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7 ideas for the next step after a product launch

by Jim Raffel on June 17, 2011

image of a space shuttle lanuch

Have you ever reached the end of a project and then realized you aren’t actually quite there? Me too. There are a couple of options when you reach this point: Quit or dig in and figure out how to fix or finish the project. You aren’t a quitter or you wouldn’t be reading this. So what do you say we just throw that option out, okay? That leaves us with figuring how to move the project forward. Let’s dig into that option instead.

The end is just the beginning

On June 1, we relaunched ProofPass.com. While we’ve done a great job achieving the over-arching goal of generating more sales leads for high-end ColorMetrix services, we’ve missed the mark on some of the smaller milestone goals. For example, we haven’t had as many folks sign up for free trials as we expected. We also haven’t seen enough of those free trials convert to full paid subscriptions. You may be thinking “but Jim you are generating the leads you ultimately wanted so who really cares?”

On one level, you’d be right. What concerns me is that we need to understand how the machine works as a whole. If the numbers we are seeing are right, then that is fine. What if we made some poor design decisions early on in the project that are driving the response rates down? Those kind of mistakes can be fixed easily enough. So, as I analyzed the relaunch 15 days later, I wondered how do we proceed to improve our results?

Starting over – sort of

I was reminded of the pivot my friends Joe Sorge and Chris Brogan just accomplished with their Kitchen Table Companies project. They made several changes to the design of their site and began offering more services and organizing/presenting the offering differently to both members and perspective members. One seemingly small change was the addition of “Your Small Business Advisory Board” to the header of the site. I say seemingly small because, from a positioning point of view, this change was huge. No more arriving at the site and wondering what KTC is all about.

So, with the KTC experience as a backdrop, I started thinking about what we could do and here’s what I came up with. Hopefully, these ideas will be useful taking the next step with your projects as well.

  1. Phone a friend – I called Joe and flat out asked for his advice. As he’d just gone through a similar experience, I couldn’t think of a better place to start. Utilize your network.
  2. Get an outside perspective – I had Shelby Sapusek, who had never used ProofPass.com, go through the entire experience from a new user perspective. Her two pages of notes have proven enlightening.
  3. Search out expert advice – Chris Brogan recently shared a video he did with Derek Halpern addressing the KTC redesign. I’ve watched this 10-minute video several times and taken lots of notes.
  4. Follow the linking advice of one expert to the next – Derek has a web-site Social Triggers with lots of great articles like Does Your Website Fail The “Header Removal Test?”
  5. Call ‘em, email ‘em, survey ‘em – All those folks that did follow the path you intended can provide insight into what you are doing right. More importantly, the ones who didn’t make it out of your sales funnel, can be asked “why not?”
  6. Make some well-thought-out changes – I like KTC’s approach of redesigning the whole site at once. Then, they kept tinkering with the content and service offering inside the new framework.
  7. Pay attention to the details – Our new site taxed the heck out of the server it was running on until we tweaked a bunch of settings. For about a day, this was causing the new site to be worse than the old site. Sometimes it pays to check “if the toaster is plugged in.”

This is the way I’m going about improving ProofPass.com. While your mileage is likely to vary, using these 7 ideas for taking the next step will help your project move forward as well. Hey, and by all means use the comments section below to add your ideas to the list.

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  • http://linkedin.com/in/joesorge Joe Sorge

    once again you’ve done a great job illustrating your path so that others could follow. thanks for that Jim.

  • http://JimRaffel.com/ Jim Raffel

    Joe, Well basically I followed your path….so you must do a pretty good job of that as well :)

  • http://www.thebusbandit.com The Bus Bandit

    I think you have a great product development process, but what has been your customer development process? Recently, I’ve been getting beat up by my homes for launching projects and products without validating the customer base during the research and development phase. What I’m now learning and executing to a success is step #5. Step #5 is the most important and should be done by all startups prior to launching with at least a pool of 50 or more people to include 10 to 20 early adopters that you can verify would pay for the product at launch.

    The primary questions you want answered is, “Is there an immediate need for this product/service?” A great businessman like Joe Sorge knows there is a need for food and beverage because our tummies growl when we don’t eat and drink. ;) But did you talk to your early adopters in advance of your launch and find out if they were in need of ProofPass.com? Meaning that a problem existed without your product that was costing them money and they were already looking for alternate solutions? If they told you that they had a problem and was trying to solve it, did you then introduce them to your product as you first designed it and ask them would they buy it and at what price point? Then if they say they would buy it, that’s when you actually try to validate it by offering to sell it to them at the determined price. If they say No, did you ask them would they use it if you gave it to them for free? Depending on how they answer that last question will lead you to your problem (either something wrong in product development / or something wrong in customer development) and you can go back and make the necessary changes to the PAYING CUSTOMERS specifications. But you should only make the changes to your original idea after you spoke to those who will actually use it.

    The best analogy I can use is when you’re dating or married and one day your woman comes home and does something with you or two you that she thinks is a total turn on, but you think is a total turn off. So she looks at you all surprised and wonder what she did wrong when she had the best of intentions. You look at her and ask, “What were you thinking?” And she tells you that she had this great idea to pleasure you that she read about in a magazine. She told her mother who said it sounded great. She told her sister who said it sounded great. She told her friend who said it sounded great. She watched Oprah and one of her guests said it sounded great. So since she thought it was great, and everyone else thought it was great, she assumed that you’d also think it was great and enjoy it. And all you can do is look her in the eyes and say, “Baby, I sincerely respect all of the thought and effort you put into this and I know you did it with the best intentions, but your one mistake was not asking me in advance to find out if I would think it was great. Your family, friends, and the media are not your Man, I am. So it’s best to get my opinion first.”

    Your PAYING customers (the person who will actually pay to enjoy your product and not just give you a pat on the back and call it a great idea that someone else will like) are who’s opinion you should get first to best determine their needs. Otherwise, you may be stuck with a confused look on your face after you go-to-market if they don’t enjoy the product based on your expectations. ;)

    I hope that helps you a little because haven’t my ass kicked with that message by my homies and other experts is finally getting through to me.  

  • http://JimRaffel.com/ Jim Raffel

    Wow, lots of great ideas and thoughts in there. The part that resonates with me the most at this moment in the last paragraph. Sometimes you have to get your ass kicked to learn the value of listening those closest to you. :)

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