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How to Take an Idea to Launch in 4 Steps

“How do you know which projects to go with and which to leave behind?”

This is a question I’ve been asked almost every time I’ve spoken at events recently so I thought I’d jot down a few thought on the process that I find myself going through when looking at opportunities to expand my business with new projects.

Of course I’m over simplifying it a little with this diagram – but it’ll illustrate the basics of how I work.

process.png

I should also say that this isn’t really a process that I specifically take myself through each time I launch a new project – rather its something I’ve noticed myself doing naturally as I look back on previous projects. Let me say a little about each step.

idea.png Idea – For me – idea generation is the easiest part of the process. I have them every day and have a long list of potential projects that I’d one day like to take through this process fully and explore.

I find that the more I start things the more ideas come naturally as you see how readers are using your site, as they ask for advice, as you observe trends in your industry and as you receive and answer questions from others exploring your topic.

The other thing that I find is that as your blog grows you start to get pitched ideas from others. As you become seen as a credible and authoritative source of information and as someone with influence – people want to align themselves with you and explore partnerships.

The keys with this stage is to have a way of capturing the ideas, to not rush in to do every idea that comes along but to be willing to take the best ideas and explore them.

test.png Test – The temptation when you get what you think is a great idea is to just go out and do it. I’ve seen a number of friends move from having a great idea into investing (sometimes quite a bit of money) in developing that idea within hours. In some cases this might pay off – but in my experience most ‘ideas’ could do with some testing before moving into the development stage.

There are many ways to test an idea – here are some that I’ve done:

  • Ask someone – whether it be a trusted friend, your partner, a reader, another blogger – bouncing your ideas off others can be very valuable. Getting another person’s perspective will often help you filter out the crazy ideas and add depth to the good ones.
  • Write a Blog Post – it may not always be appropriate to completely spell out your idea publicly (once they’re out there you never know who might take your idea) but a blog post can be used to test whether there is a need for your idea to fulfil, can be used to gather data from readers responses on how your idea could help them most or could just be a good place for you to think out loud and get a little perspective.
  • Tweet it – I often test ideas with my Twitter followers. Again, you probably don’t want to spell out your idea in too much detail but use your social networks to test the things you’re thinking about.
  • Do a Survey or Poll – this is one of my favourite things to do and something I’ve done regularly over the years. If you’re not sure whether your current readership or network will respond to your idea – test it by running a survey with a small group of them. For example I recently released a travel photography eBook with my photography site. Before commissioning it I did a quick survey with 1000 of my readers to see what topics they’d like more written about. One of the topics I suggested was Travel Photography – the response was that over half my readers said that they wanted more information on that topic – I then went ahead with it.

Testing need not be a long or involved process. A blog post, tweet or survey could all be put together in 24 hours. For us entrepreneurial types 24 hours might seem like an eternity – however the information you gain by doing it could either improve your idea significantly or show you when your idea is not something worth pursuing (which could save you a lot of time and money).

tweak.png Tweak – Once you’ve done a little testing you’re in a position to tweak your idea. This might actually be culling it all together or it could be about making big or small improvements.

Ultimately your ‘testing’ is about putting your idea ‘out there’ to some degree and your ‘tweaking’ is about taking on board the feedback that you get and making improvements to the idea so that if you do take it to a full launch that it is the best it can be.

Sometimes the ‘test’ to ‘tweak’ stage can be a bit of a cycle before you launch and something that you need to do numerous times to get to launch. In fact sometimes the ‘test’ and ‘tweak’ approach continues after launch as well as you continue to try new ideas and gather feedback to continue to improve what you’re doing.

launch.png Launch – With a mixture of fear and excitement you gradually move your idea forward towards launch.

I can’t tell you exactly how to launch a product or service because it’ll vary hugely from situation to situation – however what I have found is that if you’ve gone through the test and tweak process well that you’ll end up launching something that is not only a better quality product or service – but you’ll hopefully have ended up with some ideas on how to market and launch that product.

For example as part of the launch of the travel photography ebook I mentioned earlier a survey I did found that many readers had regrets around previous photography that they’d done when traveling. This gave us a hint as to how to market it (which you’ll see on the sales page).

You’ll also find that if some of your testing/tweaking has been done in public (ie your readers know you’re developing an idea towards launching something) you’ll hopefully have also created some nice pre-launch buzz to assist with your launch.

Some examples

As mentioned earlier – I’m certainly over simplifying things a little here – nothing is quite as simple or easy as I’m making it sound. However I do find that this cycle is pretty typical of the things I’ve done. Let me give some examples.

31 Days to Build a Better Blog

31dbbb.png

The 31 Days to Build a Better Blog workbook that I currently sell from ProBlogger did not start out as an eBook. In fact it started 3 (or was it 4?) years ago as a series of 31 blog posts. The initial idea was to take my readers through a month of activities to improve their blogs. The first year was very basic.

