Ever travel on the Tube in London? Ever hear the conductor say “Mind The Gap”? Ever look down when ready to board the train to again see those words stenciled onto the platform?
The message is clear. Be careful of your step from the platform onto the train, as the gap between the two can be dangerous. So too for your product strategy. There are many product development strategies I have adopted over the years including this simple product question.
But when I really break the problem down, there are only two critical dimensions I think about when designing a product strategy:
- Obvious Value to the Buyer
- Implementation Cost to the Buyer.
Everything else is noise.
Lets break down each dimension and find the trick to a successful product rollout.
Obvious Value to the Buyer. There are a few things going on here. The first is “obvious”. The more you have to evangelize the value of your product (and its features), the harder it is. Some people will just not get it. I strive for my product and the messaging that goes along with it to strive for obvious. As in the buyer can easily see what value they will receive.
Implementation Cost to the Buyer. Many of us overlook this aspect but it is vitally important to the product design team that you understand the full cost of implementation of you product to the buyer. The more implementation friction, the less motivated buyers will be. Make sure you are incorporating ALL of the costs of implementation not just the financial cost. Also include time to set up, time to use the product and any ongoing support costs.
Uber is a great example of a product that has reduced the implementation costs for a user. Set up easily with a credit card and less than a minute later you are ready to go. The interface is so simple that with one-click you are in a car headed to your destination.
OK, Chris – what is this trick that can make or break my company?
When you mind the product gap, you are examining the distance between the obvious value of the product vs the implementation costs.
If you have high implementation costs but no-so-obvious value you are in a heap of trouble. If you have low implementation costs and fairly obvious value then you have a chance to get good adoption.
When I review product strategy with my investments, I am always looking to really understand this gap. Like many complex equations, there are multiple dimensions to review and align. Take a step back and honestly review your product and identify the gap. Is the gap manageable or do you need to go back to the drawing board? Careful, the train is leaving the station.
Posted by Chris Heivly
Speaker, investor, mentor, startup founder. One of 3 or 4 Co-Founders of MapQuest (sold to AOL for $1.2B). Managing Director of $25M Venture Fund in late 90's. CEO, COO or President of various companies ranging from $200k to $20M in size. Currently, I am one of two Managing Directors of The Startup Factory making 10-14 seed investments per year, founder and MC of the Big Top Job Fair and national writer and speaker waxing poetic around startups and startup communities.