The vast majority of people do things the total opposite of what I'm about to suggest here. They think up an idea, decide to take the risk, spend a good bit of time, money and energy getting all their ducks in a row until finally one brave day in the future, they open for business.
I've done this too, and it's entirely backwards. It primes you for failure, enables you to procrastinate, rattles your nerves, and burns up your cash reserves.
There's a better way to start a business, or develop a new direction within an existing one.
Start Early, Fix as You Go
You don't need all your ducks in a row in order to start a business or go in a new direction. You need to get an offer out there as early in the game as is reasonable, because odds are, you'll get it wrong anyway and need to adjust things. You can try all you want, but you probably won't get it perfect right out of the gate. You want to spend as little time and gas as possible going down the wrong road before you figure that one out. Man! How many clichés can I pack into one paragraph?
Bottom line — You don't know what works yet, so get going with something in order to tweak it. Stop trying to be perfect! Excellence is a process, and you need some early guinea pigs - I mean customers - to get started.
Get Paid First!
You just need to be able to clearly line out what you intend to do and put the offer out there. Don't build the entire product, build a sales page.
When I started the Dream Ventures class, I'd had this prophetic word about being a business consultant sitting on a shelf. I had noticed my inability to stop telling people how to run their business, but didn't really know what to do with it until I got an idea of how to lay it all out.
So I wrote an outline, and put it into the best order I could, and wrote one module as an example. I didn't even do a website. I submitted it to someone who had an existing class platform and put it there. It's still there.
Then I decided on a price (quite a bit less than it is now) and decided on how many sign ups it would be worth for me to write all the lessons. Then I pitched it and exceeded my numbers goal, so I got started. I just had to stay one week ahead of the class with my writing, and since I was creating as I went, I could easily see what was working and what they were needing from me. And you know I was motivated because I already had a proven idea, cash in hand, and people counting on me to deliver! It would have been hard to write that much that quickly on faith.
The Least You Need to Know
- Just do it already
- You need a sales page (if this is an internet thing,) and a way to collect money.
- You don't need business cards, a fancy website or an LLC.
- Decide on a price, it might be low and you can advertise it as "introductory" or "for beta testers" or whatever feels good to you. Too low and no one will have confidence in you however...
- Decide how many sales you need to cover your expenses, your wages etc. What would be worth it for you to get this going and prove to you that your idea is sound?
A word about crowdfunding platforms
I know these are the cool thing to do, but I've never advised using them. The people who are going to contribute to your idea are those in your sphere already. Crowdfunding platforms make it easy to share on social, but I think you rarely get second hand contributions. And they take 8-10% in fees by the time all the charges are added up.
Del of Healing Frequencies Music started out in this class and needed to get paid first in order to make her first cd's. She was heading toward Kickstarter, but she only needed $1000, and if you don't hit that number, you lose everything that was contributed. If she got less than $1000, she could still get something done with that money and I was pretty sure we could raise the $1000 easily, just by pre-selling to the people she was already connected with and she did. That initial launch has given her the confidence that she can raise money anytime she needs it. She just has to be creative and put out a new product.
Always make your business pay for itself.
There are exceptions to the rule, I can think of one offhand, and that's when you need to get some training or certification first. That you may have to do on faith.
For everything else, "build it and they will come" is generally not a philosophy to go by. I have been there, done that, and I've really got to believe something is God to not set myself up to get paid first. I don't cough anything up out of my own pocket anymore. If it's truly a good idea, and you can present it clearly and well, you'll get the backing you need.
When the Idea Bombs...
A few years ago, I decided I wanted to start a subscription box club, you know, like Birchbox, or Dollar Shave Club. Except I wanted to do this super nichey thing via Freedom Flowers. I thought it was a fab idea and got really excited, kinda thought it out, threw up a sign up page and emailed my list. I spent about 2 hours on this whole process. I of course had my number goal in my head of what I would be willing to put this together for. Two people signed up. Two! And a bunch of them unsubscribed.
So I let this sit for a couple days, with the very real possibility of chucking it and issuing two refunds. I was just trying to check in with God and asking if I should do it anyway, with only 2 and then decided that was ridiculous and that He could get me the subscribers I need to not make this slave labor.
I started my own internal dialogue. "Is this a God idea or my idea?" I decided the way it came about was God. I certainly wasn't looking for one more thing to do.
"So is the timing now, or am I off on that?" I believed the timing was right. So then it had to be my offer...
"Is it possible, that these people have no earthly idea what I'm talking about?" (A common problem with visionaries.) Ding ding ding ding ding, we have a winner!
I wrote another email to the list, painting the whole thing out more clearly while giving examples of how it would work. Completely different response. Instead of unsubscribing, they started replying about how cool it was and people actually signed up. So I got myself a box club and it's been really fun to do, crazy significant, and has become more ministry than I expected. And now there's a facebook group and a book series and this whole big thing.
All that to say, if you don't get the response you need to move forward, it's not necessarily over. Check your gut. If you can't let it go, then don't. Find out why people didn't buy and fix it.
Your Next Steps
Decide on the minimum you need to do to get your prospective business out there. For example: If you're going to teach, come up with an outline for your idea, and a clear outcome that they'll have at the end of the class. (For example, this class takes you from no business idea or too many ideas to one profitable one.) If you can help it, don't completely invest time and money in your product until you've got some money in your hand. If it's a physical product, can you make to order in the beginning? Can you place a wholesale order after you see there's enough interest? If it's a class, you can opt to start it in two weeks from when you start promoting, which gives you time to build the first lesson. Decide what the minimum amount of paying people will make this worthwhile for you at what price and put it out there. If you have a maximum number of people that you want to take on as a newbie, figure out that number as well. As long as you are upfront about your time frames, people generally will be ok with this if you're just getting going. And if your numbers are dissappointing, you can always refund people and come back to your idea list.
If you can't get the minimum amount of people to buy, at least you haven't sunk a ton of time and/or money into your product. This will not automatically mean that your idea is bad. The problem can be either the idea, or marketing that you need to tweak. Your price might be too low, or it might be too high.
Apply your Research
Use your research from last week and make sure you are presenting it to the right group of people. Make sure you are speaking their language and presenting a clear solution to the issues that they revealed when you talked to them about it.
I'm including a template for your sales copy. All you have to do is fill in the blanks, and I have an example one that I filled out so you can see how this works. After you've filled it in, you can format the information however feels right to you. As far as publicity, don't overlook your own personal network of email and social media contacts, hereafter referred to as "the low-hanging fruit.
You'll need some way of getting people signed up, and collecting money. It may be possible depending on what you're doing to simply email people with the info, or post on social media and have them paypal you money. For a bit of a step up, to a one page website, you can get a free MailerLite account and it comes with a landing page builder that you can use to explain your product. You can make a buy now button in your PayPal business account, and use the code block within Mailerlite's page builder to put the button where you need it.
You might also consider running traffic to your simple site via Facebook ads. You can target very specific audiences for as little as a dollar a day. As attractive as that sounds, people generally have to "know, like and trust" you before giving you money. Those will be the people already in your network that have had at least a small amount of favorable interaction with you. When growing your business there are lots of ways to make that happen, but right now just to validate your idea and launch this thing, lets not ignore the people you're currently connected with.