Category Archives for "Build Your Business"

product validation

Product Validation and Goal Setting

Welcome to Days 3 & 4 of the Product Creation Masterclass Experiment!

OK, so I got bogged down last week on lesson 3.

The lesson was about how to validate your product idea. The basic premise is that you should connect with some of your potential customers to make sure they’ll buy what you’re making.

Makes complete sense…do a survey, make some phone calls, e-mail your list, or all three. Whatever it takes to contact a few people from your target market, see what their burning pains and interests are and then adjust your product idea(s) accordingly.

Right there is where I got stuck. I have no chiropractors on my list that I know of and I only know one personally, so none of the options above really worked for me. In my mind, the ConvertKit process assumes you’re not starting from scratch, and so I went other routes to gain some level of validation.

Stuck in Product Validation

I went to Quora and Reddit, emailed the one chiropractor I know and asked him for some help, and posted a request in several Facebook groups I’m a member of.

To date, I have one person from a Facebook group and the one guy I know that have offered to answer questions. But I haven’t actually talked to them yet.

I decided to put together a survey to gather info from them initially rather than doing it on the phone. I think it will be less imposing on them and their time. Plus, I’m going to offer an incentive for them to send the survey to their chiropractor friends. I’ll let you know if/how that works.

Integrating SurveyMonkey

with ConvertKit through Zapier

I found a cool way to integrate my SurveyMonkey survey with my ConvertKit mailing list using Zapier.

This way, anyone that takes the survey will automatically be added to my mailing list and tagged with a ‘Chiropractor Survey’ tag so I can follow up with them.

I thought it was pretty cool – I plan to create a post explaining how I did it, but I just haven’t had the time yet.

Goal Setting and Clarifying Your Purpose

After validating my product…which is still in progress, of course, I set about clarifying exactly what I want the product to accomplish for my customers…what is its purpose?

​Luckily, that’s fairly simple for me…

Goal for my first eBook

My eBook will teach chiropractors how to use press releases to get on page 1 of Google for low to mid competition keywords, greatly increase the likelihood they’ll be included in the Google Maps 3 pack results and increase their organic rankings over time.

The next step in day 4 is to clarify goals for this product and its launch.

​But before we do that, I’ll let you in on a little secret of mine…please don’t tell anyone…

​I don’t usually set goals.

​They just don’t really motivate me. Especially at the start of a project. Truthfully – even if my product validation was complete and it went well – I don’t know enough to set realistic goals. In my mind, there are too many variables – many of which I even haven’t discovered yet – to be able to build a goal or series of goals around it.

​But, like I said in the intro to this series, I’ve been doing it my way for a long time and it hasn’t worked for me. So in the interest of trying it another way, I went ahead with the exercises. I do see the value in having goals and tracking progress toward them…I truly hope it works!

product validation

Our newish 4Runner

​Just this week, my wife and I bought a new car…it’s a 2011 Toyota 4Runner. And it came with a $400/month payment; plus a $25/month increase in insurance over the 2005 Honda Odyssey we traded in.

So that’s what I decided to use as my goal…$425.

Ultimately, I’d like the product to bring in $425/month, but initially, I’ll set that as a total income goal. Once I know it can bring in that much, growing it is a matter a systemizing what works.

We haven’t discussed pricing yet in the Product Masterclass, but based on what I know about eBook pricing, I’m thinking my initial price will be $29. I may adjust that later, but this is good enough for planning purposes.

Email Lists Change Things (or Setting a Goal for the Size of Your List)

If I had a well-developed list of chiropractors already, it could inject a little more reality into these figures. The reason is because there’s an industry standard estimated response rate of 2% when you mail your mailing list. In other words, for every 100 people on your list, 2 of them will buy.

So you can figure a goal like this:

  • subscribers on your list  X  0.02  =  number of buyers you need
  • number of buyers needed  X  purchase price  =  income goal

You can also figure it backwards to get an estimate of how large a list needs to be to reach a certain sales goal. For example:

  • income goal ( in my case, $450)  /  purchase price ($29)  =  buyers needed (15)
  • number of buyers needed (15)  /  0.02  =  email subscribers required (750)

That 750 number kind of depresses me considering the trouble I’ve been having during validation!

Drop a comment below if you have any questions or thoughts on the masterclass so far.

* Featured image by organic maven, cropped

which digital product

Deciding Which Digital Product to Sell

Welcome to Day 2 of the ConvertKit Product Creation Masterclass Experiment!

​Today’s content was a little more easily digestible than yesterday’s, so I was able to make my decisions and get this post written all in the same day.

