The Top 2 Best-Selling Types of Info Products (of 2012)

Hello everyone, my name is Clay Collins and welcome to today’s episode of The Marketing Show. In today’s episode, I’m going to be talking about the top two bestselling types of information products of 2012. A lot of people don’t know this, but there are consistently two types of information products that outsell the others online, and it’s really easy to see when you know what to look for, so I’m going to be unveiling this and going deep with this material in this episode of The Marketing Show.

So if you follow The Marketing Show for any length of time, you’ll know that we usually do it on a live action set. We spend a lot of time on motion graphics and making it look good. This week, I do not have that luxury. I’m flying out to Austin and I’m doing a number of things, and I don’t have the luxury of doing it how I normally do it. So I’m going to do it old school.

Anyway, Tracy was like, “You know, you should still have a picture of you so people know that this is coming from a real person and not from some disembodied marketing weirdo.” So that’s my girlfriend and I at Seal Beach, and it was during a recent trip up the coast of California. We’re just about to go into a wine tasting. My girlfriend wanted to include this picture as well. No comment. I guess that’s a penguin on the right side of the candle and a ground hog on the right side of the wine glass.

So like I said earlier, I’m going to be telling you the top two bestselling types of information products of 2012, but before I do that, I want to lay out five different types of information products, and then I’m going to tell you which of those work the best.

So the first type of information product is the identity-based product. This is the kind of product where you’re selling someone an identity that they want to have, so an example of this might be the Third Tribe or Rich, Happy, and Hot, or Experts Academy where people are wanting this identity in a lot of ways in your marketing for these products. What you’re selling someone is the identity that they’re seeking to have and you make the connection that if they buy your product that they will then be able to have that self image and that identity.

The second type are mechanism-based products, and these are products that help people accomplish their goals through a mechanism that you’re giving them, and a lot of times, people have goals, but they don’t believe that they are achievable and tell you, point them to a mechanism that can help them accomplish those goals. And this is another type of information product. So an example of this might be Product Launch Formula or the Interactive Offer, and I have some more examples. We’re going to be diving into these in more depth.

A third type of information products is the goal-based product. So these products are basically about how to do X, right? So how to get up your WordPress website, or how to become a golf pro, or how to write a New York Times bestseller, or something like that. A lot of times, these products have how to in the title.

Another type of product is the philosophy-based product, and these products are all about a certain philosophy on life. They don’t focus at least in their marketing on mechanisms or identity, but upon the philosophy that is often created by the author of the product. And the fifth type, I call this stupid-based product, and I’ll be explaining what that means in a second.

So I’m going to tell you which kinds tend to sell the best in 2012. So the first kind is the identity-based product, and this is one of the top two bestselling types of information products of 2012, so an example of this is the Third Tribe. People who see themselves in the third tribe – and this is a community created by copy blogger media – purchased this, and a lot of times, they actually aren’t in the third tribe, but they seek to belong to the third tribe. Other people certainly are in that tribe. A lot of times, these things are aspirational or these identity-based products are aspirational, so people don’t necessarily have these self images or these self identities, but they are purchasing that product because they want to have that identity.

So for example, a customer of mine, Jonathan Mead, has a product called the Trailblazer, and it is for people who aren’t currently trailblazers who want to become trailblazers, and you know, inevitably, people do buy it who are trailblazers and want to become better at being trailblazers. So I don’t want to speak for Jonathan as to what that product is for. Rich, Happy and Hot by Marie Forleo and Laura Roeder is another example of an identity-based product. Presumably, someone purchases this product who is not rich, but they want this identity, and in selling this with the marketing around this program from what I’ve seen is selling someone the potential of having this identity and having this be the reality in their life.

Another example of this might be Experts Academy by Brendon Bruchard. Someone wants to become an expert. They want the identity of being an expert. They want this self image of being an expert. And so Brendon sells them that identity or at least sells them a product that potentially will help them have that identity, help them become an expert. This is all about becoming. That’s what these products are about. It’s about becoming a trailblazer; becoming rich, happy, and hot; becoming an expert.

So the first type is identity-based products, and usually, when you’re doing this, when you’re selling identity-based products, you’re selling to your prospect’s fantasy identity. There’s Jonathan Mead in one of his launch videos. He’s about to go on a run at this point in the video. He’s explaining that the way he lives his life is the way where when he gets up in the morning, he does whatever he wants to do, and he goes on running. That’s part of the video. So that’s part of the identity that he has and that’s part of the identity that he’s offering to his customers.

In Rich, Happy and Hot launch video, you see Marie Forleo and Laura Roeder walking around the streets of New York. You know, they are wearing expensive clothes. They got that rich part. They are smiling so they look happy, and people tend to think that they’re hot. So the second type of information product that tends to do extremely well is the mechanism-based product, and this is one of the top two bestselling types of information products of 2012. You know you’re dealing with a mechanism-based product when you hear the word formula or blueprint in the title.

