Working in the product world, we all aspire to launch our own product one day. Maybe we already have that "big" product idea, but we do not know from where to start. Sometimes the challenge is to choose and apply a specific technique for this purpose. However, before engaging in the process of launching a new product, the product can either fail or succeed. However, n matter of the outcome, we already won the "game" just by making the attempt of introducing a new product into the market. There are various frameworks we could use to manage a product and Lean Canvas is one of the easiest and most insightful ways we could do this.
Product Launch is the business plan and effort to bring a new product to market. We need to be smart and make sure we are covering all the necessary steps to ensure a "smooth cruise" in our product adventure.
Product Ideation- the process where ideas are born/generated and can come from anywhere. One of the biggest sources are our customers, business partners, suppliers, and competitors. Bring more ideas to the table to have more alternatives to choose from. For each idea, describe why the idea would be a great business. What usually helps to define a great idea is an appealing/smart brand name, with that one line which could sell the product in 1 minute to its targeted customers.
Product Screening - Not all ideas are good, and at this stage, we make sure bad ideas are dropped before they are developed even further. We pass all the ideas we created by answering several key questions like: is the time right to launch the idea, do we have a market fit/potential for this idea, do we solve current market/customer problems, is there a profitability and return of investment, what are the customers behavior/expectations for this idea, do we have competitors and who are they.
Product Concept - A SWOT analysis is made at this level to find out the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats existing on the market. We conduct product segmentation (what is the product market and its targeted audience) to identify the product niche. The product niche influences how most marketing decisions are made.
Product Development and Testing - This enables the actual manufacturing of the product by creating a prototype that facilitates market testing. Based on the results, as owners we can determine if we want small/large scale production of this good.
It is a one-page business document where you can organize/plan your product idea using blocks that will help you map out some key area/points to get an easier and clear understanding of what you want to achieve.
Firstly, Lean Canvas will help us mitigate risks and uncertainties associated with product ideation. The risks we are taking in this case have to do with knowing that our product can either succeed or fail, with the uncertainties that we don't have any knowledge or control over future events. Being on top of these risks and uncertainties empowers us to be more creative, overcome the fear of failure or self-imposed limits, be very clear on what we really want and learn to trust more - things which only grow our self-confidence to launch products.
Moving forward, Lean Canvas builds a solid understanding of our customers, who they really are and how we can reach out to them. This implies spending some time to observe our customers and know them better (their routines, behaviors, needs) which defines the market segmentations - what customers are we targeting and the channels we use to promote our product to them.
The financial aspect is crucial when launching a product and Lean Canvas takes care of that aspect, by analyzing the potential costs and identifying various revenue sources, so that at the end of the day we will have a positive ROI (Return of Investment).
Financial winnings can be considered a criteria based on which we can determine success. However, Lean Canvas challenges to come up with the key metrics based on which we can measure the success of our product.
Lastly, using this framework helps us think about what make our product unique against other similar goods, qualities which can become the selling point for our customers.
To be able to conduct the "Lili Cat Café" plan, we need to go through the main Lean Canvas areas.
The major areas in the Identify Stage are identifying the key problems of our customers, understanding who our customers are and spotting the unique value our idea will provide to these users.
For the "Lili Cat Café", the problems of the customers are translated by the need to have a place where they can relax and have fun, enjoy a coffee or tea and, in the meantime, spend some quality time with cats. Some customers might be looking for a cat café as way of therapy to heal the sense of loneliness they have, caused by the social and economic anxieties. Therefore, our customers are pet lovers who are willing to adopt either first or more pet/s, tourist or visitors looking for an outstanding place to hang out while traveling, partners who activate in the fields of animal protection and café/tea industry or people looking for therapy to heal and relax. The uniqueness "Lili Cat Café" brings is having a place where customers can order a beverage (tea, café), interact with cats, and adopt a pet if they are interested. What makes this café shop different are the possibilities to attend the various events dedicated to café and cats at a free price if they order at least one beverage.
"Lili Cat Café" fulfills both the needs of entrainment/fun/relaxation and sense of purpose on having a meaningful impact on solving social/society issues.
The major areas in the Solution Stage are to produce solutions that can meet customer needs and to understand how we can reach out to customers using different channels. The solution can have more options as there isn't a right one. However, making hypotheses and validating those increases confidence when deciding on the best alternative. In terms of the channels, we want to address the path to customer segmentation, the shortest "road" to get to our customers. Once we managed to find a path to reach our customers, we can promote and offer our customers the benefits and capabilities of our products.
