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Don’t know where to start with products? Should you start small? Should you go big? This episode will help.

We break down the most sustainable order.

You want to get to something that’s big as soon as possible, but that doesn’t mean it’s where you should start with your very first product.

If your first product is too big, you can easily get overwhelmed and never end up shipping. You’ll end up biting off more than you can chew.

I recommend that you start small and ship a small product to prove to yourself that you can do it. You’re going to work out the kinks and learn a lot. You’ll make mistakes too. Better to do that at a small scale first.

Launching a small product first lets you iterate and develop processes. You’ll learn what it takes to market and sell. You’ll learn about payment processing. You’ll learn about delivery of goods (whether physical or digital).

All of this informs your big product. That’s the next step: maximize revenue. This becomes the fuel to all of your other ventures. This flagship product makes everything else you want to do possible.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with selling products and don’t know where to start, this episode gives you a clear order in which to approach things.

We talk about maximizing the value and return you get from products, whether to go digital or physical, implementing a sales funnel, nurturing leads, up-selling, tiers, and setting yourself up to completely fill out your product spectrum (that’s a teaser for to the next episode on Creative Ideas to Help You Quickly Get More Products on the Shelf).

Highlights, Takeaways, Quick Wins
  • If products don’t make you money, you won’t be able to continue doing what you do.
  • If you put something out, you can improve it based on feedback.
  • If perfectionism is keeping you from shipping, your “90% perfect” is better than what most other people are putting out into the world.
  • Start with something small, ship it, and prove to yourself that you can make and sell something that people will pay for.
  • A small product isn’t about the revenue, it’s about the process.
  • Develop your process by launching something small, then use use that process to create and launch a flagship product.
  • Your flagship product should have great margins, high value, and be something people will pay a lot of money for.
  • Add done-for-you services: Think about the work someone needs to do after they buy your product. How can you do that work for them?
  • Marketing for six months isn’t that much time in the mind of your prospective buyers.
  • Lower end products are entrance points and you need more entrance points.
  • Any way someone wants to give you money, you need to have something at that price point.
Show Notes
  • 02:44 Sean: We’re talking today about the order in which you want to approach products. With this episode and the next episode, I really want to help you get more products on the shelf. I want you to make more things and sell more things. You want to sell something that can fuel your future efforts. You want to sell something that’s going to enable you to continue doing something. There’s a lot of things you can sell that are cool and maybe people enjoy it, so it brings them in and that can lead to other things but won’t make any money. I’ve been on this money kick lately. I want to make sure things make sense for people and they can keep doing what they do.

If a product doesn’t make you money, then you won’t be able to continue doing what you do.

  • 03:59 Ben: I recently had a conversation with a young man who’s going into his Junior year of high school. He started an online business selling camping and outdoor goods. He’s just starting out and I’m impressed. He was wanting some t-shirts and wanting to know about product photography. I’m working with him and helping him out, but I told him getting a t-shirt might not be the best thing to invest in right now because he won’t see a return on it for a long time. I told him that if he can’t afford to make that investment, he should focus on the products he has that are more practical and make more sense for the people who come to his store.
  • 06:04 Sean: People selling shirts know that the margins aren’t super great, especially if you want to do nice shirts—tagless, woven labels, stickers, buttons, custom printed packaging, etc. That all adds up. $1.00 here and $0.50 there really add up. The next thing you know, you have $20 in a shirt that you bought in bulk. How much more can you sell it for?
  • 06:52 Ben: If you get cheaper t-shirts, the margins can be really good.
  • 06:59 Sean: It’s true, but do you want the shirt to be warn or do you want it to be in the back of the closet? Today we’re talking about doing this in a sensible way that’s going to allow you to keep making more products and stay in business. I think it’s going to have a digital skew to it, but it’s not exclusive. It could be physical or digital products you’re producing, but physical products have a lot more built-in costs associated with them. The margins aren’t going to be as great. I would say to sell a product that’s going to make you a lot of money.
  • 07:41 Sell something that will be lucrative, not just your favorite thing. I understand you want to make this product and a lot of people are asking for it, but if the margin’s aren’t good, maybe that’s not the first product you do. What’s something you can do with great margins? I’m thinking something big like a flagship course that you invest a lot of time in and that has a premium price.
  • 08:05 The reason I don’t think people should start with the big thing is because you can easily get paralyzed. If I tell people to start with something big that will make them a lot money and do it well, they could spend forever on it and never ship it.

Start with something small, ship it, and prove to yourself that you can make and sell something that people will pay for.

