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.
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.
- 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].