Avoid Post-Release Paralysis: Why You Should Always Validate Your Product Idea
It is not atypical for founders to get caught up in their idea and the features they believe it needs to be successful, and then dive into building it too quickly. In fact, they get so obsessed with what they are building that they never stop to think, “what will I do when this is finished being built?”
An Idea Without a Plan
No marketing plans or budget. No sales outline or go-to-market strategy. Sometimes not even a clear picture of who the target customer is or what the users’ thoughts on the product are. Just an idea that the founder felt would succeed (somehow). The “if you build it, they will come” mentality.
Focusing on product development is easy. It takes your mind away from the fact that you are building a business, not a product. Products with no underlying sales or marketing strategy fail. Products that have a strong sense for their customers’ needs and a solid go-to-market plan, sometimes succeed.
It is a terrible feeling to build and release a product, then realize you have no plan for traction. But unfortunately, it happens. We call this Post-Release Paralysis.
Minimize Your Risk: Validate Your Product Idea
One of the things that we try to do in many walks of life is minimize risk and maximize upside. However, many companies, startups and large organizations alike, have an extremely hard time with this when it comes to software development. I won’t hypothesize why.
I fundamentally believe that one of the biggest reasons for startup failure is an over-reliance on personal opinion vs. tested experience.
The easiest way to recognize that you or your company fell victim to this is when no one uses the product or feature you built.
You should never (and I mean never) find yourself in a position of having built something, and thinking afterwards, “how should I sell this or get people to use it?”
If you find this to be the case, your order of operations needs a revamp. You should always have a well-defined go-to-market strategy, along with the necessary budget allocated, ahead of time.
Validating Your Product Idea
Below is the framework I typically use when creating a new product or feature. It involves asking myself a series of questions:
1. Who is your target customer?
Have you identified a target customer that will use this? If no, stop and identify them.
2. What is their interest level in your product?
How many people within your target audience have expressed sincere interest in what you are doing? Account for bias and make sure to test with your target audience. Discount your family and friends.
3. How will your target customers get your product?
When this feature or product is complete, how will you get it into the hands of the people that expressed interest? Initially, it is usually a good idea to let this be a small group of extremely interested users who can give you feedback, especially as you iterate and make changes post initial release.
4. What’s the cost?
Have you estimated the cost of the endeavor that you are taking on? Have you accounted for the fact that any large estimates in software development tend to have a sizable margin of error? Do you have an idea how much it will cost you to acquire your initial target customers?
5. Is this worth the effort?
Given the interest of your target audience, and the cost of the endeavor, is it actually worth building?
These five questions aren’t complicated, but when applied as a system to determine whether to build a significant feature or product, they can be eye-opening and save copious amounts of time and energy.
Michael is CEO and Co-Founder of Flatirons Development. He has 17+ years of experience building and managing software with projects ranging from startup MVP development to managing complex systems for Fortune 500 companies.