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Hands-On Learning

hand_knifeSince I discovered that there is a likely market for my product (more specifics once the online store officially launches), I spent the past 2 months building prototypes by hand. It has been a tedious but enlightening step in the product development process. I am confident that it was time well-spent, as I could test many variables rather rapidly while spending minimal money (albeit a great deal of my own time). Additionally, interacting with my product in such an intimate fashion allowed me to develop and test solutions to problems I encountered.

I am relatively confident in the designs I’ve settled on (though I wouldn’t say the prototyping process is over). At this point, I’m having some prototypes made by a manufacturer, which I hope will help me further refine and standardize the product. Fingers crossed, everything will turn out as planned and I can move to full-scale production and marketing.

Battle: Winning. War: TBD

knightI’ve been quite busy since last time, testing three new product ideas without committing to any of them before they were proven. Two bombed, but one of them has been successful enough that I’m moving into the next stage. I built a more robust Adwords campaign to test multiple variables and teach myself how to use this resource more effectively. Along the way, I found a few articles online (especially this one) that were particularly helpful, in addition to the guides within Google.

Here’s what I did to move into the second stage of Adwords testing:

1. I categorized keywords and split them into groups. For example, since I am working on an apparel product, I have a group for the material, one for the method of manufacture, one for the unique design, etc. I also made a group called “general” for all keywords that don’t fit into one of the other categories.

2. I created a unique ad for each group. This way, I could try to tailor each ad to the user’s search.

I saw some improvement in my statistics after implementing these changes, but it still wasn’t ideal. After a few days, I did the following: Continue reading Battle: Winning. War: TBD

One Chicken, Two Chicken, Three Chickens

eggsIt was a classic case of counting chickens before they’d hatched, or more appropriately, investing time into ideas before I’d proven them worthwhile.

I spent hours and hours designing landing pages for a potential product, even going so far as to create a drawing of the product to display as a picture on the sites. At one point I had uploaded six different sites, each with a different company name to test response. I even got an iContact account and assigned each one a separate email address so that potential customers could submit their email to receive product updates. I then set up an AdWords campaign with six different ads to drive traffic to the sites. I ran the test for one week, then simplified it and ran it for another full week. After all of that work, I got one click. Yes, 212 impressions, 2 weeks, and a single click. That’s a lot of work for one data point. Continue reading One Chicken, Two Chicken, Three Chickens

Product Testing Resources

Since my last post, I read two very interesting articles on product testing. The first is on page 104 of the October issue of Inc. Magazine (I couldn’t find it on their website). It deals with lean product development and minimum viable product. The second is a post by Ramit Sethi on his blog, I Will Teach You To Be Rich, and focuses specifically on beta testing.

Both of these articles deal with the issues I’m facing right now with my own test. Even if my current product idea doesn’t work, these are all strategies that I can apply to future products.

Adult Education

desksI’ve been trying to teach myself a lot of new things these past few weeks, including online advertising and email list management. I started working with Google AdWords to test out some product ideas I had. The good news is that now that I’ve gotten the hang of it, I think I can set up new campaigns quite easily. The bad news, however, is that I’m not getting the kind of response I wanted from my ads. That is, I’m not getting any response at all.

I suppose it’s good to know in the early stages that no one is interested in the product I’m proposing, but it is a little disheartening to think about going back to the drawing board. I’m going to try the advertising test for another week with a higher bid to see if that changes anything. Has anyone had a similar experience with AdWords? What worked for you?

Housewarming Party!

I just moved the blog to its new, hopefully permanent domain, fromtherooftop.com.  I’m using the old domain, brandontirrell.com, to host some marketing test pages.  Once my tests are over, I may just use it for a short bio or some other marketing purpose.

I was quite surprised by how easy the move was, considering that I barely understand how hosting works or how to use my ftp client.  I’m determined to learn skills like this, though, so I checked out this guide.  I made a few mistakes in the beginning, but once I familiarized myself with the file structure, it went very smoothly.

Have you moved a Wordpress blog before?  Share your experiences in the comments.

Top-Down Entrepreneurship?

topdownI’ve known that I wanted to start a business for years now, but I had trouble figuring out what was driving me.  I constantly jumped between ideas and couldn’t really settle on something that seemed right.  After spending some time this summer with other hopeful business owners, I realized that most of them intended to start businesses based on their experience as an employee.  In other words, if they worked for Pepsi, they wanted to start their own drink company, or if they worked for IKEA, they wanted to open their own furniture showroom.

This is what I would call bottom-up entrepreneurship.  That is, starting with the skills and experience of an employee and building up into the role of CEO.  This reminds me of the classic story of a company president who started out in the mailroom and rose through the ranks over a lifetime, learning to do every job along the way.  While this certainly has some appeal, I don’t think I am that type of entrepreneur.  I don’t mean any disrespect to the bottom-up crowd, either.  On the contrary, I’m jealous of the technical skills they can apply to their ventures and their ability to think, “Well, I’m a glassblower, and I like it, so I’ll start an ornamental glass company.”  Sadly, that’s just not me right now. Continue reading Top-Down Entrepreneurship?

Time to get Serious

"He won't be receiving a paycheck anymore, so it'll just work itself out naturally."

"He won't be receiving a paycheck anymore, so it'll just work itself out naturally."

I’m officially unemployed, that is, I am no longer receiving a paycheck. I suppose the more optimistic view is that I’ve just become self-employed for the first time in my life. Hooray! Now that we have the happiness out of the way, let’s take a closer look at the other side of the coin: fear. I can subsist for awhile on my savings, but if I’m not producing an independent income for myself by the time that runs out, I’ll have to open resume.doc and try to find creative ways to put a positive spin on my failed foray into entrepreneurship. To make matters worse, I’ll be broke and wondering why I didn’t just get another job immediately and spend my savings on a nice car. There it is, the worst case scenario. Not really that bad in the big picture.

I have some plans to start producing that income, but I’ll save that for later. Let’s talk about this blog for a minute. There are plenty of business experts out there giving advice (much of it useful, some not), but I am not one of those. Eventually, I may be qualified to give out advice, but everyone starts somewhere. This blog is all about the start, and all of the trial-and-error, learn-as-you-go details. Hopefully I’ll build something successful, though the harsh reality is that I’m statistically more likely to fail. Everybody likes a good underdog story, right?