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Build Blog Products That Sell 3: Develop Your Product

This guest series is by Greg McFarlane of Control Your Cash.

Welcome to the third weekly instalment in our series on how to sell products of your own creation, via your blog, in a world in which everyone’s reluctant to spend money. If you’ve been following the series so far, then you’ve learned how to conceive of a product and conduct market research into its viability, at least in theory.

In the process, you’ve learned how to identify your clientele, and create a product that:

  • has unmistakable value
  • people will want
  • is a natural extension of your blog itself, and
  • no one can duplicate.

Today, we’ll look at actually developing the product you’ve spent so long conceiving.

Making time for product development

Identifying what your product should be is one thing; actually creating them is something more. It’s a laborious process that requires you to devote hours that you’d otherwise have spent on your blog’s day-to-day upkeep, your sleep, or your work schedule.

Do yourself a favor and choose the first of the three. A weary blogger is an inefficient blogger, and a blogger who leaves the office early to work on his blog every afternoon will soon see his mornings free up, too.

That doesn’t mean you should let your blog go dormant while creating your ebooks, online courses or series of webinars. Far from it. Instead you need to leverage your time, which is a skill that every successful person on the planet has mastered. That applies to bloggers as much as it does to anyone.

With a little planning, you can maintain your blog’s relevance and timeliness. A few minutes of prevention are worth hours of cure.

Accept guest posts

If you’ve ever been approached by people wanting to write guest posts for your blog—and I think almost all of us have—there’s no better time to take them up on it than when you need to commit resources to creating your suite of products. Let someone else do the work, at least temporarily. Besides, guest bloggers don’t exactly drive hard bargains. A backlink or two should be enough to keep them happy.

Toil away on the task at hand while you delegate what can be delegated, and your readers will marvel at how you managed to create sellable products while your blog never missed a perceptible beat.

Publish timeless content

But what if you’re the kind of blogger who considers every post a uniquely crafted representation of your ability to persuade or engage, and who would no sooner have someone else write for your blog than have someone else raise your children?

You can still leverage your time, by breaking out timeless content.

To give you an example, I update my blog with long-form posts three times a week. Occasionally the content is topical and temporal, but most of it is evergreen.

Write in advance

When you know you’re going to be immersed in creating your product for the next few weeks, write as many blog posts as you can, as far in advance as you can. I always have at least a month’s worth of posts ready to go in my content management system, even if I’m not working on a product.

Not only does it give me peace of mind, it gives my blogging partner plenty of time to shop around for a replacement should I get hit by a train.

Write hot; edit cold

Creating a sellable product from scratch takes more time than does creating a blog post, so you want to be able to set aside sufficient hours to work on said product without thinking, “Alright, that’s enough. I have to stop so I can get to tomorrow’s blog post.”

The author’s directive to write hot and edit cold applies here. When you’re sufficiently motivated and your muse is feeling prolific, that’s the time to knock out as many days’ worth of blog content in advance as you can.

Get committed … and disciplined

If any of this sounds daunting, rather than inspiring, save yourself the energy and don’t even waste your time getting started. There are countless bloggers who sell (or more accurately, can’t sell) redundant, uninspired products. Don’t be one of them. Be at least as passionate about any products as you are about your blog itself. You need to have a more compelling reason for selling products than “I probably should” or “everyone else is doing it.”

Creating my own products forced extra discipline on me, which is never a bad thing. Instead of writing until I’d lose interest, I had no choice but to devote certain hours every day to building and formatting my ebooks. For me, that meant 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. for writing, editing and researching products. If I needed to, I’d work on my blog itself later in the day, a few hours removed from the pressing problem of completing each ebook by my self-imposed deadline.

Maintaining the other parts of my life (physical activity, earning money, feeding the pets) prompted me to get as much production as I could out of the finite time I’d allotted for ebook creation. If I hadn’t, I’d have fallen behind schedule and possibly never recovered.

Test marketing

So, you’ve done everything according to plan, and you’ve finally managed to create a product that you think has real value. As far as you know, your brainchild is ready for its formal debut. The readers you’ve spent years building a relationship with should be ready to overcome their inherent frugality and spend a few dollars patronizing you.

But how do you know they will? Or at least, how can you increase the likelihood of them doing so?

You test market your product, just like a major conglomerate’s sugar-free soda or exotically flavored toothpaste. At this point, your product is a hit only in theory, and you need to determine via a sample of people whether you’re ready for the marketplace at large.

This is the hardest part of the process for many. Most people feel uncomfortable having their work criticized. And among the few who think that they’re beyond that, most of those handicap themselves by selecting test marketers who’ll give them the answers they want to hear.

Here’s how you test how feasible the first draft of your product is.

1. Choose your testers

First, determine whom your 12 most critical friends and acquaintances are. You want the ones whom are unvarnished, even caustic in their opinions. Candor counts even more than objectivity does, because the former is a harder quality to find. The fawners and sycophants have no place in this experiment, and your mother will be of little value. They’re not going to help you, and they’re not going to help the only people who matter here—your readers.

