Note: this is Part One in a 4-part series called “How to Launch Your Own Profitable Info Product in 60 Days”
So you’ve decided that you want to get into this “make money online” thing in a big way. What’s your first step?
Whoa! Hold on, Tiger! Sometimes it’s best to learn what to do by first learning what NOT to do. Let’s take a second to cover the most common mistakes I see newbies making.
How NOT to Start An Online Business: 3 Flawed (and Common) Approaches
I get a lot of emails from people who are new to internet marketing. Here’s what many of them have told me was their first step in making money online:
(1) Set up a website, then wait for the traffic and sales.
(It never comes.)
(2) Pay for some traffic, and “direct link” to merchant offers.
(A good way to lose $1,000 in two days.)
(3) Buy lots of IM courses.
(Then never implement, and expect cash to shower down on them.)
Okay, I’m being a little harsh 😉
I too fell into all of the above traps when I first got into the IM scene.
It was only after two years of wasting money and spinning my wheels that I got sensible, and started following a simple, ages-old METHOD for making money – whether it be offline or online.
Three Timeless Steps for Making Money Online (or Offline, For That Matter)
Consider this novel approach to making money online:
(1) Choose a market (either based on a need, or a demographic group)
(2) Find out what that market desperately needs, but can’t find
(3) Find a way to get that market what they desperately need
That simple 3-step process is the basis of my (successful and profitable) online business. And it’s been validated from time immemorial by offline businesses and – more recently – by online businesses.
As some of you know, I focus on the health needs of middle-aged men, many of whom are overweight – and I’m able to generate a full-time income by selling information products to a tiny sliver of the markets I’m in (in huge markets, a tiny sliver is all you need to make a nice living).
A couple of weeks ago I launched a new information product that consists of online videos and a PDF manual. I did a “soft” launch of this product – in other words, I didn’t recruit affiliates or joint venture partners to help me promote it, and I didn’t do a big pay-per-click advertising buy. I simply sent out a few emails to my list, announcing the new product, and encouraging my subscribers to take a look at it.
Here are my earnings for that week:
(Note: In an upcoming post on email marketing, I’ll be explaining the types of emails I sent out to my list during this soft launch.)
The sales in the above screenshot were made solely to one of my lists. I generated the sales by sending a few emails that took me about 10 minutes (each) to write.
Such is the power of KNOWING YOUR MARKET.
The reason I was able to get a high conversion rate on my emails was NOT because I clubbed my email subscribers over the head to buy the product. It was because I offered them a product that I knew they already wanted.
- A product that they’ve been looking for, but haven’t been able to find.
- A product that fits their needs and aspirations like a well-tailored glove (think of that white, diamond-encrusted glove the Michael Jackson used to where).
And what’s more, because I have a strong understanding of my target market, I know what language they use when talking about their health problems – the names of products they use, their complaints with those products, the side effects that are caused by their particular health problem, and on and on.
I was able to use that language on my sales page to increase the conversion rate.
I’ve said it many times before on this blog, and I’ll take a second to beat that dead horse one more time: knowledge of the wants, needs, aspirations, desires, and pain points of your market is the single biggest determinant of your success in business.
Deep knowledge of your target market allows you to:
- Know exactly what affiliate products to offer to your market
- Know exactly what products or services your market is looking for, so you can create those products or services yourself
- Get a high conversion rate on your sales pages (even if your sales pages look like they were designed by a donkey with mental health issues – like mine do 😉
- Develop a great relationship with your target market (because you know them so well, and can empathize with their problems)
- Build a sustainable online business that will last for years (not a bunch of fly-by-night sites wobbling on a shaky foundation of evanescent affiliate offers).
(Side note: ever since the rise of the music band Evanescence, I’ve been dying to use the word “evanescent” in a blog post. Call me a nerd, but I’ll be tickin’ that one off the to-do list.)
Hopefully by this point I’ve planted a deep seed inside your brain – a seed that will grow into deep knowledge of your target market.
“But where’s the time to gain this deep knowledge?” I hear you saying. “How can I get a good handle on my market’s needs as quickly as possible?”
I’m not going to try to dupe you here. Developing that knowledge takes time and effort. But there are a handful of techniques you can use to accelerate the process. These techniques are especially useful if you’re exploring a few different markets before deciding which one to focus on.
Let’s jump in!
5 Ways to Crawl Inside Your Market’s Brain – Quickly
If you’re starting an online business from zero, you’re probably in one of two situations:
(1) You already have knowledge of a market (you might even be an expert).
