It was frustrating to watch. One of our ETR Virtual Mastermind members, Becky, was feeling overwhelmed by her options. There were so many things to do but she just didn’t know where to start.

Ever had that feeling?

Becky is young, smart, and ambitious. She is going to be a big success story – in time. You can tell because she has that burning desire in her that reminds me of Mike Whitfield, Isabel De Los Rios, Joel Marion, Vince Del Monte, Dr. Mark Costes, and so many of my past coaching clients.

But knowing that she’ll be a success in a year doesn’t do much good now. She’s so overwhelmed that she’s been rendered almost helpless. What product should she create? How can she get people to her website? Who should she be contacting and how can she network with people that are more successful than her?

Our challenge was to take Becky’s raw energy and ambition and polish it into something that adds value to the world. Let’s take a look at the advice I gave her to help her succeed online.

First, know thy market.

If you work with your marketplace in person right now, pay attention to the phrases they use, the problems they express, the pain they are in, and the dreams, desires, and solutions they believe to exist. There’s gold in this marketplace research. All you have to do is listen and learn.

In addition, you must immerse yourself in the culture. Subscribe to all of the magazines that your client reads. Read the headlines on the covers to see what’s hot.

And then listen again. Listen to how you explain your current real-world products and services to your prospect. How do you sell offline and face-to-face? That same sales message will be in your online written or video copy. Copywriting, the old saying goes, is just “salesmanship in print”.

As you write, blog, and create free video content to attract traffic to your website, pay attention to what captures your audience’s attention. What gets the most comments, likes, and views? Is this something you can build on? Can you combine this hot topic with your expertise into a product?

Second, use that knowledge of your marketplace to identify opportunity.

By knowing your market, and preferably by having an affinity (connection) with them, you’ll be able to identify the all-important GAP in the marketplace where your product or service can fit.

Now listen, you don’t have to re-invent the wheel. But you need to be able to sell your product by differentiating yourself and allowing you and your sales message to stand out from the crowd.

Third, articulate your specialized knowledge into a Big Idea.

Your experience, your hot topics, your complete understanding of the marketplace – this is where they converge and collide into your Big Idea. This is where the power of words reigns supreme. It’s what allowed Tim Ferris’s book on time management strategies to magically become the best selling book called, “The Four-Hour Work Week”. Coming up with the right particular articulation for your big idea is an essential step in your success.

Fourth, create your copy first and your product second.

This is a big change in my mindset from fifteen years ago. Back then I would have suggested creating the product first, but now, after reading many experts, I see the value of writing the sales message and creating the offer in your mind first, before creating the product.

You need to go through all the hot buttons and topics that would appeal to your prospect. What would make them really want your product? Once you’ve written all of that down into a rough sales offer, then you can go back and engineer the product. You’ll have a much better chance of creating a smash hit this way.

You must also ignore the siren’s call of “just being an affiliate” and not creating your own product. Sure, you can make money as an affiliate, but that approach just gives you a job, not a real business you can control.

Besides, it’s becoming harder and harder to be just a hired gun affiliate, always looking for a hot new product to promote.

Even if you were to go the affiliate route, you’d still need to do 95% of the work that you would need to do when creating and selling your own product. As an affiliate, you still need to find a way to sell someone else’s product. That means you still need to build an email list or following on Facebook or YouTube.

So if you’re going to do all that work, why not use that venue to sell your OWN product? After all, the real money is in building your own customer list. Once you have customers, it’s much easier to sell them more of your own products and services where you get to keep all of the profits. That’s how you become successful and build a long-term, healthy business.

I can’t stress this enough. The real money is made via your customer list by continuing to deliver them more value by solving their problems and making them happy.

Coming up with the particular articulation of a Big Idea is not an overnight task. It’s something that will take research, concentration, and going back to the old drawing board once or twice. But this rough blueprint will put you on the right path. It will help you avoid what happens to so many enthusiastic entrepreneurs who make the Ultimate Mistake.

The Ultimate Mistake is forcing your product idea on the marketplace. Nothing will cause you to fail faster than trying to sell something that no one wants. Creating the wrong product can cost you years of your life. It has caused millions of would-be entrepreneurs from giving up on their dreams. Don’t let this happen to you.

Fortunately, it’s easy to avoid the ultimate mistake. Instead of rushing ahead with your product, re-read this blueprint. Go back and follow these steps. Identify your Big Idea – something that your prospect can understand in seconds – and then start crafting your sales message to build your customer list.

I’ve put together the best resources for doing just that in the latest issue of Financial Independence Monthly, our online success blueprint.

Get your copy here today and get on the fast track to success like Becky

[Ed. Note: Craig Ballantyne is the author of Financial Independence Monthly, a complete blueprint to helping you take control of your financial future with a web-based business that you can operate from anywhere in the world – including a coffee shop, your kitchen table, or anywhere around the world where there is Internet access. Discover how you can achieve the American Dream and your financial independence here. You’ve never seen anything like this before.]

Craig Ballantyne

Craig Ballantyne is the author of The Perfect Day Formula: How to Own the Day and Control Your Life. Craig has been a contributor to Men’s Health magazine for over 17 years. Today he teaches his gift high-performing entrepreneurs how to squeeze more out of their days, increase their income, and make more quality time for their families in his Perfect Life Workshop and Work-Life Mastery programs. Craig used his own advice to overcome crippling anxiety attacks in 2006, and he’ll teach you his 5 Pillars of Success so you can increase your income, decrease your work time, and live the life of your dreams. Learn more about Craig at craigballantyne.com