In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about what startups should do once they launch a product.
For many Startups, launching and selling a product can seem like the end of a long journey. However, it’s really only just the beginning.
It’s great to have a strong product launch, but if the launch of the product is not managed properly, sales can fall flat. So what should you do to make sure that you keep sales in your product alive?
In this episode, Steli and Hiten share their thoughts on what startups should do once they launch a product, the emotional side of launching a product and much more.
Time Stamped Show Notes:
00:22 Why this topic was chosen.
01:17 Why Hiten is the best person to talk about this topic.
01:51 What to do on day two of a product launch.
02:40 The right question to ask once you launch.
02:40 How to figure out what people think of your product once you launch.
04:31 Why it’s important to figure out what users think of your product once you launch.
05:33 Why you should continue talking to users a month or two after launch.
06:32 Hiten talks about what he calls “cleaning up house”.
09:14 Why it’s important to make sure that your team is ready for what’s to come after launch.
10:35 The emotional side of launching a product.
3 Key Points:
- Spend time with your launch customers and figure out what to do next.
- You don’t actually know what people think of your product until they’ve used it after launch.
- I find people who have discontinued using the product, and send them an email asking them why they discontinued.
Steli Efti: Hey, everybody. This is Steli Efti.
Hiten Shah: This is Hiten Shah. Today on the Startup Chat we’re gonna talk about what you do after you launch.
Hiten playback: The thing you like talking about more than just sales and marketing.
Steli playback: We just want to bullshit and chat about business and life. Hopefully, while we’re doing that provide a lot of value to people.
Hiten playback: The world’s best business podcast. Shit.
Steli playback: Oh. Shit. We got.
Hiten playback: For people trying to get shit done.
Steli playback: Done. Yeah. We don’t want to give you feedback that’s bullshit.
Hiten playback: We want you to do your best.
Steli Efti: Yeah. Who better to talk about this than you, because you have just launched something … You’ve been launching things for many, many years. I think it has accelerated in the past two years in terms of how many completely brand new products you’ve launched. You’re like one of the world leading experts in launching things, I feel. Recently you had what I think was one of the most successful or the most successful launches of the kind of recent memory of yours. You have the big day … We’re talking about … This is not launching it in limited alpha, this is not launching it internally with your employees, this is the moment that you decided to open it up and to potentially also promote. Do some marketing to get attention that now this thing exists, this product exists in the world. That day is really exciting. We’ve talked about it. We’ve recorded an episode about what to do prelaunch, what to do on launch day, and this is the episode on what to do post launch. Maybe we go through your most recent experience? Kind of lessons learned and things that people can glean from it and take away from it, but the day of the launch has ended. You’re probably exhausted. The next morning what do you do on that day? What do you do on that week? On the month post launch? What are kind of dos and don’ts? Let’s break it down for the listeners.
Hiten Shah: … Do is just keep building more of a product and get ready for the next launch. I’ll start with what I used to do, which I think is this huge mistake and it’s what everybody does. You launch and you’re like, “Alright. Let’s go build the next thing.” What that implies though is that you’re so good, that you know what the next thing to build is. But, guess what? You just had all these people sign up for your product … However many. Even it’s 10s more, 100s more, 1000s more. Whatever. They’re prime, they’re there, they signed up, you launched. Now what I do is I take those people and I go figure out how to learn the most I can from them and spend that time and effort to figure out, “What do we do next?” My biggest question to ask isn’t, “Oh. How do we build the next feature?” It’s more, “What do we do next?” Do could mean you do more market, do could mean you focus on acquisition or you focus on monetization or you have a retention problem and you need to fix retention. You don’t actually know, because you just launched. You don’t actually know what that sentiment is, all you know is what you heard before launch and what you heard on the day of launch. What you don’t know is, what do people actually think now? Is it the same as what you heard before or is it not? You’re gonna have a different mix of people coming to your product when you launch, compared to whatever you had before that. Most people don’t even do a lot of stuff before, to be honest. They don’t necessarily have a lot of detail or depth on what the sentiment is. Then it’s even more important to understand all the people that just came in and signed up and what they’re all about. There’s a couple of ways I do that. The biggest, easiest way is I find people who have not continued with a product and I just ask them in an email, “Why haven’t you continued?” I find the right way to say it for whatever product I’m building. Like, “Oh. You didn’t continue signing up or you didn’t do X behavior. I’d love to hear why.” You tell them, “You’re one of the first people to use the product and that’s why I want to hear from you. I don’t care how critical you are or how much you didn’t like it, I’d love to hear, because that’s the only way we can get better.” That’s an important piece, because generally with most products … All products. There’s more people that sign up and bounce … Especially with PR launches, product talent launches, and things like that, because there’s a lot of tire kickers than there are people who continue. You want to go figure out why the people that signed up didn’t continue if they didn’t. And then, you want to know for the people who did continue, what are they up to and why do they like it. In that scenario, I try to go get interviews with them. Those are the two ways and the two groups of people I like talking to. People who bounced and left, and people who’ve continued and actually got to a good place with your product, hypothetically. I go different levels there, because I would love to interview the people who bounced, but those people tend to not be wanting to talk to me. Right?
