Launching Your Idea
This is part 3 of a 3 part series on developing and launching your idea with senior product leader Jesse E. Owens II. Click here for the earlier episodes.
In this episode we cover:
How to build a an MVP (Minimum Viable Product);
Establish your go to market strategy
Define your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure performance post-launch.
01:32 Recap of part 1 & 2
02:10 Defining Scope – MVP
02:58 Differentiators – User Experience
05:15 Technology – Tech Stack
18:38 KPIs – Including customer acquisition cost, customer retention rate, customer lifetime value, conversion rate.
26:48 Different ways to launch
33:45 Sometimes launch fails (examples)
37:44 Early adopters
41:26 Establish Pre-launch metrics
47:48 When to launch
50:20 The Launch
Connect with Jesse
Join the convo online using #cofpodcast
Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Hello Jesse. Welcome to part three of our series on developing a product and ideas. This episode, we’ll be talking about launching the idea. So if this is the first time that you’re listening to the podcast, we are talking with Jesse Owens, senior product manager at MasterCard. We’ve been talking about the different cycles that you have to go through to develop your idea, cultivate your idea, and now launch your idea. Jesse, welcome again to the show. It’s always good to have you. I’ve been learning a lot, so I’m really excited about what we’re going to learn in this stage.
Jesse Owens:Thank you, Kerry. It’s always a pleasure, and thank you for having me.
Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Alright cool. Now we’re in the launch phase of the idea, where do we start in this phase?
Jesse Owens:So just to recap, where we started our journey was identifying a problem, conducting some experiments, validating that there is an actual need for the solution, for the particular segments that you want to target, developing a business around that idea. And so, we’re in a phase where we’ve done the appropriate test, we validated against some customers. We’ve developed what our business model is going to look like by exploring our business model canvas and looking at the different layers of our business, from value proposition, customer segments, revenue, partnerships etc. And so, now we’re looking at what do we actually need to build a product and ultimately launch it. One of the things that I feel like it’s very important is first defining your scope of what you are going to build. In our industry, we like to use a term called the MVP, so our minimum viable product. In essence what it is, it’s the minimum sets of features that you want to build into your product, to launch it and to validate the assumptions that you have made through the journey of, or the creation of your product. What you’re looking to do is defining the scope as far as what you want to build, the features, and then also you need to start looking at potentially getting someone to design the product, to build the technology that’s going to run behind the scenes, and to launch it.
There are a couple things that you will kind of need to have in place as you are building this out. I highly recommend that you get someone who has the savviness around design to provide the look and feel for your product. The reason why I’m saying this is that there is a huge investment around user experience. If you are not investing in the experience for the end-user, there is a high probability that users aren’t going to come back and use your product. To launch a product for the sake of launching isn’t good enough anymore, so you’ll need to embed some design patterns that’s common for what users are accustomed to experiencing for using products. If you’re launching a product that’s in a competitive market, that’s going to be one of your differentiators in terms of – we go back to the business model canvas and your value proposition. Your value proposition could be we have this new, cool technology that does something that’s going to revolutionize this business or we have this experience that’s going to blow your mind, and that’s going to create a sense of delight when you are using our product, or how we’ve priced this product – it’s incredibly cheaper than the rest of the products in the market. Those are just a few examples of how you can differentiate your product.
Going back to user experience, it’s investing time and energy in what the journey is going to look like for that user. And so, what we like to do sometimes is create storyboards. The reason why we create storyboards is so we can have a conversation of what the user is going to experience each step of the journey of using the product whether it’s purchasing a T-shirt online or if it’s finding out where to go or trying to find directions to a restaurant. You want to create an intuitive and engaging experience for that user so that you can ensure that that user is going to come back and user product, and so that user can tell others about your product so that you create a viral effect of your product because you’ve developed something that’s so intuitive and so engaging that others are talking about it without you actually having to market it. That’s one facet of the design.
Two, the technology. I think it’s important that you don’t have to be a developer to launch a product. However, you do need to understand what needs to be built in order for you to have a successful product. I won’t get into the entire tech step, because that composes of a number of layers. What you want to hone in on if you’re not technical, is to understand how you want to distribute your product; do you want to go mobile app, do you want to go on the web. If you want to go mobile, do you go iOS first or do you go android or do you do both? If you have a web component, what’s really your strategy on distributing your product? What form do you want your product to be in, in order for users to consume it and ultimately use it? And so, that being said, there are things to consider if you’re going mobile first. You want to look at, alright well for this type of product, I want to build it such a way that’s intuitive and it creates an experience for my end users that they are accustomed to, or if it’s a product that you need a companion, a web product, then that’s also something that you need to prioritize.
It’s important that you look into technologies. I highly recommend looking at tech stacks of existing companies. And so, looking at what they have invested in, in tailoring that into what you need to build. Case in point, there are sites where, you could have a look at Airbnb and the technologies that they use to build their product. You can sort of use that and you can sort of plug and play in terms of what you need to build something similar at the scale of Airbnb.
