Live Validation: Marine Safety Subscription Part 2

I failed.

My idea of starting a subscription for boating supplies got killed in one day.

I honestly thought this was going to be a hit. (I even took down the post for a few hours because I didn’t want the idea to get out.)

Here’s how it happened:

I called a captain friend of mine who said he could get me 4 paying customers that day. Idea validated? Check. People will pay for this idea.

Next, I had to find a supplier. Turns out this was the easy part.

I wanted to sell stuff on boats that expires. Like flares and fire extinguishers. So I found the guys who make my flares and called them. http://www.orionsignals.com/

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I called their hq and asked to speak to someone in bulk orders or wholesale. (I was nervous and probably sounded like a total rookie.)

They connected me to someone. I told them, “Hi I’d like to ask about wholesale.” They just what state I lived in, and gave me 5 phone numbers for their distributors. So far so good….

I called the first one.  I asked to speak with someone in sales/wholesale prices.

Done. Then I asked them:

Can you ship direct to my customers? Yes.

Perfect. What discount can you give me? How many orders do you need?
Uhhh…. I dodged the question because I only had 4 customers and did not want to get hung up on yet. So I asked her… well this for a new online store and I want to ask a few more questions before I decide blah blah blah..

Here’s where the idea got shot. They told me the flares I wanted had to be shipped HAZMAT. Meaning hazardous materials. So it would cost not $8 for shipping. But $28. Ouch.

So my customers would have to pay $28 dollars in shipping for a $19 product. Not awesome.

But maybe there are customers who’d gladly pay for the connivence.

Nope. Turns out HazMat products need a signature to be delivered so I could forget about offering – Save money and we’ll take care of everything service. If they’d have to be home and pay more than double in shipping – there goes my offer.

Game over.

But here’s what I did not do:

  • Waste hours building a website.
  • Buy a domain that I’d never use.
  • Spend a dime validating this idea.

I failed. But I failed fast. On to the next one.

Live Validation: Marine Safety Subscription

Thinking of starting a business? Great. But don’t invest a single dollar or an hour of time into building your business until you validate your idea.

Validating your idea – or getting 3 paying customers – will reduce of risk of starting your business.

Validate your idea before you

  • build a website
  • get business cards
  • get an LLC
  • hire
  • quit your day job

This weekend I came up a fun idea to test. But instead of letting that idea die in my moleskin journal, I’m documenting this idea on ebookmuse. I will have 3 paying customers in 3 days (Wednesday, July 16) or I’ll kill this idea and move on. If I do get 3 paying customers in 72 hours, I’ll move on to the very next step required to get my next 3 paying customers.

So what’s the business idea? Marine Safety Subscription.

If you’ve got a boat, you’ve got to have these safety products on board:

  1. A fire extinguisher
  2. Signal flares

They each expire every 2 years.  So that means running out to the store (if I remember) every 2 years. I’d like to have this mailed to me so I don’t have to worry about remembering. And so I won’t get a $300 ticket from the Man for not being prepared.

How I will validate this business idea

Goal: 3 paying customers by Wednesday

I first need to find out if other boaters are interested in this. Then I’ll ask for them to sign up.

So I’m reaching for the low-hanging fruit to get my 1st 3 customers. I’ll ask my dear old dad and 2 boater friends of mine. If you’re asking, “Why are you asking friends and family? That’s too easy.” Then consider these 2 things: I’m not asking if they like the idea. I’m asking them to pay for it. And second, if I can’t get them to buy, how the hell am I going to get a stranger to buy?

This is step 1. And it’s okay to start small.

The details:

I’ll find out how much it costs to buy the flares and fire extinguisher at retail. I’ll add that price to the shipping cost to get my price. (I’ll make a profit by buying at wholesale prices.)

I’ll call my friends and dad to find out how/when they order. I’ll ask questions to see if this is a problem worth solving.

Then I’ll ask for them to purchase. “Just send $35 via paypal and tell me when your equipment expires to sign up.” That’s how I’ll ask…

When they do sign up, I’ll just order the stuff online for them. (I won’t make a profit until I set up my drop-shipping and wholesale buying.)

What I won’t do:

I don’t want to lose focus on worrying about anything else other than getting my first 3 customers. So I’m not going to

  • Do competitor research
  • Buy ads
  • Contact wholesalers
  • Worry about someone stealing this idea

Is this a profitable idea? Stay tuned…

Simple ebook sales funnel

How do you sell an ebook?

