You launched your startup.
You have traction.
Your users love your product.
They love how simple it is.
They love how useful it is.
Everything is great. Right?
You are now about to make these very common mistakes:
1. Add a lot of new features
Yes, new features can sometimes do more harm than good. Add sharing features, add syncing with various devices, add reminders, etc. and soon you will find yourself struggling to keep your product coherent. Your customers will no longer love your product for its simplicity. They will get confused and lost.
2. Move fast
If you don’t move fast, others will zoom right past you. That is the conventional wisdom. But, moving fast does not necessarily mean moving in the right direction. Move fast in the wrong direction, and you will find yourself in the middle of a desert.
3. Make many small imperfect decisions
A single bad decision will most likely not break your company. You might not even find out that you made a bad decision. But a series of decisions in the wrong direction will definitely break the company. With hundreds of decisions taken everyday, it’s almost impossible to measure and track the effect of each one.
4. Make big blunders
Your servers will go down, you will lose customer data, not be able to respond to your customers in a timely manner, etc. None of this will actually do any permanent damage. But the way you respond to these blunders will make a difference.
What to do about it
It’s very simple. Find out how your customers are feeling about your product. What are they writing about your company? Do they feel passionate about your product? Do they tell others about it? Do they respect you? Is the trend generally positive or negative?
Some techniques like Net Promoter Score, that measure customer sentiment, are a good first order approximation. They will not tell you what went wrong. But they will give you an early warning if you are headed in the wrong direction. These are like smoke detectors that won’t tell you where the fire is, but will tell you that possibly there is one.