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The Importance of Having Your Own Product to Sell

Recently while on a beach vacation my family was out on the street having ice-cream when we came across two street performers/buskers.

The first one was set up 15 meters to one side of the ice-cream shop we were visiting. He had a guitar and had his guitar case open in front of him to collect the loose change of those walking by. He was pretty good and we stopped to listen to him for a moment or two before walking on and leaving $1-$2 in change in his case.

After buying our ice-cream we noticed another performer a little further down the street. This guy was something of a one man band with honky tonk guitar, harmonica, bells on one foot and a homemade kick drum/box on the other. He too had a case out for donations/tips but also was doing something that in my estimation pulled in at least 10 times the money that the other performer was making – he had two CDs for sale.

You could get one of his CDs for $15 and both for $25.

Not only was this guy pulling in tips like the other guy – but every 10 or so people to approach him was buying at least one of his CDs.

In the 15 minutes that we stopped to listen to this guy (our kids were fascinated by his act and caused quite a commotion by doing an impromptu dancing concert on the sidewalk in front of him drawing a big crowd) I saw him sell 8 CDs. He was obviously pulling in some decent money in comparison to busker #1.

Having a CD to sell was great for revenue but interestingly it seemed to also play a part in his overall act. People seemed to take him a bit more seriously than the other guy – I heard at least a few people comment to one another about the fact that he was obviously serious if he’d recorded a CD – it gave him credibility as well as giving him a talking point when chatting with people.

The Power of Having your own Products

As I tucked my boys into bed that night and my 3 year old insisted in sleeping with his new ‘honky tonk one man band CD’ (yep, we bought one too) next to his bed it struck me just how powerful having a product to sell can be.

As bloggers trying to make a few dollars from our online activity many of us get stuck thinking about making money by slapping ads on our blogs – but in doing so perhaps we’re doing the equivalent of busking for tips (not the perfect illustration I know). I know I’ve fallen into that trap myself over the years but in working to develop products to sell I’ve seen a variety of benefits including:

  1. Revenue – obviously selling a product (whether it be a book, ebook, membership site, consulting, coaching etc) has the potential to make you money. The cool thing about it is that you’re not splitting revenue with an ad network or someone whose product you’re promoting with an affiliate promotion – but it’s all yours.
  2. Credibility/Authority – I discovered the power of having something of my own to sell when we launched the ProBlogger book. Suddenly people not only referred to me as a blogger – but an author. While a hard cover book does carry weight in some circles more than an ebook – any quality product gives you another thing to list as the creator of in your CV/bio and can lend weight to your authority and credibility.
  3. Opportunities – Within 24 hours of releasing my photography E-book recently I had two publishers contacting me asking if we’d be interested in having them publish it as a real hard cover book. 2 weeks after launch I’ve spoken to more photographers and photography site owners about possible collaborations than I can count. When you have a product of some kind people in your industry and niche tend to take notice. It shows others in your industry that you’re serious and able to produce more than just a blog and it shows you’ve got initiative. People are attracted to that and all kinds of opportunities can emerge.
  4. Deepen Relationships with Readers – when someone buys something from you once there’s an increased likelihood that they’ll buy something else from you at some point in the future – IF you keep in relationship with them. Keeping a list of those who’ve purchased something from you opens up future profitable interactions. While it’s great to have an email list of readers – it’s a pretty powerful thing to have an email list of people who are proven ‘buyers’ of products in your niche.
  5. Lengthens Relationships with Readers – three weeks after our holiday has ended my son is still talking about the honky tonk performer. He’s been listening to the CD and every time that happens the experience he had a few weeks back is reinforced. Just yesterday I had an email from someone who bought 31 Days to Build a Better Blog who told me that they had the e-book on their computer’s desktop. She told me that every time she did another of the daily exercises she also was reminded to also check out the latest posts on the blog – something she might not have done otherwise. That e-book is drawing visitors back to my blog on a regular basis.
  6. Accelerated Learning – regular readers of ProBlogger will remember that last week I revealed some of the lessons that I’ve learned in the last few weeks while launching a Photography E-book. I shared 8 lessons in that post but the reality is that while it was the most profitable week I’ve had as a blogger it was also the week that I’ve learned the most about internet marketing in the last 7 years. I’ve read a lot about how to launch products online, I’ve talked to a lot of people who have done it and I’ve viewed a lot of case studies of successful launches – but there’s nothing like DOING something to learn how to do it. The theory and past conversations and case studies are helpful – but on the job training is the best. Developing and launching a product will teach you so much about many aspects of blogging, business and yourself – it’s the kind of experience money can’t buy.
  7. Traffic – This morning I was digging around on my photography site’s stats. Before I logged in I expected to find that traffic had been a little down on the previous month as a result of launching the ebook over the last two weeks (because I’ve been a little distracted and posted less posts than normal) and as a result of the normal Thanksgiving lull in traffic. However I was surprised to see traffic was up by about 9% over the last 30 days as compared to the 30 days before that. You can see the chart below but the 9% rise was almost completely a result of the days after the launch. As I dug further into the stats I realized that launching the e-book meant more of our regular readers hit the site to check it out but that it also created a buzz around the web as other sites linked up and as people passed on word of the launch via Twitter. Similarly – RSS and newsletter subscribers went up by more than normal in the last two weeks – launching the product has found us new readers.

