I have a problem: sometimes I’ll get a product idea and immediately start working on it. I can’t help myself. Here’s how it often ends up though: days or weeks or months later when it’s ready, I’ll share it with the world who, more often than not, responds with the cold silence of indifference. They don’t care about my new product or service or offer. And they certainly don’t want to pay money for it. That’s for sure.
Years ago I started a watch brand. I found a manufacturer, designed a website, the whole deal. It took about six months. I loved building it. I loved planning, prepping, hoping. Then I launched it. To silence. I ran ads to the site. To silence. I changed to a more organic marketing approach. To silence. I closed the business not long after. To silence.
Jump ahead to today. I had another brilliant idea for a product to offer my audience. A paid newsletter. But this time, instead of creating it right away, I reached out to my audience for their feedback on the matter. Here’s the exact email I recently sent out to them…
Subject: Is This Something You’d Want?
“Hey — I have a question that I would love your feedback on.
I’m thinking of starting a paid newsletter on top of my free 1-A-Tuesday newsletter. I’m thinking it would be $5/month and you’d get an extra email from me every Thursday in addition to my 1-A-Tuesday’s. Plus, I’d host a live Q+A call once a month where you could ask me whatever you want.
My question is: what would you want to see in those Thursday emails? Some ideas I’m playing around with are:
- Sending out another of my favorite articles. So essentially a bonus 1-A-Tuesday.
- Sending you my top-performing article for the week.
- Sending you a brand new article that you get exclusive access to for two weeks before I share it with the public.
- Something like I’d ask for questions from you beforehand and then answer one of them in the email.
- Or skipping the Thursday email altogether and just doing the monthly Q+A call.
What do you think? Would you rather see something else instead? And better still, is this paid newsletter something you’d actually be interested in?
Please reply and let me know! I’d love to hear your thoughts.
The first thing to note from the experience was that I received very few replies. Less than a handful. That’s telling in and of itself. Furthermore, from those that did reply, the consensus was a resounding, “Nope.” As in, nope they don’t want that product and they would not pay money for something like that. Their reason being that they already get enough emails they can’t handle. They don’t want to add more to the pile. Fair enough.
Oddly, I was actually happy when I received that answer. Because at least they gave me an answer!
They did not want the thing I was offering. Perfect! Yes! I can work with that. My biggest fear was that no one would respond. Then I’d be left with making a decision on no data. And I knew what my decision would be — let’s build it! And I would have, wasting hours upon hours of my time in the process.
Instead, through the honest messages of my readers, I was able to avoid the massive disappointment of yet another product launch flop. Crisis averted. But I was still curious. So the following week, I sent out another email. This time, asking them if they’d be interested in solely the Q+A call option (as previous responders showed interest in it).
A Second Time
Round two received fewer responses than round one, yet the answer remained the same, “Nope.” Tough crowd. I’m grateful though. Because here again, they saved me hours of work on something that no one wanted. I’m thankful for them, those readers who put themselves out there and responded honestly.
So, do I now know what my readers want? This time it’s my turn to say: Nope. However, I know what they definitely don’t want. A paid newsletter or a paid Q+A call. Which is great! I’m taking possibilities off the table and am thus getting a clearer idea of what they will want in the future. Even better than that, I saved many hours by not pursuing those two projects!
At the same time, I think of the famous Steve Jobs quote that goes:
“Some people say, ‘Give the customers what they want.’ But that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, ‘If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, “A faster horse!”’ People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. That’s why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.”*
That said, I’m not offering anything revolutionary here. I’m simply saying, “Do you want this new feature?” And they responded in kind. If I was dealing with something new, or something that needed to be seen or experienced before making their decision, it would be something different entirely.
Moving Forward with Audience Insight
In the projects that you’re working on, you can benefit from asking your potential customers, readers, collaborators, or colleagues their interest level before putting in the work. Yes, it’s a hassle to bother people with your own uncertainty. Yes, you’ll feel vulnerable by admitting that you could really use their insight. But the alternative is much worse: spending your time on something that no one wants.
By simply sending out a quick email, you can get feedback from your audience. Feedback that you can use to inform your decisions moving forward.
Sometimes it will be painful. You may not always get the response you’re hoping for. And when that happens, remind yourself of the many hours you’re saving. Of the pain that would have been much worse had you wasted six months of work on a failed launch.
Next time you’re on the fence, when you have a decision to make and are unsure if it’s worth the energy and effort, ask for feedback from those who it directly impacts. Spend an hour now to potentially save hundreds of hours later.
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