Customer Development Upstartist Diaries

The Buy Button Challenge

What do all successful consumer companies have in common?

One thing for sure: a lot of easily accessible buy buttons.

Those buy buttons could be on your devices or even offered by physical vendors near you. 

A humble bánh cuốn vendor in Ho Chi Minh City could have their buy buttons in their store, on their website, facebook page, grab,,, baemin, or even through telephone. That could add up to a million buy buttons, depending on how many consumers use the platforms above. 

Putting up a buy button seems obvious to business success. So, why don’t we focus more on the what, when, where, why and how of our buy buttons? Why don’t we audit our buy buttons each year, just like our finances?¹

Bánh cuốn – one of my favorite Vietnamese comfort foods that’s easy to buy 🙂

The Power of the Buy Button

For those toying with business ideas, next products, or transitioning from employee to solopreneur:

Putting up a buy button keeps you focused on providing something of value for someone else. This requires empathy, listening and understanding your customer. Many solopreneurs (myself included) get wrapped up in our own goals, ideas, and lives. Thriving in a marketplace requires helping others solve their problems.

Putting up a buy button builds your courage and copywriting skills. Risking rejection and getting someone to pay is difficult, which is why I believe courage and copywriting are foundational solo survival skills.

Putting up a buy button forces you to prioritize distribution, which often means going outside your store/website and learning new platforms. How can you get the most relevant eyeballs on your buy button? Go where your customers are! In 2021, these gathering places are usually big platforms that make buying stupidly easy or targeted communities more desperate for your solution.

Most importantly, putting up a buy button is a forcing function that accelerates your understanding of your customer. Market research, business plans, and what if conversations pale in comparison to making an offer, and then seeing how customers respond. This is the essence of The Mom Test. 

My theory is that someone’s “time to buy button” – the speed of moving from idea to offer – is one indicator of entrepreneurial success. Of course, this time depends on the scale of the problem (i.e. ebooks vs. electric cars). But the most dynamic entrepreneurs I know have a strong bias towards action.

In fact, many savvy marketers put up a buy button before they even have a product! While I don’t agree with the ethics of such tactics, I understand why they start with the buy button, then work backwards.

My readers know my philosophy of making failure fun, social and expected. Hence, I present to you… cue the booming announcer voice and exploding graphics…

The Buy Button Challenge

My business, Touch MBA, has been hit hard by the pandemic. I still feel a bit in limbo as to whether to pivot the business or pursue something else. Instead of worrying about this, I’m challenging myself to put up 10 buy buttons this year.²

I’ve put up 4 buy buttons so far:

1. The Fail-Safe Solopreneur (Kindle on Amazon)

2. The Fail-Safe Solopreneur (Paperback on Amazon)

3. The Fail-Safe Solopreneur (Audiobook on Audible & iTunes)

4. Monetizing Touch MBA’s YouTube Channel, which has ~400K views (don’t know why I took so long to do this)

You can say I cheated by creating 3 buy buttons for one book, but I had to learn three different software and distribution platforms i.e. Kindle Direct Publishing, Amazon and Audible. That took two months. Not easy!

Planned buy buttons for the second half of 2021:

5. The Fail-Safe Solopreneur (Paperback version on Ingram Spark, a global distributor to bookstores and libraries)

6. Top secret idea to be shared later

7. Solopreneur sprints (coming soon)

8. New and improved admissions course on

9. and 10. Uh oh. Time to get creative and act fast…

Buy Buttons Are the Solopreneur’s Robitussin

Chris Rock, one of my favorite stand up comedians, has this bit about Robitussin being his family’s cure-all medicine:

If there’s anything that comes close to Robitussin for solopreneurs, it is the buy button.

Got no customers? Check your buy button.

Stuck and don’t know what to do? Put up a buy button.

Revenue going down? You need better buy buttons.

Buy buttons focus our attention on what really matters – helping customers solve problems. We must make it easy for customers to find and use our buy buttons.

If your buy buttons are undiscoverable, ignored or complicated to use (some of mine are!), then are you surprised you’re not further along in your business?




¹ My buy button audit:

  • Inventory – How many do you have? Where are they? Which account for the majority of your revenue? Which are trending up and down?
  • Distribution – How can you make them more obvious and easier to find for your customers? Where can you find more distribution for your buy button? 
  • Strategy – How do your buy buttons compare to those of your competitors? Is it easier for your customers to use another buy button to get the same job done? 
  • Conversion – How can you make your buy buttons easier to press? How can you make using them less risky for customers?

² Are there downsides to this approach? Yes. Minimum viable products (completed with a buy button) aren’t panacea. It takes time and resources to develop a great product or service. Tech titans rightly argue that world-changing, material innovation isn’t quick or cheap. Instead of pursuing incremental change, why not pursue “10x” change for your customers?

Simplicity and focus also drive a great customer experience. It doesn’t make sense for reputable and established companies to launch new products every month. As Walter Isaacson, Steve Job’s biographer noted, “By getting Apple to focus on making just four computers, he saved the company.” 

So another approach might be: instead of putting up 10 buy buttons, focus your resources on putting up 1-2 buy buttons that would really be transformative for your customers and your business.

I think this approach makes sense for established, deep-pocketed players making a big splash. Most of us aren’t in this category. Our advantage is speed – how quickly one person, or a small team, can solve someone’s problem. So while it might not make sense for well-known companies, I still think The Buy Button Challenge serves (relatively) unknown solopreneurs well, especially those in a transition stage.

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