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August 2, 2014

The 5-Step Formula for Effectively Pre-Selling Your Product to Your Audience

How do you validate your product idea if you already have an audience?

Ask the people in your audience to pre-order your product based on your idea alone.

This is also a great strategy to get the first customers for your product once you have built up an audience (Don’t have an audience yet? Our book goes into deep detail about how to build an audience. To learn more, sign up here). Clay Collins has a 5-step formula to effectively pre-sell your product to your audience, and he shared it with us in our podcast interview with him. He used this formula when pre-selling an annual subscription plan for LeadPages to his audience and ended up with more than $40,000 in pre-orders. Talk about great validation, right?

Now, if you do pre-sales to your audience, you probably won’t make $40,000, but if you get 5 to 10 pre-orders, then this is an excellent sign that your idea is good.

Why should you aim to get 5 to 10 pre-orders?

If you’re able to get 5 to 10 pre-orders for a product that does not exist yet, there’s a good chance that with effective marketing, you’ll be able to find and get hundreds or even thousands of other customers for your product.

Here’s the 5-step formula for you to effectively pre-sell your product to your audience and network:

1. Product Co-Creation. Involve your audience in coming up with the idea for your product. Make sure they know that they helped co-create the idea for it. To do this, consistently ask your audience what very big problems they have and why those problems are so troublesome.Ask them to:

  • Describe their problems in the comments of your blog posts or other pieces of content you create.
  • Their problems should be related to the content and topic of your blog post, or related to the overall topic of your blog.
  • When you email them with new content, ask them for general problems they face related to the overall topic of your blog or related to the content in your email and its content. The nice thing about asking people what their problems are over email is that email lends itself nicely to having a conversation with people where you can think carefully about how you respond to them and what follow-up questions you ask them.
  • If you host regular office hours for the people in your audience, spend the last few minutes to ask them about what problems they face related to the overall topic of your blog. From there, ask more specific followup questions.

After asking your audience to share their relevant problems with you, initially announce your product idea to them. Tell them your product will solve some of the problems that they brought up.

It’s important that they know that your product is a result of them bringing up their problems, asking for you to solve these problems and ultimately collaborating with you.

For people to believe they helped co-create your product, you have to actually have them help co-create your product. One way they can do this is by telling you about their problems and the significant effects of these problems to them. After they’ve done this and you are ready to announce pre-sales for your product that solves their problems, tell them about the important role they played in coming up with the product and reinforce this notion fairly frequently.

Thank your audience for describing their problems and pains to you. Tell them they helped you come up with the idea. This will help your audience believe they helped co-create your product, because they actually did.

2. The EIN (Early-Investor-Narrative). In our culture, there are lots of stories of people who invested in a company early or who joined a company in its initial stages. These people ended up having great success because it. Our culture values stories where people took a risk early on in something, and ended up having lots of success because of that risk.

For example, the first chef at Google or Facebook likely worked for very little money, but also likely ended up making lots of money because of the stock options they were given.

Now, you can’t give your initial customers stock options in your business.

But you can create the idea that your initial customers are early investors in your business because they’re helping to make it sustainable. As early investors of your business, they will benefit because they’ll be the people who use your product the earliest and get the most value from it as a result.

Help create an EIN around your product by telling your initial customers that they’ll be the first to use your product — because of this, they’ll get more value from your product as compared to someone who signs up later.

Also consider offering your initial customers a one-, two-, or three-year discount on your product, but never offer a “life-time” discount. Don’t offer a life-time discount because it’s a hard (and often impossible) commitment to keep. It’s tricky to define “life-time”. Additionally, it may be difficult to keep this promise if your product is ever acquired or managed by someone other than you.

3. Scarcity: Create the desire for your product. 

Scarcity works in two ways. Limit the:

  • Period of time during which people can pre-order your product, and,
  • The number of spots that are available for pre-order.

Building up scarcity is important to getting pre-orders for your product. Be upfront with people that you’re limiting the time during which they can pre-order and the number of people who can pre-order. Tell them when the time period will start and end, and the limit of how many people can pre-order well before the pre-orders start, and remind them periodically about when pre-orders start. If you start building desire for your product well before pre-orders start by making pre-orders scarce, then people in your audience will be much more likely to eagerly pre-order your product when it’s ready.

4. Social proof: evidence that your product is valuable. To get people to pre-order your product, it has to have social proof. Social proof can be:

  • Quotes from big names in your product’s industry about how great or helpful your product will be (Another topic we’ll cover in the book is how to build relationships with influencers in your product’s industry. Sign up here to be notified when the book launches so you can build relationships with influencers)
  • Lots of discussion or chatter about your product on Twitter
  • Quotes from people in your audience about how excited they are for your product
  • Articles about your product on well-known blogs or sites, which you can then link to from your pre-order page using logos from the blogs or sites

It will take hard work to get social proof, but it’s very necessary so you can do an effective pre-sales of your product. Once you have social proof, make sure people know about it. It will help you get pre-sales by making people more excited about and interested in your product.

5. Status indicators: something to sweeten the deal. Give your pre-order customers a status indicator, if you can. A status indicator shouldn’t give people the idea that customers who pre-ordered the product are better than customers who didn’t pre-order. Instead, it should let people who pre-ordered know that you appreciate their support so you want to reward them in some small way for it.

Status indicators help sweeten the deal and act like the cherry-on-top of your pre-sales. If you adequately satisfy the four other parts from this pre-sale formula, status indicators will be the last piece that can motivate people to pre-order.

To produce status indicators for your pre-order customers, you can:

  • Give them a special tag or badge in your product’s forum or community to let others know who pre-ordered the product.
  • Send them a special limited edition t-shirt for your product. (Don’t make this shirt ever again and don’t give to anyone who is not a pre-order customer.)
  • Host a special educational webinar them. In the webinar, help your pre-order customers solve their business problems and answer their business-related questions. Record the webinar and send it to everyone who pre-ordered.

Case study: As I mentioned above, Clay Collins used this formula to get more than $40,000 in pre-sales for LeadPages. To successfully pre-sell your product, you need to have at least a minimum viable audience. Before Clay started doing pre-sales for LeadPages, he had already built up a good-sized audience. To get your first customers, use this 5-step formula for pre-sales. If you do them well, you will get good results.

Learn how to find your first customers