December 1, 2020

Increase margin and profit by reducing risks in the discovery stage - Part I

This article is part of a series in which we provide an in-depth look into various aspects and techniques Spotzer uses to make our partner’s digital products and services successful.


There are few things as painful and demotivating as investing a lot of time and resources in a project and seeing it fail. And, by their nature, many impactful projects related to the product portfolio are costly. Say you are launching a new line of e-commerce solutions; many people will get involved: product, legal, marketing, sales, IT - to name just a few departments. The combined cost of the meetings, deliverables and preparations will be significant; moreover, you won't be able to allocate them to something else. So we must make the most of it.


Of course, in business, failure is inevitable. The trick is to fail (sometimes often!) but the right way: that is, fail early, preferably before all the code is written, collateral is designed, and teams are retrained. In product development, it is customary to differentiate between "discovery" (understanding the problem and finding the best solution) and "delivery" (actually building/offering that solution). During the discovery process, you deal with uncertainty - the various risks you must tackle before you invest further.

In "Inspired", Marty Cagan talks about four main types of risk that the discovery stage should address:


  • The value risk: will the customer buy this? 
  • The usability risk: can the user figure out how to use it? 
  • The feasibility risk: can we build this? 
  • And, last but not least, the business viability risk: will this solution work for us as a business?


While widely accepted in theory, many organisations have struggled to apply this approach in the real world. Consequently, many initiatives they invest in heavily show disappointing ROI.


One of the reasons is that teams within the organisation can perceive such questions uncomfortable and, thus, are often reluctant to raise and openly discuss them. Sometimes it takes someone outside the organisation to raise their hand. Let's look at how Spotzer can help you address these risks one by one.

Addressing the value risk:


  • We are platform-agnostic. At Spotzer, we know that small businesses face many challenges, so we must have a balanced toolset: wide enough to give us options, but still limited so that we are the experts at it. That's why we work with the most advanced platforms and solutions: Duda, Ecwid, Google, Facebook, Instagram, Yext, Bing, Uberall, Mono, Wix, WordPress, WooCommerce and more. We can investigate the challenges your customers are facing and suggest the right setup for each of them.

  • We have standard products, with trials. To speed up launches and test assumptions as soon as possible, we offer a set of standard solutions that we refine regularly. We can roll them out in a matter of days and start getting valuable insights. Moreover, we understand the importance of getting buy-in from both the customers and various parts of your organisation. That's why we offer limited trials where both the clients and your teams can understand different aspects of the solution.

  • Early validation and testing. When possible, we try to offer Minimum Viable Products first. For example, as the pandemic hit Europe, one of our German partners got in touch. They suspected that there was a subset of small businesses that desperately needed to start selling online, but couldn't due to a lack of expertise and financial troubles. The popular DIY solutions, which often offer a free tier, were too imposing for them. Within two weeks, we had a fully automated solution up and running: a simple form that took 15 minutes to fill in, which then generated a Mono store on-the-fly. The partner offered it for free to the businesses alongside an affordable but completely optional customer service add-on. The solution won an award! But it did not take us months to plan and launch, because it did not have to be perfect. It had to be good enough to answer the main question: do customers find it valuable?

  • Landing pages. Sometimes testing something can be as simple as a landing page! You don't even have to launch a product until you see actual interest from real customers, who could visit and engage with your landing page. Do you think your customers might be interested in membership functionality? Even before we proceed with necessary integrations, agreements and testing, you could ask us to create a simple page that could gauge the customer's intent to buy. (Of course, we can also deliver a full-blown website promoting your digital products and services - as we did for several partners, helping them to convert leads into paying customers).


In the next part, we will look at how Spotzer can help you address other risks.


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