Recently, while searching for other stuff, I found a transcript of that interview on my hard drive… and thought you’ll enjoy reading it.
So here’s a lightly edited version below.
And as quite a coincidence, my dear friend Barb Ling mentioned that she was offering a fantastic guide co-created by Jason, along with another specialist infopreneur and crack programmer Robert Plank… which is about how to quickly create and launch a new product.
Now, when a guy has built an 8-figure business doing exactly what he’s teaching, you should drop everything else and listen… especially if he’s letting you do it for less than 10 bucks!
“The foundation of almost all good information architectures is a well-designed hierarchy.”
Anger. Confusion. Frustration.
These are the emotions of a Web surfer lost in cyberspace. In the murky, uncharted gloom of a poorly created Website. Not one of yours, I hope!
While it may be true that Content is King on the Web, your website needs an orderly structure – and many signposts – to help visitors get around it.
To find whatever they seek on it.
To get to whichever section of it they wish to visit.
Quickly. Effectively. Painlessly.
Your Website Needs a Good System of Navigation
The term “navigation” is used on the Web to describe the way a visitor to your site is guided as s/he moves about within its different sections.
What is the purpose of your Website?
In most cases, it will be to fulfil the needs of a particular group of people.
An information resource will expect to let users find relevant content.
An entertainment site aims to give the visitor a pleasant experience.
A retail site hopes to sell products that a shopper needs or desires.
One of the most important facets of your Website – apart from the content, of course – is how you direct the visitor towards what s/he is looking for. And the best way to do that is by….
Putting yourself into your customer’s shoes
The only way you can plan and design the optimal navigation system for your Website is to think in the same way a typical visitor to your site does.
Try and get into your visitor’s mind.
How will s/he find your Website?
How will s/he enter it?
What steps will s/he then take to find useful content?
What will happen after s/he finds it?
Trying to determine the answers to these questions will help you plan a blueprint for your Website’s navigation system.
The Value of a Pleasant User Experience
At the pace the Web is exploding with new content, it is no longer easy to attract and impress a Web surfer.
Your Website would have to offer a visitor an exceptionally good experience if s/he is to remember it, bookmark it, return to it later, tell a friend (or many friends) about it.
And a sure-fire way of alienate a first-time visitor is to make your site difficult to get around.
If you force people to click on multiple links and wander around your Website in futile circles trying to find helpful content, you can be sure they won’t return again. There are simply too many better alternatives available on the Web.
By constructing a Website with an intuitive, elegant and simple navigation system that shows visitors just where they are and explains how to get to other sections of the site, you can enhance their experience at your site.
Then, and only then, will they come back. And bring their friends with them!
Ensuring a smooth flow
Most searches for information (or fun) follow a logical sequence.
This order may be different for each site. And if you understand the pattern your visitors might follow and implement it into your navigation system, they sail smoothly through your site.
Almost effortlessly they are directed to the content they seek.
How can you design an excellent navigation scheme for your website?
It isn’t difficult if you put yourself in your customer’s position and think about the things you would like best on a site like this.
Here are some essential questions to answer:
Where am I? – an aid to one’s present location on the site
Where do I go next? – a roadmap or directory of the entire site
How do I get there? – an intuitive or descriptive system of navigation
Am I still on this site? – a consistent look-and-feel across different sections of the site
Where Am I?
Remember your last holiday trip to a National Park or the shopping spree you went on at the neighbourhood’s new shopping mall?
What was the first thing you did there?
I’ll bet you searched the location map for the familiar YOU ARE HERE sign.
And once you found it and got yourself oriented in space, the entire experience became joyful and exciting. You were no longer afraid of getting lost.
Similarly in a large or complex Website with multiple pages and plenty of content, it is easy for the surfer to feel lost. This is particularly so if s/he enters through a route other than the homepage of the site.
Bewildered, s/he asks the question: “Where am I?”
An excellent navigation system will answer this question – on every page.
By mentioning the title of a page, or by highlighting the topic, or by the use of buttons of a different color or design, you can let your visitor figure out the page on which s/he is.
Tips and Tricks
In your HTML TITLE tag, use descriptive text to explain the page’s content.
Make sure your site’s name and URL (and maybe even company name and other relevant details) are on every page of your site. This will be helpful even to people who print out your Webpage and read it offline.
