How to test the viability of your idea for a pay-for-access online newsletter before developing it

In this scenario, inspired by Frank Kern, you send up a trial balloon and let your potential subscribers tell you what they want, if anything, from your proposed information product.


The Kern Technique

Be sure to keep listening to your customers and creating the products that they want to buy.

Okay, let’s suppose that you’re an architect and you’ve got an idea for a subscription website in which you would advise people who are ready to design and make their dream home a reality.

How can you know if selling this type of information online will work for you, whether via the subscription website model, or any other way?

The answer is to create an inexpensive test and enable your potential customers to tell you what they will pay for and how much.

Begin by creating a list of keywords and phrases that people might search for that would lead them to your member site through search engines.

The secret is to discover the words and word combinations as they would be likely to be phrased by people doing an Internet search.


SWEPA as an example

In an example too close to home, consider this: Far more people search for the words membership website, membership site, and member website than they do for subscription website.

So while we are the Subscription Website Publishers Association, and we are the top-ranked site if you search subscription website, we need to work hard to get higher rankings using terms with the words membership and member in them.

Which explains why the headlines and teasers of so many articles on this site use the words membership website etc.


Help finding the keywords

First, familiar yourself with Good Keywords. This is a free Windows software program for finding the perfect set of keywords for your web pages.

Second, register a URL for the proposed website. An inexpensive place to do this is Register Fly. An extraordinary number of URLs for designers and architects already exist, which can be both encouraging and discouraging, depending.

For help finding a good URL go to Name Boy.

Optimize your new URL with the keywords for your niche topic.

Perhaps invest in a Google AdWords campaign.

Now register for a free account at Survey Monkey.


Create a survey along these lines:

“We’re going to write an e-book on designing and building your dream home. We’ll give you a free copy if you answer the following question: ‘What is the most important thing you want to know about designing and building your own home?’

“What else do you want to know?”

Add a few other questions.

The survey submit button should take the survey taker to a pricing page on your website where you ask, “If such an e-book existed, what would you pay for it?”

Offer the options $0 up to $47.

Collect the e-mail addresses of everyone who answers the survey.

When you have 60 or 80 questions, take down the survey.

Then write the e-book and answer the 60 to 80 questions in an entertaining, informative fashion. Add some illustrations, if possible. Find out if you have a flair for writing about this topic and measure how much it really interests you to answer these kinds of questions.

When you’re done, create the e-book and send free copies to all who responded to your survey, as promised.

Then recreate your website and sell your e-book online at the URL you originally used for the survey landing page. Capture the name and email address of everyone who buys the e-book.


Got enough interest to continue?

Now decide if there is enough interest to continue with a subscription website. Does your topic have enough substance to warrant a sustainable subscription website?

Another thing you should consider. Can you a produce a continuing flow of information to this market?

If you decide to continue, go back to the original survey takers and ask them about their interest in subscribing to an online newsletter about your niche topic concerning architecture.

Ask them how much they would be willing to pay. Describe what you will be offering.

Also, look at the resources already available to consumers who are interested in building their dream house. Check out the materials for sale by the American Institute of Architects, for example. Look at the books they sell.

Can you compete with that, or can you offer something different? At what price?

Get the big picture in your mind first. Get a vision of what you want your information publishing enterprise to look like when it is finished and then work backward to create the products, be they e-books, physical books, or a membership website.

And be sure to keep listening to your customers and creating the products that they want to buy.


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