How I Bootstrapped a New Product in 28 Days with Drip (Plus 7 Steps to Validate Your Next Product and sell it even before create it)
How I Bootstrapped a New Product in 28 Days with Drip (Plus 7 Steps to Validate Your Next Product and sell it even before create it)
Summary: The step-by-step guide on how we validated a product before we created it in less than 28 days, invested less than $147 creating it and built a community of raving fans during the process – including repeatable 7 steps you need to replicate the results and all the tools we used.
“We must learn what customers really want, not what they say they want or what we think they should want.” – Eric Ries, Lean Startup
“Opening a dialogue with your potential clients is an example of what I call “the shot across the bow,” and it’s a great way to start your pre-launch campaign.” – Jeff Walker, Launch
Who is it for and who is it not for
This guide is for those marketers and Business Owners who want to make sure their idea sells before they invest a lot of time and money creating it.
This guide is not for you if you want to sell the same product for everyone (without segmenting, like most Mailchimp user startups). This post is not for you if you believe development comes first, and marketing and sales come second. If you prefer long secretly hidden development process in the bunker – this guide won’t help you, sorry.
Why read this post?
You’ll know everything you need to pre-sell and validate any business or product idea with using Drip even before you create the actual product itself.
No need for investors. No need for wait for long before your product goes live. Let the market tell you what they really need and want – and let them pay you to create it. They will love you for doing so. Sounds great? Let the journey begin.
Additional Benefits of reading this posts
- You save a massive amount of time because I outline the way step-by-step.
- You prevent a massive failure because instead of investing into product development, you enable your market to pay the product creation costs.
- You won’t guess what the market needs and willing to pay for because you simply ask them beforehand therefore you confidently know it.
- You build a great community of raving fans which is a great value for them and also a very positive motivation for you to keep going.
- You stay authentic during the process and you never come across sleazy or pushy.
- You get testimonials during the process so conversions will be higher by the time the product is created. How awesome is that?
- You learn a repeatable process. It works every time you want to enter a new market or create a new product.
Our Success Story – Owning Node.js Early Birds
I remember when I first heard of the Lean Startup idea I was amazed. The idea of validating a product idea before investing into it was a real game-changer.
At the same time I was honestly frustrated. “How is it possible, that they came up with this idea and no one put together a step-by-step practical guide to practically do it?”
This entire Lean thing seems pure theory, right?
Then I met the Launch template from Leadpages and it clicked. I had a step-by-step method in my hand, waiting for execution.
“As you consider building your own minimum viable product, let this simple rule suffice: remove any feature, process, or effort that does not contribute directly to the learning you seek.” – Eric Ries
Obstacles = The Raw Material Of Your Solution
Problems you might face right now:
- “I don’t have a product and I’m not sure what the market wants?”
- “I’m not sure if my idea is worth to create it?”
- “I have a few people on my list but I’m not sure if they want to buy my product?”
- “What if I create this product or business and it doesn’t bring in enough money and cost a lot more to build and ship it?”
- “I understand that I should sell my ideas first and only than build a product when I’m sure it’s successful – but no one ever shows me how to do it?”
And on and on… I get it, I’ve been there. All Business Owners and marketers have the exact same doubts. Smart entrepreneurs take risks but in a smart way. Especially when you create a new product or you enter a new market, you really have to consider every risk you take.
I had the exact same doubts for long. Until our last launch at RisingStack when I decided to take a bold move and follow the leanest way possible. This story will cover all the main steps so you can repeat, including all the tools you need. First, let’s take a look at where we started and what we achieved then I give you the outline of a successful campaign like ours.
“The obstacles you have are the raw material you of your vision.” Dan Sullivan, Strategic Coach, VOTA
Where we started
Long story short, I started in a new position at RisingStack and I wanted to kick serious butt, you know how it goes… I decided to go bold and big. Meanwhile, I wanted to reduce risk to the minimal and make sure we deliver massive value with marketing, not just pushy sales. I’m sure you’re also sick of unexpected sales calls, right?
So it was risky, especially in a new position… but meanwhile I found a way to minimize risk to launch a new product or new business idea.
We had a massive email list with lots of subscribers. But the list was in MailChimp not segmented, we didn’t know who’s a buyer, who’s an engaged opener? This is the most important thing to know when you build an email list. So my first mission was: import the list from MailChimp to Drip and remove the fog. [LINK here’s how to do it properly]
Important: start with an email list
To execute these steps of Product Validation an engaged email list is required.
