So you have an idea – now what?
High-margin digital products are the backbone of many profitable businesses. No wonder than that you’re thinking of building one yourself. But it’s getting harder and harder to grab people’s attention now that millions of new websites and apps are being created each year.
The growing competition is also a reason why finding the right people to build your product is a challenging task, too.
But we’re not here to discourage you. We’re here to help you determine whether you’re really, REALLY ready to step into the path of product development. Answering these 4 questions should make for a good start.
Is my idea all I have?
The brutal truth is, you can build the most perfect, well-suited, and technologically impeccable product and still flop. Digital products need strong foundations, which are mostly unrelated to the core technology or the development process. We’re talking about things like market research, growth strategy, and marketing & distribution tactics.
If you think that you’ll build an app and that’s it, you’re wrong. It’s all about sustainability. And if you don’t believe us, listen to what Marcus Sonoma, founder at Verb, has to say about launching digital products:
When they’re thinking about launching a product or even a service, people tend to get all starry eyed. They picture this world where their product is adopted on a massive scale, thinking how good that would be. That may very well be true, even if it's a product that somehow no one’s ever thought about before.
Imagine you have the best pros in the world at your disposal, the best designers, and you’re able to build the best version of your product. And then what?
People often don’t really have an answer. You need to realize that 95% of what you do, product-wise, is marketing, growth, and distribution. If you can figure out the way to do all that, you’re off to a great start.
Who will build my product?
If you’re thinking about launching an app, there’s a good chance that you know a thing or two about software development, or even spent some time coding yourself. This means that you probably want to have full control over the development process and build the product in-house.
OK, we get it.
But sometimes taking a slightly different approach may prove much more beneficial, as external teams can help you validate your idea, expand your vision, and streamline the product’s development. This is a lesson Marcus learned, too:
You might think that it would be simpler if you just build a product on your own and learn some new skills on the way. But the thing is, the top few percent of contractors or people you hire, or whatever, will simply blow your mind.
That’s my experience. I’ve worked with people who came in and just blew open the reality of what we could do with our product. That kind of opened my eyes up to talent, and how profound it can be. In that scenario I would give them more leniency and just let them work, see what they would do.
And it wasn’t like those people were 10 times more expensive than others. Sure, they can be a little bit expensive, but may even cost less, or be early in their career just as well.
Do I know how to lead an effective team?
Behind every great product, there’s a great team. Sounds cliché, right? Learning that those words speak the truest of truth is probably the most crucial (and sometimes also the most painful) part of product development.
Hiring whoever’s available and scrapping together a team of developers and designers to build your piece of software the way you want it may sound simple, but it’s definitely not the way to go. That is, if you don’t want to end up with an undercooked, incoherent, and unsustainable version of what you had in mind.
Andrew Gomes, Project Manager at Paradox Interactive, shares a secret to building and leading a well-oiled product team:
Probably one of the biggest things is making sure that you have informed buy-in from everyone who’s participating. Processes don’t work very well when they are being forced on people. That just creates an environment where people view a process as something that is in the way of their own creativity, freedom, and autonomy.
What’s really helpful is when people are educated on why the process is there and what it’s meant to help facilitate, and are given the opportunity to see it actually fulfilling those needs.
How can I make sure I hire the right people?
Software development is a long lasting process that’s mostly based on dealing with unknowns. It requires not only technical proficiency but also a good amount of communication and trust. That’s why it’s crucial to balance both hard and soft skills when hiring developers and designers.
Sure, on paper your team can be packed with top-notch experts, but a good developer is much more than just a strong resume. Andrew will explain it better:
Hard skills are always a pretty straightforward thing. There are certain languages you need to know or ways of working that are fundamental to building a product.
When it comes to soft skills, they’re really about things like expectation management and having the confidence to engage with unclear questions. It can definitely be a challenge when developers are given a set of requirements, but sometimes they may not fully understand the issues that stand in the way. So it is vital that the developers feel that they’re in a position where they can say ‘Wait a minute, we need to have a deeper conversation on this’.
The soft skill of engagement is really really important, especially in the context of treating a development team as though it is an internal team. It’s really important that the developers take this perspective of contributing their minds as developers, not just as fingers on a keyboard.
Of course, there’s much more to building products the right way than a single blog post can cover. If you want more insights from Marcus Sonoma and Andrew Gomes, find the full conversations on our YouTube channel.
Get actionable product building tactics in your mailbox, monthly.