dps-traffic-launch.png

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
Comments
  1. It’s also good to update the product from time to time.

  2. I started off in the self-development niche and quickly created 2 products.

    By having my own products it helped me join up with the World Champion of Public Speaking and create a joint product.

    Those 3 products still bring in a steady stream of income for me.

    Andrew

  3. Wholeheartedly agree with this post as it’s proven accurate in my stand-up comedy career both with monetization and authority. You slap a professionally made CD/DVD in front of an audience and you’ve automatically shown that you’re serious and it’s what you do for a living. Before I had any products to sell after shows, you wouldn’t believe how many people were disappointed to see I had no merchandise at all. You can’t be in a better permission sales position than that – when customers are actively coming to you to eagerly part with their money!

  4. I absolutely agree! In a world where writers are competing for $25 assignments, empowering ourselves with our own products is the only way for us creative types to thrive financially. I applaud your clear and concise analysis and am inspired by your efforts. BTW: my first book just came out and I am determined to follow the model you’ve outlined here!

  5. Hi Darren,

    Trying to sell an ebook may be a little difficult for new bloggers if they don’t have the critical mass and/or following to convert casual readers into customers.

    However…

    If you have specialized knowledge or real expertise, then there is a market for information product as long as they are not *positioned* as ebooks, downloadables, or pdfs. This has been my experience as when I stopped calling my documents ebooks and starting calling them reports, analysis, research pieces, the sales started to kick in.

    Examples of what I mean include:

    White Papers on specific areas such as medical/healthcare/financial/ subjects.

    Case Studies into emerging markets and areas where few authors/journalists cover.

    For example, I work in Beijing and (once a month or so) get asked by customers to do research reports, for example, on Social Media or Advertising trends in Asia. They just want a 10 page report. Quick snapshot.

    Financial Analysis and reports, such as into currencies, emerging markets, security (not the it type)

    Customers will pay for this type of information. Actually, the price is rarely the problem. It’s identifying the right type of information, packaging the report and generating some buzz.

    Bye,

    Ivan
    Ps – I bought you’re book by the way, even though I visit the site most every day and then lost the pdf… wah!!!

  6. Darren,

    Any advice on how to search your stats to find the best topic to create an ebook? My site gets 3000 visitors each day searching for information…how do you decide what topic is best for an ebook?

  7. It must have been brilliant music to attract that many sales in such a short time. Maybe some bigger acts should look into a busking style approach to boost sales!

    An intriguing point is the credibility factor. Having a product shows you have gone to some effort and evidently have some skills in your niche.

    It’s definitely an interesting concept overall. Having one’s own product is every entrepreneur’s goal but finding the right product to integrate with a blog is difficult. eBook’s are a definite match, as are subscriptions (membership systems) but they all seem a little dull. I am a fan of Sitepoint’s kits, it’s roughly the same concept as an eBook but a little more practical.

  8. Darren,

    Thanks for this post. I’ve been on the fence for a long while about making an ebook, but I’m going to make an effort in 2010 to bring some out.

    As something of a generalist, I’ve found it hard to focus on a particular niche. As a result, I think my traffic has suffered. More recently, I’ve worked out some subject areas I feel more passionate about than the general ones, so I’m going to concentrate my efforts there.

  9. I saw the video where you shared this story on Twitter and it was a great lesson. I liked how you went throught the other benefits of having a product than just the revenue. For a blogger, releasing first product, the other aspects might actually turn out more important than the money…

    Of course it’s great to earn something for the hard work put into the product and if nothing else, you will gain new income stream for yourself. And if your first product increases your traffic and gives you credibility, not only will your blog grow, but you will have more leverage when you create more products.

