Category Archives for "Build Your Business"

digital product creation

Digital Product Creation: Solid Planning Brings Great Results with Less Work

I decided to consolidate lessons 7,8 and 9 because all the topics fit together and can be covered in one medium-sized post instead of three short posts.

​Lesson 7 consisted of a review of the outline I created for my eBook. The purpose of the review was to set an objective for each section of the outline and make sure every subtopic will help the reader accomplish that objective.

digital product creation

Welcome to Lesson 7, 8 and 9 of the Product Creation Masterclass Experiment!

As you can see below, my review led to a lot of markups. It also led to a few new (and possibly better?) ideas. It was time well spent.

Key Takeaways

  1. According to the ConvertKit, most eBooks average 15-20,000 words. Doing some quick math tells me I should aim for about 2 – 3 pages of material for each section of my outline, which will bring the entire eBook to about 40 pages.
  2. Adding more meat to each item helped me get a much better idea of what I want to discuss in each section.

Scheduling Time to Create My Digital Product

The idea of creating a digital book can be a bit overwhelming.

I just said I need to create about 40 pages of material to put in the book. That means I need to write a lot of valuable stuff. The good thing about it, though, is I can create it for the eBook and then reuse it on the blog and in email courses, etc.

But it still takes a lot of writing – and time. Especially while the Product Creation Masterclass is going on because I need to do the writing for my project on top of these posts and the other steps of the masterclass. But all I have is time (see below), so I won’t complain too loudly!

Lesson 8’s goal was to help get all that time scheduled in my calendar so I would actually make progress. While most people in the masterclass have other jobs they have to work their content production around, I am lucky enough to be able to focus on it full time.

But I still need the self-discipline to dig in and get it done. And writing down some goals helps with that. Here’s what I came up with.

​It’s Monday as I write this, so I started my schedule tomorrow:

  • Tuesday – Friday this week: write one section per day. I also want to outline each section before I quit working the previous day so I can just sit down and start writing rather than having to outline first thing.
  • Monday – Thursday next week: edit and finalize one section and write one of the checklists I plan to provide

By the end of next week, the goal is to have the eBook completed. My hope is that by spending 3 – 5 hours per day writing and editing, I can take advantage of batching my work like the lesson recommended to be more effective and efficient.

It Takes a Village to Succeed

When you work alone, it can be hard to have the self-discipline to keep going. Lesson 8 recommended getting an accountability partner or participating in a mastermind group to help with this.

And I agree it can help a lot. If you remember my introductory post of this masterclass, accountability is the very reason I decided to do this experiment.

It seems to be working. The comments I get on these posts and feedback I get through email have really encouraged and motivated me.

The Digital Products Behind the eBook

When I got to lesson 9, my schedule from lesson 8 abruptly went out the window.

​Why? ​Because the masterclass kind of put the cart before the horse in some ways.

​Here’s what I mean.

​In the very next lesson after they asked me to develop a schedule to write the content for my eBook, they tell me I need to have a lead magnet to attract people to sign up for my list. Only problem is – I don’t have the content for that lead magnet either.

Bummer…back to the drawing board.

At their recommendation, though, I’m going to use content from the eBook to be the lead magnet. Here’s how I envision it working; we’ll see if it actually works out this way or not.

  1. Develop a 4 or 5-day email course tentatively entitled, “How to Build an Unstoppable Referral Program without Asking for Referrals.” The course will be made up of 4 blog posts. After the person signs up for the course, they’ll get one e-mail every day for 4 or 5 days that leads them to one of these posts.
  2. Use these 4 or 5 posts as part of the eBook.

Area of concern:  One thing I’m a little concerned about is the topic, though. I may change it. Since my eBook is about increasing a chiropractor’s online visibility, I’m not sure a lead magnet about a referral program is very congruent. Maybe I’ll still do the e-mail course, but change the topic?

Here’s my revised schedule:

  • Today: write and edit one post for the lead magnet
  • Tuesday: write and edit two posts for the lead magnet
  • Wednesday: write and edit two posts for the lead magnet
  • Thursday: consolidate posts into an Ultimate Guide and write a press release announcing it
  • Friday this week through Friday next week: write and edit one section per day on average

So there you have it...what do you think? Please leave a comment.

creating a digital product

Creating a Digital Product Starts with an Outline

Welcome to Lesson 6 of the Product Creation Masterclass Experiment!

As you may remember, I ended last week feeling extremely overwhelmed. So, when today’s Product Creation Masterclass e-mail came, I opened it with some trepidation.

I wondered if I was going to finish the day in even greater overwhelm or would today’s activity somehow pull me out of the pits and back on the path toward creating my first profitable digital product?

The purpose of lesson six was to create an outline for my eBook. Not a highly-detailed outline I could begin writing from, but a conceptual – high level – outline to help me collect my thoughts and give me something I could send to my two-person chiropractor focus group for feedback.

Creating a digital product begins with an outline and today’s lesson got me there.