Somewhere in your site’s content, try and fit in a TEXT based navigation aid that tells visitors where they are and possibly where they came from and where they can expect to go next. For instance, you could have a line that says:Home > Articles > Diamonds > THE KOH-I-NOORThe last one (KOH-I-NOOR) describes the page on which the reader presently is. It stands out because it is in ALL CAPS and not a hyper-link. The other words tell a visitor the path that leads to this page. By making them hyper-links, the visitor can easily click on them to get to other parts of your site.This sort of lateral and vertical navigation ease is a unique benefit of the Web, and an excellent system of navigation will exploit it to the maximum advantage.
Alternately, you could use a more graphical expression of this by a set of tiny images. One that I like best is a set of white ARROWS in a RED circle to indicate that there are pages ahead and behind the present one, and a white SQUARE inside a BLACK circle to denote the page on which the reader currently is.
Another way to let your visitor find his/her bearings is to use the button technique – a different color or shade for the background or text in the site’s navigation bar to indicate the part of the site s/he is on.
Where Do I Go Next?
If you have spent time thinking about the layout of your Website in detail, there will be a smooth flow across the site towards your content.
To achieve this end, related or similar types of content on your site must be grouped together in an intuitive and rational manner. A visitor could then drill down from a broader category to more specific content.
For example, if your Website deals with electronic publishing, you might have a top-level category titled “eMail publishing” and several sub-categories for “eMail Newsletters”, “eMail programs”, “eBooks” and so on.
Under “eBooks” you might have a further set of categories such as “eBook software”, “eBook tutorials”, “eBook retailers” and the like.
There are two general levels of site organization – Global and Local.
Each merits a distinct navigation method. Global navigation is concerned with helping a visitor to your site to identify and move within the broad general categories. Local navigation, on the other hand, drills down within one of the major sections of the site and helps guide the visitor towards a more specific location within the broad category.
Tips and Tricks
On each page of your site try and include a link to the next logical section of your site. This could be done by:
Using text that says – ‘NEXT’ or ‘READ MORE’ or ‘CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE’ or even something more exciting and compelling that entices your reader to go on
Using tiny pictures or symbols – e.g. “>>>” for forwards and “<<<” to go back.
Hyperlinking a part of the content of the page itself near the end. For instance, in this sentence:”The Koh-i-Noor is thus a very intriguing diamond with a mysterious past.” you could make the words “mysterious past” a clickable hyper-link to the next part of the article.
To help the reader get a sense of your entire site’s layout, try and provide a list of at least the major areas or sections on every page. This way, if a reader wants to explore an entirely different part of your site, s/he doesn’t have to click many times to retrace a path s/he had taken earlier.
In a complex or large site with multiple interest areas, you may need to create multiple navigation tools for each section to optimize the end-user experience.
How do I get there?
So, now your website visitor has found her/his bearings and decided which portions of your site s/he wants to explore next.
The question to answer is: “What must I do to get there?”
The obvious answer is: “Click on the link.”
But it is not always obvious where the link is, and what it will lead to!
A good navigation system will ensure that a link is easily identifiable as one. The default color coding of most Web browsers displays a text-link in blue, often underlined. If for some reason you need to change this link color, make sure that there are other ways to identify it as a link.
If you need to use different navigational aids on your site or if it is likely that many users will have trouble understanding your navigation process, it is worthwhile to create a “HELP” page detailing the process of getting around your site.
Tips and Tricks
It is preferable to leave the default color selections of your user’s web browser alone. These colors – blue for unvisited links, purple for visited links – have been chosen after extensive research and usability testing by the major browser companies. Meddling with them shows a certain lack of concern for your site visitors. If you feel compelled to change them, make sure you change them across the entire site.
Using images for hyper-links makes it difficult for users to identify one as a link. Try and make it easier by adding text pointers like: “Click on icon below“
If your website attracts many newbies who are still learning about getting around the Internet, or if you use a complex navigation system that is difficult to understand intuitively (ideally, you shouldn’t be doing that!) it may be worth creating a HELP page to explain your navigation system. On this page, detail all the navigation elements that you use and explain to the user how they can take advantage of the system to get around the various sections of your site. Then – most important – link to this HELP page from ALL pages of your site!
Am I Still Here?
