Extreme product launches are focused on getting you to that first sale as quickly as possible. By figuring out what works on a business level, you can then proceed to with the business growth because you’re already proven that a business case exists (at a small scale) for your product.
This type of proof is much more powerful than any business plan you could write. In most types of business, making your first sale is the one thing you can do to make everything else easier or unnecessary.
Originally, I released Launch Tomorrow as an “extreme product launch” myself, by pre-testing the interest in a book on this topic.
It got great initial reviews, like:
“In my corporate consulting days [with McKinsey & Co], I used to tell my clients market research is a waste of time, because projects usually took 3 months and required a budget of $50-150K. But this stuff really changes the equation!” –Robert Grossman, Marketing Expert, Former Managing Partner, McKinsey & Co.
“I really liked the fact that you with your strategy a person can evaluate if a business idea is worth pursuing for just a few hundred dollars, rather than risk $25,000 and most likely fail.” –Scott Dudley, Direct Response Copywriter
Now it’s in prime time. It’s about using landing pages as minimum viable products. Clarify your value proposition. Validate that your customers will pay, before you start building a product.
If you’ve enjoyed this content so far, I know you’ll love Launch Tomorrow. You can pick up a copy of Launch Tomorrow over here.
We recently watched a movie from 2004 called Shattered Glass, a movie about about Stephen Glass. He was a journalist who made up stories in the nineties, and passed them off as fact. At the time, he worked for the New Republic, a well-known and influential magazine. Most of the staff were recent grads trying to make a name for themselves, so they didn’t get paid much, but they partied hard. Somehow he circumnavigated their fact checking process, and managed to blag his way into story after story. Until his editor caught wind of what was going on…
Most journalism is based on improving what we already know, by building on what we already know. You need to use external inputs as data points to your own investigation. In school before the internet existed, there was a lot of emphasis on minimizing plagiarism. Cite your sources. Make it clear what is your thinking and what you got from somewhere else.
At a high level, the same is true of the scientific process. Academics cite other papers, to then extend the state of the art with their own thoughts, data, and investigations. Cite your sources. And document your experience. With popular approaches like Lean Startup, the scientific method has been simplified into experiment-based entrepreneurship.
In both cases, this is about robustness and reliability of information. If we can’t trust what we see and hear from others, it undermines most of the “systems” in society. Media. Political systems. Business. Education. Research.
Check your source’s credentials
I bring this up because there is a flavor of advice and advisors in the entrepreneurial world who just repeat smart sounding soundbites from others. But not necessarily based on their own experiences. They are “plagiarizing” from an intellectual perspective. Which seems like it’s not that big of a deal. It’s academic. A white lie. In business, it’s not that important to credit others, especially in marketing material, right?
More importantly, though, advice plagiarizers are not able to go deeper and explain the logic and trade-offs which are relevant. They only Know; they can’t Do. They get the dopamine rush of looking smart, without needing to actually do their own work. In short, they benefit themselves without necessarily benefiting their advice takers. Or worse, harming their advice takers by giving inappropriate or irrelevant advice, causing additional problems if followed.
The real issue here isn’t plagiarism; it’s pretending you are saying something from experience when you haven’t earned the right to do so.
There was an article about the bullshit industrial complex a few years ago, which is what really pointed out how important this is. If everyone is just endlessly repeating advice they hear somewhere else (and often passing it off as their own) then we pretty much have a big echo chamber. No one is doing any original thinking or work or testing from direct experience. It’s all just received wisdom, which is just naff.
In contrast, we have dog-fooding. Dog-fooding is a hard concept to swallow. [pun intended] My sister is actually an expert in dog food as a veterinarian, but that’s not really what i’m referring to.
First of all, it’s about actually taking your own advice. There are a lot of things I want to try out in my own business, and that sound good, but I haven’t yet. So I don’t mention them to clients.
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And then only passing on the advice, if it benefits the advice taker. This s a form of integrity. And it’s a high bar to clear, before you give or sell advice. Like in professional hockey. They count an “assist” only if someone else if they score a goal. And it’s nice they track assists too for pro players.
In this case, dog-fooding refers to keeping the high bar of only recommending things I’ve tried myself. Ideally this would be something I’ve been successful with. If I haven’t had great success at something, I think it’s my duty to say that too.
I know what it feels like to get advice from people, who have no direct experience with what they are advising. They are just repeating what they heard or read elsewhere. So why would I knowingly do the same to people who I want to help-in theory?
