Validate Your Product Path

 

Product development is a critical function at every company. How it operates determines success or failure for CEOs, investors, and customers.

How does it work at your company? Is it tactical or strategic? How do you know?

Newsflash: If this function isn’t directly tied to customer needs — in other words, to your brand — it’s tactical and void.

Customers’ needs are based on their business challenges — not on your product’s features, or lack thereof (I know you thought that, because you run a product-centric company).

Based on my lifetime of observation, companies usually develop new products by modifying or updating their existing ones — because of lethargy, love of continuity, and presumption that extant products were properly conceived.

Properly conceived? That’s a huge leap.

Many products exist because hyperventilating, tech-obsessed venture capitalists blithely funded their creators. Think Theranos, the discredited blood-testing company.

Others, like the odd Cadillac Cimarron, an embarrassing clunker from the 1980s, emerge inexplicably from out-of-touch, hairbrained corporate bureaucrats.

These mishaps occur for two reasons:

  1. Few people operate like entrepreneurs
  2. Branding is practically unknown to all.

 
Brand Paves the Product Path

Entrepreneurs are risk-taking, profit-seeking, customer-oriented problem-solvers — not inventors. Conversely, tinkerers — human-averse fad-followers, tech-lovers, and admirers of Rube Goldberg-like gadgets — seek to fascinate themselves with cool concoctions.

If your company is populated with tinkerers, or those who think like them, you’re in trouble: their motives are internal, divorced from customer needs.

Remember: Brand — the emotional connection customers have to your company — paves the product path. Not understanding this is inexcusable and unprofitable.

Never create a product that doesn’t fit your brand. My axiom, called Zero-Based Branding™, is explained in Chapter 16 of Brand Is Destiny.
 

 
When developing a product, one of your first questions should be, What will we build next?

Answer: A product’s job is to deliver the brand’s promise, not the other way around. So, our next product, even if it doesn’t resemble the current one or supplants it, will fit the path.

If you have no brand or a deficient one, fix it ASAP. You must build your brand before creating your products! And, always be open-minded about approaches to solutions. Your product or service path must be based on your brand, not on the hottest conference topics.
 
Parting Advice to CEOs

If you tactically develop products based on fads, trends, or ill-conceived current SKUs, you’ll end up with a portfolio of broken assets and a bottom line under siege.

Your #1 job is to create a unique brand — a customer-validated value proposition — which sets your company’s purpose and direction.

The only way to know what customers want is to know your customers — not read their vapid Twitter and Facebook posts.

You can’t make a profitable, sustainable journey without traversing a solid path. Your brand paves that path; you are responsible for building it — and validating it — BEFORE building anything else.

 

About the Author

Marc Rudov is a branding advisor to CEOs,
producer of MarcRudovTV, and author of two books:
Brand Is Destiny: The Ultimate Bottom Line and
Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding.

 

© 2017 Marc H. Rudov. All Rights Reserved.

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