Web surfers like consistency across a Website.
If a visitor clicks on a link and is transported to a page that looks totally different from the previous one, s/he is confused and asks “Am I still on the same site? Or have I been transported to a different one?”
An excellent navigation system involves retaining a consistent look-and-feel across a Website. The constancy reinforces the fact that the linked page is a part of the same site.
Constructing Your Navigation Aids
One of the challenges of website design is to integrate your navigational system into the overall schema of your site’s image and brand.
There are many ways to create your navigation aids.
Text only: Words are used to describe a link
Images only: A small graphic explains the link
Text with Images: Both words and a graphic are used as a link
Drop down menus: Clicking on it brings up a list of options to select from
Dynamically generated pages: Uses scripts to pull up pages from a database
By a judicious use of one or many of these elements, it is possible to design an effective and integrated navigation system for any Website.
Some general principles of constructing navigation aids
use unambiguous link titles
try to have links of consistent length
avoid using jargon or slang in link titles
make sure the link text is clearly distinguishable as a link
ensure small image sizes to minimize page download times
graphics must be intuitive or clearly descriptive of the link
combining text with image links improves clarity
always use ALT tags to benefit visitors who surf with images off
Drop Down Menus
are useful to help conserve save space on a Webpage
need some programming expertise to set up
may not be accessible to surfers who use older browsers
Webpage Design Elements for Navigation Tools
As your Website grows and develops, newer sections will be added over time. Including them in the navigation bars would mean replacing data on multiple files.
Two methods to minimize this problem are:
using “Frames” on your Website, with one frame containing only the navigation bars
using “Server Side Includes” for the navigation elements
With either of these techniques you can make changes to just one file and have the changes reflected across all sections of your site.
Don’t just deliver: Over-deliver
So your Website has all of these points covered. You have an excellent navigation system.
But it isn’t time to relax yet.
For any number of reasons, users may not be overjoyed with your navigation tools. So focus on delivering extra value to your users. Create an SNS – an acronym for the Supplementary Navigation System.
As the name might imply, the SNS includes other navigation tools like:
Table of Contents
Site Map Indexes
Everyone has heard of the giant Search Engines like Google and Bing that list sites from all over the Web. It is also possible to have a Search Engine only for content on your site. A visitor can use that search engine to try and find material that s/he could not easily access using the navigation tools.
Table of Contents
By listing out all major segments of your site, a table of contents makes it much simpler for a visitor to drill down directly to a specific topic or category rapidly.
Site Map Indexes
A variation of the Table of Contents listing, a site map index is created by going down deep into the different forms of content on the site. The top 30 to 60 interest areas are then listed with links to the appropriate content.
Test Your Navigation System
Never assume that your navigation system is perfect. While it may appear intuitive and clear to you, it may still leave a site visitor totally fogged.
Put it to the test.
How extensively you test will depend upon your site’s size and extent.
If you run a small hobby-site, getting a few friends and family members to help test it might be enough. For the larger professional sites, pilot project testing is a serious undertaking.
It is best to actually watch your trial users as they navigate around your site.
See how they react to your site’s layout.
Do they identify the navigation aids easily?
Do they know what to do to get around the site?
Give them a target – say, to get to a particular page or article. Then see how quickly and easily they can get there.
Take notes. Ask for feedback. Act on suggestions to improve your navigation aids. Tweak, test, re-tweak and re-test.
11 Critical Things You Must Know Before Redesigning Your Website
The only constant is CHANGE.
At least as far as your Website is concerned.
Some sites – like waves in an ocean – change many times every hour.
A few change – like the tides – once or twice in a day.
And many remain like stagnant backwaters – constant, changeless, desolated, ignored… and largely unvisited!
Websurfers are an impatient lot.
They thrive on excitement, instant gratification, constant variety and change. Nothing bores them more than a Website that stays the same day after day, week after week.
Portals and community sites understand this fact and take advantage of it. Design changes come thick and fast. Website redesign is a way of daily – or at least monthly – life for them.
So the question is not if your site needs a redesign but instead when and how often?
We’ll discuss the issues to be thought out, the many questions to be answered, and the different steps to be taken to redesign your Website.
Who needs this information?
If you are a Web developer who designs Websites or consults with clients on their Web projects, you will doubtless be called in to modify and improve a site or maintain one needing frequent updates.