How ConvertKit Recommended Outlining My Product Idea

Step 1: Brainstorm every topic idea I could think of that might go into the book. You probably remember that during the brainstorming process, you’re not supposed to analyze the idea’s value or try to rationalize why it should or shouldn’t be included…you just write down everything that comes to mind.

Step 2: Look over all the topic ideas and divide them by how granular they are. For example, big ideas or concepts might become chapter topics and smaller, more actionable ideas might become sections within the chapter. No hard and fast rules here, but if the ideas can be broken down into a number of step-by-step directions, it’s probably a small idea.

Step 3: Group the small ideas underneath the big idea that make most sense.

How I Actually Outlined My Idea

While I see the value in their method, that’s just not how my brain works. Not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it is a thing…

In a group setting, their way is very helpful and productive, but I find it more helpful and faster when I’m by myself to do something different.

Step 1: Make a list of the major topics I want to cover. This list became the chapter list for me.

Step 2: Go through each chapter one at a time and list out the topics I think should be covered in each chapter. Going chapter by chapter helps me think linearly rather than haphazardly. It helps me develop a sequence of topics to write about that flow and make sense.

Step 3: Review the entire outline and see if there are any holes. I try to imagine beginning to write each section and ask myself, “What am I actually going to talk about in this section?”

Step 4: Go over all the chapter and section headings and rewrite them in my target market’s language.

Step 5: Send the outline out for feedback.

What did I ask my research group?

  1. Is the language too salesy or hyped up?
  2. Does the ebook scratch an itch they have or does it try to solve a problem that isn’t really that important to them?

I wanted to keep what I asked them pretty simple so it didn’t take up a bunch of time.

My Initial Outline

​Here is what I came up with. Please feel free to ask questions or give me feedback in the comments.

1. Patients Need You, But Marketing is Broken

a. The critical mind shift savvy chiropractors must make to attract new patients in today’s information-saturated, instant-access local environment.

b. Just like in real estate, marketing online is all about location and giving prospective patients what they want.

c. Gaining visibility, notoriety and trust online is a team sport most doctors play alone.

d. How to grow a practice with consistent, profitable patients through focused marketing, gaining instant visibility and taking full advantage of the Serendipity Effect.

2. Massive success through better focus online and off

a. Use the Pareto principle to target marketing toward your most profitable or most desirable patients.

​b. Drive prospective patients to a specific set of pages on your website, thereby allowing you to track, test and improve your new patient offers and site conversions.

​c. Become known locally and online as the expert in your most profitable treatment areas while letting less savvy chiropractors waste their time, money and energy on broad spectrum marketing.

​d. Discover how to know for sure exactly how well your plan is working without spending inordinate time or learning a bunch of new systems.

3. Gaining nearly instant visibility and notoriety for your business…in less than 1 hour per month

a. How to unlock newsworthy items in your business to drive your perfect patients to you.

b. Educate your prospective patients by giving them what they’re really looking for.

c. Partner with hundreds of media outlets to gain visibility, get your news to the top of Google and give you massive credibility in your patient’s eyes.

4. Leverage the Serendipity Effect to dominate your competition in months instead of years

a. The enormous effect consistency and a little time (months, not years) can have on your visibility online.

b. How to mitigate bad online reviews and drive your competition off page one with no extra effort.

​c. How focusing on your most profitable new patient segments serendipitously increases your visibility for nearly every online search associated with chiropractors or chiropractic procedures in your area.

Encouraged by Progress

I started today's exercise with a feeling of dread because I felt so far behind. But as I walked down the path ConvertKit laid out, I gained momentum and encouragement.

​In addition to finishing the outline, I gained a much better idea of where I'd like the project to head. As I was thinking through the project, I came up with additional ways to frame my ideas...ways I believe will be more appealing to my target market.

So - in the final assessment - I'm in a much better place than I left off last week; both mentally and from a product perspective.

If you have any questions of comments about my outline, please leave a comment below.​

melyssa griffin

Melyssa Griffin Interview

My Notes from the Interview

The interview lasted about 20 minutes. Alexis from ConvertKit and Melyssa discussed everything from how Melyssa transitioned from doing freelance work for clients into a course-based business to how she builds courses and prepares for launches.

Here a my notes:​

Audiences usually fall into 3 or 4 natural groupings

Melyssa called them buckets, but the idea is that as you build an audience, you find out what each type of customer needs.

For example​, a very common way to divide them is by experience level. i.e. beginner, intermediate, and expert. But if your audience is seeking career advice, you might divide them into those looking for work, those wanting to advance, and those looking to change industries.

Preparing for a launch

Do something really valuable like offering a free course, video series or a challenge one week prior to your launch, This will add value to your potential customers and affiliates as well as get them engaged.

 Reminded me of Jeff Walker's Product Launch Formula.

Avoiding burnout

Never stop asking, "How can I bring more of myself - my interests, my desires, my life - to the business and my readers/customers.

Getting past doubt and imposter syndrome

The way to get past your doubts and fears is to dig in and take action. As you see results, the fears will diminish. But they will never completely go away.

You can find out more about Melyssa Griffin on her website.

My Digital Product Development Timeline

My Digital Product Development Timeline

Welcome to Day 5 of the Product Creation Masterclass Experiment!

