I’m currently 35443 feet over the Atlantic enjoying some writing time on my journey to Nashville and I wanted to write this article today, because creating transformational digital products is one of the most important strategies you can learn.
As I’m on a plane, this is an epic in-depth post that I am writing – so you may want to grab a coffee and a notebook. 🙂
One of my core values in digital products strategy is NOT to create products, but to create experiences and this is fundamental to what I teach my clients.
If you can really understand the importance of that statement, and proactively implement the strategies to achieve it, you will impact your audience and customers in profound ways.
This is how you create a tribe of super-fans who buy all your products and RAVE about you to other people, and attain sky-high customer satisfaction rates.
This simple yet powerful idea will shift your thinking from amateur product creation to true “pro” level.
But what does it mean to “create an experience, not a product”?
It means to focus on delivering a transformational result to your customers by helping them get to where they want to be in the most enjoyable and effective way possible. It also means to avoid style over substance, consider the fringe problems they encounter and support their varying needs.
In this article we’re going to explore…
The Expert Traps
Going too advanced
1 mile wide
The Internal vs External transformation
Bringing in the dream team
Transformational Content Strategies
The Why, How, What and Which
Delivering the experience
Create as you go
There are 3 major issues I’ve observed occurring in product creation, and that I’ve helped my clients to navigate through, and I call these the “expert traps”.
I definitely made all of these mistakes when I first started creating digital products, and it wasn’t until I had to correct them that I realised the errors in my ways and that they can be avoided.
I find that even though most practitioners I work with are incredible at what they do for their clients, translating that knowledge into a successful product can be a challenge for many.
As an expert in your field you’ll have accumulated a lot of knowledge during your career – the wins, fails, lessons learned, education and continued professional development.
This unique lens in which you implement your expertise and now want to share with the world in the form of digital products can be your biggest strength and biggest weakness.
You may find yourself saying “I just want to get all my knowledge out of my head and into the hands of my audience” and that is the exact point you fall foul to the first expert trap.
Simply extracting all the knowledge you have and brain dumping it into your product is the reason most products fail, or even worse never even get launched because they are too complex.
That brain dump approach can be so ill-thought out that the product becomes a complex beast that overwhelms and confuses the user.
It also makes products so huge and complex that the launch, creation and marketing of it becomes the impossible task.
It can feel a little counter-intuitive to really strip things back and hold back the knowledge you want to share. But if you focus on the core promise of the product and not try to answer an excessive number of questions, you’ll create an experience that delivers instead of overwhelms.
This is perhaps the most challenging of the 3 expert traps to plan for because it often isn’t apparent until people start to use your product that you’ve gone too Einstein!
This one happens easily because as experts we forget the importance of the early lessons we had to learn, and they feel less relevant as we move to advanced knowledge.
Not a problem if you’re actually teaching advanced techniques to experienced users, but if you’re serving the novice to intermediate market you can run into issues.
As an expert practitioner you can take your expert knowledge for granted so I invite you before you start creating your product to reflect on how it felt to be a beginner in your field.
This is how your customer are going to feel when they embark on their journey with you!
As an product creator you have to learn to keep your ego in check on this one. It doesn’t make you less of an expert because you teach foundational level.
Your customers will see you as more of an expert by delivering the basics in a powerful way, than baffling them with advanced information they don’t need or aren’t ready for.
I recall in my early product days that as much as I wanted to teach marketing automation, what my market wanted was basic WordPress training.
So I built my reputation teaching them what they wanted, and once they became more advanced we tackled the meatier “expert” subjects that I wanted to teach.
If you can avoid the 3rd expert trap, you’ll truly create products that answer your customer’s needs.
You’ll reduce overwhelm, make marketing far easier and help your customers to achieve better results – turning you into their hero!
As a practitioner in your field no doubt you’ve spent a lot of time strategically broadening your skill set.
And in today’s world as hybrid roles become more and more common, the skill set you have has likely broadened even more.
Although this helps you to become successful in what you do for your clients, it doesn’t always translate well into products.
This challenge does create your biggest future opportunity though.
Go 1 mile deep on 1 subject and solve your customers pain point effectively, leaves them wanting more from you because you delivered.
If you think about any big result you achieved, I’m sure you can reflect on the internal and external transformation you experienced.
The simplest example I can give on this one is fitness.
The external transformation is the physical and visual result.
The Internal transformation is the mindset, positive emotions created and negative emotions let go.
This is sometimes called the head and the heart, or sometimes the left and the right brain, but I prefer internal and external.
When you create products that deliver results in both the Internal and the external you create game-changing and life-changing transformations.
I’m not a particularly emotional person in business, so when I first encountered students who struggled with the internal transformation it floored me.
I had 2 people on one of my programs crying because they couldn’t create a landing page.
And I realised that despite having the support there that they needed to move forward, what was actually holding them back was their own mindset.
They needed to overcome some inner battles in order to achieve the external results.
I’m NOT a mindset coach, but I could empathise with their frustrations, so a core part of what I teach now is how to overcome negative emotions such as fear of failure, lack of self-belief and no confidence.
