On August 17, I launched a digital product called CTO Toolkit and I wanted to share the entire process from the idea to the launch day in this article so others can benefit from it.
I had the idea to put together a toolbox for senior engineering leaders like CTOs, Head of Engineering and VP of Engineering late last year as I was working on my ebook for engineering managers.
The idea was born based on the wish I had more than a decade ago in my engineering leadership role. As a novice CTO of a startup, my wish then was to have someone show me the ropes, walk me through step by step, share best practices and point out the pitfalls so I could take the quantum leap to a smarter, sharper, wiser CTO. So as I was putting together my ebook, I kept thinking about how I could go one step further in closing the gap between having the knowledge and applying the knowledge.
However, I didn't immediately work on it. I created a directory on my computer and then later on my Google Drive called "CTO Toolbox". As I was close to finishing the ebook I wanted to see how my audience would respond to it first. I also wanted to see if people would find ready-made templates and resources useful.
The numbers of sales I made between the templates and the ebook were almost on par. Templates were more popular but only by 7%. However, the price of the template pack was 45% more expensive. This showed that people are willing to pay for something that solves a particular problem quicker, even if the focus is narrow. What do I mean by that? Agile Project Management Templates is very focused around applying agile to manage software development teams, by using async communication and readymade templates are provided for that purpose. The ebook, The Engineering Manager How-To, explains many topics that engineering managers face, from delivering software projects using agile to providing career growth for engineers.
The learning here helped me come up with the approach of having multiple modules which each one solving a specific problem.
As part of my research, I gained as much insights as possible on the problem space by talking to engineering leaders, actively contributing to discussions with them, answering their questions, looking at what my ideal customer persona are interested in on platforms like Quora and Twitter.
One of the mistakes that I've learned the hard way is pricing my products for what they are worth. I've had my fair share of products that flopped mainly because they were not priced correctly.
So for CTO Toolkit, I looked at what similar products were priced at. And then I added more resources to make the product really valuable so it's a no brainer for my potential customer to pay for it.
So based on my research, I came up with 6 different modules that are going to be useful for my ideal customers, CTOs and senior technology leaders.
For each module, I came up with 2–3 ways to implement the best practices in an organisation as a CTO. Most of the time, it's a combination of checklist with recommendation for each task, and sometimes, it's about having a framework, for example, measuring and tracking progress via OKRs. Then it's about creating artefacts that will help my audience get to point B (the destination) from point A (the starting point).
As I was putting together artefacts, I decided to include resources for audience to deep dive into any particular topic. I was in two minds about writing an explainer myself or linking to resources from others, such as blog posts, articles and white papers. I finally decided to link to resources because there is no reason to reinvent the wheel (read: avoid Not Invented Here syndrome).
I used Evernote and created a high level checklist of output I needed to produce.
This Evernote list became such a lifesaver as I juggled many responsibilities and activities that were not originally planned for in 2021, such as taking on a larger scope at work, homeschooling and last but not least, cooking 100% more often, from 3 times a week to 7 times a week. In fact, working of CTO Toolkit gave me a sense of purpose and accomplishment that I craved in the new-normal lockdown life.
While there are a few trendy cloud based content and task management apps like Airtable and Notion, I've decided to stick to Google Drive due to the simplicity and seamlessness. I used a combination of Google Sheets, Google Docs and Google Slides in the product.
I used Canva exclusively to design promotional materials, such as a deck, videos and images.
As I am already a Gumroad customer, I decided to continue using it rather than spending time on setting up custom payment gateway, website, landing page, etc. You can see the product landing page in action here: CTO Toolkit.
Two weeks before the launch date, I created a 50% early bird discount code and shared it with my network. Other marketing activities that I had done since then are:
Let me know if you'd like to collaborate on any of the above.
⏰ 160 - 200 hours of work over eight months
✨ 9 pre-order
📈 3.9% conversion rate