Creating an Info Product That (Practically) Sells ItselfLast week, I was talking with a colleague about information products.
My colleague works with managers who are struggling with software development projects helps get those projects back on track.
He's great a what he does, loves his work and has tons of great ideas for creating information products.
But he hasn't made much progress around creating an information product.
In his own words, "I've created one product but no one bought it. I'm not sure why but I'm worried that what I know just doesn't translate well into something people will pay for."
It's a common issue: you love your work and the clients you work with love your work too. But you wonder whether what you do will translate well if you're not doing it in person.
If you want a product that practically sells itself and that you feel good about offering to your customers your product must meet two conditions:
#1. Your product is based on your talent, expertise, and joy
#2. Your product helps other people solve a problem that is bothering them RIGHT NOW
If the product doesn't meet condition #1, it doesn't matter how much people want it, you will not be able to solve their problem because you lack the expertise and passion to do so.
If the product doesn't meet condition #2, people won't buy your info product because they don't want or need it.
The "sweetspot" is the set of problems which meet both conditions: the problems you are good at and enjoy solving AND for which there is market opportunity (problems customers REALLY want solved).
Envision two circles whose edges overlap so that they share a common area (like the Mastercard logo). The area of overlap is the sweetspot for your product.
If you're going to create just one information product this year, you want to create one in this sweet spot.
There are 4 steps for identifying products in the sweet spot.
=== Step 1. List Common Problems You Help Customers With ===
Take a moment and think about the customers you've been working with over the last three months or so.
Once you have some specific customers in mind, jot down all of the problems you helped them with. (Although your clients typically come with one specific problem, there are usually several others related problems or you may uncover a larger, more basic problem as you learn more).
For example, here are common problems that a project management consultant deals with:
* Project team members lack skills to complete their tasks
* Team members fail to communicate progress and/or problems with each other
* Project manager isn't available enough to give team direction
* Team lacks good tools for tracking their progress
* Upper management doesn't support project and doesn't provide enough money, right people, etc.
* Unrealistic deadlines and goals
* Project gets bogged down because of unnecessary steps
=== Step 2. Identify Your Favorite Problems to Solve ===
Looking at your list put a check mark next to the ones that evoke an "I want to do that more!" response in your heart.
Don't over-think this. The response you're looking for is a sincere "More!" not a "should want to do more."
Shoulds, woulds, and coulds lead to products that don't sell.
Now, do the same thing but this time check ones in which you feel genuinely proud of the results you helped the client achieve.
Also include those which are still works in process but you feel good about your contribution so far. Again, don't overthink this step.
Now circle all the problems you listed that have two check marks.
These are the product ideas that go into the "Love" part of the equation.
For example, our project management consultant looks at his list and realizes that some of the problems are "people problems" (right people with right skills and knowledge) and other problems are "tools and resource problems" (right software and procedures).
Because his background is in software design he decides the problems he really wants to create products around are the tools and resource problems.
=== Step 3. Identifying Marketplace Needs ===
Now that you have identified one or two problems that you enjoy helping people with and excel at providing, let's look at opportunities in the marketplace.
Some specific actions to find those opportunities include:
* What is already selling in your area of expertise: Search Google, Bing, and Amazon.com using keywords that describe the problem area.
* What frustrates people most in your area of expertise: Monitor discussion forums (Yahoo groups and Google groups), blogs and social network sites (Facebook, Linked in, Twitter)
* What recurring topics show up in publications on your topic?
As you look at the marketplace, jot down the problems/questions that keep coming up.
Important: A "gap" doesn't necessarily mean there are no products or services out there providing solutions.
If a question seems to be coming up again and again it suggests there's a need for fresh insights, perspectives, and voices. Maybe yours.
Example: Among the problems our project management consultant sees coming up:
* Whether or not a project needs project management software
* What to do when you need to "fire" someone from your project team
* What to do when team members are sabotaging your project
* What is the best project management software for a project
* How to find bottlenecks in a project
* How to create a good time estimate for completing projects
* How to convince upper level management to increase your project's budget
=== Step 4. Finding Sweetspot Product Ideas ===
You've identified problems you're good at solving; you've identified gaps in the marketplace, now it's time to identify the "Sweet Spot" for your products.
Looking at the problems you circled in Step #2 and the problems and questions you listed in Step #3, look for any problems that satisfy both conditions:
#1. Problems you are good at solving and enjoy solving
#2. Problems that continually crop up in the marketplace
Create a new list with the problems that meet both conditions. These are your "sweetspot" product ideas. Products that, with the right marketing message and support, will practically sell themselves.
Example: Looking at both lists, the project management consultant chooses the following problem as a basis for his next information product:
* Finding and dealing with bottlenecks in your project
Since his expertise and interest is in process improvement, it makes to create a product that will help teams find and eliminate steps causing bottlenecks.
With one or two products that meet these criteria plus a good marketing message and timely promotions to your prospective buyers you really can make a difference and grow your bottom line.