Selling your knowledge online is about the smartest business you can do. It’s called Knowledge Commerce.
Every one of us is a walking knowledge brand. The knowledge inside of us is an inexhaustible supply. We think there may be no demand for our knowledge. But in truth there is always an equal if not greater demand for all types of knowledge. We only have to stir up that demand.
Some of us know what our knowledge area is, and try to make a business out of it by converting our knowledge into products and services. Some of us guess we have something in us to sell, if only we knew what it was and how to sell it. Some others just don’t even know that they carry this immense wealth inside of them capable of being sold.
All of us, though, could use some advice on exactly how to bring our inner knowledge wealth outside; package, market and sell it; and convert it into wealth that brims over in a bank account. That’s what this article is about – the how-to of Knowledge Commerce.
Why will people pay for your knowledge when there’s so much available for free online?
Jonathan Cronstedt of Kajabi.com (a well-known Knowledge Commerce platform) explains the reason why he thinks people are always willing to pay for knowledge even if free-information-overload is the malaise of the Internet. Here’s his explanation:
Consumers have come to value knowledge for which they have paid over information they consume for free. Think about it: Would you trust a medical doctor who offered to treat you for free or one who charged you for applying his knowledge to your case?
Some of us would appreciate free medical care, but we would question the doctor who offered services for free. Does he lack the experience necessary to charge for his services? Has he been censured or otherwise criticized for his methods in the past?
You’ve heard the saying, “You get what you pay for.” That’s never truer than in the industry of Knowledge Commerce.”
It’s clear that when information comes from a trusted source, it has greater value over information that’s free. But I thought about this whole thing a little harder and came up with four other reasons why people may willingly pay money for knowledge. These four points will surely make you consider a Knowledge Commerce business as it did for me. Here are these four reasons …
1. People buy efficiency when they buy knowledge. Take an ebook on how to learn Italian cooking. You may be able to get loads of information on this online, right? But all in one convenient palace, sequentially arrayed as the chapters of a book? And that too, a book you can buy and download in an instant just at the moment when your interest in the topic is at its peak? The handy ebook would save you tons of time, and time too is money. So therein lies the return-on-investment case for the ebook purchase. Efficiency and ease of knowledge acquisition is value for money.
2. People buy credibility when they buy knowledge. Who is giving you the knowledge? That makes all the difference to the knowledge quality you expect to get. If it’s from someone you trust, that knowledge can be priceless. If it’s from someone you don’t trust, you won’t want to exchange a dime for that knowledge. The moral of the story? When people are serious about getting good, relevant, reliable and workable knowledge, they seek out sources to buy that knowledge from. They evaluate the knowledge-giver more than they evaluate the knowledge itself. If they are just browsing idly with no serious intention, they look for free stuff.
3. People buy inspiration when they buy knowledge. Can you ever remember someone who paid for knowledge that they yawned over with boredom? How do you think they feel about reading that tiring tome, or watching a blah video? They’ll ask for a refund. While people can get knowledge aplenty, how much of that knowledge comes with some “personality”? How much will people be willing to pay for knowledge that makes them sit up, gets their creative juices flowing, and energizes them for action? People like knowledge that is mood-transformational. They’ll pay for that kind of knowledge any day.
4. People buy answers when they buy knowledge. Think about this. Look up all the keywords people use on the internet for any search on Google, and the two central themes of their questions would be: “What is this thing all about?” or “How is it all done?” No matter how people word their searches, they invariably want to know the “what” or “how” of anything. Even when they are asking for “my nearest shop for watches” they are subtly asking “how” to get there. Likewise, when they are asking about “benefits of acupuncture” they are subtly asking about the “what” of the whole concept. People want knowledge that intuits and answers their “what” and “how” questions. If the knowledge promises to give them a great answer to the real query in their minds, they’ll pay for it. There’s too much information out there now that offers no real answers.
6 steps to selling knowledge online via Knowledge Commerce
Follow the 6 key steps below to start selling your knowledge online … they are easy and very cost-efiicient to execute.
#1. Look for and identify your area of unique knowledge
Many of us think of ourselves as single-dimensional professionals. Whereas, we may have many facets to our knowledge that remain unexploited. Also, our knowledge facets may have unique nuances.
