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Redefining launch – product success by increments

Stop thinking of launch as a date in the diary, and instead focus on the smaller, more subtle stages and release your product in increments.

Dan and Tom discuss how little is actually needed to start sharing your ideas, and the stages involved in using a 10x launch strategy.

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Along the way they cover:

  • Not being afraid to launch to a tiny group – you’re ideally placed to speak to users directly when your idea is still just a scribble on the back of a napkin, so now’s the time to get feedback.
  • Early stage MVPs and faking it before you start to scale.
  • The importance of experimenting while you’re still able to move quickly- and how established companies envy this ability to release something imperfect and learn.
  • Tom’s preferred sandwiches if you invite us to your launch party (No plain cheese, please).

Read more about the 10x Launch Strategy here 🚀

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Transcript

Tom:

Hey everyone. Welcome back to the product leadership podcast. I am Tom. I am joined by my co-founder Dan.

Dan:

Hello Tom

Tom:

how’s things today.

Dan:

Not bad.

Tom:

Excellent. Chat out of the way. Today we’re talking about product launches. We recently wrote a blog post called the 10 X launch strategy. Check it out on the site.
We are lighthouse.com/blog, which talks about the way that we like to launch a product. So, where are we going to start?

Dan:

Well, I think starting with what we mean by a launch, or maybe starting with what we don’t mean by launch

Tom:

sounds like a good place to me.

Dan:

And I guess launching is. One of the most exciting things about any business.
I remember the lighthouse launch.

Tom:

It was epic.

Dan:

It was

Tom:

cut the ribbon.

Dan:

We did the paperwork,

Tom:

got a third rate, celeb to come down the big scissors.

Dan:

All right. That’s who that was

Tom:

oh man. All that money we spent.

Dan:

Yeah. So they, I think, yeah, everyone that wants to start a business. They dream of that moment that it launches and they think of like Steve jobs up on the stage showing

Tom:

one more thing.
Yeah. Isn’t that
the same? Isn’t it?

Dan:

Yeah, no, isn’t that Colombo.

Tom:

Oh, maybe

Dan:

I think that’s Colombo’s catch phrase was jumps. This one, it might be the same thing. Just one more thing. You you’ve used your iPhone with your left hand of the murder. It was right handed.

Tom:

Oh, yeah. I might be confused anyway.

Dan:

So, uh, it’s back to Jobs who was up on the stage and he shows you the picture of the new iPhone, the crowd go wild and the video streams go down cause so exciting. And who was launching a product into the world wouldn’t get excited by such a thing.

Tom:

Oh, that’d be amazing hope, incredible times,

Dan:

Absolutely, but it’s so sort of, I think that.
That image is, um, uh, and let’s face it. That’s not actually what most people are wanting to do. They just want people to get excited and for it to be a success. But I think the,the launching side of things is often people’s aim. It’s often the target and they think if only I could launch something, everything would change.
And they think what were the things that are blocking them to launch normally, um, Yeah, ability to design and develop it, uh, you know, in investment, things like this, uh, haven’t got their business cards done yet. No tee shirts with the start ups logo on it.

Tom:

They’ve probably got them.

Dan:

They’ve got them. Lighthouse haven’t got any of them by the way, but we’re not really that sort of company. We call it underwear.
They’re thinking about the moment and driving towards that moment and yeah, in many ways, rightly so. It’s a great motivator. That’s where you want to get to, you know, that’s, that’s the. That’s the goal you want to, you want to have a product, which people love and excited by, but if you aim for that monument from the start, and that is your, you know, single-minded go, um, you often miss out on all the things that.
I think, we think make a successful launch, which are the sort of smaller, more subtle things.