If you own a Website or a business that has an online presence (and which ones don’t these days!), this information is invaluable when you plan improvements to your site.
So let’s get started. There are just three questions to ask yourself:
What’s wrong with your site now?
What can be improved?
How best can you do it?
What’s Wrong With Your Site?
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
But then it’s almost always broke. Or about to. So be wise and change – before you are forced to. There are many aspects to test for faults and drawbacks, and many ways to do it.
ask for feedback from users and visitors to your site
conduct a formal usability test
hire a consultant
Which you elect to use depends upon your needs, budget and the complexity of your business. Amazon.com might justifiably hire a consultant for $5,000 an hour. You might do just as well for your niche Website with a feedback questionnaire to site visitors.
With any of these methods some basic principles remain the same.
Define the goals of your study before you start. If you want to see how well your site sells products to customers, focus on
how quickly and easily users can locate a product they are looking for,
how painlessly they can complete the ordering process,
how effectively visitors are converted into paying customers,
how many potential customers are lost (leave your site without buying anything) and
how likely they are to return to buy something again.
Determine your user profile. Then evaluate your site using a group as similar as possible to the ultimate user. If your site markets health resorts for rich American retirees, don’t test it out with teenagers in Europe.
Schedule the project and study. Determine a convenient time and place. Make sure your Website is up and running normally at that time.
Prepare a set of questions or define a set of tasks that volunteers must go through. For instance, you could ask them to order 2 pairs of green nylon socks of a particular brand off your site and see how easy (or difficult) it is to do.
Evaluate the data generated by the study with a critical eye. How can you improve each step, make things easier for users?
Implement changes. Act on the information you have received.
Repeat the process again. Fine tune, tweak, modify – until you are near- perfect!
What To Improve Upon In a Redesign
Just about EVERY aspect of a Website can be improved upon in one way or another.
The philosophy behind a redesign should be:
respect for visitors to your Website
near maximum accessibility
a clean, attractive, distinct, easily recognized appearance
better scalability and ease of future maintenance
Before planning a redesign it may be worthwhile taking a hard look at the following areas:
Design, layout, look-and-feel, brand
Usability and navigation
Ease of promotion
Integrating new content, features and technology
Revenue generating models
Designing Your Look and Feel
In the absence of face-to-face contact with your target audience the only way you imprint your image in a user’s mind is by your Website’s image. Regardless of your site’s purpose, a clean, uncluttered yet attractive layout can’t help but impress visitors.
One of the most common reasons to redesign a Website is to change the look and feel of the old site. How exactly this is achieved is too personal to generalize and depends entirely on the nature of your Website.
Some general principles apply:
Your homepage could be simply decorative or instead be informative too.
Consider minimizing the number of clicks a user needs to get to content.
Use clear space around blocks of content to achieve a clean, uncluttered appearance.
Employ graphics tastefully to enhance the user experience on your site.
Don’t use technology for its own sake. But also remember that technology is expanding rapidly. More and more users have broadband internet access and desire a more visually appealing, immersive and interactive Web experience.
Be obsessed with branding. Consistent use of colors, displaying your logo and tag-line on each page of your site and retaining a professional image helps users identify with your brand.
Usability and Navigation
As a Website grows with the addition of more content it becomes progressively more difficult to get around. Visitors are more likely to get lost in the maze and become increasingly frustrated.
A Website redesign can do wonders for a site like this. By improving navigation tools and enhancing the user experience a redesign can magnify the site’s purpose enormously. Many excellent resources about designing Website navigation are available on this site.
Some concepts to keep in mind include:
Keep navigation tools simple and intuitive. Deciding upon the choice of buttons and their placement on the page is important in reaching this end.
The hierarchy must be ordered to minimize the number of clicks a user needs to make before reaching useful content.
On extensive Websites an efficient search engine can make finding content a delightful task for users
The Web is International, has always been. But its rate of growth is different around the world. Newer audiences come online every day and have their unique preferences, characteristics and interests.
As your popularity grows more people hear about your Website and visit it. Your business – and Website – might need to attract this ever-changing online population. A redesign might be the answer.
How can a redesign help you capture a new audience?
Your new target audience might have interests and needs that you can satisfy by adding or modifying content on your Website.
