There was a time when I got asked to manage the development of a completely new product. I asked the client if this specific app had some market viability? He blatantly asked me to just make it. So despite the fact that he told me just to make it, the marketing side of me just had to test it. After looking at the numbers and feedback in the marketplace, that app was doomed to fail.
Why is it so important for you to do a complete variability test as a Product Owner?
In my eyes, a Product Owner in Agile has to take responsibility for the product’s success and failures. Why? The product owner controls the vision, communication with stakeholders and the product backlog. Thus, it is their sole responsibility to ensure that the product has a lot of success in the marketplace. Sure, running this has a lot of marketing elements to it, you have to do a lot of testing and ask other field experts in the marketing department to help you out and even more.
Personally, I have a fairly thorough background in marketing, for over 15 years, but it might not be that clear to a product owner. So, I’m going to tell you some really easy ways to check the viability of your product before it goes into development, this even applies to new versions and features.
Start With Why
An amazing way of thinking about the core of your product is to start with the question of “Why”. Why are you even making this product to begin with? What is the reason behind it?
What will it even do for your customers/clients?
If you start with why you understand the basis of the company’s values. If you follow those guidelines you will be able to actually make products/services that follow the reason and purpose for why your company even exists.
Based upon your company’s values and the reason of “Why”, you can have a vision for your product that actually aligns with the “Why”.
Watch this Ted Talk Video by Simon Sinek and you will understand.
Market Viability Testing for Product Owners
There are a lot of ways to run market viability testing. Most of them do include human interactions, but you have to compile all the data to see if the product will do well or not.
1. First off you want to determine the Persona types that you are building a product for. Don’t just get the rough demographics of the person and business, actually dive really deep into this person. If you can’t think of a persona type, then start by isolating your client bases and start grouping them together based upon similarities of demographics.
2. The Product MUST provide exceptional value: Ensure that you fully understand the personas’ needs. If you don’t understand what the product will not be as successful, sure you could force something into the market but do you want to force something upon a user and risk loss to a competitor? All products that you determine must have so much value that it is life changing for the persona.
3. Techniques for Data Collection:
You can use all of these or some of these, I just want to stress that the more you use and get an understanding for the better you will be off.
i. Competitor Analysis: There are a lot of ways to do competitor analysis. Personally, I love to do the “mystery shopper and demo”. That’s when you actually call your competitors up and get a demo. I like to record screens and then I know what they are doing. That will give you at least a form of understanding here, but all I have to say is Be Careful, you have to cover your tracks so well that no one will ever find you.
ii. Current Clients: Talk to your sales teams and your account management team. Find out why clients are canceling or what issues they are having. This form of communication is so key that it could change the course of a business if you can find out how to prevent loss on an existing product.
iii. Google Trends: What is Google Trends? Google Trends is a keyword analysis tool from Google that tells the average monthly trends on keywords that people are searching for. Just as a note, Google has changed its policies and you have to pay for an AdWords account in order to see more accurate data.
iv. Focus Groups: These are great if to do before, during or after a product launch or currently running product. Usually, you can survey some people to ensure that they match some of the target market you’re trying to acquire. If you don’t have the persona really isolated down you could just run these and get some insights as well. As a note: try to get as many people as you can, but I don’t recommend more than 5 people in a single room, it tends to get a bit out of control. Also, don’t’ forget to record the session.
v. Prototype Testing: If you can get out a small demo of the product, which you should if you’re doing Agile right, then get some about 15 – 20 people to do a test and have them use it and have them tell you everything.
vi. Online Surveys: There are a lot of tools available in the market if you have a small budget that will find the right people for you and even ask preliminary questions for you. You could even run some Google ads, Facebook ads, etc. and even put it out on your social media. There are a lot of techniques out there, but try to collect some data using surveys.
Now that you have your data, what do you do?
Once you’ve collected all of your data, you need to sit down and read. Understand what it is you’re going to make or what feature you’re going to be adding in. Remember, you don’t want to play the “I will out feature you” game. If you do that then you have a feature soup and nothing will make sense to the user at all.
I suggest you prioritize your actual feature list based upon the priority of how important it was for users or even on graphical trends. Sometimes this means even getting the core foundation just right. Overall you as the Product Owner, need to see the road map of what you will be building with your teams.
You will have to break out the product to viable steps and even estimate your budgets just right, I will get into the details on this on a later blog.
Once you’re done, you will know if your product is viable or not, if it is of value to your potential users.
It is extremely important that you do a viability check before you begin any new features or even new products. You as the product owner are the controller of this product and need to see the success of a product and you cannot do this without the right viability check. I wish you all the success for your products.
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