Every morning this week, I excitedly clicked on the link in my daily my Product Creation Masterclass e-mail. But when I get to the ConvertKit masterclass site, I read through the lesson material and find myself thinking…what now?!

I must be dense or something. I always need to read the lesson two or three times, digest it for a bit and then figure out what task they are actually asking me to complete.

Today was no different. The task was to put time blocks into my calendar over the next 3 weeks to create an event timeline that will get me to a product launch. Great in concept.

Here’s one problem in execution, though…I don’t have a complete picture of the product I’ll be creating, so how can I know how much time to plan?

What's the Major Malfunction?

Here’s a screenshot of part of today’s lesson.

My Digital Product Development Timeline

Another problem with today’s task is oversimplification. In the proposed schedule, I see tasks like promoting your wait list and find beta testers. Both important tasks, but also both tasks that take more than a day – or even a week – to complete.

In the ‘3 weeks to launch’ section, you’re supposed to find affiliates and influencers and connect with them. Then in ‘2 weeks to launch’ you’re supposed to send your affiliate material to your affiliates.

There is no way on God’s green Earth all that can take place in one week.

It’s possible I just got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, so I’m a little cranky…I’m quickly coming to the realization that 30 days to a profitable digital product is unlikely to happen.

I don’t really blame ConvertKit for the fact that things take longer than 30 days. And while it can be frustrating, I understand they’re trying to give me a proven framework to build my business from. And by instituting a 30-day timeline, they’ve built in a certain amount of urgency and motivation.

But, when I’m feeling this overwhelmed at the end of the first week, it makes me wonder how I’ll feel at the end of next week…

Stay tuned…I did the parts of today's exercise that I could. I just didn't feel like it was a very useful exercise.

Drop a comment below if you have any questions or thoughts on the masterclass so far.

product validation

Product Validation and Goal Setting

Welcome to Days 3 & 4 of the Product Creation Masterclass Experiment!

OK, so I got bogged down last week on lesson 3.

The lesson was about how to validate your product idea. The basic premise is that you should connect with some of your potential customers to make sure they’ll buy what you’re making.

Makes complete sense…do a survey, make some phone calls, e-mail your list, or all three. Whatever it takes to contact a few people from your target market, see what their burning pains and interests are and then adjust your product idea(s) accordingly.

Right there is where I got stuck. I have no chiropractors on my list that I know of and I only know one personally, so none of the options above really worked for me. In my mind, the ConvertKit process assumes you’re not starting from scratch, and so I went other routes to gain some level of validation.

Stuck in Product Validation

I went to Quora and Reddit, emailed the one chiropractor I know and asked him for some help, and posted a request in several Facebook groups I’m a member of.

To date, I have one person from a Facebook group and the one guy I know that have offered to answer questions. But I haven’t actually talked to them yet.

I decided to put together a survey to gather info from them initially rather than doing it on the phone. I think it will be less imposing on them and their time. Plus, I’m going to offer an incentive for them to send the survey to their chiropractor friends. I’ll let you know if/how that works.

Integrating SurveyMonkey

with ConvertKit through Zapier

I found a cool way to integrate my SurveyMonkey survey with my ConvertKit mailing list using Zapier.

This way, anyone that takes the survey will automatically be added to my mailing list and tagged with a ‘Chiropractor Survey’ tag so I can follow up with them.

I thought it was pretty cool – I plan to create a post explaining how I did it, but I just haven’t had the time yet.

Goal Setting and Clarifying Your Purpose

After validating my product…which is still in progress, of course, I set about clarifying exactly what I want the product to accomplish for my customers…what is its purpose?

​Luckily, that’s fairly simple for me…

Goal for my first eBook

My eBook will teach chiropractors how to use press releases to get on page 1 of Google for low to mid competition keywords, greatly increase the likelihood they’ll be included in the Google Maps 3 pack results and increase their organic rankings over time.

The next step in day 4 is to clarify goals for this product and its launch.

​But before we do that, I’ll let you in on a little secret of mine…please don’t tell anyone…

​I don’t usually set goals.

​They just don’t really motivate me. Especially at the start of a project. Truthfully – even if my product validation was complete and it went well – I don’t know enough to set realistic goals. In my mind, there are too many variables – many of which I even haven’t discovered yet – to be able to build a goal or series of goals around it.

​But, like I said in the intro to this series, I’ve been doing it my way for a long time and it hasn’t worked for me. So in the interest of trying it another way, I went ahead with the exercises. I do see the value in having goals and tracking progress toward them…I truly hope it works!

product validation

Our newish 4Runner

​Just this week, my wife and I bought a new car…it’s a 2011 Toyota 4Runner. And it came with a $400/month payment; plus a $25/month increase in insurance over the 2005 Honda Odyssey we traded in.

So that’s what I decided to use as my goal…$425.

Ultimately, I’d like the product to bring in $425/month, but initially, I’ll set that as a total income goal. Once I know it can bring in that much, growing it is a matter a systemizing what works.

