Should I start talking about my future product, or should I wait till its ready?


5

I've registered my small consulting company about a year ago and since then we provide consulting and support for several clients, one of which is one of the industry largest organizations in the world.

However, my goal is to release a product and to become a product company in the long run. The services that we provide are just to pay the bills and to sponsor the development of the product.

So my questions are:

  1. Should I start advertising my site in the uISV community if my product is still only in my head, or should I wait till I have something real to show and only then start talking about it to potential customers? My plan is to have the first beta version after 5-6 months at least. What concerns me is that if I start blogging and talking about all the good features that I plan to introduce but cannot show something working, people would lose interest after a month or two and after that it would be even harder to attract any attention to my product.
  2. On the company site currently there is nothing about the product that I plan to build, but only information about the services that we provide. So if I use the company blog as a place to talk about my upcoming product and if I start put the link to the website on the various websites and communities, aren't this going to create a confusion - I talk about some product, but my website advertise my services and says nothing about the product? Should I create a new website, and is there really any problem if I advertise my company as a service and product oriented in the same time?
  3. Also I'm much worried that if I publicly talk and describe the functionality I plan to provide, the big players in my niche could very easily implement these features by themselves with all their resources much quicker than I could. My competitive advantage would be massively improved user interaction and experience which would directly saves high amounts of time and money, but otherwise the market I'm about to enter is very old and crowded. That's why I'm worried about my competitors - they are well known with huge resources and kinda "own the market", so if they provide the same features as me, it would be incredibly hard for me to convince somebody that I was the first one to introduce these features.
  4. On the other hand, if I start blogging and talking about my product now, I hope to create some hype about it and establish myself as the first one who introduce these ideas.

Any advise would be highly appreciated.
Thanks.

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asked Jan 15 '10 at 20:11
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Krasimir Evtimov
150 points

4 Answers


3

From my experience at moving from consulting to a product company:

  1. Separate out the product marketing: Separate web site, messaging, etc. In the right places of the site (About Us, etc.) you can refer back to your consulting company and use that to emphasize you haven't sprung out of thin air into existence. They are largely disparate markets and in my experience it doesn't lend value to your product brand (at least initially) to be associated with your consulting brand.
  2. Don't be afraid of taking time: Yes, you could try to iterate quickly on a design in public. It's one approach. What we did, and it was invaluable, is took our time: We spent about 20 months from the first line of code until the product was offered for sale. Every week was worth it.
  3. Don't worry about the Big Guys: Yes, they could copy your features in less time than you can create a product. If all that's going to make you distinct is a few features you probably should reconsider your product idea. What you want is a product concept where your approach (or philosophy) will appeal strongly to a subset of the market, and your features spring from that approach.
  4. Find beta users: While I wouldn't talk broadly until you believe you have something to give people, you should find a few users that can hold your feet to the fire. We went through three rounds of beta before we finalized the features for our initial release. The scope of the application changed markedly in that time. By having a small group of beta users we knew we were able to carefully qualify and integrate the feedback with our small team of developers and know why each feature is important.
  5. Establish your expertise in your target market: It's never too soon to get people thinking of you as an expert in the space your product makes better. It's easier for a barber to market hair care products; if you are viewed as an expert at something then when you come out with an offering there's a ready made audience that is willing to give you the benefit of the doubt and try it out. Just as importantly, make sure your ear is to the ground in those communities about their persistent concerns to get an initial idea on how to craft a marketing message for your product.

It's very hard to believe when you're setting out to develop a software product but to be successful a tremendous amount of your time and energy will have to go into marketing. The hardest lesson we got from our advisers was to stop adding features to our product and instead focus on how we connected with people and got them to give us enough time to demonstrate the value of the features we had. The goal isn't just to ship software but to have people find it a compelling solution to problems they have.

answered Jan 16 '10 at 07:35
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Kendall Miller
968 points
  • Thanks for the detailed answer - I highly appreciate your advice, because its coming from somebody making the switch and talking from personal experience. I also though about the website and the only reason I'm still asking this question, is that I hope to have some page rank love from google and used for the product. Several weeks ago I take a quick look at your product and I'm really impressed - great job. You guys have put some hard though about the product and are able to differentiate it from the rest, even thou your niche is also full with open source competitors. – Krasimir Evtimov 9 years ago
  • We brought up our product site about two months before the commercial release and took that time to work on that - primarily by writing good articles for our blogs and getting them noticed, and having good content on the site which took about 6 weeks to get noticed by Google. We also worked with one of our beta customers to have them publish an article at the right time on their blog about us. While it's great to put something out there and hope people will write about it don't rely on that happening; help it happen by cultivating a few folks that love you. – Kendall Miller 9 years ago

2

The general consensus seems to be: get the word out there ASAP in order to at least validate the demand for your product.

On a side note, 5-6 months seems like a quite long development cycle in 2010. Why don't you build a minimum viable product and iterate from there using customer feedback? Short iteration cycles, agility and "release early, release often" are all common denominators for successful startups nowadays. For more info on the subject, I recommend reading about the Customer Development and Lean Startup methodologies.

answered Jan 15 '10 at 21:40
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Olivier Lalonde
2,753 points
  • Thank you for your feedback! It may seem like a too long period, but right now in addition to the services that my company provide, I'm also a full time employee and just don't have time to build the product sooner, no matter how much I want to do it. And the reality right now is that I cannot leave my full time job right now - I'm the only working person in my family and I'm expecting a baby after several months, so I should keep the incoming as high as I can, and trying to create the product only when I'm not working on my other two jobs. – Krasimir Evtimov 9 years ago
  • +1 for the Minimum Viable Product. Critical for a quick time to revenue. – Jarie Bolander 9 years ago

2

I would not push a product which doesn't exist yet.

Instead, I'd suggest you focus on two things:

First - continue to build your personal reputation and credentials as an industry thought leader in the segment in which you are currently providing services and in which you expect to focus your potential product. Since you're the primary provider in your family, it's important that you continue to have a reliable income stream. In addition, your positive reputation as a thought leader will be invaluable should you choose to launch a product.

Second - ask current clients how a product might help them solve specific problems and what mix of features would provide the most measurable value to them. Don't commit that you are developing a product until you're much closer to a beta release. As you get closer to beta, ask some of your current clients to be part of your advisory board to ensure that the features you're building are the most important to the marketplace and differentiate your product from the "big players". Don't worry about who gets credit for thinking of a new idea - instead, focus on being able to deliver quantifiable value around the new idea.

Good luck!

answered Jan 16 '10 at 01:26
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Warren E. Hart
2,181 points
  • Thanks for suggestions - I would try to come up with some articles and blog post about the eventual benefits of my anticipated product without going into too much details. Also the idea of advisory board seems very practical to me - I would definitely try to talk with right people. – Krasimir Evtimov 9 years ago

1

I would also wait, and get at least some open road ahead of your competition.

I'm not paranoid about people stealing my idea, but there's little point in outlining all of your plans in public to the startup and uISV communities at this stage.

If you want the advice of that community, maybe contact specific people privately or offline and them to share their opinions?

If you want to test the market and build a little buzz, maybe do that discretely in the communities of your customers. e.g. Publish a few articles and see if the idea spreads or generates interest? Even then, I personally would take a softly softly approach until you have the first iteration of your product.

answered Jan 16 '10 at 02:36
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Benjamin Wootton
1,667 points
  • I really don't think that there are *community* in this product niche, but probably I just need to think harder. Appreciated, thanks! – Krasimir Evtimov 9 years ago

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