How do you move from a Customer First online coaching business to actually selling products online?
In the 3rd episode of the Forget Traffic! podcast mini-series, Shane and Hanne are going to show you exactly how to do that.
If you missed the first two episodes of the series, you can download the audio and read the show notes here: Part 1, Part 2.
In this episode, we lay out a plan you can follow to scale up your business. With the Customer First approach, we may start on a small scale, but as you'll see here, there's a longer term game plan.
Listen on the go! Subscribe to the ActiveGrowth Podcast using your favorite app:
What You'll Learn in This Episode
- How to take the insights you learned from your hands-on coaching business started in Part 2 to first product launch!
- Understand the difference between what your free and paid content should look like online.
- Why it's so important to generate a clear customer avatar and focus your product creation and marketing messages just for them.
- When and how to create your opt-in offer to start building your email list.
- When and how you should create blog content to support your first product launch.
- How to prep and execute your very first product launch.
- How to create affiliate partnerships to help promote your launch.
- Shane and Hanne's personal examples of customer first style product builds and launches.
- Why RAPID implementation is so important to successfully build and launch your first online info product.
- Why worrying about logos and domain names are just playing business and the last thing you should worry about!
In this episode, we are still talking about why you should forget about getting more traffic to your website, and instead, use a customer first approach, so get your first customer first. We want to attach this episode, basically we want to continue this episode right where we left off.
In the last episode, presented you with the free trial coaching method, in which, literally, in the span of a week or so, you can get some paid clients. You can get some people to actually pay you money for your services, or for the solution that you'll end up offering.
We're also going to continue with the example of a productivity based business. As a quick reminder, the end goal here is, I want to have my own productivity empire. I want to have my website, where I publish content on how to become more productive, where I get a lot of traffic to that website , people share my stuff, people comment, and so on.
I have opt in offers, so I'm generating leads, I'm building a mailing list of people who are interested in getting more stuff done, and I'm selling products. I'm maybe selling some books, I'm selling a course, or maybe several courses, maybe a mid-range course and the a high-end course, a more expensive one. All aimed, in various ways, at people who want to be more productive, and obviously have different products for different types of people for different niches and so on.
The end result we're working towards is this kind of business, where all this traffic is coming in, all these leads are being generated, all these customers are coming in and creating revenue for the business. Where we are right now is that we've got a couple of clients who are paying for one-on-one coaching on how to become more productive. I'm making in this hypothetical scenario, maybe $1 000 to $2 000 a month, so I'm not exactly balling yet, and we're pretty far away from having this whole information product empire.
What are the steps in between? How do we go from getting our first clients to building this whole information product business?
With very far, you mean that for the moment, we have no real website, no real blog, not one product to sell, and we're just doing coaching, right?
Exactly, yes. Literally, the only thing we have, if you follow the exact strategy from the last episode, the only thing you have is one landing page. That landing page doesn't even have a picture on it, it's one landing page with text, and that's it. Maybe you have an Excel spreadsheet with some emails of people you've talked to, and that's it. That's currently the state of the business, so we've got a way to go.
We want to build and information product. Out of these products that I'm going to end up selling, I want to start creating the first of those information products. I want to start creating my first product, obviously. I've got to start building one of these many products that I want to end up selling. One of the reasons we're getting these customers first to get these coaching sessions is, on the one hand, so that we can get paid while we build our information product empire, but also because it gives us enormously valuable insights.
The coaching sessions I'm doing here are part of my product development strategy. During these coaching sessions, I really want to dig deep with my coachees and figure out exactly what they struggle with. I want to figure out which of my interventions work, so when I tell someone, "Okay, try this strategy to become more productive," which ones work, and which ones don't work. If they don't work, where do people get stuck, and why do they get stuck?
In fact, I would be highly, highly interested as a coach in learning when someone stops doing something that works for them. Maybe I give someone a tip, and I say, "Okay, try to apply a single task. Make sure that you're only working on one thing at a time." They tell me, "This is great, I've been so much more productive," and then two weeks later they say, "I don't know why, but somehow, I'm back to having 15 tabs open and checking my phone and listening to the radio or listening to a podcast and doing my work all at the same time, and I'm not getting anything done anymore." That's really interesting. Why does that happen? The more I know about this stuff, the better my product will be in the end.
Not only the more you know about what works for one person, but the more you know about what works for everybody, what's more the universal thing that will work. If we're trying to get away from this one-on-one and this very personal coaching for one specific person, we have to figure out what's the key for everybody to make it work.
Yes, exactly. That's the kind of information that you end up putting in a book or in a course. Even if it's less universal, it makes your information better if you can say, "If you're this kind of person, try this, and if you're that kind of person, try that." One way to put this is that in these coaching sessions, I would want to apply extreme empathy, I want to really know what it's like to be my coachee. I want to know exactly what it's like to be someone who had this problem and what it's like to solve this problem. I want to get a really, really deep understanding of what's going on.
As this is happening, as these coaching sessions are going on, I start putting together my first actual information product. Here, I'm making what Hanna just said, I'm putting together all the strategies that I'm seeing working the coachees. The strategies that work for the most people, those I put in a book, and I say, "Okay, here's the recipe." I want to extract from the process I go through with my coachees, a self-coaching process, where I say, "Follow these steps to become more productive."
About this first information product, do you think this should be the ultimate course about productivity, or would you rather make a quick ebook, or a smaller mini-course to get something out there?
I would go small in two ways. First of all, the target audience, I want that to be smaller, so I wouldn't start with how to be more productive. In fact, to go back to this productivity product that I made a few years ago, it was for entrepreneurs. It was for self-employed people, so with that I'm automatically narrowing my target, and I can make my product more specific. I wouldn't do a general productivity for every one product first, I would make a narrower one, and also, I would make a smaller and lower priced product first.
The reason for this is that if you've never made an information product before, then you need to make sure that you don't put too much pressure on yourself. If you start trying to build the ultimate, how to become more productive online learning system for everyone, and you're going to sell it for $2 000, then you're going to be sweating bullets trying to make this thing happen. You're putting so much pressure on yourself to make this amazing system that's worth so much money to your future customers, that you'll most likely work on this for years, and possibly never ship it.
