The goal for your the first release of your new product should be to be embarrassed by it. It shouldn’t be perfect, it should be good enough.
“If you’re not embarrassed by your first product release, you’ve released too late.” – Reid Hoffman, Linkedin
That’s not to say I don’t think beautifully designed products are important – they most definitely are – but you won’t know what goes into a beautifully built product until you have some data from your potential customers.
Andrew Mason at Groupon did just this when they pivoted towards their current business model:
“We took a WordPress Blog and we skinned it to say Groupon and then every day we would do a new post. It was totally ghetto. We would sell T-shirts on the first version of Groupon. We’d say in the write-up, ‘This T-shirt will come in the color red, size large. If you want a different color or size, e-mil that to us.’ We didn’t have a form to add that stuff. It was just cobbled together.”
Your first release is unlikely to get a mass market release. The odds are that not many people will see your less than perfect product.
In fact your first marketing and product development release should be fairly targeted to a subset of your target market. And it should have just enough functionality to settle some of the assumptions you’ve made. By limiting the number of people exposed to your product you also limit potential fallout until you get some data to improve it, you also increase the number of iterations you can serve to different market segments to gather further data.
You need to be able to gather enough data to know that you’re onto something and that you should invest more time and money into the project.
A few people you release to might poke fun at the work you’ve done but it doesn’t matter.
If they’re people you respect then when they see the well finished product at the other end they’ll understand the path you took.
This last weekend I made an investment in myself that paid off.
I’ve been wanting to find new startup collaborators for a while – or even just smart people to work with at Native. So I signed up to Startup Weekend – a competition where you pull together a team to build a startup project and (hopefully) launch something in a weekend.
I wanted to invest in my ability to develop compelling startup concepts and execute on them.
It was an intense weekend. We worked hard from Friday at 8 until the pitch on Sunday at 7 with very little sleep in between. The two main things I got out of the weekend.
1. Everybody sucks.
It’s hard to articulate your idea to people who you don’t know in a cold pitch.
When I pitched the idea for Theme Pivot no one really got what it was and I didn’t really know how to convince them.
Yet somehow I still managed to convince a couple of people that my idea had merit. First our small team of legends and Mark Pesce who ended up giving me an HTC Android phone for “Best Pitch”. Thanks Mark!
2. No reward without risk
There was a fair bit of risk getting involved in doing Startup Weekend. It was a lot of time to give up, particularly at this time of year. There was also a lot of people I respect there. It wouldn’t have been great to fail in such a public way.
It would have been a lot easier to focus on perfecting a project over months without that kind of pressure and release when I was ready, when the product was finished. But then I wouldn’t be seeking rejection.
We ended up winning the weekend with our concept Theme Pivot – a service which takes your CSS from “good enough” to pixel perfect. We won $5k in cash, $1k in Amazon credits and $5k in credit against co-working at the York Butter Factory.
And the investment I made in improving my startup and product development skills paid off.
I’ve been a cold caller for a while. My first cold calling gig was giving away tickets to a design expo. My next was cold calling motorcycle dealers for Vmoto. Then entrepreneurial speakers for the Hive.
More recently I’ve cold called for entrepreneurs for the used it to find trainers for Sessions in Melbourne and New York.
Cold calling isn’t about harassing people about their mobile phone plan – at least not for me – it’s about getting in touch with people who you would otherwise have no personal connection with.
The teacher was a recruiter for tech startups and the other people in the class were in mergers and acquisitions, the founder of a travel-based film festival and an art dealer.
