“As you move toward a dream, the dream moves toward you.”
The most exciting part of being an entrepreneur is coming up with new business offering ideas to better serve your customers. When you're tuned in and engaged with the people you're seeking to serve, you start to see the places where they're struggling. You notice the gaps that you could fill for them with your products or services. Coming up with these ideas is thrilling, fun, and rewarding.
Unfortunately, it's also HARD WORK. Getting a product or service from idea to launch is not easy at the best of times! It's made even harder when you aren't sure which idea to start with. But for today, let's assume that you do have a great business offering idea and you're ready to build it and ultimately offer it to your clients. You're good to go, right?
This is where a lot of business owners (myself included!) get stuck. Creating things from your imagination can feel like a lot of pressure! We procrastinate, dither, "get confused", and agonize over tiny details instead of just trying something. The question in our minds is: How do I know that this idea is going to work and be well-received?! The short answer is: you don't. Business, like life, is about trying something new, learning from your attempts, and pivoting accordingly.
I've come up against this recently in my own journey of creating a new coaching & membership community program, The Profoundery. I've finally gotten enough clarity about the idea to start creating it, but that process wasn't easy! Today I'm sharing with you the four major questions that I asked myself to simplify, optimize and improve my business offering. I even created a little flow chart for you to reference!
1. Am I doing this for the right reasons?
Let me put it to you bluntly: when everyone and their mother has a podcast, it is very, very difficult for the ego not to want one too. Nigh on impossible, if the current landscape of online business is any indication! Don't get me wrong, I love podcasts. I've had three in my life so far and may very well start another soon. But I use this as an example because it's a project that is commonly started for the "wrong" reasons.
Right and wrong are pretty subjective, but here are my personal definitions:
The Right Reasons
- Your audience is asking for this!
- It feels totally aligned with your purpose and how you work best
- You know that it will truly help others
- You feel deep & genuine excitement 😍
The Wrong Reasons
- You see other people doing it & feel behind
- It looks pretty and flashy
- Your ego wants a boost 😅
- You're chasing shiny pennies
- You think it's an easy way to make money
I'm not here to put anyone on blast and I'm not here to judge you! It's your business and you can make whatever decisions you want. The reason I share, though, is that I have caught myself on this very first question many a time when creating a new business offering. The most obvious example (for me) was a few years ago when someone I admire was publishing a book. Even though that's something I'd genuinely love to do one day, I also knew it wasn't the right time for me. If I had started writing one, it would have been because I coveted the idea of having a beautiful, shiny, perfect book. It would not have been for the "right reasons" at that time.
When it came to creating The Profoundery, I had to be honest that of course there was a part of me that loved the idea of creating something beautiful and shiny and new. But at this point in my business, that alone would NOT have been enough for me to take action.
Luckily, I also recognized that my clients have been explicitly asking me for something just like this! Folks who came to my Productivity Parties talked about how helpful they were and how much they loved connecting with others. Past Foundery members would get sad about leaving the program but didn't have a lower-commitment option that they could switch to. Others shared that they weren't sure what to focus on in their businesses each month and felt overwhelmed. Put all of that together and I had a clear sense of how I could help and some solid "right reasons" to move forward.
2. Is this sustainable for me long-term?
The next hurdle our idea has to jump through is one of sustainability. I call this "the lifestyle question". In short: does this product or service align with the lifestyle that you want to have? Does it match the goals you have for your life?
An obvious example of this would be someone who wants to create a line of gorgeous products to sell. Great idea! Except this person also has a dream of living nomadically in a van and traveling the world. These goals are incongruous! Where would they store their products? If they're going off grid, will they be able to get to a post office regularly?
This shows up in subtler ways, too. For example: if you want to design a business that allows you to work from anywhere, don't offer in-person sessions. If you need mornings off to spend time with your kids, don't schedule to teach your classes first thing. This sounds really obvious when I type it out, I know. But it's a lot more common than you might think.
