The Five Stages In the Life Cycle of Online Products

Life cycles are an extremely useful concept. Like most models, they help people to visualize the progress of an online product under certain conditions. They help people to predict the effects of decisions within the life cycle of that product.

There are a number of different life cycles. In fact, everyone who has an interest in an online product has some form of life cycle. Learning content creators have their version of a life cycle based on the effort. Accountants have their view of a life cycle based on income. Project Managers often have two. One based on the development cycle and one based on the types of projects needed. And marketers have their view.

In a previous article, I suggested a very complex life cycle. However, in this article I’m going to describe one life cycle of online products as seen by a marketer.

This marketing life cycle consists of five steps.

1. Pre-Launch

The period before the launch of a product is the focus of many other life cycles. But for a marketer, this time is used for two main purposes. The first is preparation of a marketing plan and marketing assets to be used later in the life cycle. However, this period is also used to create a buzz. Frequently this is a very heavy period of marketing as pre-orders are important to recovering the cost of development of the online product. A large pre-order also helps to focus partners on the product so that they continue to support the marketing effort in the next stage.

2. Growth

Once the product is released there will be an initial period where sales grow. While the pre-launch focused on the initial penetration of the market, this stage is more concerned with obtaining a commanding share of the market. This period is often characterized by high marketing spending with respect to profit.

3. Stabilization

In time, the market begins to reach equilibrium. While new competition enters the market, it tends not to disrupt the status quo. This stage is characterized by high profit with limited market spending and a stability in the market share.

4. Decreasing Sales

As time goes by sales begin to decrease. This can be caused by an obsolete product. Or it may be a market-wide phenomena caused by market saturation. Or it may be the result of an alternate innovative market arising. In any case, this stage is often characterized by wild swings in marketing spending. This is the result of increased spending on marketing with little result followed by a demand to reduce spending in order to increase profit. Determining the value of increased marketing spending during this time can be frustrating and frightening.

5. Alternate Use

This is sometimes referred to as retirement. However, I prefer the concept of alternate use with online products. Online products are most often used as bonuses to improve the sales value of other products. Actual retirement is frequently used to adjust the market demand. Online products are also frequently improved and renamed with a version which somewhat eliminates their retirement in this stage. However, regardless of the strategy chosen, this stage is characterized by the withdrawal from sale of the product and the associated suspension of marketing efforts.

Online Products to Make and Sell

Imagination is the limiting factor when it comes to creating online products. When the attention is turned to selling these products, the ultimate purpose is to do so successfully and this means starting an internet business. A PDF (Portable Document Format) on ‘How to Cure a Limping Ladybird’ may well make interesting reading, but it is unlikely to have a large audience, and thus result in the desired amount of sales. Therefore it is best to concentrate on developing a product for which there is demand, and preferably to which we can apply our knowledge.

People buy all kinds of things whether or not they need them. Creating a product that people both want and need would be ideal. One may want to focus on a popular niche, e.g. Improve Your Golf and Take Your Opponent by Surprise, How to Reduce Scars from Spots, Feeding Your Dog to Optimize Its Health, etc. All the former involve popular niches. The key to marketing a niche related product successfully is to focus on a product which has little competition, but which is still popular.

For those new to selling and particularly selling online, starting with a digital product would make sense. There are a number of these to choose from. The largest market place for digital products to check out is ClickBank (ClickBank.com). Getting familiar with the site makes it easy to find out answers to important questions, such as how popular a product is, how many are selling, what it is about, average percentage per sale, etc.

Selling a digital product makes the rest of the process easier than selling a physical product for several reasons. Once it has been purchased access to the product is effectively immediate. This removes packaging, visiting the post office and mailing, and the normal associated time and monetary costs of these activities. In addition there is no need to keep stock, and to have or rent additional space for this purpose.

Selling a digital product can be done single-handedly, thus keeping further costs down, as well as remaining more independent when it comes to running a business by not having to rely on anyone else. Selling somebody else’s product is advantageous in that it does not involve Customer Care, thus making it possible to concentrate primarily on selling and marketing.