Tom:

And it’s almost the, um, launch is kind of like the first milestone in many, many people’s, um, point of view and that’s fine, but we, you know, what is launch, right? Actually for us, it’s, it’s several. Um, several milestones down the, um, the project.
It’s not the thing you’ll first look into here. And it would be pretty dangerous in our eyes to, you know, to just push this thing out, um, for, you know, a big blow to people, um, before you’d done a lot more

Dan:

yeah. You’ve missed out on a huge opportunity that many people who have launched and have, you know, thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of users.
Wish they could go back to. Yeah. Like I think when people are starting out, they don’t realize. The value of being in that position where you don’t, where you haven’t launched with a capital L let’s call it, you know, you, you haven’t, um, you haven’t shown the world what you’ve got yet. There’s so much you can do in that stage, which is really valuable for your product and valuable for your business.
And you’ve got to take advantage of it. So let’s talk about what we mean by launch. Because actually the great thing about what we mean by launch, it’s a lot easier. Yup. Yeah. You still need the tee shirts, but you don’t need the design skills. You need a fraction of the investment.

Tom:

I’m gonna need a text message,

Dan:

text message from the investor.
So I’m still in, but only a fraction of what I was originally into. Now that I’ve, now that I’ve heard that you only need a fraction of investments to launch. There’s a lot of those things that you think you need to launch. You just, you just don’t need. Um, and your strategies can be completely different. Our blog post talks about starting by launching to 10 people.
Um, and 10 is a nice round number. What it really means. It’s just

Tom:

a small number,

Dan:

a really small amount of people you don’t need. You don’t need to be marketing at this point. You don’t, you don’t need everyone to know about you. You don’t need, um, you know, a million people waiting to sign up. You just want to find some people who your product solves the problem for and you go and talk to them.

Tom:

I think it’s about time as well in there because when, when people come to us, they’ve got the feature list, they’ve got it all mapped out in their heads and launches, you know, six months down the line when we’ve built and designed all their stuff. And then there’s, you know, a hundred thousand people on the platform all going swimmingly on our first launches within a week.
Can you, can you get this in front of, you know, it’s super quick, super scrappy. Almost pretty rubbish while you’re making probably just defining concepts, making sure that people, you know, even have any interest in what you’re talking about,

Dan:

the opportunity to experiment really quickly. And you can do that by not having a load of people you need to show, show it to a really small feedback loop of the founder, or, you know, a product manager. If you’re sitting in a, in a bigger business, it’s, you know, it’s your project. You get to speak to the user directly. And that’s something that, you know, bigger companies wish they could see what they wish their management teams and CEOs were the ones putting products in front of users and hearing their feedback, you know, and in some ultra funky companies, the CEO does make time, you know, once a week to coffee with a user or to, uh, that’s how I’d do it, the, the, but most of them don’t have the time.
So, yes, they wish they could do that. They wish they could be there. And you can be there that first bit. You can be talking to the users, you can strike up a personal relationship with them. You don’t have to get feedback through a little pop up that comes up at the point where your product is going.
Hello, you’re viewing the pricing page.

Tom:

Would you like to learn more about pricing?

Dan:

Exactly. Yeah. Oh, you have, you appear to have not logged in for three months, is it because you hate us, stuff like that, you know that that’s the, you see the tactics that bigger companies, employees try to speak to their users.
It’s a massive business. There’s so many products you add to your product to try and make that easier. Um, you got the chance to not use any of that. You’ve got a chance to just actually sit down and talk to these people. You got to take the opportunity and that is. Launching, you know, you just, just cause it’s the 10 people, you are bringing something into the world and showing it.

Tom:

Absolutely.
And, and, you know, the, the blog posts. It was kind of showing that it’s okay to do that. You know, that you shouldn’t be scared of hitting a very tiny number of people at this stage and the sharing, the idea is good. Getting out there is good learning as much as you can, as soon as you can is good. Um, and then, you know, you’re going to get to what you consider to be launched in the future, but you shouldn’t start there.

Dan:

And the products at that point, you know, Can you speak to some PowerPoint slides? It

Tom:

could be a slide. I mean, if you’ve had time to make a prototype, it could be that you could just tell them about it or we’ll do some little views or research. It can be anything you want to do. Um, you know, some people have drawn something on the back of a napkin in a restaurant and that’s fine.
You know, it’s anything that you can, um, put in front of people.

Dan:

Who’s drawing on napkins What restaurants are they in?.

Tom:

Mc Donald’s

Dan:

Well, McDonald’s you can draw on the napkins. That’s fine. But not like somewhere nicer. Get your pen out. Start drawing on it, excuse me sir

Tom:

plus nice restaurants have napkins that have like proper towels

Dan:

you’re not going to be able to take that home are you, you know, otherwise, you’re also stealing as well as vandalising and that.
Yeah.

Tom:

You get billed for it.
Expensive.

Dan:

Exactly. There’s cheaper ways to do it.
what a look. Alright. So the back of the napkin is just like an example back of your own napkin. It’s a metaphor. Yeah. It’s one of those classic sayings that doesn’t mean it will make sense. If that first thing was just the back of a napkin? Now you’re probably looking at creating something.
That isn’t quite so much, your face telling someone about something. It’s a bit more something clickable, something that’s a bit more of the form. It might end up in this solution you’re going for, but it still doesn’t have to be. It can still not scale very well. It can still be you behind the scenes receiving emails, processing orders, things like that.
Um, but it’s probably starting to look a little bit more like. Well, it’s an, it’s an MVP, I suppose. But one of the sort of MVP where we’re talking about is, um, you have an early stage one, not, not too much going on in the, uh, engine.

Tom:

It depends on what you’re looking to do. Isn’t it? Because if you’ve got something that’s a relatively technical thing to build, you might have to do a bit of lightweight dev

Dan:

You’re talking about an algorithm.

Tom:

No,no, I wasn’t gonna use that word. Just a platform that you prove its worth by having something that kind of works. But, um, but yeah, it could be something that’s faked. It could be something that’s off real, but you probably know, like you said, it’s not something that’s going to scale at this stage. It’s a very early prototype or MVP of your solution.

Dan:

And again, what you’re doing is you’re experimenting. You’re releasing something that’s not perfect, but it does provide some value. And again, if we’re looking back to the, um, the launched people who you aspire to be. Well, they’re looking back and remembering the good old days where they could release something that wasn’t perfect.
Yeah. Can you imagine if I’m, I don’t know, and I was gonna say, I was going to play say zero, then they always released. Perfect. Sorry.
Are they your students? This probably not, but if they are. We can help
for good ideas. Uh, now can you imagine if like Twitter or something, you know, released something which didn’t really work properly? Yeah. You know, it would go down absolutely awful. I mean, they go down awfully when they released the slick stuff they did. Um, They can’t do that anymore. And there’s so many people, once you have an expectation that your software is so like slick and finished and ready, um, you have to stop moving slow because everything you do, he’s gotta be good at this stage.
Everything you do just needs to provide value, and it can frustrate a user to a degree because there’s an actual nice test there. If a frustrated user carries on using your product, they love it, then that may, yeah, it’s a great, it’s a really strong signal that you’re solving valuable problems.

Tom:

Um, we’re um, we’re talking like a 10 X here, but it’s only to a hundred people.
So if you annoy a hundred people.

Dan:

So I know a hundred people.

Tom:

I mean, you’re annoying me right now.

Dan:

How many people listen to this?

Tom:

Oh yeah. More than than that. Way more than that.

Dan:

Okay. Well I’ve annoyed my weekly quotes.

Tom:

Um, but yeah, and that’s the thing why you’re launching incrementally to more people you’re scaling as you go, but we’re still a really small numbers.
So. Yeah. I mean the say, say 10% of them loved it. That’s great. And you know, you know, they’re going to stick around, but, and if you lost 90 is fine. This there’s plenty more fish in the sea. And you can, you know, when you then do launch to, to bigger numbers of people that are gonna stick around, because you’ve done all this work and
yeah,

Dan:

you’re finding out, you’re finding out who the people are, who you provide the most value to what features you have provide the most value.
And these will. Absolutely advice of things to learn before you press on.

Tom:

And some people would launch with what you have here too, you know, their, their initial launch, their MVP, what they had in their head. And you can see where we are now that we’re only on a hundred people and we’re still testing out the offering.
So like they could have launched the completely wrong thing. So loads of people invested loads of money in it, and we’re still two steps
away.

Dan:

Yeah. And I think there’s businesses that have gone out the door at this stage and done fine. Of course, in. As in that, that type of MVP can actually get you quite far.

