Master The First Step Of Successful Product Development

Ready to create and launch an information product that will have a indelibly positive affect on your business? …a product that brings you recurring passive revenue, pronounces you as an expert in your field, and produces a lower entry product to get prospects into your marketing channel?

If you are, then put on your seatbelt, because you’re in for the ride of your life! A ride that can be exciting, empowering, exhilarating, and life-changing!

The first step of any successful product creation, and often the step forgotten and minimized, is the step of creating a well thought out Product Definition Blueprint.

A Product Definition Blueprint describes in detail, what your product is, what it does, and who it’s for. It tells you what your product is, and what it is not.

A well written Product Definition Blueprint offers several key benefits:

First, it helps you stay focused, on track, and committed to a clear, tangible goal. Without clear boundaries about what your product is and what ultimate benefit it provides customers, you might get stuck in the trap many first-time product producers fall into… the trap of never completing… It only makes sense that if you don’t know what you’re completing up front, how do you know when you’ve finished it??

Second, it enables you to effectively describe your product to others. Chances are, when launching a new product, you will enroll the help or support of others during the process. Whether you decide to get input from experts, enlist a sales copywriter, or hire a web designer, having a clear, concise description of what your product is, what it does, and who it’s for will make enrolling the support of others seamless.

Third, it lays the foundation for excellent marketing messaging. If you begin product development with a well defined audience and a specific ultimate benefit, you’ve made marketing a cinch! So often inexperienced product developers build a product first and then find an audience later. This can lead to having a product that no one really wants to buy. However, by considering your audience from the get-go, you can deliver the message and value throughout the product development process. At the end, building your marketing materials is an easy, seamless process.

To build your own Product Definition Blueprint, answer the following twelve questions:

1. Name five reasons you would like to create an information product.

2. What subject(s) would you like to explore in your new information product? List 5 possible subjects.

3. What solutions or benefits could you provide to your audience in an information product format? List at least 10 possible solutions and benefits.

4. If you could only create one information product in the next 4 months, which one would be most exciting and rewarding for you to produce?

6. Who is your target audience? Who is your audio product for? Describe them in as much detail as possible. Describe their demographics, psychographics, interests, career, hobby, gender, marital status, etc.

7. What needs does your target audience have, that your product could in some way solve? Why do they need your product now?

8. What ultimate benefit or result will your information product deliver to your target audience?

9. What will your customer expect from this product?

10. In what format would you like to deliver your information product? Downloadable PDF files, downloadable mp3/wma files, software system, online accessible webpage, physical CD’s, workbooks, special tools, reports, eMail delivery of content, other?

11. What is the name of your product?

12. By when will your product be complete?

Now that you’ve answered the twelve questions and built your Product Definition Blueprint, take a moment and feel the excitement of knowing that you have taken the first big step in bringing to life your information product!! Let yourself taste all the success, fulfillment, and possibility that will come right along with it!

Copyright 2005 Coco Fossland

Results Of YOUR Vote: Where Do Product Managers Need The Most Help?

The results of the first ever The Accidental Product Manager “where do you need the most help with product management” survey are now in! First off, let me take just a moment and thank everyone who took the time to (1) read my really long email, and (2) hit the “reply” button and sent me the number of the area of product management that you would most like to have help with. The answers were both exactly what I was expecting and a bit of a surprise at the same time – let me explain.

The Vote

Before we spend any time reviewing the results of this survey, we should probably take a step back and make sure that we all remember just exactly what everyone was voting on. I created 7 (very high level) stages of the product management process. The question that I asked everyone was which of these stages was the one that they would like to know more about?

  1. Know – all the stuff you are supposed to do before you decide to create a product. ID customers, segments, needs, etc.
  2. Plan – once you’ve decided to create a product (or a next version) this is all of the business planning, sales planning, roadmap creation, etc. that comes next.
  3. Execute – you know what your product looks like, this is where you determine who you’ll be selling it to, how you’ll get their attention, how much it will cost, etc.
  4. Create – this is the heavy lifting: understanding your customers, creating your messaging, coming up with product requirements, creating various forms of content, etc.
  5. Refine – we never do everything right the first time, this has to do with how we learn from what we’ve done in order to get better
  6. Succeed – how do you help your company sell your product and what types of tools and training are you on the hook for?
  7. Next – sometimes called support, this is really all about how you work with your existing customers to prep them to buy your next product or version of the product that they already have

And did you tell me! It took an entire weekend for me to sort through everyone’s responses. I just want to let everyone who took the time to send a response how much I appreciate your participation in this exercise. Now let’s get on to the results!

The Results

So who won? The first stage of the product management process, Know, was the winner – however, not by much! The second stage, Plan, came in a very close second. Third place was a bit farther down the line in slot #4 – Create.

What’s even more interesting is what parts of the product management process didn’t win. These were the final three stages: Refine / Succeed / Next. I’ll have more to say about this later on.

What this tells me is that everyone seems to be tuned into the fact that if you want to manage a successful product, you need to do your homework up front. Doing the market research and knowing who your customer is before you start to manufacture and ship products is vital.

