Pitfalls When Planning and What I've Learned About Investing Time in Product Development

In a previous blog post I listed all of my goals so that I could make myself accountable in the eyes of the public. So far things haven't been going very well. I've had a life issues I've had to deal with like birthday planning, job hunting and the like which has taken up a fair portion of my time. Unfortunately, this can and does happen but the important thing is to take things in our stride, perhaps adjusting our plans accordingly or free-time accordingly.

While execution is very important, it's also equally important to be alert to new opportunities and remain flexible and also to notice when your plans and goals are just flat out wrong.

If you take a look at that post you'll notice that one of my main goals was to write an ebook called "The Ultimate Ghost Blog" and my plan was to have the outline done by the end of June and start writing it in July with a completion by the end of the year. Now there are a couple of problems with this plan.

Don't build a product unless you're solving a specific problem

Over the past few days I listened to the Smart Passive Income Podcast #136: How to Build an Online Course that Sells with David Siteman Garland and the Simple Programmer Podcast #21: How Would You Start a Business Online?. In both podcasts John and Pat's guest mentioned that they wouldn't dream of starting to create an e-product until they had interested customers or people who at least perceived they had value in it.

This was like a slap in the face for me

I had neither customers nor an idea if they would even be interested in the product should I have invested a good 6 months creating it. Whilst I was confident because I'd seen people in the Ghost forum discussing both basic and advanced topics and I knew there were over 720,000+ downloads of Ghost since launch, I thought I knew there was an appetite and market to be had. Thing is, I don't have proof and I don't have customers who are interested enough to sell to.

As a consequence, I decided to set up a Survey Monkey and canvas opinion from the audience. In order to do this, I put a post on the Ghost Forum advertising the survey and requesting feedback on the feasibility and interest in a Ghost eBook. This is absolutely something everyone should do prior to product launch. Ensuring that there's appetite for your product prior to you investing significant man hours in creating a product that may never even sell.

Make sure your survey isn't too specific

When the first response rolled in, I immediately realised there was a problem with my survey. Questions in it were just too specific. In particular the question "Choose any of the following that are the most important topics / concepts you would you like the book to cover?" has multiple choices and an 'Other' selection with a free-text box. Thing is, should I even put options on the table or should I just leave it free-format. I'm actually erring towards leaving answers to surveys more open since if someone's committed enough to open your survey they're more than likely going to carry through with it and think of the things they want to learn from. Be careful you're not restricting options and limiting the creativity of your audience.

New Opportunities

As a proud member of the Simple Programmer community I've had the good fortune of getting to know numerous of other blogging course graduates. I've been meaning to get involved in a Mastermind group for a while and given that we're all aiming for goal of building a blog and a niche, what better way to figure out our issues than together. After all we're all on the same journey and at roughly the same point.

*Mastermind Group*: Napoleon Hill wrote about the mastermind group principle as: "The coordination of knowledge and effort of two or more people, who work toward a definite purpose, in the spirit of harmony."

After having approached John Sonmez at Simple Programmer about the idea it came to pass that the idea actually had merit.

And so a new journey begins...

Plan for the Unexpected

Although I knew there would be interest in creating a mastermind/community around blogging graduates I hadn't anticipated this idea would come so quickly and I'd be thrown into a new unexplored territory. However, I'm truly excited to get involved and there will be new plans afoot - which will hopefully be announced in the next coming weeks and months (can't give any specifics yet unfortunately).

What this has taught me though is if a juicier opportunity comes along that can further you on your goals at a faster rate or provide huge value, absolutely re-prioritise your goals and delay others if you must.

Back to some more planning for now...

James Murphy

Java dev by day, entrepreneur by night. James has 10+ years experience working with some of the largest UK businesses ranging from the BBC, to The Hut Group finally finding a home at Rentalcars.

Manchester, UK
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