I love gadgets. Most gadgets are designed for men so I was happy to take a meeting with a new startup entrepreneur who is starting a fashionable wearable device company.
Royan Kamyar, came looking for advice on how to make a wearable device (i.e. watch) fashionable for women. He believes his target customer is the woman that shops at Lululemon, a company I couldn’t help but shed a little insight on. Royan has a medical background and one working prototype, a costly feat. His business model is constrained by the cost of manufacturing.
His passion, and differentiator, is using the wearable device data to provide actionable insights that can be easily used to make healthy lifestyle choices. I dig the vision and I love the world of fashion and design. I also can’t resist helping people avoid a huge pet peeve…manufacturing ugly products in massive quantities that don’t sell. This is something that happens all too often because people only ask friends and family for feedback. Friends and family are great for support but horrible for feedback. They generally won’t share the honest truth because they don’t want to come across harsh or hurt your feelings. So I was happy to share a few pieces of minimum viable product (MVP) advice that bridge together manufacturing and tech.
1.) Get Rid of Upfront Manufacturing Cost
Use a freelancing site to higher a graphic designer that specializes in product renderings. Quotes from good designers on freelance sites can result in multiple professional quality product renderings for less than $100! Work with your graphic designer to iterate on product renderings so they look like a photo of the product(s) you want to manufacture.
2.) Build an Audience
Royan is a good looking and charismatic guy with a medical background. He’s knowledgeable and passionate about health. I recommended he start sharing his passion and knowledge via healthy lifestyle tips on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media channels. The purpose being that he start building a community so that he has an audience to sell product to.
3.) Sell Product You Don’t Have
I’m a big believer in A/B testing the heck out of everything. With manufactured products rapid A/B testing is a little harder but it can be done using product renderings. When an audience has been built the audience can be directed to a transactional e-commerce site where they can pre-order products. Essentially the products that get the most pre-orders are the winners.
In A/B testing products that have not been manufactured it’s important to let customers know that products won’t be manufactured unless a threshold of orders has been met. Not doing this runs the risk of alienating early supporters.
If implemented, these steps would give Royan data on which design(s) activated customers and which designs he should dump.
4.) Know Where The Audience is Coming From So You Can Market to Them
Launching an e-commerce site knowing and understanding the analytics behind referral traffic that converts from Day 1 is a HUGE leg up. Having onsite analytics tools like Google analytics, KissMetrics, and CrazyEgg make a huge difference. These tools provide insights to understand who the customer is and how they get to your site. Knowing the path a customer takes to get to your site and make a purchase allows you to leverage the information and engage people on that site for additional customer acquisition which ultimately leads to company growth.
5.) Deliver Quality
I loath poorly made products and so do customers. A sure fire way to kill a brand is to ship product that is defective. Customer happiness, or lack of it, can make or break a company. I recommended Royan set up a clause in his manufacturing contract that places a monetary implication on the manufacturer if the product delivered, in quantity, is not exactly like the final prototype. An easy way to do this is to provide a deposit and pay the balance upon inspection of the final products (this is a little harder to do when manufacturing overseas but can be done with a trusted team member or broker).
6.) Say Thank You
Saying thank you means so much to us as people. We should never forget to pass on that feeling to customers. The names of my first customers (that were not friends or family) are burned into my mind forever. Upon their first purchases at FashioningChange.com I called them to thank them. When I spoke with them I was able to learn why they were passionate about the product/ company and used that information to strengthen brand messaging.
Launching an MVP of a new app or website has its own nuances and varying levels of difficulty. Launching a wearable device company where an MVP has to be manufactured is a slightly different story. Unless a startup has millions of dollars to burn there may only be a few cycles of iteration before the company makes or breaks it (if that). I’ve seen many stubborn entrepreneurs/ designers go the costly route of manufacturing a shitake ton of product only to end up with no customers. I’ve also seen many entrepreneurs/ designers start to implement capital efficient MVP manufacturing processes to successfully get their passions out into the world.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Royan’s company. Hopefully the MVP hacks I shared help make the process of moving from prototype to scale less painful and more sustainable.