4 Phases to Implement Your Product Idea

It isn’t enough to have an idea or opportunity that you can execute. A thoughtful and intentional strategy for selecting your customer, launching a product, and evolving with the market is critical to success.

Dylan Turner, co-founder and chief product officer for a global telemedicine company called doxy.me and graduate of the Master of Business Creation program at the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business, uses his company’s story to discuss the four phases from product idea to implementation. Doxy.me has over 1 million healthcare providers signed up for the service, and these providers have seen over 200 million patients on the platform. Turner was responsible for scaling the product and operations over the past decade.

Turner discussed these four phases of product strategy development in a recent workshop provided in the Lassonde for Life program, which is open to all University of Utah alumni and provides free, lifelong entrepreneurial support.

Here are the key takeaways from his presentation:

Phase 1: You’ve Identified an Opportunity

“Rather than think of our solution as a product or service, we must change our mindset to consider them as more,” Turner said. He called these problems we set out to solve “opportunities.”

He quoted Elon Musk, who said, “Life has to be about more than just solving problems.” Turner added his perspective that opportunities can be inspiring.

Doxy.me started as an opportunity to answer the question about the effectiveness of telemedicine. The telemedicine solutions of the past were expensive, required heavy hardware or complex software, and were not all HIPAA-compliant. Telemedicine customers were becoming more comfortable with virtual platforms and became frustrated that their telemedicine platforms were not accessible, easy to use, or compatible with their needs.

Once you’ve identified a problem, get clarity on it and whom you are solving it for. Turner explained, “When you’ve identified that problem, there’s actually more than just a problem – you might have an unmet need, or you may need to satisfy a desire.” He called this “entering into the solution space” and described the evolution from problem to problem-solving.

A motto at doxy.me is, “Fall in love with the problem, not the solution.” Turner said, “Your solution can change, it can be different for different people, and you really want to focus on the right things.” Often founders can become attached to their solution and their product, however, a key part of strategy is being flexible enough to pivot and abandon your original plans for better ones.

Phase 2: Opportunity Worth Solving

Decide if the opportunity is worth pursuing for your target market and for you personally. Each opportunity must be tested for viability and desirability within your ideal customer base. In a previous Lassonde for Life workshop, Mark Pittman explained that you should be selective about which opportunities you capitalize on. Once you determine the problem you want to solve with a product or service, you should calculate the return on your investment. Each opportunity you find will have different levels of difficulty, different costs, and different market demands. You must decide how to spend your time, energy, and capital.

Phase 3: List Your Assumptions

Turner cautioned that you want to be deliberate in solving a problem, and it begins by understanding your assumptions. He admitted, “My superpower is jumping to solutions, and the problem with that is that you skip over all the other solutions to this problem.” You may not realize that changing trends will impact the viability of your solution. Turner shared several types of assumptions that he predicts will change over time and that he recommended you evaluate regularly to ensure your strategy is consistent with market needs and an ever-changing business landscape. They include:

  • Vision
  • Strategy
  • Business model canvas
  • Value
  • Usefulness
  • Feasibility
  • Viability
  • Ethics

Doxy.me identified its market assumptions, and its leaders were required to think ahead, expand their product, and advance their strategy as customer needs changed, especially in the face of a pandemic. “As you go along and assess your product’s market and target customer, you will correct your course and make changes as needed,” Turner said. “People tend to fixate on the first right answer. There are always multiple right answers.”

Beachhead Market

Turner emphasized that you can choose your customer. He said to ask yourself, “Where are you going to start?” You shouldn’t start by being the solution for all people, everywhere. Determine who your customer is and tailor your strategy to them. From there, you can expand your focus to a broader customer base. He called this defined group your beachhead market and said, “These are people that have the problem you’re trying to solve. They’re aware, and maybe they’ve already been actively looking for a solution or have assembled parts of the solution themselves, and the cherry on top is that they are willing to pay you money if you’ve solved their problem.”

Turner shared the example of doxy.me and how they have been approached by individuals in several other industries outside of their target customer base requesting changes to their product to meet different needs. Doxy.me has benefited from declining those opportunities or, as he described “firing their customers,” and focusing on their beachhead market. He emphasized that changing your product to meet everyone’s needs has consequences. “It’s a better experience for the customer you are choosing if you are deliberate about whom you’re serving,” he said

Phase 4: Test your assumptions

Once you’ve listed your assumptions, try to test each one. Turner said, “What you’re doing during this phase is de-risking your solution.” At the early stages of your product, there’s a lot of risk associated with implementation. Due to the level of uncertainty, your assumptions can be wrong and lead you down a risky path.

He called this process “putting your foot out into the solution space” and recommended reviewing the five types of risks and clarifying how your solution reduces or eliminates each of them:

  • Value risk is whether your chosen customer will find the product valuable.
  • Usability risk is if your customer can use your product easily or if it will require training and a steep learning curve.
  • Feasibility risk is whether you can design and build your solution.
  • Business viability risk is whether you can execute profitably and benefit long-term.
  • Ethics risk, a newer risk that Turner addressed, is whether you should build something.

Design Thinking

Turner emphasized that starting with something to test your assumptions is critical, and you should avoid overthinking this step. Your minimum viable product (MVP) should test core parts of your assumptions but does not have to include everything you hope to have in a final solution or product.

Don’t be afraid to design a solution and continue to iterate your product. As you learn more about your ideal customer, your original product will evolve and begin to take shape. You will respond to positive feedback and criticism as part of this process. In essence, Turner agreed with Thomas Sowell, who said, “There are no solutions; there are only trade-offs.”

You will experience this as you develop your personal product strategy and begin deciding how to optimize your ideas, capital, and resources. A final design will be a balance of several things and will require you to navigate many decisions. An important reminder is that you will need to take steps toward your vision and that it won’t unfold overnight.

Kill Your Darlings

Turner described ideas and projects that weren’t the highest priority, best timing, or most compatible fit for the company, and although they expended time and resources developing them, doxy.me ultimately chose to kill them. Remember that there is always an option to resurrect these ideas later and not every idea needs to become a reality.

Turner explained that your ultimate goal in this process is to narrow the gap between your product-market fit and get closer to developing a product that meets the market’s needs perfectly.

To determine if you’ve done this, it’s important to review key metrics. Turner encouraged asking yourself, “Do people come back over and over and over, over a period of time?” Once you feel you’ve made an impact with your product, double down and focus on expansion.

Moving to a Service

Once you’ve developed your product, begin thinking about how to serve your customer. Turner suggested your product may evolve into a service over time as you learn more about the problems your customers face and how you may be able to do more than offer a product to help them. He explained how doxy.me is now exploring ways to establish and integrate the best practices in telemedicine into their customer experience.

About the Author:

Mellanie Page Mellanie Page is a board certified behavior analyst (BCBA), leadership coach, and graduate instructor who has worked for over a decade with children with autism. She is passionate about advancing the field through the lens of organizational operations. Mellanie is an MBA student at the David Eccles School of Business. Learn more and connect with her at mellaniepage.com.

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