Continuing with my example of The Profoundery: early versions of this idea involved multiple sessions per week, similar to how I currently offer office hours in The Foundery. But one of my goals in creating this offering is to give myself more time to create valuable, helpful curricula, programs and resources for my clients. To do that I actually need more time to quietly think & create, not less. I'd also like to be less tethered to my desk here in Toronto. On the basis of those lifestyle goals, I had to re-evaluate the offering to make sure it would unfold in a sustainable way.
3. Can I make this simpler?
I wish you could see drafts of my ideas for this program. Actually, I don't! They were a big mess of complicated bells & whistles. When I look back at those early brainstorms now, I have to laugh. So complicated! So many moving pieces!
Can I be honest? I was overcompensating. I hadn't yet tapped deeply enough into the needs of my clients to figure out how I could best help. So instead of feeling confident, I felt doubtful. Instead of streamlining this business offering to the most important things, I felt like I needed to load it up with bonuses galore to make it "worth it".
By asking myself this question, I was able to recognize where this motivation was coming from and put an end to it. I went back to my big "why" for creating this program. As soon as I got into the heads & hearts of my clients, the simpler structure revealed itself to me. (But trust me when I say that The Profoundery will still have bonuses and surprises galore 😍)
More often than not, our early drafts of an idea are more complicated than they need to be. It might be coming from a place of insecurity (hi 🙋🏻♀️) or just genuine excitement about all the things you could do but either way: pare it down.
It's far better to under-promise and over-deliver in the beginning and add on as you go. And remember that this is just Version 1.0! You can always make changes and improvements. Start simple and see what works.
4. Will this move the needle for me?
Last but far from least, let's talk about money. Money is not the only needle in your business, but it is the most important one. Did you know that making money is really the only requirement for running a business? Everything else (business cards, branding, a fancy website, IGTV) is optional. Yes, really! There are successful business owners out there who make millions of dollars per year while having basically none of the above. I'm not saying those things don't help, sometimes. But they're not the point. Money is.
So with that in mind, it's important to ensure that this new business offering will be financially viable for you. Will you be putting in a ton of time for very little financial reward? Does this business idea require you to have 500 people sign up for it to be worthwhile financially? If so, do you believe that many people will purchase it?
It's time to run the numbers for a bunch of different price points. Look at your actual audience engagement and your number of newsletter subscribers. Be realistic about how many people you think might buy from you. Conversion rates are not a perfect science, but one study found that out of 100 emails, 1 converts to a sale.
When it came to The Profoundery, I realized that it just wouldn't be sustainable for me to offer it at a small amount like $20/month, because I don't yet have the audience size to make that worthwhile! Instead I decided on tiered pricing - one rate for new clients, a discount for people who have worked with me in the past, and a PWYC option for folks from marginalized communities. The numbers I landed on feel fair for clients, but also make sense financially for me.
Bonus: Does it light me up?
Most importantly: do you love this idea? Does it feel energizing and exciting? Do you want to start working on it right now?! The answer needs to be yes. Without that deep, intrinsic excitement, you're not likely to stay motivated throughout the long and tedious process of bringing this idea to fruition. If you're not excited, do not pass Go, do not collect $200!
In my case, the answer is a HELL YES. I could not be more excited about creating this program which is more than a year in the making. I cannot wait to bring together my passions for connection, community, accountability, momentum and strategy all in one place. It's going to be a lot of fun.
Disclaimer: Yes, sometimes we need to do work we're not thrilled about to put food on the table. I totally get and have done that many times! If you're considering an opportunity, I would still ask myself the first four questions. They're good for any situation. But with this last question we're talking about creating new business offering ideas when we have the freedom & autonomy to do so. Remember that selling is a transfer of enthusiasm! If you're not excited about something, it may not be that successful anyways.
Let's Get to Work!
If your business offering idea has passed these four checkpoints and the bonus question, you are off to the races! Time to make a plan, announce your intentions, and get going. We cannot wait to see (and benefit from!) what you're creating for us.
I'd love to know: What questions do you ask yourself before starting a new project? Which of these questions is the trickiest one for you? Let me know in the comments below or on Instagram @stephpellett!
And if you want to know more about The Profoundery when it launches, click below to join the waitlist for the beta version! I'm going to be launching it sometime in September and I cannot WAIT for you to see it. I'm so, so excited.