Digital products

When people think about doing business online they usually think of selling products. So where does that leave service providers? Sure, you can use your website to generate leads and, of course, you want to have an active presence on social media and use email marketing to keep in touch with the visitors who have given you permission. But why should you miss out on the beauty of an exchange of products for cash?

When I started my consultancy I was enchanted by the service model. I had low overheads and could service my clients without having to leave the house. But, like every other service provider on the planet, I was struck down by a nightmare client, had projects that blew out, expectations to manage, and, of course, the question of how to scale.

One of the criteria I had developed for my business before I’d decided what shape and form it would take was that I needed to be able to work from anywhere in the world, and I didn’t want to employ staff.

I decided it was time to look at different online business models. I was keen to explore how I could turn the knowledge I’d built into knowledge-based products. I found that there were a number of ways to go about it. E-books delivered as PDF downloads and e-courses delivered through secure websites or via a series of emails seemed the most popular options.

First up, I decided to develop an e-book. I spent a week putting together a how-to guide to using Twitter for business. I built a one-page website and went about learning how to set up the payment processing and delivery download. I’d also had experience with affiliate marketing and wanted to set up a program to help sell the e-book.

That particular e-book was essentially an experiment. Luckily it worked and set the scene for me to further explore the idea of monetizing online.

The next step was to create a higher price point product – again, something digital. I set about designing an e-book that taught business owners the marketing strategy that I had developed from my years as a communication designer in the online industry.

The difference with this method was that the delivery was via a secure website with a unique login – not a PDF download as the e-book had been.

While I was excited about the scaling aspect of this model, I discovered a whole new set of challenges to overcome before I could enjoy the results. First up was developing the content so that it could be customized for each business requirement. While each business needs to use search engine optimization, social media, and email marketing, their strategic approach will vary depending on the desired outcome.

I spent six months developing the content and then had to automate the purchase and registration access to the content. This is important, particularly when selling something.

Now that my premium product is available, and I’m free from the shackles of exchanging my time for money, I can spend my days developing new online workshops, marketing my existing products, and ensuring that my students are getting the most value possible from what they’re learning online.

Clare Lancaster has been working online since 2001 and owns business consultancy firm

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