As a budding entrepreneur, you face hundreds of important decisions every day. What color should the company logo be? Which designer should you hire to build the company website? How should you divide up your budget?
But the biggest decisions you'll have to make have to do with product development. The product your company produces and sells is the core of the business. Nothing else matters if that foundation isn't in place, which is why missteps in this area are exactly what trip up most startups.
However, when you do make the right product decisions, you end up with a better, stronger company that appeals to a profitable market. Here are four things you need to keep in mind during product development:
1. Be flexible along the way
It's incredibly important to have a game plan when starting a company. You need to have a process in place so you can develop a product that interests your target market. But it's also important that the process is flexible and adaptable.
If every step of the business plan is set in concrete, it's almost impossible to recover when unexpected issues arise. If you try to continue down a path that isn't working, all you're doing is wasting time and money. Instead, being able to learn and adapt allows you to make better decisions at each product development juncture.
Whenever a problem arises, don't approach it by trying to find a way to get back on the original track. Instead, look at what new information the complication has given you and whether or not you need to adjust your approach to make it to the next step. Having that flexibility will keep you from following a path that will lead you astray in the long run.
2. Don't assume, validate
Entrepreneurs believe in their idea and their startup wholeheartedly. No one would undertake all the stress and hard work of launching a company based on something they didn't stand behind 100 percent. However, they often forget that not everyone has the same perspective.
If Coplex, a startup development studio, we focus on validation at each step of the way.unvalidated assumptions are used to guide product development, it can lead to disaster. Aspects of your product that you love might fall flat with your target market. That's why at my company,
The process we follow in order to give clients a product with market fit involves testing each assumption through iteration. We focus on one part of the product and a hypothesis we have about it, then test it against the market. That shows us what resonates with potential customers and users and what doesn't. If something is validated, we know there's a solid foundation to continue building on. If that's not the case, we can quickly update our assumptions and better meet the needs of the market.
3. Don't overbuild
Rome wasn't built in a day. It took hundreds of years for it to reach its full glory, yet it was still a functioning nation throughout that growth period. The same is true for a startup product. It takes time to build out every possible feature of a product, but that doesn't mean you need to wait until development is complete before taking it to market.
The goal of an early-stage startup is to create a minimal viable product. This means getting the bare essentials in place and releasing that version of the product. If you've been successful in your iteration process, you'll have a product that has a validated market fit.
From there, you can see what makes sense to add next. Based on how consumers react to your initial launch, you can determine how to focus your efforts for the next steps of development. This will also save you from overspending on features that won't actually bring any additional money back into your company.
4. Know timing matters
A big product development factor many entrepreneurs forget is timing. You can have a great product, but it still won't sell if it's not the right time. Think about it this way: would a company selling Christmas decorations be more successful if it opened in May or in November?
Unfortunately, many timing factors aren't quite that obvious. You need to consider what temporal factors play into a customer's decision to buy your product. These include, but aren't limited to, cost, prevalence of the problem you're solving, and number of competitors in your space.
From the earliest stages of your startup, track how the market changes. That will give you a better idea of when you should release your product. Without paying attention to these factors you might end up going to market too early, or even worse, too late.
Product development decisions are some of the biggest choices an entrepreneur has to make. After all, it's your core concept that determines whether or not a company will be a success. But if you remember these tips, you'll be better equipped to make the right choices when it comes to creating a product the market will love.
What are some other important factors to consider when making product development decisions? Share in the comments below!