How to Make Sure Your Product Will Be Successful — Before You Launch
Pat Flynn rocks. If you don’t know who he is, this is a good place to start. Feel free to hit that link and then come back. I’ll wait.
Pat describes himself as the “Crash test dummy of online business,” with good reason. Over the past decade, he has successfully launched everything from ebooks, to websites, to podcasts, to SAAS products, and more. According to his public income statements, he typically earns over $100,000 from these products and services — every month.
Pat’s latest product is a book called “Will It Fly?” I read it in a single day, and it didn’t disappoint. In fact, it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. I reviewed it on Amazon and used the following headline: Incredibly Good. Is this the next Four Hour Workweek? That’s how highly I recommend it.
In Will It Fly?, Pat explains how to launch your product with as much certainty as possible, effectively stacking the deck in your favor for a successful outcome. These are the main steps covered in the book:
- Figure out what you want out of your business. This is genius. I’ve never seen an expert pull this out as a mandatory first step. So many people go into business with a product that isn’t a good fit for them. They build a venture-backed startup, only to realize they can’t stand the responsibilities that come with having an elected board. Or, they build a product that requires heavy travel, when they would have preferred staying in one place. Determine the lifestyle you want first. Then build a business around that. Otherwise, you’re far more likely to get frustrated and burn out.
- Identify an unfair advantage. You need to have a superpower. That might sound overwhelming, but don’t let it scare you. It doesn’t have to be incredibly awe-inspiring. You just need a slight edge. Pat started off by creating a study guide for a test called the LEED exam (Similar to the BAR exam, but for the field of architecture vs. law). He was well equipped to do this because he studied architecture and passed the test himself. He also had an edge because he could present himself to clients in a very personable way. “Hey, I’ve been through this. I’m just like you.” This was his super power. It’s not fancy, but it gave customers a sense of trust, which led to sales. This mostly comes down to doing what you’re good at. Play to your strengths and use your existing knowledge to your advantage.
- Create a mind map. This is a common technique that will get every aspect of your idea out of your head, and into a more palatable form. I’ve used this process for writing books, but it works for any product. The mind map ultimately allows you to distill your product into a one-page description, a paragraph, and finally — a single sentence. All of these exercises are important for focusing your concept and defining a clear value proposition.
- Share your idea with prospective customers and gather feedback. This sounds obvious, but very few people do it. Pat gives great advice on how to do it effectively. He tells the story of interacting with actual food truck owners before settling on the final idea for Foodtruckr.com, one of his online businesses that pulls in tens of thousands of dollars.
- Research and Analysis — Create a market map. To improve your chances of success, you should dig into the market to see what’s already there. Pat suggests looking at three different categories: Places, People, and Products. He includes some incredibly insightful techniques for how to find this information online (right down to the specific advanced search inquiries you can use to surface the most relevant and useful material).
- Understand and engage with your customer. Pat uses the acronym “P.L.A.N” for this step, which stands for: Problems, Language, Anecdotes, and Needs. Going through this exercise will get you into the mind of your customer, so you can provide them with the best product possible. Again, there some amazing tips for how to go about doing this. One of my favorites is typing “How do I” site: [site URL] to generate problems people are having with a particular product or service. These results can then point you in a direction for how to solve that specific issue.
- Validate your idea by pre-selling. There are a few parts to this step: (1) Get in front of an audience, (2) Hyper-target that audience, (3) Interact and share your solution, and (4) Ask for the transaction. Essentially, you’re trying to find the people who really want your product based on your prior research. After you do that, you should ask them to pay up front so you can build the product and deliver it to them. This might sound crazy, but it works (if you do it correctly). Pat provides several case studies to show exactly how people worked through these steps to validate their idea, and ensure success before even launching (or building the product).
There are two main takeaways from this book: (1) Doing prep work is underrated. When you see a successful product launch, there’s usually a bunch of stuff happening behind the scenes that contributed to the success. (2) Your product idea will change. As you work through the steps above, your concept will morph, which is a a good thing. You might find that your original idea won’t fly, or isn’t well suited for your lifestyle. That’s okay. The goal of Will It Fly? can be found in the byline: “How to Test Your Next Business Idea So You Don’t Waste Your Time and Money.” Your future success or failure can be identified in the testing stages. Why waste your time and money on something that won’t work?
As I mentioned, this is one of the best books I’ve ever read. It’s a rare “life changer.” Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy. I’ll see you in the clouds.