Let’s skip the obvious cliches and get to the harder to understand concepts that make an enormous difference.
If you make an information product and decide to sell it, prepare for unsolicited feedback that could rip your face off.
I launched an information product recently. An information product is either an online course or a book. Wow, complex!
The amount of money I made from the information product is not designed to impress you. I know you don’t care. All it shows is traction. It also shows I’m a doer who isn’t just peddling nonsense I pulled from a book I half-read to look smart in front of an audience of people who clap.
It’s time for me to come clean about why I did it: I built an online course because my day job was destroying my mental clarity. As hard as it is to admit, I needed a distraction and helping people learn a new skill felt like the right one. So I built a course with my friend Todd.
This is the process for building an information product. What’s more helpful are the lessons and overall philosophy you can extract and apply elsewhere.
The Biggest Barrier to Selling a Digital Product
The hardest part about selling a digital product is selling. I don’t mean the process. I mean giving yourself permission to sell.
Selling anything can make you feel like a sellout. You can go from offering free content or sending newsletter, to putting yourself out there and daring to charge money for what you do.
I faced critics.
One smart lady said, “you’re destroying your integrity.”
Let me tell you what it took a decade of working in sales to learn. It’s okay to sell. People who make comments like this or have an issue with you selling a digital product or making money online do so because they are too afraid to do it. That’s okay. Maybe they’re not ready. Maybe their relationship to selling is broken because they were screwed over by a salesperson in their daily life.
I work in sales as a job. So I have zero problems selling. Why?
Offering an information product isn’t selling.
Offering an information product isn’t asking for money.
Offering an information is wanting to help people solve a problem. There is nothing wrong with finding people who have a similar problem and then teaching them how you solved it through a skill you acquired.
Give yourself permission to charge money for your skill. You’re not a sellout. You’re making a living the honest way and that’s noble.
Your Non-Target Market Is Crucial
Traditional startup advice talks a lot about target market. I took the opposite approach that marketer Seth Godin talks about. I focused on who wasn’t my target market. I have no problem saying to a potential customer “sorry, I don’t think this product is for you.”
I wrote myself a list. Here it is:
- This product isn’t for people who hate LinkedIn.
- This product isn’t for people who want to pay $50 for 20 hours of content.
- This product isn’t for those who hate to write.
- This product isn’t for people who are afraid to post on social media because of what their boss, family or friends might think.
When you know who your product isn’t for, it makes offering your product to the right people much easier.
Only 5% of People Need to Buy
Most people never need to buy anything from you to do well with an information product. If roughly 5% of people buy then you’ll achieve a lot more sales of your product than you might think.
My philosophy is that I want most of what I do to be free. Free makes what you do accessible. Accessibility leads to hidden opportunities no amount of money can pay for.
I remember watching a handful of prospective students view the course and then not buy it. The temptation is to get angry. The temptation is to want everyone to be part of your information product club. This mindset will only upset you. Most people who look at your information product are not going to buy it. Here’s why:
- They recently bought another information product.
- The price doesn’t suit their budget.
- They have done a similar online course or read a similar book already.
- Your solution doesn’t solve their problem.
Selling to everybody is a nightmare.
Selling to a segment is better. Once you have your little niche of customers you can then build other products and a percentage of your existing customers will buy those too. This is the holy information product grail.
The Best Way to Frame Price
If you make an information product and sell it, you will get price objections. Many people look at price the wrong way when it comes to acquiring a skill.
They look at building a skill as a cost. “This cost me $500 …what!!!!”
Cost means nothing though if the return is greater than the investment. If a customer pays $500 and gets back $1500 from the skill they acquired then they’ll be pretty happy.
It’s important to reframe price. If your information product has an ROI then you need to point it out. Nobody wants another expense. Everybody wants to make an investment with a high chance of a financial return.
Expense = upsetting.
ROI = empowering and worthwhile.
If They Can’t Afford It, Let Them Go
I met people who couldn’t afford my information product. One lady outlined how she lost everything and was in debt. Her health had taken a turn for the worst and her husband’s business was about to collapse.
Selling my LinkedIn course to someone in this situation is plain wrong. Instead, it’s better to have empathy and let them move on. Selling to those who shouldn’t be sold to is a foolish move. Use your humanity to do the right thing for those facing a crisis. Help them for free if you have the means.
Give the Best Parts Away for Free
You get high sales with an information product when you ditch the scarcity mindset. Here’s the best way to do it.
Give away your most important information for free. If it feels like you’re giving away the best bits and may risk people not buying the paid product, then you know you’re on the right track.
For example, a customer gets the best two lessons you have for free. Then they end up buying the whole information product. At the end they have their needs met and loads of answers to how to solve their problem and acquire the skill you can teach them.
What’s weird is this customer can’t tell the difference afterwards between what they got for free and what they paid for. They don’t care. They’re simply happy for the result. This is why you can give your best stuff away for free without it affecting how much money you make.
Money becomes irrelevant when a person achieves results.
The Exact Actions I Took
First up — unless you have a large email list or an online community you own, the “make $10,000 in 5 days” number is going to change. You already knew that. Secondly, I decided to have my friend Todd work with me as a co-teacher. This is completely up to you. Two is better than one in my mind.
Build knowledge around a skill
Offering an information product requires you to have a skill in a particular field. Here’s the stupid part: you can acquire a skill by reading books about it.
If you’ve simply read more books about a topic than most people, then chances are you know more about it than they do. Then all you need to do is put into practice what you’ve learned. How?
Conduct experiments. Test. Publish. Create. Build.
Create free content
Before you can sell an information product you need to create free content. Free content is what shows people you know and understand the skill you’re teaching. Choose a platform and create free content on there — Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Youtube, TikTok, etc.
Place a link to an email list
In every piece of content place a link to your email list. Use a tool like Convertkit to manage your subscribers.
Place a link to an online community
This is the pro version. Email open rates aren’t so high anymore. A highly engaged community using something like a Facebook group is an even better place to offer an information product. The open rate in a community is higher because it’s social. Email is lonely. So the social feeling wins. Dah.
Build trust over a period of time
Information products are sold on trust. A person interested in your product says to themselves, “Do I trust this person to teach this skill based on what I’ve seen publicly and their library of content?”
Publishing content builds trust. Too many people skip this step and try to sell when they have zero authority in a field. Authority is built by doers, not talkers. So be a doer.
Create the information product
- Don’t overthink it.
- Build it in 2–4 weeks.
- Use a free tool like Workflowy to brainstorm ideas.
- Make your information product a PDF, or an online course using a tool like Teachable.
- Add lots of real-world examples.
- Borrow lessons and quotes from those in the field. You’re only one of a team of teachers with an information product. You’re the maestro, not the entire orchestra.
- Remember: you can always edit your information product in real-time.
Launch the information product to your audience
Launch is a fancy word. Let me break it down.
Write down a launch schedule. The first week is where you offer the best lessons and tips you have for free to an email list/community each day. You put these free tips on your social media too.
Once the free section is over, you go into the second week which is the launch of your paid product. You communicate a piece of helpful content daily and at the end you link to your paid information product. The start of the paid launch has an early-bird discount and the second half of your launch doesn’t.
Marketing to amplify results
You can amplify your launch further. Podcasts related to your product are one way. Another way is to do free Q&As or teach free lessons to online communities you don’t own. The owners of a community are always looking to nurture their supporters. You can help them do that.
The key is you want attendees to walk away feeling like they learned something new as opposed to attending a sales seminar with no tangible takeaways, and where the secrets are always revealed later.
Use blog posts rather than sales emails
Sales emails feel terrible. I prefer to write a blog post, send it as an email, and attach one sentence at the end where people can buy my digital product. I prefer this method because even if a person doesn’t buy the paid product they still walk away having read a helpful blog post that conveniently appears in their inbox.
Give people an opt-out so your unsubscribes don’t spike
A short sentence at the end that says “If this topic doesn’t interest you at all please click here to never hear about it again but stay subscribed.” Offering paid products can cause people to unsubscribe from your email list.
Allowing them to opt-out of a product launch is a considerate way to retain a person and qualify them out of what you’re offering. Think about a person’s motives and needs in advance and you’ll stay human in the process.
Encourage people to reply to your emails
Automated email funnels feel like death to me. I hate them. That’s why I don’t use automation or run silly funnels that treat people like idiots. I prefer a personal approach.
Allow people to reply to the emails you send out mentioning your information product. In fact, encourage them to. It increases email open rate and starts conversations. Conversations help prospects decide whether your product is for them.
Add to your information product over time
People love it when an information product they buy gets updates. With my LinkedIn course, as LinkedIn adds new features, I am going to create updates and bonus modules. Treat an information product like software: re-release certain sections with updates for free.
The Biggest Lie of $99+ Information Products
You make it. You slap it up on your website. The dollars flow in and you’re rich driving a Shrek Green Lambo. Wrong. If selling information products was this easy we’d all be Bitcoin millionaires.
A $99+ information product requires you to answer questions. I learned this when my friend started offering in-person events. He has an email list of more than 100,000 subscribers. On the day of the event I said, “What have you been up to chief?”
He said, “What do you think mate? Calling every person thinking about attending and selling them tickets one by one over the phone.”
I assumed he just launched his event and his diehard fans from the last nine years simply bought it, and he had someone on his enormous team answer questions on his behalf. I was wrong. Information products that cost more than $99 typically require human interaction.
That’s How You Build, Launch, and Sell an Information Product
I am not special. I don’t know a lot about building online courses with landing pages that stop Tim Ferriss in his tracks in astonishment.
Offering an information product is a mindset more than anything.
Do you know a skill others want to learn? Are you brave enough to charge money for it and cop price objections from those small few who believe selling is a dirty word? Will you build, launch, grow, and start all over again? It doesn’t have to be massive either. Why couldn’t you build a $49 course that shows someone how to use Twitter in an hour or do research with software like Roam Research?
As soon as you get fancy, overwhelm takes over and nothing happens.
Take a skill from your day job and turn it into an information product. Borrow someone else’s online audience if you don’t have one to sell to.