Having spent more than 15 years in the network marketing industry (both on the corporate side and MLM software side), I’ve learned a thing or two about what makes an effective company launch or a successful marketing initiative that requires custom software development. All too often, I’ve seen situations where we shoot for perfection. From a systems standpoint, we somehow convince ourselves that we need every innovative and awe-inspiring feature imaginable or we will simply not be successful. Our clever and conspiring right-brains always tell us that we can do more, be more, and have more when it comes to the complexities of creating a swiss-army knife software package that lets distributors sip drinks in Maui while they rake in the greenbacks by the thousands.
In the end however, we would have been much better off had we just launched the company or the new initiative in “beta” with the minimum viable product (MVP). The minimum viable product is that version of our new product that allows us to collect the maximum amount of feedback from our customers with the least effort. In other words, the goal to keep things simple to start and satisfy the majority…and then go from there.
Of course, I’m not talking about launching a company without a good product or without a viable MLM software system, particularly an accurate commission engine. We all know what happens in those scenarios. What I am suggesting is that we learn from some of the biggest technology companies who have pioneered the concept of “launching in beta”. Google is at the forefront of this trend as most of Google’s products are launched in beta, bugs and all. Even Apple, who is well-known for their perfection and almost obsessive control, has launched products that many considered “imperfect” at the beginning, with Apple addressing the issues weeks or months later.
There are a couple reasons that launching in beta is a good idea. One, it allows you to go “public” and get immediate feedback from you distributors and customers on what’s working and what’s not. That crazy six-month development project that the entrepreneur in you dreamed up as being a “billion-dollar” idea may seem silly to the field and not gain an ounce of traction. Or likewise, that killer idea that the big Kahuna in the field is telling you that you must accomplish before you go live might vanish in a puff of smoke when rolled out… been there, done that, right?
The other reason why it’s smart to launch “lite and lean” is simply cost savings. Custom development is expensive no matter who your software provider is. I don’t care if you’re getting it all done in Mexico or India… there is an opportunity cost to everything.
Finally, there’s the psychological aspect. Climbing a mountain is hard work and if the peak keeps getting further away no matter how hard you’re climbing, the exhausting toll this takes on your psyche has very real implications. I’ve seen companies spend so much time in pre-launch phase because they keep adding new and “innovative” ideas that the distributors get tired of waiting and move on to the next “big” thing. Unfortunately, this happens all too often in our industry.
So in my experience it’s smart to take baby steps, do things in phases, test things out, and work towards your minimum viable product with every proposed marketing initiative or product release. Launch in beta and learn to manage the expectations of your corporate team and the field. Doing so will yield big dividends and could even be the difference between your ultimate success and failure as a company.
Eric Raymond, PMP is the Director of Implementation Services at Xennsoft and has worked at the executive level for many network marketing companies, both startups and well-established multi-million dollar brands.