How to make (and sell) something that people want
It's been a while since my last post. The reason is, I've been working around the clock to build and sell something that people want. This is fresh in my mind, so I thought I'd share this with you.
I should start this article by crediting Paul Graham and YC for this motto - "make something that people want".
As obvious as this sounds, it's counterintuitively hard to achieve.
If you're looking to build something that people will actually want to use, the best way to do it is by creating it for yourself. That's how a lot of successful startups took off – they identified a need within their own team and filled it. For example, Slack was originally a video-game before pivoting into the internal chat application that the founding team was using. They realized that they'd be more successful selling the internal tool that they had been using for a while.
At Attention, our most popular feature – the ability to automate my follow-up emails and Salesforce exports with one click – came from me wanting to make my own life easier. We built it for our internal needs, demo'd it, and noticed great traction. If you're looking to create something people will actually want to use, start by solving your own problem.
This is what this article is about: build something for yourself. If you don't use it, how can you convince other people to pay for it?
Then, go out and demo your product.
One of the best pieces of advice that I've received, when starting Attention, came from one of our angel investors Karim Atiyeh (cofounder of Ramp). Try to take as many shortcuts to build things fast - don't hesitate to hardcode things, even if this means rewriting that code later. As soon as you have something demo-able, go ahead and try to sell it.
You know you've built something that (other) people want when they want you to send it to them asap. After 30 conversations with your ICP, if no-one wants it, then you should reassess (build something else or figure out your actual ICP).
The path is: build something demo-able, then improve it into something usable, even if it means some high-touch handholding with a handful of design partners in the early days, and once your product feedback is excellent, start building something scalable.
Definitely give out a free pilot for a month or two, in exchange for feedback. When piloting your solution, your customer is actually paying in terms of resources and time spent working on it. So don't worry if they're not "paying you yet" - them piloting it has an invisible cost (to you).
If you're starting to see those pilots converting from free to paid, then you know you're onto something.
You can only start scaling your marketing & sales efforts from there.
Go out and crush it!