That first ‘test’ of the idea revealed that people loved the idea of doing a project like this together. It also showed me that some of the activities that I did connected better than others.

I then ran it again two years later with improvements. I added a forum area, started an autoresponder email list to help participants keep on track and changed around some of the activities. Again I learned a lot. I also began to gather feedback from participants that they wanted it as a workbook.

I tested that idea with a survey and found that a good percentage of my readers would be willing to pay for such an eBook so I had it developed (with extra content, design etc).

WIth all this testing and tweaking done I was pretty much certain that I’d not only cover the costs I put into the development of the eBook but make a healthy profit from it on launch (which is how it has happened).

In essences 31DBBB has been through 3-4 different ‘test’ and ‘tweak’ cycles to get it to its current form (and I’m currently testing and tweaking it again and hope to offer a live version of the course later this year).

ProBlogger Live Event

live-event.png

The 31DBBB example above is one that has taken years to go through. Another more recent example is the ProBlogger live training day that I’m running in Melbourne. This is an example of a much speedier process.

The idea came 2 weeks ago.

I tested it with a quick email to two friends (Chris and Shayne) who both added their own ideas into the mix but reacted very positively.

I then tested it with a blog post asking for expressions of interest by inviting people to sign up for more information.

I then followed up those who responded to that call by inviting them to do a survey on their situation and needs as bloggers. Around 50% of people did the survey which gave me some amazing data. The survey revealed the topics we should cover on the day, helped us work out what styles of presentation we should do in the event and also told us that there was much more interest in the event than we’d previously thought (ie we needed a bigger venue).

All of this was before we’d booked a venue, decided on a schedule for the day or even committed to running the event.

Then came the launch – we knew approximately how many would come, what they wanted from such a day and how to cater for them. As a result we’ve had no problem pretty much selling it out.

TwiTip

twitip.png

This same process was how I launched TwiTip (my twitter tips blog).

The idea for a blog about Twitter had been something I’d pondered for a while before launching it. I decided to test whether people would be interested in reading tutorials about Twitter before launching by posting some posts here on ProBlogger – Twitter Tips for Bloggers.

These posts were very popular and got a lot of interaction.

As I began to plan the blog I started surveying my Twitter followers on the type of needs that they had and the questions that they’d asked themselves when they first started. In doing so I began to gather ideas for future posts but also began to see what categories I should have on the new blog.

I launched Twitip with a fairly ‘soft launch’. It was on basic hosting and on a fairly simple theme (I used Thesis). I could have invested into a custom design from day 1 but wanted to test the topic before spending too much on it – so went with a solid premium theme but one that wasn’t going to break the bank.

It was actually around a year before I fully launched the site with a full custom theme.

I could go on and on giving personal examples

The more I think about it the more I realize that virtually every time I’ve launched a new blog, product or service that I’ve been through this type of process. Perhaps it’s partly because I’m something of a cautious person and like to test before I fully commit – but I think it’s also a fairly solid approach.

I’ve seen so many people launch businesses that have not been thought through enough that I just think a little extra time to do some testing would be well spent.

What about you – do you go through similar processes? What would you add or subtract from the process above?

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. You are right when you say that the idea part is the easiest. I am surprise by how protective people are of their ideas. Because ideas in themselves are worthless, it is the the other three steps that adds the value!

  2. Josh Garcia says:

    Hey Darren,

    This is an amazing post!

    So much info in here. It is easy to get overwhelm when you have ideas and don’t know where to even start. With this simple outline that you create is a great start for anyone. Thanks for taking the time out to create it!

    Chat with you later…
    Josh

  3. Lovely post.

    Ideas are a dime a dozen!

    End of the day is to focus and take actions. The end result is important but not the holy grail.

    Success is only possible after many failures!

  4. Yes, the ideas are the easiest part. It is weather those ideas are worth putting time and attention on that is the question. Will they produce the effect you want?

    I like to make a folder of ideas. Then when the parts that make the ideas work show up I add them to the idea folder. Then the ideas that are not easy to put into action fall by the way side.

    I totally agree. You need to find out what is needed and wanted. I produced a craft line for years and often found that my ideas where a head of their time. Or that no one thought they were fabulous but me.

  5. Hi Darren,
    great info here. Ideas might be our most precious asset. So it’s important to protect them, espcecially from oblivion and to write them down immediately. Then it’s important to follow a recipe how to realize this idea and when – your plan is very helpful to do so. Thanks for sharing.
    Cheers
    Oliver

  6. Chris Shouse says:

    This post is wonderful. I have been reading or I should say rereading a book called WishCraft How to Get What You Really Want. The author takes you through a lot of things to find out what you do want or what you would love to do and then lays it out in a flow chart manner as you have. I was very excited to see your flow chart and the idea I have had for about a year will now be laid out this way. Maybe I can finally get it moving.

