Taking your startup from idea to done is something we have gone over a lot in our blogs and is the goal of our founder community. The ability to take your product concept and turn it into a reality is the dream of every entrepreneur. This guide will be a brief yet comprehensive guide to doing all of that from start to finish. While this doesn’t have everything you’ll need to do, this will be a good outline of the process and what steps it will take to go from idea to done.
Identify the problem
The first step in the development process is to identify the problem you are trying to solve. Figure out what the problem is and if it has a preexisting solution. Also, if there is a need for a solution to be found. It’s easy to get swept up in all the ideas for cool features for your product. Failing to identify the actual problem you’re trying to solve while being focused on those shiny ideas can create an issue. If you put effort into providing tons of features, will your customers end up using them? Be realistic with your problem statement and create a solvable goal for which you can create a real solution.
Validation is a critical first step in building any startup. You have to ensure that what you are going to do is worth your time and money and that other people will want to be invested in it. When you and your company are in the idea validation phase, you must look past all the bad and biased data. These can come from the people that will be more likely to support your endeavors and projects because they like you as a person. Take This Example from The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick; “There are three types of bad data: Compliments, fluff (generics), and ideas” To clarify, ask the right questions and the right people to avoid these types of responses because they can skew your results. Asking the right people the right questions will provide you with answers and supporters who will actually help to validate your ideas with proper feedback and useful data.
The most important part of the validation process is understanding your potential customers and what they want from your product. Understanding your audience and what they want will help you make a product that will be more useful and hopefully sell better in the long run.
Performing market research is crucial to understanding your market better and the potential challenges you may face when entering that new market. If your idea is out there, the most important elements to consider are how you can differentiate yourself from the competition. It is crucial to be unique without completely reinventing the wheel. Three impactful ways to individualize yourself are to niche down your idea, offer free paid products, and emphasize personal touch.
Competition is the fourth most common reason startups fail. It is imperative to be aware of your competition. While checking out your competition may seem daunting, it is a crucial step in validating your startup and gauging the market interest. Be sure to understand who else is out there. If they are your competition, what are they doing to solve the problems you are also trying to solve? Having knowledge of the industry and the market you are entering can help you get a leg up on the competition and put you on top.
Messaging and positioning
We all know how important it is to differentiate yourself from the competition in your industry. However, the real question is how to be strategic in your differentiation and ultimately establish yourself as one of a kind. Being unique encompasses multiple facets of business and can be pivotal in your success or failure. Demonstrating that you are different from the competition begins with nailing down your unique selling proposition, more commonly known as USP.
Now, what is a USP? A unique selling proposition is the specific benefit(s) that your product or service provides that your competitors do not. Even more so, it is a unique element that competitors cannot copy or do themselves. It can be something as small as your style of customer service or as big as your ethical production means. A USP is more than just a slogan or a persuasive line of text; it is your entire brand position.
A business plan is written documentation that outlines the path your business will take to gain revenue and grow over the course of 3-5 years. This document serves as your road map with a clear starting point and follows the directions of your intended goals.
A business plan is by no means set in stone, especially in a startup environment where you’re building and testing MVPs, pivoting based on market demand and desire, etc. A business plan is meant to be a living document that gets updated as the years pass and things change.
Business plans often include “big picture” elements of a startup’s short- and long-term objectives and goals. The plan can include everything from a company description, market analysis, description of service/product line to the organizational structure and management of the business, as well as plans for marketing and sales.
While some startups are fortunate enough to need little to no outside funding, the majority of successful startups have raised funds from multiple external sources. There are different types of funding available to startups depending on consumer interest as well as industry. External funding is commonly received through various rounds. The timing and manner of gaining investment rounds are critical to startup success! Getting the funds in order may sound like a daunting task, but there is a cost to everything, and planning for those expenses will save you in the long run.
Why should you be gathering allies, let alone 100? It would be best if you had people who will be honest with you and give good feedback as you are building your business. Looking for your next big fan may not be as hard as it sounds. Sprinkle in some peers interested in utilizing your product, some veteran entrepreneurs, cheerleaders that will offer support, and more! Having many allies means you have many opportunities to gather feedback from people of different backgrounds. Building your network of followers is one of the best ways to ensure you will have a successful product launch and continue to gain traction after it’s been released.
