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Writing your business plan — Product Development

What does your product look like? Who is it serving? How will you prove it is fit for purpose? Who is building it?

These are all questions your investors will all have so this is the time to start thinking about them in context of the rest of your plan.

Bear in mind — you’re still building a product even if you’re a services company. You need to consider the user journey / experience / feedback etc. when it comes to interacting with your IP. This will be less important to an investor though (and investors may not be interested in your services startup anyway so you will be planning to grow organically).

Minimal What? We’ve all heard about MVP’s (minimal viable product), but my friend Anthony Mann, the Founder at the world class product company Make Us Proud has a much better expression — MLP (minimal LOVEABLE product). I think there is quite a distinction between the two, in that one feels much less enticing to build than the other! Would it be more motivating to build a product that your users would love, as opposed to merely interact with?

Who & how will you develop your product? Who is going to build the product in your startup? Are you a technical founder, or you do have someone who can do it for equity/low cost? If you have a proof of concept fund then you could find a development partner to build the first version as a prototype and prove that someone will buy your product. You can then use the results as part of your seed investment justification and planning. Depending on what you need to build, will impact the level of experience your developers/partner need to demonstrate. Also bear in mind that your market may also dictate this. Health & Finance sectors may require certain standards to be adhered to, or at least you’ll need to demonstrate your understanding of those requirements at this early stage.

Measure 5 times, cut once! So what does loveable actually mean? How will you measure that as a metric(s)? And what is important to meet your growth goals (what demonstrates success)? You are going to need measure user feedback by implementing a user testing process. This process needs to be easily repeatable for your sake and accessible for users; try and remove as much feedback resistance as possible for your early adopters. Feedback will depend on what you are making, e.g. do you need to ensure the most efficient user journey to and through your marketing site? Do you combine quantitate results and qualitative feedback to give you a more comprehensive picture of your product efficacy?

It is estimated that you only need 5 users to give you all the feedback you’re going to need at each stage of testing. Recruit your users as soon as you need them, don’t leave it too late. You will likely need a lot more than you think as many may (will) drop out.

Creating your user personas early in your development cycle will ensure your product will be as fit for them as possible. High level customer profiles are also a good way to find early adopters to recruit.

Product road map Your roadmap is an important document that will be presented in your business plan. Investors will want to understand what you expect to develop and how you justify each new piece of work (what value does each feature add to the users and business bottom line?). The product roadmap will need to be simple, don’t be tempted to make your product so comprehensive that you can’t test each feature and your users end up confused.

This is a great article from Roman Pichler on product roadmap. Roman also has some great product tools available.

Bringing your product to market Your plan already contains your market segment and an idea of users. How are you going to connect with your ideal customer? Your customer profiles will give you an idea of where to start looking.

Are you looking to appeal to a B2B audience? Don’t be afraid of finding people in real life (IRL)! You will gain so much more feedback and trust by looking people in the eye and explaining what you are trying to do. Do you need to employ partners to make connections? Is there a company that your product compliments and therefore will increase the likelihood of introductions?

Be prepared! Don’t go looking without a plan. You need to know what you’re offering, if there is a cost, how much time and money people need to commit etc.

Budget How much does our product cost and when are those costs going to be realised? You can include some high level costs on your roadmap, but be careful not to over-complicate it with finances. Can you figure out a financial return on investment for much of your product development? This goes a long way to demonstrating your deep understanding of the product market fit.

As with everything in life, so much more can be written on this subject! Please get in touch if you have any specific questions and I will do my best to help!

Happy business growing!! Cheers, Duncan.

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