Here at The $100 MBA, we’ve said a lot about the MVP, or Minimum Viable Product. So many would-be entrepreneurs (we believe) obsess over creating the ideal, perfect product and refuse to actually take action until they can do so. Meanwhile, business moves on! Products are being made, sold, and refined by business people who aren’t afraid to make their move, even if the product isn’t “perfect”…yet.
To get your independent business career started— or just to give it a boost— few options are better than a simple, small informational product. Something that demonstrates your passion and expertise, that solves a problem customers have, and that is easily, cheaply produced and distributed. It’s the best way to make your mark in the market at minimal financial risk to yourself. It’s also a stepping stone to bigger success.
It’s not about inventing the iPhone. It’s about getting your feet wet and showing an audience what you’ve got. It’s about testing the waters, building your following, and establishing your brand. It doesn’t even have to be sold; it can be a freemium or part of a content marketing strategy. The point is to give the crowd a taste of your expertise.
Producing a great infographic is a fantastic way to establish credibility with a grateful audience. They’re direct, simple, and customers love them. Creating a little “cheat sheet” on a given topic empowers customers to solve their problem with an easy reference. They won’t forget that when it’s time to consider learning more— and paying more to learn it.
The key to a great infographic (or any small product) is to be as specific as possible. It should address one relatively minor issue thoroughly and in a way that’s easy to understand. For example, our software company, WebinarNinja, could offer a simple checklist for new hosts: check the camera angle, adjust the lighting, etc. The point is that offering an easy reference makes customers feel more comfortable and empowered, which encourages trust.
All it takes is a little brainstorming. Outline the problem to be solved and the information needed to solve it. Then, either create your own infographic or outsource it to a graphics person (good ones can be found on fiverr.com and freelance.com). One simple hack for creating nice infographics is to use PowerPoint, Keynote or Google Slides. By entering the information onto one “slide” and saving it as a PDF, you can create the perfect infographic.
Unlike regular books, e-books don’t have a length requirement. They can be as short as 10 to 30 pages— easily written and easily downloaded. Write the content down in any word program, then transfer to PowerPoint and add the “cover” and any illustrations. Save as a PDF, and you’ve got a marketable product.
E-books are more detailed than infographics, but not much more work to produce. By outlining the information and writing the “book” one small section at a time, it’s no more challenging than writing an academic report. Best of all, there are basically zero publishing costs. With as little as a dozen hours work, you can produce a downloadable reference that customers will love.
Short video tutorials are an excellent way to convey information and— more importantly— flex your expertise muscles for an audience. They don’t require a lot of knowledge or equipment to produce; any smartphone or laptop camera will work. They don’t need to be very long, either. One 10 minute video or a short series of 3 to 5 minute videos will do nicely.
The trick is to plan them out. Outline and/or storyboard your video, and rehearse it before filming the final version. Use a quality microphone like the ATR 2100, which plugs right into any USB port, then simply shoot and edit on one of any number of editing softwares available. Be sure to make the final edit tight, especially at the beginning and end. Upload to Wistia, Vimeo, or YouTube.
Creating a great small informational product isn’t about making massive profits or skyrocketing to fame. It’s about putting something out there as an example of how your knowledge can be valuable to others. It’s the beginning of a new relationship between yourself and your audience, and proving that you’re worth listening to.
It shouldn’t be too difficult. It should be fun. It should be a way of expressing yourself with minimal overhead and zero complications. It’s the essence of starting small. Don’t wait around for the “perfect” product idea or a massive infusion of capital. Get started right now, with a true Minimum Viable Product, and build from there.