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How to Sell Niche Products With Your Blog

Back when my wife and I lived in a hip loft on the east side of downtown Dallas (read: back before the kids came), I used to take the dog for walks in our funky little neighborhood just north of Deep Ellum. There resided an artist who worked and lived out of his studio, where he crafted eccentric sculptures out of recycled iron and steel scrap.

I’d often wonder as I walked by his place if it was worth his while to have a website to gain a wider audience for his work. Back at that time, just after a monumental Internet bust that resulted from outrageous amounts of money being spent to promote sock puppets, I wasn’t sure if the guy could attract enough traffic from a web presence to actually make sales, no matter how good his work was.

Fast forward to 2006.

The Rise of the “Catablog”

John Unger is an artist in rural Michigan who works and lives out of his studio along a lonely highway, or as he puts it, “dead center of the middle of nowhere”. John makes eccentric art and sculptures out of recycled scrap materials, such as propane tanks, old cars, rivets, and bottle caps.

Here’s the cool thing. John sells quite a bit of his work thanks to his blog.

Why? Well, when other little blogs like Boing Boing (and many others) take notice, amazing things start happening in terms of traffic and sales. That’s something that the e-commerce people of the late 90s just never got — it’s the little guy with the unique product that can gain the most benefit from worldwide exposure.

Basically, anything that can be sold by catalog is a perfect candidate for Internet sales. And when you create a “catablog,” you have no worries about printing, distribution, copy space, or often even advertising costs. You don’t even need a fancy $10,000 ecommerce site or a merchant account thanks to PayPal.

Why John Unger’s Product Blog Works

John Unger basically uses a “two blog” structure powered by TypePad. One blog is more of a general nature about what’s going on with his studio, and the other is his catablog of items for sale.

John not only makes unique products, but he knows how to present those products via photography and copy that sells. Let’s take a look at one of his items and how he presents it.

John’s Pot-de-Feu (pot of fire) grill is hand-cut from scrap 20 lb propane tanks, and is a miniature version of his extremely popular (and much more expensive) Great Bowl O’ Fire recycled fire pits. These more affordable grills are an attractive summertime backyard item, and that’s the story John tells with his copy.

  • His headline “A Hot Little Portable Grill for Summer” is nicely done, engineered for humans as well as the search engines.
  • The copy is very specific about the materials John uses, and hints at exclusivity and scarcity by mentioning right away that each piece is hand-made and one-of-a-kind.
  • John then begins to allow the reader to imagine the grill in use, which is essential. A prospective buyer must imagine the grill in her own backyard, and John evens adds in tasty menu suggestions that allow the reader to imagine how well the item will reflect on themselves when entertaining.
  • Next, the reader is presented with pricing and multiple purchase options. People love choice, as long as the choices do not prompt “analysis paralysis.” John might want to test various other ordering menu options to see what works best.
  • John then presents more photos, and even more useful, descriptive copy, testimonials, reviews, features, and even safety tips. Remember, people love to get as much information as they can before committing to a purchase. This is another big advantage catablogs have over paper catalogs, and you should definitely take advantage of it. Only stop giving information if you no longer have anything pertinent to say.

Filling in the Narrative Gaps

When it comes to eclectic consumer products, one must remember that we don’t buy things because we need them. We buy them because they help tell a piece of the story we want to tell about ourselves, or as Hugh MacLeod eloquently says:

If people like buying your product, it’s because its story helps fill in the narrative gaps in their own lives.

Help people tell their own stories better, and your product blog can create a wonderful story for you as well.

Brian Clark teaches his readers how to blog (and sell) more effectively at Copyblogger.

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Comments

  1. John T Unger says:

    Wow, thanks Brian!

    Now I’m feeling all driven to get new work up online!

  2. Peter Cooper says:

    My girlfriend has started up an online business selling beaded bracelets, necklaces, and other jewelry called Lolly Beads. Unfortunately her sales have not been too good (although admittedly I haven’t stepped in to help just yet – naughty me!). I’m thinking this might be a worthwhile approach for her, and am now brainstorming some ways she can do something ‘unique’ that these blogs are likely to link to.

