The Entrepreneur Forum | Startups | Entrepreneurship | Starting a Business | Motivation | Success

EXECUTION Learning Fastlane skills by doing the work

Remove ads while supporting the Unscripted philosophy...become an INSIDER.

Flint

Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Jul 14, 2020
33
44
103
UK
In this progress thread, I want to document my journey from a total newb to someone who knows what he's doing. I have zero Fastlane experience, this is me putting in the work to change lanes for the first time.

Like many who've read MJ's books and discovered this forum, I get the general idea and key guiding concepts. But I have no skin in the game and no practical knowledge of how to build a viable business following the CENTS commandments.

My long term goal and the sense of purpose is to support families and communities where physical and interpersonal skills (and consequently character and mental strength) are valued and cultivated. This resonates with me especially in the context of passing the torch (mentorship programmes, fatherhood etc.).

I have a few ideas I'd like to play with but I don’t know exactly what I’ll build yet. So instead of overanalysing it, I want to keep the ball rolling, learn by doing and smash my sticking points in the process. Alignment with my purpose should happen organically over time.

Finally, I'm hoping to receive feedback and suggestions from you guys. This collective mentoring and exchange of ideas is something that brought me here. If my writing can help someone too, even better.

Right, let’s crack on and close this knowing-doing gap.
 

Don't like ads? Remove them while supporting the forum. Subscribe.

OP
OP
Flint

Flint

Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Jul 14, 2020
33
44
103
UK
I've decided to leverage my personal experience and start there. Can I relate to any particular group with a problem or a need that I could address?

I have an interest in something that has a wide range of accessories available on the market. As a total beginner I was looking for a particular kit and felt overwhelmed. I wanted clarity and quality, but wasn't sure which solution was for me. I ended up creating my own kit with elements from various sources, including actual products, services and information.

My first idea is therefore to turn it into something I could offer.

Key front-end and back-end questions I want to focus on:
  1. Who are the people wiling to pay for this and what is their unmet need?
  2. How much are they able and willing to pay for it and how large is the niche?
  3. Who are the competitors offering this or a similar solution?
  4. How can I reach and maintain relationships with my target group?
  5. How can I source what my niche needs and how much will it cost?
  6. Will this be profitable?
I can think of three potential customer groups, each attracted to a bit different brand, product and price point. At least two do have enough money because the niche has a moderate cost to enter. The third one is just people buying smaller gifts for others in the niche and I assume this is more seasonal.

There are big online shops (that source what I was after from 1-2 big brands, so it's the same product everywhere), specialised stores offering their own items (more expensive than the first group) and a few Amazon-only sellers (mostly cheap no-name stuff dropshipped from China). One guy seems to play it a notch better than the cheapest stuff bros and he addresses many points I wanted to include, but nothing I couldn't compete with.

So this is interesting. I started to track his sales and it's only a few items per day at a £40-£50 price point. I found out his turnover is around 100k-150k a year and net profit 30k-40k a year. His best seller has just over 200 reviews, 2-3 other products about 100 and the rest only low two digits. He's been about 2 years in the game. Two other points: his marketing is negligible and he doesn't control quality of the product as he gets occasional 1 star reviews for random poor finish.

In terms of the addressable market, the traffic driven to the big players sites is of the order of 1M-2M per month as indicated by SimilarWeb. Others don't have any stats there. I checked AliExpress and the number of orders for a product similar to what I'm interested shows as below 100. Amazon UK has a small number of dropshippers and most of them don't really compete with the one guy above. Ebay UK is not better. Maybe I should look into the US marketplace a bit more.

I'm not sure how to interpret that: either there's no real need for this or it's not been properly explored outside the big companies. I guess I won't know until I try it. So that's the plan.

The positive is there are specialist stores that offer similar accessories. I don't know their bestsellers, it may not be this particular item and other stuff is more profitable. This is to be explored further.

In terms of suppliers, I've looked at Alibaba, hktdc and made-in-china. I'll search for other sources, also outside China, but that's all I know at the moment. All Amazon sellers seem to be dropshipping stuff from Alibaba manufacturers (or they're one and the same), even the pictures are the same. Speaking of pictures, they show poor product quality, so I'm curious how much improvement I could get there. Another thing to check.