It’s simple.

  1. Find your target audience
  2. Collect their e-mails
  3. Stuff value inside their inbox

That’s your ebook sales funnel. Seriously. I’ll explain how it works in a second. But right now, let’s take a look at where most ebook sales funnels go wrong.

3 mistakes you’re making in your ebook sales funnel

1. You send your ad traffic to a sales page

Does your ebook cost more than $20? Yes? Then don’t send your ad traffic directly to your sales page. Why not? Because your customer is not ready to be sold yet. (And nobody likes being sold to.)

Here’s the 1 exception: Does your customer have her visa card in her hand when she clicks your ad? If she does, then send her to your sales page.

Alright, I hear you… “Jack, how do I know if she’s got her visa card out?”

It’s all about your keyword. Let’s look at two keywords:

“How to teach my child to swim” – Who ever is searching for this just wants information. They are not ready to buy. You’re gonna want to send this visitor to a landing page where they get… information! Something like, enter your email here for a free video swim lesson you can do with your child right now.

“how to teach swimming to children DVD for sale” – This person is has her visa in hand. Sure this keyword is not searched as often as the first example, but here’s someone who’s ready to buy. Now there’s a good chance she’s comparison shopping at this point, so collecting her e-mail is still not a bad idea. But feel free to send this person to your sales page.

2. You’re not collecting e-mail addresses on your blog

If you don’t have a blog, start one. (In the mean time, start building your email list by guest blogging and include a link to an optin page with your free info.)

Now a blog is amazing because you’ve earned your traffic and it’s the right kind of traffic. But make sure the #1 goal of your blog is growing your list. Someone who stumbles on your blog via a google search is again, probably not ready to buy. So get their e-mail address and give them e-mails that turn them into a customer. Which leads me to my next point…

3. You’re auto-responder sucks

How to know if your auto-responders sucks.

  1. Your subscribers don’t engage with your e-mails
  2. You use it like a sale page
  3. You don’t pack every e-mail (including your sales e-mails) with value
  4. Your readers don’t look forward to your next e-mail
  5. You

Listen. E-mail marketing is not an sales pitch. You’ve earned your audience’s e-mail and now you’ve got to earn their attention. Then you win their trust, get them to like you, have them see you as an authority in your niche and then you can sell to them. But here’s the catch… every e-mail should have a call to action.

Get your list to get in the action taking mindset each e-mail you send.

The bottom-line: Get the right e-mails list, deliver value and then ask for the sale.  

How To Design Your E-Book Cover for 5 Dollars

Do you need a beautiful ebook cover to sell your ebook? Yes. (Turns out people do judge a book by its cover.)

Do you need to spend a fortune paying a designer to do it for you? No.

Here’s how to get your ebook cover designed for only 5 bucks.

1. Go to fiverr.com

Fiverr.com

Fiverr.com

2. Click the on “Graphics & Design” link

Click "Graphic's & Design"

Click “Graphic’s & Design”

3. Click “Ebook Covers and Packages”

Click Ebook Covers & Packages

Click Ebook Covers & Packages

4. Click “High Rating” next to the green box called “Recommended” and select the first one or two boxes. These are the most experienced, highest rated designers for your e-book.

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5. Click order now 5$

That’s it.

It is up to you to provide the text for your e-book. Put thought into your title, subtitle and cover design. The better you can communicate your e-book cover ideas to the designers, the better chance you will be happy with the work.

My suggestion…

Find 3 book covers you like and attach them to your order. Explain what you like about each book cover to give your designer more information on what you want.

And that’s how you design your ebook cover for 5 dollars.

How To Sell More E-Books With E-mail Marketing

This post will cover 2 topics on e-mail marketing

1. How to grow your e-mail list

2. How to convert your e-mail list subscribers into paying customers and raving fans

How to grow your e-mail list

To grow your e-mail list you can:

  1. Attract more visitors to your website (SEO/Ads)
  2. Convince a greater percentage of your visitors to sign up for your e-mail list (Increase Conversion Rate)
  3. Both

Here’s how you can drive more visitors to your website.

