Tuesday, October 25, 2005

sell what you've got

Early stage companies thrive on the speed of idea generation and prototyping. You start with a reasonably good idea, test the market, iterate on the idea to make it a great one, and deliver on the first stage of the product.

At this point you've got your first sellable merchandise. You also have another wheelbarrow full of additional ideas where you can take the product based on customer feedback and the natural evolution of the original idea. It is tempting to keep selling the dream. Unless the first incarnation of your product is ill received it is important to sell that concrete thing which you have just completed building. Now it may have a few warts and one of the arms isn't quite fully developed, that's OK. Sell what you have and co-opt your customers into helping you define the next stage of the product.

If you are continually selling the dream (or the next generation of the product) your trial periods will extend indefinitely. This will result in much slower revenue (and revenue recognition) and effectively shorten your runway. So do not short change yourself. Sell what you have today, execute to over deliver what you've sold, and your happy customer will help you refine and pay for your ideas of tomorrow.


Adam said...

Early stage companies are usually pretty small teams. Who will support the product while they work on the next generation?

It's an easy problem to forget, but good customer support takes lots of time.

Mike Horn said...

I think there is an implicit assumption in your post that the company has done a good job understanding what the customer actually wants.

I have seen a lot of companies that don't ask, or worse not listen, to the customers when developing initial product requirements. This leads to delivering a product that misses the mark and the inevitable cycle of trying to tune the product to get to a sellable version.

jgn said...

Ahhh this all sounds too familiar...we are 2 weeks away from launching with a team of 5. Just today we sat down and talked customer service protocols. And we really hope we have listened to our customers. The challenge is you only get one shot at a first impression and we really want to make the most of it, thus the tendency to wait and wait and wait until you think it's perfect. The time has come to jump in. Even a poor version is rescuable assuming you can connect with the customer and listen to the issues.

Patrick said...

I completely agree with what jgn said.

It is time to jump in, regardless how cold the water is...

Today, sure mastering the product or service delivered is the objective, but it boils down to the customer experience. What is your customer relationship? If you can master that aspect of business, truly listenting to your customer and catering to them, you will sell, sell and sell.

I'm a loyal Starbucks fan...but there is equally if not better coffee out there, but they have the reputation for enhancing the customer experience and thus are successful...

Good luck with your launch jgn.

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