Imagine you’ve just launched your first product.
It’s a short little course, just a few weeks long, that teaches the “DIY” version of the topics you help people with every day. You built it once, delivered it online, and now it works for you while you’re off doing other activities you love.
This online course has been a transformative force in your life.
You’ve found financial freedom, because you’re no longer constrained by the economics of trading time for money. And you’ve multiplied your impact, making the world a better place for dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of people.
It’s a pretty picture, isn’t it?
But you and I both know it isn’t so easy to achieve.
In reality, most people with big dreams of product creation end up spending months, or even years, investing time and money that they can’t afford to lose into a project that will probably never see the light of day.
It’s a sad reality, but the good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way.
Let your audience direct your product development …
What the creators of most blockbuster products have figured out is how to completely avoid that situation by allowing their audiences to guide product development.
This is one of the areas where Copyblogger has always excelled. They first discussed the concept of a minimum viable audience back in 2012:
Build an audience through content marketing. Let them tell you what they want. Build products and offer services based on their desires and needs. Prosper.
By putting the audience first and letting them tell you what you should create, you don’t have to wonder what they want or make assumptions that lead you in the wrong direction.
You begin by listening to your audience.
Let go of assumptions and pay careful attention to what your audience says, in their own words.
There are a few ways to do this:
- Study your blog posts that get shared the most and those with the largest number of comments.
- Notice the email and newsletter subjects that your audience responds to with the highest levels of urgency and emotion.
- When your audience emails you “just because,” collect the questions they ask and the problems they mention.
As you interact with your audience, take notes about the most common problems and questions.
But what if you don’t have an audience?
The good news is that you can listen the same way even if you don’t have a large audience yet, or even any audience at all.
By engaging with your future audience where they hang out online, you can still gather the same type of data.
Copyblogger describes this as “being an integral member of your own market.”
For example, you can listen in on your target audience wherever they happen to be. By looking at comments that they leave on blog posts and forums around the web, you will start to see repeatedly asked questions.
You can also eavesdrop on and join in conversations on social media. By finding interest groups on LinkedIn or Facebook and taking part in the discussion, you can explore the topics discussed the most often, or you can observe the interactions between a market leader and his Twitter followers.
Now you know how to begin to engage an audience in your product development.
Moving forward from there, you can gather even more in-depth data whether or not you have an audience.
Or, to go even deeper, you can conduct informational interviews with either members of your audience or the people who responded to your survey.
These interviews can be conducted over the phone or by video chat. During the interviews, you can ask specific questions about a certain topic or problem.
These methods of delving into the problem language of your intended audience will pay off in an overflowing stack of raw data.
But before that data is really worth something, you have to sort it and figure out what it all means.
By sifting through the data, you are likely to uncover patterns that will show you the problems you can potentially solve for your audience.
For example, a writing coach might gather data from her audience of aspiring writers and observe that half of the respondents have questions about Scrivener, and that another 10 percent have asked about what type of writing software they should use.
The writing coach would then see a pattern as she sorted through her data: Her audience wants to use time-saving software, and teaching a course on Scrivener might be a way for her to solve their problem.
Once you get an idea of what your audience might be willing and eager to pay for, you still have a crucial step before you can start creating that product: validation!
What’s the best way to validate that your audience will buy your product?
Answer: sell a pilot version of the product.
How to rapidly assemble and deploy your pilot offer
Much like listening to your audience to determine what you will offer them, you will also involve them in creating the offer.
To assemble your pilot offer, follow this structure:
- Collect information. This includes the steps that we have covered so far.
- Reach out to your target audience. Present your offer as a response to their demand — a solution to the problems they’ve discussed. Describe the offer, and include the story of how they brought your product into existence.
- Listen to their answers. Are they interested in the product now that it exists? Are they not really responding? If this is the case, go back to your research to see what should be changed or improved.
- Tell them your plan. Explain the motivation behind your actions by saying, “You asked me to do this, so I’m doing it.” Give them a preview. Let them know roughly what material will be covered, the structure of the course, and other relevant details. This step is important, because you don’t want to surprise your audience later with, “Hey, here’s this thing I never told you about. You should buy it!”
- Open a brief registration window. Once you start accepting new customers, send follow-up emails, with escalating urgency as you get closer to the date and time that the cart will close. Answer any questions that your audience asks and give them any additional information they might need. Then, close enrollment.
- Deliver the course!
The truth is: this process is a lot of hard work up front, but it’s totally worth it when your pilot product presents you with a ticket to success.
Getting your first cohort of customers
So, let’s imagine again:
- You’ve become an integral member of your market.
- You listened to your audience, paying attention to their exact words.
- You created a product that your audience was practically begging you to build.
And, you just successfully sold your first product.
Imagine it working for you in the background, fueling and funding the life you want to lead. Imagine the impact you have achieved, making the world a better place.
Now, stop imagining.
Your audience is anxiously waiting for you to co-create that blockbuster product with them. So do your market research to see what they want.
Then reach out to them, and sell that pilot offer — and if you need help, check out our free templates that you can use to breeze through the sales portion of this process.
From there, the rest will be history.
Now go make it happen!
And let us know over on LinkedIn how you plan to get started …
Flickr Creative Commons Image via sunshinecity.