Truth: your startup is more likely to fail than to succeed.
Now that I’ve got that shocking reality out of the way, let’s talk about one of the biggest reasons why – failure to read the signs.
We’re taught from childhood to protect ourselves. To err on the side of caution, look for warning signs, and avoid trouble. But as we grow into adults, we tend to develop a false sense of security, driven by our need to succeed. It won’t happen to me, we’re likely to say. I’ve got this under control.
Until you no longer do.
With stats showing that 90% of startups fail, it’s more important than ever to sell our products, acquire users, generate traction. It all begins with a powerful launch. The question is, what happens when the launch you were once confident about, starts to slip between the cracks?
The decision to postpone or cancel a product launch can be inconvenient and costly, but for some startups, it’s the difference between sink or swim.
It Looks Like a Clear Day to Sail
For some startups, just talking about your upcoming launch and offering a sense of exclusivity, will solidify your success. Kohort, a stealth startup that snagged thousands of early user sign-ups within days of announcing their upcoming launch, didn’t even reveal what the product was. Curiosity alone led to users to take blind action. For other startups, an awesome, shareable landing page or viral vid can also do the trick to generate buzz.
Stealth or not, you want the best launch and you’ve set expectations you know you can manage. Initially, it may look quite promising. You’ve set the date. Invested money into a launch marketing plan, a PR strategy, and your media assets are in check. Your developers are confident the product will be ready and there’s initial media interest.
Then the date starts to approach and you notice the storm clouds rolling in as a sense of foreboding sets in. Early beta-testers are giving you luke warm feedback. There’s been delays in getting great content uploaded onto the new blog. You’re not set to measure the traffic. Product bugs are multiplying.
You’re freaking out.
Don’t Ignore the Iceberg Warnings
We all know the story of the Titanic, which means we’re all well aware that one of the instrumental factors in its demise was failure to ignore warnings and desire for greater attention. What started out as a way to get more press with an early arrival, turned into a disaster that earned media for all the wrong reasons.
As a startup, you want the great publicity that will come from your launch but failure to have a successful launch, can and will result in negative publicity. Sure, publicity is publicity, but would you rather be amongst the most successful product launches, or the biggest flops of the year?
Secondly, do you have a plan for after the launch? “One thing we’ve seen is that most startup founders focus so much of their time and money on their product and the launch that they completely neglect to develop a strategy or create a budget for acquiring users and actually marketing the product,” explains Ilya Pozin in Forbes.
Ensure that you’re not only ready to launch, but are ready to keep up the momentum post-launch.
When to Send the SOS
The timing never seems to be right and no one wants to make the heavy decisions, but guess what! You’re not in it alone. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice. Listen to your team. Value input from advisors and mentors. Trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, take a moment to evaluate the situation.
Here are some key indicators that it’s time to delay your launch or halt it altogether:
Your product isn’t ready to ship or the bugs haven’t been fixed;
Early beta testers reviews have not been favorable;
Website is still in early-development, won’t be near ready for the launch;
Social isn’t social – you still haven’t set up your Twitter account or Facebook fan page;
Your blog is lacking great, shareable content;
You’re not ready to measure the traffic you’re about to receive;
You’re still unsure if your product meets the market need.
If you’ve nodded your head to one or more of the above statements, it may be time to consider your options. No one ever really wants to push a product launch and chances are, it may be a costly decision, but your startup will probably be better for it. It also happens to even the most seasoned founders.
When Napster founders, Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker launched Airtime in June 2012, the platform was expected to become the next big thing for video chatting, “a more sophisticated, yet PG-rated version of Chatroulette” as Wall Street Journal called it. The launch was a celebrity affair, sure to secure plenty of early user traction. Instead, users were met by unwanted programming bugs (including embarrassing glitches at the NYC launch itself) and privacy violations.
The decision to push back your launch, doesn’t mean your marketing plan is now useless. It just means you must adjust your date and plan accordingly around your new time frame. Generate a deliverables work-back to guide you. Set firm expectations for your team. Reach out to any interested media and give them a heads up of a date change.
Change Course or Learn To Swim
No one wants to abandon ship or change course, but as Julie Bort explains in Business Insider, “Changing directions isn’t a failure, it’s a necessity.” Many times, a matter of being flexible can make all the difference in whether a startup succeeds or not. Understanding that it’s OK to hit the brakes, doesn’t make you weak. In most cases, it will lead to being better prepared to execute your launch seamlessly.
“The successful startups seem to be flexible enough to shift with changes in the tech climate,” says tech startup analysts Allmand Law. “Whereas with the failed startups, some fail due to a lack of vision and others have terrible timing. Ultimately, there is a lack of foresight which might have saved their companies.”
Hindsight is always 50/50 – don’t let it show you how you could have succeeded. Instead, let it show you exactly why and how you did succeed.
Got a nagging launch question? Are you facing storm clouds? We’d be happy to offer our advice on how to handle an upcoming launch or push back! Tweet us @onboardly or drop us a line today!