With a background of 7 years in agile development, I considered myself shrewd at decomposing software features and planning incremental releases. As I continue my customer development journey with duellr I continue to realize how much more aggressive I can be with the attitude of releasing less.
Last weekend, Micah and I launched an email campaign to contacts we gained via an ad campaign Marissa had helped us with earlier this year. The email campaign offers low cost access to a private alpha we are running.
My previous product development mindset would have influenced me to create an integrated payment gateway solution on our main site. I may have even made premature and uninformed decisions about subscription vs transaction revenue models and developed an entire billing solution. I definitely would have created a sandbox environment for all third party services and ran all code through multiple levels of automated tests. I probably would have spent 1-2 weeks in product development before I had a single paying customer.
My current customer development mindset focused me on wanting to learn if any of our leads would pay for the service. I also wanted to understand why our leads would or wouldn’t open an alpha account. Our time was focused on developing a list of learning objectives. Brittany helped us develop a plan and timeline for initial emails and follow-up activities.
Micah and I decided to use a basic PayPal account and link to collect a single payment for alpha account access. We linked to the PayPal payment page in our email. We instructed users that we’d email them account credentials within 24 hours of receiving payment. The entire payment setup and campaign testing took about 4 hours of work.
I used to think such a simple payment approach was terrible. We created a hurdle for account activation and possibly appeared unprofessional. Our approach may actually decrease conversions.
I’m convinced our simple payment approach was correct because we’re learning faster. We reduced the product development effort by nearly an order of magnitude and arrived at the same desired point in customer development faster. We are now poised to learn more about leads becoming customers, perceived value of our product, pricing sensitivity and the best-fitting revenue model. Before my mindset shift, I’d still be coding infrastructure that might not be correct.