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Profitable Digital Product Examples For 2022 (9 Types Of Digital Products & How To Choose)

Overview

If you’ve already entered the rabbit hole and are thinking of building your very own digital product, it won’t be long before you bump into the question:

“Okay, but what exactly will it look like?”

Before you do try to answer that question, let’s quickly cover our bases. This exercise will be most helpful if you’ve already:

  • Settled on a (or a few versions of the) core value proposition for your product;
  • Scoped out your target persona;
  • Explored (preferably with real data) which of your existing content that target persona is already engaging with; and
  • Taken a look at what else is out there already (competitors).

With that in the bag, you’ll be in a better position to think about the question of ‘product types’ with the right context; and that context is a strategic one.

Gaining a competitive advantage through digital product type selection

Suppose your value proposition for the conceived new product is:

‘Helping first-time bloggers setup their website with strong SEO foundations from day 1’.

Excellent. You have a clear offering, for a clear target persona.

The question remains: How exactly should you transmit this value to the user?

You could of course write/film/record more and more of the same content you’ve already been making. Covering the same topics and post it as a combination of blog posts, tweets, videos and whatever else.

You could, perhaps, call up a list of those target users and offer to walk them through your offering 1-1, as a service.

You could run workshops; webinars; create an course or program out of it.

You get the idea. There are many ways to deliver the same value to a user—which form is best for you is what we’re going to try and figure out in this post.

The strategic advantage comes from asking a few key questions:

  • What am I especially good at? (Or what is already working especially well for my content?)
  • What are my competitors especially good at?
  • What is my target persona already comfortable with/looking for? and
  • Which will provide the best means of distribution from day one?
  • What format could I produce an MVP for most quickly, given my existing content library?

1. What kind of digital product should you build?

If you’re a blogger, and your blog is already driving consistent traffic + people seem to be resonating with your writing—run with it.

Yes, video might be ‘an opportunity’ for even more eyeballs—but if you’ve never uploaded a YouTube video before, now (when you’re just creating your first digital product!) is not the time to try and conquer that battle.

Instead, you want to lean into your existing strengths. Being a good writer is a superpower.

Being an excellent interviewer or podcast host is rare.

Being an engaging and entertaining video personality is a gift.

Whatever it is that you’re already seeing success with—lean in, and use that as the base for your digital product.

Another reason to lean into what’s working? It’s going to help you build rapidly—not because you’re in a rush, but because we want to be able to ship something and get feedback on it with as little investment upfront as possible.

2. What types of digital products are your competitors offering?

If you’re reading this, odds are you’re not competing head-to-head with Google, Amazon or Apple. You’re likely building a loyal audience and business in a niche—a topic that’s specific enough where just a few key voices are really killing it, and there’s plenty of room for more to join.

Depending on the size of your niche, and who’s already there, you may choose to either:

  • Emulate success you see from other creators (i.e. if someone just released a video course and it sold 1,000 copies in a month, you might want to tap into some of that obvious demand);
  • Or offer something unique to the same audience (i.e. a few competitors out there killing it with video? Well, maybe that means they don’t have time to write long-form, high quality content and you can be the niche leader for written content with your product).

At the very least, it’s worth taking into account what your competitors are doing. It can be tempting to simply ‘ignore the competition’ and just do you. But odds are, you can learn something from those competitors who are a year or two ahead of you—and you might as well leverage the lessons they’ve learned getting to where they are!

3. What’s your target persona looking for in a digital product?

If you’ve done the work of scoping out your target persona, and you’re confident that this individual spends a whole lot of their time listening to and watching video-interview podcasts on YouTube, then yes: it’s worth thinking about how your digital product might appear in that setting.

Note: it doesn’t mean that you need to go out and create a podcast. It doesn’t mean you need to start a YouTube channel.

It does mean, however, that at some stage you’re going to want to distribute this digital product to that user, and you’re likely going to want to have some video assets that can appear in that context.

More importantly though, you’re going to want to pay attention to the types of digital products this persona is willing to buy. If they’re into online courses, that’s a good hint. If they prefer reading at their own pace, maybe an ebook, or an 8-week email course (with the same exact content) will be a better form of delivery.

Understanding your users doesn’t just mean understanding where they spend their time and which problems they need solved—it means understanding how they engage with solutions, too.

The 9 Common Digital Product Types

  • eBook
  • Email course
  • Templates
  • Design elements
  • Research & Data
  • Online video course
  • Recipes
  • Calculators
  • Gated Content Access (Memberships)

eBooks

Yep, eBooks are still going strong. Whether that’s publishing on Amazon, hosting it on your own website or putting it up for sale on a platform like Gumroad—people still are willing to consume (and pay for) well-distilled content in the form of a focused ebook.

Email Course

The paid email course is becoming more popular with the rise of automation tools. If you had to manually send out emails to every new purchase, on their own specific schedule, you’d be second-guessing a $19 price point for the sheer amount of admin required.

Now, since many email marketing providers offer basic email automation even with their Basic and low-tier plans, you can setup a string of emails that only goes off after purchase: and voila! You have a paid email course.

Email courses are typically deep dives on a particular topic, with actionable tasks and instructions to facilitate learning between each email.

If you’re already seeing success with one or two particular topics in your content efforts—you might think about expanding that content out into a dedicated 8-10 part email series, giving your very best advice, resources, links and frameworks.