Follow Leadpages course to build a high responsive email list here: [LINK] https://lps.leadpages.net/email-marketing-course/
I read from many RisingStack blog readers and Trace users that many developers still prefer to develop their product before letting anyone know about it. I recommend building an email list of potential clients first. Build a great relationship with your readers before you create your product or write a single line of code by delivering great value on your blog. (If you’re in this situation, signup for Leadpages blog. LINK)
The secret weapon: ask with surveys
Secondly, we sent out several surveys to our list. It was key. [LINK We used Typeform to do it.] We just asked few simple questions in the beginning, like “Do you use Node.js everyday?” or “How long have been using Node.js?” and “Do you use microservices?”
First sign here: many survey results were not homogeneous at all! It means our list was 50-50 many cases. This is a lighting sign that you have to segment first.
At this point, I received few feedbacks from developers in-house. “They said I’m not even selling our SaaS, right?”
“Henry Ford: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said ‘faster horses.” ― Ryan Levesque, Ask: The Counterintuitive Online Formula to Discover Exactly What Your Customers Want to Buy
Results and Achievements
But you know what? At least our launch outlined the entire strategy for at least a year, I got into our communities’ heart and soul (enormous advantage in a competitive market!), and we deliver huge value to our community. Otherwise, we could spend months and months with market research.
Shortly: we built an amazing community and made double as many sales as we expected. Our conversion rate was above 6%. Most importantly we have a community I’m proud to serve.
Here are the detailed results:
- We made double as many sales as we targeted – again, before the content was ready. It’s almost the double as expected. The Conversion Rate is over 6%.
- We segmented our email list so we know who’s who on our list: how many buyers, clickers, openers and inactive subscribers we have. You might have the same issue if you’re a startup and started out with MailChimp (no worries – Drip has an excellent post on how to move from MailChimp LINK)
- We built industry-leading positioning without being sleazy because we created and added value to the community with the marketing itself. It wasn’t like hype marketing “buy my staff, buy my staff”. We used screencasts to add value and start communicate with our community. (We’ve a kick-ass CEO, Gergely who was flexible enough to do it.)
- We pre-validated the product content so we can’t fail or guess, it’s bullet-proof and no more guesswork required. We used Typeform surveys during the entire process to make sure we sell what the our community want – and not what we think they want.
- We built a big community of early adopters with amazing vibrant vibe who are willing to give feedback and respond to surveys. That’s very valuable for both parties, it’s a real win-win. They have the opportunity to ask real thought-leaders on their specific problems. We know who’s opinion counts. Many startups make surveys – but there’s a massive difference in what people _would_ buy and what people _actually_ buy. This tiny difference might be the difference between a successful product and a failure. (Do you remember Tim Ferris’ 4 Hour Work Week? Key: test your idea by actually selling it)
- We had so many feedbacks that we have the entire product line in front of us for at least a half year. This launch outlined the entire product line for the next year.
- We got testimonials. Testimonials are king. Testimonials can easily double conversion rates, no joke. We could use testimonials to sell the courses when they’re ready.
- New registrants to our SaaS called Trace by RisingStack [LINK]. Lots of people knew that the service exists but many people didn’t give it a try. During the campaign we had the opportunity to refer to it and pull in more people. We record signups ever since.
- This way we enabled our users to pay for the screencasts – and as a by-product we on-boarded them. Otherwise on-boarding requires investment from our part. This way our community pays the on-boarding (AKA cost of acquisition) and in return we gave them very useful content, not just “a tool”. How awesome is that?
- We stand out from the crowd. There are already big players in the market which we’ll occupy soon (watch out!). It’s great to know that we already have a stronger community with great positive vibe and we’re already thought-leaders. Plus, it’s very rewarding feeling, motivating. We have clients whom we respect, we know them by name, and they’re not just “yet-another-customer”. Seriously, when clients join our Live Webinar, I recognize them by name. Adopt the same philosophy and people will sense it.
Okay, enough from theory. Let’s get to the dirty practical steps. How did we do executed a successful launch like this?