I think it's much better to have a more specific focus, and start with something like an ebook, sell an ebook, and sell it cheaply. If you feel - which is a very typical feeling by the way as a creative worker, you do creative work, you write a book, and you feel like - this isn't good enough, nobody will ever pay for this, I can't charge money for this, this sucks, we always hate our own creations. It's a very typical kind of feeling, and what you have to learn is that you can't put more content into your product to make that feeling go away.
You can end up staring at a huge product that you spent years of your life building, and you'll still feel exactly the same way, and you'll still not sell it or charge for it. What you need to do is, you need to make it easy for yourself to get over that hump. Make your ebook, sell it for $10, and then you get to learn that people do buy it and people do like it, and they go, "Thank you, thank you, this is amazing. Do you have more stuff? I want more stuff from you." That makes it much easier to build bigger and more ambitious, and more expensive products later.
The way you're saying to beat that imposter syndrome, because that's what happens - I'm not good enough, I don't have enough experience to build this product - is by starting small, making sure to get something out there, and noticing that people will pay you money, and that you can start also developing the skill of creating products, right?
Exactly, yeah. Creating products itself, of course, is also a skill. I've created a lot information products, and my first one wasn't great, I have to say. It really wasn't that great. I gave it away for free, and I think that was the right price. My first information product was a free ebook, that I used as an opt in offer. It wasn't terrible, but if I had sold that for $50, and I think rightfully, some people would've said, "Well, I'm not sure if that was worth it."
With practice, my first paid product, I didn't sell it very expensively, but at that point, I'd already made a couple of freebies, some opt in offers, and that product looked and felt good, it was high quality. By the time I was building larger courses and charging more for them, I was really good at it, so that's another reason why I think you shouldn't start with a huge and expensive information product. Give yourself the opportunity to put out some products and learn the ropes, and then by the time you've done this a couple of times, it will be much, much easier to do something big and expensive and make it actually work.
Okay. We are creating this first information product, maybe not the biggest one, maybe not the most expensive one, but we are working on getting something out there with the coaching that we are doing with our coachees, right?
Yeah. Another important thing about all this is timelines because you don't want to be planning to launch your product in two years time. Get this out there, get it done. That's super, super important. That's another reason why it's much better. You can get an ebook done in one or two months, get that thing launched, get it out. That's really important, we want to keep things going rapidly, and don't get stuck in this perfectionist cycle.
At the same time, again, we're working with these coachees, so we're getting paid to do this, and we're getting all this valuable feedback from them. Now, at the same time, as I'm starting to build this first product, I want to start creating a content marketing plan. I want to start thinking about, what kind of stuff can I publish on my website as blog posts, essentially? What kind of stuff are these types of people interested in reading about? What kind of value can deliver for free on my blog?
One of the things we got to do here is, we got to determine where we set the free line. Where's the line between stuff that is free content on the blog, and stuff that I charge for in my paid book and course and so on. I have a separate post and video about this that I'll link to from the show notes, so if you want to get more in depth information about this, you can go there. The way I see usually is, the free stuff is very concentrated and very specific.
One blog post is one useful piece of advise, one useful strategy, one tip, whereas, the paid product is the entire strategy that you apply to yourself and to your life. Something like a blog post is a couple of tools that you can use, maybe browser extensions and software stuff that help you become more productive. You introduce, here's a to-do list, here's this browser extension that stops you spending all your day on Facebook, and stuff like that.
That's a useful collection of tips, but the paid content would be very specifically, step-by-step, which tools to use, how to set them up, why to use them, and how this fits in with everything else that you recommend. That's this complete system, and you're not going to put a complete system in a blog post. For me, that's where I set the line. Useful, smaller tips and strategies, individual strategies, that's free, and the whole system, that's paid.
If we go back to what we talked about on the first episode, where we said, "Please don't start with putting out content with blogging, with posting on social media, with all that kind of stuff," here, we say that you can start creating content because we have those first customers, because we are working on that product, and because we know what kind of content to create that will attract the people that will be interested in the product that we're selling. Here, we are working on our content marketing rather than throwing spaghetti to the wall, and hoping that something will stick.
Yes, exactly. Something that we haven't really mentioned yet, but using this approach is a wonderful hack for something that's quite difficult in most businesses, and that is coming up with a good, clear customer avatar. That's one of the problems with starting with blogging. Like you say, you throw stuff at the wall and hope something sticks because you don't really know. Who exactly am I writing for? Is this something they're interested in, is not? Will this work? Will I get traffic? Will I get shares? I have not idea. That's because you don't have a clear customer avatar.
You could go to some weekend retreat to try and have someone teach you how to build a customer avatar, or actually just write for your coachees because you're directly interacting with all these real people who are exactly the kind of people that are in your target audience.
This whole approach is a wonderful hack to shortcut the whole customer avatar thing. Your blog posts will be great because you're writing them for real people and they're the right kind of people. It gives you this really streamlined targeting of your content and the stuff you put on your blog. You shortcutted your way past having to create a customer avatar.
Another thing we are going to to at this stage is create an opt in offer. The opt in offer is a free thing that lies somewhere between the free stuff that you give away on your blog and your paid product. It's some kind of a guide that is slightly more extensive than a blog post. I think rapid pace is much more important than anything else in creating your opt in offer.
Heres the trap that you're bound to fall into and that you have to avoid. To go, "Oh, my god, I have to make a free ebook as my opt in offer. This has to be amazing." You end up writing your book and it takes you months and that's your opt in offer, and you're still not selling anything. Scale that down. Think of an opt in offer as a really good blog post. A really good blog post is a good opt in offer, and you don't put it on your blog, you put it behind the opt in gate.
Another thing that I think is important, especially for opt in offers is, think about value density. You don't want to have value quantity. You don't want to have a bathtub full of value. Here, take my bathtub of value, it's free. If I'm standing down on the street shouting that, everybody will think I'm crazy. That's because people who will sign up for something for free, they're not quite sure yet if they trust you. They're still trying to figure out, should I spend time here? Is this good or not? Offering all this stuff is not useful.
You mean that your 120 pages ebook might go unread?
Exactly. That's exactly what's going to happen. People are going to go, "I guess that sounds good." They download it, they're like, "Oh, 120 pages, I'm going to read that later," - translation: never. What you want to do is dense, dense value. You want to really condense that and give something super valuable in a tiny package, and much more people will sign up for that than for a bathtub full of vague value.
I think a very good example of this, just to make sure to show the difference between an ebook and, like we said, a 120 pages ebook and something that has no value, is typically the list with resources is something that a lot of people are looking for and will opt in for, right?
