A few years ago, we had a client in the hot IOT space. Yes, we got our hands dirty really early. One of the mandates was creating an e-commerce website. We had a very hard timeline and we did what we could to stay within that time frame. Everything was working as expected, but I received a phone call. The gentleman gave me a piece of his mind regarding the Coming Soon page because it was supposed to be filled in later. The moot point was the font.
That issue was sorted out and the client sent me a message the next day saying, “The perfectionist in me sometimes takes over.” The message had no significance in regards to our relationship, but it made me think. On one side, we try to fail fast and take the feedback from trusted, loyal clients or users so we have and improvise. On the other side, we try to build something that is perfect (according to us), and delay getting the product to the market.
After two and a half years, we see that old client has not been able to get the product to the market. Yes, there are investors, startup trophies, some random competitions won, and money raised via Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Unfortunately, the product has not made it to the market yet. Early backer’s comments of the crowdsourcing platforms reek of frustration, cheating, fraud, and incompetence to name a few. We would have loved a refund, but for obvious reasons the runway for all this time did not come for free.
Based on this real experience we take a slightly different, more practical approach to creating products and getting clients.
Do not pretend to be Steve Jobs
Let’s face it, Steve Jobs was a stickler. The majority of founders idolize him, but this is one trait that you need to give up. There is no perfect product. The product you are trying to create, will never exist.
Not just a pretty face
UI and UX are extremely important, but if there is nothing except fancy graphics, you are not going to be very popular for too long. Your product needs to have substance to keep your users engaged.
Not having subject matter expertise in the problem your product solves
Now this is a serious red flag. You can be a brilliant story teller and impress some people to give you seed money. Unless you completely understand the problem and the solution, you are not going to go up the ladder. In our client’s case, he went through CTOs, CIOs, and Chief Data Scientists every 6 months. Every time you checked out the website, there was someone new. Now that’s like someone else’s brain building the complete solution. Team work is good and even the most passionate average teams can build really great products, but that does not mean you give the most critical piece of the puzzle to someone else.
Not being honest to your clients and users
When a commitment is made and not honored, then you need to publicly accept that you messed up. There are graceful ways to do that, and it is better for your credibility. As an entrepreneur, you will be playing this game again, so there is no shame in admitting that something is not working and move on. It keeps you credible for your future.
This is something that we have been advised to do, if something is not working then you need to tweak it and then move forward. For this you need to take some of your backers in confidence and leverage them to build your product. You are creating the product for the user, not yourself.
Do not go crazy with your advertising
Ever heard of crossing the chasm? It’s a painful and slow process to build your initial audience. Just because you have moolah to burn does not mean you do it. That is what the client did. The product was a prototype, advertising went full steam, pre-ordering was enabled on the website, and global orders were being accepted. That is how you checkmate yourself.
These are a few pointers that we have found, and we will be building on these pointers as we consult startups and companies on what NOT to do. If you would like to have a conversation about your product and what you should NOT do then feel free to get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.