In 2015 I joined an exciting new startup, and in October of 2016 we started, and failed a kickstarter. Looking back at the past year in retrospect, there are many lessons to be learned from this failure. These lessons turn out to be good advice for anyone starting a company or a freelance career.
Recommended listening while you read
1. Is the product good enough?
There are good products with a big market, and there are good products with a small market.
But there is no such thing as a good product with no market.
This wasn’t an issue with the company i spoke of earlier, but other companies I have almost joined suffered from this easy to fix problem.
So when asking yourself if your product is good enough, it’s important to understand that some people just don’t have a use for your product.
To test this you need to bring this idea to people who aren’t family or friends (generally speaking family and friends will be overly enthused or critical), and also aren’t competitors.
To really find out what people think you need to ask a series of questions to find the flaws your product may have. These will vary depending on your specific product, but here are a few sample questions:
- What do you think the average (market) would think of (product)?
- What would the average (market) think is the biggest issue (product) has?
Mining people for this data will bring great clarity to what should be fixed, and maybe even give you some idea’s that completely change your product for the better.
But do proceed with caution. Just because one person thinks your product needs an alteration doesn’t mean it will make it a better product.
Once you have taken this data into account, its time to make a prototype and send it to professionals in your market. Depending on your product, you may have already built a prototype (for example, I built www.invoiceme.io in 48 hours, and then began this process)
But if it costs significant money to create it, then its best to get this data before hand.
Getting it into the hands of professionals, or just people who have a big influence will help you in one of two ways:
- They probably know your market better than you do. They can give you great feedback from using your product.
- If they love your product, you could ask for an endorsement when you need it.
One of the concepts one The $100 Startup (you should read it, yesterday) is that a hustler is the perfect mixture of talk and work.
You need to work hard, but you need to let people know you are working hard.
During this time it will be stressful to run a company social media campaign all alone. If you can’t manage to do it well, then just focus on your personal accounts.
Better to have no company account, than a dead one.
If you tweet to 50 followers that you started something, 10 might see it, 1 might respond to it, if you are lucky. You might as well put posters up in the middle of the desert.
You need to maintain a daily presence on social media. Do cross promotions, ask for help, build a following.
Speaking of which, I tweet sometimes: @connor_norvell 🙂
If you do this, you will build a following and have many more people to share your creation with, and help others who want to share their creations.
This way you can run like Eric Liddell
3. Have money pre-launch. Don’t not have money.
If you want to succeed in your kickstarter, or get large amounts of pre-orders, you should have some money before you launch. It will be very beneficial to have a good sized bank account at this phase.
here is a list of some lesser known expenses:
1. PR — You will have to spend a few thousand here (generally). If you get a good PR company they can get your name out there, pitch to publications and newsletter. Even get you on MSNBC.
2. Marketing — This again will cost a few thousand. If you already have some in house designers that is fantastic (and… being a designer myself, I recommend having an art director) however a marketing firm will help you find the angle to pitch your product from and how to sell it.
3. Websites/Videos/Ads — Need a video for kickstarter? its going to cost you. Need pictures taken of your product? thats also going to cost you. Unless a friend will do it for free. These expenses have a large spectrum, from very cheap, to very very expensive.
As a general rule, you get what you pay for, don’t expect much more.
You will want to make a big splash from the beginning, these companies can help you do it. They aren’t 100% necessary, but they can go a long way to help you make a big splash. Ask family and friends for micro loans. But do not get into debt, thats a very dangerous way to start a company if you don’t have to.
Bonus — Some products are made to be sold in person
This was the case with our product.
There are some products that people will spend money for online, but there are others that people need to feel, smell, touch, etc. there are also certain demographics that don’t browse kickstarter looking for your product. But if you meet them at the right time or place, they will buy.
So don’t neglect to have stock of your product and sell in person.