Anyone Ever Sold a Product That's Not Done Yet?

42 replies
I recall seeing/reading that Sears & Roebuck at one time sold like 100,000 pairs of pants through their catalog (back in the day when it was normal to take weeks to get an order).

They went to manufacturing businesses trying to place the order for that quantity, but the shops didn't want to take the order - they told Sears they would never sell them.

Sears replied they *already had* sold them.

  • Anyone ever done a product this way?
  • Is it feasible to use this technique to test the waters for product launch success (refunding if it bombs I guess?)
  • Would this be allowed as a WSO?
  • Am I insane?

Thanks Warriors.

Gary
#product #sold
  • Profile picture of the author King Shiloh
    Banned
    I think it's possible though I've not tried it. I also think it all boils down to the seller's reputation. A seller that has built a solid reputation by delivering or over-delivering on his promises can sell anything, even a child in the womb whose sex is not known yet. (Just kidding).

    But it is very possible.
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  • Profile picture of the author SeanyG
    Yes. I have.

    I recommend it. Why take extra time to make your product perfect before you get feedback.

    The faster you can get feedback and tweak, the more successful your product and business will be.

    Just make sure to tell them that its in beta and offer a discount.
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  • Profile picture of the author Robert Puddy
    Originally Posted by Gary King View Post


    (back in the day when it was normal to take weeks to get an order).

    Gary
    If you can get around this bit then yes...

    That there though needs some careful thought about how your going to explain the delay. Solve that one with a reason that makes sense to people and the answer would be yes
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  • Profile picture of the author oneplusone
    Yes I did once online, and it was a complete disaster.

    Not from a financial standpoint, but more from the problems it created.

    The amount of stress generated is unreal, when you've made a lot of sales but the product is not ready.

    I don't recommend it, unless you are dry testing.

    If you are going to do dry testing, you better be prepared to refund EVERY single order that comes in.

    Even in this situation you have to be careful, your merchant account/PayPal etc might wonder what is going on with 100% refunds.

    Don't make the fatal mistake of thinking you can play catch up, creating the product while people are waiting for their orders.

    It can potentially destroy everything if done incorrectly, your reputation, the loss of your merchant account and could even land you in jail if people start complaining to the authorities that they haven't received something they paid for, and your product doesn't even exist yet.

    If dry testing I would do it on a VERY small number of orders, and I would refund them via alternative means, if you take payments by credit card then refund all of them by cheque (check in US spelling) so no flags are raised anywhere.

    I do believe dry testing still has its place as it did offline in the past, but it has to be done extremely carefully.
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  • Profile picture of the author Dave d
    There is a Warrior called *** that sells a lot of products that are not complete when launched
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  • Profile picture of the author DejanM
    You don't have to take orders, just take email at the end of the process when they'd pay (the checkout). You can still expect a little less real orders but it should give you a rough estimate.
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  • Profile picture of the author DomenicoGrecojr
    Actually this method is used by many internet marketers to test an idea.

    A sales letter is used to sell a product. If the buy button is clicked, the customers would receive a notice that the product is being upgraded and that they can join the waiting list.

    The reaction on the sales letter will determine if the product is worth creating.
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    • Profile picture of the author oneplusone
      Originally Posted by DomenicoGrecojr View Post

      Actually this method is used by many internet marketers to test an idea.

      A sales letter is used to sell a product. If the buy button is clicked, the customers would receive a notice that the product is being upgraded and that they can join the waiting list.

      The reaction on the sales letter will determine if the product is worth creating.
      The problem with this is, a large percentage of people LEAVE the checkout after clicking buy/add to cart etc, this is well known.

      To do proper dry testing with meaningful results, you have usually got to have completed orders.

      Or at least where they believe the money has actually been paid.
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    • Profile picture of the author Alan Petersen
      Originally Posted by DomenicoGrecojr View Post

      Actually this method is used by many internet marketers to test an idea.

      A sales letter is used to sell a product. If the buy button is clicked, the customers would receive a notice that the product is being upgraded and that they can join the waiting list.

      The reaction on the sales letter will determine if the product is worth creating.
      Yes, but they don't take the cash. The OP is about selling an un-finished product so taking their money.

      I recently bought a WSO for a membership site that once delivered it was clearly not finished. Most of us were not happy. In the end they had to shut it down and refund us so it's not something I would recommend doing.

