You have a great product or business idea! Now what?
Before you start executing, there are several steps you must take to ensure you are building a product or business that will be successful. Do not make the mistake of executing on the wrong strategy. Do the research first as it will save you a lot of time and money in the long run.
As a quick introduction, the key steps I recommend include:
1. The Mini-Business Plan
Ensure there is product/market fit by researching and defining what specific problems your solution is addressing in the marketplace, who is having those problems, what will make your offering special, and what are the core features/services that you must have to deliver on that differentiation?
Regarding making 'your offering special', how will your business or product stand out from the rest? This requires significant market analysis to ensure you are not only clear what the competitors are doing, but also understanding such market forces as what disruptive technology and industry trends you can exploit to leapfrog the competition.
2. Business Case Validation
Once you have your mini-business plan in place, which at this point is more of a hypothesis, the next step is validation. The validation process is an iterative one that begins with ensuring your business plan is solid. The goal is to speak to the customer segment(s) you plan to target to further refine your strategy. You should be focused on understanding your specific target market's pain and what they like/dislike about the existing offerings. The key is to not discuss your solution, at least not until you've finished your 'interview', as this will bias the conversation. Focus instead on asking 'Why' questions to probe deeper into what your target market is trying to achieve exactly and why the existing products or services fall short. This will highlight the opportunity.
One critical point to add here is that you must ensure you are listening to the right people. While you are going through the validation process, you will be continuously refining your target market. Keep good notes on all of your conversations. But when you get to the feature validation phase discussed below, only target the customer segment(s) you currently want to target and only use the feedback from those types of users when determining the features to discuss.
Also of note is that as you continue through these validation steps, you will need to look at other key areas of your business plan such as what your marketing strategy, revenue streams, cost structure, etc. will be. However, there is no point spending too much time on those areas until you're first clear on what your potential solution will be.
3. Feature Validation
Once your business case is much more clearly defined, it is now time to engage your target market and talk about your solution. The solution should not be complete. You simply need rough sketches or wireframes of your proposed product, or a high-level description of your service at this point. This step is important to dig deeper into your solution to further discover your target market's needs and what a potential solution could look like. Do you have the right features/services? If not, what is missing? That is the primary goal of this phase of validation.
4. Design Validation
At this stage, you are now displaying what your proposed product will look like (or what your service will include) in much more detail and in a more polished format to ensure you have an attractive and intuitive product (or an easy to understand service) that meets your customer segment's fundamental needs.
It is important to note that for your initial launch, you do not need all of the features or services that you've been getting feedback on. Only the essential ones to begin your business to attain revenue and further market feedback.
Once you feel comfortable with the above, you can then start to execute on your plan whether it be building your product, opening your retail location, or selling your service.
The above list is just the tip of the iceberg. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or want more information.