Developing my own product – Assessing my product idea

After I spent some time thinking about a vision for my product, the logical next step was to assess my idea. Naturally, I was excited about creating a mobile app that lists Hip Hop gigs and releases but at the same time I worried that no one was waiting for this new product or that it wouldn’t be a viable idea.

As I tend to do in my day job, I started going through the same steps that I normally use to assess a product opportunity or idea. In short, these steps come down to the following:

  • Who? – Who make up the target audience of my product? Which of their problems is my product looking to solve?
  • Why? – What value is my product looking to deliver? How will it differentiate itself from the competition? How big is the opportunity?
  • What? – What is the product that I’m looking to develop? What are the functional and non-functional requirements that I need to consider? How is this product going to make money?
  • When?  When do I need to launch the (first version of) the product? Are there any user, client, market or regulatory expectations that I need to consider in this respect?
  • Where?  Where can the product be developed? Has something similar (or the underlying technology or platform) already been created by someone else?

When I had to apply these steps to my own HipHopListings app, I just took a blank piece of paper and started answering the following questions for myself:

  1. What’s the problem this app will solve? – A single app that provides a comprehensive overview of all Hip Hop gigs in a particular area. You don’t have to track a specific artist; HipHopListings will make sure you’re up to date on all shows and releases in your favorite genre. Since HipHopListings also includes release dates, it thus provides a great source for Hip Hop fans who wish to be kept up to date on all upcoming Hip Hop events and releases.
  2. For who will it solve this problem? – Fans of Hip Hop music who enjoy going to Hip Hop shows or events. The initial target audience is that of fans of Hip Hop music in the UK or tourists who are looking to visit the UK and going to a concert as part of their trip. In addition, the idea of genre based event and release info can easily be extended to fans of other genres. 
  3. How big is the opportunity? – Not sure. Recent Live Nation stats show a decline in people going to concerts. However, 2010 stats still indicate a value of £1.5bn of the UK market for live music. Combined with a strong concert and festival culture in the UK, it’s no surprise that there’s strong competition on the market for ticket sales and concert alerts. However, I believe there’s a clear niche (with a substantial target audience) for HipHopListings to step into: provide a single source for all UK Hip Hop events for fans of Hip Hop music who wish to be kept up to date on any gigs scheduled and discover new shows / artists in the process.
  4. What’s the competition like? – Huge. Established ticket re-sellers such as Live Nation, Ticketmaster, TicketWeb and See Tickets cover most of the market for entertainment ticket sales between them. In addition, UK-based Songkick is an incredibly well-funded provider of concert alerts.
  5. What’s HipHopListing’s main differentiator? – It’s all about Hip Hop, listing all UK concerts and events within this genre. Most of the competition cover all genres, basing alerts on a user’s selected artists or music collection, thus limiting opportunities for discovery. Instead, HipHopListings covers UK shows by well-known and lesser known Hip Hop artists alike. As I currently curate HipHopListings manually it’s easy to see the number and variety of sources that list Hip Hop events, even having different ticket re-sellers list different shows / locations for the same artist! As a result, HipHopListings offers a single resource for all Hip Hop events in the UK.
  6. Why now?  HipHopListings now enjoys a significant following both on Twitter and Tumblr which provides it with a good opportunity to introduce a new ‘channel’ in the form of a mobile app. The nature of mobile applications could fit in with well with HipHopListing’s main value proposition (see point 1. above) and the requirements of its (target) users.
  7. What will be HipHopListings’ go-to-market strategy? Start with HipHopListings’ online following. With nearly 4,000 followers, if an initial 10% of that following download the free app that will be a good basis to start building on. I can use a small group of users to both spread the word and improve the application. Once the app has a larger user base and an improved product, I can start marketing the app more widely. For example, working more closely with ticket re-sellers (providing them with referrals) and artists to promote shows or releases.
  8. What’s the business model? How will I make (some) money from this mobile app? Potential revenue is likely to come from taking commission on referrals to ticket sites and working with artists or promotors to showcase specific events. Also, the demographic data gathered through the app on a specific user group can be used for targeted marketing campaigns by brands and marketing agencies.
  9. Critical success factors – The initial KPIs to concentrate on are: (1) number of people installing the free app (2) the number of monthly active users (there’s not point in people installing the app and then never looking at it again!) (3) the number of listed events shared through the app via social media and (4) number of people clicking through to a ticket site (and subsequently purchasing a concert ticket). I reckon these four factors will provide a good initial indication of how successful the app is at addressing the problems of its (target) users (see point 1. above).
  10. How? – Starting with a basic app, concentrating on a Minimum Viable Product which will hopefully help to validate some of my assumptions (see points 1-3 above). Even though I’m not a developer, it would be great if I could create an app that’s basically a list. At this stage, that’s all I need to launch the offering, measure some key analytics and build on it. Once the app has a bit of traction, I can then always decide to get a developer to further improve the app and add more functionality.

Main learning point: even though I was very keen on ‘just getting something out there’, I was pleased that I took a step back to assess the opportunity a bit more. Even though I could have easily spent a lot more time on things like market research and working out the best business model, I instead decided to start with some initial assumptions, launch something and then validate these assumptions.

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