Write your sales pitch before you start coding

Published Under marketing
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Alex Everitt @alxevt

Coming up with product ideas isn’t that hard and after a few pints down the pub, you may think you’ve figured out the next Google or Facebook. At this point you pat your friends on the back, go home and the next morning start working immediately on “FoogleBook the social search engine”.

After months of development, you attempt to launch FoogleBook only to discover that you can’t articulate any reasonable sales pitch and nobody’s interested in it. All those great ideas from the pub haven’t translated into the product you hoped it would be.

The problem with this approach is its more fun, at least in the beginning, to just start coding but then you inevitably lose your way.

Is it Possible?

Most good ideas can sound simple but become complicated once you get into the detail and it’ll often become clear that the reason the solution does not exist, is that it’s not cost-effective or even possible.

Before WebRTC was properly integrated into most web browsers, live video between users via a web browser sounded great, but any solution was going to unreliable and out of the control of the developer. Sometimes it’s not a bad idea, it’s just current infrastructure is not ready for it.

Validate, understand the how’s and why’s

If you’re going to develop a product, then make sure you challenge the idea or even better find someone to challenge the idea for you. Once you believe in a product idea, then many of us avoid looking at anything that’ll go against it. It’s much easier to prove an idea wrong or pivot it in the early stages before you’ve created it.

Here are some pointers for validating your idea. Start by answering:

  • What problem are you solving?
  • Who is the target demographic?
  • How much will people pay?
  • How will they pay?
  • How will you attract customers?
  • How is your solution better than others?
  • How much will it cost to run?
  • If there is any competition, if not, why not?

This list is not exhaustive but should be a good place to start.

The Elevator Pitch

Now it’s time to write your elevator pitch, a simple explanation of the product and why it’s important. You should be able to deliver the elevator pitch to anyone who asks without feeling the need to embellish it or justify it. If at this point you’re struggling to clearly define your message then you may need to rethink the idea and you’ve saved yourself a lot of wasted time.

Print out the elevator pitch and place it above your computer so you see it every time you work on the product.

Once you have a pitch, create a simple webpage to promote your product and add a call to action for interested people. You should design your web page to convert customers (Have a look at how sales funnels achieve this). You may feel you’re wasting valuable development time however it will force you to think about marketing.

Many people will say you can’t market a product before it’s completed although in some cases, it can be harder, once you’ve created the product. This is because once you concentrate on marketing you focus on your customer’s requirements and can discover the product you’ve built doesn't satisfy them. I’ve made this mistake a couple of times and it’s cost me dearly. As soon as I focus on what the customer wants instead of what I think makes a good app, I realise they’re often different and most times, the customer’s requirements will concentrate on simplicity and clarity over a cool but complex feature set.

Market-driven over feature led

The longer you spend developing a product, the more you end up trying to add to it to justify the development time. This becomes a circular process known as feature creep which can stop you going live. Your marketing messages are your goal and you should avoid straying from them. As you build, you’ll keep getting more and more ideas for features which is great. Just log them and continue. We want to get your product live and then we can start the customer feedback loop. Moving forward, features and improvements are influenced by the users and not guesses.

Launch Day

By the time your product is ready to launch you may find yourself worn out from the long late-night coding sessions and that initial enthusiasm from the pub has long gone. This is not the ideal mindset to write positive marketing material so you’ll be glad you already had it in place. If you’re lucky by now, you’ll have also built up a bit of SEO. You can now have a break from development and spend time on what's important.

Selling it, good luck.

Have you launched a product from scratch? Leave a comment with your tips about what worked well and what didn’t.

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