- All Community
I was at 1871 yesterday afternoon to meet with a colleague and 6 people stopped by during our conversation and asked if they could talk to me before I left. Many of them are in the Lean Startup Challenge and were entering "beta". The reason they stated for doing a beta is because they needed to add more features to make the product valuable. So, I asked why can't you start selling it now? How do you know someone won't buy now?
Beta is an emotional crutch. In my experience, most entrepreneurs assume that they need much more than what they really end up needing to get someone to give them a dollar. I have released quite a few products into the market and I have NEVER released a product that nailed it out of the gate. If someone doesn't buy, then you can find out what you need to do to get them to buy. You can track what they do on the site and see what users who buy do and drive prospects toward that behavior. In beta, the users tend to be free, so you don't know what makes people buy.
I have suffered from Launchopobia - the fear that this idea you have worked countless hours on won't be loved by others. What if no one likes it? Once you have validated that the problem you are solving is a real pain point and have validated as much as you could that the way you are solving the problem does actually solve it before you build it, the only way you keep learning is to launch it. If you do a beta, you do get feedback, but you don't know if they will buy it. In my experience, much of the feedback I got in beta wasn't really relevant to what buyers need. If someone doesn't buy, you can ask them what it needs to do for them to buy.
So, to make this actionable, here are some steps:
- Don't do a beta, launch now
- Set up analytics on your site so you can see what folks are and are not doing. Note: don't use Google Analytics; you get what you pay for. I use Kissmetrics, but there are other analytics packages that do the job.
- Continuously A/B test
- Do a 30 day free trial and have multiple touch points with folks who sign up to get feedback
- Have a way for customers to give you instant feedback such as Olark or KissInsights
- Have fanatical support, as close to real time as possible. BTW, don't put junior people on support. Its your job to understand how customers feel about the product.
Finally, I want to be clear to those who are not following lean startup principles that I am not advocating that you launch before you have validated who your target customer is, what their pain is, and that your solution and pricing are on target BEFORE you build anything. What I am advocating is that you skip the beta and launch.