Assess your potential test marketers honestly. The absolute last thing you want is respondents who are going to tell you how awesome you are and wow, you created a blog and every post you write is magical and it’s only a matter of time before the International Herald Tribune comes calling and asks you to share your opinions on budget scrapbooking with a worldwide audience.

Why do you want 12 test marketers? Because six of them are going to agree to critically assess your products, yet never get around to doing so. Bribe them if you have to. Offer to buy each one lunch or something.

2. Send them your product

Now, give them your product, with explicit instructions for them to be as critical as possible. Tell them to try to find something wrong even in the parts they like. A third party (or the fourth through 14th parties) will notice mistakes and omissions that you’re too close to the action to see for yourself.

Never send anything to market too early. If you’re a blogger looking to extend your brand (and line your pockets), that might mean nothing more than adding or rewriting a few lines of code. It is far, far better for everyone concerned to improve a product before it goes live, rather than after.

As far as can be determined, no prototype in the history of commerce has been better than the finished product slated for release.

Key points

  • Don’t sacrifice your income to develop a product: plan development up front.
  • Accept guest posts, publish timeless content, write in advance, write hot and edit cold, and develop discipline and commitment to what you’re doing.
  • Test market your product with actual readers of your blog.
  • Take their feedback and use it to improve your product. Run the tweaked product past your most reliable testers again if you wish.

Alright, enough about “what?” and “why?” Next week we address the most critical question of all: “How much?” But stick around, because later today, ProBlogger will be taking a closer look at a technique to help you generate an unending stream of post ideas. It might just help you save some time to put toward developing your product.

Greg McFarlane is an advertising copywriter who lives in Las Vegas. He recently wrote Control Your Cash: Making Money Make Sense, a financial primer for people in their 20s and 30s who know nothing about money. You can buy the book here (physical) or here (Kindle) and reach Greg at [email protected].

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Comments

  1. Spikes says:

    The problem with testing is the always the feedback. For you to get the most accurate of them all, it must be a paid testing. If you go the way of asking users for feedbacks, 80% would not reply. it has been a hindrance in the development community. Just 12 people cannot give you what you want, testing is a continous process. Nevertheless, Very insightful post, one to keep the bookmarks growing

  2. Justin Mazza says:

    Wow, there is a lot of valuable resources in your post Greg. I just finished launching a product around Overcoming Fear and I know how much work goes into it. Based on results I know that the next product that I create will require more time and effort but it will be worth it.

  3. Kalen Smith says:

    Thanks for the feedback Greg. I found that the Warrior Forum was a great place to get people to check out my content. However, I think that wouldn’t apply to everyone. Your niche is going to determine where you find the right audience. But if you are creating a product for Internet entrepreneurs, then the Warrior Forum or Wicked Fire could definitely be good bets.

  4. Brad Dalton says:

    I think improving your product with new updates is very important and helps continue to promote your own products via feedback

  5. Ishan says:

    You literally have to steal time from your blog to make space for a product. This is especially difficult for people who have either day job or are students(like me!)

    I missed the first two posts of the series, will read now!

    • Sean Chang says:

      The part about time management is so true. Having a full-time job + maintaining a blog + spending time with friends and family would probably already take up most of the time in a day.

      One possible way to ease the burden (besides those already mentioned – which are great tips by the way!) may be to make use of blog posts as part of the product creation process.

      E.g. Getting readers involved in the creation process by getting them to share the problems that they face, tips they’ve found useful etc. I’d think this can help to both keep the blog up to date while at the same time engaging the audience to participate in the product creation process.

      This can in turn create more interest in the product when it eventually launches.

  6. Great topic and the timing is perfect, as I’m working on power point presentation project for a meet-up group that I want to present in May. His idea about leveraging and finding certain hours of the day to complete it is very useful.

    I agree with Ishan, throw in the full time job, makes it even more challenging…

  7. The problem with testing is the always the feedback. For you to get the most accurate of them all, it must be a paid testing. If you go the way of asking users for feedbacks, 80% would not reply. it has been a hindrance in the development community. Just 12 people cannot give you what you want, testing is a continous process. Nevertheless, Very insightful post, one to keep the bookmarks growing

  8. The online writers at http://Helium.com would be a good place to get good editing. They may not be a blogger, but many of them are authors.

  9. We’re halfway through and no one’s left a critical comment yet? I’m starting to get worried…

  10. Jeremy says:

    This is great… I can speak truth to what Ishan was saying… 2 jobs, a family, keeping up with a blog, and trying to develop an e-book, online continuing education courses, and constantly maintaining a presence within my niche can be quite overwhelming at times. Would be nice to be able to do this full-time for income!

  11. Wayne says:

    Great points made. What I found when I was producing my product is that testing is very important. You want to get a gauge of the market. Ask yourself, is the market engaged by my product?

    What I did was set up a landing page and had an animated sales video on it to give a teaser of the product created. Email subscriptions went up.

    Yet again, a very good post Greg :)

  12. Great points especially on testing the product. Developing a product is a challenge in itself. Developing a product that sells (by bringing value to our readers) is the next level of challenge. Testing is key. Then tweak the product based on the inputs. I was a general manager for a chain restaurant for 2 years and saw this numerous testing took place. And how things that we thought were good, sometimes didn’t create that much interest to the customers.