May 10, 2019

ASK IH: I have a dilemma. What would you do?

Anton Fenske @fenske

I want to validate an idea for a B2B product. Building a demo would roughly take me 2 weeks.
I'm hesitating whether I should code it before or after reaching out to prospects.
The thought I have in my head right now is they'll ask for a demo right away and I'll look stupid saying there is no product yet. :) On the other hand, I don't want to invest my time in something no-one will pay for.

So, folks, what would you do?

#ask-ih

  1. 12

    The thought I have in my head right now is they'll ask for a demo right away and I'll look stupid saying there is no product yet.

    If that's your only concern, I say swallow your pride and go out there and look stupid!

    Worst- case scenario, your prediction is correct, and your ego will be hurt for a few hours.

    Best-case scenario (and also the most likely case), your actual experience of talking to these prospects will differ from how you currently imagine it will go, and those differences will translate into important learnings. Thereafter, you will make better decisions about your product, market, pricing, and distribution strategies.

    1. 1

      Sage advice. Guess I'll go do that. 🙂Thanks, Courtland, for the push!

  2. 5

    If you can show high quality mockups and demonstrate that you are serious about it, you shouldn't have an issue finding businesses to take a risk with you... if it's a problem worth solving.

  3. 2

    Generally, committing to code should be a last resort, after research, validation etc is proven. You are in a good spot here (so long as you really do think you can code an MVP in 2 weeks!).... you can validate a great deal with some simple mockups (even paper prototypes!) so don’t delay your progress in the name of code / perceived readiness.... If your hunch is correct after meeting your first few prospects, simply schedule your 2nd meetings for 3 weeks time, and have your MVP ready to handover / test for then..

    Right now, get in front of as many potential customers as possible and treat these meetings as a hybrid of research & suggestion (or some facet of ‘co-design / product specs’)... This may help you with buy-in at the next meetings also.... All the best!

  4. 2

    Are you sure it will take you only 2 weeks?

    If your demo is something that you can continue building on top of after validation, or it can reveal some flaws of your product at this stage, or help your future development in any way, then the time might be worth it. Plus, it gives you more confidence when approaching these clients.

    If not... oh well, swallow your pride, stop wasting time, and reach out to them as soon as you can. You don't have to tell them you have nothing. Just say that you're in the process of developing a product (which is true) and their help is essential for you at this point.

    1. 1

      After reading all these interesting comments I'm coming to the conclusion that I've probably planned too much for my "demo". :) So, there is a risk it'd take more than 2 weeks, and then it can totally become a waste of time.

      1. 1

        Haha, good luck man. Don't stop at the first 'no'. Grind it like you've used to grind in those video games when you were a kid (remember that, right?)

        If you need some theory behind it, you can read about the "false negative" in statistics. It will help you make an informed decision.

  5. 2

    I’m horrible at following my own advice, but I’d say if you already know who your target customers are and you can go talk to them now then might as well now. Your 2 weeks could always turn into 4 weeks (as is in my case every time) and you always might learn something that would benefit your overall project and end up adding or subtracting something.
    I think it’s harder to go talk to people then it probably is to build it. So if you talk to them first you have already taken the hardest step first, imo. Good luck with the project and I hope you get awesome feedback.

  6. 2

    Pre-mockuop, you could just mention you're researching the potential of a new product that solves X need. If they have the need your product would fill, you could verbally paint a picture of the ideal version of your MVP that would solve it. Or, if you were to develop a product to address this need, would that business like to be a part of shaping it. I imagine if it's a need they have, some would jump at the chance. Mockups are definitely good if you think you'll have trouble explaining verbally how your product could benefit them. If the need is strong enough, a mockup might not be necessary. Not always the case though...

  7. 1

    Do you mean two weeks, as in 5 days a week at 8 hours a day? if so I wouldn't buld it.

    If you mean two weeks, as in a few hours an evening and some more at weekends then i definitely would.

  8. 1

    you can always use a tool like InVision to give them a simpler demo and tell them something along the lines of "I'm still working out the final modifications of a working product and will have it soon, in the meantime, this is what it's going to look like". This way you don't look stupid and you have a simple demo to show them.

  9. 1

    I've received so much interesting feedback. Thanks a lot to the ones who shared their view! I truly appreciate it.

    After reading your comments I believe I've found a way to come up with a lightweight mockup/demo that'll take me one evening to make as preparation before my upcoming meetings with prospects.

    I'll keep the community posted on the progress.

    Good luck, everyone!

  10. 1

    You should build a high-fidelity prototype for the presentation purpose. It looks and feels like a real product, but it's not a real product or working prototype. Present it to the target audience and ask them what they think of it? Get feedback from them which will get you insights to iterate your prototype. And once you feel good to go, start developing it – convert your high-fi prototype into a real product/MVP.

    How to build a high-fi prototype?
    If you're clear about what you want to build, it will hardly take 2 days to build it.
    Step 1 - Create a storyboard of what you want to build.
    Step 2 - Find a design system for Sketch/Figma/any software that you use. This will help you build your prototype faster. Don't think too much on which font, color scheme, images, etc should look good. Because you're building a high-fi prototype. Getting things perfect is not important at this stage.
    Step 3 - Once you're done with designing all the pages/screens, stitch them in MarvelApp or InvisionApp.

    We have done this many times for our clients. Let me know if there is any question.

    Cheers!

  11. 1

    How do you plan to seek validation?

    Perhaps, an option if they ask, send them a Calendly type link for them to book a demo? (and only include options to have the demo in two weeks time?)

    But mockups and a well designed homepage may be enough to get past the first stage of curiosity?

    Or, you could create a little video that looks interactive, but is essentially based on just designs?

    1. 1

      Reg. validation, I was planning to collect initial feedback on the problem to see whether there is enough interest.

  12. 1

    Same! I was thinking of creating a clickable mockup with something like InVision and demo'ing that before investing time/money into actual coding.