Yeah. For example, the tools and software used to record our podcast. It's one page with, here's the microphone I use, here's where you can buy it; here's the software we used to record, here's where you can buy, and so on. Pretty simple.
The stage we want to get to here is, we want to have a product ready to launch. We want to have a website that has a few blog posts, maybe five to ten blog posts - it depends on how prolific you are at creating blog posts - and we want to have an opt in offer. Once that's ready, then we are going to launch our product, and we're going to start selling our product.
It's important that, again, we're not going, "Okay, now I'm going to blog, and I'm going to blog and blog and blog and blog. I'm going to hope for organic traffic, or maybe I get some SEO traffic. Maybe Google is kind to me this month and sends me some traffic, or maybe, hopefully, I get some social shares," trying to build that traffic. Eventually, I go, "Oh, I have a book. Does someone want to buy a book?" No.
The reason we want to have a blog post and an opt in offer is because we want this as a place to nurture leads. When we start selling something, most people will not buy it. As you know, on a sales page, even if your sales page is doing really well, and even if your product isn't very expensive, 90% plus of all the people who come to that sales page are not going to buy your product. You want them to have something other than leaving and never coming back to do. That's where lead nurturing comes in.
From your website, when people find your sales page and they choose not to buy, you could, for example, show an exit intent offer, an opt in offer, and get them on your mailing list, or get some of them on you're mailing list. When people are on your mailing list, you then already have some content to send them to, so you can have an automatic follow up that sends them to your blog posts.
You give people value in your emails, you're not selling them right away in emails. You send them an email saying, "I wrote this post because I saw people struggle with this, and here are some strategies to cope with it." Send them to a post, they read your post, and they get value.
This is lead nurturing, essentially, so this overtime builds trust. They see you provide good value, I always learn something when I come back to this site, and they want to come back to your site, and they may turn into customers later on. That's why I recommend launching with more than that one landing page we created before and one sales page, and that's it, and nothing else to do on your site. Having a bit of content there, having an opt in offer there, gives you a chance to do something with those 90% plus people who will not buy.
We're talking about developing a product, this will take a little time. Even if it's just an ebook and not an eight module video course, it will still take a few weeks to develop, probably. While you are hustling to get people to still sign up for your 30 minutes free course, you can also have people that come to your website and sign up for your free offer, even before having something on sale, right?
The thing is that, the moment that you then launch, you will have an email list and you will have people that could be interested in your offer. It's really the two sides. Once you have your product on sale, you can capture those 90% of people who want to buy, but even before, while you're working on your product, you can start building that list that you can then contact to send the offer to.
Yeah, exactly. Again, here, the goal isn't to have a list of thousands of people before you launch your product. I think I had something between 100 and 200 people on my list when I launched my first product. Actually, when I launched my first paid product, it might've been slightly more, but it was definitely under 1000, it was well under 1 000 people on my list.
Again, don't let this get in your way, this should be something you do next to building your product. You're doing a bit of this and you get these pieces ready, but you're not spending months and months building out a site and, like I said, create content around keywords and stuff, building up SEO traffic, you're not doing any of that. You're getting a few pieces in place before you launch your product.
When you actually launch your product, here's a couple of things. First of all, do a limited time offer. You can either launch your product and take it off the market after a while, and then re-introduce a new version later, or you can do half off the price for the first 10 days or so, and then the price goes up. There needs to be a time limit. One of the reasons there needs to be a time limit is because it makes it easier to find partners who can promote your product.
This is what I did, this how I got the ball rolling for active growth, which was called deifferently at the time. For my information business, this is how I got the ball rolling. I found a couple of people who were willing to be affiliates for my very first product launch. I reached out to a whole bunch of people and some of them said yes.
It's much easier to get someone to agree to do a promotion for you when there's a clear time limit. It's a special offer, it's not the kind of thing where it's like, "Oh, I could promote this anytime, so I'll think about it." It's the beginning of June, for 10 ten days there's a special offer, and that's when you can promote, and that's it.
All you need is a couple of good places, whether it's someone who will send an email for you, or whether you get some guest posts on good websites during your launch period that you can link back to your sales page. A couple of good yeses are all you need to get the ball rolling for your first product.
There, what you can do is, you can set up an affiliate program for your product, and so obviously, you can sell your products through something like ClickBank. You can sell it through something like Zaxaa, and in the show notes we will link to some resources you can use, some services you can use, so that you have an affiliate program built in.
That will be the goal. You get the pieces in place, you do a limited time offer, and you get a couple of people onboard, helping you promote this, that's how you get the first real push of traffic, when you sell your first product.
I want to share the story of how I sold one of my first higher priced courses. I didn't use partners or affiliates, so it's also a story to show you that, of course, it might've been better, and could've gotten better results, but don't let that stop you.
First of all, the price of the course was 497, and I did a webinar, so I had a list of, probably, less than 300 people for sure. Those were people that I got through the live event that I talked about before, people that did free coaching with me, and through the opt in offer on my website because I was creating one piece of content every week.
I organized a webinar, I sent it out only to my list and maybe in some Facebook groups, or something, but like I said, I didn't have affiliates, I didn't have partners. I had exactly 60 people who came live on the webinar, so again, not a really impressive number, but still, 60 people who were really interested in the topic.
At the end of the webinar, I made the offer for 297 instead of 497, if the people signed up immediately after the webinar. I like pressure when I'm creating online products, so this was a course that was dripped over time. It wasn't delivered all at the beginning of the sign up, but it was over six week, and I only created the first week of content at that point.
At the moment that I sold the course on the webinar, or that I asked people to give me money, I only had the first week in place. The other five weeks, I was planning on creating them on the go.
Yeah. There's nothing like a site full of people going, "Oh, there's new content this week, right?" to get you productive.
Exactly. There's a very funny story about me losing my voice and it becoming very, very short to get the content out, so I wouldn't necessarily tell everybody to do that, but if you know that you're procrastinating on this, this is a really good way to get it out there and to have zero excuses.
To go back, 60 people on the webinar, 15 people bought the course at 297. This meant that I earned - it was in euros - so €4 500 to create that course, which is pretty amazing.
That's pretty good, yeah.
Is this a crazy, super launch number? No, but is this the kind of revenue that makes you feel as if you can do this and as if it's worth your time? Yes, it is.
It's not just pocket change, for sure.