We haven’t discussed pricing yet in the Product Masterclass, but based on what I know about eBook pricing, I’m thinking my initial price will be $29. I may adjust that later, but this is good enough for planning purposes.

Email Lists Change Things (or Setting a Goal for the Size of Your List)

If I had a well-developed list of chiropractors already, it could inject a little more reality into these figures. The reason is because there’s an industry standard estimated response rate of 2% when you mail your mailing list. In other words, for every 100 people on your list, 2 of them will buy.

So you can figure a goal like this:

  • subscribers on your list  X  0.02  =  number of buyers you need
  • number of buyers needed  X  purchase price  =  income goal

You can also figure it backwards to get an estimate of how large a list needs to be to reach a certain sales goal. For example:

  • income goal ( in my case, $450)  /  purchase price ($29)  =  buyers needed (15)
  • number of buyers needed (15)  /  0.02  =  email subscribers required (750)

That 750 number kind of depresses me considering the trouble I’ve been having during validation!

Drop a comment below if you have any questions or thoughts on the masterclass so far.

* Featured image by organic maven, cropped

which digital product

Deciding Which Digital Product to Sell

Welcome to Day 2 of the ConvertKit Product Creation Masterclass Experiment!

​Today’s content was a little more easily digestible than yesterday’s, so I was able to make my decisions and get this post written all in the same day.

​If you’re following along with the e-mails, you know today’s lesson was about choosing which type of digital product to make. ConvertKit is primarily concerned with eBooks and digital courses, but they also discussed several other options like tutorials, themes and templates, photography, printables, membership sites, and apps.

which digital product

But as I said, they’re focusing on eBooks and digital courses because that’s where most online entrepreneurs seem to start and because their target market is bloggers, who – almost exclusively focus on these products…at least at first.

Which Digital Product to Sell?

In the interest of choosing something so I can move forward, I’m going to select an eBook; not sure exactly what topic yet. I think that will develop as we do more validation in tomorrow’s exercise.

​Here’s my reasoning…

  1. I don’t have any content that centers on chiropractors, press releases, search engines, local search marketing or any other potential topics in the niche.
  2. ​I think best in written form, so as I write I can build the eBook.
  3. This is just an intro product, not a top-of-the-line course. Ultimately, if I get market validation this, I’d work on video tutorial courses to sell, but this will be faster and easier for now.
  4. This will help me make my research time paid time instead of unpaid time.

As I’m writing this, I got to thinking…as part of my market validation, I’m going to ask what format chiropractors would prefer to receive it in.

I could provide it as an eBook or as an email course where they get one chapter per week.

I could also provide it as an eBook with email follow-up each week as they go through it and provide an audio version of the eBook as an add on.

Lots of options…will let you know what I decide…

My big question is whether they’ll pay for it or not. I guess that’s what validation is for, though. We’ll see what ConvertKit has planned for tomorrow.

Domain Decisions…Should I Stay or Should I Go?

choosing a domain name

picture by ivanpw - unmodified

Here’s another decision I’m going to have to make rather soon. Although, I think it’s pretty much made unless you change my mind.

Should I create a new category on this blog and host all this new content, eBook, etc here, or should I get a new domain and create a separate site?

What do you think I should do and why? Chime in with your comment below…
Niche and Customer Avatar

Day 1: Narrowing My Niche and Creating a Customer Avatar

Niche and Customer Avatar

Picking a Niche & Customer Avatar

​Welcome to Day 1 of my ConvertKit Product Creation Masterclass Experiment.

​I have to be honest. When I read ConvertKit’s Day 1 material, I wasn’t too impressed.

​There wasn’t anything here I hadn’t seen before...many times.

​But I decided to go through it anyway because I had promised you all I would and because thinking through these basics when starting a new project is never a bad idea. Plus, some of you have told me one of the biggest reasons you joined this experiment was because you feel alone and you wanted to see how someone else went through the process.

​So here are my answers to the questions ConvertKit asked on Day 1.

What are your natural-born talents?

I like to research things that interest me and figure out how they work. I can envision how mechanical things work and explain them to the uninitiated. I can write in ways that connect with many people in a natural and friendly way. When I meet people in person, I usually build trust quickly.

What are your learned skills?

Computers, websites, online marketing, leading groups, search engine optimization, in-person networking, public speaking, nurturing relationships, writing to inform and connect with others, and listening.

What would your friends and family say is your superpower?

My wife says my superpower is the ability to take seemingly unrelated pieces of information and put them all together in a way that helps whatever situation I’m in…call me the Combinator?!

Past co-workers would say my superpower is turning mediocre groups into high-performing groups by building an environment of respect and genuine support.

Nearly everyone that really knows me says I stay calm in stressful situations and help others calm down and develop creative, realistic solutions or ways to deal with difficult/stressful situations.

What are your weaknesses?

I like to start things, but am not as good at finishing them. I jump to conclusions too quickly. I stay quiet too often. I have a hard time staying on schedule.

What title have you used to describe yourself? Does it still fit what you do?

Superman…Batman…follower…yes…and not so much.

What do you want to be known for?

Loving Christ, serving others and being helpful.

