In addition to making money through methods like ad sales, AdSense, and affiliate programs, another popular method for making money as a blogger is to sell your own informational products. In most cases these are digital products like e-books, videos, and online courses.
Info products are a natural fit for authority blogs because you are already working on building your reputation and teaching your readers.
Pros of Selling Info Products
In comparison to promoting products as an affiliate, by selling your own products you will be in full control. You will be able to determine exactly what topic and what type of information you want to sell. Your set the price. You decide on sales and promos. You choose your own plan for marketing the product. While this does mean more work for you, it can help to avoid some of the frustrations that you may experience as an affiliate marketer.
Huge Income Potential
Selling products is one of the best ways to make a significant amount of money with your blog, especially if you can get a team of successful affiliates promoting the products for you. Even though you will be splitting the revenue with the affiliates, the exponential reach can take your profits well beyond what you could accomplish on your own.
Possibility for On-Going Income
While info products will generally sell the best when they are launched, they can still continue to bring in money for months or years to come. If you run an aggressive launch campaign to stir up interest and excitement you will certainly see the sales numbers dip after that buzz wears off, but your blog archives, reviews on other blogs, and your affiliates can help to keep sales coming in for quite some time.
The lifespan of your info product will be impacted by the topic and how quickly the information becomes outdated. If you’re able to find a topic that will not become quickly outdated, or if you occasionally update the product, you can keep it relevant for quite some time.
Possible in Almost Any Industry or Niche
With a little creativity you can find an opportunity for an info product in just about any industry or niche. It’s not just the internet marketing industry that sells info products, you can teach something useful regardless of where your expertise lies.
A good example of this comes from an info product that I purchased myself a few months ago. I recently finished our basement and I had no prior experience with heating and air conditioning so I was desperately searching for some information or a tutorial online. I came across a contractor who had put together some brief videos on YouTube and from his YouTube profile he was marketing a more detailed video series with real-world demonstrations of installing heating and air conditioning while finishing a basement. I think I paid $50 for the video course. It was money well spent because it made my life easier and saved me money from hiring someone else to do the work. As an online entrepreneur I was really impressed that this contractor recognized the opportunity to sell an info product. It’s a great example that just about anyone can use their knowledge and experience to put together an info product that can help other people who need that info. In this case the videos were created just by hand held camera and didn’t seem to have any type of advanced or time consuming editing. For someone who had the knowledge it was probably pretty easy to do.
Can Build on Your Blog’s Content
If you’re working on building your authority blog, an info product can be a perfect way to build on the blog’s content. While blog posts are intended to be read rather quickly in one setting, an info product allows you to go in much more depth and really cover things in detail.
Because the info product builds on your blog’s content, the blog content can serve as an excellent sales tool for the product. If readers like the blog content and they want more, there is an easy way for them to get more, by purchasing your product.
Your blog content can also help you to gauge interest in a topic to determine what you should cover with your info product. If you have a topic that always tends to produce popular blog posts and a lot of reaction from readers, that may be a good indication that there would be strong interest for a quality info product on the same topic.
In addition to what has already been published on your blog, you can also craft new posts that can help to sell your product. It could be a detailed summary of what information is provided in the product, it could be a free chapter of your e-book or a free segment of a video course that you release on your blog, or it could be an article that explains something about a related topic and makes a pitch to readers with an offer for the product.
Helps to Build Your Reputation as an Expert
If one of your goals is to become recognized as a leader or expert in your industry, creating an info product is a great way to go about it. In some cases simply writing a book or e-book on a topic is enough for people to view you as an expert. Of course, in order for this to work really well, your product will need to be able to deliver the highest quality of information possible.
Inexpensive to Produce and Deliver
One of the best reasons to consider selling info products is that the profit margin can be very high, especially when compared to physical products. Selling physical books, of course, requires printing and shipping costs. Even if the book is being sold in a store instead of online, it still has to be shipped from the publisher to the store. Every book you sell will have a certain cost to produce, and that ultimately reduces the profit made from each sale.
