A visit to Rome last month sparked an idea for writing a report on creating breakthrough information products.
Here’s how it happened.
I met up with an American friend who’s been living in Italy for the last few years.
He manages several modestly successful investment funds, yet complains about how expensive it is paying for everything in euros, while keeping most of his assets in dollars.
Besides the fact that you could buy a euro for 85 cents in October of 2001 and it now costs $1.55, many items are now priced higher in euros on a pure 1-to-1 basis.
So, later that evening when the currency complaint came up again (and after a few bottles of Pinot Grigio), I suggested to my friend that he could even the exchange rate simply by making a lot more dollars.
He and several others at the table looked at me with a mixture of suspicion and intrigue.
Yet, surprisingly, no one challenged me to provide an example and we quickly switched topics.
The following day, I felt like I’d been let off the hook and resolved to write a report on…
Why now is the ideal time for launching a blockbuster info product.
Most have heard of the numerous advantages of self-publishing or info marketing countless times. The 12 criteria Richard Russell lays out in his now landmark paper, The Perfect Business, cannot be excelled upon.
Besides these, there are two factors which make the current economic recession a friend to savvy direct response marketers and info publishers.
- Advertising is usually the first expense business owners eliminate in a down cycle. Since their advertising is rarely accountable, it’s not a bad decision. The upshot is advertising space not only becomes far cheaper for the rest of us, but there’s less noise competing with our messages.
- Those who can create order from chaos are highly prized in tranquil times, in volatile times even more so. The price inelasticity which information publishers enjoy is based on the degree of order they bring to an in-demand subject matter.
7 Breakthrough Info Marketing Offers
Breakthrough info products don’t address fly fishing, basket weaving or chihuahuas. Sure, those micro niches have high, built-in passion indexes, but there’s little potential for selling a million copies in a year in those markets.
The 7 info products below focus on topics with wide appeals, so the advertising can be massively scaled. In all but one case, the space ads and the products were essentially created by one-man shops.
Info Marketer: Dr. Ernest Weckesser
Market: How to use a home computer/Internet
Product: Book: “Green Tree Press Computer Course”
Number sold: 1.5 million
Who says you can’t make millions anymore from a single info product sold via space advertising? Dr. Weckesser matched the perfect offer to the “largest classroom” in history. This is a textbook ad from one of the most versatile info marketers of all. (Of course, the Video Professor may have sold 500-fold this by now, thanks to spots and his flush, back-end product line, but I have no data on his sales.)
Info Marketer: Eugene Schwartz
Market: Childhood education
Product: Book: “How To Double Your Child’s Grades In School”
Number sold: 400,000
This is a large and perennial market with seemingly no ceiling on what parents are willing to spend. Gene may have been the first to create a breakthrough direct response offer in this market. Analogous, though not pure “info products,” are the videos created by Julie Aigner-Clark’s company, Baby Einstein, which she sold to Disney in 2001 for an undisclosed sum. Here’s another ad in the series.
Info Marketer: Joe Karbo
Market: Make money/biz-op
Product: Book: “The Lazy Man’s Way To Riches”
Number sold: 3 million
This was the landmark biz-op promotion which ran the world over and even had numerous insertions in the staid Wall Street Journal. Joe Sugarman does a terrific analysis of Joe Karbo’s ad in his book, Advertising Secrets of the Written Word. Joe Karbo died of a massive heart attack in 1980 while being interviewed at a local TV station, when the interviewer unexpectedly pulled a hatchet job on him.
Info Marketer: Ted Nicholas
Market: How to Incorporate/wealth accumulation/tax shelters
Product: Book: “How To Form Your Own Corporation Without a Lawyer for Under $50”
Price: $14.95 (1977)
Number sold: ???
It’s interesting to notice the evolution in the stages of sophistication this product went through from a tax shelter emphasis to “the only way left for the little guy to get rich.” With the detachable forms which this book included, it was seen as an all in one solution to the headache and expense of hiring an attorney. Ted has sold over $200 million of his self-published books.
