The most frequently asked question I hear first-time entrepreneurs ask is, “How do I know when to launch my product?”
The answer, more often than not, should be: “Now!” The reality is that most successful businesses are the ones that get to market quickly and then out-execute the competition.
Many entrepreneurs believe they need to perfect their products before the outside world sees them. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The key is to build a working product, get it in the hands of customers, and then continue to make tweaks based on feedback from them.
One great example is Microsoft. Early versions of Microsoft Word left a lot to be desired. However, to the company’s credit, it quickly learned where Word fell short, made the necessary changes, and repeatedly introduced new versions of the software. The fact is that, if you are solving a real need among your customers, they will be extremely forgiving and, in many cases, give you the information you need to build better versions of the product.
Another myth that prevents entrepreneurs from getting to market fast is the belief that they need to develop a truly “first of its kind” product. In reality, a large percentage of successful companies have focused on making a new twist on an existing product or service. In fact, around 1997 when Google launched, many people asked, “Why do we need another search engine when we have Yahoo and AltaVista?” (Yes, that seems laughable now!) Google knew it had a compelling offering, got it to market quickly, and has continued to improve the product ever since.
Moreover, there’s also a real danger in waiting to get to market. While you’re worrying whether or not your product is ready, the competition is on the verge of eating your lunch. The point to remember here is that it’s all about speed to market and execution.
To that end, here are three tips that will help you get to market quickly:
Don’t allow yourself to brainstorm to death.
Don’t spend countless hours trying to perfect the business plan or tinkering with the product pre-launch. Attempting to guess how your customers will react to your creation is pointless. Get ACTUAL feedback from them instead.
Accept the fact your product may look nothing like it does today a year from now.
To the point above, you may be determined to go in one direction but quickly discover that the market pulls you in another. Go where your customers take you! For example, did you know that Sony’s first product was a rice cooker? Since abandoning the rice cooker, it has merely managed to become the world’s biggest consumer electronics company.
Be your own competition.
The best way to beat the competition is to constantly be improving your products. In fact, each version should make the previous one appear obsolete. And, while your competition is focused on the current one, you should already be on to the next version. As the saying goes, it’s not easy to hit a moving target.