Focus on two general strategies:

  1. Create remarkable content (SEO) to increase organic search traffic
  2. Advertising

SEO strategy alone deserves it’s own chapter, but to simplify the big picture of SEO: Create remarkable content and connect with others in your niche via social media to grow your influence. This is easier said than done and will take time to see your increase of traffic. It’s well worth the effort in the long run, but advertising can get you more e-mail subscribers tonight.

Here’s how I would grow my e-mail list with advertising:

Think of who your customers are and what they are already searching for. (That’s your keyword/s you will buy ads for.) For example, if you sell a wordpress theme for ebooks, your customers might be searching for something obvious like “best ebook wordpress theme” or something less specific like “how to sell an ebook from my blog”.

Your ad copy headline should use your keywords in it. Tip: Make separate headlines for each keyword you are targeting.

If your keyword is “best ebook wordpress theme”, the person searching is already looking for a wordpress theme to sell their ebook. So make your headline clear and specific for your potential customer: “Ebook WordPress Theme”. Your ad copy below the headline can get into why they should click your ad:

Ebook WordPress Theme
Improve Ebook Sales Overnight
Quick And Easy WordPress Theme Setup

If your keyword is “how to sell an ebook from my blog”, your ad will change slightly because this person is not yet seeking a wordpress theme, but needs more education before they will be ready to buy. This keyword’s ad might look like this:

Sell Ebooks From Your Blog
Improve Ebook Sales Overnight
Simple Ebook Store & Blog Setup

Send the people that click those ads to a landing page. Your landing page headline must be exactly like the ad they clicked. I like to use VERY similar headline on the ad and landing page to let my visitors know they clicked on the right ad and to show google that your landing page is relevent to your ad for a cheaper cost per click.

Your landing page will be designed to only collect e-mail addresses in exchange for a free white paper download or helpful how to video. Depending on the keyword and ad copy, your free download will vary. Just make sure you are helping them with the quesiton they have when they typed in their search into google.

Take this example with potential customers who searched for “best ebook wordpress theme”

They are already looking to download a wordpress theme. I could offer them a free download of a wordpress theme designed to sell ebooks and later offer them a premium version of the theme.

For my potiential customers who searched for “How to sell an ebook from my blog”

Now they are looking for information. A How-To white paper that explains what a blog needs to improve conversion rates of ebook sales could be perfect for these visitors. Inside the white paper, I would make sure to write a fantastic article that shows everything a blog needs for better conversion rates of ebook sales. At the end of the white paper I could provide a link to a wordpress theme that already set up for ebooks sales for those interested in improving conversion rates immediately.

Once you have sent them a wonderful white paper in exchange for their email address you can begin e-mail marketing to continue to warm-up your potential customers into raving fans. Do this by delivering valuable information on a consistent basis. For both keywords I would send emails on tips for selling ebooks on your blog. If they are interested enough to download your white paper on selling an ebook on your blog or your free version of your wordpress theme, they would enjoy receiving tips on how to sell ebooks from their blog.

Overtime you will be able to establish trust with your email list and covert a percentage of your subscribers. Constantly deliver value and you will convert. Do not feel the need to send emails that ask for a sale. I like to send helpful e-mails with a carefully placed link inside the email pointing back to my site for more information. By getting my list back to my site, they will see my premium wordpress theme available for sale (on a side bar of my site for example). There, they can buy it on their own with out me having to yell “SALE SALE SALE”. That trick rarely works and never works in the long run anyways.

7 Tools You Can Use Right Now To Find Your Next Profitable Ebook Topic

There are only two things you need to sell an ebook.

Content and an audience willing to pay for it. 

For most of us (myself included), the most difficult part of the process is searching within ourselves to discover what our unique experience and education we have to offer the world. It’s your niche. It’s what sets you apart from everyone else in this world.

We all have a passion for something. Take 5 minutes and write down 10 passions/topic of interest or expertise.

Focus on what excites you, and then use these tools below to find your next profitable ebook topic.