For example, I thought I had all the answers about what kids should and shouldn’t do and how they should behave–before becoming a dad. I would spout my opinions on unsuspecting parents.
Things change. It’s surprising how quickly.
I realized how wrong I was, once I became a dad. I am still wrong about parenting frequently. Now if I do say anything about parenting, I try to reference a specific incident which backs up exactly why I think so. And give the context. All of this means that whoever gets the advice can decide for themselves if they want to take it.
It’s the same for “birthing” new products. I’ve done this enough times in enough variations, that I can usually find some kind of example of either having done it myself or having worked though a problem with a mentee. Then I feel ready to give advice. If I can’t give advice, I offer hands on hands on help if appropriate and I have the bandwidth.
All in all, this isn’t hard. It just requires paying attention.
Check your source credibility, before you take on information. Particularly in your business.
There is a massive volume of raw data being produced every day, with much of it being irrelevant, false, or biased based on incentives of the advice giver.
Try to make it clear when you are giving advice from experience and when you aren’t
And cite your sources, even though your high-school english teacher isn’t checking, because society depends on it.
While fiddling around during the lockdown, I decided put together a Spotify playlist of songs I like, and that I found inspiring as a founder. Even though I have a reasonably eclectic taste in music, my roots will always be in rock. Rock and 80s hair metal were the audio backdrop to my mis-spent teenage years.
Just to call it out explicitly, I’m not really a fan of Gary Vaynerchuck “hustle” or Grant Cardone’s “massive action”. Being deliberate first matters (to me) a lot more, so you don’t fritter away lots of pointless energy. By nature, I’m more of a systematic strategist, which I think appeals to the deep tech founders I enjoy working with.
In my own case…
If there was a theme song for my own style of new product development, it would probably be “Learning to Fly” by Pink Floyd.
Learning to Fly was released and massively popular right when I was still a pre-teen. You couldn’t not hear it on the radio for a period of a few months. It was the first time I was away from my parents for a few months, living abroad in Montreal with my family to pick up French. I had autonomy to explore and learn in a completely foreign environment. Safely.
And I had no idea what I was in for. I had the hormonal excesses of teenager-dom ahead of me. But this song nonetheless just kept playing over and over in my head. That song is ultimately full of hope and possibilities and everything I feel when starting a new business.
This song nails the feeling of entrepreneurship for me, at least my style of it. Initially difficult, but slowly through consistent effort and system building, everything eventually works. And I take off.
Also, it articulates one of the Launch Tomorrow core messages: test and validate before you expand. Especially when working from first principles. And when you do expand, keep testing in your growth until it really takes off.
You need to learn how to fly, before you can try achieving escape velocity. In fact, going for escape velocity before you know how to fly is the fastest path to a crash. There’s lot’s of advice on the details, but premature scaling is a real thing, especially among venture funded startups.
Flight was one of those seemingly impossible tasks for humanity, until about 100 years ago. The best of us, including:
Da Vinci’s sketches during the Renaissance
the Montgolfiers launching a duck, a rooster, and a sheep to impress King Louis in 1783
Sir George Cayley building a manned glider in 1849 to fly his coachman down a hill
the Wright Brothers finally achieving manned flight in 1903 on the sandy dunes of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina
We needed all of this to happen first, before Robert Goddard could starting thinking about how to conquer escape velocity, and come up with the idea of a rocket.
Create an explainer video for your complicated new product.
Make sure your audience understands it, without being overwhelmed by technical details.
Why manned flight is a good analogy for the early stage
Arguably, it was the Wright Brothers figured out where it mattered most: getting humans in the air. Through systematic experimentation, they pulled it all together. There were a lot of instruments, a wind tunnel, and lots of prototypes until they figured out how to use the shape of a wing to lift a much heavier plane (that happened to be carrying a person too).
You don’t want to just jump off a cliff without knowing what you are doing, and the only way to truly know is through systematic experimentation.
At least until the coronavirus pandemic, we largely took flying for granted. But it’s one of the most amazing discoveries every achieved. And spawned an entire industry as a side effect.
What song do you find motivating?
Feel free to check out the full playlist on Spotify, and give it a whirl. And let me know in the comments or via email about any songs or playlists you find motivating, powerful and helpful, as I am curious. And I might want to nab and add it to my own playlist. 🙂