Should You Create A Product?

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Great question! I’ll work off the premise that by “product” you’re referring to anything from writing a book to creating a live or self-study training class.

Products can be a great way to sell to different price-points; if clients resist paying $400 – $1,000 a month for private one-on-one sessions with you, they might join a group or buy a book. Products are also a way to honor people’s chosen learning style. Some people prefer self-study; others prefer classes, while others prefer one-on-one mentoring.

Should you create product?

My response would be, “It depends on your business model, vision, and strategy.”

  1. If your business model is to have a multi-tiered business where you offer multiple services and products, then yes, go ahead and create product. Make sure your financial plan and marketing plan is in place, make sure you have the support of a VA or administrative assistant if necessary, and then go for it.
  2. If your business strategy is to position yourself as an expert in a certain niche, then yes, go ahead and create product.
  3. If the vision for your business is to stay compact and focused, if the strategy is to reach people on an individual basis, then a product may be a distraction to the thing you’re actually selling: your personal service.

Small business owners shouldn’t create product just to create product — there should be a business reason for initiating the product creation cycle and a business reason for creating a particular product at a particular time.

I’ve seen too many small business owners create product which has no natural tie-in to their core marketing efforts to their primary target market. It’s like they’re launching a secondary business which needs its own marketing to capture its own audience. That’s a lot of work.

For instance, in the National Speakers Association, members are highly encouraged to create product, but with one strategy in mind: that you can sell that product to the audience after giving a speech. You literally sell books in the back of the room, or promote our next webinar series from the podium. Your marketing efforts are focused solely on getting speeches; the selling of the product happens naturally following the speech.

The small business owner needs to ask:

  • Why am I creating this product?
  • Do I have the bandwidth and money to create and support this product?
  • Do I have a natural avenue to an audience to sell my product?
  • And if not, how will I reach that new audience?

Creating products opens up a lot of marketing questions and marketing work, along with the time it takes to create and test the product. (Of course, you can always hire someone to create the product for you, but that’s another story.) My opinion is that a new small business owner, or a really busy small business owner, should consider carefully whether he/she has the bandwidth in time and money to begin creating and selling product in conjunction with their core business.

But if you have a good business reason to do it, and the time and money to invest in it, then go for it! Creating products is great fun and a wonderful learning experience.

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning

Taking an Entire Month to Create Products

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Do you ever have that disturbing feeling that trying to squeeze one more minute out of your day will render you senseless?

Like you, I struggle with finding time to write books, create new classes, and put together new information products and programs. I have a burning desire to create these things; I think about them and plan for them constantly. I guess it must be the “teacher” in me — I want to share what I’ve learned with other small business owners.

Each year our mastermind group meets in person for a live Mastermind Retreat Weekend. A few years ago, I came to the Retreat with just one burning question: How can I take a month off of work to write an updated version of a book and create a new class?

It seems an insurmountable dream and challenge. I hadn’t had a full month off work or school since I’d been in college (oh so many years ago!). A whole month off with only 2 projects to work on? Woohoo!

My mastermind group helped me to plan out a strategy for taking the month of August away from my business:

1. Figure out how much money you need to save so that you can cover your August business and personal expenses.

2. Figure out if you’d still work with existing clients, or ask them to halt work with you during August. I decided that I would work with existing clients, but not take on any new ones for August.

3. Figure out how to schedule your month off for maximum enjoyment and relaxation, and maximum productivity. After all, I was taking the month off to get 2 big projects finished. I decided to run my mastermind groups just a few days out of the month, and work on projects the rest of the time. I’d take Friday’s off work completely so that I’d have a month’s worth of 3-day weekends to relax (especially as I’d be working really, really hard during the other four days creating my class and book). I’d schedule time with family and friends during August for outings and visits, as well as some “me time” to walk in the woods or go to the beach and be in solitude.

4. Ask for support. I told my husband and my mastermind group I was going to take the month of August off; they loved the idea! I’ve also told my students and members that my hours would be limited in August, that I’d still be there to support them but that they might not get 24-hour turnaround to emails or phone calls. And then I told the world!

5. Stay present. This was a tough one for me, staying present and aware during the month of August. I paid attention to two things: how I used my time, and whether I was creating the balance between work and relaxation that I was seeking.

It was a great adventure and I’m looking forward to doing it again!

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning
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Are Ebooks and Downloadable MP3s a Good Strategy for Information Product Marketing?

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The other day I bought an e-book (a book in PDF format) for $28. It’s a great book full of the information I was seeking. I could tell that the author really put a lot of thought and research into the writing of the book. I was so impressed, I told a friend about the e-book. He said, “Why don’t you email it to me?”

According to a study conducted by Digital Life America, “Only 40% believe downloading copyrighted movies off the Internet [without paying for them] is a ‘very serious offense’ – compared to the 78% who believe taking a DVD from a store without paying is a ‘very serious offense’.”

Somehow we’ve begun to believe that stealing a physical product is wrong, but downloading or sharing an electronic file without paying is okay.

People’s reasoning usually goes something like this: “The person who created the book/DVD/CD didn’t lose out on anything because the file didn’t cost them anything to produce and package.” People understand that printing a book, or duplicating and packaging CDs and DVDs cost money, but have the idea that making an electronic file doesn’t cost the author anything.

Let me tell you about my wholly-biased point of view: I just spent 20 hours editing a five-hour audio program on Internet Marketing, and another 12 hours writing the student guide that will accompany it. But that’s not all. It took me over 20 hours to design the class, 5 hours to teach and record the class, and another 8 hours to prep for each class session and help the students with their homework assignments. I have no idea how long it took me to research all the material for the class, as I’ve been studying the topic for over 10 years now. At a minimum, it took me 65 hours to create this audio product.

I typically charge $165 per hour for my coaching and consulting time. Since I had to spend 65 hours of my time to create the audio program, that $10,725 in billable consulting time that I could not give to my clients.

My mastermind group and I have been debating the pros and cons of selling this audio program as a downloadable file versus creating a physical product (5 CDs plus a 56-page printed book):

  • The cost to duplicate the CDs, print the book, package the set, and ship them out to customers is quite high per set.
  • Some people seem to enjoy being able to have instant access to self-study material they purchase on the Internet (though, according to MarketingSherpa, a surprising number of people never do open or read e-books they purchase).
  • Taking the risk of someone purchasing my downloadable MP3 audio and PDF book, then sharing those files with others, creates the possibility of my losing an extreme amount of money.

Lest you think I’m paranoid, let me offer you this statistic from my own website:

In 2006, I offered a free e-book and audio to people, but only if they registered for it. Over 700 people registered for it. But the files were downloaded a whopping 3,682 times. This is only for the number of people who went to my site to download the files; there’s no telling how many people emailed the files to their friends as an attachment.

Eventually I took the free offer off my site, completely disheartened and disillusioned by the number of people who would happily give the direct file-downloading URL to a friend, instead of the URL asking them to register.

Now I’m trying to decide whether to make my upcoming products downloadable, or go the physical products route. I’d love to know which one you’d prefer and what your thoughts are on file sharing.

What’s your opinion? I want to hear your thoughts! Take my survey here:

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Category: Running a Strong & Efficient Business
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