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Graham D Brown - author of the guide
WHAT IS THIS?
HOW TO MAKE PRODUCTS YOUR CUSTOMERS WILL LOVE
Here’s why there isn’t much value in writing business plans for a Lifestyle Business.
- Everything you assume will be wrong, or different
- you don’t know what customers will love
- you won’t know until you ask them to open their wallets
- you’re not going to get it right first time
You don’t know what customers will love
Nobody knows except the customer. Everything you assume about the customer is going to change or be wrong, so don’t get hung up on one inflexible idea of who they are and what they want.
You won’t know until you ask them to open their wallets
You only find out when you reach the “moment of truth”. People may say they’re interested in your product, they may express enthusiasm, but opening their wallets changes everything.
Even if you’re only asking for $1, you’re still asking them to open their wallets. There is a significant difference between paying $0 and paying $1. I’ve found that difference to be larger than the difference between paying $1 and $1000.
You’re not going to get it right first time
Nobody does, so it’s important you build your products with the minimum time and money so you can change them fast. It’s important you ship them into your customers hands so you can get feedback and learn how to improve them.
HOW TO BUILD A MINIMUM VIABLE PRODUCT
An MVP is the smallest possible version of your product that you can ship and someone is willing to pay money for.
Let’s break that down:
- the smallest version of your product
- you can make
- someone is willing to pay money for
The smallest version of your product
Not physically small, but the cheapest and quickest. Rather than create all 20 features, what would be that one core feature that still creates real value? Strip the product down to just that feature.
You can make
You have to put it out there and make it buyable. You have to make this product. Importantly, you don’t have to have made this product. You can pre-sell a product before you made it. This is a little harder, but totally do-able if you know how. This approach also allows you to get into the game earlier.
Someone is willing to pay money for
You have to ask people to buy it. As long as they pay at least $1, you’re in business. There’s a reason I say $1. It could be $10 or $1,000, but the minimum is $1. Of course, this is not what you are going to charge in future but you are testing the concept. You see, in the mind of the customer the psychological distance between paying $0 and $1 is much greater than between $1 and $1000. Giving something away for free is very easy and should be avoided as part of your EXECUTION. Sure, you can do this to create leads (as a “Lead Magnet” in the HUSTLE stage) but not as a product.
Building an MVP will significantly reduce the time, money and risk of your business:
- You should be building in days, not weeks or months
- You should be spending the minimum amount of money to create the MVP. If a feature costs money, ask if you can introduce it at a future date.
- Ideally you should build a MVP with that one key feature that people want and are willing to pay for, and focus on that
When the 24 year old Dieter Raums entered the Braun engineering company as a designer, he was tasked with relaunching the record player.
At the time, record players were large pieces of living room furniture built out of oak or mahogany cabinets.
Dieter asked, what is the one feature people want out of a record player?
- Good looks?
- The ability to blend in with existing living room furniture
- The ability to listen to music
He took one feature – listening to music – and stripped it right down. His relaunched record player was a simple table top plastic case, a fraction of the weight, cost and production time of the traditional cabinets. It was the smash hit that sealed Raums philosophy in the hall of design legends:
Weniger aber besser: Less but better.
Even if your MVP is simpler and cheaper than your “ideal product”, it’s better to launch now.
Start with one feature that you can charge money for and work from there. If you can’t sell a cheaper, simpler version of your idea, you have both identified something is wrong and saved yourself weeks or months of time and money in going down the wrong avenue of inquiry.
Done is better than perfect. It doesn’t have to be a wise decision, or a perfect one. Just make one. If you’re waiting for perfect, you’ll be waiting for the rest of your life.
Face your fears and launch. The cost of being wrong is less than the cost of doing nothing.
COPY WHAT WORKS AND OUT-EXECUTE
So how can you make your MVP awesome?
Rather than try and be smart or clever with your MVP, focus on what already is out there that works and make a better version.
In the last section, you should have got an idea of what people were searching for on Google and also what searches led to purchases (via the ad bids).
The goal of that exercise was to find out what people were already paying for. That’s like mining where the gold is. Unless you want to take a massive risk, it’s better to let other entrepreneurs do all the heavy lifting developing the market.
So, where do you fit in?
You can now look at what’s available out there as a solution to the problem you’re trying to solve and do a better job.
I call this “out-executing”.
How can you out-execute?
|Being cheaper||Being more human|
|Being bigger||Being more niche|
|Being cooler||Being more fun|
|Being more visible||Being more relevant|
DARE TO MAKE SOMETHING UNMISSABLE
A big part of your product’s appeal will be you.
The more you put you in the frame, the more you can do with a minimal budget. The more you hide behind the curtains, the more expensive it will be.
You will be the reason people buy, the reason they come back, the reason they leave positive reviews.
If you thought that having a Lifestyle Business meant lying in the hammock in Thailand and outsourcing all your communication to an assistant in Manila, you’re in the wrong place.
That business idea is a pipedream for most people. Sure, you can make a little pocket money that way but then what? Until you create a business that puts you at the center, you will never be able to make a difference in people’s lives.
In the last section I talked about focusing on Usefulness. The ultimate measure of Usefulness is how much people will miss you when you’re gone.
Being missable has distinct business benefits:
- You can charge more, or at least you’re not involved in the race to bottom of price.
- You get noticed and remembered. And, in today’s economy, attention is your biggest cost.
- People tell you that you mean something to them in their life, and that can means a lot to you personally
All of these lead to you getting customers with the minimum amount of marketing spend.
