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Creating Products Week: Before You Even Think About Creating Products, Think About This

Theme Week (1)

Darren Says: Today were continuing our creating productsweek here at ProBlogger by looking at some of the areas of groundwork you might need to do before or while creating a product. Our Marketing/Product Guru Shaynes written this post but Ill chime in along the way with some thoughts too.Over to you, Shayne.

As you explore your different monetization options as a blogger, products will no doubt come on the agenda. We’ve shared lots of stories here on ProBlogger about how products have really transformed all our blogs.Whilst these sorts of stories are encouraging, inspiring, and motivating, the truth is that a lot of work went in long before we launched our first product, which played a significant role in their success.Today I want to share with you some of the things you should be doing right now, before you even begin to think about what product you should create, that will help set you up for the sorts of results we’ve seen here on ProBlogger and dPS.

Pre-Product Idea:

1. Get the momentum moving in the right direction

If you’re thinking about creating a product because your traffic and readership has stalled, or even heading in the southerly direction, then it’s probably the wrong time to be launching new products. There are exceptions to this, but for information products (eBooks/courses), it’s important to have some momentum on your blog.

Products are great at capitalizing and helping build momentum – but they’re not usually great for creating momentum from a standing start. This is particularly important for bloggers, as visitors and engagement are the lifeblood of your blog.

Don’t get confused between a stall in revenue to that of visitors and engagement, as changes to earnings might not be linked to the true health and sentiment towards your blog.

If you’re not seeing upward pointing analytics graphs, even moderate ones, then focus on turning that around before you start creating new products.

Darren says: One of the keys to the success of my first eBook – 31 Days to Build a Better Blog – was that the launch came off the back of doing a month-long series of posts on the same topic as the eBook. While it might seem strange that an eBook that was largely repurposed recent blog posts sold so well when they’d all just been on the blog, it was that month of posts and interaction with readers that generated a lot of momentum. Readers had just received 31 posts of high value, there was lots of goodwill and community on the site, and I think the healthy sales reflected this.

2. Create fans as well as readers

I’ve worked with sites that receive millions upon millions of visitors every month, have email lists in the hundreds of thousands, and massive social media followings.

But that doesn’t mean they’ll sell more products than someone with an audience size only 10% of the big guys’.  Why is this? It is because engagement and trust play a massive role in the decision making process of someone buying your product.

If the majority of your readership arrives, looks at your post and then heads off somewhere else, then chances are  good they are going to ignore you when you launch your product, and an advertising strategy might be better for you.

If you’ve got real fans who will not only listen to what you are offering, but also share it with others, then you are in good shape for launch.

So if you want to launch product, make sure you have your own share of fans.

I would recommend you looking at 31 Days to Build a Better Blog for some insight on how you can transform the relationship you have with your audience –  there are some great community-building exercises you can implement right away.

Darren says: Have you ever pre-ordered a book, music, or product without actually having it in your hands to see if it is something you’d really like? If you have, it is more often than not the result of you being a fanboy/girl of a brand or person.I’ve had this same experience with our eBooks where people have told me that they’ve bought them without a great deal of thought because they trusted me or had been helped by me in the past. Creating this ‘fan-like’ connection takes time. It also is usually the result of consistently helping readers in some tangible way. Be generous, genuine, and always put your readers first.

3.  Build your list 

Now this should just go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway. You need to build your list.

You need to build an email list and serve those who subscribe to it well so when it comes time to launch your product then they’ll actually read your email.  You need to build your social lists, so your followers/fans on social will take notice.  Again it’s not the number that counts, rather it is how they feel about you.

A list will give you the biggest leg up (aside from a several-million-dollar marketing budget) when your announce your new product to the world.

You probably should have started this a long time ago, so if you’re still sitting on the fence, then hop to it!

Darren says: I can’t echo Shayne’s thoughts enough on this point. Last time I did the analysis of where sales of our eBooks came from I found that more than 90% of our sales came from emails that we sent to our readers.Please digest that.If we didn’t have an email list our sales would be 10% of what they are. 

While I totally get all the excuses people give for not building and being useful with an email list (it takes work, it is a slow build, it feels like ‘old technology’), the reality is that if you’re not using it, you’re going to be leaving sales on the table.

Read more about how I use email newsletters to drive traffic and make money

4.  Extend your network

I’m the type of person that goes to a conference and sits in the corner listening, but with the shield of protection that is “me playing with my phone” always up.

I wish it wasn’t the case, as when it comes to launching your product, you need a network.

You need people you can go to for help and advice with your product, you need people with an audience to help launch your product, you need people to help with any media strategy with your launch.

