5 Steps To Build a Successful Software Product. Guaranteed!

These five steps will help you succeed if you are planning to build a Software product for your internal use or your customers.

Step #1: Identify the need you are trying to solve with your Software product and whom you are solving this need for. 

A couple of years ago, we met with a startup that wanted to build a video streaming platform with loads of features. They had an amazingly rare core team: 

  • A CEO of a company with a lot of expertise in Augmented Reality.  
  • Two academics highly awarded in neurolinguistics and the science of sound.  
  • One elite consultant whose specialty was digital video streaming technologies. 
  • Two senior engineers with a lot of knowledge in Software Development and Electrical Engineering. 

Not only were they top of the line in each of their areas of expertise, but they were very good people too. This dream team had everything they needed to build a successful product. They already had a lot of money from investors, key connections in the USA, Europe, and Asia, and a team of developers, engineers, designers, and managers to build the platform. What could be wrong? 

Well, there was a major issue that prevented them from creating their product. They did not have a clear roadmap of what the product should be. 

Every expert was pulling in their own direction.

Because everyone in the core team was an expert in their area, there was a constant switch of priorities during the building phase: 

First, it had to be able to stream videos as efficiently as YouTube does, so they focused on video compression, audio format, and streaming technologies. 

Then the academics wanted to add functionality based on their unique research. So the focus shifted to creating internal algorithms that mimic natural human language, and interpretation so that the user experience would be smooth and intuitive. 

After that, the team wanted to add AR to the streamed content to expand what users could do within the platform even more. 

Not only that, but the product had to be available within three main regions: Americas, Europe, and Asia. And to achieve this, they needed to figure out how to make it as efficient and scalable as possible. They needed to carefully considering all coding decisions, and how and where it was installed. 

However, they did not have a clue who their end-user was and what their needs were. 

This led to burning their investment extremely fast without even getting to the marketing part. 

Good examples of success.

To avoid this situation, you need to know exactly who you are going to serve and what you are going to do for them.

For example, take a look at these successful SaaS companies and their industries: 

  1. Canva: They make video and image production easy for digital creators. 
  2. Shopify: They help people and companies who want to sell online. 
  3. Indeed: They help people to find jobs and companies advertise their positions. 

What technologies do they use? What does their code look like? Where are they installed? How do they manage traffic? All of this comes second to defining the core business: what they solve and to whom. 

Clearly knowing this will help you to build the perfect product for your customers and to advertise it very easily. 

Step #2: Identify your competition and make things different. 

It is very hard to find a market that does not have competition. If you have an idea, consider that it is highly probable that others have had that same idea or one that is very similar to yours. 

And that is okay, because it tells you there is a proven market for it. 

Let’s look at big SaaS brands that have been successful and that were not the first on their market: 

Did you know that when Google launched its search engine other big players were dominating the industry? Yahoo, Altavista, WebCrawler and Excite to name a few. 

But Google is now the biggest one in the market because their product was simpler and cleaner. People didn’t want to see ads and other stuff that was irrelevant to them. They just wanted to get to their answer fast. And that’s what Google figured out. 

Facebook was not the first social media platform, nor the one with the most features or beautiful interface. 

Before Facebook, there were Hi5 and MySpace, where users could personalize their profiles with custom content, colors, and even add music! But they made Facebook more attractive by showing relationship status and “the wall” (timeline of activity) within their users’ profiles. 

HubSpot started up as a CRM where Salesforce was the biggest player. 

Their product wasn’t better but their marketing was genius. With time they have become one of the greatest CRMs in the market. 

The story of DuckDuckGo resembles the story of David vs Goliath. How can a small startup go toe to toe with Google, Bing (Microsoft), and Yahoo with all of their capital and power? 

Well, in times when the big tech was hitting the news because of privacy issues and the scandal with Snowden and the NSA, they just removed user tracking and attacked privacy issues with everything they could. And people loved it.

So what can you learn from these stories?

Every one of them started small with huge competition. But they studied their competitors and tweaked their products based on what the users wanted. It could be adding more features and making the product more robust. It could be removing features and simplifying the product. Or it could be differentiating the product through marketing. They all did it and so can you! 

Step #3: Based on the previous steps, identify what your Minimum Viable Product is. 

Now that you know the problem that you are trying to solve, who you are going to solve it for, and how your competition does it, it’s time to plan how to create your product. 

You have a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) when your product is mature enough to be used by your clients. 

