Lean Startup Mistakes Everyone Makes (& How to Rectify Them)

Posted April 27, 2017 by Dan Moore in Startups

If you follow entrepreneurs, startups, development companies, or Eric Ries then you’ve probably heard of the Lean Startup Process. Popularized by Eric Ries’ The Lean Startup and commonly discussed through the startup community. Buzzwords such as “MVP” and “Pivot” are often haphazardly applied when implementing the Lean Startup Process as the company business plan.

In previous blog posts, we’ve talked a lot about the do’s and don’t’s of building and testing MVPs (which is the end result of the Lean Startup Process), so let’s back up a bit and talk about the mistakes often made throughout Lean Startup implementation.

Here is our list (in no particular order) of Lean Startup mistakes everyone makes and how to rectify them.

1. Trying to sell new products to existing customers

It's easy to promise new features/products to customers you've already acquired instead of scaling out to new customers. On that note, selling different products/features to capture customers falls into the same category. If the customer isn't a good fit, move on and find another customer or new markets to target (see #5).

2. Sticking to a 5 year plan

With this type of project, your original plan was built to be changed and adapted. Get more comfortable with change, and make sure you're always asking if you're headed in the right direction.

3. Spending too much time trying to perfect your MVP

Completing your first MVP is just the first step. Be prepared to create your MVP 2 - 4 more times before it's sticky enough and you realize you're already iterating. Don't get too caught up in what font to use or what color your logo should be when you're still trying to figure out if your customers will want your product. It's fun at first, but it could turn into a waste of time (and money) if you have to scrap the product and pivot.

4. Not tracking the data that matters

Data is important, but too many people track the wrong data that doesn't provide them with the right information they need to improve. A common mistake is only tracking unique visitors, but not looking at how they found your site.

To combat this issue, AARRR (Pirate metrics) funnel is a great place to start. Remember that you’re testing the marketing as well. Beware of the “feel good data” that doesn’t result in validated learning. You need to know more than how many visitors have visited your website - how do those visitors get to you website?

5. Testing the wrong hypothesis

The Lean Process starts with a single, focused hypothesis. If your hypothesis isn't gaining traction, prepare to change. This is when you pivot.

A classic pivot example is the popular wedding app WedPics. The founder, Justin Miller, started a geo-based photo sharing app that wasn’t getting traction. In response, Justin pivoted to a similar photo sharing-based idea and created Wedpics an app where the the bride and groom can access all the pictures wedding guests take, all held on a single platform. By pivoting from his original hypothesis that wasn’t working, he was able to create a wildly successful app.

6. Asking the wrong questions (leading questions, selling too soon, not digiging deep)

Digging deeper can be solved by 5-whys game. Be sure your questions are neutral and true questions. Don’t try to educate while asking the questions.

7. Giving up on ideas without learning from them

If you pivot away from an idea, be sure to document WHY and come up with a strategy to avoid it in the future (if the idea is considered a mistake). The Lean Startup model allows for miscalculations and wrong assumptions - and you will make them - so it’s important you take a lesson away from each error and use it to grow moving forward.

8. Not going through the build, measure, learn loop with every new idea

Building and throwing a product out there is something we can often fall back on (it’s easy to skip the diligence of measure and learn). Gut feelings don’t have a place here. Product management is just as much about measuring the past as predicting the future.

Do you have any tips for avoiding Lean Startup mistakes? Shoot us an email to help our clients improve. If you'd like more information and tips on creating an MVP, check out our free guide, "Beginner’s Guide to Custom Web App Development" and discover more ways to avoid common mistakes and accelerate your app development .


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