What is a Customer Avatar?

​A customer avatar is simply a written representation of your perfect customer.

Building a customer avatar helps you get to know your customers and serve them better. It helps you understand the world through their eyes. It helps you communicate in ways that connect with them rather than repel them.

Ultimately, building an avatar or ideal customer profile and then using it in everything you do keeps your focus where it belongs…on the customer. You should use it everywhere from product development to marketing to gathering testimonials to customer service.

When companies develop products for, market toward and build systems to support themselves rather than the customer, they fail. Think of our government or many churches or the Ford Edsel or WorldCom or the 2008 housing crash.

How to Build a Customer Avatar

​Lesson one from ConvertKit doesn’t provide much guidance regarding how to build a customer profile. It just asks a bunch of questions. If you need more resources, check these out.

Below are my answers to their questions. If you have thoughts or opinions, please share/ask in the comments.

Just to be clear, for the purposes of this product creation masterclass, my target customer is chiropractors and my product will help them get page one rankings for local Google searches.

If you have no idea where to start getting the information for your own customer avatar, there are some helpful ideas in my article series about how I chose my target market.

​My Customer Avatar

What does my ideal customer’s day look like?

They are busy people, bouncing between patient appointments, running their business and trying to fit marketing in around the edges. They never have enough time or money and are unsure if their marketing efforts are productive, which frustrates them.

Where do their motivations come from?

They want to help others, take care of their families and grow a profitable business.

What do they value? What don’t they value?

They value predictability, results, stability and rationality. They don’t value hype, ridiculous claims, get-rich-quick ideas, anything unproven or anything that sounds gimmicky.

What are their strengths and weaknesses?

Strengths - relating to people one on one, business acumen, patient care, academic knowledge, industry expertise, financial management, prudent risk taking

Weaknesses – lack of time, lack of money, inability to see ‘out of the box’, think they need to run the business by themselves, reticent to try new things

Why do they want to learn about your niche or product topic?

They know online marketing and where they place in Google results has a direct impact on how many customers call them to book appointments, but they’ve been burned in the past by search engine optimization firms and online marketing efforts that didn’t produce the promised or hoped for results.

What are their struggles with your product topic?

a. It’s technically complex

b. There is a lot of conflicting information available

c. They’ve been burned in the past and felt they spent more than they should have based on the results they received

d. They don’t know what to do, who to trust or have the time to figure it out

e. They don’t want to throw money at ineffective marketing

What inspires them about your product topic?

a. The idea of being number one on Google for target keywords

b. They know being #1 or #2 will translate into more site visits, phone calls and patients

How do they process information and learn?

They like to be presented information, have time to process it/fact check it, and then act on it. They like case studies and lots of proof presented in a factual, matter of fact manner; no hype or gimmick.

Problems with today’s lesson


Realistically, the idea that someone could come into this masterclass with no prior knowledge or experience and walk out 30 days later with a product is somewhat unrealistic.

Unless that person has a TON of time and motivation on their hands, anyway.

I was able to sit down and type out the answers to the questions almost non-stop. But that’s only because I’ve been through similar exercises in the past. Plus, for at least 6 or 8 weeks, I’ve been working on my product idea and doing market research.

I also have the advantage of having a friend that’s a chiropractor. And we’ve talked a number of times about marketing efforts so I know some of his pains.

I still need to validate with him, but that definitely put me a step ahead during this exercise.

The second issue with this lesson was there seemed to be a logical piece of the puzzle largely missing from the conversation. They leapt straight from self-focus and identifying your skills into creating customer avatars without explaining how to make that transition yourself.

They gave just two short paragraphs with one example each of how you could turn strengths into a target market or niche. This severely short changed anyone truly starting from scratch.

Here are a couple resources I found that may help:

  1. ​

The second site primarily discusses building niche affiliate marketing sites, but it still has a bunch of great info on determining and developing your random ideas into potential markets and niches.

My biggest issue with today’s lesson is that little to no help was given if you didn’t already have a market or niche picked out. I think they should’ve given some additional resources to help with that.

A framework to put all your ideas through would be helpful as well. For example, there was no discussion of market size, competitors, places to go for research help, etc.

Join the conversation!

Tell us about your journey or comment on mine. We’d love to hear from you.

Stats (as of 4/25/17)





E-mail subscribers




Affiliate Clicks




Affiliate Referrals




Note: If you're on a mobile device and can't see the entire table, press on the table with your finger and slide it side to side to see everything.

choosing my target market

Show Me the Money: Choosing My Target Market

I thought I knew what I wanted…

All too often for me, that’s how my story begins.

And this product creation journey is no different.

choosing my target market

When I came up with the idea to do an experiment and journal my experience with the ConvertKit Product Creation Masterclass, I thought I had the target market I wanted to pursue all worked out. But I guess not…

Target Market or Niche?

​Before we go any further, let me define a couple terms so we’re all working on an even playing field and because their definitions are different based on which textbook or website you look at. Here’s what the terms mean to me:

Target market

The overall segment of the population my niche is in. For example, small business owners or pet owners or people that like to barbeque.


