When is your product ready to go to market? It’s not as easy as, “this little product goes to market, this little product goes home, this little product gets a redesign and this little product gets none.” All kidding aside, you will never think you’re ready, you may want to go wee wee wee all the way home, but here’s how to make sure you have the minimum viable product.
As a disclaimer, I have no patience. When I was a baby, I would refuse a bottle if it had not been handed to me within a minute of coming out of the microwave. However, since the bottle incident, I have tried to channel Thoreau; “if we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.” Even now I will sometimes choose to eat cold food as waiting 60 seconds is too long. Imagine how I felt when it took 5 years before Pretty Knotty hair ties were ready for sale!
How do you define a minimum viable product? Speaking from experience, a product must do its job. If you’re inventing a hair tie for female athletes (we’ve already done it, too late), you need to make a hair tie that holds tight in wet and dry situations on all kinds of hair. If your product does not do its job, (as is the case with Pretty Knotty’s competitors), it’s not ready.
When I say that a product needs to do its job, it does not have to be perfect at its job. When our slip tie hair ties first came out, we had trouble with the coating lasting as long as we would like. Our blend of silicone is as good as it gets, however it’s certainly possible that a better mix of silicone is out there, and our product will be even better. Continuous improvement is the name of the game. Take a look at the 1889 Mercedes-Benz, well equipped with wooden brakes and a steering…pole. Compare this to the 2018 G650 Landaulet, a space-age rocket ship with a list of patents longer than the Belt and Road Initiative. Although people still love huge rims almost 150 years later, it’s clear to tell that Mercedes is always improving their products.
Hindsight is 20/20, and you won’t realize your product needs improvement until you improve it. Bob Lutz gives a great example of improving products in his seminal book, Car Guys vs Bean Counters; a must-have book for people who want to change the world. The book chronicles Lutz’s trials and tribulations to improve the quality of GM cars. Lutz realized that the gaps between the body panels of GM cars were uneven, while his competitors put together cars with much more precise craftsmanship. The body shop didn’t even notice they had this issue, and was easily able to correct it.
So, how can you fix problems that you can’t even see? Easy, you get other people to help you. When you have your blinders on, especially working on the same thing week after week, it’s best to get an outside opinion. Friends, families, colleagues, even the cashier at Chipotle, every pair of fresh eyes brings a new perspective. If you really want to know if you have a great product, show it to a pessimist…seriously! Once our hair tie had been shown to someone I knew was a debbie downer, and they had very little to complain about, I knew we were ready.
Selling your product? Advertising your product? That’s a different story. But when your product does it’s job, it’s ready to go to market. Remember what Henry Ford said, “Before everything else, getting ready is the secret to success.”