. But it is capable of delivering on what it promises, even if that’s not quite as grand as you imagine.

It’s a learning experience. The process of offering your idea to the right people and seeing how they react—and whether they’re willing to hand over their credit cards—teaches you how to make your product more enticing to a much bigger market. Instead of wasting thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours in product development, you learn exactly what to invest and how to create what will sell by actually making money.

5. Start the process of critical selling.

Critical selling is where you take that initial prototype offer and refine it based on what you learned in the first round. You’ll iterate the product over time and you’ll evolve the way you launch, market and sell your product (something I’m teaching a free workshop next month).

In “11 Rules for Creating Value in the #SocialEra,” Nilofer Merchant writes, "Our goal is to learn our way into the future. Instead of perfection and getting it right the first time, innovation can be continuous and core rather than episodic.” 

Stop reaching for perfection before you bring your product to market and, instead, make sales and learning part of your product development process. You’ll make more money over time and suffer fewer defeats on the way.

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