How to Build a Non-Suck Info Product

How to Build Information Products that Dont SuckYou’ve probably heard about the income potential of writing books and information products.  Lately I’m generating a decent amount with my Kindle books.  So I know info products work!

The problem is it’s hard to create long-term income if you’re offering sucky information products.

That’s why it’s important to read Grant’s guest post and make you’re creating something that is worth purchasing. 

Most information products suck.

There, I said it. The elephant in the room has been identified.

The hype-to-value ratio in the information product industry has gotten pretty far out of whack, in my experience.

The make money online sphere (you almost expected that to be anchor text, didn’t you!) is probably the worst, certainly. But at the end of the day, when you compare a much-hyped info product to a well-reviewed book on the same subject, the ink-splattered dead tree is probably a better deal.

This reality pains me, because I love information products and the potential they hold. The internet provides a far superior medium to the simple book, right? Let’s define “information product” to include ebooks, video courses and membership sites, and then do a comparison with books:

Information Products vs. Regular Books

[title color=”green-vibrant” align=”scmgccenter” font=”verdana” style=”normal” size=”scmgc-2em”]The Bottom Line[/title]

Information products should be better than books. They’re a better medium. They have 100% margins. They can be distributed to the entire world if necessary.

But yet, books generally offer more value per dollar. Authors tend to spend more time honing their books than we do on our information products. Books tend to have deeper insights and better arguments. You can buy Good to Great for under $5 (used), for crying out loud. How much are your products? Can they compete with decades of research?

This is a problem.

We need to deliver more value in our information products.

[title color=”green-vibrant” align=”scmgccenter” font=”verdana” style=”normal” size=”scmgc-2em”]Information Products 101: Providing Value[/title]

At the end of the day, what makes an info product valuable? Welcome to Information Products 101.

Lesson #1: Your goal is to create a strong, positive impression of your product in the customer’s mind.

 Content Grid - How to Find What Your Customers Want

Customers buy information products, because they are trying to accomplish a specific goal. Whether they want to increase traffic to their website, start an organic garden or launch a woodworking business, they’re always looking for results.

However, they are called “information products” for a reason. You need to deliver information that empowers people to achieve the results they so desperately desire.

Finally, you also need to share with your customer the experiences of those who have worked hard and succeeded before them. These stories will act as guide rails during their journey.

In short, the best information products deliver:

  • Information
  • Experiences
  • Results

[title color=”green-vibrant” align=”scmgccenter” font=”verdana” style=”normal” size=”scmgc-2em”]Delivering Information: Background, Tactics, Strategy and Wisdom[/title]

The best info products provide four types of information: background, tactics, strategy and wisdom. Each flavor of information supplies the customer with different benefits, and all are essential to success.

Background: What’s Going On Here?

Your info product should turn the customer into an industry expert. Helping them see the big picture and the major forces that define their competitive landscape will help them make good decisions in changing circumstances and ultimately become more successful.

Good background information:

  • Shows customers the current state of the market / opportunity.
  • Gives them a 30,000 foot view and then share some of your ground-level experience
  • Gets people oriented, helps them see the big picture
  • Provides perspective

Tactics: Quick Fixes, Instant Gratification

People who abandon about your product’s advice after five minutes aren’t going to get good results. They might even ask for a refund. They certainly won’t recommend your product to anyone else, give you a testimonial or become a repeat customer.

Part of the solution here is to provide quick, powerful tactics. Think of simple things you’ve done that worked out fabulously well and show the customer how to replicate your success.

Sharing tactics is so effective, because the customer will begin to subconsciously believe that “success is just about being smart enough to find opportunities like this.” Considering that the success of your product is proportional to the customer’s willingness to do what you suggest, this is a good mindset. You become the supplier of “opportunities like this,” and the customer begins thinking of themselves as the guy “smart enough” to take advantage of them.

Good tactics:

  • Are simple but effective
  • Make your customers think: “Brilliant! I can do this!
  • Provide encouragement and inspiration

Strategy: Taking the Long View

Tactics are good, but no one accomplishes anything really impressive without strategy. Strategies are guiding frameworks that show people the road to success.

While “put your headline in quotes to increase the conversion rate” is a tactic, strategies are more along the lines of “establish yourself as an expert in a specific topic. Develop content around that topic, and connect with other thought-leaders.”

You might have a number of tactics or supporting actions to implement the strategy, but your ultimate goal is clear: become a high-profile expert. Simple tactics can’t provide this sense of purpose.

Good strategy:

  • Provides a guiding framework towards a clear goal
  • Calms the confusion and chaos. Strategy shows people what they need to do over the long-term to become successful. Shows them the road to success – and helps them follow it.
  • Provides confidence and a sense of direction.

Wisdom: Notable and Quotable

Finally, great information products provide true wisdom. Wisdom is probably the most noticeably lacking of the four types of content, but it is also the most important.