      It's also a potential credibility/reputation killer if you can't pull it off. I will never order anything from this person again since it was about A 3-month fiasco before he threw in the towel and refunded.

      Now if you have a few months ready to rock then I don't think that's bad as long as you deliver months 4-12 on time. But for one-off products I don't see how this can be pulled off. I've seen folks start big with plans to add more to it then implode. Seems like a lot of stress to me.
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  • Profile picture of the author sbucciarel
    Banned
    I don't think I would buy a product that wasn't finished yet. It would have to be a really dynamite product, seller that I really trusted, and limited quantities.
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  • Profile picture of the author JonAlfredsson
    I haven't tried it but there are some business owners that are able to do this. This will not only require a good company reputation but also a good selling strategy to sell something non-existent. Aside from strategy, it seems they should have a "vision" about the possible problems about the product to prevent them and assure quality productions in the process.
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  • Profile picture of the author ThomKenton
    I never have done this, but a lot of the big dogs do this all the time. It usually takes the form of seminars/conferences and coaching.
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  • Profile picture of the author Jesus Perez
    I know warriors that do this all the time and nobody knows it. They create the first months content in a membership and immediately start making sales. When week 2 approaches, they build out month 2 content.

    It's stressful and you need to be organized... But there are advantages.
    You can tweak month 2 based on month 1's feedback thus delivering a better month 2 than if you'd already built it.

    Also, you can immediately find out if there is a market. If you only make 3 sales, just refund and cancel the project. You've only lost 1 lesson's worth of work. Not 12. If it sells like gangbusters, you're going to make the remaining lessons that much better.
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    • Profile picture of the author sbucciarel
      Banned
      Originally Posted by Jesus Perez View Post

      I know warriors that do this all the time and nobody knows it. They create the first months content in a membership and immediately start making sales. When week 2 approaches, they build out month 2 content. .
      This is one good reason why I wouldn't buy ... I've signed up for membership sites that never got beyond the first month or two of content before the seller stopped producing content.
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      • Profile picture of the author Rikki_Fawkes
        Yes, actually, I have. I opened up my membership site before I had half the content I have on it now, and people still signed up.

        The trick is to sell it cheaper while it's under renovation. In the meantime, try to be as accessible as possible. I made a point of responding to all emails within 24-48 hours, giving as much help as I could and then some, and doing a lot of extra coaching on the side to make up for what wasn't yet on the site.

        Now that I've added more, I've upped the price, but I wasn't worried about selling it unfinished because I told people that's what they were going to get ahead of time - and priced it accordingly.
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        • Profile picture of the author mcmahanusa
          Though I lean toward Steven's response, I have seen marketers release and sell a beta version, with the proviso that the upgraded version will be provided at no cost to the current purchasers.

          I also read in a recent thread that a marketer, in order to build up interest in his upcoming product, sent his list information on the product and an offer to be first in line for the product, with a special pre general release price. Those signing up for the notification would then get the special offer 24 hours before the general release.

          He didn't state, but I assume, that he continued to build interest by regular updates. Then, when he did release to the early responders, they would be panting to give up their credit card information.

          Not only is this a good way to gauge interest in your product, but also it is a good way to see a high conversion rate.
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          • Profile picture of the author ashishthakkar
            Anyone Ever Sold a Product That's Not Done Yet?


            Yes, Bill Gates sold DOS.
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            • Profile picture of the author RichardHK
              Originally Posted by ashishthakkar View Post

              Yes, Bill Gates sold DOS.
              Right, and all the follow up Windoze products too! But that didn't stop millions of business owners from making tons of money with MS software. I remember Bill making this statement once in response to complaints about buggy software making him rich. He was right.

              Perhaps Win7 is the closest to finished. But software can always be better, right?
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  • Profile picture of the author TimGross
    In mail order, the term for advertising a product you haven't created yet in order to determine if there's a demand for it is called "dry testing". The FTC has rules regarding it, the two main ones being:

    1) You can't break the "30-day rule" (you must deliver the product within 30 days of the customer purchasing it) unless you state very clearly how long it will take for them to receive the product.

    2) You can't mislead potential buyers by claiming that other people are already happy with the product if no one has it yet. (Pretty obvious)

    I've done a pre-launch promotion of a product by offering a discounted price if customers were willing to wait about 6 weeks for it, and pre-sold $20,000 of the product. I used the money to pay for the actual product costs to have the product made.

