Feedback in building startups

Driven by an enthusiastic approach you start to work with developers:
-    Should we have an API integration? – one person asks.
-    I don’t know, you are the IT specialist, what do you recommend?
-    Oh, that’s what we should do, of course, but we need a bigger budget.
-    Hm, so maybe we don’t need to do it for now.
-    Ok, should we really have this feature? I’m not sure whether users will be eager to log in with their Google+ account…
-    But is it expensive?
-    Not really, but…
-    So let’s do it! It better to have one more feature if we can afford it. You are the IT specialist, don’t force me to make decisions on your behalf. This is what I pay you for!

Fighting with a small budget, the developer’s questions and business model hit the market with your solution after half a year and… nothing happens. After one month the app has been downloaded 17 times left with 2 comments: “Nice app” and “I’m waiting for the FB log in sync”.

“Ok, it is not so bad, at least it works! – some feedback was received so now I have to promote my app to get more users. Success is coming!”

You launch a fan page on Facebook, spend money on adds, buy Google AdWords, banners and who knows what else... Your app has so far been downloaded 24 times. You feel like it’s not getting more successful, it’s more like a crisis of faith in yourself and your idea. You are slowing running out of money and no one has decided to buy the premium option. You wonder why? What’s going on?

First feedback – as soon as possible

The first feedback should be gained at a very early stage – the best moment is when you have an idea of the solution, before you start drawing a mockup or building MVP. And, please, don’t quote me on Henry Ford here with his famous sentence “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”.  It is an easy trap – people often think innovative solution can’t be built on actual users’ needs, because it will use features which don’t exists now - so how could users rate them?
The solution is easy – don’t talk with potential users about features. Ask them if they really have problem you want to solve. Are they aware of this problem? How are they dealing with it by now? Are they satisfied? Why? Are they looking for an alternative? How important is for them to solve the problem? Are they willing to pay for the solution? What creates the willingness to pay? Collect and analyze answers. This is a frame to look at the market. This information may push you thinking into new direction, and you will understand what is the critical value for users.

Don’t be afraid to talk to your potential users

People who take feedback under consideration while building a product conception may fall into at least two traps. One is gathering feedback from the wrong people, who are not in the target group (for example you start asking questions your mates from the IT department and they are totally enthusiastic but then you struggle with selling the product to the older lady who is in your target group and for whom you have created the product).
Second trap is a unreal feedback. You create a “persona” who should represent your future customer and you built their description based on unconfirmed ideas and guesses. Just… don’t do this. Identify who is in your target group, find these people and meet them for an interview. Don’t come up with answers on your own, don’t guess how people may think or feel about your product. Start with talking and listening to real people from your target group. It may seems to be hard and labor-intensive to find the right people, contact them and organize an interview, but honestly… if you struggle with just talking about product and expectations with those people, how do you think you may sell them the product?

Create a plan on how to launch product in the market

Your idea, business model and product features may change with every following feedback, especially in the beginning. Be patient and remember that the best solutions are created in iterations. Of course, you may be a genius and invent the perfect product on the first try, but it isn’t the most recommended method of product development.
Try to go into details with business models and features before developers start their job. Don’t expect others to solve contradictions. Plan how you will research the market and gather a feedback from users. I recommend a book called “The Lean Startup” written by Eric Ries, you can find good practices there on how to organize product launching in the market and how to manage it with customers’ feedback.

  • Ewa