Don’t spend a year making something. Do a tiny product first.
— Amy Hoy

Episode Summary

This is it! The Zen Courses Show is now Level Up Your Course. For the very first episode of Level Up Your Course, I’m honored to have Amy Hoy as our guest.

Amy is a software developer, web designer, writer, co-founder of Stacking the Bricks (along with Alex Hillman), and a course creator. Whew! She is here today to share her story and everything about her online course ‘Sales Safari’.

Most importantly, we’re going to talk about the V word: validating your idea and why you should pre-sell your online course.

Episode Highlights

  • 00:29 Getting to know Amy Hoy

  • 03:26 Rapid 5 Questions

  • 07:13 Amy's journey as an entrepreneur

  • 11:44 Do's and don’ts whenever you have an idea in mind

  • 14:37 All about validation, Why validation is backwards?

  • 20:27 Pre-selling: Is it good or not?

  • 24:22 Amy's pre-selling process

  • 32:25 Is there an X-factor in this online business?

  • 34:08 Steps to do your first pre-sell

  • 40:28 About Sales Safari and how to find out what people want

  • 43:49 Concepts about events, marketing and launches

  • 47:21 Amy's tips for online entrepreneurs about pre-selling

  • 51:34 Coming up: Exciting things to look forward to from Amy, links and announcements

  • 54:50 What's your why? Why do you do this work?

+ Episode Transcript

People like me create products that sell so that they can create an independent income because it's made such a difference in my life.

It's not that the ideas were stupid as side projects or for fun, but that they thought that they were going to make profitable well business of them and they were, it was never going to happen like dropping a ball and hoping that it would fall upwards. It was never happening.

“What Will my audience actually buy.”

how do you start with something that will sell from the beginning.

just because it is something that people need and will pay for and it's actually a good business does not mean as a good business for you.

"that's cool, I should do that. Everyone's going to love that." And that's how you get tricked. You're like, I feel really good about this. Therefore it must be good because it makes me feel good.

I think it can be exciting if you get excited about understanding people. I think that's interesting personally

lean is bullshit.

What you've actually come up with something is a treasured idea that you then are biased for and rather than running experiments in a controlled environment, you're asking people and when you're asking people, they are probably nice people and they're going to be enthusiastic because you're like looking at them with your sad puppy eyes and being like, "please tell me you want my idea."

People will say things that aren't true and they don't do it on purpose. And so that's bad. People try to hack this problem by saying we'll then ask them to pay for it right away, which is going to segue into pre sales.

you're putting people on the spot and that's very different than if you go through a marketing type pre sales type thing. And so again, that's an artificial type results.

Okay, now that I've taking up half an hour of your time and, puppy dog eyes at you for this time and I've got you to head over your credit card, will that scale to that business that you actually want to run. So there's a lot of problems that can get you into a situation where it won't be workable longterm.

I have seen a lot of people who do really great with pre sales because they're very good at sitting down and just doing the work. But I've also seen people who get in a horrible depressive slump because they pre-sold and then that like, take some momentum out of their sales because the thing they were working towards was the money.

they feel awful and they beat themselves up because they're late. And then it's like this horrific confluence of like psychological bomb.

I always treat it exactly like it's a product that exists. So I get really, really specific about what does it look like, what does it include? I write a full sales page with all of the details. It's not like sort of vague coming soon type of pre-sales page without a deep discount. I've seen a lot of those types of pre-sales pages.

if I were going to do a new course, it would probably have a live component like a three hour bootcamp or something. Then if something was not perfectly polished. A live course isn't perfectly edited.

But also people have a feeling that live stuff is higher value at the same time. So it is easier to pre-sale and it's less stress and you always have to pre-sale live events. There's no such thing as a non pre-sold live event.

I want people to avoid is to spend a year building something and then they launch it and then they make no sales whatsoever.

The number one failure is not launching anything and then number two is launching something after a long amount of time and then nobody buys it, which can ruin entrepreneurship for somebody for life, which is just really upsetting and unfortunate. So what I tell people is to do a tiny product first.

People like smaller products also because as you said, the product may not end up actually helping someone and the only way to find out if people will actually use it is to get it in their hands. And you can do that faster if you ship a smaller product and a lot of times bigger products that include everything don't get used at all.

You're not just doing one thing. You're not just producing a product. You're learning like 50 new skills at once. To give yourself a fighting chance.

You learn by doing and shipping and seeing what takes hold and what doesn't. And you can spend a ton of time just building something or planning something and at the end of the day it feels good and it feels like you're a business owner, but if you haven't gotten people to pay you money, then ultimately is not really a business. So do yourself a favor and just create something small. See if people will buy it.

Do what works. If it doesn't work, you can move on quickly. Without having spent six months, I'm doing the thing. Do you believe there's an X factor here? What I mean by that is that do you believe that there are certain people in our online atmosphere, the have an audience that will just buy whatever and they don't really have to worry about that aspect.

have to get a really clear outline of what the course includes and make sure that it's not too big.

start marketing it on your blog, by posting some tips or things that would lead someone to want more where that more is what's in your course. If your course is about principles, you should write about some specific things and you could say, and you don't have to just read a grab bag of tips for every scenario. You can learn the core principles so that you would be able to know how to do this in every scenario innately by blah, blah, blah. My course will be launching soon. Enter your email address for a discount.

False scarcity is bad because if you don't do it exactly right, it makes you look like a scammer.

Discounts that expired a certain time or only available to people who sign up before a certain date. Easy win and people love discounts and any special treatment. I would have at least five to 10 marketing pieces that you'll be able to drop and tweet and Facebook or whatever it is that you do.

ebombs educational content marketing. I call them ebombs like dropped a bomb on me.

