When it is time to create a new product, and leave an old one behind? Something I see pretty often is people giving up on what they’ve already made too soon, because the selling and promoting feels hard, uncomfortable or like it’s not living up to our hopes. In this episode, I share lessons learned from selling my signature course for 4+ years, and invite you to reconsider whether it’s really time to walk away from your previous hard work just yet…
Things I Talk About In This Episode:
- Why we get tempted to make something new instead of doubling down on selling what we’ve already created
- What to do when you think you’ve run out of marketing ideas
- Why our brains like to keep us from doing things that are new
- The benefits of creating and selling a long-term product
- Lessons learned from maintaining a bestselling online class for 4+ years
- The difference between when your product is the problem vs when it’s your marketing or offer
Links mentioned in this episode:
Read the Transcript
“This is Hashtag Authentic, a podcast for Creatives online. I’m Sara Tasker, and this is episode 90.
Hey everyone. How’s it going? I have been… away for a little while. I’m realising that in future I just need to block all of August out as a break from work, because this summer my body and my brain conspire to make it non-negotiable for the second year running.
In fact, I realised that we are coming up to the 4 year anniversary of The Insta Retreat, which is a really long time in the world of online courses. What do I mean by that? I don’t know anyone in my circle who is still actively selling a class or a programme that they were selling 4 years ago. They maybe have it on a passive system where it runs constantly and people can still buy it, or it’s now included as a freebie as part of a bundle with something else, but this is still, 4 years on, a mainstay within my business. It’s still the class I devote the most time and energy to each quarter.
Now, absolutely that course has changed in that time. It’s been rewritten, re-recorded, rebranded, reshaped – not least because Instagram has changed relentlessly and perpetually over the past 4 years, and my aim with TIR has always been to keep it as the most up to date. I want it to be the one place you need to go to get everything you need to know about Instagram. But that also means I want to keep it concise and succinct and not be including things that are redundant, or encourage people to waste their time on activities within the app that aren’t likely to bring the desired results. So it’s a constant practice of pruning and adding and refining and improving.
But it is still The Insta Retreat. It’s still the same 6-week format. It is still taught live by me, and by that I mean I’m still there answering questions, doing the weekly lives and the coaching and the Q&A sessions, throwing in additional teaching sessions on topics people might be struggling with – so last time we did an extra session where I edited students photos live on my phone so they could all see how the different apps work. And of course, I’m still updating it regularly. It’s in constant evolution.
And I wanted to talk about this today because I don’t think this practise should be as rare and unusual as it is. One of the foundational beliefs I have in my business that if you create something that is of real value, it should stand the test of time. And most of the time the reason it doesn’t and the reason people move on from selling their thing is *not* because it has lost its value or it has lost its audience, but because we as the creator and seller have lost interest, or we have lost our belief in our ability to keep selling it, or our belief in its worth.
It is incredibly easy and ridiculously tempting to think the answer is always in the next product. The next package, the next offer. To think that it would be easier if we were just selling something else. To think, essentially, that the grass is greener on the other side. Now this is not to say, obviously that we cannot innovate in our businesses and I will talk a little bit about that later – about how to know when you’re creating a new offering from a place of genuine need or want versus creating as an escape, as a way to avoid some sort of discomfort.
So first of all, why can it be a bad idea to keep rapidly changing our product offering? This is how I see it play out for a lot of the people I talk to: Number one is that it’s confusing for our audiences. If you have 5 or 6 different packages or offerings that kind of overlap, that kind of offer very similar sounding things, it’s very hard for me as a customer to know which one to invest in. Do I choose your most recent one? Is that the best one? Do I choose the one that best describes me and my struggles? Do I pick the one my friend did last year and really recommended, or the one you’re currently promoting on Instagram and calling your best work? How do I know which one will bring me the active community I’m looking for, or your active and personal engagement?