Once we’ve identified our tech stack, then we need to actually hire a developer, engineer to help build the technology. We brought in a designer to create the experience. We need like the backend functionality that’s needed from a development standpoint to making sure that transactions are secured and stored, making sure that our inventory is updated and is calculated in a way that I have full transparency of, what’s the current state of my products, what products are being purchased the most. Things that are really – that’s going to build into my KPIs which we’ll talk later, our key performance indicators. You need a developer to really build that out and build out the tech that’s going to really push your business forward in regards to managing your transactions, handling your data, understanding your consumer buying habits, understanding your consumers experience while you’re using the product.
Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:What you’re saying sounds very similar to a conversation that I had with Ashleé Douglas. She is from MerchCarnival, and she’s from the US Virgin Islands. So first you talked about the technology and you’re talking more on the tech side, but for her company, which is – they sell T-shirts, they sell products, they sell a variety of Caribbean related or celebrated wear. She started out on – I can’t remember the name, but it’s a similar site like Etsy before she went and had her own platform. Her technology choices were do I launch my own website or do I take advantage of an existing platform.
Jesse Owens:Yeah, and that’s actually a great point Kerry-Ann, because there is always a decision to build or buy. And so, I think what you’ve highlighted is something that’s very important as an entrepreneur, where if it’s something that isn’t part of your core values or part of your value proposition, you’ll probably need to look outside and figure out what can you purchase or what sort of products can be embedded into your stack. A prime example is setting up marketing campaigns, and thinking about how do we want to deliver certain messages based off of our consumers. For example, MailChimp is a good example that handles marketing campaigns. If part of your product isn’t predicated around building campaigns, then you probably should offload that responsibility to another product or a system that can help handle that, because that’s not a part of your core values. That’s not the value you are delivering the customers as a cool marketing campaign. That’s part of the business, but it’s not something that’s core. If it’s not something that you feel like it’s going to be a key differentiator in your product, you’ll probably need to look at services that can provide those sort of tasks and experiences that you want to create for your users, because you don’t want to invest time into something that isn’t part of your core value proposition.
MailChimp is an example, but there are number of other products that allots for offloading things that aren’t part of your core value proposition. It will still support your business. So cost is also a big thing as well. You have to have a clear view of the things that you need in order to launch your business and the cost that’s associated with that, which we’ll also talk about as well. That’s actually a great point. As an entrepreneur, you have to make some of those decisions on whether to build out the algorithm yourself or you purchase something off the shelf. Not necessarily off the shelf literally, but from an app store or it could be APIs that you can leverage to automate these features and functionality. And so, we won’t get too much into APIs, but it is essential to building out your product because when we talk about APIs, we’re talking about the – so we talked a bit about the front end of your tech stack. This is the experience. This is what the designer that you bring on board, they are creating the presentation layer of your product.
Now we’re talking about API, this is really – think of it as the brains of your product. What’s it responsible for doing is making sure that whatever data that the front-end needs, it talks to your backend systems to serve the data back to your user. An example of this is viewing items in my shopping cart. If I want to view items in my shopping cart, I need something that can talk to my backend, to then serve up data that I want to see. So if I want to view items that I’ve purchased previously or if I want to view items in my cart, there are services that kind of sits in between what’s being stored in your database versus what’s being presented in your UI.
Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:You’ve said a lot. So going back to Ashleé, I love when it comes together, because she started out with Storenvy – that’s what it was. She started out with Storenvy and as she got some traction, she went to her own website, but she didn’t use a developer. She used another framework which was Shopify, because she said, “I’m not a web designer. I’m not a developer. I can’t code. I’m just going to use something that will enable me to have my store function.” Because that’s not her core value, but she needs something in order for me or you, the customer to have this seamless shopping experience. It helped her with the other things you talked about: manage her inventory, have some ideas of – give her stocks about her sales, which products, which colors are selling etc. I can see where the APIs come in. So definition, you mentioned tech stacks a couple times, what exactly is a tech stack? Just define that for me.
There are a number of things that needs to happen in sequence to make sure that the consumer is billed accordingly, that you are getting your funds distributed back to your account, you are updating your inventory. From an accounting perspective, you want to make sure that everything is lining up at the end of the day. Meanwhile, you’re also tracking the experience. One of the things that you want to do as you’re building a product, you want to understand your conversion and creating a conversion funnel of your consumers. A conversion funnel looks as such, consumer comes to site, consumer does a search for a particular T-shirt, consumer adds that T-shirt to their shopping cart, consumer clicks check out, consumer completes the checkout and they are done. That’s a number of layers that you have to measure and track accordingly, and if there is any drop off at any place in that journey, you need to look into what’s causing the drop off in that journey because that’s ultimately going to impact the bottom line of your business. You can have a nice, pretty website, you have great T-shirts, you have great products, but when you’re looking at the data, you’re realizing that your customers aren’t making it through to actually purchase the T-shirts because you’ve done something that is causing friction and that experience. And so, where I’m getting to is that you want to build some measures in place that can help track that journey. So that’s where we talk about the services. There are services that help manage or collect the data that you need to have the sort of insights to make proper product decisions.
Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Alright awesome.
Jesse Owens:And then finally, is our backend. This is where sort of our servers, our databases, not to get too deep into the technology, really as an entrepreneur, what you need to understand is when I launch this product, I want this product to have great uptime, like I don’t want my product to crash. If I’m scaling, I want to be able to scale my product in a way that – let’s say if I launched a product in New York, and then I want to scale to other locales, I want my infrastructure to be able to support that. And so, there’s also products in place to manage that as well. If you’re not technical, if that’s not part of your core values, I would highly advise looking out to third-party services, and one that comes to mind is Amazon Web services. That’s really like the go to for like cloud infrastructure for your product. This is all part of your tech stack, and part of what you need to have in place when you launch, because it’s immensely important that you have something in place that can support the scale that you intend on having, and ensuring that you create an experience for your end-users that’s delightful.
Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:I can relate. So with most people, your website, you host – and other bloggers have talked about it, what type of server you are hosting on, is it a shared server? All these different things affect the performance of the website. My issue happened to be that the box that my website on was not Linux, and they said to move it here and you got to… I’m like I do not know what that means, I just need it to be fast, so if it needs to be on Linux and not Microsoft – sure I went to IT guys, and they were like yeah. I’m like just do this, but as always, I’m trying to convey to the audience that it doesn’t have to be something as sophisticated as an app. It could be something as simple as running your blog, that the server you choose or the type of hosting plan you choose, are things in the backend that affect your ultimate front end service, which is articles, pictures. It’s really important for the customer audience experience, because we want it fast. The minute it’s not fast, we don’t go back because we’re like this is taking too long.
Jesse Owens:Right, you end up going to something else. It’s like we live in a society where, like I mentioned before, it’s instantaneous, especially if it’s something that you are presenting for the first time to an end-user and it’s slow. There isn’t great incentive for someone to come back and use your product because the expectation has been set that your app is slow. You really need to nail the performance and the responsiveness of your product from the get-go, because you may not be able to get that user back if you lose them in that first experience.
Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Yeah absolutely. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.
Jesse Owens:Yes. Once you’ve identified your tech stack, now you want to start looking at your KPIs – your key performance indicators. Why this is important is it essentially provides three things. It provides an analytical view of your company and it provides quantitative measures to validate or invalidate your strategy. It also determines the outcome of what you’ve built. KPIs are – you can look at it kind of holistically with regards to customer acquisition costs. This is the amount of money spent on sales, marketing your technology, and the average number of customers you are able to have sign up for your product during that period of time. And so, that’s really important as an entrepreneur, because it will literally give you insight in terms of how much does it actually cost for me to actually acquire a customer. Why that’s important is because now you know your customer acquisition cost, you know how much you’re actually spending to bring that customer in, and you already have – the assumption is that you know how much money you have in your coffers*to run your business. If you’re spending a significant amount of money, essentially that’s going to run into your run rate. The run rate is basically how much money you have to run your company. You want to ensure that you keep your costs low in order to maintain your company. And so, this isn’t like all the metrics, but these are key metrics as an entrepreneur that you should be mindful of.
There are three core metrics that I feel like is important. One is the customer acquisition cost, one is the customer retention rate. Once you’ve acquired a customer, once a customer has established a relationship with your product, they essentially said I love the core values, I love the quality of the product, I love these T-shirts, I want to be embedded into, this product, this initiative, this thing that this person built. You want to start measuring is this person coming back to use my product. You’re able to bring them in. Now you want to be able to retain them. And so, what you want to see is the percentage of paying customers who remain paying customers during a period of time, and you want to start measuring that and being very mindful of that retention rate. The inverse of that, from retention rate, you can look at attrition rate, like how many customers are actually leaving my product as a result. You want to be able to be mindful of that as well, because clearly there’s something that’s not happening, that’s causing customers to leave.
And then finally, we’ll talk about customer lifetime value. This is essentially determining the value of a customer with regards to the length of time that they’ve established a relationship with your product versus the average money that they spend over appeared of time. There are formulas that calculates these different KPIs, but really it’s just conceptually, you want to understand what’s your customer acquisition costs, your retention rate and your customer lifetime value, because ultimately, these are things that you need to understand. It’s really getting a sense of your consumer buying habits and what are the expectations for each customer acquired, how much revenue I might actually going to receive from that customer based off of the relationship that they’ve established with my brand, my product.
Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:So that’s like the other day, I called my service provider – I won’t say which one, they’re like, “Oh I’ve seen here you’ve been a loyal customer for over eight years.” In my head I’m like, “What have you been doing from you lately?”
Jesse Owens:Right, right.
Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:I often feel that sometimes I’m with a particular service provider for a long time because comparatively, there is a comfort issue which most customers have, but there is also a quality issue, the variance, like the Sprint Verizon commercial. It’s just the 1% difference, but it depends. The difference is important, but at the same time, but I want to feel like as a consumer that length mean something, and if after a period of time, me being a customer with you for eight years don’t get me discounted services, it just gets higher and higher or there’s something crazy, then I’m going to leave. Well that’s my viewpoint as a consumer. What should be the concern for the provider?
