Guarantee the World Will Buy Your Offer: A 5-Step Process

Written by Scott March 30, 2011

 

test your offer

“Building without testing is like gambling–It’s fun but will eventually make you broke.”

~Anonymous

In the past 10 years I’ve learned a process for getting things right (or getting them wrong really quickly)–whether it’s a product, a career or a relationship.

It’s always been gold.

Let’s start with the million dollar answer…

If you want to ensure a product’s success (or anything’s success), get out and ask the people you are actually trying to help.

Sound simple? So why do 99% of businesses and people not do it?

In two words: Laziness and Fear

The majority of problems come from people and entrepreneurs assuming too much and testing too little.

For two years I ran the Market Validation department at a preventive healthcare company in Santa Barbara. We offered (and still do) at-home tests for Diabetes and different types of cancer. Think NetFlix for healthcare.

Our approach was simple: Don’t make anything until we were sure someone would buy it and enjoyed using it. No assumptions were allowed. The moment one surfaced, we knew it was time to go out and learn. And learn we did.

We went into customers’ homes, sat in their kitchen, office or even their bedroom–wherever they used our product. And we watched them proceed to screw up every assumption we made. These people did things with our products I could have never expected. Try to imagine a guy using a vacuum as a tooth brush. That’s how bad it was.

And we built the damn things!

Being flies on the wall and listening to the voice of the customer led to a massive shift in business model and almost every new product we launched. And you know what happened when we launched a new one? It actually worked and people bought it. Our usage and satisfaction rates were 80% when others in the space were 20% at best.

Testing works.

Find a market for your product before you make it.

Everyone has a product to offer. I don’t care if you’re an entrepreneur or a cog in a corporate wheel, a mother of two or a single woman looking for a mate. It’s all of our job to find the best of what we have to offer, and then offer it.

The problem is most people just assume they know what everyone wants. They go straight to market. Then they proceed to fall flat on their face (and probably bust their nose in the process).

It’s impossible to be objective when you’re the one coming up with the ideas.

Don’t make things harder than they are.

Turning a passion into a business is challenging enough. We owe it to ourselves to stack the deck in our favor however possible. Testing has been a magic bullet for me for years. I even wrote my university honors thesis about it–I’ve been obsessed for years.

I’ve developed a simple system that gets applied to every launch–whether it’s a new career, blog post, product, course or business. Do the below and failure becomes impossible.

A 5-Step Process to Guarantee the World Will Buy Your Offer:

1. Brainstorm ideas.

Get creative. Start asking questions. What problems do people have? What problems do you have? What are you good at that people might need help with? What are people constantly asking you to help them with? Come up with a list. People close to you can often see this in you better than you can, so ask. Don’t rule anything out. Just capture ideas in a notebook, a big whiteboard or a sweet mind mapping program like MindMeister.

I realize that many readers have long had their big idea. If you’re already there, awesome. Now it’s time to do something with it. Read on.

2. Create a prototype.

The goal is to make something extremely quickly (and as absolutely simple as possible) that communicates what you have to offer. Anything that lets you start getting in front of customers and gathering feedback. This is one reason why blogs are so freaking awesome. You can have one up and getting ideas out there in a matter of days.

I’ve been testing what I have to offer (i.e. my products) for years now in the topics I write about, my coaching clients and workbooks I create. This site is my living breathing prototype. I never write a post or create something without first chatting about it with readers or those around me. Many topics come directly from emails and comments I get from all you.

But a blog’s not the only way. Maybe you just create a simple single landing page that explains your product with a few sharp graphics. Or a basic physical mock-up. That’s all you need to start. Remember, the customer just needs to perceive the product. It doesn’t actually have to work yet. That’s the point.

Keep it simple.

3. Get a group of Target Customers.

This is where most fail without even knowing it. Not just any audience will do. You have to find people who actually need what you have to offer. Most would-be entrepreneurs think they are testing their ideas by telling them to friends and family. They get great feedback (no surprise), and go full bore towards…a brick wall. Feel free to tell them about it, but DO NOT listen (at least too closely).

If you made surf boards, would you ask a bunch of tennis players what they thought of your new short board? Didn’t think so. If they would never fit the description of who you want to help then what good does asking do? All you’ll likely get is a false positive–the most dangerous data in the world.

If you already have a website audience, fans or blog followers, then you’re a step ahead. If you don’t, now’s the second best time to start. You could also create a Facebook or LinkedIn Group.

But you don’t have to have a big audience–see the next step.

