Minimum Viable Launch (A Guide)

Minimum Viable Launch (A Guide)

There are two people in a room.

One of them has a good idea and tells the other one about it.
A conversation starts.
The idea changes and develops into something new.
It grows and expands.
This process excites both of them.
 
✨ This is how ideas come to life. ✨

The modern way to build a business is to bring the public into this process of building it.

 
Why? Because doing business is the act of exchanging value. By doing this exchange of value in public, you provide the opportunity for everyone to benefit from it, support it, and get excited by its development.
 
How? Tell people about your ideas and let them help you develop them, so everyone can learn and help each other together. Ask for feedback every step of the way and let this feedback guide you. Before long, a small community will form around your idea.
 
Get started The the quickest way to get something you love out into the world is by doing a minimum viable launch. It can be a tweet, a video, or a demo — anything that captures what makes the idea exciting and lets other people experience it.

Why is the way businesses are being built changing from being behind closed doors to being in public?

If cars + the internet = Uber, houses + the internet = AirBnB, then startups + the internet = building in public. It’s a natural evolution caused letting the internet in to a corner of your world that would previously have been private.
On the internet, we have the benefit of getting instant feedback on our work from every corner of the globe at any moment of the day. So it makes sense to take advantage of this and use the variety of feedback we have access to in service of developing our ideas and informing our business decisions.
Would you rather use a blog post headline that was voted as the best headline by 100 people or take a shot in the dark and guess? The internet can give you a firm and reliable foundation on which to build a business, one step at a time, if you’re willing to open yourself up to it.
The alternative is simply worse: working with less excitement & community involvement, fewer collaborators, fewer perspectives, and fewer ideas in the mix. Pursuing an idea this way, you’re bound to work on solutions that hard to implement instead of implementing simple solutions you could have crowdsourced.

But if I publish my idea too early and it’s not good yet, it will negatively affect my brand. Or, if it is good, competitors will steal it. There’s too much risk!

The people who publish early will outperform and out-scale the ones who don’t. They’ll be able to reach further, learn faster, have access to better tools, improve their ideas faster, and get to having an idea on the market to purchase way ahead of anyone else.
Publishing early is a risk, but it’s a worthwhile one.
You have a chance to cause some early excitement by talking about it, which can help you build a community around it.
When you have a community, even a small one:
  • You can run ideas by them: blog posts, headlines, landing pages, prototypes, and early versions of your app. They’ll try them out and give you feedback, allowing you to massively improve your ideas right before you publish them to a wider audience.
  • When you do a mini-launch of something (e.g. a blog post, a PDF guide, a prototype), your community will stand behind you, excited by the fact that they helped make it. They’ll comment on the launch, vote on the launch, and be supportive of its success.
  • When there’s a problem with something you publish, strangers rarely tell you about it. But, if you’ve built a community by being nice to people and genuinely helping them, they’ll be the first ones to tell you when something doesn’t work or make sense.

Some people will steal your ideas

Some people will see the excitement your idea generates in other people and want to get some of that excitement for themselves. They might even think they can execute on the idea better than you can.
You have the early advantage of talking about the idea first, so you should be able to get a head start. As long as you use that head start to form a tight-knit community around your idea, you’ll be able to weather almost any storm and slowly build something of value.
The copycats could burn out from lack of feedback or resources (building a business is hard, after all). Or they might get shamed by the market for copying you. Or, in the best case, they might end up helping you develop your idea by the way they develop theirs.
But, in the end, both businesses need community feedback and community buy-in to survive. So putting the idea out there fast is the least risky thing you can do.

An idea kept secret will die a slow death

An idea kept secret:
  • Will be developed without sharing its ups and downs, the problems it’s faced and the solutions that helped it overcome them. These key learnings and moments of excitement will help your idea alone — when they could be helping and nurturing a wider ecosystem.
  • Will only be “good” in your own head. There’s no way of telling if it’s actually a good idea before showing it to people.
  • Will gain no following and create no excitement in the market before you start publishing your thoughts about it. You’ll be risking everything on a single launch.
  • Will have no one but you and your small team to solve problems for it and help it survive in the wider marketplace.

