Why startups shouldn’t fear making a Plan B. Go for it and nail it!

As a startup, you need to understand that while you might want to build a product that functions in a specific manner, there are going to be changes. These changes could be because of the market needs or simply because developing a feature might not be a feasible approach for you. That’s when you need to pivot and fall back on your plan B to make it all work — even if it is 20% less of your plan A!

While building Geenees, we wanted to make a solution for perfect gifting. While one aspect of it was to enable users to wish list their favourite products from Amazon into separate events, the other aspect was to let their friends and family view their wishes and purchase them directly from the app.

It was only after we built all the functionalities, till the point of adding an item to the cart, that we realised it was actually not possible for the user to complete the purchase in-app. So after discussions with Amazon on how we could make it work, the existing flow was decided to ensure that it’s still easy for a user to buy a ‘wish’.

The current flow basically lets a user add a wish to his cart. Once ready for purchase, the user gets redirected to Amazon for completing the purchase.

This user can then come back to the app to mark a certain wish as ‘granted’ in a wish list. We do this by simply displaying a popup that asks if the user did make the purchase or not on Amazon. This is because the terms and conditions of Amazon don’t allow apps to integrate in such a manner that a user can make a purchase without reaching their platform. Since they take responsibility of their products and ensuring the security of their customer information, they want the transaction to be made on their site only.

Which we eventually came to understand worked better for us as well! We didn’t have to build the payment gateways. So this is how the app works now:

That’s how Geenees works.

Being a perfectionist is tough and if you are one too, you’ll know how this change of flow in the app for a user has been bothering me. But the truth is, if we wanted to make purchases on Amazon possible, we had to agree with the terms and conditions of the platform — that’s exactly what w did!

This was our plan B and it perfectly works for our users.

Making your plan B work

Learning on the go, I realised that for every aspect of your startup, you need to have a plan B. You can’t simply stick to being adamant about doing things in only ‘one specific manner’. You have to change based on the ever increasing market needs, your user interactions, the resources available to you and more.

In fact, I was intrigued to learn more about how to deal with never ending change of plans as a startup. So obviously, I did a lot of reading and took up all the possible consultations I could from startup experts. It even included this article from VentureBeat that said good entrepreneurs always have a plan B in place. You could read it here.

I have always been about having a plan B in place, so the chances of going wrong are lesser. Then there was another post on Startup Grind that gave me the nudge to go ahead with my extensive planning about what our second approach to the product could be.

When you have a backup plan ready, you ensure that no matter what happens, your startup does get launched in the target market — maybe not entirely, but parts of it that you can build at a time.

The hardest part about creating a plan B, is accepting the fact that your plan A can really go wrong. No entrepreneur really wants to think about how their idea can fail. But having a plan B will only make the going easier.

Manage your stress slightly better

Let’s face it, building a product isn’t easy and when you’re trying to build a ‘solution’, it only gets tougher. You’re constantly under the pressure of changing with the dynamic market needs, understanding each user and deciding what you need to implement and what you can’t. And of course, the biggest question — how you’re going to do it.

Here are a few questions you need to ask:

  • What is the most important piece of the product to you?
  • What is it about the plan A that seems the toughest, but is the most compelling aspect about your product?
  • How can you still preserve the core of your plan A in your back up plan?
  • What are the things that might become a roadblock for your product?
  • How flexible are you to change things on the go and optimize your product for users?

Having answers to the above will reduce your stress ever-so-slightly. Because when something doesn’t work well, you’ll know that it can work in another way — and you have it all documented already.

In this case, I highly suggest creating a product requirements document (PRD) for all the options you’re considering.

Identify your biggest risks

One thing that I have learnt with experience, is identifying and predicting risks when you’re going to the target market. In a plan B, it’s always a good idea to first begin with a risk assessment.

For instance, for us it was pretty clear. We were at the risk of acquiring a user that would think he can purchase from the localised Amazon, instead of Amazon.com. In our first version, we have started with Amazon.ca, Amazon.com and Amazon.in to understand our users better.

But hey, we’re working on it already and making it perfect.

Similarly, there will be a part of your startup plan that doesn’t match with your ideal consumer’s behaviour. That’s what you need to identify in order to make your product’s plan B fairly risk — free.

And then there are also risks wherein you might lose your data due to unnatural circumstances like hacks. You need to make it all a part of your plan.

Here are a few questions that helped us:

  • What parts of my product are critical for its growth and how secure is the server handling them?
  • Is my product well protected against hacks, viruses, digital threats and more?
  • How am I going to ensure that my user data remains safe — even when the product is on downtime or has been broken into?
  • In case the product doesn’t serve a direct purpose for the user, how do we communicate an alternative before a churn occurs?
  • Are all the processes — right from user acquisition, onboarding, engagement and more, well documented?

Remain as flexible as possible

When we had to switch to our plan B, I called it disaster management. But once our users started coming in, I realised that the app was still solving 90% of what the initial idea was and it was actually a feasible way that we had adopted to launch our product.

For that matter, instead of going with a publisher, we also decided to launch the app as an indie dev. So all our promotions to acquire more users were slightly different from how most apps would launch — but that’s what seems to be working for us, and we’re always improving on the go.

So as a ground rule, don’t pause your creativity and imagination at the plan B. Keep working at it consistently to add more backup plans, more ways to optimize your approach and make your product successful. Make a plan C, D, E, F…..if the need be!

Trust me, when we didn’t get a response on the tag line we really wanted to stick to, we changed. Because apart from what you think is right for your product, there’s also a market that you need to address with the product.

You need to continue analysing how your product is performing, remain flexible and adjust to changes really quickly!

Here are a few questions that helped me and my team build a better product (we’re still at it, btw):

  • What makes the product more compelling to the target market?
  • Is the new idea or process going to optimize my timeline or extend it?
  • Does the new concept for my product have a high market acceptance rate?
  • What is it that your target consumers want to hear and what is it that they are looking for?
  • Is the new idea a secondary goal for your product or primary?

I’m a big fan of making notes and using the whiteboard to its full potential. You’ll also find sticky notes all over my home office, so that I don’t really lose out on an idea that I might have come across upon casual browsing.

Yes, I include every little thing in my notebook to remain as organised as possible

When entrepreneurs make a plan B, they are actually working towards creating a strong business. In fact, even Twitter had a plan B.

Change is expected. So don’t be afraid of it!

And most importantly,

Never stop learning!

There are so many things that you get to learn while building a product. The only thing you need to ensure is keeping your mind open! We take feedback from almost everybody. Our friends, family, industry experts, other entrepreneurs and more, and even take the negative comments in our stride to make our product better.

Now there’s a lot that I have to learn about entrepreneurship to be honest and I might not (yet) be the one to give you tips on how to go about things. But I’m one person who’d rather share what they know, so that you don’t make the same mistakes we did. After all, if we’re all in the startup circle, why not be friends and help each other out? :)

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We’re working towards making Geenees the ultimate gifting solution for people. It lets you wish list items you love, invite your friends and family to the app and see what each one of you is wishing for. My goal was to make finding the perfect gift so easy that one would never have to turn to using gift cards, at any point of time or for any celebration.

If you too think gift cards aren’t the way to go, you can download the Geenees app here.

And while you’re finding the perfect gifts, don’t forget to give me some feedback on how we can make Geenees better for you!