  10. And this is the very reason why I’m developing a product (with partners) darren. Thanks for this post! It’s absolutely inspiring. Wish me… us rather…. luck! :)

    -Liane

  11. Well, i am still to finalize what to bring about as a product. It has to be a ebook most probably on some software and computer related stuff. But i need to work too much on it.

    It may take some time but hope i can bring that out soon.

  12. Awesome post.

    Wha’t better, making 20% commision on someone else product and building HIS list.

    Or selling your own “quality” product and making 100% commision and build YOUR list?

    • John Paul – I see your point, but i actually think a combination of promoting other people’s products AND your own is a great way to go. Not only is it profitable but it’s great for building relationships. For example on my photography blog I have been promoting some other e-books lately. While they could be ‘the competition’ they are also potential affiliates of my own products. Having promoted their e-books they’re now promoting mine (and converting quite well).

  13. “I’ve read a lot about how to launch products online, I’ve talked to a lot of people who have done it and I’ve viewed a lot of case studies of successful launches – but there’s nothing like DOING something to learn how to do it. The theory and past conversations and case studies are helpful – but on the job training is the best. Developing and launching a product will teach you so much about many aspects of blogging, business and yourself – it’s the kind of experience money can’t buy.”

    Aristotle said “we learn by doing”. I think a lot of individuals try to skip the doing part. But it is such a great and worthwhile experience. Thank you for highlighting this in your post.

  14. Great way to start a Monday morning Darren.

    I’m with you and I already have started the basics to launch my own product in the 2010 and I actually have plans to launch more than one.

    I can tell you that from my years as affiliate manager I always see how much my clients get from their paid products and I always end up with a small fraction of that because I’m just helping them sell the product … I don’t own the product.

    Your launch was incredible given that it’s a low priced product. This also shows that ebooks are not dead and there is still a lot of money to make on the web.

    It’s easy to think that all the great opportunities in internet are behind us, but your results show that it’s a wrong assumption.

    Krizia

  15. I have recently been lauching the english version of my blog about autism, and I was actually giving the e-book some serious thoughts.

    You see, lots of people write to me every day to ask me my opinion or help. One of the recurring questions is “do you think my child is autistic?”

    While I’m not a doctor, and so cannot answer (most of all because I didn’t see the child’s behaviours for myself), I can provide a trail to follow to forge an opinion.

    On my website, all the answers are already there, for free. But it seems most people don’t want to look around. So I thought about writing an e-book with all answers to their questions compiled in a simple shape, with printable tables to show doctors, and so on.

    I have been thinking to giving it away for free, but I think I could use a few extra bucks to buy books – so that I can go on learning myself. So I’ll sell them for about 1 or 2€.

    I am really, really listening about what you have to say about e-books, and I hope you’ll provide us with many other great articles about that subject soon.

    Thank you very much for all those informations!

  16. Hi Darren,

    I’m quite surprised that you created your own products only after having been marketing online for a number of years. All the top Internet marketers have been saying the same thing over the years which is you have to have your own products to make a lot of money.

    Anyhow, it’s never too late to start. Congratulations on your success and I wish you’d do better and better in future launches.

    Cheers~

    Mark

  17. Since I am wanting to create a living from blogging and the internet, I get the importance of having something to sell. I have two blogs now and I’m just beginning to get comfortable with posting on a regular basis.

    Next step… Coming up with a concept for something to capitalize on. Not sure if it will be a service or an actual product. That’s where I get bogged down…

    Thanks for the post.

  18. If so, i will try to create my own product. I am in my research now.

  19. Thanks for the post. Having a good product is so important to be successful in any business.

  20. Great post darren, i really want to start selling my own product but right now im concentrating on building my sites traffic. Once I get good search traffic I’ll definitely start selling my own product.

  21. This post is very relevant to some stuff I have been contemplating lately. The last couple of months I have considered starting a personal development consulting service. I’m still wishy-washy about it because so many bloggers do similar services. On the other hand, I feel I have a world of knowledge that differentiates me from the crowd.

    I believe your post just motivated me to get crackin’ on it and see how it goes. I graduate college in less than two weeks and I am looking for new ways to spend my time.

    Thanks!

  22. Thanks for that little pick-me-up! I’m in the midst of the super fantastic Teaching Sells course and feel bogged down with all there is to do before my own parenting courses and membership site is launched. You helped me see the woods for the trees. Just what I needed today!

    Emily
    http://www.childperspective.com

  23. I have seen this in spades after creating my two eBooks, Writing a Winning Non-Fiction Book Proposal and Writing a Winning Fiction Book Proposal. I agree with all your points.

    Thanks for such a great blog. I refer it to all my blogging buddies.

