How To Build A Business Without A Perfect Product

Most business owners understand that they need to create a differentiated, high-quality product or service to be successful in today’s marketplace.

However, many businesses derail because they are trying to create a “perfect” product. Perfectionism causes them to either never launch or launch too late to capture the market they are after.

Worse yet, many companies think they know what the market wants and they spend millions of dollars creating an amazingly perfect product that no one wants!

The Perfect Product  . . . Is a Myth!

This is a repeated theme on reality TV.

Someone comes in and pitches their “perfect” product to the Dragons Den or Shark Tank only to find out that the product has no market! They walk away devastated with no hope of recouping their sometimes-sizable investments!

Or, quite often, Marcus Lemonis on The Profit makes an investment in a business that at one point was successful but has recently lost their profitability because they are investing in new product lines that simply are not viable. Marcus then goes through the painful process of cutting the money losing products out of the business and refocusing on the core money makers.

These sorts of things are happening every day in businesses all over the world.

So, what can a business leader do to ensure they are not caught in this trap?

It’s Not Perfect, It’s an MVP – Minimal Viable Product

A few years ago I read through Eric Ries book The Lean Startup. This book is full of profound insights but my biggest takeaway was the concept of a Minimal Viable Product.

Essentially, Ries is advising businesses to stop striving for product perfection. Instead, he recommends focusing on a minimally functional product that your business can release to the marketplace. This product does not need to have all kinds of fancy bells and whistles and expensive packaging. It doesn’t even need to have fully tested, bulletproof software. However, it must:

  1. Be safe for release
  2. Be minimally functional (according to the MVP definition, if you release the product and you are not embarrassed about some aspects of it, you have developed it too far. Conversely, if you are ashamed by the product, you have released it too soon!)
  3. Provide some value in a market niche that people will pay for
  4. Be far enough through the design cycle to avoid patent infringements, lawsuits, etc.

By getting your product to market in this form you are doing a few vitally important things:

  • Saving money by not developing a product that your customers don’t want
  • Saving money by not developing features that your customers probably don’t want
  • Getting to market quickly (before competitors)
  • Gathering critical market data on your product and using this to pivot your designs to the needs and desires of the marketplace

The last point above is crucial to this process. You must rigorously collect feedback from your customers. Find out things like:

  • Is the product useful
  • What features do users like the most
  • Does it meet or exceed expectations
  • What features do users think need some optimization
  • Is the product being used as intended or is it being used in ways the creators did not anticipate
  • What features are missing
  • What features do users not need at all
  • Are there spin-off products that may result from this feedback

You can then take this feedback from your MVP, tweak it, and relaunch it to the broader marketplace, confident that it will be a strong performer for you and your business!

Take Action

Take a look at your product and service development funnel today. What are you developing that needs to be released and tested in the marketplace before spending any further money? What processes do you need to change to implement the MVP culture in your business?

Finally, take a look at these related articles:

 

Innovation isn’t an either-or proposition forcing a choice between small steps and big leaps.  It’s how to achieve big leaps through small steps.” Matthew E. May

 

What are your experiences with launching new products and services? Leave your comments below!

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