What Makes Great Products Great?

How many times have you heard this, “I have this great idea for a new product or service”. And how many times have you seen this person with the “great idea” actually do something? Well, this article will help you understand if the idea is a million-dollar idea or not. 

Some housekeeping, when I talk about 'product(s)' I am referring to both hard products you can touch and feel, software products/apps or services that you perform for someone. Also, I define a product/service that helps a person do something or experience something in less expensive, easier or in less time than what is currently available to that person. 

Creating a product from an idea is one of the hardest things you will ever do. There are many many reasons it is hard and each of us has different strengths but I think these are the most overlooked: 

  • You are building it based on what you have experienced in your life. This means things you like and dislike may not be what the largest part of your buyers like or dislike.

  • If it is a very unique product idea then you can’t look at other similar ideas and see what they have built since many of the features will not translate into your product idea.

  • If it is unique then many people will not consider it a valid or worthwhile idea. Therefore you will be told “no” more times than you may be used to. Perseverance is important.

What all great products have in common

So now let's talk about what all great products have in common. One to point out here is that all the very best product ideas likely excel at all of these below features. But many other products have succeeded by having excelled at a few of them and been average at others and no great products are poor at any of these. If a product is poor in one of these it is not a great product. Therefore you should shoot to be a '10' in all of these but you can still be successful if you are not.  

Is it Unique?

Ask yourself these questions…Is it unique? Is it unique to the marketplace? Is it unique in how it’s being delivered or used? Is it unique in how it’s priced? Is it unique in how it’s shared? All those things have an influence on whether your product is being seen as a duplicate of something in the market. 

So when I’m saying unique, does it provide five or ten times more value or is it five or ten times cheaper? Does it have fewer features but still do what other products do. There are many ways to be unique but remember buyers are not easily fooled. It can’t be just a little different or 20% cheaper with the same features, that will not be a winner. If you build the product with the customer’s problem in your mind at all times and not look for the obvious methods or techniques you are likely on the correct path. 

You may see a problem being solved in one industry and see how it can be better implemented in another using what might similar methods. That's OK! Study other industries or niches and see what is working. The Samwer brothers built a billion-dollar business, Rocket Internet by taking ideas that had started in the United States or other parts of the world and tailoring them to European standards. They created some very interesting businesses by doing this. Don’t copy! See how you can make something better.

Rate your product on a scale of 1 to 5 (5 most). How unique, in the industry you are in, is your product?

Does it solve the problem that people care about?

We hear this over and over again…does it solve a problem? But what really matters is does it solve a problem that someone is willing to pay to solve? I have seen products launched that didn’t have a paying customer. I am not talking about a freemium model where it is designed to be free, but a product which no one was willing to pay for that had been designed to sell, this is a very bad thing and can be easily avoided. 

There are several factors to manage with this feature. Is the problem have enough people who will pay for it? It’s not enough to have some people willing to pay, you have to have enough to make a business out of it! 

Here are the simple things to ask yourself.  

  • Are there enough people to buy my product that this could be a real business?

  • Can I charge enough to make a profit?

  • Do people see this as a painkiller or is it a vitamin? If it’s a painkiller, then you have a potential winner. If it’s a vitamin, it’s like eh, nice to have but I can take it or leave it. 

I think this is the one feature that everyone starts with but most people don’t understand or learn if they can charge enough or sometimes anything for their idea. 

Rate your product on a scale of 1 to 5 (5 is 100%). Be realistic, if you talked to 100 people who had the problem you are solving how many would buy your product for the price you need to charge. 5 is 100%, 4 is 80%, etc.

Does it provide value to the customer?

Value is the number of things and not just price. Is it providing value to the customer in how they interact in the world? Does it allow them to do more of something else or less of something? Do they see it as something that solves more than one problem? Or how they interact during their day and how they use your product in their business? Is it providing enough value for that customer that they want to share it? Do they want to talk about it, and talk to others about it?

You need to look for all the value drivers for your product. If it is only having a 20-30% lower price that is not enough. Price can be one but what else is there? Does it make someone's life easier? Does it give them more time with the family? Does it make them look good for the boss? 

For the most part, all value drivers do one of the following: 

  • Save time 

  • Give additional convenience 

  • Save money

  • Add more customers

If you don’t know all the value drivers then you need to spend time talking to more of your potential customers to get unbiased feedback. These value drivers are also very important when you are marketing or selling your product. Since you should be talking about the benefits of your product based on what your customers value the most.

Rate your product on a scale of 1 to 5 (5 absolutely yes). Do you feel you know the number one value driver for your product? 

Does the customer have to change their life to use the product?

We are creatures of habit, so does it fit into your customer's current habits? If not, will the customer change their habits to use your product? Does it fit into the life of a user? Does it fit into the flow of the normal routine? If so then that is great! Does a customer have to make a big change with how they do something to use your product? I know using 'big' is a very relative term. But if it provides enough value they will make slight changes to save time, add convenience, save money or add more customers, right? 

When creating your product looking for ways that it fits into the current processes, systems, habits is the goal. But the best way to know this is by getting feedback, listening and watching how they are currently solving the problem. This is why you must fall in love with the problem! 

You have to do your homework on this by talking with as many people as possible.

Understanding 50-100 people will allow you to draw some conclusions on how to best incorporating into the lives of your customers with the least amount of change.

Please don’t ask questions like, “How do you want to solve this problem?” Don’t expect customers to tell you how to solve the problem. No one told Apple to build the iPod or iPhone. No one told Henry Ford to build the model T. 

Someone (you) needs to have an idea that can be tweaked to provide a perfect solution as most of the time customers tell you how to make slight changes not the initial big idea.

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” - Albert Einstein

Rate your product on a scale of 1 to 5 (5 hardly any change). How much do users have to change how they are currently solving your problem?

Is it simple to understand?

Simplicity is a magical feature. Simple is great in almost every place in product development. Is it simple to use or understand? Is it simple to share? Is it simple to explain? Can you describe it to a 13-year-old or grandmother? Is it simple to describe in the written word? Do you need a picture to describe it? All these things are hugely important because the simpler it is obviously the better. 

Now, it doesn’t have to be simple, there are great products created every day that are complex and hard to explain. But if you are selling to a broad consumer market, simplicity will win everyday. If you are selling to nuclear scientists you will likely have a complex product but for the target market, it will 'seem' simple since they have the knowledge to understand it. You want to reduce the amount of friction when you are describing your product. 

My rule of thumb is if you can describe your product in 22 words or less that is OK, if you are less than 15 words, very good, if less than ten words excellent work.

One way to get over 'reduce friction' is by comparing it to something that is already known. For example, it is like Uber for dry cleaning or it is about the size of a credit card. This allows us to draw some very quick conclusions in your descriptions. Use this comparison method so people quickly get your solution.

You need to be able to explain pretty quickly and easily to all levels of an organization if selling B2B or different age groups if selling to a broad consumer segment. Remember the decision-makers or credit cardholders have to be convinced.

Rate your product on a scale of 1 to 5 (5 very simple). If you asked your grandmother or father to describe your product could they? 1, not without a lot of help, 5 yes no problem.


Add up your score from all five questions and email your results to mike@michaelgrabham.com - if you score more than 19 I will send you a T-shirt.

Explore here for more information on how to turn your idea into an income-generating business or to get the online course 'Idea to Income'.