This guest series is by Greg McFarlane of Control Your Cash.
History dictates that the current economic malaise will eventually end, but we’re still waiting for some unambiguous signs. That’s why for the past few weeks, we’ve been learning how to create products that are inspired by (and that tie into) your blog, and how to plan to sell them to an audience whose collective disposable income isn’t quite what it used to be.
So finally, after approaching this scientifically and methodically, you’re there. You’ve created a product built on the expertise your readers have expected from you and your site. And you’ve priced that product (or series of products) at a level that will generate income without scaring off too many potential buyers. Now all you have to do its open up the storefront and watch the money roll in.
The good news is that at this point, most of the work is done. But you still need to build your clientele beyond its traditional bounds. To amass your army, if you will.
Flipping the switch
After you’ve created products and made them available for purchase, a radical shift occurs. Whether you realize it or not, you’re now (at least) 51% entrepreneur and (at most) 49% blogger. The set hours that you spend updating and freshening your blog every week are now secondary to your sales efforts. Once you’re committed to creating and selling your product, people will identify you with it, for better or for worse.
If your product is, say, a collection of spreadsheets you can use to organize your home and eliminate clutter, then sink or swim with it. Henceforth, home organization will be your blog’s primary focus. Even though you may love collecting miniatures, and have occasionally blogged about it in the past, your days of doing so are now over. Apple used to sell stand-alone digital cameras. Not anymore.
You’re now a salesperson, and the more seriously you take your new job, the better you’ll do.
For generations, your typical commission salesperson was given a list of leads and an admonition to break a leg. If the new hire didn’t work out, no big deal. There would always be plenty of others willing to step in. Unfortunately, your incipient business doesn’t get that same luxury. The sales staff is you, as is the product.
And your current audience, regardless of its size, is limited. Some of your longtime readers might buy out of a feeling of allegiance or mild obligation. If they do buy, it probably won’t be because they’d been dying for someone to create whatever it is you created. And while your loyal readership may have given you the impetus and spawned the idea for your product, they’re not the only ones you’ll want to buy it.
So where to find a lasting and larger clientele? It involves expanding your horizons, but not in a rote way.
If you blog long enough, eventually you’ll be approached by similar bloggers offering you various stratagems for mutually benefitting your sites. A link exchange, a guest post exchange, and so on. Those are all well and good, if you enjoy the novelty of exposing your blog to an audience that is already loyal to another blogger who operates in the exact same field of interest that you do.
One fellow personal finance blogger, who seems to be an awfully agreeable fellow, recently offered to create a discreet badge allowing me to sell my products on his site, and vice versa. I trust that he accepted it as a business decision and didn’t take it personally when I told him I wasn’t interested.
Why not accept the exposure? Among other reasons, his blog has fewer readers than mine does. Many of those readers of his already read my blog anyway. Besides, what’s to stop him from making a similar offer to other bloggers with greater readerships than his, diluting the impact of his agreement with me?
Also, to put it kindly, he’s not an authority. He’s a guy with a blog, and a relatively new one at that. My products will be an afterthought on his blog, as his would be on mine. That won’t do.
A passionate evangelism
In selecting and pursuing offsite promotional opportunities that will actually help you find customers, you need to be a passionate evangelist for your product. Whether you’re considering buying ad space, using email marketing, social media promotions, or even creating a physical promotional freebie to give away (which we’ll cover on ProBlogger later today), you need to advocate strongly for your product, all the way.
My products need to be advertised in a place of prominence, because I care about them. Not just in and of themselves, but for a more pragmatic reason: it sounds obvious, but every item I ship makes me wealthier. I don’t want the seminars I hold and the ebooks I create to be just another offering in a catalog, vying for attention with someone’s unreadable treatise on dividend investing and the overpriced collection of Visio diagrams that someone else slapped together.
I want my products to stand front and center. I also want to remind potential buyers that no one else’s work can substitute for what I’ve created. If you want to know The Unglamorous Secret to Riches, no one else has it. If you want to know how to get out of whatever unhealthy relationship you have with your employer, that outspoken guy who runs Control Your Cash is the only one who’s going to show you how.
Just another vehicle
That’s why you have to acknowledge the limitations of your own blog. Most of your buyers aren’t there. They’re on unrelated sites, where it’s your job to get their attention and show them what you have to offer. It takes time. In my case—and you can apply this to your own situation—it means posting regularly at major, well-established blogs in my area of concern. It means guest posting at general-interest blogs where I know I’ll reach a diverse and erudite audience. My business model is predicated on the following belief: if people like anything I have to say, once they find out a little bit more, they’ll like everything I have to say.
Which means your blog becomes just another vehicle for selling your product(s). Once you sell to someone unfamiliar with your blog, you then sell that buyer on your blog itself. Anyone who buys your product should immediately become a subscriber. Now that buyer knows where to find your entire oeuvre, including the subsequent products that you’re doubtless working on.
- Once you launch your product, you’re a salesperson. Be prepared to put your product first.
- Recognize that the bulk of your buyers should not come from your own site: if you’re to give your product the best chance of success, you’ll need to sell it to people who have never visited your blog … so far.
- Be choosy about the promotions you use.
- Become a passionate evangelist for your product. This will help you sift the great promotional opportunities from the not-so-great.
- As your promotional efforts gain traction, you’ll begin to see your blog as just another vehicle for sales. Importantly, those customers are becoming subscribers … which will help when it comes time to sell your next product.
Still, buyers in 2012 remain wary. They have less money available to spend in an ever-growing market. With more vendors making their products available for sale every day, the successful sellers aren’t necessarily the ones who shout the loudest or the most frequently. Instead, the ones making sales are the ones who communicate the most effectively. Next week, we’ll find out how they do it.
Greg McFarlane is an advertising copywriter who lives in Las Vegas. He recently wrote Control Your Cash: Making Money Make Sense, a financial primer for people in their 20s and 30s who know nothing about money. You can buy the book here (physical) or here (Kindle) and reach Greg at [email protected].