By Kirill Bensonoff, founder and CEO of Unigma and ComputerSupport.com.
It's tough to launch a great product. I have successfully launched multiple IT-related products and tech-enabled services, but I have also made many mistakes along the way. However, I've learned that by sticking to these five simple rules, you can better prepare yourself for a more successful launch day:
Find a partner (just one).
Two heads are definitely better than one while trying to work on an idea. If you are more of a visionary and understand the direction of where you want the company to go, it can be helpful to find an integrator to partner with. While the visionary is great at seeing the future and managing the direction of the company, the integrator is good at taking action and getting stuff done. If possible, you also want to find someone who is a friend, or at least someone you can trust. As you work on these ideas together, you want to be able to share your vision without having to worry about losing your intellectual property along the way.
With a partner, you can do what you do best. The visionary can come up with ideas, and the integrator can help bring them to fruition (here is a brief description of visionary and integrator roles). Having a partner will save you a great deal of time, and this is important if you are trying to launch a product while holding down another job or other responsibilities. Although you may consider adding more partners, having more than two can make it difficult to get to a consensus.
Connect and hear the truth.
Take some time and talk with everyone you know, but don't just ask if they like the product idea, as people may be more inclined to be nice than tell you what they really think. Instead, ask about any competitors that make products similar to your idea, as well as if they know of any challenges that exist in that space.
Look for relevant contacts through Reddit and the rest of your social media networks. Ask them if they know of similar products or can think of challenges you might encounter while launching.
If you've decided that your product solves an important problem, make sure you have a unique angle for it. If there are competitors, this doesn't mean you should stop. However, instead of copying their product or service, make sure your product brings innovation and improvement to the table. Ask yourself how your solution helps them improve their profits, save costs or both, and start the conversation there. After all, money is the one thing that matters most across all businesses.
Define your goals.
After you've discussed the idea with others and decide to move forward, you should then:
- Write a business plan. It doesn't have to be a huge document; one page can be enough.
- Write a mission statement. This can be a sentence or two about why your company exists. When you have challenges later on (and you will!), you can go back to this for inspiration.
- Define the phases of your product's lifecycle.
- Build a minimal product to launch first, then iterate on it. It will be much easier to build once you have a product with some customers who are giving you feedback.
- Use contract or overseas labor to help you keep your costs down.
Measure data throughout.
Do a soft launch, and learn what you can from the process. Measure all of your activity, see what works, and repeat only those activities. Spend minimal money and find innovative ways to get your message out. Some examples might include advertising on Reddit, posting on ProductHunt, posting on Quora, and using your social channels.
If customers are interested in trying your product, it's decision time. Are you going to raise money or bootstrap? If you are still holding a full-time job at this point, it may be time to leave or cut back on your hours.
Following these five steps can help you launch a great product while still holding down a day job. This will allow you to minimize your risk and make the most of your time. Now, go get 'em!
Kirill Bensonoff is a parallel entrepreneur, currently holding leadership positions at ComputerSupport.com and Unigma.