Scenario: "Yo! We'll introduce our product with a Bang! We'll splatter it across metropolitan newspapers. Billions! Give me a high-five! Yay!"
How do conventional entrepreneurs introduce their products?
It goes through a similar cycle:
- Yo, I'm gonna build the next billion-dollar widget. Yay!
- Entrepreneur builds product.
- We're done building. Let's go whacko-crazy and introduce this sucka to the world!
- Sells widgets.
What eventually happens?
- Customer A has problem. Customer B has problem. Customer C has problem. Yadda.
- 90% of buyers start calling and complaining. "You people suck," they scream.
- You cash flow starts draining -- like mofo -- because of unforeseen problems.
- Your business shuts down.
Uh-oh. There's a better way to introduce your products. Think: minor league. Oh-yeah. We'll explain.
Why a Minor League for Your New Products Rocks
We'll go all sporty on yo behind and introduce this analogy: A professional baseball team in America has two divisions: (1) major league, and (2) minor league.
- The major leagues are for the super-badasses who can rock the leather-covered ball 53278975105329702 feet.
- The minor leagues are for developing rough players into major-league-ready stars. Minor league players are good, but still need fine-tuning, developing, and -- if deemed super badasses -- promoted to the majors.
The baseball team ensures its "product" (i.e. the fan experience) continually rocks by:
- Keeping stars in the major league spotlight of millions.
- Not diluting the fan experience with less-than-stellar players.
- Developing potential stars in the background when not too many people are looking, and not too many resources are invested.
Then, the inevitable: Bang! When potential stars become actual stars, teams promote them to the majors -- and invest major resources in them. Public perception: "Hey, this organization keeps on chugging out stars. I will always have a fabulous experience buying their stuff. Wowzers!" Unbeknown to them, major league teams kept their "super-awesome" brand unblemished by developing and fine-tuning those stars for the spotlight. Sexy.
"Okay. So what the @#$% does this baseball analogy have to do with my business?"
Most business-builders introduce new products without testing, fine-tuning, and refining their new products. Instead of placing the new products in the "minor leagues," those babies go into the spotlight right away. Then at the new product's inevitable first hint of suckiness -- which all new products experience, the sucker starts diluting the other fabulous products associated with the brand. Like all major league players, your future superstar needs fine-tuning in the minor leagues. Not only does that protect your brand, but that conserves your major resources by (1) seeding something first, (2) seeing if it grows, (3) then piling major resources into it if it does.
"So, how do I introduce my new products using the 'minor league' concept?"
Depending on your business, you can do it one of three ways -- though certainly not limited to these three:
Create a stand-alone brand for it.If the product totally, viciously sucks -- your established brand won't suffer because of it.
Slap a beta tag on it.Customers won't expect a perfect product, so mistakes won't cost you your brand's equity.
Test with a limited number of users.It's the method we prefer most. Limiting access of your product to a controllable number of users gives you immediate feedback for fine-tuning -- and much more important: creates "in-the-know" evangelists. Those evangelists will spread your product to the masses once they find it "ready" for primetime.
Not every-single-one-of-your-crazy products will ever be ready for primetime.
Testing them away from the spotlight (1) conserves resources, and (2) maintains your brand's rockin' perception -- even when you ultimately deem the product "Sucky."
"When should I promote my products to the majors?"
- When people start raving about your product.
- When you feel sexy about it.
- (Don't promote it. Let your initial customers do it for you.)
Why we like #3 more: If your product's truly kick-booty, then you won't need to promote it. Your customers will do it for you, and organically grow your business. Knowing that drives you to build a rockin' product that amazes the begeebees out of 'em. To brace your new products for primetime:
Develop the suckas in the minors.
Posted on January 23
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