Yeah, exactly. At this point, we have the coaching offers going on, so that brings in money, and then if you have this boost for your online course, then it really feels like this is possible. You can build this empire.
One other thing, to finish and to tie it back in with the coaching and with the feedback loop and with making your products better, while coaching and while going through it is that I was doing a webinar a week over those six weeks. This was, again, an opportunity to really talk with the people who are going, for the first time, through the course, and it gave me the opportunity to make this course even better the second time around.
Yeah, that's really good stuff. I think another thing here is also that you launched a course like this, and at the end of six weeks, you've got a course that you can sell, right?
Those €4 500 that you made on launch is not necessarily the only money you'll ever make from this, and I think this a great way to build a course. These numbers are in the same ballpark as some of the numbers that I got in my early launches.
I didn't launch my first product and made $1 million, or something like that, which is what you usually read about. This teenage entrepreneur hacks the system, becomes billionaire. That's nice, that happens, but I think it's very important to see that you can really take this step wise.
You can really start by making a few $100 and then making a few $1 000 and keep stepping that up and growing that organically. In fact, you're much more likely to succeed like that than if you go for the Hail Mary, where you either get bought out by Facebook for $1 billion, or you're 50 million in debt because it didn't workout.
Yeah. I think it shows that you don't need thousands of people on an email list. You don't need to do a webinar, promote it with thousands of dollars of Facebook ads, hoping to have thousands of people online. It's really about those few people, those fans who know you, who trust you, who like you enough to give you money, right?
A few 100 is what it takes to get this ball rolling.
Yeah. Speaking of getting the ball rolling, in this model, what I want to do is that you do your launch, this creates initial momentum. Now, what you want to do is, you keep doing your content marketing, so you keep putting out content and you have your whole mailing list.
You have a growing mailing list of people, who many of them are now fans, because the people who are your customers, if you sell something, if someone buys something from you and that thing is good, that will turn someone into a fan much faster than if someone's just consuming your free content.
You now have a growing list of fans. Whenever you create new blog post, you send all of your mailing list to that post, which creates momentum for that post. You get some comments, you get shares, and that creates momentum for that post. Once people start sharing it around, it's more likely that other people will find it and also share it, and so on.
This is how you start building an audience. You start building an audience from the small core of people you've worked with directly one-on-one, of people that have bought your first course, or your first book, or whatever it is. You start, now, keeping that momentum and start growing an audience from outside sources.
At this stage, now that you've already made money from your coaching clients and you've already made money from selling your first product, now comes the marketing stuff that you usually read about everywhere. Yes, content marketing. Put together a content marketing strategy. Yes, SEO, even. Find keywords, try to get stuff ranked for relevant keywords in your market. Even, maybe, perhaps social media marketing, I'm not sure if that goes too far.
Maybe, even social media stuff. Also, creating more offers, creating more different products for different people, creating landing pages. Optimizing your landing pages, optimizing your sales pages, optimizing your funnels, building and scaling ad campaigns, all of this marketing stuff. This starts making a lot of sense now because now, you already have a business to apply this marketing stuff to.
You have a product to sell, you have something like ads. You have a budget to spend on ads, and you have chance of getting a positive return because you have a proven product that is super, super focused and super streamlined based on exactly the kinds of problems that real people in this market have, and the proven solutions that you've built for them.
Now comes the traffic stuff, and this really is the whole point of this Forget Traffic series that we've done. It's not that traffic generation never becomes important, but what I see is that traffic generation - on all these traffic generation strategies - is something that you read a lot about on marketing sites. Everybody talks about, but what I see is that it's often applied much, much too soon.
Like we said, trying to get traffic first, and then trying to turn that traffic into money some time later, is hugely, hugely wasteful, and most people fail at that, whereas, a customer first approach is something you can make work. It's like a hack, it's a shortcut to revenue and it's a shortcut to making all this other traffic stuff work slightly later in the process.
Slightly later is a very good term, I think, because everything that we described here, from getting your first coaching clients to making that product, it shouldn't take two years, right?
It is very much something that you can do in a short period of time that will actually make that much of a difference between wasting your time on getting that initial audience that will maybe never buy from you, or having a business and creating and building up that audience.
If you follow the Thrive Themes blog, and if you follow the Active Growth blog, and if you've been with us for a while, you've heard us talk about this before in various contexts. We often call this rapid implementation, and we are a little bit obsessed with rapid implementation, I have to admit. I think it's because we see this so often.
In some form or another, through Thrive Themes and Active Growth, we get exposure to and we work with many different online entrepreneurs and website owners. This is something we see so, so often. People spend so much time spinning their wheels and doing work that gets nothing done, that doesn't actually get them closer to having the business they want. I think that's one of the reasons, for me at least, why I'm so obsessed with this idea of rapid implementation.
I want you to follow this strategy and I want you to be in a hurry. I want you to be in a hurry like a lion's running after you. I want you to feel like you've got to get this done as fast as possible because I've seen how toxic it is to make excuses and put things off for later and wait for a better moment and try to make things more perfect. It really is a dream crusher.
People start out with a good idea, and they start out with this dream of building a business, and they end up wasting so much of their time. This goes through everything we do. I want you to be in a massive, massive hurry when you do this.
You might've noticed that we haven't talked about your logo or the colors of your website, or even the name of your business. Those things don't matter if you're not putting something out there.
Yeah. Also, your first logo is going to suck anyway. Who cares? No, honestly.
Your first domain name is going to suck anyway.
Exactly. It's going to be cringe worthy, you're going to regret it, and you're going to shamefully update it to a new domain name. I've done this twice on Active Growth, but that's a good example because a lot of people will agonize over their logo design or over their business card. You don't need a bloody business card, okay? Build your business first, and then print a business card.
My domain name is in a language that people can not talk, and has a dash in it. I think I made about all the mistakes possible and imaginable for the domain name, but people still bought the online course.
No, you can totally buy this domain name later. This wraps up our content about why you should forget traffic, and what to do instead. What we really want to do next is, we want to hear from you. I'm really curious to hear your own stories and hear you challenging yourself to get this done. I'm really looking forward to hearing your input on this.
Thank you very much for spending time with us on this podcast, and I really hope you'll tune in for the next episode.
Resources Mentioned in this Episode
- Shane's blog post on Paid vs Free Content.
- Affiliate Program links: ClickBank, JVZoo, Zaxaa, SendOwl
- Learn more about rapid implementation: Thrive Themes' RAPID Landing Pages Course.