When I talk to the new enrolled students in any Insta Retreat class, they often tell me it’s been a long term dream to take it with me. Sometimes it takes them 6 months or a year or more to actually get around to being ready to commit the time and money to take the plunge. And for some of you – and I think you know who you are – if your customers come back in a year to buy the thing you told them about, they’re going to find it doesn’t even exist any more. And if I’m a customer who bought an earlier version of your thing and now sees you selling a slightly different, slightly new take on the programme I invested in, I might feel like I didn’t get your best work and that I’ve been left behind.
If you’ve moved on too quickly from something you’ve created it can feel like the opposite of an endorsement from you. Like you’re saying, I wrote this thing but I don’t really believe in it so I’ll just leave it here and move on.
Compare that to me selling consistently the same thing into it’s 5th year. Being committed to just making it the best it can possibly be. Constantly tweaking and reinventing it. Listening every time somebody has a question about something I’ve written in the course notes or recorded in the audio, and thinking how do I make that clearer? How do I make it so that next time I don;t have to waste their time in having them ask that question, and make it so all the information is right there where they need it the first time. I get to refine and create the best version of that product, and put all my energy, enthusiasm and experience into selling it. This is why I believe that we should not go and create something new until we are consistently selling out the thing we’ve already made. Until that offering is really reaping its full worth.
Now a lot of us, our brains will go to the thought of, “well, what if the thing I’ve already made is rubbish? What if this thing just haven’t have any demand?”. And sometimes that might be true – sometimes we might create a product or offering that there is truly just no audience for. But it’s rare. I would say like 99,9% of the time, the real issue is that you have just not figured out yet how to sell it. You’ve not figured out who to sell it to, where to promote it, how to package it, what your offer needs to be, how to promote it. And when you figure all of those things out, that’s when you’re ready to move onto selling something else. And you’re going to have to learn that, whatever the product.
You guys have probably heard me say before that I think business can be a lot like therapy and what I mean by that is that it brings up all of our insecurities, and our issues, and our hidden mess to the surface. And this is one of those areas where it does it like nothing else. Can you keep believing in your product even if you’ve not got the evidence yet that the rest of the world does? Can you keep showing up got it and trying and failing and trying and failing and figuring out new things to try, even when you’re not getting external validation and proof that it’s going to work out? Because that’s a skill we all need in business sooner or later. We all need it.
And sometimes, like me, you can get lucky and skip over it with your first few launches – you know, I sold my first insta retreat and it sold out fast. I got on a train, and by the time I was back in signal range I’d made £40k. And that sounds great, but it kind of does you a disservice, because you need to build those muscles. Let me tell you, it was challenging in a whole different way to be right in at the deep end and not have the muscles I needed to swim.
So what does this look like in real terms? I’m going to keep talking about digital products and services here, because as you know, that’s where my brain is at, but you can use this principle for whatever …
So a lot of the time people will say – to me, but also to themselves – I’ve done everything and it still hasn’t sold. I’ve done everything and I haven’t sold enough places so obviously the problem is the product. Obviously I don’t have a big enough audience to sell this. There’s nothing else I can do.
And what we mean when we say we’ve done everything is *really* that we’ve done everything inside of our comfort zone. We’ve done everything that we’ve already done before. We’ve done everything that doesn’t require us to push us beyond where we feel safe with what we know.
And that is completely normal. That’s what human brains love to do! We like to repeat things that feel ok and stay where it feels safe and not take unnecessary risks. Our brain loves to tell us that there are no options beyond that.
So a really fun exercise if you’re stuck in that, which is super powerful and effective, is to grab yourself the biggest piece of paper you can find – at minimum, A4, preferably with lines, and write a list of all the things that you can do to try and sell your product.
And you’ll start with, probably, things inside your comfort zone. So if you’ve already sent out a sales email you might write “send a second sales email” on there. If you usually post on Instagram, you might write “mention it on Instagram twice instead of once”. But what will happen as you start to run down the page is you will start to run out of things that feel safe. And you’ve still got a lot of lines left to fill, so your brain is going to have to get more imaginative and more creative and start thinking outside of its comfort zone.
