My side-hustle is Statusflow, a better way to do project status reporting.
Three weeks in with Oyvind Henriksen (ex-founder & 200 IQ product brain), Tim Hawke and Joel Osborne (veteran consultants and founders of projectsthat.work)… and we’re live!
And even better, just over 500 people have already checked us out.
Here’s what worked and what I learned this week…
1.Watch your users react to your marketing
You never get enough data from your analytics to know what users are really thinking.
Instead, we sat down with a handful of users and watched them use the site, asking what their impressions were, and what they thought the product was about.
We learned that people thought Statusflow was a Project Management tool like Asana or Jira, instead of a collaborative report builder like Whatsapp + Powerpoint.
But how to solve this?
2. Give your users a frame of reference.
The first thing a new user does is attempt to categorise your product in terms of what they already know.
If they miscategorize you, then they may not understand the benefits you’re bringing.
Our site’s original headline was “Faster status reporting” and the picture showed a status report, so users thought “Hmm… I mean, project management does that, right? So it’s probably one of those?”
This pushed us to define exactly what Statusflow was in 2–3 words so users instantly “got it”.
- Reporting “Platform” and “System” don’t convey enough information.
- “Report builder” was almost right, but sounded too close to just PowerPoint & Google Slides. It’s important that our phrase communicates our differentiation and doesn’t make users think “Oh, it’s like this other mature product, only newer”
We settled on Collaborative Project Reporting.
3. Iterative launching / soft launches.
Launches are a great way to generate a lot of traffic all at once, but when you’re a startup you need a continuous flow of users to be able to test, learn, and build a solid onboarding funnel.
Instead of launching all on the same day, we spread our launch period out with multiple posts over a week. Close enough to count as a launch, but with enough time to build in the previous days’ feedback to the funnel.
This let us test out a “pay now” option, a “book a demo” option, and a 30 day free trial.
4. Pivot FAST
Solo-preneurs and autocratic leaders suck at this…
They get emotionally invested in what they’ve built (attachment to the past) and invested in their vision and to-do list (attachment to the future).
A good startup founder is a “realist” in the most literal sense of seeing reality. They kick back and look at what actually needs to be done moving forward, like an artist looking at their own sketch and seeing what isn’t quite right.
When we first launched, our website asked people to either pay to sign up or book in for a demo: high commitment actions with a correspondingly low conversion rate.
A part of us wanted to “wait and see”. We all had stuff to work on.
Instead, within a day, we got on a call and decided to switch to a free 30-day trial. I built out an onboarding flow, and it was live the day after.
Pro-tip: the more uncertain the terrain, the more you need to navigate.
Team meetings force you to pull your head out of the work and look at what’s working. They help you bin your outdated to-do list and think broadly about direction. For a super-early startup, choose the fastest cadence of team meetings that lets you deliver 1 — 2 meaningful changes between each meeting. Each meeting you can look at the data and re-prioritise. Pre-launch we went a week between meetings and we’ve now brought it down to once every 2–3 days as we have real user data to work with.
Once the business’s funnel is working (you have a repeatable system for getting the attention of customers through to them buying your product), you can decrease the meeting cadence again to increase efficiency at the expense of agility.
5. Everyone is a leader & team builder
Startups have “long odds”: no guarantee of success for any given initiative, but a big reward when you succeed. This dynamic means you have to weather setbacks and misses along the way without losing momentum.
At StatusFlow, my early version of the product was super rough, and it really only got “good enough” about a week before launch.
We’ve also had blog posts that didn’t resonate, and brutal feedback from supporters.
If you’re a hot-blooded, competitive person like me, then the setbacks never get any easier.
(…Or if you are a Zen “it’s about the journey, not the destination” type, many of your team won’t be. Recognise that. Don’t take for granted that they see the same picture you do, and feel just as happy and secure in the project.)
Here’s what we did right.
- Every person in the team has gone out of their way to share and celebrate wins, without hiding the candid feedback we needed to iterate fast.
- Maintain perspective. Whether that’s tolerating a weak early product, to reminding ourselves where we’ve executed well even when an initiative didn’t deliver results.
- Step up. Anticipate (from metrics) and read (from activity in team chat and tone in meetings) the vibe in the team and have the courage to speak up, call out challenges you’re facing, and offer a constructive perspective.
Caveat: Soft leadership is a case of less is more — probably less than 5% of your actual communication. Nudge simply, briefly, once, then crack on.