This is a guest contribution from freelance writer and inbound marketer, Jawad Khan.
Freelancing can be a liberating career choice. The number of freelancers all over the world has increased dramatically over the last few years, with more people choosing to work on their own terms. If you’re reading this with interest, chances are that you’re a freelancer yourself or someone who’s seriously considering this career path.
But, in order to create an income safety net and truly enjoy the benefits of freelancing, you need to combine freelance client work with your own digital and information based products (eBooks, training courses, guides, tools). This can significantly reduce the pressure of finding client work all the time, which can be difficult at the beginning.
With so many great online tools and services available, creating digital products is much easier than before. But as a result of that, there are a lot of mediocre and sub-standard products floating around the web as well. To ensure that your product stands out from the crowd, you need to do things differently.
Here are 9 tips to help you create better digital products and sell them more effectively.
Note: This post assumes that you know the importance of a mailing list and already have one. If you don’t, read this awesome post on list-building.
1. Create Your Buyer Personas
In order to create a product, you first need to identify the right target market and the people who would willingly buy your product. What are their needs and what solutions could persuade them to pay immediately? Begin with creating your buyer personas. Buyer personas are examples of the people who would, or could buy your product. It lists all the characteristics of your ideal buyer including demographic details, income bracket, interests, career level etc. Try to be specific about your buyer, it will help you create a better product. For example, for a freelance writer, the ideal buyer persona might be the owner of a small business between 30-50 years of age, with an annual marketing budget of 30 to 40 thousand dollars looking to generate new sales leads from within the USA using his website, blog and social media profiles.
2. Identify The Right Opportunity
Once you’ve developed your buyer persona, analyze the major problems and needs of your buyers. Match them with your skill set and see how you can address them. Take the same buyer persona and identify the different ways you can help this buyer achieve his goals. List down all the different possibilities and then go for the one that falls in your strongest area in terms of skill set and has comparatively less competition.
3. Create a High Quality Product
The quality of your product will play a key role in determining its success or failure. If you want repeat customer and referral sales, your product needs to be top-notch. For this, analyze your competitors – other freelancers and agencies – offering the same solutions with their products. Find their loopholes and make sure your product doesn’t have any of them. In simple terms, a high value product is something that exceeds customer expectations with tangible solutions and gives them immediate value.
But apart from the content of your product, its packaging is equally important. It’s just like the headline of a blog post. If the headline is attractive, people read the full blog post. The same goes for packaging. For this, you can also use the services of other freelancers on websites like Elance, 99designs, Freelancer etc.
4. Price Your Product Intelligently
Pricing is another critical part of product selling. If you get it wrong, your sales numbers can be depressingly low. Pricing depends on several factors including your brand image, the size of your mailing list, the level of engagement in your online community, your social media strength, your network and, of course, the quality of your product. You would also need to see the kind of pricing strategies your competitors use.
In general, there are two options for you when it comes to pricing. You can either go for a high priced product that a few people can buy, or you can go for volume based selling and keep a relatively low price. Another option is to create multiple packages with different prices, targeting different buyer personas. In my experience, multiple packages work better than the first two models. Here’s a snapshot from the landing page of Tom Ewer’s, a freelance blogger, PaidtoBlog course.
This is where many freelancers fail to make an impact. A poor buying experience can ruin all your hard work and cause buyers to go away without making a purchase. To be more specific, buying experience refers to your sales landing page, the product selling service you’re using, the payment modes you accept, the checkout process etc. All these are critical elements of the buying process.
To create landing pages, I’d recommend using LeadPages. Before the product launch, use your landing page to create anticipation.
After the launch, fill it with compelling content, repeated calls to action and testimonials.
For payment processing and product selling, you can use services like E-Junkie, Shopify or Selz. I personally prefer Selz because it also helps you create high quality audio, video and image previews for your products that are as good as full-fledge landing pages. It allows you to accept payments with Master Card, Visa and PayPal, and simultaneously builds your email list by integrating auto responders like MailChimp and AWeber. It’s really a complete package for digital selling.
6. Target The Right Marketing Channels
If you develop the right buyer persona, it’ll be easy for you to identify and focus on the right marketing channels for your product. For example, if your ideal buyers are business owners, higher management professionals and corporate managers, LinkedIn publishing platform, LinkedIn groups and websites like Quora would be great places to start the promotion of your product. Similarly, with a clear identification of your target buyers, you’ll be able to identify the right blogs where your target users can be found and approach them through guest blogging. Once you’ve launched your product, marketing should continue to consume the majority of your time. Here are a few ways you should continue to promote your resource.
- Blogging – Mention your resource regularly in all your blog posts and link back to the sales page. Before the launch, create anticipation about your product by mentioning it in your posts and on your blog. After the launch, remind people about it through relevant references within your content.
- Guest Blogging – Identify the most relevant blogs where your potential buyers can be found. Approach these blogs with high quality guest posts and link back to your product page in the author bio.
Note: Read this to learn more about guest blogging on popular blogs
- Networking – Use your contacts and the strength of your network to spread the word. Connect with influencers in your niche and ask them for recommendations. Triberr and LinkedIn are great places to do that.
- Social Networks – Posting and paid promotions on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest can all be very effective depending on your target market.
- Email List – There’s nothing more effective than a healthy mailing list in helping you sell more products. Without becoming too annoying, regularly send special offers and product deals to your subscribers.
Note:Read this super post on Jon Morrow’s blog about list-building
7. Begin With a Soft Launch (with a deadline)
When it comes to the product launch, never dive into the deep waters immediately. Instead, go for a soft launch and share your product with a limited audience. You can even choose to go with a reduced version of your product initially. To further accelerate things, give your buyers a deadline after which the product you’d take the product down. The objective here is to get a feel of how your target audience responds to your product offer. The limited number of sales that you get, will tell you a lot about the weaknesses and potential improvement areas of your product.
8. Gather Data and Identify Loopholes
To take real benefit from your soft launch, make sure you have sufficient data gathering tools in place. Use live chat services like Olark on your landing page to directly get in touch with your buyers. When someone makes a purchase, send them an email or give them a call to ask about the reasons why they chose your product. Similarly, ask those who bounce back from the landing without making a purchase, about the reasons for their decision and what would they want to see in your product to change their decision. Use survey tools like Survey Monkey to run quick surveys to gather all this data. This can provide you valuable insights for your full scale launch.
9. Launch on Full Scale (with a deadline, again)
Once you’ve made the required adjustments to your product, launch it aggressively on full scale. Announce it to all your subscribers, social media and marketing channels. However, just like the soft launch, define a deadline after which the product will be taken down again. This is a great way to accelerate your sales (Neil Patel is a big advocate of this approach). When the deadline arrives, take the product down, gather more data, identify improvement areas, make more adjustments and then launch the product again after a few months with more value.
Successful product selling requires adequate preparation, a quality product, aggressive marketing and timely product enhancements. When you get this combination right, there’s no better way of boosting your income and enjoying the real essence of online money making. As a freelancer your own product would not only give you breathing space in terms of monthly income, but also build your brand image and help you attract more high paying clients.
Jawad Khan is an experienced inbound marketer and a freelance blogger. He helps small businesses, tech startups and entrepreneurs strengthen their brand image with high quality blog content. Follow him on his blog, Writing My Destiny, Google+ and Twitter.