  1. Amazon.com – Narrow down the categories until you find your topic. See what is selling and what people are giving poor reviews for. Can you address the poor reviews in a category that is selling well?
  2. Udemy.com – Excellent website for e-courses. You can see how many people have signed up for a course and read their reviews.
  3. Reddit.com – Try a search in your topic for “I would buy” or “sucks” or “I need help”. These searches will identify what problems need solving. Offer to help these people 1 0n 1 or ask if they would like a free sample chapter of the next ebook you are writing.
  4. Craigslist.org – Go to the gigs page and search for what people already are willing to pay for. Can you help them do it themselves with a how to guide?
  5. Twitter.com – Use search.twitter.com to find out what people are looking for with in your topic. See #3
  6. Google Adwords – A powerful tool to see how many searches a topic is being typed in per month and how much people are paying for ads. High searches and moderate ad prices is what you are looking for.
  7. Your Bank (Statement) – Yes, your bank statement. My advice to first time ebook publishers is to sell something you already in the market of. Look through your latest book purchases to see what you’re already buying. Can you create something more niche? For example, if you’ve been reading up on the latest SEO strategies and are a digital photographer, can you put together the two in a SEO guide for photographers?

Have fun and leave a comment below if you think of a tool that I did not include in this list.

Why You Should Always Sell Your Ebook Before You Write It

Get cash for your ebook, then write it.

Test if people will actually give you money for your ebook. Then you’ll know if you should create it or try your next idea.

Here’s how to see if your ebook will sell before you write it:

1. Write Down 4-7 Benefits of Reading Your Ebook
Will the reader learn how to do something? Save money? Be entertained? Save time? Get healthier? Improve thier relationship?

Think about what’s in it for the reader when you are writing down your benefits.

2. Ask 10 contacts if they would pre-order this book for $10
It does not have to be 10 dollars but it must be an exact dollar amount. Mention the benefits of your ebook and tell them what chapters will be included to spark their interest.
Keep in mind it’s better to ask 2 yogis about your advanced yoga breathing techniques ebook, than 20 coworkers who have never practiced yoga.

3. Collect Money
If they are not opening thier wallets and giving you money, you can not validate that your ebook will sell. Your goal is to get at least 3 people to give you money to pre-order your ebook.

Add motivation for buying the “pre-ordered copy” by offering them a 50% pre-order discount.

4. Google Adwords

It is uncomfortable to ask friends, family or coworkers to buy a book you have not written yet. But this is so important for two reasons:

1. It will save you hours of writing a book that no one will buy.
2. Based on the responses to your offer, you will learn if you need to change your ebook pitch. For example, if you are selling a book about advanced yoga breathing techniques, you may learn that more people are interested in learning basic breathing techniques to relax at work.

That said, there is an option that will help you reach more people, quickly.

Set up a landing page with your book’s cover, benefits and a free chapter download button. Collect email addresses and notify your list when your book is ready. You can also ask them for suggessions/feedback of the chapters you plan on including in your book.

What Everybody Ought To Know About Google Adwords

Google Adwords will not sell your ebook for you.

Think about the last time you googled something. Did you pull out your wallet before you entered your search?

Unless you searched for a specific brand AND product, you did not. Nobody does because we are not mentally or emotionally ready to make a sale. Yet.

Here’s the bottom line…

A Google Ad will help you reach your potential customers, but then it is up to you to provide value, build trust and make the sale.

So before you go sending your Google Ad traffic directly to a sales page, use these tools to transform a potential customer into a raving fan:

1. Google Ad
It starts with your ad copy and the keywords you are targeting. You must do two things at this step, get attention from your potential customer and communicate your unique selling position.

2. Squeeze Page
Get their email address in exchange for a delightfully helpful (and free) piece of content. If they are not willing to share their email address, either you have not nailed their pain point or they will likely never buy from you. Keep in mind, a great sales system will fail to convert 95% of their visitors.

3. Content
The content you offer them for free must wow them. Period. It likely will be the first impression they have on your brand. Delivering what you promised is the step towards building trust with your potential customer.

4. Email Marketing
Stay on your potential customers mind with occasional helpful emails. Your not trying to hard sell them here. Your goal is to get your potential customer to think of you when they go looking for more help with the problem you are solving. Drip emails are great for this. Sending awesome content on a consistent schedule is how you  keep building trust and proving your value.

5. Sales Page
once your potential customer trusts your brand for helping them with their problem the sales page helps close the sale. Make sure to communicate the problem you are solving, the benefits of your solution and remove risk of buying with a money back guarantee.

The sales process of selling an ebook goes deeper than the first click of a google ad. Do not waste your time and money taking shortcuts. Build trust and deliver value and sales will follow.