Here are some examples of what being unmissable is:
- A newsletter subscriber emails you and says that “what you said changed their life”
- Someone comes up to you at a conference in tears because of that book you published 5 year ago
- A viewer watches the Youtube video of your train journey in Vietnam and shares it with a friend saying, “we need to do this!”
So, how will people feel if you stopped doing what do you?
If your answer is “they’ll say ‘oh well’ and go find a cheaper alternative” then you are completely missable. You don’t mean anything to anybody.
But, if they get pissed off because you’re not there anymore, or start emailing you saying “why?” then you’re doing the right thing.
The goal of your business isn’t to grow the numbers, but to become unmissable.
Remember, Usefulness creates Choice and Choice creates Freedom.
So, if you end up with a business where you have no Freedom, where you are constantly distracted by the firefighting of everyday problems, maybe you aren’t Useful enough. You probably have a business that’s completely missable.
But, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a missable business, it just means what you’re doing now is missable. Maybe there’s something you can do as well that can make a difference.
The missable ones are the machines:
- More people will miss Rockstars than Politicians.
- More People will miss South West Airlines than United
- More people will miss Starbucks than McDonald’s.
The “customer is always right” only disempowers the staff. They are always wrong. They are faceless. They hide behind their businesses.
Starbucks baristas, however, know your name, they write it on the cup, they’re encouraged to have conversations with you. We’d miss that if it was gone. McDonald’s is crowded, dirty and plastic. Starbucks is relaxed and twice as expensive.
You don’t become missable by being bigger, having better advertising or cooler products.
Starbucks is more missable than McDonald’s because it’s more human. And the good news is that even one-man Lifestyle Entrepreneur can excel at that.
Make more of an impact. Customer service is the best marketing. Your brand is the experience you give. Marketing isn’t a strategy it’s who you are. Be more vulnerable than the next guy.
What is it that you do that’s become part of people’s weekly routine?
- that weekly newsletter they look forward to
- that blog post
- that live webinar
- that event
- that weekly phone catch up phone call?
Find that one thing that people will miss and make it core to your marketing.
Maybe you’re hiding behind your product. Do people who visit your site know who you are anyway? If they don’t you’re already missable. Maybe it’s time to stop hiding behind the apron strings and get out there.
So, let’s talk about how you can become more missable.
1. Stand for something when you’re here (thanks, Seth Godin)
In other words, don’t start a business, start a movement.
- Brew Dog doesn’t sell beer, it sells a whole experience that encompasses local economies and grass roots activism.
- Apple didn’t sell computers but sold an idea that individuals could be creative and stick it to the man (just see their 1984 advertising)
- Starbucks stands for a more human experience. That’s how it can compete with the “big guys” e.g. McDonald’s. Baristas write your name on the cup. They talk to you, ask you how you’re doing. McDonald’s by contrast is a machine.
2. Sell the benefit of the benefit
Advertising speak now. Don’t sell what your product does, sell the benefit of that. Mobile phones connect people. But the benefit of that? You don’t get left out. You can share your life with other people (like I do on Instagram!). You can make friends and spy on ex-girlfriends (not suggesting you do, but these are all within the realms of possibility).
3. Be more human
Your smile is your logo. Your personality is your business card. The way that you make others feel is your trademark. Marketing isn’t a strategy, it’s who you are. Customer service is the best marketing. The experience is the brand.The most commonly visited page after people land on any site is “About”. Is your picture and your story on your website? If it isn’t start there, you need to fix that. If it is, then make it more prominent.
4. Trade 10,000 likes for a 100 loves
There is a big problem with being “liked”. If you’re liked, you might as well be invisible. 1 million Facebook likes may give you the illusion of being popular but it’s a vanity metric. How many people email you every week telling you what you did and how it made a difference in their lives? How many people come up to you at events and say the same? These are the metrics you should aim for.
5. Find your voice
If you don’t have any haters, you’re doing something wrong. If what you do is meaningful enough, some people won’t “get it”, and that’s what you should be aiming for.
Find your voice. Don’t edit your opinions or your lifestyle to meet the expectations of others. Nobody’s interested in average. In the world of Google and Youtube searches you have to be #1 in your own (small) category. Own that category and go to work on gaining a reputation within it.
HOW TO LAUNCH YOUR MVP
The next step is to launch your MVP to a targeted group of potential buyers.
There are 4 possible ways of launching your MVP, each with their own pros and cons.
- Launch your MVP to an existing list of newsletter subscribers to your blog relevant to your MVP
- Launch your MVP to a group of people you know. Could be friends, could be colleagues in your network.
- Buy ads on Facebook or Google pushing people to your a landing page where people can buy your MVP.
- Market your MVP on social media (groups on Facebook, Linkedin, Reddit etc)
In terms of effectiveness and ease of getting started, the options rank (1) best to (4) hardest.
- If you have an existing newsletter list of people who opted in for updates and the subject of the newsletter is relevant to your MVP then this is where you should start.
- If you don’t have that list, or the list isn’t big enough, then you should consider people you know. Do you know 100 people you know well enough to contact about your MVP. If you don’t, then you need to consider option 3.
- If you don’t have enough existing valuable relationships either on your list or in your network, you should consider buying ads to drive traffic to your MVP.
- If you don’t have much money or for some reason ads won’t work for your product, you should focus on marketing your MVP through social media groups. But, be warned, you need to have a history with these groups. If you turn up one day and start spamming the next, you won’t get anywhere.
Remember, your goal in all of this is to SHIP and Shipping means getting your product into the hands of a paying customer.
If you get one paying customer, no matter how much they pay, you have effectively achieved Shipping. Your goal now is to get more customers.