What’s brilliant about this is, the answers are all yours! You already have everything you need to generate this list and all the possibilities for you to explore. You just have to set yourself up in the right way and ask your brain the right kind of questions to get the road map.
So for example, you might start to think, well I’ve never tried FB ads, paying for FB ads, or Instagram ads, or Pinterest ads, or sponsoring a podcast. I’ve never tried Reddit or Tumblr. I’ve never tried pitching myself as a guest on other people’s podcasts, or creating a sales funnel, or offering a discount. I could email people directly who I think might want to buy it. I could try a giveaway. I could make a mini podcast of my own…
It’s that question of what could you do? If I told you I’d give you a million pounds if you sold x number of places on your course or of your product, what are all the things you would do to make sure you sold that many? Those are the things that you put down on that list. And then you have in front of you an action plan of things you can try to get more sales of your product. And it’s going to require you to feel uncomfortable, it’s going to require you to fail, and learn, and grow, and be way way way outside of your comfort zone, but only when you get to the bottom of that list and still not sold out can you really say that you know there’s no audience for what you’ve created.
What I see so many of us do is we get to the end of the comfort zone list, those first few items that come easily to mind, – the 2 sales emails and 2 instagram posts- and then our brain starts to tell us that the problem is us. We don’t have a big enough audience, we don’t have a good enough product, we need to give up on this – make a new product so people will want it more. And so we get pulled away and into the whole cycle all over again without ever doing that essential work of getting to grips with the things we need to face in order to ever really be able to sell.
Now you guys know I love to run my business from a place of ease and integrity, and so I want to be clear – this isn’t about doing things you hate, or that go against your values as a business owner. If you never want to give a single penny to Facebook, if you hate going Live or talking on video – whatever the limits you’ve chosen to set for yourself that align with your values and happiness – they totally get to co-exist as we make this list. Do not write down things you would never be willing to do. But I also want to gently encourage you to challenge yourself and challenge your “I would nevers” whenever we do an exercise like this. Make sure that you like your reason for choosing to not use live video streams or whatever within your business. Check, really check with yourself, that it’s not just about fear. Hiding from fear is very different to refraining from integrity, and the results you create with those two different motivations can look very different too.
There are no specific steps you have to take and you get to choose all of them, but until you have taken all of the ones you’ve made available to yourself, you’re not done selling your thing.
And the real problem of this cycle that I see for people is that it’s a huge drain only our energy and resources and creativity. We keep creating, we keep reinventing and the creating is the fun part. I get it. It is so fun to start with a blank canvas and make something completely new, think about all the ways it’s going to help people, make it exist in the world. But the problem is, if we don’t follow through and actually deliver that and out the work into getting it in front of people then we’re wasting all of that creative energy. If you don’t get that thing into as many people’s lives or hands as possible then you’re locking up all of that amazing work and not telling anyone how to find the key.
And you’re depriving yourself, too – not only of the opportunity to hone and learn those selling skills, not only to come face to face with all the discomfort and learning that it will bring up like a masterclass in learning to live with your thoughts and your brain, but you’re missing out on the opportunity to go so much deeper and get so much richer in the knowledge that you shared in that class or product or offering.
My understanding of how people learn about Instagram has blossomed beyond belief by teaching so many people the same principles, building on that, making it stronger and more impactful year on year. Adding the things I see that people need. It means I’ve built a product that feels pretty bulletproof because I know nobody can jump into the market right now and create a rival class that has the same breadth and depth and foundational knowledge, because this is 4 years of enrichment and improvement and growth. I’m 4 years ahead of the nearest competition.
I think about – if you go back and read a blog post that I wrote 4 years ago – or go back and read one of your own, an Instagram caption or blog post that you wrote 4 years ago, do you still think that’s your best work? Or would you do it differently now? What does 4 years worth of growth look like in that practical sense to you? How does 4 years make your work even better? Because that’s where I am. That’s where my courses are. That’s the gift of staying with your offering for the long haul.
