Turning Ideas into Products People Will Buy

This is a transcript of my session on #ElevateDay, a live Twitter event @elevationng. 

#ElevateDay is an open forum for learning, sharing and impacting.

These are the key points from the session:

INTRODUCTION

In this session, product, service and company are used interchangeably.

International case studies are cited because they’re easier to Goggle and research. Local examples are also provided, where possible.

BASIC PRINCIPLES OF PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT

We begin with the PRINCIPLES that should guide product development. Thereafter, we’ll explore ways to ensure people PAY for your products.

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 NEED. Build your product based on the APT principle: 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? This is the key to Hootsuite, for example.

Address 2 levels of need: FUNCTIONAL & ASPIRATIONAL. Louis Vuitton bags are not just carriers, they’re icons and status symbols. Beyond function, what does your product ADD to the life of the consumer?

Does your business help others earn? E.g. Apple provides an ecosystem for App makers to earn income.

Build systems not just products. Apple built the product (iPod), distribution system (iTunes) and marketplace (App Store).

Own the value chain or invest along the chain so you make money at every point.  Imagine that your product system is a toll-gate.

To avoid cannibalisation, use distinct complimentary brands for different audiences but ENDORSED by the motherbrand.  For example, 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

Never position your product in a way that people think their doing you a FAVOUR. Have self esteem.

Sell your product from the perspective of the customers’ needs. Have you found out what they need?

Identify with your prospective customer. Truly get to know them. Speak their language.  For example, you can’t successfully sell to a technology company if you don’t “get” technology.

Speak the language of service not profit. Customers can tell if you’re just pushing a product or if you’re there to help.
Be enthusiastic. Your product is the best thing since sliced bread.

Tell STORIES. Build a legend around your product. The market likes inspirational stories with a sense of history.  I cannot emphasise this enough. TELL A STORY. Sell drama, aspiration & inspiration. Make people FEEL.  Make them 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, use the bandwagon effect. Sell first to the influencers in a group.

Identify the power structures in a company.  Focus the thrust of your product presentation for decision makers.

Place your product for free with people & companies with 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. 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, church etc. They are your first customers. Demo your product & speak at their meetings.

Be consistent in marketing.

STRUCTURES REQUIRED TO RETAIN PRODUCT LEADERSHIP

Don’t launch a product without the structures for 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 collaborative partnerships.

Remember every idea that isn’t sold is inventory and cost. Focus on sales.

Package your product very well & lay massive claim to it. If a usurper develops a copy, everyone knows they’re the fake while you’re the original.

If your expenses consistently outstrip your revenue, your product will fail (we’ll talk about loss leaders some other day).

Ask: Who will bear this cost? The customer? The investor? A grant? You must pass on your costs to someone.

Always value ALL costs, including the time you spend thinking and planning.  Even when you get supplies free, add it to your costs to get a REALISTIC idea of the cost 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.

Ask: Where will the cashflow come from to sustain the company while I work on this idea? How will I pay salaries? Sort out cashflow FIRST.

See Allan Sloan’s article in the Nov 5 edition of Fortune for a good case note on how a great idea can still fail.

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 consistently harness my followers to create value?

CASE STUDY – Phlemin Global

Our case study Phlemin Global (http://phleminglobal.com/) provides inverters & power solutions.

Firstly, the name may not immediately suggest what the company sells.  However, it would be suitable as the name of a HOLDING COMPANY.  The current products may be domiciled within a division called Phlemin Power. This is the brand name that should be marketed.  Flemin Power may also be easier to pronounce, spell and remember than Phlemin with a “P”.

Every business requires backup power in Nigeria, so Phlemin meets a need and solves a vexing problem. Instead of a one-size-fits-all-approach, Phlemin may create solutions (with customised proposals) for homes, small businesses and corporates. The proposals should display empathy & identification.

Phlemin should identify very well known SMEs and corporate businesses and offer to do a complimentary power audit plus free product trial for a month.  Companies with significant power needs should be targeted e.g. those that close late or work on weekends.  After the trial period, the testimonial becomes a reference and some may be converted to paying clients.  Phlemin may also target new homes that are being built in residential estates, partnering with respected realtors/builders.

These are general principles that can be adopted by any company.

SELECTED QUESTIONS

Q:  How do you sell your product to a wider audience?  How do you reach decision makers and industry insiders?

A: There are 2 ways to sell a product successfully: The market LOOKS FOR YOU or you GO LOOKING F
OR THE MARKET.

The first strategy is to position yourself as an expert in your field supplying the best possible product or service.  You can begin a blog on issues in your sector, voluntarily speak at events or write magazine columns.  Be active on Twitter and comment when issues are being discussed by leading global thinkers in your field. Be part of the discussion.  Over time, customers will seek you out because they recognise you know what you’re talking about.

In the second option, you become active in networks. Decision makers value people of value. Volunteer on a committee of a high level professional, school or church group. The Board Members of such committees are usually business decision makers. Let them notice you through HARD WORK.  Deploy the product you want to sell for free on the committee. You’ll get to market your work ethic, product AND meet the decision makers.

CLOSING REMARKS

A new edition of #ElevateDay holds every Tuesday at 6pm @elevationng on Twitter.



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