In a previous article that chronicled one of my epic failures regarding a product I created in a niche (and why you should stop worrying about finding a niche) I had mentioned this article would be coming. Because there is no reason anyone out there who cares to read this and learn should have to deal with the same mistakes I had made.
Setting the stage
If you recall, I had created a guide or e-book bundle package that was sure to be a success. I thought the product solved a problem that people had, and provided a clear benefit – namely, their energy bills were too high and wanted to save money by cutting their bills. Seemed like a winning strategy to me, given my experiences. After all, the guide was researched, edited, modified, tested, and it truly did help me.
In other words, I followed the advice of almost every DIY home business course out there, popular blogs at the time, advice of people who made a living off working at home, and even my dog (OK, so he didn’t have too much to do with it…at least directly.)
How could I possibly lose? What could possibly go wrong.
In fact, just to show how involved I was in this venture, I went through several sales copies, rotated them in tests to see which converted better, and offered a premium price. (The pricing of your product is very important. Making it too low will have people question its value, while making it too high will scare off some buyers. There is a delicate balance which is deserving of another article entirely.)
And of course the website was professionally developed (I also did a lot of web development – which is a good skill to have if you want to start a home business that relies heavily on Internet sales) with a focus around the sales page. I advertised on Adwords, forums, and other sites, and posted articles to promote the page.
Kickoff…and let down
So when the big day finally came, I hunkered down with a nice cup of coffee and watched my analytics. And people did come. Not the flood of traffic I was expecting but in the coming weeks I would see a steady increase in traffic. And a few sales here and there.
But soon thereafter, the traffic began dwindling, and my sales shrank to near 0. In a desperate attempt to keep steam and momentum, I invested in more ads, articles and traffic sites and exchanges (they were very popular at the time). Sales did not increase.
Now I am a very analytical and borderline obsessive person by nature. So naturally I was interested in why this had happened.
I never had the “big bang” I was expecting at the onset.
I never had the continual sales I was expecting.
I went back to my guides and ebooks I had bought. There must have been something I missed. I thought I had crossed every t and double dotted every i.
Let the autopsy begin
I screwed up my product, my product launch and even my website. The problem was I was too proud to see it at the time, or I simply refused to see it.
When you create a product, or a website, or anything, you are in a very unique position, and sometimes it is very difficult to step back and take a different view of it – especially in a critical light. When creating the product you would be thinking “Wow – I would DEFINITELY fork over $50 (or however much it is) for this because it really is that good”.
Of course you think that – you wrote it.
The expert views, reviews or assessments were WRONG
When creating the product, I had reached out to several people whom I had worked with before and trusted to review the book. Each one had assured me they LOVED the book and concept and thought I had a real winner.
The problem is they were not my target audience. They were TRUSTED people, or clients, with whom I had dealt with in the past. It’s not that they would be less apt to criticize me (they might), they have blinders on as well. And they would also NOT be the ones opening their wallets so nothing would be on the line for them. Furthermore, they do not have the same issue of money being tight that my target audience would have.
Ouch. Lesson learned.
Failed market research
Everyone will tell you that whee, create a product, or even build a website you MUST do market research. They are not wrong.
The problem is I did the steps in reverse. I created a product that helped me overcome a specific obstacle or problem I had – high energy bills. This problem happened because my family had just moved into a house that was older and had older insulation, furnace, windows, etc.
My assumption was others might be having a similar issue – either with an older house or perhaps they just didn’t know how to save money on their energy bills.
So I created the product. Then I conducted market research to determine if the product was viable.
Remember the “blinders” from being the product creator mentioned above? Same concept here.
I set out trying to determine marketability and how well it would sell with a product already created. This gave me a bias, and it only set to confirm what I already believed to be true. This is called bias confirmation.
I was convinced the product would sell because I had created it, and other people must have had the same or similar problem. Therefore, the problem was real and the product would be successful.
Had I done market research BEFORE creating the product, I might have seen that perhaps most homeowners did not have the same experience as me, and perhaps it didn’t rank up there with major problems they wanted addressed.
All too often sales copies try to TELL people what their biggest problems are. In my mind, people know what their problems are. Your job is to help them solve those problems.
The website absolutely sucked at it’s job
This one hurts a little bit because at the time, I had a bit of an ego when it came to my technical ability of building websites.
From a technical perspective the website was sound.
The problem was, no matter how beautiful the code was, or how good I thought it looked, it failed at its primary purpose – selling the guide.
I had emulated the DIY guides and professional advice. That was a mistake.
Look, here’s what the experts of those guides DON’T tell you.
When you buy something online, you are in a sense putting trust in the merchant and the product. There is an art to the sales letter. Some are really good at it and can sell sand to someone who lives on a beach. But most of us are awful. An awful sales copy will drive people away fast.
Poor or subpar sales letters can be overcome by really good alternate content AND a sense of authority on the topic. In other words, name recognition and credibility.
This puts newcomers in the field at a disadvantage because chances are they have neither.
So what did this mean for me?
I should have added more content than an FAQ, contact page, and sales letter to my site. Even though my sales letter was good, people didn’t want to buy because they didn’t perhaps know me, or trust my knowledge or authority in the area. A good way to do this is to build up credibility and showcase your knowledge on your own site. Credibility doesn’t happen overnight – it gets built up in time. (And you have to start somewhere.)
Articles and posts on other sites are not enough, and here’s why. People who find the site and see the sales letter might not recognize the name because they might not have read the articles on another site. And if I direct them to that other article site to back up my claims – they’re gone and won’t be coming back.
And getting back to the sales letter – it’s length and detail should be directly related to how much the product is. Make the sales letter or page too long and people aren’t going to scroll. Fail to engage them (say, if you are talking about a problem that they don’t share…) and they won’t scroll. Make it too short and they will question the product.
The website, the design, and the sales copy all had these issues, which made it difficult to convert sales.
The problem with demand
I already hinted at this already – and it goes with market research. But essentially very few people wanted what the product offered. Either the problem just wasn’t significant enough to them, or they didn’t view it as a problem at all.
Having a product that solves what some would call a non existent problem is a problem…for me. Having people pay a premium for it is a near impossible ask.
Also, I had billed the product as a lifesaver for both homeowners and renters, in an attempt to cast a wider net and get more people interested.
Unfortunately this did not have the desired effect. It wasn’t because renters didn’t want to save money – it was even less of a priority for them because they didn’t own the property and were even less inclined to make changes even to their habits. Again, it was a problem they just didn’t see as a problem.
The product type
This one was a bit of a shocker to me.
I have always been attracted to digital products for a lot of reasons – easy to create, easy to maintain, no inventory, no shipping…
But just because I love it doesn’t mean YOU will love it (if you are my target market or audience). And even if you like digital media, it doesn’t mean it is the RIGHT media or product for the audience.
Let’s assume for a moment that my market audience really did view this as a big problem. That doesn’t mean they want an e-book to solve it. Perhaps instead of DIY information they wanted either a physical “miracle” product that could solve their problem, or perhaps be referred to a local expert (more of a service offering).
My point here is when you do market research, be sure to cover what type of product is wanted. Some of this has to do with the problem, and some to do with the age and tech savvy-ness of your target demographic.
In my case, my product marginally appealed to homeowners who were not young and would be less inclined to take a leap of faith and buy an e-book (much less a kit) that would be a DIY solution.
I can sum up the whole experience in a few phrases, on what I did wrong, and how to avoid it in the future
Know the real problem your audience has and present yourself as someone who can fix it for them.
Understand how they want it solved.
Then fix it for them in the way they want it fixed.
If you do that the sales will come regardless of what your online business is.