Are You Ready To Start Your Own Customer First Business?
So what did you think about our Forget Traffic! mini-series? Do you think the customer first coaching method is an effective strategy to bootstrap your way to a successful product launch?
We sure hope so. Traffic is basically the last thing you should worry about when starting or growing your online business and after listening to this mini-series, you now have the tools necessary to build your own customer first business.
As always, we want your feedback! Do you have any comments, ideas or questions for us about Part 3 of the Forget Traffic! mini-series? What would you like to learn about in upcoming episodes?
Please let us know by joining the conversation in the comments section below or leaving an audio message here:
See you in the next episode,
The ActiveGrowth Team
P.S.: If you enjoyed our first few podcast episodes, would you take a moment to leave us an honest review on iTunes? Reviewing, rating, subscribing and sharing are the best ways to support the podcast while also giving us valuable insights to improve our podcast product!
Great first series! I wonder if you are going to cover physical products in the future? All examples in this series and the vast majority of your posts at Thrive Themes focus on consulting, courses etc. I have a feeling though, that people using Amazon FBA or their own online stores to sell physical products is a quickly growing segment of the market right now.
There are obviously many similarities between physical and non-physical marketing strategies, but probably also many differences. Are you going to cover this area in the future?
Thank you for your comment, Emil!
It’s true that selling physical products, and especially FBA, seem to still be trending. However, we don’t plan to cover these topics, since they’re just not our area of expertise. It’s also not the business model that I recommend. So, our focus is going to stay on digital products, services and memberships. That’s where I know we can contribute much more value.
Great series, Shane and Hanne! I’ve listened through all of them and got a lot out of it. The customer first approach is very useful and a nice lesson in bootstrapping.
It ties in very nicely with what you are talking about with rapid implementation. That is key in creating a successful business. I still get caught up too much in trying to create the “perfect” product, that I feel confident in getting out there. However, this really works against me as you’re putting way too much time in the preparation phase and all that time you don’t actually sell.
Taking some shortcuts and getting something out there that is sufficiently okay to sell is a much better strategy and you will be up and running with your business much faster. Tweaking and improving is something that can be done later, and the feedback from your first customers will definitely help with that.
Thank you for your comment, Michiel!
I know the feeling very well, of spending too much time trying to create something perfect. I made a video here that I hope will give you a valuable new perspective on this.
Love the podcast so far! So down to earth and real.
I expected nothing less…
Thank you very much, Tommy!
I like the podcast very much guys, but can we please put direct links for the downloads directly on the page and get rid of that bloody email opt in at least for people who already subscribed?
I entered by email at least 3 times before and I really don’t wanna do that again and every time I download something… :|
I am sure there is a way to remember that I’m already subscribed using cache or something.. Thanks
Thanks for your comment, Ion. We’ll try to make the downloadables available in a more user friendly way.
Being a small business owner, I want to “get them on the monthly.” Monthly payments, that is. As an MBA and original USC Entrepreneur, I’ve worked for 30 years to be able to create products/services that are my own. The Internet has helped make my dream possible. When the waiter is talking about how he got a house for $0 down, and then got a loan on that, and got 2 more rentals, I knew it was the beginning of the end for real estate. When people are selling a course on how to make a course, red flags go up. Did we ever get any data on “condo hotels?” No. How many successes vs. failures are there with online marketing businesses? I’ve been tested left and right, and I know I’m suited for internet marketing, and love the “seduction,” if I may say. But I don’t need the business. You Have to Have a Product. My Designer told me to stop offering Sales, so I stopped. Told me to get “me”out of the company and Brand. You have to own what you sell. When you get a website from me, you commit to 12 months maintenance, hopefully more. I’m not looking for 1-time customers! Look at Thinkific and teachable. Why is the owner of Thinkific going to San Diego? It’s not to to B2C marketing, it’s to help companies with their video and class production. Cleese of Python didn’t make most of the money with Monty, he made it making industrial films! Get real. I see “course creators” go to work a Thinkific and Teachable (that means they got a job). I know peeps always want more business. In the California Gold Rush, the suppliers make the bucks. Take your chance at finding Gold; you want a regular shovel, or the top quality one? Some of the Gurus make me sick. I was into Ericsson and NLP long before some Frankensteinian dude popularized it and overblew it. My family member who worked at a company with initials F-C wouldn’t do business with TR when he asked, too many lawsuits he had, and they didn’t want to be associated with his name. Anyway, I’ll pull people into something new, as people don’t want to change suppliers. No website? I’ll make you one and it will be “bitchin’.” Got a website? I’ll start you on getting more traffic. But to sell someone something that gets no results is a waste. Websites, social media marketing, AdWords, some are good for some businesses, and some are not. How many people lose money with F*ckbook ads? I don’t know. But we don’t know anyone who’s become successful from attending Guru seminars and “Forlorn” b schools. Come on! My friend to whom money was not an object paid J. Arbamsson his fee $23,000 back then I think, did what he said and the product didn’t succeed! Sorry J, I’ve read all the marketing stuff, and can parrot it just like you, but I won’t. These Gurus are Big Failures. Udemy has nearly ruined to online course market, like Groupon did to retailers. But I guess people will always fall for “making a difference,” or “changing the world,”and “living the ‘entrepreneurial’ life. One Warrior admitted that after several years, he became successful when he figured out that he could make money helping people make money online (MMO). Right, help people make money online.” I’m not the only one who sees the incestuousness of it all. I see “aspiring” web designers going to WordCamps! I’ll go to the Monterey Car Show where I live, and talk to people. I followed one company that sold a “Toolkit” for a year before I realized they just didn’t get it (I think they are not that smart, but they’re smarter than their customers). A successful associate of mine needs no website at all. So, it’s easy to fool people online, easy to look successful, still easy get get away with selling a course that 95% of people have wasted their money on. Thank you for focusing on more of what matters for results. I offer Strategic Plans, since that’s a logical place to start, but how many people run around with no Plan, with their heads cut off? A lot. Took me many years, and experience, to get near to determining what works and what doesn’t. And still I have to keep up. I was kicked off Fbook last month, didn’t like it anyway. I think I’m a lot like my ideal customer, and he’s not on Fbook, either. These Gurus’ “successes” were created in the past, and can’t necessarily be duplicated. They can’t and don’t tell you what they’re doing now to succeed. But they will take your money. I couldn’t tell you everything if I tried. The Emperor has no clothes, but people don’t want to see it for a bunch of reasons! It’s all marketing, I say. And I’m humbly proud (oxymoron?) to be an Internet Marketer. Thanks, Jeff
off to listen to your #3 of the Series.
