One week ago I released the first version of my product, RecordBox. Having got that under my belt I turned my attention to making sense of the feedback and formulating my plans going forward.
In this blog post I would like share my experience of getting RecordBox into the hands of users and my reflections on the lessons learnt.
Looking back on RecordBox, V1
I had very modest hopes for the first version of RecordBox. I wanted to release it to four or five music students who were personally known to me and get them to use it in their day to day music studies. This meant that the product needed to be usable in the first version, even if it were not perfect and not complete.
So I developed basic functionality which would be minimally useful for music students looking store and organize their own recordings. My moment of truth came when I started to use RecordBox for my own music and thought: "man, this is lightyears ahead of my previous process".
Thus armed with confidence in the utility of the product, I created accounts for around a dozen people and sent a link out to these people with their login credentials. Unfortunately, nobody began using it beyond checking it out for a few minutes and providing 'top-of-mind' feedback.
While this was helpful, I really hoped that people would try to use RecordBox for storing and annotating their recordings on a regular basis. This attempt at regular use would achieve one or more of the following:
- Prove that RecordBox filled a real need: if people replaced their old tools with RecordBox and thought it added value to their lives, it would be proof that I was on to something.
- If people made a serious attempt to use RecordBox but found it was not worth it, then I could use their feedback to figure out what gaps to fill in the offering to make it indispensable.
- For people who did use it, they would have provide valuable feedback on what worked and what was missing. This feedback would help make the product even better.
Unfortunately, nobody tried to actually use RecordBox. And this was a disappointment. What could I do about it?
Marketing Lessons Learnt
One feedback I consistently received was: "We don't know quite what this product will do for us?". In my emails I had sent some screenshots of the working product and tried to explain with words how I used it. But this was not absorbed and most people had a lot of questions.
If people are to adopt a new way of doing things they need some amount of hand-holding in order to make a start. I think screenshots, use-case stories, videos, etc. are important materials whose design and presentation needs a lot of thought.
Another thing I learnt is that a simple email will not cut it, even with those who are personally known to me. People need more persuasion than that. I have thus resolved to spend time with 5-6 people to talk them into committing to try to use RecordBox regularly. I will explain how to use it and demonstrate how I use it. If they subsequently try to use it for the recordings, then that will be a rich source of feedback.
I also realized that I need to spend time on basic marketing while I am building the product. A release is not just about sending a link out. It is about generating interest before hand so as to persuade people to spend time trying the product when it is ready.
Of course the product needs to be extremely compelling in and of itself. But basic marketing messages are crucial in converting potential users. And this message is best developed in parallel with the product.
Plans for RecordBox, V2
All of this has helped me formulate my plans for RecordBox, V2. I am currently learning how to build an iPhone app which will enable people to wirelessly add music recorded on their phones to their RecordBox. This is a much requested feature. In fact a couple of people have said that they would not use RecordBox without it.
But that was always on my roadmap. In addition to the iPhone app, I am going to start looking into developing the marketing and support materials. I don't know much about the craft of building a good promotional site. I don't quite know how to use twitter and facebook to engage with users and bring life to an otherwise static landing page. I don't know how to drum up interest ahead of a launch. etc. So I am going to work on these things in the next few weeks.
Finally, I have resolved to spend time persuading some people seriously try to use RecordBox v1. They will be rich mines of information once they cross that line. I will then interpret and prioritize that feedback and start executing on it.
So life has started to get really interesting. It is no longer about pure product design and development. I think my experience has shown me that it is time to think about marketing, support, and conversing with users. The next few weeks are going to be a lot of fun. I will keep you'll posted as I work my way through RecordBox v2!