Regardless of their deep pockets, expertise with SEO or hordes of followers on social media, big companies often flop when it comes to launching a new product. That's according to Rob Kornblum, SVP of corporate development at B2B data solutions provider Avention. As a Kauffman fellow, former VC with Bullhorn and Austin Ventures, founder of his own consulting firm and current advisor with Mass Challenge in Boston, he has seen plenty of failed launches. Here are the four questions he says any company should be asking before releasing a new product.

1. Have you identified the right customer pain?

Customers try new products to solve problems in their daily life, either as consumers or in their businesses.

2. Is your solution aspirin or vitamins?

Vitamins make you healthier, but you'll drive to the store in the middle of the night to get aspirin if your headache is bad enough.

3. Do you have a tight coupling of product management, marketing, and product development?

It's called growth hacking and lets teams get new features and user experiences out the door in days or even hours, rather than weeks. The best teams meet daily to understand usage patterns and development activity to improve key customer issues. For example, in its early days Twitter noticed that new users tended to drop off if they didn't have four to five people to follow. In response, the company's engineers built the "Here are people to follow" experience into the new user registration process.

In essence, product development needs to be driven by marketing feedback, and vice versa. Marketing needs to promote the feature elements that development has enabled. "That rapid iteration is really the thing that small companies do so well," he says.

4. Do you have a mechanism to measure customer feedback?

Are customers signing up to try the new product? Do they stay engaged with it? For how long? This data drives the daily meetings and rapid development cycles needed quickly respond to direct feedback or to implied feedback indicated by a drop in usage.

This ability to be nimble is where small companies can shine. "You just never, ever see that inside big companies," he says. "And when you see it in small businesses, when it really works, it's growth like we've frankly never seen before--companies like Uber and Airbnb, Instagram and others that are reaching tens of millions, hundreds of millions or billions of people in a matter of years."

Published on: Oct 26, 2015
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