Step-By-Step Guide For Launching a Virtual Product

Posted by Mark Thompson - May 11, 2010 - Ecommerce - 14 Comments

It can be an exhausting process when launching and marketing a virtual product.  This post is suppose to act as a step-by-step guide that will show you the process of creating a product, all the way to your launch.

1.  Product Research

So hopefully you have an idea or at least a topic that you will be covering for your product.  The questions you should be asking yourself are what is a pain or problem people have in your industry? and how can you alleviate or fix that problem with your product?

Once you have a concrete idea for what your product will cover, you will want to do some searches to see whats already out there.  This will help you to figure out a competitive advantage for your product.

  • Competitor Research – Look at your top competitors to see what they offer.  If possible, purchase a few of their products to help you generate ideas, identify opportunities that your competitors may have missed, and to help create your selling points.
  • Pricing – See what similar products are being currently sold for.  Find out what promotions, specials, and sales your competitors have used to help sell their products.  Are they using a one-time purchase model or is there a way to turn it into a reoccurring revenue model?

2.  Product Creation

Once you have figured out the exact product you are going to be creating and have done your homework on your competitors, it is now time to create your product.

  • Format – How do you want to deliver your content to your audience?  Is it through an e-book, podcast, video, bundle of products, etc…?  Finding out the right way to deliver the content can be harder to figure out, than just seeing what your competitors have done.  If you are able to find a unique way to deliver your content, you can increase the perceived value of your product, resulting in selling it for more.
  • Completeness – If you are going to be selling a product, it better have additional value that you can’t find on the web for free.  For example, there are a lot of keyword research tools out there, that are free to use.  So in order to sell a premium keyword research tool, there needs to be additional data or features that a free tool does not offer.  It may offer a variety of data from multiple sources, a way to organize your keyword research or creates a client-ready report.  If you are selling an e-book on ways to make money from your blog, giving in-depth details and concrete examples of blogs that have made money will help make your product worthy to buy, as it is more detailed than a blog post or article.

3.  Landing Page Design

The way you layout out your page, the headlines you use, graphics, colors, buttons, and conversion funnel all play a part into how many people will purchase your products.  Depending on the type of product you are looking to sell, it should reflect your business, industry and target audience.

  • Site Structure/Navigation – Figuring out the best place to put your new product can be a bit of a challenge if you have never made an area for products before.  Finding the ideal real estate on the homepage to feature the product, as well as finding a spot in the current navigation that will allow people to get to your product from anywhere on the site.
  • Product Graphics – Having a high-quality photos or screen-shots of the product will help to give a graphical representation of what the product does or problem it solves.  For example, if you are offering software, showing screenshots, along with tutorial videos could help the user better understand how the software functions and its capabilities.
  • Product Description – Giving detailed information about the description including product overview, features, benefits, problems it solves, and functionality can help give compelling reasons to purchase the product.
  • Call to Action – Using capturing headlines that draw the readers eye will help keep the user engaged with your landing page. 
  • A/B Testing – To take your landing page to another level, you may want to run an A/B test to see which landing page variation gets a better conversion rate.

4.  Shopping Cart Integration

In order to allow people to purchase your product, you must integrate some sort of shopping cart or payment gateway.  This will allow the user to purchase your product via credit card, paypal, google checkout, etc…

  • Payment Options – The more purchase options you give the user, the better the chance you will have of converting that user. If you plan on only having a few products on your website, a simple Paypal button should be just fine.  If you are going to be offering a wider variety of products, it would be worth it to use a shopping cart.

  • Checkout Steps – Minimizing the number of steps it takes to purchase your product will increase conversion rates and usability.
  • Promo/Discount Codes – Allowing promo codes and running specials will push users to buy now and put in the users mind that they are getting a deal.
  • Testimonials/Case Studies – Getting testimonials from real users of your product can show real results and how your product helped their needs.  It can also give your product more credibility if your testimonials are from industry influencers.

5.  Marketing Outreach

Your product is only as good as how you market it.  If you already have influence in an industry, it will be easier to spread the word about your new product.  However if you don’t necessarily have the influence and the traffic it will take some targeted marketing to exposure your product.