  7. Jerry says:

    Great insight, I agree that there is a lot that goes into these 4 simple steps but if you get discouraged you can always see how close you are to the end.

    It also makes it much easier to persevere during the post-launch promotion knowing your idea is fully formed and battle-ready.

  8. Sudeep says:

    My issues is when I do ask my twitter followers or even my blog readers for reply hardly few does. It becomes hard to know when the blog is too small if you are on right track of the launch or not.
    But Dareen for sure I would be working on positive way to launch some thing soon. Thanks.

  9. I agree with you that coming up with ideas is a easy to do. The problem that arrives is jumping in to prematurely and bleeding yoursel dry.

    By testing you give yourself the ability to see what works the best and what does not.

    This way you don’t go in so blind.

  10. John says:

    Terrific post, lots of great information!

    I find that I seem to over-concentrate on the “tweak” phase. Though, perhaps that’s just the perfectionist in me coming through.

  11. Julian says:

    thanks for revealing your secret :-)
    however i think the most difficult is tweaking

    it’s easy to make an idea but not easy to specify the idea for the needs

  12. Noel says:

    I’m actually creating one of my current project similar to how you did the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog. I start with a series of blog posts and create a larger project out of them. I just started doing this, of course, so I can;t give much feedback in terms of success, but that is the model that I feel most comfortable using at the moment.

  13. heya darren,
    even thou the process looks simple i believe it spells success when achieve successfully.

    I am quite different thou,even thou I personally know that by following this set of process would ensure a much more sustainable outcome.

    As you mentioned, i am always so eager to seeing results. as you said, i could have possibly posses the spirit of an ‘entrepreneur’ where 24 hours would seem like an eternity.
    However, that doesn’t simply mean i do not learn from mistakes.

    Instead, it would require ‘mistakes’ for me to stumble on to make changes.

    My cycle of launching a product is as follow :P

    Idea — Launch — Test —- Tweak

    I certainly faced some ups and downs when it comes to working alongside with this line of play but somehow I believe I learnt faster when I make mistakes. Not many I believe will be able to work as such because no one tries to fail and they want business to be as proper and ‘perfect’ as possible… where else I am waiting for a ‘mistake’ to happen so I could work my way up to success.. lol

    cheers

  14. Gayle Pescud says:

    I’m also good at generating ideas and detest the testing phase. But it’s sooo important. I’ve three (what I thought were brilliant) ideas now stewing as their initial brilliance lost its luster after a few weeks reflection. Other ideas proved their testing with time. My average is about 1 viable idea for every 5 generated ideas. Those four steps are simple but important. Thanks!

  15. It seems so simple, but definitely takes a lot of planning and tweaking like you said. I used to blog in a journal style and I am just now starting my new blog. I think it is going well, but I have not really “launched” it yet since I’m still tweaking. I’m thinking about sending my site to a few friends to get some feedback and then after final tweaking I will really begin to try and drive traffic to my site. In the meantime I’ll keep reading your posts!!

    ~Jeff

  16. blog tips says:

    Great post, If one want to launch a successful product then he should follow the steps before the launch..

  17. Darren,
    Thank you again for sharing. As professional speaker I have used a similar but not exactly the same process to improve my speaking events so each is an improvement on the last.

    I must say again, as a problogger you really share all you have to help others succeed. When I asked many pro speakers how they have succeeded over the years many do not want to reveal details for fear of competition. That’s a pity. I hope to change this with a new project.

    I am in the process of launching a new business to help others achieve the fulfillment I have had as a personal development coach / speaker. I like you want to help people succeed.

    Thanks again for your inspiration,
    David
    http://www.TheWonderTechnique.com

  18. Wow, i wish i read this earlier. All the same, i still followed the four steps before launching my recent project. Though it is live now but i’m still tweaking. Which simply means that i am still on step 3.

    Way to go Darren!

  19. Brittany says:

    This is an excellent tip, and your examples couldn’t be any clearer. The step in which I have most trouble in is testing out my ideas then tweaking. After reading your tips here, I feel like these are very important steps in starting a huge project or even starting a small blog post.

    Thank you,
    Brittany

  20. Great post Darren,

    Glad to see you follow it up with examples, I think all to often (myself included) we are so excited to start a new project that we don’t do sufficient testing. Again sometimes it works, so times it doesn’t but either way each one is a learning experience,

    Shawn

  21. websitewaves says:

    For me, the initial sales promo never works, because I always seem to create an offer or sales copy that’s “logical.” Only thru testing do I throw up my hands and try things illogical..and that’s what works, go figure

  22. Love this insights, Darren.

    The 4 step process is constitutes what I’d say the building blocks of new product development. Anyone wishing to launch any product – physical, digital or intangible would (and should) use this process to be successful.

