I experienced some guilt this week. An acquaintance of mine is attempting to raise money for a product he created. It’s a good product, I think, though I don’t fully know because I’m not the target demographic and have no idea if the pain point he is trying to solve is real.

He asked me multiple times to either share or purchase the product to support his campaign, and I said no, stating reasons that were obvious to me: I’m not the target audience and none of the work I’m doing is aimed at a target audience I can readily get in touch with. Seemed simple enough.

But then Patrick said I was being a jerk. I’ve been working on my niceness for several years, so I’m a bit sensitive to when people tell me I’m being harsh. I went back to the conversation and wondered if I really was being unreasonable.

Now, we all have friends who do these Kickstarter-esque projects and I myself have done a few—one was successful and one completely bombed. I get that they require constant promotion to your network, and I actually have no issue with crowdfunding itself.

I went back to the page and noticed a bunch of people I know who had contributed funds. I saw that there were other items besides the product itself as rewards—maybe an interesting add for people who aren’t in the target audience but still want to support the person with a donation.

And it hit me. I wasn’t being an asshole. I just didn’t understand the mindset this person was in. At all.

I assumed this person’s main goal was trying to sell a product and build a business based on that product. My reaction to all of these requests was, “hmm, that’s odd. Doesn’t he know I’m not the target for this? Maybe he is confused and thinks I am. I should let him know I’m not so he can focus energy on people who are in the target.”

In looking at the page and the tactics, it occurred to me that this person’s approach had less to do with finding a product-market fit and more to do with raising money within a certain timeframe. Hence hitting up friends, family, and acquaintances for money. Hence pushing other unrelated swag to get a contribution.

Totally different approaches. The first is the mindset of someone building a business. The second is the mindset of someone looking for donations or seed money to build his dream.

Now, I’m not writing this to hurt the person involved or make him feel stupid. In fact, my successful Kickstarter was the exact same approach! When I launched my first book, I needed a bit extra for editing expenses and raised that money on Kickstarter. It was only a few thousand, and most of my contributions came from friends and family who wanted to help me.

There’s nothing wrong with asking your friends and family for money. It’s a good place to start.

Sometimes, though, it feels like something different—like you are getting sales, like your business is successful, like the market is saying “HELL YES!”—and that’s where your new venture fails.

Today, if I did a Kickstarter I would design the entire fundraising and marketing campaigns to target a need in a niche. I wouldn’t try to raise money, I would try to get pre-orders from actual customers—strangers who wanted to buy my product.

Because a business is built on strangers buying from you, not on friends buying from you. It’s built on creating value.

Slight tweak in mindset that makes all the difference in whether a venture survives after Kickstarter.

This all relates back to books, because most books that are not selling are in this boat. One of two things is happening:

  • The product does not hold the value it’s assigned (the quality is poor, the cover is ugly, the price is too high, the genre is wrong, and so on) (note: this can happen even if the product is free)
  • The marketing is not aimed at finding product/market fit, aka finding strangers who actually find value in what you do and thus pay you money (the right people don’t know your product is available, the sales page doesn’t explain the benefits clearly, and so on)

Both are common problems, so it’s not even a big deal if you are experiencing one or both right now. Half the battle in fixing the problem is identifying it. And the fixes are easier than you think:

  • You can rewrite the book, keeping the parts that work and reengineering the parts that don’t resonate with your audience
  • You can get a copy editor to fix the grammar and spelling errors inside
  • You can hire a cover designer
  • You can research the genre you’re working in and write a new book that fits those requirements
  • You can close the gaps in your 10 Stages of Audience so the right people are able to find your book
  • You can rewrite your book description, collect blurbs from other authors, and run a review campaign to get more 5 star reviews

None of these fixes are particularly hard or confusing to implement, and this entire process of identifying problems and fixing them is simply part of building a business.

What IS hard is getting into this mindset in the first place. It requires switching from, “I need sales, I need fundraising, I need money” to “What value can I provide the marketplace? How can I connect with the people who desperately need this value?”

One is about asking for money… the other is about earning money.

The first mindset leads to a successful Kickstarter campaign (sometimes).

But the second mindset… that unlocks unlimited potential in your business.

Patrick chastised me for not being more supportive of our acquaintance. “As someone who sells things online, you should be more sympathetic to this person’s efforts and willingness to put himself out there and try something outside his wheelhouse.”

Oh, I am sympathetic. I have all the empathy in the world for this type of work. And I would never expect someone to recognize this mindset shift overnight. It took me years to see it myself, and I still sometimes struggle with trying to fulfill my needs first, rather than trying to create and distribute value to others.

That doesn’t change what needs to happen though. My sympathy isn’t going to help this person build his business! And I sense this is his ultimate goal, even if his current approach is unlikely to get him there.

Which of these two mindsets are you holding right now, and how is that affecting your ability to reach your goals of starting a business, selling a book, or earning more money? Share it in the comments!

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