Question of the Day: What R Your Pre-Launch Priorities?

I spent yesterday afternoon in an hours-long strategy session with some former Y Combinator grads. The team is in the final week of preparing their startup for its Beta launch, and they were having difficulty yesterday deciding what the ultimate hierarchy of the pre-launch tasks should be. I’m sure all founders struggle with this, so it forms our Question of the Day, below.

Their service is cool, and promises to make a very painful business task — document sharing between parties — much easer. (Google Docs is fine, but these guys can make it slick to share documents even across multiple software platforms. I’ll tell you more about it when they come out of stealth.)

Sexy Features

The founders were eager to add one last feature to their product — so they could promote it at launch for its compatibility to some existing big names in the market (like Google Docs). Great marketing value in that for sure, and it shows the founders recognize they’ll need traction immediately to survive in a crowded space. A headline-grabbing feature would help.

But one of their investors grew concerned that this risked jamming to much stuff into the launch.

Functionality, Stability & Performance

He wanted to seem them focus instead on the the stability and performance of the core product — stop needling with the code and to “take a week and just let it sit” so they could perform thorough Q&A. “The worst thing that can happen is a journalist goes to test the product and something doesn’t work. That’d be terrible.” You can always roll-out new features later, he offered.

A/B Test

Still another advisor wanted the team to take the opportunity to build-out primary and secondary home pages of their site, so they can use their Beta launch as a proper A/B Test of the company’s pitch. “Traffic will spike. We could get 10,000 new users, so that’s a good opportunity to test [our] message,” he reasoned. Post-launch traffic always wanes a bit, and they might not get another chance to test the effectiveness of their product positioning.

I definitely see the value in A/B tests, so did a marketing consultant who was in the room. But it seemed like a lot to dump on the founders’ plates in the last week.

The founders put on a show of unflappability – but they also acknowledged that they’re still fixing bugs!

I expect most founders struggle with these launch issues, and so this forms our…

Question of the Day: How would you prioritize your time in the last week before Beta launch?

1) Headline-Grabbing Feature: is it worth spending pre-launch time on a feature that might add some sizzle, and help you draw attention and traction in a noisy market? You might not get this chance again.

2) Functionality, Stability & Performance: Or do you drop all the bells and whistles to focus on Q&A of the base offering to guard against media fiascos? And roll out new features and add ons later?

3) A/B Test: How critical is it to test your product message at launch? If you don’t do this right away do you miss the best opportunity to amend the message? Or is this a task that can be taken on later?

Tell us what you would do! Or offer any other pre-launch priorities that you’d add to this short-list.

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