How the market will receive your digital product depends quite a lot on how well you’ve identified, organized and prioritized product requirements. When doing so, startups often face the challenge of not having enough knowledge about their targeted audience. Customers and users may have vastly different perspectives. Furthermore, they may think they know what they want. That doesn’t necessarily mean that what they want is what they need.
As a startup owner who has an innovative idea, you want to get the most effect with the least effort. In this rapidly changing world, every missed chance translates into an opportunity for your competitors. In this post we explore why sketching buyer personas is important, why the strategy and process of building a new digital product should be based on real market requirements and why getting a friendly opinion matters.
Why Are Buyer Personas Important, Anyway?
Buyer personas, which are portrayals of your ideal audience, help you keep a clear image in mind of who you’re building the product for. To validate your buyer or user persona’s profile, you need to be able to answer several questions:
- Where are they located?
- What is their job and level of seniority?
- What does a day in their life look like?
- What pain points of theirs can you address with your products or services?
- Are they aware they have a problem that needs solving?
- Have they already tried some other solution for this problem?
- Are they ready to invest in the solution that you suggest?
- What do they value and what goals are based on that?
- What is their ideal experience when using your product?
- What objections might they have regarding your solution?
According to recent studies, 85% of companies aren’t using buyer personas correctly. Losing buyer focus is what caused Radio Shack, a 94-year old company, to lose their business in 2015, after experiencing a ninefold drop in stock price. Their example is a great lesson of how improperly conducted buyer persona research can hurt a company.
If you’re wondering how could possibly be Radio Shack’s case relevant, the answer is pretty simple. Matching product requirements to real market needs is equally important at the beginning and throughout the entire product lifecycle. That’s also why you need to conduct a continuous research, rather than just scribble something at the beginning of the project. Some best practices include:
- Answer the above questions for each persona
- Assess current market trends
- Use your sales team’s feedback
- Conduct interviews in person or over the phone with a number of people per persona
- Extrapolate the key interview takeaways
- Repeat the cycle to be aware of market trends change
Staying out of touch with the persona can lead to unwanted products that serve no real needs.
Embrace Change Anytime with a Well-Structured Process
Being able to pivot and adapt whenever the market requires can ensure a bright future for your startup. Personas, delivery channels and the product development process as a whole may go through dramatic changes. Think of Nokia, a company founded over 150 years ago as a pulp mill. When it started making rubber boots at the beginning of the 20th century, there was a shift in personas, the product, and the manufacturing process. The Finnish company continued by creating the best-selling mobile phone of all time, the Nokia 1100 in 2003. Nowadays, they are trying a comeback with their first Android smartphone.
What can you do to be prepared to go through such dramatic changes? That really depends on how well your company structures its goals, team, and budgets. Besides major pivots, software development projects are often challenged. They can go over budget or not deliver in a timely fashion because the team doesn’t include the right members with the right skill sets. Things go awry also when the scope is not clear. This typically happens when there’s a misalignment between what the company makes and what the market needs.
So - what now?
Start Small - Look for a Friend to Guide You
It’s only natural to approach our friends when having an idea for an innovative product. Family members, close friends and professional contacts who know your context can be great for getting the first round of feedback. Following that, it may seem that the entire evolution of your startup rests on your shoulders, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Besides friends and family, it would be a good idea to ask for advice from a professional that has done this many times before. As opposed to your friends and family advice, the professional will not be biased, will give you the whole truth and will help you avoid many pitfalls along the way.
Defining the strategy and process of building a new digital product in high level might not seem extremely challenging, but things change quickly when going into detail.
Building a digital product is more than just a box-ticking exercise, as it requires continuous planning and performance tracking. A knowledgeable person can help you get the product on the right track by helping you define product requirements so that they match real users’ needs.
If an audience doesn’t have the money to buy what you’re selling at the price you need to sell it for, you don’t have a market. - Seth Godin
Once you have a talent pool capable of supporting fast-paced product development, a framework for the entire process and a knowledgeable advisor, you can proceed to bringing your idea to life. Remember that only by having all the necessary ingredients you will manage to create a tailored solution that will entirely match your market’s needs. The duration for which those needs are satisfied will depend on the nature of the product and on how the audience trends change. Doing your best to continuously match your product’s requirements to real market needs will remain for a long time one of the best ways of gaining a competitive advantage.
How are you planning to bring your idea to life?