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Reverse Engineering The Sale

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Failures should not stop you from trying, keep on truckin

A friend of mine from when I was growing up is a true blue professional hacker for the US military. He gets paid to hack security software. Specifically, he writes software which figures out how other security software works. He figures out what the requirements are.

He prods the software, notes down its behaviors, and then uses that feedback to construct more ideas for tests. Based on the requirements he gleans, his team can build exactly the same thing from scratch, if they decide that’s what they want to. Geeks call this technique reverse engineering.

You can take the same approach when trying to sell a new product. While it might not always feel pleasant, the market tells you what it thinks by giving you feedback. (No feedback is feedback too.) I’ve put up offers which seemed like they’d be interesting for my target audience, but they didn’t sell.

Certainly made me feel like a doofus, although it clearly wasn’t fatal, since I’m writing to you about it! They attracted attention and freebie downloads successfully, but for some reason, people didn’t feel motivated to buy.

Keep on truckin’. If you don’t have a selling offer yet, keep prototyping new products and putting them up for sale where you think your market hangs out. Keep talking to them.

You can do this systematically by planning to launch a new offer every week. It doesn’t need to be perfect with a massive campaign and a perfect website. It just needs to attractive to a niche and buyable.

Once you are at the stage that people are buying, then go ahead and work outwards from there. Your first few sales, while they might seem insignificant, are a crucial step forwards. They give you the basis for reverse engineering who buys in your market and why they buy. You can feed this information back into your product and your marketing.

  1. You’ve identified who buys. Find out about them. What makes them tick. Why they bought. What they liked or didn’t like about the product.
  2. Once you know that, adjust your positioning. Test a change in the language used. Once you know exactly what people want to buy, make it easy for them to find it. Test the packaging, cover, or images. At this stage you can try to improve conversion rates with the usual suspects.
  3. At the same time, figure out where your buyers hang out. Use this medium to reach them. Instead of overwhelming yourself with 94 ways to generate traffic, or basing your whole business off Google traffic, start with a few sources of traffic. Master them. The best traffic sources to choose are the ones which your first buyers already use.

If you don’t have buyers yet, that is your first bottleneck. Figure out how to solve that problem first. Once you have customers, then you have your work laid out for you.

You’ll probably find my book on experiments valuable, to help you get your head around it.

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