Info Marketer: Gary Bencivenga
Market: How to get hired
Product: Report: “Interviews That Win Jobs” and 5 Bonus Reports
Number sold: ???
With unemployment in the U.S. at a four-year high, I’m waiting to see one of my favorite space ads brought back to life. This product had ad insertions in USA Today and The New York Times.
If you can write bullets and create premiums only half as good as Benci, then you can charge what you please for your info product.
* Worst times to schedule an interview. Your odds of getting hired are very low.
Free Bonus #5: The Greatest Job-Finding Secret. So powerful, this strategy generated multiple job offers even in the Great Depression. This one simple secret puts you among the most successful of all job-seekers.
Believe me, if I’d seen this offer in 1995, I would have responded, so I don’t know the answers either.
Info Marketer: Gary Halbert
Market: How to collect social security
Product: “How To Collect Social Security At Any Age”
Price: $3 (1973)
Number sold: 200,000
Years: 1973-1978 (?)
Gary may have been the most successful, “send for this secret now” info marketer there ever was. So much so, had he ceased marketing after the coat-of-arms promotion, he’d still be a legend. Here’s more on How To Collect Social Security at Any Age.
Info Marketer: Ronald Hume
Market: Investment/wealth accumulation
Product: 27 Lessons: Successful Investing And Money Management
Price: $10 per lesson
Number sold: ???
Hume Publishing was a wildly successful financial newsletter publisher that employed some of the top copy talent in the 70s and 80s
Perhaps, they were so successful, they snatched “defeat from the jaws of victory,” as Denny Hatch wittily put it in Million Dollar Mailings.
Instead of being content with $500 million in revenue, Hume decided to set up two funds, the Hume Fund and the Hume RSVP Fund and pitch them to their responsive list. Predictably, a lot of Hume subscribers converted to Hume investors, but a combination of inexperienced management and the Crash of ’87 put them under.
Nevertheless, Hume’s offer is a perfect template for information marketers looking to set up a continuity stream in the investment markets. Hume’s order coupon is so good, it should be in a textbook.
Creating Your Own Breakthrough Info Marketing Offer
The first step in creating a breakthrough informational product, whether it’s a special report, book or DVD is being an alert opportunity detective.
If I weren’t so bogged down with the re-release of my own info product, I’d be looking at a way to make sense of the mortgage market in the U.S. The whole country has been living in such a dream world, including the central bank, that if someone compiled a directory of current info and best practices for obtaining a mortgage, it might have a chance. Additionally, government/public domain info could compose a portion of such a resource.
Just a thought.
Here are some of the best tools for drilling down into numerous markets and getting their pulses:
Amazon Non-Fiction Books (The narrow by category menu on the left is especially enlightening.)
The New York Times Best Sellers List
USA Today Best Selling Books Database (Sorry to my friends outside the States…we’re a nation of lists.)
If you have any candidates for expanding this list… or just have a comment in general, feel free to add.
Ciao for now,
Lawrence, outstanding post. You have just spelled out “square one” for anyone ready to start a new information publishing business. Timing could not be more perfect in my case. Thank you for this insightful and inspiring report.
Information Marketing Copywriter Andrew Cavanagh says
Great, great post. And the swipes are pure gold.
I’d add that if you’re creating an information product you really need to look way beyond the initial report or product.
Think of every information product you produce as a lead generator.
You might have a free report, video or audio that generates leads for your…
$47 ebook or audio that generates leads for your…
$97 to $197 audio program with workbook which generates leads for your…
$497 to $997 full program with consultation which generates leads for your…
$1,497 to $2,497 seminar or workshop which generates leads for your…
$2,997 to $5,997+ mentoring program.
Some of the early information marketers like Joe Karbo and Eugene Schwartz left a pile of money on the table by failing to create a sophisticated back end selling process.
Frank Nolan says
I’ve been looking for that ad by Gary Bencivengas’ “Do You Make These Mistakes in Job Interviews?”
But I’m unable to read the one you posted.
Is there a jpg available? or do you know if
the ad is featured in any books on copywriting?
Frank, a few years late, but what the heck?