So you’ve often heard like traffic attraction formula or product launch formula, or you know, commission blueprint, or you know, whatever things like that, but these are mechanism-based products. An example of a mechanism-based product in the golf industry is stack and tilt. They’ve got a mechanism and the method for helping you achieve specific results. The interactive offer is an example of a mechanism-based product. One of the most popular in bestselling books on relationships is called the Five Love Languages, and they’re saying that if you understand these mechanisms, these Five Love Languages, then you can accomplish your goal. Another thing is called the Presence Process. So I’m reading a book right now called The Presence Process. It’s extremely good. It’s by Michael Brown. I highly recommend it. Product Launch Formula is another example of a mechanism-based product, and by the way, there is me speaking at Product Launch Formula, so I’m a huge fan of what Jeff has done with that.

So mechanism-based products really allow folks to accomplish one of the biggest and well-known goals in the market. So generally speaking, mechanism-based products, if you’re in the marketing space, it’s going to help address one of the biggest problems in marketing. If you’re in the golf space, the mechanism generally helps people accomplish their biggest goal in that space, but it’s not a goal-based product. So here’s the deal. Often, people have given up on their goals. They believe that their goals are not possible, but when you introduce to them a mechanism that can help them accomplish what they previously thought was impossible, they will again renew their work in a specific area.

So marketing around mechanism-based products is all about convincing people and showing them and proving to them that a goal that they have or have had in the past is now possible or can be accomplished much quicker with a specific mechanism that exists. And sometimes, and in fact, in most cases, in some markets, the mechanism that is being told helps people accomplish a goal that they didn’t even know that they had. So they are excited by the mechanism and the possibility that it can create, and they go out, and now they’ve got a new goal that was actually created by that mechanism, and in a lot of cases, that can create confusion.

So you’ll see this especially in the marketing space. You know, so many products will come out that introduce so many mechanisms, and people think that they have to do article marketing because they saw a good mechanism for doing it, or they think they have to do social media because they saw a great new mechanism for doing it, and they find out about all these things, and they forget to focus on the basics, things like having a good solid offer in place because they’ve been distracted by these mechanisms which imply that they should have goals that in fact they never have had in the first place. So that’s something about mechanism-based products.

A third type of information product, which seems to not do as well is the goal-based product. Now there are some notable exceptions here. There are some goal-based products that have done incredibly well in the past, but on the whole, not so much. So examples in the past are How to Win Friends and Influence People. These are usually how to. You see “how to” in the title. The 4-Hour Work Week, right? So someone has a goal of having a 4-hour work week. This is not based on mechanisms, and it’s not based on identity, and frankly, it’s hard to sell goal-based products without a mechanism that is front and center and usually in the title.

So frankly, I had a difficult time coming up with goal-based products that have done well in the past because there are not a lot of goal-based products that have done well in the past. How to Create a Killer Website? How to Create a Logo? You know, these are not things that people are typically interested in because they do not believe, generally speaking, that they can do these things unless you introduce to them just an amazing mechanism for helping them accomplish this. And unless you make the marketing about the mechanism instead of why it would be great to have a website or why it would be great to, you know, whatever you’re teaching people to do.

The fourth type of information product, and this is a type of product that tends to not do very well is the philosophy-based product. So products like these are generally named after a philosophy on life or a philosophy of doing things. So you know, Zen in the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, things like that, that’s not really an information product per se, but it was hard for me to come up with list of this because there aren’t a lot of these that have done very well.

And of course, the fifth type of information product I call the stupid-based product, and these types of products tend to be inside jokes among clever bloggers who have a great idea about what to name a product, and these product names are generally an inside joke among a particular community. They don’t convert on cold traffic. They don’t convert on SCO traffic. They don’t convert on paid traffic, but they’re normally like clever names, and they usually don’t sell very well. They’re not going to be products that are sort of added to the cannon of information products that exist in any particular market, and they can be fun to name, but they’re not going to be your bestsellers. So that is the fifth and final type of information product.

And the winners are, right, the top two bestselling types of information products, of course, are identity-based products and mechanism-based products. Anyway, this episode of the Marketing Show was brought to you by you. It was brought to your enthusiasm around what we’re doing here. It was brought to you by your hopes and dreams and goals. It was brought to you by just the large number of people who have e-mailed me, telling me how this information has impacted your life. And so, if this has been a benefit to you, I would be truly grateful and humbled and honored if you would donate a Facebook share or a Tweet, and let people know about the work that’s being done here and about the content we have.

Anyway, my name is Clay Collins, and thank you so much for watching the Marketing Show.

  • Great video Clay. What are your thoughts on combining 1 and 2? Even though the Headline of Tim F’s book is more of a “how to” I think what he *did* was both create an aspirational identity and give people a formula for doing it. There are a lot of people want to “be” Tim Ferriss because he did and does a good job of proving he lives what he writes about. There’s a definite tribe of aspiring location independent people. And his work is an endless list of formulas. He’s a real systems guy. 80/20 + Muse = Passive income and World travel. What do you think, is the headline as critical as the overall approach? Is there a reason not to combine 1 and 2? 
    Great work!