There are two types of online products – digital and physical. EBooks and PDFs are the most common digital products. In them links to Affiliate Products can be included. This has the potential to increase earnings beyond the price of the book alone. An example of this would be including a link to a cream that reduces scarring with regards to acne, a book on foods for beautiful skin, etc. Individuals desperate to get rid of acne are willing to acquire things that could free them of it. Getting rid of acne, becoming slimmer, healthier, more beautiful/attractive, salvaging a relationship, etc. are all topics that sell. Everyone can identify with this scenario, i.e. searching for a solution to a problem.

In eBooks links to YouTube videos, or anything else that can benefit the reader can also be included. To take this one step further, it is an idea to accompany an eBook by an audio that can be listened to whilst ironing, driving a car, etc. Many people like to do more than one thing at a time. To fully grasp any information it needs to be repeated several times.

Video is the most popular way of obtaining information. Seeing how something is done makes it a whole lot easier than translating text to the required actions. YouTube alone is living proof of how popular this kind of information is.

EBooks, audio/music, and videos all form digital products. Some are made of a combination of two or three different formats, so offering the user more flexibility and choice.

To summarise there are various kinds of online products to make and sell. They fall into two main categories either digital, or physical. It is possible to start selling someone else’s product pretty much immediately with marketing knowhow. The returns are bigger when selling one’s own product, as is the potential work load. Selecting the right market is one of the most important keys.

How to Make a Good Online Product

Making a good online learning content product might seem at first glance to be difficult. If you’ve never done it before it might even seem far too difficult for you. And if you’ve seen some of the information content products out there, you may believe that if the gurus can’t make a good online product then how are you going to?

But there’s no reason to be frightened off!

Making a good online product is really easy. Yes, it does require a system and yes it does require care. But you’ll find that you can create a professional looking online product with only a small amount of effort. What it takes is knowledge.

Let’s start this off by defining “good”. After all, if you don’t know what good is how can you make a good online product?

The audience for a learning content product judges the product in three dimensions. First, they judge your content. Then they judge the organization of your product. Finally they judge the delivery of your product. I like using the acronym COD — mostly because I get to practice my bad Newfoundland accent. And it’s easy to get silly with COD.

So what do they judge about content? And how can we make sure what we deliver is good?

If your audience already knew what you were teaching then they could judge the quality of your content. But they don’t so they can’t. So what are they going to do? Well, the answer is the next best thing… they’re going to judge content based on relevancy. Is your content relevant to them? If not, it’s bad. If it is relevant then it’s good. Silly, but then again we tend to make decisions based on emotion so what do you expect?

So how can you make sure you deliver quality content? You need to make it relevant to your audience. Your process has to start with the audience. It needs to identify what would be relevant to them. And then you can begin to develop the product itself. All through the product creation process you need to focus on your audience and their needs. Every thing you do during the product creation and marketing process needs to be focused on delivering what is relevant to them and their needs.

So what about organization?

This is the other way that your audience will judge the quality of the content. If your learning content product is well organized then it must have great content. So organization of your product becomes more important than it should be. After all, not only is it being judged on its own merits but it is influencing their opinion of the content.

To ensure that your information product is well organized you need to perform what is called a structural edit. This simply checks that you aren’t going off into the wild blue yonder with your explanations and that your argument makes logical sense. Traditionally this was done after the product was created. But that’s far too late. Corrections are too expensive by that point. Instead you need to create a detailed outline of your product down to the paragraph level. Then you can perform your structural edit while it’s easy to fix the product.

The third dimension of judgment is delivery.

What does your teleseminar sound like? Is there an introduction? Is there closing music? Does your video have closing credits? Is your book free of spelling errors and major unintentional grammar errors? Unfortunately, the standard to which your audience is holding you is the one they are familiar with — television, movies, radio, traditionally published books. This means you need to look and sound professional.

So how do you look and sound professional? The trick is in the polishing and formatting steps. Once you have created your product you need to edit it and package it. In the case of video, this means adding credits and music as well as removing errors. In the case of an eBook you need to fix the spelling and grammar mistakes and then make the eBook look like a published book.