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Pound Takes » Strategic Insights
Ideas on Engineering Breakthrough Applications

Archive for the ‘Strategic Insights’ Category

The advantage of 1,000 customers

In this post, I make the case for paying little attention to anything else but landing your first 1,000 customers in a new venture. It may seem limiting, but it’s the right first step.

At Pound, when we’re helping a business launch a new web app, social network or other website-type of product, you’ll see and hear a mention of the first 1,000 customers in just about every meeting. The reason is, we centralize all plans around landing the first 1,000 customers—because that’s how we define early success in our projects.
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Launch Strategy: The First 1,000 Customers

Today kicks off a new series we’ll be writing over the next several weeks on acquiring your first 1,000 customers, and why it is the most important thing to be focused on. Of course, this writing is targeted at products and businesses who have yet to reach this milestone, as businesses who are post-1,000 should be focused on scaling and optimizing your business.

Why write about landing the first 1,000 customers? Because we believe it’s the most crucial first milestone in building a breakthrough business and reaching this milestone comes with significant benefits that speed up growth.
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Find Breakthrough Success Through Optimization

This post is about making constant and focused improvements on your product or business until you reach breakthrough success. Much like the storied tipping point, any wildly successful business or product optimizes continuously - sometimes in oblivion - until they find product/market fit.

Net Flix, Amazon and Facebook all found their breakthroughs over time. Their successes weren’t obvious bets going in, and I can guarantee you that there were many mistakes and trials that ended in various levels of failure along the way. How do companies and product teams stay focused and encouraged enough to grow their ideas into breakthroughs? The answer is some variation of focused trial-and-error; though it could be referred to as the feedback loop, profile before optimization, or a million other industry-specific terms.
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Ingredients for a breakthrough

Breakthroughs are one of those things that are hard to define, but easy to spot when you see them. Like love, no one can agree on a definition, but we all know it when we experience it. For our purposes, we’ll assume that breakthroughs exceed user’s expectations in terms of design, engineering, and utility. In other words, the product is beautiful, useful and “just works.” Remember the first time you used Net Flix or Gmail?

If you’re in the business of developing applications or running a web business, your seeking breakthroughs.
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Effective one page websites

Something I’ve always noticed and appreciated is an effective one-page product website. I’ve run across oodles of deep sites that couldn’t convince me to buy anything, yet I’ve often bumped into a simple, clear page that’s caused me to part with my cash within minutes.

This got me debating on why and when to use a one-pager and interested in finding a set of guidelines when creating one.

First off, I’ll concede that one-pagers are hard. Hard to pull off and even harder to convince a client or business manager to have the guts to commit to. Designing one- pagers is scary, because everything has to be perfect. Each item steals attention from the others, so every element and every word has to be scrutinized to ensure it supports the positioning and communicates the essence of the product.
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Release New Features Early and Often: Part II

In part I, I made the case for looking at features as having many releasable levels vs. just done or not-done. In this second part of the article, we’ll actually exercise the idea against an example to illustrate the nuances and benefits of this approach:

Imagine that a customer calls you to request the addition of search functionality to their case-study catalog. They sell rich content and research to academic customers; the easier the content is to find, the more they sell. She emails you a few links to some reference sites using similar functionality and sketches out how the results might appear. The result is the same if you iterate the design with them into a mature spec. You wind up with a detailed and all-encompassing vision of the new feature.

Once the end concept is relatively clear and both sides agree that the designed functionality has business value and is feasible, it’s time to look at this feature through a different lens. This neatly divides the robust feature into self-contained release levels, each resulting in value to the user or business.
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Release New Features Early and Often: Part I

If you design, develop or manage products, you’re certainly familiar with the new feature request. Let’s be honest: Adding features is what product managers, customers and businesses love to discuss, because they view new features as advancing the product. If you’re a more seasoned product manager or designer, you’ll know that eliminating and refining features is just as important as adding ones, but we’ll leave that for another discussion. Here, we’ll focus on audacious additions.

If you’ve experienced the excitement of a juicy idea for a new feature, you likely also have been surprised to run into push back from your engineering or implementation team. This can be summarized as the ever-present tension of “my vision” vs. “our reality.” Meaning, while I see dollar signs and adoption, you see implementation headaches, lack of resources and an overflowing backlog of to-dos.

This is likely because both of you are approaching the feature with an all-or-nothing, on/off mindset.

Almost every customer I’ve ever dealt with — and most senior managers who are funding product development — understand the big picture of a new feature or product addition. Even the most detail-minded customers, who provide specs on how the end product should look and function, are solely focused on the end game. We’ll call this the on/off approach — either done or not done.
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