In today's fast-paced world, the competition is growing, while the number of users stays the same. Now, businesses face the challenge of striking a balance between racing to keep up with others and understanding their competitive advantage.
Delayed releases result in lost business opportunities, while hasty launches can lead to wasted investments and time. Today, let’s talk about the importance of speed-to-market, while maintaining quality.
Launching first: is it really that important?
In the world of business, competition is fierce, and every company wants a slice of the "market" pie. Launching first seems like a good idea to achieve this. However, in the rush to launch, it's essential not to forget about the most crucial aspect of any business strategy: meeting the needs of your customers, while sticking to your own strategic goals. Before launching a product, functionality, or solution, it's vital to test your assumptions about your customers' pains, needs, and wants. Validating these assumptions and hypotheses can help businesses to avoid failures and increase their chances of success.
Of course, the industry leaders, like Apple, Netflix or Instagram, really can experiment more and prolong product or feature release time. However, even they don’t have the insurance of eternal customer satisfaction if this process takes too long. As for the rest of business entities, launching fast is not a choice, but a necessity.
So, the dilemma is clear: launching a product quickly is critical to success, but not at the expense of quality. The good news is that it's possible to achieve both by analyzing market and customer needs, establishing clear business goals and iterating quickly.
Launching a product can be a complex process, but there are a few essential rules to bring your product to market faster. Let's take a look.
Know your audience and market
Conducting thorough market&competitors research and defining clear goals and requirements is critical. This responsibility falls on the product manager, but can also be fulfilled by a business analyst, a product owner, or even a designer.
- Understand and Validate Incentives. First, we have to know the desire behind the quick launch: is it addressing specific market demand or trend, meeting customer expectations, upselling to existing customers, acquiring new customers, boosting revenue, or complying with a new government regulation? It’s crucial to validate whether this reason is viable, preferably by an in-house or a third-party business analyst or product management consultant. This way, you can more open-mindedly research market-fitness of the future digital product.
- Gather Key Figures. Get numbers, such as market size and stability, and set clear metrics to understand the purpose and goals of the product launch. For example, we use the SMART methodology of establishing goals, which means they should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. One example can be: “receiving N number of purchase requests during X amount of days/month”. Structurize these numbers in a separate table and check upon them during the product launch process.
- Run the Discovery Phase. Discovery is a comprehensive short-term research process, which involves experts in the fields of business analysis, product management, design, branding and development. At the end of it, you will have a more complex understanding of the market trends, where your product fits now, and how to make sure it brings more value to the customers. Conducting Discovery is a useful tool to prevent costly experiments in delivery and reduce the chances of the project failing at the release stage. And usually it only takes one to two weeks, but the benefits you get are worth it: better established business goals, user feedback, new ideas and more competitive edge. Experiments during delivery cost much more than during discovery.
- Understand the need. While Discovery phase and market research work well if the idea is still not validated, you will ultimately need to understand customer needs before any first launch. For example, one creative way to try it out is to go out there to the general public and find out whether there is a need for such a product: through a Facebook group with specialists in the sphere or via inquiries to your Linkedin connections. The main point is to get into direct contact with your envisioned target audience and understand if there’s a demand for the product.
- Know your competition. A good way to start thinking about your product launch strategy is to look at the market and think about what's already present there. If you already know your target audience and main competitors, try to find out why there are still people who do not use competitor’s products, what are some of the limitations of the existing solutions on the market and how your product can fix this. But in any case, to be on a safer side, a thorough competitor research conducted by a specialist is always a good choice.
MVPing your idea
One good way to know whether you’re on the right track is to release a minimum viable product (MVP) first and track feedback to it.
- Choose your MVP type. There are plenty of types of first products that you might use without the need to deliver a full functionality stack. For example, Dropbox didn’t release their entire software at first, but presented a simple concept video to see how people might react. After gathering thousands of signups to the cloud service they validated the market need and started working on the actual product. Another case is about Jeff Bezos and the Amazon, which was first built as a very simple website with only one functionality: selling books online. While not investing into a full-scale product from the start, Amazon proved itself to be a lucrative business, further expanding into a massive website. So, MVP can be anything: from a short video to a one-functionality app and even a feedback form. In case you can’t come up with the type of MVP on your own, you can engage a business analyst or product manager to help you do so and accelerate the market feedback process.
