Inspiration and Ideation: Define Your Digital Product

I’m Assuming You Have a One-Line Description for Your Product

Whether it’s ‘Instagram for Dogs’ or ‘an end-to-end CRM for freelancers’, you likely have a basic concept or initial idea of what you want to build. What do you do next to define your digital product? Imagine your initial idea not just as a fleeting spark but as the first flame in what could become a roaring fire of innovation. This post is your kindling—fuel to transform that spark into a blaze that lights up the market.

Need help coming up with your initial product idea? We’ve got you covered with our earlier post titled Finding a Problem to Solve: What If You Don’t Yet Have an Idea?

Strategies for Inspiration and Ideation:

Discover your product’s Unique Selling Proposition (USP), and watch it resonate deeply with customers’ core needs, carving a unique niche in a bustling market and propelling your sales to new heights. Consider how Dropbox differentiated itself with a simple, user-friendly design in a crowded cloud storage market, clearly defining its USP. We also want to define the initial shape of your product and what you might want it to do in the future. Here are three strategies to creatively expand on your idea and add unique features to your product:

  1. Brainstorming: Engage in thorough brainstorming sessions to unleash a flood of creative ideas that could transform into marketable features, setting your product apart from the competition.
  2. Customer Research: Conducting detailed customer research doesn’t just inform product development—it directly influences user satisfaction by tailoring features to meet real-world demands and expectations. According to a Salesforce report, 76% of consumers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations—a direct payoff from thorough customer research.
  3. Study Successful Products: Analyzing successful products offers critical insights into what works, helping you innovate on proven foundations while ensuring your solution addresses gaps left by others.

Brainstorming

When you brainstorm in a vibrant group setting, every voice adds a layer of depth, turning even the wildest ideas into potential breakthroughs. It’s about embracing the chaos of creativity where the next big thing could be hidden in your next wild idea.

I’ll suggest a couple of great techniques for brainstorming, but this could be a whole series of posts on its own, so its just going to be a thumbnail sketch of a few of my favorites. Some of these have some real snooze-fest names, way too corporate and boring, so I’ve decided to add my own name to the ones that are more fun than they sound:

Effective Brainstorming Techniques for Digital Product Ideas:

  1. Mind Sweep: (we can also call this the “Brain-Dump” or “Stream of Consciousness”) – this is what most people think of when they think of Brainstorming. Quickly jot down all thoughts and ideas related to a topic to generate a wide range of ideas. Ran out of stuff to write? Keep writing! Set a 15 or 30 minute timer, and the only rule is that you cannot stop writing the whole time.
  2. Mind Mapping: Start with a central idea and branch out into related ideas to visualize connections. Similar to number one, but this one is more visual – the idea here is that you are generating new ideas by connecting concepts.
  3. Improv Technique: The ‘Improv Technique’ not only fosters creativity but also builds team cohesion and ensures a diverse range of ideas, making your development process more inclusive and innovative. It’s perfect for breaking out of conventional thinking patterns and uncovering innovative solutions. Get a group of people together, have each one generate an idea individually on a piece of paper, then pass your papers around for others to add to each other’s ideas. This technique is officially called “Nominal Group Technique” – I call this the “Improv Technique” because it’s each person’s job to “yes, AND…”. the previous person’s idea.
  4. Role-Storming: In ‘Role-Storming’, put yourself in the shoes of different user personas. For instance, as a Marketing Manager using this email app, consider what features could streamline your daily tasks. It’s about understanding the practical application of your product from multiple perspectives. Focus on your target user personas primarily, but if all you get are “in-the-box” ideas, you can try non-traditional user types – how would a street magician use this email app?
  5. Reverse Brainstorming: Reverse Brainstorming’ involves thinking about all the ways your product could fail, turning these pitfalls into powerful insights for robust design. You could also call this “Inversion Brainstorming” – not more fun, but its based on the mental model that relates to this concept. If I needed a more marketable term for this, I might call it “Defensive Brainstorming” – but that sounds like something you would want to avoid.
  6. Random Word Association: Start with a random word and brainstorm ideas based on that word. Open a dictionary to a random page and poke it with your finger to pick a word, or just go to https://randomwordgenerator.com/ and have it generate something – I just got “cake” on that page and I’m pretty psyched about generating cake-related features for my SaaS app!
  7. Bad Idea Brainstorming: Try to come up with the worst ideas possible to spark creativity. Its a great way to get around self-editing, and it can be a lot of fun! What could we do that would make this product really bad? the name says it all, but I still want to workshop some more fun ideas…”Burn it to the Ground” – “Burn Storming” – I think I have a winner!

