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From Spark to Sale in 18 Days

Some of you will know that Darren has just headed off for a well earned 10 day break. While enjoying his holiday, Darren has bravely given me the keys to ProBlogger to share a collection of posts – with of course the one condition that I don’t scare you all away :)

Together we’ve picked 5 posts that I do hope you will all enjoy and importantly get something from.

The first is a story, or a mini-case study if you like about SnapnGuides. A new brand and product that went from idea to reality in less than three weeks. Before I get into the nuts and bolts, I want to give you the context behind the SnapnGuides decision…

The Need before the Solution

For some time we’ve talked about creating short mini-guides on Digital Photography School(dPS). There were quite a few potential eBook topics with clear demand that our current publishing process couldn’t meet. The subject matter was valuable, but wasn’t as deep and broad reaching as previous dPS eBooks, thus we could never give them priority over other eBook ideas. We knew with some out of the box thinking, there must be a way to deliver these mini-guides, however there were a couple of considerations we needed to make outside of our publishing priorities.

  1. Historically dPS eBook titles have been significant both in length, subject and market appeal. – In other words they are big books that comprehensively cover a subject that most photographers would be interested in. Our mini-guides on other hand are quick reads that cover a topic within a specific photography niche.
  2. Prices of dPS eBooks are between $20 and $30, due to their size, scale and comprehensiveness. – We couldn’t charge the same as existing eBooks for our mini-guides. Correction, we could have, and some people would have been happy to pay, but we felt $7-$10 was more appropriate. The risk was if we launched lower priced eBooks on dPS it could devalue the larger eBooks.
  3. The value of the dPS brand is something you only carefully tinker with. – Millions and millions of people visit dPS every month to help improve their photography. It’s built on a foundation of value both through the free content on the blog and great discussions in the community but also the content available through the eBooks. These new mini-guides were a new, unknown entity for us. Our standards of quality would always be maintained however they were shorter, cheaper and more niche. The impact they would have on the dPS brand was unknown for us — and presented quite a risk.

A quick rule of thumb about brand impact. If you’re thinking of making a change that may impact your brand, I like to ask the questions “Will this change the way other people describe my brand? How will it change? Is that a change I want?” In the case of our mini-guides it would be “I got this great little book from dPS, it only cost me $10 and was perfect for me as I like X.”

Enter SnapnDeals then SnapnGuides

Talking through these issues, Darren and I first considered SnapnDeals as a place to publish the new mini-guides. We could still leverage the dPS audience to bring awareness to the guides and given SnapnDeals is more about deals and cheaper prices this seemed a good fit. The problem with SnapnDeals was that it’s sole purpose is time limited offers on photography products, not publishing it’s own products. Adding this new dimension to the brand might dilute its original purpose. We ummed and aahhed about this for a while before finally coming up with the answer. Solution:Create a new brand under the ‘Snapn’ sentiment but focused on publishing and thus SnapnGuides was born. It …

  1. Allowed us to define a new, ‘fit for purpose’ brand
  2. Presented little or no risk to the dPS brand
  3. Came with no existing price expectation

However what that meant was, we needed to a start a brand and website from scratch and due to scheduling we had only three short weeks to get it done. Always up for a challenge, it was time to make it so.

Building SnapnGuides in three weeks

Given the time pressures we had to adhere to three basic rules.

  1. Keep it simple
  2. Leverage what we can
  3. Fine tune later

Keep it simple

In a perfect world we would have designed a new theme for the site, installed WordPress, got it on our main hosting platform but that takes time. Instead we chose to launch the site and brand with one single page, the sales page for the book. If it’s successful (more on that later) we’ll do it right. We also kept the people involved to a minimum to keep decision making simple. There was Darren, Jasmine and Myself and all decisions were made within a 30 second Skype chat.

Leverage what we can

We’ve already got a good system set up for selling dPS eBooks. We did want to separate the brand where possible, but leverage what we already had where needed. For example we are using the same Paypal account as dPS however have a separate payment email address and an independent e-junkie account (shopping cart) so we could keep the experience on brand.

Fine tune later

I’m not a perfectionist like say my friend Matt Magain, but I do like it when things just work. That said, when there is a time pressure, you need to come to terms with the fact that you’re not going to get everything right upfront. You’ll be fine as long as the fundamentals are there — you can always circle back and fix up the rest.

The process

I thought I’d share the actual process we went through (outside of creating the mini-guide itself).

