3 Phase Gates to Move Your Product or Service to Market

Steve Hershberger

Steve Hershberger is the co-founder and CEO of SteadyServ Technologies, a data-as-a-service company that delivers real-time performance intelligence on draft beer consumption and inventory. Prior to SteadyServ, Hershberger co-founded and ran marketing agency Comblu, where he used his data analytics skills to build solutions that gave clients accurate metrics regarding word of mouth and ROI. An avid craft beer enthusiast, Hershberger also co-founded Indianapolis-based Flat12 Bierwerks in 2009.

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At some point along the journey, most entrepreneurs are faced with what may seem like the final impossibility – the one roadblock that has the potential to prevent them from bringing their idea, product or service to market.

It doesn’t have to: entrepreneurs can use the following three “phase gate” process to conquer the impossibilities in a new business venture. By focusing on one progression point at a time, it is easier to move through the go-to-market process without getting deterred by the thought of the difficult journey ahead:

Make sure it works

An idea may be great in theory, but it ultimately needs to be able to deliver, something Carmel, Indiana-based SteadyServ experienced.

In order to confirm that it could provide data on draft beer inventories, SteadyServ had to make sure a sensor was able to:

  • Sit on the bottom of a keg
  • Measure real-time consumption levels
  • Communicate that data to the cloud for retailers to access via an app

SteadyServ could have congruently focused on how the devices communicated and how the data was going to be presented, but before it could tackle any of this, it had to perfect the sensor itself, which took more than a year. Without solid hardware, they had nothing.

Whether you are providing a product, service or solution, focus first on making it work properly. Don’t worry about how it will be accepted in the market or how you are going to sell it. No one will buy it if it doesn’t work.

Also on StartupNation.com: Changing the Brewing Industry with Big Data

Do your customers believe in the efficacy of the product or solution?

Once you know a product or service works, the next step is to think through why someone will buy it, the value it brings to their business or lifestyle and their degree of belief in the product’s value. If you are providing data, for example, concentrate on the accuracy and what insight that data provides – not just on the fact that you provide the data itself.

In this phase, obtain real customers (which can be unpaid beta users, if that works in your model) and demonstrate that you can show ongoing value. Once you have proven this to a controlled group, you can use them as case studies moving forward to obtain more customers.

Do customers accept the paradigm you are proposing?

The success of your business hinges on consumers’ ability to shift and accept your idea of a new way to operate. Customers are more accepting of a new technology or process when they believe it will be part of the future.

But you have to start at the beginning with phase one. Jumping ahead to phase two or three could result in the loss of valuable resources, time and people when you have to backpedal. By focusing on one phase at a time, you are able to bring small wins to the team without getting derailed or overwhelmed by how many challenges lie ahead in bringing your idea to market.

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