    It worked out very well, but I already had a firm production time line in place, so there wasn't much room for error or delays.
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  • Profile picture of the author Alfred Shelver
    I think you would have done really well with just what you had, if you had it in your Signature.

    It looks like the exact product I have been looking for everywhere. Thanks

    Originally Posted by CDarklock View Post

    A little over seven months ago, I started this WSO expecting to have the full version finished in a couple weeks.

    If I trust you (which i do as far as you are concerned Gary) and the price was low enough to negate the risk I would jump on it, if there are guarantees.

    I actually did this the other day with a newer warrior Raja Kamil he had a WSO at $3 if you bought before it was completed so as Caliban said it is allowable.


    Originally Posted by Gary King View Post


    • Anyone ever done a product this way?
    • Is it feasible to use this technique to test the waters for product launch success (refunding if it bombs I guess?)
    • Would this be allowed as a WSO?
    • Am I insane?

    Thanks Warriors.

    Gary
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    • Profile picture of the author Digital Info Diva
      Yes - in fact my very first product was done through pre-selling.

      The technique I used was to get them to optin to my list to qualify
      for the pre-launch price. It was hugely successful and actually
      created a close bond with my new customers from the pre-launch.

      Wow - I haven't been active here for a loooong time and right off
      the bat I receive useful information I can act on. I had actually not
      remembered that part of my product launch.

      Thanks WF!
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    • Profile picture of the author CDarklock
      Originally Posted by Cathy Shelver View Post

      I think you would have done really well with just what you had, if you had it in your Signature.
      I used to. I dropped most of my signature links while I reorganised some stuff. They'll be back when I'm done.
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  • Profile picture of the author Raja Kamil
    I think the answer is yes.
    I sold a product on WSO which actually partially finish. I opened a WSO, and tell about the idea behind my product. Just to let know, whether people love my idea or not.
    After 10 orders, I completed the product and deliver to the customer.

    Update :
    Owh, there you are Cathy. As she mentioned, I pull the price at a low price.

    PS : By the way Cathy, I hope you like the new version of the product.
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    • Profile picture of the author Alfred Shelver
      Raja,

      Sorry for calling you newer I only noticed your join date now, my mistake. I did not fully go through the newer version yet I will do and update my review.


      Originally Posted by Raja Kamil View Post

      Owh, there you are Cathy. As she mentioned, I pull the price at a low price.

      PS : By the way Cathy, I hope you like the new version of the product.
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      • Profile picture of the author Kay King
        It's more common in the WSO sections than you might expect. If works if the seller follows through but there have been some spectacular "fails" of memberships that were never built beyond the first month or never built at all.

        Pre-selling is a great idea - but if you are "selling" before the product is done be certain you have your ducks lined up or you can sink yourself quickly.

        kay
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      • Profile picture of the author Raja Kamil
        Originally Posted by Cathy Shelver View Post

        Raja,

        Sorry for calling you newer I only noticed your join date now, my mistake. I did not fully go through the newer version yet I will do and update my review.
        No problem Cathy. People always mistakes me with 17 young boy :p

        Anyhow. Yes Matt. Make them subscribe to something, or at least you get their emails first. Giving discount is not necessary, but to make things warm up, that is a smart move especially for a new product.
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  • Profile picture of the author Matt MacPherson
    Have it so when the prospect clicks your order button, they are taken to an opt in page. You can say you are currently out of stock (true), not finished with the product, etc. If they opt into your list they will get a discount. When you finish, send them all an email to the order page.

    Matt
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  • Profile picture of the author tpw
    Originally Posted by Gary King View Post

    I recall seeing/reading that Sears & Roebuck at one time sold like 100,000 pairs of pants through their catalog (back in the day when it was normal to take weeks to get an order).

    They went to manufacturing businesses trying to place the order for that quantity, but the shops didn't want to take the order - they told Sears they would never sell them.

    Sears replied they *already had* sold them.

    • Anyone ever done a product this way?
    • Is it feasible to use this technique to test the waters for product launch success (refunding if it bombs I guess?)
    • Would this be allowed as a WSO?
    • Am I insane?

    Thanks Warriors.

    Gary

    I know Willie Crawford once said he had done it...

    I heard of a guy who did it in the 1970's with Star Wars toys... He was the one who made the first light saber toy... He made a prototype, took it to a dept store buyer, sold 100,000 units, took the purchase order to the bank, got the loan to set up manufacturing, and the rest is history...