A market inside the target market that I’m going to focus on. For example, women small business owners with brick and mortar businesses or owners of pets with skin allergies or BBQ cooks that use indoor grills.

When starting out, you’ll almost always be better off marketing to the smallest niche you can that has a proven desire for your product and an ability to pay for it. Once you figure out how to reach and service that niche successfully, you can expand by either:

  • duplicating your efforts in another similar niche, or
  • selling different products or services to that same niche.

Once I choose my target market, I’ll use these same steps to identify a profitable niche. The numbers will just be smaller (and harder to find). The first order of business, though, is choosing my target market.

Choosing My Target Market – Indecision or Opportunity?

I use ThriveThemes to run this site and a couple others. I’ve done a fair amount of customization of the sites. I can answer many routine questions people ask without too much struggle or research. So I thought I would develop a business and my first digital product around that niche.

​But the, as I was working on other things, I ran across the idea of imposter syndrome.

imposter syndrome

Imposter syndrome intrigues me for several reasons.

  1. It seems to be almost universal. I even saw studies about college professors having it.
  2. I know from a number of mailing lists I’m on and people I’ve talked to on Facebook and in other forums that many people really struggle with it in relation to teaching online courses and developing online businesses or products.
  3. There’s a ton of academic and anecdotal research on it.
  4. There are a number of strategies to combat it that could be turned into products, courses, seminar, etc.

Then, a third shiny object came into my view.

For several weeks, I’ve been running some experiments using press releases to boost the search engine rankings of local businesses. I am beginning to see some real, trackable results in those efforts and continue to experiment.

I thought maybe I could do a combination of selling a service and teaching others how to do it.

If a businesses owner had more money than time (or interest), they could pay me to do it for them. And if they have more time than money, they could learn how to do it themselves.

How Will I Choose My Target Market?

​What started out as a simple process has now morphed into a decision that needs to be made before the masterclass starts next week.

​And a decision I don’t want to mess up. So how do I choose a market for my business?

​Well, I’ve learned a couple things from my past experience and online research.

  1. I need objective (i.e. numbers-based) measures to compare these markets against one another rather the subjective (i.e. what I or other people think) measures.
  2. I need to base my selection on business (i.e. likely revenue, ease of business market entry, likely expenses) reasons rather than personal reasons.

When we were running the numbers for our Zippy Shell business before we invested in the franchise, we did spreadsheet after spreadsheet figuring all different scenarios…none of which were ANYWHERE close to what actually happened.

Zippy Shell target market

The problem was we didn’t have any hard and fast numbers to determine growth from, so we estimated everything. Zippy Shell had only been franchising for a couple years when we came on board, so there were only a handful of franchisees that could share their numbers.

None of the franchises were over a year or 18 months old, and none of them were in markets similar to ours, so we estimated.

​And those estimates were way off.

​So how can I make sure that doesn’t happen again? Great question…but I don’t think there’s a great answer.

​But I have to start somewhere,, so I’ll do all the research I can and try to make the numbers as accurate as I can. At the end of the day, though, I’ll still have to make an educated guess…just like with Zippy Shell.

​How to Evaluate Potential Target Markets

​The trick to getting the most accurate and trustworthy information about potential target markets is to go straight to the people in the market. Find where they hang out online and off and go talk to them.

​I’ll go into these steps in depth in future posts, but here’s the outline…

​I’m going to go to,, Facebook groups and LinkedIn groups. I’ll search Amazon book reviews and the comments on popular YouTube videos. The idea is to find out what real people are talking about, complaining about and asking for.

​If I can’t find anyone discussing any of these burning pains in relation to ThriveThemes, imposter syndrome or improving search engine rankings for local businesses, I’ll know I need to go back to the drawing board. Based on the preliminary research I’ve done already, though, I’m confident at least one or two of these will be a great target market.

​Once I know what’s being talked about online, I’ll start gathering as many market statistics as I can. Items such as number of potential customers, number of competitors and their offerings, and how much does the market spend annually on services I could provide. I’ll also look at competitors to determine common workable revenue models and holes in the market.

​Finally, I’ll find a handful of people in the market and talk to them either in person, on the phone or by Skype. My goal will be to get feedback from real people to see what they think about the markets. I hope to get them to identify three things:

  1. What they think the market should have but doesn’t.
  2. What solutions they would find interesting and would actually pay for.
  3. What they’ve tried in the past to address their problems.

Choosing My Target Market: Like Making an Amazing Stew

Once I’ve got all this information, the actual process of choosing my target market will be a process of mixing the empirical data and the interview data.

​Kind of like making a good stew, this is where judgment (and risk) come into the picture.

​I will be trying to determine:

  1. Which market has niches that will provide a number of profitable product or service offerings that interest me?
  2. Which market has the pain points I can serve most profitably?
  3. Which market has the greatest growth potential and is also stable?

What am I missing? Leave a comment and tell me!

​This is the first article in what I plan to be a seven part series on choosing a target market for your online business. The rest of the articles in the series are will show up below as they’re written.