    One of my clients, a bamboo clothing company (yes, you can make clothes from it!) launched their site a week ago, and have already got a whole ton of sales from a few mentions on eco-blogs. It works!

  3. Rob says:

    I always regarded myself as a reasonable writer. Then I came accross Brian Clark and realised what a bumbling, illiterate fool I really am.

  4. Mike Sigers says:

    What a great post and the best idea I’ve seen in a long while. Glad you made it available for easy stealin’ !

  5. Geesh. I like that term alot – “catablog”

  6. cole bretts says:

    Hi there,

    If your looking for an automated, hands free way to begin earning bundles of cash 10 minutes from now then head on over to http://www.typeathome.biz

  7. greg abel says:

    Hope I’m in the right section here. The problem I’m having with selling niche products is that they are niche products. Seems like you almost have to go where the money is…but then, that’s where eveyone else already is. Because I’m inexperienced with this, maybe Darren can speak to this point more on how niche products can be marketed with the blog. In my wildest dreams, I would have never thought that I would wake up on a Saturday and by random chance find a site talking about niche marketing and blogs. It’s almost overwhelming to think that I have been missing out on these topics and this information for so long. Am I too far behind the eight ball to catch up? Darren, I have really enjoyed reading just a little of the information that is on your site (problogger.net) along with the posts of the people replying. I will definitely come back and read more from you and those that have posted. Thank you so very much and best wishes to all.

    Greg
    http://www.DiCaprioBengals.com

  8. Aaron Harris says:

    Great Idea…the catablog sounds like a great path to go down!

  9. Aaron Harris says:

    Do you have any blog examples that sell in this fashion?

    Aaron
    http://www.carmagnetbusiness.com

  10. mark marchus says:

    I have been looking at template layouts for about a month. Then I stumbled on this layout. Can I access this templete? If not, is there anything close. I’m about to launch a commercial site with two products (inventions) for backpackers. Please let me know if this templete is custom or if it’s a templete that’s been customized. Maybe you can help me solve this?

    Thanks,

    Mark

  11. Taunya Kopke says:

    What a wonderful, sensible post. I have a blog, still in infancy, born in January, about Marbles. Toy marbles–I collect. I want to sell, and have also set up an eBay store. I have experimented a little with products on my blog, and have sold a few. Your post inspires me to put everything for sale in a second Typepad blog. The idea of including lots of information and encouraging comments resonates!

    I admire your ability to help others in this way. I have found that I have a fear of posting on my blog. It is hard to commit to words about something in public, even something I love. It is one thing to post on a forum, that’s easy. But posting on my blog. . . it’s different. Thanks for the help!

    Best wishes,
    Taunya

  12. amelia says:

    i have also read an article about catablogging, its a good way to monetize blogs and its a good way in bringing new business in :)

  13. Julie says:

    I’m in an mom-owned home jewelry design business with one-of-a-kind items. There are so many of us jewelers out there so, I’m looking for a way to:
    1) distinguish my designs from all the others
    2) attract people to my website and
    3) make lots of sales so I can move from my day job to being a full-time jewelry artist.
    I have someone to write a blog for me but I totally stuck on what the blog should be about… Catablogging might just be the answer. So I’ll read more about that but in the meantime…
    I’d sure love any suggestions for discussion topics that are of interest and what to avoid discussing. Constructive criticism on my webstie is welcome, too. Thanks!!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Great post from Brian Clark about the right way to sell niche products online. [...]

  2. [...] As we wrap up this short series of posts on product blogging, let’s take a look at a strategy for those who may not have a product of their own to sell. We’ve looked at selling information and niche e-commerce, and you can obviously use those strategies with products that you sell on behalf of others. [...]

  3. [...] How to Sell Niche Products With Your Blog [...]