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What makes a good information product?

So … what do you think makes a GOOD INFORMATION PRODUCT?

According to Clay Collins, there are three types:

  1. Identity-based products

  2. Mechanism-based products

  3. Goal-based product

Henri Junttila suggests a 12 step process for creating one:

  1. Pick a Problem to Solve

  2. Create a Freebie

  3. Tell People

  4. Get Curious

  5. Develop Your Promise

  6. Create Your Course Outline

  7. Outline Your Sales Page

  8. Draft Classes

  9. Build Buzz

  10. Launch

  11. Get Feedback

  12. Create Home-Study

And Leevi Romanik outlines how to create an information product that sells. All very interesting but not particularly helpful when preparing for a recent interview with a very large, UK based information services provider.

Courtesy of the Pandecta website: Strictly speaking, information products include all books, reports etc. In the Internet context, the term refers to electronically deliverable, knowledge-based products. Information products are also referred to as "digital goods" and "knowledge-based goods". If it delivers knowledge and you can e-mail it to the customer or offer it as a downloadable file, then it qualifies as an information product.

  • Information products can be created with little or no money. When I started I paid for a domain, hosting and a copy of Acrobat so I could make PDF files. That's it.

  • Information products can be reproduced in any quantity - it is as simple as copying a file. Even if you sell a million copies, production costs stay zero.

  • With information products, inventory and the problems around keeping an inventory are completely eliminated.

  • With information products, shipping costs and problems around shipping are completely eliminated.

  • Because it is delivered electronically, the time-lapse between purchase and delivery is negligible.

  • Information products are cheap, easy, convenient and fast. The kind of thing you can create and sell all by yourself.

DIFFERENT KINDS OF INFORMATION PRODUCTS

  1. E-books

  2. E-zines & newsletters

  3. Reports & research data

  4. Tutorials, courses & help files.

INFORMATION PRODUCTS AND PERCEIVED VALUE

The major disadvantage of information products lies in its perceived value - in other words what the customer thinks it is worth before he / she buys it.

If it's a real book, she knows that it probably wouldn't get published if it were no good. She knows it has been spell-checked. With an e-book, these assurances are not there. Anyone can slap an e-book together and offer it for sale.

She also ends up with some data on her hard drive - not a book in her hands. People simply like to hold things they buy. Many people shop to feel better.

There are a couple of effective ways to add to the perceived value of information products.

You could reassure your potential customer by showing testimonials from happy customers, by offering a free download of part 1 while offering part 2 & 3 for sale, by offering a full, money-back guarantee etc.

You can also add to the perceived value of information products by increasing the price. Every product has a level of price resistance. The ideal is to find yours by experimenting and then set is just below that mark. Don't make the mistake of pricing low because production cost is zero. Price it according to the benefits it provides.

As a starter for 10, seems to make sense.

Preparing for Interview Questions

An often overlooked part of the interview process is fielding questions and, being heard to ask a lot of questions yourself. Granted, the lions share of the interview maybe dedicated to selling your experiences against a raft of different scenarios you may find yourself in should you get the role, however, you'll be kicking yourself IF you walk away from the interview not having clarified anything and everything.

I'm as guilty as anyone of not having my questions written down beforehand, relying on a) a good memory and / or b) I will make some up when I get there. Trust me, use a pen and paper in advance of the interview. Jot down a few things that you want to know, need to know or, seem even remotely relevant to the position for which you've applied. Although the 'there is no such thing as a stupid question' is kinda true, use the questions you ask to demonstrate you've researched the role, company or even, the person that's interviewing you.

Though it's one step short of stalking them, get a print out of their linkedin profile - highlight any key points on their profile(s) that may be of interest or you feel that are pertinent to bring up during the interview. It's often surprising how many shared contacts you have, things you've both done, people you've worked with or work for let alone projects you've been involved with etc etc

Even today, didn't quite have my thinking cap on for the ... where do you see yourself in three years? ... If we rang some of your past colleagues or co-workers, what would they say about you? ... When you get up in the morning, what task do you dislike the most? ... What do you see youself achieving in the first six months? ... Given the amount of stakeholders you'd be dealing with, who would you tackle first and how would you approach this? 

When on the train back from London this evening, the post mortem will continue - what went well and what could I do better next time? 

Dealing with Conflict

Having been asked this question at a recent interview and being the reflective, diligent man I am, thought to document a 'proper response' should I ever need one again.

Granted, I may not have answered it as best I could first time around however, this is what I should have said (though nearly did).

A little common sense and pre-emptive action BEFOREHAND can often defuse possible conflicts before they get out of hand however the following list of tips will help you manage and resolve touchy situations should they arise.

  1. Ask questions before you allow an escalation.
  2. Analyse expectations.
  3. Recognize differing perspectives.
  4. Identify mistakes as honest / unintended mistakes frequently result in conflict.
  5. Watch out for emotional triggers.
  6. Focus on preventing escalation (see 1 above).
  7. Take action to control the situation.
  8. Commit to working it out.
  9. De-escalate the conflict.
  10. Stay calm at all times (that’s me that is).

Anything to add? Anyone?

30/60/90 day plans

If asked to prepare a 30 / 60 / 90 day plan for a forthcoming job interview, it CANNOT be general - it has to be crafted for the particular employer you're going to meet, see or discuss. Such 'tailored ' presentations are the platform to show the hiring manager how seriously you’re taking the opportunity, what you have to offer and the real difference you're intending to make when you're handed the job. The more it speaks to the hiring manager’s needs, the more effective it is.