​If you’re following along with the e-mails, you know today’s lesson was about choosing which type of digital product to make. ConvertKit is primarily concerned with eBooks and digital courses, but they also discussed several other options like tutorials, themes and templates, photography, printables, membership sites, and apps.

which digital product

But as I said, they’re focusing on eBooks and digital courses because that’s where most online entrepreneurs seem to start and because their target market is bloggers, who – almost exclusively focus on these products…at least at first.

Which Digital Product to Sell?

In the interest of choosing something so I can move forward, I’m going to select an eBook; not sure exactly what topic yet. I think that will develop as we do more validation in tomorrow’s exercise.

​Here’s my reasoning…

  1. I don’t have any content that centers on chiropractors, press releases, search engines, local search marketing or any other potential topics in the niche.
  2. ​I think best in written form, so as I write I can build the eBook.
  3. This is just an intro product, not a top-of-the-line course. Ultimately, if I get market validation this, I’d work on video tutorial courses to sell, but this will be faster and easier for now.
  4. This will help me make my research time paid time instead of unpaid time.

As I’m writing this, I got to thinking…as part of my market validation, I’m going to ask what format chiropractors would prefer to receive it in.

I could provide it as an eBook or as an email course where they get one chapter per week.

I could also provide it as an eBook with email follow-up each week as they go through it and provide an audio version of the eBook as an add on.

Lots of options…will let you know what I decide…

My big question is whether they’ll pay for it or not. I guess that’s what validation is for, though. We’ll see what ConvertKit has planned for tomorrow.

Domain Decisions…Should I Stay or Should I Go?

choosing a domain name

picture by ivanpw - unmodified

Here’s another decision I’m going to have to make rather soon. Although, I think it’s pretty much made unless you change my mind.

Should I create a new category on this blog and host all this new content, eBook, etc here, or should I get a new domain and create a separate site?

What do you think I should do and why? Chime in with your comment below…
Niche and Customer Avatar

Day 1: Narrowing My Niche and Creating a Customer Avatar

Niche and Customer Avatar

Picking a Niche & Customer Avatar

​Welcome to Day 1 of my ConvertKit Product Creation Masterclass Experiment.

​I have to be honest. When I read ConvertKit’s Day 1 material, I wasn’t too impressed.

​There wasn’t anything here I hadn’t seen before...many times.

​But I decided to go through it anyway because I had promised you all I would and because thinking through these basics when starting a new project is never a bad idea. Plus, some of you have told me one of the biggest reasons you joined this experiment was because you feel alone and you wanted to see how someone else went through the process.

​So here are my answers to the questions ConvertKit asked on Day 1.

What are your natural-born talents?

I like to research things that interest me and figure out how they work. I can envision how mechanical things work and explain them to the uninitiated. I can write in ways that connect with many people in a natural and friendly way. When I meet people in person, I usually build trust quickly.

What are your learned skills?

Computers, websites, online marketing, leading groups, search engine optimization, in-person networking, public speaking, nurturing relationships, writing to inform and connect with others, and listening.

What would your friends and family say is your superpower?

My wife says my superpower is the ability to take seemingly unrelated pieces of information and put them all together in a way that helps whatever situation I’m in…call me the Combinator?!

Past co-workers would say my superpower is turning mediocre groups into high-performing groups by building an environment of respect and genuine support.

Nearly everyone that really knows me says I stay calm in stressful situations and help others calm down and develop creative, realistic solutions or ways to deal with difficult/stressful situations.

What are your weaknesses?

I like to start things, but am not as good at finishing them. I jump to conclusions too quickly. I stay quiet too often. I have a hard time staying on schedule.

What title have you used to describe yourself? Does it still fit what you do?

Superman…Batman…follower…yes…and not so much.

What do you want to be known for?

Loving Christ, serving others and being helpful.

What is a Customer Avatar?

​A customer avatar is simply a written representation of your perfect customer.

Building a customer avatar helps you get to know your customers and serve them better. It helps you understand the world through their eyes. It helps you communicate in ways that connect with them rather than repel them.

Ultimately, building an avatar or ideal customer profile and then using it in everything you do keeps your focus where it belongs…on the customer. You should use it everywhere from product development to marketing to gathering testimonials to customer service.

When companies develop products for, market toward and build systems to support themselves rather than the customer, they fail. Think of our government or many churches or the Ford Edsel or WorldCom or the 2008 housing crash.

How to Build a Customer Avatar

​Lesson one from ConvertKit doesn’t provide much guidance regarding how to build a customer profile. It just asks a bunch of questions. If you need more resources, check these out.

Below are my answers to their questions. If you have thoughts or opinions, please share/ask in the comments.

Just to be clear, for the purposes of this product creation masterclass, my target customer is chiropractors and my product will help them get page one rankings for local Google searches.

If you have no idea where to start getting the information for your own customer avatar, there are some helpful ideas in my article series about how I chose my target market.

