Selling information products online is the only consistent revenue stream that has really worked for me. Therefore it’s also something I recommend to everybody.
But before you can sell a product you need to create it. Which is what you’ll learn today.
In this post, I’ll show you how I create small but successful how-to reports.
Case Study: The ‘Boost Any Traffic Source’ Report
I’ll use a recent report of mine as a case study:
The report covers how to use Facebook retargeting to boost you existing traffic and you can get it as part of our Success Club.
This type of report is what I consider a how-to report. The goal is to show the reader how to do something. Usually, this means solving a problem. The problem here is of course lack of traffic to a website.
How-to reports are perfect for low-ticket products and as I’ve had a lot of success selling this type of report I’ve decided to give a few tips on how to create them.
Let’s start from the top…
Building The Product Idea
Building your product around a solid idea is important. In fact, I believe a large part of a product’s success is determined already in the early development.
With a good product idea, everything becomes much easier. Creating the product is straightforward, simply turning the idea into content. Marketing material almost writes itself as the product is easy to understand and therefore easy to explain… etc.
A good product idea is the first step towards victory.
So what is a good product idea?
Here are some of my observations after working on many successful and at times also unsuccessful products:
Make it specific – Specificity always wins.
You may think your idea is very specific right now, but truth is, you can almost always narrow your focus more. And most of the time you should.
Going too broad has been one of my biggest issues and it can easily kill an otherwise great product idea. It’s simply too hard to properly cover a broad topic in one product.
The report in this case study is a great example: It’s about one traffic strategy, retargeting. On one platform, Facebook. With a very focused angle, how to boost existing traffic.
With just that I was able to fill 44 pages and I could easily have written more without broadening the scope.
Don’t be scared your product idea is too small.
Form your product skeleton early and accept that it will change
I always split my product up in several sections. This allows me to start working on small bits here and there and not get overwhelmed.
Here is a snippet of my notes for this report:
As you can see, I have three overall sections and each of these are split into smaller sections again. However, just because I write up a table of contents early on does not mean this is the final version.
On the contrary, my big picture always changes as I develop my product. And it’s a good thing too. During development, you dig much deeper into whatever your product is about. Here you learn the best way to structure the product in a way that helps the reader the most.
You are never the first to write about it
It’s a mistake to think that you report will only deliver new groundbreaking, never-seen-before information.
That’s just not possible.
However, you do not need it to be all new ideas and innovations. What makes a good product is more often how you present the knowledge with your own experiences and angles.
Instead of bending over backward trying to come up with something completely new, try to inject as much of your own expertise into the report. Do this, and it will in fact be something new as nobody can write from the same experiences (they are yours).
Once you have a product idea it’s time to start…
Writing The Report
The ‘Boost Any Traffic Source’ report is 44 pages long with a word count of 6.764.
This is quite a bit shorter than my latest products. Project WSO with 21.278 words and the latest Instant Traffic Hacks update with 13.011.
However, word count is not a measure of product value. A large part of the value is in the strategy sheets. More on that later.
But it raises an interesting question:
How long does a report really need to be to provide value?
Here’s a graph showing most of my reports to date:
Reports with an orange bar have been sold as standalone low-ticket products.
My reports range from 5 to 76 pages and the smallest standalone report I have sold was just 14 pages long.
So as you can see, it varies. This is one of those questions without a concrete answer. The best you can get is: You report should be as long as it takes to help solve the problem completely.
Next up I have some tips on how to write your report:
Use Step-By-Step style when possible
Your report should help readers solve some kind of problem, and the best way to do this is by guiding them through the process, step-by-step.
This kind of report is easy to write and generally just well suited for short helpful reports.
Just write something! Focus on making it slick later.
If you want every sentence to be well formed and clever you are never going to finish your report. Just get something written down and then edit later. Also, the goal of a how-to report is to solve a problem and for that you just need to have clear and understandable writing.
Table of Contents
What about a bit of insight into the final report structure. For that let’s look at the table of contents.
The report structure comes from the initial sections I showed earlier:
- What, Why, How (General Intro To Retargeting)
- Retargeting Strategies
- Tips and Tricks
A Structure Template
You have just seen the overall structure I ended up with for this report.
As it turns out there’s a reason why I did this. In fact, this is very close to a general template that most of my reports loosely follow:
- Give an introduction to the problem and the setting (What / Why)
- Show how to solve it step-by-step (How)
- Provide extra tips and tricks
This may look simple, borderline self-evident. But product structure is important and even a small tip like this may help make things clearer.
Use this and you have a good starting point for your how-to report structure.
Sections I always include in a report like this
There are two sections I always include in my how-to reports: Welcome and Closing Thoughts.
In these sections I add my personal touch to the report and give my own comments.
I find it hard to write good endings to my reports. The closing thoughs section is my solution to this problem. It gives me a section to round things off and it also signals to the reader that this is the end.
The same philosophy applies to the welcome section.
Once you have written your report it’s time for some polish…
Report Cover and Product Image
I used Canva.com to create the report cover for ‘Boost Any Traffic Source’.
Canva is an online design tool that can be used to create designs for a variety of graphic types. Social media updates, ads, covers, and posts. Documents of all sizes. Blogging and eBook graphics… They more or less have a type for any graphic task you can imagine.
For report covers I use the A4 design type:
Another thing I really like about Canva is that creating a design is simple. Tools like Photoshop and GIMP (free) have many more advanced functions, but most of the time you don’t need that. You just need to create something basic, quickly. And that is what you can do with Canva.
With a few edits and an icon from Icons8.com I made the report cover image:
Next are the 3d mockups. These are a bit more technical. I used mockups from PSDCovers to create the following:
One of the ideas I had for this report was to include four ‘strategy sheets’. One for each of the concrete retargeting strategies.
I also used Canva to create these sheets.
The idea is that these sheets can be used as a reference when applying one of the retargeting strategies after reading the report.
In almost all of my reports I add resources like this. Things like templates, scripts, idea sheets, forms, notes, graphics, html pages and so on all make for good resources.
Think about adding resources when you are writing your report. Could you make it easier for the reader by providing some kind of help?
Additional resources greatly improve product value!
It’s A Wrap!
Once you have written your report it’s time for one last round of polish. I usually spend quite a bit of time in the late stages editing and rewriting parts of the report. But after all of this is done I always do one last sweep to make sure everything is good to go.
Go through the report from top to bottom and do the following:
- Proofread all text (reading everything out loud usually helps me spot unclear sentences…)
- Check that all links are working
- Make sure page formatting is okay
This is tedious work but worth the investment.
There you have it. My quick take on how to create a solid how-to report.
I hope you enjoyed this post. If you want to learn more about creating products you will love this project.
Also, feedback and ideas are very welcome in the comments below!