And here’s the most important thing I learned… my job as a digital products strategist is to help people build unshakable confidence and belief they can achieve success. Because if I can do that, the tech and the marketing strategy comes a lot easier.
Before you dive into content creation, you have to think about the internal and external transformation your customers need.
Although in the first section I talked about the importance of not going too broad, nor brain dumping your knowledge into your products, your customers will encounter what I call “fringe problems”.
These are problems that, although not explicitly stated as problems you will solve in your promise for your product, they will appear commonly and will need solving in order to deliver results.
For example in my Products System Mastermind I coach my customers through the journey of creating profitable digital products.
Although I am not a copywriter, there is a need for creating copy to sell your products.
If I was completely unable (or unwilling) to support my customers with this area, they would struggle with sales and marketing.
Fringe problems will occur regularly, and my best method to deal with this is to either create resources to help my customers find better answers and move forward or bring in people that know more than I do.
You don’t need to know everything, you just need to be willing to help your customers find the answers they need – even if its not you who has the answer.
It’s not to say you have to provide training on EVERYTHING, but you do need to plan for solutions to the problems that are likely to stop them getting results.
I don’t claim to know everything that’s required to build a hugely successful business, but I do always know how to get the answers.
Because let’s face it… there’s a lot to it. Sales, marketing, design, development, finance, management, operations, team management, mindset, health… the list goes on.
This is why I often partner up with other experts to help me deliver an amazing experience to my customers.
This not only creates an environment for success for your customers, but builds relationships with partners.
You have the opportunity to bring them into your world, and they can reciprocate – exposing you to new audiences.
You’ll earn far more respect and love from your customers if you don’t try and pretend you know everything, and instead say…
“I don’t know the answer to that, but I think I know someone who does. Let me find that out for you!”
It really is that simple.
What demonstrates your awesomeness even more, is anticipating that they’re going to need answers you don’t have and bring in ahead of time.
That is one the ultimate “surprise and delight” tactics that I love to use!
Now you’re armed with the do’s and don’ts – how does that translate into your product?
When you’re planning out your product, you should always break it down into chunks that make a sense – and an in order that doesn’t feel overwhelming and confusing to your customer. That’s obvious.
But to take your product to that transformational level your content also needs to deliver on the internal vs external and fringe problems.
I have a simple method for doing that.
For each section of content, I ask four questions…
Why – Why does my customer need to do this?
How – How does the user need to feel?
What – What specifically do they need to achieve?
Which – Which roadblocks are likely to appear?
Why does my customer need to do this?
This question is intended to help you create focus and clarity, and to place the result you want to get for your customer at the forefront of your mind.
In business you should always be questioning “why are we doing this?”.
It stops you including content for the sake of including content.
Every time you you plan to add a piece of content keep referring back to the answer you give to the question.
If it doesn’t help you achieve the objective then you don’t add it in.
Less is more.
How does my customer need to feel?
I love this question because it really makes you reflect on the internal transformation and how you can best support your customers.
This is your biggest opportunity to stand out amongst your competitors and create loyal “forever customers” because you out-care your competition.
Here’s how I answer this question:
- Create an empathy map of where my customer is BEFORE they use my product.
- Reflect on where they want to be
- Focus on 3 negative emotions I want to eradicate, and 3 positive emotions I want to create.
- For each of those emotions brainstorm a lesson I can teach to help them move forward. (I often find that the 3 negatives are being replaced with the 3 positives so 3 key lessons need to be created.
Here’s an example…
My 6 week course the “Product Creation Hub” helps people take their product from IDEA to LAUNCH.
Module 1 is all about research and although that’s very data driven but there are lots of emotions at play.
The 3 negative emotions I want to discourage in this particular module…
- Overwhelm – They feel overwhelmed by the tasks that lie ahead and all the skills they need to learn.
- Confusion – They feel confused by all the choices that have in front of them and worry about making the wrong choice with their product.
- Self-doubt – As the initial dopamine hit from the purchase subsides, they start to doubt that they can create success for themselves.
The positive emotions I want to encourage in this module are…
- Clarity – I want them to feel clear about the path they’re going to take with their digital products journey.
- Inspired – I want them to feel inspired about what they can achieve with digital products and create an amazing business and life for themselves.
- Determined – I want them to know that although the path won’t be easy that if they stick with the program they will get results.
I share anecdotes on my experience, lessons learned and journey as well as specific strategies to help them their objectives. Stories are a great way of helping your customers to understand the internal transformation.
What specifically do they need to achieve?
This is perhaps the easier of the 4 clarity questions, especially if you’re a consultant turning your skills into products, because it most often deals with your skills.
But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t spend time reflecting on this.
Because consulting is a whole different kettle of fish to teaching and you need to put all your assumptions to one side.
You need to get crystal clear on the objectives your customers need to achieve, and the order in which will deliver results, keep them engaged and not overwhelm.
And don’t forget that because everyone learns differently you have to ensure that the way you deliver your product’s content caters to those varying needs.
I know it can be hard when you’re creating your first products to anticipate what lessons your customers need. So the best way to deal with this is to add in live support. I like to do this with weekly coaching calls.
