February 03, 2020
Working in the consulting/service industry means that you are viewed as a consultant by the clients that pay for your company’s services. Many times, however, you will find yourself acting as more of a contractor when you simply accept every direction or recommendation the client makes.
It is not something to be ashamed of though, it is a very reasonable thing to do when one of the clichés of our time is, “The customer is always right”. You also probably think that by fulfilling the client’s every need, you will satisfy them and help their business succeed — because, after all, who understands your client’s business better than your client?
Unfortunately, that is not always case. In many situations, you will find that the client is blindsided by what their competitors are doing and simply want to match what is out there. And this is when you can truly prove that you are a consultant and expert. Your goal is to help your client's product achieve product-market fit. Dan Olsen wrote a fantastic book titled, The Lean Product Playbook, which summarizes or simplifies the steps towards achieving a product-market fit.
These are the main questions that you should help the client answer:
- Who is the target customer?
- What are the customer’s underserved needs?
- What is the value proposition that you want to bring?
- What are the features needed to build an MVP?
- What is the UX you want to create?
The first 2 layers or questions help us identify our market. These questions are very important because they are the base on which we will build our product.
Identifying the target customer is a critical first step because if you don’t understand who your end user is, you will not be able to meet their needs. For example, creating a website for digital native millennials is completely different from creating a website that is meant to be used by less tech savvy elders. There are multiple ways for you to identify potential target segments:
- Segmenting and analyzing existing data to detect trends and demographics
- Surveying customers
- Identify the target segments targeted by competitors and find the commonalities
After you have narrowed down the list of target customers, you can start creating the personas that you will use to guide you throughout the product development.
The next step is to find the needs of the personas that you have defined in the first step. The most important thing to note while brainstorming all the possible needs or desires of the users is to focus on thinking within the problem space and avoid getting limited by thinking in the solution space. That is, focus more on thinking about “what” you want to solve and “why” you want solve it than “how” you will solve it, thinking about the how should be done during the solutioning phase. This way you will be able to create a more comprehensive list of existing needs which you can later on refine based on technical capabilities.
The first step in the product phase of the product development process is to identify what you want your value proposition to be. To do this, you must highlight the benefits or features that each of your competitors’ products have and compare those to the benefits of your desired product, this will help you identify your differentiating factor that puts your product above all others.
MVP Feature Set
Once you have defined the differentiating factor of your product, it will be easy to narrow down on the features required to create the MVP. It is important to ensure that your MVP is a stand alone product with the following characteristics: functional, reliable, usable, and delightful. Although the product is not in its final form, the MVP should still instill a positive feeling within the user, faulty and incomplete experiences will ruin the brand’s image.
Design the Experience
This is the final step in building up to a complete product is the User Experience design. It's where all the hypotheses and assumptions made by the team must be incorporated into the design to ensure a seamless experience.
Finally, it is time to put all your ideas and assumptions to the test. Releasing the product and allowing the customers to test it will help you identify what is working and what requires further refinements. These are some of the ways you can learn more about your product and how clients are reacting to it:
- Data Analysis (Conversion stats, drop-off rate, usage time)
- A/B Testing
- Focus groups
- Product reviews
These steps can be iterated through multiple times until the product exceeds the end-users’ expectations. To be a better consultant and to help your client’s business, you should follow a well constructed plan towards creating the ideal product. It’s important not to rush to pleasing your clients by simply agreeing to their asks which could be based on less experienced speculation.