My next steps:
  1. I want to see demonstrated cash flow above all, so I'm going to research the specialist stores and see what the top selling items are.
  2. I'm going to dig deeper into my three potential target groups to see where we click best. This should help me with reaching clarity on what I want to ask the suppliers to produce.
  3. Once I have that clarity, I'm going to open comms with as many suppliers as possible and just ask for specific modifications, number of pieces and quotes. Down the line, I should get samples for testing and then order more to put on Amazon (need to learn more about it too). Also, I want to quality check each item before sending to FBA, so I'll get them delivered to me first.
  4. In parallel, I'll be working on my copy and how to present the item. I'll need professional photographs which I'll outsource. I don't think I'll go into a Shopify store just yet, I want to start with Amazon and test the waters there. But perhaps there are better ways to do it?
  5. I haven't figured out the marketing channels yet, but thinking out loud: Facebook, IG, specialist forums. Another aspect to add to my research list.
 
OP
OP
Flint

Flint

Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Jul 14, 2020
33
44
103
UK
An interesting pivot.

I followed my plan above and got stuck at steps #1 and #2 (look for demonstrated cashflow & understand potential customers).

To get an idea of the current cashflow, I spent a few days monitoring sales (where possible) and/or popularity of items sold by competitors. Unfortunately, I saw very little movement there, single digit sales per day... if that. It became clear this isn't a core product for the big players (rather an upsell add-on etc.), niche shops don't generate that much traffic around it (this isn't a product that needs to be replaced frequently) and unknown Amazon sellers can't really provide high quality at a competitive price (it's one or the other). First red flag.

The other red flag came from my customer research. I explored Facebook, Reddit and other niche forums. Even started commenting on related topics and offering advice. But I didn't see much traction or past interest and realised people either create their own cheap solutions or prefer to pay specialists to solve their problem (which in this case is trading time for money). I think a few would buy my product for convenience (just like they buy it from the competition), but the market is just too small. And many in the niche are actually struggling financially during pandemic.

Well, despite the red flags, I was still planning to make it happen. I could see myself hesitating and delaying it, but I wanted to learn and experiment with the end-to-end ecommerce process and just go ahead with it. A painful lesson if the approach violates the CENTS commandments, but a lesson nonetheless.

And then I stumbled across a new problem in a completely different niche. I didn't realise how red the previous red flags were until I saw how much larger and smoother everything is in this new market. Oh wow. I was blinded by my "fantastic" idea and how much I wanted to do something in niche #1. I really wanted to make it work for me. Luckily, I took a few breaks and spent time with other niches/groups and it definitely helped me divorce from my stubborn preconceptions. It pays off to have multiple interests, people to talk to and just keep in touch with them without really needing anything.

I'm going to address this new problem. There are strong players in the niche and it took them a few years to build their position, but I'm sure there's enough room for me. As many have said it before: if I could grab a fraction of their combined sales, I'd be very pleased. So this is the goal for the time being.

I ordered a few products to test and I've started a list of potential manufacturers. I'll follow the same process outlined above and tweak/refine it on the go.

I feel good about this one. Especially in comparison with the previous idea and its scale.

Now just to measure it against the real demand in the world outside my head. ;)
 
OP
OP
Flint

Flint

Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Jul 14, 2020
33
44
103
UK
Thanks to @Andy Black's How To Quickly Get Started In Business interview, I discovered a better way to quantify and validate some of my assumptions about the market need at this stage.

Andy described how to access Google Keyword Planner even before you choose a business to work on. Simply complete your Google Ads registration, provide your card details to start a new ad campaign and then delete it. You won't be spending money on something that doesn't generate income yet but you'll gain access to the planning tools.

So I did that and confirmed there are 10K-100K average monthly searches related to the idea I'm currently working on. This is 10-100 times more than the number of searches for the previous one. Good to see an independent confirmation.

Thanks, Andy!

I should learn more about how to leverage Google Ads and make it work for me when I finally get something to sell. At this stage, I don't even know what to think about £0.9 average CPC or what 1.1 average position means.

The more I work on this, the bigger the list of things I realise I don't know. Cool! Gets my juices flowing.
 

sparechange

Platinum Contributor
Speedway Pass
Nov 11, 2016
2,052
2,911
685
Canada (Vancouver)
I don't think you need to outsource photography, any modern iphone is pretty good for taking pictures.

