Does Your Product Really Matter?
by Hesam Lamei
Before starting a business, every entrepreneur wonders if his or her product matters and can withstand market fluctuations. Products must not only satisfy business or consumer needs, but also provide value beyond supply to be successful. In this article, I address how to determine if your product truly matters, the importance of a brand, and how to go to market without an established brand.
Determine Your Product Matters
Product importance involves more than its benefits, features, and specifications. The key to a product that matters is whether it can be embedded into the customer’s business or life. You should ask yourself if the product is vital to a business function or consumer lifestyle; if it can involve customer success stories and be embedded into the customer relationship. At my company for example, we sell “private cloud solutions” or “virtualization solutions” rather than just the hardware behind the technology solutions our customers need to keep their businesses up and running.
Once you determine your product has market demand, you should then ensure your product has quality. Product quality affects customer expectations and loyalty along with business reputation and costs. Without product quality, customers will look for alternatives. Likewise, once customers experience product quality, they will provide their loyalty in return, and keep buying from you. Established product quality leads to long term revenue and profitability by allowing you to charge and maintain higher prices. A strong business reputation can also be a differentiator in competitive markets. Social media platforms now allow customers to share their experiences with the world in a matter of minutes so it is more important than ever to have quality products. A lack of product quality is also costly because business expenses used to pay for quality assurance to detect issues, scrap defective products and create replacements, return merchandise authorizations (RMAs), and “win back” deals can add up exponentially.
Communicate Your Product Value
Once you determine your product is a necessity for businesses or consumers, you need to communicate its value to prospective customers. You need to lead with more than just the product specifications, e.g. features and benefits, and to do this, you need a brand. Your brand is the set of ideas that define and add character to your product, and tell customers your product is worth purchasing. Branding has a strong correlation with growth because it can attract more customers by way of those ideas associated with your name. A brand can build awareness, make a product standout from competitors, and spread the message of quality. It also allows word-of-mouth to spread more easily as it is simpler to refer to a brand name than a product itself when recommending it to others.
The quality of a brand should be prioritized as much as the quality of your product. Do not make the mistake of ignoring brand management as it can play a powerful role in purchase decisions and allows your customers to get to know you. The power of brands can be seen best through an example such as iPhone, where the purchase decisions center around the brand name rather than the product. When iPhone users choose to purchase the latest phone, most do not base their decisions on technical specifications, e.g. RAM or CPUs, but instead base their decision on the brand itself.
Go to Market with Your Product
Going to market without an established, trusted brand is difficult. If you cannot lead with only a product, how do you get started? In our case, we launched our brand through a combination of teamwork, a global digital platform, and word-of-mouth. In the beginning, we had to hunker down to answer the question, “Who are we?” so we could define our brand. Our startup team of four came together, brainstormed ideas, and agreed on all creative elements before signing off on the brand. We began as an eBay shop so we had a global digital platform from which to launch our brand. You may not be in the same situation with an established platform from which to launch into the market, but I would encourage you to consider starting your sales from a similar platform so you can utilize the built-in exposure and digital capabilities. Additionally, customer referrals can be a very effective way to help tell your story. We had a small, but loyal, customer base, and we did not hesitate to request referrals at the completion of projects.
Entrepreneurs know there are multiple questions to address before taking a product to market, but determining whether a product truly matters is an important place to start. Once you know your product can become naturally embedded into a customer’s day-to-day life, you can begin to build the brand that will communicate its value to your audience. Lastly, strategize key elements for the launch, and your product will be well on its way to market.