Keep Your Products Simple

Einstein said, “Everything should be as simple as possible. But no simpler”. The same could be said when it comes to monetizing your know-how. Many experts make the mistake of thinking “the more, the better” and cram their products with unnecessary information, features and complexity. The result is that customers are put-off. Customers want solutions quickly and have neither the time nor the inclination to wade through hours of video footage or hundreds of pages of text.

Keep it simple

Note: Below, we talk about “features” but this can also mean “information”, if you’re creating a knowledge-based product.

  1. One product, one solution. Your product only has to solve one main problem for your customer. (The solution may involve solving smaller problems but there should only be one main problem). Don’t make the mistake of thinking you have to deliver a highly-detailed, complex product that takes weeks to get through. In fact, many inferior products are characterised by this “padding out” because the expert knows the information does not stand on its own merits. You focus on one problem by answering the following: “My product helps [who it helps] [achieve a desirable outcome] in [short period of time]“, e.g. “My product teaches entrepreneurs how to effectively pitch their ideas to investors in one hour”. And if you do find yourself solving multiple problems or have plenty of content leftover that you want to share, create a new, separate product.
  2. Remember the 80:20 rule. This rule states that 80% of the results come from 20% of the inputs. For example, 80% of your profits come from 20% of your customers; 80% of a software’s usefulness comes from 20% of its features. When it comes to your product, 80% of its benefit/value for your customer comes from 20% of its content. This is a reminder to you to focus on the 20% of content that’s important. Don’t get bogged down by unimportant details.
  3. You can’t please everyone. Decide who your product is for and who it’s not. Resist the temptation to create a product that tries to cater to everyone’s needs because in trying to do so you will become too much of a generalist and you’ll likely lose your audience. Put another way, if you run after three rabbits at once, you’ll end up with none.
  4. Get to know your audience (yourself or with the help of fellow team members). Every business needs to have a market research team, but if you don’t have the resources to afford one, make sure to allocate a certain amount of your working time to market research. The job requirements include gathering customer data and conducting data analysis in order to assess customers’ needs and expectations. Be a specialist serving a clearly defined audience. That’s how you grow a following and build your influence.
  5. Consider using a template. After you’ve mapped out your product outline, consider having a template designed that you can use for this and future future products. For example, flick through any For Dummies book and you’ll quickly notice they all use the same outline and layout. It saves time and helps create a consistent brand. It may take a while longer to have a template created (search for book, brochure or manual designers on Upwork) but it will save you time in the long run; help you present your ideas and give your product a professional look to justify the higher prices you should be charging.
  6. Avoid “product bloat”. Product bloat is a problem that affects software producers in particular. As time passes, developers feel obliged to release ever-increasing number of bells and whistles. Left unchecked, these extras (often unasked for) can overwhelm a previously simple, user-friendly product. Of course, you can’t keep your product the same – customers’ needs frequently change and new features will be added at some point. In order to not be a victim of product bloat, as you add new features/information, consider removing old features and obsolete information that no longer serve a purpose. Keeping the size of your product roughly the same at all times is a safe bet.
  7. Focus on quality over quantity. Adding more “cool” features/information with each cycle can be tempting, but we strongly recommend that you focus on the performance of your existing ones over developing new ones. It takes time to ensure that your current add-ons function perfectly well and satisfy customers. Don’t waste time creating extras that your customers didn’t ask for and don’t need.
  8. Don’t let the tail wag the dog. A single review that asks for a certain “cool” add-on doesn’t mean that each customer would be interested in that. Assess whether new features/information would be of interest to the majority of your audience before investing time, energy and money creating it. Closing a sale isn’t worth alienating the majority of your customers who may not want the new features. And before introducing a new product/feature, ask your customers to register their commitment by paying for it in advance. (This is just a test – if no one is willing to pay, chances are they were being polite when they expressed an interest; if not enough people buy, issue a refund and say the product won’t be made. If enough people pre-buy, you have a winner on your hands.)
  9. Create new product as an alternative to features. Innovation and expertise are easier to demonstrate in brand new products than in existing ones via features. Customers who like your current product would be interested in new products from you, but they are less likely to be happy with add-ons to your current products that do little for them but that they’re nevertheless required to download (purchase) in order for the product to function properly.

Takeaway points

  1. Remember to keep your products simple: one problem, one product; one product, one solution.
  2. Customers care about a solution that works and helps them achieve a desirable result as quickly as possible. They are not interested in reading hundreds of pages or watching hours of video.
  3. If you have more information than you can use in one product, save it for a new, separate one.

Action steps

  1. What does your audience want? Identify a product that serves your audience, plan it out then try to pre-sell it. Only if you get sufficient interest should you invest the time, energy and money to create it.
  2. Communicate with your followers. Let them know you’re planning a product and ask them what they want it to include. All you need to do is ask a simple question along the lines of “What are you struggling with when it comes to X?” or “What do you want to know about X?”
  3. If you don’t have any followers or past customers you can ask, create a landing page to test your product idea.

Photo credit: Glenn Strong via / CC BY-SA 2.0

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