Tuesday, 16 January 2018

MVNO Gold Rule #3 - Have a Hard Stop Launch Date

Have a Hard Launch Date, as early as an MVP possible and Stick to it - MVNO Gold Rules

It used to be a lot easier in the past; with full MVNOs the test window with the MNO could close and take weeks or months to access again, to name but one. However in the new cloud based world its all so flexible and easy that its easy to just keep slipping another month, but I have noticed that with this the number of failed MVNO, that is the ones that never make it to market, not those that launch and fail, is on the up. 
Failure to launch at the earliest is possibly one of the biggest risks to your MVNO every launching or being successful
The problem of missing launch dates is manifold:

The first biggest problem is the seasonal issues you can encounter. While below I explain why seasonality most effects the MNOs and insufficiently differentiated MVNOs, you are still making it harder on yourself, will have smaller uptake, will have a lower success rate, higher customer acquisition cost, have impacts from staff being away (summer, Christmas, etc), find it difficult to react to a sales spike (try asking for more SIMs over Christmas!) have staffing issues, etc, etc, etc.

The second being that its very easy for “golden goose” or “launchaphobia” to set in. Its a simple human nature that is even more exaggerated in business where a normally laissez-faire person can be become a risk-averse freak and a risk-averse freak in their personal life can become and agoraphobic in business: the more you leave something the bigger an obstacle it becomes, and the more prepared you need to be... Face it, most people are not just afraid of change, they are petrified of it

The third being that you leave your product open to corporate sabotage. I say this in a nice way, as it should be called corporate terrorism: at best this is the person who is most risk averse in the team and was probably the least been the decision, starts getting cold feet and seeding doubt. At worst you have these risks:

  1. The corporate terrorist, neigh-sayer, also known as corporate pimp. These are the guys who know all the pitfalls but never have any answers that do not involve burying / over spending / delaying, procrastinating in the name of... put them on QA or something, but not product development.
  2. "Not invented here merchant" - great people to manage operations, terrible in anything customer facing - let them know when its done and have dotted line: on the RACI they should be consulted / informed
  3. The neigh-sayer - send them back to whatever they did that was useful, but MVNO is not for them, as per point 2 above.
  4. “Specialist consultant” These are usually lone wolves, for a reason, nobody else can stand working for them, they have done a few MVNOs in specific areas and now want to branch out to do everything but seriously lack the knowledge. Easily found out by asking how much repeat business they have from MVNOs they have worked on / launched.
  5. The 11th hour dark (trojan) horse. These are usually internal and are very dangerous, like a dormant, deadly virus residing deep in spinal nerves waiting to cripple the business at the last minute spewing out all the concerns that a responsible adult would have brought up ages ago, but with a veneer that is taken as seriously as the manifestation of a format virus usually is. They shut up and put up, but in reality bottle up until the last moment they come in with lines like "as I was not properly consulted", "as per our gated procedure", "has business change been consulted" ... invite them to take their amazing, unique expertise and apply it to BAU, or if they insist on working on something new, suggest they are rated here and invite them to set-up their own business :)
  6. Gaining fat. Literally, like the last bird to fly, the harder it will be as you will be fatter, less fit and juicier to predators. When you fail to launch you invariably get fatter: more people, more resources, etc. and it just gets harder from there, and the juicier and more helpless you become to predators.
  7. The person who does not get the simple difference between beta and production, early adopter and mass market, new product vs established, and tells you how hard it will be to market, support, etc, etc.
I could go on, but have just put the main ones here... Seriously, stop reading this and launch already!

Seasonatily - Launch Dates are not Easy 

Conventional MVNO wisdom dictates that you should not launch on these dates, there are reasons for this and reasons against, however it is more important to launch than not, and these seasonal rules apply more to a fully fledged mass market product, so below I go into how to mitigate these issues in next section.

  • Over the summer as people are away and nobody will see or care for your marketing
  • In the run up to Chirstmas as the MNOs and Handset Manufacturers are spending their big bucks and customers become bessoted with “Free” handset deals.
  • In January as nobody buys a mobile then

It’s better to Launch off Season than Delay

While conventional mobile marketing wisdom, which of course by de facto became MVNO marketing wisdom, dictated that you cannot sell mobile in the following periods
  • Over the summer as people are away and nobody will see or care for your marketing (spot the old school non digital thinking here). You can get around this by launching a roaming offer / summer offer, using marketing tools like "reach on the beach" by Facebook, etc, etc.
  • In the run up to Christmas as the MNOs and Handset Manufacturers are spending their big bucks and customers become besotted with “Free” handset deals. (This assumes the old model where the vast majority of handsets and service was bought from an MNO or an MNO reseller). There are lot's of people who plan to do this, but then the reality of credit checks and undersigning someone else's phone kicks in and they are back looking back at the MVNOs in a key purchase period: be there!
  • In January as nobody buys a mobile then (err, nobody buys from an MNO who has squeezed every drop out of its marketing for the previous two months!) The Christmas phones have a 7 to 30 day return period... and lots get returned... again be there!

The BIG Caveat

Do not launch any old rubbish; there needs to be a USP that you deliver. Just one USP, and delivered. The biggest pitfalls here are
  1.  Not 2 or 3 wishy washy USPs rolled into one, what we call a "pot pourri USP" or multiple hard USPs that have nothing to do with each other "Frankenstein USP" or "Jekyll and Hyde USP". 
  2. Some light "MVNO wash" rebrand of an MNO service, like free social networks (post 2013 when all the MNOs copied the early adopter MVNOs who did this)
  3. Some rebrand of an old MVNO, or some MVNE that has only ever done one type of product / no differentiated services. MVNEs are not all alike, ask your MVNE for references and ask your self do these products really differentiate from the market? if not, you are talking to the wrong MNO / MVNE and failure is only a launch to administration period away!
I cover some of these in the synopsis of one of the 2015 workshop at the Nice Global MVNO conference. However I have added another slide here below that focusses on the single USP for launch.
If your MVNO product does not have a SINGLE, DELIVERABLE, USP then try harder. And no that USP is not low cost!
If you want to run this or another full MVNO workshop or masterclass tailored to your team please use the contact on the right. 

So when do I launch

In sum, while its better to launch, if you can off season, if you are ready in Christmas or June, 1st, get on with it, if your pre christmas launch slips and it means launching 27th December or 2nd January - do it... (you will be amazed how a slip never happens again!). At the end of the day, an MVNO is a retail business, and lives on margin, growth, sales feedback and data, word of mouth, recommendations, etc... all of which start at day 1.


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