Digital products are intangible – most only live on someone’s computer – but the potential revenue stream they can create is very real. Digital products include e-books, which are downloadable digital versions of a printed book, online training courses, and as we all know, a growing selection of software and applications for mobile devices.
It’s true that digital products can be a lucrative and successful means to start a new business, particularly if you’re developing something that will fulfill a genuine need. But, with all the digital products coming to market and with the digital environment constantly changing, how do you make yours stand out in the ever-expanding online universe?
One of the best ways is: look at what the successful people have done.
Laying The Groundwork
If you’re still at the conceptual stage of developing a product, start with solid market research. For example, if you’ve developed an app, look at similar products on the app market and see which ones are popular. Consider how you can build on that and offer something that does more or provides a service that is more attuned to the needs of the marketplace. It’s better to learn from other people’s mistakes than your own.
The most important question to ask, says Toronto tech executive Jonmichael Moy, is what should exist that isn’t out there already? “From my experience, having worked in product management and development for a variety of tech start-ups, these companies each shared something when it came to product development that was incredibly important: each, quite simply, had something original to offer the marketplace and the public,” Jonmichael Moy adds. “It sounds very simple, but it’s true – ingenuity and having a truly original product does give entrepreneurs a leg up.”
Case Study: A Pattern for Success
Jason and Cinnamon Miles found a perfect niche digital product — downloadable patterns for doll clothing — and built it into a $600,000 a year business. The couple sells doll clothing and patterns through their own brand — Liberty Jane Clothing — and also created Pixie Faire, an online selling platform for other pattern designers.
Here’s their advice for prospective digital entrepreneurs: “I think the biggest key is to focus very clearly on your product strategy and to work out whether your product has a high probability of success,” Jason Miles said. “There are back corners of the Internet where people are actively looking for solutions and no one is serving them. Those are the most interesting niches to discover.”
Getting The Word Out
There are plenty of ways to promote your product without spending too much financial capital.
Write a guest blog post about it. Or seek out influential bloggers in your product’s market segment. They already have the audience you want reach.
E-Courses and E-Books
Two of the leading segments in the digital marketplace are e-courses or online courses and e-books. People with expertise in a specific area can write a book about it, teach a class on it — or do both.
The global e-learning market continues to expand and there’s always demand for more educational content — whether it be designed for mobile devices, corporate continuing education classes or Massive Open Online Courses.
If you’re knowledgeable about a subject, leverage it and create your own online course. There’s very little investment beyond the time involved. Choose the most effective ways of communicating — written materials, short videos or audio: podcasts are great for people who want to learn while stuck in traffic.
Even people without any particular expertise have been successful in creating courses. Joseph Michael Nicoletti turned his own struggles with learning the online book writing software Scrivener into a successful online course called Learn Scrivener Fast. He learned how to use it in small steps, and designed an online class based on those steps.
Self-publishing and marketing your own e-book is a great way to get that brilliant novel out of the desk drawer and into the hands of readers. Many online entrepreneurs write e-books to complement their other business ventures: for example, if you have a website on collecting antiques, write a book on the same topic and sell it through the site.
There are plenty of easy to use online publishing programs: One of the best is Apple’s free iBooks Author app, a word processing program with powerful capabilities so that anyone can design a professional book.