Jesse Owens:I think I would reframe it. It’s not necessarily a concern, but it’s data point is that the provider will need to know – so if we are going with the service provider example, they provide services. Those services can be bundled into different packages. Based off my strategy, I can bundle services that I feel like it’s applicable to a large customer base. And so, I should be able to measure that versus their lifetime value. So if I introduce a new bundle package, I should see an uptake of that lifetime value, and I should see that relationship with my company be extended because of these packages that I’ve now introduced. It should create some diversification of my packages, because I can have a customer lifetime value of maybe I can do like the triple play, where I get the phone, the internet and…
Jesse Owens:Yeah TV. So I get all three or if I just offer internet, what’s my customer lifetime value of that. It just helps provide some structure and expectations on providing some forecast. If you have an idea of what your run rate is, you can have an expectation of all right, if I have 10,000 users and their lifetime value is five years, and every time they come to my site, they are spending $20 for a T-shirt, that gives me X number. I have an expectation of what sort of revenue if I’m looking to expect, based off of what I’ve seen in the data.
Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Okay. We could spend a whole time on this about the lifetime value, because clearly, I got some issues being a consumer, but let’s move away. I guess people can all relate. You’re usually on one end of the spectrum, the consumer end. As an entrepreneur, you take that into consideration with the customer lifetime value. I’ll hand it back over to you.
Jesse Owens:Other KPIs that you can actually measure as well – so we talked about conversion rate. We gave an example of a conversion funnel of a T-shirt company. What you want to do is create that funnel and you want to be able to see at the different layers of your funnel, where users are dropping off and you want to be able to see where they are dropping off, what are some of the behaviors that you’re seeing at each layer. In addition to that, you want to look at your monthly burn rate, especially as a young company, you want to be very mindful of what you’re spending your money on and how much money you have left. It’s something to be very mindful of. And also, you probably hear this a lot especially with digital products, monthly active users. For those who are familiar, Snapchat just recently IPO. One of the – I’ll call it opportunities that they have is sort of creating new experiences to scale their monthly active users. Twitter also has these opportunities, as well as how can they further leverage their platform to bring more users on and be active using the product.
What this really tells us is that, from an investor perspective, it gives a sense of what’s the longevity of this product. Is this product still growing? Has it matured? Is it on the decline? You need to measure this in order to have that assessment of your own product. Are customers actually coming back and doing things on my product or am I seeing it’s still growing? Is it maturing? And so, this is all going to feed into the innovation piece of your product, where you are forced to think about what are new features that we can embed into this experience that can bring new users, what are some new use cases that can create a more engaging experience.
Now that we’ve established our tech stack, our KPIs. Now we need to start talking about launching. And so, launching can come in different ways. I’ve been a part of different launch strategies where we actually hosted events around the Grammys. I’ve also been part of the events where we launched products at conferences, or it’s been through social media, through Facebook ads. There’s different mediums that you can use to launch your product. And so, it’s really contingent on the budget, the scale in which you are looking to launch the product, and also you’re looking at your audience. You want to be able to identify because we – going back to our previous podcast where we talked about personas, if this is an opportunity where you can – this strategy is going to resonate with your target personas, then maybe an event to bring those personas at the table, at the event, is probably ideal. If you want to launch something through YouTube, that’s also a strategy as well. Looking at where your target personas, where they spend the most time. Does your target personas spend the most time on Facebook, on Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat? You have to do the due diligence on figuring out where your potential users spend the most time and making sure your product is out in front of them.
Another strategy is content marketing. A lot of companies use content marketing as a way of building up the brand, as well as bringing users to their product. Medium is a good way of establishing a brand because it’s something that brings thought leaders together and convey their thoughts and their expertise. Especially if you’re a new company that’s getting into a new space where there’s already incumbents or established companies, you want to be able to establish that expertise early. These are a number of things that you have to think through as you’re building out your product, because you want to build out your brand. Going with the notion that if you build it they will come, is a fallacy. So as you’re building out this idea, you need to figure out content strategies to get people aware of what you’re doing and how to build that credibility, that hey I know we’re not a big brand that you’re accustomed to seeing and using, but we are credible because we’re able to do this. We have people that are on the ground working on these complex problems. And so, going back to the T-shirts, we’re not a big brand, but what we do have is we have designers that came from these great agencies, and based off of their knowledge capital, we’re able to come together and create these great designs and great products because we’ve come from these disciplines. Having that content really illuminate the skills and the thought around the type of products that you’re building, is very important.
Your content strategy can come from via blog posts, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat. It’s very important that you define that strategy. This is ultimately going to lead up to your launch. In parallel, as you’re building up this product, you should have a content strategy on how to bring awareness to your product. I’ve found – what was really interesting, was the video player company, Vimeo. One thing that they did that was interesting was as they were building out their product, they had, I believe it was like a weekly blog post of their product development journey that led up to their launch. They were so transparent that they even provided the sketches that they’ve done for their video player, like going through the wireframes and going through like how they are thinking about what the experience is going to be for the user, all the way up to their launch. It told a very compelling story from the inception of the idea all the way up to the launch. That’s just one approach that you can take, but there are a number of approaches.
