Christina Li

Apr 20, 2020

5 min read

Strategic research: Does your product have legs?

How to validate your product value propositions

It is sometimes easier to release a product to the market and see how it performs. But, this wait-and-see approach is risky and costly to the business.

The product may not fit with the market (e.g., the market has too many similar products already) or, the product adds no value to customers (e.g., the product isn’t solving a problem for your intended customers). By this point you have invested in product development, marketing, sales and support. Your returns might diminish.

So, conducting strategic research upfront can reduce your product risks:

  1. Ensure you understand your customer needs
  2. Ensure your product has a clear offering to customers
  3. Ensure a product-market fit
Strategic research is about anticipating your next move

Know your customers

Strategic research can help identify the needs of customers and inform product offerings. This reduces the risk of committing to a product idea without knowing who will use them. There are two main types of needs: (what am I trying to do or solve?) or (how do I feel?). These needs will tell you what your customers are trying to do, their pain points and expectations.

We conduct research with users. We identify the customer groups based on different behaviours or characteristics. We then visit the field — home, office or on the street — and observe how potential customers behave. We pay attention to how they do something and any work arounds (or tricks) they use. We also listen and observe inconsistencies between what they say they’d do and what they did.

The insights gathered give us a good start in knowing our customers.

The by Strategyzer is a useful tool. It helps determine what you can offer to match the customer needs. You’ll need a new canvas for each customer group as their needs are likely to be different.

We start with the (right hand side) by unpacking the customer jobs, pains and gains. This means using the insights from the deep discovery research. Then, we move onto the (left hand side) of the canvas to match the pains and gains. It’s important to also consider the functional value and emotive value of what you’re offering.

The ultimate question is: Is there a fit between what you know about your customers and what you’re offering?

The Value Proposition Canvas (Strategyzer)

What sets you apart from competition?

Strategic research helps you be clear on your product offerings to customers. Sometimes, a product is trying to do too many things. It starts to lose the core of what the product for customers.

When you know the customer needs and pain points, you can then offer unique product solutions. If you can offer one unique thing that will set your product apart from others in the market then you’ll have a stronger product proposition. This idea is best communicated by Marty Neumeier with his ‘Onlyness test’.

The format is:

Some examples I have adopted:

“Our are the only that (You might know this as Beyond Meat).

“Our is the only that ” (You might know this as Amazon food).

The statement is clear. You can see how it sets them apart from competitors.

‘Onlyness test’ for brand positioning (Marty Neumeier)

Evaluate product-market fit early

Before you develop the ideas any further, put them in front of your customers to get early feedback. This gives us an early opportunity to identify product-market fit. We will get feedback on areas where the idea may need improvement, or whether it should stop.

Here are few ways we can evaluate the value proposition early:

Create a homepage mock up. Use a homepage mockup to communicate your value proposition. Put it in front of users in research sessions to see if there’s any interest from them . You want to know how they expect the product to solve their existing problems. Try getting users to think back to a similar situation they recently encountered. Would this have been the right product them?

Spend time evaluating the content of the message. You want to see if the messaging resonates with potential customers. You want to know if the message and words used, speak the customers language. Is this a product they see a relevant scenario for?

Use your research recruitment message to refine your proposition. Work on your research recruitment message. Can you communicate the idea clearly in a short phone call or email? Does it spark interest to participate in your research? For example, for a B2B client project when we got participants to try the product they loved it. But, it was very hard to recruit and communicate the product value early. So we knew the offering was a good, but we had to improve on how we position it in the market.

You can’t predict the future but thinking strategically helps you anticipate customer needs and help you invest wisely in products.

Let’s chat if you want to learn more about doing strategic research.

Melon Experience Design help clients gain insights into their customers behaviours. With insights, we can make a positive impact together. Get in touch if you’d like to work with us.