So much of modern product development is about narrative. Who is the protagonist (target user persona)? Where are they going (use cases)? And who do they meet along the way (network effects)?
One of the trickiest pieces of narrative to get right is the product marketing. With so many products to choose from, it’s increasingly important to garner some excitement around your product before it is even available to try or buy. Then there’s the actual launch, which many companies put a huge amount of effort into getting just right. But the launch is more of a staring line than it is a finish line. Once the product is generally available, then begins the content marketing, which is a long tail of narrative that you generally hope never ends1.
That’s a lot of words, and words are hard.
This is one reason why a lot of startups opt to operate in “Stealth Mode”. It provides small teams the opportunity to operate in varying degrees of secrecy, enabling them to focus on the product until it is deemed ready to share with a larger audience. The tricky part is dialing in the appropriate level of secrecy and readiness. You’ll likely need to disclose some information in order to collect data that will inform the early development of the product. And you need to know when the product is ready-enough to begin raising awareness.
Minimally Valuable Product
Our goal for Herd Works’ inaugural product launch is not to operate in complete secrecy — otherwise we wouldn’t have bothered building a website and announcing the company’s existence. But we are a small team, so focused attention on product development will be critical to our success. Even the product itself isn’t necessarily a secret — if we met over coffee or beers we’d probably tell you exactly what we’re working on — but the narrative isn’t quite dialed-in enough to talk about it in public just yet.
And as for product readiness, our aim is to ship once we reach “Herd Works MVP” — not Minimum Viable Product, but Minimally Valuable Product. We don’t want to give our first users a product with barely enough features to be considered viable or “usable”. We want to deliver the product with it’s intended “aha moment” front and center. This doesn’t mean we need to build in every feature that competing products have, we just need enough capabilities to deliver the “killer feature”. That’s a Minimally Valuable Product. We want to lead with differentiated features first, even if it means some of the table stakes are missing. We can fill in the blanks later as long as the killer feature is resonating with our users.
So that’s what we’re going to do. We may blog about certain decisions we’re making along the way, so make sure to subscribe to our mailing list
If you’re lucky enough to find the elusive Product Market Fit™ in the first place, you will want to ride that wave for as long as possible. ↩︎