Outline of the Main Steps
- Create timeline and set goals
- Create smart questionnaire and survey
- Send out the survey and automatically segment your list
- Outline your upcoming product based on feedbacks
- Run standard product launch followed this Leadpages and Jeff Walker template
- Define your exact offer and deliverables. The 3 most important components: guarantee, scarcity, feedback and testimonial.
- Survey early-adopters right after their purchase and ask their permission to use their testimonials
The Main Steps of Launching a New Product or Business Idea – Explained
- Create timeline and set goals. I know many people overlook this one. Life in a startup is so busy that it’s very challenging to stay on top of your game. Let me be honest with you. If it’s not on your calendar, it’s a dead dream.
- Create smart questionnaire and survey. Ask open-ended questions. Especially aspiration questions: “Where do you want to be in 6 months from now?” or “What would make you happy regarding this service?”
- Send out the survey and automatically segment based on their behaviour and responses. We used Typeform. LINK There might be cheaper solutions out there – but this simple design really engaged people to actually respond.
- Outline your upcoming product based on feedbacks. Remember: “We must learn what customers really want, not what they say they want or what we think they should want.”
- Run standard product launch followed this Leadpages and Jeff Walker template [LINK]
- Define your exact offer and deliverables. What will be the core of the offer? Define the offer first, create the salespage second. The 3 most important components of the deliverable which early-adopters will actually get when they purchase: guarantee, scarcity, feedback and survey. If you’re selling digital products like screencasts, make sure you include: content outline of the upcoming product so they know their investment worth it, and all legal terms required, including guarantee. Additionally, if you’re in SaaS just like us at RisingStack, include a coupon for your app. [LINK]
- Survey early-adopters right after their purchase and ask their permission to use their testimonials – especially great to do it during open cart period, so you have testimonials before you close the cart. Also, you know your audience, their wishes and aspirations. I always feel it’s more important than the product you’re selling or the market you’re in.
“If we were having this discussion three years from today, and you were looking back over those three years, what has to have happened in your life, both personally and professionally, for you to feel happy with your progress?”
― Dan Sullivan, The Dan Sullivan Question
Optional Pro Steps:
- Survey non-buyers. Just right after the open cart period has closed, ask every non-buyers, why they didn’t buy? The best way to do it with Drip: send out an email with valuable content. Ask them “why didn’t you buy?” and list the alternative answers. Connect each answer as a Triggered link to Drip where they get a Tag automatically when someone clicks on it. [LINK]
- Segment the list. [Here’s a Drip guide on why and how to do it properly LINK) The most critical part. A buyer worths 20-1000 times more for your business (and your motivation!) then a subscriber to your business. You want to tag those who purchased and you want to serve them exceptionally.
- Automate the Launch for Evergreen, use this Drip Workflow. [LINK]
- Pro tip: when you ask entrepreneurs about their Unique Selling Proposition (or USP for short) they usually tell… well: BS. I’m always a big advocate that your true USP is Customer Service first and foremost. Customer Happiness is like an emotional bank account, build it for the long-term. Many times we failed with small things during the process. We had a blank webinar (ouch). Few clients received bad links. We had a few refund requests. Handle everyone with your deepest care. It’ll pay off, better than a new feature.
- Pro tip: make Pre-launch and Open Cart emails 2 separate campaigns in Drip so it makes it much easier to modify later and automate evergreen launch workflow. [LINK]
- Pro tip: tag people with Zapier Typeform + Drip. Tag them even if you just want to use it later. [LINK]
What I’ll improve next time
- When we started, we moved our serviced to Drip and did the product validation parallel – crazy idea, not recommended. Drip gave us the most amazing support experience, therefore we succeed. However, I’m not sure if we could make it (especially not on time) without Drip’s world-class support team.
- Start from the end. Start with your offer first. Then build the sequences and surveys. During the process you’ll modify the offer. But it gives you focus and aim.
- Start the implementation with the payment gateway. Why? You don’t want to screw up when you already implemented the 90% of the hard work, right? Always start with the trickiest part first.
- Always connect surveys to respondent’s emails. Otherwise, you get some feedback but you don’t necessarily know who gave you the feedback. It’s very important because you want to build your product based on paying clients’ feedback only. Everyone has an opinion about everything – but in most cases, it doesn’t matter.
- Be more specific on what we’ll deliver exactly. Now I prefer to promise less and keep that promise. Start small. Grow big later.
Download all the Tools we used to validate a product and get all resources.