If you have a product you want to sell more of — or if you want to create a product and make lots of sales… Read on, my friend, this post is for you.
Where did we leave off last time? Oh yes… ripping apart the “traditional” model of product development and marketing:
Step 1: Make something “worthy”
Step 2: ???
Step 3: PRODUCT-MARKET FIT!
(If you missed that post, you should read it now. I guarantee you, it’s worth your time.)
I call this approach the Kickball Model: Somebody else decides when and where to play. You line up with all the other kids, try to look good, and hope somebody picks you first. Or at least not last. And it’s just as soul-crushing as it was when you were 11.
The tricky thing about it is that it feels active — here you are, building out features, publishing ads, polishing your sales copy! it’s the eeeyyeee of the tiiiiger — BUT. When it comes to the moment of truth, you’re wishing and hoping and waiting. You’re playing a passive role. Yes, certainly, you did all that work. But, the final step isn’t yours.
To make a sale, you need a buyer.
And the final step is theirs.
In product land, we call the world-wide pool of potential buyers the Total Addressable Market. That’s anyone who could conceivably buy your product. TAM is usually a big, sexy number. A big, sexy, misleading number. Because, at any given time, only a fraction of the market is actively interested in buying. Often it’s a tiny fraction… the TAM for task management software, for example, mostly already has an app that they’re using.
But, despite their small number, Active Buyers get all the play. All the most popular, “obvious” sales models — advertising, webinars, SEO, affiliate programs — bank on Active Buyers.
Why? They’re low hanging fruit. Easy pickins. Active Buyers go shopping. Buyers are — almost by definition! — a guaranteed sale.
Not necessarily for you. (Or me!)
Because when Active Buyers shop around, they’re going to find your competition, too…
BUYER: googles “project management”
BUYER: googles “book learn React”
BUYER: googles “screencast Sketch interface”
BUYER: googles “SEO”
They’re gonna find a lot of results. Will they find you?
And if so, how will you stack up?
Will all your features and benefits and pre-reqs and polishing be enough to make them pick me, pick me?
Bottom line: This situation sucks.
That’s Active Buyer Obsession for you. Beyond the tiny-subset thing, it has three major flaws:
- It’s the meat market, the kickball line-up all over again, with all that competition, which leads to…
- The crippling fear of market saturation. Which I’ve previously demonstrated is BS. And…
- The very expensive idea that you can break out of the tiny Active Buyer pool by blowing all your cash on advertising. (But… if you think about it, who clicks on ads? Only people who are already interested.)
So often, you hear advice and tactics and strategy that comes from Active Buyer Obsession as if it’s the only way to go, that’s just how it is, deal with it. You have to fight it out or accept inevitable failure. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Here’s the really bottom, bottom line:
If you wanna start a side project and grow into a self-sustaining business — if you wanna quit your job, set your own schedule, work from wherever you want, and live off the fruits of your labor…
You can’t make enough sales through the kickball line. You can’t wait for buyers to beat a path to your door. You probably can’t afford to duke it out with ads, or build the most perfectest SEO when everyone else is to do the exact same thing.
You have to get people excited to buy your product specifically, before they ever even think about shopping for a product category.
You need to bypass the Google problem entirely.
You have to make exclusive sales.
Good news: YOU CAN DO IT — you can skip the lineup, and outrun the competition.
Even with zero advertising and crappy SEO!
And the approach is just like I described last time, when I talked about jobs: Don’t apply for a position that’s asking to be filled, befriend an employer and then make a case why they need you, right now.
Get in with the audience, then prove you understand their problems, then offer to fix them. For money.
The right offer at to the right person at the right time makes a sale.
Regardless of what “the other guys” are doing.
There are four tools you can use to position yourself to make the right offer to the right person at the right time:
- Sales Safari
- Call to Action ladder
- Pitch, with the Pain-Dream-Fix formula
Coincidentally, these are the major techniques you’ll learn in my class, 30x500. 😎 (When you enroll, you’ll also learn how to come up with infinite product ideas, decide what will sell best, how to get a product out the door quickly, and how to structure a launch, while building traffic and subscribers.)
Note: These tools will accelerate your success if you’ve got an existing product that’s helping people and making money and if you haven’t started yet, if you’re not sure whom to serve or what to make, these tools will help you make the right choices and do the right actions.
Here’s an example of how I made this work for me just this week:
On Tuesday, I hosted a webcast: From Pain to Product - A SaaS in 3 Weeks. Over 90 minutes, I walked through the research I did, the idea for the app, the way I handled early designs, how we’re developing it so rapidly, how we’re managing scope to launch quickly, and of course, how just a little light ebombing has built my early access list to over 500 people so far.
Folks mostly showed up for the biz/design/launching info, not because they were interested in the app itself. Chances are they had only barely heard of it, if at all.
Here’s what one attendee spontaneously offered:
I just realised that I need your app.
