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Are you developing your product or your customers?

I frequently see new products. Companies ask me about their new product all the time. They are all very happy about what it does. They are enthralled with their vision for where it is going. They are a bit concerned about how much money it is costing to build the product. They are a little worried about how long it will take before they start making money. Sometimes, in dark moments, they will admit to feeling some pressure over all the stress. There’s a reason that they feel that way.

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Photo credit: Baratza Photos

Product development is misnamed. We focus so much time and attention on developing products that we forget why we are developing them–to make money. And the only way we can make money is to sell those products to customers.

So, why do we think that we have to build the entire spectrum of our product vision on faith? Why do we go all in before we see our hand? Shouldn’t there be a way of developing products that only requires us to ante before we see our cards?

There is–it is called the Lean Startup methodology. I think it’s misnamed, too, because it makes you believe that only startups should adopt it. I think it is how every new product ought to be developed.

It has many facets to it, but the basics are simple. Instead of focusing on developing your product, you focus on developing your customers. First, find out what customers will pay for and then develop it.

It sounds simple, and in many ways it is. Sometimes it is hard to to imagine how you would test the market without building the product, but that is just lack of imagination. One commonly-used method is called a concierge product, where you manually solve the problem for the client before automating that solution–but there are other methods, too.

If you’re still building products and then hoping they sell, it’s time find another way. Not only will you create a more successful product, but you’ll spend less time and money getting there.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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