Thanks for your comment, Jeff. Looks like this episode sparked many thoughts for you.
There’s definitely a lot of incestuousness in the “make money fast!” corner of this market – a corner I’ve always tried to distance myself from. And I’ve noticed that in online business, perhaps more than anywhere else, the vast majority of the audience are newbies. Simply because so many people get into it from the alluring call of “make money fast”, but quickly give up again. Not many make it through to actually running a business.
Loving the podcasts!
My question is around how you would see this working in a niche where you are not an expert?
For example, I suffer from problems with my feet and have an Amazon affiliate site where I write about the problems and link to the best shoes (as an example) to help.
But, I am not a medical expert at all – just someone who is trying to help others and make some money on the side.
How could I transpose the customer first process to a business like that? I am not sure if people would be willing to pay for something where I am not qualified to help?
Or – would you see it more as a way to research my avatar? Capture their email, get on Skype with people for 30 mins to hear their stories and find their pain points, hoping that I could then amass enough knowledge to create a product (or refer them to a product/service)?
Thanks for your comment, Wazza!
That’s an interesting question, yes. I think that people are willing to embrace the self-made expert as much as the credentialed expert. You just have to be clear about it.
Look at books, for example. On any given (non fiction) topic, you’ll find books written by people with PhDs and impressive credentials. But you’ll find about an equal amount of books written by people who are “street smart”. People who have personal experience and interesting stories. People who arrived at an unorthodox solution “outside the system” so to speak.
So, a lack of credentials doesn’t have to stop you. What you do need is a clear way to bring value to people. If you can convince someone that you can solve a problem they have (and the solution for which they are willing to pay for), very few are going to check your walls for Diploma.
I loved this series. It REALLY made me open my eyes and realize that I am doing the silicone valley approach. I have my website, opt in, paid product, paid coaching sales page all pretty much done. I have ZERO clients because I have been waiting to grow my IG account and create landing pages and blog posts for my email lists.
Btw, I am in the health and fitness market, mainly nutrition and mindset work. I want to help people reach their health goals through habit coaching where we focus on single tasks at a time for sustainable results.
I think most of us go on this route of building everything first because of the fear of actually having a client and being responsible for this person without having it all figured out.
I also got so caught up in all the information out there and advice on growing your email list and funnel strategy. Also, a lot of information about growing your social media account for more traffic. Ahhh !! Lol.
I’m going to move past those fears and start getting the ball rolling.
My thoughts are to shift gears and look for customers now.
What I have written is
1) not pressure myself into growing my social media account and creating “perfect” blog posts/products.
2) look for customers through friends, family and coworkers like suggested. 3) Continue to create/refine my content as I learn from my experience with these clients
4) Move on to putting my opt ins and products for leads
5) Then Worry about marketing and social media
My questions are
– Is shifting directions what I should do since I have a lot of things already created?
– If so, What do I do with what I have created already? Use them or just focus on a single landing page for now?
Again, I have the website (with thrive themes), opt in freebie, low price product (guide on creating healthy eating habits) and 1on1 coaching offers (Still need landing pages).
– What other suggestions do you have to get in clients other than a free coaching trial ? I’ve read so many things about free not always being the best way to start and others recommending it, so I am just looking for more of your thoughts here.
Again thank you for the podcast and info! I found it informative and quite hilarious (mainly laughing at how I’ve been doing everything you have said not to worry about) LOL.
Thank you for your comment!
First, I want to address and important point you bring up, about finding all kinds of advice on building your list, building your social media following, doing this, that and the other. I think this is a common stumbling block for entrepreneurs. There’s an infinite number of things we could be doing and there’s all this information about how to do all kinds of things. And of course, if you read a post or follow a course about social media marketing, it will be presented in such a way that it seems social media marketing is the most important thing you can do. Same for SEO, content marketing, video marketing and whatever else you may come across.
So, how do we deal with this? My suggestion is to deliberately filter all the information that comes to you. You decide what your top priorities are and then only things that help you move forward on those top priorities make it past your filter.
As an example, if I decide that I’m going to create an online course and sell it, that defines my top priorities. If I then come across a special offer of a super advanced ecommerce platform, plus live coaching and bells and whistles, I ignore it. Because my goal is not to do ecommerce, so it doesn’t matter how great or how limited this offer is.
The same goes for something like social media: you can’t pursue all traffic channels at the same time, so you decide on one or two. And then you ignore everything that doesn’t help you specialize in those one or two channels.
Now, to answer your questions:
1) “Is shifting directions what I should do since I have a lot of things already created?”
Be resourceful. Use everything that you’ve already created, that helps move you towards your goal. And drop everything that’s not in line with your goal. Just because you’ve already done work on something doesn’t mean you have to complete it.
2) I recommend starting with one thing you can sell. One funnel, if you will. So, that could be an opt-in freebie with a follow-up series and a paid product. Or it could be coaching calls and a paid product. What’s important is that you focus your efforts on making one thing work. Don’t dilute your efforts by trying to make several offers and several funnels all work at the same time. That will only slow you down.
3) Offering something for free is definitely not always the best solution. Even in the method we describe here, you’re only giving a free trial and the goal is to get paid as soon as possible. Another approach is to think in terms of small groups. Don’t try to get lots of traffic from everywhere. That’s a long path and it takes a lot before you get paid. Instead, think if there’s a small group somewhere that you can give value to and that could pay you for it.
For example, in my very early days, I taught a group of 5 people who were enrolled in a course for their business. I taught them some strategies for how to learn and memorize more effectively, so that they’d have a better chance of passing their upcoming exam. This is a gig that opened up for me through social connections. I never pursued it further, but that could have been the start of a small business as well. The point here is: I wasn’t trying to establish myself as a coach teaching learning strategies on a global scale. Instead, I found a very small group of people who had a very specific (and urgent) need and who were willing to pay me to help them out.
Look for small groups, meetups, small businesses etc. for whom you could create a tailor-made offer.
You can also do this online: can you offer a course to a small group of people in an existing online community?
I hope this inspires some ideas for you.
