Advice For SME Business Owners
We live in an economic age where businesses, regardless of size, demand digital products and solutions at a rate nearly faster than they can be churned out. If everyone is creating digital products, it can’t be that hard, right? Therein lies the irony; that being, with the right budget anyone can have the product itself built, but launching said product successfully to market is another case. With that in mind, we’d like to go over five considerations we believe are key to a successful launch.
Have an MVP
It is crucial to launch your system with at least an MVP; that is, the minimum viable product. Now understand, when we say minimum, we mean the absolute minimum you need to launch. “Why is that?”, you may be thinking. As a small to medium sized business, it is considered safer to launch the product at an MVP stage. Larger companies often tend to skip MVP launches for reasons that you can easily imagine since their budgets tend to be orders of magnitude higher with multiple teams working on validating the product idea and direction with swathes of real users.
Remember that your MVP is far from perfect and likely not exactly ready for market. The key point of launching an MVP is the fact that it’s your first attempt, giving you the ability to validate your core approach. Will my idea work as I think with users? Let’s put the MVP in their hands and see firsthand. Now the larger companies tend to use focus groups for testing as they are privy to this resource; they’ll iterate the MVP until they reach the desired focus group feedback.
As a small to medium company, you’ll need to validate your concept and perhaps gather further funding in order to further the development. So launch your MVP, get everyone you know and everyone they know to use the product and gather feedback. This will provide a certain level of validation to the concept and additionally allow you to secure internal or external funds as needed. From there, you can iterate your way to the product perfection & quality you desire!
test, Test, TEST!
Arguably, the most vital step and most often sidelined is that of testing. Understandable, as a business owner, you’ve got a lot on your mind and adding the development of a digital product to the mix can create something of a pressure cooker environment. Your development team has successfully gotten you to the first MVP point; congratulations for that. However, remember that your team is focused on output rather than quality. They of course have multiple layers of testing; however, they usually heavily rely on automation testing which cannot replace real life users.
Testing with actual users will allow you to validate, dismiss or adjust your entire approach to the product so this cannot be overlooked. Employing a dedicated QA engineer is a crucial first step to ensuring the product is working and has been through a gamut of stressors. You need to know how sturdy the software is, where it breaks when pushed and try to fix it in advance.
Why use real users? Good question and an easy one to answer. Real users tend to do things that you don’t expect or follow a logic you had not considered despite how much your team anticipates, prepares, designs and builds. A famous joke comes to mind, “A QA Engineer walks into a bar. They order a beer. They order zero beers. They order 9,999,999 beers. They order a lizard. They order -5 beers. They order a (^_^) beer. Everything works fine. The first real customer walks into the bar; they ask where the bathroom is, and the bar explodes!”
So testing with real users both before and after launching is key. Putting your software in the hands of users who don’t know anything about it is going to be the truest way to test and you garner priceless insights. If needed, rope in everyone you can, browse through your contacts and call in all your outstanding favours; the more the merrier when testing!
Plan Your Launch
Yes, you read that title correctly and no we’re not patronising you. Naturally you will plan your launch, you’ve spent lots of time and money to get to this point. There are certain technical considerations when launching a product that demand implementation to provide a stable & clean, monitored and responsive launch.
Stable & Clean Launch
First to consider from a technical perspective for a stable launch is to separate your development environments. In this case, an environment is a frontend and backend instance of your system; any number of instances can exist as they are clean copies of the software itself. There are usually three main environments of the software:
- Development – used by the developers & often the messiest, most unstable environment
- Staging / User Acceptance Testing (UAT) – environment for client & testers to test new features
- Production – the ‘live’ environment, outward facing to all real users
The purpose of these environments is to keep the three elements separate to create stability, segregation of data and users. By creating this separation, when something changes in one environment, the effect of that change is only local rather than spread across all three. This allows for each environment to have different features at different levels of completion which in turn permits segregation of complete features ready for launch from incomplete features still under development.
You want a clean launch so, why not set up some analytics? They will give you the crucial ability to track and monitor real user behaviour & engagement. This information is vital to knowing what is and isn’t working with your product. We understand the irony that this consideration only pays off after the launch, though it does not diminish its importance and connection to the launch. It will give you the ability to quickly make course corrections, fixes or changes to the features if the need arises even hours after launch.
The third and final technical consideration is the monitored launch. Remember that no matter how much you test, there will always be bugs; they come with the territory. The key point is acknowledging this and purposefully setting up a system where these bugs can be identified and squashed expediently. The developers should include automated error tracking systems that will help them identify bugs and crashes, but they won’t catch everything so you need to ensure there is a way for users to report issues.
Quickly resolving issues can be the difference between retaining users and seeing your product user base grow, and a project that ultimately ends in failure. Therefore, keep your development team on standby to deal with this and have that smooth launch you desire!
Coordinated Marketing Launch
The attitude of “build it and they will come” more often than not, doesn’t work; even for large companies nowadays, nothing is guaranteed when it comes to users. Therefore, work closely with your marketing team to plan the approach, understand who your audience is and target your product with marksman-like precision.
Everyone knows that having more people working together can raise productivity and diversify perspectives. In that spirit, to succeed with the marketing, you must make it a team effort. The product needs to have features that will aid in the marketing team’s efforts to better promote the product and truly hit the ground running. If your launch is plagued by bugs or delays, you can kiss a clean launch goodbye and the overall experience may sully your product in the minds of potential users. Marketing features inside the product like free trials, promo codes, gifts, etc. will give the necessary tools to your marketing team; tools they need to perform their task at a higher level.
Additional consideration must be given to requirements for the Apple & Google app stores. The approval processes for each store are wildly different and can take considerable time. Moreover, there can be unforeseen complications with the respective T&C compliance that may lead to the rejection of your app; further redevelopment or changes will push your launch out further and drain more budget. Therefore, be sure to plan your release thoroughly in advance to your desired official launch. Combined, your marketing and development team are better than just one at creating a clear roadmap incorporating all these elements to get you that clean launch.
When all is said and done, these considerations to keep in mind are a small, but not insignificant additional blip on your radar when taking into account all you’ve done to reach this point. You’ve ticked all the major boxes on your journey to developing your first digital product, don’t overlook the minor boxes that help tie everything neatly together!
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