How to mitigate risk with a 0–1 product launch

opra.
8 min readJul 11, 2023

Having a great idea is a wonderful place to be. You’ve nailed the business idea that is sure to succeed in the market. There’s just one problem, it’s still just an idea.

So how do you go from an idea to a new product? The answer may not be so straightforward. You can surely make it to market in a number of ways, but what’s most important is to arrive with minimal resources wasted and minimal risk — so you can be successful after launch. Otherwise you’re setting yourself up for a slippery slope that can lead to setbacks from which you may not recover.

Let’s look into how we at Opra approach 0–1 products with mitigated risk and idea validation baked in. In this article, we’ll be walking through our SaaS Growth Framework that can be applied to 0–1 products, existing product redesigns, or a new feature.

The foundation: Definition and Alignment

The first question to ask is where the idea comes from. If it came from talking to people and identifying a gap in the market, then you’re ahead of most folks and we can expedite a lot of the foundational work. However, if you are like most, you may loosely back the ingenuity of the idea and plan on pushing forward with grit and intelligent execution. In this case, we will need to pay extra close attention to idea validation throughout the product cycle.

But before we get to defining our audience (an absolutely important requirement) let’s back up for a second and focus on the vision.

Vision

You’ll need to be able to clearly articulate your vision for what problems you’re solving and what value you’re bringing to the world.

You can speed up this process by asking the following questions:

What’s the reason this product improves the lives of your customers or makes their jobs easier?

What backing do you have? (Research, unmet needs, market opportunities)

How do you want to help people?

Here’s an example of LinkedIn’s vision statement:

To create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce.

High-Level Goals

Now let’s zero in on some high-level goals. You’ll need to define concrete, measurable goals to aim for. For 0–1 products, this could be more focused on launching a product beta and revising it with customer insights. Perhaps it’s about successfully solving a problem for a group of people that are experiencing pain with their current solutions. Keep in mind, you do want to follow SMART criteria to ensure accountability and efficient time tracking.

Audience

Now we’re ready to circle back to the target audience and create a crystal clear understanding of the group you’re serving. The result of this phase is to have an ideal customer profile (ICP) and/or user persona. The information that is most beneficial to capture are things like:

Who are you serving?

What is their title?

What type of companies do they work for?

What are their jobs to be done?

What are their needs, fears, pain-points, motivations?

This data can be gathered through a few different methods such as:

  • Conducting user interviews
  • Conducting surveys
  • Auditing demographics of similar products
Abstract persona

For sourcing ideal customers to talk to (which is so important) you can reach out to your network or social media groups. You can also utilize services like optimalworkshop or usertesting to screen out specific people to talk to.

Defining your audience is important for a number of reasons. It is first and foremost a form of validation that ensures you are in touch with the people you’re providing value to. It also creates guardrails for additional feature requests and can stave off feature bloat. It’s helpful to frequently revisit your ideal customer profile and personas, as well as maintain regular communication with the people you serve.

Competition

In keeping validation and mitigating risk in mind, you must also have a strong grasp on your competition’s offering. If you’re lucky enough to not have competitors, try to analyze indirect competitors. For this step, audit the competition and ask the following questions for each one you find:

What is their unique position?

What are their features?

What is their messaging?

What’s their product?

With this information, you will be armed with potential gaps or opportunities in the market. In practice, this could lead you to deciding your product has performance benefits that other products do not. Or it could mean your pricing strategy will be more dominant and therefore lower than competitors.

By the end of this exercise, you should know the competition inside and out, which will inform many of the following steps.

Positioning

Next we’ll take our prior data up to this point and create a positioning statement. You’ll clearly articulate your unique value proposition. Think about what differentiates you from the competition. Revisit your vision statement, audience, and competitive analysis for elements to inform the statement.

Here’s a basic template to help create the statement depending on your situation:

Positioning statement template

Messaging

At this point you should be able to craft some engaging messaging. This content will be extremely valuable for additional validation to take place. You may want to create a landing page and have ideal customers look at it and provide feedback on the offer. But for this to be effective, you’ll need the proper messaging in place to effectively deliver the promise to your audience.

