I have what I believe will be a game changer in my industry. I have been working on a website for over a year now and I plan to take it to market early next year. However, I noticed recently that someone with a very very similar idea took it to market in January this year. I am panicking. What do I do? Keep calm and follow on with my plan or release now?
Regardless of your launch date - keep calm. Having a competitor or twenty is all but a certainty in our new business environment. It has never been easier to discover a problem, validate a solution, build a product and reach customers. But that goes for everyone.
I'd urge you to consider a few questions:
1. Competitive Intelligence:
If this competitor's offering is very similar to yours - what can you take away from a year (nearly) of their operations? Can you use this intel to modify your own product or approach? What have they learned in a year that you can use as a shortcut? Have they shown success in a particular vertical? If so, can you also focus there? This isn't an exhaustive list of questions on this topic - just pointing out that there is likely a silver lining to this cloud of competition.
The question of "is this ready to release?" "should I do it now, or later", "if later, how much later, when is the right time to launch" is one I field more than once a week.
My opinion always skews to the "as close to now as practical." Watching founders struggle over knowing exactly when to launch as if it's a ribbon cutting ceremony for a bridge is painful for me. There is always a minimum level of development, engineering or design required to get your product into the market - but it is usually well below the perceptions of the founder.
Take a minute to step back and ask yourself what will happen between now and whatever arbitrary time period you've determined is "ready". What features will you be adding? Do they matter to your users? If you said yes, how do you know - did you ask users? A lot of them? If not - you may be adding bloat before you even launch, or worse, doing what I call "building a better Yeti trap". Make sure your efforts are driven by the actual, and not perceived, assumed, or gut intuitions about what they need.
A competitive entrant is always a bit unnerving - but remember that being first to market isn't the race you need to win - that's just the start. Turn this into an advantage by drafting off their momentum.
Chances are, your product is ready for some level of use right now, and that users will derive some benefit from it, and that you'll learn a lot from their usage.
So, for my 2 cents, I'll borrow from my stiff upper lipped ancestors from across the pond - and suggest that you "Keep Calm, AND Launch Now"
I would take it as a positive thing, it shows a level of validation that someone has independently come up with the same idea. You can analyse what they have done and learn from their mistakes.
Other things to consider:
1. Is there only room for one product solving this problem?
2. what can you offer that this competitor does not?
3. have belief in yourself and your ability to add personal value
I recommend you take a deep breath, consider the above, don't make any rash decisions, if they've been live for 11 months another few weeks won't make much of a difference.
It is good you are worried. Goes to show you are in touch with reality. You should always keep an eye on what is going on in your market.
With regards to your plan and if you stick your plan. Please your plan as a startup is already out of date. As a startup you operate in a volatile and dynamic market place. As soon as you finished your plan it was out of date. A bit like a photograph. As soon as you took the snap things changed.
I think it would be wise to re visit your plan and update it as per the changes in the market place. It means you have to take you product to market earlier or in a different way. Depends.
If you are using beta testers for you service then this should be less of a concern. Hope you are.
Ready, Fire, Aim. Do not make the mistake of waiting. Fire away. You may find that you need to make adjustments, change your services, products, whatever. You will never learn this in the lab or a closet. Quit waiting.
Best of Luck,
From the Trenches to the Towers Marketing
I will be glad to help as my time permits.
To start, the best time to launch is generally As Soon As Possible. I’m a firm believer in Eric Ries’ Lean Start-up philosophy. According to this strategy, trying to launch a perfect product is a fool’s errand, and wastes critical time. Instead, release what Ries calls the MVP: minimum viable product. Basically, the product must work. It must perform the stated function, and that is all. Bells, whistles, and other additions can be added later or included in future iterations of the product. Every product should be released as soon as it can be used, and all the honing and perfecting you might be tempted to do beforehand can be accomplished while it is already on the market. This is cost-effective, because it allows you to start profiting from your product before you start tweaking it, and it allows you to take advantage of the excitement your product creates to sell more refined versions later. That is not to say you should release something inferior to the public, of course. It simply describes a different way of looking at product development. Namely, product development should be a never-ending process, a lifelong struggle for perfection that is never actually achieved.
