By Peter Prestipino, Website Magazine Editor-In-Chief
Information defines the Internet age. From real-time streams of data to long-copy weblog posts, there is no shortage of competition for the attention of users and prospects.
In the nearly 10 years I’ve spent marketing products and services on the Internet, I have yet to see a content website thrive solely on advertising revenue. Offering information at a price, however, is challenging. If information and content is your game, you need to sell it. For the sake of argument, let’s consider information products such as white papers, special reports, e-books or subscriptionbased content.
Why Create and Sell Information?
Low startup costs, little maintenance, no shipping costs and no inventory to stock are all benefits to selling informational products. But perhaps the best reason is that everything post-production is pure profit — once created, content can sell an infinite number of times at virtually no additional cost. This high level of potential profit also provides the flexibility to offer commissions to other affiliate marketers. And high commissions attract more affiliates, resulting in more sales. Some of the easiest products to sell on the Internet are ones that don’t require physical fulfillment. This applies to anything that can be delivered electronically — e-books, publications, software, and PC-utilities. This type of product can be delivered to your customers in minutes; and often with little intervention or completely automated.
Let’s Sell Some Info!
Selling informational products requires plenty of work and can be quite complicated. The upside is that just about anyone can create and sell information — freelancers, small businesses, non-profit associations, and even commercial enterprises. The key is creating something valuable that cannot be found anywhere else. That requires a carefully planned strategy.
Identify: Before any download of your information product occurs, there will be a genuine consumer need. Identifying and understanding that need is priority one. Trolling Q&A sites such as Yahoo! Answers provide insights into questions that real consumers have. These websites can also give an excellent look into any existing informational products already solving that problem. Look for links or guidance left behind by question answerers.
Analyze: Once a need has been identified, analyze how you and your products and services might provide a remedy. Contact existing customers (or those of your competitors) about how a specific product or service might remedy a problem. This provides real-world information that can be used as a framework to present your information product.
Develop: After identifying the need and understanding how to present information in a way that will resonate with consumers, it’s time to start developing the information product. Create an outline and start writing. To be effective, information products must clearly express the needs consumers have (as indicated by statistics or individual stories) and how one approach, technique or solution remedies it.
Promote and Sell: Once the informational product is created, now you can promote and sell it — the exciting part and how you’ll generate revenue and brand awareness. Some might want to promote exclusively on their own website. If this is the case, a simple form is required to collect contact information (if the goal is brand awareness) or you might want to use PayPal or Google Checkout to facilitate payment processing. Should you need a qualified promotional vehicle — perhaps your brand simply isn’t recognizable yet — use a service such as RevResponse by NetLine to provide access to a lead generation platform and thousands of affiliates ready and willing to promote your product.
We don’t all have access to a manufacturing facility or the knowledge to create the next great iPhone app, but everyone has extensive knowledge in one or many fields. While there is no shortage of information on the Web, much of it is outdated, biased toward an end, difficult to find or just insufficient to consumers’ needs. Consumers will pay for quality. Deliver it to them.