Content you’ve already added to your site might attract new visitors who are potential customers for your other services and products.
Language is a barrier that can be easily overcome. By translating your content into other languages you can become visible to new customers.
Web surfers may suffer handicaps that keep them from experiencing your content. Simple redesign elements may make your site accessible to them. For instance, by intelligently mixing colors of text and background on a site you may be able to reach out to color-blind viewers. By enabling your Website with sound or by avoiding the use of fixed-size fonts you can let people with visual impairment access your content.
On the technical side, issues of browser compatibility may be of importance in maximizing your Website’s reach. If your site is designed using the latest cutting-edge technology that is extremely bandwidth intensive, you are losing the majority of web surfers who have ancient computers hooked to the Internet via slow dial-up connections.
Another point to remember during the redesign process is to keep the new site backward compatible with the older existing content.
When you first created a Website perhaps you didn’t expect it to become as popular as it did. You plunged right in and did it. Now that it is generating so many page views, you want to make it better. (This not-too-uncommon scenario is what fuelled the first redesign of my own Website.) What’s more, you now know how difficult it is to start from scratch. You’d like to set things up so that it becomes easy to scale up your site if it gets even more famous. A redesign is your best chance to plan for future expansion and growth.
There are two elements to keep in mind:
Organization of the entire site
Design, Coding and Programming
A well thought-out hierarchical arrangement of content on your Website should let you grow and expand with very little difficulty.
Brainstorm the possibilities.
Consider which parts of the site may justifiably become more important over the next few years.
Then work out a way to factor in such growth into your site design and layout.
I’ll use my experience as an example.
At my first redesign, my ezine had just 250 subscribers. Still I considered that an area of potential growth. Accordingly I planned for a system to archive past issues, invite new subscribers to join up and to sell advertising and sponsorships.
Over time, as my readership grew, this system permitted growth with very little added effort.
The next issue – which is aimed at making life easier for the person who is in charge of maintaining the Website over time – is to plan a system by which site-wide changes can be made quickly and with the least effort.
There are several options:
Some HTML editors allow changes to be made across Webpages by modifying a single file or inserting code into all pages of a site. The altered pages however have to be uploaded one at a time.
By using FRAMES in the site design for the header or navigation bar, changes can be made across the whole site by altering the content of that FRAME alone.
The best methods however are using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and Server Side Includes (SSI).
CSS are a set of rules that are applied to elements of a Webpage. There are three categories of CSS – embedded, inline and linked (or external).
By using external style sheets on every page of a Website, changes to the site’s look and feel can be made by simply changing the CSS file containing the rules.
If the CSS rule set controlling, for example, TEXT or LINK elements is changed, all textual content of a site can be displayed in different fonts, sizes and even colors while links can be formatted to be bold, underlined, or show up in different colors – all by making a single alteration in JUST ONE CSS file.
The creative use of Server Side Includes can allow even more versatility to the Website layout. SSI’s allow a file (which may be an entire .htm page) to be inserted into a specified portion of another Webpage. By making changes to a single SSI, changes can be reflected across the entire site.
For instance if an SSI file is used for the site’s navigation bar, by changing that single file alone the entire navigation system of the Website could be revamped.
Ease of Promotion
For many Websites, search engines are an important source of traffic. A high ranking in these engines is therefore very desirable.
But Search Engines keep changing their positioning algorithms ever so often. To retain a prominent position on them, websites need to be redesigned often too.
At the time of a redesign a decision must be made about optimizing Webpages for the different Search Engines. Addition of META tags, insertion of a generous sprinkling of keywords, re-writing content to gain higher keyword density and modification of design and layout are all effective tools to use in a redesign.
Another issue relevant to increasing site popularity is the accessibility of the best parts of a Website.
By carefully analyzing Website access logs and tracking the path a visitor takes through a site, it is possible to map out the best and most useful pages.
During a redesign every effort must be made to get these pages in front of the reader soon after they reach the site. These pages also must be among the first to get optimized to secure a prominent position on Search Engines and directories.
Integration – Content, Features, Technology
Websites grow by adding content, including new features and implementing technology. Pretty soon there’s chaos. A redesign offers an excellent opportunity to consolidate and put things back in order.
For existing content on your Website, you may:
Re-structure. Rethinking your strategy lets you make major structural changes to your Website’s layout, design and pattern of arrangement of content.
