The Secret Qualities of Successful Information Products

If someone asked you, “What’s the biggest chunk of the U.S. economy?” … you probably wouldn’t say “information.”

But, expenditures on information and information products account for over half of this country’s economy. That’s roughly $5 TRILLION!

Why so much? Americans have an unquenchable thirst for information. We crave information to make us healthier … wealthier … more beautiful. But most of all, we want information so we can show others how much we know.

I’ve developed a highly-successful publishing business selling information that people want. You can, too.

The key is developing an information product that people not only want to buy but want to continue to buy (or renew). This isn’t hard — if you understand the following 7 Qualities of Successful Information Product Development.

Quality #1: Is the Idea Interesting?

Interesting ideas connect with a genuine fundamental aspect of life. And, the first person they have to interest is you. If you pick ideas that interest you, research and writing will be fun. But, interest goes beyond that. Your idea has to be truly interesting to your reader.

For example, my first retail publishing idea in the early 1970s was for U.S. investors to invest globally. The idea was sound and remained very interesting for a long time.

On the other hand, look at collectables. There will always be a collectables market. Yet, many collectables are attractive only because they are in vogue.

If, for example, you had a publication about Beanie Babies back when they were in vogue, you could have done well. Today, that publication would fall on its face.

Fads offer attractive publishing opportunities, but they don’t last. Publications about interesting topics survive.

Quality #2: Is the Idea Legal and Ethical?

I once got a letter about how I could mail First Class letters for only 3 cents! Indeed, the stamp on the envelope was 3 cents.

This seemed interesting, since I spend hundreds of thousands a year on postage. The letter promised that, for $12, I could get details on how to mail First Class letters for 3 cents.

This was too good to be true, but I was interested. A few days later, I got one photocopied page telling me how to do it. The page claimed that, as a business, the Post Office had made an offer to send my mail at the current rate. And it claimed that, as a businessman, I could counteroffer by putting a 3-cent stamp on my letters instead.

If the Post Office accepted and mailed my letters, they accepted my offer. The idea was to simply mail all your letters with a 3-cent stamp, because most would get through. And, the idea was neither legal nor ethical.

The Postal Service’s Revenue Protection Department operates by spot inspection, true enough. So, yes, many of these 3-cent letters would get through. But, anyone mailing lots of them could expect to be investigated by the U.S. government. So, in the long run, it wouldn’t have been profitable. The fines (not to mention prison time) for these kinds of actions are very heavy.

Quality #3: Is the Idea Attractive?

Your idea has to attract first-time buyers. It doesn’t have to be pretty or pleasant. But, it must attract.

Attractiveness appeals to emotions in some way. The emotions can be good, bad, or even ugly. For example, one ad that worked well read, “I’m mad as heck at the government for cheating us — here’s how to get even.” It’s not a very pretty idea. But, it’s certainly attractive.

A publication must hold your reader’s interest to succeed in the long-term. But, attractiveness gets potential readers to drop everything, read a sales story, and buy your publication.

Quality #4: Is the Idea Usable?

Your idea has to fill some need for your reader. This is vital to gaining repeat customers for your publication. The idea has to work for its readers.

A publication can be entertaining. With a golf publication, for instance, the pleasure of reading about golf courses may be enough to make it useful if the main goal is to give the reader satisfaction through description.

On the other hand, the goal might be to help the reader know how to get lower golf scores (pride). Or, show times at various courses when greens fees are reduced (savings).

Quality #5: Is the Idea Understandable?

Some years ago, the book A Brief History of Time was a New York Times bestseller for over a year. It was called one of the most-purchased/least-read books of all time. The author’s next books didn’t sell well. His books — all of them about quantum science — were just too complicated.

Ask: Is my information understandable for my target market? As A Brief History of Time shows, being interesting can sell a book. But if it’s not understandable, you won’t build repeat business.

Quality #6: Is the Idea Timely?

A successful publication is tuned to the times. If it’s too far ahead of or behind its time, it won’t do well in the long run.

I failed to understand this quality in the 1970s when I was first writing about investing internationally. I’d lived abroad for nearly a decade, so this idea seemed obvious. However, it ran contrary to public thought.

Twenty years later, most U.S. investors were ready for this idea. Today, it is so common that local stockbrokers give free talks on the subject, so we’ve had to adapt. Because I understand this quality, I’m able to change, update, and innovate my publications constantly.

Quality #7: Is the Idea Sellable?

In publishing, marketing is a very important part of success. You can have the timeliest, most usable, interesting, easy-to-apply idea in the world. But if you cannot sell it, you won’t make money. Defining your market and deciding how to sell your idea correctly is an integral part of the product creation.

I learned this lesson while pioneering the idea of investing abroad. As I said, my idea was right … but ahead of its time. Because I was out of sync with most American investors, my original selling failed.

The product wasn’t salable until I discovered avenues that led me closer to the small percentage of Americans who were interested. This process of understanding the customer is called “focus,” and it’s crucial to publishing success.

For example, I found that though I marketed across the country to all professions and religions, a large percentage of my original readers were Jewish, Southern, or chiropractors — groups that had less trust in the establishment. Once I understood that all three of these groups perceived that the establishment had been, at one time or another, biased against them, I was able to zero in and focus my sales in those areas.

Self Publishing

Self-Fulfilled: How to be a Writer and Publisher

Turn your passions into a six or seven figure income. Self publisher Gary Scott shows you how to launch an information publishing business that can give you the income you desire. Learn More »


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Published: December 23, 2011

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