When I tell people that they should spend, at minimum, two years developing one product, they tend to think I’m crazy.
Two whole years.
That seems like such a long time to most people. But in reality, it’s not that long at all — and it definitely is not crazy.
Most startups would benefit from spending that much time on a product before launching.
Why? Because you need that level of focus on your product.
Your first product has to be good.
If it’s not, your customers won’t be happy, no one will come back, and you won’t make any money. You might not even survive as a company.
When we started ThirdLove, we wanted to create a better-fitting, more comfortable bra.
That was our goal then, and it’s still our goal today. But in particular, our goal was to create the best everyday T-shirt Bra on the market. I wanted to create the bra that a woman reaches for every morning, because it’s so important to make her feel comfortable and confident throughout her entire day.
Once we started down the product development cycle, we ended up working on not just one bra, but several different styles.
And if I had to go back and do it again? I’d focus on that one, everyday T-shirt Bra that we wanted to make in the first place. I’d work on that bra for two years before expanding to different styles.
If you split your time and money between four products, you spend roughly 25% of your time and money on each. Your focus is split, and your output will reflect that.
On the other hand, you could focus on just one product.
You could say,
“This is going to be the best product on the face of the planet. We’re going to obsess over the details, and we’re going to put all of our product development budget into it, and we’re going to test and iterate and use focus groups on this product until it is as good as it can possibly be.”
Ultimately, the path we took worked out okay, but it was more expensive and distracting working on so many products at once.
I like to think of a product launch in terms of a triathlon.
When I’m running a triathlon, I have to be in the moment. I have to make each moment count, and I think that mindset is essential at a startup, too.
Your product launch is a journey, just like a triathlon.
The founders, the team. Everyone has to be in the moment and participate in that journey.
Keep thinking about what step to take that allows you to get a little closer to finishing. When you focus on making one product really great, you can always ask yourself:
“What am I doing this week to get me a little further along in the journey? What am I doing today to achieve that one small goal?”
Focusing on one product at the beginning gives you a goal to work towards. Or at least a preliminary finish line. You can always take a step back and ask yourself what you’re doing to stay on track and make it to that finish line.
Why do companies roll out too many products at once?
Often, they feel they have to meet the needs of every single potential consumer. Realistically, that’s the opposite of what you want to do.
There are 120 million women in the U.S. who are at a bra-wearing age. That’s 120 million potential customers for us at ThirdLove. But you know what? Even now, we don’t have the ability to reach every single one of those women.
Maybe they need a different size, or a style that we don’t carry.
Maybe they’re only willing to pay a certain price.
Maybe they like trying on bras in the store.
That shrinks our potential pool of customers, and that’s okay.
The important part is to identify your core customer.
When you focus on one product, it becomes much easier. You have to make sure you’re designing product and marketing to that core customer.
And once you have a great product for your core customer, you can start considering how to address more people’s needs. But it’s probably going to take at least two years before that happens.
Even with your awesome product, you are never going to make everyone happy.
Not even when you launch the amazing product that you’ve been working on for two years. I was very sensitive about that when we first started.
Our first year, I would have people tell me that we didn’t have their size, or that they wanted a wireless bra, or some other feedback about what they wanted. It made me feel really bad because I wanted to help them.
As a founder, you have to realize that your product won’t satisfy everyone.
There could be a million different reasons it doesn’t work out, but you just have to stay focused on your core customer. As long as they’re satisfied with the product, you’re good.
You can come back to those other people down the road.
If you can roll out a great product that satisfies your core customer’s needs, you’re going to be successful. But to do that, you have to focus your efforts on that product — probably for at least two years.
It’s not crazy, just effective.