4. Get it out there.

This one’s simple but what people fear most. Start offering what you have to the world. Whether it’s an in-person offer to help, a landing page online, a blog post or a sign on the street, you have to get what you’ve got out there and start collecting data.

If you want to coach or help people, start offering it pro bono to those in real pain. Better yet, charge for it. You’ll be surprised who will happily pay you–but they’ll only pay if you ask them to and you believe what you have is worth it. Even it’s only five bucks, give it a shot. To ease the discomfort, start with friends or coworkers who actually want what you have.

Once you start looking for people to help (and let the world know you’re looking), you’ll find em. That’s how I started. For years I’ve made myself known among my buddies as the guy who absolutely loves helping people through career transitions. I helped everyone I could. Now it’s a big part of my business.

The web has made getting it out there tremendously easier. In my case I put in all the hard work over the past couple years and now I have a rockstar audience of over 3,600 motivated folks to bounce ideas off of (that’s you!). If you don’t have a big audience or have a different type of product then explore tools like Google Adwords or Facebook Ads directed to a simple landing page. It’s amazing what a couple hundred bucks in advertising can teach you–Immediate traffic in an instant.

Even if you don’t plan to advertise the actual product, it doesn’t matter. Use these as testing tools, not just marketing tools. Maybe even start with Craig’s List if you want to keep it simple and local.

I don’t care how you do it, but you have to hang a shingle.

5. Measure and make use.

Collect data–and make sense of it! Use the latest tools like Google Analytics, Website Optimizer or Kiss Metrics’ (their stuff kicks ass) Crazy Egg. Gauge the traffic and conversion. Document what people are saying about you. Use Survey Monkey or Google’s free survey forms (see mine at end of this post). Learn what people like and don’t like. Find what they really want.

Study this stuff and listen to it. Data does not lie.

But what if I want to test a new job, not a product?

The above still works. Get hired as a temp, shadow someone, volunteer or interview 10 people in the field. You don’t want to waste the time? Would you rather waste a few years doing a job that makes you want to put your head through a computer monitor? The early investment is worth the saved misery later.

There is always a way to test. You won’t get all the answers but you’ll get a lot and they’ll be free. If there was ever an 80/20 way to do things, early testing is it.

Test fast, test early, test often.

I constantly learn and develop based on you guys (see end of this post). I’m almost always running an A/B test on this site and analyzing tweets and comments to see how I can most help. I never create anything that hasn’t been a reader’s pain. I love it. And it makes this stuff mountains more relevant to all you.

The point of all this is to get to testing as fast as possible. If you’re fired up enough you can do all five steps in under a week. It’s probably going to take months (at least) to develop your full product anyway so it’s not like this is going to be the cause of delay.

When you find yourself wanting to skip the testing phase (and you will), stop and realize it’s either laziness or fear. Neither of which are acceptable if you’re looking to do big things. Testing takes work and it involves people potentially telling you your product sucks sooner than normal. Realize this is a good thing. Learn what works early then run with it–Nail it then scale it.

Would you rather get it wrong now or later?

Not testing is painful.

It causes people to marry mates they can’t stand, spend years at jobs that crush their soul and waste a fortune launching businesses that never should have made it past the cocktail napkin.

You have two choices:

1. You can pretend to read your customers’ minds, spend months or years of your life and thousands of dollars (at least) developing the “perfect” product only to find out you were dead wrong.

or,

2. You can put in some extra work up front, do the above five steps, find out what’s wrong (and right) with your offer in a matter of weeks, nearly for free, and build something the world actually needs and wants.

Either way, you are going to get it wrong if you don’t ask the people you have set out to help. Learn now while it’s cheap and easy to fix.

You can’t afford to get it wrong.

It’s easier than ever to see if something sticks. There is no excuse to not test an idea.

Most of the tools above are free or a few bucks a month. They are super user-friendly and actually fun to use. The web makes this stuff so turnkey, you can’t afford not to do it.

Skip the learning and failure’s on you.

Ask the people who matter and build something the world actually needs.

Tell me what to build: Please fill out my 1-minute survey — I’m only taking 175 responses. [The survey is now closed]

I do everything I can to make this site and future products the most insanely useful for all of you. I am planning to launch some big tools for you all in the coming months and I need to know what you want. This is your chance to tell me what to create for you. Take it seriously.

Help me build what you need the most.

I am limiting the number of responses to 175 because I want to be able to give careful consideration to everyone who wants to help make our work here even more useful. So jump right on it and I will build what you tell me to. Spend 60 seconds right now.

You guys are awesome. Big things ahead!

[Sorry guys, the survey is now closed]
Image courtesy of Shandi-lee
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