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5 advices for delivering Smart Products/Services

Updated: Nov 4, 2020

Before getting into that delicious piece of gossip, let me introduce myself:

Hi. I am Alexandru, an External Relations Consultant at EBS Integrator, one of the finest software houses in Moldova, that will bring your idea to the next level faster than anyone else out there. 

For five years now, I have been watching startups and software-driven companies alike rise from a 30K budget to 350 million in investments. I witnessed startups plummet to bankruptcy that sold out as pennies. I have also observed legacy software re-born to perform verified scenarios in accelerated rhythms. 

Only in the last three years, we've powered about 120 software projects. I've been there for each of them and observed the emergence of certain patterns. Some lead to well-deserved success, while others lead to imminent doom. 

Since I preach Louis Pasteur's "knowledge belongs to humanity" choir, I'll dispense some of my observations, in hopes you could look-out for these when you plan your digital service or product. 

Coding with excellence is not enough

A great idea can be powered by a whiny WordPress install - as long as the shoe fits. If your service model is limited and you're just looking to verify your idea, shift your focus on the scope first, and then consider what should power it in delivery. 

Everyone is sick and tired of Blockchain-driven HR solutions, CRM systems, or booking interfaces. Count in General Data Protection Regulations as a requirement, and you'll have your brilliant tech end-up in penalty-related debt. 

The truth is, most of your end-users don't care if you're running your service on cobalt or even assembler - if you designed something that solves a real problem (be it even in Excels' Visual basic) chances are you're getting some action.  

Remember those 120 delivered projects? I bet my head on their stack choice and quality control. Alas, we've got only about 40 projects (still live) screened in our portfolio to date.

The other 80 have found themselves acquired or have withered away in the 99% startup graveyard. Again, it wasn't the technology behind - in most of the cases, there was simply no market for that product or service to thrive within.

Try improving something rather than reinventing the wheel

I know there's a herd of arrows heading towards my back for this phrase, but hear me out: the fastest way to achieving market penetration is via replicating something that already exists and solving that industry-specific problem, better than the competition.

After all, efficient innovation resumes at repurposing the old for modern usage. 

Of course, you can always take the hard way: educate your audience, create interest, an entirely new market, and fiddle with adoption techniques. This is quite a gamble: the winner takes it all. What they forgot to tell you is that your chance of becoming a winner is 1 in 10.

If you got the stamina, pockets, and the stomach for that, then, by all means, take your chances. Remember tho': you have been warned.

Build more with less

This is something you will get quite fast. Money is like air for a startup, hence the requirement of spending 'em wisely.

If you got enough of them to build an ice-cream truck network on the moon, feel free to invest in a fully-fledged software development process. Otherwise, count your pennies and go for an iterative, scope narrowed development cycle.

Build a robust base and focus on implementing the core of your system: the game-changer feature that will attract your target audience. 

Remember that Excel stunt? That is, in fact, based on a true story.

The "guy" sold "Power BI macros" (aka API procedures) under a WordPress front, packaged as a microstrategy tool. After loading a couple of CVSs and demonstrating analytics capabilities he had 6 clients in line, ready to buy a subscription on spot.

Their neighboring booth, an AI/AR and Block-Chain-powered dog hosting platform, still had to find, nurture, and engage customers.   

Trade the hype for value - this way you might even get a better investment perspective and early adopters will float in, faster than you'd expect them. 

Do your homework

Yes - you are allowed to shout "Duh!" at this one. But hold your breath for a while, especially since your assignment might be a lot more lighter. 45% of startups fail because they build revolutionary products with no use for their audience.

In other words, if your idea should survive the harsh fire of a seed-stage, (captain obvious note here) you need to build products for THE OTHER PEOPLE – yeah, it is that simple. 

Put others first, get constructive feedback and throw away those “everything is going to be ok” glasses. We had about 15 projects that were headed to be doomed, only because those were designed exclusively for the product owner, and surprise - nobody else followed.

There are a few tips I've noticed some of our most successful clients use.

First: hunt for facts and drop any assumption. Our top-performing products

(like Global Database, Tidy, or MeApp) are strictly based on real-life needs.

We even had end-users brought in by product owners to tell us they "want it that way".

I'd strongly advise you to get outside, trying to interact (if possible) with your end-users, and diving inside their minds. 

Second: Get your test-tube kit and validate your pool of assumptions.

As most of our successful clients say: there is no simple way to find out what matters to your audience. Hence the requirement of running short surveys or asking around your networks' opinion about specific use-cases. These will give you a perspective on how well you're solving your stakeholder's issues and point you in the right direction.

No business is built on 'nice to haves’ and asking around (from what I've observed so far), will help you filter the clutter.

Third: Build a failsafe - no business plan survives the first contact with customers. Looking back, those products that succeeded were usually powered by owners with fair expectations. Their initial instinct was to test/experiment/gather metrics about their target audience before having something to be excited about. 

They were well aware that things might not go according to the plan and had aces in their sleeves (pivoting strategies, alternative monetization/revenue stream etc).

That was, perhaps one of the most obvious lessons. Digital service provisioning is a dynamic market – so should be your expectations.

Find “the right” message

Find that goldie-lock message that will resonate amongst your end-users. As per one of our long-term partners, author of the "GlobalDatabase" Success Story, Mr. Nicolae Buldumac: "The pitch is everything, especially if you've decided to adventure on the innovative side of product management.

In his perspective, when you offer something new, borrow some ideas from Simon Sinek.

A while ago he wrote a book “Start with Why” most of our stakeholders recommend and what it seems, that resource is one of the many that would help you craft the right tune. 

"People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it and what you do simply proves what you believe. In fact, people will do the things that prove what they believe.

In other words, focus your message on your values, on your core beliefs, and practical use. Ask yourself why would they buy-in? This will not only make your audience relate to your product/service but will also drive more innovators and early adopters that found themselves in the same boat." - Simon Sinek, “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action” 

From what I've seen, many of those who talk about that resource, lean towards

“The law of distribution of innovation”. Just to wrap-up, that law focuses on directing the right message to innovators and early adopters. Allegedly, those end-users are most likely to recommend, comment, and build traction for your product and/or service – therefore, your new product/service should appeal to these people in the first place.

Again, allegedly, if a startup plays its cards right, not only will it survive its seed stage, but will also gain higher success rates in matters of customer building and/or service adoption. Essentially, this "law of diffusion of innovation" tells us that if you want mass-market success or mass-market acceptance of a new idea, you cannot have it until you achieve 15% to 18% of market penetration. Hence, the early adopters focus. In theory, if you manage to get that 18% among innovators and early adopters you can easily trip over that generic 10% of sales conversion everyone is proud of, leaping from insecurity to consistency. 

End Notes

There's more "free advice" from where these came from, however, since product development (especially when stepping into digital provisioning) is not something you can easily toy with - we'll wrap-up our story here. The above "forms of nostalgia" are nothing but a collection of things that powered our success stories. For some those might work, for others, they might not - so, as per any dispensed advice, take it with a grain of salt.

We can however build a success story out of your prototype, as soon as you join us for a private consultancy call. Let us be your "sponsors of tomorrow" and will drive your digital experience to the next level. 

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