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  • Writer's pictureEileen Licitra

What problem are you solving - and how do you know for sure?

Too many organizations begin developing a product before they clearly understand – from the market’s perspective – the problem they are trying to solve, and how they can uniquely solve it. Do a significant number of prospects within a market really care about solving that problem? And are they willing to pay to get it solved?

Companies may start by gathering limited (sometimes biased) feedback as they go along, or even wait until their product is about to launch before talking with prospects.

Then when faced with lukewarm interest or lackluster sales for their new product, companies often resort to one or more of the following:

  • Add more features

  • Hire more (or different) salespeople

  • Lower the price

  • Copy a competitor’s marketing tactics

None of these will change the fact that the product doesn’t meet a valid market need.

Gathering validated market feedback and customer insights for a new product concept doesn’t have to be ridiculously expensive or take many months. Doing this work up front, however, will save companies time, money, and unnecessary pivots in the long run.

Here’s a way to approach this:

  • Find the right people to talk with. “Right” meaning people who would be key decision makers or influencers in the industries you are targeting. You may already have access to the right people: they might be existing customers, channel partners, professional association colleagues, or LinkedIn connections. If you are a start-up, there are services that will help you reach people in your target audience to gather qualitative feedback.

  • First validate the problem, then the product. Start with validating the problem you want to solve, not the product you want to launch. Your product idea may have ignited from your own challenge with a business problem, or an observation of how people seem to struggle with something you believe your solution can fix. But a lot more goes into launching a successful solution than personal experience or anecdotal evidence. Start with broad, open ended questions that focus not only on the specific pain points you are trying to address, but also industry-wide challenges and organizational goals that impact where budgets will be allocated.

  • Then present your product concept. Resist anticipation of wildly positive feedback about your concept. Just ask open ended questions and listen. Gain an understanding of how well prospects believe your product would address their challenge. How does it compare to what they are currently using or to other competitive alternatives? And most importantly, what outcomes would they expect if they chose to use your solution? Successful products deliver not only a fix to the pain, but a path to some gains.

  • Ask what they would pay. If your solution was available today, would they use it? Why? How much would they pay for it? You can present this question in a few ways: A specific price point, a price range, or just ask “what do you think a solution like this would cost, and why?”

The time to find out if your next product has a good chance for success is before you build it. First build a plan around deeply understanding your target customers, the challenges they need to address (and will pay to address), and the outcomes most important to them.

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