Re-purpose content. Archived articles could become features for an ezine issue. Discussion forum threads could become the nucleus of a topic review. Photographs of art pieces could be collected into a virtual gallery.
Re-arrange content logically. To illustrate the point, a news site might redesign its archives to group all stories related to an event rather than simply ordering them by date.
Reference content scattered across the site. Individual pieces of content about a particular topic or issue distributed around a site might be more useful to visitors if grouped together.
With growth comes differing needs. When a content site reaches critical mass, adding community to it makes sense. An online merchant will benefit from building a mailing list to which s/he can announce special offers and deals. Launching an ezine lets a scientific research site inform members about recent developments. Starting discussion groups allows virtual communities to stay in touch.
From another angle, you may need to add features for a specific purpose.
A legal disclaimer against liability becomes necessary as your business or nature of service evolves.
Copyright notices may need to be added or modified over time.
Employing New Technology
Technology changes very rapidly on the Web. Some developments are exciting and revolutionary. Others fade away as suddenly as they arrived. Redesigning your site lets you experiment with new technology.
If your site offers stock quotes, the Mobile Wireless Internet gives you a chance to reach customers with the latest developments – instantly, anywhere. If you offer video movie downloads, the growing number of DSL subscribers is good news for you – and merits a redesign.
It is always a good idea to follow the revenue stream !
Although there are oh-so-many ways to make money from a Website, the sad truth is that most sites DO NOT. The reasons are varied, but essentially not every method of revenue generation is suitable for a given site.
So when you’ve identified a money making strategy for your Website, you’d be best advised to make the most of it. Which means you need to redesign your site to leverage that advantage to the hilt.
If you notice banner advertisements working well for you, you might consider revamping the design to allow banner placement at the location most likely to be attractive to advertisers and generate the best response from users.
However if the content on your site is its major attraction, your focus would be to make design changes to keep irrelevant elements like advertisements from obscuring the content.
On a shopping site the redesign process will be entirely different.
The ultimate aim here will be to generate more sales from visitors. Streamlining the search and ordering process, and driving casual users towards the products most likely to interest them is the priority here.
How Best can you Redesign Your Website?
The choice is obvious – do it yourself or outsource it to a professional. In the first instance, reference to the issues discussed earlier tempered with common sense, flexibility and an open mind will do wonders for your new-look site.
If you decide to outsource the job, there are a few more things to keep in mind.
Consider what you’d do differently. Make a list of the areas you’d like to redesign, and suggest the modifications you wish to see implemented.
Communicate these ideas effectively to the designer/developer.
Have a written contract signed by both sides to prevent litigation.
The agreement should define:
the job descriptions (who will do what)
how the work will be done and the time frame involved
who owns the material created, especially intellectual property.
Tips and Tricks For a Successful Redesign
However you decide to carry out your redesign, make sure to do it all separately from your existing Website. The use of a development server mimics the live-environment in a realistic manner. Another option is to use a password-protected section of your own site or on a restricted Intranet.
ALWAYS keep a backup copy of your old Website. Then in the unfortunate event of a disaster with the new design, you at least have the older version to fall back upon!
Get feedback from a small subset of users before going “live”. This gives you an opportunity to fix any bugs and make some last minute tweaks to the new site.
Create a Frequently Asked Questions section for existing customers and members that describes your redesign and explains any changes in the way your new system works.
Check your competitor’s Website for ideas.
Consider changing your Web hosting service or your Website’s operating platform if the changes you made necessitate it.
I wrote and published my first ebook way back in 1997.
It was for a very small and specialized niche. Since then, that little ebook has sold over SEVEN HUNDRED copies. Even today, it sells a few every month – with no effort at all.
That didn’t happen because I was smart – but because I was lucky.
Intuitively I had picked a niche that was in high demand by my target audience. It was information they simply had to have, because it offered the solution to a pressing problem that couldn’t be solved in any other way.
Few information marketers today have the luxury of taking such a chance with their product creation, especially now when over-looked niches with little competition are almost non-existent. More than ever before, anyone venturing into a new niche must be able to do one thing accurately and well in order to succeed.
Building an information products business is easy. Building a profitable, successful, steadily growing information products business is hard. That’s just how things are. If they were any different, we’d all own cash-cow infoproduct empires.
