You sweat and toil and create new products and services that you just know that market is dying to get their hands on.
You put it out, a few sales trickle in and then, nothing. You tweak the sales page, lower the price, kick the cat and still, nothing.
Creating new product and service offerings, even those that the market should need and want, is always a bit of a guessing game. Even when you employ some market research you can’t be sure how a prospect or customer will embrace something until it’s live and in the wild.
There is a model for product and service development that can help you forgo the pain and agony of the total flop and even turn what starts as an okay idea into a sure winner.
The best way to guarantee that your new offerings succeed is to develop them with your customers instead of simply for your customers.
Instead of creating something and then turning to the market to see if they like it, you tap your community to help you build it the way they want it and the way they will buy it.
Here’s how the Community Build process works.
Let’s say you want to create a new online training course.
- You create the seed of an idea with little more than an outline and you take it to a handful of customers and ask them what they think.
- You take their input and develop a full-blown course layout and a first draft of the positioning for selling the program.
- Then you take what you’ve developed and have a larger group from your community comment on exactly what they would hope to learn and how they would get the best results from a program like this.
- From that research you develop the main workings of the program and allow some small controlled group of community members to enlist as alpha testers. (It’s free, but they have to agree to help make it better.)
- You measure and gauge all manner of things from the alpha testers including UI, logic, flow, content, value, results and overall benefits derived from the program in order to more fully develop a platform for beta testers. (Again, it’s free but they agree to help with more input and typo alerts.)
- The collective collaboration effort should help you create a program that makes sense, delivers value and is packaged the way your market wants it. Of course it’s just as likely that along the way you’ll discover there is no market for what you’re trying to create, but that’s an equally awesome finding if you think about it.
Now of course you’ve still got to market the thing, but all this community involvement will quite likely also help you turn up lots of comments, suggestions and feedback that will inform and create a very strong value proposition as well.
One of the best examples of taking this thinking to an extreme is t-shirt printer Threadless. Their Community Build model is the entire business. Community members submit t-shirt designs, community members vote on the designs for the week and then Threadless produces what is ultimately already a guaranteed winner and sells it to their community of over 2 million members.
A large number of their employees come from their community and continue to participate in the community build process even as they pack and ship product in the warehouse, allowing the community participation process to come full circle.
Yes this process takes more time, but ultimately it will ensure that you’re not trying to build things the market doesn’t want and your good offerings will turn into great offerings with real community input.
Some of what I’ve describe here is just basic common sense and good customer focused development, but it’s amazing how few organizations, big and small, use this powerful development process.