So you want to start selling informational products?
For new startups looking to make a quick impact, informational products make an excellent service to build a business around or earn some extra side cash with.
They’re ever-popular with businesses and individuals alike looking for new ways to train their teams, learn about new topics and continue their personal development.
It’s difficult to know where to start though when it comes to information product ideas.
Which products are the most profitable? Which are the easiest to make? How do you translate your unique experience and expertise into a polished product people will want to invest time and money into, and make it one of the best selling information products?
This guide will cover what an informational product is, what kind of informational products are popular right now and how to make yours stand out in what is becoming a more competitive market every day.
What are informational products?
An informational product is a product that conveys knowledge or information for the purpose of education.
If you’ve ever bought an ebook to improve your team management skills or paid to watch a livestream of a marketing conference you’ve bought into the idea of an informational product
They often take the form of many of the most popular forms of new media around today — just with a focus on educating the viewer, reader or listener.
Informational products are typically highly profitable, due to their low production costs and the lack of time it takes to produce them. These products are often based entirely on specialist knowledge the creator uses every day, eliminating the need for significant research time.
Informational product ideas for your startup
Excited to get started? To give you some inspiration, here are a few ideas for popular products your startup can produce.
The launch of products such as the Amazon Kindle has made ebooks one of the most accessible and popular ways of consumer written media.
Though not quite making physical books redundant in the way many publishers feared, ebooks have evolved into a format of their own, becoming less of a replacement for books and more of an alternative form of publishing for low-budget outlets and aspiring authors.
What are they? Digital books that consumers can buy and read directly from devices such as e-readers and tablets.
Why are they popular? Cheap, convenient and highly addictive. While plenty of people still enjoy sitting down with a nice hardback or learning a new skill from a dog-eared textbook, many of us enjoy the flexibility of an ebook. They’re ideal for travelling or sharing around a group without needing to purchase multiple physical copies.
How easy are they to make? As far as informational product ideas go, ebooks are a popular choice for both individuals and businesses as they present a much cheaper alternative to printing a physical book. The process of writing, collecting imagery and editing for sale is still there, but the finished product can simply be uploaded to one of many major virtual stores — giving it access to a huge consumer market on platforms such as Amazon.
Alternatively, you could produce audiobooks as informational products. Thanks to the rise of podcasts, audio is once again becoming a hugely popular medium that many consumers turn to for educational needs.
Key Example – The Minimalist Path has established an empire of self-care and self-help products largely through the production of informational ebooks. By offering free downloadable copies they have exposed their brand to a wider audience and made everything from finance management to living a minimalist lifestyle more accessible to the everyman.
Online courses present an alternative option for people looking to train their staff in key skills and expand their knowledge of specialist markets — without investing time and money into in-person seminars and exams.
Startups can create online courses on everything from how to manage a business to how to professionally edit video — with the ability to learn these skills quickly and in your own time becoming an increasingly popular commodity.
What are they? Online courses come in all shapes and sizes. Video and written courses can be consumed in a much more relaxed way than traditional lectures. Online courses such as Google Digital Garage are highly successful, combining elements of video with interactive quizzes to test user knowledge in a simple, entertaining manner full of actionable advice.
Why are they popular? Flexibility and enjoyment. Businesses are always looking for new ways to help their staff learn new skills and become greater assets, and online courses offer a way of doing just that without sending them off for a week to take part in a specialist course.
You can take an online course in your own time, from the office or home and go over different sections and questions as many times as you desire. It’s a much more relaxing and adaptable way to learn.
How easy are they to make? Online courses require significantly less effort than traditional teaching. Recording and editing the audio and video may take some time, as will more technical interactive quiz segments, but the basic structure of a course can be copied over and re-used for a number of different topics and levels of difficulty.
Key example – Online course hub Lynda has a huge number of courses available covering everything from animation to software development. They have found success working with big brands and higher education sectors to provide both entry-level and expert courses.
