Ever since that Summer day a few years back when I was scouring the Web and stumbled across the teachings of Steve Blank, Eric Reis, and the Lean Startup, I’ve had an ongoing internal struggle with the “Ship Now!” mentality.
Candidly, I think this mentality has the potential to be destructive. I feel this way mainly due to the fact that the underlying message seems to be misinterpreted by most entrepreneurs who claim to enlist as Lean Startup followers.
As a fellow entrepreneur bootstrapping his own startup, I have a message for all my brethren (one which I learned the hard way): It’s not about building something that sucks and will guaranteed fail as fast as physically possible.
Rather, it’s about constructing well thought-out experiments with the bare essentials that will get you to where you’re trying to go by validating your riskiest assumptions with urgency. Hint: Don’t confuse urgency with negligence.
I also think that you can (I’d argue that you should) ignore this “Ship Now!” mentality when building a product that’s set to compete in a heavily saturated market landscape.
Of course, a winning product which solves a real problem with a novel solution that provides end user value in an untapped (or yet to be created) market is extremely rare, but does exist. This would be the exception here. I’m just gonna go out on a tangent and assume that if you did happen to have that type of product you wouldn’t be reading my blog since you’re 1:1,000,000 and therefore probably chillin’ on a yacht in Southern France by now. Cue ‘I’m on a Boat, Bitch’ reference.
No for real though, screw you [Insert dude with perfect product here]! It’s actually hard for us other entrepreneurs out here who didn’t conjure up Instagram or the Snuggie.
And for each one of you lucky shmucks, there are literally a million of us. So on behalf of all of us, I just want to emphasize the aforementioned “screw you”.
Alright, feeling better Average Jose? Samesies.
Now that we are back to reality though, I do want to stress my point: I think the focus for your startup team needs to be clearly carved out by the CEO from the get-go. And that focus should be on an all-out, synergistic effort between customer development + product development with an eventual goal of constructing a dynamic “feedback-to-ship” loop that is constantly improving with machine-like efficiency.
Sure, like Veruca Salt with her constant (and immediate) needs, your users will want to feel like they are on top of the priority list. So, of course you should change the way that button looks for them immediately, correct?
As in right meow!
***Sidenote: For something like changing a button on your landing page, you’ll probably want to perform some A/B testing rather than simply change it as a result of one user’s suggestion. But that’s a whole different topic re: optimization & metrics that I’m bound to blabber on about later. ***
A lot of entrepreneurs have this (natural) first reaction of wanting to listen and respond to every little detailed nugget of feedback that their early adopters communicate. I know it sounds ridiculous to try and attend to each and every one of your customers’ suggestions, especially at the earliest stages of your company. But, a plethora of otherwise highly intellectual business people get caught in the crosshairs of trying to satisfy all of their customers rather than maintain focus on what matters, and that eventually becomes their downfall.
If you’re a young & gritty entrepreneur, however, reality should eventually settle in. And you will then correctly identify that your best (and only smart bet) is to construct copious experiments which first and foremost validate your riskiest assumptions. Only once you have accomplished that can you then comfortably take to building the requested user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) improvements as time permits.
I say UI & UX improvements because you’ll find that most of what you get in terms of feedback from users will fall into one of those general categories of product design. Of course, you’ll (ideally) get some great inspiration for feature ideas from a small % of ‘power users’, but you can’t expect your users to lay out the groundwork of your product vision, that’s up to your CEO, or Custodian of Vision.
As always, there is an exception to the above statement as well: If all (or a vast majority) of your daily active users are asking for the same feature, you probably should find a way to work that feature into the roadmap sooner than later.
Steve Jobs might disagree.
Then again, you are not Steve Jobs.