There are at least 8 ways to discover your unique and marketable knowledge area – if not more. Use these as a starting point for your own discovery journey:
1. Your “knowledge” could be explicit – or it could be an intuitive skill.
When you have an intuitive ability, it’s often hard to teach someone how to cultivate the same talent – or so you think. But you can retrace the steps of what you do exactly when you intuit. You can create a methodical process that others can follow.
2. You may have inherited expertise or knowledge that you can take further.
In many cultures, there are certain trade skills that run in families. In the olden, golden days, fathers would pass such knowledge to their sons. See if you are lucky to have a family-derived skill. There’s now an opportunity to share your knowledge online and make a business of teaching it.
3. Your most annoying psychological compulsions could signal expertise.
All expertise doesn’t begin elegantly. An irritating personality compulsion could become your unique expertise area. A friend I know was a compulsive fault-finder but she made this very trait her forte to teach others the good side of “perfectionism”.
4. Your education – or better still, its mix – could be your invaluable expertise.
What if you have a Master’s Degree in Ecology plus a strong extra Certification in, say, Spanish. One track specialization does have its advantages, for sure. But being a rarity because of your peculiar education mix could be even more awesome.
5. Job experience gained (direct or lateral) can be marketable knowledge.
There are so many everyday things people think they know how to achieve. But it’s in the small “critical nuances” that some rare people discover the greatest results. Such nuances are rare, marketable knowledge.
6. Deep passion in a topic can be teachable knowledge if you’re the guinea-pig.
Sometimes you don’t even need to be a knowledgeable expert to get a great following. You can be a “go-to guy” if you have a passion for a topic that you’ve never tried before. You could teach people how your fumbling experiments can help them.
7. Your undervalued psychological traits could become your expertise topic.
Many of us base our misgivings about our own personalities on wrong assumptions. But if we discover we are doing this, we can teach others how to overcome this kind of self-defeatism too.
8. The cause you support can become a huge Knowledge Commerce opportunity.
What you champion could make you a champion. Try to think of all the social causes that you get excited about – or even worked up or agitated about. If you feel passion for a cause outside of yourself, it’s often very easy to build a buy-ready community around the idea.
#2. Build your brand by blogging in your unique knowledge area
Most start-ups don’t like to spend on expensive advertising to get site visitors. Neither do they like to get into more elaborate forms of content … like videos, webinars or podcasts. That is why it makes sense to start with content marketing via blogging.
Here are a few reasons why blogging is the way to start your Kowledge Commerce:
1. Blogging is the exact opposite of writing sales-y product pitches and pushing these at customers.
Instead you reach customers in a smarter way, by writing high-quality articles or blog posts. Ensure these posts lead people to want to check out your products or services. For example, let’s say you want to sell an ebook on “Healthy Recipes for Supermoms”. Write blog articles on fitness, nutrition and time management for busy moms. Write many different articles leading to this topic from different angles.
People coming across these articles may like your ideas and sign up for your newsletters. Or they may even be ready to buy your ebook of recipes. This indirect method of selling is powerful, because it educates as it sells. People first get sold on your great ideas and expertise, and thus buy your products.
2. There’s another advantage to blogging. To build a great brand you have to blog.
Mark Schaefer (the content marketing expert) did research to find the best and biggest business blogs on Fortune 500. he found that the best blogs happen to come from businesses who have also parallelly built solid brands.
The critical factor in building a brand is trust. Blogging helps to build trust with your target audiences. The more you blog, the more people get to know how you think and how deep is your authority and expertise. The more they know you, the more they also trust you.
3. You don’t even need a website to blog. These days it’s a smarter move to blog on Medium.
What is Medium? It is a space, a site where millions of readers visit every day to read a host of blog posts by various authors. You just have to set up your account there and start blogging. From Day 1, you get a huge traffic footfall to your blog post. This is something you wouldn’t even get on your own website.
Blogging on Medium is easy if you just follow a few simple rules they have. You always have the option of later reposting all your blog posts to your own site – or alternatively, if you have a website where you blog, you can repost to Medium. There is no Google duplication penalty because Medium has a declaration that your blog post originally belongs on your own website.
