In this article, product, service and company are used interchangeably.
Now, there are some principles that should guide how you develop products. Once you’ve learned them, you may explore different ways to ensure people pay for those products. I’ll share them below.
- Ideas hate to be wasted. If you’re not in the habit of turning them into products, others will deploy the same ideas right in front of you.
- Your product must meet an intrinsic need or uncover a latent need. Try using the APT model: Anger, Problem, Time.
ANGER: What is the public angry about? How does your product address that anger? The angrier they are, the more willing they are to pay for a solution.
PROBLEM: What problems does your product solve? Does it make life easier for people? Does it remove a burden?
TIME: In this multitasking generation, can your product save people time? Can it help them do several things at once? For example, this is the selling proposition of Hootsuite, the social media scheduler that allows you to post to different platforms even when you’re not physically present.
- Your product should address two levels of need, if possible: Functional & Aspirational. Louis Vuitton bags are not just item carriers, they’re also icons and status symbols. Beyond the basic function, what does your product add to the life of the consumer?
- If possible, can your business help others make money? For instance, Apple provides an ecosystem for App makers to earn income.
- Try building systems, not just products. Apple built a product (Phone), distribution system (Apple Music) and marketplace (App Store). A product system is like tollgates. You make money at multiple points.
- To avoid cannibalisation, use distinct brands for different audiences. For instance, Ralph Lauren has a high end Purple Label brand & lower end Chaps brand. Somewhere in the middle is Polo.
- Never design a product from your perspective. Ask what the customer wants.
Insights for Selling Your Product
- Don’t position your product in a way that people assume they are doing you a favour. Have self-esteem.
- Sell your product from the perspective of the customer. Speak their language.
- Focus on service not profit. Customers can tell if you’re just pushing a product or if you’re genuinely there to help.
- Be enthusiastic. Sell your product like it’s the best thing since sliced bread.
- Tell stories. Build a legend around your product. The market likes inspirational stories with a sense of history. Sell drama and inspiration. Make people feel and want your product.
- Your product must have character and personality. If it were a person, what would it look like? How would it talk?
- Use cultural contexts to your advantage. In Nigeria, for instance, use the bandwagon effect. For the consumer market, sell first to influencers. And for corporations, identify the power structures in the company you’re selling to. Focus your product presentation on the decision makers.
- Place your product for free with people and companies that have high visibility & following. They are your brand ambassadors. Use their testimonials for marketing. For example, if you’re in the fashion industry, place your product on the body of a Nollywood star on the red carpet. If you’re in technology, give a top company a free trial.
- Make industry insiders your sales agents and pay them commissions for referrals. They understand the market and have the respect of their peers.
- If your product is novel, educate the market. Do short demo videos or speak at events. Position yourself as an industry expert.
- If you’re an ideas person but shy, partner with a business developer who loves proposals, pitches and sales.
- Do a test-run of your product first. Sell it to friends or in an online store to get feedback before full deployment.
- Build critical networks: School associations, professional bodies, churches etc. Demo your product at their meetings.
- Be consistent in marketing.
Structures for Retaining Product Leadership
- Don’t launch a product without ensuring consistent supply. Do not create demand without supply.
- Never offer more than you have the capacity for. It will hurt your reliability & integrity.
- To keep your promises when you’re overextended, explore short term collaborations with fulfillment partners.
- Remember that every product that isn’t sold is inventory and cost. Focus on sales.
- Package your product very well and lay massive claim to it. If a usurper develops a copy, everyone will know they’re the fake and that you’re the original.
- If your expenses consistently outstrip your revenue, your company may fail. (We’ll talk about loss leaders some other time). Always ask, “Who will bear the cost of a new feature? The customer? The investor?” You must pass on your costs to someone.
- Calculate all costs, including the time you spend thinking and planning. Even when you get supplies for free, add the cost to your budget to get a realistic idea of the price of your product.
- Be careful about pumping money into a rave-of-the-moment idea. Let an objective outsider with a financial mindset advise you.
- Generate cash flow. Where will the cash flow come from to sustain your company while you work on a new product? How will you pay salaries? Sort out cash flow first.
- If you co-develop a product with others, do the legal paperwork before it becomes successful. Partners sometimes forget agreements in the midst of prosperity.
- Any product that has significant public following has a potential for profit e.g. Facebook. Ask, “How can I harness my followership to create value?”
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