When you start to write an article or when you've just launched a product--beginnings are always tough.

It's that moment of truth when you've toiled for several months, and in some cases, several years to bring your idea to life and now it should stand the test of user adoption.

And then, nothing seems to work. It feels like all the effort in building the product went to waste when you don't see customer traction coming through.

Don't let you product fall in the death trap.

David Bland illustrated this very well and called it the Product Death Cycle, and shared it on Twitter.

This happens all too often and all the time. But let's look at how to overcome this should you fall into the Product Death Trap.

1. Analyze what's not working

You know it's not working. But do you know why it isn't? The only way to fix what's broken is to first figure out what's broken. Third-party analytics such as Mixpanel, Google Analytics, Intercom, etc help you map your user's entire journey and tell you what their break-off points are.

The most interaction that happens in a product is in the first few visits. This makes your onboarding process and time to value an extremely crucial element to focus on and track.

Find out at what point your customers are leaving your product, whether they get to the value at all and if they do, how much time does it take to get to value--the shorter the time, the quicker the customer success, delight and retention.

2. Get customer feedback

Top up your analytics with customer feedback. No amount of expert feedback about the product is going to help. The only feedback that matters is that of your customers.

One is to analyze their behavior by integrating third-party analytics. The other is to simply pick up the phone and speak to them or write to them.

While you're getting feedback from your customers, don't expect them to provide you with the solution--that's your job! Instead of asking what's missing, ask them what their problems are while using the product.

But at the same time, it's also important to ask the right questions to the relevant users, says Laura Klein, author of UX for Lean Startups. "Often the ones who have paid you are more important than the ones who are using your product for free," she says.

3. Build what's missing

The next logical step is to build those missing parts of your product. You've got to be careful so as not to fall into the other trap--the next feature trap. This assumes that one more new feature will ensure product success.

This is where your analytics will also have a telling story. If you experience maximum drop-off during the signup phase, you might want to look at your onboarding experience. Here, changing the workflow, user interface (UI) or the steps could help solve the problem.

It's unlikely that adding a missing part or a feature will help fix the issue if the problem lies with the core product experience itself. You may want to look at the time to value in that case or question whether the manner of solving the problem is efficient.

Whatever it is, quicker product iterations can help you get back on track.

4. Fix distribution

Oftentimes, it's not necessarily just about the product. The problem can lie in your marketing as well. Have you defined your ideal customer profile? Do you know where they hang out and what they read?

Wrong distribution strategies and not understanding or defining your audience well is one of the most pertinent causes of product failures because it all starts from here. Unless you're reaching out to the right/relevant people, you're not going to get the correct feedback about your product.

So spend time defining your customer profile and understanding the best ways to reach out to them.


Product journey is one of continuous learning and discovery and implementing that back to further the growth. Build your product with the right components at the start and invest in its future iterations to ensure its success. Don't give up just when you launch, it's only the beginning.

Published on: Mar 31, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.