Stacking the Bricks Podcast EP10 - Why do people worship the struggle of entrepreneurship? And how to avoid it.
13 min

In this episode…

Newsflash: Lean Startup and Customer Development are inherently broken.

If you ask me, the whole process is functionally bankrupt. Why? Let me answer your question with a pair of questions:

Why do you create good things… but nobody buys?

Worse: Why do you feel the thrill of a great idea, then get stuck before you even finish the damn thing?

In short: Why all the struggle? And why do people worship the struggle?

This lil mini-episode I made walks you through the problem, and the solution. It’s only 13 minutes. It could just be the 13 minutes that’ll end the idea-fail cycle for you forever. This mini-episode is from a video that appears here, if you'd like to "see" what Amy is talking about:


Amy Hoy Amy Hoy: How do you create a product that people will actually want to buy?

That’s an excellent question. I’m so glad you asked it. Before we talk about how to succeed, let’s talk about failure for a minute. Basically, let’s look at the target that you don’t want to hit.

Failure so often starts with a great idea. The cycle seems to go something like this: Come up with an idea – obviously it’s a great idea; build your idea – it’s awesome; put your awesome idea online as an MVP; wait for the sales to roll in; wait for the sales to roll in; double down; try to figure out product market fit because the sales are not rolling in. Unfortunately, this process so often ends up in giving up.

Now, it’s not that I’m the first person who’s noticed this process, there are some coping strategies out there that you might be familiar with. Lean startup, for example. The goal of lean is to get you past step three, to actually shipping your MVP. If that doesn’t work, then to cycle faster and faster until something works – because something has to eventually work, right?

Customer development on the other hand, attacks the end of the process. When you’re starting to look for a product market fit, customer development is there to say, “Yo dog, I will help you figure out that product market fit and make some sales.” That’s exactly how I imagined these processes talking in my head. For some reason customer development is Xzibit. I don’t know why, don’t ask, but it’s true. The problem with Lean and customer development aka Xzibit is that they prop up the problem. They start off by taking that cycle I just showed you and they accept that it is valid, and they accept that this is the way to do it. And then they try to monkey patch it.

They’ve got a leaky boat and they’re just shoving stuff in the holes rather than saying, “Maybe we should take this boat back to shore and trade in for another boat? Perhaps a boat is not the proper tool here.” Well, there’s a better way. Naturally this is the 30x500 way because I made 30x500 out of frustration of watching my friends fail repeatedly with their apps and books.

So lean asks, “How do I make more faster?” and customer development asks, “Who will buy this?” I think those questions suck. This question though, this question doesn’t suck. This is a smart question. “How do I make a product I know will sell.” Can you just feel the difference there? So 30x500, the class and the process, is organized around smart questions.

This is really sort of the progenitor question. How do you make a product you know will sell? What does that take? What do I need to answer that? Which gives us the three organizing questions that all of 30x500 is based around. Who am I serving? What do they already need, want and buy? How can I reach and persuade them to use my marketing content, to share, to buy?

Now I initially highlighted who, what and how, because those seem to be the salient parts of the question, right? But they’re not. The salient parts of these questions are verbs: serve, need, want, buy, reach, and persuade. Now I know talking about interrogatives versus verbs is like super nerd territory, but trust me, there’s a reason for this.

Oh, and how do you answer these questions? Well, research of course! Research is better than fail fast, better than product market fit and better than hoping and praying. Also, even though research may be annoying, it is massively better than spending six months of your life building something that nobody wants.

And yes, I’m defensive about my research. People complain, but then they suffer. Shrug. Anyway, in 30x500, we’ve taken these questions and sort of organized them into a graph that we call the orbit. I wanted to call it the tripod and Alex said no.

So let’s break it down, shall we?

The very first thing that the other things are orbiting around is audience. This is your first question. Who am I serving? This is where people get derailed a lot. They get creative. They’re like, “I need to serve a niche that no one has ever served before – ever.” This is bad because you’re basically saying “I need something exotic and the only way can be exotic is if I don’t know anything about it”, which means that you won’t see the danger coming.

So now when people take our class we’re like, “You may not get creative about audience. Someday down the line, yes. When you have a bunch of successful products – sure, innovate. Right now, you need to stick close to home where you can use all of the advantages you already have. If you’re a Ruby developer, congrats, your audience is Ruby developers or the people who want to be Ruby developers or the people who hire Ruby developers.

That’s your three-legged option. Same thing for designers, writers, consultants, as specific as you can get – you don’t have to stick with it forever. But trust me, don’t throw away your advantage now.

Suitably chastised, let’s move on to question two. What do they need, want and buy? This question hangs off the first question, you can see how you cannot answer this question if you don’t know who they are. You can’t look at the world and say, “Well, what does the world buy?” The answer literally is endless, not to mention where would you even start? So it’s important to get specific with your audience, and then you need to get specific with these answers.

