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Module 5 of 9
In Progress

Building A Product That Matters

You’ve imagined your solution, you know your purpose, you know why you’re building what you’re building, who you’re building it for and you’ve started building an audience that you can impact with your solution. Now it’s time to focus on your product and ask the right questions that solve the right problems for your audience. 

If you’ve already launched your product or service, don’t skip this module. There are some helpful questions, lessons, and tools that will help you better define, understand and perfect your product.

 

Confusion doesn’t stick. 

Between my personal companies and the hundreds of products, we’ve helped build and launch through my agency we’ve seen some pretty incredible products and services and of course some pretty awful ones that never gained significant traction. These are the lessons I’ve learned through trial and error and millions of dollars in advertising, development, and research. 

When looking at what separates a good product from a product that never really took off, I found the common denominator to success is not the sales process but the sticking process. The products and services that were most effective had sticky customers that resonated with the message and stuck to the product or service after the initial sale. This is called a “sticky customer” and isn’t anything new, but it breeds loyalty, brand virality and more business through referrals. What we’ve developed are a few secrets on how to get customers to be sticky. 

The best way to build sticky clients is to build a product that continues to solve their deepest of issues. Unfortunately, the reality is that we don’t always know the best way to solve those issues when building the product or service. We THINK we do, that’s what makes us entrepreneurs, we think we know the best solution. But often, we’re way off and it isn’t always by a huge margin. I’ve seen the smallest of things, like a button placement or even something as menial as a color, throw an entire product off for a customer. 

For example, when we launched the software for nonprofits, we learned very quickly that what we thought was innovative ended up confusing the user. And confused users don’t stick around. We spent tens of thousands of dollars building cool features and trying to mold those features to nonprofits use cases purely because we thought they were neat things to add. Later we found out less than 1% of our customers even understood some of those features enough to use them. 

We also built features no one actually cared about because the issue we thought they solved they didn’t actually solve. Things like building our donation portal specifically for an iPad kiosk, this was used by less than 5% of our customers because there wasn’t really any need if people could access the donation portal on their phone, and nonprofits quickly ditched the kiosk idea. Our competitors had already shied away from this and we thought we could do it better. We should have learned from the mistakes of our competitors before building a feature just to have it. 

Simpler, more focused services and offerings create longer-lasting customer relationships because they’re less confusing. Services are notorious for this same issue, so don’t think just because you’re not building a software or hardware product you can escape this principle. 

Think about marketing companies. They offer a million services; web design, graphics, SEO, etc. Having owned a marketing company and now running a growth agency, I know all too well that this is usually to check a box because consumers believe they want a “one-stop shop” but industry data tells a totally different story. Most consumers are happier with a specialized service than one that offers a range of products. 

This is because they trust someone that’s dedicated to one thing more than they trust someone that “dabbles” in multiple things. Sure, it’s merely perception but perception is value to a consumer. The perception is that if you offer a single solution you’re a master at it. No one wants to hire a jack of all trades to design a logo, unless they’re incredibly budget conscious that is. But a jack of all trades is not the world’s best logo designer, by nature they can’t be.

Oftentimes when offering too many products, you have to drop your price to accommodate package deals. When you have one or a few main products, your customers’ budget stretches and you’re not fitting so much into the “transaction limit” of that customer. Lowering prices to accommodate multiple product offerings in a package only attracts customers you don’t want. We’ll get into pricing in more detail on another module but this is worth noting as you’re building your service. 

Rather than trying to offer as much value in the form of additional services out of the gate, seek instead to offer deeper value in one core service that solves a customer’s issue over and over again. This is the secret to successful services, consistently solving your customer’s deepest needs. Once you’ve built a brand and have a pretty large customer base, you can add to your offering. 

 

One issue at a time. 

When building anything of value it’s rare that entrepreneurs get it right the first time around. We have this perception though, that the first time we see a product in the market is the first iteration when in fact most projects take years of trial and error. We’ll dig into this a little deeper in a moment. But first, I want to share one of my big mistakes in business that helped me learn that solving one issue at a time is the only way to lead to success. 

A while back I started building a company that had all the potential in the world. We had multiple different departments focusing on solving different issues for our audience. One day, when it was clear what we were building wasn’t resonating with our audience, I asked myself, is this the simplest way to solve the problem I’m trying to solve? Or is it my ego trying to design a solution that maybe isn’t the most beneficial to my audience, it just looks and sounds impressive. 