And the most important reason for not keeping your idea a secret:

Early on, you have a boundless, bubbling energy when you think about your idea and how much it could change the world if it was successful.
Why keep that bubbling energy private, while you have it? In sharing it, you have the chance to ignite the same energy in others and multiply its effects a thousandfold.
The longer you keep your idea secret, the further away you’ll get from the bubbling excitement of the initial idea.
You’ll get caught up in business documents and solving day-to-day issues with the product.
Before you know it, you’ll be tired and stressed out, and find it harder and harder to remember why you started working on the idea in the first place.
Don’t miss the opportunity to share your idea when it still inspires boundless excitement in you!
If you can find a way to share that excitement, when it’s fresh in your mind, it may inspire the same excitement in others.
It’s this emotional charge, endless optimism, and a feeling of untapped potential that fuels the development of every business (and every community). It’s your most valuable asset in the early first few years of your company’s development.
You need to share it.
 

What is a business?

A business is a self-sustaining organism comprised of human beings that’s sustained by its symbiotic relationship with them and the outside world.
It’s one of the few socially-acceptable ways we have as modern-day capitalists to organize around a single mission and accomplish goals together.
The old form of business is selfish. The questions it pose are: Can I sustain myself? Can I grow? Can I dominate a market? Its primary concern is the welfare of its owners, its secondary concern is its employees, and it has minimal concern for its ecosystem.
The new form of business is more altruistic. It realizes that it’s sustained just as much by its internal employees as by the ecosystem around it. It nourishes the symbiotic link between it and the rest of the world by genuinely helping it and genuinely being helped in return.

The network is hostile.

(top down ecosystems - old model of control, consuming consumes you, real-time consumption - not real time creating, hard to have a voice, hard to build traction, harder to build trust)
 

A networked business

(the ideal is real time action and real time feedback that’s positive, nurturing, and for the highest good. stoppers: cell membrane/vulnerability/trust, everything is slow - publish/record then hear back later, building an audience is slow and hard and imperfect, building a community is harder)
 

A networked mind

(always go-go-go isn’t healthy, infinite possibility but really difficult to create is demoralizing, working hard doesn’t guarantee success - you’re invisible by default, even if you have an audience. it’s very dissimilar to the real world where things are slower, the possible feels natural and relatively permanent and stable - when you do something, it stays, and other people give you live feedback with emotions - voice, touch, sight)
 

Taking time off from the infinite

(running on fumes, unmotivated, overwhelmed, always connected, always looking for more. but the healthiest in real life create. real life is the foundation. processing emotions. processing thoughts. slow down to process.)

Running a business that cares about its ecosystem.

 
 

How can a human brain thrive on the internet?

The internet is mostly made up of light that’s presented to you in whatever shape you want to see it — and it lets you modify it to your liking.
What can a human being do with such a canvas?
Anything.
Anything we can dream, we can make show up on a screen. And we can share it with just about anyone in the world — instantly.
You would think that would make us: Happy. Excited. Proud. Motivated.
But really, it’s made us the opposite. Lost among choices. Always consuming new information. More anxious than any generation that’s come before.
Is the solution:
  • Getting off of the internet?
  • Spending more time away from screens?
  • Being satisfied with fewer choices?
I honestly believe that those must be part of the solution — the human brain simply wasn’t designed to work at full speed all the time.
But the other part is the part the internet is missing: real-time feedback that’s in the shape of something our human emotional system can process.
Think of the last time you were happy: running outside, smiling at a loved one, or making something.
They all have something in common: you did something and you got instant feedback based on your action. You told the world, or some part of it, that you were real — and the world shouted back: “I know.”
The internet doesn’t have that.
The internet has information rabbit holes, social media platforms, and people telling you what you want to hear. It’s all one-sided.
You click = you receive.
But in order for life to be meaningful, the relationship has to be two-way. You need to create, announce yourself, and put yourself out there — and the world needs a chance to respond.
But when you don’t have that, the light from your screen gradually burns away at you until you’re up at 2am wondering what really matters any more.
But the solutions right there, all along: create, do, put yourself out there.
Yes, the stage is bigger. Yes, your boss, your ex, or your future boss might see. Everyone might see. But you still do it anyways.
Why? Because that’s what it means to be human. And in order to survive as a human being online, you have to put yourself out there.

Together

The pieces are there: a widespread network that allows instant feedback and communication, platforms for sharing and communicating even the most complex ideas, and a world that could do with some change.
I think the answer to a better world with more meaningful action is learning how to operate together on a real-time network, doing our best to further collective goals and getting real-time positive feedback in exchange.
 
