Product development could easily take anywhere from two to six months before you can launch. As a non-technical founder/cofounder, how do you spend time productively when the development is being taken care of by your internal or outsourced tech team?

As a response to a recent Reddit discussion, the non-technical cofounder of Reddit, Alexis Ohanian wrote (ed), "The reality is, until you've got a product and users, a non-technical founder has to be willing to do all the 'everything else' work that's not programming. That's everything from ordering lunch, to maintaining finances, to logging notes. But the goal as the non-technical founder is to get to users as soon as possible, because that's when you have to shine as the point person talking to them, learning from them."

If you, a non-technical entrepreneur, don't have a tech cofounder, you do have to manage and oversee the product development whether your internal or an external software development team is doing it. But, that doesn't take up a lion's share of your daily time. And if you've got a tech cofounder, you've got even more time available at hand.

As Alexis wrote, your goal should be to get to users as soon as possible. Which means spend this time putting together an engaged audience of potential customers that could beta test your product. And better still, can be potential long-term customers of your product.

But how do you do that when you don't have a product? There are three key actionable things that I'm going to share with you, which aren't being exploited to the fullest.

How to amass engaged users before product launch

It true, you can actually gather potential users who will be engaged with your product's value proposition even before they are privy to it. All you have to do is show up, every single day.

While there are a number of ways to get user interest or emails, there's no better way to engage them than building a community with daily conversations and value adds.

Let's take an example. If you're building a fitness app, start a community of people that are interested in - fitness. Create a group or a platform where people that are interested in learning about fitness can post their questions, get inspiration from and connect with other fellow members in the community. That's exactly what Ryan Swift created for his mobile app business.

Asha Chaudhry is the co-founder of TheRodinhoods and Advisor Community at BabyChakra, who's built and scaled communities from scratch. She shares her most important actionable tip, "Make the community inclusive. First, identify your rockstars (power users) and empower them, reward them, make them responsible for certain tasks. The more you involve your users, the greater sense of belonging they will have. Engagement will become more meaningful and more genuine.

For example, virtual rewards for best user generated content of the week, guest newsletters by deserving members, livechats or AMAs with different expert users, make responsible users moderators, set up an 'answering squad' for queries, give out special event invites to users you want to reward as the designated community reporter, involve member volunteers in event organizing, et al."

What platform is best, you ask? My suggestion would be to leverage Facebook, as it's one where audiences are most engaged in today's context, unless your target audience is CXOs. If you'd want to learn more about building a community, join the CMX Hub, a community for community managers.

How to find relevant content that connects early audience with your product

Your product is far from launch, how do you then keep your audience engaged? What sort of content is going to keep them interested that connects well with your product's proposition?

Let's go back to the fitness app. Share your insights, learning, experiences that you've gained as a fitness professional. Share a daily tip with the audience. Share content that is directly associated with your value proposition and that which is also associated with it. For example, nutrition or home equipment reviews.

Do a mix of live and recorded videos, text posts and inspirational quotes. Tag your members to get involved in a discussion, ask questions.

If you're not from the industry, interview fitness professionals to share their knowledge.

You could even run offline events for members of the group, such as a weekend fitness meetup where people get together to exercise.

Include your audience from time to time in reviewing your product's logo, designs, an important feature, etc.

This way, the day you're ready to launch your product, you've got a potentially engaged audience that's ready to test your product.

How to add value to the product development lifecycle

There's not much you can do from the technical standpoint, but that doesn't mean that you can't contribute to the product development lifecycle. You're the brain behind the product after all.

So here's what you can do to contribute: review the product from the use case and feature perspective. When you launch it in the market, interview your users - those that are engaged and those that are power users. Understand what's working for them and what's not.

The feedback that you collect from your users will help determine the next iteration of your product, which your tech team should work on.

Published on: Jun 15, 2017