34274

you could just throw a cardboard box up and fill it with white cloths and do it yourself way cheaper

For marketing you can reach out to influencers in your niche and offer commisions for a product sale. All those big YT/IG pages will gladly take your money (you'll need to learn how to negotiate) I believe most will want money up front, but maybe you can get ''lucky'' and get someone to showcase your product and they only get paid if they make a sale.
 

Andy Black

Dad, husband, entrepreneur.
Staff member
EPIC CONTRIBUTOR
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Speedway Pass
May 20, 2014
10,889
44,234
4,306
Ireland
Thanks to @Andy Black's How To Quickly Get Started In Business interview, I discovered a better way to quantify and validate some of my assumptions about the market need at this stage.

Andy described how to access Google Keyword Planner even before you choose a business to work on. Simply complete your Google Ads registration, provide your card details to start a new ad campaign and then delete it. You won't be spending money on something that doesn't generate income yet but you'll gain access to the planning tools.

So I did that and confirmed there are 10K-100K average monthly searches related to the idea I'm currently working on. This is 10-100 times more than the number of searches for the previous one. Good to see an independent confirmation.

Thanks, Andy!

I should learn more about how to leverage Google Ads and make it work for me when I finally get something to sell. At this stage, I don't even know what to think about £0.9 average CPC or what 1.1 average position means.

The more I work on this, the bigger the list of things I realise I don't know. Cool! Gets my juices flowing.
You don’t even need to add your credit card now-a-days. Here’s a wee video I created a couple of weeks ago:

View: https://youtu.be/BUVSIyVryA8
 
OP
OP
Flint

Flint

Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Jul 14, 2020
33
44
103
UK
you could just throw a cardboard box up and fill it with white cloths and do it yourself way cheaper
Thanks, I like the idea. A good skill and setup to have regardless of further outsourcing decisions.

For marketing you can reach out to influencers in your niche and offer commisions for a product sale. All those big YT/IG pages will gladly take your money (you'll need to learn how to negotiate) I believe most will want money up front, but maybe you can get ''lucky'' and get someone to showcase your product and they only get paid if they make a sale.
Yes, that's what I thought would be a good way forward on the way to Scale.

Here’s a wee video I created a couple of weeks ago
Ha, thanks for sharing. I need to keep up. Not easy to find the right content when you need it without having read a lot up front.

Are all your videos listed somewhere by any chance? This YT channel is a hidden treasure.
 

Andy Black

Dad, husband, entrepreneur.
Staff member
EPIC CONTRIBUTOR
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Speedway Pass
May 20, 2014
10,889
44,234
4,306
Ireland
Are all your videos listed somewhere by any chance? This YT channel is a hidden treasure.
Videos are linked to in various threads/posts spread throughout the forum. That YouTube channel was always intended as a hosting platform for videos I shared in the forum, which is why I recently unlisted them all so they’re only found when linked to.
 
OP
OP
Flint

Flint

Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Jul 14, 2020
33
44
103
UK
I'm travelling and couldn't put my hands on the competitor's products, so the progress is mainly around researching demonstrated cashflow, understanding my target groups and their needs, plus gathering further info on suppliers.

Look for demonstrated cashflow

In the process of looking at the marketplace, I created a list of competitors and started studying their offering, copy, image, marketing and overall presence in the minds of customers.

I continued to monitor competitors' sales on Amazon and I've noticed it's not the main distribution channel for the key players. Interesting diversification, learning from them.

It seems that on Amazon they've become expensive decoys driving sales to cheaper knockoffs who have 1k+ reviews now. At least this is my plausible explanation based on @MidwestLandord's description of the decoy pricing concept here.

The number #1 Amazon seller has solid pictures, but the reviews show they don't match the reality. This reassures my approach to target Amazon first with a better quality product, differentiating presentation etc.

I won't be doing dropshipping, I want to design my own product and create a long term brand. I don't know the margins and I still need info on COGS for a new design (TBD after testing competitors' products). So the viability is still unproven.

My assessment of the willingness to pay is based on the sales numbers (about 100 items a month [*]) for a mid-priced product available on Amazon (I don't know how to track it elsewhere) and the existence of small companies creating strong brands. Soft validation, but that's all I have at the moment.

[*] I'm feeling a bit delusional when looking at this number now...

Understand your customers

I've done a little bit of research in my social circle and it looks like the product isn't widely known. To be fair, I first heard of it from a friend who was surprised how successful it has become in his region. I think both these clues are a good sign.

