In Steve Blank and Bob Dorf’s The Startup Owner’s Manual, the authors warn fledgling entrepreneurs of the 3rd deadly sin: focusing on launch date.
Having a launch date in mind isn’t the problem, per se. The real problem is that when you focus on/commit to the launch date, you sometimes don’t allow adequate time to work through the Customer Development process, do the tests, prove or disprove the hypotheses, and improve your offering. Instead, you sacrifice what you are producing for the sake of the launch.
Sometimes that’s because there’s an event you want to release your product at to get buzz. Have you seen the 4K TV‘s announced at this year’s CES? Sometimes you want to launch in time for the Christmas rush. But what if your product isn’t ready? Should you still ship it then?
I know there’s a lot of pressure to launch. Founders want to launch, investors want to launch, and colleagues want to launch. The pressure to get out there and start selling something is immense, and the thought of being done with the prelaunch phase of your business may be so tempting that you lunch even when you know you’re not ready. So you rationalize: “Maybe you’re over-thinking this. Maybe the customers won’t notice that you upon it is crap. After all, Google releases bad products, Microsoft releases bad products. Even Apple released an iPhone with a crazy antenna problem. Why can’t I go ahead and launch, then work it out as I go along?
Unfortunately for you, it’s unlikely that you or your company have enough of the customers’ good will to make up for a bad blunder at launch. And stumbling out of the gates can be more than just an inconvenience to you and your customers. It can be fatal to your business.
What’s the answer? Trust the process. The customer development process is designed to help you launch when the time is right, and to lunch well when you do.