3 Steps to Calibrate Your Product Before Liftoff

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If you shift the nose of an airplane by a few degrees, a plane leaving Los Angeles for New York 🗽 will end up in Washington D.C. 🏛️

You probably won’t notice it on the runway. You might not even notice it until you’re in the air. Seemingly small mistakes early on make a big impact on the long-term.

It’s the same with product development.

If you’re not testing and validating your ideas, you’re putting your product and your business at risk. If the average development cost for a quality app ranges between $100,000 to $1,000,000 dollars, that’s a significant investment in resources. Not only that, if you consider the opportunity cost, the true cost of building the wrong product could be much higher in lost revenue.

The good news is that you have the tools to calibrate the direction of your product. It requires more upfront work but it’s better than having to course correct midway, or worse, after you’ve launched your product.

1️⃣ Identify and understand your “best-fit” customers.

If you already have raving fans, spend time with them and have them tell you why they love your product. These “best-fit” customers are who you should be building your product for.

If you don’t have an established customer base, it’s too early to commit to a big build and launch. Take the time to speak with the people you want to serve and seek to understand their challenges intimately as you get ready for the next step.

2️⃣ Prototype and test with real customers.

Spend a week to quickly prototype your idea. The prototype doesn’t have to be a finished or polished version. It just needs to look “real enough” so you can collect meaningful feedback from prospective customers.

3️⃣ Iterate until you’ve met customer needs.

Be prepared to accept that v1 of your prototype might not hit the mark. You’ll need to keep on iterating until you’re able to satisfy your customer’s needs. Make sure you have a process for iteration so you can be consistent with the way you incorporate customer feedback.

You’ve now spent your time understanding your “best-fit” customers, you’ve prototyped multiple times with real customers, you’ve incorporated feedback into your product. Now it’s time to launch with confidence.

Of course, this isn’t the end of it. The product build itself will require adjustments that will involve your product, marketing, and sales team as new information comes in. If building a product that customers love and is like building, flying, and landing a plane, we need all hands on deck.

Write to me in the comments below what challenges you’re facing with building your product, and I’ll send you some suggestions for how you can point it in the right direction.

12 thoughts on “3 Steps to Calibrate Your Product Before Liftoff

  1. This is a helpful article, Peter. I am building an online course and I’ve recently come to accept your third point, which is that there will be many iterations of my course, not just one!

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    1. This is such a timely article for our startup! On Monday, we’re onboarding two students for an intensive 6-week run at developing a prototype! Thanks to seeing your point #2, I’m going to make sure I line up some test customers to be a part of this process!

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  2. Having been in the startup world for many years Peter, I can totally say your advice is spot on. Once we had initial success, a lot of the rest of it was iterations to build even better products based on customers’ needs and feedback, which we invested quite a bit into. I also find it really interesting because the same principles really apply to all the marketing I’ve done in my life as well. In marketing, this process can save a lot of money too.

    Right now, I’m in the 3rd stage and in the process of figuring out what is the best way for me to deliver my service to have a greater impact in a way that is easier and more lucrative. I have an idea…will be testing it soon.

    Thanks for your always insightful articles!

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  3. The most important–and most difficult–for me has been iteration. By the end of product design, I’ve usually lost lots of the oomph required to keep going. But it makes a world of difference, as you pointed out. Thank you!

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  4. Valuable list of checkpionts Peter. I particularly like the part about ‘your best fit customer’ – it’s in the focus where value is created. I see 99 out of 100 times that we think are ‘targetted’ enough – but we’re not.

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  5. I like the iteration part. My new favorite word is experimentation. It takes a lot of emotion out of things if everything is a science experiment.

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  6. What a great analogy with the plane. What I have found is that these efforts are counterintuitive. And to intentionally point the nose of our proverbial plane in the direction of our goals we must stop acting like we have it all figured out and be open to letting our ideas be changed by others, particularly our customers.

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  7. I love the focus on best-fit customers. We’ve been struggling with this lately as it’s so comfortable to just take a broader approach, but when we look at the numbers behind what we’re trying to do, it’s clear we need to focus on one level up and make it work!

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  8. Thank you Peter. All three steps are so clear and understandable in how important they are to be successful. The first step is so important. Spending quality time understanding customers’ needs. Excellent!

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