Acting like a product manager is odd, but it's something I've had to get used to while running my business.
And I genuinely believe it has made me a better user researcher. I understand "just wanting to push something through" or "using intuition and gut feelings" to make quicker decisions.
These are the same feelings I get when creating my offers and deciding what to focus on in my business. I've gone against the advice that I would have given any stakeholder and just started projects. Instead, I threw the proverbial spaghetti at the wall.
And I learned many valuable lessons that, as a researcher, I teach every day.
✔ Talk to your audience
Talking to your audience is the most important thing you can do, even when you are scared of being annoying, even when you want to move faster, and even when you are feeling lazy and want to check something off your to-do list.
It's funny how the roles have switched for me within my business, but I am so grateful for my research training, which allows me to take a step back and ensure I am thinking about offers the right way.
But, when you are solopreneur-ing, sometimes it is easy to get stuck in a vacuum, just like it can be as a user research team of one. It can be challenging to bounce ideas off yourself, work up the courage to send a survey to your email list, or do cold outreach to potential clients for feedback.
So, within your business, how do you create offers that resonate?
✔ Ask yourself the right questions
I've created a lot of different offers out there—from self-paced courses to live events to group coaching to templates to company workshops to mentorship—and now my main focus, my membership.
From when I started my business until the beginning of 2023, I had a constant feeling of impostor syndrome. This feeling was extremely frustrating because I had spent years dealing with impostor syndrome in the research world.
And there it came, rushing back to meet me. I had no idea what I was doing, which was obvious because I had never started or run a business before. But this impostor syndrome caused me to engage in less-than-ideal behaviors.
One of those behaviors was trying to do everything. I tried to create every offer out there because I was insecure. I was scared my offers wouldn't stick, worried my courses wouldn't be good enough, and terrified I wouldn't make an income I could live on.
So I did everything under the sun and stretched myself thin until it finally snapped in March 2023.
I was planning a mastermind, another term for a group coaching program. This mastermind was seven months long and aimed at helping people define and work through their research process. It was a cool idea and one that I had been excited about.
But the problem was, on top of that, I was still trying to do everything else. I sent out my first launch email, and for the next day or so, I constantly stared at my inbox, hoping no one would buy.
Yup. I was hoping people wouldn't buy my offer because I didn't have the energy to do the mastermind and everything else. This moment was my breaking point in realizing I couldn't just forge ahead at this same pace with these same expectations.
I had to start being more mindful and intentional about my offers, which is when I decided on my "must-haves" for creating offers. These are the questions I think through when I am choosing what offers to create:
Is this necessary?
I can have shiny object syndrome. This syndrome is especially apparent in my fiction writing. It's more fun to flit to new ideas when something becomes too difficult to complete, a trap I fall into within my business. So I always start with this question.
Why am I creating this offer?
This question gets me into the next layer and can highlight my deeper motivation. It can be scary running a business and not having a stable paycheck. Sometimes I can develop a scarcity mindset behind money, and this question is here to help check that. I don't want to create offers from a place of fear.
Does this offer drain or excite me?
I have done (and still do!) things that drain me. It's funny because, from the outside, everyone assumes if you run your business and you're the boss, you would only do fun things. Not so much. I have created offers that ultimately drain me either because I didn't know beforehand or because they are great revenue generators. However, looking forward, I’m trying to include offers that truly excite me.
How did I come up with this idea?
This question starts getting into the next phase of creating offers that resonate. Where did the idea for the offer come from? Is it something I saw someone else doing and feel I should be offering (hello, FOMO)? Is it because I am scared of something? Did it come from my audience? Did it come from the Shower Gods?
If the idea isn't coming from a genuine need or problem, I put it to rest (or at least put it in a backlog to understand better later). These questions have served me very well in ensuring I am creating offers aligned with me and my brand. They also stop me from making decisions based on fear, which can hurt a business.
Fear-based choices have also made me miserable in the past. I've had to slog through specific tasks and disrespected my boundaries because I thought it was something I should be doing.
Now we move on to the next step!
✔ Gather ideas
This is when we put our user research hat on.
Creating ideas based on nothing is what we tell our stakeholders to run away screaming from, so we also have to base our ideas on something.
One of the best ways to gather ideas is to put yourself out there and start talking with people.
I talk to a lot of people in the research world. Through my one-on-one mentorship, I usually work with about four mentees at once for either six- or 12-month relationships.
I have a membership filled with over 150 user researchers asking questions. I occasionally hold free live Q&As for my email list. I also host a podcast where people ask me questions. And I read a lot of posts about our field.
These conversations I have are my research. I am constantly learning about people's pain points, their needs, their gaps in knowledge, and the questions they have. This information feeds directly into the content I create and how I hone my offers.
On the other side, if you follow me on LinkedIn, you know I post five days a week. I do this to test specific content and get conversations started to dig deeper and understand what resonates with people.
And, within my membership, I am constantly surveying, asking about needs, and trying to find the most valuable content for my members. I will also occasionally reach out to my email list with questions.
Through these approaches, I constantly hear my audience's needs and where I can fill a gap and help.
✔ Brainstorm offers
Brainstorming is the most fun part of my job because it reminds me of the ideation phase of research. Once I gather my audience's pain points and needs, I begin brainstorming.
I use How Might We statements to get me into the creative space, and then start coming up with solutions or ideas that directly relate to these.
For example, there were three major pain points I had repeatedly heard from my audience. User researchers felt…
- Lonely, as if they were constantly operating on their own
- Overwhelmed trying to figure out "the right way" to do things
- Stagnant in their career growth
So, with this information, I went into brainstorming and came up with several ideas, such as:
- A mastermind for team of one researchers
- A Facebook community dedicated to UXR career growth
- Live webinar series on career and growth
- A membership for user researchers
With this list, the one that excited (and scared) me the most was the membership, so I went forward with that idea. I also hosted a live webinar series on careers (and plan to do more on this topic).
This process can look different from a consultancy perspective, and I want to touch on that. In addition, I occasionally take on research projects or company training.
I developed my company training by talking to user researchers to understand the gaps they felt at their organizations. People often look for company training to provide non-researchers with research-based skills. Over time, I learned the gaps most non-researchers had that frustrated researchers.
For instance, stakeholders often came to researchers too late, with misinformed questions or not understanding what user research can and can't answer. When I heard this pain point many times, I created a training that combated this problem.
In terms of consultancy offers, I asked myself the following questions:
- What parts of the process do I want to be involved in at organizations?
- Do I want to be educating people on user research or working with mature research organizations?
- What types of research do I want to be doing within consultancy work?
- How long do I want my projects to be?
Asking these questions allowed me to outline my exact boundaries within my research consultancy work properly. I then wrote a clear and straightforward offer that my audience understood.
✔ Stay open to feedback
Once I create an offer, I immediately put it into the world for feedback. From fiction writing, I quickly learned that sometimes you have to "kill your darlings, " which is the same in business. With this advice, I try not to hold on too tightly to one idea and invite constructive criticism.
If people aren't interested in or purchasing my offers, it's time to pivot rather than try to push it forward. Being open to feedback and iteration is key for running any business and creating offers that resonate with your audience.
There have been ideas I've come up with that I am hugely excited about but flop with my audience, and vice versa. It's all about talking and listening to others to find something that excites you!