selling_virtual_contentIn the history of our company we have already launched several own projects. The great thing about owning a project is – you can try literally any idea that occurs to you, be it related to product development, marketing, sales, etc and see if it works or not.

This is what happened with an idea we had with SilverlightShow – to provide ebook versions of the articles on the website. These are unique articles (residing only on SilverlightShow), authored by MVPs mostly and very often discussing real-world examples. In short – this is valuable content driving a lot of reads.

We got some requests to provide print versions of these articles and then we thought – why not provide an ebook version of each article? We hesitated if the efforts would be worth the time. As we saw later on – they did! We keep selling a lot of ebooks from the site and they are entirely self-serve, we invest close to zero time in keeping this going. What are the lessons learnt from this decision?

1. People would pay for convenience

Find out what is it that your users value, and give it to them, they would be happy to pay for the convenience. In our case we provided the ebooks in all desired formats – Word, PDF, .mobi (for Kindle) and .epub (for all non-kindle mobile readers). We also provided the source code right in the ebook zip.

2. Make sure people can easily find the content you sell

We put a link to the ebook version of the article at the top of the very article, along with other recommended ebooks on the same topic, by the same author, etc. There was also a special ebook page on the site listing all ebooks, the latest on top.

3. Spread the word on your content via free copies in giveaways

It takes some time until people learn about your offering. So, use any opportunity to spread the word among as many people from your target audience as possible. We were giving away free copies in online contests, webinars (we gave away books for the most constructive feedback in our post-webinar survey), twitter chats, even at offline events.

4. Use social media for spreading the word

Make sure the content you sell is easy to share on social media. Enable all common sharing options, have a special page inside the navigation of your Facebook page. Release news items about the new content you publish and share the news items too on social media.

5. Make sure your content is quick and easy to create

If you put too much time in creating your content and it still doesn’t look good, you are not really making profit out of this all. So, make sure to optimize your process. After several attempts at creating good-looking .mobi and .epub versions of the ebooks, we finally chose Sigil for making the epubs and Calibre for producing mobi versions out of Sigil-generated epubs.

6. Use an e-commerce solution would allow payments from customers worldwide

We used e-junkie as a simple and straightforward shopping cart solution, allowing purchases from all over the world. The integration of the shopping cart buttons was a matter of copy/pasting of html code, so everyone could do it.

7. Survey your customers opinion on the content you sell and improve where needed.

Since you already have the contacts of your customers, you can follow up with them using a simple survey (done using Surveymonkey or Google Forms for example) and get feedback on improving your content, other content they’d want to read, send promotional offers and others.

All the above really paid out. We now have a pretty straightforward process for publishing digital content. It’s simple (anyone could do it), it’s quick and the result is valued by customers. But of course, we keep getting feedback and responding to it, and should we see an opportunity to offer even greater convenience or valuable content – we’ll embrace it.

And the above is another lesson we learnt – no matter how successful you are, keep being on the watch for even further possible improvement as well as new opportunities.