Few info-businesses have more longevity than the one I’m about to describe. Launched in 1872, it’s 142 years old, predating the telephone and the electric light bulb. You may be one of its million-plus subscribers or never pay it any mind, but Popular Science magazine is worth studying.
The point of your and my info-marketing businesses is to provide value by helping our customers get results. But Popular Science isn’t trying to make its readers into scientists. So, why would someone read it? The fact is 1.2 million “someones” read it, and the magazine has maintained its numbers over the last several years, a difficult time for the publishing industry.
Popular Science attracts its large audience because curious people want to know how things work. The magazine provides a lot of illustrations and charts to demonstrate various interesting things, such as how jet engines, stem cell therapies and airline flight cancellations work. These charts help to satisfy the curious mind.
Before you dismiss the importance of a curious mind to your business, consider this: How many times have you purchased a product because you wanted to learn how something worked? (And once you learned how that something worked, you were satisfied—even though you had no intention of ever implementing it for yourself?) For each of those purchases, your primary goal in buying and consuming a product was to figure out how something was done.
No one in the info-marketing world seems to realize this is a huge driver in his or her business. Your customers aren’t necessarily buying so they can implement themselves. That’s our assumption, but it’s not theirs. Instead, many of them want to know how things are done. They want to know and understand how something works.
As info-marketers, we get frustrated by our customers’ fascination with what we call “bright shiny objects.” But that’s how info-marketing customers are wired. That exact impulse drove them to buy from you to begin with. And if you don’t provide them the next interesting thing, they are going to move on to another info-marketer.
Popular Science has perfected the business of providing its readers with the next thing. It is the magazine of “bright shiny objects.” You may assume Popular Science readers subscribe to learn; however, the magazine’s research clearly shows its readers enjoy the periodical as downtime, a leisure activity, an escape. With this understanding, Popular Science made its magazine more fun. No reason to provide encyclopedia-type articles; instead, make them entertaining for the readers to enhance their downtime experience. The content is geared to prepare readers to be the smartest persons in the room. By knowing about new technology and being able to explain things to their friends, readers increase their self-image.
An important point about products created for this type of customer: You don’t need detailed implementation guides. Instead, keep these products simple; a page or two with a few charts will suffice. Your customers want to understand how something works and are less interested in the step-by-step details they would need to implement it themselves.
How many of your customers buy from you to learn how things work? How many buy for entertainment and as an escape? My guess is the customers in these two categories outnumber those who buy to implement.
Of course, the typical info-marketing product is geared in some way for people to implement. So, is it wrong to assume that some customers buy for reasons other than implementation? Should we create all of our products solely for the implementers and then allow the other customers to tune in when (and if) they want? Let me know your thoughts below.