You have an idea for a digital product, but you don’t know how to take that idea through the process of development through launch to everything after. You’re aren’t alone! Many entrepreneurs have a solid idea but struggle with building a platform that will support their future products.
Throughout this article, you will discover a path that will take your product from an idea to a tangible application. While your product’s platform timeline is unique, this guide will help you to think through the steps you need to take.
9 Steps to Build Your Platform
Step 1: Business Ideation
The first step of building your platform is ideation. Simply put, ideation is the formation of ideas or concepts. You may already have an idea, if so, congrats! You’re already ahead of the game! If you don’t have an idea, ideation is where you brainstorm what problems you are uniquely able to solve and if a solution to that problem is already present or needs to be made.
During ideation, it can be helpful to work with an ideation coach. They can prepare you to be the owner of your company and help you get a clearer picture of the problem you are going to solve. An ideation coach can help expand your ideas and then converge on a decision. Don’t expect to know every part of how to build and launch a digital product, that is what experts can guide you on!
Step 2: Business Research
While you explore ideation, you should also be conducting market research. Who is your competition? Who is struggling with the problem your product could solve? Research is essential to a successful marketing campaign.
There could be a new and interactive platform that your product would excel on but without research, you could never know. To research, search the internet, find your future customers and ask them what it is they want and need in a solution. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends and family to give you feedback – your product will benefit greatly from this! Also, reach out to people outside of your inner circle who won’t be afraid to be open and honest about how your product could be improved.
Step 3: Product Brand Identity
The next step is discovering your brand identity. Brand identity is essentially how you see yourself and how you want the world to see you. If you don’t know your brand identity, then you won’t be able to successfully market your product.
Here are five questions you should ask yourself during the brand identity step. Once you have answers to these questions, you will have a better understanding of who you are as a company and as a product.
- What problem does your brand solve?
- What solution does your brand provide?
- What kind of people can you help the most?
- What makes your brand unique?
- How can you get potential customers to know, like, and trust you?
If you don’t have answers to these questions at the end of this step, go back and reevaluate your company’s purpose. Is your product currently needed and is there a market for it? If not, go back to ideation. You haven’t spent money on development, so this is the perfect time to make changes.
Step 4: Audience Building
After you have identified your brand identity and are working on conducting research, start building your audience. If you start early, by the time you release your product to market you will have a solid group of customers. Not only will they naturally evangelize your product, but they will also follow all future products that you release because they trust you.
There are several ways to build an audience early on. Here are a few easy ways to start!
- Build your website: A website is a key part of marketing your product. Until you launch, use your website as a way to gather email addresses.
- Tell your friends and family: Don’t underestimate the value of using word of mouth to build your audience. Encourage your friends and family to share your product and to give you feedback that could help it grow.
- Create an online presence through social media: It is okay to create social media profiles for your product before it is fully developed. You can create a buzz throughout development and when the product goes to market you will already have a solid following.
- Invest in online ads: With online ads, you can reach customers all over the world. You can target your specific personas and grow your social media followers.
Brainstorm unique ways to build an audience for your product. The possibilities for growing your audience are endless and are essential to the success of your product.
Step 5: Solution Innovation
Solution Innovation is the fifth step in building a platform for your product. Now that you have a solid grasp of your brand identity and the problem you are uniquely suited to solve, what is the solution your product will offer?
Begin this step by thinking of all the ways your product could be innovative and differentiate itself from other solutions already on the market. What solution could have the highest impact and would take the least time to achieve? Your product could have the potential to solve multiple problems, but at the beginning focus on one and then introduce more as your audience grows.
Once you have identified your solution, take the time to validate it with your prospective customers. Make sure this is a solution that will adequately reach them and that it is unique compared to other products on the market. You can have great marketing and branding, but if your solution isn’t needed or unique then go back and reevaluate, don’t move on to the next step!
Step 6: Product Design
While you are working on the solution, start to map out the design of your product. When your customer uses your product, what visual experience do you want them to have?
The design will be dependent on who your user type is and what kind of user experience they want and expect. If you are not sure what kind of design your customers want, ask them!
Design can make or break a product very early on. If you release your product and your customers can’t figure out how to navigate it or the design is unappealing, your customers will leave and could not return. If your design is interactive and easy to navigate, your customers will continue to stick around even at the beginning when you are dealing with changes and feature updates.
Step 7: Product Development
Now that you have done all the foundational work, it is finally time to begin developing your product. This is where you have to give up some control and trust a developer.
There are many ways to develop your product and each can bring your desired results. Whether you decide to use a local company, go with an offshore company, or even use an individual freelancer – take the time to research and talk with each one about your requirements and desired outcome.
Step 8: Product Pre-Launch
Before you officially launch your product to the market, you will go through the pre-launch step. Pre-launch includes several steps that are all about generating buzz about your product.
Once you have identified what day you will launch your product, set a specific amount of time before for pre-launch. This could be 2 weeks, 4 weeks, 6 weeks or whatever amount of time you think would fit your marketing plan best.
A few steps to take during the pre-launch include:
- Social media campaigns: Post regularly on your social media platforms, go live on Facebook and Instagram, create groups for your customers to interact with one another, and to share feedback.
- Direct email campaigns: Use email addresses collected from your website and social media as contacts to increase buzz about launch day. Don’t be afraid to email your contacts every day in the weeks leading up to launch. They are excited about your product just like you are!
- Ad campaigns: During pre-launch take the time to reevaluate your ad campaigns and adjust them to reflect your launch date. You want your ads to excite the viewer and to encourage them to follow your social media accounts and give you their email address.
- Press releases: Would your product benefit from media attention? Draft a press release and send it to your local newspapers, TV, and radio stations. Many local media outlets love highlighting new entrepreneurs in their area. The worst thing they can do is say no, so you might as well try!
Step 9: Product Launch
Now that you have a product and have created a buzz, it is time to launch! Repeat all the steps of pre-launch, but tailor it to launch day. Post and email multiple times on launch day and continue that momentum throughout the launch phase. A product’s success can be dependent on its launch so make sure you take advantage of every opportunity. You only launch once so make a big deal of it!
Costs for Building Your Platform
Now that you know how to build your platform, let’s explore the costs associated with it. It is important to note that you need to have funds for your product from ideation to launch, plus a budget for enhancements and maintenance. You will get feedback from the user and you will need to modify your product based on that.
You can find it useful to have an individual budget for each step. This would allow you to monitor if you are going over budget in one area or could increase spending in another. Keep in mind that you will need to budget for maintenance and enhancement after your product is launched and other costs including legal costs, hosting fees, data storage, and more.
Because each company charges a different price for development, we can’t give you a solid number on how much your product will cost. We encourage you to reach out to multiple developers to receive quotes and to see who is the best fit to handle your wants and needs.
Once you have completed all 9 steps you will now have launched your product and developed a strong base of customers. While the steps to build your platform might look different, it will include all of these phases as they are all essential to its success! Don’t forget to congratulate yourself and your team on the hard work you have put in and get ready to see your product grow!