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5 tips from the digital product experts

Illustration of a robot painting

Selling digital products can involve a lot of experimentation and guesswork, but fortunately, there’s useful wisdom to be gained from those who have been doing it for a while!

In this week’s edition of The EDDit, we’ve put together a brief list of tips from the digital product experts to give you some guidance, inspiration, and ideas that you can apply to your own digital product business.

1. Be authentic

“It doesn’t matter if you’re an artist, creative, product maker or a startup: the concept of “image” is dead. It’s the age of honesty.

Pieter Levels, NomadList

When it comes to creating customer confidence for digital products, authenticity and transparency are major factors.

When customers trust you, they’re more likely to support you.

Programmer, digital nomad, and serial startup founder Pieter Levels agrees. If you’re not familiar with Pieter, he’s best known for creating innovative SaaS products like Nomad List, Remoteok.io, and Hoodmaps – the first of which he started by crowdsourcing data with simple Google sheets!

He says:

“These days, people just want to see the true core of what you’re about. You don’t need to act in a way or present yourself as different than you truly are. Be yourself. Reality works.”

With all of the scams and marketing trickery out there these days, it’s refreshing when a company is actually authentic. Plus, when you are open and honest with customers, you create something more than just business-to-consumer transactions; You nurture relationships and build a community.

“People want to ride along with you on your journey,” Pieter says.

And he’s right! Just think about the growing popularity of live video streaming, stories, and other behind-the-scenes media.

Now, more than ever, people are looking for a dose of reality.

Pieter Levels streaming live on Twitch while working on a new product

Don’t be afraid to show your customers your processes, imperfections, trials, and errors. Whether it’s live-streaming product creation, sharing stories about your journey, or just talking directly to your customers about who you are, where you come from, and what your mission is, take a deep breath and let that perfectionism go.

2. Solve your own problems

“Focus on identifying problems you have and solve those. Real problems affect real people, and solving your own problems can be instrumental to building successful products.”

Pippin Williamson (Managing Director, Sandhills Development)

The best way to create products that offer real solutions and benefits to your customers is to understand the need in the first place – and that means solving your own problems.

Our very own managing director Pippin Williamson agrees! Solving your own problems gives you insider experience; It puts you close to the core issue that both you and your prospective customers are facing.

In short, you’re not guessing from the outside.

But, it’s not just about creating good products; It’s also about creating products that are satisfying to sell, update, and support. The truth is, products created to satisfy your own needs give you a different degree of motivation.

Pippin says:

“Scratching my own itch is also the reason Easy Digital Downloads exists. I wanted a good way to sell my plugins but wasn’t happy with the current state of e-commerce plugins for digital goods.

Both Restrict Content Pro and Easy Digital Downloads came from a personal need, as did many of my other plugins, and guess what? I really enjoy actively developing and supporting the plugins. This is not a coincidence.”

If you want to build a digital product business for the long-term, it’s important to consider things as simple as how you want to spend your days. Plus, the more you are actually interested in what you’re creating, the more invested you will be in the outcome.

“When I first started writing plugins I would write a plugin for anything, regardless of whether I had an interest or need in what the plugin did. I just liked writing plugins; plugins for everything. Overtime, I’ve learned that building plugins for anything and everything can be very damaging to one’s motivation. The more plugins I write for things I have no interest in, the less interest I have in supporting or updating those plugins,” Pippin says.

Remember: While there are many benefits to selling digital products (less upfront costs, for example) they still require time and energy, so it’s important to make a distinction between what you can create and what you should create.

3. Build an audience first

“Solve for distribution first by building an audience.”

Jack Butcher (Founder, Visualize Value)

Unfortunately, some people with great digital product ideas can get dissuaded from ever starting simply due to reservations about their audience.

Who would actually buy this?

I don’t have an audience. How am I going to sell anything?

It’s natural to be concerned. After all, you don’t want to put your heart and soul into a product, only to hear crickets!

We’ve talked about the importance of validating a minimum viable product (MVP), but it can present a “chicken or egg” conundrum: What should you do first? Make products to validate, or build an audience that will validate your products?