The product offers convenience and the problem it solves is common yet not burning. Everyone solves it cheaply and my solution is both practical and related to the lifestyle image. I believe it falls into the "impulse buying" category.

The customer base could be really broad, so I'm looking to niche down. I'm studying it further for various groups to see where I can make it more appealing and practical specifically for them.

I'm following @Phikey's thread and he inspired me to validate the idea early even without the product. As per his recommendation, I may spend some time in the field interviewing people for free coffee or such. What I've found quite efficient is finding individuals from various niches that are active on Instagram and following their story in pictures there. This has been very fruitful and has given me a lot to think about. I didn't realise how little I knew about specific personas I wanted to target.

I'm also thinking of selecting a few of them and offering early prototypes for testing to get real life feedback from strangers in the near future. I don't even mind if they don't promote it on Instagram, honest feedback will be more valuable at this stage.

Find suppliers

The above is the front-end of the business and I still need to make sure the back-end can work for me. I need to understand who can produce the product, how much it will cost and how I will get it into the hands of customers.

I've created a list of suppliers in various parts of the world and I'm planning to reach out to them as soon as I decide how I want the product to look like. I feel I should do it before I reach full clarity, just to make sure that certain materials and features can be implemented. Also, to have an idea of the costs rather sooner than later.

So the next step is to create a brief description of the product-to-be and open comms with a range of suppliers.

I'm also learning about the production processes and requirements. And since I'm travelling, I may have an opportunity to meet with one of the suppliers in person. That would be great and I'm looking forward to it.

AOB

One more thing I've done is I came up with a company name, registered a domain and an email address. Today, the name doesn't feel right anymore and seems a bit random but oh well... I can always choose a different one later. I feel that spending too much time on it at this stage would trap me in action faking.

I'm also reading TFLF whenever possible. I found @biophase's comment that resonates with me on how I'm trying to execute it:

1) Order the top 10 [product] from Amazon
2) Test out the top 10 [product] from Amazon
3) Choose the best [product] out of the 10
4) Find the best features out of the 10
5) Try to incorporate some of these features into the best [product]
6) Find 5 manufacturers that make that [product] and add your features
5) Find a way to differentiate your [product] (I would have done it by color)
6) Take great photos of your [product]. Make a good video
7) Make a good Amazon listing
8) Launch at a lower price, breakeven
9) Get reviews
10) Run PPC
11) Breakeven on your first 500 units
12) Raise price
13) Profit
So that's the WIP plan.
 

Odysseus M Jones

1046, 1569, 2092, 3138...
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Speedway Pass
Feb 2, 2020
645
3,259
741
50.4555° N, 4.4647° W
Find suppliers
 
OP
OP
Flint

Flint

Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Jul 14, 2020
33
44
103
UK
Thanks, that's a great link. I've seen it and managed to find a few more suppliers.
 

Don't like ads? Remove them while supporting the forum. Subscribe.

Create an account or login to comment

You must be a member in order to leave a comment

Create account

Create an account on our community. It's easy!

Log in

Already have an account? Log in here.

Sponsored Offers

  • Sticky
MARKETPLACE Fox's Web Design Guide: Earn $100K this year (Yes, 2020!) and Go Fastlane
How do I sell to a different country with an accent? And a foreign number. Cold e-mails don't...
  • Sticky
MARKETPLACE Kill Bigger Incubator
Hey @Cruiser I just shot you a reply! Amazing product BTW!
  • Sticky
MARKETPLACE Lex DeVille's - Advanced Freelance Udemy Courses!
Well, we made it halfway through the year. Don't know what the rest'll bring, but it's gonna be...
  • Sticky
FEATURED! Introducing... WEALTH EXPO$ED, A Short Story By MJ DeMarco
Not really a teaser but it does employ a fictional story, so that is similiar. This upcoming...
  • Sticky
MARKETPLACE You Are One Call Away From Living Your Dream Life - LightHouse’s Accountability Program ⚡
Dropping a quick note in here to say... if you are on TFL, you are part of an elite group of...



Forum Sponsor

sponsor

New Topics

Fastlane Insiders

View the forum AD FREE.
Private, unindexed content
Detailed process/execution threads
Monthly conference calls with doers
Ideas needing execution, more!

Join Fastlane Insiders.

Top Bottom