What Should I Sell?

A reader wonders:

I recently bought ‘Adwords for Dummies‘ and I really enjoy it. Now my problem is trying to figure out a product to sell. Any hints on how to find products to sell?

My response: First, thanks for your kind words about the book. You should feel free to write a nice amazon review for it :) Now, let me gently criticize the thought process that produced the question:

That’s backwards thinking.

The world is so full of products and services, unless you live naked in the woods (or at the beach, which I don’t recommend), you’re tripping over things to sell all day long. Right here, in my home office (OK, my wife’s home office, but she’s sleeping and I like her artwork better than mine, and I have to step over the dog to get to my office), I see binders, jewelry, postcards, battery chargers, matches, keys, picture frames, organic rice milk, window blinds, etc. etc. etc. Somebody is making money selling every one of those things – else they wouldn’t exist.

Instead of looking for products to sell, look for markets to serve. Focus on needs and desires and pains and longings. People will buy things that they think will improve their lives.

Every purchase I’ve ever made has been an act of hope in a better future. Every purchase, from the bananas at Trader Joes to the Prius at the Toyota dealership to the 2 by 12 planks at Home Depot that I turned into raised garden beds. Toothpaste. Shaving cream. Bass guitar lessons for my son.

Every purchase is motivated by a desire to increase pleasure and decrease pain. When you focus on a particular market – a group of people who share some meaningful characteristics – and get to know what they deeply want to have and what they want to get rid of and what they want to avoid, then you’ll know what to sell to them.

And you won’t have to wonder.

Now, if you want to use AdWords, certain realities come into play, which you can get from the book. Like, who’s looking for it, and how much can you make from selling it compared to the cost of an AdWords click. Some products are not well suited for AdWords.

But don’t start with products. Don’t even start with media. Start with people, and figure out how to serve them.

Khalil Gibran wrote, "Work is love made manifest." If your business is an expression of love of a group of people, and a sincere desire to improve their lives, then you are on the easy path to success.

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3 Comments. Leave a comment or send a Trackback.
  1. #1 • Meeven said on June 14 2008:

    I own your book too and this article has come at the right time for me – I was about to make the same mistake (thinking of products first, rather than markets) in my desperation to succeed in affiliate marketing.

    Thank you for the timely reminder:-)

  2. #2 • Howie Jacobson said on June 14 2008:

    Meeven – thanks for your comment. It’s an easy mistake to make; when I feel desperate I focus on my needs rather than those of my market.

    As Groucho said, “If you can fake sincerity, you’ve got it made.”

    Much easier, though, to actually be sincere about service. Once you commit to making lives better and to listening to your market rather than telling them what they need, the rest is just details.

    Here’s a marketing formula I’m working on:

    Love – your intention to serve
    Empathy – understanding your market’s psychology and situation
    Attention – being interesting enough to break through their filters
    Feedback – paying attention to market response to make sure you’re on the right track

    Cool, it’s an acronym! More on this as I develop it further.

  3. #3 • Jon said on August 6 2008:

    My girlfriend bought that book for me it is a great book.
    But sell poscard, mug, pets thing I going to make only few bucks for so much work. Can you told us where we can find good thing we can make big cash quickly.