October 30, 2022
Last week I did a soft launch of a new business concept I've been nurturing for the past few months. Wow, I was really off-base! I thought I'd share why I'm celebrating.
First, I’d like to give a huge shout-out to my #fintech friends. I am truly humbled that you care enough about me to give honest and candid feedback – you saved me so much time, money, and disappointment.
Although I’ve done market-acceptance tests many times throughout my career, this is the first time it was under my personal brand at Top Line Focus. As a solopreneur, there’s an obvious correlation between time and money; and lucky for me I track all my hours, including thinking time. Testing the market cost me a total of 54.25 hours and saved me nearly 500 hours – 90%!
The idea itself isn’t relevant; however, the process, learning experiences, and emotions might be of value to you. So I thought I’d share:
The idea was a passing thought at last year’s T3 Technology Tools for Today I love T3 as I get to see so many great wealth tech firms at all stages of product maturity, and it was obvious the need for my services (to help #fintechs grow FASTER) is greater than my capacity. While waiting for my plane ride home, I pulled out my journal and documented the problem, solution, and my personal drivers.
Ideation - 9.5 hours over six weeks. I spent the summer decorating my office with a slew of stickies whenever I had a fleeting idea. My topics covered the gamut: service offering, sales strategy, value proposition, pricing, delivery, personal motivators – you name it, there was a sticky for it!
Design – 12.25 hours over one month. I dedicated several summer mornings to prioritizing my stickies and formulated a plan. I did about ten versions of the service offering and related profitability spreadsheets and outlined my thoughts in three presentations. I’m pretty fast with formulating ideas and doing templates…so this stage might take you a little longer. I validated my rationale and strategy with my business coach and hired her to research my tech stack while I designed the artifacts to describe my MVP.
Market Test – 32.5 hours over one month. Now that I had a strategy and my spreadsheets showed an acceptable level of profitability, it was time to document my idea. This stage took a tad longer than anticipated as I had to keep reminding myself to stay the course and do as little work as possible. Like anyone else, I was getting excited and kept adding details. I probably spent 15 hours just hitting the delete key. My behind-the-scenes website showcased my idea, and last Saturday I shipped the link to 43 industry SMEs: investors, startup CEOs, and other fintech consultants. By midweek, I had a 40% response rate and realized I needed to hit the pause button.
The Learning Lessons
As I mentioned, I am so thankful for my industry friends who took the time to review my site and read through all of the information. It was far from a 5-minute read, and many contacts asked for additional clarification throughout their review.
I summarize my findings into six buckets:
Value: The value (ROI) was too indirect.
Time: The solution required clients to spend time, which is too precious.
Change Management: The likelihood of adoption would be slow.
Ego: The streamlined approach made the buyers’ concerns feel simplistic
Problem: The problem was real; the solution was wrong.
Network: Thankful for all my industry contacts whom I consider friends.
Before I go into the rollercoaster of emotions, it’s probably worthwhile to mention that my motivation to pivot was for the most unheard-of reason: I wanted greater fulfillment. (My current business model of fractional CRO has been flourishing.) If you’re considering a pivot because your existing business is underperforming, your emotions will likely be different.
For the first 12 weeks, I was on Cloud 9! I was confident in my approach, and proud of my ability to create a service offering and effectively communicate it. Furthermore, the market size data (TAM, SAM, SOM) was through the roof, my sales and marketing approach made sense, etc. Everything I put on paper made me think I nailed it!
Then the market test commenced. I told myself I was confident, but honestly, I was scared when I hit that send key. I could feel myself seeking internal strength and fighting the demons of my imposter syndrome.
Within 24 hours, initial feedback started to arrive. I felt somewhat defensive. What was wrong with these people? How could they not see the importance of my solution? My stomach told me they were crazy, and I desperately wanted to show them how they were wrong. However, I highly respect these individuals, so I responded with my head and not my heart. I reminded myself that the purpose of the pre-launch was to listen. It was hard to listen.
I had fifteen responses by the fifth day, and the message was clear. I woke up at 4 am to categorize the feedback. At 5 am, I pulled out my journal and berated myself as I was so embarrassed.
I took a long shower to clear my head before I started my work day. As I was preparing for the day, something happened – I was no longer embarrassed; instead, I was proud of myself. I took a risk and failed fast. I saved myself countless hours, real money, and future disappointment. I live what I preach – test the market as early as possible.
If I had to do it all over, I would do it all over again…and I plan to do so. It was a wonderful experience to test an idea that was so personal to me. I’m now a more empathetic leader when I’m working with my clients.
I encourage you to find the courage to fail fast. Here are my key takeaways:
Feed creativity. Whether stickies, whiteboards, or journals, have a place to ideate.
Nurture your network. Whenever possible, go the extra mile for your network; they’ll be candid with you when it’s time to test your idea.
Prepare for a rollercoaster of emotions. Being open to feedback is hard; listen with your head, not just your heart.