Product Ladders & What People Want

Like I told you the other day, I'm working on bringing all my courses from different locations all to this site. And the moment I started building out the course catalog, I realized I was going to need to create some bundles. After all, people won't want to buy every single course separately.

But that brings me to today's topic – figuring out what people want, and how to deliver it to them.

Most people will start thinking about bundles and offerings in the context of funnels. And don't get me wrong, I have no trouble thinking about this problem in that context.

I start by thinking about the main offer, and then what I might want to offer as an upsell, and how I would adjust the offers if people said yes or no to those offers.

Products like WooFunnels and CartFlows make it easy to build this kind of workflow, especially for WooCommerce.

I'm Not Sold on Funnel Thinking

What happens when you get into the funnel thinking paradigm, at least for me, is that you start talking about “top of funnel,” “middle of funnel,” and “bottom of funnel.” Then you talk conversion rates. Then you realize you need to add tons of folks at the top of the funnel, to get greater conversions at the bottom of the funnel.

I get all of this. I know it. I've seen people work in this paradigm very effectively. But it feels like strange to me that we walk into a paradigm that tells us, up front, that we're going to waste a lot of time, money and effort on people who will fall out of the funnel.

This is, as an aside, why I don't gamble in Vegas. The slots have big signs above them that say they pay out at 98% or something. Which tells me the house will still win, just a bit slower. I don't like playing where I know I'll lose (quickly or slowly).

Can I Introduce You to My Product Ladder Paradigm?

This paradigm is something I've developed and shared with my coaching clients over many years. Each company I've worked with to implement this has seen results. In other words, this is a proven paradigm that works.

The ladder paradigm is an approach to creating multiple offers. And it's a misnomer to call it a product ladder paradigm. It should be called the product ladders paradigm, because every micro-segment has their own ladder.

But this isn't a coaching call so we're not going to get deep into things. Instead, I just want to introduce it to you and then circle back how I am using it for my online course challenge.

Here's an image to make it make sense.

Think of the rungs of the ladder as offerings. The target offer is in the middle.

But we've all had customers who have found immediate success with our offering who come back ready to spend a bit more money. They often ask, “What else do you offer?” That offering may or may not be publicly available on our site. But it exists. Some product folks call it their add-ons.

There are also folks who approach you with a, “I can't afford that right now,” and while I know a lot of people turn those folks away, I simply suggest crafting another offer that is “less for less.” If you build new websites, you know you don't have to offer migration as something included. And by peeling that off your main offer, you might be able to offer something that's a bit cheaper.

Normally a less for less offer includes the customer getting their own hands dirty in some way. Invite them into the work as a partner, swapping sweat equity for cash.

My product ladder paradigm doesn't end with two runs above and below the main offering. There's also a much lower “partial results for partial pay” and a much higher “how do I get next year's results right now?” offering.

Those are much smaller and much larger offerings, again not necessarily exposed to the public, but still prepared, priced and ready to sell.

Why does a Product Ladder Work?

The core reason my product ladder paradigm works is because different people want different things. If you look on the right of the ladder, you see three different words (somewhat aligned to different rungs on the ladder).

Assistance – Some people just want a quick answer, a bit of help, some direction or a way to know they're not messing up. They don't have funds to have you help them navigate their challenges, but they want to make sure they're not completely wasting their time. eBooks, webinars, and small online courses may be perfect for them.

Accountability – The things that are important to us are things we often invest in. But change takes work; serious goals require serious effort. We might still take an online course but it may not be self-taught. It might have a cohort where we're working with partners to stay accountable. Or we may hire a trainer or coach to help us.

Acceleration – For a smaller percentage of folks, they're looking to trade money for results. They know it will cost money. But they know something that takes most of us a while to learn – time is more valuable than money.

When you can create multiple offerings for your customers, you can say “yes” a lot more often. You can close more because you are delivering different value to different folks who aren't all the same.

Using the Product Ladder for my Courses

Offering 9 courses will be great. I don't doubt that. But few folks are going to want all of them. And for those that do, they'll need a bundle price for the whole package. I know that already. But those will be the 2-4% of customers who land on my offerings.

What I worked on today was thinking about the rungs on my own ladder to make bundles that make sense – regardless of whether I offer them in an upsell funnel solution or simply as post-purchase offerings (on the site, or later via email).

Imagine a product person shows up – they might want the Product Planning, Product Prioritization and Product Marketing bundle. Up a rung, they might want the larger New Product Development (Strategy) course.

Up one more run might be all of the above, but also the Revenue Growth, and the Why People Pay course – all in one larger bundle.

But what if someone shows up from a different micro-segment?

Someone trying to tell better stories may simply want my storytelling course along with the content engine course. That's actually a different ladder rather than a lower rung.

My Recommendation To You

Let's be honest – you don't have to use my approach or strategy for product development. You don't have to use a ladder, and you can keep using a funnel. I don't mind. But maybe the most important thing I can encourage you to do is to take time away from the daily hustle and to pause, slow down, and simply think about your product strategy.

Most of us get busy doing things.

Thinking is harder. But better. And delivers massive dividends.

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