Over the past 10 years I’ve created many businesses. If you looked at my business life on a timeline you would see that my first few businesses didn’t do too well, however, as the years went on I slowly became more successful.
Why? Because I’ve learned from my mistakes.
One mistake I learned to avoid is that you have to move fast when it comes to a product launch. Dragging your feet will kill your launch. Here are six common mistakes that lead to procrastination, and how to avoid them.
1. Not Working Fast Enough
Not meeting your product launch deadline can be deadly. A lot of people are anticipating the launch, including the press and your investors, and if you fail to meet it and don’t have a really good reason, people may doubt your ability in the future.
Even if you and your team think that six months or nine months or whatever time you’ve promised seems like a long time…don’t waste it! Get to work right away as soon as you can. It’s much better to finish before your deadline than it is to finish after.
I think we are all probably guilty of wasting time when we think we have a lot of it. Here’s my recommendation to avoid doing that:
- Give your team an internal goal – this is the goal that you are not sharing with the public. The purpose of this goal is to keep your team motivated early on.
- Give yourself time to re-evaluate – Your internal goal should be far enough from the real deadline to give you time to evaluate. As things may not go well.
- Give yourself meaningful landmarks to hit – Your internal goal should be made up of five or six landmark goals that gauge your progress in a meaningful way. For example, you could set a goal for prototypes, user testing round one, etc.
Also, try to avoid one of the most common mistakes that new entrepreneurs make: never make promises you can’t keep.
2. Unsure About The Problem
A slow product launch might be caused by you and your team not understanding the problem your product is supposed to fix. This could lead to a number of problems:
- Confusion – Not everyone is on the same page, so when you communicate to your team what you want, they hear one thing because they understand the problem differently.
- Conflict – There’s a chance if you and your team don’t truly understand the problem that you’ll end up fighting. It may even come across in subtle ways, like not putting in long hours or turning in sloppy work.
- Control – In a really bad situation you may find yourself fighting for control of the product with other team members. This will surely sink any kind of effort.
What I’ve learned from my experience and mentors is to over communicate! If you don’t feel like your team understands the problem, ask them how they see it. Do they have it right and do you have it wrong?
It’s important to always ask questions and never assume. It can be easy for entrepreneurs to ignore people or advice, and forge forward without taking in consideration what the people around them are saying. Remember, arrogance diminishes wisdom.
Besides, communication is just as much about listening as it is about speaking. Here are some tips on listening better:
- Allow people to speak first.
- Pay close attention to what they are saying. Don’t think of your response while they are talking.
- When they are done talking, repeat back to them what you thought they said and ask them, “Is that what you said?”
- Before you answer, ask yourself, “Where’s the truth in what they said?” Find the common ground.
3. Fear Of Users
Seriously, you’d think that if you were launching a product you’d be in love with the thought of engaging customers. But not every one behind a product launch is the out-going type. Heck, if he or she is an engineer, they like tinkering with the toys and not talking to the customer.
This can lead to putting off not just the launch but necessary prototype tests. Ignoring users can lead to a product that users don’t want.
If you’re the kind of person who isn’t big on dealing with users, then you need to find someone else to do it for you. If you can’t for some reason, or really want to do it yourself because you believe that’s a great learning lesson for you, then follow these tips:
- Treat the interaction with users like a game – Create a goal that’s personal to you and will help motivate you to engage with your customers. This could be as simple as “talk to 10 users every day.”
- Ask someone to join you – I know people who feel uncomfortable talking to strangers, so to help them get over that they always bring someone along who isn’t uncomfortable. After spending some time with this person and learning from them, then you can try it on your own.
- Put a barrier between you and the user – Sometimes you don’t need to talk to the user face-to-face. It may be through surveys, emails, a dashboard or even phone call. If you can control the situation, go for it!
4. Fear Of Failure
Starting a business, especially one that will get a lot of attention, can cause some people to procrastinate because they are afraid to fail. They don’t want to launch their product because they think people will look down on them or their product won’t measure up to the competition.
It can be tough if you are bringing a product to market that’s supposed to beat a current customer favorite. This is why you have to be tough-skinned and a little bit of an egomaniac as an entrepreneur.
Bill Nguyen is an interesting serial entrepreneur who claims he makes the same mistakes over and over again with each launch. If you think about it, this flies in the face of conventional wisdom. I wouldn’t recommend his approach, but you have to hand it to him…he’s got guts!
Are you afraid of being judge or failing? Here are some tips to help you overcome that fear:
- Ask yourself what’s the worst thing that can happen if you fail. Can you live with that? You probably can.
- Remind yourself that failure is a good teacher.
- Remember that thousands of successful people have failed multiple times.
- Find successful people who’ve failed and ask them to talk to you about how they dealt with it.
- Hang out with people who support, love and encourage you.
- Never give up.
- Remember that you have as much right to launch a product as anybody else.
If you do these things you may not get the same guts as Nguyen, but you’ll get a jolt of self-confidence that can carry you to that launch.
5. Being Distracted By Too Many Things
This is a real killer for entrepreneurs. You probably love to work and solve problems, and when you do this, if you’re like me, you may end up getting involved in a lot of things. Entrepreneurs are overachievers, which is a good thing, but it can spell trouble when it comes to launch time.
How do you avoid working on too many things? Simply focus. Your task for the next few months should be nothing but get your product ready for launch. Here are some tips to help you focus:
- Create a minimal viable product, so things move faster.
- Plaster your product launch date everywhere so nobody forgets.
- Remind yourself and your team all the time of their singular focus.
- Eliminate anything that’s a distraction, whether it’s too many dinner dates or even press interviews. Sure, it’s important to build momentum up, but a failed product launch will kill any kind of attention you get.
Perfectionism is simply re-working a product over and over, trying to fix every single bug and erase every single bad design element so the customer gets a perfect product. That’s really the traditional, big corporation idea product launch.
Unfortunately it’s very expensive to operate that way because your idea may not be the customer’s idea of perfection, leading to a product that users don’t want.
You don’t probably have deep enough pockets to make that mistake even once.
These days it’s pretty common to get a product to 33% launch-ready before releasing. That’s an acceptable, proven practice, but you can still suffer from perfectionism when it comes to beta testing.
How? There are two ways:
- Define exactly what 33% is – Do you and your team have a clearly defined picture of 33%? Did you work this into your business plan? Do your investors understand that picture, too?
- Who’s responsible for identifying 33%? – An important aspect to a good team is someone who can hold you accountable. If you have a partner, he or she should hold you accountable. If you are a single founder, then you should appoint someone, maybe a mentor, to hold you accountable. If you don’t have this person, you can fall into perfectionism.
It’s important that you communicate clearly what stage your product is in when it launches. Everybody knows that the first generation of Apple products is going to be buggy. That’s why only innovators and early adapters are the only ones who typically pick them up.
You have to work hard to be a successful entrepreneur. You have to put in 80 hours a week and sacrifice time with family and friends. Don’t let a delayed product launch flush all that work down the drain!
What other things can stall a product launch?