Stop Building Things Your Customers Don’t Really Want or Need

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All entrepreneurs want to change the world!

We all believe we have the best product or service that will do just that, and we need to get it to market yesterday. Yes, it’s that good. We all have a vision, and need to see it through.

That was how I felt a couple of years ago, in the beginning stages of conceiving Ox&Pen. I had a clear vision on how to approach the loyalty space in a revolutionary way. The problem that I think many entrepreneurs make when starting their businesses, is that what they think is great may not be received the same way by others. It’s not ideal—or even remotely recommended—to get to market with every bell and whistle that you envision. While you think it’s great, and the limited cross section of people you’ve spoken to about your idea think it’s great, guess what? It may not be that great. The market will ultimately make that decision for you.

Don’t create solutions for problems that don’t exist

At Ox&Pen, we do our best to not create solutions for problems that don’t yet exist. It’s easy to let your mind wander and think, “Well, what if X problem arises, or what if Y problem arises? We need a solution to that, and now!” There will always be some kind of loophole or shortcoming in your model that you may or may not be able to address. But, if it has only a remote chance of becoming an issue, only address it if it does in fact become an issue.

Too many theoretical “issues” exist, and trying to have a provision for all of them will completely stagnate your ability to move forward. There will always be a feature that you could add to your mobile app, website, etc. that would be completely kick ass. But that doesn’t mean it’s always the best decision to implement it, especially in the early stages when time and money are so precious.

Establish proof of concept as quickly as possible

The goal of any startup should be to get its product to market in its most basic iteration, and establish proof of concept. Keep it as simple as possible, without compromising what it is your company does. Heeding the KISS principle can be difficult for starters. You may iteratively add bells and whistles, believing that these new features will enrich what you’ve already built (or at least, what you’ve built in your head). The problem is, you’re going to have customers and users at some point.

These people are going to have to learn what your company does, and how to use what you’ve built. Regardless of its amazing features, if what you’re building is too complex, you are going to have a hard time establishing and maintaining a user base. Not to mention you may end up spending a lot of time and money on things that actually detract from the value of your service, and delay your ability to get to market by a week, a month or many months. In short, spending more money and more time, while weakening your product, is undesirable.

If you are working with web or mobile developers, be sure that they understand what you need to go to market (e.g. Version 1.0). But it is also important for them to know what kinds of possible features you will eventually want (e.g. Version 6.0, perhaps) so they can at least take that into account when they are doing their programming, and you can later build upon what you have without running into roadblocks.

Listen to your customers, and stop building things they don’t want or need

Regardless of how good you think your product is when it goes to market, it’s going to get beat up by those using it. Now, that’s a good thing—and one of the main reasons why you want to get your leanest possible product out there. Before long, you will have revisions and changes to make. Those “gotta have ‘em” features you thought customers really needed? Chances are high that they really don’t need—or want—all of them. You must have the humility and flexibility to listen to criticism and evolve your product based on customer feedback.

So sure—hang on to your vision of taking over the world. After all, any starter needs that kind of confidence to go forward with what will be one of the most energizing, yet difficult journeys in his or her life. But do so with some humility. Start small. Surround yourself with a dedicated, yet modestly-sized team. Get your product to market in its leanest version, and then build upon that.

As an entrepreneur, you are going to feel like you are cheating everyone by not including all of your brilliant ideas right out of the gate. But, keep those gems in your back pocket for the time being. The public doesn’t know they exist, and they will like it when you can consistently enhance their experience by rolling out these “new” features over time.