Dan:

What’s next?
Soft launch?

Tom:

Um, yeah, the soft launch is… this is, I suppose, a pre MVP, I don’t know of a, of a proper, proper product. It’s the kind of thing that you would build there is, you know, it might be your code base that you’re going to stick with.
It will be your first iteration of a real product.

Dan:

This needs to be tested. Yeah. And when you click the buttons, the right things,

Tom:

things work, it sends emails. It does whatever swipe left, things happen. Yeah. But yeah. Well, I know you’ll also kind of know who your customer is because you’ve been talking to them already.
If you’ve certainly met 110 of them, if not more. Yeah. Um, and you’re, you’re also knowing how you can target them. You’re knowing what they want. And you’re starting to adapt what your, your kind of initial ideas and sort of really talking to these people.

Dan:

If I’m looking at the, uh, what a launch person would wish for is that ability to, to, to test out something, without it being, making huge fanfare about it, you know, you see people.
Trying out, like releasing a new feature to a certain section of users. Um, and then they go, Oh, they hate it. And they rolled it back or they love it. And they’ve rolled out to everyone. And I think everyone thinks, Oh yeah. Yeah. That’s how we did that is such a time constraint. Like the effort that goes into actually like technically doing that.
To deciding what’s like a significant amount of people that how to get their feedback. You know, they, they wish they were back here not making a fanfare and just pushing something useful out. Um, and seeing how people, people, I liked it. Um, and this, yeah, this is, this is the bit that you can start to be proud of.
Or though, yeah. You might still want to do a redesign after this. It might not look amazing. It’s still, you’re still just relying. Not on. Fancy stuff like this looks cool or it’s got a big marketing budget behind it, or it’s got a great name. Um, you’re, you’re relying on this house to actually solve problems.
And that is that say and so valuable problems. And I think that’s a, you know, that’s what you want to launch that problem solving, not.Not even so much as a brand or business or tee shirt you’re releasing something that solves problems. It’s the world.

Tom:

You’re probably also experimenting with how to market this at this stage.
We haven’t really spoken about up until now, but all right. It’s everything
viral about 10 years ago.
So part of this, an excellent strategy is to become viral. Exactly. It’s slightly unrealistic, but you know, again, you’ve, you’ve met your users. You aren’t just hitting social media, PPC, whatever, with no knowledge, you know, these people and you’re starting to understand what they need or what you, in fact, by now you have a pretty good understanding of that.
So you also know how you can reach them, you know? Yeah, you don’t have to find them. And that is very handy when you actually get to, again, to your full launch, because you have so much information that you have about the mean you’ve probably even tried out some kind of marketing strategies and I’ve seen results in the limited numbers that are going out say, and again, at this stage, we’re only talking about a thousand people or so just still really small numbers.
You know, you can still get to a million plus users in the end, but you have to start slow and you have to kind of increments to get to, um, to a good number, to know which two.

Dan:

I guess if you’re solving a problem for a thousand people and they are paying for it in any way, you are, you have got a product they’re starting to look interesting from a money making position.
Um, and you know, from trying to find investors, they’re gonna get excited about that. And I think what’s really important is the cause of the journey you’ve taken. Ensuring that you’re solving a big problem. That’s high value and you’re scaling the amount of people you’re solving that for. It’s very easy.
It’s not easy, so expensive to launch with a big amount of people by spending a lot of money, getting those eyeballs on that people sign up tire kickers coming over, Oh, what’s this new thing. And, you know, going big with a brand. So it looks like, Oh, wow, this is, this, this looks lovely. You can actually get completely undone by becoming what I believe is known as a zombie product.

Tom:

I have not heard that.

Dan:

Yeah. It’s where your product grows to a certain level and there’s then no scaling off to that because it plateaus and we’ll just round up his own beat. Um, it’s like you. I have, you know, the problem you’re solving either isn’t big enough. So it’s just not going to go up.
Or your feature set is like not targeted at it. So 80% of your users on interested in that. Side of it that could really scale, but they’re using these other features that you can’t take that away from them. Cause they get annoyed and leave and you’ve, you’ve basically have just not got a scalable user base.
You they’re not excited enough. They’re not gonna scale enough. And that can happen as well. If you haven’t understood what that valuable user is before you, you can end up with a load. Um, yeah, you can, you can pay money and get people to sign up to your product. Yeah. And. That then becomes that things are harder to change at scale changing direction, changing your value proposition once you scale everything’s harder.
Um, and so, yeah, you, you just, just launching often as a way, is it creates a lot of risk around having a product, which you are then sort of stuck with.