E-books can be produced with very little financial investment. In fact, if you wanted to, you could use nothing more than a word processor and save it as a PDF (the free Open Office word processor can do this easily). For a more professional look you may pay to have cover designed and/or to have the layout designed, but these costs are very minimal compared to the cost associated with printing a physical book. And what’s even better, once your e-book or info product has been created there are no additional costs to produce more copies to sell. You can sell that one digital file thousands of times and offer it as a download to all of those customers. With a physical book, when you run out of copies you’ll need to pay for another printing run.
Digital files also have a very low cost of delivery. You may have some costs for bandwidth as customers download the file, but this is usually a very small amount per sale. Most e-commerce systems (I’ll recommend a few shortly) will handle the secure digital delivery for you.
Even if you are charging customers for the cost of delivering a physical product, ultimately it can impact the amount that you are charging for the product. This is not an issue with digital files.
If you have some success selling info products, you can always create additional products and keep the revenue flowing. In fact, you’ll have a list of customers who purchased your first product, and if future products are related you can email this customer list to make some easy sales.
Easy to Set up E-commerce
The thought of selling products or setting up the e-commerce system can be really intimidating to many bloggers, and with good reason. E-commerce websites can be quite complicated and expensive to have developed, but for a blog that is only selling a few different digital products it can actually be quite simple.
With digital products you won’t have to worry about calculating shipping charges based on the specific items ordered or the location of the buyer. You won’t have to worry about integrating the website with your inventory to know when products are running low because this isn’t an issue with digital files. You don’t need a complicated system that can handle hundreds or thousands of different products.
Later in this chapter I’ll provide some recommendations for e-commerce platforms.
Cons of Selling Info Products
Requires a Lot of Work
The biggest downside to selling info products is the amount of time and work that it takes to create them. While it may not cost you much in money, it will cost you in time. Of course, the high income potential justifies the effort for many bloggers, but if you’re dealing with a very limited amount of time available, creating info products may require more time than you have available. In this case you could explore the possibility of selling lower-cost premium content that is not as long or detailed as an e-book or course.
No Guarantee of Sales or Profit
Spending a lot of time creating a product is ok if it winds up making you a decent amount of money, but there is no guarantee that your efforts will pay off. It’s possible that you would wind up spending a huge amount of time creating a product that doesn’t sell. I’ll provide some tips at the end of this chapter that can help to prevent this from happening.
You Need to be an Expert if You are Charging
Anyone can publish a blog. You don’t need to be an expert to put your own thoughts out there for people to read for free. However, in order to be successful with info product sales you really will need to be an expert on whatever topic you are covering, otherwise the quality simply won’t be there.
If you’re blogging in an industry or niche that you are still learning, info products may not be the best fit at this stage. Affiliate products would probably be a better fit until you feel comfortable with your level of expertise to produce your own info product.
You’ll be Competing with Free Content
There is so much information and content available online for free that it can create some competition for your info products. This depends on the topic that you are covering, and it’s possible that your specific topic isn’t widely covered in content that is available for free.
If your topic does already have a lot of free content available, you’ll need to be able to produce something that provides the buyer with much better quality or more convenience than they could get for free. While there are plenty of free articles available online on many topics, the organization of similar content in an e-book or a course can sometimes justify the price tag on its own. Some buyers would rather pay for an e-book or product than spend countless hours trying to find similar content that may be available for free out there somewhere.
Can Sometimes Create Confusion Over Free vs. Paid Content
Free, high-quality content is the backbone of any authority blog. So if you are publishing a high quality of blog posts for free and you are also selling info products, how do you determine what information to give away for free and what to use for your products?
While this can sometimes create a tricky situation for bloggers, it’s certainly a challenge that can be overcome. In general, most bloggers that sell their own info products will reserve the most in-depth content for the products that they sell, while the blog posts cover related topics in less depth.
Tips for Selling Info Products
After reading the pros and cons of selling info products you may have noticed that the pros are more significant than the cons (at least, in my opinion). I feel that most authority bloggers should produce their own products or at least be working towards that part of the plan in the future. Personally, this is something I wish I had done much earlier rather than relying mostly on advertising and AdSense for a few years.
