3 Ways To Help Your Product Succeed: Think Ecosystem

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When launching a business, coming up with a terrific product isn't enough. A product is nothing without the necessary ecosystem to support it so do everything possible to create optimum conditions for success. By Ali Heron (Entrepreneur and Product Consultant)

I love meeting people who are passionate about their product. They say it will be the best product, period. And usually, to be fair, it is a fantastic and innovative idea. So why do these products ultimately not make it? According to a study by Booz-Hamilton, 66% of new products fail within 2 years. Often it is because those behind the product have failed to pay attention to everything else around it.

There are simple but vital things to consider. How easy is it to buy the product, to set it up, install it or request help in using it? If it's a platform, are there apps? Can users find the app they want? I could go on and on about these questions, depending upon what type of product you are building and in what industry. They may sound like pretty basic questions but the truth is, they can be what make or break your venture. Let’s look at a few key examples.

Know Your Audience: The Firms Who Did Their Homework

Windows is the dominant PC platform and has been for many years. Why? Because of the ecosystem around it. It appealed to a mass office market and so, in turn, many applications were developed exclusively for Windows because it was the most profitable platform for developers to target. Later Windows was designed to become easier and easier for corporate administrators and then users at home to install and manage.

Most product enthusiasts do not worry about how easy the administrator tools are to use, but paying attention to these constituents in your ecosystem can make a huge difference to how broadly your product is adopted. If you want to appeal to the widest market possible, you have to think about those with hugely limited experience of using your kind of product as well as those who thrive on the latest technologies.

The iPhone is an incredible success and really cemented the smartphone as a must-have for mainstream consumers. There are three key reasons for this. Firstly, it is effortless to setup: no complicated wizards and no need to deal with the AT&T guy at the store. You take it home plug it into your computer and voilà!  In 2007 this was amazing compared to the lengthy set-up required by other smartphones on the market, now you don’t even need a computer. Everything is done over the air. Secondly, Apple offer incredible technical support, and they do it face-to-face at a store near you. If you have an issue with your iPhone, you can pop into the “Genius Bar” and magically someone helps you fix it: again, no need to call technical support or deal with the Mobile Operator employee. Thirdly, as with Windows, it has a thriving and profitable application ecosystem because it got in there first. From the outset, iPhone apps were providing solutions to problems that people had yet to realize they were experiencing.

Zappos is another an incredible success in the online shoe retailing business - not because it sold more shoes or better shoes, but because Zappos has made the entire shoe shopping experience easy. Shoes are shipped in a day at no charge at all, you can return unwanted shoes for no cost and you have an entire year to return unworn shoes. It's no-hassle, no-fee philosophy is what makes it so appealing to its customers.

3 Ways To Follow Their Lead

While many products will find some initial success, not paying attention your products ecosystem will mean it ends up on the proverbial shelf collecting dust. The hardest part is making your product not only useful and innovative but also easy and pleasurable to use, no matter what happens. Humans are creatures of habit, so work out how you can make their lives simpler and make their 'go-to' product your product. Here are three top tips for achieving this:

Understand Your Customer

Not everyone will be a customer so whilst it's important to know who you are targeting, it's also key to know who is NOT your customer.  This will help you to make better decisions not only about your product but also about everything else around it. In a nutshell: the earlier you think about your product’s ecosystem, the more likely you will create a product that truly delights.

Understand a Day in the Life of Your Customer

How is your product going to make their day better? Better can be defined as making something simpler, faster or smarter. And not just once: make sure it can do this regularly. You want your product to continually add value, not just once, unless that is your business model. According to TechCrunch, for example, 16% of mobile phone customers will use an app just twice if it fails to impress them.

Understand Your Customer’s Entire Interaction With Your Product

Are you with them throughout the entire process? How does your customer find out about your product? How do they purchase it? Then there are issues from unboxing and installation to setup and upgrades. All products are great when everything is set up and working, but how difficult is it for your customer to get to this happy place? Have you covered all bases?

Women 2.0 readers: What steps have you taken to ensure your product stands the best possible chances of success?

alihparis1smallAbout the guest blogger: Ali specializes in bringing new products to market by translating business and customer needs into technical requirements. Before stepping out on her own, she spent ten years at Microsoft  working in three different divisions and on many different technologies. She holds an MBA from TRIUM (a joint program between NYU, LSE and HEC Paris) and a Bachelor's and Masters in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Johns Hopkins University. Follow her @aheron Photo credit: maigi via Shutterstock