Don’t try to sell what your market doesn’t want to buy
The most common — and painful — mistake I see entrepreneurs (myself included) make is to develop a product that no one has any interest in buying.
This is why so many inventors spend decade after decade without any commercial success.
They’re passionate, yes — but they’re passionate about the product — about their brilliant new invention that they’re sure the world needs.
Gary Halbert said a smart businessperson falls in love with the market, not the product. Fall in love with your buyers. Watch them, listen to them, cherish them. Figure out ways to surprise and delight them.
Famed direct marketer Gene Schwartz wrote that copywriting was like sailing a ship. Your market’s desire for a particular product or service is the wind that propels that ship.
A smart marketer can take a faint wind and make the best of it. And in the internet age, you can collect bits of breeze from all over the globe, and combine them to make a strong business.
But even the best marketing technique will only take you so far. The desire has to be there before you start trying to sell. Where there’s no wind, there’s no movement.
That’s actually why the very first thing I suggest you do is to identify a profitable market. Not a market of enthusiasts or fans — a market of buyers.
What’s a buyer?
Someone who deeply desires a certain result, AND (important distinction) will pay to get it.
Step 1: Get analytical
There’s a lot of analysis you can do to unearth a solid market.
The simplest is just to watch for a topic with lots of competitors. The “blue ocean” strategy, where you look for a market without competition, is attractive in theory, but more often a lack of competitors means a lack of buyers.
Instead, look for markets driven by the basic human desires that never change. People will always look for sex, status, or a really great lunch. They want to look cool, to feel safe and secure, to create better relationships with their kids or spouses, to make themselves more attractive. We always have wanted those things, and we always will.
Then you figure out where the holes are.
What are the slivers of the market that aren’t being served well? What’s missing in the other offerings, good as they may be? What can you do that’s different in a valuable way, in a way that better serves a slice of the market?
Innovation is great, if you’re innovating in the right direction. Instead of dreaming up a product or service no one has ever seen before, innovate better ways to serve a robust market.
Step 2: Get empirical
But analysis only takes you so far.
There are all kinds of business ideas that should work … but don’t.
Maybe you’re not a great fit for the market you’ve chosen.
Maybe you’ve figured out what your customers need, but it turns out they don’t want it.
Maybe what worked last year (or last month) doesn’t work today, for any one of a thousand reasons, think of businesses built on other peoples platforms like Google or Facebook for instance, working great now but if they fall out of favour you’re screwed.
There’s one way to find out if your idea will work or not, and that’s to fire off some bullets and see if they hit a worthy target.
Step 3: Create a bullet and fire it off
This weekend, put together the smallest product possible that will deliver a benefit for your customer. It might be an 8-page special report. It might be a 30-minute webinar or teleseminar on a basic concept.
Whatever it is, make it good enough to pay for since it’s going to be a small product, the price will be in line with that.
Not a lot of risk for you, not a lot of risk for your audience. And it’s a priceless way to gather intelligence about what works and what doesn’t. What your audience values enough to pay for, and what they don’t.
Put your new product out for sale next week. If you wait any longer than that, you’ll get sunk in analysis paralysis and a week will turn into three months. Rather than getting it perfect right now, let your audience know it’s a beta version — that you guarantee it will have some flaws.
Create a simple website or landing page, then email your list (or someone else’s list if you don’t have one), write a blog post, get your friends to talk it up on Twitter or pay for Facebook or Google ads (my preferred strategy).
You’re not trying to pay the mortgage with this one
You’re just firing a bullet.
You’ll learn more, and gain more confidence, in putting a simple product together this weekend and launching it next week than you would in five years of market analysis. And you might even come away with a few quid in your pocket.
And if you don’t sell a single copy? That’s good data.
Figure out if the problem is the product (doesn’t solve a problem people care about), the market (cheapskates who think everything should be free), your list (if you have 9 people reading, it’s going to be hard to hit that first sale), or your copywriting technique… in my experience you can sell a good product to hot buyers with crap copy but you can’t sell a great product with amazing copy to the wrong people…. the market is FAR more important than the copy.
Then start at step 1 and do it again.
Don’t launch a cannonball until you’ve fired enough bullets
A single minimum viable product may give you enough data to build a much bigger project.
Or, more likely, you may need to fire some more bullets.
Try different angles. Different customer types. Solve different levels of problem (simple, moderate, or really ugly). Take different approaches. Try getting out of your comfort zone a little with a stronger copywriting approach.
Figure out who you like to sell to. Who really gets you. Who benefits the most from your product or service. Who actually has the money to spend on what you’re selling.
Then, observe. Watch what people go for. (It’s often very different from what they’ll tell you in a survey.)
Keep track of your conversion rates (what percent of people buy) and your total profit. Keep working to nudge those two numbers up.
This isn’t always an easy process, but it’s a straightforward one, and it will reveal the cause of your lack of sales.
Fixing it can be tricky, especially if you’ve been trying fruitlessly to sell to a market of non-buyers, or your topic just doesn’t have the potential to support your business goals. You’ll need to have the courage to face the facts, and make the changes you need to make.
But knowing is, in the end, always less painful than not knowing.
My advice, fail and fail FAST!
Then move on and test the next product.
P.S by the way BFF is Isabella speak for best friends forever 🙂