​If you’re interested in more articles on this from someone else’s perspective, here are a few I’ve found useful:

choose business success

The 3 Real Reasons You Won’t Be a Business Success

Key Takeaways

Business success is hard. Most people that dream of starting businesses never do. And, of those that do, most fail. Here's why...

  1. Fear of failure
  2. Imposter syndrome
  3. They don't really want it

I turned left when I should’ve turned right.

Barely over a year ago, I shot this video. I was feeling confident as I sat in my car watching others practice the maneuvers we’d all be tested on the next day to get our commercial driver’s licenses. I wasn’t the top student in the class…probably somewhere toward the top of the middle performers…like I am in most stuff I’ve done in life.

Anyway, I knew what I was doing…or so I thought.

The next day, I failed my first attempt at the test. And so did four other guys in the class.

​Until now, though, no one that wasn’t involved that day knew I failed.

​If you just watch the video, you assume I passed the test. And I did…eventually.

Are You Scared of Failing?

​Do your friends talk about failure?

​Mine don’t. Matter of fact, I’d argue we all feel pressure to present our lives as perfect; especially to our friends and family online. And we feel this pressure even though we know our lives aren't perfect and we know that no one else’s life is perfect either.

We all fall down, we all get embarrassed, we all mess up things we shouldn’t.

​Letting any of these "failures" out into the wild on Facebook or other sites is rare; to be avoided like the plague. We’ll talk about fake failures (like, “I spend too much time at work”), but when it comes to the fears, doubts and insecurities that come with each one of our daily lives – i.e. the real failures – we try to act like they don’t – or shouldn’t - exist.

​Every time I write an article on this site, I think about what my friends and family are going to think about what I’ve written. For whatever reason, I seem to be most concerned about what the people I used to do business with in my Zippy Shell business will think.

​Even though most of them aren’t really a part of my life any more.

​Surely, I’m not the only weirdo that thinks about that kind of stuff, am I?

​I’ve written about how that business failed, but if you asked the majority of those people what happened, they’d most likely tell you I just decided to sell the business. Why is that?

It's ​because that’s the only part of the story I told them while it was going on…except for my accountant…she knew everything.

Reason #1 - Fear of Failure​

​Luckily, there’s no video of this event.

​But the video in my head is as real as if it happened yesterday and the weird thing is I watch from a spectator’s perspective rather than from my own.

business success

taken by MAJ Allen Hill licensed under Attribution-ShareAlike, unmodified

​Back when I was in the Air Force, I was on an intramural softball team. It was the first game of the season, I was brand new to the unit and I was up to bat.

​First pitch…ball one.

​Second pitch…down the middle…strike one.

​Third pitch…down the middle again…and I made good contact.

​The ball was on its way to deep left center and I was on my way to first.

​As I rounded first, the fielder was still chasing the ball so I put it in high gear thinking I could get a triple and maybe even a homer out of it.

​I round second and all of the sudden, my legs and my body got out of sync. It was like my legs were running away with me and my upper body just couldn't keep up.

​Before I know it, I’m sprawled out on the ground, halfway between second and third.

​By the time I get up and make it to third, they tag me out and what started out as a heroic triple or homer becomes the inning's disappointing third out.

​To make matters worse, when I get back to the dugout to get my glove, I look down at my right hand and my pinky is bent nearly 90 degrees to the right at the middle knuckle. I remember thinking, “Well, that doesn’t look right,” before I told the coach I had to go to the hospital.

​NONE of us likes to be embarrassed. But what I learned was my failure was MUCH bigger in my head than it was to anyone else. The only thing I remember being asked about later was whether my finger was okay…nobody even talked about how goofy I least not that I heard...

​So, like me, you want to create a digital product or online course. You want to build a mailing list. And your efforts aren’t gaining traction yet. So what?! Everyone has to start from somewhere and no one begins with a huge audience or successful products.

​It takes time and we all fail along the way. Most of us fail many times. But we don’t talk about that…at least not openly…not most of us.

​So when we launch our product and nothing happens or it takes us months to get over 100 subscribers on our list, we call ourselves failures and we quit. These “failures” that no one else even really noticed take up such a prominent place in our minds that we choose to quit instead of persevering.

​We’re so scared of what others will think that we allow that fear to paralyze us when it should motivate us. The successful online entrepreneur isn’t the one that succeeds astonishingly on their first effort; the true success is the “overnight business success” that worked at it for 6, 8 or 10 years before hitting it big.

​It’s easy to just let life happen instead of taking charge of it. It’s COMFORTABLE to do that; to be like 98% of the wantrepreneurs out there online. But if you want to succeed, you have to put that risk behind you…you have to choose reality over the self-pity in your mind.

Ramit Sethi

Which would you rather have? A safe life where nobody points at you…and you’re the same as everyone else? Or would you be willing to take a small risk — not a huge one, just a small one — and dip your toe in the waters of trying something new?” 

Thomas Edison

“I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”

Reason #2 - What if they see me as an imposter?

​Let’s be real…all of us feel like imposters sometimes.

​What if I’m a computer programmer and don’t have the right degree or the certifications? What if the others I’m competing with have more experience? What if someone pokes a hole in my beautiful theory?