​My Customer Avatar

What does my ideal customer’s day look like?

They are busy people, bouncing between patient appointments, running their business and trying to fit marketing in around the edges. They never have enough time or money and are unsure if their marketing efforts are productive, which frustrates them.

Where do their motivations come from?

They want to help others, take care of their families and grow a profitable business.

What do they value? What don’t they value?

They value predictability, results, stability and rationality. They don’t value hype, ridiculous claims, get-rich-quick ideas, anything unproven or anything that sounds gimmicky.

What are their strengths and weaknesses?

Strengths - relating to people one on one, business acumen, patient care, academic knowledge, industry expertise, financial management, prudent risk taking

Weaknesses – lack of time, lack of money, inability to see ‘out of the box’, think they need to run the business by themselves, reticent to try new things

Why do they want to learn about your niche or product topic?

They know online marketing and where they place in Google results has a direct impact on how many customers call them to book appointments, but they’ve been burned in the past by search engine optimization firms and online marketing efforts that didn’t produce the promised or hoped for results.

What are their struggles with your product topic?

a. It’s technically complex

b. There is a lot of conflicting information available

c. They’ve been burned in the past and felt they spent more than they should have based on the results they received

d. They don’t know what to do, who to trust or have the time to figure it out

e. They don’t want to throw money at ineffective marketing



What inspires them about your product topic?

a. The idea of being number one on Google for target keywords

b. They know being #1 or #2 will translate into more site visits, phone calls and patients



How do they process information and learn?

They like to be presented information, have time to process it/fact check it, and then act on it. They like case studies and lots of proof presented in a factual, matter of fact manner; no hype or gimmick.



Problems with today’s lesson

goose

Realistically, the idea that someone could come into this masterclass with no prior knowledge or experience and walk out 30 days later with a product is somewhat unrealistic.

Unless that person has a TON of time and motivation on their hands, anyway.

I was able to sit down and type out the answers to the questions almost non-stop. But that’s only because I’ve been through similar exercises in the past. Plus, for at least 6 or 8 weeks, I’ve been working on my product idea and doing market research.

I also have the advantage of having a friend that’s a chiropractor. And we’ve talked a number of times about marketing efforts so I know some of his pains.

I still need to validate with him, but that definitely put me a step ahead during this exercise.

The second issue with this lesson was there seemed to be a logical piece of the puzzle largely missing from the conversation. They leapt straight from self-focus and identifying your skills into creating customer avatars without explaining how to make that transition yourself.

They gave just two short paragraphs with one example each of how you could turn strengths into a target market or niche. This severely short changed anyone truly starting from scratch.

Here are a couple resources I found that may help:

  1. ​http://www.businessinsider.com/become-so-good-they-cant-ignore-you-2014-7
  2. http://nichehacks.com/ultimate-guide-finding-niche-market/

The second site primarily discusses building niche affiliate marketing sites, but it still has a bunch of great info on determining and developing your random ideas into potential markets and niches.

My biggest issue with today’s lesson is that little to no help was given if you didn’t already have a market or niche picked out. I think they should’ve given some additional resources to help with that.

A framework to put all your ideas through would be helpful as well. For example, there was no discussion of market size, competitors, places to go for research help, etc.

Join the conversation!

Tell us about your journey or comment on mine. We’d love to hear from you.

Stats (as of 4/25/17)

Stat

Current

Last

Growth

E-mail subscribers

7

4​

3​

Affiliate Clicks

87

0

87

Affiliate Referrals

1

1

0

Note: If you're on a mobile device and can't see the entire table, press on the table with your finger and slide it side to side to see everything.

choosing my target market

Show Me the Money: Choosing My Target Market

I thought I knew what I wanted…

All too often for me, that’s how my story begins.

And this product creation journey is no different.

choosing my target market

When I came up with the idea to do an experiment and journal my experience with the ConvertKit Product Creation Masterclass, I thought I had the target market I wanted to pursue all worked out. But I guess not…

Target Market or Niche?

​Before we go any further, let me define a couple terms so we’re all working on an even playing field and because their definitions are different based on which textbook or website you look at. Here’s what the terms mean to me:

Target market

The overall segment of the population my niche is in. For example, small business owners or pet owners or people that like to barbeque.

Niche

A market inside the target market that I’m going to focus on. For example, women small business owners with brick and mortar businesses or owners of pets with skin allergies or BBQ cooks that use indoor grills.

When starting out, you’ll almost always be better off marketing to the smallest niche you can that has a proven desire for your product and an ability to pay for it. Once you figure out how to reach and service that niche successfully, you can expand by either:

  • duplicating your efforts in another similar niche, or
  • selling different products or services to that same niche.