The solution for our case is the location itself where the cat café runs, by managing this business and allowing the customers to come, order and enjoy the amenities of the place. The solution includes the "features" which for our cat café are represented by the opportunities the customers have: ordering a café/tea from a very diverse menu with a lot of types of drinks, interacting and playing with the cats. The channels we use to reach our customers can be: social media platforms, emails, Facebook & Google ads, customer feedback surveys, email updates, promo emails, "Lili Cat Café" Website or offline: word of mouth, offline events, chatting with pet/cafe shop managers, vets, shelter managers, catalogues, local tourist guide.
The areas in the Accountancy Stage include: the sources of revenue our product can bring and the costs that are involved to implement our product. An important note is determining the minimum value we can ask our customers to pay to meet our goals. At this stage, we can find out the real price customers are willing to pay for the services provided by our product. In terms of cost structure, we could have costs involving research, technology, marketing, promotions, and other types of costs.
The "Lili Cat Café "requires retail business expenses, software expenses, inventory expenses, advertising and marketing costs, website costs and other types of expenses. Cat cafe businesses make money two ways: they charge customers by the hour for the time that customers spend with cats, and they charge customers for the food and beverages they order. The purpose for us, once we have the Revenue- Costs, is to get a positive ROI value to ensure the Profit.
The areas in the Measurement/Advantage Stage are: how we can measure the success of our product once being launched and what we have that no other business offers - the unfair advantage.
Measuring the success is crucial to determine if we launched a successful product to the market. We must determine the key metrics based on which we will make this measurement. The key metrics are adapted based on our product vision and strategy and can be different B2B. On another note, the most challenging step from the Lean Canvas remains the element which makes our product stand out from the rest, that one element which cannot be bought by others.
How we measure whether "Lili Cat Café" is a successful product is by analyzing the key metrics based on which we can make that statement. We can exemplify such key metrics for items which generate revenue like the number of customers that come daily/weekly/monthly and make an order, the number of customers we managed to retain, the number of customers we acquire over a time period, the revenue gained based on the type of service, and others. There are ways we can measure the success of the cat café on the social side, which is adoption: the number of pets adopted, the efficiency of adoption programs or the number of customers that adopt 1/more pets (cats) from a location.
The element which can't be bought and is specific for this business cat coffee is to help cats get adopted by partnering with local cat rescues while combining enjoyment and education on animal welfare.
After we scanned our "Lili Cat Café" under the Lean Canvas structure and mapped the main areas, we could move forward to a final step which is - personalize our plan for the launch using what we learnt.
Before opening a cat café, it is really important to understand why we should offer this new product on the market. We need to understand the why of the matter before moving forward with an idea.
Valid and strong reasons sustain any product. We need to fulfill a need and not to create a new one.
The main reason to open a cat café is to support the existing efforts in our community by serving both as a foster/adoption facility for cats and relieving the stress of overcrowding the local shelters. Therefore, we should ask ourselves if the community needs a cat café and if we can achieve that by visiting and asking local shelters if this facility adds value to their work. Basically, we must "research" if we really need the product and if it will bring value to the market by fulfilling existing needs caused by real problems.
Once we have signed off on the motivation, we can proceed to making a business plan that will mostly include aspects like revenue (sources of money), the costs that requires running such a business, the types of customers that come to our café, the menu - types of drinks/food offered, types of services: charge time for time spent with cats, what events can be hosted in cat/café domains, opening/closing hours.
Running a cat café requires research of the local regulations and restrictions. There might be specific rules for running a simple café and other specific rules for a café which is a shelter for cats, as animals. Not being compliant with these regulations means our business risks warnings, fines, suspension of the activity and lastly shutdown.
The location is important because we want to be close to the "heart" of our customers. Therefore, we will look for a place which facilitates easy access for them, an adequate living space for the cats and an ecosystem where cats and customers can interact and enjoy. Make sure the location has all the certifications/licenses approved by Animal Protection and Control Center.
For our cat café to run as a place for cat fostering/adoption, it needs to be partnered with local organizations that activate in cat rescue like pet shops, vet clinics, local shelters.
We make sure we offer our customers information about the menus, services, and in-house rules they need to follow, so that the experience will be enjoyable for both humans and cats.
The final steps in completing the cat café business are ensuring an online presence, such as a website, where you can attract more customers and partners using this type of channel.
There is no "safe" way to organize a product launch, but we can use the guidelines which best fit our purpose, discover personal ways to have the "secret formula", to create/ sell meaningful products and promote theses frameworks as best practices.
by Ovidiu Mățan
by Mihai Șerban