You may have heard experts say you don’t need to make something to sell it. Meaning – you can set up pre-orders and test demand before you put all your time, energy, and money into developing a product no one will buy.
Does this work? And if so, how?
The Cost of Releasing an Album & What We Can Learn from it
Chances are you already know everything that goes into making an album.
I have a friend who recently completed his, and at the end of the day, it cost him $40,000 to record his music and put all his marketing materials together.
And I have no doubt he will work hard and find an audience. His music is kind of like the meeting place of modern-day pop mixed with 80s sensibilities, and we all know there’s a market for that.
But there’s no denying that the $40,000 financial outlay was significant, and the oft repeated phrase, “there are no guarantees” applies to him as much as any other artist vying for the consumer’s fragmented attention.
What’s funny about this is that the only cost to record and release my three-time award-winning, one-time nominated short film score The Nobody Prayer (Original Soundtrack) was my own time and energy recording it (which for argument’s sake I will value at $720), and $49 for distribution.
If at some point over the course of my lifetime that release makes me $769, I will be free and clear and into gravy. As for my friend who spent $40,000, I’m not sure when he’ll break even and make a return on that investment.
Is this fair? No. But it also comes from a fundamental difference in perspective and experience.
Selling it Before You Make it
So, is there any merit to this idea of selling it before you make it, of validating a market first, of taking pre-orders on something you haven’t even put any time into creating?
And at the risk of bringing up a sticking point, I want to raise the example of Flashes of Elation, a book I have been developing since 2016.
Now, the project was well underway when I set up pre-orders for it. But I did not have a complete work on my hands. It still caught the attention of my audience, and several people were kind enough to pre-order it on good faith (thank you!).
What I need to tell you, though, is that there are some nuances to setting up pre-orders.
To an extent, yes, you can just say, “I’m making XYZ” and ask people to PayPal you. And if that works for you, go with it.
But usually, it takes a little more than that. Here’s what I learned about setting up pre-orders:
Make the Offer as Attractive as Possible
There are a few key things to consider here. And I know it might be a lot to take in but stick with me and you will see how it works.
We need the following for a successful pre-order:
- Compelling copy
- Attractive design
- Irresistible bonuses
And we’ll look at each of these elements in detail.
You need to sell your product. And that’s what copy does for you. It acts as a 24/7 salesperson while you’re busy doing other things.
As applied to Flashes of Elation, it was a matter of putting together a blog post teasing the release and talking about the benefits the book would offer.
Now for a bit of secret sauce.
When I put together my pre-order page, marketer Neil Patel just happened to be taking pre-orders for his book, Hustle. His pre-order post caught my attention, so I decided to model it. Apparently, that turned out to be a winning formula, because several people pre-ordered my book too.
My first mockup draft of the Flashes of Elation book cover was honestly terrible, and the book sold despite that. So, I don’t want to put too fine a point on design. But there’s no denying that, psychologically, we tend to put more value on great design.
It’s fundamentally illogical, as author and expert marketer Dan Kennedy emphasizes form over function. And I tend to agree with him. What sells isn’t necessarily what looks the best.
It’s at first brush that we tend to put more value on design. I’ve seen it firsthand as people were bidding on internet businesses. They automatically assumed a website with a better design was a better business. And it often turned out that wasn’t the case. The business that focused on design was the one that was earning less.
The point here would be to 1) have a design, and 2) test it. If it doesn’t work, iterate.
You can put a design together relatively quickly using a tool like Canva, and that’s the same method I advocate for in The Code Breaker Course.
Even if people say they just want the album, or they just want the book, there’s something about a value stack that makes the offer more attractive, and ultimately irresistible.
I learned the term “value stack” from ClickFunnels co-founder Russell Brunson. And it basically means to layer complementary products on top of your main offer.
A CD or a book might be worth $20 to $25. But if you threw in a digital version of the product, some merch, a personal call with the creator (i.e., you), access to a private Facebook group, and so on, it would elevate the value of the product in the eyes of your audience. And even with all these bonuses, if for a limited time, the buyer could get it all for $20? That would wow them, wouldn’t it?
In the Flashes of Elation example, I offered my audience the opportunity to get these pre-order bonuses:
- A signed paperback
- eBook version of the book
- Audio version of the book
- Two appendixes – My Top 10 Tips for Creatives, and interview with Sean Harley [Tucker]
- Audio version of the interview with Sean Harley [Tucker]
Looks quite generous, even to me!
If I wanted to be more aggressive, I could have listed off the value of each of these products and then reinforced the fact that buyers would get all of it for just $25. Kind of like I did on the sales page for Members Only Audios. Not going to lie – it can start to feel pushy after a point, but you can experiment for yourself and see what works.
So, Do You Need to Make it to Sell it?
No, you don’t!
And the advantage here is that if no one buys, you can chalk it all up to experience, go back to the drawing board, and come up with something else. Although I’ve known this for a long time, it feels like I’m learning the lesson at a deeper level now.
Either way, if you do sell pre-orders, be sure to deliver on the product you promised. That’s key!