The Minimum Viable Paradox: How Doing Less Leads to More

heart lock with key - how to learn to love the minimum viable product

True confession: I built my online business in the most backward way possible. And I’m here to share my sordid tale so you don’t make the same mistakes I did.

I want to save you from years of frustration, months of waffling, and full days of stumbling around in a fog.

If only I had this information when I started!

But it brings me some consolation to know that you’ll have it. That you won’t need to experience the painful process of birthing an online business quite the same way I did.

Let’s start with what not to do.

Overachievers Anonymous, our meeting has begun

Back in late 2009, I signed up for Copyblogger’s Teaching Sells course.

I had been running my design and marketing firm for almost 20 years. I was longing for a change of pace and a new challenge.

And creating an online business based on the expertise I’d built up for decades seemed like a great idea.

So I dug into the full Teaching Sells course with the hunger of someone who needed to know everything. And it delivered everything I needed, and more.

I took many pages of notes. I bounced ideas off of other students in the forum. I tuned in to the Q&A sessions. I was all-in.

I was inspired.

And I decided, in all my overachieving glory, that I needed to build something similar to what I was experiencing in Teaching Sells.

I wanted to create an Interactive Learning Environment to teach my area of expertise: building a brand with the combination of good design and strategic marketing decisions.

And that was my first mistake. I bit off way more than I could (or should) chew.

The hard way to learn to test an idea first

You see, it turns out that it’s not a good idea to build an elaborate, complex, extremely thorough membership site around a topic you haven’t actually tested.

Stop laughing. I know this is obvious! At least, now I do.

But at the time, my overachieving tendencies took over, and I found myself pouring my years of experience into 20 lessons, complete with text, audio, video, printable PDFs, and a forum.

All without knowing for sure that people would be interested.

Technology was not my friend

It turns out that the worst part of the process was getting the damn thing to work. The membership software available at the time was … um … clunky.

I’m being diplomatic here.

It was terrible. Extremely difficult to figure out. Little-to-no online help. Time consuming to set up.

And that was only part of the problem.

In order to get my site to work, I had to not only learn to use this clunky membership software, I had to pay for and figure out how to use shopping cart software.

Then I had to get the two pieces of software to communicate with one another so when people signed up and paid, they’d be added to the membership site automatically.

For someone who’s not a developer, this was a daunting task.

And remember, this is all before testing to be sure this idea was going to fly!

You’re seeing the depths of my self-deception now, aren’t you?

Thankfully, it wasn’t fatal

I finally launched my program five months after conceiving it. I had a few lessons ready to go. As my members went through the material, I kept ahead of them, creating new lessons before they were ready to consume them.

And it wasn’t a complete failure.

Some wonderful people joined, and we had lively discussions both in the forum and on my monthly webinars.

But boy, it was a lot of work.

The most important thing I got from creating my membership site was a life lesson.

And thankfully, the life lesson I had to learn the hard way is now part of the way Teaching Sells guides people through building a business around their expertise and passion.

The Minimum Viable Product approach to online success

A few years ago, with Chris Garrett leading the charge, Teaching Sells started emphasizing the Minimum Viable Product approach to building an online business and selling your expertise.

The MVP approach espouses a few important ideas:

  • Before you create a large product, test your idea with a smaller product
  • Deliver real value in a lower cost and easy-to-create format
  • Focus on gathering information, not on earning millions

This agile approach is a much better way to build an online business, because before pouring time and effort into an untested idea, you’re getting solid information about what will work (and what won’t).

That means you can move forward with confidence that you’ve got an idea worth investing in … before you invest in it.

Are you an overachiever? Learn to love the MVP

Minimum viable products come in lots of forms. And they’re the perfect antidote to the “I-have-to-create-the-most-epic-version-of-this-product-idea-ever” syndrome that afflicts a lot of us overachievers.

They can be as simple as:

  • A tutorial video and a downloadable worksheet
  • An ebook with an audio recording
  • One-on-one coaching sessions (these are especially easy to put together)
  • Access to a weekly teleclass with you, which includes a Q&A session

They’re fast and easy to put together, and they allow you to offer value in exchange for market research.

Your buyers give you feedback, and you use that feedback to create your high value, time-intensive product.

My online business was built backwards. I started by creating a frustrating, time-intensive online membership site without knowing for sure it would work.

Since then, I’ve embraced the MVP. I have a series of low-cost guides that sell consistently. I offer one-hour coaching sessions. I have moderately-priced products that solve specific problems.

It’s a less painful way to develop new ideas.

And it’s fun! You go from idea to finished product quickly — getting helpful feedback right away.

Join us for Teaching Sells Quick Start

For the next few days, we’re welcoming a new group of students into our Teaching Sells course. And this time, we’ve got a new program that focuses exclusively on helping you build that MVP that will allow you to make quick progress.

It’s called Teaching Sells Quick Start. It’s a series of live workshops that will be held over the next eight weeks.

We’ll work with you to help you:

  • Pinpoint the idea you want to develop a product around
  • Identify the target market you’ll sell to
  • Discover the best format to use for your MVP
  • Make progress! We’ll be there to help you if you get stuck

The best part of all? Teaching Sells Quick Start comes bundled with one year of Rainmaker Pro included.

Rainmaker Pro is our version of the Rainmaker Platform that is designed to make selling digital products — and setting up membership sites — easy.

No more technology headaches or spending days trying to make different solution providers talk to each other. With Rainmaker Pro, you’ll have everything you need to create both your MVP and your full-blown, complex Interactive Learning Environment.

If you’re already a Rainmaker Platform customer or an Authority member, we’d love to have you inside Teaching Sells Quick Start, and we’re giving you a special price that will make your decision easy. :-)

Idea to reality in eight weeks or less

Inside Teaching Sells Quick Start, Sonia Simone, Chris Garrett, and I are going to work with you to help you make your minimum viable product a reality.

You’ll take that idea you have, make it tangible, test it, and gather the information you need to move forward with a more complex offering with complete confidence.

We can’t wait to see you inside Teaching Sells Quick Start. Join us?

Teaching Sells is now open …

If you’d like to know more about the new “Quick Start” Teaching Sells course, just drop your email into the form below.

We’ll also share exclusive education around what it takes to build a healthy, sustainable business online — without gimmicks or nonsense.

The new “Quick Start” workshop-based course focuses on action that will help you get up and running with a product in record time.

Doors close on Monday, June 22, so make sure you sign up to get all the details now!

Enter your Email:

About the author

Pamela Wilson

Pamela Wilson is Vice President of Educational Content at Copyblogger Media. Follow her on Twitter, listen to her Hit Publish podcast, and find more from her at

The post The Minimum Viable Paradox: How Doing Less Leads to More appeared first on Copyblogger.


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