Once you’ve fleshed out your ideas with these brainstorming techniques, it’s time to ground them with solid data. Let’s dive into market research methods that can validate and refine your concepts.

Market Research

Ready to dive deep into the world of market research? There are two flavors here: the good old conventional method and our cool, less conventional ‘Sales Safari’. Let’s explore both:

  • Conventional Market Research – Picture this: stacks of detailed reports and exhaustive surveys, the kind that would make any business school grad nod appreciatively. Plunge into the depths of market research to uncover data that’s more than numbers—it’s the heartbeat of your market. Here, every insight helps you connect more profoundly with your audience, ensuring your product doesn’t just enter the market but makes a spectacular entrance. A study by Nielsen shows that market research can increase profitability by identifying the most lucrative customer segments and their buying behaviors. It’s thorough and oh-so-informative if you’re prepping a pitch deck or just love deep dives into data. The catch? It’s as heavy on the wallet as it is on the brain.
  • Sales Safari – Now for the wild card! If traditional market research feels too stiff for your taste, embarking on a ‘Sales Safari’ allows you to capture the authentic voice of your customer, turning casual conversations into a goldmine of insights for targeted and effective marketing strategies.. Coined by the entrepreneurial duo Amy Hoy and Alex Hillman, this method is like being a digital anthropologist. You dive into online communities, forums, and social platforms where your target audience hangs out. Listen in, gather intel, and spot the pain points and golden nuggets of customer lingo. Imagine yourself as a digital Indiana Jones, exploring the vast jungles of online forums and social media to uncover the treasures of direct customer insights. It’s real-time, cost-effective, and perfect for you, the scrappy startup hero, seeking actionable insights without the corporate fuss.

Study Successful Products

  • Look at other successful products in your target market (potential competitors)
  • Why do people pick them, what are they saying is great about them?
  • Where do they market? What benefits are they offering people in their sales materials?
  • Go to the support forums for those products, what are people complaining about. Embark on an expedition to dissect the success stories of top products, uncovering the secrets behind their allure. This isn’t just research; it’s your roadmap to capturing hearts and dominating the market.
  • Now look at other types of products that target the same market, but don’t address the same need. What is successful, what is their branding? What benefits are they selling? If you could integrate your offering with their product would it be a huge advantage? Would that be unique to your product?

For example, create a features matrix comparing your product with five leading competitors to identify gaps and opportunities for differentiation.

Conclusion

If you focused on the right problem area for you, at the end of these exercises you will have a bunch of ideas. They might be just a bulleted list, or a mind-map, or screenshots with things circled, or notes or even a huge collection of these things (5 notes, 2 mind-maps, countless screenshots with annotations). Imagine organizing your findings visually, like notes and screenshots on a cork board, helping you see connections and develop your ideas further.

If your vision board for your product looks anything like this PLEASE send it to me! I absolutely want to help you define your digital product!

Each strategy outlined here is designed with flexibility in mind, allowing you to adapt and tweak them as you better understand your market and product capabilities, ensuring you’re never locked into one path. Remember, every step you take is a learning opportunity. Even the most successful products have grown from trials and errors, and with each attempt, you’re refining your approach and enhancing your market fit.

Either way, you’ve started with a rough-cut marble. Just as Michelangelo uncovered the statue of David, you too have a masterpiece within your ideas waiting to emerge. Excited to share your ideas and get feedback? Join our Discord community today, and connect with fellow innovators ready to discuss and develop their visions into reality. With each detail you carve, you’re not just refining a product; you’re bringing a vision to life. This is your moment to craft not just a tool, but a legacy. So dive deep into the fabric of your creativity, sculpt passionately, and prepare to watch in awe as your vision evolves from concept to phenomenon.

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