To be perfectly fair, there are dozens of different ways to build an information products business. There are hundreds of ‘gurus’ willing to teach you their favorite approach. The best one is the one that works for you.
In this report, I’ll share with you what works for me. I’ve built an information products business, created over 85 infoproducts, and sold more than $500,000 worth of ebooks, home study programs, audio-video tutorials and print books since 1996.
I teach new infopreneurs the craft of how to create and sell ebooks (and other infoproducts) online. One of my most popular articles deals with an overview strategy to build an information products business – using what I call the “Tour Bus Method”.
Looking for the ULTIMATE product launch formula? The quickest, easiest way to launch a product and ramp up sales is to…
identify what your audience wants badly
create a fantastic product that fills that need
tease them about its arrival – for a long time
build a list of curious, eager and excited prospects
ramp up the excitement level
get partners to join in and promote for you
craft killer copy – test and tweak it till it rocks
provide ‘social proof’
launch with a bang
With this outline, you don’t really need the Product Launch Formula – but you can check it out if you like, here.
Now, let’s get our teeth into the meat of this process! 🙂
How To Plan Your Product Launch
The BIGGEST mistake beginners make is to assume the product launch process begins a few weeks (or months) before the actual launch. Truth is, it begins often months, or even YEARS, earlier – because it involves people and relationships first, and products/marketing only later.
If you (or your business) has a brand, reputation and image that breeds trust and respect, you’ll have infinitely more success in a product launch than if you were going at it from a standing start. That’s true of just about every big launch.
So get started right now.
Meet people who matter to your success, who are ‘names’ in your niche.
One way to do it is network at a seminar or workshop.
Another is to engage personally in conversations on Twitter or Facebook.
Or you may send handwritten postcards, or do something equally personal to build rapport.
If you cannot get out to live events, do the next best thing and network like crazy ONLINE.
Visit forums and discussion groups, and hang out with the crowd.
Share opinions, ideas and extend help to members.
Chat via email, private messaging or Skype – or just pick up the phone and talk with folks.
There is NO WAY to short-circuit this process. It takes time to develop, foster and nurture relationships. And these connections pay off richly when you have a product launch to co-ordinate. Now, on with the process itself.
Find What Your Market WANTS
Don’t guess. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Don’t try and twist your buyers’ arms the way you want them to behave. Just figure out what people desperately want, are already buying, will willingly spend money on. There are many ways to do it.
Here’s a quick outline of some ideas:
visit forums and see what topics are HOT, what problems many people in the niche are facing
look on marketplaces like eBay or Clickbank to see which products are selling nicely
study bookstores and magazine racks to see what type of things most fascinate prospects in your niche
ask people in your niche through a survey and analyze their responses
Create a Product That FILLS This Need
Study your competition. See what other products and services they offer prospects.
Buy them if necessary, to see what’s in them, how they are selling, what they do after the sale… and analyze every bit of data you gather.
Then, create your own product or service – with your own unique twist – and make it BETTER. There are many ways to do this.
make it bigger or more complete or versatile
make it cheaper or offer wider choice
create it in multiple formats, languages, regions
customize it for individuals or make it exclusive
throw in bonuses, guarantees and mentoring
It isn’t always easy to create excellent products. But the payoff happens when you approach partners to help you promote them.
Quality partners will NOT promote shoddy or useless stuff. The ONLY way to rope in enough partners and affiliates is to make sure your product and sales process WORK.
Start Building EXCITEMENT
A successful launch needs to be fuelled by momentum. So start building excitement as early as you can.
Anticipation for what’s in store is a powerful force to harness as a marketer. And a blog is one of the best vehicles online to start building buzz.
Post a few notes on your blog MONTHS before launch.
Hint at what’s in store.
Use some hype and mystery, but do it tastefully.
Bait your curiosity hook.
Be secretive and ‘accidentally’ drop nuggets to keep your audience eager and upbeat about what’s coming.
Get Interested Prospects To RAISE THEIR HANDS
A crucial part of the launch process is to get folks interested in your product launch to identify themselves – and give you a way to contact them with more information about your launch.
It’s a principle called COMMITMENT – when you’ve expressed an interest in something, it’s harder to back down later when it comes closer to the time to pull out your wallet and buy!
