The Secret to a
When you start building a product, it’s a leaky bucket. If you pour customers in the top, most will flow out the leaks. Since getting customers usually requires time and money, most founders wait until right before launch to focus on getting traction.
Counter-intuitively, this is a mistake.
The secret to having a successful launch is to focus on getting traction right from the beginning, by continually pouring a small yet steady stream of cold customers into your bucket (product).
Why? Because only cold customers have fresh eyes and only through fresh eyes can you see where the leaks really are in your bucket.
Your beta panel is too close to you. They are framed with previous versions and interactions, and, as a result, are subconsciously telling you too much of what you want to hear. If you just rely on them then you won’t find all the leaks, and you will spend too much time on non-leaks or already plugged leaks.
However, plugging the right leaks is a necessary, but not sufficient condition to a successful launch. You also need to know what niche to market to initially, what marketing will resonate with that niche, and what marketing channel to use to reach them.
You need a distribution strategy.
You will get some of this information through good product development practices, but not nearly enough. All of this new information should change the first version of your product for the better and inform your distribution strategy.
Marc Andreessen (@pmarca) puts it this way:
The number one reason that we pass on entrepreneurs we’d otherwise like to back is they’re focusing on product to the exclusion of everything else. Many entrepreneurs who build great products don’t have a good distribution strategy. Even worse is when they insist that they don’t need one, or call [their] no distribution strategy a “viral marketing strategy.”
You do not need to spend a lot of money to pursue this strategy. You just need a structured approach to getting traction, which involves running cheap and quick traction tests, as we outline in Traction (the book). Doing so will mean you will launch with a credible distribution strategy and can get real traction — sustainable growth of engaged customers — right from launch.
This is opposed to what usually happens, which is a scattershot blitz approach, followed by the realization the bucket is still leaky, followed by several more product development cycles based on real market feedback. That feedback could have been happenning from the beginning!
The real counter-intuitive piece is that pursuing product and traction development in parallel will slow down product development in the short term, but speed up the time to actually get a successful product to market. That’s because the product development time you do spend is much more effective.
To your successful launch!
Published in Startups, Wanderlust, and Life Hacking