  • 08:42 Ben: Having done both big and small products before I can say that if it weren’t for some of the smaller things I’ve worked on and actually seen people engage with, the courage to do something big would be missing. The confidence you have in making the product influences the way you’re going to market it, the way you talk to people about, and how often you’re going to feel comfortable selling it. Anything you truly believe in, you should be talking about a lot.
  • 09:37 I definitely agree with putting out something smaller and proving to yourself you can do it. I think it’s important to put out a small product that still has demand. You’ve done your research and tested the market. It’s something your audience is actually looking for and you’re the person they’re going to go to for that. That’s an important part of the experience too—seeing it being taken off the shelf.

90% Perfect

  • 10:16 Sean: Start small and make sure it’s something people want. My recommendation would be to start small and prove to yourself you can ship something, because there’s so many problems on the other side of shipping. I should probably clarify what I mean by “ship.” You can ship physical products with a mail carrier, but I’m talking about shipping in the sense of getting it out there. It’s an expression that means to launch, publish, or get your product out instead of keeping it behind closed doors where you keep iterating on it. I mean ship something and get it out there. It’s not going to be perfect.
  • 11:12 You’re going to know all the flaws in it, but people can enjoy it and you can improve on it. You can’t improve on something that hasn’t been put out there. People are hungry for what you have to offer. This perfectionism a lot of us have is holding us back. Scott asked, “What do you think about the Reid Hoffman quote, ‘If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you launched too late’?” That’s a good quote. I like my 90% version. If you’re a perfectionist, your standards of perfection are unrealistically high and it’s causing paralysis for you, so be ok with 90% perfect.

If perfectionism is keeping you from shipping, your 90% perfect is better than what most other people are putting out into the world.

  • 12:18 Other people don’t have this curse. You think it’s a blessing! You might say, “I actually care about the details,” but it’s a curse. It’s keeping you from shipping. You can turn it into a gift if you allow it to be leveraged, so that you care about quality but you’re not paralyzed. For me, that solution is 90% perfect. What I think is a perfect version of something will take me five years to do.
  • 12:50 I have to lower those standards down to something that’s reasonable and allows me to get it out there. Meanwhile, I don’t see all the corners other people are cutting. What I’m putting out is going to be better than a lot of what’s out there.
  • 13:03 Ben: That’s if you’re a perfectionist. For those of you who don’t consider yourself a perfectionist, quality is important. You want to sweat the details and that might mean pushing yourself further beyond what you think is “good enough” if you really want to see it perform well.
  • 14:02 Cory: I like that Ben brought this up. There’s a lot of perfectionists out there that we speak to, but one of my best friends is not at all a perfectionist. I want him to put a little more care into things. Especially if we’re talking about a first product, you’ve got to make an impression.
  • 14:21 Ben: Self awareness is probably the important thing. If you’re aware of the fact that you’re perfectionist, you have to define what 90% is. 90% might be spending a certain number of hours on it, but no more, or 90% could have some kind of visual representation for you.
  • 14:48 Sean: The 90% thing is for perfectionists as a maximum. Don’t go beyond this because you’re going to work twice as much to make up that last 10%. It’s not meant for someone who doesn’t care about it. It’s not meant as a minimum for someone. You’ve got to have the self awareness to know whether or not you’re a perfectionist.
  • 15:26 Ben: If you’re not a perfectionist, be aware of where you would normally stop and say, “Yeah, that’s ok.” I would also say to surround yourself with other people who are perfectionists. You have to be able to take criticism and what I mean by that is, people who are looking at your work with a critical eye in favor of helping you get the very best out of your product.
  • 15:56 If that means you know your stopping point is at 60% or 75%, say, “In order to get beyond this to produce better quality, I need to produce at least this many more hours working on it. When I feel like I’m done, I need to push a little bit more to get to the threshold of quality needed to make a difference in this market.”
  • 16:29 Sean: Those of you that are perfectionists, keep it at 90% and I promise it’s going to be great. Go for great because you can’t attain perfect. You can always make something a little bit better and if you’re waiting for perfect to ship, it’s not going to happen. I want people, especially the perfectionists, to get something out there. Get something small out there. The small product is to help you work through the process. It’s to help you set up a product page, set up your eCommerce store, process credit cards, run your first refund, focus on delivery, and to help identify issues.