Here are some tips from my own experience that will help you to have more success with your own info products.
Survey Readers to Gauge Interest
If you’re not sure what topics to cover with your own info products what better way to find out than from your blog readers? You can add a poll or a survey to gauge interest in a few different topics, or ask readers to leave a comment with their own suggestions.
By doing this you can find out what topics have the most interest from your audience, and chances are, the product will sell better than one that doesn’t have as much interest from your blog readers.
Take the Time to Find the Right E-commerce System
Finding the right system to process sales and handle delivery of the digital files is key to success with selling info products. E-commerce can be very frustrating and challenging with the wrong system, or it can be an afterthought with the right system.
If you’re selling info products from your blog you’ll most likely have somewhere from 1 – 10 different products available. In this situation you’ll have some really easy and inexpensive options for setting it up. You won’t need an advanced e-commerce platform that is capable of powering large online shops. In fact, a system like that will take more of your time, frustrate you more with getting it set up, and it will likely cost much more than you need to spend.
You could simply use PayPal and it’s built in “buy now” or “add-to-cart” buttons, but this approach often falls short in terms of delivering the product to the customer. With digital product sales customers expect an easy transaction and the ability to download or access the product immediately. The default process with PayPal isn’t as smooth as with some other systems (although many of them still use PayPal to process the payment) and so I recommend using something else.
Personally, I have had good experience with E-Junkie. The costs are low, it has all the features you’ll need for a small shop, and it’s easy to implement. With E-Junkie’s current pricing (at the time of publishing) you can sell up to 10 different products for just $5 per month. There are no limits to how many times you can sell each product and no charges per sale (although you will have charges from PayPal or a payment gateway for processing payments).
All you have to do is give your product a title, set the price, enter a few other details, upload the product, and E-Junkie will give you the code for an “add-to-cart” button that you can cut and paste into your blog. When visitors click on the button it will open a shopping cart page and they can proceed with the payment.
E-Junkie integrates with a basic PayPal account for payment processing, or you can choose another payment processor if you prefer. After they make the purchase E-Junkie will provide the customer with a secure download link and it will also email that link to them. It even comes with the functionality for coupon codes, an affiliate program, reporting, and more. It’s a good solution for small online shops that don’t need an expensive, advanced solution to handle tons of products. For more, see Get Started with E-Junkie for E-Commerce.
Other options that are similar to E-Junkie are SendOwl and DPD. They both have many of the same features, comparable pricing, and a better user interface than E-Junkie. I have used both SendOwl and DPD, although I have less experience with them than I do with E-Junkie. Personally, I prefer either SendOwl or DPD over E-Junkie because of the user interface. For more information on these systems please see Getting Started with SendOwl for E-Commerce and Getting Started with DPD for E-Commerce.
There are also a number of WordPress plugins, some free and some that you would have to pay for, that can handle the sale of digital products, including WP e-Commerce, Jigoshop, Cart66, Shopp, and WooCommerce. Easy Digitial Downloads is a free plugin that is made specifically for selling digital products.
Another popular option for e-books and info products is to use Clickbank to process sales. Clickbank comes with a built-in affiliate program and a huge network of affiliates.
If you are going to be selling your own products, take a look at your different options and see which features are essential to your plan for marketing the product. For most bloggers ease of use is a big one, and this is one of the reasons I like SendOwl and DPD. I had tried a few WordPress plugins and some other options, but they were all more complicated than I wanted. With SendOwl and DPD I had everything set up in about 5 or 10 minutes.
Expand it with an Affiliate Program
In order to really boost your revenue with info product sales you should set up an affiliate program. Some of your e-commerce options (including E-Junkie, DPD, SendOwl, and Clickbank) have built-in functionality to power your own affiliate program. With other e-commerce platforms you may need a separate program to track affiliate sales.
For digital products you can typically afford to offer a high percentage (usually somewhere between 25% and 75%) to your affiliates, which will obviously provide them with greater incentive to promote your product.