If you want to find out what they need, want and are prepared to buy, you can’t be vague because you can’t make something vague. It’s very important to be very, very specific.

So naturally you can see the course that these are in a row, but actually, what we’re looking for here is an intersection. What do they need AND want that they also buy? Because many people have needs, or shall we say pains that they will complain about and anyone can say they need something, but they’ll refuse to buy it.

Lots of people like to complain and never act. This is the type of person you want to avoid. Therefore, you want to make sure you’re smack in the middle of this diagram here. It’s also why you need to do your research. Don’t guess, do the research. So how do you research?

Well, for sake of argument, let’s say that you’re a Ruby developer. You’d want to follow these steps. First, you want to find your fellow Ruby developers online, where do they hang out? Go lurk, study them, write down their pain points, worldviews, beliefs, complaints, questions, struggles, products, and desires. And by products, I mean stuff that they buy, stuff that they discuss, stuff that they share. You want to do a lot of this. People always ask us well, Amy and Alex, how long should I Safari before I make a product? I can’t tell you an answer for sure. But I can say that unless you’re doing at least 30 or 40 hours, I don’t think that the patterns are going to emerge the way that you need. There’s an inflection point you hit when you’ve done enough of this research.

Suddenly you go from, “Why do I have this giant pile of research?” to, “Oh my God, I see the pattern!” You won’t believe me until it happens and then you’ll wonder why you didn’t believe me, but trust me, this happens and it doesn’t happen with 5 or 10 hours. It doesn’t happen with 20. You need a lot of time to be living with this data. Yes, this is a lot of work. Yes, it is dirty work. As far as these things go, it’s not exciting. You’re not out there in the world doing something like holding appointments or making phone calls or building the sexy app. That’s why you fail. That’s why you fail that sexy stuff, that crazed activity. That is not what success looks like.

That’s what violent splashing before you drown looks like. I’m going to defer to Thomas Edison here. And yes, this makes my light bulb earlier kind of funny. Now Edison knew what it was to grind. His lab worked on thousands of potential filaments for the light bulb before they found one that really worked. Edison didn’t even invent the idea of the lightbulb. He knew there was this problem, filaments didn’t work. He was going to solve it and he worked at it until he did. And by he, I mean, well, his whole team. He said, quite famously, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Well research – the technique we’re talking about here, Sales Safari – it’s a big pair of overalls. It’s not sexy, but it is what opportunity is wearing.

What about fear? Well, my friends, I hate to break it to you, but fear is part of the human condition. There’s literally nothing you can do that will eliminate fear. You need to learn to live with it. As that famous self-help book says, “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” Basically you don’t need to read the book. The title is enough, feel the fear and do it anyway. But, something does help with the fear and that’s research, because if you, for example, have a specific fear, “What if I build it and no one wants it?” If you haven’t done your research, you have nothing to reassure yourself with.

If you have done your research, you can say, “All right, I feel fear. That’s natural. Everyone does it. It doesn’t mean anything because look, here’s my data that says I have done my homework. People need and want this. Here’s the proof I’m going to do it anyway.” Doesn’t that sound like a better experience?

Research! It kills fear. Well, it mildly incapacitates fear, but that’s better than nothing, right? So back to our orbit. Once you’ve done all this research, this will lead you to a product. You will have that, “Oh my God” moment after many tens of hours of this research that will lead you to a product.

But what about question three? What about reaching and persuading? Well, great news. When you’ve already spent so many hours studying people, you will learn how to reach and persuade them because you’ll already know where they hang out, what they read, what they share, what they like, what they need, what they hate. You will have all of this information in your research.

You may not be able to write the world’s most compelling copy, but if you get all these elements right, that won’t matter. You’ll already know. So when you filled out your orbit, it won’t look anything like this pretty, but this is an example from our class. This kind of data, although it was in real life, much more specific, led one of our students, Brennan Dunn to create his very first info product.

You may have heard of Brennan Dunn because he is literally taking the freelancer consultant world by storm with his info products and his app Planscope and his workshops and everything else. But this is how he started learn to Double Your Freelancing Rate in just 14 days. It was a small start, but this book has helped him build an empire, even though it kind of sucked at first, he got the pain and the need and the want and the buy altogether. So my time tested advice: seek real data, answer those three questions. Who am I serving? What do they already need, want and buy? How can I reach and persuade them?

And of course, there’s a fourth question. How can you do all this systematically and repeatably to achieve success in the shortest amount of time possible? We have specific step-by-step instructions, processes, self-testing, self-evaluation and examples for every one of these steps from copywriting to Safari.

How do you spot pain? Well, you can spend years learning how to do it – the way that I did – or you can learn from me in the matter of a few hours, no brainer, right? That’s the power of knowing what YOU need, want and are ready to buy, and also how to reach and persuade you.

You like that? I like that.

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