What Does It Take to Build Genuine Value Into a Product?
It’s a harder question than it sounds. If you walked out on the street and asked a person what products they want in their life and why they would be valuable, they probably wouldn’t have a great answer for you. No matter who we are, our values and interests are not easily pinned down. The process of providing a final result that is genuinely valuable is complex, but it’s certainly not impossible.
Eric Almquist, John Senior, and Nicholas Bloch wrote recently about ‘The Elements of Value’ for the latest Harvard Business Review issue. They tackled the psychological complexities of determining what will be in demand at a given time, and were able to create a pyramid of 30 values based on four needs: functional, emotional, life changing, and social impact.
Their breakdown forms a strong foundation for how you should be thinking about attacking ‘consumer need’ when you begin any product development phase. While no one product is going to fit discretely into any one of their categories, you should be aiming to satisfy at least a few. Hopefully some at the top (like motivation and self actualization), and quite a few at the bottom (quality, sensory appeal, avoids hassle).
Many of these elements will seem natural and important to a given product, but there’s incredible value in structuring them in a hierarchy of sorts. When considering what to build into your product, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the potential opportunity, and fail to make any real progress in the design effort. Instead, use this structure and work your way down, pointing out each of the elements that you think you can comfortably fit into your own design.
Bear in mind that some of these elements are going to be valuable depending on the industry you’re are targeting. Some consumers are going to have the luxury to rate self-actualization as more important than others that may just need something more functional.
The next big step is to take this common understanding of what’s valuable and deliver enough of it in a cohesive and complete way. Once you have some kind of prototype in place for what you want your product to be, take a real, hard look at it and ask the big questions. What kind of elements of value does this really and truly provide to potential customers? Is that enough to get them to buy in?
If you can answer both those questions with confidence then you’re well on your way to creating a product that will be a genuine success. The next step is to test if really correct.
Get your product out there. Test, solicit feedback, and learn as much as you can about how consumers are reacting to what you’ve created. Look for patterns and see if they suit the same elements that you’ve targeted on your own time. If not, maybe you’re delivering something that you didn’t expect. Make the value judgement if that is a good or a bad thing, and adjust accordingly.
With this kind of structure in place, value definition is a much more smooth and reliable process. While it will never be perfect, the elements of value should get you started on your way to creating a product that consumers are eager to buy into.