Hosting and domain

  1. Register and setup the domain
  2. Create hosting environment (see note below)

Sales page

  1. Wireframe and write copy for the sales page
  2. Hand the wireframe to a designer
  3. Review and finalise design (artwork only)
  4. Hand the design to HTML and CSS coder
  5. Review and test web page
  6. Load up to the hosting environment.

Hosting the site: For ProBlogger and dPS we use synthesis from CopyBlogger however, we were eager to play with a new service called site44.com. How this works is it simply creates a dropbox folder for your website which you save the files too, it syncs and your site is live. It’s sits on Amazons server cloud so can take just about any traffic you can throw at it. We did go the paid option but did all our testing on the free plan. It’s very cool.

eCommerce

  1. Create a new e-junkie account for SnapnGuides
  2. Create a new email alias for current Paypal account
  3. Link new email alias to e-junkie account
  4. Set up and load SnapnGuide product
  5. Integrate with sales page (above) and test.

Prelaunch

  1. Final changes to the landing page. (I tend to make lots of changes here)
  2. Independent review and test of sales page. (more changes again)
  3. eCommerce check (actually buy the product yourself)
  4. Scalability test

Then of course there’s the launch, but that’s a whole series of posts!

The result

It was a late night on the date of launch (most of them are) but as I fell asleep at 3AM I was really happy with what we’ve been able to create in such a small period of time. That smile widened when I checked in on the sales a little later in the morning. Suffice to say that our experiment was a success and we’re likely to see more SnapnGuides in the future. Doing things that other people say can’t be done, in timeframes that seem impossible is really a part of my everyday life. But I’d love to hear any stories you might have in launching a new product under a time constraint and of course if you agree or disagree with anything above.

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Comments

  1. I bought that first SnapnGuide on Food Photography and it was exactly what I needed. I’m a writer first, but a fair amount of my writing (both the blog and for magazines) needs food photos. I’ve never been happy with mine but also never found a simple guide for people who weren’t intended to have a professional career as a food photographer and at a price point that I felt was affordable. I learned a LOT from this and it was immediately apparent in my photos.

    The production quality and purchase experience were clearly in line with the dPS brand, and the price reflected a shorter guide. Great job!

  2. Clarabela says:

    This is an excellent outline for starting an online business. But I think I would need more than 3 weeks. How many people did you have on your team to accomplish this project?

    • Shayne says:

      There was a little team on the project, some dedicated days others spending hours.

      1. Me
      2. Jasmine (who organizes the book & keeps us on our toes)
      3. Darren
      4. Designer
      5. Developer

      The total cost of the project (including development of the book) was lower than you might think

  3. Yvonne says:

    Nice and inspirational. Have recently launched a small online collectible store to earn some extra bucks on the side. Mainly doing all things (content, promotion, design, etc…) by myself due to budget constraints. Based on ColibriTool (a paid SEO analysis tool) bulk of my site’s decent traffic are coming from social media sites. Still learning the ropes though – searching for SEO appropriate techniques to improve visibility on Google (and Bing from what I read). Am also thinking about hiring a SEO / outsource agency – if budget permits and if a good one appear :)

  4. Samfrank says:

    Recently i have purchased SnapnGuide…..and through your step by step tutorial I have launched the site.I have learned alot.Thanks alot……….

  5. Sharon says:

    I pretty much go the same route you do when I’m launching a product, with a few variations.

    1. Most times I don’t even bother with a site for that product; because it’s in line with my existing products, I just use a sales page attached to my domain.

    2. Instead of e-junkie, I use JVZoo. I love e-junkie and have used it before, but integrating it with my autoresponder (Getresponse.com) is a headache and that is important for me. I need to follow up with my buyers to be sure they’re enjoying the experience.

    I can’t wait for you post on the launch…I’ve got some new ideas here. Thank you!

  6. Mehul says:

    How long did it take to put together the e-book itself?
    Also, the book is really timely for me. I saw the book on the DPS newsletter the day after I deciding to move forward with a food photography project.
    Can’t wait to hear some results if your willing to sure!
    Thanks for the insight!

  7. Emma says:

    That’s amazing to have a new business up and running is 3 weeks. Great job and awesome case study!

  8. Bishwajeet says:

    In just 18 days, Couldn’t believe it Darren! Keep the good going! Cheers :)

  9. myntra says:

    WoW! 18 days is a very short time for such a great result.. i would like to give it a try and see the results myself. Good Work Darren .. cheers :)