Journal 16 – A Validation Nightmare

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I can’t believe it took so long!  Looking back at my Journal entries, I see that I committed to validating my next business idea in July (Journal 14).  It took about three times as long as I thought it would take and every conceivable nightmare jumped out like a bad Halloween movie.  

Like most things, I opted for the most complicated way again! Is it Murphy’s Law kicking in or is it a new phenomenon, “Nick’s Law”? I’m starting to wonder!

Here was my great idea. I would validate my training course with a fantastic “freemium.” Here’s how it’ll go:  I’ll produce three videos and link the series to a landing page.  What was I thinking?

The Hard Part Wasn’t What I Thought

It was in early July, I decided to embark on an information product because I couldn’t find a decent physical product with margin enough to make it worth the effort (see Journal 9).  The hardest part about this project, I thought, was deciding on what information product to start. As it turned out, that was the easiest phase! Some experts recommend validating a product with a minimal viable (MVP) product or via a survey or observation.

I chose the MVP route. The rationale was this: I’d not only validate but my product but I could learn what it takes to produce a video course. I could kill two birds with one stone! Yeah, right.

Knowing myself as I do (because I’m me!), I suspect I did way too much for the outcome I was looking for. “Why not do too much when just good enough will do,” tends to me my calling card. Regardless, I pursued my vision and I’m finally done.

As I type, my advertisement is live on Facebook; and I suspect my next journal entry will be about down sizing or simplifying freemium and the opt-in process. I hope my first impulse was right and it becomes a stellar success. However it comes out, let me explain what took up most of the last three months.

LeadPages?  No Thanks.

After deciding on a genera and then a topic, I jumped right in to developing a landing page provider for my course, Real Estate Agents Are Obsolete. I originally sought out LeapPages but they were too expensive.  If I had plenty of money, I would have just bit the bullet and paid the $25 to $40 per month (monthly annual rate plan). For “just” a landing page service, that seemed steep! Especially when I found out MailChip’s fee services wasn’t exactly free. To get MailChimp to send follow up emails it would cost between $10 and $15 per month (at my client level).  

So, instead of spending $420 per year on these services, I opted to use Thrive Theme’s “Thrive Leads” for $149 per year.  For that price I got a conversion-focused theme, various plugins, pop-ups, lead boxes, and “naked” landing pages.  A naked landing page is one without WordPress’s menu, footer, and sidebars. Thrive Theme has some good courses on conversions and marketing, I recommend checking out their recorded webinars

The benefit of landing pages is to limit a visitor’s options and encourage them to exchange their email address for a freemium – free premium product. Some give away whitepapers, cheat sheets, ebooks, and videos.

Freemium and Validation

For me, I decided to exchange visitor’s email address as part of my validation process. If I get “sufficient” interest, I’ll go forward with my idea. I’m also trying to convince my visitors to complete a two-question survey, per Smart Passive Income’s Podcast 178.

In that episode, the author of the Ask Formula book, Ryan Levesque, explained the importance of asking the “right” questions to ascertain what customers really want. He prefers open ended questions, instead of multiple choice ones. It’s also the beginning of the customer segmentation process; because, as most of us know, the money is in the niche. I suggest listening to this episode. 

After deciding on Thrive Theme, I went to work creating a video course modeled after one I took from Amy Porterfield of the Market Made Easy blog and podcast.  The course format is essentially an animated MicroSoft PowerPoint presentation with an audio overlay. Which is me explaining the key points – otherwise know as training or lecturing. 

Chip ‘n’ Dale I’m Not

This proved to be very difficult for me.  As it turns out, I talk too slow and mumble – a lot! I wasn’t good at flipping through the slides and speaking either. To overcome this, I wrote a script and then recorded it on my Zoom H6 digital recorder. I then used Audacity to edit the audio recording. This was very time consuming.

At first I read through the entire script. Boy did that suck! I made a mistake every 5 or 10 seconds. To overcome my boring read and mistakes, I recorded in small steps – about one to three paragraph lengths. If I was too monotone or boring I could correct on the spot. I’ll tell you a little secret. Audacity has a setting to speed up the tempo without making me sound like the Chip ‘n’ Dale squirrels. 

I tried to record directly into Audacity, but it was so “tinty” that I had to recorded on the Zoom and then transferred it by SD card to my laptop and then edited the audio. I did this transfer about a million times until I produced three videos: the intro, the first video lesson, and then the bonus lesson. This took weeks to accomplish!

Who’s Extemporaneous?

Once I had the audio, I then used a screen capture software to record the slide show as I played the audio. I’m sure this is not how its supposed to be done, but it’s how I did it. In time, I’ll be able to sidestep the script and audio recording and do it all at once as I scroll through the slide show.  I’m not sure when that will be, but I’m afraid to imagine how long it will take. I guess I’m not an extemporaneous speaker.

