I recently read some words of wisdom by the founder of LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman who said you shouldn’t wait until your product or service or web site is perfect. You should get the ‘minimal viable product’ out on the market ASAP and then get their feedback.
Mr Hoffman is right on the money. It’s so important to create a viable product first and test it before spending a cent on anything – especially not a web site.
If you start with a web site you will no doubt want to change its functionality within a year as you understand more of what your clients want and what you can provide.
Here are some easy steps to follow to get a product or business idea underway without spending a lot of money upfront:
- Create a product in its rawest sense and get it in front of your target market.
Often you can find a way to create a basic version of your bigger idea and offer it to a smaller group at a discounted rate in order to see if there is interest and seek feedback.
For example, when I began Publicity for Profit, I had a 90 minute presentation and an order form for clients to sign up to my extended training. The only investment I’d made was to hire and venue and sell tickets to the 90 minute presentation.
- Get your target market to pay you to create the product
By trialling your product with a small group, you can offer it to them at a discounted rate. Let them know they are in on the product creation stage so they are receiving the benefits of it but not paying the full fee.
For example, a good strategy if you’re creating an informational ‘how to do something’ product is pre sell clients into a 6 part webinar series over 6 weeks. The clients pay upfront to join the series which means they effectively pay you to create the content over the 6 weeks. If no one signs up, then you’ll quickly learn that your idea isn’t a goer without spending money. But if they do sign up, they’re paying you to create the content.
- Get their feedback
Offering a product or service at a discounted rate and telling clients up front that they are part of the product creation phase gives you real opportunity to determine exactly what people want and elicit their honest feedback.
- Create a better final product
Once you receive feedback, continue to refine your idea to tailor what you offer to suit the market need.
- Determine the most leveraged way to offer your product
Once you know what the market wants, it’s then a case of ensuring you offer it in the most leveraged way possible – so you’re not simply trading dollars for time.
You ought to be thinking about how you can reach the maximum number of people with your offering while still providing the best value.
For example, initially I turned my 6 part webinar series into a DVD product to sell. This was ok, but it meant that I had to pay up front for the DVD product to be created in bulk and then sell them.
A better business strategy was to create a live training situation where clients got better results and paid a higher price. I decided to turn my DVD series into a 2 day training, given I already had the content.
Again, I followed the low risk approach of not forking out a lot of money before I had paying clients. I created a 90 minute seminar and photocopied an order form – and if I had sufficient people sign up I knew the idea had merit. I didn’t book venues for the 2 day training until I knew I had sufficient numbers to make it work. Eight people signed up on that day to my 2 day training and I haven’t looked back.
- Get dollars in the door
Once you have a system that works you need to find more customers in your target market. The easiest and cheapest way to do that is get some publicity in the media. It costs nothing to send out a press release, call a journalist and do an interview – yet it is the fastest way to get your offering out in a bigger way.
- Create the brand
Only after you’ve been operating with a degree of success will you really understand your target market, who they are and what they expect. At this time, start thinking about the look and feel of your business – colours, logos, business cards and the like.
- Take it online
Once business is moving you’ll also know what you need from a web site. It’s almost impossible to know what online functionality you need until you’ve been in the business for a few months. It’s so important to know what you want before you go to a web designer – and you won’t know that until you’ve been in touch with real live customers and understand their needs.
Gearing up online really is about growing the business, not starting the business.
So if you have a great idea but the thought of spending tens of thousands of dollars leaves you stuck and stagnated, take this 8 step approach to bringing money in the door while you build the business.