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The day I picked up Eric Reis’ The Lean Startup I couldn’t put it down. If you’re a startup or just looking to move into the startup world and you haven’t read it, do yourself a favour and grab a copy of The Lean Startup today.
I’ve gained a fair mount of knowledge over the years from starting, building, failing and succeeding in a number of businesses. However, if I had read this book when I started my first venture over 12 years ago, I would have definitely succeeded in some of my earlier failures.
The Lean Start up is a movement with the core goal of getting your product to market as fast, low cost and direct as possible. The key focus is to get your MVP (Minimum Viable Product) into the hands of the early adopters.
Here are three principals I follow using the Lean Startup methodology:
1. Get to market early and with minimal waste
Sounds easy right? But just how do you take a product to market that is nowhere near to your vision? Well the answer is simple — you never really know when it is finished until your customers are buying.
With Magnetic, we went to market with a product that later evolved to what it is today. But we still follow the principal reason as to why we created it — to simplify processes and make businesses more efficient.
We didn’t need all the bells and whistles to find out if our market wanted a system like it, we just needed something that would make them want more. Once we knew we had interest from bug companies, we knew we were onto something. Knowing this allowed us to further develop the product further.
Take out: “The biggest challenge you will face is knowing when to stop developing your product and just launch.”
2. Learn from your early adopters:
Why is this important? What you can learn from early adopters in the first couple of days of them using your product will teach you far more than any market research and surveys combined. I follow a simple rule here — you don’t get what you don’t ask for.
When we started we initially sent clients a mail telling them all about our product and the features. We thought this was a great idea.
“Let’s jam as much information into a single email just because they’ve signed up for our product.”
The response we got from these emails was non-existent. But it wasn’t just the fact that we didn’t get a response, the main issue was that we didn’t even know what response we wanted as we weren’t asking any questions.
How did we fix this? With a simple email, asking our clients why they signed up, no product push (I got this tip from Alex at GrooveHQ – Genius), and the results were phenomenal. Our response rate went from less than 10% to a massive 83%.
Here is the exact email we send out:
On top of this we engaged with our most active early adopters to find out what their likes and dislikes were and focused on giving them more of what they loved and corrected what they didn’t want. This allowed us to develop our product based on what our active users wanted, thus when new clients signed up from similar industries to those we worked with; the on-boarding is streamlined and simple.
3. Don’t Pivot Too Late
“Pivots are a permanent fact of life for any growing business. Even after a company achieves initial success, it must continue to pivot. Decision on when and how to pivot cannot be made formulaically. It requires human judgement” — Lean Startup, What is Pivot.
Knowing when to pivot is crucial. In an early stage startup, you may find yourself feeling stumped, wondering why your core market isn’t responding the way you had hoped. This does not mean it’s time for panic stations — in previous situations where we had to pivot, this was exciting. An opportunity to take what we had learnt from our early adopters and pivot slightly, towards a more refined product based on what our clients actually wanted and not what we thought they wanted.
Our first pivot actually came from a client request. Our initial idea hasn’t changed, we always wanted to be an all purpose business management solution, but in our minds this was CRM, Project Management and Accounts. We had no intention of spreading our wings further than that, until a client asked if we could include leave management for employees. Initially we shut this down very quickly due to the development load we had.
Then we had a proposition, the client enjoyed our product so much, so they offered to share the costs of a developer to have the module developed. So we asked a few of our clients if they also wanted an HR Module and the answer was a big YES.
So we did it, we made a small pivot in our product offering that has brought us a whole new base of customers.
This article was originally published on Magnetic and has been republished with the author’s consent. The Lean Startup Machine Cape Town event will be taking place 30 May to 1 June. Watch this space for updates of the event.