The simple answer to that question was no, the offering was way too complex and the most basic pain point we wanted to solve got lost in the mix. This wasn’t because the purpose and passion behind our product was wrong or misguided, but instead because the audience just didn’t need everything we dreamed up offering them. Especially not all at once. This created confusion in the marketing and the customer journey. 

After realizing where we went wrong I asked myself “what’s the single most important problem I’m trying to solve?” That question alone resulted in a simpler, more impactful service than what we ever had. Not because it was a “better” product, mind you, but because it was a simpler product my audience would better understand because it solved a single pain point at a time. 

Sometimes the simplest version of something is the most impactful. It’s important to understand that you don’t need to build the next Apple to change the world, a simple product can solve problems that a lot of complex problems and companies never get the chance to. 

Take a moment and truly ask yourself if the product you’re building solves what matters most to your audience. Better yet, is what you’re building the most impactful version of the solution to their issue? 

If those questions gave you any doubt, here’s a quick questionnaire that can help you isolate the most impactful version of what you’re building: 

  • What problem am I trying to solve? 
    • If you answered with multiple things, then ask
      • What’s the most important thing I’m trying to solve? (the most impactful)
  • What’s my solution to that most important problem?
  • What’s the one thing my audience is actually looking for when using my solution? 
  • What’s the simplest version of that solution that provides what they’re actually looking for?

The goal here is to isolate the deep problem you’re solving that will result in the most effective messaging and to ensure your customers resonate and understand what you’re building to get them into the first meaningful step of your offering. 

 

Climb the value ladder.  

Sometimes as entrepreneurs we knock out multiple birds with one stone. But this isn’t how consumers think. They don’t “add up all the value” like we do. In fact, too many “valuable things” can confuse a buyer because it’s not a simple solution for a common problem. The best way to break your product or service up if you really do solve multiple problems for your customer is to divide the solution into a value ladder. 

Note: a value ladder is a visual representation of the journey customers take as you offer them more and more value during their ascension. It’s designed to help you identify the best placement of services in the ladder to encourage customers to continue “climbing.”

You can better serve your audience and scale your sales by solving one problem at a time every step they take through your value ladder. Every step in the ladder you solve a deeper need that your audience has. This creates a natural desire to follow the journey you’ve built for your customers and the ability to charge more every step they take. 

When we built the nonprofit software we started with a single solution: an app design software that automated the creation of a website and seamlessly integrated the two. This solved one problem: previously their app and website needed to be designed, managed and updated separately. 

We then implemented multiple other tools that solved other problems after the prospect turned into a customer. They naturally added our other tools after their core problem was solved. 

 

Fail faster. 

So you’ve isolated your product to solve a core issue. But how do you know if your solution is actually what people will see value in? Well, you don’t. But there’s a pretty rapid way you can test to find out. 

After launching hundreds of products, I’ve learned the typical “launch” process of price, launch, adapt is completely backwards and often results in customers feeling taken advantage of because the product or service and it’s features don’t actually solve the problem they were sold on, instead it’s what the entrepreneur or company thinks solves the customers problem in the way the customer wants most. 

The process I’ve found to be successful is launch, adapt, price. This is primarily due to the adaptation process happening earlier than most companies feel comfortable. This is a process that encourages failing faster in your business. 

Facebooks old motto used to be “move fast and break things.” This is a fancier way of saying “fail faster.” The idea is that you allow yourself to move quickly, release before ready, try new things and inevitably fail your way to success. 

What we’ve learned and done in future products is let our customers direct the product or service with what they really need and want. We did this by launching an MVP (minimum viable product) with the bare minimum solution to let our customers direct the future of what we built. 

This doesn’t just apply to software products, the principle applies to any product or service you’re offering. The basic idea here is that you don’t have to pay the price to remake something if you build it as you go and let customers tell you what they need. 

This sounds backwards right? It’s actually not. It’s what the largest businesses in the world do. They launch a small test, having invested a minimal amount of money into it, and then if the feedback is positive they invest more in it. 

When I first did this, I was terrified, I thought that my customers would get so mad because the offering was so simple and solved one core thing and worst of all it wasn’t even finished. The opposite happened! What I realized quickly is when you’ve chosen the right audience your customers see the vision of what you’re building and absolutely love being involved in the process and they felt heard when submitting valuable feedback that was actually acted on. This built thousands of sticky customers across thousands of products. 

You don’t have to wait until your product or service is perfect to release it to the World. I’ve made that mistake so many times it isn’t funny, and every single time it’s cost me money. When you release something that isn’t perfect you allow people to engage in an authentic relationship with you and your product or service that drives loyalty and commitment. 

