You know that famous saying “Build it, and they will come“?
I really don’t like that saying, because it’s the opposite of what I believe creating products and services should be about.
While this saying supposes that YOU are the source that comes up with your product or service ideas out of thin air – and that once you put them out there people will just flock to you – my idea of creating the right products and services for your audience has nothing to do with building anything.
Well, not initially anyway.
Instead, I like to focus on finding out what the need is FIRST – what your audience’s BIGGEST pain point is – and THEN finding out ways you can create products and services that can help solve that pain point and get your perfect customer to where they want to be.
Find a need, then a solution
As an example, John didn’t launch EOFire with the thought in the back of his mind that after 6 months he would write a book (Podcast Launch) about how to launch a podcast.
Instead, John launched EOFire to provide his listeners with daily inspiration via interviews with successful entrepreneurs.
In the process, he realized there were a lot of people in Fire Nation who were also interested in starting a podcast, and because of the success he had seen with launching his own podcast, they were coming to him and asking questions about how he did it.
He didn’t write Podcast Launch because he thought it would be a good idea to write a book teaching people how to podcast. He wrote Podcast Launch because Fire Nation wanted it; it was going to solve a pain point that his audience had.
Below is a 4-step process you can start following today in order to figure out what the right products and services for your audience are.
1. Listen to your audience
One of the most important things you can do as a business owner is listen to your audience; they are the ones who are going to help you build a successful business.
But listening takes effort.
You have to ask your audience questions; engage with them so you can learn more about them; and set aside specific time to connect with them one-on-one.
You might ask questions in your emails to your audience, or at the end of your blog posts. You might ask a question on social media, or in an online community you’re a part of where your avatar is hanging out.
You might engage with them in the comments section of your blog, or at an in-person meet up or conference.
You might connect with them one-on-one via Skype after offering the opportunity to sign up for a 10 minute chat with you.
It is through listening to your audience and doing things like asking questions, engaging and connecting that you’ll be able to start validating your ideas.
2. Validate your ideas
Let’s say you have an idea for a product or a service that you’re convinced your audience wants and needs.
Because you’ve been listening to your audience – asking questions, engaging and connecting with them – you’ve heard some things that sound like pain points, and you’re sure you have the solution.
Should you start creating it?
Not quite yet… It’s important that you validate your idea before you sink your bandwidth and resources into creating it.
As an example, John always thought it would be amazing to create an Elite Mastermind for Fire Nation, because when he was launching EOFire he had a really tough time: he wasn’t surrounded by like-minded people who could relate to him and who could support him on his journey.
Because John was his own avatar, he realized there was a good chance that if he was feeling this way, a lot of others in Fire Nation were probably either experiencing – or were about to experience – the same feelings.
He had the idea to create a mastermind, but instead of going out and just creating it and then hoping people would join, he decided to create a landing page that talked about the Elite Mastermind idea – just to validate that he was right about there being interest out there.
A few handfuls of people reached out to him and were very interested in what the mastermind would include, and also, how they could become a member.
They were saying things like, “I would LOVE to have a group that I could turn to for support – somewhere I could go and know there are people there who I can count to help hold me accountable.“
That was really awesome news for John – with people signing up for interest, he had validated his idea! …but he even took it a step further and looked for proof of concept – just to be 100% sure this was something his audience would pay for.
3. Gain proof of concept
He emailed the interest list and let them know he’d be setting up 15-minute chats with anyone who was really serious about joining the Mastermind, and that weekend, he had about 40 chats with those who had signed up.
On those chats, he told people that the Mastermind was just being created, and that if they joined, they’d not only be a founding member, but that they’d also have the opportunity to help shape what Fire Nation Elite became.
When he hung up, he sent a confirmation email to the person he had just chatted with and included a buy link.
When he started seeing sales coming through, he had officially gained proof of concept for Fire Nation Elite: people actually took out their wallets and paid him money for it – before he had created anything.
4. Patience: it takes time
Fire Nation Elite wasn’t developed over night, and I really want to stress this here because creating products and services isn’t a quick, overnight thing that’s super easy to do.
John put up the opt-in page to gauge interest for Fire Nation Elite around November of 2012.
Roadblocks, a lack of bandwidth, a ton of twists and turns, and several months later (June of 2013 to be exact), we launched Fire Nation Elite.
Creating the right products and services isn’t about you having all the answers, or you having to go out there and blindly figure out what it is you should be working on building.
Creating the right products and services is about listening to your audience.
What are some things that keep coming up over and over again?
What are some of the common themes that your audience gravitates towards in response to your emails or your blog posts or your podcast episodes?
Once you have a list of ideas, it’s not over yet.
Which of those ideas are actually attainable for you, and what will you put in place to not only validate your idea, but also to gain proof of concept for it?
As I just eluded to, when John first had the idea to start an Elite Mastermind, there was NO WAY he had the bandwidth to actually make it happen. He knew he wanted to do it, but he also knew that it wasn’t something he would be able to create right away.
So just because you have an amazing idea, and you get it validated by your audience, that doesn’t mean you HAVE to start creating it right now.
Be very realistic with your time, because the last thing you want to do is start promising your audience something that you can’t deliver on.