Before producing a product or providing a service, we need to check if someone needs it by marketing and selling a mockup version of it.
I cannot tell you how often I asked entrepreneurs if they have enough customers before producing their service or product and got the answer “don’t worry, they will come”.
They never do.
I did that myself a few times. It is so easy to believe they will come since we are experts at what we do, we can invest weeks or months to make a complete product (an imaginary MVP), and the customers will be so impressed and ask why they never thought about it.
I cannot blame anyone for thinking that. When we work for successful companies, that part has already been done. The customers already know they need the product. When we create the products or provide the service, beautiful as it is, it is required.
But, as bootstrappers, that is not the case. We have to check if the customer is willing to accept our premises.
What does it mean to mockup/demo?
A while back, we showed a deck of slides to potential customers.
We will discuss this in detail in a later article. Still, we pooled together all the relevant contacts from our LinkedIn accounts and scheduled meetings with them in this particular instance.
Some of the slides contained what appeared to be screenshots from the product.
The customers naturally assumed the product existed and suggested improvements for each screenshot.
E.g., with a screenshot of a dashboard, they suggested adding a metric they needed. For a screenshot of a feature, the customer suggested changing it to suit their needs.
Some screenshots sounded useless to the customer, and we pivoted and reached out again a few weeks later to find out if the customer was sold this time.
Some customers asked when they could start to use it, and we obviously had to explain that the product is not ready yet, but they can send us a letter of intent (LOI), and when it is ready, they will be the first to use it.
In a different venture, we were thinking about a mobile app that was costly to make. It was a game of words. So, we rounded up some family, friends, and friends of friends to play the game on paper.
We prepared a script that outputted the words, and we read it for them, and they gave us the answer, which we input manually into the script.
The feedback we got was priceless.
We did not have to build the product to get feedback and pre-sale it to customers in both cases.
The secret is to provide 80% of the feel of the experience without actually using the finished product and getting the customers to tell you what they think.
It can be a storyboard with dashboards and stitched together screenshots from apps (like for integrations or plugins).
It can be a pdf for investors.
It can be a script to simulate a game or an app, describing what is happening in each step and writing down feedback.
Whatever it is, you do not need to build the product to get feedback or sell it.
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