Create Your Product

Creating the Product

Lesson 4

Creating a product might seem like a daunting task, but it really isn't that difficult. Here are two things you need to know:

1) Practice

Remember how I mentioned that I created a couple of free products, before I even started building my backlinking course?

Apart from the value these free products had for building my audience, it really helped me in terms of practice, as well. Creating a small, simple free product is a low pressure kind of thing. It got me comfortable with the idea of creating a product as well as some of the technical aspects involved.

2) Technical Stuff

Backlink Battleplan was a fairly extensive product. It included a member's area with video and text content, as well as downloadable PDF guides and checklists.

However, I didn't struggle with the technical stuff.

To be clear: I'm not a very techy guy. I've run a software company for the last few years, so these days, I have a bit of a grasp on the tech. But back then, I was clueless.

But I didn't let that stop me.

I used a WordPress website, a membership plugin and PayPal. That covered all of the tech stuff that needed covering.

I also used a simple video player, so that I could have video content in my member's area without hosting the videos publicly.

I won't list the exact tools I used, since it's many years ago and the recommendations wouldn't be relevant anymore. Also, they wouldn't really be recommendations. I wasn't using the best possible tools. I was using tools that were available and cheap.

My point is this: yes, there are technical hurdles to overcome when creating a product. But you're never more than a search or two away from finding a solution.

You can find a plugin, an open source tool or a service for anything. And you can find helpful tutorials, just as easily. Don't let the tech stuff get in the way and don't search for the perfect setup. Instead, focus on getting the tech stuff out of the way as quickly as possible.

Quality & Scope

I'll let you in on a secret: in this very course that you're reading through, I'm guilty of a marketing sin. I'm not giving people what they want.

The most attractive proposition about creating products or online courses sounds something like this: "how you can create a course that makes millions, in less than 2 hours, with zero skills!!"

Instant gratification always gets the best response.

And here I am, talking about spending weeks or even months developing your skills and creating a product.

So, let's get something out of the way: is it possible to create a simple product in an afternoon and sell it successfully?

Well, it's not impossible, but it's highly improbable. Every once in a while, you come across a story of such a minimal-product-overnight-success, but there's usually one of two things involved:

  1. Outliers: someone got incredibly lucky (a.k.a. they stumbled ass-backwards into success).
  2. Liars: someone's telling a fantastical story about success that didn't happen.

To me, the quick and dirty approach was never appealing. Even if I could make money selling something I threw together in an afternoon, I still wouldn't want to.

I don't just want to make money. I want to make excellent things. I want to make valuable things. And I believe that anything worth doing is worth doing well.

Primary Goal: Value

In practice, that means that I always ask myself: how do I bring more value to my customers?

This is why I put extra work into my products, making them clearer, more actionable, better presented, easier to navigate.

Everything I do in the product creation process serves one goal: to make the product as useful as possible for my customers.

I want my product to be good and I also want it to feel good. I want customers to have a positive experience, from start to finish, with my product.

Secondary Goal: Beat the Competition (in Customer Experience)

There's a secondary goal as well, which is to make my product significantly better than competing products in my market.

For this goal, I paid close attention to what other people in the online marketing space were selling. How do they present their products? How are other SEO courses being taught and sold?

I wanted to create a product that had a wow-factor to it. Something that stood out from the crowd.

I noticed that my competitors were often focused purely on information and not on presentation or structure. You'd buy an ebook about SEO or link building and it would be a poorly formatted PDF, which just word-vomited information at you.

Sure, the information may have been good, but it was difficult to make use of. There was no clear structure and nothing to help you learn or put what you learnt into action.

This is why I decided that I'd do the opposite. I wanted a well-structured member's area, step-by-step tutorial videos, checklists to help customers implement what they learnt and so on.

A wonderful side effect of all this is that it creates a better brand image for the product, it makes people take it more seriously and as a result, it becomes easier to sell.

Breakthrough Innovation vs. Solid Quality

When you read about successful businesses and entrepreneurship, there's a lot of focus on breakthrough innovations, market disruption and game-changing businesses. Innovating and creating a totally new (and better) way for people to do something can be a winning business strategy. But it's also a good way to create a total flop. A super innovative product often either takes off in a big way or fails completely.