Prepare your call sheet the day before
- reduce the barriers that stop you making the calls
- separate the task of gathering information (an easy task) on who to call from actually making the calls (a not so easy task)
- include name of lead, company and a talking point for the intro
- start with making 1 call a day
- don’t try to start with 20 calls a day, you’ll suck and then burn out
- build slowly as your confidence and ability increase
- but not by the outcomes of the calls
- mark it by the volume or other factors
- rejection is par for the course, embrace it
Find a cold calling partner
- lock yourself away somewhere together for an hour and commit to making 5 calls
- remove ego from the equation by doing it with someone else
- helps to let your guard down and relax you
- increases accountability through the social contract
- introduce game elements “I’m going to keep this call going for at least 2 minutes”
- make it competitive
Cold calling is like asking someone out
- you don’t start with what you really want – a long and loving relationship
- start with something small – like time (a meeting or a follow up call)
- then shoot for something bigger
- then shoot for the close
The Anatomy of the Call
- always script it. Remove any doubt around what you need to do to get on that call
- Once you’ve done the intro throw the script away and have a conversation
- The opening line ensures you get past any trip wires, make it personable and relevant and demonstrate that you’ve done your research.
- “I thought I’d give you a call because noticed that you do x, y and z”
- Reduce ability for rejection
Respect their time
- acknowledge that you’re interupting their day and this might not be a great time
- Let caller decide if now is a good time or not
- If now not a good time, setup a time when it would be appropriate
- Once you’ve got that commitment you’re at second base.
2. The Middle
- always freeform
- focus on getting the lead to talk to keep the conversation going
- ask “how” and “why” questions versus questions that can be answered with “yes” or “no” which will halt the conversation
- drive energy and enthusiasm in the conversation, build it to a crescendo
- switch to the ask
3. The Ask
- be clear about what you want and why
- it could be a meeting, another call or to send an email with more information
- have a plan B, C and D
- if you can’t get the meeting ask to send something via email, ask for a meeting at a later date, ask for a referral to the right person etc
- get something out of the call
Start by calling as high as possible
- like the VP of Marketing
- you’re seeking the Director of Online, ask who that is and you have a referral
- people love to help, helping is easy
- can be then used as an internal reference
- helps to navigate larger organisations
Call the Sales Department
- they always pickup
- they love to talk
- they’re usually incredibly helpful
- they know a lot about how the company works
- use it as an exploratory call to scope out the target organisation
Overall it was a great class and I thoroughly recommend it. Check it out here: http://www.skillshare.com/The-Art-of-the-Cold-Call/192294509
I’m a massive fan of rejection. It’s what keeps me moving. If I wasn’t a fan I probably wouldn’t be in the business I am in.
Every day I send an email or make a phone call to someone that is likely to get me a rejection. I make sure that it’s about something big and meaningful – something that is likely to cause rejection but if it doesn’t will lead me onto something bigger, something interesting.
Yesterday I emailed a publisher I know about the potential for a book around Tourisms, the photographic travel guides.
The day before I emailed a Singapore-based agency about the potential for cross-collaboration on a different project.
The day before that I struck up a conversation with a NYC startup about a way to add a viral loop to their product.
Most days I get rejected one way or the other. I hear nothing back or I get a short response that the person on the other end isn’t interested in my idea and would like me to go away.
Sometimes it takes days or weeks to get the rejection but it usually comes.
The reason I do it is because when the rejection doesn’t come, when acceptance comes, it’s spectacular.
And every day I ask myself the question “what did I do to get rejected today?”. It’s my way of keeping score, of making sure that I’m still moving forward.
I found this great post from the founder of Dropbox, Drew Houston, on Hacker News.
Someone had asked him if Dropbox (currently valued at $5b) was his first idea.
“[I] informally came up with and tossed around 6 or 7 ideas at the same time — not so much coding as investigating/talking to potential customers and bouncing them off other friends and entrepreneurs.
this was crucial — ideas don’t really fall out of the sky, they evolve.
there were several times where i’d get really excited about one idea — like pacing in my living room at 5:30am excited — and then 5 days later find out (via a different set of search terms or something) there were 3 other people doing the same thing, with a head start and more money.
ultimately they say scratch your own itch — this was a problem (syncing a 3gb file across several computers efficiently) i routinely had working on a prior company i had started and i was frustrated that no one had solved it well, and it turned out to be more promising than my original company ”
I’ve been mates with Nick Crocker for three years now. We met after discovering we both ran music-related marketing agencies.
