Build it, and they will come. Right? Unfortunately not. Finding a product you like might be easy, but finding the market is harder. This means knowing your market BEFORE choosing a product, and then matching the product to the market. You may reach your market via wholesalers and distributors, but it is important to understand the needs of the end user or customer.

When launching a new product or service, we need a pre-sell strategy; a clear path to customers before we even start. Some people make the mistake of believing that pre-sell is just a matter of making this big announcement, and then launching your product. If only it were that easy!

Pre-sell involves distinct steps which, when rolled out, cause the customer to desperately want your product. Most people are in a hurry to launch after slogging through the creation and production stages. They are keen to sell the product as quickly as possible to start bringing in some cash to cover all of the costs spent so far. But rushing a launch will not achieve maximum attention and sales, bringing in a fraction of the cash you had hoped to see pouring in.

An important part of the launch is the waiting list. You need an eager crowd waiting to pounce. Think of the people lining up for days for every new Apple product. How do you make your customers so eager?

Engaging with your audience in the development of your product can build your pre-sell market. First, identify a problem you want to solve for your customer. Next, find at least 10 people that you think may be facing the same problem. Then ask them to recommend more people facing the same problem. This way you should interview at least 30-50 people. If you already have a following online you can canvas many more people by inviting comment, posting surveys or polls. From there you might ask some individuals for more detail or a full one on one interview.

You should start to see some common threads, and in particular, the language your potential customers use to describe their pain points. This will become useful when offering your solution. Your job is to introduce solutions that remove the roadblocks, and to communicate that to your market.

Start developing your product idea and take it to a group of your interviewees. At this stage you don’t need to make the product, only be able to describe its qualities, and ask whether it meets the needs of your audience. Doing this will let you know if you are on the right track before wasting time and money on the wrong solution. Also find out what they would be prepared to pay for the solution, so you can think about whether you can produce it within that price and make a profit.

Your audience will most likely enjoy feeling they have been involved in creating the product, and will be happy to go through a few rounds of feedback on your ideas. Once you have developed a prototype, you can reward your audience with some freebies, that will reap rewards in endorsing your product or highlighting important changes to be made before the official launch. You can then ask for testimonials.

Your original group of interviews then become your launch market and your waiting list – they have already engaged with you and you know they have a problem you can solve.

Here are the key steps to launch:

1 Call attention to a specific group of people (i.e people experiencing the problem). This tells people your product is relevant to them. For example “calling all pet owners”.

2 Ask a question related to the pain point (“Ever wanted to get rid of pet hair?”).

3 List three to five benefits of your product. Include testimonials from your test group (social proof).

4 Make it clear that this is a pre sale. Create scarcity with a limited time frame and limited number of units.

5 Give a call to action Ask them to buy and tell them what they need to do to access your solution.

6 Send reminders and a last chance email.