And another one:
This webinar has made me recognize an acute pain I didn’t even realize I was living with.
That’s what’s missing: connecting Kanban to calendar
Here’s the thing: These folks didn’t show up to buy my new task management software. They showed up to learn about how I come up with new products. But because I had their attention, and because I understood their pains, and because I had gained their trust by helping them with other things (biz things)…………
I created an opportunity to sell them my app
And the personal requests for early access rolled in!
Let’s dive a little deeper, shall we…?
Safari: Figure out what your audience needs and wants, what they struggle with, what they love, what hurts
Sales Safari is the method I invented for understanding people’s behavior through observation. When you go on Safari, you study what your audience does online: what they write, ask, share, read, use, buy, tweet, complain about, rave about.
Sales Safari is not customer interviews, not cold-calling, not surveys, or validation… those methods suck, because first you have to get people’s attention, then you have to get their permission, then you have to hope they don’t lie to you (unintentionally, out of optimism/trying to be nice).
Sales Safari led me to…
- the product concept for my new app
- ways to pitch it productively
- and the topics for the content marketing I’ll use to get it in front of my audience (like the webinar, like the how-we-build-it stuff)
- plus of course, Safari also taught me that my audience is hungry for specific details on building, launching, and running SaaS and not just “product” in general
Obviously the best way to learn Sales Safari is to enroll in 30x500 ;)
Ebomb: Write, record, open source, design, speak, tweet things that help them
Ebombs are my short term for educational content marketing, because that’s a horrendous mouthful. Ebombs aren’t just any old “viral content” — they’re content that helps people. If your audience ends up on your site, Youtube channel, Twitter stream (or anywhere else) with a problem and you help them solve it? They will not only like you, they’ll TRUST you.
Because the best proof in the world isn’t social proof, isn’t screenshots or case studies, but personal experience of the person you’re trying to persuade.
Trust is the basis of an easy sale.
It’s also the reason people will share your content, whether it’s code, video, audio, words, slides, plugins, graphics, or what-have-you.
My SaaS in 3 Weeks talk is a GIANT ebomb. (And it was free for the 950 people who pre-registered. You can snag the whole thing for just $14.)
Here’s a free 30x500 lesson on the power of ebombs (an ebomb ebomb, if you will): The Ebomb Recipe.
Call to Action: Get them to share those things, and sign up for more
“Ask for the sale.” If you ever research selling at all, that’s one of the first pieces of advice you’ll come across, and you’ll hear it over, and over, and over. Because it works. Rarely will a person decide to buy without a call to action, whether it’s your voice or your sales email or the text on a button.
But it’s a huuuuuuge mistake to go from “hello” to “buy me.”
The best way to build up to a sale — the way that’ll mean people happily buy, and love your product — is to get them to ascend the take-action ladder:
- read your stuff
- then share your stuff
- then sign up for your mailing list
- then “pay” for something free with a significant amount of time or energy (like attending a webinar, filling out work sheets or surveys, completing a challenge or tutorial)
By this point, they trust you, are eager to hear from you, have experienced wins from what you’ve offered them before, and proven they’ve got an investment mindset when it comes to whatever it is you do/help/offer.
Pitch: Demonstrate your intimate knowledge of a pain they experience that they may have never even noticed… and demonstrate how you’ll help them kill that pain
The most intoxicating thing in the world isn’t drugs, booze, or sex. It’s feeling understood.
So the absolutely most powerful thing you can do with your sales copy is to demonstrate just how perfectly you understand your audience’s problems.
That’s why my sales copy always starts with pain. It doesn’t matter if it’s a story, or a scenario, or a technical problem. The pain has to be specific, concrete, and vivid — a trio of factors I call crispiness.
You can’t summon up a need or desire they don’t have. But you can highlight a pain they have, that they’ve been ignoring, numbed to, or are used to working around. Hence the person who said to me, This webinar has made me recognize an acute pain I didn’t even realize I was living with.
Pain is persuasive. And the most persuasive pain for the reader is the reader’s pain.
In 30x500, you’ll learn my very specific formula for writing copy that anyone can use. You don’t have to be a great writer or storyteller. You just have to get your inputs right, and follow the steps. You can read a detailed case study here.
Where’s that crispy knowledge of pain come from? Safari, of course! (It always comes back to Safari.)
OMG, WE’RE AT 2,000 WORDS NOW.
So I’m gonna wrap this bad boy up.
- Instead of passively ticking boxes, accruing experience, adding features… you’ve gotta be active
- Active means going on Safari, getting real data, understanding your target audience, and creating an opportunity for you to sell your product before they ever go shopping
- And that means you can skip the meat market, the line-up, the competition, advertising, and even (to a large degree) SEO
- It also makes it easier to sell, period!
Most of the advice out there on how to design a new product, launch it, and sell it is based on Active Buyer Obsession.
But now you know better.
And if you’re ready to make a commitment and change your life by building a side project and an income stream that is sustainable…