So you’ve been building up your audience for a few years now…. You’ve been adding value in the form of consistent free content (remember, a consistent audience requires consistent content). You’ve been driving all that traffic to “like,” “subscribe,” “follow” to build all your marketing channels – Facebook page, Twitter account, Blog, YouTube channel, e-mail list, podcast, etc. And of course you’ve been increasing traffic by incentivizing influencers and your early adopters(super fans) to share and promote for you across their own marketing channels. (See previous post “Practical Audience Building Techniques”)
Now how do you monetize your first product?
First off, you should start promoting the hell out of your product long before it’s even finished. Any high-quality digital product (book, film, video training, musical album, workshop, event, etc.) should take about a year of your time to produce, at least several months. So while you are creating it, go ahead and let people know about the progress – give them progress reports, give them updates, release little tidbits, tease them, excite them, wet their appetite. Most importantly, let them know it’s coming, and give them a specific date so they know when to expect it.
The magic of three… Ideally, you want your target customers to be informed of your product’s impending arrival at least three times. The magic of three is even more powerful if they see/hear it three different PLACES – seeing an ad on Facebook, reading about it in a blog article, then hearing about it from their friends over coffee. Remember, word of mouth is still the most POWERFUL form of advertising. Peoples’ purchasing decisions are heavily influenced by their friends because people trust their friends more than advertising.
Pre-sales are a great way to get people further interested, get to know your early adopters (they’re your most important supporters), get a good idea of your inventory needs, help inform your creative process, and produce a steady stream of income while you are finishing your product. These moneys can be used to fund the development and creation of the project, create your inventory, or pay your rent! This is a great way to monetize if you need money right away or you need money to create the product itself.
Depending on your product and target market, you will need a specific kind of marketing funnel that will allow people to purchase your product in the easiest way possible. Most of the time your marketing funnel will be a single marketing material like a landing web page. Your landing page should:
• list all the reasons why your potential customer should buy your product
• handle any objections they may have against purchasing your product – use David Frey’s 12-step sales letter here (http://nettrafficmachine.com/tools/12steps.pdf)
• Examples: endorsements, customer testimonials, critic praise/reviews, present your credentials to build legitimacy, any special awards or recognition, “as seen in” logos
• allow potential customers to get a taste to try it out for free (squeeze page, etc.)
• Provide only a single CTA(call to action), directing all traffic to perform one single action – whether it’s “buy now” or “subscribe" or “Click to get free” – but provide this CTA three different ways with three different types of links/buttons to click on. Some people will respond more to a visual image, some people will respond more to a simple hyperlink. And remember, some people aren’t as tech-savvy as others.
• Provide a product line for customers to choose from with price points ranging from small to large. Again, three is a great number here. Whatever product you want to sell MOST should be in the mid-price range, cheaper than the expensive product, but more expensive than the cheaper product.
• The fewer clicks they have to make, the better. Ideally, your ad or promotion should contain a link straight to the purchase page – no more than two clicks to buy
• try to fit the entire landing page on one screen so the customer doesn't have to scroll
• use video (hire me) – video is the most powerful way to communicate your message. People are much more willing to stop and spend a minute watching a video than reading a blog post, looking at an ad image, or listening to something like podcast/radio.
There are many ways to build the digital mechanisms of your marketing funnels. If you are somewhat tech-savvy, there are so many services you can use yourself.
• Websites: Squarespace, Wordpress, Wix, Weebly
• Online Stores: Squarespace, Shopify, Etsy, PayPal
• Squeeze Pages: Mailchimp, Aweber
• E-mail Marketing: Mailchimp, Constant Contact
• For Movies: VHX, Vimeo on Demand, iTunes, Amazon Instant, Google
• For Music: Bandcamp, CD Baby, iTunes
• For Books: CreateSpace, iTunes, Lulu
If you’re not so tech-savvy, hiring a web designer can be pricey!
This term is used in the film industry to describe a film that is released across ALL platforms at the same time (theaters, VOD, DVD, streaming, etc.). This has only been done a few times – The Interview was the most recent example. It made a lot of money being released on VOD and Streaming while simultaneously being released in smaller independent theaters, but that was because of the circumstances and the extreme flood of press the film experienced. The success of the film’s day-and-date release was not enough to convince studios to utilize this sales technique more often. The reason is because they make fat cash dropping down slowly….
Traditional Windowing Distribution (Dropping Down)
“Window Distribution” is another term used in the film industry to describe a traditional dropping down method of distribution. It looks something like this: (1.) theaters for three months, (2.) DVDs for three months, (3.) digital VOD & cable/satellite VOD for three months, (4.) TV/Broadcast for three months, (5.) and finally streaming (Netflix & Hulu). Why do you think they carve out certain distribution windows like this? PROFIT! Start with the most expensive and exclusive product, then slowly drop down to the less expensive and less exclusive products. People won’t want to drive to a theater and pay $12–$20 to see a film if they can see it at home on iTunes for $10-$15. People won’t want to pay $20 for a DVD if they can see it on Netflix for free. Netflix and iTunes have completely revolutionized the film distribution model, just like Pandora and Spotify have done for music. So the idea is to stay on the higher price points as long as possible to rake in the most dough before the product is released where people can see it for free. Here are some examples of dropping down or “windowing”:
• Movies: Theater ticket, DVD, Blu-Ray, autographed version, special-edition version, VOD, SVOD, streaming.
• Music: Tour ticket, physical CD, Special limited edition Vinyl, digital download, free streaming, internet radio.
• Books: tour/speaking event ticket, physical bound copy, hardback, paperback, limited edition autographed version, digital e-book.
Musicians have been touring for ages – it’s still the biggest money maker for musicians. So why don’t filmmakers or other content creators do it? Touring is not only lucrative, but it is SUPER powerful in promoting and getting the message out there – much more powerful than promoting online because it is REAL in physical reality. People will talk more about an EVENT or an artist they saw in person rather than an internet release. The other reason touring is so effective is because of the power of “the big mo” – MOMENTUM. Momentum is a very powerful force and a great friend to have on your side. When you have momentum, buzz gets heightened, which accelerates word-of-mouth. You build major momentum when you have twenty to thirty events in a row. This repetition also forces you to MASTER your set, your talk, your performance – it allows you to put on a GREAT event which will also create more buzz and word-of-mouth. Because an event or performance adds the most value, it should also be the highest price point offer, and therefore kick-off your distribution campaign before you drop-down to the online releases. And what a great way to start selling your product with a HUGE promotion tour!
I know the power of touring from firsthand experience. After I finished my film, SHARP, I organized and booked a 25-city tour to play the film at Vector offices across the West Coast. The screening was followed by a talk and short Q&A. Not only was the tour the best promotion we did (we saw the biggest increase in Facebook likes), but it was also the most lucrative part of the entire film campaign (grossing $8000 that month). “The big mo” also helped us out a lot – the screenings started out at offices with only a few audience members (kinda like starting out at open mic nights), they became large screenings at conferences with large audiences of 100, and the tour ended with a final screening at an end-of-the-summer conference with 500 sales reps! By then, I had done my talk over twenty times and had gotten so good at it – during the talk, I took a dramatic pause mid-sentence and became suddenly aware of the fact that every single person in the room was on the edge of their seat. I had 500 people eating out of the palm of my hand. Needless to say, my oratory and selling skills had become razor sharp from the repetition.
Merchandising is another great way to monetize your campaign. People like SWAG! Especially after an event or a show, people love to buy a t-shirt to show off their experience to their friends (and it’s free advertising!). People like to OWN their experiences, to customize them, to make them their own, and to remember them. Merchandise satisfies these wants/needs. On my tour, I found that people bought more swag than DVDs. Here’s another example: During the film tour for the release ofBurn, the filmmakers found that 40% of ticket buyers bought an extra $25 worth of merchandise (see the case study I did here). They had an underserved die-hard fanbase, but the numbers don’t lie! Another example: to promote “Bones Brigade” (one of my favorite skate films), the filmmakers influenced tons of pre-sales by creating packages of memorabilia that sold along with screening tickets. The average pre-sale transaction was $115. They also had a hardcore fanbase as well as tons of archived memorabilia from the 1980s in mint-condition. Providing merchandise also plays in to providing more products in a product line for people to choose from. Some fans may not want to buy the film, but instead want a hat or keychain. Others may want everything, but won’t buy anything unless it’s sold altogether in a discounted package. Try to think about your target audience and what they may think is super cool!
Free as part of your business plan
I would highly recommend you consider free as part of your business plan. WHAT?!?!! “FREE”? Did you just say free? Yes. But only for digital products because there is no production or fulfillment required so you aren’t spending any money on it. And only AFTER you’ve executed your entire distribution campaign and made all the profit you’re going to make. Nowadays, people expect free media, so you might as well give them what they want. Free is a great way to increase your audience and get your product to more people who wouldn’t have paid for it anyways. SURPRISINGLY, you may even find that releasing it for free increases sales because more people are discovering that they LOVE your stuff.
Please let me know what product you plan on monetizing! Leave a comment below!
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