Your app still has to be good

In this post I want to stress the importance of having an app that is really good. As good as you can possibly make it. Ideally your app blows the competition out of the water in a side-by-side comparison. This isn’t just about UI/UX design and features. It’s about whether your app solves a key problem much better than anybody else. Your prototypes and MVP won’t be that great, and that’s to be expected. You make those first versions to gauge potential. You have to work towards making a truly great app though, and in this post I’ll explain why I believe this is so important.

There are some businesses that do well without having great software, just by being great at marketing and sales. So why not just do that? You can hustle. You can buy ads, build a big following on social media, do cold outreach and email 10.000 people, write SEO pages, plug your app on youtube and do podcasts. That all works[1]. You can get many people to try your app with persistent marketing. Despite all that, if your app doesn’t provide enough value to people your startup will struggle and not really take off, no matter how hard you hustle. This is because the world is huge and the fast way to reach many people is by word-of-mouth. Your users have to be so thrilled about your app that they’ll tell their friends about it. Your app should have an R0 above 1, if you catch my drift :). That’s how you get explosive growth.

You can ignore what the market is telling you. You can just power through and hustle. Even with a mediocre app you’ll still find customers with persistence. You can even create a profitable business that does well year after year. This works best in markets where competition is weak and nobody has made a great product that users love. Those are markets just waiting to be disrupted. Just a matter of time until that happens.

For B2B startups having a great product is less important than for B2C. There are two reasons for this: 1) business software is more expensive which means you can just hire sales staff and 2) people don’t get as enthusiastic about business software which means your competitors are likely to struggle with word-of-mouth growth just like you. But even B2B markets get turned upside down by upstarts with wildly passionate users. Companies like Stripe and Zoom are unstoppable because of it. Business chat apps like HipChat and Campfire stood no chance against Slack. I don’t even remember the names of the businesses Zoom bulldozed. Webex meeting, maybe?

The necessity of making a great app applies to us as well. Every day we write code, design and redesign the UI. We try to figure out which features work and which ones just don’t. But we don’t know yet if our app will turn out good enough. Sometimes you swing and you miss. Occasionally you can pivot an app and turn it into something great, but that’s the exception to the rule. If reception to your app is lackluster it means your app is bad and you should go back to the drawing board. It could happen to us. Fingers crossed.

[1] To be clear, every business needs to do marketing. My point isn’t that marketing is unnecessary, but that it’s not wise to compensate for bad product/market fit by doubling down on marketing.

You can follow us on Twitter @jdvhouten and @wcools and look for #80daystartup

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