How to Shape a Startup Product That Will Be Adopted by The Market

Simon Tadeu

12 January 2024

Product adoption stands as a pivotal factor determining success or stagnation for startups. 

For founders, the journey from conceptualisation to market adoption is not just a phase but a pivotal make-or-break moment that defines the impact on growth over time. 

It’s not just about introducing a novel solution; it’s about ensuring that the market embraces and integrates it into daily practices and that your user’s expectations are matched with exponential value. 

This critical phase serves as a litmus test for the relevance and resonance of a startup’s offering. 

I’ve gone through this critical moment through my own startup experience as a product manager launching successful products to market. Moreover, I’ve gone through it while supporting entrepreneurs and business leaders that I’ve had the fortune of working with at Altar. 

In this article, I’ll delve into the important factors that come into play in shaping a product for acceptance by the market and what to expect during preparation.

Contents

Identifying and Solving Key Problems

Deeply understanding what problems your potential users face is at the core of market adoption. 

There’s little to no reason why a market should embrace your product, much less be fans of it in the long run, unless it delightfully solves their most pressing problems. 

Therefore, understanding that dynamic is key. 

It also supports important factors throughout the lifecycle of your product. For example, knowing exactly how to focus on MVP, how to support marketing in their own efforts where your product will be in the limelight or being conscious about what your competitors are lacking. 

A good example of a game-changing company that fully grasped this concept and successfully found a place for its product within the market was Dropbox

They tackled a real problem that even their founders felt daily: the annoying task of moving files around, tied to the physicality of pesky USB flash drives. 

Their deep understanding of the problem they were solving allowed them to validate their solution without even releasing an MVP. All they had to do was demonstrate the solution through a short demo video that you can still find online today. This provided the feedback they needed to secure the funding they needed.

The question is, how do you identify a significant problem that you can provide a brilliant solution for? 

The key is to understand your potential users. Sometimes this is just a matter of being experienced in a given industry, as many of the professionals that I’ve had the pleasure of working with have demonstrated throughout the years. But most of the time understanding potential users is an explorative process. 

I acknowledge that research can be a costly and time-consuming process, but it doesn’t always have to be. 

Talking to a few of your potential users and simply asking the right few questions can do wonders for understanding their grievances or if you’re on the right track. The Mom Test by Rob Flitzpatrick is a great resource for an efficient and painless approach to asking the right questions to your users. 

Developing user personas is another useful exercise to hone in on what you’ve learned so far and to explore pain points. Putting yourself in your user’s shoes to explore how they currently behave in the current status quo and how your solution can potentially disrupt it. 

Focusing on your MVP (Minimum Viable Product)

Another crucial factor in building your product ripe for adoption is to stick to a Minimum Viable Product: the most stripped-down version of what you want to release that’s still ready for success. It’s easy for founders and product teams to fall into the mistake of trying to equip their product with anything the market is willing to appreciate, big or small, with the fear of failing for just not being enough. 

Doing so, however, is counterproductive as instead of solving a single important problem incredibly, you’re solving many small pain points incompletely. This is why successful and disruptive products that impacted the landscape out of nowhere tend to have been strong MVPs.

It is also why my previous point is so important. Once the critical problem you’re solving for users is crystal clear, your MVP will materialise with ease. 

It makes saying “no” to unnecessary changes or additions that much easier and allows for more confidence in your decision-making. Strong MVPs allow you to move quickly and spend less on giving a given market a taste of your idea. It also allows you to quickly adjust in case your first attempt needs some course correction. 

Airbnb is a great example. Besides also being an example of a deep understanding of a problem in a given market (founders came across a lack of places to stay for local conferences), what started as the first iteration of their product works perfectly for what I mentioned above. The founders of Airbnb simply tested out what they believed would be a product a market would be interested in, not by building a super robust platform with all the bells and whistles, but by simply renting out their inflatable mattresses with the promise of free wifi to those willing. This was their first simple, inexpensive and more-than-enough step towards their multi-billion dollar business.

If you want your product to successfully launch in a given market, build a strong and focused MVP. 

To help you get a headstart, here’s a great guide on how to build an MVP from my CEO Daniel. There, he lays out the three steps you need to complete to set your MVP up for the best chance of success. 

Obsess with Iteration

Now that you’ve got the first version of your MVP in hand, the next part is easy: don’t be afraid to iterate. 

The likelihood of getting everything right the first time around is not very high. So how do you achieve market adoption with your MVP if this is the case? Through iteration. 

The goal is to efficiently build what you need to build to delightfully solve your user’s problems. The perfect outcome would be to do it on your first try. But great product builders completely accept the fact that it will take several tries and tweaks to get there. 

Taking an iterative approach also allows you to quickly move and adapt. Focusing on a single thing you want to validate and moving from it if it doesn’t work is key. 

We can look back at the examples I’ve given about Dropbox and Airbnb. Both started with great, simple MVPs, but also as powerful first iterations. 

These iterations allowed their respective founders to test and start getting valuable feedback early and, as I’ve demonstrated, with little effort.

Nowadays both products are vastly different from their initial MVPs. Between now and then, thousands of iterations allowed the respective teams to understand what worked and what didn’t. They were then able to make the necessary adjustments needed to become what they are today. 

