CrimeReports – a prototyping case study #5 in a series (3 min read)

Now that you have your product/service concept, identified your target customers and their needs (see previous posts), it is time to show them something through a rapid prototyping process.

Your goal is not to try to get it right the first time but to show them something with enough value to gain their interest and trust and then solicit feedback. Feedback such as fit, features, price and urgency are great places to start.

Here is something you might say or send to get in front of them. This is taken verbatim from Nail it then Scale it as I think it is a great example of how to communicate prior to this type of meeting.

We are going to be in your area. We are talking to so and so (one of your competitors, partners or another individual at the organization). We would like to talk to one one of your team members about this big problem (talk about the  pain).  We are developing this next-generation product that solves this pain.  We  aren’t selling anything, but are in the development stage, and before we lock this product down, we’d like to get your feedback, because you are a thought leader in the space.  Can we come and talk with you and your team next Thursday?

When you get a meeting, do your best to gather as many of the key stakeholders “in the room” for this type of decision when you share the prototype. Again, resist making it about you by asking them if they like it or do they think it would help them. Find out from them if it solves the need they have, and if not, why not.

Illustrative and Detailed Example – CrimeReports

I think that the best way to show the power of rapid prototyping is by providing a terrific example. Nail it the Scale It offers another great example below.

Greg Whisenant, CEO, of CrimeReports was looking to fill a need of police chiefs and their teams around the nation to get better, more accurate and up to date information to better serve their constituents. He set up a number of sessions to show a series of rapidly developed prototypes. The following illustrates the power of following the process.

CrimeReports example

Once Greg had his team and the entire buying panel in the same room, a rich discussion ensued in which a few key insights emerged. 

First, the founders were on to something significant, police departments were feeling increased pressure to share information with the public about crime and to increase transparency and their accountability.

Second, the police departments felt that the website was ugly and needed to be improved. Fair enough. 

Third, although the founders believed that the business model depended on hosting advertisements, police departments absolutely refused to have advertising hosted on the site.

At this point, the founders began to despair, but as they continued to listen, they found out some crucial pieces of information.

  1.  Police officers were actually fascinated by the data possibilities of the website and were truly excited about the possibility of leveraging the  internet to increase the quality of their communication with the citizens of  their town. 
  2. The chiefs of police were interested in sharing data with the citizens and leveraging that data to increase the quality of their policing efforts. 
  3. Many police chiefs were familiar with how New York City had used the Comp Stat model to decrease crime by identifying patterns and targeting “hot spots”;  but for most departments, “hot spots” were tracked with a spreadsheet, cork board, and colored pins. 
  4. If the data was hosted online, police chiefs could use a data “dashboard” to track trends and daily activity. 

For the first time, police officers could see what had happened on their beat the night before.  As it  turned out, this was surprisingly difficult for existing  departments to do. As one police chief,  sometimes it took up to six months to see what happened the day before. As the enthusiasm built in each conversation, the  CrimeReports founders learned that police would actually pay the to post their data – advertising wasn’t necessary.

But they also learned, from the IT directors, that they needed to significantly improve their security protocols in order to all CrimeReports to host the data. Last, the founders discovered that a touch-and-feel approach was the best approach to selling the new product.

At the end of the day, by showing a “prototype” to customers and then; listening rather than  selling,  the CrimeReports team learned crucial facts that had been hidden from view for years.

Greg Whisenant took all the feedback, refined his prototype, and then took it out on the road for another test. The new website was greatly improved in look and  feel and had no advertising. 

Their customers said things like: 

  • “This blows other choices out of the water.” 
  • “This is a great idea. You guys have really hit on something here.” 
  • “We’ve been trying to do this for years.” 
  • “It used to take us six months to get this kind of data. Now we can get it the next day.”

Not only did their customers clamor to sign up, but every day citizens began to respond. Within six months of the launch of the website, the number of police departments purchasing the product went from one customer to over  2,000  paying customers in the first three years. Applying the process was nothing  short of transformational. 

This illustration shows that if you are in the right mindset and you listen to your customers, you can be in a position to build something so good they can’t ignore you.

Now that you have built a solid product, next time, we will talk about how to apply the right business model to help continue to gain your competitive edge.

Be Exceptional!(;

I look forward to your comments. If you found this post useful, please share, comment and/or like.

Published by Bill Flynn

Gazelles Member Advisor and early stage startup specialist with a proven track record with 16 Boston-based startups (9 to date with 5 successful outcomes, advisor to 7 others); SMB to Fortune 500 companies. 20+ years of Senior Sales, Marketing and GM experience in industries including mobile advertising, security, digital advertising, e-commerce and IT. Core Competencies: Player/Coach, Metrics-driven, Execution-based philosophy, Life-long learner

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