What are some good ways to get customer feedback to determine product fit prior to launch?
Sell it. Sell it for as much money as possible. If you can’t sell it, then there’s an issue. It might not be a problem that’s big enough to solve, or you have an issue showing that you’re professional enough - that you will solve the problem and that you’re a person of your word. That’s really, really important. You can do all of the research that you want, but until someone pays money for it, you’re not really going to get success. There’s a lot of hesitation around that because people think “if the product’s not done, how can I sell it?” - people do pilot projects all the time where they’ll work with a startup, help them develop their products with them, create feedback loops with them. A lot of these executives at these big companies are really bored and want something to do. They’ll help you grow your company and they’ll actually pay you to help you develop your product. Sell as soon as possible.
Should you be intimidated by negative customer feedback?
No, negative customer feedback is gold - they’re telling you exactly what you should build. All of your best features, all of your best products, and what they’re going to pay you money for is all in that negative customer feedback. You have to be willing to separate yourself from your startup to objectively look at those things: What are they actually saying? Why are they being negative? What do they not believe that they should be believing? A lot of people are stopped by limiting beliefs. You have to identify if it’s a belief that’s limiting them, or if it’s something that’s actually not a problem for them. What are they actually saying - what’s the why behind the negative feedback?
Could a too-early of an MVP launch damage reputation with an early adopter base?
I think Reid Hoffman has a really good quote about this that says “if you’re not embarrassed by your first product launch then you’re launching too late”.
You can damage reputation with an early adopter base if you lie - just don’t lie. Approach it candidly and honestly, “Hey this is new, this is really early MVP - could you give us some feedback on it?”
Don’t sell them the “dream” to get them to sign up or buy, just be very honest and people will respond well. They’ll start to ideologically buy into you, the problem you're solving, and your process of solving it - and there’s no damage there. Damage is the Delta between what they think is true versus what is actually true. It’s something that you’re building- not something that’s necessarily complete and definitely not perfect. Just tell them the truth.