October 24, 2012

Rachel Strella

Developing a Product: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

By Rachel

For the past 10 weeks, I’ve been developing a downloadable product, A Small Business Owner’s Guide to Social Media, which is scheduled to be released on November 5. As the end nears, I’ve been thinking of everything that led to this point. Here’s the good, the bad and the ugly of developing a product (in reverse order, so we can end on a good note)!

The Ugly
Premium Web Cart Affiliate System

I used to think cable and insurance companies had the worst customer service. Having dealt with the affiliate marketing and CRM system through Premium Web Cart the past few weeks, I am now a true believer that this company has the worst customer service in the world. Here’s why:

The plan I considered purchasing claimed to allow me to access to their ‘simple’ affiliate marketing program. Not only was the program cumbersome and hard to follow, it was also bare bones. In order to use some of the fundamental features of the program, I would need to upgrade my account (to the most expensive plan they carried)!

I discovered this during the 30-day “free” trial, which actually billed my card after only three days. Once I noticed the charge, I attempted to contact the company. Their website boasts four flexible options for contacting them, but there is no way to actually reach them.  The phone numbers take you to voicemail and the live chat is automated. The only way to correspond with them is to submit an online ticket, which they closed out after replying, whether the problem has been solved or not.

Each time I submitted a ticket, they replied that I would receive a refund in two days. Then, they closed the ticket. Eight days later, there was no refund and I had three tickets through their web system. In fear of acquiring more charges, I authorized my bank to cancel my card. Another week and two more tickets later, I contacted the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and filed a formal complaint. Only then did I actually receive the refund for the trial.

Lesson Learned: There’s a reason why some companies – such as this one – do not have any social media channels.  Next time, I’ll do more research to find out what people are really saying about the product or service before trying it.

The Bad
The Unexpected

I knew to ‘expect the unexpected’ from launching my first product, yet it never fails to disappoint me when it actually happens.

I had to change our production schedule many times due to setbacks like the navigating affiliate program and content edits that required entire re-writes.  These things were both draining and time consuming.  I also discovered that marketing took up way much more time than I expected.

The overall approach to the product was changed several times, as well. Once I started writing content, I found that certain things simply didn’t fit where I thought they would. I re-worked the structure and content of the modules about a half-dozen times throughout the process and we’re still making tweaks. It was hard to market the product with the all of changes, however, the importance part is that I feel good about where we ended up.

Lesson Learned: In any new venture, the schedule must allow for setbacks. I, of all people, know this yet I’m not sure why I thought this would be different.

The Good
The Supportive

Thanks to my fabulous friends John Webster and Ric Albano, I was able to find and secure a WordPress plug-in for my affiliate program. This plug-in integrates with my current WordPress website and it offers the same capabilities as traditional affiliate programs, but without the monthly cost. Moreover, it was very easy to use and there were no surprise billing issues.

I’m grateful for those who helped me pull this together.  In addition to John and Ric, I have to thank:

  • Cathy Jennings–for co-hosting the “Pitfalls to Avoid” webinar and for her continued support of my business
  • Joel Don– for his support and feedback on the webinars and with design and development
  • Amanda Harrison– for her help acquiring affiliates and for putting up with my day-to-day craziness
  • Jennifer Grigg–for being the first person to pre-purchase a copy and for her ongoing enthusiasm and support
  • All 24 affiliates– for signing up and believing in me!
  • My blog readers–for following this journey with me and sharing your thoughts and advice along the way
  • My husband, Pete Strella– I’m saving the best for last. Pete put in many, many hours – even with his demanding work schedule – to help me edit, write, and re-write modules; to develop the logo, design flyers and sliders, and even design the entire product; and to offer daily advice and guidance about the direction of the product. In fact, he deserves more credit than me for its development.  While I worked hard, he really brought the content home and kept it relevant to the audience.

Lesson Learned:  A small, thoughtful gesture goes a long way – and so do friends! Thank you! 

Share a lesson learned – good, bad or ugly – from a project you worked hard to deliver.

“Developing a Product” Blog Archive:
October 17: An Inside Look at Content
October 10: The Pre-Launch Webinar
October 3: Navigating PA’s Required Sales Tax for Online Purchases
September 26: Marketing & the Affiliate System
September 19: Lessons Learned from My First Self-Hosted Webinar
September 12: Brain Drain is in Content
September 5: Marketing & List Building
August 29: Marketing & Content
August 22: A Fun Ride


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