 

 
 
 
 
launching is hard, esp when you don get traction
you can spend years working on something and, after you launch, no one will use it
but you know the product is good...
what gives?
you did one or two launches, when you needed to be launching every day or every week
what is a launch?
an image or video and a statement
what is the point of a launch?
you’re building a product because you know something is true, you feel it in your gut
you launch to validate that feeling, to get feedback, and to improve your understabding of the market
but mostly you launch to prove to others why the idea is good and to help them by getting them to use it
and if you can’t get them to use it directly, you give them as much of it for free as you can, im small pieces, so they have multiple pathways to realizing why they need it
so launch tweets and blog posts and guides and demos
launch until you have an entire ecosystem of free and useful content and tools
and then charge money for the parts of it you’re uniquely suited to provide, the missing pieces that are hard to find or hard to use elsewhere on the internet
don’t launch to validate your idea, that’s a defensive mindset. launch like you already know it’s a good idea and lthe world just doesn’t know it yet

 
Let’s simplify the terms.
User research = talking to people
Market fit = how much people want your product
Bad market fit could be caused by talking to the wrong people or talking to them about the wrong things or not having a solution that solves their actual problems.
I think a lot of people underestimate how difficult communication is.
No company is perfect.
Every company talks to the wrong users about the wrong things and doesn’t have a perfect product.
I think the key is just keep talking to users and figure out what they need in their own voice — and then describe your product back to other users using the language your early users used — and then wait for them to be disappointed by your product because it doesn’t match their expectations — and then fix your product!
Do that over and over again, and you should see your key metrics go UP!

 
delete this section? ⬇️
The core idea of this guide is that you can guarantee success at every step of the entrepreneurial journey by building soundly on the foundation of the step that came before, as long as you’re willing to start from the basics.

We’ll cover a set of simple tactics designed for indie hackers who have launched multiple products that have failed to gain traction.
 
You start every project with the best of intentions, excited about the possibilities
  ⬇️
You build out the product, your expectations and excitement climbing higher
  ⬇️
You launch and your expectations crash and burn as you fail to get traction
 
If you’re familiar with this cycle, you’re not alone. Gaining active daily users for your product is the hardest part of being a founder. I’ve personally spent years building things people sort of cared about and I’m tired of it!
 
So, I’m going to lay out the steps that have worked for me in the simplest, most actionable way I know how, so you can apply them to your own business.
 
And start building products that get traction.
 
 
what is a minimum viable launch
 
Let’s start with why you’re afraid to launch.Then let’s talk about why you don’t want to do marketing or sales.
 
Convinced about the customer-first approach? Let’s talk about what you need to get there:
  • You need an audience
  • You need to be yourself
you need to be yourself
  • You need to hang out at the top of the funnel (i.e. #buildinpublic)
  • You need to take breaks
You need to do very small launches (The Minimum Viable Launch)
  • You need to constantly revise, redo, and rebuild as you work towards the ideal product
What to do in between having a product and having a good productHow to write something people want to read
  • You need to do very small launches
 
The big picture:
Paying attention to energy so you can have the endurance to do this long-term (because running a company is a long-term job)
  • Saving energy for big launches
  • Not compromising your vision and not selling your company (because it’s a part of you and you genuinely love and enjoy working on it)
Emotionally sustaining yourself as a human being (and thriving) online while running a business
 

 
TODO: Will split this into separate articles soon:
 
You’re having trouble getting traction on your projects. No matter what you do, you’re finding it impossible to build an audience and recruit users to use your product.
 
You don’t know what to focus on: twitter, email marketing, SEO, your website, or building your product.
 
You’re more comfortable with building, so you default to that.
 
But then you wake up days later, after building 12 big new features, only to realize: you still have no people using your product.
 

The real problem is: you’re solving things on the wrong end.

 
We’ve been taught our entire lives that our internal world is what matters most: how “good” we are, how much we respect show kindness to other people, how hardworking we are, and how much we prepare.
 
And so we take that to our product and build something wonderful:
  • It has all the right features
  • It doesn’t spam people with emails
  • It states things clearly on the homepage
 
We put years of our lives into these beautiful products that no one sees.
 
Why? Why are putting ourselves through this — working at 110% effort, only for no one to see or appreciate what we make?
 
Because we’re not paying attention to the obvious:
  • We spend all day coding and then relax by watching a YouTube video
  • We design a bunch of websites and then we like the first fun tweet we see on Twitter
  • We spend hours configuring servers and then play video games for hours
 
There’s a mismatch between how we spend our free time and the type of work we produce.
 
