Mealime launches

Whew. What a roller-coaster of a week.

After nearly nine full months of work, the new [Mealime](http://mealime.com) was finally released to the public.

The idea for our new product was hatched in late 2013, when my Co-Founder Maria and I pitched our business to a panel at the [Plug and play showdown](http://canada.plugandplaytechcenter.com/). We didn’t get funded, but a later discussion with one of the panel members convinced us to put more weight into considering a product overhaul.

Nine months, a new team member, and a whirlwind of mockups, feature discussions, and iterations later, we now have a much better product that we can scale.

Launch week was forget-to-shave busy, but it went well and I learned a lot of lessons. Here’s just a few of them.

## The importance of starting small

Building a product that nobody wants is pretty much the worst thing a startup team can do. It’s costly as hell in every metric you can measure, and there’s not even much of a *we-failed-but-learned* silver lining to fall back on.

Mealime was running as a simple email service for 1.75 years in the most non-scalable way possible. Maria and I wrote, cooked, and photographed a new meal plan each week. On Friday afternoons we emailed our subscribers the plan, took a bit of a rest, and began planning for the following week.

Despite the *our way or the highway* business mentality, Mealime ended up with several hundred paying customers.

The lesson learned we learned was one of **market validation**.

We had an extremely basic, non-customizable product and yet, people were willing to pay us for it. And all this time we were asking questions like:

– What do our customers really want?
– Why are they paying us?
– How can we serve them better?
– etc, etc

and we incorporated this feedback into how we approached the design and functionality of our new product. So although this was a huge product and brand update all at once, we had informed feedback that gave us a higher chance of building something our customers actually wanted.

It’s too early to tell if the new product will be a huge win, but the initial post-launch feedback we’ve received quite nicely complements the early feedback that drove us to this release.

## the importance of having a lead list

When we first started Mealime, the launch was to crickets. Actually, there wasn’t a ‘launch’, per say. I can still remember our first *trial signup* – not even our first customer – that ultimately abandoned the trial before paying us.

Those first few months were very quiet, but it wasn’t a big deal at the time because we’d invested so little in the business. It was just a fun project at the time.

Our new product, however, cost us thousands of dollars and nearly a year of work before it was good enough to open up to the public. If we had launched to crickets this time, it would have been a failure on my part to not have pre-launch interest in the product.

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This time around we had a couple hundred customers and approximately 6,000 leads that had expressed interest in Mealime at some point in the past couple years. The leads weren’t the warmest in the world (our fault for not ‘pre-heating’ them), but it still drove hundreds of signups on the first day and is continuing to drive signups and interest a week later.

Takeaway: put up a landing page and capture emails before you do anything else. Make it easy for leads to opt-in to your list and keep the list fresh by periodically checking in with them.

## the importance of quality interactions

Our launch generated over 100 support tickets in the first few days. With only two of us answering them while still working on everything else, it was quite the volume.

The tickets were responses to our personal welcome email, where we ask each new user what caused them to signup to Mealime. Many of the answers were one-liners that didn’t contain much quality feedback.

Some gave us a more detailed response about why they signed up and what they were hoping Mealime could do for them. A few of them gave us great nuggets of information that we wouldn’t have got elsewhere.

But all of them took the time to reply to the email and start a personal relationship with us. Time will tell if speaking with users causes a higher percentage of them to adopt and convert, but I have a feeling that each conversation is one small piece of goodwill that will eventually snowball into business success.

That being said, I’ll report on the ROI metrics of support conversations as soon as I have them.

## the work begins

Now that launch day has come and go, the real work is beginning. My next big project is to take our support interactions to the next level and have phone calls with both successful and unsuccessful users.

I’m trying to learn how leaky our conversion funnel is and how aligned the new product is with our users expectations *before* attempting to get too many new users in the funnel.

I should learn a lot about customer interviews by the time I post next. Until then.

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