I recommend setting up a page on your blog where people can sign up for your affiliate program, and of course you’ll want to list the percentage of revenue that affiliates will be paid. You can also use this page to list some reasons why people would want to promote your products, or some suggestions about how people can go about promoting the product. You can also provide things like banner graphics that affiliates can use on their own sites (I recommend using a service like RightBanners to design professional looking banners. The costs are very reasonable and they’ll help to produce more sales.)
Since you have the blog’s audience at your disposal you can also publish a post to announce the affiliate program opportunity or to explain how people can go about using the affiliate program. There’s a great example of this at ProBlogger. Darren Rowse wrote How to Get Affiliate Code from E-Junkie to Promote Our E-Books. This post walks readers through the process of signing up for the affiliate program and creating the affiliate links to use on their own blogs and websites, and I’m sure it increased the number of affiliate sales as a result.
Actively Recruit Affiliates
In addition to providing information on your blog for those who want to sign up for your affiliate program, you should also make an effort to recruit some affiliates who have the potential to make a lot of sales. If you’ve been building your own audience as an authority blogger for any length of time you no doubt have some connections to other bloggers in the industry or niche. These are great people to approach because they likely have a strong influence and they’re hopefully already familiar with you and the quality of your work.
When you proactively approach people about joining your affiliate program it is sometimes best to offer something that you’re not offering the general public. In most cases this would be a higher percentage per sale. If you’re offering 50% commission to all affiliates, you might want to offer 60-75% to people that you are approaching (and mention that this is a special commission for them). You should also give them a free copy of your product so they can review it and hopefully give a positive recommendation.
In addition to recruiting other bloggers, you should also look for people who run mailing lists or newsletters that would reach your target audience. This can be extremely effective for making sales.
One problem or challenge with this approach is that influential bloggers and newsletter owners are contacted all the time about promoting affiliate programs. There are a few things you can do to increase your chances of getting them to promote your product instead of somebody else’s product.
First, start with your warm contacts, people in your network that know you. You’ll always have a better chance with these people than with cold contacts.
Second, create a high-quality product that looks professional. This involves the quality of the content itself and also the “packaging”. If it’s an e-book, get the cover designed by a professional.
Third, have a landing page that coverts well. If affiliates feel that your page will do a good job of converting visitors into buyers they will be more likely to promote your product.
Fourth, contact the right people. Take the time to evaluate the audience of a blog, website, or mailing list to make sure it is a good fit for your product before contacting them.
Fifth, keep your contact brief and get to the point. The longer your email is the more likely they will delete it without reading the whole thing. Remember that you are contacting people who are very busy and they get lots of similar offers.
Sixth, make them a great offer. Give them a percentage that they can’t turn down, or find some other way to give them more incentive. Since you have a blog of your own you could even offer some sort of exchange. If they have a product that you believe in you could cross promote each other’s products on your blogs, and you both win. Or if they don’t sell any products you could providedthem with a guest post, share some of their posts on your social media profiles, link to them in an upcoming post, or any number of things.
Invest in a Cover Design
I mentioned that you should hire a professional to design a cover for your ebook (this would also apply for courses, videos, and most other info products). This will obviously cost some money, but it doesn’t have to be a fortune. You can post a job listing on a site like Elance, Guru, or oDesk and you’ll get plenty of bids. Check the portfolios of those that place a bid within your budget and select the best one. You can get an e-book cover for $100 or less in most cases. This may sound like a lot if your blog isn’t bring in much money yet, but the cover design can have a really big impact on sales so it is well worth the money.
Even a product with quality content will have an amateurish appearance with a poorly-designed cover. You don’t want to blow the chance at sales simply from the appearance.
Selling info products is easier when you have testimonials shown on the sales page. If possible, distribute some copies of your product prior to launch so you’ll have the chance to get some testimonials from those people in time to display as soon as you start selling the product.