Can’t make it to a conference to catch your favourite keynote speaker? A webinar is your next best bet.
For many, the most valuable part of attending a conference is the interactivity with people you respect and the chance to really pick their brain for advice. As a product, webinars can’t necessarily recreate that access, but they do allow for a more comprehensive educational and inspiring experience that can be edited or performed live remotely for the viewers convenience.
What are they? Digital conferences that can be attended over the web live or watched/downloaded as a recording after the event.
Why are they popular? Valuable, entertaining and actionable content provided by people knowledgeable in their field. Many webinars involve creative talks and tasks, forcing attendees to interact and act upon their knowledge rather than just absorb it. Think why you love conferences and talks — then imagine that from the comfort of your own home.
How easy are they to make? As easy as it is to create your seminar presentation, rehearse your speech and press record (or set your stream live). Streaming this kind of content has been made easier than ever before thanks to the availability of quality equipment and number of great platforms available.
Key example – Communication tool Intercom holds and offers access to a number of different webinars. Registering gives you access to webinars covering topics across a number of digital fields — presented stylishly by confident professionals.
A harder sell than many of the other informational products on this list. Despite this, membership sites remain a brilliant way of bringing in dedicated consumers and achieving a constant revenue stream — if you have the content to back it up.
For many, membership sites present the future of new media and potentially post-school education.
What are they? Specialist websites established to attract consumers particularly interested in specialist topics and industries or looking to build relations within a community. They usually host many of the other forms of content featured on this list, but offer a secure and select space to enjoy and learn from them in.
Why are they popular? Exclusivity is a huge selling point — with many people believing they’re getting a higher quality product behind the paywall and enjoying premium in-house content. Just look at the continued popularity of subscription content such as Netflix or The Athletic, where access to a supposed higher level of content is a key selling point. They also give subscribers a place to interact with other people interested in this topic on forums, forging community bonds that can lead to businesses and creative partnerships.
How easy are they to make? Potentially the hardest product on this list. You don’t just need to invest time into developing your own website and promoting the hard-sell of a subscription for access, but the content to populate it. Best sold if you have access to highly talented people with some existing name recognition and experience making great content.
Key example – Smart Blogger has found success in the digital world with a great online membership site dedicated to providing members with seminars and well-produced blogs.
Everyone’s been to a Q&A.
Much like a webinar, they offer the opportunity to both learn from and pick the brain of your favourite thought leader or keynote speaker. As a digital product this does much the same — however, it has a second life as a recorded product people can enjoy later, just without the ability to ask questions of their own.
What are they? Live or recorded sessions where thought leaders answer questions from the paying public on their specialist topic. This is different from a webinar in that the event is entirely based around what would be the Q&A portion.
Why are they popular? Insight you won’t get anywhere else and answers to those burning questions you’ve had for years. As a recorded product they give you the chance to catch up on events you might have missed and offer as a training program to teammates. Actionable, real-world advice from people you can trust.
How easy are they to make? Perhaps one of the simplest products to make — although they do involve some competency on the part of the people asking the questions. In essence, they’re much the same as recording a webinar or podcast, just with some audience interaction.
You’ll need the right equipment and some experience holding court over an audience with questions (it might be best to hire an interviewer), but ultimately this is a low-effort one-time investment you can make money from for years. They’re also almost totally automated once they’re set up.
Best selling informational products
The informational products industry is so varied with so many new players emerging every month that it’s hard to list the most successful products of all time.
Many of the examples already given have experienced significant success. The products that have really thrived have all featured a few key elements though:
- Rich, actionable content that provides with answers or inspiration
- A clear, concise and functional design (this is particularly important for websites and online courses. However, webinars need to put just as much focus into how they look and how easy they are to follow)
- A strong narrative voice achieved through a confident presenter or strong writing
- Affordable pricing that reflects the useability and value of the product in today’s market
Building your informational product around these points will provide a strong launching pad to build off of.
