Selling Informational Products Online: E-Books, Online Courses, Software and More


You can improve your bottom line by selling informational products online through your Web site. Informational products can include e-books, online courses, PDF’s, software, or any product that can be downloaded from the Web. It can also include teleclasses and other items that aren’t physical in nature.

Instead of going through a publisher for a book or manual, or burning software onto a CD, the Web allows you to distribute this information as a digital download. Adding a secure, online payment option requires little additional work to set up.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a small business, or an association, selling informational products, also known as “soft goods,” can be a great source of revenue. They require low startup costs and little ongoing work. Generally, once the product is created, you can sell it an infinite number of times with virtually no additional cost.

In this month’s newsletter we’ll look at whether selling soft goods is the right move for you, and next month we’ll talk about some of the tools available to help you sell your products online.

Fee or Free?

The first question to ask is whether selling informational products will help you achieve your business goals. Putting a price on your knowledge may bar potential clients from doing business with you. Providing free advice may instead establish you as an expert, lure prospects, and convince them that they need your services.

Even if you decide to sell informational products, you need to provide free samples of your expertise in the form of articles or newsletters. There’s too much free information available on the Web for someone to take a chance on you without the opportunity to sample your wares.

Why Sell Informational Products Online?

  • Putting a price on something gives it a (perceived) value. Free information is often worth only as much as you paid for it. It may also come across as a blatant infomercial for your own services, as opposed to unbiased information that may help your customer. By selling your expertise you increase its intrinsic worth.
  • Informational products allow you to sell to do-it-yourselfers you wouldn’t have reached otherwise. There will always be a percentage of people who prefer to get their hands dirty. They do their own taxes, change their own oil, self-administer acupuncture. Rather than lose this business, you can help these self-starters reach their goals by selling them the information they need to perform specified tasks better, cheaper or faster.
  • Your primary business model may require one-on-one consulting time that you can’t provide to everyone. Let’s face it; you’re not Santa Claus. You can’t magically provide personal service to all the good boys and girls out there. By selling your informational product you can reach an infinite number of customers…and help them. 
  • Selling your information allows prospects to take you or your company for a test drive. Consider it a sample. Allowing people to buy some of your expertise may lead them to engage your service further. In addition, some people who thought they were do-it-yourselfers will realize–once they get under the hood–that they really need the help of an expert…like the one who wrote the e-book they’re currently reading.

Here are some tips for making your product irresistible:

  • Create a graphic of your product as a book, boxed software, CD or DVD. People understand that if they’re downloading your product they’re not going to get a cardboard box or a CD-ROM through their modem; however, showing an image of these items reminds people that they are getting valuable, tangible information.
  • Promote it on your Web site. Don’t hide it; it should appear on your home page and in your resources section. Also publicize it in your email newsletter, blog, and traditional marketing as well.
  • Don’t undervalue your product. Selling your product at a low price to spur sales is often a quick way to undermine its value. Instead, offer a money-back guarantee to anyone who isn’t completely satisfied.
  • Get customer testimonials. Whether they are about the product or your services in general, having quotes from paying customers will increase your chances at making the sale.
  • Sell your product’s benefits…and your readers’ pain. Make your product’s benefits clear to your prospects. If your information will help readers cut their heating costs by 50% make sure they know that they will lose $500 a year if they don’t buy your book, based on average heating costs. Whatever problem your product is solving, make sure your prospects know it and know the value it represents.
  • Accept credit cards online…securely. Whether you have your own Merchant account or you accept payments through PayPal, make it as easy as possible for site visitors to purchase your product. Having them print out forms and mail them in with a check will reduce your chances of making the sale to zero.

Next month we’ll look at some of the tools available to sell these soft goods online, automatically, while reducing the chance of people “sharing” your informational products.

If you’d like help developing your own informational products and selling them online, please contact us.

–Rich Brooks

President, flyte new media