Your company depends on its core product to be successful. If you can offer something useful and unique at a reasonable price, people will buy it – and your company will be profitable.
While it’s important to work on things like customer retention, brand awareness, and internal efficiency, one of your top priorities should always be improving your company’s core product – in other words, increasing the appeal of your company’s primary offer.
The alternative is stagnation. Your core product will remain exactly as it was when your company launched. And even if it was attractive then, you’ll miss out on some important benefits by leaving it untouched.
Notably, some of your customers will lose interest in your product as it loses its novelty, and you’ll give space for competitors to move in.
So how should you go about improving your company’s core product?
Adopting the Right Mindset
Everything starts with adopting a mindset for innovation. Your business leaders, R&D department, and members of your product development teams should all work to change their philosophy.
- Remaining open to new ideas. If you’re trying to make the best possible product, it’s important to remain open to all new ideas. Encourage every team member to volunteer new ideas, even if they’re not confident in them. It’s okay for bad ideas to go unexplored – but if your people hold back too much, you might miss out on something amazing.
- Data at the center of everything. All your decisions should be based on objective data and logical reasoning. It’s not enough to assume that your customers feel a certain way; you should strive to prove it with data. It’s not enough to speculate about competitor behavior; you should witness it firsthand.
- The need for ongoing experimentation. The first iteration of a new product or major change usually is imperfect. You’re going to forget some key elements, neglect important concepts, and suffer from the emergence of unknown unknowns. This is fine, as long as you’re willing to experiment and keep making tweaks. The whole point of experimentation is to expose weaknesses so you can mitigate or eliminate them.
- The customer as your top priority. If your developers are passionate, they’re going to want to do cool things and make pretty designs. But at the end of the day, your only real priority is the customer. Their opinion should always come first.
Analytics and Brainstorming
Next, you need to work on existing product analytics – and start brainstorming new ideas.
- Customer feedback. Start by collecting customer feedback in the form of surveys and reviews. What do people like about this product? What do they wish was better? Do they have ideas for new features or improvements?
- Customer behavior metrics. How are your customers using this product? Do they get stuck on something that’s hard to learn or do they avoid some features entirely?
- Competitor data. What are your competitors’ products like? Do they have something that yours doesn’t?
Your idea might sound good in theory, but how does it really work in practice? Before committing to anything, it’s important to experiment with different variables and objectively measure them in a live environment. Create different improvements for your product in the form of different versions and test them with your target audience. What do they like about it? What do they hate about it? Do they have ideas for how you can make it even better?
Collect this information and regroup.
The Final Polish
At this point, you’re ready for the final polish. Take the feedback and evidence you’ve gathered from your rounds of testing and incorporate them into your main product. Then, when you’re ready to launch, make sure you have a marketing and communication campaign in place to support your latest release. Educate your customers (if necessary), show off the new features, and consider rebranding if you’re going through a major overhaul.
Do All Products Need Ongoing Improvement?
There are some exceptions to the rule that all companies need to improve their core products. For example, take New Coke – a short-lived product from Coca-Cola in the 1980s. By all accounts, the decision to change the formula of Coca-Cola was reasonable; the product had been around for nearly 100 years, was facing stiff competition, and in blind taste tests, the “new” formula rated better in every category. Yet when the product was released and marketed, consumers revolted – they preferred the familiar taste of the classic product.
But unless your product is so ingrained in the culture, or so old that it’s considered a classic, you probably don’t need to worry about this kind of blowback. It’s much more important to keep tinkering with your product and ultimately making it better.