I love you guys! I’ve been following you for a while and also recently I’ve became a member of Thrive Themes community. You help me learn tons of new marketing techniques every single day that make so much sense…
My plan is to follow the series and implement every single one of it as I go… I am in a real estate business and my goal is to make it 80% online.. work in progress..
I have a suggestion for your Thrive Themes Blog- is there any way to have more subcategories to make the content more searchable or/and to have a way to save/make a blog post favorite, so you can go back to it later on? … Thank you for the value you bring to sole-enterpreneurs like myself..
Thank you, Violeta!
I like your suggestion about marking “favorite” blog posts and coming back to them later. That would be an interesting feature to try out.
As for categories: I actually recorded a video about how to categorize a site recently and we might revisit the categorization on the Thrive Themes site based on that as well. :)
This is great stuff… Thank you.
One question I have is does the free offer (like a really good blog post) get offered to our audience before our paid offer? Or does the free offer come after I’ve offered my paid product, like on an exit intent popup?
Wouldn’t I always want to lead with the less resistance/risk to build up my customer? This means I would always lead with the free offer first right? Then link my paid offer into the free one (like at the end of an ebook) or send out my paid product via email to my list of freebie seekers? Do I have this right?
Thanks for your comment!
In terms of a sales process, you’re right that the lower priced offer usually comes before the higher priced one and the free stuff comes before the paid stuff. So, if you have a free thing and a premium product, then you generally lead with the free thing.
However, in terms of priorities when building your business and website, we recommend that you focus on the paid offer first and focus on getting customers first. You can then build your funnel backwards and add opt-in offers that match your paid product and blog posts that match your opt-in offer.
Thanks Shane… Really quick. I can seem to find the “Customer First” Worksheet & Checklist found as a content upgrade on the Forget Traffic! – Part 1 show notes page. Can you help me find it.
Hanne and Shane, your first podcast series is simply SO great! Thank you very much for this extremely useful content. If I was all at the beginning it would surely change my life!
And, even not being at the beginning, I’d like to make parts of it change my life :-)
I am working as a therapist on a 1:1 basis and want to build online courses etc.
People come to me with a very big variation of problems/topics, and I find them all so interesting… so: how to decide which topic to take for building my online presence?
If I take, let’s say partnership problems as “my” topic, still this is an extremely vast terrain – every person has his or her very own story linked to that topic.
In the moment, my link between all the topics that people bring is the way to solve them. I use EFT (Tapping) as my principal coaching and therapy-tool.
This means: I don’t give advices (on wich I could base a course / ebook etc) but let people solve their negative feelings with EFT. When for example the anger is gone, the problematic situation changes for better or does not exist any more.
Can you give me your idea about how to apply your advices to my situation? People want to get problems solved, so (as it seems to me) I can’t make up my online business with a method but have to have a niche, right?
Thank you in advance for your input!
Thank you for your feedback, Susanne! I’m thrilled to know you loved our first series. :)
Your realization that there are many different stories and backgrounds that people bring to the table, even if they have the same issue on the surface, is very important. This is one of the things that’s so dangerous about creating something overly generalized and generic: the more generic it is, the less it actually applies to individual customers.
What I would recommend is that you definitely specialize and “zoom in” on a topic. Within that, try to find what your different clients do have in common. And for the things they don’t have in common, give them a “self serve” guide. That can be something like a survey or quiz, at the end of which they know which advice applies best to their case. It can also be built into your course content, where you give customized advice for different groups of people or different situations.
In short, your view of how differentiated the people you can serve isn’t a problem – it’s something you can use as a strength, instead.
Shane, normally I wouldn’t be writing this because I’m generally not a negative person. Nor do I want to come across as being ungrateful. You’re providing something of value … for free. It’s just not my style to “attack” something like that. In fact, I am really appreciative for all the great content you and Hanne provide here at ActiveGrowth and at Thrive Themes. But you’ve also asked for honest feedback so that you could tailor future podcasts to the needs of your listeners.
So, it is out of a sincere desire to provide that kind of feedback (and to get your help, if possible) that I delve into the waters of pessimism and negativity. Just know that I mean no disrespect. Anyway, here it goes:
This podcast and really the previous 2 have taken the wind out of my sails. Your entire premise in teaching how to get an online marketing business started via a customer-first approach is to do coaching. By means of coaching you can get valuable feedback so that you can build a better product, and maybe make a little money while you build that product. I get that. But I think you are speaking over the heads of people like me. Not that I can’t understand it, because I do. It’s because I’m not like you, and the way you seem to approach this is to say: “Hey, be like me by doing this and then you can be successful.” Unfortunately, it is just not reasonable for someone like me to be on the phone and coaching people.
First of all, I’m not a very charismatic person, nor am I especially eloquent or quick-on-my-feet. I’m much more geared toward structure and documentation. I’m quiet and shy by nature and don’t like to be the center of attention. The way you talk about this business makes it sound like people like me have no chance to be successful, even if we have a good product. I have a lot of knowledge about my area of expertise, though compared to others, maybe not so much. All I’m trying to do is to stay ahead of those that I’m teaching.
But my ability to convey this knowledge to help others isn’t really geared toward high-level social interaction like coaching calls, especially when my “performance” would directly relate to my business’ success. It seems to me that coaching would be something that you work up to, not start out of the gate doing. That whole concept just puts the brakes on in my head.
You, my friend, are gifted in your abilities to communicate clearly, especially on the topic of Internet marketing. You don’t search for words. You are eloquent and could likely hold your own against any Internet marketer out there. You’re believable, personable, and come across as an honest individual that really knows their stuff. You stand out as an expert.
Maybe due to those abilities and personality you’re unable to understand what it’s like to be an average person like me trying to get a business going. You seem to expect the rest of us to be capable of portraying ourselves in the same way that you do. That’s just not fair.
I’m an honest person that knows my stuff too – what little “stuff” that may be. But for people like me just starting out, it’s just not reasonable to expect me to be so polished and confident – and thus “qualified” – to be an effective Internet marketer like you. I know you’ve come a long way and the way you are now is not what you were like when you first started out. But that makes it all the more difficult for me to understand why you would teach newbies like me that the way we should begin is by coaching. I can see no quicker way to crash and burn this business.
