Have you ever let your desire for perfection or completion overwhelm your desire to actually get shit done? If so, I’m writing this for you.
Maybe you’ve said, oh, well, my perfectionism won’t let me do it.
Or maybe, I haven’t shipped yet because I’m afraid of failure.
Or perhaps — and more insidious (because it seems so much more reasonable) —
It’s not ready yet, just as soon as I finish xyz, then I’ll launch!
The problem is that your to-do list can stretch on forever: It’s not just enough to have written the content, it has to be perfectly edited. You need custom illustrations. You need to re-record the audio. You need SEO. You need a big list. You need a platform. You need guest appearances. You need the perfect pricing. You need packages, or else you’ll leave money on the table. You need customer intelligence. You need analytics. You need custom onboarding, lifecycle emails, live support, exploding discounts, the perfect launch sequence, a Facebook page…
You’ve just gotta add one more crucial feature.
Same bullshit, different day. No matter how reasonable or rational or Medium thinkpiece-y it sounds, it’s all an excuse to avoid doing the one thing you really don’t want to do: Interface with reality and find out what reality thinks of your work.
But if you refuse to get your project off your hard drive and into the world, you can never reap the rewards.
That’s why I’m a huge advocate of “f#ck it, let’s ship it.” Or, as it may be more demurely described, the soft launch.
Doing things “wrong” at first is often better in the long run.
This weekend, my husband and I launched our new SaaS. What did we do “wrong”? Let me count the ways…
- we sent out our invitation (aka SIGN UP aka LAUNCH) emails late on a Saturday night through Sunday afternoon
- I had written that said invites would arrive in 24 hours, but a lot of them were more like 36-48 (last minute delays!)
- I only sent one warm-up email prior to the invites
- we shipped with only with two, unoptimized plan prices
- my sales copy has a good strong start, but it is a bit long-winded and saggy in some places, and vague in others
- same sales copy does not make a case for the price at all
- there’s only one CTA and it’s alllllllll the way down the page; there’s no way to capture intent if people are excited but lazy
- inside the app is more than a bit ugly!
- the app doesn’t even have any navigation aside from the back button (for shame!!)
- we’re missing a lot of seemingly crucial features (admin dashboard, deleting workflow cards, data export, calendar integration, alerts, and more)
- in fact, we don’t even check CC validity and have no way to kick people off an account yet if their CC expires or fails
- we have dunning emails in place (thanks, Stunning but no other backend-y, admin-y stuff
- the app has no onboarding experience
- we have no concierge onboarding either
- we only have 2 templates available
- we have only 2 lifecycle emails queued up… and I’m not 100% certain the workflow works as intended
- said lifecycle emails do not include video or animations, but rather illustrations, and they’re rather feature-focused than pain-and-dream focused
- in theory, the early access price is time limited but I haven’t build out the campaign to nudge people for that yet (I’ve only got an outline so far)
- we actually have to write the code to end the early access price anyway? haha, that’s not done either
- we haven’t done jack for SEO, I mean literally nothing
- we haven’t yet built out the web of content marketing that will drive people into the funnel and to the signup
- actually we haven’t created any content marketing aside from “behind the scenes” peeks on Twitter and emails like this one
- we haven’t even got a blog to place said content marketing (and I haven’t mentioned it on Stacking the Bricks I don’t even think?)
I could go on for ages.
We have so little of what everybody says “you just gotta have.”
And yet… even with the rudimentary promotion we did do, we got nearly 850 people on the list to be notified.
And despite the ultra low-key, late-weekend-evening launch, we’ve racked up 80 credit card trials so far:
UPDATE: Just 24 hours after writing this, we’re over 100!
- 101 cc trials!!— Amy Hoy ✨ (@amyhoy) November 7, 2017
- 23 are teams
First reaction: YAY!
Second reaction: OMG SO MUCH VALUABLE DATA.
It’s so great to have people using it, and writing to us, and telling us what they love and don’t love, and telling us about other systems they’ve tried (and failed with), and telling us what would make their lives easier.
We’re learning so much.
For example, Sweep can do “repeat every quarter” cards but we hadn’t yet implemented due dates within quarters. So every “quarterly” task was due at the end of the quarter. It was a low priority for us… just didn’t seem that crucial. But with only 80 trials, five people have already requested that feature. Why? Because taxes!
So we learned:
- a large percentage of our trial customers are taking Sweep seriously (to entrust their tax filing reminders to us!)
- quarterly due dates are very important and should shoot to the top of our feature queue
That’s what I call valuable customer intelligence. And we’re able to ship an ugly-but-functional version of that feature today or tomorrow.
We also learn that our customers think the open cards are a modal and not a separate page. So they expect it to behave differently than it does. That’s great, too. And we wouldn’t have seen that for ourselves because we know what it is, we made it.
You learn SO MUCH… ONLY after your product is out there.
When you’re resisting launch, you’re focused so hard on what if it’s not perfect? You build up a fantasy of wild success and insta-sales and respect and lots of backlinks and all that jazz… and then you look at the cold, hard reality of where your product is now, and you can’t see a way to go from here to there. So you either give up, or you spin your wheels endlessly.
Believe me, I understand! I schemed for 5 years before I launched my first SaaS. And the second one? We spent way too long in development and then we had to shut it down because we realized it was a terrible business for us to be in. (Awesome, right?)
By the time we got to Sweep — our third — I embrace the messy and imperfect soft launch.
The key is to stop thinking about what you might not gain if you launch early, and focus instead on what you will definitely lose if you don’t.
Sure, maybe if you have the perfect sequence, pricing, copy, marketing, design, SEO, traffic, etc., you will make more money than if you don’t.
But if you won’t launch at all, you get nothing.
Sure, maybe you’ll get a few early adopters who are unhappy with the level of perfection and who don’t end up completing their trial — or maybe they ask for a refund. But that gives you valuable data. As opposed to… no data whatsoever. As opposed to living in your head and hoping and stressing and fearing and dreaming all the time with no other company than you, yourself, and thou.
Fact: it does not hurt you to not instantly reach the level of success you imagine.
It DOES hurt you to never launch at all. Because then you can never reach that level of success.
When you commit to the soft launch, you:
- feel the joy! of people using and paying for your stuff
- get to talk to your early customers one-on-one (because there aren’t that many of them)
- gain valuable customer, market, usability, and competitive insight
- make SOME money
- build momentum (because you’re outside your own head)
- give yourself a good reason to build out all that other stuff that’ll make your sales engine go go go
It’s all win.
So… what will YOU soft launch?
PS: Now that we’ve gotten our soft launch well under way, I’m starting to build out those email sequences and — perhaps more importantly! — the content marketing funnels that will drive more signups and more sales. Jump on our list below because my next few emails will let you look behind the scenes!
There's more where that came from
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PPS: Here’s a little math based on our current cc trial situation! Not 100% certain I’m using Soulver to the extent of its ability but whatever, it beats looking at a damned spreadsheet. All the little grid lines give me a headache.