If you have several years’ experience in a market (maybe from your job or business, or from your hobbies), you already have a jumpstart on others who are trying to get into the market.
But how do you translate that experience into market intelligence?
First off, PLEASE don’t start by thinking that your problems are shared by everyone, or that your preferred solution is the preferred solution of lots of other people.
There are many a failed business that started when the owner thought, “Gee, my hair has been falling out lighting-fast lately. I’ll bet everyone else’s is, too. And I just KNOW they’ll love my premature baldness solution!”
Extreme example? Okay, I’ll give you that. But check out these outrageous examples of businesses that failed based on the “assumptions” of their owners.
Here are three ways that you can avoid bias and quickly confirm the needs of a market that you’re already familiar with:
(a) Email your list (or the list of a colleague).
If you already have a website and/or blog focused on your industry, you might already have an email list of prospects (and if you have a website and aren’t collecting email addresses, what’s wrong with you!?). Or if you don’t have an email list, you might have a colleague who does.
I’ve been building email lists in health niches for several years now, and one of the key ways I stay on top of my market’s needs is to send out periodic email surveys. It’s a great way to quickly and easily figure out the problems that your market is having NOW.
What exactly should you ask your subscribers in an email survey? Here’s the absolute best question to ask your list:
“What’s your single most important question about ___?”
If you can ask your list only one question, make it that one. This question alone has allowed me to create information products that have resulted in tens of thousands of dollars in sales.
The beauty of that question is that it focuses the reader’s mind on a single thing – the thing that most bothers them, that keeps them awake at night.
(b) Talk with people in associations that you belong to.
If you don’t have an email list (or a friend’s list) that you can survey, you most likely belong to an association or group that you can use to gather market intelligence.
The kind of associations I’m talking about are groups that are focused on a particular occupation, hobby, or demographic group. Here are some examples:Occupational association: American Association of Occupational Health Nurses Hobby association: International Model Power Boat Association Demographic association: AARP (Association for the Advancement of Retired Persons)
Regardless of the type of job you have or the hobbies you pursue, there’s probably an association or industry group that you belong to, or could join to gather some market intelligence. Some of these associations have online chat groups that are only open to members, or (if they’re a tad old-fashioned) an email “listserv”, which is basically an email list that members can opt in to. These can be great sources of market intelligence, allowing you to find out what gaps exist in the market.
The thing about associations is that they often attract people who are passionate about and/or committed to a particular niche. This means they’re likely to spend considerable amounts of money on that niche.
One great example of an association is AARP (formerly known as the Association for the Advancement of Retired Persons). The AARP website has dozens of forums (called “groups”), with topics ranging from politics to dating. And some of the forums have thousands of members. If I was interested in creating an online business that catered to the needs of seniors, I’d become an AARP member and head straight to the forums.
Here are a couple of association lists to get you started:
If you’re having trouble thinking of niches to focus on, use the lists above to brainstorm a few niches you’d like to investigate further.
(c) Survey your colleagues or clients.
Related to the previous two points, gathering data from people you already work with can be a quick way to zero in on the needs of a niche.
Tell your colleagues that you’re planning to start a blog about a particular topic in your industry, and ask them fill out a 2-minute questionnaire to help you brainstorm some ideas for articles.
Okay, so what if your only pastime in the past ten years has been watching reality TV shows, and you therefore don’t know anything about anything (except dry eyeballs)? Let’s explore some options…
(2) You’re a “jack of all trades, but a master of none”
In my free report I talk about two ways of doing market research: the “Private Investigator” approach and the “Survey Researcher” approach (in my Niche Sherpa Video Coaching Course I cover step-by-step how to follow these two approaches to discover exactly what your market is looking for.)
Before getting into this approach, I want to encourage you to really think about the previous paragraphs of this post. Everyone is knowledgeable about something, so while you might not consider yourself an expert in anything, there’s probably at least one topic that you know more about than most people. (After all, check out the mega bucks that a micro-niche like Angry Birds is generating.)
Regardless, if you wrack your brains and just can’t think of a niche or topic that you’re expert in, here are some steps to follow to first choose a niche, then rapidly get into the mind of the market:
(a) Start by selecting one or two niches that you’d like to serve. The niche can be based either on a demographic (for example, the niche audience I serve – overweight, middle-aged men), or it could be based on a niche topic (for example, back pain).
I’m not going to get into the details of choosing a niche here, because I’ve done that elsewhere on this blog. If you need guidance on this topic, check out these posts:
(b) Do your market research by choosing from the tactics I mentioned earlier on this post, and/or use the following proven approaches that have worked for me.