Keep The Buzz Going – And GROWING
As a product launch co-ordinator, you cannot let the buzz die down or get softer. Each tid-bit that you let out into the marketplace must be carefully pre-planned and timed for maximum impact. (You get brownie points for making it seem ‘accidental’!)
By judiciously tying in such news to current events, or other stuff that’s already got your audience’s mindshare, you can grow and expand your buzz to fever-pitch… just before launch.
How to create buzz?
Sneak peeks and case studies by folks who have had early previews of what you’re creating
Spy photos of the package and ads
Snippets of video or audio related to the product
Interviews with people involved
Special reports, trial software, freebie samples
All of these will get people in your market niche excited and talking. Markets are conversations. Your role, as a marketer, is to START conversations – not control them (or try to), but direct them to where you’d like them to head.
Find and Recruit PARTNERS
You don’t always have to do this. I’ve had very successful and profitable launches with no partners, or just a few. But if you can get some reliable partners on board, and enthusiastically promoting your launch, it can take your whole effort to a new level.
Best of all, it costs you NOTHING – until you’ve made a sale. Free advertising… you’ve got to LOVE it!
Now, the thing about recruiting partners is that it is NOT easy… unless you have one MAGIC ingredient.
A product that sells – and an offer that puts cash into your partners’ bank accounts, the more the BETTER.
If you launch a product that will bring your affiliates $5 per click, and your competitor can guarantee only $2, then guess who is going to win the loyalty of more affiliates?
But partners won’t be swayed by cash bounties alone. Many affiliates revel in the EXCITEMENT and DRAMA. So turn your affiliate recruiting process into a little CIRCUS.
Make it an event. Add a contest. Go further and run mini-contests for different stages. Publish a separate blog and mailing list for your partners alone. Keep them updated on the progress of your launch.
Remember – excited and enthused affiliates will bring in more sales.
Craft a Killer Sales Process
No matter what you’re selling, you’d better have a sales process that converts a fair share of prospects into buyers – or else you’ll drive away partners and lose a ton of credibility.
Test and tweak your sales process using traffic you generate from organic search results or that you pay for (or do private pre-launch JVs).
Find a combination that works well and hits your target numbers for conversion rate, revenue per visitor and other important metrics affiliates will find most relevant, and that will help make their decision to promote for you a no-brainer!
Provide SOCIAL PROOF
There are many ways to prove to a skeptic crowd that you’re the real deal. One way is to display testimonials from buyers or testers. Another is to publish case studies detailing successful use of your product or service.
A nice idea is to invite prospective buyers to leave comments on your blog, indicating how they plan to use your product once you launch it. That not only gives them a chance to start feeling OWNERSHIP of the product, but also tells other visitors to the blog that there are so many others considering buying it… a double wallop of social proof!
Oh, and you can make it fun and exciting by throwing in a contest where you offer one (or more) winners a free copy of your product when it comes out!
It may be big, busy and bustling. Or it may be quiet, calm and satisfying. I’ve done both styles – and much prefer the second. But hey, you probably LOVE the first kind, so to each his own! 🙂
On the big day, you get to revel in the results of weeks of hard work.
And while big cash influxes are a reward, there are so many more intangibles that give you great satisfaction and fulfillment. That’s something you CANNOT experience just from observing someone else’s launch… you NEED your own.
So go out and get busy.
I’ve given you an outline. You can choose to learn more about organizing and running product launches from a course or ebook or guide. Or you can do it by actually launching a product soon – and then learning from the process.
If you don’t have the cash to invest right now, DO NOT WORRY. I’ve had 7 or 8 great launches without ever having studied any product launch course. Indeed, this entire article is written from my own experience and learning BEFORE studying any program that teaches it!
And here’s another ‘Poor Man’s Tip’ – shell out $12.50 and order a fantastic book (printed out on paper, NOT the digital kind) called: “INFLUENCE – The Psychology of Persuasion” It’s written by a researcher named Robert Cialdini.
Get it and read it AT LEAST 3 times. Then, if you want, come back and read this article – while thinking about ways to use the powerful principles Cialdini teaches.
I'm Dr.Mani, a pediatric heart surgeon and author. I raise funds to sponsor heart surgery for under-privileged children in India. On this blog, I'll share my thoughts, travel photos, fitness tips and book reviews.