Another reason you’ll need value-delivering messaging is to ensure the website itself is a powerful driver of acquisitions to free trials or free plans. We design for product-led growth, and that means the traffic that hits your website should freely flow through to your product value, in turn leading to full on customer conversions. So make sure your calls-to-action are convincing, and your promise irresistible.

The rollout: Execution and Refinement

At this point, we’re ready to switch to the next major milestone — actually executing on the production of the idea. We’ve mitigated a substantial amount of risk and validated many assumptions we’ve had up until now. With this solid foundation under your idea, you can now proceed to spending resources cost-effectively.

Plan and roadmap

Behind every great idea is a plan of some form. Yours will be no different. Layout the timeline and plan to deliver on the promise for the high-value solution. This solution needs to be as lean as possible, down to the core experience in its most minimal sense while still providing the value promise to customers (also known as a Minimum Viable Product or MVP).

When mapping this strategy out, ask the following questions:

What features are necessary to provide the most value?

What is the level of effort required for high-impact features?

What is the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) that customers will love and come back to?

When will the design phase begin?

When will development begin?

How will work be validated, tested, and released?

Abstract roadmap

You’ll also want to make sure of some Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) to track key milestones. Perhaps you have an objective to “provide the simplest [job to be done].” And some key results would be customer satisfaction around this key piece of functionality that marks success for this objective.

Validation and Iteration

Yes validation has been a topic throughout this entire process. But now we’re validating more tangible artifacts such as the actual design and experience of a product or landing page. This phase is all about validating and iterating on the user experience. To do this effectively, you’ll map out what the MVP is and prototype the key jobs to be done. If you’re focusing on the website, leverage the homepage for testing.

You’ll then take these and put them in the hands of real prospective customers to let them provide invaluable feedback. It’s important to note that without the customers, or users, there is no product. That’s why it’s paramount to design in a customer-centric manner and gather their honest and sincere impressions on usability and value.

The core approach to this phase is to quickly iterate on some key user flows or website designs. It’s cheaper to vet out ideas in the design cycle versus the development cycle. So with this in mind, you can rapidly iterate your prototype and come to a product with substantially less downside. When you’re comfortable with the subsequent feedback rounds you can move on to production and development and have a lot less risk of burning through development output. It’s also worth noting the saying “perfect is the enemy of good” and to not get caught here forever without launching. The finished product will ultimately remain a work in progress post-launch if you’re following a smart, lean approach to a product life cycle and testing single areas will eventually lead to diminishing returns.

Production

We’ve done it. All that is left is to build it. And when you build it, you can rest assured that you did everything in your power to properly validate and mitigate risk for your idea. Commence development of the marketing website and the MVP. As one more risk mitigation measure, consider launching your product in a limited beta to catch bugs and performance issues as well as more end-user impressions.

And while development is underway, design should continue exploring updates and work on the next wave of enhancements to provide to engineering when the time is right. Make sure whatever qualitative feedback is being offered is being connected back to design and development to translate into tangible improvements.

Optimization

Perhaps one of the most important notions to remaining competitive in the digital landscape today is to always continue improving. The sooner you can embrace ongoing updates the sooner you can reap the rewards of providing a product that customers won’t want to leave. The customers who use your product will feel like you’ve crafted every nuance specifically for them and their needs. This is when a product can truly take off as you feed the product-led growth flywheel that is to form.

Some of the continual tactics that should be utilized here can include:

  • Conduct customer interviews
  • Conduct surveys
  • Audit analytics
  • Regression testing
  • Bug testing

Conclusion

Launching a new 0–1 product can come with a plethora of unexpected risks and lack a clear path forward. But by following the steps outlined above, you will be able to take advantage of a streamlined process with significantly mitigated risk for your new product launch.

👋 Thanks for reading!
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opra.

opra is an B2B design agency that helps SaaS companies grow revenue and gain market share. opra.design