The old model isn’t dead. It just doesn’t work as well as it used to. You can absolutely fund your blog by running display and text ads alongside content. The problem is that in most cases you can’t fund much else. The market for display ads has been in decline for about five years now, and bloggers have had to come up with new ways to earn money from their labors.
On his site The Personal MBA, Josh Kaufman once described 10 time-tested ways to make money. Chances are your blog makes money from one, or maybe two, of his listed methods: audience aggregation and perhaps commission from affiliate sales. Those methods can work well enough under the right circumstances, but for the millions of blogs competing against each other for attention more often than not the circumstances are less than ideal. It might be time to look into some of the other money making methods.
Selling information products
The very first method is also the most familiar. “Make a physical product, then sell and deliver it for more than it cost.” In this brief description Kaufman errs in one way: he defines a product as physical. Given the available media on the web, our products no longer need be physical. We can create digital products and still deliver them for more than they cost to produce. In fact, given the advantages of the non-physical nature of the web, we can often sell them for a higher margin than physical products.
The great advantage of information products is that anyone can create them. No matter who you are, you can create a product that disseminates information to a willing audience. Of course, just because everyone can create an information product doesn’t mean everyone can create an information product that appeals to a critical mass of people. That takes skill and credibility, traits that not everyone possesses.
If you are a skilled creator and have credibility with an audience, then you can create information products to sell on your blog. Done correctly, they’ll prove far more profitable than CPM ads and affiliate links that bloggers currently employ.
What types of information products?
An information product, put simply, is anything that presents new information, or else presents information in a novel fashion that allows for easier consumption. Here are some quick and obvious examples of information products.
- Ebooks, which are the most common.
- E-learning videos.
- Webinars, which are like e-learning videos.
- Email newsletters
Any one of these, or a combination thereof, can become a premium information product. With skill you can create something that people will find valuable. With credibility you can actually sell what you’ve created.
When creating an information product you’ll focus on your established niche. Mommy bloggers might write a manifesto on raising children in a green household, for instance. A tech blogger might write a guide to discerning information about the latest gadgets. You can even get meta and teach people how to create information products. That’s what Bob Serling did with Info Millions.
How to sell information products
You can sell your information product as a one-shot deal, and perhaps that’s your best bet if this is your first time selling a product online. Yet it far from the most profitable. Even if you create an ebook you can sell for $5, it takes plenty of sales to add up to something meaningful. Chances are you’ll want to employ one of these two methods.
The add-on sale
A successful add-on sale centers on a flagship product. That might be an e-book or a series of e-learning videos. Those are heavily marketed as being useful to people in a particular niche. When people want to find out more information they go to a landing page which gives them more information on the product than they could possibly process. It’s not until they’ve agreed to buy that the additional opportunities appear.
The first way to create an add-on sale is to offer customers additional products immediately. The fitness industry routinely employs this method when selling products. Customers will agree to buy a $50 exercise program, but will then be directed to many more landing pages for supplemental materials. They’ll go through each of these landing pages, each of which presents an opportunity to add to the sale. Customers who choose to add these materials can double, triple, or even quadruple the price of the original product.
The second way is to follow-up some time after the original sale. This normally involves getting the customer to opt into a mailing list of sorts — or otherwise to not opt out. After the initial sale the customer will receive an offer for a similarly useful information product. If they were satisfied with the original they stand a good chance of buying the next product. This can be a less pestering method, since it gives customers enough time to use the original product before receiving another offer.
The most profitable way to sell information products is by subscription. Charging customers every month leads to a steady stream of income. It can also allow you to charge a small amount for a product you’d price much higher; in other words, subscriptions can amount to payment in installments. Customers might feel better about paying $5 per month for something rather than $60 up front.
If subscriptions are the most profitable ways to sell products, then why doesn’t everyone do it? Because it also involves the most work. When people buy a subscription they expect periodic value. If they’re paying monthly, they expect new and unique value month after month. That means creating valuable products regularly, rather than as a one-time deal. The costs of acquiring new subscribers is also high, since people are discerning about recurring costs. Fail to deliver one month and it can cost you many subscribers, significantly impacting your financial projections.
Those with time and motivation could do well with subscription sales. The risk-reward factor is high, but so is the rate of failure.
What else you’ll need
In order to create and sell information products you’ll need more than just your computer. You’ll need certain tools to help you along the way.
A selling vehicle. If you’re a blogger, this is simple. You have an audience, and that audience is the intended target of your products.
A payment system. You’ll need a merchant account with a payment processing company, so that you can accept various forms of payment from your customers. This will cost you a portion of every sale, whether a percentage or a flat rate.
A landing page. A landing page is the main sales material for an information product. You’ll need one of these to help convince people to buy your product.
A marketing budget. In addition to a landing page you’ll probably want to purchase pay-per-click ads, so you can attract visits from people searching for terms related to your product.
Recording equipment. If you’re writing text-based information products you wont need these. But if you want to do webinars, e-learning videos, or podcasts you’ll need a video camera and microphone. Don’t trust the ones built into your computer; chances are they’re not of a high enough quality.
Credibility. We mentioned this before, but it’s worth repeating. If people don’t know who you are and what you’ve done, they likely won’t buy anything from you. You have to show people that you’re credible before you sell them a product.
It certainly is an involved process, and it will take plenty of time to get off the ground. But done properly, creating and selling information products can prove to be the most profitable venture for your blog. With some skill, credibility, and effort nearly any blogger can create these products. They sure beat waiting around for the display advertising market to pick up.