Why you should never build your product first in business

This week is quickly turning into a week of testing.

As you know from my emails last week, I did some digging into an industry that turned out not to be a good fit for us.

I quickly got back on the grind (after a quick sob on the weekend – just kidding…) and now we have 2 other options we’re considering.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned since starting a tech company – as opposed to a “regular” company like my law firm – it’s that tech companies pivot. It’s part of the game.

Some have to pivot many times, some not so many, but there’s usually at least one.

We’ve certainly had to a few times, but through this I think I’ve gotten pretty good at learning how to test new ideas.

The main reason it’s important in tech is because if you have a “regular” business, like a product or service business, it’s pretty easy to pivot.

If I wanted to switch from being an immigration lawyer to a criminal lawyer, I just change the copy on my website and start trying to attract criminal clients. If I have a Shopify store selling socks and decide I want to sell shoes, I call up a new supplier and add in some shoes on the site.

But in tech, you can’t just “add in” something new.

It takes a lot of time, largely to design and build the new tech, in order to launch a new offering. And because of that, you really want to make sure it’s actually something people will want and pay for before you go through that process.

So you test.

The key is figuring out the quickest way to test what your new tech product will be able to do, without actually having it ready.

There are a few ways to do it, and a few things you’ll want to consider based on the type of product you’re testing. At least from what I’ve learned over the last 3 years in tech.

Especially before you go and build a fancy tech product.

And contrary to popular opinion, asking your mom and her friends if they’d “buy from you” is not enough to run a good test. Mainly because they’re probably not in your target market, and are legally obliged to say “yes” to anything as a good parent.

Anyway, the BEST way to test anything in business – a new tech solution, new service offering, etc. – is to get people to commit to buying it. And the best way to do that is to put together an offer of what you would actually sell – on a landing page, a PDF, a flyer – and go try to sell it.

You don’t have to take peoples money, and you might even want to mention you will need a few weeks to deliver (especially in the case of tech). But if you put together an offer, try to sell it for 3 weeks and get no bites, it might be time to move on.

I’ve seen this happen hundreds of times in tech especially – either from people I know, or on Reddit, or other online forums – where they do it the other way around. They think of a brilliant idea, they spend months building a tech product… and then crickets.

No one buys. No one wants it.

Because they never tested to see if anyone would buy it before investing in the product itself.

So please, don’t make that mistake. Do the research and the testing first, THEN go build your product or service.

The equivalent to this for, say, a service business, would be figuring out all of the deliverables or suppliers first. Don’t go by flyers or interview contractors or suppliers or anything at the beginning – put together an offer and try to sell it to 50 people. You’ll be surprised at how fast you figure out the rest if enough people want to buy it from you.

Anyway, hope this helps – and for more of my daily lessons, make sure to join the email list here.

Keep grinding…

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