How do I start to create a Product?

Discipline D01: Product

Why is “Product” one of the Three Key Disciplines? Let me first of all be clear that, when I refer to “Product”, I’m referring to whatever it is that you can sell. It could be kites, software, estate agency or spoons. It includes services, therefore, not just physical, tangible widgets that you can pick up and throw at a wall in frustration. Everything I write about “Product” should be considered in this context.

Of the Three Key Disciplines, “Product” is probably the most technical. You can argue about the finer points of marketing SEO or sales 33 process but the key to any successful business is its product. What is it that you can sell?

Note, too, that it’s not what you are selling, it’s what you can sell. Throughout this book, I want to banish the idea that this is purely a product that emanates from you, whilst your clients have been sitting there just waiting for you to show up with it. They haven’t. You will not succeed with this mindset. Stop it.

Your product is a feature of its environment. The classic route to slow death is to stick with your product because it’s always worked in the past. Now, more than ever before, that won’t work for long. Customer visibility – and competitor availability – across multiple products, industries and geographies means that progress elsewhere will necessarily impact on you. There is no getting away from this truth.

I have spent many years working in the UK property technology sector and, very recently, the rise of “hybrid” agencies such as Purplebricks has engendered a fascinating existential struggle amongst some “traditional” estate agents. Their business models, featuring costly High Street offices with minimal footfall, have been placed under pressure from online-only advertisers offering a cheaper, upfront fee to sell your home.

The fallout has been significant. Share prices of the more established companies such as Countrywide - the largest estate agent in the UK - has plummeted 50% in 2016, whilst Purplebricks’ doubled in the same period.

Progress is inevitable

Progress happens. Innovation happens. The best “traditional” estate agents that are dealing with the threat of these incomers are those that quietly get on with iterating their products to match the new reality. But, just as interestingly, the “hybrid” agents are also constantly amending their business models too, increasing their prices and offering more face-to-face services as they morph to match customer demand too.

It’s not difficult to see a meeting somewhere near the middle where the cost of selling your home is somewhere close to “cost+small profit” with the emphases of the online guys being on value and the bricks and mortar stalwarts being on service. These changes are happening right now and those that fail to address their own product offering will be left way, way behind. And their customers will not hang around with them.

So “Product” is our critical first-stop in Growtion’s mission to help small and medium businesses grow. In the next five sections you’ll be walked through “Concept”, “Design”, “Pricing”, “Service” and “USP” as the key ingredients to getting your product right. But remember, in all of this, product iteration is the key. Even when you’ve decided on exactly how to reframe your product in the light of what you learn here, know that it’s almost immediately going to need testing against customer expectations and then iterating again.

Let’s get stuck in.