    • Thanks Paul.  Regarding combining 1 and 2: unfortunately, what you actually do with your information product often has little to do with how it is perceived by the marketplace.  The news media, most of your prospective customers, and the general public generally does not hold complex and multifaceted views of your product.  Regardless of how much time you put into your product, or how “famous” it is, most folks will look at your thing for about 30 seconds before determining whether it’s for them . . . and investigate further (or whether it’s not for them, and move on).

      Anyway, as much as anything else, this episode is about how you name your product.  This show is not about what you *do* with your info product, it’s about how you market it (hence the name of this show).

      Thanks for your comment, Paul.


      • Just to clarify, incase it came across to anyone that I was disagreeing with what Clay said, I’m not. I just want to drill down, set up some tests and turn this lesson into a result as soon as I can. For me to do that, I have to poke it so I understand the nuances. And in doing so, we all learn, right? I think there is a fine line between some of these categories. But as you say, most people at that point of interest don’t think much, they respond to one clear message or not at all. 

        There are a couple of other key words that have proven useful to me. I’d love to know which of these product type boxes you guys think they fit into because I don’t want to screw up a good title, with a mismatched word…

        So if the top categories are;

        1) I want to be…
        2) I want the magic formula that will let me…
        and the outsider
        3) I want to know/learn how to…

        Which categories do my favorite words “secrets” and “lessons” fit in? 

        Here’s my guess…
        “Secrets” falls into number 2) 
        So I could test the word “secret” against “formula” and “blueprint” to see which performs best. Or include the word secret in a subtitle. 

        But “lessons” would fall into number 3) not bad, but the outsider. 
        Lessons are about learning how to do stuff. Not as aspirational. Not as formulaic. 
        So I’m now thinking “lessons” isn’t necessarily as great a word as I thought it was.

        Does it makes sense what I’m getting at here. I’m trying to avoid creating a great title, that falls into box 1 or 2. Then blowing it by using a word from a lower performing category. 

        Love to hear your thoughts.

  • Agree with Paul.

    First: why do you say 4HWW didn’t do well? Both 4HHW and 4HB were NYT best-sellers and sold internationally millions of copies…seems a bit off to say they didn’t do well, no?And also, do you have revenue/sales numbers to support your claims for all other products?Secondly:What Tim sells is not 4HWW as such, but the promise of the lifestyle and belonging to the privileged lot: i.e. “join the New Rich and live Anywhere”.It’s very much in the cat 1 (Identity).I have a feeling that you divide the products based on their Titles.Would love to hear what you think 🙂

    • ALL the examples I gave in ALL the categories have done well.

      If you have a second, please watch the episode again.

      This episode was not about individual products that have, or have not done well. It was about types of products that tend to do well. (And for each of the product types . . . I give examples of products that, without question, HAVE done well, just to give a clear example of each type of product).

      There ARE plenty of individual examples of products doing well among all of the 5 categories. And the examples that I give for some of the categories (ALL of which have done well), are, in some cases, exceptions to the rule.

      Clearly, the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” and many of the other books mentioned, are bestsellers.

      Anyway, if you get the chance, then please watch the episode again.

  • Jen

    I think Seth Godin’s books are an example of a Philosophy product selling madly.  He even has religious zealots and everything.

    I’m interested in perhaps an episode 2 that explores customer satisfaction and loyalty associated with each marketing approach.

    In this case, Identity and Mechanism make the most sales.  But how satisfied are their buyers 6 months – 1 year after attempting to apply the “information” in those products?

    As someone who is trying to develop a lasting business with steady sales, I don’t want to market myself to people’s fantasies because there is no way any product will fulfill a fantasy.  And buyers of fantasies quickly find that out and sour on the seller.

    From my own experience, I am sour as a lemon right now on more than one of the top marketers you named in this video because I got sucked into their marketing only to spend thousands on generalized information I already knew.  They appealed to my fantasies deliberately in order to blur my judgement about the reality.  

    Frankly, I think it’s unethical to do that.  I’d rather earn less and treat people right than use marketing tactics that manipulate and confuse in order to get past buyers’ better judgement about how much money they’re being asked to spend on a set of dvds…

    • Thanks for your insights, Jen.

      From what I’ve seen, there are plenty of examples of ethical products in categories #1 and #2 (The Interactive Offer is one example).

      Also, as you point out with one example, there are plenty of exceptions in all of the categories that have done well (this episode is about which categories, on *average*, do better than others . . . I’m saying this for the sake of everyone else: you clearly understand this).

      I appreciate you, and your comment, Jen.

    • Another thing that should be said is that many of Seth Godin’s books, many of which are philosophy-based, sell madly at the $10 price point but likely would not sell very well at the $500 or $1k price point.  The odds of folks paying $1k for a product named “Linchpin” or “Purple Cow” are extremely low.

  • Thanks Clay. This makes so much sense. I realise now that I’ve been trying to market both identity and mechanism instead of focusing on just one. But which one to choose …?

    • Great question.  That really depends on a number of factors.  I believe you’re in The Marketing Program . . . so call me this Sunday (I think that’s when it is) for our next mentorship call and we can talk about this.

  • Brilliant and well put Clay. Thanks for sharing this. Very timely!