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Launching a startup and guiding it to success is essentially a trial-and-error process of finding product-market fit. We test ideas and concepts on potential customers, then proceed with the ideas customer love most.

That’s the ideal. But most of the time we’ve already built something, it’s hard to change it, and no one’s buying it. What then?

Retooling products – physical and digital – takes money and time, and both are precious to startups. It’s not feasible to build all over again, so iterate on everything but the product.

Iterate on marketing tactics. When I first created Power 20, my early sales were slow, and growth was flagging. I was tempted to create a new product altogether. I thought maybe the product was bad. The cost and time involved in creating a new product was so high that I considered to quitting the project altogether. But after some tutoring by my friend Wendy Nguyen, CEO of HealthyOut, I learned that discovery in the app store mattered more than anything else. I edited my keywords and titles to boost traffic, and sure enough, sales doubled immediately.

I’m now ready for another shot in the arm, and I’m thinking of ways to get there. The expensive things to change are features and products. The no- or low-cost change is in how I describe the product.

Iterate on the promise. Above all, your business is selling a promise. Don’t change anything about your product. Just change how you describe it. For me, I’m currently selling an “intense 20-minute workout you can do anywhere without any equipment,” but I’ve been testing the idea of “a workout app that makes you 20% stronger in 20 days.” If I find that this promise is more compelling, I’ll adjust my app accordingly. Once I’m confident about the appeal and accuracy of my claim, I’ll create a new app with minor adjustments.  This would be a low-cost change.

Iterate on the market. My second boost in sales for Power 20 happened after I targeted diabetics. Power 20 workouts have a wonderful impact on helping control blood sugar levels, which is vital to diabetics and prediabetics. I collected quotes from trusted doctors, created a press release ($250 on PR Web), and then changed some of the text in the app’s description. This can carry over to almost any product or service.

We entrepreneurs are wary about changing our marketing messages too dramatically for fear of alienating stakeholders (investors, existing customers). But the reality is that most stakeholders ultimately value success over linear progression, and the rest of the world really doesn’t care whether you pivot markets or not.

Don’t fixate on your product too early.  We fear looking bad when potential clients visit our site only to find an unfinished product. Don’t worry about that. Use one-page launch sites like Launchrock to have multiple signup pages where you test the product and messaging. Create these with love and care. While you’re hunting for product-market fit, you can direct people to that gorgeous signup site. Here’s an example from a new product I’m launching: http://signup.onemonthmadness.com.

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  • Gary Adams

    Iterate. Great insight! Thanks Arshad

  • ArshadGC

    Thanks, Gary. It really is a simple idea, but iterating can be tough for teams to actually do!