​We all struggle with imposter syndrome. And it can easily stop us from even attempting our dreams. Or we overcorrect the other way and chase that ”right” certification or school or experience or personal network or…

​It’s like we think once we get this magical amount of whatever it is we feel insecure about, the universe will suddenly open up and business success will be easy. For several reasons, this is just plain wrong:

  1. ​What actually happens when you reach that college degree or whatever you’ve been striving for is you find another excuse (like an MBA or more experience) to allow yourself to delay a little more.
  2. There are many examples of people with no connections, no formal education, no training and no money that have made it to the top levels of nearly every endeavor you can imagine. Sure, having some of these things can improve your chances of business success, but not having them doesn’t preclude you.
  3. Once you grab this mythical Rosetta stone, you still have to work tremendously hard to be successful. Like we talked about above...there is no such thing as an overnight business success. If you’re going to have to put in 6 or 8 or 10 years to gain experience (like Cal Newton writes in So Good They Can’t Ignore You), wouldn’t you be better off to start now rather than delaying a few more months or years?


​The only gatekeeper to your business success is your own mind. Get out of your own way and put in the work and you will be a success.

​I’ll guarantee the success you reach won’t be the success you planned, but I’ll also guarantee it will be more satisfying than you thought it would be. With just a website, an email list and a little online business knowhow, you can take your digital products or online courses straight to the audience that will take you on this journey.

​But will you? Most won't, honestly...

Reason #3 - You don't want it badly enough to do it!​

​There’s a story I’ve heard that goes like this…

A hermit was meditating by a river when a young man interrupted him. "Master, I wish to become your disciple," said the man. "Why?" replied the hermit. The young man thought for a moment. "Because I want to find God."

The master jumped up, grabbed him by the scruff of his neck, dragged him into the river, and plunged his head under water. After holding him there for a minute, with him kicking and struggling to free himself, the master finally pulled him up out of the river. The young man coughed up water and gasped to get his breath. When he eventually quieted down, the master spoke. "Tell me, what did you want most of all when you were under water."

"Air!" answered the man.

"Very well," said the master. "Go home and come back to me when you want God as much as you just wanted air."

Over the years, I’ve noticed something about myself. Just like the hermit in the story above, I say I want certain things; relationships, habits, possessions…lots of things.

​And I know what is required to get those things: time, focus, money, discipline. But I choose not to do those things. Or, at least, not do them regularly enough to produce my desired outcome.

​I’m sure you do that too…if you don’t think so, just ask your wife or your child.

​But what actually produces change in my life, time and again, is when I get fed up “enough” with something to actually get serious and disciplined and accountable to myself and – possibly – others about it.

​One small example of this is when I finally started flossing my teeth every day a few years ago…okay, actually I probably do it 5 or 6 days out of 7, but before this I never did it. I finally got a dentist I knew personally and felt like I’d be letting him down if I came in for checkups in worse shape than last time. But I also got fed up with myself and just decided to do it.

​Another, larger example, is how I developed a daily prayer and devotional practice.

​My point is the same, though, any change takes work. And if you don’t truly want it and aren’t truly motivated to do it, you will find reasons to sabotage yourself. You’ll continually find yourself on Facebook when you should be researching your market. You’ll spend whole evenings in front of the TV instead of designing your digital product or online course.

​And, even more tragically, you’ll come up with a bunch of reasons an online business won’t work for you. But it will work for you…if you work for it and make the daily choices you know you need to make.

​It’s funny, once I get started writing a blog post or reaching out to promote articles, I get into the groove and get things done. It’s getting started that’s the hard part. I find ways to delay and procrastinate.

It reminds me of going to a networking event or writing a paper in college. By the time I arrive at the event or start on the paper, I’ve imagined that it’s going to be 100 times worse than it actually will be. And when I look back on it, I ALWAYS think, “man, that wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be.”

​It just goes to prove; yours fears will ALWAYS be there at the start. Ignore them and start anyway.

​The strategy I use to see if I want it bad enough:

I write down all my “invisible scripts” as Ramit Sethi calls them. All the limiting reasons I can think of why something won’t work. For example:

  • ​I don’t have the time for this
  • I don’t have the expertise for this
  • I don’t have enough money for this
  • What if I fail at it? What’s the worst case scenario I can imagine?
  • Do I believe this can work for me?

And then, I break these down by intentionally flipping the context. I think, “if I knew that whatever I did would succeed:”

  • How would I make time for this?
  • Am I really limited by expertise or money or is that just an excuse?
  • What would business success look like in my wildest dreams?

Then, if you honestly decide – after going through this exercise – that building a profitable digital product, online course or business isn’t for you, great.

That’s awesome! At least you made a conscious choice about your future. You should be proud of yourself.

But if you decide it is for you, take action. TODAY...right now!

To Do Today

  1. Go through the questions above and decide for yourself if what you say you want to do is actually what you want to do.
  2. If so, click here to follow my ConvertKit Product Creation Masterclass experiment to watch and participate as I create my first digital product and start my road to online business success.​