After recording the video, I went back to WordPress and started creating the landing pages, using Thrive Theme’s theme. Wow! That was time consuming. First, I had to learn another piece of software and it wasn’t a intuitive as advertised or as I thought.

To make things worse, I fell for the free Windows 10 upgrade. That was a huge mistake. After installing it, my computer kept locking up; and I’d have to wait 10 minutes to reboot my computer. I messed with it for weeks trying to find the right drivers so it wouldn’t freeze up. I didn’t want to reinstall Windows 7. Eventually, I would have to reinstall it or go mad!

Windows 10 and Renaming MicroSoft to “WOT”

For some reason Windows 10 was not able to roll back to Windows 7. To keep from being committed to an insane asylum, I reluctantly reinstalled the old operating system. Too bad it didn’t have the right WiFi drivers to connect to the internet. It was a Catch 22! I needed WiFi to download the drivers but didn’t have the drivers to connect the WiFi to download the divers.

I took my computer to the Geek Squad and two days later I had it back. It took another two or three days to get everything installed and working. Seriously, MicroSoft should be renamed, “Waste of Time” (WOT – as in “What?”)!  Don’t get me started on the lost hours and weeks trying to find the links to the common tasks I used in Office, when MicroSoft forced me from toolbar menus to the ribbon menus.  Like I said, they should really consider a name that fits their reputation.

So, after recording and editing the audio and video, learning another application, getting the computer up and running, and finish editing and developing the slide show, I’m now ready to “Validate.”

MailChip is Out – And the Newsletter Plugin is In

I mentioned earlier that I opted out of LeadPages and MailChimp. I already explained what I replaced LeadPages with, but neglected to say what I replaced MailChip with. As a DIY (do it youselfer guy), I searched for a plugin that would replace the “chimp.” I came across the WordPress Newsletter Plugin; and I think it’s a pretty decent replacement too.

It has all the functionality of the free and basic paid MailChimp account, with the ability to send a welcome aboard email for my single-opt in freemium – all for free! Some swear on the two-step process, but others say it’s a barrier to subscriptions. Personally, I don’t like going to my Spam folder to find the confirmation link just to see a report or video, so I didn’t make my freemium a two-step process either – though I did give them a reason to go to their email. I told them to look in their inbox for links to the cheat sheets and the video replay.

The Newsletter plugin is easy to use and it has fabulous documentation and even some training videos (here’s their web site). For $29.95, one can also get the Pro version, which I plan to download. That version lets one set up a series of 10 follow-up emails. It also has the ability to have more than one series, so segmentation is easy. It has other options that look pretty good.

Facebook Ads Are Up and Running!

I’m happy to say that I started my ads running on Facebook yesterday. So far, I’ve collected one email address and no one has taken the survey. Facebook has shown my ad 1,500 times and I’ve spent about $10. My budget is $10 per day, half on desktop and half on mobile. I’ll have to refine it to get better results. When I do, I’ll up my ad budget and expose my ad to more people over a shorter period of time.

By the way, check out my article “Business Start-Up: What Went Wrong?” You can read how much Google Ads cost me — and let me say, Facebook ads are a lot more reasonable. As a side note, there’s something in common with what went wrong and why I’m now committed to validating.

It’s been a long couple of frustrating months. I’m not sure where the validation process will take me, but I’m sure it will either save me lots of time creating a course that no one wants or it will spur me on to success.

Now that My “Scary Movie” is Over – I See Only Good Times Ahead

Halloween is tonight, so I’m not sure my nightmare is over yet… but isn’t life’s really about perspective? The spectacles we see life through? 

Some see sunshine through their lens and others see dark clouds. Though we cannot always control the actions of others or life’s ups and downs, we can decide how we respond to them. That’s why I’m not going to a Halloween party tonight and celebrating the dark and evil side of things. Just like I’m not looking back at this last few months with regret. Heck, I learned a lot and was able to better refine my patients.

Instead, I’m going to a harvest dance, where I can have fellowship with good and decent people and celebrate the planting, growing, and  reaping season.  This is a magical time of year: Thanksgiving is just around the corner and then Christmas.

It’s now time to say thanks for the blessings and let the dark clouds blow over. Though winter is coming, I am looking forward to family, friends, good food, and good times together. When Spring comes, I plan to look back at Winter and think fondly of the ski slops and the laughter and the times huddling next to the crackling fire.  Just two more months left in the year and I intend to make the best of it!

Test Out My Freemium

If you’d like to watch the ad and its video course, check out FSBO Profit Lab or on this site here.

Music:  J.R. Tundra, “Bubblegum Ballgame”

Talley Ho!

Nick

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