(Readin' time: 4m 12s)
OK, we've covered the three ideation pathways that can help you generate ideas that fit within a proven specialization framework, and we've discussed introspective validation and the first form of extrospective validation--pure research-based validation. Now onward to the second of three extrospective validation approaches. (BTW, if you’re like “what the heck is this guy talking about”, I’m continuing a series that started here.)
The next form of extrospective validation is marketing validation, which is less lean than pure research and more lean than sales validation. This is because you have to build some stuff; some marketing assets. But, you can build this stuff and then potentially use relatively low-effort methods of buying or earning attention for it, and then you can measure the interest you get when those marketing assets are exposed to the attention of an audience. All this can happen without having to have sales conversations, which lessens your effort investment.
The marketing validation "stack" I'm going to present below is based in part on an oldie-but-goodie from the PMC archive, the minimum viable funnel.
The marketing validation stack
Let's look at this stack as a quick bulleted list, then dive into a few important details.
- Build a content asset. This can be an email course, a niche email list, or a recorded teaching event like a webinar. Yes, the niche email list was also presented as an introspective validation tool earlier. It works in both contexts. Build a landing page so folks can sign up to get this content asset.
- Buy or earn attention for this content asset.
- You could send ad traffic to the asset, or...
- You could teach to a borrowed audience via a Meetup presentation, guesting on a podcast(s), or being a guest expert on somebody's webinar. Your call to action as you're teaching to this borrowed audience is for them to--if they want to learn more--sign up for your content asset.
- You can also find some sort of online watering hole or social media channel (most likely LinkedIn or Twitter, possibly Facebook, Quora, StackExchange, or others) and see if over-participating and being helpful on that social channel creates opportunities to promote your content asset and if that content asset then attracts subscribers. If this kind of escalation happens fairly naturally, then you can assume that a similar escalation to paid engagements is possible.
Validation is measured by opt-ins for your content asset. In fact, this validation is one way you document demand for your idea. There are other failure points in the path from idea to service, so this documentation of demand alone isn't going to guarantee success, but it's very reassuring to have this kind of evidence that there's demand for what you're thinking of doing.
I want to be clear about something: the above list might make this process seem easy-breezy. And maybe it will be for you. But you really should be prepared for some real work and moments of uncertainty and perceived risk as you go through this process.
The mistake I used to make earlier in my career was looking at the methods of validation or trust-building or whatever, identifying the most effective ones, and recommending those unilaterally without regard to their inherent difficulty level. That meant I was setting folks up for failure.
Podcast guesting is relatively easy for me, because I have a background in training and adult education, which meant that I was speaking in front of small groups of people on a regular basis. The transition to doing something similar but speaking to a single other person via Skype was quite easy. But after repeatedly recommending that folks guest on podcast and seeing them not do it, I realized that I was recommending something that wouldn't fit their context very well. So the quest for me has been to try to find ways to help folks improve while respecting their context; their strengths and weaknesses, etc.
A funny extension of this example: My friend Liston very generously helped my Expertise Incubator folks set up what is known as a LinkedIn pod. In a LI pod, pod members help each other out by liking and commenting on their LI posts. This sounds a little scummy/growth-hackey, but it actually works. It works because it sort of games the LinkedIn algorithm, gains wider reach for the pod members' content, and this can lead to more list signup or discovery calls. The funny part is I do not enjoy doing this kind of thing, so I've been the least helpful member of our pod. I'm kind of dead weight in the pod, and I'm pretty sure Liston is considering kicking me out.
That's why the marketing validation stack above lists several ways you might earn attention for your content asset, and if none of those will work for you, suggests that you buy this attention.
Which, also!, is not necessarily easy. How many of us have heard paid traffic folks crowing about how Facebook or whatever ad platform makes it super easy and cheap to advertise to an audience? Sure, if you know what you're doing. To get to that "know what you're doing" point, plan on spending real money figuring it out and getting disappointing results in the meantime.
Let's wrap with this. If you want to hear a really entertaining and compelling version of this marketing validation stack in action, check out the first 10 minutes of Louis Grenier talking to Seth Godin: everyonehatesmarketers.com/seth-godin-marketing-secrets/
What I love about the audio above is how Louis totally surprises Seth Godin with an on-air challenge at the start of the interview, and how Seth navigates that challenge. It's great stuff, and Seth walks through something quite similar to my marketing validation stack.
BTW, today is Decision Day for the April 2019 cohort of theexpertiseincubator.com. You're either in or you're out! Today! Decide!! Do it!!! Or do not do it!!! Either way, decide!!!! :)