In my free report I talk about two ways of doing market research: the “Private Investigator” approach and the “Survey Researcher” approach (in my Niche Sherpa Video Coaching Course I show, step-by-step, how to follow these two approaches to discover exactly what your market is looking for.)
In a nutshell, with the Private Investigator approach you “go where the fish are”, by using free online resources such as forums and Q & A sites to develop an inventory of your niche’s problems. The Survey Researcher approach, on the other hand, involves doing online surveys to drill down to your niche’s needs.
Both of these market research methods are powerful ways to quickly get inside the head of your niche or target audience.
Here’s a concrete example of how I’ve used the Private Investigator method to create an ebook that I sell for $17 and still makes me cash on autopilot today:
The very first site I created (about 4 years ago) was focused on home improvements and the utility rebates that consumers can get for making energy-efficient improvements to their home (e.g. putting in new windows; upgrading to a more efficient furnace, etc).
This was my first experiment with putting up an “authority site” – in other words, a site that has lots of original, high-quality content that becomes the go-to site in its niche. My idea was to put ads on every page, earn millions of dollars per month, and buy Fantasy Island from Ricardo Montalbán.
Well, things didn’t quite work out how I planned – and I never did get the chance to meet Tattoo.
Traffic came slowly to my site, and advertising revenue even slower, so I decided to find a way to sell something to the few visitors who straggled onto the site every day. The problem was, I didn’t have enough visitors coming to the site to do an on-site survey, so I needed another way of finding out what home improvement-types were interested in.
So I followed the Private Investigator method to get inside the minds of do-it-yourself home renovators. Here’s exactly what I did:
(1) First, I identified the most popular home renovation sites in Canada (which is where I live). Focusing on Canadian reno sites was important, because the rebates described on my site only apply to Canadian homeowners.
(2) Then I spent a bit of time looking at the activity levels and “friendliness” of the forums (i.e. did they seem welcoming of newcomers to the forum? Of people who had little renovation knowledge?).
(3) After I selected a few forums that seemed like they’d tolerate my ignorance, I posted a basic question: what questions did members have related to rebates for home improvements?
This simple question generated a surprising amount of insight into what information home renovators had related to rebates. Here are some of themes that consistently emerged from the questions and comments on the forums, in response to my question:
- What types of rebates are available from the Canadian government?
- What specific home renovations get the highest rebates?
- What can I do to ensure I get the most rebate money back from the government?
Once I analyzed the responses, developing an ebook was easy. My target audience had told me exactly what they were looking for in an ebook on home reno rebates, so all I had to do was find the answers.
This is exactly the approach I’ve used to create information products with higher price tags since that original $17 ebook. And here’s the beauty of internet marketing: once you’ve done the market research and created your product, you can set up your website so sales are processed automatically. That’s the “make money in your sleep” angle of IM that appeals to so many people (I’ll bet you’re one of them. I sure am!)
If you want to avoid being one of the 95% of businesses that fail in their initial years in business, build your business on a solid foundation of MARKET INSIGHT.
Choose a niche, then find out exactly what your niche is looking for BEFORE you pour a lot of time, money, and effort into building an online business.
There are so many under-served niches on the internet these days that it boggles the mind. And why are they underserved? Because business owners insist on offering products and services that they THINK their target audience wants, not what the audience is actually looking for!
Take the time to understand your niche, and you’ll never be short of ideas for products and services to offer your audience – offers that they’ll gladly pay you for.
Next up in this series: how to develop products that satisfy desperate needs
And Now My Offer to You: Create Your Own Info Product in the Next 60 Days
If you’re interested in creating your own profitable information product in the next 60 days, I’ve got a couple of options for you!
– If you’re a newbie, my Niche Sherpa Video Coaching Course takes you step-by-step through the process of finding your own profitable niche. The Course contains dozens of instructional videos, a PDF manual, an online community, and more.
I’ve just re-opened the Course for new students. You can try it out for 2 weeks for only $4.95 here.
– If you’re more “seasoned” (should I say, “mature”?), consider my new one-on-one coaching program. This program could consist of regular telephone/Skype conversations, email conversations, individual homework assignments – whatever we decide will give your business the boost it needs.
At the risk of tooting my own horn, the telephone consultations I’ve done in the past have gone over really well with students. Many people have said that the targeted suggestions I’ve made have really accelerated their business.
I’ve personally paid for one-on-one consultations with experts, and they’ve really made a difference in my business. I’m confident my coaching program would do the same for yours. Click here to see if it’s for you.