15. How will I know if my new product, service or business is working?

The phrase “what does success look like?” appears with relative frequency in my conversations. Mostly because I use it a good amount! I specifically use it in the context of projects and trying to make sure everyone is aligned. Knowing what success looks like, the thinking goes, is crucial to arriving at the desired outcome.

It turns out that when creating a new business, success will often not look exactly like what you thought it might. That does not mean you won’t be able to recognize it.

When it comes to launching a product or service, “success” will be very clear. You do not have to strain to see success. It will hit you in the face. On the contrary, if you are asking yourself any questions about whether people want the service that you provide or the product you’ve created, you should sooner assume that they do not. (At least not right now.) Clear success is clear success, while there is rarely such a thing as clear failure. Tepid traction is shrouded in ambiguity. It often offers signs of life, only to have those dissipate.

You will recognize beyond a shadow of a doubt things like:

  • The people who use your product actively tell their friends and colleagues about it. And because we live in a world where the behavior of “telling your friends” about anything happens online, this activity is now often traceable.
  • The people who use your service tell you directly how much they like it, what issues they may be confronting in using it, ways they think it could be improved, etc. They are so inspired by the experience of interacting with your service that they want to take some degree of ownership for it.
  • You are having a hard time keeping up with the pace. You have more customers to service than your existing set up can support. You need to make operational improvements to even try to keep up.

These are signs that the service you’ve created is actually succeeding. The question of course becomes to what extent can you expand that success, how much will it cost (in time and money) to do so, etc. But on a customer-by-customer basis, those are signs of happy customers. That’s what success in service design and product development looks like. And it is unambiguous.


Note to reader: This is day 15 of 92 in my commitment to write for 30 minutes each day from October 1 through the end of 2015.

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