There are many new small businesses and start-ups with really nice and innovative products that their niches would love, but most of them fail. This is because they do not come to markets quick enough to validate their products, gain feedback and re-iterate relentlessly and incrementally scale for long term sustainability.
In this article, I’m going to explain to you the validation process for every stage of your business, how every KPI is more than just a performance metric, why your businesses needs will change at every level of growth, what to expect and why you need to pivot at the end of every stage in order to be set-up for the next one.
Level: Alpha Ideation
In the very early stages of your business, typically known as the Alpha stage where you have a great idea that has been produced by either yourself or collectively with a team pouring all your energy and time into producing what you believe to be the best product money can buy. It’s at this stage where you realize why you are doing what you are doing. It’s where the story starts, it’s the passion and endless nights. A time where you don’t complain about how long you’ve worked for, but how there aren’t many hours in the day. You are ready to show the world what you and your products are all about. It’s time to test. Get feedback. Understand what people are saying.
A specific Go-to-market strategy for the Alpha Ideation stage goes something like this…It’s very simple...
Motto: “We need to develop our product and think of our user”
You need to develop your product and start building a network of people who are interested in testing your product and giving you constructive feedback. Where you take in this feedback without any ego (Ego is the Enemy) and come to understand why the feedback may or may not be relevant.
This process typically takes a minimum of 6-18 months and looks something like this.
- Research - The moment you’ve had a spark and research from other credible sources may add to your notion of an innovative idea.
- Ideation - You’ve taken all the research into account and now have a blueprint on your product.
- Product Development - You start developing the product with your best foot forward, might be frustrating at times, but it’s the part that matters the most. You may realize that your idea or research was or wasn’t as accurate as you may have expected. The experiments and roadblocks you run into will validate your next steps. Remember in this stage to document everything!
- Beta Test Group - Usually when your product is near-completion, you should start building a tight nip network of people who will be there to provide you with feedback, community, and support for your product. Depending on your product line, whether physical, SaaS, or some hardware tech. This process can take anywhere from 1-3 months implementation.
- Feedback Loop - Gain as much feedback and reviews as possible.
- Re-iterate - Take the feedback, and now build your product with your community. They will thank you by referring your product to others.
Level: Beta Testing
During the best testing of your products, you may have received a few very valid reviews on certain aspects of your product. This can range anywhere from user expierence, bugs, tastes, look and feel, design, smells or anything that is negatively viewed from the users perspective. Your sole goal should be to keep communications channels with your supporters open at all times. Some practical steps towards enabling this are as follows…
Motto: “We need to get feedback and reviews and start building a customer BASE.”
- Facebook Fan Pages & Messenger - Makes sense, every new business is always fast to start-up their social media platforms to make a splash. Ensure that you are consistently posting on those pages and keeping people engaged. In addition, have a review section on your fan page enabled! Lastly, the messenger platform on Facebook is great. It’s it own ChatBot that you can program to automatically engage with people and leave feedback.
- Slack Channels - Specifically for a tech company, Slack works great because, at this point in time, it is the industry standard for communication amongst technology companies around the world. Simply, open up a channel called #Community, as an admin post consistently and garner feedback.
- Email - Pretty simple right? Go ahead and create a firstname.lastname@example.org email and let all your people known through a mass email who have tried your products to give you constructive feedback and that they’ll get an incentive in the end.
- Instagram DMs - Now, depending on your business and what your product is… Instagram may or may not be an ideal channel for you. Example, if you have a physical product that millennials use. then this can be a gold mine of reviews for you. Remember to consistently post on your feed and add a story to keep people in-tune with your communications.
- Phone calls - Yes, many of us pick up the phone to make cold calls to potential clients or customers. But this method is proven to be effective for feedback as well. Just remember, you are asking them for something, not them of you.
- Events - Probably hands down, the most effective way to garner the most honest and direct feedback from your customers. Set yourself up at industry events, host your own or be a sponsor at a local one. Bring your products out and give people a try/demo! Ask for feedback in return. Simple.
- Website Form - Depending on your website and where it is built on (Wordpress, Shopify or custom) there is sure to be an app for what you are trying to accomplish. A form app that asks people for feedback on your products is ideal, you can easily set-up a form that has multiple choice to avoid people leaving blanks.
Remember one thing… You are starting to build a community. These early beta testers are the ones who refer your great products to their friends and family.
Level: Controlled Chaos
Think growth and how far you’ve come. It’s probably been over a year and you are starting to pick up traction. The reviews are flowing in, people are engaging on your social media platforms and lastly, they’re buying your products. This is the stage when you want to consider to implement a distribution system that distributes your product to your ideal customers and personas. Whether you are a technology or physical product, there are many different avenues you should consider. For now, we will focus on a framework system and process on distribution models. See this as a machine, a machine that nurtures your users automatically and keeps them in the buying cycle.
Motto: “Ok, we’ve come this far… Let’s grow and distribute, fast”
- Website - Simple, a centralized foundational hub that stores your product, content, information, reviews and just about your centralized brand identity. It’s the place where people will start their research. Make sure it's well designed and user-centric!
- Marketing Automation - The power of your website. When someone submits an email or visits, this is where your marketing automation will nurture those prospects from MQL (Marketing Qualified Lead) to SQL (Sales Qualified Lead) when they actually buy the product. Marketing Automation will serve as your automated marketing that keeps people engaged and segmented based on online behavior related to your brand. It includes re-targeting, emails, and CRM.
- Content Production - Produce content people want to see. If you’ve identified personas, then you know the type of content and context of media they consume. Your job is to produce a fresher just ahead of the cusp of content that keeps them engaged with your brand and resonates with your message. Ensure that your content educates, informs and evokes actions (Submitting forms/calling/etc) on the website.
- Identifying Influencers - Identify industry influencers and people who have a large following of the personas that you are looking to provide value to. These personas can have large followings on Instagram, YouTube, Twitter or Facebook. Use your judgment.
- Public Relations - There’s a really good book on this called Trust me I’m lying, confessions of a media manipulator by Ryan Holiday. It shows you how to take advantage of the public media channels such as BuzzFeed, Forbes, Bloomberg and other big publications in your space. By posting something that shocks people and some money behind it. You can potentially reach ~1,000,000 active users back to your website and into your marketing machine.
- Digital Campaign - From everything you did above. The time has come for a campaign to be implementing and validate everything you’ve done up till this moment. Your product and brand are going out into the public eyes as a massive scale. One thing is clear, whether you are promoting via Paid Media or Social Advertising. The public is never wrong. They will leave good and bad reviews. Be sure to keep this in mind.
- Sell Online - Your digital campaign is converting more people are buying and sharing this with their friends. Keep your ego in check and make sure that you are providing the right supply to the high demand.
- Sell Events - Be at every industry event, your goal is to become omnipresent and known within your community.
- Channel Partners - Sell your product through channel partners such as retailers or technology. They are usually the most cost-effective.
For a high-level go-to-market plan, I hope that you understand that every stage requires research and a high-level strategy that allows for pivoting at every stage. Remember that you can only do so much as an entrepreneur and may not have all the skillsets and time required to execute on a Go-to-Market strategy. Allow us to help you out. Reserve a Strategy Session and let’s level up!