It’s important to mention that being iterative doesn’t mean paralysing your progression with constant changes and additions to your MVP. Instead, it’s all about confidently building with the objective of testing. Testing is the secret of being iterative. 

Build Your Feedback Loop with Users

If testing is the secret of being iterative, then you need to gather some feedback from those tests to make them effective. Be sure to pay close attention to channels where those testing your experiments first-hand are providing feedback. 

Where feedback ends up coming from will always depend on the type of business you’re doing. Is your product a B2B time-tracking SaaS or a Smartphone-based wearable for long-distance relationships? 

The source of feedback will evidently vary. Whatever the case, look at where your users are most likely to leave feedback. Some good examples of where to look are:

  • Social Media: If your business is a social media-facing one, it’s a no-brainer that a lot of what users are saying is first and foremost through social media. The conversation on these platforms is a double-edged sword, with some users becoming your advocates and others your worst critics, but that’s exactly the point. Listen to what they have to say in a public setting – the good, the bad and the ugly. 
  • User reviews: If there’s something that your users don’t agree about in your release, you can bet that they’re going to leave a review about it. This is an important factor when it comes to market adoption. Potential users who are sceptical about your up-and-coming new product will be sure to look at what other people are saying before committing to your idea. Achieving good user reviews is a topic in itself, but be sure to read through all of them to extract valuable feedback.
  • Set up a Beta programme: This one requires a bit of effort, but it’s a safe form of gathering feedback before releases. It also allows you the freedom of experimentation. Set up a test track within your product, find users willing to provide feedback and talk to them every time you have something you want to test at an early stage.
  • Talk to your Customer Support/Account Team: This is probably the most important one on this list. What better than to talk to those with a finger on the pulse of daily customer feedback? It seems obvious but customer support teams are probably the most unleveraged tool available.

I acquired a great understanding of the value of this during my time at Bond Touch, a startup focused on wearables for long-distance relationships whose product I helped successfully bring to market. 

For context, Bond Touch is a bracelet that, when tapped, would allow users to send remote touches to one another, emulated through haptics. 

The success of the Bond Touch bracelets is largely connected to the proximity established with their users. Here’s how they did it: 

  • A research programme was set up to provide continuous feedback from users on ideas
  • Users were encouraged to leave reviews and be critical with their feedback. Maintaining constant communication with them proved to be not only insightful for the team, but positive for the user as well.
  • A beta program allowed for quick fine-tuning of features before the release
  • A strong social media presence served as a platform for a strong community of users. 

In our product team at Bond Touch, we discovered through conversations with users that they were jotting down the meanings of the touch signals sent via their Bond Touch bracelets. 

For instance, a couple might decide that three short taps signify “I love you”, or three long taps convey “I miss you”. When one partner received a touch, they would refer to a notebook to interpret its meaning.

This insight led us to develop the ‘Touch Language’ feature, enabling users to create, store, and send touch messages with specific meanings in real-time. 

This innovation eliminated the need for manual recording and allowed users to assign meanings to touch patterns directly within the Bond Touch app. 

Additionally, customised colours on their Bond Touch devices would indicate the receipt of a meaningful touch. This is a prime example of how engaging closely with users helped our product team identify and address a tangible need in the market.

Become Best Friends with Your Marketing Team

Let’s say you’ve built your product by focusing incessantly on a painful problem just waiting to be solved within your market. You’ve quickly and efficiently built an MVP with that in mind. You’re ready to adjust your course and pay close attention to what your users are saying. 

All of that may fall by the wayside when attempting market adoption if you’ve kept your marketing team in the dark until now. 

Within that scenario, the most likely outcome is a well-built product that a market would’ve loved but instead just didn’t fully grasp what key benefit it provided to give it a shot.

Your marketing team will be the heroes in making your customers understand what’s in it for them. But for that, they’ll need to embrace the problem your product is delightfully solving for just as much as your product team does. If this is the case, they’ll know how to create the right message and set the right groundwork for your product to succeed within the market. 

A great example of this is Dollar Shave Club

They clearly had both product and marketing working in sync when they brought their product to market. Before launching, Dollar Shave Club came up with a simple but impactful viral video that you’ve probably seen before. In it. their founder walks around their warehouse and, by using humour to convey the message, clearly states what their product was here to solve. 

It’s cheap (cheaper than brand razors), convenient (their subscription model allows razors to be shipped to your door) and of good quality (“our blades are f***ing great”, as their founder states in the video). The result was 12 thousand new subscribers on their launch day, with their website crashing due to the amount of people visiting it. 

All of this to say, involve your marketing team in product ideation. And mirror this by involving your product team in your campaign planning. Of course, each team is the owner of their own domain, but the symbiosis between the two is a step closer to success for your product. 

Wrapping Up

All in all, preparation for your product for successful market adoption implies good foundations that are user-centric. Solving a critical problem dealt with in your user’s day-to-day, building a solution that simply solves that and adjusting based on your close attention to feedback is a solid recipe to mould your product into something a market is willing to embrace fully.

Thanks for reading!

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Simon Tadeu
Product Manager
Simon is a Product Manager who is passionate about turning innovative ideas into reality. He has a wealth of experience in startup success and has a knack for pragmatically getting things done when under pressure.

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