There are a million things to do to get your new ideas and discoveries into a finished product that will delight your customers. This can be a very overwhelming experience as you are not only trying to determine what your product will be like when you launch but also how to talk about it to your investors, your prospects, partners and your team. One unifying principal that can help here is to use the power of story to guide you through this process. Think of the story you would like people to tell about your company and its product(s) years after its success. When you take the time to do this, the path to success will seem a bit less treacherous.
Easier said than done
The key here is to focus on the interests of your target audience and realize that the narrative will be different for each of your stakeholders. This is kind of like trying to come up with a story that will appeal to both children and adults (perhaps using a comic book version for kids and a novel for adults). However, as challenging as this might seem to be, the process that you will follow to create the story of your company will ultimately provide you with the insights and focus you will need to move your company forward.
Step 1: Start with Your Future Customers
Your new product will provide some new outcomes for your future customers. This could be a new diagnostic test to guide medical treatment, a new tool or kit that will allow researches access to new information or perhaps even a significantly improved version of an existing product or service. In each case, you need to find out how badly your customers would wish to overcome a particular issue and ultimately if they can envision your solution to it to be compelling. From this effort you will know what your product or service needs to do for your customers (not just what it can do but what it must do). This is the most critical story to get right. You will be basically retelling this story of how your product or service impacts customers to your other stakeholders in the following steps.
Step 2: Delight your Board and Investors
Use the insights that you gained from the previous step to build enthusiasm on your Board of Directors. Being able to share testimonials from future customers, and statistics like, “90 percent of the people we targeted in our initial outreach said that they would pay $$$ today for our offering to fulfill this critical unmet need.” Testimonials like this go a lot further than statistics from market reports that have been shoehorned to fit your business case with these stakeholders. Remember your ‘audience’ prefers non-fiction over fiction here.
Step 3: Putting It All Together with Your Team
The feedback from your future customers in Step 1 will become the minimal set of performance and pricing characteristics for your first product(s). Your development team can use this to produce the first prototype for alpha evaluations. Your commercial team will have key insight into what will be a compelling value proposition to use to reach and win new customers. If your board and investors liked your ‘story’ so far, they will have validated it with their approval and perhaps even some additional funding.
- As early as possible, find out who will buy your products and for how much and why (what impact will your offering have on your customers). – The Customer Needs and Solution Story.
- Use real prospective customer feedback to further convince your stakeholders (Board of Directors and investors) to support your team. – The Rags to Riches Story –non-fiction version
- Provide your team with real outside feedback to guide your development efforts towards making the right product for the right customer at the right price at the right time. – The Life Science Idea to Successful Biotechnology Company Story