When you’re an up and coming entrepreneur, chances are you won’t have a bunch of money to develop and execute on your fresh new idea.
You don’t want to risk your livelihood and fail in case your product idea is a dud.
However, you can take calculated risks that cost next to no money to validate whether people will buy what you’re selling.
In the following ten steps I’ll guide you through the process of proving your next idea, bringing in interested customers and getting them to buy before you even create your product.
Of course, it’s better to launch with an actual product, but if you think the product you have in mind will take months to develop it’s better to have some certainty about whether or not you’ll have any customers.
I’ll be focusing mostly on information products, eBooks, courses, and video tutorials. I have done this multiple times with my information products so I can attest to its effectiveness.
However, you can also use this checklist to gauge interest in your app, service, or physical product.
1. Describe Your Product in Benefit Driven Terms
Let’s assume you have no audience. Without an audience, you’ll have a harder time validating your product because you can’t ask an already pre-existing audience what they’re struggling with. However, let’s assume you know your niche well enough to understand the problems they face.
Furthermore, let’s also assume you’re such a kick-ass entrepreneur that you know exactly what kind of product can help them out. Also, let’s suppose you can differentiate yourself from others in your space.
That’s a lot of assumptions so if they aren’t true, you better go to work before you read any further!
2. Create a Landing Page That Highlights the Product as if it Already Exists
Once you’ve thought about what kind of product you want to create, just write a benefit-driven landing page that highlights the product they will receive.
It doesn’t’ have to exist, and you also don’t have to trick people into thinking it does. A simple “Coming Soon” message included in the product description is enough to silence your fears of subterfuge.
Creating a landing page is a great exercise because it forces you to brainstorm what your product does before you create it.
If it’s an information product, you’ll have to answer some questions about it yourself before you can tell people what it is.
- What’s the easiest way to convey the information? eBook? Video course? Detailed workout plans on multiple PDFs?
- What will your customer learn from the course? Once you know what that will be, just outline that in the bullets on your page.
- Is there community involvement? Will you have a Facebook group, a Slack channel, or a support system of any sort?
Once you’ve brainstormed your own product to yourself you’ll have the materials to write the sales page. Just don’t make the mistake of overcomplicating things. Keep it simple to start with. You can always make it more complicated later.
3. Install Your Email Opt-in and Connect it to Your Email Software
In order to quickly reach the audience that checks out your page, you’ll need an email opt-in form.
If you don’t have a way to collect email addresses and directly engage with your potential customers, you’ll have a hard time finding them again.
So make sure you have a call to action on your product teaser page that collects email addresses. We’ll use them to gather more information about your product.
4. Engage With Your Email Subscribers
Once you get email subscribers on your list, you can engage with them directly.
Here are two things you should do when engaging with your audience:
- Ask them what their biggest struggles are in your collective niche.
- Create content to help them.
If you’re creating an information product like an eBook or a video course, then you can create content that solves some of the struggles they have, in bite-sized fashion. If they like those simple solutions for free, chances are a percentage of them will buy your comprehensive solution when it comes out.
If you’re developing an app or a software product of some sort, then you can write content that’s tangential to the use of your upcoming product.
Examples of both types of products include:
- Emails that help your audience practice the piano more productively if you’re planning on selling a video course on learning the piano.
- Healthy Eating for Higher Energy email series if you’re selling a workout program or a new exercise app.
- Best Accessories for Artists if you’re selling an eBook or video course on teaching your art.
I talk in more detail about creating valuable email campaigns for your audience here.
5. Create a Pre-Order Page and Install a Shopping Cart
Once you’ve engaged with your audience and gotten a better idea of what they’re struggling with you can create a pre-order page for your upcoming product.
Revise your squeeze page into a brand-new sales page, taking into consideration any vocabulary your audience uses, any problems your product will solve and exactly what they will get with your product.
Get some shopping cart software (I use Sendowl), and install a buy button on your sales page so that people can purchase your product.
6. Be Able to Receive Money
You need some way to collect money. Most shopping carts integrate with multiple payment processors. I’m a fan of Stripe and PayPal, but there are many other merchant accounts available.
Once you’ve set this up with your sales page and shopping cart software you’re ready to take pre-orders.
7. Give Your Audience a Killer Early Bird Offer
If you’ve been engaging with your audience regularly and they trust and like you, it should be easy to get a few sales to validate your idea.
You can entice them even further by giving them special bonuses for early-bird customers.
These bonuses could include:
- Significant discounts for taking the leap with you.
- Beta testing group access for further development and feedback.
- A special coaching call exclusive to early bird customers.
- Additional reports, tutorials or checklists that you could make ahead of time.
The key is to be upfront about the fact that you realize the confidence your customers are putting in you. Be grateful for that and promise to deliver on that promise or they get all their money back.
8. Validate and Survey
Now it’s time to hope that your most loyal subscribers turn into customers.
Aim for 0.5 – 1% conversion rate from subscribers to sales. It’s not a lot, but it’s enough to feel validated that your idea is marketable. That first sale is the hardest, but once you’ve gotten past that hump, you can celebrate.
You’ll never get your entire list to purchase your products, let alone before they even exist.
However, it’s good to ask your entire audience why they did or didn’t buy.
It’ll give you a lot of useful information moving forward.
From your customers, you’ll get an insight into what they are hoping to get out of the product (you should probably deliver on that), and from the non-buyers, you’ll get insights into why they hesitated.
I recommend the book Ask by Ryan Levesque for more information into customer and subscriber surveys.
9. Create Your Product
Assuming you’ve sold enough copies to warrant spending the time to create your product, it’s time start building it.
Once the product is done you’ll be able to do the entire launch again, this time with more success. You’ve hopefully gained more subscribers during the time it took you to create your product so now you’ll have a finished version to show to them.
10. Collect Testimonials
Having early-bird customers involved in the creation process is great because they’re often incredibly engaged with what you’re doing. They want to help so it’s very easy to get their feedback and ask them for testimonials.
Having testimonials strengthens your sales page and creates social proof about your product, something that will result in increased sales.
There you have it. That’s a pretty extensive blueprint you can use to validate, sell and create your first minimum viable product.
If you feel like I missed anything, or have any comments, feel free to let me know!