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Do You Have Content or Do You Have the Potential to Build a Business?

In speaking with a wide variety of authors and thought leaders lately it occurred to me that while every author clearly has content, not every author has content that can evolve into a viable business. The reviews may be off the charts and the feedback may be incredible, but don’t allow that to cloud your judgment when it comes to making investments in your business. Investments come in many shapes and sizes – your time, your effort, your energy, your dollars and your opportunity costs. Accolades are a great thing to receive, but you need to be able to clearly answer the following four questions (and no doubt many more) prior to making investments into your content in hopes that it has the potential to be a viable business. 1) What’s the need? What is the problem it solves?  Is it a big problem?  A small problem?  Are you attempting to create a new problem that isn’t really a problem? 2) How can you fill the need?  This involves understanding the competitive landscape, the format in which your content needs to exist, your ability to market it, etc. 3) Who has the need?  If it’s “everyone” it’s no one. You need to be able to clearly identify specific populations that have the need for your content and those who can benefit from it the most. Then you need to build out solutions with those audiences clearly in mind. 4) Will they pay for it? This is really the big one. You may be able to successfully answer all of the questions above but how do you know if enough people will pay for your content (in a variety of formats) to make it a worthwhile venture?  I’ve seen dozens and dozens of authors develop cutting edge solutions without having any reliable market intelligence and waste years of their lives and hundreds of thousands of dollars. The good news is that in today’s market there are countless ways to inexpensively test very specific solutions against very targeted audiences to gauge their propensity to spend real money on your solutions. Testing and failing small, even often, is a good thing. Not testing the market and failing big in the process is not only a bad thing but totally unavoidable.

Peter Winick has deep expertise in helping those with deep expertise. He is the CEO of Thought Leadership Leverage. Visit Peter on Twitter!

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Very thought provoking! I was taught to find a need and fill it. I don’t think we take the time to ask the important questions to find out what the need is. Do you have some suggestions to find the “countless ways to inexpensively test very specific solutions against very targeted audiences to gauge their propensity to spend real money on your solutions”?

  2. Good thoughts, Peter.

    This takes me back to the beginning of JDEtips. I had 10 years of JD Edwards consulting behind me, and wanted to get off the road. There was very little competition for JDE information, and I started a 4-page quarterly JDEtips Newsletter in 2000.

    Within 4 years we had evolved to a 100 page Journal (published 6 times per year), with several hundred JD Edwards client companies subscribing at $695 per year each. This was not enough to make a living with, but it led to enough training and consulting work that it became an excellent way to market our services. Next up–we started creating our own training manuals in 2001, which led to over 5,000 client employees attending our classes in the last few years.

    Personally, I love the whole process of finding, creating, publishing, and selling great content. It makes a difference for our clients by helping them solve, or even avoid, problems with their software.

    Running a business partially based on content isn’t for everyone–it takes a passion for content and a recognition that most likely related services will need to be created to provide the economics needed to survive and thrive.


  3. Yes, agree, validated learning is a good leading indicator of success (The Lean Start-up).

    I think you re-enforce the need to validate (with your market) the value proposition you offer to the market. Thanks, useful as usually contribution.

  4. Of course the paradox is that every author is trying to convince him or herself of an idea, not their readers. It is the very act of uncertainty driving the creative process that lies at the heart of a thought leader’s definitiveness (I’m confessing to my guild). The struggle for the uninvented idea yields success that can only be measured authentically by the author’s lingering doubts. Book sales are a phantom proxy. Another 1,000 copies sold does little to convince me of anything but good marketing.

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