Building a product is a time consuming, and complicated process — one that, at times, makes you want to pull your hairs out. It is not just enough that you are solving the pain point of your consumers, you need to do it in a way that would be intuitive, easy to use, and can potentially carry on its sleeve the incredible value-add it brings to the lives of your users/consumers. It is a task that can best be described as an undertaking that isn’t meant for the faint of heart. Many a times, it results in you overpacking your products with so many features that even you can’t figure out a way to best describe the question — “What is it that your product does?”
So, I guess the question that every entrepreneur and product manager constantly faces is the same.
How do I build something my consumers actually want? Something that they instantly fall in love with.
This has led to many products going through never ending iterative product design cycles; and even then, some of them are never able to figure it out completely.
In the ten years that I have been involved in the startup world — building products for my own startups, or working with startups that have had millions of consumers — I have come to realise many things, the biggest of them is — “Delight your consumers!” Everything else is secondary.
And that one motto is supposed to be with you no matter what you do. It should be there on every single screen of your website/app/product. It must be there in your post-sales customer experience and customer support/service. It should even be there in your marketing communications.
While I was working with Myntra (acquired by Flipkart since then), Ashu (co-founder and Head of Sales and Marketing) had one simple rule — If you are using a product image in any of your marketing communication, then that product needs to be there in the first three products that appear on the landing page linked to that ad/banner. His logic was simple — Even if just 5% of consumers are clicking on that banner because of that product, I do not want to leave them wondering where is the product they came looking for. So either that product needs to be at the very top, or just use a different product image.
A simple rule, but one that was coming from the intent of keeping your consumers delighted.
Product design is no different. You want your users to enjoy the experience that comes with using your product. You want them to love your product so much that they ‘may’ tell a friend about it. I have come across countless businesses who are looking for ways in which they can achieve virality for their campaigns, their apps, their product. For the most part, they associate virality with the notion of a video or a song that went ‘viral’. I am yet to come across many ‘virality-chasing’ entrepreneurs who are aware of the term — “K-factor”, or as it is better known, the “Viral Co-efficient”. To put it in simpler terms:
A viral coefficient is a number which tells you how many customers each is your present customer bringing to you on an average.
And to over-simplify things, let me tell you about the only rule that matters:
The viral coefficient must be greater than 1!
That’s it. Each consumer of yours need to bring more than 1 consumer to your platform, and you have virality. Everything after that works with the simple concept of compounding numbers at each step.
If your business has a viral coefficient of 1.3 and you have 100 consumers today, how many consumers will your business have at the end of day 30? (Assuming each person is bringing in the next 1.3 people within the next 24 hours)
Day 1–100+100*1.3 = 100+130 = 230
Day 2–230 + 130*1.3 = 230+169 = 399
Day 30–872,999+201,538*1.3 = 1,134,998
Sure, you won’t have this kind of result wherein your consumers are brining in new consumers within 24 hours of them having signed up with your product. Hell, you won’t even be able to get them to graduate from being a ‘signed-up user’ to a ‘transacting consumer’ within 24 hours of them having signed up. But, those numbers give you an idea of how strong virality can be.
So what would indeed make your product viral? If your consumer likes your product, finds it useful, loves the experience of using your product, trust the value you are claiming to impart. So, focus on that before anything else. Infusing a referral scheme wherein you are incentivizing users to bring in their friends won’t bring you virality; it may drain you out of cash though.
Talk to your consumers, and figure it out then. And once you have built the product, go out and talk to your consumers some more. You may get to realise that a lot of your assumptions were wrong, and that may mean some rework, but at least you’ll get to know exactly:
Don't ask your consumers, what more features they would like you to include in the product. That is just a disaster waiting to happen. You will end up with at least a 100 item long feature list. Try to understand how they are using your product, and what are the challenges in their usage flow. Once you have done that, you have all you need to design the right product flow, decide on the features that your product needs etc.
If you want a loyal consumer base, you need to stop thinking of them as people who are paying you for your product and services, and start thinking of them as your tribe — your community. A closely knitted one, at that.
You’ll do that by communicating with your audience, understanding their pain points, and most importantly, helping them out when you don’t need to. What does that mean? In simple words, don’t ask yourself “How does it help me or my business” when you are trying to help someone figure out a way around a roadblock they are facing. Be a genuine friend to them, help them out in any way you can — even if it means suggesting them a product completely unrelated to you if in your honest opinion that product suits their need in a better way.
Don't wait to launch your product to start building the tribe. Start building the audience base, the community before you have launched the product. Start doing that as soon as you have a clear idea on what your business would be about. In the world of today, you can use a Facebook group, a Whatsapp group or any such medium to start building this community. Tell them of what you are building, help them see why you are building that, and start taking their opinion on the broader strokes. Don't get boggled down with the details; let them help you in painting the broader strokes, defining the outlines of the portrait.
Don’t be a ‘me too’ guy. You will need to give your consumers something that no one else is offering.
That’s challenging, isn’t it? Let us say you are a B2B SaaS product. It could be next to impossible to offer your consumers a value that no one else is already offering. So what can you do?
Offer it in a way that no one else is. Figure out that one thing that puts you ahead of the rest. It could be your intuitive ‘no learning curve’ product flow. It could be your amazing customer support function. It could be the most comprehensive, yet concise dashboard. Figure out what is it that could give you an edge, and latch yourself on to that. Latch on to it like your life depends on it.
Now this is something I ask all my friends to look for. Find the anchor in your product, in your business. The one thing that you should position before anything else.
Ideally, I would prefer a scenario where my product is doing one thing and one thing only. And it does that spectacularly. Unfortunately, we seldom are in ideal circumstances. So, our product ends up being something that does more than one thing — even then, though, try to limit is to as low a number as possible. But you MUST figure out 1 of those features/functions that you think is the most critical. The one function that would be able to simply delight your consumers. That one thing which would bring them back to your product for the second and the third time. And once you have figured that out, I want you to pick up a megaphone and scream your heart out talking about it. Talk about it all the time, scream about it every chance you get. Build the persona of your whole business around it. Make that a central theme for most of your marketing communications. Everything else is secondary. Let that one ‘necessity’ be something that when the consumers think of it, you are the first name that pops in their head.
Most of these rules are simple to follow, but require a lot of discipline and self restraint to adhere to. But if you want to scale your business, you would need to achieve customer delight. And to delight your customers, these steps are what has always worked for me. Maybe they will work for you as well.