A while ago, we made a MVP (Minimum Viable Product) that people already loved, and we haven’t even launched it yet. We enjoyed every second of making it, and we realized that more we worked on it, the more we loved it. Actually, a product launch happens much before the actual launch, and the people who launch it are the ones who you should truly care about: the early adopters. I can’t stress enough the importance of their existence.
Now, we’ll just ditch the boring theory and get on to something we called the launch manifesto. It is written more or less in the spirit and slang of launcing a spaceship into space, so don’t be confused by all that.
How do you launch a product properly?
There is no easy answer to this one. But we’ll tell you something that many early-stage startups fail to realize:
Preparation is everything.
You must do your homework, otherwise you’re screwed. Build something. Build anything. Just don’t sit on your ass for nothing. Fuck it, even if your UI is still crappy, show your product to people. Fire up your smartphone and show it to your grandpa, grandma, mom, dad, sister, brother, girfriend/boyfriend, friends and people from the the industry. Makes sense right? You can go around talking all you want how you got this great idea, but where’s the juice? Nobody will buy into it – show them something real. They want to see a spaceship.
Phase 1: Set up mission control
Gather all the info you can on the problem you’re trying to solve. Talk to people. Talk a lot. Pitch them your idea, see how they react. Would they love to use your product as much as you would like to make it for them?
driver.io Android app sneak peek pic.twitter.com/ZfRn7tiZkT
— Bojan Dimitrovski (@bdimitrovski) September 28, 2013
Phase 2: Welcome your crew aboard
When you present your idea, both online and offline, you will attract people with a similar mindset. They will want to build with you. Welcome them aboard, and get to work. You will see how much everything gets easier once you have more people on board.
Phase 3: Build your spaceship
Use whatever you’re best at. We used HTML5/CSS3/JS and PhoneGap Build to make an awesome mobile app. You can do the same. Or you can do something completely different. It’s all up to you.
Be agile. Boards and kanbans speed up the development process significantly. We used trello to keep us productive, happy and even entertained while we developed. Imagine you’re assembling a real spaceship. Well, the cards in Trello are like parts of your spaceship that you put together. You drag and drop, say to the team: hey guys, I’m working on the hyperspace module, and I’ve labeled it red, because it’s super important! It’s that much fun, but don’t forget to stay focused and deliver on time.
Phase 4: Prepare the launching ramp
A good and stable launch ramp for your spaceship is asbolutely necessary so it can lift off successfully. Buy a good hosting package and domain. Popular ones for young and fresh businesses are .io, .co domains and so on. Be creative. Then, tell people that you are launching your spaceship soon. Also, surprise them, make them wonder: how will the spaceship look like and work?
What’s it all about?
Opa, sta je ovo? http://t.co/UyJOr4ZWz4
— Darko Vidić (@1zverko) October 23, 2013
The big ones might join the conversation and also support you:
— Adriahost (@AdriaHost) October 23, 2013
— GreenDesign.rs (@GreenDesignrs) October 23, 2013
Phase 5: Recruit astronauts
A great spaceship is worth nothing without great astrounauts, right? Make sure you get the best ones out there. Invite them to take a drive in your spaceship. These astrounauts are your early adopters and beta testers. They will either love or hate your spaceship. In most cases, if you put decent passion and work into builiding it, they’ll love it. Even more than you expected.
Use a sign up form on your coming soon page to invite them to try the product. After that, use simple and smart mailing software like Mailchimp to send them out the mission brief. Then sit back and watch them open up:
Open the doors to your space ship, and make them want to get in. Make them want it badly.
@_driverio Refresh, refresh, refresh :)
— Miloš Damnjanović (@MDamnjanovic) October 24, 2013
Find more about your astrounauts. Watch them interact in real time.
It’s crucial to know where your astronauts come from and what are their habbits, what devices they use, how technology makes an impact on their lives and what they like and dislike. Use Google Analitycs to get you started with some usual stats.
Use social proof that you’re doing the right thing. Be proud of yourselves.
There’s nothing better than seeing people believing in the same idea as you do. Take pride in what you do and stand behind your community.
— Vuk Lozo (@VukLozo) October 23, 2013
Phase 6: Ask astronauts what they think about the spaceship
Forget about sending e-mails back and forth. Ask your astronauts questions they would be glad to answer. The go-to tool for this task is definately Typeform and the results are astonishing. We got feedback we couldn’t dream of. And then we made our spaceship even more sexy.
Phase 7: Establish communication channels and listen to outer space
This probably even happens at the very beginning, so open up a Facebook page and Twitter profile for your product. Communicate with people out there. Reach them and tell them about your mission. They want to know and learn. As my co-founder said it straight to the point:
After all, we’re all alike.
Phase 8: Get back to the drawing table
Based on your astronauts feedback, fix bugs and improve small things that matter and that can make their experience a lot better
@_driverio kul. Inače sam provalio prvo po overflow scroll-u dole gde se pojavi glow preko menija kad skrolujem do kraja ;)
— ::eboye:: (@eboyee) October 24, 2013
Phase 9: Announce improvements
People love to see their ideas built in a product. Not all of them are possible or necessary, but most of them are elligible and worth considering.
Samo zato što ste vi to tražili: povećali smo veličinu mapa sa kamerama i dodali smo Novi Sad! Šta mislite? pic.twitter.com/E5gyP6qlWl
— driver.io (@_driverio) October 25, 2013
Phase 10: Initiate countdown sequence
10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… The time has come! Watch your spaceship lift off. This is your moment of glory. Listen to this audio to get you inspired.
Houston, we solved the problem
Now that you think everything is over, you can finally relax, head out to the bar and sip gin and tonic all you want. But I don’t suggest doing that. And it’s far from over. Go offline and get people excited. Tell them about the problem you have solved. Ask them what they like/dislike about your product, and what would they like to see more. Welcome more people aboard. Visit conferences. Go pitch. Build up like mad men, then search for mentorship, advice, investments. But do not seek for investments too early, or don’t do it at all. Steer the firm vision of your talented people and raise money only if you must.
And always but ALWAYS rembember your early adopters. Make sure that you reward them in some way after the product succeeds, for they are the core of idea.
Mission success! We hope that you learned how to launch your product with this simple 10 step launch manifesto that can be applied on almost every online business. Much luck with all your projects and never give up! The biggest reward for a successful product are the people happy to use it. You only get so little time on this planet to turn all your visions into reality. Make it worth it.