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Easy ways to avoid the product graveyard "Product people - Product managers, product designers, UX designers, UX researchers, Business analysts, developers, makers & entrepreneurs 27 June 2022 True Premium Content, Product Failure, Mind the Product Mind the Product Ltd 913 Product Management 3.652
· 4 minute read

Easy ways to avoid the product graveyard

We all know most products fail, (as many as 90% of them, according to some reports) so let’s take a look at some of the most common reasons for this to happen. Here’s a list of key questions to ask yourself so that – hopefully – your product doesn’t have to fall into the same trap.

Have you asked the right questions?

Are you acting on a hunch or the views of one influential customer or stakeholder, or have you done some research?  Do you understand customer needs and wants – and what they’re willing to pay for? Is your research as thorough and as unbiased as resources allow?

Have a watch of Randeep Sidhu’s talk from #mtpcon London+EMEA, From pandemic to pindemic. It’s his account of the development of the UK government’s second Covid app after the first app had failed. It’s a great exposition of what it means to ask the right questions and understand customer wants and needs.

Can you sustain the interest of key sponsors and customers?

Your world-beating product will never see the light of day unless you can keep everyone who’s involved interested and engaged with its success. We’ve all seen good ideas fall by the wayside because some senior person somewhere lost interest in it. This post, Easy ways to engage your stakeholders, shares some helpful quick wins for keeping these people onside.

Are you clear about what the product should achieve?

Is there clarity and consensus about what your product should do? Is your product, as Marty Cagan teaches us, valuable, usable, feasible and viable? The importance of a clear product vision, one which is founded on value for customers, cannot be overstated here: this #mtpcon Digital Americas session from Whoop CPO Ben Foster, Build what matters with vision-led product management, runs through some of the most common dysfunctions on product teams that contribute to product failure. No matter where you find them, these dysfunctions, he says, are all variations on one theme. They are different ways of filling a void that exists where a product vision should be.

Have you really built a product?

Are you sure you’re solving a real problem for enough people to sustain a business? Or are you in reality just addressing a few edge cases? As David Pasztor, CEO of UX Studio says in this article on Medium, one of the chief reasons that products fail is because they are useless: “People don’t really need them. They don’t solve any pain or they don’t give enough joy to make it worth the effort.”

Are you satisfied with the look and feel and overall quality of the product?

Let’s assume that you can answer all the above questions positively, and think about product quality. Customer experience, look and feel, usability – these things are fundamental to a product’s appeal, so we should spend the time to get them right. A quality product will build customer trust more quickly and will be the catalyst for recommendations and good reviews, as this article Elevating expectations: 6 ways product quality affects your brand, shows.

Do you have a solid go-to-market strategy?

It’s not enough to build a great product. We live in hyper-competitive times – there are about 3.5 billion apps on the Google Play store and 2.2 billion on the Apple App Store – so you can be pretty certain that there’s a digital product somewhere that does something very similar to yours.

As SVPG Partner Martina Lauchengco commented in a keynote at #mtpcon SF+Americas 2022, building the perception of the product can be more important than building the product itself. History is full of cases where great products, digital and physical, have failed to make an impact or lost out to inferior or less technologically sound competitors because they had inadequate or poorly conceived marketing and go-to-market strategies. Anyone still got a Microsoft Zune?

Do you have realistic expectations of what success looks like?

One man’s failure is another man’s success – a failure for Apple or Google can make for a very decent business somewhere else. Mind the Product has a lot of valuable content to dig into on measuring success and here are just a few of them: Measuring the right North Star metric, It’s all about the outcome by Georgie Smallwood, A Guide to Product/Market Fit.

Fail fast, learn fast

A product’s failure can come down to one or more reasons among a myriad of causes: lack of rigour about objectives, poor marketing, insufficient research, poor design, poor timing, misjudged pricing among them.

But is there anything about modern society and technology that makes products more likely to fail? Well, no – save that technology has made product development much quicker and cheaper and enabled today’s highly competitive ‘fail fast, learn fast’ business environment. It’s an environment where all aspects of a product offering need to be considered and polished to maximise the chances of success. And a dash of serendipity never goes amiss!

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