How to conduct research and successfully launch a product

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Launching a product without research rarely leads to success, unless you have 50-plus years experience in the market and in the niche of a product. To those who are not that old and not that wise, the following steps will help to reduce the risk of wasting your efforts.

Find similar products

Find as many similar products as you can, and learn how they attract customers. Learning from others is the very first thing you have to do. Maybe the problem you are going to solve has already been solved by someone else. Maybe with a different approach (or tools), it is no longer a problem and you end up solving an artificial issue. Ask your friends and colleagues about how they solve the problems your product is going to solve. Talk about the products they use. Argue with them, but don’t be offensive — try to find out if they are satisfied with what they have now.

Even if you find similar products, try to discover what they are missing. As mentioned above, there will be situations when you find that your problem is artificial. More often you will find a perfect solution to your problem. But don’t rush the decision about the viability of your product! Thoroughly learn what others do and if they do it right. Often a small detail or a nice little touch becomes a killer feature that persuades a user to buy your product.

Conduct a survey

If all of your friends and colleagues love the product, then you are on your way to implementing the MVP. However, if some of them don’t like the idea, it must be tested on a broader audience. You need a survey.

Obviously, the most important part of conducting a survey are the questions. The purpose of the questions are:

  • To get answers about which solutions to the problem are presently popular.
  • To uncover the most painful points of existing solutions.
  • To learn which features of your product are most valuable.

While preparing the questions, be sure to stay as simple as possible and avoid complex questions. It’s better to have a few short questions than one big question that is hard to understand. Also, don’t forget that no one will take your survey as an obligation — if someone finds it to be too boring or too long, they will just leave it.

When you have your questions, you are ready to publish them online and finally conduct a survey. There are many tools that provide survey-hosting services as well as a paid audience that will be driven to your survey. One of the most popular tools is Survey Monkey. When it comes to paid audience, Survey Monkey allows for very precise targeting. You can even pick the education level or religion of respondents. There are literally hundreds of options! Also, don’t forget that if you decide to go solely with paid audience, then your survey can have many questions — paid respondents have an obligation to complete the survey.

targeting options
This is very small portion of SurveyMonkey audience targeting options
targeting options marital status
Seven choices for marital status option!

Other options to consider when it comes to conducting a survey would be social media, like Facebook, Twitter, or even Reddit. If your survey consists of just a few questions, it is worth trying to combine them into a single message and publish on your social media pages. This works best if you have a large number of followers. If you don’t, then do a paid promotion of the post and drive targeted audience there. But don’t expect a level of targeting like Survey Monkey from Twitter or Reddit.

Talk to a mentor

Surveys are a great way to learn about your idea or product. But it may take time to prepare a good survey that will bring valuable results. If you don’t want to wait, consider talking to a mentor. Find people who are proven to be experts in your product niche. You can even find paid mentorship services online. As part of a paid mentorship, they will evaluate your idea and provide a detailed explanation of why your idea is viable or not. Obviously, this will not be an absolute truth but will give you a very good insight about the weak points of your product.

Make sure you have prepared your idea or product to be properly demonstrated to a mentor. If a mentor has an unclear understanding of the product, he will make wrong assumptions that can potentially ruin your motivation. Create a presentation or a flowchart of the core business logic—or even wireframes of the future UI if you are going to build an online product. The following tools should seriously facilitate the process:

  • Dropbox Paper — Online tool from Dropbox for collaboration and online presentations. The tool allows creating impressive presentation docs with media, spreadsheets, and even to-do lists. Moreover, it has a lot of 3rd-party integrations that open a lot of possibilities for presenting a product in the best way. As stated above, it was created with collaboration in mind, so you can easily use it for discussions.
  • Whimsical — the perfect tool for drawing flowcharts and mind maps. Diagrams is the easiest way to explain a product’s flow. Textual or verbal description will never be as meaningful as a single picture.
  • Mockflow or Proto — for creating wireframes of your future product. Actually creating wireframes is the next step, one which is closer to implementation of a product. You will have a lot of iterations with wireframes if your product needs a very solid UX.

Don’t forget that it’s not a demo for investors, so your demo can be ugly, but it must not leave a single unclear point about your product. It must be verbose and explicit. Its goal is to clearly explain how it works and how it is better than others.

hotdog flowchart
This is how HotDog detecting app logic can be clearly described in a flowchart diagram

Finally, take the risk!

Research is very important, but don’t stick to it forever. You can easily lose motivation if you are not making valuable progress. As soon as there is a chance that your product will find its audience, take the risk and get to the implementation.

Start with a list of MVP (Minimal Viable Product) features. Don’t plan too much for the MVP stage, because the product still has the risk of wasting your time and efforts. So, using minimum resources you need to create a couple of core features and see how people react. Don’t miss the must-have features. Having an MVP plan is crucial — you can either pick the right minimum set of features that everyone needs and launch fast, or you can create a product that no one understands, even though it has the potential to solve a real problem.

Another important thing — you have to forget about perfectionism. I mean it. Your first implementation can be buggy and dirty, but if it solves a problem, no one cares! Conventional wisdom says that if you don’t feel shame after launching a product, you launched too late. Thus implement an MVP, do a quick test, fix some bugs, and launch-launch-launch!


authorSoftware engineer, founder of ottofeller.com

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