Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Failure to Launch

What do you do with a product that seems to be unsaleable?

What do you do with a product that seems to be unsaleable when that product is you?

I've had the experience now of having investors reject this product four times in the last 7 months or so.  Like any good sales person, the point of offering something is to be able to sell it.  The fact that I have been encountering difficulties in doing this would give any product development person pause - as it should me.

One important aspect of this is customer feedback.  What do the customers say?  Customers are rational in that they purchase that which meets their real or perceived needs.  Is the product not meeting their needs, and if so why?

Obviously it's not meeting their needs.  No-one is buying it.  Why not?

Feedback seems to vary.  In one case the product did not have sufficient field testing among a larger group.  In another, the product simply did not meet the required customer inputs.  A third was that the product had elements of what the customer wanted, but not the whole.  The fourth customer simply found a product that was better suited for their purposes.

Unfortunately these reasons seem to tell me nothing I can seem to redesign.  The wide field testing and depth of features is something that cannot be forced by the designer, only offered and hoped to be adopted.  The customer inputs are nothing of my design but only those of the customer - if the product doesn't meet them, there's little chance a redesign will improve things.  And a product better suited for the purpose?  One can specialize the product but that again sends it back to redesign and takes it off the market longer.

How about the design of the product?  Is there something inherent to what it is that make it unsaleable?

Possibly, but if that's the case how does one do a redesign?  One can go back to the design documents - in this case, a not well documented process - and attempt to change the inputs.  But as with above, changing inputs takes time and energy  - without any real greater sense that the product will be accepted by the consumer.

So what do I do with this product then?  Newer models are launching as we speak, and I suspect the nostalgia market for this kind of thing only decreases with time.

If the purposes for which the product was designed have moved on and the product cannot be effectively redesigned and it cannot be sold, most would say this product has become obsolete and should be retired or scrapped.

That is easy enough to say with a product.  It's more difficult to say with a life.

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