Wise phrases are statements that can only be arrived at after extensive experience. People who develop a body of true wisdom for their industry are students of the game, not merely players. If you aren’t at this level, look at what other people are saying and try to extract common themes.

Management guru Peter Drucker’s books are practically bursting with wisdom. I remember glancing through a Drucker book and seeing the following statement:

[quote type=”medium” align=”left”] “Business has only two functions — marketing and innovation.” [/quote]

This statement has stuck with me over the years. Although I hardly understood it at first, Drucker’s meaning has slowly become more and more clear. This is wisdom.

 Great Wisdom:

  • Is encapsulated in simple, pithy statements that customers will keep coming back to
  • Brands you as a thought-leader
  • Provides expertise, maturity and insight

Self-audit: how many types of content did your last information product provide? What are you missing? How can you fix the problem?

[title color=”green-vibrant” align=”scmgccenter” font=”arial” style=”normal” size=”scmgc-2em”]Delivering Experience: Stories Sell[/title]

Information is great, and if you provide the four types of content described above, you’ll be well on your way to creating impressive value.

The challenge is making that information stick. Customers have to get caught up in the thrill and wonder of your product. They have to be glued to their screens and they have to remember what you told them.

Fortunately, a good story accomplishes all of the above.

Any time you make a point, back it up with a story of how someone implemented what you suggested. That person can be you or one of your customers – all that matters is the human element.

Great stories are:

  • Memorable – Stories people remember are emotional, surprising and relatively simple. They give people the context in which to frame your advice, making it much easier to internalize.
  • Transferable – Some stories beg to be shared. The story of Mark Zuckerberg starting a billion-dollar company in his dorm room is something that will widen your friends’ eyes when you recount it (although everyone’s already heard that one by this point…).
  • Mindset-matching – Identify the most common mindsets your customers will have when they buy your product. Are they brazenly hopeful? Beaten down by failures but ready for another try? Desperate for help and guidance? Find stories where the main character has each of those mindsets and then follows your advice and improves their life. You want the customer to say “that could be me!
  • Hints of the bigger picture – Stories about your own exploits allow you to allude to your other specialties or products. Create a sense of intrigue about yourself – people will want to learn (and potentially buy) more if you’re a person worthy of interest.

Although information is powerful and results sell products, stories are what will stick with people years after they buy your product. Make these memories count.

[title color=”green-vibrant” align=”scmgccenter” font=”verdana” style=”normal” size=”scmgc-2em”]Delivering Results: Creating the Before and After[/title]

Finally, the strongest driver of an information product’s success is the results it delivers. Remember that customers bought your product with a goal in mind: now it’s time to help them accomplish that goal.

The first step in driving results is getting the customer to actually do something you tell them to do. You convinced them to buy, but now you’ll need to persuade them to act. Both feats are of the utmost importance to your business. Just after the purchase you have a passive reader, not an active participant.

[quote type=”medium” align=”left”] “Information products are sold twice. First for money, second for action.” [/quote]

The First Action is the Hardest

Take your most valuable, powerful tactic and tell the customer to implement it.

Hopefully this tactic will produce results (if it’s the best you’ve got and nothing happens, you have a problem), encouraging the customer to continue applying your advice.

Positive Reinforcement

Each time you tell the buyer to do something, there needs to be obvious results. Only positive reinforcement will win the reader over to the power of your suggestions and ensure that they implement your entire plan.

Envisioning Progress

Finally, you want customers to have clear and starkly different before and after mental images. They need to look back at their pre-purchase life and marvel at how far they’ve come. Simply asking the customer to list their problems at the beginning and their accomplishments at the end will help secure this mindset of accomplishment.

Follow Up and Ask for Referrals

After a customer gets all the way through your information product, ask them to review their overall experience. What did they like best or worst? What did they accomplish?

If the customer was successful, ask them if any of their friends have similar goals. Come straight out and ask for a referral – the customer’s response will speak volumes about the quality of your product. It’s a win-win: you either get valuable feedback or new customers!

[title color=”green-vibrant” align=”scmgccenter” font=”verdana” style=”normal” size=”scmgc-2em”]Conclusion and Application – We’re not Done Yet![/title]

Don’t even think about leaving.

If you sell information products, audit yourself and see if you are delivering exceptionally valuable information, experiences and results. Are you using stories to communicate your points? Are your customers getting results? Are you imparting wisdom?

Leaving this article without implementing its findings is a criminal waste of your valuable time.

And if you’re really determined, check out Viibrant and produce Holy Grail products. See the bio below.

Grant Hensel is the CEO of Viibrant. What would happen if you created an info product that led to concrete results and customers could actually see the success rate? Answer: the price you could charge and your conversion rate would skyrocket, and if you truly helped customers accomplish an inspiring goal you’d probably get on the nightly news. Viibrant makes this possible. Contact me if you want an invite.

Take Action. Get Results.

