August 19, 2022

Keep working toward this thing that is not yet a reality


You can’t make your product better or more valuable until real people, preferably people who aren’t related to you, start using it.

Until then, you’re still the tree falling in the forest that nobody hears.

This is why strategies like the freemium mode, soft launches and beta testers are so popular with tech startups. By starting their price at zero, or something very close to zero, they are lowering the barriers to entry to get those early users in the door.

Screw the money. The more of those people they accumulate, the more use cases they can gather on their product, and that feedback is worth its weight in gold.

This theory is especially applicable if your organization launches something the marketplace has never seen before. Because at that stage, you don’t really know what you have yet.

You can’t know. It’s too early. No precedent. Not enough data.

And so, the goal in that that initial product launch is to maximize your soft returns like brand awareness, user engagement, public relations, product reviews, word of mouth and other difficult to quantify metrics.

It’s definitely not as exciting as more revenue generating numbers, but it still matters.

My friend who runs a small tech startup says the most important users are the ones who use your product for a few days, and then never use it again.

Get every one of them on the phone immediately, he told me. If they went to your site, decided to use the product, used it, and then stopped, then you need to find out what you missed. Reactions to users like that is worth millions of dollars down the road.

My mentor told me something similar at the dawn of my career as an author.

Scott, you haven’t written enough to know what kind of writer you are yet.

His criticism lit a fire under my twenty year old ass. It fueled me to dramatically increase my daily output of writing from that day forth. Doing so ultimately helped me figure out exactly what kind of writer I was that much sooner. Which still took several more years of hard work, but after enough of my words were in print and enough people had actually read them, my creative identity started to crystalize.

I no longer felt like the tree falling in the forest that nobody heard.

What’s your version of that? What baseline level of marketplace engagement will give you the necessary feedback on your creative work to take it to the next level?

There’s no magic number. It’s still a soft return that’s difficult to quantify.

But each one of us has to keep working toward this thing that is not yet a reality. We have to get our units up early and often.

The more we do, the more we will understand what doing actually means for us.

We start small and let the path illuminate itself.

How could you exponentially increase your level of early stage engagement with your work?