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In today’s episode, we’re talking about the most common mistake academics make when building their online business.
The number one mistake is that people decide what they will create before they think about who they’re going to create it for, much less why they’re creating it in the first place.
Maybe you have this amazing course idea or this amazing membership product that you want to put into the world. You start outlining it and thinking about what it’s going to look like. You start recording and you take a lot of time to make it perfect before making it available.
Unfortunately, it’s almost guaranteed that you won’t succeed when you go about it that way. Instead, you should focus on why you need to create something or who you’re going to serve and then work your way forward.
Now let’s examine four reasons why the ‘create first’ approach is a big mistake.
Reason #1: Good products take time to create
It takes a long time to create the perfect product. This is especially true if it’s your first one. If you’re getting started, you may agonize for months on the outline. Then you spend even more time creating and perfecting it. Before you know it, you’ve waited five years to start your online business.
Reason #2: If you build it, they will not necessarily come
You’ve created something but nobody is buying it because you’re not seen as an authority in the space. You don’t have a community to sell to. Building that is the harder part. A lot of people create the product and then try to identify who it’s for and why it’s a good product. That’s not a very effective way to go about it.
Reason #3: You’re doing the easy work first
It’s easy to bury your head in outlines or start shooting videos that may never see the light of day. It’s a lot harder to talk to people, create good content, and put that content into the world. These are things you need to do to build an online business and you’re delaying them because you’re developing the product first.
Reason #4: Most things don’t work
I’ll repeat that. Most things that you create don’t work. Chances are that the thing you’re creating probably isn’t going to match what people need. The problem is that if people don’t buy, you have no feedback and you’re no further ahead.
How should you be doing it instead?
I like to recommend a three-step process.
Step #1: Choose a mission
With DustSafetyScience, my mission is to have a year of zero fatalities by 2038. That’s a big ambition. For GradBlogger, it is to help a thousand academics help a thousand people. That’s also a big mission.
When you are starting out, it’s hard to realize that you can dream big. If you don’t have a big ambition yet, create a small one. It could be to create an educational website that has 30 visitors a day or to grow your Twitter following to a thousand people.
Ask important questions like:
- What is the point?
- Why am I doing this in the first place?
- Who am I trying to help?
- Why am I trying to help them?
- In which way am I trying to help them?
If you answer these questions, you’ll be a lot further ahead in understanding what the product should be.
Step #2: Build authority in your space
The number one way to build authority online is by creating and shipping content. I’ve talked about content machines in previous episodes of the podcast. I’ve used them to build DustSafetyScience up to over 10,000 page views per month now.
Creating and shipping content is the single most important way to start building authority. You can also do guest posts, posting on LinkedIn, doing interviews, and help others in your space.
Step #3: Build a profitable business
Now you have a community that will tell you what it needs. You have insights that you can use to build the products that it wants. Use them to build a profitable business.
What are the benefits of using this approach?
There are five benefits to this approach, which is a lot more powerful than starting with a product and then trying to put it out there.
Benefit #1: You’ve done the hard work first
You now have a solid foundation you can use to rapidly expand your business. You know how to create content and you know what to ship because you’ve exercised those muscles. Now you can go on to create your products and build a profitable business.
Benefit #2: You can ask your community what they want
You can do surveys and social polls. You can use things like the Ask method by Ryan Levesque. In his book [Affiliate] Ask, he recommends that you do really detailed deep dive surveys. If you can figure out what your community needs and give it to them, then the products that you’re creating aren’t your best guess. They’re what the community is looking for.
Benefit #3: You can collect insights about your audience
You probably know your audience’s problems better than they do. At this point, you can really start to design products that can really help people because you have all these insights.
Benefit #4: You can prototype things much faster
You can do small batch sizes or come up with a small but viable course. I quote Lindsay Padilla and the Wealthy Teachers podcast here: we can do a minimum viable full membership, which is doing one on one coaching with a couple of people. You can test that whole process and then build a membership based on it. It’s better than starting with a membership before you even have the community.
Benefit #5: You now have the starving crowd
I’ve heard this example before and, unfortunately, I don’t know who to attribute it to. Maybe Dean Jackson or one of the old-time copywriters. The question was: if you had to start all over again in online marketing, what would you do? What would you want to have the most? And the answer was: a starving crowd.
Here’s the example: if you want to sell hotdogs, where would be the best place to sell them? It probably wouldn’t be in the middle of the freeway in the middle of the day. A great place would be outside a bar at 2:00 a.m. when everybody’s walking out and going to be buying hot dogs. That’s the time. You want a starving crowd.
Now you have the insights needed to build a product that’s going to reflect what your community needs and what they want. You understand it and now you’re in a great place to build a profitable business.
If you ever made the mistake of planning a product before doing the hard work of putting yourself out there, definitely let me know. Comment below or tag me on social media @GradBlogger on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.
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