Your first product
Your first product is key to establishing and learning a system of events that are involved with the product market. There is so much involved in shipping your first product. Doing anything for the first time is daunting, but you learn about new processes and even come across systems and components to that process that you would never have thought about from the beginning. One thing leads to the next, and one part of the process involves another that wasn’t accounted for but now needs to be involved. Think about the time you think you’ll need to ship the final product, triple that, and that’s the real-time it will take.
If you’re thinking about your first product and getting into the product market – Here are some of the things you need to think about when you’re making your first product;
- The design of the product itself, the marketing of it, the website landing page, the sign-up and email newsletter opt-ins, autoresponders to emails, and confirmation emails.
Then there is the payment processing side of products;
- Processing payments, refunding payments, deposits, taxes & VAT. 3rd payment management websites (Stripe / PayPal), merchant accounts, invoicing, coupons, discount codes, shipping.
And then there are miscellaneous things to think about such as;
- Customer support, the hosting, design / development of the product web pages, customisation options, checkout pages, the different plugins your need and then the updates for those plugins.
Suffice to say, this is only the surface of what goes into the development of a product. And say one thing in this system doesn’t work, more than likely the rest of the system falls apart. Problem with shipping? Then your products don’t get to customers. Problem with your payment plugins on your website? Then your customers can’t pay you. If you don’t have customer support, how are your customers going to leave feedback or contact you if there is a problem with the product?
Contact with customers is so crucial to your first product. It sets expectation as to how you deal with customers, each person is dealing with you on a one to one basis. Responding and delivering on your word in a prompt and orderly fashion is going to give them a great experience and show them that you are focused on providing them the best product and quality of service you possible can. It shows you care about your customers. This is all part of an experience you are crafting with your products.
You’re first product should be an experience.
Don’t be afraid to take a loss on your first product. Focus on the long game mindset and aim to make a return on your 2nd, 3rd, or 4th. Because there is no 2nd, 3rd, or 4th sale without a great first experience. You’re going to want to save up and invest in the long-term if you’re getting into products. That means saving from your day job to set aside for your first product launch.
Don’t validate your product by how many likes it got on an Instagram post. Validate it by asking customers what they are struggling with, what they want from you. Imagine investing all this time into a product and taking 6 months to complete all the components in the system I mentioned above. You got 20 people (who you have never seen in your audience before) on Instagram saying they would buy this from you. And when you finally get around to launching it, it doesn’t sell, you maybe sell 1 or 2 of those 20 people who said they would buy 6 months ago.
You can very clearly tell when you have a large enough audience to sell to them something you have created, even when it’s not a product ie. a design or piece of art. If people are constantly asking from you at a consistent rate that they want to buy something from you. Then this is a good indicator to create this design as a product. When people are going out of their way to tell you that they would buy something from you, this is a good sign. Anything else, isn’t a good indicator. If you’re unsure, or even asking the question about turning something into a product, then it’s not ready to be a product.
Saying you will buy something is completely different to taking your wallet out and swiping the card reader.
Digital or physical?
So how do you know what you’re first product should be? Should it be a digital or physical product? There are pros and cons to each.
- Pros – Physical products allow you to craft an incredible experience for a customer. Physical products mainly come in ‘nice-to-have’ formats, especially with artists/designers. Stickers, prints, pins, badges, t-shirts, mugs, coasters, key chains etc. They are a nice way to embellish something that is otherwise ordinary ie. a mug, which you can put your personal designs / art on. Physical are more personal items, something in which you can create a connection to the real world through your favourite artist or creator. It’s something that you own in real life that was made by real person that you enjoy the work of. It has a completely different feel, as in it’s tangeable, you can touch it, and generates a far superior experience than a digital product.
- Cons – Physical products can be expensive to produce, there is a lot of investment and shipping involved. Something can go wrong, things can break, things might be the correct size, the colours may not have printed correctly, anything. Anything can go wrong, and it’s easier to go wrong than with digital products.
- Pros – Easy to ship and easy to handle. The time that goes into digital products is the only real expense, other than the software expense it took to create the product. Zip it into a file and put it on your site (or 3rd party site) to download. Cheapest to give away for free too, you can create something relatively fast and easy to give away to people in order to build trust, ie. a font, or a guide. It can sit on your website indefinitely without weathering, unlike a physical products that take up space, or fade etc.
- Cons – Certain digital products may be incompatible with some operating systems, so testing may take some time, depending on what your product is, an app or piece of software, or plugin. Then the constant updates to keep it functioning on newer platforms as it was originally intended can be time-consuming.
I’m a firm believer of giving value away for free to generate an experience and build trust and loyalty in your audience. Someone has to trust you before they buy from you. How do they trust you? By giving them value for free. This shows that you care about helping them succeed. This could be in the form of a free e-book that helps to sell, gives them insights on how to do something or teaches them a skill that you have. This is crucial. Give them free value to bring them in and allow them to trust you, then have products for them to buy when they are invested in your brand.
There is so much value in knowing just one more thing than someone else.
You never know how much someone is willing to pay for that. When you give them that thing that they need the most right then away for free, they will attribute you with the value they perceive it to mean for them. And since this is the thing that helped them the most in their life at this moment in time, they will trust you and perceive you to be the most knowledgable and an expert in that field.
Do competitions to give things away for free, not just a social media competition to give a font or a monthly subscription away for free, but give away for free in the physical realm too. It may be expensive, but you could do a small run of products, a special edition, that you specially make for when you go to conferences and then give them away to people in person. This creates a connection and makes an incredible experience for someone. Not only are they getting a quality product for free, but they are getting it from you personally.
Show your process. Build a buzz around it and generate hype to the launch. Write about the process, make a behind the scenes video, write a series of blog posts about why you should buy this product and how it helps solve problems.
It’s easier to buy a ‘nice-to-have’ from someone who has an established name, they have built up trust and value over time. They have fans. Think about celebrity culture. The most well-known celebrity on the planet could put a dot on a t-shirt and people would buy it because it’s made by them. Success by association. Whereby, if you’re a person with a minuscule audience, and aren’t a household or even recognised name in your community or industry, then you are going to struggle with your first product by comparison.
The point is, if you’re a household name, you’re automatically in a better position to make a lot of sales from a product, even if the product isn’t very good. You need to get to a point where you have to build an audience through providing free value, and creating a large catalogue and body of incredibly prolific work. This comes with time, curation, and quality.
Products are about solving problems and creating a memory of your brand and getting customers onboard with your values. Create a connection and bond with your audience to turn them into valuable customers.