Ideally, if the reader can walk away from the last email with ‘a new way of thinking about X’, or ‘some actionable steps to improve Y’, then they’ll likely be willing to put in $19-$39 for a well-designed email series.

Templates

Templates are a big part of what we do here are Landmark Labs. Why? Because they make life easier for people.

Templates are best when you know your user is struggling with a specific problem, and you believe you can provide a framework to help get them through it more quickly.

Say you were writing a lot about digital marketing, and you knew that your target reader often struggles to put together a content plan or content campaign.

Instead of simply writing about content plans and campaigns, you could design a template that they can fill out for themselves in real-time. Of course, you’ll want to provide details and instructions and guidance along the way, but templates are an excellent way to give the user something tangible, as a means of learning or acquiring a new skill.

Design elements

Design elements are the templates of the visual world. Instead of a ‘budget template’ to help your reader place the right numbers in the right places to get the outcome they need, design templates help your users place pixels in the right places to elicit a desired response (’Oh, that looks gooood 😎’).

Designers have a skillset that’s coveted by many on the internet. If you happen to have that skillset, pulling together a kit of design elements, packaging them up as a product and publishing them to design file marketplaces can be an excellent way to earn on your creations.

Research & Data

It used to be the case that unless you had an especially niche audience, or access to an audience that is rare or unique in some way, ‘paid research & data’ was the task of professional companies and institutes—not individuals.

Today, however, the research & data category of digital products has opened up. With more and more data publicly available today, what people are really paying for is their time. They don’t want to go out and find the raw data, crunch the numbers and arrive at the analysis themselves. Instead, they can be more than willing to shell out some cash for a well-designed report or presentation of rare data that helps them solve a problem they care about.

This route is far less common than many of the others, but depending on your niche, it could be an interesting opportunity.

Online Video Courses

This is likely one of the first things that comes to mind when one thinks about digital products. The rise of online courses, learning platforms and content has made them feel like a ubiquitous part of online life—how could there possibly be room for yet another online course?

Well, this is where being strategic about your product type comes into play. Is your niche already saturated with online courses?

Is there something unique you can offer with a course of your own? Whether that’s content, presentation or support?

If you don’t have a compelling reason to create an online course—I’d actually advise against it as a first foray into digital product building.

It’s a lot of work. And, frankly, if you’re not super handy with video editing, a lot of pain and agony over an end result that still may not look so good...

If you’re looking for a quick litmus test on whether or not a digital product can be a profitable move for you, online courses may not be the best bet.

That said, once you’ve hit your stride, have an audience you know well (and knows you well), then putting the time and effort into a well-designed online course can be incredibly lucrative.

Recipes

For the chefs out there, this one is probably a no-brainer.

However, if we extend the definition of ‘recipe’ to include ‘any series of sequential steps’, we can start to get a little creative about what fits in this category.

You might, for example, have an ‘email marketing automation recipe’—that could literally be a gallery of 10-15 pre-built Zapier automations which you ship with some basic instructions and guidance.

You might have an ‘on-page SEO recipe’ or checklist that is fine-tuned to your target user’s needs.

Again—so long as the recipe or pack of recipes makes life significantly easier for your audience, odds are that some percentage of them will be willing to pay for it.

Calculators as digital products

While it’s rarely presented this way, many SaaS tools are simply data models with a pretty user interface layered over them.

You might have a ‘SaaS app’ that calculates your monthly budget for you. You input your groceries, rent, and expenses + your revenue and it spits out a nice looking dashboard to breakdown your savings.

Well, the real grunt work being done is often in the calculations. It’s in the building of the model that tells the ‘app’ what to do with the inputs to provide valuable outputs.

Long story short?

If you have a model of your own that helps your users go from:

Messy inputs → Neat and useful outputs.

Then building and shipping a calculator as a digital product can be a good move.

I know, not so sexy, but if you use a tool like Causal to deliver your model products in, then at least your users get a nice-looking dashboard to play with.

Gated Content Areas (Membership Products)

And last on our list we have ‘gated access’ products.

This could be:

  • An online community;
  • A ‘premium tier’ of content that you offer; or
  • Simply another means of delivering an online course + some other offerings to those who pay for access.

Gated access can be a great solution when applied to online communities. If you use a tool like Circle, you can select specific permissions for users so that they can only access certain areas of the forum.

For example, you might make the welcome and basic content available to all members, then keep the 1-1 offerings + Q&As or group workshops behind a paywall.

This format of delivery can be a neat way of giving all users some value from your product offering, while making it easy for those who want even more to upgrade and pay for access.

Takeaways?

Building a digital product isn’t just about the stuff that goes into. It’s also about how you plan on delivering that content.

If you’re strategic about it, you’ll want to consider:

  • What you’re good at;
  • What your competitors are doing;
  • What your audience wants; and
  • Which formats will provide the quickest route to a testable MVP.

And if you’re in the middle of thinking about these questions for your own digital product build, I’d highly recommend you go check out the Digital Product Lab. It’s an all-in-one course + building environment to help take your product from ‘idea’ to ‘first sale’. And if you’ve made it all the way to the bottom of this very long article, you can even claim 10% off for extra credit with the code: AVIDREADER10.

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