The testimonials can be most effective when the person giving the testimonial is well-known, trusted, or respected by potential customers. In a previous point I mentioned that you should reach out to other bloggers in your niche about promoting the product as an affiliate. You can also ask those people about the possibility of providing a testimonial if they feel that your product is worthy of their recommendation. Most people who are going to promote it as an affiliate will also be willing to give a testimonial, assuming they have had the opportunity to review the product themselves.
Getting testimonials or recommendations from influential people isn’t always easy. However, most bloggers don’t start creating and selling their own products for at least a few months, if not longer, after launching their blog. So by the time you are ready to start gathering testimonials for your product you should have some connections with other bloggers that have been developed through your networking efforts.
Testimonials are often more powerful when a photo of the person giving the testimonial is included. It helps to make the recommendation more personal and something that visitors are able to relate to. In most cases the best testimonials are brief, usually just a couple of sentences, If you have someone who is willing to give a more detailed experience about how they have been helped by your product you could consider turning it into a case study with more detailed information about their specific results with the product. You’ll want to include testimonials on your sales page, but a more in-depth case study could be posted on your blog, in an email newsletter, or just on a separate page of your website.
Build Up to the Launch
When most bloggers release a product for sale they simply create a blog post to give information about the product and they make it available for purchase. While this can certainly result in sales, the period of time leading up to the release, or launch, of the product can be used to build anticipation and interest.
This is another topic that could be covered in much greater depth on it’s own, and a number of products have been created to teach specific strategies and approaches for launches. I’ll only be able to cover the basics here, but just starting with the basics can help to make a big impact and significantly more sales.
- Drop Hints
I’ve already covered a few items that are important for the pre-launch, including gathering testimonials, sending out review copies to bloggers or other influential people, and lining up some affiliates to promote the product. You can also help to build up to the launch of the product by dropping hints of an exciting new product on your blog and/or social media profiles. Your loyal readers will be intrigued and curious, and they’ll look forward to finding out more details about your product. You could even publish a series of posts on your blog on the same topic that builds up interest or that establishes the need for your product.
- Free Reports
A similar approach is to write and release a free report or a brief e-book that leads up to your product. For example, if I were to develop a product that provided detailed, in-depth information about how to make money with AdSense, I could first release a special report that provided information about how to get started with AdSense and basic techniques. The free information would hopefully attract attention and some of those people who want more specific information and some more advanced techniques would be interested in purchasing the full product. This typically works best when the free product is released prior to the full product being for sale. For example, you could release your free product and take a few weeks to get some coverage on other blogs and social media about the free product. You could ask for people to sign up for an email list to get the freebie, and then about a month later after you’ve gathered a lot of email address you can send out an announcement about the launch of the full product.
Some bloggers choose to accept pre-orders before their product launch, and this is something that you may want to consider. In some cases, pre-orders can even help you by bringing in some money that can be re-invested to promote the product further. For example, if you have an e-book that you are going to sell for $29, you could set up a special offer for your newsletter subscribers who want to pre-order the e-book at a special price of just $19 prior to launch. You could then use the money that you generate from pre-orders for advertising or promotion the day of launch. Advertising isn’t always necessary with the right approach, especially if you have a strong base of affiliates promoting the product for you, but in some cases it could help.
- Prepare Guest Posts
The launch day and the next couple of days can be huge for determining the success of your product. One thing that can help to spread the word quickly is to write guest posts to be published at other blogs on your launch day. A lot of blogs won’t be interested in publishing an announcement about your product, but they may be very interested in publishing a guest post from you about some related topic, and you can mention the product launch in the author bio. If you can get several guest posts published on launch day at different influential blogs in your niche, plenty of people will be exposed to your product right away. In order to make this happen you’ll need to plan ahead because many bloggers schedule their content in advance. You can’t submit a guest post 2 days before your product launch and expect it to be published at an influential blog. But if you plan a few weeks, or even a few months, in advance you can pick the launch day and contact bloggers about having your guest post published on that specific day.
- Set Up Giveaways
Another way to get exposure for your product on launch day is to reach out to other bloggers in your niche prior to your launch and ask if they would be interested in giving away a copy of your product to a few of their readers. You could set up the contest to have people tweet a link to your product to enter the giveaway, or whatever approach you want to use. While you’ll be giving away a few copies this way, the extra exposure that you’re getting will be well worth the effort and the freebies.