  24. Products aren’t all roses, some negatives of your own product:

    Customer service: yuck, especially with software products, this is a huge time waster

    Updates: Most internet software/ebooks need updating sometimes, that’s you

    Product creation: Time consuming or expensive

    Promoting: Someone needs to make those banners or pay for them even if you have affiliates, without affiliates most products go unsold unless you are problogger ;)

    Taxes: Taxes get really confusing if you sell your own product especially with affiliates, do the affiliates live in a state that taxes now, do you get their tax-id’s, international affiliates? Do you take tax for people in your area?

    I think the real winner is affiliate marketing for the affiliate ;) You get the commission, can collect the leads and build a relationship, many times make equal or more than the merchant, and they get all the headaches ;)

    • Affiliate Marketer – yes there are some really hard things about products too. Updates, customer service etc are all tough, but if you can sell enough you can make it all worth your while. Affiliate marketing is good too but for me having my own product is certainly worth the effort.

  25. Having your own product also opens up new networking opportunities from people who might otherwise ignore you. Publishing a really thorough, helpful book has helped me open new doors and get access to people I might otherwise not have had the chance to work or blog with.

    It’s definitely an accomplishment to be proud of!

  26. Darren,

    This is a GOOD post!!!!

    Don’t get me wrong you write good posts…but THIS is a GOOD post!!!!

    I love the story, the analogy…I loved the post. It also was a confirmation to me as I have a book I’m selling and am in the process of writing another one.

    Thanks a lot!!!

  27. This make me think about writing my own fitness ebook. But I’m focused on other things and don’t really have the time. Maybe that’s why I’m not a full-time blogger :)

  28. I’ve been in process of developing my first products. One things I’ve learned from speaking with many entrepreneurs over the last month is that your blog is really a platform for marketing and selling products. Blogs are not where the money comes from.

  29. An inspirational post that reminds me what the next level is. I must make an effort soon and focus on some ideas for my own product.

  30. This post was really motivational for me as someone who has a few good product ideas floating in my head but has not pulled the trigger yet on development.

    In particular, I hadn’t realized previously just how much having a product helps in establshing someone as an authority in their field. But it absolutely has that impact!

  31. Thanks for this post. I’ve been on the fence for a long while about making an ebook, but I’m going to make an effort in 2010 to bring some out.

  32. Hey Darren,

    Besides the monetary and authority benefits of having your own product to sell, you also position yourself as a creator, not just a salesman.

    Yes, there are some legendary folks who never created, only sold others’ things. But the majority that make the positive and lasting impact in the world are creators. They invent and produce their unique value to the world.

    Entrepreneurs, inventors, artists, musicians, you name it.

    Here’s to creating and selling your own product – not just for the business benefit but for contributing more of your remarkable and unique value to the world as well.

    Best,
    Oleg

  33. Thanks for the post. Having a good product is so important to be successful in any business.

  34. This is INSPIRING! I’ve been “procrastinating” the development of an eBook for about 3 years for a variety of reasons, many of which were stated in the article published about blog procrastination the other day.

    I agree that “on the job” training, actually ACTING and not just HOPING, is the best way to learn.

    Thanks for the post and example of the CD seller vs. the guy just asking for petty change.

    Nate Moller
    MollerMarketing.com

  35. Very informative article, as a newbie to blogging it has really opened my eyes on one of the many next steps.
    Thanks Darren
    Jean

  36. Slow down dude, I have just started my first serious, but still noob-alike and begginer level blog. Kidding. Yea, I have planned to write my own ebook, but I still don’t know what it would be about, because I am not good at anything especially, so I can just write the “one of many” kind of ebook that could hopefully get me some viral traffic. On the other side, I am still a beginner and I think it is more important to me to sit, learn and just keep posting to my blog.

  37. Few more reasons to have own product to sell: it makes you more innovative Secondly you are always passionate about it. You’ll put in more effort.

  38. Creating my own tiny little product suite has been so incredibly useful for me that even if I never sold a single unit, I still learned truckloads about my services and capabilities.

    Everyone serious about blogging should write at one ebook of their own. You might think this would saturate the market, and maybe it would, but you will get so much out of the process it’s worthwhile.

  39. I had never thought of offering a product in this way before. Once my new blog is better established, I will have to start working on this. Just reading this post has given me a couple ideas, about unique ways to tie in a product to my blog. I’m enjoying my long avoided conversion to “mommy” blogging,

  40. Darren, you are right on Brother!!!

    Being from the University Academic world, I was very accustomed to developing courses, writing articles, and researching. I have hardly touched the Affiliate marketing world in the 5 years I have been online. OK, yes I have made a half decent amount with it, but it is with ancillary products and services to mine.

