Today’s focus is on using information products to expand your consulting business (without adding new clients).
Before getting into the content, I highly recommend that you read through Part I of the “How to Grow Your Business” series. This information-packed series was inspired by my own business and figuring out creative ways to expand, especially through the last economic downturn. If you find the article useful, please do me a favor and add a comment at the bottom of the post, or consider giving it a “Like” on Facebook.
HINT: At the end of conclusion of this six-part series, I’ll share my personal favorite non-client growth methods.
Here is a quick recap of the “Six Major Strategies to Expand Your Consulting Business Without Adding Clients”:
- Expand your existing client relationships.
- Expand your current services and add new ones.
- Create mobile apps, web apps, or traditional software tools.
- Create information products. (eBooks, physical books, online courseware, webinars, etc.) <– You are here
- Create membership sites.
- Use traditional business strategies such as acquisition, partnerships, buying equity stakes in other companies.
Information Products from a Business IT Consulting Perspective
What is an information product? Basically, it’s any form of packaged information that can be sold, shipped/downloaded/delivered as a distinct unit. Examples include:
- Audio programs
- Video programs
- Webinars / Teleseminars
- Printed books
- Online courses
There are other types of course, but this list is a good place to start and includes the major information product types. From here on out, we’re going to focus on the process of finding and using the information for your information product(s). The actual creation, production, marketing and distribution of information products are huge topics in and of themselves and best covered by other experts and in later articles at CorbinLinks.com. At the end of this post, I’ll include a few suggested resources to get you started.
Why Information Products?
I’m not even sure I can count all the benefits of using information products in your business! Even if I could, the list would be as long or longer than this entire post! So let’s start with a few of the “biggies”:
- Information products are inexpensive to create.
- Information products can be created quickly.
- Information products are easy to distribute.
- Information products extend your brand, your audience, your reach.
- Information products get more people interested in your other products and service offerings.
- Information products sales have a large margin — especially the digital products.
- Information products can expand your database of prospects, buyers, and clients.
- Information products leverage — and this is key — information you already have in your business.
- Information products build credibility.
- Information products give you something to partner or “joint venture” with other product creators and companies.
- Information products can be partially or fully outsourced, including the creation, distribution, and marketing.
- Information products can be endlessly repurposed or expanded. Audio files and blog entries can become books, books can become courses and new books, books and courses can become speaking engagements, speaking engagements can bring clients… you get the idea.
Convinced that information products have a place in your consulting business portfolio? Maybe you want a few “downsides” to balance out all the positive benefits? It’s really hard to come up with a list of downsides, but I’ll give it a shot:
- Information products can distract focus and effort from other business growth methods. For me personally, this is the only legitimate downside. It is true that putting in any time on one or more information products detracts from other projects you could be doing. That’s where outsourcing and management skills come into the mix. The bigger question is: can you afford NOT to at least have one quality information product?
- Information products can take you down the road of the “perfectionist syndrome” to the point you never release your first product. I admit it, it’s VERY easy to get caught up in perfecting your information products. However, most will argue (as will I), that you don’t want to let perfect get in the way of “good enough.” Yes, you should commit to making a solid, quality product. But keep in mind; the main thing is content quality, relevance, and “actionability.” Looks and style are important, but good CONTENT rules every time.
- Information products require some form of distribution, download, and potentially — sales and shopping carts. If you have a “brochure-style” website that doesn’t currently sell anything, or exists to get potential clients to call you, information products will require a few updates to your website. (If you get really stuck with this step, email me at “info — at — corbinlinks.com” and I’ll point you to some suggested resources.)
- Information products provide so many benefits and options; it’s hard to know where to get started. You can easily get bogged down in the “how” of doing an information product instead of taking action and just doing it. If you can type or record your voice and have valuable information in your head, you can create an information product.
- “But Corbin, there are SO many information products out there already!” Everyone has one. Why add one more to the mix? Who would even be interested?” — Answer? PLENTY of people. There are billions of people with direct access to the internet, many of whom need what you have to offer. No one can provide the same information, in the same way and with the same personality that you can.
- You don’t know how to create an information product. Yes you do. If you have the skills to find this article, you can create an information product. Ok, maybe you haven’t created audio and video files before, but you figure it out quickly. For eBooks, all you need is a decent word processor and a way to generate PDF files. Second: get some help. There are lots and lots of services out there that can take your word or PDF source documents and create stylish and easy-to-read eBooks and even transcribed audio. Email me or use the contact form over at https://corbinlinks.com/contact-me and I’ll put you in touch with the right resources for your product.
Help me out here… are there other downsides? If so, please comment below or send me an email at “info — at — corbinlinks.com.” I’ll be happy to amend the article with some more downsides.
I’m hoping my point is made about the “why”. If not, then add a comment below or mail me at “info — at — corbinlinks.com” and let’s chat further.
Now, let’s talk a bit about the “what” of information products.
