Is your pivot based on data? Or are you just an impatient fuck?
To be frank (if you didn’t get that already), there are so many product-based CEOs out there who, when they don’t immediately get overwhelmed with new customers after a product or feature launch, decide their entire startup idea must be wrong and and scrap everything, going back to zero.
This type of CEO is the opposite of who I talked about in Features Don’t Sell Products. Rather than just throwing new features against the wall to see what sticks, these CEOs decide the entire idea is doomed and the only way to fix it is to start all over again. And when this happens, I ask the above two questions — Is your pivot based on data or are you just impatient?
The craziest time this happens, and it happens more often than you’d think, is before the product is even finished and launched. A founder will design a product that takes four months to build, and three months into development, start getting worried because no one is using it.
No shit, no one is using it. No one can us it; it hasn’t launched yet. Your product isn’t a failure, you’re just chomping at the bit. Before throwing up your hands and throwing your product in the trash, you need to a) LAUNCH the thing and b) start selling it. Yes, right now, before it’s even live. Then, and only then, once you have some data, can we discuss whether or not your product is a shit idea.
For some of you, this can seem like a challenge. It’s hard to overcome your desire for customer validation, and I know y’all get antsy without it. I saw this with a company I co-founded, where rather than talk to enough people to prove what we were doing was wrong, we just kept changing the product and re-launching over and over again. Never once did we hear people say the magic words, “I would buy this if it only had X,” or “I won’t buy this because of Y.” Those sentences are GOLD. And the fact that we never heard them, meant our product wasn’t necessarily a dud, it just meant we weren’t spending enough time understanding how to market it.
I know, I know. By definition, product CEOs often aren’t particularly good at selling. They hate it, myself included. But it’s critical that when you get to the point when all your confidence and swagger is gone and you want to scrap everything, you or someone close to you HAS to ask the simple question of why. If it’s only because you’re not getting users, ask why again. WHY aren’t you getting users? Keep asking it until you get to real data, and if you don’t have real data, recognize you’re just being an impatient fuck and in danger of making very poor decisions.
By this point, you should know to always sell it before you build it. But even if you go all cowboy, please don’t go changing your product before launching and getting feedback.
Another client of mine was having an issue a few months back where their video chat app was frequently showing a white screen when a customer called. The founder assumed it must be a problem with their third-party video plug-in and demanded the dev team replace it with another solution. Thankfully, before the engineers acquiesced, I slowed the founder down and we figured out it wasn’t a software problem at all. Users were refusing to allow the app access to their phone’s camera and the white screen was the result. If the plug-in was swapped before he looked at the data, he would have ended up with the exact same problem, and worse software.
Whether you’re adding out a feature, changing a plug-in or simply saying, “no one is using this, we need to do something different,” if you’re making a change without data, it boils down to the same issue — you lack the patience and confidence to not succeed long enough to understand the root issue.
And that confidence comes from… can anyone guess? Yup, you got it, TALKING TO YOUR CUSTOMERS. If you’re out there constantly talking to prospects, even if you’re not truly selling them, and they’re giving you buying signals, then you are grounded in a universe of positive feedback. If you’re not talking to customers, you’re disconnected and lacking the feedback that staves off panic.
So even if you’ve already made the mistake and built it without selling it first, here’s your chance to not make the same mistake twice. Get out there and talk to your prospects. A lot of the time, if you just finish the damn thing, you’ll find you’ll acquire customers. It’s a great thing to discover! Don’t miss out because a month before launch you throw it in the trash and start over.
— Eric Marcoullier
Yup. Did this one far too many times to count. If you don’t talk to customers, you start panicking days or even weeks before launch because “holy shit, no one wants this thing!!!” The emotional roller coaster is real and it’s at that exact moment you want someone unbiased who can ask if you’re flailing. So, you know, send me an email or hit me up on my coaching site. I’d love to connect.
(Photo by Lev Motion on Unsplash)