    One change from my own personal experience that I would make to the process is at the ideation stage. Once I begin with an idea, many more flood my mind around the same concept. It’s like going into a self-feedback loop with ideas clustered around the same main theme.

    My strategy is to brainstorm around them and then place them appropriately along my roadmap. Some of them move downstream, some of them morph into a different shape, and the others make their way into my master notebook waiting for their day to come!

  23. Chris Vargas says:

    Hi Darren,
    That’s a great post !
    And very appropriate… as a matter of fact I experienced the usual mistake of rushing too quickly on an idea a few months ago.

    My idea was to launch a forum for french bloggers interested by the 31DBBB challenge (I contacted you for this).
    I reviewed the 31 steps and wrote 31 summaries in french, all in just one night. Then I launched it, very confident. But I never continued the effort. The excitement went away as quickly as it came…

    Since then, each time I get overwhelmed by an idea, I take about a week before anything about it…

    Chris V

  24. Arnold Touch says:

    This is interesting. i am always stuck at the idea to test stage because I want it to be the perfect launch. I have to realized that it is not always like that. I should just use the steps described and document anything that I did wrong.

  25. This is probably one of the best, yet most simple posts that I have read on here. Extremely useful and adaptable to many situations.

  26. Howard Shen says:

    Hi there,

    This is so cool!
    Very helpful guide.

    Now that I am also planning to launch my new e-Books soon! :)

    Thank you very much!

    Keep it up,
    Howard

  27. Allan Ward says:

    Good article. It’s all too tempting to create your product and release it without soliciting any feedback. You have a community who are happy to give you feedback, and you can adjust your product or your sales process based on the information you receive.

  28. Tech Maish says:

    Ideas comes easily but the implementation process is quite hard.

  29. Darren,

    Thanks for sharing the info. I have a few ideas that I am trying to start working on. I ll follow the steps you have mentioned.

  30. Music Coupon says:

    I agree with Tech Maish . I get lots of ideas every day but only 1 or 2 get in to implementation process. but now i will try to follow your step

  31. Ideas are great, and like you I have too many of them. I have jumped from one idea to another in the past. I am just learning now, no matter how great an idea it seems, they have to go through a process, now your 4 steps will help me to get out more of great idea.

  32. Masterful as always Darren!

  33. Hey Darren,

    My feed back is that you should do great research before you go into new ideas without a plan of action.

    Find out where you are, where you going and how your going to get there.

    These are my lesson i live by and implement.

    TrafficColeman “Signing Off”

  34. Sasha Gitin says:

    Great Stuff Darren, I am becoming a fan. You have a unique way of breaking things down and making it look simple. In a meter of fact the use of simple geometric shapes to demonstrate the progression of development was very clever – my 3 year old was quite intrigued as well looking at my screen and asking me “daddy, can I play this games too?”

  35. Louise M. says:

    Very nice post. Breaking the development of an idea into these steps helps keeping things simple.

    It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed and it doesn’t make us work better. Your advices are helpful.

    Thank you!

  36. FlorinB says:

    Ideas are a dime a dozen.
    Good ideas, however, are very rare and still require a lot of work to be put into practice.
    Plus, there are always those ideas and projects that go nowhere.

  37. Hi Darren, nice to see how other people go about launching a new idea. I tend to do a lot of planning then research then just go for it full flow, no holding back. If theres any problems fix it on the way cause Blogging and even running a site is a huge learning curve to me and most people.

    Great Info…
    Stuart

  38. free71 says:

    thanks for revealing your secret :-)

  39. I have different methods, just write down your idea everytime you have an idea. It’s that easy.

  40. Adam says:

    Great Post – you have covered everything that there is to know for anyone out there wanting to do this stuff.

    You have inspired me to new ideas everytime reading you your posts.

    It’s all about planning and taking actions.

    Thanks Darren for such wonderful post.

  41. Marcie Hill says:

    I’m one of those people that go from idea to launch without doing the testing and tweaking. Simple reminders are great. Thanks.

  42. make money says:

    I’ve five (what I thought were amazing) ideas now stewing as their preliminary brilliance lost its luster after a few weeks reflection. Other ideas proved their testing with time. My average is about 1 viable idea for every 5 generated ideas. Those two steps are simple but important. Thanks!

  43. It really takes a process to launch a successful project. Some may consider it a case of shooting in the dark. The success comes with planning, not by luck.

    Thanks for sharing it with us Darren.

    Rahman Mehraby
    Site Booster Blog

  44. rososusilo says:

    interesting idea, but I think the time limit is too fast.