  • Blogger/Writer Outreach – The most effective approach I have seen so far is by getting your product in the hands of bloggers and writers who write for the top blogs/websites in your industry.  If you write each of them a personalized email with a free trial or copy of your product (and it is of high quality), they will usually write about it and post it on their blog.  This can help your product get exposed to hundreds or even thousands of new users.  It can also help gain a quality backlink to your landing page, which will help with organic search.  Hopefully you already know which blogs and websites are key places that you can market your websites on, so reaching out should be relatively easy.
  • E-mail Marketing – If you have an in-house marketing list, you should create a e-mail marketing campaign that notifies them about the new product.  If you list is of high quality, this can be a great way to generate sales.
  • Pay-Per-Click – Depending on the industry and the amount of competition, a PPC advertising campaign can help gain some visibility in the search engines.  Adding ad copy that talks about the key features and price can help qualify the user before they click.
  • Social Media – Using your existing social media accounts to spread the word can be a great way to have your friends help your product go viral on Twitter and Facebook.  You may also want to monitor chatter for keywords that are related to your product and reach out to those people.
  • Affiliate Programs – Creating an affiliate program using affiliate management websites like ClickBank and CJ can allow others to market for you.  In return you just give them a percentage of any sales they generate.
  • Partnerships – You may be able to bundle your product into a pre-existing websites product.  Partnering with another company or person that offers complimentary products, can make the overall package more attractive and generate more sales.
  • 3rd Party Sites – Depending on your product, there are sites like Google Base, Amazon.com, and eBay that allow you to submit your products (even virtual products) to their sites.  They do however take a portion of each sale, however they generate a lot of traffic.

6.  Tracking/Analytics

There is no reason not to be tracking everything on your website.  You should create a unique goal for when someone completes a purchase on your website.  If your product has a set amount, you should enter that goal value.  You should also be aware of where your sales are coming from.  If you notice that the people coming from a blog that you are working with to promote your product, you should find other ways you can market on that site. If it also important to measure the impact of your social media efforts from places like Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and any other social sites you engage in.

7.  Further Enhancements/Feedback

Regardless of what type of product you are selling, there is always going to be things you can do to improve it.  Listing to your customers feedback, suggestions, and issues will help you to improve your product for an upcoming version or model.

8.  Support

For virtual products, there could be issues with customers receiving the product.  That is why you should always have support information on your website and landing page so people can contact you with any concerns.  Having a plan and strategy so you are ready to resolve any issues people may have with your product.

About the Author

Mark Thompson

Mark is the creator of StayOnSearch and president of Search Creatively, a full-service Internet Marketing Company located in Raleigh, North Carolina. He also contributes to many industry related blogs including Search Engine Journal and is active on Facebook and Twitter. Follow Mark on Twitter
11 comments
recruiting software
recruiting software

There is this awesome open source app called Piwik that delivers website analytics and data. It's so great though because it runs more like a customizable plugin so you don't have a bunch of extras that you never use. You just customize it to what you need. Works great. I think it's available through OpenX. Check it out! Carly S.

Alyssa
Alyssa

Virtual Product used as developing and prototyping products in a completely digital 2D/3D environment, This post is great help to launch virtual products step by step. Awesome post! Thanks

Sandra Parrotto
Sandra Parrotto

Nicely done - I would've liked some recommendations about tracking/analytic sites - I am so new to this that it would help if I could go visit service providers' sites that relate to each of your categories...

James Jestes
James Jestes

Great Step by Step guide for lauching almost any virtual product! Thanks for sharing

James Jestes
James Jestes

Great Step by Step guide for lauching almost any virtual product! Thanks for sharing

Asita
Asita

If You having a high-quality photos or screen-shots of the product - download time of the web sait will increase

GCsocialmedia Aaron
GCsocialmedia Aaron

Great guide Mark, I really like the way you have talked through the process required in succinct but easy to understand way.

A Samuel
A Samuel

Mark,This is a really good guide, comprehensive and informative, I shall be bookmarking it. I have seen so many products work well on clickbank using these techniques.

PBH
PBH

Nice guide!

Mark Thompson
Mark Thompson

Sandra, If you sign up for my free 10 week Internet Marketing course, you will get a whole list of tools that we (marketers) use for the various tasks that I discuss in the post. Feel free to sign-up :-) Mark

Kenelm
Kenelm

Whoa, whoa, get out the way with that good ionframiton.

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