Dear Mark…

I’m starting a new company, and I need your advice. I will be selling a line of organic, CBD-based health supplements. My target market is women over 40. From reading Ready, Fire, Aim, I know that I want to test my concept quickly to make sure that this is a viable idea. My first thought is to try to get someone with a health-related newsletter or blog to test-market it to their list. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

 Nancy S


Nancy – I can imagine how excited you must feel. You have an idea for a business opportunity that combines something you care about (women’s health) with a burgeoning market (CBD). You may already be imagining your business taking off, propelled by this skyrocketing demand for CBD products.

Let’s put aside the excitement for a minute, though, and return to the basics – including the basic rules of starting a business from zero, as I spelled them out in Ready, Fire, Aim.

There are several cornerstones to starting a business. You need an idea. You need to discover the OSS (optimal selling strategy) for that idea. And to discover that OSS, you need enough money to keep testing different marketing and selling strategies.

Right now, your idea is to go to online businesses and try to persuade them to do some sort of joint venture with you: You supply the product and possibly the sales copy, and they provide access to their audience.

That might seem like a no-brainer to you, but it’s not. In fact, I’d say it’s unlikely you will find a partner of any size (large enough to discover your OSS) because…

You would be going to them with an idea – an idea and nothing else.

I’m pretty sure you know this already, but…

In the world of direct marketing, ideas aren’t worth much, if they are worth anything at all. What has value – from most important to least – are responsive lists, proven promotions,  proven products, and proven ideas.

Your strategy, as you describe it, to go to someone who has a responsive list (the most valuable element) and try to persuade them to do a JV deal with you in exchange for your unproven idea. Do you see the problem?

To your ideal JV partner – someone that has a sizeable women’s health list – ideas for new women’s health products are worth virtually nothing at all.

Remember, the people you are going to be approaching are already in the market. They are on top of market trends. The chances that they aren’t already working on a CBD product for women are very low. And even if your idea had a special twist that they liked… why would they make you a partner just for the idea? It would be easier and cheaper for them to simply take your idea and do it themselves.

(Please don’t take that as a suggestion that you should try to protect your idea legally. Trust me. For a half-dozen reasons, that would be a complete waste of time.)

So what can you do?

You can give up on the idea – which might be the right move. Or you can take into account what I’ve said here and chart a different path.

What sort of path? One that puts you higher up on the value scale.

In other words, don’t go to them with an unproven idea. Go to them with a proven product, and a proven promotion as well.

To “prove” your product, have a batch made and hand out 100 samples to friends, colleagues, and family members. Collect at least a dozen positive testimonials.

To get a proven promotion, you have to write and test a sales letter successfully. In the digital world, this can be done with small ads. In the print world, it can be done with a small mail order campaign. You don’t have to spend a ton of money to see if your sales letter works. But you do have to spend enough to be able to document positive results. Assuming you write the sales letter yourself, you should expect to spend between $10,000 and $20,000 on such a test.

If you can offer someone with a big list not just a “good” idea but a product that has been proven to work, with testimonials, and a proven sales letter, you will have a much better chance of getting the sort of affiliate franchising deal you are looking for.

Hope this helps,