1. Sales Cycles: With a minimum viable product ready to launch, the exact time of the year, month, and even week you choose can make a difference. For instance, most sales experts agree that Monday is not a good day for a product launch. Consumers are too focused on the coming week, with its responsibilities and expenses, to be in a buying mood. Fridays are problematic, too. The weekend is coming, and people are in social mode, not consumption mode. Therefore, mid-week, from Tuesday to Thursday, is statistically the best time. Not as overwhelmed as on Monday, but not as carefree as on Friday, consumers are in a headspace conducive to a purchase. The time of year matters as well. Naturally, there is lots to be bought and sold in the weeks leading up to holidays- but launching a product on Christmas day is unlikely to work out. The same goes for minor holidays as well. July 4th or Memorial Day are just as bad a time to launch as New Year’s Day, for the same reasons. The key is to avoid days or weeks in which people have reasons not to buy, either because they are too busy, or they are financially stretched. Of course, the product itself will determine when the best time of year is to launch. January, for example, can work well for fitness equipment or other self-improvement products that may help fulfil New Year’s resolutions. Spring and summer are best for outdoor products. Statistically, May and June are the top months in which cookware and other home goods sell, given that so many weddings take place in the summer. August is best for laptops and other things students will need come September. It all comes down to what car salesmen might call the Convertible Rule: never try to sell a convertible when it is snowing. Always look for the right seasonal conditions to move your product, and the odds will do a lot of the selling for you.
2. Your Schedule: Choosing your ideal launch time will also depend largely on your own schedule. Do not plan a product release on your anniversary, or your kid’s birthday, or during the season finale of Game of Thrones. If you can, try to schedule the launch when both your personal life and your business have as little going on as possible, so that you can devote whatever time and energy will be needed to the launch. It makes sense to prioritize product launches over other considerations. You only get one shot at this, after all. Inevitably, there will be glitches, customer service issues, press release management, and a host of other unpredictable demands on your attention. It is important to have all hands-on deck, and yourself at the helm, ready to execute the launch with 100% presence. No matter how well you plan it, there is no way to put a product launch on autopilot.
3. Launch Conditions: When it is a rocket ship, the good folks at NASA wait for a clear day and a particular alignment of the planets. Just so in business, where there are conditions that must be met for a product to be launched successfully. These conditions have nothing to do with the calendar, but rather with having certain ducks in a row to facilitate the best outcome.
First, you will have to have established your brand’s credibility enough to justify excitement for your new product. Have you advertised? Sent out emails? Hosted a webinar? If you have not already given your consumer base a reason to trust you, it is time to lay that groundwork down. This way, more customers will be willing to gamble whatever the price of your product is on the certainty that it will meet their needs. Secondly, make sure that your business infrastructure is prepared for the jump in sales, lest you risk the “catastrophic success” of having loads of orders without being able to fill them efficiently. Is your distribution system in place? Is your payment system glitch-free? Do you have team members standing by for customer service and tech support? Anticipate success, and you will guarantee it. Finally, time the launch in relation to existing products and their performance. Does your product address a shortcoming in something the competition has on the market? Can it supplement another good product, working in tandem? Even your own product’s performance should be considered. The best time to launch a new product of yours is when another product of yours is reaching the peak of its success, so that you can ride that momentum into the next wave of sales.
4. Communication: Launching a product can be as stressful as actually creating one. The best way to ensure that your launch goes well is, first and foremost, to have a unique and creative product in the first place. Beyond that, it is a matter of communication. Stay in touch with your audience. Use email and social media to build excitement around your product and be there to usher it into the market. Expect the unexpected, and be ready to handle questions, concerns and other feedback from your audience. Be open to it and respond to it quickly and professionally. Step your customer service game up for the occasion, and be honest and straightforward as the response to your launch rolls in. Stand by your product and listen carefully for all the notes it hits with your audience.
Besides if you do have any questions give me a call: https://clarity.fm/joy-brotonath