Please welcome a new friend to the blog today talking about a topic many of us don't want to think about – launch failure.  

Danny Iny is well known for his work starting Firepole Marketing. He knows his stuff when it comes to launches and I was eager to get him on the blog and in front of you – especially because he's got soooo much to share.

There are few days as nerve-wracking as launch day.

It's a day that can induce everything from sweating and pacing to hair pulling and nail biting. And, let’s face it, sometimes even outright fear and panic.

It’s not just that you’re bringing your product in front of the public for the first time, showing the world what you’re made of. It’s also the fear that something (or everything) might go terribly wrong.

What if you spent the last six months working on your masterpiece, only to find out that no one is interested?

What if you spent the last of your savings to finish the product, only to have no one buy it?

Or even more heartbreaking: what if the customers who did buy the product turn around and ask for refunds, because the product didn’t deliver on its promise?

It’s the stuff of waking nightmares, because the sad truth is that most product launches end up like this.

But what if it didn’t have to be this way?

What if, instead of fear of the unknown running rampant, you could welcome every launch with confidence, if not a grin from ear to ear?

And what if, through a process of carefully listening to your audience, you could rest easy in the certainty that your launch would be successful?

There is no magic pill that makes your product launch an instant success, but there is a process that can virtually guarantee that it will go over well with your audience.

And I’m going to share it with you today.

One Simple Trick Shows You Exactly What Your Audience Wants to Buy

The reason that so many product launches crash and burn is because they are built on an assumption.

The product creator knows their audience, often intimately; therefore, they automatically know what to build for their audience to solve their problems. Right?

Wrong.

Many product creators have preconceived notions of what their audience really wants and needs.

And, rather than doing the extra work of validating whether or not their great idea actually fills a need their audience has, they march on to production.

By skipping this vital step, making absolutely certain they are investing time in creating something that people will actually pay money for, many online entrepreneurs are very likely condemning their product to failure.

So how do you avoid this fate?

By listening to what the audience is actually saying.

Let’s look at how you might think about this conversation:

  • The typical product creator asks, “will this product solve a problem for my audience?”
  • Instead, you should first listen to figure out what problem your audience is facing. Then you ask, “what can I build that will solve their problem?”

These may seem like the same question at first glance, but it’s significantly different once you dig in to the true meaning.

The difference is that the first example is looking to validate a preconceived idea, while the second example is starting from scratch.

The product creator who validates a preconceived idea will likely fail, while the creator who starts from scratch has a much better chance of success.

So, how can you leave your preconceived ideas behind?

It’s pretty simple, actually – ask your audience a carefully crafted (but not leading) question.

If you had 15 minutes to ask me anything about [your topic], what would you ask?

How to Make Your Audience Think You Can Read Their Minds

The beauty of this particular question is that it’s so simple.

You narrow the focus by listing your particular area of expertise, but you leave the answer wide open for the audience.

This question can be asked in a couple of different formats:

  1. The first is through a simple survey, shared via your email list, social media or paid advertising.

This option works even if you don’t have an audience yet; you can share the question in a guest post on someone else’s blog, on social media, or anywhere else you might find your target audience.

  1. The second is to go even deeper by conducting informational interviews with members of your audience and/or the people who responded to your survey.

These interviews can be conducted over the phone or by video chat. During the interviews, you can ask clarifying questions about the problem they are having.

Once you have gathered this information from your audience, you will sort through it to figure out what it all means.

This involves taking the data and looking for clues about what your audience wants, based on any patterns in their answers. For example:

An entrepreneur is focused on productivity and time management. He finds that most of his audience is asking questions about how to make better use of the limited hours they have outside their day jobs. The sheer number of software options that are available to help them get organized also overwhelms a good percentage of those respondents.

The entrepreneur might then see a pattern indicating that his audience needs help selecting the correct software for them, and creating a service based around this problem could be an option for him to sell to his audience.

These patterns will be different depending on your specific audience, but the data you have gathered should always show some sort of pattern.

Quickly Prototyping Your Course

Now that you have gathered your data and discovered what you can create that your audience might be willing to pay for, you might think you’re ready to create it.

But wait!

You still have a crucial step before you can start creating that product: validation!

And, what’s the best way to validate that your audience will buy your product?

Answer: sell a pilot version of the product.

By involving your audience in the pilot process, they become invaluable in terms of both immediate validation and ongoing feedback.

To get this feedback, you will want to quickly create and deploy your initial offer so that you can iterate toward a more permanent, higher value training.

The basic outline for prototyping your course involves not just the information gathering we’ve done so far, but also includes a few more steps.

You will want to reach out to your audience again once you have figured out what to create for them to solve their problem, to make your offer.

If they respond enthusiastically, let your audience know that you’re going ahead with the offer. You will put this in the context of “this is what you asked me for, so I’m doing it.”

Anne also has some great tips for engaging with your audience before you launch.

Getting Paid Before You Even Create Your Course

One of the biggest perks of creating your offer in this way is that the process of validation means that you get paid… before you even create your product!

Rather than spending time and money ahead of time for a product that might not sell, you use sales of the pilot course as your final validation process.

When you reach out to your audience to sell them the pilot version, you want your sales copy to reflect that your course is the answer to the problem that they are having.

You will also want to include details like the price range (or exact price) of the offer, as well as the general structure and content that the course will cover.

As you are deciding on pricing, remember that your pilot should be offered at a discount, because the students will be actively involved in giving feedback as the pilot progresses.

We also have a set of free sales conversation templates available to make the process easier. These templates include email copy that you can alter to fit your audience.

The registration window for your pilot will be brief, and while it’s open you will stay in contact with your audience. As the window gets closer to closing, the urgency will escalate in your messaging.

Once you close registration, it’s time to start your pilot course!

Truth is, this a lot of hard work up front, but it’s totally worth it when you reach the end of your pilot with a guaranteed ticket to success.

Now it’s time to get to work creating that perfect product that your audience just can’t live without.

Because, let’s be honest: a launch day without tears and panic is a beautiful thing.

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Danny Iny is the co-founder of Firepole Marketing, and creator of the Course Builder's Laboratory. For a limited time, he's giving away a massive “Done For You” swipe kit of email templates that you can copy-and-paste to sell your own pilot course.