    It is not an uncommon practice... Maybe we just don't hear about everyone who does it...
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  • Profile picture of the author Mangozoom
    I just took pre-orders on an Article Marketing eBook ... then had to work like crazy to ensure it was ready in time.

    Enjoyed doing it though and now its done I can relax and just keep selling it

    John
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    • Profile picture of the author Kay King
      It is not an uncommon practice... Maybe we just don't hear about everyone who does it...
      I agree - we only hear about it when it doesn't work.
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      • Profile picture of the author TheCG
        I have done this on a couple of occasions when writing courses on another topic. I an talking about teaching courses that sold for $300-$400 each.

        My goal was to get them completed to the point that a final completion date was able to be calculated them start pre-sale with a special price for anyone who ordered early then cover the cost of the creation and first run costs (editing and fulfillment company costs for initial printing) so I never had any money out of pocket.

        It was fantastic and inmy opinion, the only way to go!
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  • Profile picture of the author tommygadget
    It's a common tactic. Many times, though, it's packaged as "getting in early and reserving a seat". You have to be very careful with this tactic, though. It can come and bite you in the a....

    TomG.
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  • Profile picture of the author paulie888
    It can definitely be done, even as a WSO. It could be a membership site with drip-fed content, a series of webinars, or even a live case study where you give day by day updates on your progress with a project.

    Whether you'll be able to pull of something like that is going to depend on how confident you are in your abilities, and also the extent of your reputation in this forum.

    Moving on to your general question about whether one can sell digital or even physical products before they are completed, I'd say absolutely! You had better have some fairly significant product creation experience under your belt though - this isn't for the uninitiated or inexperienced.
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  • Profile picture of the author Floyd Fisher
    Originally Posted by Gary King View Post

    I recall seeing/reading that Sears & Roebuck at one time sold like 100,000 pairs of pants through their catalog (back in the day when it was normal to take weeks to get an order).

    They went to manufacturing businesses trying to place the order for that quantity, but the shops didn't want to take the order - they told Sears they would never sell them.

    Sears replied they *already had* sold them.

    • Anyone ever done a product this way?
    • Is it feasible to use this technique to test the waters for product launch success (refunding if it bombs I guess?)
    • Would this be allowed as a WSO?
    • Am I insane?
    Thanks Warriors.

    Gary
    This is done in the gaming industry all the time. It's called a 'pre-order'.

    Basically it's done like this: Prior to the company releasing the game to the public, for a small fee (which is deducted off the full purchase) you get 'head of the line' privledge when the game is finally released.

    Customers like it, because they don't have to wait in line when it comes out, and the company gets a small bit of funding to help push development.

    When done right, it's a win for everyone. When done wrong, you can get in deep doodoo. So before doing this, I would consult with a lawyer so you don't end up on the business end of a class action lawsuit.
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  • Profile picture of the author Kirk Ward
    The great mail order guru Paul Michael (originator of the line "Frankly, I'm puzzled" and the "lift letter" concept) pre-sells ALL of his products this way.

    He runs an advert, if it sells, he places an ad for a writer to produce the book on an absolute 30 day schedule (FTC rule compliance?) for $2,500, with half up front, half on delivery.

    He's a multi-millionaire living in a 26 room apartment overlooking Central Park in NY.

    So, to answer the OP, yes, it's done. But, remember the FTC rule.
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  • Profile picture of the author IMChick
    jeff walker recommends this in plf 2.0 on the theory that you tailor the product to the market by opening a pre-sale dialogue with the target audience.

    way too risky for me to be developing the product while it's launching. better to use the pre-sale material for bonuses.
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  • Profile picture of the author Kevin_Hutto
    FYI... Dry testing is against the law... Unless you fully disclose, etc...

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  • Profile picture of the author Gary King
    Interesting perspectives folks - primarily what I suspected.

    I know for a fact it does happen.

    Not saying I would/will do it, but like many of you, I do see it ongoing daily.

    It DOES make sense if you can truly deliver.

    Perhaps another way to look at this is the pre-launch buzz factor generation... Putting a lite version of something out there, teaser videos, etc. to build excitement for the final product.

    I realize it's different if you are actually taking money for the final product in conjunction with those pre-launch efforts.

    To those that have responded that they got a half-baked product when it was done, I hear ya. It certainly IMHO needs to be nearly complete prior to blowing out a pre-sale offering because getting backed into a time-line corner and not delivering is staring death in the face for sure.
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