Another strategy I use to ensure I cater for novices, without over simplifying to my more advanced customers, is to create a separate training section dedicated to tactics and tutorials. This ensures no one gets left behind with the added bonus of creating a bonus benefit!
Which roadblocks might appear?
Your customers will definitely encounter issues along the way, and your ability to foresee and plan for these will create very happy customers who feel reassured they’re going to be taken care of.
After brainstorming all the likely roadblocks that might occur during the use of your product, go through all of your planned content and ensure you have covered how to overcome this particular challenge.
Another great strategy here is to let your customer know in advance that this is something that might happen, and what to look out for and how to address it.
This is like having live traffic updates on your sat nav telling you there’s a traffic jam ahead, where exactly it is and how you can find a detour… what a great feeling, right?
These strategies are what truly take you from good to exceptional products and amazing experiences.
This is the most common question I am asked – how much content should I include?
I should probably have titled this section the content JUGGLE because truly its hard to balance and it takes time to get this right.
Too little and you don’t scratch the surface, too much and you overwhelm your customer and you run the risk of your customer losing interest.
I believe that 3 is the magic number in many instances!
- No more than 3 hours week if you’re creating a course.
- No more than 3 hours if you’re creating a virtual workshop.
- No more than 30,000 words if you’re creating an ebook.
- Studies also show that for best engagement and completion rates, don’t include more than 3 modules of content. (Disclaimer – I find it hard to do this with first time run of any product so fine-tine the next time round)
This can be hard when you first start in the world of launches because you spend so much time creating and promoting your product that by the time you get to actually delivering the experience, you’re exhausted!
But this is the exact moment you need to dig really deep and bring your best energy to the experience.
Product creation and launches are definitely a marathon that requires stamina, so please remember that taking payment is not the finish line… its the warm up!
Let me explain what’s really important….
I NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER create everything in advance. EVER.
Because by doing so you are creating something fixed that might need to change anyway.
Create 25% in advance and then create a schedule to complete the other 75% as you customers move through the content. Then you drip-feed your content over time.
It doesn’t mean you have to do this every time, just the first time you create the product.
When you launch a product for the first time you might realise you have a different demographic to what you expected.
They might be more “beginner” or “advanced” than you thought your customers would be. Or they might be from a completely different niche than you expected!
Create a “get to know you survey” that your new customers have to complete as part of their on boarding process you can identify if your original content plan needs to change.
Naturally there will always be 1 person who complains that they need the full overview first but in my experience these are not people who complete and get results from a program, because they skim through and don’t absorb / action each lesson.
There’s no reason why you can’t give them an overview before they dive in but there is no reason why all content needs to be visible from the outset to achieve that goal.
This also stops you from trying to achieve the “perfect product” before you launch.
Despite being in the digital products niche, I very rarely launch a product that doesn’t include some form of live support.
This creates more accountability and support for your customers and gives you important feedback for improving your products. It also allows you to identify the gaps in your product and if you do make mistakes in your product (which you will!) having live support means you can help people overcome the hurdles in their way.
Once you have identified the gaps and learned how to best serve your customers, you can turn the live content into pre-recorded content to reduce the time you personally need to spend supporting your customers.
For example, one of the things I do is host live coaching sessions in my mastermind to answer the questions people have. Then my team transcribe the calls and turn them into articles that my customers can access at any time in our members site.
Chances are – if I’ve been asked the question once, I’ll be asked it again so this is a big time-saver for me long-term plus gives my customers what they need FAST.
Feedback is a tough, but completely necessary, part of the product creation process. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll probably feel a little bit of resistance around asking for honest feedback, reading it and actioning the top remarks.
It’s never a nice feeling to hear something negative but you have to switch your mindset on this from “What did I do wrong?” to “How can I do better?”
If you ask for feedback and take action on what your customers request… you will create an exceptional experience for them and create world-class products.
There are several places I add in feedback loops, usually with just a super-simple Typeform survey.
- Before they start using the product.
- If drip-feeding content, at the end of each module.
- At the end of them using the product.
And sometimes again after a longer period after they’ve finished to see what long term results they got.
My favourite quote on this subject is – there is no such thing as failure, only feedback.
And as long as you are taking action on the feedback you get, and working with your customers to improve the experience for them, even really bad feedback can be a very positive thing!
There is no doubt there is a lot to creating transformational experiences for your customers instead of simply creating a product that sells.
But if you want to build a business with longevity, this is the strategy you must adopt now.
Gone are the days when you could just put out a basic product on a sales webinar and live off your evergreen funnels forever.
There is too much competition out there now and customers are getting far more savvy in their ability to weed out the crap.
Despite the length of this article this is actually a fairly simple process to go through, and doesn’t require much more than a few extra days planning before you create the product, and some simple processes throughout the delivery of your product.
I promise you, if you invest this extra time upfront you’ll reap the rewards of “forever customers”, lower refunds and you’ll build a highly respected brand in the process.
Share your thoughts below!
I would love to hear from you and what your biggest takeaway from this article is! Drop me a comment below 🙂