How to create products people love
reating products people love isn’t easy. Here are the key human desires a superb product needs to fulfil, as well as the particular characteristics of great products.
This article was written by the original owner of startupguide.com, Ryan Allis, and published on his website in 2012. Read more about why Ryan was happy to hand over his website domain to us here.
Great products start with empathy for the end user. If you can put yourself in the shoes of and feel the pain of your future customers, you’ll be able to create a much better solution for that pain. If you yourself are the target market, all the better.
I began working with my cofounder Aaron Houghton on iContact in October 2002 when he and I both needed a web-based email newsletter tool to serve our agency clients. In May 2012, I began working with Anima Sarah LaVoy on Connect when we both needed a tool to visually map our personal and professional connections.
A great product—one that’s going to have great success in the marketplace and make an impact on the world—fulfills one or more of the following 12 key human desires:
1. Human connection
2. Making more money
3. Helping others
4. Finding a mate/partner
5. Having unique memorable experiences
6. Personal and family safety and security
7. Human creative expression
8. Health and survival
9. Impressing others
10. Comfort and relaxation
11. Learning and education
12. Protecting your money
If your product can fulfill just one of these key human desires, you’re off to a great start. If it can fulfill one or more, and do so in a way that is substantially better than other products that attempt to do the same thing, you are well on your way to building a company from startup to $1 million in sales. But first, you have to take that product and make it real.
The eight characteristics of great products
What else do great products do? They bring joy and smiles to the faces of users because they’re easy to use and they solve a real problem for which some people are willing to pay to have solved.
Great products tend to be simple on the outside and powerful on the inside. Often the greatest beauty is the simplicity on the other side of sophistication. Great products have these eight characteristics:
1. Fulfill one or more of the core human desires.
2. Have at least a 4x markup over production costs—the costs that are necessary to actually make that product and create supplies.
3. Have a recurring need so that you can create a recurring revenue model.
4. Easily upsold and cross-sold so that you can sell complementary products or services that tie in with those products.
Great products tend to be simple on the outside and powerful on the inside.
5. Built to be strong and withstand wear and tear, whether they are software that’s built on a strong platform or physical, tangible products that are built to withstand many years of use.
6. Beautifully designed and constructed. Particularly in the western world or developed countries where we are seeking fulfillment of the higher levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we’re finding that beautiful design is critical to market acceptance. Apple’s products are a good example of this.
7. Highly effective at achieving their stated purpose.
8. Have an easy-to-remember name—a great brand is easy to spell and memorable, usually one word with no more than two syllables (like Google, Yahoo, Apple, Facebook, HubSpot, LinkedIn).
Starting a services company first while you ideate on your product
If you don’t have an idea for a product right away, you can always start by providing services to others who need what you can offer. In a service company, you can charge based on hours worked or based on the value provided.
But always remember, until you’re making money while you’re sleeping, you have a job, not a business. When you’re ready, you can scale up your service company by hiring and training others to provide the service you offer, and and take a cut by matching demand for the service with trained suppliers of that service.
But to build a truly scalable company, sooner or later you need to start selling a product, not just providing a service.
Main photo: Unsplash/Daniel McCullough
*This article was originally published on October 17th, 2018 and updated on December 10th, 2018.