And so, I mentioned before is you want to make sure that you have a designer that you can bring in-house or that’s someone that can provide that idea to life, an engineer. Also something that’s very important is a marketer, because you’re probably going to be in an industry that’s highly saturated. You want to be able to create some differentiation of your product, and part of that is marketing. And so, you need someone that can provide a strategy to create awareness and also create something that’s engaging, to have users talking about it. Once you launch, you can create a nice pool of those users based off of your campaign, and have it be measurable as well.
Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:So the content marketing strategy is great. I guess my question for you is it’s unclear, but based on – let’s use the Vimeo example. They probably had to go in with this strategy in mind or as part of this process to be documenting their cycle, because they know they’re going to have this as part of their content strategy, but how did they know that everyone would be interested in this behind the scenes? Because a part of content marketing is also will your audience find this information useful. So is the buyer or user persona, does it factor in how they consume content?
Jesse Owens:I absolutely feel that factors in as well. You brought up a great point, that’s also part of the experiments that you run. You establish that you want to create a product to solve this problem, but now it’s also like how do I create a customer base before I even launch. And so, that’s part of the content marketing strategy. You want to look at what is content that is going to be relevant for my target users. That’s part of the personas that we talked about as well, is that I’m creating this product based off of their pain points, their goals, their desires, but what is content that’s going to be relevant to them. And also, it’s important for you that you create this in a way that you already have a pool of users that’s dying to use your new product based off of what they want to see, hear and learn about.
Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:This will aspect of storytelling is great, but like you said, in a saturated market, it just seems like – there’s just so many things to consider. So it’s interesting that we’re talking about the content marketing strategy towards the launch of an idea, but some companies might think of this in the very beginning, after they’ve validated their idea and they’re going to cultivate it. Which one we choose, I guess largely depends on the product or the audience, and if they really care about this.
Jesse Owens:Right, absolutely.
Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:All right, good stuff, good stuff. Giving me some ideas. Good stuff.
Jesse Owens:So this is all leading up to the product, the product launch. And then once you’ve launched your product, you want to start having some assessments after you launch your product. Some things to be mindful of when you launch products, is that often times launch fails. Not to look at it in a negative light, it should be used as an opportunity to understand what transpired and what can you do going forward to further provide some reinforcement in regards to your product launch and how that may or not resonate with consumers. I’ll just talk about a few scenarios in which, how launches fail…
Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Okay great, because that was my question. Let’s define fail and then we could – so you.
Jesse Owens:When we talk about failures, we’re talking about opportunities to identify maybe this product doesn’t have market fit for this is an insight into maybe we should pivot and do something else. Failure in a sense that we didn’t necessarily meet expectations of the product, but the positive is that we are able to collect some insights that will allow us to focus on something that resonates with our consumers. We are able to pivot to a business model or an approach that’s actually fit for the business and fit for the space that we are looking to operate in.
Some examples of some launch failures, is where a company can’t support fast growth. And so, the lesson behind this is have a plan to ramp up quickly if you are – when your product takes off. When we talk about our tech stack, if you have an infrastructure that isn’t really built for growth, then you’re going to run into a situation where your infrastructure is going to run against the scaling of your customers, and so, you’re not going to be able to scale quickly as more customers start use your product. Another one is where the product is revolutionary, but there is no market fit. It is really the question of who’s going to buy this and at what price. And so, an example of this, you could think of Google Glass, where revolutionary, but this isn’t really a product that’s really fit for the everyday consumer. You can argue about the design of the Google Glass, but the technology itself is a game changer, but it’s not really fit for everyday use and for consumers who, at least who they were intending on targeting. It wasn’t really fit for them nor the price was at a point where it’s actually acceptable.
And so, back to the first example in regards to company can’t support fast growth. An example of this is the Windows Vista. That’s something where once it launched, it had a ton of performance issues. It almost felt like it was too early to launch. Once they launched it, it was a ton of feedback from consumers that it didn’t really meet expectations. Another example of a product being revolutionary, but there is no market for it – I’ll take you all back a little bit, and use Napster as an example, where Napster, essentially it was the brainchild of what you see now with your Spotifys, your Tidals, your Apple music. They changed the game for music sharing, but they didn’t build a business model around this. They built a really cool technology and it was revolutionary, but at that time, the way that they positioned the product, it was very concerning to record labels. And so, through their innovation and their technology, other companies have came along and developed a similar type of approach, but they’ve included the record labels and the artists into the revolutionary. That launch actually, it failed in a sense, but it also created the inspiration for other companies to build businesses around music.
Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Here’s a question. This gets thrown out a lot, the bell curve of the early adopters, the mid-ones and then the late ones. How does this factor in? Someone could say well it didn’t have the level of success I intended, but at least I got some early adopters who like it. Is that how this works? I mean we hear it a lot, but explain how that works, the whole concept of early adopters, people who are mid and then those who are absolutely late to get the game, who are just like I’m not going to do this until other people try it. For instance, if Microsoft, as much as we all use it, they come out with a new operating system, I am not getting it in the first weeks, months, maybe to a year. They got to force me to switch it because I want you all to work out those kinks before I switch, versus there could be other services that the minute it’s out, I’m getting it. I do not wait. How does this factor into the launch of a product or service? So Google Glass, some people might say well I was one of the first to get the Google Glass and people are let go get it when they fix it or it’s affordable. How does that whole bell curve and early adopters, late adopters fit into this scenario?
Jesse Owens:Excellent question. With regards to early adopters, part of your launch strategy – and I failed to mention this is try to identify thought leaders in a space or people who are active in that space that you can influence to talking positively about your product. So giving, I won’t say incentive, but given the blogger or the thought provoker a product that you are launching, and have them use it. These are really your loyal users, giving them early access to the product so that they can talk about it, give feedback, and talking about the product amongst their friends, start sharing it. This is also part of your strategy as well. A product that’s actually used as a platform for launching new products is called Product Hunt. And so, number of products that are used for launching, they go through Product Hunt as a means of getting to the early adopters. What’s cool about Product Hunt is that essentially, you host your product or your website on the Product Hunt, and then you get reviews prior to launching. And so, what you do is sort of build out a community of followers before you even launch. It’s actually really cool when you start looking at vile* effects have for your product. They recently established a partnership with Amazon. Now they are part of that funnel where when you are launching a new product, you’re able to purchase that product through Amazon upon launching. It’s actually really cool when you look at how different products have gone through Product Hunt and how it’s resonated with consumers.
Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Very interesting. It’s Product Hunt?
Jesse Owens:Yeah, Product Hunt.
Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Awesome. So what you can do to get early adopters is to identify thought leaders who are very active and more commonly referred in some spaces as influencers, give them early access and hopefully they will talk about the product or service to their audience to get early interest in the product. Have you seen scenarios where people have tried this approach and the launch still failed? What is actual failure? Did they set a target and they didn’t hit the target? What’s considered a launch failure? Is it quantifiable?
Jesse Owens:Right, so that’s also important. Before you launch, you establish quantitative and qualitative metrics that you want to measure yourself against when you launched the product. For example, if I’m launching a new website for my T-shirt business, my target is 5000 sign-ups or 5000 T-shirt purchases within a month. And so, I want to measure myself against that because that is a metric I want to measure my product against. It’s extremely important that you establish a predefined metrics prior to launching.
Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Awesome, all right. So early adopters and the launch failure or launch success is really based on whatever we defined up front as a target. So where are we now in the cycle?
Jesse Owens:We’ve been talking a lot about pre-launched. We talked about sort of examples of launch failures and how to sort of navigate around that. Now we’re talking about researching your space in depth and creating that narrative. We have this common theme of storytelling. Researching your space in depth is – some questions to ask yourself is what’s the larger narrative around this space and what are some strategies or tactics that are being leveraged in this space that you can piggyback off of and maybe remix it into your own style and flavor.
Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:So larger narrative – I’m going to go back to T-shirt business. Why is there – I mean I don’t think there’s ever been a lull in T-shirt, but let’s pick that – why is there the sudden uptake with T-shirts by these smaller companies versus – back in my days, in the early 90s, yes I’m dating myself – everybody wanted a name brand T-shirt. Is it you figuring out what’s the narrative behind people going something that’s not as designer trendy versus something that’s just cool? Is that what you’re referring to?
Jesse Owens:Great questions. The larger narrative what we’re getting to is, so for a T-shirt company – we talked about its high-quality, it’s form fitting. It’s all these great things. The materials are great. The way that we produce these shirts is what you would expect is industry-standard. However, our designs of our T-shirts really emulates some of the plights and issues and current events that aren’t necessarily captured or designed with other popular brands. And so, our story is that we’re going to illuminate and we’re going to capture issues that everyday people are going through, and hopefully that these messages are relevant to you. We feel like these T-shirts are relevant for the times. So talking it up in a way that you’re talking about the purpose around the T-shirts versus the quality.
Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Because in a way, there is assumption that they’ll be off a minimum quality or expectations. If that’s the case, there is no differentiation between your brand and someone else’s brand, so the story is also the differentiator for your brand.
Jesse Owens:Right. Another example, at MasterCard, of course we’re focused around digital payments, but we are also focused on the enablement of commerce in underserved communities and providing technologies that’s fit for the technology constraints in those communities. So just looking at innovative ways to allow communities that don’t necessarily have the infrastructure to participate in global commerce.
Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:All right got you. Based on this, this is also something – even though we are discussing it at this stage, it should be also something that I would think you think of in the very beginning. I mean we talked about it, but it’s – that purpose also has to be that guiding force as you go through the cycle as well. Refinements are required for everything along the way, but it just kind of has a guide because everything kind of has to align with this whole purpose.
Jesse Owens:Right. It’s all going to fall back into our business model canvas where we talk about our value proposition. Based off of that value proposition, we want to start developing that narrative that’s going to really capture the user’s attention in terms of what’s the value that we are going to deliver to the end user.
Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:Great. All right, so in this stage, we are researching the space in depth, storytelling, what’s the larger narrative in the space. And so, what’s next?
Jesse Owens:We talked about our content marketing strategy. You’re really getting the market ready for this. And then we establish some prelaunch goals. We are creating content. We are defining our SEO strategy so that users are actually able to search our product. It’s also important in understanding search behaviors in regards to your product. You want to make sure that – understanding how to tag your site or your product in regards to how your customers are going to search for your product. So that’s also very important. And also, in regards to content, you want to be measurable in your content as well as understanding what really resonates. You can do some preliminary experiments as far as what content is going to resonate, but you won’t know until you actually start putting content out, measuring the engagement around it. And then you can tailor it in regards to what content do you want to start publishing going forward, based off of the engagement levels of that particular content; are people more susceptible to video or is it blog post, is it tweets. Those are things that you’ll have to measure on an ongoing basis of what’s relevant for your target customers.
Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:You know it’s try, measure, or is test, measure, repeat or adjust and repeat basically. This is the content marketing strategy in the pre—is there a pre and post launch strategy?
Jesse Owens:There is post launch, but before we actually get in to post launch, there is – when you launch your product, it’s very important that you understand when to launch. You may see products that launch around key events, like I mentioned earlier in the podcast, I mentioned events like around the Grammys or the holidays. You introduce something that’s new that consumers can start using because that’s the time of the season where it’s very prominent, where consumer spending is at its highest like during the holiday season, post-Thanksgiving, before Christmas. That’s where you see a lot of activity. If you’re looking to launch a product, that’s also ideal. That being said, you also just want to be very mindful on how you want to go about it in regards to making sure that you have your design in place, your infrastructure, and making sure that your tech is in place before launching. Sometimes you have to delay your launch because of, maybe one of those things aren’t necessarily aligned. And so, you have to be very mindful of being comfortable with making some adjustments to your launch date based off of timelines for the development of your product.
Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:I’ve seen and I’ve experienced some companies who, they are communicating with you until the site launches or give you updates in anticipation of that launch, but a lot of people may not do that, like who’s watching. Let’s just say I decided I’m going to launch my company September 1stand September 1stcomes and goes, and it didn’t launch. Who’s watching that I don’t tell? How detrimental is that?
Jesse Owens:Presuming that you’ve started building out a market prior to launch, you’re getting users prepped for this launch. And so, you’re building out anticipation of this product. Let’s say for an example that it’s an artist that you follow. They communicated that I’m launching or I’m releasing a new album by the end of the week, and then they delay the launch a week or two, a month later. Because you’re a fan, you’re going to care about it. It’s going with the expectation that you built up a customer base that is itching to use your new product that you need to communicate when or if there are delays in the launch.
Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:So understanding when to launch and how we go about it. What’s next?
Jesse Owens:You launch your product. You’ve identified your distribution channels, the development, the design, your infrastructure is in place, your go to market strategy is solid. Now you already built out a customer base based off of your content marketing strategy. Now you launch, everything is great, everybody is celebrating. Now we wait. Who’s actually going to use your product? And so you have your goals, your launch goals. You’re measuring literally every day against those measurables. One of the things that we start talking about is post launch. One of the things you can start looking at is success stories or talking about product showcasing, like how have companies or consumers used your product or you can look at case studies. If we’re looking from an infrastructure perspective, Amazon Web services hosts a conference where their customer speaks on behalf of AWS and how they were able to become a successful company with the assistance of AWS, and how they are able to scale their operations as a result. Looking at opportunities of building customer advocates for your product is also important, because you’ve created a community now of users that can speak on your behalf.
Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:And so, for the T-shirt company, this is testimonials, this is product [51:02]and reviews.
Jesse Owens:Exactly, exactly. And so, what you want to do after that is you want to maintain that momentum. You want to follow up on emails and probably offering free trials depending on the product that you’re using. You want to maybe follow up with maybe customers who may have added items in their shopping cart, but they didn’t complete a checkout. So you want to follow up with them. Those are things that – it’s part of the process of launching a product, not just launching, but it’s also going forward. These are things that you need to measure against because you want to ensure that your customers are completing the [51:46]. For the T-shirt business, if you notice that they are adding T-shirts to the shopping cart, but not completing the checkout, you want to understand or you want to follow up with those customers to encourage them to buy and you also want to assess where there was friction. You don’t necessarily need to explicitly ask them, but you can capture that through your product metrics as far as what actually occurred when they placed the items in their shopping cart, what actually happened after that.
Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:So this would be a great point, only because I’ve heard the term cart abandonment – when you’re looking at a tool to say you are not coding and you’re not developing, and you’re going to use a tool like Shopify or WooCommerce or whatever if they have the ability to tell you if someone put stuff in a cart and decides to disappear. It’s interesting that you’re saying this because if you didn’t, I would not be looking at that as one of the features to look for from this company or from any of these providers. Obviously I know, Amazon does it to me all the time. They start telling me when this thing went on sale, and I’ll be like I just dropped it in there just as a holder. I’m going to get to it when I get to it. That’s very interesting. Because sometimes you get this perception that a lot of these features like big companies like Amazon and all these other large e-commerce companies can have, but if we’re going to use like these smaller versions, are they able to create or offer the same services?
