Product Ideation Session 2

Finding Your Product Market Fit: Adding Unique Value in a Crowded Market

Have you ever attended a quantum computing conference and noticed that the vendor pitches sound … similar?

Broadly speaking, quantum computing companies with software offerings have the same business model of creating a solution to a challenging R&D problem that’s focused on quantum machine learning, optimization, or quantum chemistry.

Overall, this works well.

But put yourself in a consumer’s shoes and imagine that you’re at a quantum computing conference talking to vendors for the first time. If each vendor walked you through the same business model, it wouldn’t take long for them to start blurring together.

I speak from experience here. At one of my first quantum computing conferences, I made a point to talk with as many quantum computing vendors as I could and (even though I worked for a quantum computing company at the time) I had the gut-sinking realization that we all sounded the same.

Plus, with nearly 100 quantum computing companies listed on the Quantum Insider’s Market Intelligence Platform, it’s important to find a way to break through the noise.

As a vendor, you have two chances to stand out from the crowd when you’re talking to a new prospect. You can either already have a great product-market fit that’s uniquely suited for your prospect, or you can listen to your prospect’s ideas and turn them into products.

One Company, in Particular, is Excelling in this Area: D-Wave

Granted, their Launch Program business model follows the same key steps that many other software vendors do.

But since their launch in 1999, they’ve made 250+ early quantum applications for their clients. Essentially, each use case is a separate product that they offer.

When asked about what sets D-Wave’s products apart, they shared that:

  • “We bring a relentless customer focus to everything we do,” said Murray Thom, vice president of quantum business innovation at D-Wave. “Our motivation stems from the opportunity to harness powerful quantum computing technology to help customers find solutions to problems they’ve been unable to address. We’re not creating quantum products simply for the sake of innovation. We’re building quantum solutions that have real enterprise applicability and impact today. Together with our customers, we’ve produced quantum-hybrid applications that address a multitude of optimization challenges that cut across industries, including cost reduction, revenue growth, and operational effectiveness. Our quantum technology is being used to optimize supply chains, employee scheduling, e-commerce delivery, protein folding, fraud detection, and industrial manufacturing, just to name a few.”

To better understand D-Wave’s approach, look at their work with Save on Foods. It’s particularly striking because it’s clear that they deeply understood the challenges of the grocery industry, what mattered to the Save on Foods team, and how to prioritize what they cared about.

On YouTube, there’s a 15-minute video where an executive from Save on Foods, plus one of their data scientists, talked about what made this application so impactful for them. It’s an excellent guide on how to build a product from consumer insights and well-worth watching.

Building Your Own Product Expertise

To get a subject matter expert’s perspective on how to build products, I interviewed Tina Nguyễn, Senior Vice President, Director of Digital Transformation at Truist.

Her immediate advice was that innovators should follow the CIRCLES Method™ of product creation. While the online example walks through how to use this process during an interview, anyone can use this to bring a new product to market. And, as shown in the graphic below, this is an iterative process that’s entirely focused on your end customer.

Image Source: the Impact Interview website

During this seven step process, you should:

  1. Comprehend the situation – what are the hardest problems to solve? How much does that problem cost on an annual basis? How is it affecting other areas of the business?
  2. Identify your customer – look for one customer segment that your product would impact. Put yourself in their shoes, learn about what’s most important to them and how they view their business.
  3. Report customer needs – after you’ve spoken to your customer segment, take your voice of the customer notes and boil them down into a single sentence user story. A template you can follow is: “As a <role>, I want <goal/desire> so that <benefit>.
  4. Cut, through prioritization – tease out what’s a “must have” vs. a “nice to have” for your customer.
  5. List solutions – as tempting as it may be to build a product based on your first idea, get creative and list at least two to three ideas.
  6. Evaluate tradeoffs – consider what your product needs to address and what matters to your end user. For instance, it’d take more resources to develop, but would your client be willing to pay more if your product had a seamless user interface?
  7. Summarize recommendations – analyze what you’ve learned, then get ready to go through the process again. As you continue learning about your end customer and the industry you’re serving, keep using the CIRCLES MethodTM to guide your roadmap.

Common Pitfalls to Avoid on Your Journey

Tina shared three, common mistakes that are made with the CIRCLES MethodTM.

  1. People have a tendency to be too focused on what they’re good at because they spent so much time building those skills. By committing to one path, they restrict themselves from innovation.
  2. Inventors who don’t empathize with their end users. A sign of this is when something amazing is built, but it doesn’t have much market adoption.
  3. Not speaking the same language as your end customer. If you can’t put things into layman’s terms, in a way that your customer will understand, that shows you don’t understand the business impact.

Here’s a Challenge for You

Have you ever heard the joke about how to get to Carnegie music hall?

The joke is, “a fellow goes to New York to attend a concert, but gets lost. He spots a musician who’s carrying a violin case and asks, ‘Sir, can you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?’ The musician smiles and says, ‘Practice, man, practice.'”

Just like you’d need to practice to become an expert musician, it’ll take practice to become an expert product builder.

To get started, try this: re-watch D-Wave’s Save On Foods case study and identify which parts of the video fit in the CIRCLE MethodTM framework. (Hint: timestamps 0:00-3:07 in the video will give you the information you’ll need for step one.)

While you won’t be an expert from doing that alone, it’ll be a step in the right direction. And even though it may take a while, remember that this process will make it easier for you to stand out from your competition and be relevant to your prospective clients, which will grab their attention and make you memorable.

It doesn’t end there, though. Once you’ve started to figure out your product, you’ll need to decide how you’ll price, place, and promote it.

Over the coming months, I’ll put out more thought leadership on those topics because everyone at the Quantum Strategy Institute wants to see the consumer adoption of quantum computing grow. And a key driver of that growth will be quantum computing vendors who can meet their customers’ needs.

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