Fail Predictions: My Own Product

I didn’t plan to write this article.

These past few articles were about product failure. The previous article was about a fail prediction of a startup-y product.

All the while I’ve been working on a product on the side.

And this article will be about why I predict my own product will fail and how I decided I should pull the plug.

A “video” “product”

I called it “A Standard Review for Standard Layouts”. I was planning to pre-sell a pre-recorded interactive “video”. You include your landing page on the left, me and my face and my “tool” on the right, and I run through your landing page to review it.

Snapshot of the product's pre-order page with a sample video where you could put in your page's URL and where I explained the product

But it’s pre-recorded! How can you review my site if you haven’t seen it?

If your page had what I called a “standard layout” (Hero + Features + How it works/Testimonials/Benefits + Signup/Pricing), the “review” “video” would point out the things your page was most likely missing.

You could upload a mockup or enter a URL, you could adjust the video to scroll to the exact point in the page where you had each section. (The video itself was just my face, everything else was animated via JavaScript.)

I was going to show you how to see the page through the eyes of a visitor. I was going to use the Forces of Progress to show you how a good landing page flows by working with the mental back-and-forth of the visitor, to help them make progress.

I was investing half a day a week on this for several weeks. I showed it to a friend who found it hard to understand. I decided to kill it.

The Problem: A Stunt Is Not Always a Good Product

A stunt attracts attention, makes a statement, pushes on people’s mental models.

A product helps a person with a struggle make progress away from “this isn’t working” and toward an aspiration.

It was more of a stunt than a product. And it wasn’t a good product.

Lost in the idea of the stunt was a lack of clarity on what you got when you bought the product.

That lack of clarity added too much anxiety to the visitor. “What the hell is this anyway?”

And so I set out to see if I could salvage the product. See if I could pivot, re-arrange the landing page. Maybe use a struggle-first layout instead.

Trying Out a Struggle-First Layout

Since nobody had an established mindset for a “standard review”, the landing page layout of choice is a struggle-first layout. You start by mirroring back to the visitor the struggle they’re going through. They respond by feeling “this person understands me”, and they scroll. And then you intro the product.

So let’s see what a struggle-first layout looks like for this product. First, I renamed it to an “Instant Review”, and then continued by mirroring the visitor’s struggle:

Re-writing the landing page to be struggle-first. Instant Review, something more affordable than a custom review. People are not finding the feedback they're getting from indie communities as too helpful.

So far so good. But then, after having built all that empathy, the solution to the problem felt disconnected. “A video like no other?” That’s. Not. Helping. Me. With. My. Problem.

More evidence of understanding the struggle. So many questions unanswered about whether your landing page will work. Nobody's giving you the right advice. Here's the solution: a video like no other. What?

(I know. Ironic that someone teaching how to build landing pages has a product whose landing page wasn’t clear.)

Then What Would Be a Good Product for that Struggle?

A video course! That would fit naturally with the visitor’s established mindset. Makes sense!

I give it a try:

Not an Instant Review, a Page Sharpening Course!

That makes more sense. But that’s an entirely different product. The “Standard Review” product idea was something I could ship for January 6th. I could make that bet if I sold enough pre-orders. A full-blown course, that’ll take me months of work at one half-day a week of budget. I can’t pre-sell this.

Plus, I don’t have a big enough audience to support this kind of project. Not yet.

And so maybe I’ll build a landing page course in the future. But for now, the Standard Review product is toast.

Maybe It’s the Ego Talking

In an article titled Ego Makes Good Products Fail (Remove Ego to See Reality), I showed how discernment has a lot to do with ego removal. It’s hard to see reality with a clear mind. You have to spot when you’re in a reactive moment, then you have to inventory your inner-dialogue and see if you should re-write it.

So here’s an exercice of ego removal to see if I may be deluding myself by killing the product:


Mental models: Surely this product won’t work because the forces of progress don’t check out - Yes, the “Standard Review” solution wasn’t clear I need to kill it, it’s a dead-end - Maybe - Maybe I can re-package the idea in the future - Interesting, maybe as a neat add-on within a course - Maybe I can use the tech for my fail predictions - Interesting If I kill it, it’ll be seen as a failure - Maybe - Maybe it’ll be helpful for others if I publish an article about it - That’s enough of a stunt right there

Bingo. Hope this article helped.

Stay sharp!


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