Remember my earlier example about my company that was trying to solve multiple customer needs all at once. We released our product to the world, and found out quickly, within a few months it just wasn’t resonating. The beautiful thing is we were only 6 months into the company and hadn’t even finished building any of our offerings, but by releasing them before they were actually ready, we understood what our customers truly needed and made a pivot faster than if we invested all that money into building something that would have inevitably failed anyway, it just would have cost us triple what it did. You can’t be afraid to just offer and release your product before you’re ready. 

Back in college, I did this by giving away the first few websites to begin with. So I could add value and learn more about building a website through practice. I let my customers be my education. 

With the nonprofit app platform, we sold it dirt cheap in the beginning, even gave it away to some people, as a “beta” product to allow customers to feed into the design and functionality without the expectations of a perfect product. 

Frank Ortega, the divorce coach from the previous module, offered only 1:1 video coaching at first, learned what his clients needed, then built a system around what they needed and went on to build a course, sms group, and even a select membership for ultra dedicated customers.

Start with the most basic version of what you’re offering, launch it before it’s ready, and learn what your customers need from their honest feedback, then adapt your product to fit their needs. If you do this, in time you’ll end up with a product you know customers want, because they built it. 

 

Launch

At launch, charging or charging your full price is the last thing you should do in the process, not the first. You should be giving away or at minimum discounting your product to attract customers that are willing to beta test and offer real life feedback. 

If you position it correctly, giving the product away or charging a small amount to be a beta user can save a lot of frustration on the clients end too as they’re walking in with the expectation that the service isn’t complete and they’re excited to help shape it not to get something that “just works” at first. 

Adapt

Invest time and energy in feedback. This requires a lot of humility as often we take it personally, but when a customer has a vested interest in the betterment of the product, they’re truly honest. When a customer is only focused on solving their problem, their feedback is surface level. 

There are a lot of tools that can be used to automatically collect feedback, and you should have them, but in the beginning, the best thing I did was call a customer directly. They’re ecstatic that you care enough and offer up honest, impactful feedback. 

You will always be adapting. It’s part of the process. 

Sometimes features you thought would be used for one thing, are used in a completely different way. That’s because your customers aren’t walking in with a preconceived idea of what that feature should do or be used for. So don’t be married to a specific use case if it’s different than how you envisioned it. 

We built a prayer wall for example into the nonprofit apps. We quickly realized it became a bulletin board more than a prayer wall. But that’s because the customers had a deep need to communicate in a manner that was different than we thought. This was a product breakthrough though because we realized quickly a feature that the customers needed that they didn’t know they needed. 

 

3 Rules For Adapting To Feedback

 

  1. Take their advice seriously, they’re living breathing customers that care about the product as much as you do, otherwise they wouldn’t be using or have need of it in the first place. 
  2. Let your customers in on the roadmapping process. This doesn’t apply to just software products. It applies to services too. What are you working on? What improvements and additions are you excited about. Let your customers in on your journey and make sure they know their voice is heard and directly applied. 
  3. Update your customers when you’ve released something that addresses their feedback. This ensures your feedback process is as effective as possible. 

 

Price

When you wait until you’ve adapted the product to your customers feedback you begin understanding what kind of value they see in the product. When you price a product or service based on what you think is the most valuable piece your customers don’t understand the value and thus don’t buy. 

When you price a product on what you’ve discovered matters most to your customers and audience, by allowing them into the product before it’s ready, you create a direct relationship between the solution they want most and the value they see in it. This often creates the ability to charge much more than you originally anticipated because there’s a direct relationship between the ask and the value.

When you’re ready to charge future customers or raise your pricing you should inform your current customers that their pricing is grandfathered (if they’re paying a discounted amount) or that you have appreciated their feedback and in exchange, they’ll receive an allotted amount of additional time free, but then you’ll begin charging. 

Never raise the price from a tester if they’re paying a beta rate. Unless your service has a scaling price model. 

We’ll dig deeper into pricing models in the next couple of modules. 

 

Key Takeaways

  • What separates a successful product is how well it continues to solve a customer’s issue. 
  • Simpler and focused products create longer lasting customer relationships. 
  • Offer deeper value in one core product that solves a customer’s issue over and over again.
  • The simplest version of something is often the most impactful. Identify the simplest version of the problem you’re trying to solve; this creates clarity with your audience.
  • For complex offerings with multiple valuable solutions, break the offerings into a value ladder that solves a deeper need every step the customer takes. 

 

Launch, Adapt, Price

  • Launch with your minimum viable version of your product.  
  • Use customer feedback from offering the product for free or discounted to test. 
  • Start charging after receiving customer feedback.