How do I sell advertising on my blog? It is a question that I’m asked a lot so when Brandon J. Mendelson asked if he could write a post on this topic as someone who has sold a lot of advertising online and in TV I thought it’d make a great guest post.
Putting together a media kit for your blog is an excellent start; However, unless you know how to navigate the competitive waters of advertising, the media kit will be useless.
What’s Your Story?
Everyone has one. Do you know what it is? Can you describe your blog in under a paragraph? Two sentences? Seven words? If you cannot, you are not ready to sell advertising.
Take a few moments and condense your blog’s description into:
-A paragraph, which you can use in your media kit
-Two sentences, which you will use in your pitch email
-Seven words, which you will use for your pitch’s email headline
Wait, Email? Shouldn’t I Call?
Here you need to figure out what sector of the market you are looking for and what level the company finds itself at (local, regional, or national).The size of the company will determine the method of contact.
First: Think of natural fits between what your blog is about and what product might best serve your audience. Today, it is not about advertising but adding value to your user’s experience. Advertisements are a reflection on you as much as they are on the advertiser, so choose wisely.
Second: How big is the company?
Emailing a local store for advertising is a waste. You need to go in person or make a phone call. Small business owners do not have time to wade through sales emails; They need convincing when it comes to using their limited marketing dollars.
A regional company may be more open to email, but most regionals started small and likely still posses a small business mindset of wanting to meet people first to gauge interest.
A national corporation or international corporation? Don’t bother walking through the front door or making a phone call. Locate the marketing department’s email, which can usually be found by making a subtle, non-sales query to corporate communications, requesting that information.
How Much Information Is Too Much?
You want to use as little information as possible in an initial sales inquiry. This is who you are, this is what you do, this is what you are looking for. Are you interested? Include your contact information and move on to the next pitch.
Volume is key, but automation will kill you since each letter must be personalized. You need to master the ability to effectively communicate with a minimal amount of effort and do it often to increase your odds of making a sale.
The same goes for phone conversations and stopping in person. You need to see if there is interest in what you are selling before proceeding.
In person or on the phone, you want to follow-up on interest by scheduling an appointment at a time that is convenient for the store owner. Call first, stop in second (if the store is local or regional), and email third.
Once you know someone is interested, then you can send your sales kit and other collateral. All of which should be kept brief. The odds are, if a party is interested they have already googled you and visited your website.
Make sure your sales information is available on your website.
Wait, Won’t My Competitors See?
Yes, but if your competitor is any good, they will already know what you are charging. Charge what you think your services are worth, the only time your competitor’s rates matter is when you are first starting out. When starting out, you should see what your competition is charging and offer your services at a discounted rate. This will allow you to break into tight markets and get your name out there.
How Do I Know What To Charge?
Only you can decide how much your time is worth. Do not rely on Google Adsense or other online forms of measurement. Look at what the competition charges, ask yourself what an acceptable rate would be for your time and stick with it. Make sure to stay competitive by using stealth, but legal, methods to find out what your competition is charging.
Think of it like this: There are no rules about sending a sales inquiry to your competitor or calling them to see what their rates are.
When Can I Start?
Advertisers will come to you when you average 30,000 unique visitors a month without much drop off Until then you should factor:
How many subscribers do you have for your RSS feed? How many people follow you on Twitter? What is your Google, not Alexa, page rank? How often do you come up for key search terms for your niche? What your unique web traffic is?
You can go into the market and start charging for a new product at any time, but unless you have some sort of cross media access, it is best to firm up these numbers first.
Contracts And References
It is important to develop strong relationships with smaller advertisers who can vouch for: 1) Your character and 2) Your ability to deliver.
Character is key. If you are not trusted, kiss access to bigger paydays goodbye.
Get everything down on a sheet of paper that explains who gets what, when, and for how much. Deliver on what you promise, and serve as a resource for your advertisers.
By serving as a resource, you build credibility and positive relationships. These relationships are critical when it comes time to chase corporate sponsorship and they ask you to provide references from previous advertisers.
Be prepared to be open as your business’s financial success to larger prospective advertisers. The more money on the line means more scrutiny.
Who uses your website? When do they access it? How long are they on? What else do you know about your users? Marketing and demographic data is the linchpin of your entire sales kit.
Corporations operate using systems such as Six Sigma to track department results in terms of their performance in utilizing resources (re: money).
The demographic and marketing information alleviates any concerns and allows for your advertising pitch to advance because marketing can show their superiors the resources are being allocated according to the corporate mission.
How do you do this? Surveys, soliciting feedback, conducting online focus groups are some examples to help compile this information. Read up on different qualitative and quantitative analysis methods to show that you know how to interpret the information.You do not need a consultant to do this for you.
Even the simplest survey can tell you critical information as long as you know how to analyze it. This may sound daunting, but trust me, you will pick it up fast.
How do you know when to start advertising? When you are confident in your ability to deliver an acceptable amount of business to justify what you are charging.
Test ads on your site before you sell them, ask for reader and user feedback on how to best implement them, see if you can get a high click through ratio or high awareness of imaginary post sponsors first.
Use this information in your demographic data to share with advertisers and show them you can hold up your end of things.
If you are going to put up an advertisement when you say you are, do it. You are now responsible for someone’s money, and if you cannot hold up your end for just one client, you can expect others to find out quickly.
Good luck, tread carefully, and be nice to everyone as you go through this process. It is easy to lose allies and resources than it is to make money.