The Launch: Success on the Fringe

010th May 2011Company, Development, Development, Real Studio, Various, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Product launches can be frightening.  Many of you will know what I’m talking about.  What if this doesn’t work?  What if all of this time and money was for nothing?  What will I do?

Well, to be honest, I don’t have all of those answers.  I wish I did, but I’m ready to give my take on product launches for a relatively small market.

Let’s face it, the real.studio market has been pretty small.  Over the years I’ve put out many products, some which were overwhelmingly successful, others which were nothing short of flops.  So, how have I coped with this mixture?

Don’t Stop

Don’t get discouraged by failure, it happens to the best of us.  If Product A isn’t as popular as you had hoped, get Product B out there…then C…then D.  I released GraffitiFadeLabel and GraffitiFadePanel quite some time ago, and their failure was near epic.  They were small products with a relatively low price tag, which I had hoped would serve to bring more customers in, but they didn’t.  They were later deprecated, and I released a few other classes that did much better.

Learn From Your Mistakes

Prices can be too high, or even too low.  If the customer doesn’t feel like they’re getting a good deal, forget it.  I’ve alienated some customers in the past because I don’t give refunds.  I’m sorry, but giving refunds on digital products is just ridiculous.  Not long after I began to see a trend developing, I learned to give them coupon codes for discounts on other products or new versions if their complaints were valid (such as missing information on the website) or free upgrades (for issues of product error).

Discuss It With Your Customers

Recently I received an email from a customer that seemed purely reactionary.  They felt that the price of GraffitiSuite subscriptions was much too high for what you get.  I discussed the situation with one of my trusted “advisors” and decided to explain the reasons behind the prices.  I won’t get in to all of that here, but sometimes an angry customer doesn’t see the bigger picture.  Likewise, sometimes you overlook something.  Just keep an ear open for customers.

Before launching the new service, I was in contact with a few of CyphersTECH’s GraffitiSuite customers.  They all had a say in the direction of the product, and over 90% were happy with the proposed subscription model.  Keep them in the loop and you won’t be disappointed.

Watch The Market

It’s important to watch where your market is heading, regardless of its size.  The RealBasic market, for instance, seems to be driving hard toward web-based apps.  Who knows, in five years they may drop local app development entirely.  At any rate, be ready with a backup plan, watch the market and make plans that follow a forecast of where you want to be if things do suddenly shift.  This could also be considered part of the next section.

Have a Backup Plan

One thing I’ve always done is looked at competitor languages.  What do they support?  How hard would it be for me to convert my products to work for that potential customer base?  Another thing I’ve been hard at work doing is building my résumé, testimonials, skills, and portfolio.  Should I need to find a job tomorrow, I’m confident that I could do so.  Not that all of my eggs are in the GraffitiSuite basket, but I do plan to push as hard as I can to see it succeed.

You Can’t Always Be Friends

Sometimes in business, competition can get fierce enough to make enemies.  While no one wants to alienate everyone entirely, you have to know when to keep friends and when to do what’s best for your business.  Cutting prices for market-share can either be a dirty trick, or an excellent way to bring in extra revenue.  It’s all subjective.  Not everyone is going to be happy, but that’s just the way it goes.

Boost Your Competitors If You Can

In a small market like I’m in, there aren’t a great deal of worthwhile choices for some types of project.  If I’m too busy to take on a large development project, I have no problems sending that to Bob Keeney (as I have in the past).  Why make the customer wait if the other developer will do a great job like Bob is sure to?  I’ve also sent customers to other third-party class developers when they were looking for a type of class that I had deprecated from GraffitiSuite.  I’m not after a monopoly here, I just want to pay my bills.

Give Back When You Can

This is something I used to do a lot of.  I spent hour after hour on the largest forum site for the market helping others.  I selflessly wrote example after example demonstrating techniques.  Now, not so much.  With the amazing amount of work you pick up, though, it’s important not to forget that there are some people who could benefit from your knowledge.  I help people via Jabber mostly, sometimes I field a phone call or two on how to carry out something, and I’ve donated time to customers in the past who couldn’t figure out how to do something that was completely unrelated to my products.  Whether you do so publicly or not, do some pro bono.

Conclusion

Business isn’t easy, especially in a small market.  It takes a lot of hard work, discipline, and social skills.  Work the customers, work the competitors, and keep doing what you do best.  I’ve released GraffitiSuite as a subscription service to make my life, and those of my customers, easier.  They don’t have to wonder if they’ll get the updates that they need.  We’re listening for bug reports, and we’ll publish fixes as soon as we can to paying customers.

As always, I’m interested in what others think.  Any further insights or even corrections are definitely welcomed.

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