What These Results Tell Us

As an experienced product manager, the results of this survey don’t really surprise me all that much – but they do confirm a number of different things. We product managers always seem to like to focus on the “sexy” part of product management: product definition. What we don’t like as much is the grind of actually helping to sell the things once they’ve been created.

This is actually a bit of a mistake on our part I think. If you want to be a successful product manager and move up in your company, you are not going to be recognized for how pretty of a product you can create (unless you work for Apple). Instead, what the company is going to be looking at you to do is to create a product that they can sell a lot of . This is exactly what happens at the tail end of the product management process.

In order for a product to be a success, you can’t do it all alone. The final few stages of the product management process have a lot to do with you working with other people and departments in your company. This isn’t easy to do and yes, you really don’t have a lot of control over what they are going to be doing.

In the end, being a product manager is a tough job. There is a lot of work that we have to do and it’s not always clear what we need to be doing or how we can determine if we’ve done it well.

Next Steps

So why did we go through all of the effort of doing a survey? Simple – you’ve been asking for it. During the 4 years that I’ve been publishing The Accidental Product Manager not a week has gone by that I’ve not received questions from readers about one or more areas of being a product manager. I’ve been there and I’ve done it and I’m more than willing to share what I know.

Ultimately, answering questions one at a time struck me as just not really being all that efficient – I’m sure that there are a lot of you out there that have the same questions. I needed to come up with a way to provide you with a product management system that you could use and to answer your questions about how to become a successful product manager.

I’m just about ready to take the wraps off of an online product manager training course that I’m going to be rolling out here in a few days. This is going to be unlike any other Product Management training you’ve ever seen so keep your eyes open. Great things are coming your way!

What All Of This Means For You

This has been a good learning experience for me. All too often I think that I know everything and it’s good for me to be reminded that I really don’t! The fact that I got so many different responses from so many different people tells me that there is a real need out there for some really good product management information.

It is very clear that the field of product management is still a new field. We’re all very interested in what happens at the beginning. In part, we’re correct – you’ve got to get things off to a good start if you want your product to be a success later on down the line. However, it’s also very clear that we don’t yet fully understand where the money comes from. Money is made once the product has been created. That’s when the really hard product management work starts!

I’ve got your answers – and once again thank you very much for providing them to me. Now I’ve got to get my act together and create the training that you are so very clearly asking for. Give me just a bit of time and I think that I’ll be able to provide you with what you are asking for…

Make Your New Product Process Agile and Adaptable With “Spiral Development”

Spiral Development makes your new product development process a much more adaptable development process, one that is particularly well suited to innovative new products, and one that adapts to changing, uncertain market conditions. Build in the concept of spiral or agile development, allowing project teams to move rapidly to a finalized product design through a series of “build-test-feedback-and-revise” iterations.

Customers or users really don’t know what they want until they see it, especially in case of very innovative products. So get something in front of the user, fast – something the customer can see, feel, touch and respond to.

Spiral development does this: it deals with the need to get mock-ups or protocepts in front of customers early in the process, and seek fast feedback. Spiral development also allows for smart-and-fast failures; these spirals are relatively inexpensive, and often the first few spirals result in negative responses. Not a problem: revise, rebuild and test again via the next spiral.

Spiral development also bridges the gap between the need for sharp, early and fact-based product definition before development begins and the need to be flexible, agile and to adjust the product’s design to new information and fluid market conditions as Development proceeds. The method thus allows developers to continue to incorporate valuable customer feedback into the design even after the product definition is supposedly locked-in before going into Stage 3, and could even result in a much different or more innovative product than originally envisioned.

How does spiral development work in practice? It’s really a set of “build-and-test, then seek feedback-and-revise” iterations with the user or customer. A sample set of spirals is shown in the exhibit.

Note that these loops or spirals are deliberately built in from the front-end stages through the development stage and into the testing stage. The first loop or spiral is the voice-of-customer study undertaken early in Stage 2, where project team members visit customers to better understand their unmet and unspoken needs, problems and benefits sought in the new product. At this point, the project team probably has very little to show the customer; and that’s the way it should be: The purpose of this visit is to listen and watch, not to “show and tell.”

The second spiral, labeled “full proposition concept test” in the exhibit, is where the project team presents a representation of the proposed product. Depending on the type of product and industry, this representation can be a computer-generated virtual prototype, a hand-made model or mock-up, a very crude protocept, or even a few computer screens for new software. The product obviously does not work at this early stage, and in some presentations, is only two-dimensional. But it is enough to give the customer a feel for what the product will be and do. Interest, liking, preference and purchase intent are thus established even before the project is a formal development project. Feedback is sought, and the needed product revisions are made.

Moving into the Development Stage, within weeks the project team produces the next and more complete version of the product, perhaps a crude model or a rapid prototype. They test this with customers, and again seek feedback, which they use to rapidly revise and build the first working prototype… and then to Spiral #3, #4 and so on… with each successive version of the product getting closer to the final product, and at the same time, closer to the customer’s ideal.

These loops in the exhibit resemble spirals, hence the name “spiral development.”

Use a series of “build-test-feedback-and revise” spirals with the customer in your development process. The result is a better and more innovative product, and one that is more likely to delight the customer. Employ the spirals to adapt quickly to changing market conditions and requirements, and to move rapidly to a proven, finalized product design.