The process of turning an intangible (idea) into a tangible (product) is called “productization”. Determining the format for this transformation, specifically for our first real time experiment – Testing the Muse in Practice (Part 4) – is the focus of this post.
Yep, you read that correctly – this is Part 4 of our ongoing series. I changed-up the blog post title, away from the previous format of “Real Time Experiment – Testing the Muse in Practice”, primarily to provide better insight into the topic(s) covered in each of the posts (and to keep the series titles fresh).
The reality is that this process could be condensed into 2-3 weeks (or less, depending on your time availability and/or need to outsource tasks). But this series has been drawn out so that readers can understand and see the progression of Testing the Muse in practice, in more bit-sized digestible portions – a more illustrative way to connect the dots. Plus I didn’t want to have close to 10 posts, all with the same title!
Here’s where we’re at:
So far, we’ve identified the problem and a potential solution (Part 1) and have identified active seekers who may benefit from the solution and become customers of our potential product (Part 2 and Part 3). I even produced a cheat-sheet for readers who want to cut through the traditional market research to find their actual potential customers with the Quickstart Guide to Hacking Market Research – subscriber to this blog & instantly receive your copy too!
The next step is to consider: what form will this product take?
More specifically, what will the product “be”, how would this be delivered, and is there already competition in this marketplace?
In the context of this blog post, “productization” represents moving a concept from idea to something that can be purchased – making the intangible more tangible – thus becoming a “product”.
Creating a product, or productizing a service, benefits both the provider and customer by having the net effect of increasing productivity, standardizing essential service elements, and scaling the delivery method, making it more consistent. Ultimately, it can provide more value to the customer.
In our example, the current service does not exist – so any format we create would be providing greater value to the customer. The key would be to determine the best method for consuming the information.
Recall that what we have so far is some customized formulae in an Excel spreadsheet. You’ve got some inputs and you’ve got some outputs – nothing overly special.
Could this worksheet be included as a value-add to a course on how to review, compare and choose a used vehicle? Yes. How about a bonus chapter in an eBook? Absolutely. But I don’t want to create a whole course, or even an eBook, around this concept.
Could it be an add-on tool used in a current service that helps people evaluate used vehicles. Most definitely, but again, I’m not the person for that (and there are many who already offer those in-person services).
The more I brainstorm, the more I can see it lend itself to tons of different products or existing offerings. But keeping in the context of it being a “muse” – a product or service that should lend itself to outsourcing or automation, so as to earn passive income, I don’t want to put myself in a position where I have to potentially build a whole business around it (particularly if it’s not a passion of mine).
Being a spreadsheet, it could easily lend itself to being software, an app, a widget, or online calculator placed within apps or on the webpages of used car sites, classified ad sites, dealerships, etc. I’m intrigued by the last idea of bundling it with other relevant sites online, but I’m not sure how that would produce any ongoing income. Possibly if I proved it out, it would be given credibility and such sites would consider it worthy to include with their services.
Of all formats considered above, the best (most direct to consumers) for this used car comparison tool is a stand-alone app.
It is a relatively straight-forward approach, has a proven and automated delivery method, does not require constant attention, could be fleshed out to a widget (or other format) later, is mobile friendly, and most importantly, has a readily available and established marketplace.
Does this already exist?
Obviously this question was dealt with in the early stages of idea brainstorming. It’s also worth noting that, as a result of my initial search for answers on how to compare used cars (and not coming up with an existing tool or product to assist with my comparison needs), this lack of results indicated a confirmation that nothing exists.
However, now that we know what form it will take (an app), it’s necessary to re-review for competition, as some time has passed and/or to ensure the market isn’t too crowded. Don’t be overly discouraged if a similar product exists. Imitate and innovate (or emulate and decimate).
As discussed in Chad Mureta’s App Empire and confirmed by a quick Google search, developing for Apple’s iOS, as opposed to Android, is preferred as Apple users are more likely to spend money on apps. It also helps that the iOS platform is very widely used, so most programmers are already well entrenched in developing apps on this platform. So let’s start there.
Reviewing competition within the marketplace, in the context of this product – a prospective app on the Apple App Store – can be done quite easily given the nature of the App Store. Essentially you’re using your keywords (researched and validated in Part 2 of this series) to search the App Store for similar or related apps. Take your keywords and start searching the Top Apps Charts for the most popular and highest grossing (e.g. most profitable) apps.
It would also be extremely worthwhile to have already brainstormed your potential product’s functions and user benefits prior to this marketplace search, as you may use these as search terms as well. But if you haven’t already, we’ll cover how to this is done in more detail in an upcoming post.
Make sure you’re taking notes on which related apps are most popular (and what’s not). Including any apps in your industry that you like – visually or functionality wise. This will come in very handy in the next stage (as I will show you in the next post).
For our example, none exists. Edmunds Car Shopping app is the closest competitor, but it’s truly more of a used car search engine. The majority of used car related apps revolve around car loan and payment calculators, use car classifieds and dealerships, maintenance and inspection guides, etc.
Quick Commentary on Second-Mover Status
It’s been said that finding no competition and being the first-to-market is a negative – meaning that if no one’s already making money doing it, it’s not profitable, or likely not worth pursuing. Although I can see the wisdom in that theory (and statistically, it’s probably true), it still seems like a defeatist attitude to me – and I wouldn’t let it stop [me] from taking action.
I’ve had some experience with this issue, having designed and attempted to market a product that didn’t previously exist – honestly, gaining traction was downright difficult. There’s a lot of education involved in trying to get people interested in something they’ve never heard of before, or don’t have an anchor to compare to.
With so many moving parts, there are often many underlying reasons why a project may fail (and not necessarily simply because it was “new”). You need to be able to pivot, split-test, or be willing to part with what is potentially still a good idea (better implemented by someone else).
Maybe there’s a reason none exists, or maybe no one’s simply put the product out there for the market to decide. That’s all part of the discovery process that is Testing the Muse.
Now that we have determined the product’s format (app) and the marketplace for selling the product (Apple’s App Store), the next step would be to:
- Assign a price for the prospective product;
- Determine if the prospective customer can afford this item;
- Calculate the “value” of our potential customers; and
- Calculate our “total available market” value.
Don’t miss the key formulae discussed in the next installment as we start to assign some estimated dollar figures to our idea. This is when we actually measure if you have a potential “million dollar idea” using cold hard numbers.
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Action you can take:
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