- Test Your Sales Process
This is a very important step that some people forget about. It’s always a good practice to thoroughly test your sales process prior to launch. Go through a few test purchases to make sure that people are able to pay for your product, and make sure that the delivery of the digital product is working ok. The last thing you want is to promote a product aggressively on launch day only to find out that there is a problem with your sales process and people are unable to complete the purchase.
Format for Kindle
If your product is an e-book you can open up your market and reach the most potential buyers by offering it in all of the most popular formats. Traditionally, most e-books have been sold in PDF format, but with the popularity of tablets and e-readers some other formats can also help you to reach more potential buyers. Currently, Kindle is the most popular. You can get information about formatting for Kindle. You may also want to consider hiring someone on Elance, Guru, or oDesk to do the formatting for you, as this can be done for relatively low prices compared to the amount of time that it may take you.
Update the Product if Needed
Although the launch period is important for maximizing sales, the goal with most products is to bring in money over a longer period of time than just the first few days. If you can have a product that makes sales for a few years it will add up to a hugely successful product that was well worth the time to develop and create the product. One of the keys to having a product that sells for an extended period of time is to keep it fresh and up-to-date.
In some cases you may be creating a product that includes content that can become outdated pretty quickly. For example, if you’re developing a course that teaches people how to market themselves through social media, the details covered can become outdated pretty quickly if they are not updated. You may want to update the product a couple of times per year to add information as needed and to be sure the content that is still relevant.
When your product is updated it will obviously be more useful to buyers, but it also gives you the chance to promote the product again. Staying with the previous example, after making the updates you could post an announcement on your blog and send out an email to your list to mention the updates that have been made to the social media course. Mention the specific info that has been added, such as details about how to use a new site that has recently become popular, or how to adjust your Facebook profile after the recent changes that Facebook inevitably makes on a regular basis. This will help to show people that your product is still relevant, and it will even introduce the product to some new people who weren’t even aware that it existed.
Expand and Upsell
While creating your own products is one of the best ways to make money as a blogger, you’re not likely to be able to create one product and then sit back and watch the money flow in forever. Most bloggers who are successful with product sales continue to create new products.
After your first product you’ll be in a better position for success with future products. You will have learned some valuable lessons about what works for selling to your particular audience, as well as a lot about marketing a product in general. Just as important, you’ll also have a list of buyers who have already purchased from you. If your second product covers a related topic you can email your past customers, and these people will probably be the most responsive audience anywhere since you have already sold to them. As you build your customer list, each successive product release will have a greater chance for success.
In addition to just adding new products you can also create products and offers for an upsell. For example, say you are selling an e-book that teaches real estate agents how to get more clients and make more sales. The book might sell for $29, but you could also offer access to a membership website for customers who want even more information and access to members-only resources. After a customer completes the purchase of the e-book you can direct them to a page that makes a limited-time offer for access to the membership site. You could offer access for $99 for one year.
Upsells can be an extremely effective way to exponentially increase your income. You’ll be presenting the second offer only to those people who have already taken the step to purchase your product, so you know they are highly-targeted and qualified for your second offer. While they are in the mindset of buying and while they are interested in what you are offering you can have the most success with converting sales.
Upsells can also work by combing products and services. With the previous example of an e-book for real estate agents, instead of having a membership website as the upsell you could instead offer a one-hour phone consultation to help them develop a marketing plan.
Upsells can be done with just about any product in any niche or industry. The examples here are just a few simple examples, but the possibilities are endless. The idea is simply that if you have something more to offer your buyers, many of them will be interested.
Conclusion on Product Sales
As I mentioned earlier, selling products is one of my favorite ways to make money with a blog. It’s not for everyone because it does take a lot of time and there is some risk that you won’t get a payoff that justifies the time you spent on the product. But for those who are willing to invest some time and effort into their blogging growth, product creation can be a great choice. I only wish I had done it earlier.