Our first product, Minimalytics, is about to launch to 1,600 subscribers…and there’s nothing I can do to stop it.
It’s 12:30am in San Diego, and I’m frantically squashing bugs and polishing onboarding (oh — and enjoying a few IPAs). And some part of me thought it was a wonderful idea to start getting distracted and write a blog post about our launch.
It’s been over a month since my last post. Void of inspiration to write. And this is the moment it strikes me. What a fuckin’ joke!
It’s actually probably a good thing that we scheduled the invites to go out at 10am PST tomorrow, because had we not…we wouldn’t be launching this week. Or next week. Or the week after.
The pursuit of perfection (when building a product) is a nasty indulgence, and years at a digital agency have left their mark on me and Joelle.
As we dig deeper into product and stray further from service, we’re realizing that perfect is never possible, and shipped is better than perfect.
That’s not to say our product is rubbish — just that those handful of bugs that get under our skin…a fraction of our users will encounter them…and they won’t give a shit. And if they do — AWESOME!
“Hello first excited, caring customer…nice to meet you”
At some point you need to set a date and stick to it. And the only way to do that is to let others hold you accountable.
We’ve learned a lot over the past few months, and it’s had a big impact on our launch ideals — though we know the learning is never done.
Without further ado, here is our naïve pre-launch, launch analysis:
1. Launch Your Cheapest Plan First
Yup. That means not building the features for your more expensive plans until you launch your cheapest plan.
Of course, you need to lay a solid foundation for your app (we’ve spent the better part of a year doing so), and you need to open several doors in your infrastructure to allow for easy integration of future features. In other words, put in the time to account for your grand vision now, so you are able to execute on it later.
That doesn’t mean you need to build every feature before launch.
Those last few features often take the longest, and they aren’t justification for preventing customers from coming aboard. Open the doors to your app as soon as possible by releasing your simplest plan first.
For example, our product schedules email reports to be sent, replacing metric placeholders with live data whenever they are delivered. This is most valuable for agencies/contractors and their clients.
But there are also some solo folks out there who may find it valuable. So that’s who we’re launching to right now.
We will launch to the rest of our audience when the time is right, and I can guarantee their version of the product will be better thanks to us testing with other folks sooner.
2. Don’t Waste Time on Tracking Everything
We skipped the integrations with Mixpanel. And KISSmetrics. And CrazyEgg. (Gasp!) Because it doesn’t fuckin’ matter when you don’t have any customers.
I mean, if we’re being honest, I’ve spent a solid week integrating ALL those apps and more. But then I spent a solid hour deleting all of the tracking code, and it was one of the best decisions I made. Every dependency you inject into your app is another future headache and they aren’t worth it at this stage. We’ll have plenty of headaches without them, I’m sure ;-)
What ARE we tracking? Quite a bit, but with smart integrations that give us alot of value without alot of effort/maintenance.
We’ve decided to use Intercom for nearly everything, customer segmenting, in-app/email messaging (including automatic/triggered messages), and support.
Throughout our app, in the weak areas…we’ve added feedback prompts to drive our direction, and they all just link to Intercom, opening a popup window where the customer can send a message to us. All messaging in one place. And fewer engineering tasks for me. Yay!
Wanna add some feedback loop into the product? Sweet, drop a link in with a class of “triggerIntercom”. Done!
No more custom page/form buildouts, no more time-consuming distractions. More time for real value-building features.
Our other tracking app is Google Analytics, and my guess is we’ll rarely check that. In the early stages, you should be focused on features, not tracking. All that shit can be added later.
I know these tracking apps are sexy and exciting and temporarily free — but trust me…ignore it for now.
3. Charge from Day One. Do it.
We’ve worked on this product for months. And yet, I’m supposed to give it away for free to please a few complaining trolls? Puh-lease!
We’re not building products for shits-and-giggles. We’re doing this to make a living building awesome stuff. We can’t quite do that without cash-flow, and neither can you.
So (wo)man up and stick up for what you believe in.
4. Make Friends WAY before Launch
And not just to support your launch.
Seriously, start talking to people. Start helping people. It will pay massive dividends in the future.
Over the past few months, we’ve talked to and learned incredible amounts from Hiten Shah, Brennan Dunn, Justin Jackson, Ryan Hoover, Jon Gold, Jason Amunwa, Josh Pigford, Aaron Francis, Travis and Rachel Gertz, and more entrepreneurs who were always willing to help. And when I say talked to…I don’t mean some random tweet. I mean a Skype call, Google Hangout, MessageMe chats, etc.
Just months ago, we put all these folks up on a pedestal. So stupid.
Because you know what happened the second we reached out to anybody? They agreed to hop on Skype…they agreed to help out. Always. We’ve yet to be turned down.
Disclaimer: I didn’t talk to any new folks online prior to 2013. I was the most shy, anti-social person online. So stop making excuses. You’re probably in a better position than I was to make buddies.
You will learn an insane amount in a very short time. Get over your fear. And start tweeting people you admire. That’s all it takes to start a conversation. And once those conversations start, opportunities will continually present themselves. Trust me.
That’s about all I got for now. I promised Joelle I’d go to bed by 1am — and it’s 1:45am now. The rest of the launch tasks can wait ‘til morning.
Rule #5: Health comes first. Always.