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  • Marcia Otto

Drive Startup Success: 6 Key Steps To Avoid Product Failure

Updated: Jun 10

As a recently funded startup, you've reached a critical milestone in your journey. However, it's essential to recognize that the real challenges lie ahead. Startling statistics from Startup Genome and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reveal the daunting reality: the vast majority of startups fail, with approximately 20% not even making it past their first year. Adding to the complexity, CBI Insights emphasizes that product challenges often prove fatal to these ventures. To navigate these treacherous waters and set your startup on the path to success, it's imperative to adhere to six strategic product steps.

  1. Assemble the right team - First and foremost, assembling the right team is paramount since 14% of startups fail due to not having the right team.  Founders may have brilliant ideas, but they often lack the necessary expertise and time to navigate product development successfully. We’ve all used (and been turned off by) clunky and outdated-looking apps. You can avoid this by hiring a product expert, such as a fractional or contract product manager, who can effectively guide your team through the product development process.

  2. Ensure a product-market fit - A product-market fit occurs when the value proposition of a startup's product or service distinctly matches the unmet needs within a specific market. Achieving this is essential: 35% of startups fail due to not solving a particular problem that users experience. To get funding, you must have conducted high-level market and competitive research to identify a need in the marketplace. Now thorough market research coupled with deep analysis of user pain points is vital to tailor your product to meet consumer demands effectively. As skilled researchers, product managers identify industry trends, conduct competitive analyses, obtain feedback from clients, prospects, and users, and evaluate the requirements of incoming RFPs (Request for Proposals). Once your product is in the market, your product expert will conduct continuous feedback loops with win/loss analyses and obtain regular feedback from client services, sales, and operations.

  3. Create a delightful, sticky user experience – Creating an engaging and intuitive user experience reduces customer churn and your potential of falling into the 8% of start-ups that fail due to a poor product experience. I’ve worked with companies that feel the founders or in-house designers are good enough for developing user interfaces (UX). In my experience, the apps created by in-house designers often aren’t scalable, don’t provide a great user experience, and get stale fast. Investing in a talented UX designer can significantly enhance your product's appeal and usability, ultimately contributing to its success. The UX designer will work closely with the product manager using market research to create a polished interactive visual prototype of your final design. The company uses the prototypes for usability testing, client feedback, demos, and requirements. It is cheaper and faster to fix the prototype as feedback comes in than pivoting and fixing issues after product development. 

  4. Develop user-focused product roadmap – In my experience, founders often undermine launches by insisting on incorporating every feature imaginable, regardless of its value to the end user. Research shows that 10% of startups fail due to a product's poor timing. To maintain focus on user needs and deadlines, a user-centric product roadmap overseen by a seasoned product manager is indispensable. This roadmap not only outlines the product's trajectory, priorities, and evolution over time but also emphasizes enhancing the user experience. The product manager plays a crucial role in prioritizing key features for the initial release, known as the minimal viable product (MVP). Subsequent releases can then incorporate additional high-priority features as needed.

  5. Create a winning go-to-market (GTM) strategy – A winning go-to-market (GTM) strategy is also essential. Merely building a product isn't enough; you must effectively communicate its value proposition to the market. A GTM strategy is a comprehensive plan designed to assist businesses in positioning a new product or service for its launch, identifying their target audience, and orchestrating coherent messaging. The product manager collaborates with marketing on the GTM strategy to ensure the right messages are shared with the marketplace, customers, and users. Additionally, the product manager makes sure the product is operationally ready. They manage a checklist to make sure that for every new major feature, all the internal stakeholders are engaged appropriately throughout the process. This way the release will go smoothly, and you won’t hear from Operations, “I didn’t know that was coming!”

  6. Ensure continuous improvement and ongoing success – Finally, ensuring ongoing success post-launch is crucial. After a product is successfully launched, the product manager’s job isn’t done. A successful product manager continuously monitors, gathers user feedback, and iterates based on insights to maintain a competitive edge in the market. Continuous improvement keeps the product relevant and useful for the users, creating happy and loyal customers. 

Securing funding is just the beginning of your entrepreneurial journey. By following these six critical steps for your product, you can maximize your chances of turning your business idea into a thriving venture. Take action now to set your milestones for success and bring your vision to life!

Ready to build a winning product? OakBloom Marketing specializes in product innovation, execution, and crafting magnetic brands and stories that influence Contact us here. #womenintech #femalefounders


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