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Why are your first 10 users so important?

Marie Verchère, CEO

Marie V.

22 mai 20227 min read

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learning product management

Do you have an idea that might change people's lives? Career? Both?

Wicked!

The second step is then to quit your job (or finish school?) and take the plunge to be 100% dedicated to the project. You’ve done that too?

Wow, you’re on a roll…

You started building a first version of the product and do you think your target audience will love it? Motivation and excitement are so important when launching a company and a product. However… (yes you saw it coming miles away, right?)

You need to TEST it before actually releasing it on the market! Why? To validate your concept, nothing beats real-life experimentation. This step will allow you to secure your future investments by adjusting your concept and your value proposition if necessary.

Your MVP (Minimum Viable Product), aka the first release to a (very) closed bêta shouldn’t be perfect

Don’t forget what LinkedIn guru Reid Hoffman said again and again: “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product you’ve launched too late.”

To simplify, we could say that the MVP is a Fast, Testable, and Usable version of your product. This is different from an animated mockup, which represents a finished design but is non-functional.

In an MVP, the functional approach is preferred to the detriment of design to allow in particular a rapid launch and obtaining valuable user feedback. The MVP is basically the first step in an iterative process that will lead you to your “finished” solution.

Of course, at first, there is a significant economic benefit because you commit little budget to the MVP of your product. Much less in any case than by rushing, head down, into the development of a more complete solution responding to poorly identified user needs… Ready or not, you will have to iterate, perhaps operate a 360° swift on your product!

How to choose the First 10?

Building a community and the first ambassadors around the product will be crucial for your company. All manual, training, and podcasts (hehe) suggest starting with a small group of 10 people that we will refer to as the First 10.

For the First 10, I’d suggest you pick people from your first circle (a bit like your first LinkedIn connections). And no, not your friends who won’t be in your target audience for the product/solution, your mum (although I’m perfecting my pitch till she understands everything, even the NLP bits), your grandpa…

Yes, they love you, but they aren’t your testers, and can’t validate your idea the way you need it. Unless of course, they’re part of your personas. They have to fit your customers’ profile, otherwise, it’s pointless.

Start with 10 people who have a problem for which you’re providing a solution.

Don’t forget that your network is the people who want to HELP you, and you want to help them, and that’s really powerful. The first 10 will be your best friends, and sometimes your worse nightmare because they will be super honest, so be prepared!

Key takeaway: yes, do dream big, but start with baby steps!

Don’t forget that just because you've designed a product doesn't mean users and customers will come to you

As an entrepreneur, it is essential that you actively solicit your first users. It is complex and important work because these First 10 will help you refine your product, iterate it (as often as needed), understand how to position it in the market, and build the reputation of your business.

Collect feedback mercilessly. What did they like? What did they hate? Where’s the friction? Is your product a nice-to-have… or a must-have because it solves a burning problem?

Feedback is a gift! Even if it might hurt because you were proud to come up with a design, a feature, or a UX flow. To launch a product, and more specifically within a “build-in public” strategy, you need to give your ego a sabbatical. No, but really!

User feedback will be a mine of important information to iterate and develop your solution. Using user feedback (and letting them know) is also a great way to build a loyal and productive community. A community on which you can rely when you move on to the marketing phase and want to recruit new customers…

Developing your solution iteratively is the guarantee of obtaining a product that brings maximum satisfaction to your users. Which you can measure thanks to small (but regular) NPS score surveys. My recommendation will be to keep working on the product with the First 10 till you obtain an 8 or 9/10 on your NPS score. And follow the evolution - we started low, very low… But again, that IS normal!

Key takeaway: the First 10 reviews are a shot of (sometimes cruel) reality and an ultimate answer to your question – Is it worth it and will they pay for it?

Build a community (and be patient), and keep them engaged!

Did you get your First 10? Awesome! Now, how do you communicate?

“Slack is the easy answer”

Well… Not necessarily - I’ve seen that some respond well to that channel but not all because it remains a time-consuming tool that they might already use at work. Test and learn, that would be my advice. For instance, I sometimes receive audios from them personally, but I always report them on our common Slack.

You need to keep them engaged, and that involves dedication and multi-canal on your part. Yes, it will take time, but those steps are too important to be neglected!

Send a weekly report on what happened: bugs fixed, improvements, ideas (and from whom, share the light), and the new features. Also share what is coming in terms of features, perhaps vision. They will be your best ambassadors and evangelists, you need to cherish them. Also because they take the time to help you!

To sum up: no, your product will not be perfect right away! You have to be ready to act step by step and know how to question your concept and your certainties. Abandon expectations, specifications, and the roadmap when submitting your MVP to the First 10. Admittedly, these documents are reassuring (at least at first) but you’ll see that a roadmap changes. Prioritize the expression of the user’s needs.

All of the above is basic Product Management shit, but I thought sharing my experience on our current product and adventure with Upskyld will help you! Would love to get your feedback tho… Don’t be shy!

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