Focus on Quality

  • 17:38 Don’t cry about the fact you don’t have hundreds of orders right now. It’s very good you’re at small scale. It’s awesome if you got four orders in the first week. Do it really well. Take your time on the packaging and make sure it arrives well. If it’s digital, go through the process yourself. Order the product yourself and look at how the delivery experience goes. Imagine you’re not the creator of this, but someone who just purchased it. What’s on the thank you page?
  • 18:12 Is it a generic message that’s like, “Thanks for your order! We’ll be in touch soon!” Are you actually going to be in touch? Customize this stuff. What’s the next step? I have plugins on my site that allow me to customize the thank you page depending on what was bought. For some things, it could set expectations or give a welcome video. For Supercharge Your Writing or Value-Based Pricing, it’s an email to access the course.
  • 18:52 If you sent them an email and it’s important they go to the email for the next step, have an animated GIF on the thank you page. The email might be in the promotions tab, so the GIF can show you dragging the email from the promotions tab so the emails don’t continue going to that tab. Think about the experience. When the email comes with the digital good they bought, what is the experience like? What does the title say? What does the button say? Where does it lead to? Does it lead to your site with something embedded on it, or is it a direct link to the media?
  • 19:35 Ben: Minus the size of the project, the implementation and thinking through the purchasing process, it’s really very similar between larger and smaller products. I guess it depends on the scale of the large product. If it’s a course with several different things, there’s a lot more that goes into that. The things you know how to do for the smaller product, in terms of the process and how to direct people after they make the purchase, are the same things you’re going to do for the bigger one. You’ve not only shown yourself you can make and put out a product, but you’ve shown yourself that you understand the process and you know the right questions to ask when you make the big product and how to make the customer experience great there as well.

A small product isn’t about the revenue, it’s about the process.

  • 20:49 Sean: You’ve got to get in there and flesh out your process. You’re doing this so you can prove to yourself you can ship, to figure out what your process is, to experience the problems you’re going to experience, and to make the mistakes you’re going to make at a small scale. This product is just to get you going, the initial traction.
  • 21:26 The first big milestone you want to get to is your flagship product—the thing that’s going to be lucrative and actually make you money. Once you’ve gone through the process of selling something, you’ve worked out the kinks, and then it’s really a focus on the product itself, this big product needs to be something people really want, creates a tremendous amount of value, and can have a more premium price tag.
  • 21:57 Ben: A smaller product could actually be a piece of, or point to, a larger product. For example, if you’re doing a course like Supercharge Your Writing, maybe you’ve got the full course, but the smaller product you offer in the beginning is some kind of a guide, short book, or PDF. It gives them a taste of it. It’s still very valuable, but it’s enough to wet their appetite for something bigger.

Fill Out Your Spectrum

  • 22:40 Sean: When you get to this big product, this is your thing. This is your focus right now. Go all out on this. Before you can continue on, the next step is filling out your spectrum. You’ve got a small product that you’ve shipped, then you’ve got a big product, and the next step is filling out the spectrum in between. You’re going to launch this big product, it’s going to do well, and you’re going to improve on the mistakes you find. We have a lot of resources in the seanwes podcast backlog helping you launch a course, validate, price, and market.
  • 23:35 When you launch this, you’re going to be inclined to move on when you do increasingly well. Recognize that you’re going to be inclined to move on to the next thing or create more products—don’t do this yet. First, we need to maximize the value of this. First you need to maximize what you can get out of this flagship product. Before you move on, work on automating as many things as you can. Is there any piece of this that involves you personally, manually doing anything?
  • 24:17 You want to first fix those things. None of this is necessarily exclusive to physical or digital products, but the reason I said digital is because the margins are so good. This flagship product is the fuel so you can do all these other products you want to do. It’s so you can spend thousands on t-shirts and not care if you don’t make the money for two years.

Your flagship product should have great margins, high value, and be something people will pay a lot of money for.

