Launching a product or business is like entering a boxing match. You’re going to take some hits, but your ability and choices determine if those hits are jabs or knock-out punches.
It’s common that new entrepreneurs will be dealt a few failures before finding success. Still, being knocked down several times is something you’d most likely want to avoid, and the best way to do that is to launch a minimum viable product (MVP).
Essentially this strategy helps validate your startup idea before you put all your time and effort into it. It’s a way to only take jabs, instead of sustain injury from a mean hook. Better yet, if you have to go back to the drawing board, you haven’t suffered a massive financial loss, improving your ability to have another go.
There is no perfect way to launch a business MVP; and tweaking and adapting on the path can be beneficial. Here are some of the most important steps to validating your startup idea.
Think Of a Problem, Not an Idea
The success of a business product teeters on how well it solves a problem. Many business owners fall directly into a problem during the planning phase. While brainstorming, ‘cool’ ideas will likely inspire you. Sometimes we start thinking of features before we determine the base problem the service or item solves.
Instead of considering all the bells and whistles your product can have, focus on problems you or the people around you are experiencing, then make a product that offers a solution.
Think of Netflix, a digital streaming service with thousands of movies and shows at its disposal. The problem it solved was the frustration that came with other forms of television entertainment and movies (adhering to a broadcast schedule, ad interruptions, needing to travel to the video shop or cinema, lack of selection on paid TV). The original series and multi-platform access are features that boost the product but don’t define it.
Make a Test Model
Architects have mastered this step – before you blow your budget on a final product, first create a prototype or mini-version of your idea and survey if people find it beneficial.
When we say a mini version, that can be anything from a small trial class, prototype design or model version. Just visualise the end goal and try to implement it successfully in the most cost-effective way. After, start showcasing your model and sourcing interest.
False interest can be a killer in this phase. Make sure to secure upfront payments from some interested prospects/investors. Many people will act as ‘yes men’ to your product, filling your head with can-do words, but when push comes to shove, they may backflip on their promise. If people are willing to hand over payment details, it shows they are committed and believe in the product.
Find Channels for Client Feedback
Customer feedback is paramount to success when it comes to testing your product idea. Make sure to implement a live chat feature into your website or closely monitor your social media accounts to identify customer objections and challenges more easily.
Customers asking about features, cost, availability, etc., can help you make educated decisions while planning your product’s final version.
Once Research Is Done, Take the Plunge
So many passion projects or startup ideas never see the light of day due to analysis paralysis. You need to know your product, but putting action on hold to iron out all the details can freeze your development.
Too many people over-research their market/product and end up never launching. To be successful, you must know when to act. Even if people don’t buy your product right away, or you don’t get the result you wanted, the beauty is you can continuously improve and alter your design in future iterations or updates.
If you follow any digital platform you would have noticed constant upgrades, tweaks and interface changes. If you have a physical product, take any criticism on board and work to address your product’s weaknesses in the second, third, fourth batch and so on.
Have you ever looked at crazy prototypes compared to the final version? Sometimes the differences are as clear as night and day. Your product is going to look much different from the first draft – that’s good!
You’re going to have to make cuts, tweaks and complete redesigns, so don’t get too attached to certain features or one product direction. If you become overly fixated on the original copy, you may close the door to innovations and discoveries that will make your product more successful.
As the product founder, you’re allowed to have opinions; this is your vision after all. Too many changes can force a full turn in your original direction. Practising open-mindedness is the ideal way to move through the growth of your product. Allow change, but understand your end goal.
Show Your Pride and Personality
Ok, so the legwork is mostly done, now it’s time to show your product to the world. So which voice will you use? Many entrepreneurs want to imitate the greats and set a tone for their company that feels similar to the letterheads of the business world – don’t do that.
As a small startup, you can provide something big companies cannot: a clear communication line to the founder. As humans, we instinctually trust faces, so using your face can build rapport with your clients. Anonymity will lower trust levels from your consumers. While you may want to shy away from the limelight, it could damage your ability to forge good relationships.
Don’t Become Captivated By Vanity Metrics
Likes and shares don’t pay your bills (unless you’re an influencer). Every business has different metrics which work for them – you’ll most likely want to keep an eye on conversion rate, churn rate and revenue growth (weekly, monthly or annually depending on your growth goals). Tracking these metrics will help you see where you’re at and allow you to take action where needed
Create a Repeatable Process
Once your product has hit the ground and acquired a following, create a scalable, repeatable process that you can reuse as you grow. When you get a few customers, take note of how they were attracted to your business. After, focus your attention on the most efficient channels and scale them. Did content marketing bring in your first wave of consumers? Double down on that and try to replicate the process. Once you find a system, rinse and repeat while trying to automate the process as much as possible.
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