This post by Dorie Clark first appeared at Forbes.
It’s an alluring vision for travel-weary consultants, bloggers, and corporate visionaries: why not create and sell information products that can earn you money while you sleep? But too often, logistical concerns intervene. What should I create? Where do I get started in producing it? Would people even buy it? That’s where Jill Marek Blessing comes in. As the founder of Blue Iguana Productions, she’s helped the likes of Tony Robbins’ and Marcus Buckingham’s companies with product creation. Here are her best tips for aspiring information product entrepreneurs.
Start With Good Content. If you don’t already have your big idea mapped out, it’s often too onerous and expensive to develop products, because it means developing the idea in the first place. The perfect person to create information products, says Blessing, is “someone who would classify themselves as a thought leader with an original idea – something they’ve written as a book or are promoting as a presentation.” Monetizing your existing idea into information products could be a game changer for you.
Understand Your Client. After immersing her team in your material “so we can speak your language,” says Blessing, the next step is mapping out the “client path.” Specifically, this means asking what the next piece of information is that a client will desire after hearing you. “If you have a speech or presentation, perhaps it’s a book that’s the next step, and you could offer that at the end of the speech,” she says. “Maybe you already have a book, so it’s doing a webinar and having a means to share with people in an interactive environment. Or maybe a workbook is the next thing they’re going to want.” The highest-level step, she says, is “almost always some kind of community or ambassador program, so the author of the idea doesn’t have to be continually maxed out; they can have other people sharing the information for them.”
Start Small and Test. Marcus Buckingham and Tony Robbins have massive mailing lists and fan bases. But just starting out, it’s most likely that you do not. “Obviously you want to have some kind of list or following, or an agent or publisher that has your back and will help publicize it,” says Blessing. “But start small and test.” She suggests being strategic about which products you offer first, to test demand and keep costs in check. A webinar is often a good first step, she says, because “you don’t have to print things and can ask people to download them.” Video, on the other hand, is one of the most expensive areas, so newcomers should probably hold off until they have a proven fan base.
Understand Your Costs. Accordingly, says Blessing, as you launch your information products, you should choose the options that best fit your audience and your own budget. “Let’s say you were looking to create three small pieces – an excerpt from your book that’s rewritten in a way that’s geared to a single read, an audio interview with you interviewing somebody else as an expert on your topic, and maybe an infographic that helps explain to people what your message is all about. For each of those pieces, you could expect to invest at least $500 to create them,” she says. “If you wanted to create a webinar – say, a four-week program with PowerPoints, scripts, and downloadable handouts designed so they’re branded and give authenticity and congruency [to your message], that would probably be closer to $5000 or $10,000, depending on the complexity of what you’re creating.”
Find a Joint Venture Partner. Blue Iguana Productions is a full service partner in content creation – writing scripts, editing, designing, and more. But they don’t handle the marketing of your products. Blessing says one of the best strategies, especially for newcomers, is to cultivate a relationship with a joint venture partner with a similar audience and a solid list. “You can give them a percentage of sales and track that, and see who they’re pushing to your product or website,” she says. “You’re generating leads that are warmer than if you’re just buying a list, which is usually pretty expensive to buy and the quality of the leads is unknown.”
Be Creative. There are standard information products that people will always want – workbooks, webinars, books, e-books, and the like. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get creative. In fact, says Blessing, “you’ve got to make it meaningful, and one way to do that is to make it original. As learners, we get numb to always seeing things presented in the same way.” For a recent client project, her team created origami handouts for a leadership workshop, meticulously folded to ensure the messages would be opened in the right order. “The concept of the workshop was about culture and branding, and we wanted to walk the talk,” she says. “We wanted every element of the workshop to represent the message.”
Information products can be a lucrative way to add value to customers’ lives and earn recurring revenue. But before you dive into an uncertain market, it’s worth thinking strategically. As Blessing suggests, before you wantonly start creating material, you first need to have a compelling idea, an understanding of your audience and what they want to learn, and a handle on how you’ll market to them. Armed with that knowledge, your product has a much better chance of succeeding.
Dorie Clark is a marketing strategist who teaches at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. Learn more about her book Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (Harvard Business Review Press) and follow her on Twitter.