    The last year, I have dedicated myself to developing new products and service offerings, which now top out at 103. With an average of selling 13 copies of each product per month at an average of $20/product, that brings in roughly $26.5K per month.

    In 2010, my efforts will turn to marketing all of them more since I have hired 2 people to just do that.

    Any much of what I have done so far came from your blogging book.

    BTW, we had a great conversation at BlogWorld.

    Dr. Dave Hale
    The Internet Marketing Professor

  41. Great information and tips that inspires a lot of us to expand on what we have besides our blog. I’ve been wanting to publish an e-book about tips and things to look out for when “buying a blog”. As the buyer of a blog I have a lot that I could tell other people to watch out for and just simple things that one may not think about when getting ready to pay for someone’s blog. You have made me think more about getting that ebook started and see where it brings me. Thanks for the tips and lessons learned. I can see where having a product could make one look more knowledgeable about what they are talking or selling to others.

  42. Dear Darren:

    I agree. Selling your own products does provide you with all of the above benefits. When you work on your own product then you have more of an incentive to make your best and sell it to as many people as possible.

    Also, people who read your blog will most likely be your first customers since they will be already familiar with you and yours ideas.

    I will have to get working on my own product as well. I am sure a huge sense of satisfaction comes along the way as well.

    Best of luck,
    Tomas

  43. I REALLY liked your post and blog! It took me a little bit to find your site…but I book marked it. Would you mind if I but a link back to your site?

  44. Yeah I’ve been thinking about a book base don one of the websites I administrate. It’s a big step, but I guess self-publishing (dead trees) is a lot easier now than it used to be. Can anyone recommend a decent place?

  45. Very good article, whether you are new to blogging or a seasoned blog veteran…these are great tips. Having a UNIQUE product to sell can be a real money maker for us bloggers.

  46. I loved the example you gave of the two buskers at the start – there is something very powerful that happens when people see you have a product to sell.

    It is a psychological trigger – much like if you are a published author – it triggers the authority submission in our brain… something Cialdini discussed in his book ‘Influence’.

    They did a study recently which proved there were as many errors in Britannica as there were in Wikipedia…

    Food for thought eh!

  47. Good points.

    I currently own and operate a web video hosting service. But I’ve tried just about everything as I’ve been earning a living online, full-time since 1996.

    Here are a few observations:

    1. You can make decent money promoting the products of other people as an affiliate marketer.

    2. If you own and control the product/service, and then recruit an army of hungry affiliates to promote it, you can get rich.

    3. Selling physical products can be a nightmare (inventory expenses, fraud, shipping, taxes, etc.).

    4. If you can create digital products/services that you fully own/control, you have assets/equity which can continue to grow and generate long-term passive income for you.

    5. If you have a tight niche and your visitors are people who advertisers would like to reach; and, you can consistently generate fresh content, or have an audience who generates it for you (e.g., forums); then, you can eventually do well with advertising.

    6. Advertising should be just one avenue for cash to find its way into your bank account. Sort of like icing on the cake.

    -joe

  48. I am working on an ebook to give away.

    Do you have any other ideas besides ebooks for products?

    Maybe some people could chime in with other thoughts.

    • Angela – other products might include selling your own time as a consultant, a forum area, white papers, a real book, something else that you make (photographers sell their work for example). Really depends upon your niche.

  49. Good advice, but I consider myself the product I am selling.

    Not that I wouldn’t love to sell ads or hawk ‘Offensive Gear’ on my blog or anything, but I honestly don’t think there would be enough of a market for t-shirts, ball caps and boxer shorts to justify the time and effort for me to do so.

    Maybe once I reach superstar blogger status I’ll do it, but until then I’m the only thing for sale. ;)

    Chelle B.

  50. Darren,

    Learning this lesson was the reason WHY I started my blog. I created three e-books for a hosted real estate blog I was tinkering with. I got lucky and within one day, one of my blog posts was featured on a prominant blogsite and email newsletter (150K readers), I posted up one of the e-books for $24.99 just to see what happened and made $1,000 (on accident) in one week for a 18 page e-book.

    Of course, then I had to learn how to not rely on someone elses blog setup so I could build an independent customized site, and about a month ago, I launched http://DailyAgentTips.com, which is working toward it’s first 500 subscribers and future products are in the works.

    I would venture to say that having a product to sell can change your life in ways one really can’t imagine, both financially and in general direction. It’s amazing.

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