So summon the courage to  meet some new people and extend your network as far as you can.  I know it’s hard, but it helps and is worth the effort.

Darren says: If you’re anything like me you’re probably hyperventilating a little after Shayne telling you to get out of your comfort zone like this. I’m an introvert and self promotion and networking does not come easy to me – but he’s right.Luckily for us shy types this doesn’t have to mean lots of face-to-face meetings and phone calls (although they can help) but can be achieved with email, social media and other internet technologies. The key is to put yourself out there and get to know others in your niche.

5. Earn a reputation 

I’m not talking here about a bad reputation, I’m talking here about being known for something – and in the context of what you are sharing on your blog.

You could be known as the person that tells it how it is, as the experimenter, the crash test dummy, as you the sympathetic ear, as the angry man, etc.

You can also have a reputation for sitting on one side of the fence. The Apple guy, the Canon chick, and so on.

I don’t care what it is, but ensure you are known for something beyond your name and the name of your blog, as it will make people excited that your product is not just another puff piece, it’s been created by the ultimate person so it’s gotta be good!

Darren says: the power of this one surprised me a little. When Chris Garrett and I authored the first edition of the ProBlogger hard cover book back in 2008, I noticed a strange trend.  When people reviewed it, the most common word that people used to describe me was ‘nice’. Time and time again reviews mentioned that I was one of the ‘nicest bloggers’ going around.At first I wasn’t so sure about it – don’t nice guys always finish last? – but I realised that it had actually become part of my brand and as Shayne says – it was what I was known for.

6. Research and learn

You will learn a lot by doing, I assure you of that. More importantly, what you’ll learn are the nuances of your particular product and audience.

Before you start your product journey, start first by looking at your competitors. What products  they have, how they launched them, how are they priced, how well they do they seem to sell?

Keep reading blogs like ProBlogger so you can follow stories about the launch, or join a community like ours so you can ask questions in a private environment.

Spend a month or two ensuring you’re smarter than anyone else when it comes to products and launches.

Don’t just make it all up as you go along!  (just bits of it…)

Darren says: This was an area I didn’t pay a heap of attention to with my first couple of eBook launches. It was partly that there were not many others doing eBooks in my niches at the time, but also partly because the actual product creation process was quite overwhelming.However, I think I’d have probably launched my first eBooks differently by spending a little more time in research mode. The key for me here is not to copy what others are doing but to learn from it, and also look for opportunities to differentiate yourself from the field.For example – is everyone in your niche doing short and lightweight $5 eBooks? Maybe there’s an opportunity to become known as blogger who does more in-depth premium quality eBooks or even courses?

7. Define your REAL strengths and weaknesses

As I get older this seems to get easier, but as a bulletproof teenager I thought I could do anything and if I admitted a weakness it was just giving my competition something to  prey on!

But by understanding and admitting what your real strengths are, you are able to focus and unleash them in your products. Knowing your weaknesses means you know what you can’t offer and what you might need to get help on so they don’t hold you back.

If technology is not a strength, get help or partner with someone who is. If you are more of a visionary sort than someone with attention to detail, then make sure you have checks and balances in place to deal with that.

Don’t live in denial about what you’re good and bad at.  If you do, it will show in your product and the people that might buy it.

Darren says: For me this has two levels to it – both as a product creator and in the launching on it.Firstly – when I wrote my first photography eBook I did so feeling acutely aware that I was not a professional photographer. I’ve always been an avid amateur photographer and know enough to help beginners but in writing that first eBook wanted to beef it up a little. As a result I had a pro photographer give it a technical edit to add a little depth to it, but also commissioned a chapter of it to be written by a more technical writer. I also added a section with interviews from pro photographers. By doing all of this, I felt I produced a much more helpful product.

Secondly – when it came to launching my first products, I was very aware that I’d never done such a launch before. I knew nothing about shopping carts, creating sales pages, merchant facilities, affiliate programs, etc.

As a result, I sought the advice of numerous people to help me get my first launches right. Shayne was one of those who helped me particularly with sales page and sales emails but there were others who helped along the way too (for example it was Brian Clark from Copyblogger who helped me name my first photography eBook).

By seeking the advice of others, I know for a fact that my eBooks sold more copies. I also learned a lot so that when my next launches came I was more confident and had more skills to bring.

8. Understand your readers

You might thing you know your readers pretty well based on your interactions on social media, or the comments they may leave, but I challenge you to go a little deeper.  For every comment you get on your posts, there are 100 or 1000 people who are reading and not saying anything.  It’s a great assumption to make that they think in the same way as the commenter.

I encourage you to reach out and understand your readers even more. Survey as many as you can and ask them to tell you a little more about themselves. Pick some at random and have a conversation with them. I guarantee the results will surprise you.

