Whether you posted something on the internet or sent an investor a pitch deck, it’s a mistake to view success as the endgame. Instead, view the successful outcome as incremental steps starting with traction as an early benchmark. Traction is engagement in any form. Positive, negative and even neutral engagements create valuable new information to use for iterating on the next version of the product.
But here’s the challenge, you have to be ready to react in a decisive and meaningful way when the work you produce yields initial results. Early traction is fickle, like the start of a campfire, traction needs to be protected and carefully nurtured for it to grow into something meaningful. When you get that first bit of flame you cannot let it die out, you must throw fuel on it in order to cause a flare up. In business, the fuel is engagement with anyone that shows interest in the product.
While testing a rapid digital prototype concept, I received a small amount of traction. It happened instantaneously following the launch. A typical prototype is a barebones version of the final product and this experiment was no different. As such, I was completely unprepared for traction so quickly. My goal was to put out the article with a wait and see approach. This was an instant lesson on the importance of always being prepared to aggressively jump on unexpected opportunities.
The article I wrote was primarily intended as a test run for long form writing. A secondary goal was to assess whether or not the topic could gain any traction in the form of engagement on a public blogging platform. Within an hour of publishing the article was curated on two separate home pages within Medium. This was great because it meant that my prototype will get significantly more exposure than I had assumed it would. It also meant that I needed to have a game plan for any further traction that I may receive. Ie: how will I respond or nurture any engagements moving forward. Although this was a secondary goal, the opportunity presented is worth jumping on with speed and intent.
A prototype is intended to be a quick and dirty way of gathering information to more accurately iterate on designing something a potential customer wants. It’s a way to optimize how precious resources are spent. To be successful, focus on a bare bones and imperfect model at the start with a willingness to react rapidly on next steps.
As in the case of my essay, I already have several key takeaways to improve upon the next cycle of testing. These small wins such as including a more engaging header image, moving my prototype narrative to the top to appeal to a wider potential audience and understanding that instant results, although enjoyable, was not the endgame I was testing for.
In addition to being curated by Medium editors, my essay was also selected by one of Medium’s top publication for distribution to nearly 600,000 regular subscribers. The publication also offered to publish future essays upon submission. Aside from opening up my prototype to a significantly larger audience than expected, this also represents an opportunity to iterate on the concept quickly and redistribute to a large audience.
This traction, although completely unexpected, represents the exact purpose of prototyping. Getting the product out quickly and gathering facts can lead to serendipitous opportunities. Once available these opportunities need to be leveraged with speed.
Ergo the main takeaway, always be ready to move quickly on unexpected opportunities.