Wireframing is a method of backend organization that depicts the layout of pages and button navigation. Wireframes are a vital tool in understanding how an app or website will function and what the user interface should look like. Wireframes are used to plan and design the layout of buttons, interactive elements, and content on app or website pages visually. They also present clients with how the app will look and plan things such as colors, tabs, and buttons on the page. They are primarily used in the development process to make design decisions with the client or potential investors to visualize what they are going to be creating or funding. Nothing in a wireframe is permanent, and everything can be updated or changed to fit the project’s design needs. The purpose of a wireframe is to plan the user interface design in an easy-to-understand format that can be changed and updated as the planning process moves forward.
The product backlog is a critical element of workflow organization and prioritization. It’s a prioritized list of features or tasks that need to be implemented in the product production process. The backlog houses a list of tasks and projects on the radar yet won’t be completed in the current sprint. Having an organized workflow is important to production schedules and planning. It helps to organize all the things that need to get done yet aren’t in imminent need. In the product development lifecycle it helps to have a backlog of tasks and projects that can be worked on once the more important tasks have been completed. When creating a backlog, keep in mind time constraints and what features you want to implement at what time. Consider what is the most important for your MVP to be created and what can wait until later.
One of the hardest things to do as a business is understanding how to price your product to make your customers happy and still make a profit. Ensuring that you are offering proper pricing will keep you moving forward and allow you to grow and gain even more customers. As a product owner, you have to consider your target market and communicate your business’s purpose. You also must be able to communicate and market what services you offer.
Your USP is key in differentiating you from your competitors. It will ultimately be the reason a new customer will buy your product over someone else’s. Use your USP to help price your product to put yourself in the best position in the market. Sometimes, as an entrepreneur, you might price your product or service too low because you don’t always see the full extent of the value of your idea. On the other hand, you may set it so high that your target audience can’t justify spending what you’re asking for, so they may choose to buy from your competitors instead.
Traditional media outlets are great and all, but being an active and present brand online is essential in today’s online society. Being able to grow your network and have direct lines of communication with your customers through a few taps on your phone gives you insurmountable potential. However, it also requires a strategic approach for success. It’s easy to jump into the water and create an account on every social media platform under the sun, but how much is that really going to help you?
Taking the time to learn the norms, expectations, functions, and algorithms of multiple platforms simultaneously is not only overwhelming but ineffective in establishing your presence online. Understanding where your target market is located is a critical factor to understanding how to market your product. If your target is millennials and college students, then try using platforms such as Instagram or TikTok rather than sending out an email campaign or using Facebook, as they are more likely to see the content on those platforms rather than the others.
Now is time for the actual creation of your product. If you have a physical product, do you need to talk with a manufacturer about mass production? How will your resources be allocated, and do you have the funds to front those costs. If you’re creating an app, are you going to go through an app development company or do it yourself with a no-code solution? When creating your actual product, keep in mind your MVP; the first version doesn’t have to be the biggest and best thing possible. It can start small. As you gain more funds, grow into something bigger and better. Create something you’re proud to show off.
When taking the final steps in creating your business, the first thing to think about is internalizing the amount of work ahead of you. As you’ve made it this far, you are well aware that a lot goes into a startup, but have you really got the fire in you to commit fully to your big idea? The commitment and determination required to start your business will also exceed you and include those in your inner circle. Think about things like; are your partner and family on board with your decision, and do you have financial concerns or time constraints?
Maintaining your stamina when the going gets tough is difficult alone. Ensuring those around you are just as excited about your idea gives you a soft landing pad to fall back on when the challenges arise.
To wrap things up…
Going through all the steps to bring your business to life can be challenging and is a long journey, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Once you reach it, the reward will be waiting. Each step in the process takes time and a lot of careful consideration. Ensure that you have the stamina and resources to get through it so that you can see the idea come to life.