Developing your way to success or failure…

During the last month, I have been in board meetings and thinking to myself about what was going well and what wasn't.  And when the discussion came to revenue, one common theme that always seemed to surface was a focus on the next product.  What I mean is that when discussing why our current product wasn't selling as well as it should have or getting as many users as projected, the answer was always focused on the next product or feature.  Granted, I have always believed that one needs an insanely great product or service to generate sustainable revenue and that constant iteration is key to success.  However, it is also important to understand why a current product or service is or isn't doing as well as you thought.  In addition, entrepreneurs must also think about how they are going to get the product to the market and come up with the right messaging.  I have seen a number of situations where entrepreneurs can get too focused about developing and releasing the next product or feature without spending as much or even more time and resources in getting it out to the market.  Then when management and the board sit down to evaluate what went wrong, the answer seems to be that people clearly didn't care.  That can be a huge failing because the product or service may actually be phenomenal but just may have had no marketing or support in reaching potential customers.

So my advice is that before you place all of your bets on the next product or feature, make sure you put enough effort into crafting the right message and value proposition and that you put just as many resources into getting it out to the market.  In other words, give your product a chance to succeed and don't starve it to death.  Constantly developing new technology without having a well-thought out plan to get it to market can spell doom!  Developing your way to success can work only if you realize that it is only part of the battle.   

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4 Responses to “Developing your way to success or failure…”

  1. David Ulevitch Apr 9, 2008 at 3:38 pm #

    A key part of understanding why your product isn’t selling involves talking with your customer, both the unhappy and the happy ones. Both quantitatively and qualitatively.

    And as a footnote to that, trust the data you get back. I’ve heard too many people who are told to go and talk to customers come back and say “well they don’t really know what they want” or “they just didn’t understand how to use the product” or worse still “we talked to the wrong people.” I’ve never seen a case where the above excuses were actually true.

  2. Ed Sim Apr 9, 2008 at 4:44 pm #

    David-those are all great points. You really have to listen and take constructive feedback from the market (not just one customer) and figure out how to incorporate into your product.

  3. Mat Apr 10, 2008 at 6:45 am #

    This supports the whole “release quickly, get feedback, iterate” model that should be the cornerstone of most development processes.

    As David said, it’s critical to make sure that the Get Feedback stage is worked on as hard as the Release Quickly stage.

    Managing all of this is a fine balance.

    I’ve seen startups delay getting their product “out there” and stall. “Just one more feature and it’ll be perfect”.

    Startups get the product out, but don’t get in the same room as users to observe how they interact with the product for real.

    Startups also burn cash scaling up sales and marketing without really understanding what the market is or how to communicate with it.

    I could go on… I’ve made all these mistakes!!

  4. John Payne Apr 15, 2008 at 1:05 am #

    Hey, Ed.

    Isn’t finding the balance in this the age old challenge of listening to your custmers on one hand(where you become intimately familarly with what should come next…) and the proverbial “sell ‘em what you got” which feeds the current needs of the business. It also makes sure that what your customers are saying is consistent with what they will actually do.

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