It’s vital to create an MVP instead of a full-featured product. This is how you test fast and invest the least amount of time, effort, and money possible. 

Let me tell you my personal story.

Back in 2008, I was walking in the park on a Saturday morning before going to get some groceries. There were 3 shops nearby, each one was a 20-minute walk away in a different direction. I wanted to buy one of my favorite chocolates. But it wasn’t always available at all of those stores, so I had to guess in which direction to walk. 

When it hit me: “How cool would it be to have a website where I have a map on screen and depending on the product that I want, it shows me which businesses have it?” 

So I started designing the Software product: planning what was involved, which technologies should I use, thinking how can I build it with what I knew and who could I reach for help with the things that I didn’t know. 

Then I got another idea: “What if I make it social?” 

And I built profiles, friend requests, shares…  

Then another idea: “Okay, now how would I make money? I need businesses to pay me right? So… what if I add a business site where they can create a profile, add pictures, and add their products and services?” 

Some months later and after hiring 2 developers to help me I completed that functionality. 

Then another: “So… I have a map, I have businesses, I have social media stuff, but what happens if, by the time that I launch, I don’t have enough businesses signed in? When people look for something, they won’t be able to find anything…. it will be an instant failure” 

So I paid for help adding businesses manually while I was working on other stuff. 

Then it was adding translations, adding weather, recommendations via email and even payments online…

FIVE years later…

At this point, I had spent five years in this, a lot of my money, I hadn´t launched anything yet, and I was already late because mobile apps were booming. 

I needed to build the mobile version for Android and iOS (those are TWO different products by the way). 

By that time, I had a HUGE project and I decided to launch it. But I ran out of money and couldn’t advertise it. By the way, I didn´t know anything about advertising or sales. 

I failed. Miserably! I made 2 big mistakes: I was too slow to launch, and I should have advertised from the beginning to create momentum, even when the platform wasn’t ready. This takes me to the last step. 

Step #4: Promote, promote, promote. 

It doesn’t matter if you build the best Software piece ever created if nobody knows about it. 

It’s not uncommon to see a lot of successful SaaS businesses with very crappy products, making thousands or even millions of dollars a year. 

Their secret? They get customers because they put a lot of effort into sales and marketing, which is even more important than the product itself. 

Many business owners think that to start promoting their products, they need to have a finished Software product with the best design, all the features in place, and outstanding performance. 

These are real-life examples that show why that’s a lie: 

The first version of Facebook was an ugly, buggy Software product and didn’t have 90% of the features it had two years later.

And remember, Mark Zuckerberg was competing against Hi5 and MySpace. Both were light years ahead of him in terms of design and features. Yet, everybody in different universities in the USA and UK was talking about Facebook. 

Snapchat started as a basic iOS app to send photos that would disappear.

Not much to it but it gained some popularity the same year it launched. It wasn’t until 4 years after adding, modifying, and even removing functionality to their Software product that they came up with their Augmented Reality feature called Lenses. 

Image from Visualcapitalist.com.

The first version of Hubspot wasn’t even a Software product.

The company started as a community where they shared a collection of guides, frameworks, and solutions for small businesses to compete with large corporations in the sales and marketing landscape. By the time they created their signature CRM they already had a big pool of paying customers. 

They are successful today because they made sure to let people know about their existence even when their products weren’t ready. 

Today more than ever, it’s very easy to do that. Just start by changing how you use your Social Media. 

You see, if you just post and share about your holidays, your family, your pets, your meals. You are not only giving away too much personal information to strangers but also wasting your time and a huge opportunity. 

Instead, focus on the problems that your end clients have and how your Software product solves them. Don’t be afraid to use all the channels at your disposal, the more you share the better! 

And remember, don’t talk about yourself and your company because the truth is that nobody cares… People care about their problems and how to solve them. 

Step #5: Execute. 

In Marvel’s movie The Avengers, there’s a scene where Captain America tells Iron Man: “We need to make a plan of attack”, and Iron Man answers: “I have a plan: ATTACK”

You must stop planning and thinking. Just start EXECUTING. You will have to make constant changes to your Sofware product anyway, so just put the first version together, launch it and make sure to promote it heavily. 

Make sure to follow the content on any of our channels, we are constantly sharing useful actionable information that you can implement and get results TODAY. And if you need help building your Software products or promoting your company, get in touch, and let’s have a casual conversation! We might end up working together or at least we can help point you to the right direction.

Contact us at chat@flarespots.com

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