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The 3 Principles To Creating A Perennial Seller

🤑 Make Products That Sell Themselves For Decades

👋 Hello fellow Ladderers!

This week we’re spending some time with a favourite author of mine, Ryan Holiday and learning how to avoid dead-end fads and instead create and promote products that sell themselves, for decades.

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Today’s feature

How To Make Products That Sell Themselves For Decades To Come

⏱️ ~ 5 minutes 34 seconds read

Decentralised AI, 5G, Crypto, Non-Fungible, Voice-enabled, Internet of Things, Augmented Reality, Blockchained Metaverse, Machine Learning, 3D Printed, Big Data Drones! Phew 😰

Aside from reading like the most annoying LinkedIn profile headline of all time, we know these to be technology fads.

Now, I’m not saying some of these things aren’t real - and some of them are arguably technologies that may well change human history (you can sit down 3D printing).

However, the point remains they are fads that are jumped onto by people and brands to get a little bit of that sweet technology buzz and hype.

But take a look around at the things in your house. I’d wager your refrigerator is not ordering milk from Coles on your behalf. You’re probably not grabbing the air in front of you to move a zoom meeting to later in the day with your VR headset on. I’d also suggest that you don’t have a 3D printer in your garage just printing off new parts for your car.

More likely though, the things that fill your home have badges on them that have stood the test of time - logos like “Breville”, “Sunbeam”, “LG”, “Sony”, “Miele”, “Bosch” etc.

The iconic brands and products that have become household names over the decades, have done so by delivering on their promise - their job to be done. And through this they have established trust and earned loyalty across generations.

And it’s not just consumer electronics and whitegoods - it’s literally everything in your cupboard or in your fridge too. The products you choose to buy almost always have an enduring popularity.

This enduring popularity is the hallmark of a perennial seller – a product that consistently meets needs and exceeds expectations, long after its initial release - and rarely gets distracted by fads.

Today we’re going to dive into Ryan Holiday's "Perennial Seller", which provides invaluable insights into creating and marketing products that achieve lasting success.

The kind of success that will live on well after you and I are in the ground, or transplanted into our 3D printed replacement robot bodies 🦾

NOW WITH [INSERT HYPED TECH]!

There’s no doubt, there’s lots of pressure in the marketing and product space to jump on to the latest technology fad.

Shareholders want to see that AI bump in value, and businesses obligingly invest heavily in launching products designed to capture that quick, explosive popularity.

For real.

But let’s be honest, no one is looking to spend their half-conscious mornings with an AI toothbrushing coach.

At best, these products may become temporary sensations (usually as a meme) but often quickly fade into obscurity - discarded on the scrapheap of tech hype.

But at worst, they lead to team burnout and financial waste, as companies are continually forced to chase the next tech trend. Losing focus on the very real human/ business problem they are supposed to solve, and more dangerously losing sight of the main game: building enduring trust and loyalty with their customers.

So how do we avoid this?

Enter the principles of the “Perennial Seller” as outlined by Ryan Holiday in his book.

HOW TO OUTLAST US ALL

In his book, Holiday offers some core principles to guide you in creating work that lasts.

Looks like it’d feel good in your hands no?

  1. Solve A Timeless Problem

Holiday emphasises the importance of focusing on timeless topics or problems. Jeff Bezos famously said “Focus on the things that don’t change”. People will simply never get bored of fast shipping, low prices and a great selection and that’s the foundational problem he solved to become one of the richest dudes on the planet.

If you look at any large and truly successful business, it solves a timeless problem or need.

Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People," released in 1936, remains a top seller to this very day, why? Because it addresses the perennial issue of social anxiety.

Ask yourself: will people still be talking about this problem or issue twenty years from now? Sure, if the technology solves the problem, then have at it, but if it’s not speaking to the recurring and timeless issue being solved: give it a pass.

  1. Make It For Someone Specific

People share products they love. Sharing and recommending is not something we take lightly.

And that is why it’s the most powerful form of marketing on earth. When people enthusiastically share a product with their friends, the product's audience will inevitably grow organically over time. If you want to make a perennial seller, you need to ask yourself: Who specifically will love this?

It's better to make a product that one hundred people love than a product one million people just like.

Paul Graham (Y Combinator founder)

“Many creators want to be for everyone... and as a result end up being for no one,” Holiday notes.

Narrow your focus and direct your energy toward a specific audience with specific needs. People love products that fit their unique requirements, and these enthusiasts will become your most passionate advocates.

  1. Make it Accessible

Don’t get precious about profit before you have people beating down your door. It’s better to be underpaid, for now, than to be unheard of in perpetuity.

“Think about all the stuff out there that you haven’t checked out. That’s the kind of abundance we enjoy as consumers. There is so much out there that you couldn’t possibly consume it all in your lifetime. So we ignore a lot of it, especially the stuff that looks expensive. Which is why as creators we have to get more comfortable with giving people a taste of our work— or, in some cases, giving some people the entire meal for free. That’s how we build an audience and gather momentum.” – Ryan Holiday

If you have a great product that solves a timeless problem, make it easy to access, even if it means offering it for free (or near zero profit) initially. This approach allows more people to experience it. Which in turn builds a base of loyal fans who will spread the word about your product.

Oprah Winfrey Car GIF

If you can afford it

Freemium is a well known entry point for SaaS products, and for good reason.

OK, PERENNIAL STARTS TODAY

With these pearls of wisdom from Mr Holiday in mind, it’s time to start thinking about how we create some perennial sellers of our own.

Here’s a few clear actions you can take within your own organisation.

  1. Conduct a Product and Customer Insight Audit

Identify which products have long-term timeless potential by analysing category history, performance data and customer feedback. Compare with competitors to spot opportunities for differentiation, and identify the likenesses in both the problem and the solution. But keep it real. Use surveys, interviews, and social media monitoring to gather in-depth insights into what customers value most about your products and the pain points being truly solved.

  1. Perennial Workshops

Organise workshops with key stakeholders from product development, sales, and customer service to discuss audit findings and customer feedback. Focus on identifying, enhancing and communicating aspects of your products that address timeless needs and consider positioning around these.

Guide the team in creating actionable plans that focus on improving product longevity and customer satisfaction. Map out what a pilot program might look like to prove out your concept.

  1. Build and Present Pilot

Collect up your case studies, analysis, insights, enhancements and actions for your pilot that looks to test positioning as a perennial seller product. Develop a forecast around financial gains, customer loyalty, and competitive advantages in consideration of the market size and trajectory. If it’s not your call, present your pilot program to management, showcasing the benefits of shifting from short-term wins to long-term success.

There’s quite a bit in there - if that’s all a bit too much for now, here’s your one thing to do today:

Take the time to reflect and clarify for yourself, what is the timeless human problem our product solves? Is this painful enough? Is this going away any time soon?

Answer that question and you’re on your way to building out your own perennial seller.

That’s it for this week.

  • What would you say is your favourite perennial seller? Is it a book, a consumer product?

  • What timeless problem does it solve?

  • How is the timeless human problem integrated into the marketing messaging?

Hit reply, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

If you enjoyed this edition, please forward it to a friend who’s looking to level-up their marketing game - they’ll love you for it (and I will too) ⏭️ 💌

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