#143: Info-product Creation Part 1: When to Leave The Clients Out (And When to Include Them In)

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When creating an information product is the client important?

It might seem that a client is extremely important when creating an information product. After all, you're getting them to tell you exactly what she needs. However, more often than not, this method is a recipe for disaster. Even so, the client is extremely useful in another phase.

So when do you include the client? And when do you leave her out? Let's find out in this two part series on info-product creation.

Read online: Info-product Creation Part 1: When to Leave The Clients Out


In this episode Sean talks about

Part 1: How to create an information product and when you need the target profile Part 2: How to go about pre-selling your book Part 3: How to use the target profile to create info product versions


Did you ever wonder why evergreen trees don't shed their leaves even in freezing winter?

The moment autumn rolls along, most trees in temperate and boreal zones shed their leaves. Every tree has chemical light receptors—phytochrome and cryptochrome. These light receptors can sense a loss of light. Which is precisely when deciduous and broadleaf trees shed their leaves. However, the evergreen trees hang on to their leaves even in the dead of winter, because their foliage is coated with a wax. This wax helps fob off the cold. Plus their cells bear an anti-freeze sort of chemical that enable it to avoid it having to drop its leaves.

When creating an information product, we have to mimic trees

Sometimes it's best to drop the client out of the creation of the product, because they're likely to get in the way. At other times we have to make sure we hold onto them like the evergreen tree does with all its leaves. But when do you get the client involved? And when do you drop them?

In this series we'll look at the client—who we call the target profile.

We'll have a closer look at three core elements:

– When to leave the client out – When to bring the client in—and specially when pre-selling the info-product – Why the target profile plays an important role in creating versions or additional satellite products.

Let's start with the first one.

1) How to create an information product and why you need to leave the target profile out of it

What's the worst way to cook a great dinner?

Let's assume you ask the guests to drum up a list of their favourite meals. Were you to go down this path of asking guests for their recommendations, you'd quickly get swamped with a mishmash of dishes.

Dal makhani, fried chicken, broccoli, couscous—just about any dish would show up on the request list. And that's no way to cook a dinner, Instead a better way is to have an overall view of what the clients need—and then completely avoid asking them for any advice while you're prepping dinner.

A similar process plays itself out when you're creating an info-product

Many years ago when I sat down to write an info-product on membership sites. My idea was simple: I pre-sold the book on membership sites. I then asked clients to give me the topics they wanted me to cover.

As you'd expect, I got a list of questions that seemed to go on forever. While at first it seems like topics given by clients are a goldmine, the requests turned out to be incredibly debilitating. As you'd expect, I was unsure where to start or how to go ahead.

When creating information products, leave your client out of the planning stage completely.

The goal of the information product—a great information product—is to get a client from Point A to Point B and to enjoy the ride in the process. Think of yourself as a GPS. The GPS has access to a tonne of information, but do you see that information on screen?

Instead, what the GPS does is show you only what's valid for your journey. And should there be delays along a route, that very same GPS may take you down a longer route, but eventually get you to the destination as quickly as possible.

Take for instance the series called ‘Black Belt Presentations'

The goal of the book series isn't just to create presentations. Instead it helps you create presentations that the entire audience can recall, and repeat, long after you've finished speaking.

When creating this series, I had to think of the three elements that would help get the client to achieve this level of simplicity and elegance. Yet, if I were to ask clients what they wanted to see in a series on presentations, I'd have got a massive list. So I did what you should now do. You should play GPS. What three steps can the client take to get to the desired end point?

Three steps? What if you have seventeen?

Well, cut it down to three. With the ‘Black Belt Presentations' series, the focus was on slide design, structure of the presentation itself and finally crowd control. With just three big steps, you should be able to take the client from one point to another. And just for good measure, let's take another example.

Let's say you're writing about how to take good photographs. Surely there are a dozen things you can cover, but you focus on just three. Maybe it's not even three broad topics, but subtopics instead. So instead of exposure, ISO and aperture, maybe you could focus on just three aspects of aperture, instead.

At this point in your product creation, you should have little or no input from your client

All the outlines, the drafts and more drafts should be done all by your lonesome self. It's only when you get to the next stage and write down all of the information in a book that the client should take a look.

It's akin to cooking a dish and then giving someone to taste it. If you're creating a video or audio, however, this method of recording might be a waste of time and energy, which is why the movies use storyboards. At the storyboard stage, clients can see how it's all playing out because it's a more polished, finished version of your idea.