15 thoughts on “How to Build a Non-Suck Info Product”

  1. I think Grant makes an exceptionally valid point. Info products generally offer poorer value when compared to books. But I think that’s a digital thing. I was in an airport and spotted a book I thought was really interested so decided to buy it for my iPad kindle reader. I was stunned that it was within a couple of dollars of the book. Which given the tactile nature of the book decided the book offered much better value for money. I think people get the idea that digital distribution is much cheaper, but I would only pay more than (say) $25 when the information product was super niche and very specific to me.

    Some really powerful lessons. Thanks for sharing Steve.

    • Thanks for the feedback Matthew – I agree that if a traditional book and an eBook were the same price I’d go for the physical version.

      What is interesting, though, is that you get a lot of people who make “information products” (PDFs) that manage to charge $47 or so for their content. Once you get people out of the rigid “book = ~$15” mindset pricing options open up quite a bit.

  2. Hey Grant & Steve,

    it’s an interesting article and I agree – this is a fascinating industry, and one I know Steve is very familiar with too.

    I’m new to it myself but what strikes me is how the barriers to entry are minimal to nil in the info-product industry. Anyone can create an e-book these days, all by themselves. They can even create a high quality e-book all by themselves – the tools are all there and plenty of them for free.

    Because the barriers to entry are so low though, it means anyone can and that invites the lazy, incompetent and clueless along too as well as people who genuinely have something valuable to say, offer high quality and create awesome products.

    Put it all together and you get a marketplace which is great and interesting, but where it’s maybe a little harder to get your voice heard just because it’s so very crowded…

    thanks for sharing & I wish you both continued success with your info products!!

    take care & best wishes,

  3. Alan –

    You’re exactly right: the total absence of barriers to entry is what struck me about this industry when I was first exposed to it. The market is a jumble of high and low quality products and it’s darn hard to figure out which ones are worth buying.

    We’re actually trying to change that with Viibrant. Instead of making an eBook, our platform lets experts make an online course called a “Gateway.” Gateways help people accomplish a specific goal, and customers report whether they succeed or not. This means that we can actually display a success rate on the Gateway’s sales page, instantly separating the wheat from the chaff. (It also makes marketing easier: “75% of customers added 200 subscribers to their email list” is pretty good selling point 🙂 )

    Our goal is helping the best experts rise to the top and keeping people from wasting their money on the ineffective products. This doesn’t change the fact that there are no barriers to entry, but it does add a barrier to success: your products actually have to work!

  4. Exactly! Grant your article forced me to read it just because of the value of this article Product info is one of major aspect from customer’s point of view if the writing quality doesn’t meet what readers/customers wants to read than of course! it will down the ground..
    As you describe the info Cycle and the background is one of the more visible face of the product info where every readers try to read the summarize portion before going through the over all book whether its Ebook or any Physical book.

  5. Grant, this is an incredibly well-throughout post. I’m really loving the breakdown of each of the required signals customers need in order to find value in the product.

    To be honest, I always found tactics and strategy to be the same but upon reading, I realize that it’s actually two hurdles for the customers to overcome. I think it’s because I generally do tutorial posts so I couple the tactics with the strategy. This opens my mind to a completely different approach to my future projects – dang! I’ve got some things in the pipeline but I’ll definitely be reviewing this as things come together.

    • Thanks Murray! I just checked out your blog and saw that “Premium Guides are coming soon” – glad this post could help.

      It took me a while to realize the difference between strategy and tactics as well, but the distinction is powerful.

      As an example, one of our strategies at Viibrant is sparking conversations with influencers who might be interested in our program. That strategy is implemented through a number of tactics, like guest posting. Once you know if you’re thinking in ‘strategic’ or ‘tactical’ mode it becomes much easier to plan for the future.

      Good luck with your site/products and thanks for commenting!

  6. I was just taking a break from writing on my own information product package and just read your post. I totally agree with Alan’s statement about the barrier being so low. It’s a double-edged sword. I’m trying to create quality products that sincerely help people, but I keep on seeing people make money from junk. How many times have you read a piece of crap eBook written by a non-English speaker? They’re full of typos and anecdotes that don’t really help much. The “make money online” niche is BLOATED with stuff like that.

    Steve’s blog and a few other places really hit it on the head. But we should all be aware of what the jokesters are doing to our industry. We don’t want this to turn into the early days of the internet with the “anything for $1” crowd.

  7. You’re right Bill, the main problem with crap eBooks is that they make the entire industry look bad. Think of how much more people would respect internet marketing if someone eliminated the bottom 90% of info products but left the 10% that really help people intact. Sounds like the Holy Grail 🙂

  8. The unspoken subtext of all this is that if you’re going to be creating an infoproduct then you’d better be an expert at whatever you’re teaching. Know that the “gurus” who claim that to create a salable product you only need to do a little research online or at the library are LIARS!!! Pure and simple. If you’re going to Build a Non-Suck Info Product on how to be an internet success, then you’d better be one yourself. If you’re not a success yet, then building an infoproduct is not your first course of action, despite what the “gurus” say.

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