Having spent a considerable part of my career working in digital advertising agencies, I witnessed a common objective amongst creatives and developers; produce work that wins awards.
So the fact that I now go around encouraging companies to build products that are “good enough”, I will no doubt be hunted down my ex colleagues.
I really enjoyed my time working for some of the top digital firms in the country. I enjoyed the variety of work, the atmosphere of competitiveness amongst my peers, the immensely creative environment, and the laborious attention to detail on each project before launch date.
Digital agencies (now this was pushing 10 years ago) following a brief from the client, front loaded all customer research before passing on their insights to the development teams.
Now, what’s wrong with that you may ask? Absolutely nothing. In fact, that’s just what I would advise.
Doing customer research before you start developing any product or service makes perfect sense. It helps ensure you understand your demographic, it ensures that you understand the problem you are trying to solve, and it also ensures that you are not going to build something no one cares about (or at least it should).
“The goal of any product or service launch should not be to win awards, but to learn if it’s solving the problem in the right way”
The problem with this approach is not in how it starts, but in how it goes on from here.
At this point, the creatives and development teams have all the data they need to validate a product market fit. They now put all learning about the customer aside and spend the next one, two, even six months with their heads down at their desks crafting their visions to perfection for that big launch, at which point, marketing takes over to drive awareness.
Customers rarely come flooding in at this stage and marketing is blamed for the lack of traction. After all, the initial customer focus groups clearly validated the need for such a product.
During the initial customer discovery phases, the problem may have been validated, but did we validate our unique approach to solving this problem, or the language in which we communicate with our unique audience?
Have we built the right solution? Does our product or service deliver the solution to this problem in a way that users understand and accept?
This last question is the one that keeps most product development teams awake at night.
The goal of any product or service launch should not be to win awards, but to learn if it’s solving the problem in the right way. Without sounding clichéd “we’re building experiments from which we learn the outcomes and adjust to improve”.
Asking yourself, “is this good enough?” implies that you have not spent more resources than necessary to get the results you’re after, in this case, feedback. It implies that what has been developed meets the minimum requirements to help you develop new learnings.
These findings allow you to make incremental improvements to your product, ultimately ensuring that what you do build, not only solves an existing problem, but also does it in a way that is more rewarding than the existing solution.
No one put it better than Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn:
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