  • 24:57 It’s doesn’t even necessarily have to be the thing you really want to do that’s not as lucrative. I think it’s smart to go with something digital, like the example of a flagship course, because it’s just going to give you more fuel. You have to see the functional purpose of this. You have to continue running so you can keep cranking out more products. Automate everything you can. Build systems around this to support it. Get a sales funnel in place.
  • 25:37 Start thinking about generating leads. How do you go find more people? You’re doing really good if you made 80 sales off a list of 3,000. You have 2,920 more people who could buy it on your list, but for some reason aren’t. Maybe they aren’t ready. Maybe they need more time. Maybe they weren’t interested in it in the first place because you didn’t do a good job of validating. Either way, at some point you exhaust the resource you have. You need to move beyond it and find other sources. Where you do you find these people?
  • 26:27 Who are the people you’re trying to reach? Where do they hang out? How do you get their attention? How do you bring them to your site? How do you get them to sign up? What kind of lead magnet is going to be attractive to them? When they sign up, what are you going to give them? After they sign up, what are you going to give them? After you give them that, what’s the next step?
  • 26:43 How do you move them along each stage of the Buyer’s Journey, like I teach in Supercharge Your Writing? These are things you need to think about and I don’t want you to move on from this big product until you’ve thought through this stuff. We’re talking about 300% or 500% additional profits you could be realizing if you maximize this. I want people to maximize the big thing before we go on to the next step.
  • 27:13 Ben: You’re not joking when you say to put everything into this big product. In order to get this automation in place and in order to get all those other pieces working for you so that you’re not having to constantly be babysitting this product, it really is going to take a ton of focus and effort.
  • 27:37 You really can’t afford to be distracted by other things or trying to get other things on the shelf. It’s not about the product, it’s about the process. All of these automations that you build in are things you can duplicate for future products. It’s really important to focus on that for your first big product and really get that right.

When to Include Bonus Material

  • 28:08 Sean: Nurture the leads you have. Up-sell! People bought the big product, what else can you up-sell them to? This is where I messed up. Learn from my mistakes. In the Community chat room, Pam said, “I like the way Nathan Barry sells his products and books. The main product is for sale, but then he creates bonus packs with additional valuable content or consulting at higher price points. Is that something you’d recommend for the first product I launch or should I stick with the product alone and think about bonus material after I’ve established myself?”
  • 28:50 Go simple with the first product. Just get it out there. This is just to prove to yourself that you can ship something, sell it, and build the process. The big product is where you want to bake in tiers—three tiers specifically—with your main product. I made the mistake of crippling the three tiers of my product. I took my main product and removed things from it to create lower tiers—this isn’t what you want to do. You want to take your main product and add value on top. Create higher tiers.
  • 29:30 Maybe your main product is a course and you could have the course plus additional resources like interviews with industry experts, templates, resources, scripts, or guides. Then you could have an even higher tier that includes all of that plus some personal consulting with you or a concierge service, where you do whatever work is necessary in your industry with this product for them. What work does your student, client, or customer need to do when they buy your product? When they buy your product, what work do they need to do? Think of the last purchase you made on Amazon.
  • 32:27 I bought a Black Magic Ultrastudio Mini Recorder. It’s an HDMI to Thunderbolt converter so we can stream live with our cameras here. An example of a concierge service as an additional package is to have a local technician come out and set it up for you. They could say, “Don’t know about frame rates? Don’t know about WireCast software? We’ll set it up for you.” This would be an extra few hundred dollars.

Think about the work someone needs to do when they buy your product and how can you do it for them?

  • 33:17 The answer to that is an additional tier you can create and that’s more revenue. Maximize the revenue from the big product before you more on. This is the stage I’m at. I’ve got a few things on the lower end and I’ve got a few things on the higher end. I’ve been purposefully trying to build this out for a couple of years where I’m focusing on the things that will produce revenue.
  • 34:20 I’ve spent months—even years in the case of Value-Based Pricing—building out these incredibly high value solutions for people. Value-Based Pricing is going to change people’s lives. It’s going to make them enjoy their client work, make more money, and make five times their return on their first project in some cases. Any time someone signs up for those courses, it would take way more sales of another product to equal the same revenue.
  • 35:03 One sale would be like dozens of sales on the low end, like a t-shirt. I’m only doing those because it sets me up to be able to work on whatever I want. Once you have money coming in, you have the freedom to make shirts, improve things that may not directly effect revenue but improve the customer experience. We want to be in a place where we’re sustainable as a business so we can improve the experience for our members.
  • 35:39 Ben: Those are all longer term investments. You still need to think about those things in terms of what’s going to produce a return, but the answer to that question varies from product to product in terms of how long it’s going to be before you see a return on that. In many cases, when it’s a longer return, the return is better. A good quality t-shirt that has your branding on it or something that speaks of the quality of your brand has a really good brand impression. That’s super valuable to your brand but it takes a long time to actually see a return on that.

People Don’t Notice Announcements

  • 36:21 Sean: It’s a luxury to be able to invest in that kind of thing. Step one: launch something small to prove to yourself that you can figure out the process. Step two: focus on the big thing you go all out on. Someone asked how long you should promote this thing and it should be six months minimum. People don’t notice announcements, they notice consistency. You’ve got to show up regularly and talk about it regularly.
  • 36:57 You can’t just spam it and say, “Go check out my thing!” Provide relevant value around the topic. If you’re launching a course on Value-Based Pricing, put out a podcast talking about finding clients or write an article talking about the value discovery process. Put out content related to it and talk about it consistently.