The plan doesn’t need to be a 30-page report outlining every element of the company’s sales strategy and every data point in the company report, it can be a simple PowerPoint presentation attached to an e-mail or, printed for discussion during the next or final interview round. Quite simply, it should focus on what you're going to do to make money for the company in months one, two and three hence, the 30 / 60 / 90 day plan.

Considering trends and market conditions facing the company in question, you may have also picked up insights from earlier research, past telephone interviews, earlier face to face interviews or, reaching out to current / past employees of the company. Such insights will really bring your presentation to life. WITHOUT such tailoring, it will be a real turnoff if you were to show something generic.

Heather Huhman outlines the gals that should be incorporated into your own, customized plan - breaking it down into three distinct phases:

  1. 30 days – the learning stage
  2. 60 days – adding the Y-O-U
  3. 90 days – the transformation stage

While the likes of 'Understand your boss’s expectations of you', 'Begin forming professional relationships with co-workers', 'Learn about your customers and clients',  and 'Investigate the overall company culture' all make perfect sense, I'd try to think more along the lines of action oriented planning; what EXACTLY will you do, WHO will you meet and WHAT are you looking to achieve BY WHEN?

Though you may actually get some of the detail wrong, you're trying to signal intent; you may incorrectly assume somethings are not already in place and they actually are. Such things - about what exists and what doesn't - can be ascertained when you start in the role and have direct access to all of the company crown jewels.

When I last prepared such a presentation for my role with the Trader Media Group way back in 2009 (mindful that this was for a Senior Product Management position), here's some of the things that I considered to be important at that point in time (BEFORE joining the business a few weeks later):

First 30 days

  • Corporate Strategy & Business Objectives; what’s expected of me?
  • Existing product(s):
  • Insights from within the team; internal perspective – ‘online behaviour’
  • Reqs. gathering from outside; external perspective – ‘offline behaviour’
  • Technology; hosting/colo, access/bandwidth provision
  • Information architecture; structure, tasks & flow between pages
  • Company ‘systems’ & training: processes, policies & procedures
  • Relationship Building; customers, advertisers & team members
  • Relationship Building; sales teams - ‘Your needs are my needs’
  • Relationship Building; print & production teams
  • Baseline KPIs; both financial & non-financial measures
  • Implement a new ideas scheme
  • Establish social media ‘presence’ (via twitter) & a news agenda
  • Review & update my personal development plan

The next 30 days

  • Sharing lessons learned to date; implement critical change(s)
  • Re-check expectations and prioritise any ‘loose ends’ or ‘niggles’
  • Outline product & content roadmap; clear rationale & priorities
  • Reporting; interactive and/or diagnostic control systems
  • Further Relationship Building; 3rd party suppliers & ext. agencies
  • Review competitive landscape; report on latest developments
  • Begin forging plans for research, focus groups & industry forums
  • Focus on Sales Productivity; thoughts on SFA and/or CRM?
  • Measure success of any/all changes already made
  • Establish & facilitate inaugural JAD Workshop
  • Review & update my personal development plan

The last 30 days

  • Focus on implementation inc. business processes & systems
  • Content, search-engine rankings and design - refine, test & improve
  • Resource Plan:
  • Team structure, budgets, forecasts et al
  • Pricing; modelling different upside & downside scenarios
  • ‘Co-opetition’ opportunities; online partnerships?
  • Link building, affiliates, sponsorship and/or co-branding
  • Offline communications:
  • Advertising, sales promotion, PR, direct mail, merchandising & WoM
  • Viral Marketing:
  • Pass along emails, send-2-a-friend, media mentions & incentives
  • Review & update my personal development plan

Looking back, the 'pre employment plan' wasn't far off the mark actually in terms of what actually was done. For a greater detail on how 'the plan' unfolded (in terms of onward development and embellishment), please see Putting Lipstick on a Pig

As a part of the 10 slide presentation, I used a few slides to wrap up some of the trends and / or market conditions facing the business at that time:

The Future (1)

  • The rise and relevance of Hyper-local information
  • Mobile ‘access’; real-time & location-aware
  • Targeted advertising; specific demographics perhaps
  • ‘Sharing stuff’; harnessing the power of social networking
  • Advertisers conversing through social profiling, not just selling
  • Seeking the leaders of all social networks; the influencers
  • With the rise of the social entrepreneurs; niche networks?
  • Social network interconnectedness; widgets et al
  • Newsletters, Expert Tips & published articles
  • Crowd sourcing or else!

The Future (2)

  • Building a network of genuine, passionate friends & followers
  • Not forgetting the ‘spectators’; those on the long tail (or not)
  • Mapping & POI layering; ‘more than just’ navigation
  • Offers, coupons, vouchers and/or category sponsorship
  • Using the most effective and audience-friendly ad products
  • A five-second pre-roll combined with a ten-second lower 1/3 ad unit, according to "Project Inform," a study by MTVN & marketing researcher InsightExpress
  • What is happening to print? What is the outlook for print?
  • ‘Being Yell.com’; a multimedia content company (21/7/09)

Final Thought

  • I think I understand the role
  • I am willing to do what needs to be done
  • The key: measurable success
  • The goal: ongoing improvement
  • The main driver: revenue
  • I can deliver the pieces; goals & targets
  • Thanks for your time

If you agree, disagree or want to ask - what the hell are you talking about; let me know.