I tend to have written material ready first, long before I create any audio or video

With written material, it's easier to move things around a bit, should you need to do so. At this stage, I'll tend to get a lot of suggestions and feedback by clients. Even so, it's important to restrict the feedback to just 2-3 clients. If you notice, I didn't say “editors”, and said “clients” instead.

The reason why you should choose “clients” is because they've paid or are likely to pay for the product. They are invested in what your final output will look like and they'll be quick to tell you what's confusing. At this stage, if they make suggestions or additions, it's not terribly hard to implement their recommendations as well.

Finally, I'd go to the editor

The editor brings the ultimate level of finesse to an info-product. That editor is likely to look through the grammar, remove inconsistencies and get your product up to a very high standard.

So if we were to go back to the analogy of the dinner, you're the chef, the clients are the tasters (and recommenders) and the editor is person who makes sure the plating is just right. When you have all of these three elements in place, what you truly have is a great dinner—or in your case, a great information product.

Bon Appétit!

Let's move to the next element.

2) The role the target profile interview plays in regards to pre-selling the book—and how to go about it

My mother hates eggplant.

I didn't know that. I thought she loved it, considering the number of times we were forced to eat it when we were kids. And then, when I was all grown up, I finally took a great liking to it, only to find that my mother always hated it. To me that was one of the biggest surprises of my life.

It's the kind of surprise you're likely to get if you don't do a target profileinterview.

When selling a book, a course, a workshop—or any kind of info-product, it's easy to believe that our perception was right all along. We resolutely sit down and battle our way through the headline and the body copy on our landing page.

We think we know the problem well, have the right solution and we're all ready to sell to the client. Except it's a bit like selling a yummy eggplant dish to my mother. It would have saved all of us a lot of grief if we did some research, wouldn't it?

As soon as you hear the term “research” it's easy to think of Google Adwords and Facebook

However, in most cases such drama is totally unnecessary. When creating an information product, we've done almost zero research. We simply create the product that we want to create and then link it to an existing problem. For instance, if you look at the Article Writing Course, it's about writing, but the problem is about “getting clients to call you”. Now that's the bit of research you should be doing.

And this research involves talking to a single client, who we fondly call the “target profile”. The target profile will tell you exactly what's wrong with your offering, almost every single time. Which means you can tweak, but mostly have to rewrite the entire page, look at all the objections, redo the uniqueness. The target profile interview is likely to turn your world upside down, and it's all for a good cause.

When you pre-sell the course, you'll realise that the target profile interview is critical

You don't necessarily need the target profile when you're creating the contents of the book (except when you've already written it), but you will need the target profile at the very start of the sales, pre-sell process. Without the target profile, you're just guessing that they love “eggplant” when in fact their favourite dish is quite something else. Doing the interview with the target profile becomes super paramount. There's just one tiny problem: how do you do the interview?

The interview is designed to primarily sniff out the problem of the client

Let's say your product—your information product—is about “how to grow 1000 tomatoes in a 3 x 3 foot area”. It might seem like the problem is obvious, right? The problem is either that your crop of tomatoes has been too tiny in the past, or that you don't have enough space to grow tomatoes. Yet, that's not necessarily the way the client sees things. Maybe their problem is completely different.

Maybe their problem is that their tomato crops have been constantly attacked by white flies. Which is why the main problem is going to need tweaking. If you don't solve the “white flies problem”, you may not be able to sell your product.

Waitasecond, doesn't this change the entire information product?

Let's say your information product was about how to plant, grow and harvest tomatoes, wouldn't the “white flies” be a diversion? Didn't we just agree that then client should not be involved in the creation of the info-product?

We did indeed, but it's more than likely that the “white flies” issue is just a side show that can be easily tackled in the info-product. Yet, because the client sees it as the biggest issue, it's hard for that client to focus on anything else. And it's the target profile interview that reveals the fact that the client sees the main problem differently from you.

In almost every situation your perception of the problem will be different from the client

Which is why you need to make sure you choose the client with a relative degree of care. Over the years we've found the best target profile to be someone who's got two qualities:

Quality 1: They're eager to buy—because they have a genuine problem. Quality 2: They're able to pay.

Let's take an example of a real example to show you how these two elements work together

I don't know if you're aware, but I've had the most terrible internet connection for the longest time. So bad, in fact, that it was impossible to make a Skype call as my voice would get garbled after 5 minutes.

