We’re taking a break from our regularly scheduled content to bring you this special report from Summit Evergreen co-founder and all-around entrepreneurial genius Keith Perhac! Please enjoy.
Hi, this is Keith Perhac. Today I want to talk about one of the biggest reasons that people CONSTANTLY tell my that they haven’t shipped their product – and what to do about it.
I work with a lot of clients who sell both software and information products. People don’t realize it, but the process for creating a software product and an info product is very similar. The hurdles you face trying to get just about any product out the door are exactly the same. In either scenario, it’s hard to convince yourself to, as Amy Hoy so succinctly put it, “Just F***ing Ship!”
The biggest hurdle is always the same: you think you have to put out something absolutely perfect in order to launch. But perfection is impossible, so you create this unreasonable barrier for yourself to overcome.
Everyone does this. Even my wife, who’s writing her first online course right now. Even me! I know what the issue is, I’m hyper aware of it, and yet I still let it stop me. Regardless of your knowledge or experience, I don’t think anyone ever quite masters the art of getting out of their own way.
Getting in your own way like this is basically you making up an imaginary problem for yourself. But it stems from a very real problem, a real mindset that comes from the real world. It’s this: traditionally, in non-Internet based businesses, you cannot easily update, fix or recall a product once it goes out into the world.
Build a car with a safety issue? Tough sh*t! Put your buggy software in boxes and mailed it out? Tough sh*t. Wrote a book full of typos and sold it to someone? Yup, tough sh*t. When you make real-world products, yes, you want it to be pretty perfect before you ship.
But in the world of Internet products, this is absolutely not the case.
When you send out anything, especially an online course, its a living product. It’s not set in stone. You can update anything you want at any time with very little effort on your part. There’s no need to worry about perfection when you can update things as you go.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t put quality and care into your product! If you’re not producing a quality product, people aren’t going to buy – and the ones who buy are going to ask for their money back.
What I’m saying is that sometimes it’s more important to launch, than to make something your magnum opus – especially if it’s your first product.
Many of us, as product creators, are still in a “physical product” mentality, that once we ship something out, we can’t update it, and people are ANNOYED when we do.
Think about it – when Apple releases the new iPhone, there are number of people who say “crap, now I have to buy the new model.” When a book puts out errata, the general consensus is “great, they fixed it – but now I have to print this out and keep it with my book.”
But this doesn’t hold true with digital products.
In fact, the amazing thing is, when you add or change content to your course or PDF, your customers are ecstatic. They just got new and improved content instantly, without having to lift a finger. They LOVE it.
I was working on a project recently, and one of the end users emailed me and said “The revenue numbers you included are completely wrong.” My reaction was – oh no! Let me look at that. We found the issue and fixed it and told the user.
Their reaction: “That was the best customer service I ever had!”
No one would ever say that about a car being recalled or errata being sent out for a print book. But on the Internet, updates are instantaneous, and customers are ecstatic.
There’s an element of instant gratification, too. You have a typo, a customer emails you about it, and you can email them back right away and say “Yup, just fixed it.” Boom. Instant gratification.
A popular marketing strategy for courses is based around this ability to insta-update. Course creators will give away extra bonus content halfway through a course. That’s so exciting to people, because they’re pumped to get more than they expected. The key is, they don’t have to do anything to get the extra bonus content. No proof of purchase, no filling out a form, nothing. They just log in to their existing course and get the new content. People are thrilled to get something more than they originally paid for.
What I’m saying is, it’s more important to ship something that you think is imperfect or incomplete, and update it as you go. You think your customers won’t appreciate that, but they’ll absolutely love it. The #1 barrier to shipping is that you think your product isn’t good enough, but that’s a huge mistake.
Perfection is impossible.
You can always make it better.
But you can’t sell or update something you never put out in the first place.
To create some amazing, lengthy tome as a testament to your brilliance may take years. Why waste all that time trying to write down everything you know and make it perfect?
It’s more important to see if people will be interested in what you have to say first.
So don’t write that 600 page tome of absolute knowledge. Write a single landing page first. Put it out there, promote it, and say what you plan to talk about, and see if you get a good response.
This is the most important part of the sales process—finding out if people want to buy what you’re selling. So go crazy! Make different landing pages! Promote them! See what different stuff people like!
All you have to say on your landing page is “I’m talking about X and I’m going to be building a product about this. If you’re interested, give me your email address.”
By getting people’s email and talking to them, you can see if they’re interested, what they want to learn, what they want to get out of a course, etc.
(I just talked about this on Jordan Gal on the Bootstrapped Web podcast. We did an hour about how to launch a product, and the big thing we both talked about is that what keeps people from shipping is this obsession with perfection.)
So forget the idea that you’re going to be perfect someday. You won’t be ready to ship later. You’re ready to ship now. You’re always ready to ship.
One other thing people don’t understand is that you know more than you think you know.
People, especially in the West, always look at the people above them. It’s no fun to look below you at all the people you know more than. For some reason, it’s more satisfying to see all the people who know more than you and to use that as motivation to strive to be better. That’s a very Western thing, this idea of the striving culture. Not everyone agrees with it, but the popular media definitely reinforces that we are all supposed to be pushing ourselves to be better.
What this means for you: When you’re looking above you, you don’t realize there are all of these other people who are at your level or lower. You’re looking up and thinking, once I get to their level, I can launch this product. Once I have their knowledge, skill, audience, whatever, I can launch.
This is crazy talk. You need to realize that what you know right now is valuable, and you can teach it right now. What you know at this instant can be taught to 80% of the market, whatever it is. There is a market to learn what you know. Even the people who seem like they’re above you might be below you in certain things. Remember that.
This is when the landing page really comes in handy. It lets you quickly find the market of people who want to learn what you know in a semi-automated fashion that doesn’t take a ton of your time and effort.
Brian Casel did an interesting thing in this vein. He made a landing page announcing that he was going to talk about a certain topic in a webinar, and he used the webinar to gauge people’s engagement. He didn’t sell anything, he just told his attendees, “I’m thinking about doing this as a course. Let me know if you’re interested.” He got feedback, had some conversations, and this simple effort validated his product idea.
If you don’t have an idea, sorry, I can’t really help you. You can’t ship without an idea. But if you have an idea and four bullet points, that means you can make a landing page. Go to LeadPages or WordPress. Stand up a semi-nice landing page that says what you want to talk about. Don’t ask for money, don’t mention prices. Just say what you plan to accomplish and what benefit people will get, and put it out there.
Promote it to your inner circle. Ask your friends to share it via social media or email. Do a few Google ads. This will start sending traffic to your landing page, and you can gauge interest.
This gets you three things:
- An audience you can pitch to.
- Validation of your idea. You can reach out to people and find out if they’re really interested or not. If people are signing up, asking questions, etc. you know you have an engaged audience and a lot of potential for your course.
- Instant content ideas. When people sign up, ask them the #1 thing they want to learn about. Magic! They’ll tell you what they want to learn, and suddenly you have a list of content ideas you can write about for your course, and you already know it’s content people want. A lot of people ask me, “How can I come up with more content?” All you have to do is ask what problems they’re having. People love talking about their problems. You can come up with answers to those problems, and turn it into awesome content for your course.
If you do one thing today, create this landing page. Especially if you’re scared to ship. Put your idea out into the world, and you’ll be amazed at how many people want to hear more. You’ll get exactly the motivation you need to stop waiting and start launching.