There’s more than one reason to go this extra step. Having this deeper insight into your readers not only gives you a much better platform to decide on which product to create, it also gives you some clarity around what you should be posting about as well.

Darren says: The more you know your readers, the better position you’ll be in to create products that they actually want and need. You’ll choose better topics, create the right type of products, price them better, market them better and all in all everyone will be better off (both you and your reader).Further reading: how to create a reader profile (and why they’re important), and why knowing your readers is incredibly powerful

9. Think about the consequences

Creating a product is not easy. It’s just not. They all take time, they create emotional stress, and most of them take money (even small amounts).

Even sites like SnapnDeals, that we started in a weekend, is still something we put work into every week.

You will read all about the upside, the money, the stardom from people and their their products, but you’ll hear very little about the blood sweat and tears that went into them.  If you’re not ready to put the effort in then do something else until you are.

When you’re ready to commit to the work, then you’re ready to start creating products.

It’s just a matter now of which one! But you’ll have to wait to find out about that until tomorrow :)

Darren says: Don’t underestimate the work that will be involved in creating a product for your blog. Like Shayne says – it’ll take a lot of work. My advice is to try to block out time to do it.For some people that means blocking out a little time each day until it’s done (that’s how I did my first eBooks), but for others it may mean blocking out larger slabs of time to knock off a lot at once (for example with the writing of my hard cover book I locked myself in a motel room for three days to get one of the bigger sections complete). Don’t underestimate the work…however… don’t underestimate the upsides either. 

Having a product to sell gives you something that has the potential to add a whole new income stream for your business – indefinitely.

Also – if you never try… you’ll never know.

UPDATE: Read the next post in this series -> Which Product Should I Create?.

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Comments

  1. Hi Darren, Wonderful post and awesome styling of the post. I think you’re the first to create this style on the post because I haven’t seen such a post earlier ever.

    Also, thanks for sharing the wonderful information. I agree that building a list is very very essential when creating a product to promote it because they are your loyal readers looking forward to your stuff. I believe a good responsive list can make or break your business.

    Have a nice week!

    Mainak.

  2. Angie Dixon says:

    Great work, guys. Thanks. I’m also the type to hyperventilate about networking, which is one reason I haven’t commented before.

    The points in this blog that helped me the most were the ones about networking, considering the consequences and creating a product when your blog is gaining in momentum.

    I’m starting to think about creating a product, so this was very timely for me and very much appreciated.

  3. I am in the process of planning for my first ever ebook related to European travel. Thank you for this.

  4. Great post to get the ball rolling -
    Is there a way to export all the email addresses of people who have commented on one’s blog so as to create a list to approach?

    • Angie Dixon says:

      Linda, commenting on your blog does not mean consenting to be added to a contact list. If you want to build a contact list, which you really should, you need to use an opt-in form and an autoresponder service like Aweber. There is a ton of information available on building a list, and right here on ProBlogger would be a good place to start the search. Good luck!

    • Darren Rowse says:

      Linda – not sure if there is and I wouldn’t advise doing it. I’m sure in the back end of WordPress’s database there would be a list of all those emails but the reality is that if you import them all into a list to start emailing them you’re probably flying a little close to breaking spam laws (depending where in the world you are).

      To build your email list you really need to get explicit permission from those you email to do that – whereas when they leave a comment they’re not giving that permission. It could break the law and at the very least I think you’ll find it’d annoy some people to be put on a list in this way.

      There are some wordpress plugins around that allow those leaving comments to check a box to be added to your email list when they leave a comment – that’s probably the best way to tap into commenters to build your list.

  5. I mention it because I’ve had some experience with product creation. I’ve had success and failure, and I know there’s a good chance you are reading this and have some kind of idea of a product you want to create.
    We all have our own unique expertise, but whether or not we can successfully turn that expertise into a product that people pay for, is a different question entirely.

  6. Rohit Yadav says:

    It’s a great post for bloggers like me bt it will be great if u also give some ideas on “how to extend network”.

  7. Rabin says:

    Nice, article shayne. You covered up all important factor. I like some points very much as Creating a reputation, a good list and understanding readers. Thank you once again for article.
    .
    The style that you used to present this article is really nice and i never seen this before.

  8. Nikhil says:

    Great Work Darren. You cover all the points in this post for better product creation. Building fans, email list, post are great and essential.
    Thank you for demonstrating these all thing very well darren.

  9. Jayashree says:

    Wow Great inputs. thanks for this Article Darren. You have clearly written in detail point by point the areas that we need to focus before launching our product.