- Use agile methodologies. Instead of trying to define every aspect of your product before you start building it, you can try to work in small, iterative cycles to define and refine your ideas. Start by identifying the core problem of your customers, and then create MVP that addresses that problem. Agile methodologies can be implemented through frameworks like Scrum or Kanban, which provide a structure for managing your product development process.
- Launch MVP. After deciding on delivering the first version of your product in the simplest way possible: maybe as a landing page or as a concept, you can start thinking about its functionality. At this stage you should really focus on selecting the core feature(s) that will be at the center of your product. You don't want to be testing every detail, such as customization or personalization to avoid additional costs and time losses. The MVP then should be released to a fixed amount of audience. After their feedback is gathered, the most important part begins: product improvement iteration process. Launching MVP essentially is to validate whether the concept is correct and will have demand on the market. Testing your product and strategy in small, manageable increments also reduces further risks. To read more on how to launch MVP, here's our article specifically focused on the topic.
Less features, more focus
Determining which features to focus on first is a process that requires careful planning and coordination across multiple teams. As mentioned, if you decide to launch MVP, you won’t need all of the features, but only the most essential ones to prove the value of your product idea. Prioritizing this kind of features falls under the responsibility of the product manager or business analyst. They work closely with the development and design teams, and business stakeholders, to determine which features should be prioritized based on customer feedback, market trends, and business goals.
- Work together. One key strategy is to hold a workshop or meeting with the client and department leads to discuss which features are the most important. This can involve brainstorming sessions, group discussions, and knowledge sharing workshops. This way every team lead has the same level of knowledge.
- Understand the feasibility. It's important to conduct the overview of the product requirements and document them. This is usually the responsibility of business analyst, who also takes charge of all the product team ideas, ensuring that the stakeholders and teams are aligned on the requirements by constant collaboration. Such specialist also can help to analyze whether the solution is technically feasible and find ways of how to minimize or mitigate product risks.
- Estimate the effort. This step involves analyzing the requirements, determining the technical solutions needed, and consulting with the development and design team to estimate how long each feature will take to implement. This helps to ensure that every team has a clear understanding of the effort required for each feature, which can help to avoid delays and unexpected costs. If you are set on the idea of delivering MVP first, estimate how long it will take to develop the first product version with the minimum amount of features.
Test, test and test again!
Testing and deployment processes are critical steps in the product launch cycle that can significantly reduce errors and save time.
- Conduct usability testing. This is one critical aspect of the testing and launch process, as it helps to ensure that your product meets the needs and expectations of your target users. By involving designers and business analysts in the testing process, you can identify potential usability issues early on and address them before they become major problems. However, it's important to balance the need for thorough testing with the desire for a quick launch, as extensive testing can sometimes be time-consuming and delay the release of your product.
- Interview the users. User interviews are another way of understanding customer needs and pains with the MVP. Interview users before, during and after the launch to see their feedback to your product’s versions. To do so, a direct Q&A session is considered one of the best ways to talk to target audiences, but you can also try some other interview methods, such as focus groups or questionnaires.
Ready, set, collaborate!
Collaboration and communication are essential components of a successful product launch process. As many different teams are usually involved in the launch, it’s important to maintain a good level of communication and alignment.
- Create a communication plan. You should develop a communication plan that outlines each person's responsibilities. It's better to have a whole person, such as project manager, solely responsible for scheduling meetings, and setting expectations for the team. This will help to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that the team is moving in the same direction.
- Regularly check in with your team. Status updates can help to keep everyone on track and ensure that the project stays on schedule. With daily or weekly calls, project team members can discuss obstacles and constraints in the delivery process and find a feasible solution together. Additionally, the use of project management tools like Trello or Asana can help to keep everyone organized and informed in an asynchronized format.
Launching quickly can be critical to the success of a product. However, it's important to balance speed with quality to deliver products that meet customer needs and expectations. By adopting discovery habits, agile methodologies, testing, and collaboration among teams, businesses can achieve a fast and successful product launch. Ultimately, the key to success is finding the sweet spot inbetween speed, quality, and customer satisfaction.
If you have an idea but unsure if it's worth launching, contact us and our specialists will help you find out whether your product is a good market fit.