Tom:

But again, if you’re a thousand people your product. I mean, that seems like a big number, but for most kind of SAS tools or, you know, start ups or online businesses, there’s not a lot.
Right. And even if at that point you decided to pivot and do something else. It’s not a big loss and you haven’t invested, invested some time, a load of effort to get there, but not as much, if you were just launching this to everyone and then realizing you got it slightly wrong. And that brings us to stage four.
Launch launch. Whew. We made it, I guess. Um, and we have the number 10,000 here, but it could be buy more.

Dan:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Totally. I mean, I think a lot of this is, this is the point you’ve heard that you were waiting for. But I think by this point, this one was, becomes not as important. Right. You know, if you get to that point, you’re probably like, I’m got time to get up on stage andyeah, it and solve crimes. Okay. For my new iPhone. Um, I’m a time for that. Like, I’ve got these a thousand users and you know, next week I’m going to have 1500 of the week after that. You know, you, you, you. It’s there all these big launch milestones now. Um,

Tom:

but we have it as a four stage process, but really it’s just a fluid.

Dan:

Exactly. If you want to stop and have a big point.
Yeah. You can go for it
so far.

Tom:

Yeah, we’d love to invite, please. If you have nice sandwiches,

Dan:

totally it’s defendant, please send food, the sandwich budget. So I know whether to come or not.

Tom:

Is that one, the ones that just cheese and treat them

Dan:

well. Yeah, I know.
To me, it’s either got to be a very, uh, spread has either got to be very cheap or very expensive. Maybe cheap I’m down with many eggs with the

Tom:

The ham sandwiches are the of ham in the middle.

Dan:

Cocktail sausages, um, and you know, like case and Christmas and stuff like that, that’s one level.
Then all then take me through to like proper poncy. Like there are many York’s pudding with the bees and stuff. Yeah, exactly. Um, take me there. Leave me out of the middle bit. Yeah. Yeah. I don’t, I don’t want like, Slightly posher cheese just sent me Paul or type me cheek. Forget about the middle. Um,

Tom:

so we’ve got that cleared up.

Dan:

Yeah,
absolutely. Um, but yeah, you don’t. Yeah. In the end, you’re, you’re rolling at this point. Yeah. And this, and this is a rinse and repeat process. You’re going to, you know, you’re going to get, get big. I’m a big guy and. Yeah, you know, I said it wasn’t about that launch thing. Might’ve been what was motivating you as a, as a kind of thing to have on my, you know, goals for, for what I want to do with my life, but, the reality of it, like a lot of things in life is that actually, you know, it’s that journey that accounts there, and you can just keep carrying on because you validated that you’ve got the right users.

Tom:

On a similar topic, people think the launch is the end of the product, you know, we’ve sat there, we’ve designed and built this thing we’ve launched it.
Is that our job done? No, it looks after itself actually. Not at all. No, I mean, this just continues. It could be another sprint of work where you’re pushing out some changes to this and that he might even start a redesign. Then if things are, you know, if you haven’t launched with something beautiful, there’s always something more to do.
Um, and it just carries on from there. So this kind of, the myth of launch is something that actually we kind of want to get away from. It’s just a, you start somewhere, start very small and can continue to scale and change over the rest of your life.

Dan:

Absolutely. And that’s why we called it our service Ivy salons.
You’re talking about our launch there, not your launch. Tom, I think that sums up our approach. I think the, you know, don’t be afraid to launch to hardly any people redefine what you, what you think of as your launch, by all means celebrate, but take advantage of the opportunities before you get there.

Tom:

Completely love it.

Dan:

Awesome until next time.

Tom:

Yeah. See you later.

Dan:

Bye!