What Source Information Should You Use in Your Information Product?
Notice that I completely skipped over the questions of “what format should I use to create my product,” what “file type” should it be, or “how will I create the product.” I didn’t forget. As technically savvy folks, it’s easy for us to focus on those things. (I know I have — and WAY too much when doing my first few products.) As you read through this article, I’m confident you will see that information products are NOT about the fonts, document type, format, etc. At least when you start out.
The main point I want to share is that you HAVE to make a decision, get started and create something. If you already have one or more information products created, then I want you to create even more, or make your current products even better.
The Product Brief
First, you’ll create a “product brief.” The “brief” is a high-level summary and outline describing:
* The goal of the product. Examples include:
* Marketing your business
* Make money
* Test a new product concept or service offering
* To have something to joint venture with (joint ventures will be the subject of a future post)
* Source documents to include in the product.
* Audio MP3 files
* Video flv/mov/mp4 files
* Word documents
* Slide presentations
* Company branding images
* Release schedules
* Who will do the work?
* How long will it take?
* How much will it cost?
* Marketing plan
Product briefs can (and should) be as brief as practically possible. Again, the goal here is to create marketable information products. If this is your first information product, I recommend that you:
- Select your best information
- Start with a short, but well-edited eBook
–>Action step: _Create your first product brief. If you have done information products before, then create a new one!_
Source Information / Source Documents
From here on out, we’ll use the terms “source information” or “source document” interchangeably to mean whatever set of information we’ll use to create the product. A source document can be something you already have (audio file / document / video / PDF / slide deck, etc.) or something you will create from scratch.
What information should be in your source document? Here is simple 5-step process for deciding what information you will compile into a product:
- Create the product brief. Start by asking the question “what is the goal of your information product?” (Refer to the Product Brief mentioned above.) Here are some clarifying questions to help get you started:
- Do you want to have people subscribe to your mailing list and build your database?
- Do you want to create something that is free but will be distributed “virally” to spread the message about you / your company / your service?
- Do you want to test out a new service idea and measure the responses you get before investing time, money and resources?
- Do you want to drive more traffic to your site?
- Do you want to gain credibility?
- Do you want to have something to entice other consultants or companies to partner / joint venture with you?
- What is the end result that you want from the product? This is the most important question. Start from the “what do I want the product to do”, BEFORE you think about the “how” details of product format, distribution channels and the like. Failure to answer this question at the outset (and trust me – I’ve been there myself), is the #1 reason many information products fail to achieve the desired results.
- What is the low-hanging fruit? What source information do you already have that can be easily and quickly converted to an information product? Examples might include:
- Seminar recordings
- Project templates
- Project budget calculation templates
- “How to do…” something in your niche that you created for another client or project
- Informational videos
- NOTE: For a first-time information product, you want to keep the initial creation costs low and reuse / repackage as much as possible. Notice the pattern in the preceding list? The suggested “low-hanging fruit” included things that you may already have, and which probably address issues, questions, solutions that there is an audience for. Which leads us to….
- What do clients and colleagues ask you about the most? Every consulting niche, whether it is Business IT Consulting, Life Coaching, Language Tutoring or anything you think of has its list of “frequently asked questions.” In my primary fields of Identity Access Management (IAM) and Business IT Consulting, I have lists of common questions that clients and colleagues are always asking about. I keep the lists handy and add to them constantly. This practice led me to create my first podcast and information product in 2006.
- What topical keywords apply to your product? Keyword research is a HUGE topic. One of the best resources I can think of is the “Keyword Research” blog post and video over at http://SmartPassiveIncome.com/keyword.
Compile the results from #1 – 4 above and update your product brief. Again — and I can’t emphasize this enough — do NOT focus on the “how” or the “formatting details” in the product brief or source documents. Later, when your source content is fully baked and achieves your original goals, THEN you can worry about the fine-tuning issues such as layout, audio/video quality and the like.
Create or Update Your Source Information
- Collect all of your source documents. ALL information products start with one or more source documents. Even if you decide to use something like a seminar recording you already have, you will need to create a product brief to outline the product, what its purpose is, what its background is, how it is structured, etc. For each information product you create — even video — you will create a summary overview document at the least.
Create the content. Remember to create (or modify existing content to be) content that is:
I could expand this article even further and dive in to the concepts of “Epic Content,” “Content Is King” and all the other stuff you hear out on the net. I’ll save you a ton of reading and boil it down to this: answer real-world questions / solve real-world business or life problems, and give people action steps to do something useful. If you can do that, your content will always find an audience. Let me repeat that: if you can do that, your content will always find an audience.
- Have the raw source content edited and processed. I highly recommend you contract out for this. A third-party firm skilled at editing, formatting source content is well worth the investment, and it keeps you focusing on what you know and do best — creating content relevant to your market.
- Review and finalize the product.
