In many cases, a business may tend to think of product design as separate from strategy – first design the product then build the strategy. I have met many people who have built a product and then decided to start thinking about the ways to get that product in the hands of potential customers. But what if we think about design and strategy together, simultaneously?
Imagine how much simpler it would be to create a great strategy if we were thinking about how each element added to a new product will affect the overall user experience and business strategy. With this understanding, it is much easier to hit the target market successfully.
To illustrate this, I created a theoretical example of how design impacts strategy paired with a real world example of how it happened. The information is taken from the Netsetter article and a Mixergy video interview.
Let’s say you are building a software product for an industry that has multiple needs. Everyone in the competition around you is trying to build something that meets many needs marginally, but you keep your focus and strive to diverge. Instead of trying to build a product that meets all those needs, you design a product that meets one or two and create it to be better in the functional areas that are most important.
Take a look at Less Accounting –they hated Quickbooks) and realized they were not the only ones who were thinking the same thing. So they created something simple and feature-light relative to the competition.
Now, assume that you are able to work closely enough with a group of potential customers, so that you can understand their needs. You gain all the information you need about how the product will need to look in order for your potential customers to derive the benefits they seek.*
The application was created to be “as simple as a bookkeeping application can be.” They launched as only an expense tracker and iteratively added new features as they went. To make the user experience better they added bank account integration and live bookkeeping support. A mix of user feedback, consultation with accountants and pure intuition was (and is) used to validate any new feature added to the application, but nothing is created without the end user’s needs in mind.
The first strategic advantage is your time to market, which will be lightning fast compared to other competitors. The second strategic advantage is having the ability to concisely communicate the value proposition and target customers effectively. Since you know what benefits the customers are looking for, you can create simple, yet powerful, marketing material.
“Bookkeeping sucks, we make it suck less.” This is the message that Less Accounting started their marketing efforts with and it resonated with a lot of people.
The third strategic advantage will come as your message spreads rapidly because it will be easy for people to both communicate and see the value in your product, meaning word-of-mouth advertising will be strong and there will be less need to send a more convoluted message through multiple channels.
Check the Twitter feed to see all the feedback they receive. They don’t spend money on banner ads or SEO – they make sure the user experience is fantastic and let the rest take care of itself.
Overall, having a strategic focus right from the beginning can save a lot of headaches down the road and greatly increase the probability of success. If you’re a software or web app developer who needs a little help on the business strategy side, fire us an email.
PS: I did some serious research on LessAccounting for this blog, and it seems like it could be great for a small business. It is built in the US, so some features are not optimized for Canadian companies, but it is functionally very appealing. I am thinking of giving it a demo in the near future – let me know if any of you have tried it.
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