A tale of two products: why is a 75 page e-book only $5.99 but a 4-part online e-course is $79? From your perspective, as the creator, the e-book could cover the same topic. You could write about it in more detail. It might even take you longer to write 25,000 words (it’s like 25 long blog posts) – and depending on your skillset, even longer to format and set up than an e-course. And yet… because of the format, it’s worth a lot less… why is that?

This is one of the biggest lessons from my own work creating information products that I hope to pass on… people buy solutions to problems. That’s always the first objective. But the reason they choose your product over the competition is going to be about soft benefits. It’s not about price. It’s about value.

In the case of an ebook vs an ecourse, covering the same material, with wildly different price points, the thinking goes something like this:

-something I have to read (feels like homework)

-an interactive learning environment (engaging)

Depending on how they set up the course, there might be other soft benefits, like access to an expert, a community to ask questions, additional materials (like video or worksheets) and the material is broken down in easy-to-digest chunks. The e-book promises to give you an exhaust brain dump of knowledge. The e-course promises to teach you something, to contain all the same knowledge but to be compiled, organized and presented in a way that makes it easier and faster to learn.

As a creator it’s all the same information, but for the user it’s a very different experience. The value is different, so the price reflects that.

Yesterday we came up with a seed of an idea, but today we’re going expand that into a product. Here’s the fork in the road you have to navigate: the format of your product will have an inherent time commitment.

There are lots of things that sound like a good idea, but then when presented with the actual time/effort cost, the desire slips away. For example, reading an e-book isn’t totally free – you’re asking the reader to give up somewhere between 1-10 hours, depending on how long it is. I might really want to learn how to take better photos, but not at the cost of 5 hours of what sounds like boring reading. Or I might be hypothetically interested in making healthier meals at home, but not so interested that I’m going to spend a whole weekend in a workshop about it.

What we want to avoid is setting up a product that has a mismatched time/effort cost for the problem it solves – for most people. This is an important distinction. There will always be some people on either end of the spectrum, those who will spend no time at all on any solution, even though they need and want it and those people who will dedicate a large portion of their free time to studying and researching. So to complete today’s task we’re going to consider just the hypothetical “average” person. What are most of your potential customers “mostly” like? It’s hard to fully pin it down until you start selling and learning more about your customers, but it’s enough for now to use your best guesses to put together a composite sketch in your mind.

Answer these questions:

1. What is the problem this product solves for your customer?

2. How long have they had this problem?

3. Will solving it improve their life dramatically?

4. Will it save them time or money by solving it?

5. How troublesome is living with the problem unsolved?

6. Does this person typically purchase other products in your niche?

7. Does learning/researching/problem solving about this issue have it’s own rewards? Is it pleasurable to find these answers or a drag?

Then consider the time/effort commitment of various product formats:

Ebooks: 10,000 words (50 pages) – 50,000 words (250 pages)
Time: 2 hours – 10 hours of reading time
Downside: Not everyone loves reading
Upside: Low commitment
Technical setup: low-medium (very basic setup if you use a site like to sell your product, more advanced set up if you have your own shopping cart, payment processing and digital download)

Ecourses: can vary wildly from 40 minute video to multi-month courses
Time: typically 4-40 hours with most courses running on the lower end
Downside: Users are often concerned about scheduling conflicts or being able to complete the course in allotted time/schedule – even if there isn’t a set schedule
Upside: Interactive, supported experience
Technical setup: medium-high (even if you use a third party site like udemy, there is the creation of materials (like video) – and on the high end, creating your first ecourse website with plugins can take 20-40 hours)

Workshops: Varies but 2 hours to week long are standard
Time: 2 hours – 5 days
Downside: Introverts might hesitate
Upside: Highly appealing to people who struggle to otherwise self-teach
Technical setup: low (payment processing and scheduling are main issues but there are plugins and third party websites that can handle this)

Webinar: 30 minutes – full day
Time: 30 minutes – 8 hours
Downside: Typically it’s time specific and some people balk at streaming video
Upside: Can be a cheaper alternative to workshops and appeal to introverts
Technical setup: low-medium (it’s easy enough to set up a webinar for free, just use google hangouts – the payment processing can be a little trickier but it’s relatively simple)

Live Call: 30 minutes – 2 hours
Time: 30- 120 minutes
Downside: A barrier to entry for some people who want to feel “ready” and “prepared” to be on a call with you and might procrastinate making the purchase for that reason.
Upside: High-touch and extremely personalized solution
Technical setup: low (there are services that let you schedule conference calls and payment processing can be as simple as a paypal button)

Coaching: depends
Time: 1 hour +
Downside: there’s a commitment threshold to overcome (same as live call, perhaps even more)
Upside: Personal and efficient use of time – perhaps the most efficient way to learn
Technical setup: low (many scheduling apps now have payment processing options built in)

Consulting: depends
Time: a few hours, perhaps, to sort out what you’re going to do for them
Downside: Loss of control for the customer – they don’t get to do it themselves. Also general anxiety about paying too much for something they could hypothetically figure out
Upside: You do the work for them!
Technical setup: low (just payment processing)

Membership Areas: a few minutes a day up to as much content-gorging as they like
Time: 5 minutes – hours / day
Downside: represents a lot of reading, and requires a pretty consistent need
Upside: Flexible and attractive to heavy readers or binge-consumers of content (you know who you are!)
Technical setup: high (most likely 40-80 hour project to get running for the first time as most membership plugins are relatively complicated to set up)

Today’s assignment:

Complete your mini-profile of your “average user” by answering the questions above. Then consider the different format options for your product and try to narrow down your list. What are your biggest contenders at this point? What can you safely eliminate?

What about technical set up? Is there anything to consider in that regard? We will cover the complete setup for each item on this list during the second week, but if you’re highly tech-averse, start considering that in advance.