Let Your Business Baby Get Beat Up

You had an idea. You started this service company or developed a new product. You love your business baby and want everyone else to love it too (and buy it of course). You spent time and money getting ready to go public. At this business stage, it is easy to fall into the trap of delaying putting your baby in the market because it might just get beat up. What if other people don't like it? What if they think it is ugly, clunky, unnecessary, or too expensive? It is just painful to learn the business idea or product you have been working on has problems. To avoid hearing that, you might try and make it "perfect" before you go public. But unless you are creating something you don't need people to buy, like an artist who paints a painting he can afford to keep, waiting until you think your baby is perfect is a costly trap. Putting your business baby out in the world is like going to school for the first time. It might be rough but it will be very educational and extremely valuable. Avoiding this education can be very costly for you.

There is no easy way around it – getting your product out there is really tough on the nerves. No matter that your mom, best friend, or gym buddy is telling you to go for it, it is your baby, your name, and your reputation stepping into the ring.  The adage “He who hesitates is lost.” can be spot on here because waiting too long may be costly because you might completely miss your market. Right now, today, you may already have something people  really want and they truly don't care about some of the extra  bells and whistles that you are so worried about and  spending valuable time and money developing. You might be going just slightly in the wrong direction, but will be able to change that easily and develop the service or product the market is craving. You can’t make that course correction without good information. You absolutely need this feedback. There comes a point when you must tell yourself “This is good enough. It is time to step out and see what happens.” 

Million-dollar question: How the heck do you know when to send your baby to public testing school? The type of testing we are talking about here isn't concept testing, or technical pre-mortems where you are looking early in the process for reasons to kill a product. This is testing a viable product or service. Here are some guidelines for you:

1.DEVELOP IT “ENOUGH” - Your product needs to be formed enough to get useful information. It should be in prototype. A format similar to what you are launching but just not complete. For software, you can supplement "wireframes" (non-functional screen mock-ups) rather than build functions for most of it, but too much of this static test method will lose the interaction between the product and the testers. The most useful tests have the product formed enough so that the person can use it the way it is intended to be used.

2.DON’T SET OUT GARBAGE - Your product needs to also represent your company well. Your brand should not be compromised at this point. If the product is SO unformed that it would discourage those testers from coming back later, then it is too early to test. Typographical errors and things that are supposed to be working but aren't just relay that you have poor quality review – this is not the same as a test.

3.SET EXPECTATIONS - Let those early testers, focus groups, or whatever you are calling these first-contact users know if you think something specific needs to be improved, but that you really want to hear from them anyway. For example, you have video in the product, and think it is too rough and needs to be reshot- but maybe they won’t see it that way and will say it is fine. All information is helpful at this early testing phase.

4.DON'T OVERPLAN – Over-planning what you will do based on the various feedback scenarios that might come up is just another good way to delay your testing. Whether your testers love it, hate it, or some combination of both, deal with it once you get the feedback rather than wasting time with "what if" scenarios.

BRACE YOURSELF - If receiving criticism is very difficult for you or maybe you have a lot financially and personally riding on the success of this baby, get yourself ready. What does that mean? Whatever you need to do to keep reactive panic in check - do it. Work out, get a coach, find a bottle of Jim Beam. Also, have somebody else look at the information first and put it in a format you will find easier to digest (rather than jumping on the first negative reaction).  Remember that what you are doing – creating, taking risks, opening yourself up for criticism and rejections – takes true guts. It is scary but the definition of “brave” is being afraid and doing what you need to do anyway. 

Here is the really good news of early testing: you have time to change things. You also may find some gems in what looks like initially "negative" reactions. Maybe you find people over 40 love your product, and the younger set doesn't. Well, there is your market! Maybe you have several testers say "I don't need this, but I sure wish it did this other thing" and you can make some changes and provide that brilliant, useful thing they all want to buy. The best way to get this kind of information is to really TALK TO THE PEOPLE you ask to test your product. Don't rely on forms and Survey Monkey. If you want the highest quality feedback, take the time to talk to people and get that personal insight. And - be sure to thank those testers afterwards! Feedback is a gift - appreciate what you get.

Although sending your business baby out to get a bit roughed up may not feel great, sending your perfect baby out and discovering there is no one on the playground is much worse. You can do this. Now -  take a deep breath, open the door, and press on.


Reference: Want to know more about pre-mortems? The Unexpected Benefit of Celebrating Failure.

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