Success is a balancing act of time to market and quality of product: take too long to deliver and a competitor will beat you to it; deliver a bad product, and you will turn off your customers.
In the past, companies had to carefully take their time to create a high-quality product, and fixing problems was costly and difficult.
Today’s tools allow businesses to innovate faster than ever - and this is a huge advantage for those who can leverage that speed. For example, it used to be that software was written, tested, packaged and shipped to stores to be sold. If your company then discovered a problem, it was too late; it was already on store shelves or in consumers’ homes, and your reputation was already damaged.
With the advent of the web, pages weren't “delivered”, they were “visited”, which meant if you discovered a problem, you could fix it before the next person visited the page, and if the original visitor went back, the problem could already be fixed. Certainly testing remained important, but speed to market became even more important since the cost of a problem was significantly lower.
Technology and tools continue to evolve, enabling business to move even faster, while delivering even higher quality products. This is true for cars, mobile phones, and hardware of all types, as much as it’s true for software on the web.
Here are 5 things we did at pHin to move expeditiously, while improving quality at the same time:
- Talk with customers - quickly: It’s important to understand your potential customers, their pain points and their needs. But who has weeks or months for gathering people for focus groups? We leveraged social media to find people in our target audience who were interested in talking to us about their pools and hot tubs. A bunch of phone interviews later, we had the qualitative feedback we needed. (less than 1 week)
- Learn from people who have tried something similar - what worked, what didn’t: When we were starting pHin, we looked around to see if anyone else had a similar offering. We noticed a product called ePool had some similar capabilities, but had gotten bad reviews from its customers. We read the reviews, understood the business and product decisions that led to those reviews, and adjusted our own plans accordingly. (less than 1 week)
- Create a draft business model quickly - but don’t fall in love with it: This really enables you to do #1 again, but with more details. Now when you talk with customers, you can give them your elevator pitch and see how they respond. But even more importantly, you can test several variations on your website and see if you get different conversion rates with your customers. You may be surprised at what customers really want when you can show them purchase options. For example, pHin tested a “reserve your pHin for $49” option, but it didn’t convert any better than asking people to just purchase a pHin subscription upfront (for $399). Purchasing up front was just as good for the customers, and easier for the business, so we switched to that. (about a month or two)
- Test your marketing - quantitatively: Once you’re sure you have a viable product idea, it’s time to test the messaging. For pHin, we launched several Facebook ads with different messaging and images to see which ones resonated the best with potential customers. At first, we focused on measuring clicks to our website, then later as we continued to refine our website, we focused on measuring which messages and images were doing the best at driving purchases. (about a month or two, but ongoing)
- Look forward, not behind you: While looking around and talking to customers, stay focused on your mission, vision, and goals. At pHin, we were tempted to keep an eye out for competition or what others might be doing. But instead, we believe the best thing to do, for our customers and our company, is to stay true to our brand and ourselves, and deliver the best product, as fast as possible (always).
Follow us on our journey as we build not only a product, but also an ecosystem to make pool and hot tub maintenance simple and fast. If you want to learn more about pHin, visit www.phin.co or connect with us on Facebook.