Marketing for six months isn’t that much time in the mind of your prospective buyers.

  • 37:28 They’re not going to notice something in a week. We’ve been eluding to some big changes to seanwes and one of the changes is that we’re putting all of the content—all the shows we’ve produced on the network—inside a seanwes membership. seanwes membership includes everything that is the Community membership, but seanwes membership gives you access to hundreds of records in the archive—written show notes, video, and audio recordings.
  • 38:20 There are people in the Community where you can get feedback on your projects, but now you can support what we do here and get access to lots of value. If it was your full-time job to listen to all of the shows, it would take you months to get through it and that doesn’t account for the fact that we come out with new shows every week.
  • 39:06 We have 10 free episodes that will always be free for each show, but there’s a lot more value that will be available inside the seanwes membership. We are significantly increasing the price of membership to reflect the added value. These podcasts have changed peoples’ lives. They’ve helped people start businesses, quit their day jobs, and experience that freedom. I’ve been realizing that I’m ok with us struggling as a business, but I didn’t realize I was actually doing other people a disservice.
  • 39:51 By having all of this stuff sitting there and people taking it for granted, they’re not actually applying the material. The value in the material is in the application of it. I recently bought a $1,000 program and I hesitated buying it because I knew I’d have to set aside time to do it. This program is basically a library or university that costs $1,000 a year. I thought if I wanted to go through all of this material, I’m going to have to dedicate time.
  • 40:26 I realized at that moment, by not actually putting a price tag on stuff, people aren’t valuing it, setting aside the time for it, and they’re not applying it. I was fine doing a disservice to myself and my own business, but I realized I was doing a disservice to everyone who could potentially listen because they didn’t perceive it as valuable. My plan was originally to give people a chance to sign up for a seanwes membership by the end of June at the current annual rate and we will grandfather you in for life.
  • 41:05 We’re nearly going to be tripling the price to reflect the new value. There’s a lot of technical stuff wrapped up in doing this and I realized we needed to give people more time. People still have to notice. People don’t notice announcements. We have to give them time and we have to give time to promote this, so I’ve decided to make this a three month campaign. People have a quarter of a year to lock-in and be grandfathered for life. After that, we’re increasing the price of the membership personally. August 31st is the new membership and new price.
  • 42:09 Back on the promotion thing—give six months if you can. We put ourselves in a bind and we don’t have that much time. If you’re launching something new, you have to give yourself time. I guarantee that even after talking about this in every single podcast episode for three months, people will still say they didn’t know about this. I did computer repair like a decade ago and I still get calls on my phone from people asking for computer repair.

Lower end products are entrance points and you need more entrance points.

  • 43:11 Lower end products are not about revenue, they’re about distribution and awareness. This is true for the most part, unless you’re a Fortune 500 company and you’re moving millions of units. You need more products on the shelf. Everywhere in between the low end and the super high end, you’ve got to get products there. Any way someone wants to give you money, you need to have something at that price point. It’s not about the revenue, it’s about an entrance point so someone can come into your ecosystem and see what you have to offer.
  • 43:56 And they say can, ” Wow, if my experience with this is so great, I can only imagine what my experience with that would be.” I used to repair PCs and was a PC guy, but now I’m hardcore into Macs. What is it that got me into Macs? If there was something I was a fan of when the iPhone came out, it was personal computing devices. That sounds absurd now that everyone has iPhones. When I was 13 years old, I was buying, repairing, and selling Palm Pilots on eBay and Craigslist. I got an iPhone in 2007 and that experience is what led me to Macs.
  • 46:04 It took three years and I wish I had gotten a Mac sooner. I went out on a limb and bought a Mac in 2010 but the iPhone was the entrance point. I had used a dozen PDAs before and the iPhone was way more intuitive. It’s how everything should be. That’s the level of attention to detail and user experience that Apple applies to all of their devices. That’s when I finally got it.
  • 47:03 It took three years and it clicked—that’s how they approached their computers and desktops. Now, I have iPhones, an Apple TV, Thunderbolt Displays, iPads, a MacPro, a MacBook, and Mac Minis. I’m all in now. They knew what they were doing. They got me with the iPhone. That was the entrance point. You need to create more entrance points into your ecosystems. If you’ve got a big product, now you need to create a small template or create a live training and put a price tag on it. Hopefully I’ve wet your appetite for ideas. Our next episode is going to be on creative ideas to help you get more products on the shelf.