It feels like you think the rest of us are equally capable of doing what you do. I guess that’s due to your humility more than your ability to see reality. In my case, I really don’t believe I’m cut out to be like you. Not only am I just starting out, but it really isn’t my personality to be so outgoing as if I’m some kind of motivational speaker. When built on the premise that we can all be “like you” and just start with coaching, makes this business seem unattainable. That’s kind of ironic because the whole reason I’ve attached myself to you is so I could learn how to be successful in this line of work.
I have the knowledge and the technical expertise to get everything in place and moving forward. But if the only way to get this business off the ground is to be able to pick up the phone and have meaningful 45-minute coaching conversations with people, I’m screwed.
You don’t need to post this publicly. You can respond privately if you want. But I wanted you to know where I’m coming from. I don’t want to be negative. I want my business (which I’m just starting) to succeed. But this and the previous 2 podcasts have made what I thought was possible something I’m no longer sure about. Maybe in upcoming podcasts you could focus more on what average people can do to get the ball rolling, especially if they are knowledgeable but not necessarily “experts” like you, and don’t have the people skills to survive such direct, one-on-one interactions with their customers.
Thank you for your time and I wish you well.
Thank you very much for leaving this comment. Feedback like this is very valuable for us.
I think I understand your problem very well, because I used to feel like this too. You know, one of the strangest things in my life is how these days, many people think I’m talented and smart and charismatic and such. It’s strange to me, because in my formative years, I was the opposite of that. I was the slow kid with no friends. I was the least likely to succeed. I was (and still am, in many ways) socially awkward, couldn’t initiate a conversation and no one would have ever looked to me for advice. If you had met a younger version of me, you would feel a lot better about your chances of succeeding.
Two things I believe could help you are this post, where you can see some examples of how I used to not be good at communication at all and the book Mindset by Carol Dweck. You’re describing a strong “fixed” mindset about some of your abilities and I think the book can provide you with some valuable insight on that.
I think you also overestimate what it takes to help someone with a coaching call. If you know your stuff and you’ve ever given advice to a friend, you already have what it takes. Of course, becoming an excellent coach is a whole skillset by itself, but for the purpose of what we’re talking about here, you don’t need a high degree of coaching skills. If you can have a conversation with a friend and you genuinely want to help someone, that’s all you need.
Now, I’m aware that some people can’t have a conversation, even with a close friend. I’m aware that there are people for whom even basic functioning in any kind of social context is a great challenge and for those people, the coaching method is probably not suitable. But that shouldn’t discourage anyone. The coaching method is not the only way to start a business. Not by a long shot. It’s just the method we presented here, because in our experience, this is the fastest way to go from zero to customers and revenue. And it puts you in the right mindset of getting things done right away (as opposed to tinkering away at a business forever).
For a counter example, check out the guys over at Authority Hacker. Most of what they teach is about how to build what is basically an “audience first” business – and they’re bloody good at it. It’s not what I teach, because that’s not what I specialize in. But the “authority site” model is a viable business model. As are dozens of other ways to start a business. So, if what we talk about doesn’t work for you, go find something that does. :)
Great Podcast. Thanks for all this information and advice. I’ve started to follow your advice and I’m already more productive than I have been in a long time and have found some momentum.
If this is the quality (very high) of your free content, I’m intrigued to know what your paid content will be like :-) Cheers!
Thank you, Clive! It’s very encouraging to know that the content has made a difference for you. :)
Thank you both and grrrrr, I started the first podcast at 11 pm and stopped at 5 am….Awesome stuff and for sure I will subscribe via iTunes and follow your advice :-D.
Hi, guys! I am totally loving your podcast so far. It’s actually prompted me to UNSUBSCRIBE from some of the other fluff podcasts I was listening to (not naming any names… heh).
But, if I’m being completely honest, the idea of starting with coaching calls or anything requiring one-on-one customer interaction scares the heck out of me. Not only because of my extreme imposter syndrome (as well as the organisation and time-commitment involved), but because I feel like it’d be an upward battle with the niche I’m in (crocheted/knitted toys).
But, at the end of the day, those are just excuses. With enough creativity and guts, ANYTHING is possible. I’m going to keep listening and thinking of ways I can use the information you’re both generously providing. Thanks again!
Thank you for your comment, Jennifer!
It’s great to know that you are getting value from the podcast. Regarding your fears: they sound like the kind of fears worth facing. Of course, a possible answer you can get when you start reaching out to people like this is that your product or offer doesn’t work. That’s scary and it’s painful to find out, but it’s better to find out sooner, rather than later.
Hey Shane and Hanne!
I don’t know if you even still look at these comments or whether or not you still respond to them but I’m hoping.
I’ve been a member of Thrive Themes for the last 6 months or so, before I found out you had this site and this podcast. All of the information you put out on Thrive has been invaluable to me thus far and I couldn’t help but think this would be just as valuable, and just as I thought, it is! I’ve just started from episode 1 and it’s been fantastic so far. I love how it is much more hands on and practical than other podcasts, although I do get value from people like Pat Flynn in other ways. So anyway, thank you for all you’ve shown me so far.
On to my question….
You had mentioned that for many people the coaching call wouldn’t necessarily fit their “business model” but that in many ways if you found a way to make it work for you it would put you above the rest as most in your niche would feel the same way.
Well, I’m one of those people.
My “niche” is helping those with trepidation about traveling to overcome those fears. For some it’s fear of flying, for others the cost of travel, for still others, it’s the fear of terrorism or culture or language or whatever else.
I’ve had many experiences with people who are afraid to travel. My fiancee, my friends, brother in law, my fiancee’s parents who are constantly worried up until the time we land, etc…
My passion is travel (22 countries and counting) and when I know of someone who has sometimes unfounded fears about travel I do what I can to help them get over that fear.
The reward, albeit selfish, is seeing and hearing the stories after they’ve returned and knowing that I’ve helped them to find that joy.
Part of what I want to do is develop a podcast where I have guests share stories of their travels. Some funny, some calamitous and how they’ve overcome them, and some “kindness of strangers” types of stories.
Although I know there are many many people who have fears about traveling, I feel like it’s similar to arachnophobia. They likely don’t have any interest in getting over that fear.
How would you suggest using this coaching method to try and decipher how to move forward?
I love the idea, and I really think it is a great course of action to try and narrow down what services/information I should offer but I’m not positive that the coaching method is right in this case.
As you said, it’s better to find your customer and learn what they’re looking for before wasting your time building a bunch of content for nobody. That is ideally what I’m looking for.
Thank you so much again for everything and any suggestions you have would be met with great anticipation.