You're going to want to have a date for your launch and you're going to want to work backwards from that date to figure out.

They won't take bothered to sit down and decide yes or no. It's not a hard sales technique to say, just so you know, the discount expires at midnight.

Its just as a nudge for people to decide whether they do or do not want to buy.

give people boundaries and people like boundaries and it's effective too.

when you write your sales page, you focus on the pains that you've designed your product to solve, really help them remember the problems that they're having. Start off with that.

If you're not a good writer, you can do ten times better. If you just focus on how the reader is hurting right now because everyone is interested in themselves specifically. See what people are saying sucks when they're out and about complaining about things or asking for help and work that into your sales copy.

talk specifically about what you're going to deliver. Because a lot of pre-sales pages that I see are really vague and then people don't buy and then they assume that means there's no audience for the product and everything is terrible and they're a shitty entrepreneur and they should give up forever. When in fact they just really did a bad job of selling and it looked religious sort of suspicious, leave vague, and so no one's going to invest in it. If you can't give people a picture of what they're going to get, they're not going to hand over their credit cards.

That's where the really detailed outline comes in. And then you could say, you'll get these six videos and they will cover these topics and they will be delivered on X date. And that's why it's a good idea to have partially produced.

Sales Safari is where you go out and find your addressable market online where they hang out in forums or on mailing lists or even slack chat rooms, user groups, twitter even. And observe what they are talking about. Complaining about asking about recommending to each other the words that you use and things when they don't know that they're being observed by you. So instead of filling out a survey, like what would you like to see on my website? What type of products would you buy? Which I think gives false information or untrustworthy information.

You are seeing what people really do when they're not trying to like generate business changing content. So people use stack overflow. What do people tweet about in the industry? What do they post questions about on forums? What do people post on dribble for designers? Are there designer forums? I'm sure that there are.

what do people buy? What do they complain about? What questions come up again and again, what are they missing? If you see a question that comes up again and again, you don't just necessarily create a [inaudible 00:38:50], that solves and answers that question, but what is the reason for that question existing repeatedly? Something is missing for that question to constantly come up. And then you can also see if they complained about products or say, this product is great.

People buy when they are confronted with a reason to take time to read the details and make a decision.

Not a lot of sales usually happen on launch day. Pretty common to get just a trickle or maybe even none. It doesn't mean your launch is a failure. Every time you send an email is another chance to sort of like poke people to buy something. Mother, major time for people to do sales is the end of a launch when something is going, bye bye. Whether that's an exploding offer as people call it, a bonus that you only get if you buy in the first number.

I think that I see a lot of people who don't set themselves up for an easy win and then they get really discouraged. And that's unfortunate because I've seen a lot of people who do really great work, really beautiful stuff or that's really helpful or really useful. And then they set themselves up for failure and they don't realize they're doing it and then they give up and I find that really dispiriting and I know that they do as well. Obviously it's about me though. Set yourself up to win as my number one advice. That's really the core of everything that I teach and write about because it's so easy to set yourself up to fail.

If you get a result that you don't like, don't assume that means that you failed.

I just took it offline and pretend it didn't happen.

Go out there and figure out what people are buying and then provide them something that will help them and you know, help them and build your list and then do a launch like we've talked about today so that you can have success. Because when you help people, it's the best feeling in the world.

we need more people who are focusing on their customers and producing products that really help people. Look at the tech world right now. We need more people like us. Like we want you to join us, right? Be customer focused, do nice things for people that help people and make money doing it. It's a great business and I think it's good for everyone.

set yourself up for success.

If it doesn't go the way you planned, that's a learning moment.

If you're going to be a business person, successful business, you have to have some innate curiosity of figuring out, okay, why didn't that work? And then doing the research, doing the digging and then try again. Try again.

There are three men working in a construction, stone masons and a man, another man.

Comes up to them and says, the first man, "What are you doing?" And he says, "Well, I'm shaping this stone into a rectangle." He says, well that's boring. Maybe I'll tell you this story as I go along and it goes to the second man. Well, what are you doing? He says, "I'm building a wall." And it goes third man. And he says, well, what are you doing? Those guys are boring to a certain fan goes, "I'm building a cathedral." And he's like, "Oh, okay now I get it."

While the first two guys are accurately describing what they're doing, they're shaping a block of stone into a brick and building a wall. What they're actually doing is building a cathedral. And I think that usually people tell that story or it's used in a book to be like, "Oh, think about the cathedral." But I think that you actually really need to think about the bricks. People don't want to think about the bricks. They want to go straight to the cathedral, but you actually have to start with the bricks. You cannot just build a cathedral, poof overnight. You literally have to start with a single brick. If you want to build a wall of bricks, which can then become a cathedral. And that is the origin of stacking the bricks.

So I think people want to jump first to this huge success and that's the stories that you hear and people don't want to read about the small successes in the small wins, but that is actually how almost every major success happened. And that is actually how you get to where you want to go.

Where to Find Amy

Enjoy? Leave a rating!

If so, please leave an honest review for the podcast on iTunes! Ratings and reviews help the show's rankings. Plus, they help me improve the show so I can bring you more value. 

Don’t forget to subscribe to the show on iTunes to get automatic updates. If you have an Android phone, you can subscribe on Stitcher.

Lastly, I want to say THANK YOU to Amy for sharing her story with us! 

Get Notified of New Episodes!

Enter your email address to get podcast updates. You'll also get free weekly tips for building better courses.

Image credit: Webstock via Flickr

Back To Top↑