We spend all our time on the backend of products doing work nobody ever sees — coding, fixing bugs, designing small interactions, configuring build tools, making sure the DNS works.
 

But people spend most of their time on the frontend of the frontend.

 
Most people who hear about your company will never see the app — they won’t even visit the website — they’ll spend most of their time consuming memes your company posts on social media or watching snazzy product videos your company posts during a new launch.
 
In marketing speak: most of your prospective customers are hanging out at the top of the funnel.
 
And where are you? You’re not even hanging out in the funnel at all.
 
Quick aside: a “marketing funnel” is just a fancy way of saying the journey your customers go through beforw purchasing your product. The “top of the funnel” is everywhere they could hear about you online.
 
But you’re not hanging out anywhere near the funnel.
 
You’re hanging out in the area that customers come to after they’ve seen your company’s tweets a dozen times, developed some trust for your brand based on how you communicate, downloaded a free PDF or three (and seen that your company produces useful & reliable content), laughed at a video of your CEO falling out of his chair, visited and left your website 4 times as they’ve considered signing up for a trial, and finally decided to bite the bullet and sign up.
 

What does this mean if you’re a solo founder or small team?

 
You need to hang out at the top of the funnel more. And you need to post as much incredibly useful, astoundingly beautiful, impeccably designed things right where people see them.
 
Give away the farm for free, until you start getting some eyeballs on you.
 
Then, and only then, start building a business.
 
How do you do this?
 
A bunch of small, incredibly useful mini launches that build up audience interest over time and gives you access to a steady stream of feedback.
 
What does this look like?
 
  • Social media polls with real world consequences — their results determine what your company does
  • Short one sentence quips that you know will resonate with your audience
  • Memes that will be funny, interesting, or ring true to your audience
  • Small free tools, guides, and blog posts that explore a common problem that your audience has
 
“Why would I do that? That sounds like marketing! I don’t want to change my behavior just to do what people want me to do!”
 
You don’t have to change. Really. You just have to change where you hang out.
 
Right now, working on your product 90% of the time in private, not sharing code tips or the experience of the emotional rollercoaster you’re on as a founder or even talking about a new features you’re developing — it’s the same as being in a dark cave at the end of a tunnel that no one but the bravest souls will venture down.
 
You can be yourself — even if it’s 90% snarky, anti-establishment, caustic — as long as you do it outside the cave, at the other end of the tunnel, in the light, where everyone can see you.
 

What does this look like in practice?

 
A competitor releases a tool that helps your audience create animations really easily.
 
Instead of grumbling about how unusable their tool is before retreating to your cave and building a full-featured version over the next 2 years... think about 1 thing, just one thing, that’s wrong with their tool. And talk about it.
 
“I wish I had an animation tool that let you preview effects before applying them.”
 
“Man, it would be cool to have a list of the 10 most common effects people use in animations, along with previews of them.”
 
“What if each animation effect had its own preview page where you could play around with the effect live before using it? Like an interactive tutorial.”
 
Post about that ONE THING on twitter, instagram, your blog — whatever. Just see if it resonates.
 
You get 5 likes on your first post, put together a demo of a single animation effect page, and release it as a blog post.
 
You get 20 likes on that and a few comments requesting other effect demos.
 
So you make those and launch them one by one.
 
Now you’re talking! You’re building on the frontend of the frontend — talking directly with users, building in the light, getting feedback, engaging people, and releasing things people want to the people that want them.
 
And guess what? The best part is: if you posted 10 tweets and 10 blog posts about animation effects and no one cared, no one commented, no one liked them — that would be the best news possible!
 
You would have gotten the same response if you had built in private and released a full tool with 1,000 animation effect previews after 2.5 years.
 
You just saved yourself 2.5 years of trouble — bonus!
 
“But wait, I can’t do that! I don’t have an audience! It wouldn’t matter if I released a full, beautifully designed, beautifully marketed animation tool every day for a month, no one would care because I don’t have any followers!”
 
You have a very hard, but very temporary problem.
 

Every successful tool, product, service, or blog post starts out by helping a single person.

 
So, if you don’t have any followers, think small: how can I help one person today.
 
If you know how to build a full animation app with interactive demo effects, you know how to help people who are 1) making animations, 2) love effects, 3) need help configuring their existing software, or are 4) coding their own animation software.
 
Go onto forums, twitter, sub-reddits, and discord communities — and help these people, one at a time.
 
