Entrepreneur Tips and Discussions

Building a great product only gets you 20% there

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“If you build it, they will come.”

Except, they won’t. Even after begging them to, they won’t. Maybe they’ll tell you they even hate it.

A lot of first-time founders think that if they build a great product, it will take over the world. That’s it, you just build it, and you’re done.

Building your first version of the product, when you are trying to validate your hypothesis, without making it too clunky, and knowing what features to put in it and what to leave out, is a big challenge in and of itself.

Even if you do this part really well, you are at best 20% of the way there.

You have just entered the trailhead of a massive hike. A hike with a brutal incline, with pebbles everywhere, that you slip on, and bust up your ankles. As you make progress, you feel like you’re not actually going anywhere. You are constantly debating giving up and returning home. Maybe you have the courage and patience to get to the summit. But even when you get there, you might not like what you see.

Anyone can find or come up with an idea. Some can build out the idea into a good product. But, very few can do the rest.

It’s a very common journey. After spending months or even years having your product built. You are ready. You start telling everyone you know. Friends and family. Every random person you have met in your life. You go down your contacts list. You post on Facebook, Twitter, and every other social media outlet. You write some blog posts. You email a bunch of reporters trying to beg them to write a piece on your product/startup.

You really give the launch all you got.

Then comes the shock. The shock that no one cares. That you can’t even get your friends and family to use your product. That you spent all this time, energy and money to reach this state, and literally no one cares!

This is the part of the journey where most founders choke. They don’t have the heart to keep going. They will do a bit more here and there to market their product. But, it ultimately just dies out.

Then there are the founders that understand that there is no such thing as “the launch”. They understand that they will have to launch a thousand times. That they will have to keep going at it again and again. That they will have to try everything and anything imaginable. They are the ones that don’t let rejection overtake them. They are usually those that have been on this journey before. And they have a better understanding each new time they navigate it.

They understand that it could be 6 months to a year before they see anything remotely worthwhile.

This is the hardest part of the journey — the 80%. The 20% is important. You can’t even start with the 80% if you don’t do the 20% well. But it is ultimately the 80% that makes or breaks it.

The journey may not be worth it. It may be a total waste. But it’s part of the process. Almost no one ever gets to skip it.

But, it is the journey where great things can happen…

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4 replies on “Building a great product only gets you 20% there”

Agree 100%.

It’s all in the execution and the execution starts new every day.

Just keep grinding and don’t lose heart

Great words. I believe talking to your potential customer early on can help a lot. Probably you will still face the shock, but will have a better idea of where to act

I get what you are saying, and it’s an interesting perspective that I’ve shared with you for years…but as a marketer seeing countless lacklustre products these days, I would actually say product is 80% of it.

Do you know why Tesla is successful, or SpaceX? The products are truly remarkable. They spend next to nothing on telling people. The customers do the talking.

Do you know why the Joe Rogan product just landed $100 million? That’s 10 years of product development – each podcast episode is the digital product that makes money in perpetuity. Joe isn’t even on mainstream media promoting it.

20% is the marketing. If the product is remarkable, you really should see the wildfire spread from your 20%. If you told 100 superfans and nobody cared, it means your product needs more work. Telling 100 superfans is a one-day process.

Some cool resources to check out: Elon Musk on signal vs. noise; Seth Godin on remarkable products.

I think you did an awesome post, thank you!

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