Over the last 11 months or so, I have launched a handful of products across a variety of spaces. I would not call myself a wide success. Nor would I claim to really know what I am doing. But I, along with the teams I have worked on, have attracted tens of thousands of users to my products.
That is a humbling feeling, and it is driven by the desire to make things people truly want. Getting that validation is amazing — not only in satiating my own personal goals, but also in helping companies/startups/projects grow.
“Listening to your users” is something every founder claims to invest a ton of time in, but how consistent are they really?
In my (limited experience) talking to other founders, I’d say while most creators want to be driven by customers, often times there are many other variables/factors that come into play.
The list goes on and on — nonetheless, projects are often fueled, early on at least, by the willingness of a small group of people.
These efforts sometimes work. The long term, more sustainable efforts are driven by a real and tangible customer problem.
Whenever you launch something, you are testing that assumption — LIVE! In front of the whole world wide web.
But what happens when you get that assumption wrong?
I will tell you because it has happened to me many times.
When you get your big bet wrong — a) no one cares about your product. You do not get any views on your site. You do not get any signups. No one pays you. No one cares.
b) Whatever team you have gets sad. They feel miserable that they just poured all this time building something that no one wants. It sucks.
Avoid building a lot of hype around an assumption that has not been tested at all costs.
Talk to customers! Before you go out and build this grand company, just go see if it should exist. Understand pain points before raising money, getting press, etc. etc.
Two ways I think about doing that:
1. Find a niche
Figure out who your niche is and literally just contact them. Talk to them. Ask them question. Do not impose your personal bias.
Go on Facebook and search for a niche community that you are trying to work with.
Get into that facebook group and then try and provide value to people for free. Send interesting content. Be of help, etc.
Then personal message people in the group and ask them to hop on a quick skype / phone call.
Build for root problems, not fluff. What people really really need.
2. Put up an “early access page” carefully interview each person who signs up.
Ex: Owlmetrics — Instagram Analytics
Sometimes it can be hard to manage so much direct outreach, especially when you are heads down on the product.
Building in the dark is really scary because you often run into the problem of not knowing if what you are building people really want.
Turn on the lights! Put up a landing page and see what people think.
Do they drop their email? Do they beg you for access?
Do they give you money right away?
How do they react?
There is a clear difference, however, between “saying” you want to buy something and actually buying it. Many more people would do the former than the latter.
That is why it is important to separate out your assumptions into multiple segments. A) you think people are interested in your product and B) you think they would pay for it. A may be true while B is not. Figure out ways to test for both, at once!
Let your users tell you if what you are building is good. Not the press. Not your friends. And do not wait until launch day to find out :) Just start!