Jesse Owens:This is actually huge in regards to e-commerce. As a T-shirt designer, provider, as a business, that is extremely important to understand what that experience is for your end consumers. If there is cart abandonment, you want to understand why they are abandoning the cart. As a company, I can calculate my sales numbers based off of T-shirt purchases, but I don’t have the insight on what are the missed opportunities because of my abandoned shopping carts. That could mean that my revenue could be 3, 4, 5X if I just sort of optimized some of these checkout experiences on my website.
Finally, I think at the end of your launch, you want to conduct a retrospective. This is where you want to establish what did you learn from the launch, and what occurred during the launch that you failed to predict, because there are things that are going to transpire that you didn’t necessarily account for. It’s important that you take this into consideration for future launches. And so, we talked about the quantitative and qualitative data that we collect along the way. This will all serve as documentation or assets that can be used going forward for future launches and kind of what you observed, what you experienced in regards to the product and how has it resonated with consumers. This essentially provides really a holistic view of your product and what you can use going forward for future product launches and new features. This is not necessarily only for product launches, but as you launch new features, this also goes through the same cycle. And so, what you’ll start to build out is – it almost is like muscle memory in essence where it starts to become unconscious, learned behaviors that you’ll start doing with regards to launching products and launching features.
Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:In terms of like what occurred during the launch that you failed to predict, how does that help with the improvement of what we launched? Is that more for the experience for new customers? How is that information valuable? Because I can see how it’s valuable if I decide to launch another product or service, but how could that be valuable for the product that we launched or service that we launched?
Jesse Owens:This is good. An example of this is that – let’s say that when we do find our SEO strategy, we didn’t define a term that users commonly use to find our product. Let’s say that’s an example of something that we did not predict. Going forward, we need to embed some of those terms into our products so that users can search and discover our product, or we saw that there are number of users who found our product through medium versus Product Hunt or through – they didn’t find it through Twitter, they found it through YouTube actually. So maybe this is something that we maybe need to focus more on our YouTube strategy versus Twitter. These are things where you start to learn based off of the behaviors of your consumers.
Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:All right, good point. Now where are we? Are we done? Are we launched? Are we ready? Are doing business?
Jesse Owens:Yeah, we are in business. We are in business and we’re measuring, we’re optimizing, we’re looking at opportunities. If you look at your product lifecycle, you’re in the introductory phase of your life cycle. Now you want to sort of, you want to move that product in the growth, because actually you want to start seeing money come in and you want to start scaling out your business. You’re probably a small shop of maybe a few people and as you start to scale your company and scale your product offerings, you probably need to scale your employees and you have to bring in staff to actually support the business. This is all part of the process, but this is really introducing your product in the market, how to measure it, and then ultimately thinking about how to grow that product.
Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:This has been such a really good learning experience for me and I hope it’s been the same for the audience, because at every step of the way, if I wasn’t envisioning a potential business or potential idea for myself, I was mostly in the mindset of or observing what prior entrepreneurs who’s been on the podcast, and most recently, Ashleé from MerchCarnival. I really didn’t use the T-shirt idea because of her, I just used it because it was just one of the simpler things that I know people could do. And then I looked at it from me being a consumer and now can see how vendors and other service providers, they operate and see like oh so this is what they’re doing when they do that. So this was really, really a 360 experience for me. So me being the analyst as an interviewer, but also being on both ends of the spectrum of being a consumer, and also being the seller of products. Thank you so much for being on the show. Any final words on product development?
Jesse Owens:I’ll just say that when you’re developing a product, developing products is hard, but don’t be intimidated of failing because it’s all part of the process. It’s all part of being more in tune with kind of what resonates with customers. What it’s going to do at the end of the day is it’s going to – you’re going to start to develop intuitions on what consumers expect and what you need to deliver in order to create a great end-user experience. In closing, I think it’s also important that you develop empathy, and really, really have a discreet focus on developing empathy for the customer and truly understanding those problems, and making sure your solution really resonates and users are actually able to discover what you’re actually doing. In short, don’t be intimidated, share your ideas. Don’t feel like you have to keep these ideas close to your chest because you never know if someone else is as passionate as you on that idea. Develop empathy. At the end of the day, you want to be measurable and be data driven with your product development and also understanding your customers and your business.Kerry-Ann Reid-Brown:All right. Well thank you so much for being on the show. As always, if you have any questions about anything that we’ve discussed in this episode or the prior episodes on product development, please send us an email firstname.lastname@example.org. We are on Twitter @CarryOnFriends, and also on Instagram, and also on social media. Use the hashtag #COFpodcast so we could join in on the conversations. Definitely share, send questions. We would love to hear what you have to say, do you have any feedback, anything. This has been a really great experience, and we just really want to thank Jesse for being on the show. It’s been an absol