I read John Cutler’s post on products’ failures in Its Product’s Fault! Right?, on Medium. It has been widely discussed that the primary reason of startups’ failures are around product-market fit (or as Brian Balfour says, market-product fit). This is in addition to other factors including issues in the leadership, flawed product execution, or lack of funds.
In February this year, CBInsights published a research report on startups’ failure. It says that the main reason of startups’ failure, 42%—is no market.
When we say no market, there is some context of whether there was no market of the idea itself, or there is no market for when the customers start using the product. There is a difference, because sometimes things change from the time when idea is validated, to the moment when the customers start using the product (I have seen it while working as a consultant on different two products). So it may be possible that the idea had some market, but the product did not have market because it did not evolve (for right pace, timing, experience, value).
The promise is diluted in the product UX, in leadership for right directions, in its marketability, or the market itself has changed for customers’ buying behavior (for any reason in technology, habits, competition, or any other factor).
Design for Sales, and Selling the Design
One big issue that I often see in startups or in on-growth product teams is that the design teams know very little of sales and the sales teams know little about design. (This situation is even worse for services agencies who are designing products for their clients—they have absolutely no clue on how their clients will make sales.)
Unless the design teams know what exactly sells and how, their understanding of designing an experience is likely to be different from what actually the sales team plans to sell.
They should understand the funnel, and the pitch of how sales teams actually convert. This team does not sell of course but they need a sales-bent-of-mind sometimes while making important design decisions.
Unless the sales team really knows the argument (and the science) behind how the product is designed this way, why it interacts this way, how the customer journey unfolds across screens and interfaces, and across messages, their selling can be little off-target.
I often encourage founders to setup a process where the design team should undergo some sales training—an internal activity or some professional workshop by some narrative strategists or sales heads.
Next, the sales team should undergo some design training for how the design team actually plans the experience—the interactions, the customer success check points, and the aha moments. Their sales pitch will be more accurate and their communication will be more authentic and promising if they sell it from how-this-design-works-for-customer-success bent of mind, and not only for a conversion.
Of course I do not encourage that design teams should be open to contribute to sales or sales can contribute to design—it can hamper the pace and can even dilute the decision-making or ownership.
The whole idea is to setup a flexible framework where design and sales teams have basic understanding of each other’s work, so that they can be in right frame of mind when they design experiences and make sales, respectively. It certainly helps.