5 Steps to Building a Successful Online Service

“The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new.” Socrates

Well, maybe you haven’t built anything in your life yet. Let me tell you, it is so much fun if you can get into the flow and support it with commitment.

There is nothing to be afraid of, just get in there, be nasty, pay attention to detail, iterate and you will have the first version.

Now some systematic details, workflow tips:

After defining and narrowing down the idea for your first product, you have to start the building process with 5 key steps in mind. Believe me these steps will define the success of your service or product at least to 70%.

These key steps are :

+ Study competition

+ Define and build your difference

+ Build optionality in your product (or service) ladder,

+ Build a free test version or sample,

+ Try the beta product on a sample group and use feedback to iterate the product (or service).

Study competition, define & build your difference

People have different ideas on competition whether it kills profitability and should be avoided at all terms or it is healthy and creates better, cheaper services over time. Like most concepts you have both sides of the truth here. You will want to be profitable (and you can) but you can also learn a bunch from competition and actually hack any field or market.

Now go online and search for similar services or products to yours and write your difference to the product checklist I provided. This can be a yoga course, an ebook, consultancy, basically any sort of work you can generate value for people online and local.

For every competitor write down their name, products, target audience and prices. Then use social sites such as reddit or quora to see what people are really looking for in that (niche) market, write their needs down as well.

Now you can clearly see what is out there and what the market demands, define differences and build some of them into your service or product. These differences will be your entry point to clients and hopefully will provide value.

Build optionality in your product (or service) ladder

It is really hard to thrive with one product or service that doesn’t offer different options to select and different pricing levels. It doesn’t have to be hundreds of options but a few options will give people the feeling they have made a choice.

Offering different options of a product is also useful to capture different price segments (which means different client segments) and a range of topics to be covered or a range of service depth to be provided.

Let me give a few examples to show how this works.

Let’s say you have a website and offer a number of online products and consultancy for your topic of expertise. The ladder that works best in my experience starts from a free sample and goes all the way to a premium service. So your product line might go as below :

– Free 7 page Ebook that reveals the basics

– A detailed market report (50 $)

– A detailed course on one of your expertise topics (100 $)

– A bundle of courses on variety of topics (300 $)

– One on one consultancy (1000 $)

Or if you have various products in store, you can bundle them, and/or give free tasters.

Build a free version of the product — service

I can hear you saying,

“Why the f.ck would I give my precious work for free, I would instead go for a premium service.”

Don’t be arrogant, most people like to try stuff before rolling in and you can have a free version and be premium at the same time as well.

In my experience, a free entry to what you are offering will benefit you in 2 major ways :

– Will make more people interested and grow your email list (contact list)

– You will see how well the material works & further develop

You have to provide people value and give them a chance to take a sip from what you are offering so they may become users and clients over time. The free version of the product should provide enough detail to make the user curious and informed but also should be simple enough to let them discover more through paid products and services.

Test your premium products on a sample group of people

Making tests and experiments is the most important aspect of product design, especially if you are making the product or service by yourself (even if not).

Send your product to at least 5 trusted friends and a few people who would be interested.

Ask them to evaluate on a few parameters you may define, for example :

– Ease of Use

– Value

– Pricing

Make sure to receive verbal feedback as well as numeric feedback, ask them to grade the product on your chosen parameters. You can only make a good product within this feedback loop.

Use feedback & make the best product you can imagine

No one wants to have a mediocre product or service. You won’t get fulfilled, it will be harder to sell and will create a lot of problems. On the long term mediocre products are destined to fail. To avoid creating a mediocre product use multiple feedback loops.

First use the feedback from the sample group and free product users, make sure they be truthful and even a little harsh. Iterate the product with the feedback and take the product above average before the launch. After the launch you have to create feedback systems to constantly improve the products and add new ones on top.

With these 5 steps you will have a mechanism for building products that last & succeed because they deliver the promise.

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