Steli Efti: Yeah.
Hiten Shah: They will answer a single question via an email and reply to an email really quickly, they will do that. Feels really lightweight. If I can get them to talk to me I will, but I don’t try to give that ask right away. While people who are more active or engaged with the product, I’ll go after them and say, “Hey. What’s up? I want to talk to you for 20 minutes. What’s up?”
Steli Efti: I love that. I think that, that’s … It’s hard to put this in a timeframe, but that’s like the way people should think about probably at least for a month or two after launch. Right? Post launch is like, continue talking to the people that continue to use the product that are getting value from it to learn what is valuable, how they think about the product, why they use it, and what’s going on with it.
Hiten Shah: I would say that you should do it as fast as you can. I like your timeline of a month or two, because that’ll probably help people understand that this is some shit you take seriously, but I like to do it immediately. I like to do it and get that done within about a month. What I mean by done is you’re continuously having conversations, there is some scheduling for interviews, and there is some back and forth, and there are still a trickling in of people signing up. Or, lots of people signing up, depending on what your product is and how it works. You want to continue to do that. I agree. I think this something you should continue doing even beyond the launch, but it’s so critical during launch. But, really fast you’re gonna have a team that’s sitting there. Right? Even if it’s two or three people. What do they do? What do they do? For us, in our launch we actually spent a whole month … It’s actually the month that’s ending right now as we record this, what I call, “Cleaning up house.” The reason is, and I’ve heard this over and over again and I haven’t really been able to articulate it well until now in having this experience myself. Basically, that’s why I call it cleaning up house. In order to get to a launch it’s likely your team did a lot of things that were really messy. One example … I can go across all sides of the company, depending on whether you have sales, and marketing, and product now. But, for example on sales you probably don’t have any process. You were just trying to close deals or get people in the funnel and get them into trials and pilots if you do have sales before you actually launch, which some people do. Right? In marketing, you didn’t have any kind of discipline around SEO or marketing channels or anything like that necessarily before you launch. Now you can step back and say, “What are the things we need to do that we haven’t been doing?” In our case, we didn’t have proper meta tags, we didn’t have proper ways where if people shared on Facebook or Slack or any link from our marketing site that it would show up properly. Right? There’s a bunch of stuff we scrabbled to just finish and those weren’t right. They’re not as good as they can be. We didn’t have all the pages we wanted on our marketing site. We stepped back, made a list of all those things, and started attacking those. That’s marketing. And then, on product it’s even messier. Especially, when you account for engineering. There’s design polish that probably didn’t get done, because you said, “Oh. That’s gonna take too long.” Or, “We don’t have time to do it.” You make a list of those things. Ideally, you made a list of those things before launch and just picked them off. There’s another level of product, which is like technical dept. Are there things you just did quickly and you needed to just pick up later or things you did quickly, didn’t even realize you needed to clean up later? You should look at all those things. It’s likely that an engineering unit testing and testing is a big thing as part of engineering. If you launched, it’s likely you don’t have enough test coverage. What that means is it hurts your ability to iterate. Test coverage is essentially the idea that you write code, and then automate a test run by machines to help make sure that code doesn’t break anything old. Well, guess what? It’s likely you don’t have a lot of that, it’s likely you didn’t need it. If your product actually has some amount of traction on launch day you can decide whether you do that. Or, if you’re gonna scrap your whole product completely or completely change it up, you decide you’re not gonna do that. That’s a decision to make. We knew we weren’t going to scrap this product after launch. We didn’t know that before launch, but we definitely knew that after the launch. We had a bunch of unit testing to do. In our specific scenario there’s a lot of sign up processes that happen, a bunch of accounts you have to connect with FYI. We didn’t have enough testing there, we didn’t have any really. We had an engineer spend literally five/six days, which is a lot of time figuring all that out and getting it