#3. Harvest a mailing list of loyal subscribers and grow your list
Collecting a growing a list of email subscribers is another inseparable part of Knowledge Commerce. Why is it important to the whole scheme of things? Think. What a waste of effort it would be if you brought lots of first-time site visitors to your blog and site. But then you had no way of staying in touch with them to bring them back again? This is where email marketing becomes invaluable.
Here’s what you need to do to get this step into action:
1. On your website, or working along with your blog, you’d need to include an “opt-in form”.
It can ask people to supply their email addresses if they wish to get regular updates from your site and blog. You may need to offer a “lead magnet” (a free ebook or another beckoning downloadable item). It has to be enticing enough for people to give their email addresses for.
Your downloadable lead magnet needn’t be a long ebook. It’s not more pages that people expect to read. In fact, they like quicker reads. The value of your lead magnet must be that its advice is immediately useful and practical. People must feel like they can use it for immediate work they have to hand – maybe they need a spot of research and the ebook provides that information in a jiffy. Or they need the steps to do some action and the ebook shows them that.
2. Once people are on your mailing list, keep an email campaign going (at optimum frequency).
Remind people to re-visit your site for new content. But don’t let them feel badgered to buy your products straight away. Email marketing isn’t separate from the rest of your brand communication. So, maintain your brand’s tone of voice.
People will always be leaving your list (the much-hated “unsubscribes”) and you can’t stop that. But if you are adding more people to your mailing list every day, the gains will stay greater than the losses. Set a target to get and hold a certain good number of subscribers (say, 1000 or 10,0000) all the time.
3. Segregating harvested subscribers helps in moving them forward on their buying journeys.
This is usually the first step to mailing list management. make sure that your subscriber-capture forms have a hidden field that can tell you which page or which form the subscriber filled to get onto your mailing list. That will tell you a lot about his or her specific topic interests. Most mailing list companies like Mailchimp or Aweber will help you tag customers by interests.
When you thus segment your lists by interest tags, you can send specific emails to tagged segments around their interest areas. This helps them feel that you know exactly what they are looking for, and they get loyal to you faster. They also get buy-ready faster. For example, it makes sense, doesn’t it, that you send emails about salads to those who like slimming as a topic, and you don’t send them emails with irrelevant recipes instead?
#4. Study your fans for ideas of knowledge products to sell to them
Do you know something about surveying your subscribers to see what knowledge products they may like to buy from you? You don’t need to ask them straight out if they want XYZ product or ABC product. They wouldn’t know what to say. Instead, ask them to state their problems or queries for which they’d like solutions or answers. Then create products that provide such solutions and answers.
1. Keep your surveys as simple and easy as possible. Don’t tax your subscriber with convoluted questions.
You’re reaching out to people who probably are busy or even distracted … so it’s best to make your questions as easy as you can for them to access the survey, understand those questions, and then answer them in a quick time.
Asking long-winded or convoluted questions may confuse and frustrate respondents. If that happens, this is what you’ll get: they may either not answer the confusing questions at all, or, even if they do, they may give you unclear or inaccurate answers.
2. Avoid asking “polar” or “yes/no” kinds of questions. That doesn’t tell you much beyond monosyllabic answers.
Remember, our objective here is to get into customers’ heads and hearts and find out their deepest cravings or cribs. Survey questions that limit respondents toward one extreme answer or another cannot help you hear the whisperings of their inner real needs. You want audiences to give you insights for developing your products and services, so their answers have to go much further than just a Yes/No.
At the same time a totally open-ended question may also flummox some subscriber-respondents. They can’t be asked questions like: “Tell us about a day that goes totally wrong n your life?” You can guide them to give you better answers if you give them some multiple choice answers, and leave the last choice that says “Any other reason? Please specify …”.
3. One of the smartest ways to get depth of answers is to ask people to cite their most favorite examples.
Asking people to give you popular examples of other products they like or don’t like is a great way to understand things they cannot explicitly explain. They may not be able to say, for instance, that they like the pictorial style of a piece of knowledge content, but when they give lots of examples of pictorially-rich examples, you’ll get a feel of their preferences.