So, I said I’d talk about how to know the difference between when you’re ready to add a new product or offering versus when you’re just adding it to escape the discomfort of whatever you’re on right now. Here are the questions I use to check in on myself:
1 How much overlap is there between what you’re creating now and what you’ve created in the past. Because if there’s a lot, that could be a sign that you’re just reinventing the wheel and trying to find a new way to sell what you’ve already made.
2 Do you believe it will be easier to sell the new thing? Whether because it’s new or because it seems like a better offer or it’s more exciting somehow. Believing something will be easier to sell is not usually a good enough motivation to create a new product.
Now, hearing myself say that, obviously as a snippet in isolation and typical business terms that’s terrible advice – if you can make something that will sell easily, it makes great business sense to go ahead and do it. So I’m talking very specifically within this context here, when you’ve already got a product and it’s not selling as you would like, thinking it will be easier, thinking the grass will be greener is a dangerous place to steer your business from. Because the grass is never greener! Have you noticed this? Every time we think that when we get somewhere new it will be easier, it will be less uncomfortable, we’ll be automatically happier, we won’t have to deal with the problems – either the same old problems come along for the ride or we find a whole new set of problems waiting there for us. There is no utopia, no perfect product where you can just make it and it will just always be easy to sell. Sooner or later we are going to have to face these issues, so why not now? Why not go into it intentionally, with curiosity and enthusiasm for figuring it all out?
The third way to check-in is to do a slight twist on that exercise I mentioned earlier, make that list, and if you can fill the whole page of A4 with a very different, very specific action that you’ve already taken to try and sell it, then maybe you’re ready to move on. Maybe there is something about your offer or your product that’s not quite hitting the mark. But even then, I would still say – it might not be the product that’s the issue. It could be the offer. It could be the pricing, the sales page, your branding, the way you’ve packaged it, so maybe you need to add something or take something away.
What I want us all to do is get outside of our own brains here and try and look at it more objectively, try and tune out some of the hysterical ramblings of our primitive brains that can sound so plausible and true.
I have 2 main products that I sell right now – TIR and 15MM. My energy, whenever I’m selling, is always on those 2 things. And that, in the end, comes down to the fact that I really believe in what I’ve made. I don’t believe there’s anything else out there that delivers in the same way. It’s what I would want and delight in, if I was back where I was when I was earlier in my business. It’s what I see people needing, delivered to the best of my ability. And whenever it gets hard, whenever it gets uncomfortable, whenever the self-doubt gets too loud, that’s what I go back and connect with. I’m able to return top that conviction that I’ve made something valuable and brilliant, and if I have to turn it on its head, if I have to triple the price and include 1:1 coaching for everyone that signs up, if I have to halve the price and make it completely passive so I can afford to not be in there personally, if I have to make a complex Facebook marketing funnel to keep it sustainably selling. Or if I have to rethink my whole method of delivery – maybe make 15MM 3 weeks long instead of 3 months – whatever it might take for me to continue to create that value in the world and provide that I know is true service for the people who need it, I’m going to do it.
Integrity for me is creating the best things I can that are truly worth what people pay me. And I think the way that we really dive deep into that integrity is to stay the course with what we’ve decided to teach people, and honour what we’ve decided to put on offer in the world.
Now what if you get bored with teaching the same thing? There have definitely been times – I’ll hold up my hands – when I just haven’t felt as enthusiastic about talking about the same elements of instagam all over again. It just hasn’t been where my interest was, right there and then. It can ebb and flow. And if you’ve listened to lots of podcast you’ll know I’m a big advocate for always following our interests. But that doesn’t have to mean walking away from what we’vw already built. What brings me back again and again is always finding the creativity where I am.