Once I choose my target market, I’ll use these same steps to identify a profitable niche. The numbers will just be smaller (and harder to find). The first order of business, though, is choosing my target market.

Choosing My Target Market – Indecision or Opportunity?

I use ThriveThemes to run this site and a couple others. I’ve done a fair amount of customization of the sites. I can answer many routine questions people ask without too much struggle or research. So I thought I would develop a business and my first digital product around that niche.

​But the, as I was working on other things, I ran across the idea of imposter syndrome.

imposter syndrome

Imposter syndrome intrigues me for several reasons.

  1. It seems to be almost universal. I even saw studies about college professors having it.
  2. I know from a number of mailing lists I’m on and people I’ve talked to on Facebook and in other forums that many people really struggle with it in relation to teaching online courses and developing online businesses or products.
  3. There’s a ton of academic and anecdotal research on it.
  4. There are a number of strategies to combat it that could be turned into products, courses, seminar, etc.

Then, a third shiny object came into my view.

For several weeks, I’ve been running some experiments using press releases to boost the search engine rankings of local businesses. I am beginning to see some real, trackable results in those efforts and continue to experiment.

I thought maybe I could do a combination of selling a service and teaching others how to do it.

If a businesses owner had more money than time (or interest), they could pay me to do it for them. And if they have more time than money, they could learn how to do it themselves.

How Will I Choose My Target Market?

​What started out as a simple process has now morphed into a decision that needs to be made before the masterclass starts next week.

​And a decision I don’t want to mess up. So how do I choose a market for my business?

​Well, I’ve learned a couple things from my past experience and online research.

  1. I need objective (i.e. numbers-based) measures to compare these markets against one another rather the subjective (i.e. what I or other people think) measures.
  2. I need to base my selection on business (i.e. likely revenue, ease of business market entry, likely expenses) reasons rather than personal reasons.

When we were running the numbers for our Zippy Shell business before we invested in the franchise, we did spreadsheet after spreadsheet figuring all different scenarios…none of which were ANYWHERE close to what actually happened.

Zippy Shell target market

The problem was we didn’t have any hard and fast numbers to determine growth from, so we estimated everything. Zippy Shell had only been franchising for a couple years when we came on board, so there were only a handful of franchisees that could share their numbers.

None of the franchises were over a year or 18 months old, and none of them were in markets similar to ours, so we estimated.

​And those estimates were way off.

​So how can I make sure that doesn’t happen again? Great question…but I don’t think there’s a great answer.

​But I have to start somewhere,, so I’ll do all the research I can and try to make the numbers as accurate as I can. At the end of the day, though, I’ll still have to make an educated guess…just like with Zippy Shell.

​How to Evaluate Potential Target Markets

​The trick to getting the most accurate and trustworthy information about potential target markets is to go straight to the people in the market. Find where they hang out online and off and go talk to them.

​I’ll go into these steps in depth in future posts, but here’s the outline…

​I’m going to go to Reddit.com, Quora.com, Facebook groups and LinkedIn groups. I’ll search Amazon book reviews and the comments on popular YouTube videos. The idea is to find out what real people are talking about, complaining about and asking for.

​If I can’t find anyone discussing any of these burning pains in relation to ThriveThemes, imposter syndrome or improving search engine rankings for local businesses, I’ll know I need to go back to the drawing board. Based on the preliminary research I’ve done already, though, I’m confident at least one or two of these will be a great target market.

​Once I know what’s being talked about online, I’ll start gathering as many market statistics as I can. Items such as number of potential customers, number of competitors and their offerings, and how much does the market spend annually on services I could provide. I’ll also look at competitors to determine common workable revenue models and holes in the market.

​Finally, I’ll find a handful of people in the market and talk to them either in person, on the phone or by Skype. My goal will be to get feedback from real people to see what they think about the markets. I hope to get them to identify three things:

  1. What they think the market should have but doesn’t.
  2. What solutions they would find interesting and would actually pay for.
  3. What they’ve tried in the past to address their problems.

Choosing My Target Market: Like Making an Amazing Stew

Once I’ve got all this information, the actual process of choosing my target market will be a process of mixing the empirical data and the interview data.

​Kind of like making a good stew, this is where judgment (and risk) come into the picture.

​I will be trying to determine:

  1. Which market has niches that will provide a number of profitable product or service offerings that interest me?
  2. Which market has the pain points I can serve most profitably?
  3. Which market has the greatest growth potential and is also stable?

What am I missing? Leave a comment and tell me!

​This is the first article in what I plan to be a seven part series on choosing a target market for your online business. The rest of the articles in the series are will show up below as they’re written.

​If you’re interested in more articles on this from someone else’s perspective, here are a few I’ve found useful: