For most bloggers, display advertising does not bring enough income to pay the bills. It might cover your hosting costs and some spending money, but only the highest-trafficked, most perfectly targeted sites can earn a real living with CPM display ads. These days if bloggers want to make real money they have to do more than slap some code on their sites. They have to actually provide value that goes beyond the day-to-day blogging.
How can they add that value? By creating products that readers can use in their own lives. It’s not nearly as difficult as it sounds.
Anyone can create information products
Chances are you’re not going to start manufacturing widgets in your bedroom. Creating physical products can be a chore, especially for a one-person outfit. Thankfully, we’re not talking about physical products. We’re talking about information products. They’re easier to create.
How easy? Literally anyone can create them. That’s the good news for you, the blogger. No matter what your niche, you possess the ability to create information products that can benefit your readers, both present and future. Those information products are the path to profitability for bloggers.
Of course, just because everyone can make an information product doesn’t mean everyone can create a useful information product. Again, you have to provide information that a reader cannot get elsewhere, or otherwise present that information in a novel and useful manner. You can approach this in a number of ways.
Types of information products
If you want to create information products to sell, you have a few options. Some of these are similar, but the specific formats have different limitations.
1. Ebooks. These are the most common information products for bloggers. They’re essentially expanded versions of the blog itself. Of course, to be successful the ebook has to share new information that readers cannot get anywhere else, or else present that information in a novel manner. It might be easy to create an ebook, but it is far from easy to create a good ebook.
2. E-learning videos. Some people learn better when they can see the person providing the information. Additionally, the extra effort of creating videos lends extra credibility to the project (which we’ll discuss in a moment). E-learning videos provide bloggers with an opportunity to combine many media into a single product. They can use narration, screen shots, and video casts to create a more complete learning experience.
3. Podcasts. Sometimes the blogger herself is not the best teacher. Finding others who have knowledge and interviewing them can make for a great teaching method. Just be careful: if you’re selling the podcast you might have to compensate the guest.
4. Webinars. These are also akin to e-learning videos, but they’re one-time events and not perpetually available media. The only problem here is that many if not most webinars these days are free. You might find it difficult to charge for one unless you are a high level expert in your niche.
How to sell information products
After you pick out your information medium, you’ll need to choose a sales method. Each has its ups and downs, so you’ll have to choose based on your own circumstances. We’ll start with the most lucrative proposition.
If at all possible, you should sell your information product via subscription. This is the most profitable method, since it means getting paid every month. It is also the most difficult to pull off, since you have to continually prove to customers that they’re getting their money’s worth.
Subscription products require the creator to release new, valuable content every month. Even one bad month can mean losing significant subscribers, which will affect all future earnings. Additionally, acquiring subscription customers can be expensive, since there is a need to convince them of the product’s value before they receive it.
Bloggers who seek the highest reward, and are willing to put in the most work and take on the most risk, will do well with a subscription model.
Oftentimes the best way to sell is to piggyback products onto one another. This means creating multiple products and marketing one of them heavily. Then, at the time of sale or sometime afterwards, marketing another related product. It’s an involved process that involves a lot of up-front work, but it’s a proven way to sell products.
Many in the fitness industry use this to upsell customers. They’ll offer a weight loss or muscle gaining guide for a reasonable price, around $50 usually. When you go to purchase it, you’ll go through five or six different landing pages containing offers for upgrades. Those upgrades can add much to the overall price of the package, meaning more money for the seller. Of course, the upgrades have to offer real value. But if you create a comprehensive product, chances are you can think of a few supplements to add.
Add-on sales can also come after an initial sale has been made. It means securing permission to contact the buyer at a later date, and then emailing them an offer for a product they might find useful, based on the purchase of the first product. Chances are if they found the first one useful, they’ll be receptive to buying another.
If this is your first time selling information products, you might want to start small and offer just a one-off item. This won’t be very profitable — how many ebooks can you sell, even at $3 a pop — but it will give you a chance to feel out the process and the market. That way when you offer subsequent products you will have a better idea of who will be interested, what kinds of products work, and how much to charge.
What you’ll need
The greatest advantage of information products is that they require little overhead. What’s in your head — your creativity and your knowledge — represent the bulk of the offering. If you know something and can think of a useful and novel way to present it, chances are you can create a practical information product. You’ll only need a few other things.
A video camera and/or microphone. This is only if you’re going the video or podcast route. For text-based information products a word processor alone can suffice.
A sales mechanism. In our case this is likely your blog.
A landing page. You’ll need one of these to provide long form sales copy to promote your product.
A payment system. In order to collect payment for your product you’ll need to look at online payment services. These will typically charge you a fee for each sale, so look for one that provides the best options for your situation.
Credibility. This might be the most important of all. Not just anyone can peddle information products. You’ll have to show credibility with your audience first. This is one big reason why you blog in the first place. Do it well and you can set yourself up for opportunities like these.
As you can see from the screed above, selling information products is not easy. Creating them anyone can do. Marketing and selling them to an audience takes creativity, knowledge, skill, and credibility. Are you ready to take the step?