Want to know what people really want though? Ask them! Problems come in all shapes and sizes — so provide answers to their particular questions. Solve real problems and no one will be reluctant to pay.
Selling informational products: how does it work?
Now let’s cover the ins and outs of turning your knowledge into a product people will want to buy.
How can you monetise informational products?
Anyone can create content based on their knowledge, but not everyone can monetise it.
Fortunately, there are a few different ways to make money through your information products — whether you’re trained in certain skills or have a website ready to go.
Let’s go through the essential steps first though:
Step one – Create a product people will be interested in and has a marketable element to it.
Step two – Find a platform to sell your products on. Whether it’s launching your own online store or becoming a verified seller on an established platform such as Amazon, you need somewhere visible and easy to get to so that people can buy your products. This instantly exposes your product to a much wider audience and eliminates the need for extensive marketing.
Step three – Advertise your products on visible platforms with high user rates. Expensive online advertising through search engines and social media may not be for you (they can be quite costly for new brands and products with little recognition), however, alternative forms of marketing such as email or affiliate marketing may be a more profitable way of getting the word out about your product.
Selling yourself as part of the product is a great way to give your product an extra sense of legitimacy. Branding the product alongside yourself, particularly if you’re a somewhat known and respected name in your sector, helps you market your product more effectively.
Co-authoring or creating an informational product with an established brand or personality can help you cut out a lot of the major costs associated with developing an informational product — and even offer the platform needed to achieve it.
How easy is it?
Well, that depends on a few different factors.
If you’re developing a more complex product such as a membership website, series of seminars or an ebook the process will require time and effort to make the product and find a way to distribute it.
Selling your products is a whole other issue. You need to make sure you’re marketing to the right kind of people in the right spaces.
Key examples of people who may be interested in informational products include:
- Small businesses
- Educational institutions
- Local community groups
Making your products desirable often involves having some cache to your name, especially when your expertise is part of that product, such as with a webinar or Q&A.
If you can create a quality product, reach these people and have actionable examples for them to act upon, you’re close to a winning commodity.
What are the chances that people will want to pay for your knowledge? Very unlikely. But a polished product they can share amongst colleagues and partners? That’s more likely.
You’re selling a solution rather than knowledge. How easy it is to sell an informational product is really a matter of how well you present a product as a solution to their problems. It’s the same as anything you’d sell online.
You should also consider the state of the market in the present day. How hungry are people for informational products or insights into the topics you’re covering? Try and catch a trend on the upswing — as a popular product can often be a sign of a highly oversaturated market.
Revenue vs effort
For the majority of informational products we’ve listed so far, effort significantly outweighs the financial investment required. While this is not the case for all informational products, it is largely a situation where you get what you put in in terms of effort.
Ebooks, webinars and audio content, for example, will require the initial financial investment of digital tools to create the content — whether that’s editing software or a microphone to record yourself with.
Beyond that investment to create a professional product though, there is significantly less financial investment than that of time and effort. The process then becomes one of committing yourself to creating something worth paying for — whereas money can only do so much for you.
You can also increase the revenue of an existing product by adding slight updates to it — giving it new content for new and existing audiences. This is a minimal effort way of making your content more profitable.
However, that effort will drop significantly as you continue to make more products and refine your process. As you become better at editing, writing and public speaking the effort required will become less and the process second nature. This essentially makes the process of creating informational products a low cost/low effort enterprise — with significant financial and brand-building rewards.
One important additional cost you should consider is hosting. Whether you’re launching your own website or selling through an existing platform there will be either a cost of hosting or a small service charge. You should weigh this against your production costs and find the most appropriate and affordable option for your operation.
So there you have it — our guide to getting started sourcing, making and selling informational products.
If you want to create one of the best selling informational products, the secret is often to put passion and insight into it — offering a genuinely exceptional product full of informational and actionable advice. These tips will hopefully get the gears turning back in your startup’s office and provide some consistent income through the door.