Startup Day 3: an overview

This is a day-by-day analysis of the first 30 days of a startup. To read about the background and logic behind the posts, see the Intro page to this section.

The psychology of a launch

I am writing this on Day 3, which is already a black mark against me. The idea was to start on day 1, which conveniently was Monday, 1st March and the beginning of the financial year in South Africa. I obviously did not do that, although I should have. The reason why I didn’t is actually one of the main reasons I am doing this day-by-day: procrastination. Maybe otherwise known as fear? I’m hoping the day-by-day will keep me more accountable.

I was absolutely ready to launch my product on Monday. Then I moved the launch to Tuesday. Eventually, I launched on Wednesday (today). I had done nothing substantial to the product in the first two days, although I did do a lot of strategising and thinking. Point still remains though: I could have launched on Monday, and done all the thinking anyway.

It’s an important lesson (for me) to learn: just do it! And yes, I absolutely think it is fear that keeps holding me back. Which translates into “If I only make this little change …” or “If we only add this feature…” then “…of course the reaction of the market is going to be phenomenal“. When the changes or additions happen, they are (of course) not product-changing at all, and so the cycle repeats itself: I go back to not believing the product is not good enough, or appealing enough to my target market, and that I need to improve it before I launch it.

It’s bullshit, is what it is. Many a smarter person has said it more eloquently than I ever could:

Note to myself: Slow start is standard

This is a fundamental shift in attitude for me. I expect things to happen quickly, and when they don’t I consider it a personal afront. To be fair, things sometimes do move quickly. Every once in a while I will do or launch something that resonates quickly, goes viral and gets a tremendous response. So I then, rather ridiculously, expect that to happen all the time to all my launches. The problem is, most of those “viral” events were non-revenue generating, at least not at the start. It’s easy to create a buzz around some clever little thing, if the only investment is a bit of time, a retweet or a thumbs up. It’s quite different when money has to exchange hands.

(To be fair, my launch does not involve only paid products – the model is a freemium model, so people can certainly get a lot of value even without parting with cash. Nevertheless, what is not optional is the time it takes to get familiar with the concept, and the time it takes to create a profile. So there is that cost.)

But for now, I have told myself that I cannot expect any huge uptake of my product for at least a month. This is a fundamental shift for me – I have never given myself this much “permission” to “succeed slowly”. In a way, as I write this, I know that just giving myself this permission does not mean that I am not going to be broken if the uptake is indeed that slow. But hopefully, if that does happen, I am going to keep on coming back to this post (and the original post) and am not going to give up too quickly. Let’s hope.

OK, so what did I do today?

I moved slowly. I launched the concept of the product to “the public”, by which I mean:

  • I posted on the FaceBook page (with about 160 followers)
  • I posted on the (new) Twitter account (33 followers) and retweeted to mine (1850+) followers
  • I posted on LinkedIn (1,500+ connections, but obviously seen by only a fraction of that)
  • I took out a very small budget ad on Facebook, targeted at healthworkers in SAfrica

I also followed a whole bunch of people on Twitter. This should have two benefits: I will benefit from reading their tweets in my timeline, and some might benefit from reading mine. I might do something similar with my Facebook and Linkedin pages tomorrow or Friday.

(If you’re wondering how I found people to follow: I looked at the accounts I was already following, and then clicked on who they were following. I went through that list, which includes the profile bios, and selected those that I thought were applicable to me).

The result of this? Not much. Some retweets and likes, but absolutely no dialog or any further actions from anybody. This kind of disappoints me, but it definitely does not surprise me. I mean, as far as launches go that was kind of pathetic, and mega small. I’m not sorry about my approach though: I intentionally wanted to just release it gently, and ramp up as the week progresses.

Steps going forward:

Tomorrow I am going to:

  • Be active on social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and maybe Instagram). I aim for about 3-4 posts per day, one which will be a link to the product, and the other to re-inforce community and info sharing. This will be a daily thing, and it will be intersting to see how the follower numbers improve, if at all.
  • I am going to contact 30-50 potential clients directly, with a one-on-one email. I am hoping this will be very successful as I am going to choose the people very carefully, and communicate to them the value of the product on a personal (not generic) level. This should take up most of the day.
  • If I have time, I will write a brief to create the landing page for the download of the .pdf directory, for when the directory is ready for download (April?). Hopefully that will drive some interest, and some listings.

The stats

Social Media:

  • Twitter: Following 201; Followers 35; Tweets: 4; 5 new followers
  • Facebook: About 160 existing followers? 1 new one.
  • Instagram: not launched yet
  • Linkedin Page: 0 followers (this is for the business page). I haven’t invited anyone yet, and am not sure I will quite yet.

Sales and Signups:

  • Directory downloads email list: Not launched yet
  • New Listings: 0

Lessons Learnt

  • Don’t delay your launch out of fear that the product is not good enough. If you thought it was ready two days ago, it is ready today.
  • No one is eagerly waiting for your product to launch if they don’t know about it. This is the strong case for building a landing page and collecting emails of interested people while you build.
  • You need to more than just build it if you want them to come
  • Launching and gathering up interest should be seen as part of the fun of designing and building. If you hate this part, you are pretty doomed
  • Patience is a virtue
  • NEVER rely on Facebook or other social media for organic reach. It does not happen.

Tomorrow is another day.

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I’m building the site live, because I don’t expect an audience until I actively send people here, and it’s easier to send links for feedback that way anyway. 

So if you made it here on you own, somehow…maybe come back later? :=)

#buildinginpublic.