Smooth Projects in the New Year

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Happy New Year from all of us at Stone Soup! We’re excited to be starting a new decade of developing awesome projects and helping businesses increase revenue. Our team continues to grow and we continue to make great industry partners. Thanks for making 2013 a great year for us!

When I was deciding what to write about for the New Year, I started thinking about the biggest issues that our clients have faced when launching a project. Here are my top 4 problems that our clients face:

Problem: Indecisiveness & perfection

You know your business. You make the tough calls. You are fearless. But for some reason when you are doing a software project, you start second guessing yourself. You come in with this great concept of how you want something. But along the way, you get weary and lose faith in you original vision. You make changes, more changes, and more changes. This causes infinite delays and what we call in the industry, “scope creep”. This can get very expensive – both from missed opportunities due to delays and extra money for development.

Solution: Stick with your original vision. Make a few modifications if needed (and we’ll throw some suggestions in, as well), but overall, keep your original concept intact until you get to a Minimally Viable Product (MVP). This allows you to launch a product on time and on budget. Then you can start working on version 2.

Problem: “I know what my customers want”

The fact is you probably know your customers better than anyone else with one major exception – the customers themselves. We’ve witnessed both here at Stone Soup and many other places the curse of having too much confidence that we know our customers’ wants and needs. We dream up what we think is a perfect solution to their obvious problem. We launch and sometimes find out that we don’t know them as well as we thought.

Solution: Follow my previous advice – launch quickly with an MVP. And the next step? Immediately start getting user feedback. Yes, you have expert knowledge about your business. You know your products inside and out. You know your strengths and weaknesses. But as much you think you know your customer and your customer’s preferences, you only get a clear picture when you ask them, watch them, analyze them, etc. You can save a lot of time and expense, as well as deliver a more successful product if you ask early and ask often what your customers like.

Problem: “They will come”… but they don’t

We hear lots of ideas for great projects every day. We meet plenty of entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs who have a set for budget for a project. All of it is set aside for development. This is especially true with our app clients. The idea is so profound and so needed that they have the feeling that “if they build it, they will come”.  The app is released and guess what? They don’t come.

Solution: The truth is that behind almost every great software success (especially apps), there has been very intentional marketing plans in place. I was mentoring a startup recently who was trying to create a solution for a very competitive and lucrative space. The competition was all making tens of millions in revenue. This startup had budgeted about $25,000 for marketing. For that particular case to be in the same league as their competitors, the marketing budget should have been $5,000,000 or more. The takeaway from this is to be very intentional about your marketing plan from the very early planning stages. A large budget isn’t always necessary, but an intentional plan is.

Problem: Writer’s block

Solution: Writer’s block always hits the hardest when you’re launching a website. It hits everyone. Relax. Break the content into manageable sections. If you have need 10 pages of content, tackle 2 pages per day. Set aside 1 hour (or two 30-minute blocks of time) to only focus on writing the content. Don’t check email. Don’t answer the phone. It’s not as bad as you think. This article by Chris Lake gives some good tips on how to write for your website. [I failed at many of these just in this one blog post!] And if you aren’t a good writer – which many of us aren’t – then either choose someone else in your organization to be the content creator or let Stone Soup connect you with a freelance writer who can interview you and write it for you.

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