done, because that’s a very key part of our product and he was very hesitant to build more features until he did that. Because, every time he’d deploy a new code something over there would break. That scares him. He doesn’t want to deploy new code and build new stuff, it’s a big blocker to his mindset around engineering and the team’s mindset. Those are a bunch of key examples and there’s probably others, but those are the ones that come top of mind on what I call cleaning up house. Then, there’s this factor that you and I loved talking about that I need to mention and I’m sure you’re gonna have some opinion. What about your fucking team? What about them? Are they ready? Do they know what they need to … Are they gonna be ready to build 10 features in the next two months or six months or whatever? Whatever you learn from these new users you’re gonna want to act on. Are they ready for it? Do you have enough people? Can you hire more people? How fast can you do that? Are the people you have ready for shifting from maybe going day-to-day or week-to-week to planning a whole quarter if that’s where you’re at with your business? Wow. That’s something you don think about.
Steli Efti: I love it. It makes a great … I think this outlined a really good framework in terms of what people need to think about and I think we’ve given people a lot. The only thing that I’ll add before we wrap up this episode … The one thing I want to touch on briefly is the emotional side of things, which is one of our favorite angles to look through the world ourselves, and our startups, and the things that we do and the products that we build. I know that launch day can be this super thrilling, exciting, emotional roller coaster and I think a lot of people are excited about launch day and stressed and whatever it is. They’re going through the motions on the day, depending on how well things go, what kind of feedback they’re getting. I find a lot of times that founders and startups, post launch day they’re kind of emotionally crashing a little bit. Probably the time before the launch was really stressful and intense, probably the release of the launch was really stressful and intense. Usually it’s the day after where people are either drunk on their success or they’re depressed by the perceived failure. If things didn’t go as well as you wanted, maybe you’re feeling sorry for yourself, and your exhausted, and a bit depressed, and kind of pissed. If things went as expected or even better, you might be a bit high or drunk on that success and kind of exhausted. I think it’s important to manage … A, anticipate those emotions for yourself and your team, and manage them properly. Because otherwise there’s no fucking way you’re gonna get the right work done that you just outlined for us, because you’re like, “Well, post launch is … Keep working.” You might have to accelerate some of the work you have to do, you might have to do a bunch of cleanup for all the mess that you created pre launch. You might have to continue talking to people really intensely to understand why they’re using it, and continue to use it, and why did they stop using it. That all is still a ton of fucking work. If teams are not prepared, if founders are not prepared on, “What are we gonna do post launch emotionally to stay stable? What are we gonna do to make sure that we keep executing consistently without burning ourselves out?” I think that one of the biggest hindrances to doing the right things is that people crash after the launch emotionally, and then they either slow down when they should really speed up or they make the wrong decisions. They keep working, but they’re working on the wrong things, because they’re now making overly emotional decisions on what to do and how to deal with the reactions and what really happens. I think launching is such an emotional event that, especially post launch you need to really anticipate, “How are we gonna feel? How is the team going to feel? How are we gonna manage our emotions to make sure that we are ready, resourceful, in the right state of mind, and have the right internal energy and passion to continue doing the important work that needs to be done post launch?”
Hiten Shah: Couldn’t agree more. I think that’s really important to gauge with your team right after launch. Figure it out. People make your product happen.
Steli Efti: “People make your product happen.” There you go. Hiten, with a quotable tweet moment at the very end to wrap up the episode. I love it. Alright. That’s it for us for this episode. By the way, if you have not done this make sure to go to iTunes. Give us a review and a four star rating or five, whatever the maximum rating is. Try to give us even more stars. All the stars. That’s all I’m gonna say. Give us all the stars.
Hiten Shah: All the stars.
Steli Efti: All the fucking stars.
Hiten Shah: I like that. All the stars.
Steli Efti: We’re looking forward to hearing you soon.
Hiten Shah: Later.