Given the fact that only 29 percent of startups see the light of day 10 years after opening their doors, it’s no secret that to stay in the entrepreneurial game for the long term requires not just the individual capacity to focus, work collaboratively and take calculated risks but also the market awareness to constantly refine your product for appeal.
In other words, there are two simple questions every entrepreneur must ask that will determine one’s long-term viability to stay alive in the marketplace:
- What is the problem I want to solve?
- How does my product or service solve that problem?
Let’s assume you’ve already defined the problem set to solve for. The next step is a bit trickier and necessitates a detailed outline that should serve as an entrepreneurial blueprint. Here are six prerequisites for how your killer product should answer the call:
First and foremost, a vision identifies what your product will be and whom it will serve. This is your roadmap that guides you startup trajectory and ultimately, answers tough questions that arise when complexity finagles its way into your routine. A clear vision communicates direction and certainty upon which employees can rely when they fall into that gray area of decision-making.
The vision of Southwest Airlines, for example, is clear cut: "To connect people to what’s important in their lives though friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel." The clarity of this vision helps employees answer tough questions about whether to go with lower prices or greater comfort, for instance (they should go with lower prices).
Does your product require an encyclopedia book as an instruction manual? Simply put, simplicity plays to what is most appealing for customers and that’s ease of use and accessibility. Can your product be easily adopted right now? Can it be integrated with what already exists? If the answer is no, then you may consider how to “dumb” it down.
Einstein would be proud here. What is the value of your product and why is it better than that of your competitors? Many factors play into this such as presentation, usability and cost. One way to support the relative advantage of your product is to employ numbers and data that back up your claim.
This is the “OMG-I-gotta-share-this-with-everybody-I-know” factor. Think of it this way: If you inadvertently discovered your product on the web, how likely would you be to tell your friends about it? Would you put your own stamp of approval on it, or would you lose friends by doing so? How does the product measure up to its marketing claim? What would a competitor target if they wanted to defeat it?
To reach maximum sociability -- and therefore, scalability -- your product should be uncommon in nature but answer a common need.
This is a two-way street for both the company and the customer. From the entrepreneurial perspective, you want your product to be accessible to consumers from every far-flung corner of technology ranging from mobility to desktop.
According to a 2014 study by Small Business Trends, 60 percent of online traffic comes from mobile devices. The beauty of one-stop-shop services such as DMI is that it makes things easier on the entrepreneur, as DMI manages everything mobile from strategy to app development, multi-channel commerce, brand and marketing, analytics and data management.
I couldn’t come up with another word that ended in –ity so this will have to make do. Relate-abiltiy -- the ability to, well, relate a story -- knows no bounds for the simple fact that stories resonate. It’s the “sticky factor” that destines a brand for life or death, success or failure, remembrance or forgetfulness.
Think of the memorization technique known as chunking, where you group dissimilar objects together so they “stick out” more (again, the “sticky factor”). The reason this works is similar to why myths, legends and stories transcend over time -- they strike mental and emotional chords that cause you to remember and share.
The long-game of entrepreneurship is just that -- long -- which is why the aforementioned prerequisites will take time to iterate, ingrain and implement over time. Start with a vision and adapt its simplicity, sociability, relativity, accessibility and relate-ability as you refine both the product and yourself.