So bad that a 100 mb file would take over 25 hours, if it got to the server in the first place. About three days ago, we got our turn to get high speed fibre. And how do they sell the fibre to me? They talk about Netflix and downloading stuff. But even in my darkest hours of throttled bandwidth, we were able to watch Netflix without too much drama.

What really scared me was how slowly my backups were moving up to the cloud

I'd have at least five backups off-line, but having one super-fast backup online was imperative. When offered 100 Mbps, 200 Mbps or 1 Gig, which one do you think I've chosen? However, because the smart copywriter selling the offer didn't bother to check, he will never know why most clients are choosing the lower speeds.

The company would continue to sell fibre connections, but be not hitting the right hot buttons, even when they have the above two conditions of a) the client need the problem solved and b)having the ability to pay.

The target profile interview itself follows a route of discovery

You follow the path of The Brain Audit. The Brain Audit has seven elements and since you already have the target profile, you have six of the elements to go through. You start with the problem, then move to the solution, and work your way through objections, testimonials, risk reversal and uniqueness.

At all times, the clients are filling in the gaps for you. You're simply interviewing them and finding out what's on their mind. In short, they're telling you what you'd need to do to get them to buy the product. The ISP can do the same with me. What's even better is that the client will tell you all of their issues, and even if you don't put it in the headline of your sales page, you can still cover the issues in the features and benefits and then further down in the bullet points.

Easily the most important reason for the target profile interview is the emotion in the language.

When you sit down at your computer and write, you often write words that are dry and devoid of emotion. When a client describes the problem, there's a completely different set of emotions that are hard, if not impossible to replicate. Which is why the target profile interview becomes crucial for pre-sell and for any ongoing sales.

But why not involve the target profile from the beginning of the content creation? You could do the interview first and use that interview as a roadmap for the contents of the product (as well as the sales page copy)?

This answer is ridiculously difficult to answer.

Here's why. Let's say you have a target profile. And let's say they have a bunch of issues. Now if your goal is to simply answer those questions and thus create a book, video or audio, you're on the right path. Many books are written around a brief that involves you simply answering the client's questions. This isn't to say that the info-product needs to be boring.

Take for example an info-product I'm creating on the topic of “how to create an e-book using InDesign”

Around 2013, I had already created a version of this info-product and it sold remarkably well. Since then InDesign has gotten a bit better and while the principles remain the same, I thought of upgrading the product. Which is why I started working with a client on this very topic. In effect he was asking questions and I was building the product around his problems and needs.

However, merely answering a question isn't always the way to go

Take for instance the Website Masterclass we did way back in 2006. The live workshop and the course itself was about websites, but the angle we took was hinged around “religion”. It was about how “religions” are built and this includes religions such as Harley Davidson, or sports such as cricket or football.

The metaphor of religion was superimposed on how to build a website. And it was an extremely powerful metaphor for most, if not all the attendees. They understood the concept and the underlying principles and that the website was just a medium to express themselves.

Involving a client in the process can be both useful as well as tiresome

Instead of creating something using your own parameters and creativity, there's a great likelihood of getting stuck to a fixed format dictated by the needs of the client. Often enough, customers are only helpful if the info-product is something they're thinking about and need. However, if the info-product isn't something they're thinking about, it's impossible to get the client to participate.

Take the issue of an info-product like the First Fifty Words, for example

When you start writing an article, you need to get off to a brilliant start. However, that's the point where a lot of writers get horribly stuck. Let's say you ask a client to participate in creating a product. What are they likely to say?

They're likely to give you the problem—which in their case is that they struggle to write the First Fifty Words. The problem is not something they can decipher, and so any input from the client is only possible once you put the information together and get them to review the course.

In my experience, both the types of info-products can exist side by side

However, to create really info-product that's a lot different from what everyone else is creating, you'd have to think of your own method of solving a problem. I tend to avoid any target profile input at the start.

I can't say I'm completely deaf to a target profile's comments, but by and large I go off to create what I think is important to get to the end point. A road map with the target profile might seem to be good, but it might lead you down the path that everyone else is taking. If you want to get a little off tangent (in a good way), my advice is to avoid the target profile until much later in the process.

Knowing the client and the language of the client is critical.

It's what helps us to talk to, and sell to clients in their own words. And they're happy when you take the trouble to find out what's important to them.

Next Step: Element 3: Info-product Creation Part 2: Double Your Sales With Versions and Satellite Products

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