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Getting the right focus at the early stage

Many start-ups are doubtful about when would be the right time to start marketing after product development. This is one of the most popular questions that are asked, as they do not have the huge budgets that big enterprises or big brands can allocate to investment at this stage of the process.

Prior to answering this, I would like start-ups in this situation to review and verify whether your product has solved what its customers want. Is an actual group of active customers, or to put it in other terms - activated tractions - already available, or not?

Some start-ups think that after finishing product development, they should move straight to product-promotion planning, to be widely realised by marketing and putting more emphasis on brand creation. But this is not yet appropriate for any start-up at this early stage.

Please consider whether the product is still incapable of proving traction - namely, do active customers exist? If not, it means the product is not the right solution to your potential customers' problems.

If you attract more users via endeavour only from marketing, the more the "poor first impression" will be among customers, and this will eventually link to a bad image of the product itself.

Consequently, the features of the product being rejected by mass users cannot be evaluated.

Therefore the concept of "lean start-up" is the most suitable method a start-up should study and learn from the point of conception of a business idea.

Lean start-up has been mentioned by Eric Ries, utilising the concept of "lean" to be applied for the product-development stage of a start-up. Lean start-up transforms a start-up by concentrating on the first priority of the user's actual problem as the basic principle.

Customer insight must be clearly understood in order to reduce time and develop only in ways that are appropriate and necessary. This is why we quite often hear the expression "The biggest risk for most start-ups is building something nobody wants" - and why such businesses will collapse.

Being a lean start-up starts with focusing on what problems customers are actually facing and longing for a solution to, as a must-have or nice-to-have product. Learn from the related market how widespread such a problem is; this stage is called "Problem/Solution - FIT".

After that, proceed toward the product-development period, having established the most essential point of proof that such a product is actually required by users. The indicator at this point is "traction", namely actual usage that can be applied by customers.

This stage is called "Product/Market - FIT" and is undertaken by real testing with a target group of users; not widely in a big group, but limited among those with whom we can associate for in-depth discussion and seek sincere opinions and comments on the product.

On the contrary, if we open it up too wide, or testing is done on those who are not our product's real users, confusion and misleading might occur - and genuine evaluation will not be achieved.

This is why any start-up should "Focus Right at the Early Stage" prior to turning toward marketing, which is very much the wrong focus if undertaken from the outset.

Oranuch Lerdsuwankij (@Mimee) is co-founder of Thumbsup Media and marketing director of Computerlogy.


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