Start by linking to an article or two, expand to writing out a few instructions, then make a webpage with the instructions and an interactive demo. Then make a YouTube tutorial once you’ve confirmed it’s a widespread issue. Over time, you’ll start getting feedback: “I could use more explanation about this thing.” Or “I could use a fuller interactive demo having to do with this part.”
 
It’s slow going, but you’re doing something insanely cool that you weren’t doing before working in your cave — several things, in fact:
  1. You’re actually helping people!
  1. You’re building a fascinated audience
  1. You’re building a set of tools & articles that are in-demand and that other people know about
  1. You’re responding to real, actual feedback as you build
 
And you did this all by doing one simple thing: Getting something — anything — out there into the light. It’s only then that you can start getting the feedback you need to start making a difference.
 
Let’s take a quick break here to talk a little about writing or content creation.
I want to go back to something we touched on earlier about how people spend their time online. Most people aren’t out there looking for solutions, scouring the internet for exactly what you’re offering, and typing the exact right questions to get there.
 
Most people are short on time, just browsing, wanting a quick kick of excitement or fun or something new, and low on energy and commitment.
 
Think of the last 5 websites you visited — you can’t think of them, right? You opened them up, got what you needed, and left.
 
In order to create a different habit in your audience, you need to do something different. You need to promise something they’ve never heard of before AND you need to do it in the simplest way possible.
 
You need to say one thing. Just one thing. Over and over again. You need to say: you’re at point A AND I want to take you to point B.
 
And you can say whatever you want around that: gain their trust by telling them about the last person you took from point A to point B. Or talk about how much the experience at point A sucks and how great it is at point B.
 
But when it comes down to it, you need to be willing to simply say it.
 
Why? Because no one has the time or energy to figure out what you mean — or why what you mean should mean something to them. You need to state it, in an obvious way.
 
If you say: “I’m great at pet sitting” hardly anyone has the energy to even figure out they’re gonna need you during their next vacation. Just say it: “Going away? I’m the best pet sitter in Groverfield.”
 

And then say it again.

 
It’d be nice if things worked differently: everyone wanted to learn about you and dug through your whole website and put all the pieces together to figure out how good you are at certain things and what you really care about, but that’s not how it works.
 
You just have to say it, plain as day: “I am excellent at pet sitting.”
 
I cannot really repeat this enough. That blog post, that website, that product you’re building — it should do the same. It should say one thing. It should take the user on a journey from one place to one other place.
 
People just do not have the time to figure out: oh it does this one thing, but also this other thing, but if I really need it to it can adapt to this other thing too. Oh and it was really hard to make this software. And oh the dev is so talented.
 
None of that. Just: “I am going to help you create a blog. Here’s how you get started: 1, 2, 3. That’s what I’m here for: creating your blog. You want to create a blog? It’s simple with me, I have the steps you need!”
 
This is a hard one. Every time I sit down before writing a post, I have to remind myself of this: I need to only say one thing here. No matter how much I say, it can only really come down to one thing.
 
And for this essay, for example, it’s this: “You aren’t getting traction not because you’re not thinking big enough, it’s because you’re not thinking small enough. You need to focus on the small things and just get that out the door and out into the world. The world has plenty of time for your big ideas, but you need to lay a trail of breadcrumbs of small things to even have a hope in hell of getting their attention for your big thing.”
 
The next step isn’t that crazy: it’s asking for an email address. And invite your audience “deeper into your funnel.”
 
This is a trusting step for a lot of people, but if you’ve proven that you can provide value and do it consistently, people will be more than willing to give you a try.
 
Now you have a reliable way to contact your fans directly. There’s nothing more powerful.
 
As you release more useful tools, articles, and guides, your list will grow. Your social media following will to. And they’ll feed into each other — subscribers liking and commenting on your content on social media and followers being more likely than anyone to subscribe to your list.
 
“This all sounds like a lot of work!”
 
I hear you. It is a lot of work. When I first started building stuff online, I thought the process would be simple:
  1. launch something great
  1. get a bunch of users
  1. charge money
  1. get rich
 
But here I’m saying you have to do months (or even years 😬) of work before you even get to step 1.
 
That’s not fair!
 
Not only did you have to start out by helping just one person, you had to build up an email list and social following one small project at a time — not all at once by going viral with a big project!
 