  10. Thad James says:

    Building a list is more than collecting business cards. Getting a card is not permission to be on a distribution list. That is a separate discussion. Creating a quality list is well worth the effort. This is a great article!

  11. John ConorX says:

    Thanks for sharing such a great informational blog post. You have provided great tips and hints which is a valuable assets for the upcoming online marketers.

  12. Building a Fan Base is beyond huge Darren. Doing so allows your readers and fans to know, like and trust you. Readers may convert into fans but fans will buy your product or service readily.

    My first ebook sales were from folks who were fans. List members, close connections, all around fanatics who dug my voice, loved my style and would pretty much do anything I suggested – within reasons of course ;)

    This goes back to the momentum point. Your fans create a mass wave of momentum on your blog. As more folks buy in due to your engaging, and reaching out, and creating awesome products, you’re much more likely to boost sales over time.

    The key is to be clear, authentic, transparent and heart felt in all that you do so that your like-minded fans can find you with increasingly less effort.

    Awesome read Darren.

    Tweeted!

  13. Neil Curtis says:

    Great post and I love the style. it works (and flows) really well. Do you think all products you create need a big marketing plan (e.g. affiliate promotions etc.), or if you have a strong audience is it not good enough to just mention it to your email list a couple of times and put some links on your blog?

    Cheers, Neil

    • Darren Rowse says:

      Neil – the way I look at it is that I will always put effort into thinking about marketing my products. I put a lot of effort into creating them and believe they are useful – so want to maximise the amount of people who they can help and also obviously want to have healthy profit too.

      There is some balancing that you need to do at times in terms of how much to communicate with your readers though. There comes a point where marketing can become highly annoying and even bordering on harassment – so you’d want to keep that in mind. Also I think there are times when affiliate can hype up your product so much and bombard their readers so much about it that it can hurt you (particularly if you share readership).

      Having said that – I see a lot of bloggers who create great products and then are so low-key in their approach to marketing it that their readers are probably barely even aware that they’re selling anything. I understand why they might not want to annoy readers but there’s probably some middle ground between letting things happen organically and bombarding reader with sales pitches.

  14. Hi Darren,

    Wonderful and the way you style your post is fresh air to us. Exciting times ahead as i began to prepare the launch of my first ebook and I can’t help that god is sending you to help me out.

    This post helps a lot and I like what you said about engagement with your readers. Just curious how you can build readers if your blog is not well known?

    Any advices?

  15. I will say this from my own experience. I have failed recently trying to launch a software company. The main problem was, people were not willing to pay even though I had some free beta testers. I would highly recommend that first you should find your audience, get them to pay you upfront, and then get along to building your product. Even though you think you have a great product, your customers might think it otherwise.

  16. Tomas says:

    I really enjoyed this article. Thank you for your honesty guys. I am a new blogger my self. You just made me realise that creating products is not as easy as I thought and that I should better concentrate on getting more and more targeted readers. Thank you again.

  17. Hey Darren,

    I’m sure you saw this coming, but how was the styling of this post done? I LOVE it.

    Is this entirely custom coded or is there a WP plugin that can accomplish this?

  18. shamsudeen says:

    While I was reading this post, I remember the hit rap song of the 90′s by Dr Dre and Snoop Dog – Nothing But a ‘G’ thang.

    A perfect combination of styles, purpose and message across to readers.

    Thanks Darren for such an amazing style of updates, this certainly will help me in marketing my first ever product. I have created and launch my ebook, but nothing has happen for now.

    Still sending out mails to my tiny small list, and hopefull before a couple of message across, better days would come.

    Thanks.

  19. Colin says:

    I am fairly new to the world of websites, but I am interested in creating a blog spot at add to my site and found your notes very informative. I am now beginning to understand what is now required to successfully undertake this task.

  20. Hi Darren,

    Another very informative post. I really wish I was aware of you blog when I first started out. If I knew this stuff at the beginning I may have never ran into the issues that I ran into when I first started doing this blogging thing.

    One thing in particular that I never focused was the necessity for building a list. I was just writing post and excepting readers and followers to happen just over night (slaps forehead), but I quickly learned that I was not going about blogging the right way.

    I am incredibly grate for all the mentors that I have, and, if you don’t mind, I would love to add you to the list.

    God Bless Darren,

    Freelance Writer and Blogger
    William Ballard

  21. I have been thinking about creating an e-book for a long time. I also have thought about bringing in another person to help with my blog. Your statements about knowing your strengths and weaknesses resonated with me. I am great at creating content but not so good at promotion, marketing, and all the tech stuff. I think my blog could really go somewhere. I created in Sept 12, 2013 and I already get around 6000 unique visitors per month. I just don’t have the money to invest… Where should I go from here?