I recently recorded a Podcast with my guest Raghu Ramanujam where we discussed the “product/market fit” that has become quite popular lately to explain product successes or failures.
I think the key thing is at a more granular level: Building a product that does what a customer wants to do. It is more granular than getting a job done or as some advocate “outcome based.”
Defining the product in terms of what is discussed here then lets you easily define the market segment to go after. I teach this in this course: “Do, Innovations, Design Thinking and Value Proposition.”
Here are the major reasons for product failure and a brief example of each. By the way, some University of North Carolina professors estimate about 40% of products fail to represent a waste of over $1/2 Trillion per year
Picking the wrong market segment to go after
I once joined a startup as the second product manager for a video production product. The company had decided to go after the Mac user who wanted to edit videos. I went out and interviewed the first customers and found they were all video production experts. Not Mac users. This explained why the product was not selling very well.
Not positioning the product well
Samsung, in some of their advertising, suggests that they are “leading the way”, “innovative”, and “stylish. You have to be those things and let the customer discover it. You do not become those things by just saying it.
Misunderstanding the current market status
RCN Magazine credited me with shipping the first advertisement on a cell phone in 2003. I then tried to raise venture capital for a cell phone advertising startup for a zero billion dollar market. I couldn’t find a single investor after spending a year talking to 200 VCs and angel investors and then I went out of business because my focus was raising capital instead of selling. Ten years later, the cell phone advertising market was over $13 Billion, hence the perils of going into a market too soon. If I knew then how to find out what my customers really want to do, I would have known I was too early for the market and might have waited.
Where the market is going
Sears just filed for bankruptcy in October 2018. I sold their eCommerce site, Sears.com an Amazon-like personal recommendations service.
The bricks and mortar retail stores felt that eCommerce was their competitor and refused to collaborate. But before Amazon, Sears had distribution centers and stores everywhere. They could have leveraged that existing infrastructure and set up direct home delivery.
The market was going towards ease of use, convenience in finding what one wants quickly. If I had a nickel for all the times over the past ten years when I took the time to go to a retail store and not find what I was looking for and as a result wasting several hours of my time, I’d be a millionaire. But Sears, perhaps blinded by their retailing business model could not or would not see the market changes.
Not planning for changes and threats
Take the Sears example. As a result of the internet and its increased speeds, online e-commerce became the go-to place for finding what a customer wants to buy and get it. Then Amazon added its “Prime” service establishing a “subscription” model of creating customer loyalty (Why go to a retail store when I am already paying for free delivery?) plus an ongoing revenue stream that Wall Street loves.
Pricing that is inconsistent with the product’s position
Suppose a product’s pricing strategy if for market penetration. Setting its price as a premium price would be contrary to the pricing strategy
Lacking distribution for the product
I made this mistake with my mobile advertising business. I had tons of ad inventory in Europe. But my customers, the advertising customers, were only interested in the US market.
Using the wrong metrics
There are lots of examples where the metrics selected drives behavior. For example, Facebook has a metric of ad views in order to make money. To them, pretty much up to now the number of people that see an ad is all that is important. Nevermind if the ad is untrue.