Doing market research is a big part of successfully selling digital products, but even if you’re sure that there is an audience out there for you, reeling them in and getting them to buy is another matter entirely.

Visualize Value founder and advertising expert Jack Butcher says:

“Audience building is a career insurance policy.”

And his point is an important one. Building an audience ensures that you have somewhere to market your products – more importantly, a pre-qualified audience that is more likely to actually buy your products.

Sure, if the conditions are right, it’s possible to release a product that is a freak overnight success, but building an audience before launching your product gives you more security.

If you’re not sure where to start, consider content marketing – or creating quality free content such as blog posts, video tutorials, podcasts, or other resources that are aimed at providing real value to the very people who would be interested in buying your products.

Building a mailing list by giving away free content or products in exchange for email signups is also a tried and true way to go. It can be something as simple as a quick PDF guide or checklist, or a smaller version of one of your products.

Give your audience a taste of what they have to look forward to!

4. Don’t cut corners

“Provide usefulness and remember that every detail counts – artwork, presentation, product description. I treat digital downloads exactly as though they are high-end physical goods”

Sharooz Raoofi (Founder, Sample Magic)

Just because digital goods can be simpler to create and distribute doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve the same care and attention to detail that you’d give physical goods. In addition to authenticity and transparency, good presentation makes a huge difference when it comes to giving customers the confidence they need to purchase digital products – or, intangible goods – from you.

It might be easy to whip up a digital product over the weekend and just throw it online without much effort, but this doesn’t create a quality brand image. The good news? It doesn’t cost a lot to market your products in a professional way.

Sharooz Raoofi is the founder of the highly popular soundware company Sample Magic, and has been in the digital product business for over 10 years. One of the notable things about Sample Magic products (in addition to being unique and high-quality) is that each product is given creative artwork and presented with succinct, well-written product descriptions and high-quality product demos.

Unique product artwork (Sample Magic)
Sample Magic product description (Splice)

Sharooz’s quote also touches on another crucial element of digital product success:

Usefulness.

Creativity is certainly a blessing, but sometimes product creators can get abstract to the point where a product isn’t really very palatable to a wide enough audience to justify the investment. This is highly variable, depending on various factors like the type of product, the market demand and competition, etc., but suffice it to say that if there’s not some degree of focus on real-world usefulness for the customer (and not just a few extremely niche customers), products can simply fail to gain traction.

5. Be resilient

“If your launch doesn’t go well, figure it out and launch again. No one will notice.”

Jason Coleman (CEO, Paid Memberships Pro)

It can be disheartening when a product launch doesn’t go as planned, but the reality is that what you perceive as a total failure might simply be part of the trial and error process.

Jason Coleman is the founder and CEO of popular membership platform Paid Memberships Pro, and his quote highlights something that’s all-too-often forgotten:

You are your own worst critic.

There are a lot of variables involved in the launch of a digital product – audience building, validating your product idea, settling on pricing, deciding where and how to market your product, and more. So, if your launch doesn’t go well, there are multiple things to consider – it’s not necessarily time to throw in the towel!

What can you fix?

Don’t be afraid to keep going, even if things don’t work out perfectly the first time around. Persistence is key.

Remember: The digital product business landscape is vast – sometimes you have to just try different things and see what sticks!

Hopefully this post has given you some inspiration when it comes to selling your own digital products! Is there something you’d like to add? Drop a comment below and let us know!

Mandy Jones

About Mandy Jones

Mandy Jones is a content writer at Sandhills Development and founder of Looplicious. Hailing from Minneapolis, Minnesota, she's a world traveler and animal lover with a passion for creativity and maker culture. When she’s not writing blog posts for Easy Digital Downloads, Restrict Content Pro, and AffiliateWP, she can be found hanging out with other people’s dogs, or writing, recording, and performing music.

@mandyjones

3 comments

  1. Mandy Jones
    1. Mandy Jones
  2. Mandy Jones

    Thank you, these informations are very useful.
    It is true to have an audience for reliable sell but this will take time. After 2-3 years of work I finally have some reliable audience base.

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