In June I started working with Nick on Native Digital. Shortly afterwards I became a partner in the business, running it as a going concern while he was in the U.S with Boxee. Nick was still actively involved in the business, particularly in strategy and business development, but as of March 1, I took over the business as sole director and majority owner.
In our time working together we’ve taken the business to its largest contracts, its largest quarter, and if all goes well, its best financial year to date.
Yet only today, in one of our frequent Skype calls, we realised we had met in real life on three occassions. The last was 2 years ago.
We’ve built a rock solid friendship and a successful business. Nick has transitioned out and I’ve taken up the reins. And it’s all happened while we were on opposite sides of the planet–with communication split between Skype and email.
Is this the future of business? I’m not sure, but it worked for us. YMMV.
“You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too.
A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All teh Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liza Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.”
I’ve been running on and off for a couple of years now. I’ve been prone to injury so I have probably spent more time off than on which makes everyone I know ask me why I continue. I run because it’s an enourmous release.
Running for me is a cure-all. When I’m feeling stressed or angry I find that running makes those feelings of frustration disappear. I can have had the worst day/week/month but an hour around the track with nothing but me and the clothes on my back puts everything into perspective.
Running gives me time to put problems into perspective, to realise that everything is surmountable. It also reminds me of how resilient my body is and that while it’s often easy to quit the greatest rewards come when you push past the pain point.
Running is a time for self reflection disconnected from everything else. There is no one nearby to talk to me or interupt me; there is no Twitter or email or phonecalls; there is nothing.
This afternoon I put out a tweet looking for a talented Myspace layout designer as part of my work with Melbourne artist management company Forum5. I got a few sarcastic responses back from some of my followers saying that I was stuck in 2002. While Myspace is definitely not the youngest or freshest music company on the block (and actually started in 2003) it’s still relevant for artists today.
Myspace is still the one place every artist needs to be and it could take a while to replace that. It’s the number one directory of all artists, big or small, where you are pretty much guaranteed to find a page featuring their music and some personal details.
When people are searching for artists they’ll often type in the artist name followed by the word “myspace”. I do the same thing when I’m looking for a wikipedia article about a given topic. It’s because I am looking for specific information that I know that particular site will have. In the case of the wiki search it is likely to have dates, facts and (hopefully) little opinion. When I’m looking for an artists I want to be able to stream their music, see a couple of photos, find out where they’re from and see how many people are following them.
iTunes doesn’t offer an alternative to this because you need to be within their app to search for music rather than from a web interface. Furthermore iTunes is a closed system for artists requiring you to pay money to third parties to have your music listed there. iTunes also lacks a lot of the more detailed information about the artist such as their last played show or photos from their upcoming video clip.
Former Myspace users might think that Myspace is dead or irrelevant because they’ve moved over to Facebook or Twitter. The reality is that Myspace is no longer a social utility, it’s not “a place for friends” but it’s still a great music discovery engine.
I’m not arguing that it’s the best platform, there are definitely a lot of holes in it. There are better places to use to sell your music and your merchandise, to promote your shows and even to build your fan base – and these can all be seamlessly integrated into a Myspace profile. However Myspace is still the number one directory that every musician needs to be in so they can be easily found by prospective fans or casual listeners.
My advice to music talent is to create a great looking Myspace (you need to be there!) but also to look a little further afield. Setup a Facebook page and a Last.fm account and embed these widgets on your Myspace page. Create a slick looking site on The Sixty One and use this as your band site with your own custom url. Setup a Twitter account and update it daily with stuff like what you’re listening to, photos or snippets of new tracks. And then synch it to your Myspace/Facebook/Last.fm and The Sixty One profiles so you can update once and push to many.
What do you think? Am I completely off the mark or is this self-evident?
P.S. I did find a couple of guys who do great Myspace layout work over at Synapse.
I run Tweaky.com, a marketplace that helps you get small changes made to your website.
Prior to Tweaky I ran NativeDigital.com.au, a product development agency which is now focusing on Facebook application development.