The process in reality looks more like this:
  1. launch something small to help someone
  1. respond to feedback by improving it
  1. repeat steps 1 and 2 until you have a great product
  1. launch something great
  1. get a bunch of users
  1. charge money
  1. get rich
 
And that’s the veil that gets lifted whenever you learn about anything that seems like magic at first.
 
It turns out that success comes from doing the hard things over and over when at first doing them just once barely seemed possible. And behind that perfect product, that perfect movie, or that perfect book was dozens of pitches, hundreds of revisions, and thousands of pieces of feedback along the way.
 
You can try doing it the hard way — by building a gorgeous product from scratch one page at a time and then launching it all at once. But I’ve been there and done that and wasted years of my life hoping for millions of visitors who never came.
 
Because I’m not lying to you when I say: that brilliant startup launch that blew your mind had one or all of the following, working behind the scenes (where you couldn’t see it) to give it an unfair advantage:
  • Employees with dozens of failed and successful projects under their belts, so they know exactly what does and doesn’t work
  • A huge mailing list or advertising budget or both, so they can attract hundreds or even thousands of beta testers right out of the gate and pad their waitlist
  • A marketing strategy that involves building early hype for a full year as they onboard excited early users and use their feedback to perfect their marketing and onboarding so the next group allowed in will be even more hyped by the experience
  • A design and engineering team who perform hundreds of usability tests to make sure every screen makes sense, every button is clear and obvious, and every interaction feels smooth
 
I’ve spent 12 years in the early-stage startup ecosystem and I’ve seen this play out over and over gain: the startups with the best communication with their customers wins.
 
Okay, so now let’s go back to that big launch, right?
 
“I have a social media following, an email list, and an understanding of my customers’ problems. Certainly, now I can launch!”
 

Hold on there!

 
“No! I want to launch now!”
 
Don’t worry, I’ve been here before too. And if you really can’t hold it in any longer, be my guest and launch.
 
But you’re doing yourself (and your audience) a huge disservice.
 
Think of a recent book or story you’ve read, one that held your attention for the entire time. At the start of the story, the author created a moment of tension. A conflict you wanted to see resolved. Whether that was a founder trying to raise a round of funding or a married couple who’s having trouble getting sleep because of a new baby, the tension is there.
 
A good author will heighten and loosen this tension throughout the story, but never let it go slack.
 
But it keeps your attention.
 
Let’s switch to the author’s perspective. Do you know how hard it is to write a story like that? As a human, you don’t want to hold onto tension or build up even more — you have a natural instinct to find resolution, balance, equilibrium. There’s this constant temptation to blurt out the finale or cut to the big reveal. To step off the tightrope into calm and peaceful repose.
 
But that’s your only and greatest power over the reader. If you release the tension, you also release their attention — and they move onto the next thing.
 
That’s why, before you’ve launched, you hold the most power. You have them in rapt attention: will you walk the tightrope, overcome the obstacles, and make something beautiful, wonderful, or even ground-breaking?
 
As long as you don’t launch: there’s no release, no resolution, no return to equilibrium.
 
And that’s just where you want your audience, yourself, and your team: excited, ready for more, and inspired to do better than what came before.
 

So, what do you do?

 
A pre-launch, of course. Early access. Alpha version. Whatever you want to call it, you do a special release for a select few.
 
And this isn’t some purely manipulative thing. Like you’re just enjoying holding people on the hook, waiting to get in to your oh-so-special, secret project.
 
No, you announce that you’ve been researching / thinking about / solving problems in this area for a while — and here’s a blog post or two to prove it. And here’s even a demo you build a year ago.
 
And now you’re thinking about doing a pre-release of a special project that solves the issues you’ve been talking about.
 

Wait for the tension to build.

 
Then actually do the pre-release. A simple signup form with a little preview of what your audience will get. Set expectations to a reasonable level. After all, you’re still developing this project.
 
And here’s where you get the most valuable thing any project can get: early super-fans.
 
The people who sign up for your pre-release, simply based on your reputation and what you’ve released so far, are the people who are 1) really passionate about the problem space, 2) really excited about you, and 3) entranced by the idea of a solution to what they’ve been struggling with.
 
They will:
  • Give you the best, most honest feedback you can get
  • Be committed to improving the product simply for the sake of helping other people solve their own problems
  • Put up with early bugs and fight their way through the interface to squeeze out any value they can
 
They’ll teach you so much about what you’re really building, who you’re building it for, and you’ll start to see the problem in a whole new light than you did before.
 
