Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to try your products with your customers before they are “ready”.
In a recent mentoring session with a startup they stated their intention to develop a new product. They are convinced their customers will love it.
The first question is generally: “Have you tried selling it already?”
Most startups will answer “it is not ready yet…” But in reality you can test a product even before you have completed building it.
Lean startup (http://theleanstartup.com) is a popular methodology to building startups that includes early product validation with customers as a key step in creating a new company. Beyond a particular methodology or another, creating a startup is always about iterating product, channel, customers etc as you look for a niche where your product will be readily consumed.
And despite the well known message, founders still struggle with the fear of testing incomplete products with existing customers. They shouldn’t. Chances are a startup will screw up many times in front of some of it existing customers-and telling a customer that is interested in your new feature or product that they will have to wait because it is not really ready is not the worst outcome. The worst outcome is that somebody else is faster to understand your client needs and develops a better solution for all your clients.
This is not to say you should roll-out your incomplete product to all your customers at once looking for feedback. But entrepreneurs should not be afraid to learn more about their clients before spending 2 months coding a product and should proactively try to upsell their customers on products / features they are in process of developing.