#004: The 'Launch' Misconception
Nobody cares about your launch. Just launch asap and ensure a fast learning curve.
For people working at companies - both startups and corporations alike - that have never launched a digital product before it is tempting to think about ‘the launch’ as an event that occurs chronologically as part of a series of other fictitious happenings related to the digital product cycle, i.e.,
Develop the product;
Prepare the launch (e.g. big media dance, buy ads, …);
Launch the product;
Grow users, customers and revenue.
The truth is: Nowadays, it never happens like this.
First, ‘the launch‘ does not even exist.
Or do you remember, when Google, Youtube, Amazon, Whatsapp, Uber or your favorite banking app ‘launched‘?
Or when did the top-5 apps on your smartphone launch?
To illustrate the misconception of ‘the launch’, let’s have a look at some of the most popular digital products at launch:
First, as you can notice from the examples above, no company launches just once.
Either as a company you have never launched (because there is no such singular event) or you are launching all the time.
You are launching new features, updates, upgrades, improvements and certainly many many bug fixes.
Yet corporations and startups alike are often too concerned about the launch.
They want to get it right - both internally and externally:
Either people communicate exact launch dates internally which always will have to be pushed back due to delays, thereby creating some discontent with management.
Or people already work on press releases and campaigns to kick off the launch with a big bang waiting for the subsequent product growth to kick in.
Just launch asap - then ensure a fast learning curve.
However, what happens in reality is a gradual shift from early beta testing (in production) potentially with a private testing group, then moving on to acquiring the first real paying customers - still while beta testing - until you feel confident to remove the “beta“-label from your product.
Important to understand is that it is your users and customers who will “let you know“ when you are ready to get out of beta, which probably is the closest thing to what you might call the ‘launch’.
This is a very powerful concept to inhale:
It is tempting to believe that you know when the product is ready and you decide what the final set of features, UX and UI should be and thus, you control the process of launching.
Hence, you won’t launch until you finished implementing that particular last feature.
You sure might proceed like that but you will then quickly figure that the features you thought were so important the customers couldn’t care less about or they simply don’t know how to use them.
Paul Graham, the founder of the most well-known startup accelerator Y-Combinator famously said:
“If you are happy with the product you launched - then you launched too late!“
So how should you then plan about your “launch date” - especially if you need to communicate a timeline to stakeholders such as investors or management?
Well it depends on your market, product (B2B, B2C, B2B2C), complexity, legal aspects …and testing.
Don’t underestimate testing: a classical unintended consequence you should be able to foresee and mitigate.
You can communicate a launch date if necessary but at the same time communicate that it will be a “silent launch”.
That way, you can go live with a beta-version, learn fast from your first users and customers while at the same time telling the stakeholders who need to be live that you actually are already live.
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Great post. I remember those early YouTube days. Little did we know where we were watching those GI Joe PSA memes would turn into a magical product.