What do you know about your product? 20 ways to discover the true needs of your audience

As we said in another article (“A fast-growing business is like walking off a cliff – how to avoid a painful landing?”), many issues faced by startups, young businesses and companies that seek fast growth actually have to do with…their product. This is dangerous because the problem lies at the very root of your business; even if you hit on the most innovative solution in the world and launch an impressive marketing campaign, you might still not get the results you expect. If you’re wondering why your product is not bringing you money or you want to avoid investing in ineffective solutions, read on.

What is Product Discovery?

Product problems are not always obvious from the get-go. A company may go through the complete process of releasing a new solution, invest in promotion, attract user interest and still fail to make a profit on the product. The failure may be immediate (if the product turns out to be a complete flop) or delayed (if the initial idea was good but rather half-baked). Most commonly, this happens because you did not include a Discovery phase in your product development and, as a consequence, have an incomplete understanding of the target group and too little information to effectively validate your business idea.

Product Discovery is one of the first phases of product development; easy to overlook if you’re too convinced you already know the needs of your future users well enough. Companies that look to identify new market niches and fill in product gaps left by other businesses are particularly likely to fall into the trap. They often detect a potential problem, develop a quick-fix solution and immediately throw themselves into the production phase to make sure they are the first to put it into practice. And yet, even though it may seem incredible to some, not every problem needs a solution and the most obvious path is not always the one with the greatest payoff.

When we hit on a new idea, we often struggle to think outside of our own perspective. We believe that if something is good for us, it must be good for everyone, and we close our minds to an accurate understanding of the true needs and problems of our future users. This, in turn, can plunge us straight into a failed investment.

When is it a good idea to invest in Product Discovery?

  • Case 1

You are launching a new company or digital product and you understand that IT projects are often burdened with a high risk of delays and exceeded budgets. In addition, not every investment pays back as expected. You want to reduce the risk of project failure, ensure future user satisfaction, stay within your budget and deliver a quality product within a certain time frame.

  • Case 2

A year or two down the road, your business becomes unprofitable, but you just can’t put your finger on the problem. Your staff is engaged, the programming is moving forward and you’re getting new clients, but you still fail to reach the expected outcomes. Might you be missing a small but important detail? You’re at a loss to say why your business is not growing as fast as the competition. You’re not sure how to further develop your product and which functionalities to invest in.

  • Case 3

Your product has attracted interest but it’s not making any profit. You don’t know how to effectively monetise your solution or you’re afraid your users will leave if you add new fees or increase prices.

  • Case 4

You launched a new solution. Initially, it attracted a lot of interest, but before long, users started leaving. Most of its functionalities are not being used and your reviews are overwhelmingly negative. You’re not sure whether it’s the idea that flopped or the product is difficult to use and not intuitive enough.

Product Discovery can give you a good picture of:

  • Your users and their environment: who are they? What are their problems, needs and expectations?
  • The problem that needs to be solved: how big is the problem? How does it impact users? Are they looking for help?
  • The market environment and the potential of your solution: how strong is your competition? Is your product likely to find an audience?
  • A shared vision of the project: does the project address the needs of your business and those of your users at the same time?

[su_service title=”Important:” icon=”icon: exclamation” icon_color=”#bbe2ef” size=”36″]Before you release a new product, make sure there is a demand for it. Never assume your investment will make a profit before you do relevant research. Product Discovery will allow you to validate your initial idea and set the course for the whole project.[/su_service]

At which stage should Product Discovery be included?

In an ideal world, Product Discovery should occur before you start working on a new product. It will allow you to accurately define your target group and understand its needs, help you estimate the market potential of your idea, set your requirements for the project, decide on its cost and duration and even define the expected ROI timeline! These many advantages will make you avoid developing unnecessary solutions and ensure that your IT project proceeds in an orderly and well-considered manner. Even a very elaborate Discovery process will always be incomparably cheaper than the implementation of a product, let alone any changes that you might have to introduce if the solution fails to meet user needs.

However, real-world situations are not always ideal, and Product Discovery is a repeatable process that you can perform whenever you want to further improve and develop your project. So if you didn’t run Product Discovery before the production phase, don’t despair. You can still use its methods to enhance or modify your solution. Of course, that will no longer be possible if it turns out your business idea does not respond to any real user need.

[su_service title=”Product Discovery is an important step in software development” icon=”icon: exclamation” icon_color=”#bbe2ef” size=”36″]On-order software development is a complex process full of project risks and challenges. In order to help you stay in control of the solution, the budget and the project timeline, we have developed our own unique framework known as Software as a Journey. Our approach is divided into several stages, during which we closely work with the client to clear up doubts and eliminate threats from the very start, so as to build cutting-edge, high-quality digital products.[/su_service]

What methods should I use to discover digital products?

Product Discovery relies on a variety of different methods and there is no one way to do it right. Everything depends on your industry, solution and target audience, the level of uncertainty and the market situation, as well as your research insights and adopted hypotheses. The phase involves continual discovery and testing, during which you can fall back on a large set of tools and methods, but how you select and use them will vary from one project to another.

In order to simplify and illustrate the process, we can divide it into four phases that we routinely go through with our clients:

  • Discover – showing empathy, putting yourself in your users’ shoes, understanding their needs (also in a business/market context);
  • Define – identifying and defining the most important problems, where a solution will have an impact on your users and your business,
  • Develop – looking for solutions, creative brainstorming, testing possibilities, opening up to out-of-the-box ideas;
  • Deliver – choosing solutions that best meet your business goals, testing, and delivering them to production.

Each phase is matched with a set of methods that help you dig really deep and unearth the correct solution. These include, for instance, the following tools and research methodologies:

  • Ethnographic research;
  • Customer Journey Map;
  • Individual in-depth interviews;
  • Interviews with stakeholders;
  • 5W method;
  • Brainstorming;
  • Crazy 8,
  • UX wireframes and mock-ups;
  • Canvas business model;
  • Event Storming;
  • Usability testing.

And many other more or less known methods that help you build profitable products that users will love.

Want to find out about other digital product discovery methods? Kreatik, a company from a capital group, that leads businesses through product discovery on our behalf, has just released an e-book entitled Product Discovery Workbook. This outlines as many as 20 different methods used in Product Discovery, each exhaustively explained and illustrated, including two unique workshop exercises! Get a solid dose of knowledge to make more informed decisions about your digital solution investments!


When does Product Discovery end?

In theory, it ends when the project starts, i.e. when your developers start coding. In practice, however, research should continue as a permanent element of software development, even if only in the form of market research and further app enhancement. After all, an initial MVP implementation is just one stage in the solution development process; much more work is needed for the product to become domestically or internationally successful and make a profit. The very best digital products stay in a Continuous Product Design phase, which allows you to build software and discover new user needs at the same time.

As you can see, Product Discovery does not necessarily apply to new products only. You think you already know all there is to know about your solution and its users after 2 or 3 years on the market? Be aware that market needs and user expectations change very rapidly, which is why a know-it-all attitude does not really cut it in the process of product maintenance. You will always need to keep your finger on the pulse and look for new paths of development.

Delve into the possibilities of Product Discovery if:

  • You want to develop your app and add new functionalities;
  • You have lost clients or failed to reach your business goals;
  • Your users often ask for support or leave negative reviews;
  • Your competitors offer similar solutions and begin to gain an advantage;
  • You want to expand your app’s target group and increase profits.