So when teaching the insta retreat has felt like it wasn’t challenging me, isn’t engaging my brain in the same way, the answer is not to go and look for something more fun elsewhere. It’s not to go and find something shiny – as much as my ADHD brain would love to, would love to just go and jump ship and decide “ooh, let’s make a class on pilates instead!”. I know that actually the way to go deeper is to pour that creativity back into the thing that I’ve already made. So if you follow me, have followed the insta retreat, you’ll see it’s gone through so many evolutions, the latest round of revisions we’ve made these beautiful workbooks that people can print out, we’ve made a private podcast feed where people can listen to the material week by week which has massively increased the way people engage and keep up. We’ve made worksheets – things that I used to say, “grab a piece of paper and do this exercise” – they’re now all beautiful branded worksheets and the difference that makes to how many people go on to actually do the exercise and get the results is completely fascinating to me.
I’ll definitely do a whole episode on this at some point but I’ve recently certified as a coach through Brooke Castillo’s Life Coach School which was the biggest investment I’ve made in my business ever, I spent a lot of time and money learning this upleveled skill set, with no ambitions to be a life coach or offer more 1:1 coaching than I already do – I wasn’t looking to add this as a new element of my business, but it fascinates me. it interested me. And I could see how it would be SO valuable to the people who I am already working within my classes, in places like TIR, because of course, when the problem seems to be that we’re a bit worried about posting to social media, the real reasons behind that are always so much bigger and run so much deeper. So now I feel so unbelievably skilled up to coach people, which I now do, right there in the weekly Q&A lives right there in the insta retreat. I’ve added skills, I’ve added knowledge and I’ve added value by following my interest, but I haven’t had to jump ship and leave behind the value I’ve already built and created.
So how do we know when it’s the product that’s the problem? How can we be really sure – because there will be times when that might be true. In my experience, it’s rare to create a product that needs to be wholescale abandoned. By which I mean, to write a course or create a physical product that nobody in the world anywhere would like or want or need. Because we don’t jump into these things lightly, and we usually create from a place of noticing a gap or a need. Your product is really only likely to be the problem when your people consistently tell you so, the people who’ve already bought it or the people you’re trying to sell it to. If they keep coming back and telling you it’s not what they want, and especially if you’re getting consistent or matching feedback, like it’s too long or it’s not working how they want or it’s too confusing, then ok, the product might be the problem. But even then you can see, hopefully, how that’s not the end of the road. Your brain should be pointing out to you that these are all fixable things! Unless you’ve made, like, a scented candle that smells of dog poo, you can probably improve and refine the work you’ve already done – without throwing everything out to start on a clean slate all over again.
So my call to action for anyone listening is this: don’t give up on what you’ve already created. Don’t write off your own work because the going’s got tough. It’s meant to be tough. It doesn’t mean anything’s gone wrong or that your work isn’t valuable. It just means that you’re ready for the next chapter of this, and the skills you will develop in doing this work are what will take you and your business to a whole new level, and ultimately bring you the freedom to creator whatever YOU want in your business for the world, safe in the knowledge that you’ve built the skillset and resilience to go out there and sell it.
I hope this is helpful – I would love to hear if this resonates for you, how it works, how it doesn’t quite fit for you – come and give me all the feedback. I’m on instagram @me_and_orla and twitter under the same name, and you can always leave comments on the blog post style show notes you’ll find on my website where I do my best to always reply.
Also, I should definitely mention that the insta retreat is back on sale this week! So if you’re curious about what on earth it is that I’ve been talking about this week, or if you’re just looking to make Instagram the online home and heart for your business or creative endeavours, come and check it out at meandorla.co.uk and then click on ‘courses’. It’s six joyful weeks of online learning and community, where we dig deep not only into the secrets of creating content that converts to the things that matter to you and your work or business, but how to do all of that in a way that feels solid and sustainable and downright wonderful for YOU. My past students tell me this is the single best investment they’ve ever made in themselves and their business, and I’d love to have you join me for this next Autumn class together. And because I’m committed to making sure everyone is a great fit, if you’re interested but unsure whether The Retreat is right for you and your goals, you can drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll give you my honest, no BS take to help you make the best decision.
Hope to see you there, as well as back here next week for another new podcast episode.”
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