- Distribute samples of the product to your inside database or mailing list. There are two main reasons for this. First, you want to get some initial reaction first, before putting the product on your website, distributing to partners, or submitting to a publisher. If response is good, keep on going. If not, find out why and adjust accordingly. Second, you want to collect product testimonials. I could (and will eventually) write a whole article just on collecting testimonials. But for now, the main phrases to remember when sending to your list are “please send me your honest feedback,” and “can I quote you.” It can be difficult to motivate people on your list to give feedback, so make it REALLY EASY, in fact PAINFULLY EASY to send testimonials and feedback.
- Put your marketing and distribution plans into effect. Also a topic for future discussion. Your marketing and distribution plans will vary greatly, depending on the type of product you’re doing, your goals for the product and what channels you market to. I recommend you start with:
- Your website
- Amazon.com (if publishing a book or audio files)
- Mailing lists
- Facebook business page
For all the ground covered in this article, I barely scratched the surface of information products. If I’ve inspired you to go out and create a new information product or improve an existing one, my goal as been accomplished. I’ll leave you with these takeaways:
- Information products are one of the best, easiest AND fastest ways to expand your business without adding new clients.
- Information products are excellent marketing vehicles for your business. Approach information product creation from the standpoint of marketing and credibility building, rather than building a “cash cow,” Doing so will help keep you focused on delivering maximum value in your product while building leverage to use for even bigger paid projects or partnership / joint venture opportunities down the road.
- Avoid getting bogged down in the “how” details of creating your product. If you are creating an eBook, start with a source document. The source format doesn’t matter – Microsoft Word, Google Docs, Apple’s Pages, a text file — whatever. If you want to do audio, then record it, and the same applies to video as well. To learn more about creating compelling information products of each major type, I’ve included some highly recommended free resources below.
- Don’t be deceived by the low barrier to entry. Create something valuable. There are a lot of garbage information products out there on the net. By all means take immediate action to create your product(s), but DO commit to creating something of useful, actionable value to your audience. Create your product and then tell me about it! Mail to “info — at — corbinlinks.com” or add a comment to this article.
The following resources will help you get started down the road of creating useful and actionable products. I’ve touched on each of the major types:
- Tele-seminars (and by extension — webinars.)
All of these resources are free, personally tested and used by me, and HIGHLY recommended:
- eBooks the Smart Way, by Pat Flynn – This article is chock-full of useful structure, design, formatting, and distribution tips. Some of it doesn’t apply directly to consulting, but most is relevant to any eBook project.
- Monetize Your Passion, by Rich German – This is a good-sized book and covers a LOT of ground. I cannot recommend the book highly enough on all levels (life, business, products, etc.) Particularly relevant to product creation are the sections in Part Two, Chapters 10 – 12. The book itself is free, but Rich does ask for a donation to his “Gen Why” project. http://www.richgerman.com/mypfreebook/ http://www.richgermantv.com/2010/08/24/myp-ebook/. I should also mention that Rich is the master of the tele-seminar. He has several tele-seminar MP3 files that are freely downloadable from his site at http://richgermantv.com. Download one of them to your favorite MP3 player and listen to how he does it.
- The IAMSuccessTips.com Store – Ok, full disclosure: there are items for sale at the store. But that is not why I’m sending you to the link. The point of the visit is to view a few actual information products that were created using information contained in this article. There you will see examples of monetized eBooks and audio programs.
- Google’s Keyword Tool – We barely touched on the subject of keyword research. But if you’re already a bit familiar with keywords and how to research them, Google’s free tool is pretty darn good. Google provides the tool for free, will ask you to sign in with an AdWords account to use some tool options.
- Podcast Answer Man – The name says it all. If you’re looking to create a podcast, Cliff Ravenscraft’s site is the best place to start. Podcasts are one of my favorite types of information products. In a future article, I’ll publish my own podcasting tips targeted toward consultants. In the meantime, definitely go and check out Cliff’s site.
- Interview with the iPhone Video Hero – Online marketer extraordinaire Tyrone Shum interviews Jules Watkins, the “iPhone Video Hero.” – I learned a TON from this video interview and am preparing to use many of these tips on my next [link]speaking engagement. The tips Jules (a producer of hit shows for the BBC and MTV) shares on this video blew me away. I’m sharing this resource to point out that there are no barriers to creating and distributing studio quality videos. Check out the interview over at http://www.outsourcinglive.com/podcast-036.
–>Action step: Now go out there and create a product! <–
Have questions about your information products? Do you have or are you in the process of creating products and interested in joint ventures? We are always on the lookout for good joint venture opportunities. Of particular interest:
- Membership sites
If you’re looking for a venture or just some help with your information products, please visit https://corbinlinks.com/contact-me, complete the form and be sure to include the words “Joint Venture” in your subject line. Alternatively, you can send an email to “info — at — corbinlinks dot com” and include the words “Joint Venture” in the subject line. Be as detailed as you can when submitting your proposal for the fastest consideration.
All the best,