What I noticed in my early business ventures is that you can get very far by offering "just" solid quality. None of my early products were highly innovative. I simply made products that followed the formula "like X, but better". I took something that already existed and found a way to make it more specific and more useful.

This is a lower risk strategy and the great thing about it is that you can do it by going the extra mile. Put in the effort your competitors aren't willing to put in. Go the extra mile in communicating with and serving your customers. This is a small but significant advantage that is up for grabs in many markets.

In other words: if you don't have a breakthrough innovative idea for your business, don't sweat it. It's not necessary for success.

The Minimum Viable Product

It's funny to think back on this: when I created Backlink Battleplan, I had no idea what a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) was.

But luckily, I implemented this idea anyway. I realized that a common mistake people make is to finish a product before they start selling it.

Hold on... am I suggesting you should sell an unfinished product?!

Yes, that's exactly what I'm suggesting.

I know it seems logical to finish your product first and then start selling it. But this is a dangerous trap that has claimed many an entrepreneur's career.

As the product creator, you'll probably never feel like your product is truly finished. You'll always think of something more you could add. Something more that's missing. Some small detail that needs just a little more polish before it's ready...

This puts you in an endless cycle of procrastination.

Instead of getting stuck in this cycle, ask yourself: what's the smallest, useful version of the product I can start selling?

Aim to release a minimum version of the product at a low price. This makes it easier to actually release the product and it comes with two other huge advantages:

  1. Customers: you get an initial group of customers who will provide you with feedback. Based on what they tell you, you'll be able to make the finished product much better.
  2. Commitment: when you have an audience (however small), tell them that you're working on a product and tell them a date by which they'll be able to purchase a beta version of it at a low price. You've now made a commitment to deliver a product and there are people eagerly waiting for it. This provides a real deadline and social pressure, which both do wonders for busting procrastination.

For Backlink Battleplan, I actually did this in two stages. The first was to release a free guide called "Backlinks Quick-Start". It was a very basic link building guide. I gave it away as an opt-in incentive, so it helped get a few more people on my mailing list. And anyone who signed up for this was a super hot lead for a backlink building course.

I also did a "pre launch" of my product to my mailing list, when it was about 60% complete. I charged only $9 for this early access version and I sold about 40 copies of it, to a list of under 300 people.

If you do the math on that, you'll notice that this didn't make me rich. But it was very good for me, because it gave me a real proof of concept. I could clearly see that people were willing to pay for my product and that they enjoyed the product very much.

Although I didn't make much money from my pre launch, it gave me the confidence to really invest in finishing and launching the product.

Free Money: Adding an Upsell

I finished my course content and then I created an upsell offer, before starting my launch.

An upsell is simply a product you immediately offer to anyone who becomes a customer. Think of it as "since you bought X, you might also be interested in Y".

Upsells are a great way to add revenue in a product business, but they need to be handled with care. Far too often, I've seen upsells done terribly.

For Backlink Battleplan, I made sure that my upsell offer was complimentary to the main product, but not overlapping with it.

In other words, I wasn't going to do the thing where my front end product says "learn everything about building backlinks" and my upsell offer says "to learn the real secrets to backlink building, you also gotta buy this".

With this in mind, I did two important things for my upsell product:

First, I made the product about on-page SEO, website optimization and effective copywriting. These are all relevant topics that go hand-in-hand with building backlinks, but it left me free to really teach everything I know about backlink building in the main product.

Secondly, the upsell product was delivered as a series of live webinar events, for some of which I'd invited experts to speak. I contacted these experts in advance, asking them if they'd be interested in presenting a webinar to my customers. I also offered them a small speaking fee, but this offer was rejected by every presenter. I found that they were all happy to do the webinar for free, just for the exposure they got from it.

The webinar format also meant that I didn't have to do a lot of up-front work to create my upsell.

Adding this upsell to my product resulted in a 30% increase in revenue. This also made my product more interesting for affiliates to promote.

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