When people give you just one or two examples, though, you can’t see the pattern in their answers. You need to ask them to give, say, five or six examples of what they like or don’t like. It’s easier to read their patterns of interest if you have a meatier answer than just a pick of one or two examples they list.
#5. Create small knowledge products to begin with, don’t aim too high
Have you heard of tripwire products? What is a “tripwire”? It’s the analogy that comes from the electrical world. A tripwire is “… a wire stretched close to the ground, working a trap, explosion, or alarm when disturbed and serving to detect or prevent people or animals entering an area.”
The military also uses the word tripwire to describe “… a weak military force employed as the first line of defense, engagement with which will trigger the intervention of stronger forces.”
In other words, you, as a solo brand marketer can aim to sell small opening products (low-priced ebooks?) that reset customers’ mental image of you and themselves and your relationship. Like tripwires, small sales help put people into a state of mind ready for the “bigger thing”.
Internet marketing expert, Neil Patel, has described the power of small tripwire sales:
Think of a tripwire like dating. If you ask a girl or a guy, a random stranger to marry you, what do you think the person is going to say? Chances are he or she is going to end up saying no. The reason the person is going to say no is because the person doesn’t even know you.
But if you ask a random stranger, “Hey would you like to go out for coffee?” there’s a much higher chance that you’ll get a yes.
And if the coffee date goes well, then you may ask the person for dinner, and if the dinner date goes well, you may go on a few more dates, do a few things with the chosen one.
Then fast forward a few months, you may end up moving in together. And then if you ask the person to marry you, the chances of saying yes are much higher.
It’s “micro-commitments”. By getting people to take small little actions, you’re much more likely to get them to say yes to your big core offer.”
The figure below shows you how trust and sales link up with time factor. In a shorter duration, you need less customer trust to sell small things. Larger sales need greater trust-building over time.
Another important thing. Tripwire sales change the nature of your relationship with your customers. Your “prospective customers” become “actual customers”. It doesn’t matter if they’ve spent just $5 on your site. Their changed status as “customers” makes them feel like part of your privileged set.
As time grows, you can have more and more trust built up. With enough trust accumulated, even very big sales feel satisfying and wonderful to customers.
#6. Build your repertoire of products and services as you build more trust
Eager Knowledge Commerce beginners usually push themselves to try to make that one big fat perfect product. They try to write the most thorough ebook, or develop the most comprehensive course, complete with a certificate et al. The common belief is that this is the best way to delivering more than competition ever can. It’s also the belief that such a product will command a great price. That, in turn, would lead to a shorter route to greater wealth. Some people even believe that higher product prices reflect more topical authority.
But here’s why this is so wrong. You have to aim to slowly build a hierarchy f products and services at gradually increasing price points. Read on:
1. People who envision such perfection, end up researching their topic dry. Producing that one masterpiece kills all their spontaneity.
All this leads to burnout or a waning of interest, and the product never gets completed. Or even if the masterpiece product gets done, the entrepreneur is too drained to do a great marketing job. Here’s the truth though: not every knowledge product needs to ooze with endless knowledge. You need instead to have a hierarchy of products in your area of unique expertise. This actually helps you more – and helps your customers more.
Some people want quick practical information on a specific topic. Others want to understand theory more before they begin action. You need to serve both types of audiences. Some people are more textually-oriented and prefer written material. Others may relate better to videos or podcasts or other audio-visual material. So, again, you need to cater to many types of preferences for information. Plus, people hardly ever jump in to buy your $1000 product without knowing you better. You need to build your credibility step by step. That’s why you may need to plan and execute a hierarchical range of products. These need to be at various growing price-points.
2. Where every sale attracts a bigger sale, experts call it a sales funnel. Your funnel process should be something like this.
Initially woo site visitors with a free useful product to get them on your email lists. You could then get them to buy low-priced products from you. As you thank them for their purchase, you can make them aware of your next higher-priced product. You do that again for the third higher-priced product. Or you begin to offer discount deals on “product bundles”. As you scale buyers on your products and services ladder, you then give them an irresistible deal. Give them a free webinar, to push your highest priced product. You then woo them to bring in their friends as customers. Give them very attractive referral offers. And so on …
Between these funnel stages, customers may delay action. You can use an email drip series, or retargeting ads, or a host of other ways to keep nudging your customers. Stay at them to bite your next bigger offer. Experts always aim for Customer Lifetime Value (CLV). This is the sum total of the value of purchases a customer makes with you over a long time. The idea is to make the same customer buy a lot of things from you over time.
