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‘Productization’ is a word we’ve heard more frequently over the last five years, catalyzed by an uptick in e-commerce opportunities for small businesses and consultants, alike. It refers to packaging services, like coaching, design, and counseling, as products. This gives customers more uniform results and service providers can build scalable businesses in arenas where scalability has traditionally been an obstacle.
Family history and genealogy is one such service industry that, thanks to e-commerce, has productized to operate like retail, and it’s scaling accordingly. The number of commercial DNA test customers doubled in 2017, and industry growth overall is expected to double by 2025.
An industry that traditionally attracted a niche market has gained broad appeal. It holds considerable opportunity, and a number of companies are vying to hold consumer attention. That is, a customer compiling their family tree on Ancestry might also buy a DNA kit from 23andMe, or might buy DNA kits from multiple companies to compare results.
Faced with increasing market attention and competition, it’s imperative for these companies to continuously innovate to meet the demands of a quickly evolving consumer. How do they do it? By having their product and marketing teams work together.
I sat down with Maya Lerner, VP of Product Management from MyHeritage. Here’s what she had to say:
Marketing: Don’t Operate in a Silo
Productizing your service means you can craft a product that fits your brand, and not just the other way around. Lerner says her product and marketing departments collaborate “on a daily basis”, and adds that these collaborations include other departments as well, like the science team.
“We work closely to make sure our messaging is comprehensive and accurate, yet well balanced between scientific/technical language and language that is warm, welcoming and easy to understand,” she says. Open communication between departments will keep your brand and product consistent.
Work With Customers on Product Development
Customers are your most valuable voices for insight into R&D. Lerner says to listen to them, and collaborate with them the same way you do between internal departments.
Lerner’s approach to customers is far from standoffish. “We do user testing with them, early feature releases to certain groups of users, converse with them over the phone and in-person to collect their feedback, and host them for webinars on new features.” They also have teams gathering client feedback via social media channels, and even arranged for a user conference in Oslo where hundreds of customers (and 60,000 live streaming viewers) got together for workshops, product mapping, and partying.
Keep your internal departments close, and your customers closer.
Follow the Data to Innovate
With more than a million incoming DNA tests and a billion new historical records per year, MyHeritage is working with an ever-expanding data set to support growth and innovation. They use this data to develop technologies like their One-to-Many Chromosome Browser, which lets users graphically match their DNA to that of multiple other users, to identify possible relations.
“Sometimes we develop very sophisticated genetic genealogy research tools to cater for the most savvy genealogists who use our platform,” says Lerner, referring to the One-to-Many update. “The savvy users are often influential, and if they like our platform and enjoy its unique features, they are more likely to recommend it to others.” She notes that it’s also important to develop tools meant to make your services simpler and more accessible to mainstream lay people.
Don’t Neglect Differentiation
MyHeritage accesses markets in non-English speaking countries by differentiating themselves as the only platform that services, for example, Finnish or Norwegian speaking customers. Operating in 42 languages gives them a leg up in communities outside the US and the UK.
They also stand apart by respecting customer privacy in a way that’s unusual compared to their competitors. “We are the only major DNA platform to date that has not sold or licensed genetic data of its users to third parties,” says Lerner, “not even in anonymized form.”
As MyHeritage and the family history industry exemplify, successful productizing is a matter of internal collaboration between departments, external collaboration with clients and customers, a continuous stream of new discoveries and developments, and some distinguishing features that set your brand apart. With these things, you can develop any service into a product that will work at scale.
March 14, 2019 at 03:07PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs