Five fatal product development mistakes that most agencies make

Let’s start with a little caveat; it’s important to make mistakes.

It’s the fear of making mistakes that is the real enemy of all creativity and innovation.

How can you discover new, better ways of doing things unless you’re willing to fail?

Mistakes are, hands down, the cheapest way to learn.

But you can only learn from your mistakes if you realise you’re making them.

A real issue we see in our industry is that most creative agencies don’t realise that they have blind spots when it comes to product development.

These fundamental flaws, baked into business models and methodology, won’t necessarily surface during your basic website build but become fatal when it comes to building products.

Mistake #1:
“We’ll turn your vision into reality”

Most product development, innovation or design agencies assume that their role in a project is to do the best work they can with the brief and budget they’ve been given.

That’s a fair assumption, right?

But what if the client’s vision turns out to be wrong?

The fact is, most products don’t work out. You can invest considerable time and money in products that customers simply don’t want.

We won’t even begin a project unless we can prototype it, test it and prove its value in 24-hours.

This means we avoid a lot of wasted time, money and energy on products that were never going to work.

Mistake #2:
“We’ll bring your idea to life”

Even an absolute blinder of an idea can be brought to life but then quickly die because its environment wasn’t set up for success.

Turning an idea into a product is not just about technical and creative excellence.

It also requires product management skills, marketing know-how and understanding how to mitigate company politics.

Check out the Product Leadership Framework to learn more about what it really takes to see an idea through from prototype to long term value.

Mistake #3:
“User experience is everything”

When you want to win a pitch, it’s natural to create a strategy that fits with your skillset, whether that’s UX, design and development or branding.

But building a successful product rests upon many nuanced factors, not to mention different skills and roles.

As well as technical and creative capabilities, a product may also need research, positioning, sales, marketing and growth expertise. Not to mention strategies for internal buy-in and stakeholder management.

So, rather than ask, ‘What can we bring to the product?’

Ask, ‘What does this product actually need?’

Mistake #4:
“We’ll take your business to the next level”

Neither businesses, or products, are linear and it’s impossible to know where you’re headed.

Even a business that’s been going as long as ours can’t predict what our strategy will be in six months time.

As World Boxing Champion Joe Louis once said; “Everyone has a plan until they get hit.”

Once your product is launched it’s likely to change in ways you could never have predicted. When your customers begin using your product there’ll be unforeseen challenges to overcome and new opportunities to take advantage of.

So, rather than aiming “for the next level” you need a plan for navigating your business through the unknown.

Mistake #5:
“We’ll deliver phenomenal growth. And fast.”

Growth is critical, but rather than focus on short-term wins it’s better for both clients and agencies to focus on the long-term success of a product.

Rather than racing towards a launch, it’s better to fully validate your ideas first, start small and focus on continuous improvement.

If you skip this part in favour of faster growth you can end up missing opportunities and investing time and money on acquiring customers that won’t be around a year from now.

This is why “Steering” is a pivotal piece in our Product Leadership Framework. Growing long-term value relies upon testing, measuring and iterating along the way.


Now we’ve shone a light on the common mistakes, how can we learn from them?

Check out our proven process for product development; The Product Leadership Framework.

It was designed to mitigate the most common mistakes in developing products and provide a repeatable process from taking an idea to prototype to return on investment, and beyond.