There’s something else important you should know about creating more trust as you build higher-priced products in your repertoire.
You may, for example, make an early lucky sale for a large item in your product repertoire. But, although it sounds like a lucky break it’s actually counterproductive to your business growth. It’s better always to aim to begin the relationship with low-priced products and go up the ladder. There are distinct advantages to this method. Here’s why.
The bigger the price label on a product, the more the customer expects in value-return. Even small deficiencies in your product get magnified in customers’ eyes. They look like big inadequacies compared to the huge sums paid.
The weak trust built behind an early large impulse sale can soon turn the relationship sour. The customer tends to look for faults, rather than to appreciate the gains. When the trust built is commensurate with product-price, the customer stays satisfied.
In summary …
If you’re still asking “What Can I Sell To Make Money?” you aren’t looking hard enough at your own storehouse of knowledge to sell. All of us are walking-talking encyclopaedias of some rare knowledge that others are willing to buy. Why look outside when the treasure-trove of convertible wealth is inside of us? Get into Knowledge Commerce today and exploit what you have as marketable knowledge.
Remember that the opportunity for wealth is in these points:
- Look for and identify your area of unique knowledge
- Build your brand by blogging in your unique knowledge area
- Harvest a mailing list of loyal subscribers and grow your list
- Study your fans for ideas of knowledge products to sell to them
- Create small knowledge products to begin with, don’t aim too high
- Build your repertoire of products and services as you build more trust
So what are you waiting for?
Hear the experts on Why People Buy Knowledge Products …
Jonathan Rozek in the article “Information Products: Why People Pay Good Money for Free Things”:
It doesn’t much matter why people will pay for things they might be able to get for free. What matters is to recognize that they often do pay. You don’t have to understand gravity in order to make it work for you.
Construct your products or services in a way that creates enhanced value. Then test and tweak. You will not get it right the first time: Your price may be off, your sales message may be only partially on target, and so on. But with some patience and consistent effort in the direction of your goal, you’ll get a better message-to-market match, and that will bring more success and money.”
Aja Frost in the article “8 Reasons People Pay for Content When They Can Get It for Free”:
In the past year, several of my friends and I have paid for subscriptions to The New York Times. It’s definitely not the only place we could get our news — and at roughly $27 per month, it’s far from the cheapest. But we’re not the only ones willing to pay for great content. The NYT’s subscription revenue has grown year after year – 157,000 people signed up for digital subscriptions in the third quarter of 2017 alone.
According to a survey from Nieman Lab, 93% of 18 to 34-year-olds regularly pay for content (such as entertainment, educational or informative content, and news). The most interesting takeaway from the survey (for creators, at least): Those paying for their content are more likely to engage with the same type of content available for free on Facebook or other platforms.”
David Risley in the article “5 Things People Will Pay The Most Money For”:
Selling information online isn’t as easy as it used to be. Why is that? It is because there is SO much information out there already for free. The importance of understanding your prospect psychology? successful marketer doesn’t just sell knowledge. They sell what is most valuable to the prospect. The knowledge is a means to an end, but you SELL the end.
Also, to get out ahead of the pack, get in on something before others are able to. People LOVE to feel as if they’re “on the inside” and getting in on something before it takes off into some huge thing. People will pay for a competitive advantage.”
So what are your thoughts on this topic? Do share!
This post is incomplete without your input. The community of content-marketer solopreneurs would feel galvanized to hear from you … so do share your thoughts on this topic with us, in the comments field below this post.
Other articles in our series “Learning The Arts & Smarts Of Knowledge Commerce”:
- What Is Knowledge Commerce And Why It’s A Perfect Solo Business Idea
- “What Can I Sell To Make Money?” How About Knowledge Commerce …
- Start A Business Now In Knowledge Commerce: Blow The Delay