The first product I ever released was a little thing called "SEO Forever," which was focused on explaining how search engines worked from the other side. Since I'd worked on the MSN Live Search team, and later on Bing, I had a perspective on this which most people didn't (and couldn't) have,
So I wrote up this extensive report on how exactly search engines worked, and why that made most SEO efforts a stupid fucking waste of time, and why you just plain shouldn't do it. I also detailed what search engines are, in fact, looking for when they rank websites... and how you can provide that without being a doucheball or something.
I accompanied all of this with another short report, a giveaway called "The Site-Slapping Dance" which detailed the process that was making the "Google Dance" happen with sites - why they kept moving up and down in the rankings over and over before being "slapped" to the bottom.
What Went Right
The single most important thing that went right on this product was that, well, people fucking bought it. On some level, I expected nobody to buy shit from me, because they never really had before. Honestly, I am an engineer; I suck at sales and marketing. They don't come easily or naturally to me, so it was literally a big shock when people honestly did show up and buy it.
I also tried a ploy people always complained about: I threatened to raise the price, like everyone does, but then they never do. Except what I did was actually raise the price. What I expected was that I would raise the price, and people who wanted the product but didn't buy would go "aww, man!" and race to buy my next product. But what actually happened was that those people paid the higher price. Sales spiked right back to launch-day levels and about half my total sales were made at the higher price point.
What Went Wrong
The giveaway of "The Site-Slapping Dance" interested precisely nobody. Hardly anybody joined the list to get a copy, and those few who did were entirely uninterested in buying the full product. Since all of their questions were answered in the report, they didn't have any sense that anything was missing which they had to pay me to receive.
The report itself was kind of a bust. This was the big shocker - people bought the product, then complained that the product didn't actually teach them enough about SEO. They completely missed the point that the product was about how traditional SEO didn't work. So they would get the report, skim through it looking for how to do keyword research and what keyword density to use and where to get backlinks, and not see any of that. I resolved this by digging into my own library and dumping half a gig of SEO PLR into a "bonus" section of the download page, but it was a tense couple hours while I did that.
What Was Learned
There were only a few takeaways from this, primarily that the strategic use of bonuses can make a product good value even if your customers are angry at you and hate it. So I began this general strategy of buying an arseload of PLR all the time, until today I have... let me check...
...um, a lot of it. It's almost a third of the products I buy; I keep the ones without PLR rights in a different folder:
The only thing bigger is my stock image/video/music folder.
Other than that, the major lessons were just "people will actually buy stuff from you" and "raising your price totally works." Although I learned a few things from the list giveaway, too, I didn't understand them for a good long time... it was only in retrospect that I could take away "I did not invest enough time in listbuilding," and "I did not build a relationship with my list," and "my giveaway did not naturally lead to the purchase process." These were typical rookie mistakes that pretty much everyone makes, but at the time, I was still too much of a rookie to "get" them, All I got were "sell crap, use bonuses, raise prices."
So I employed these in my next product launch, of course...