What do you do with this miraculous amount of feedback?
 

Focus.

 
You’ll get so much feedback that it will be almost overwhelming. The number of directions you could take the product in will be countless. And the possibilities will be mesmerizing: you could be the next big thing.
 
Stay grounded. You haven’t actually launched yet.
 
Focus on that one problem you set out to solve and do your best to make that funnel you’ve been building into a fun little slide.
 
When you finally launch this thing, the ideal experience you want a customer to have is something like this:
  1. Someone sees a tweet that mentions the problem you’re solving
  1. They’re so passionate about this problem, they click into the tweet to see the responses
  1. One of the top responses is from you and it describes a solution they’ve been thinking about in the back of their heads for years without realizing it — it just makes so much sense and they try not to get their hopes up too much
  1. They go to your profile and see that you’ve not only released the solution, but it’s described in exactly the way they would describe it to a friend
  1. They see your recent tweets all mentioning advances, improvements, and feedback you’ve gotten on the project so far — they seem very promising
  1. They click through into one of the tweets and see you recommended a guide you wrote in response to someone with the same problem
  1. They click to read the guide and see a simple and elegant solution to their problem, offered at no cost to them — it’s exactly what they’ve been searching for
  1. They immediately implement this solution, solving their problem, and sign up for your newsletter to get any extra insight or resources related to the problem
  1. They get a series of 3 emails explaining the problem in plain language and offering simple solutions based on specific situations
  1. At the bottom of the 3rd email, they see a discount code to your main product and are intrigued, but forget about it by the end of the day
  1. A week later, they get another email with one last discount code. This time they go to your website and check it out. Their expectations are blown away and they realize this is really what they’ve been searching for — it has all the powerful features they need in exactly the right interface. They can’t actually believe someone took the time to build this.
  1. They put your product on their wishlist and forget about it for a few weeks
  1. They keep getting useful emails from you until one day you mention your product now has the ability to do “X”, which is something they always wanted it to do, but didn’t ever vocalize
  1. They immediately take their discount code, go to your website, and buy the product
 
This is a long customer journey, but it’s not unlikely. Not only has everyone purchased products that promised the world and turned out to be shit before, but money is precious and limited, especially when you have established ways of doing things that are already “good enough”.
 
Convincing someone to buy something from you, even when you produce excellent and useful content & tools consistently, is hard to do.
 
And it really does require this “funnel” thing, which is just a fancy way of saying: they need to hear from you multiple times and build up trust that what you’re saying is true before they’ll start to trust you and even think about giving you their money.
 

So, back to your early, super-fans.

 
They’re essential. Listen to them.
 
They will tell you:
  • Exactly how to describe your product. Just listen to how they talk about it.
  • Exactly what your most useful content is. They’ll reference it multiple times.
  • Exactly what their problems are and how they work through them. Just ask them how they solve this problem today.
 
That will give you a pretty good start on what to put on your website and what to write about on your blog.
 
Always talk in their language and freely discuss competitors, the business landscape, the common problems you can run into, and how certain things that can seem like solutions at first actually end up being more complicated than you assumed at first.
 
All of this is gold: for SEO, for email marketing, for your website, for Twitter, and for the messaging in your product.
 
And you built it all up from scratch, by paying attention to what one person needed at a time.
 
Once you get over your fear and you put something out there, instead of building in private — there’s now a MASSIVE difference between what you do now and what you were doing before:
 
Before building in public:
  1. Think of a feature you think people want
  1. Build that feature
  1. Repeat 1 and 2 until you burn out
 
After building in public:
  1. Launch something rough and unfinished
  1. People suggest the next obvious features they want
  1. You’ve now validated some demand for your product, a very hard thing to do
  1. You respond and say you’re working on it (ideally in public) — this doubles your customer support as public social proof
  1. You build the (probably small) feature in a day or two
  1. You respond publicly to the user who requested it and tell them it’s done already
  1. They’re excited because they made a difference, helped you, helped other people, and were actually listened to (something rare online)
  1. They respond with positive feedback and maybe a testimonial-like statement
  1. Everyone sees: you care about customers, respond to feedback, build what people require, move fast, and are building something people want
 
For the cost of literally two sentences of chat messages in addition to a feature you were probably going to build anyways, you accomplished a lot!
 
That’s the insane benefits of building in public. All of your efforts are multiplied, even for small features that were “obvious” and you wanted to build regardless.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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