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Build Blog Products That Sell 5: Finding Customers

This guest series is by Greg McFarlane of Control Your Cash.

Cash crunch

Image courtesy stock.xchng user sqback

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.

If only.

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.

Finding customers

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.

Key points

  • 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].

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Comments

  1. Hi Greg,

    Good points all around.

    Love the note about grabbing attention. Make your offering appealing. Make it irresistible. Keen note too about branching out. Writing guest posts, penning thoughtful comments and using other forms of leveraging your presence is the quickest way to boost sales.

    Your network consists of “X” number of people now. Write guest posts and pen helpful comments. Observe how quickly that number rises as you tap into new audiences. Keep giving though. Share content , add value, become valuable.

    Thanks for sharing Greg.

    Ryan

  2. Stuart F says:

    A great post that highlights many key points.

    Sales and marketing can be achieved by blogs with a well written, well executed and targeted blog post making a lot of money for the writer. One blog entry has earned me £20K within 4 weeks and that was only two sales so I am hoping (fingers crossed) that the revenue will keep rolling in. One thing I would mention is that is well worth sharing your entry with your social networks and a few key people – which will make all the difference!

  3. Hi Greg,

    Its very knowledge full article you have shared with us.

    I really learned a lot of great tips from it and I think I should follow your key points selling any product.

    I got a one question. how will you consider this one if you choosing any promotion for your own product, Be choosy about the promotions you use?

  4. Lisa says:

    Love the idea of branching out. Great tips here, thanks for sharing. I struggle with that on one of my retail site’s blog and trying to keep it not so “salesy”.

  5. Hi! Thanks for your tips in finding customers. Without them, no business will ever work.

  6. Every product needs its own blog! I like your evaluation of 51% entrepreneur and 49% blogger: but a blogger is already a kind of salesperson – selling their ideas to the world through their writing.

  7. Joan says:

    Thanks for sharing your information and very good points. Right now I’m working on traffic and will soon do a free ebook. Maybe a give away too.

  8. Dear Greg, You have written an awesome post. Great I found it here on Problogger.

  9. I’ve been hearing more of choosing a niche market for my products these days and it’s been my concentration on http://www.checklistmag.com. Can someone please explain more of that to me?

  10. Hi Greg,

    You’re right; when you start to sell your products/services through your blog, you do become an entrepreneur more than a blogger.

    Or you could say, your blog becomes a business asset instead of a blog. And blogging becomes marketing.

    You said, “Even though you may love collecting miniatures, and have occasionally blogged about it in the past, your days of doing so are now over.” I’ll have to disagree slightly.

    It all depends on your situation, but if you’ve created an audience, which is interested in what you normally write about AND in miniatures, you should still write about miniatures. OR if writing about miniatures strengthens your relationship with your audience, by making you more relatable and intimate (for example imagine Darren writing about being a dad, (haven’t noticed that post if there is one) it would definitely strengthen his relationship with his audience).

    You may also consider selling a product that relates to miniatures in the future…

    I do agree, you must be strategic with blogging once it’s a business, but sometimes the “best” way isn’t the most obvious.

    I write about two main topics, but only offer services relating to one of them. I do write a lot more about the one with services (marketing), but since the other is interesting/useful to most of my audience and I’ll probably offer services relating to that in the future, I believe it’s a good strategic decision.

    Regards,
    Peter Sandeen – simply effective marketing

  11. A great post that highlights many key points.

    Sales and marketing can be achieved by blogs with a well written, well executed and targeted blog post making a lot of money for the writer. One blog entry has earned me £20K within 4 weeks and that was only two sales so I am hoping (fingers crossed) that the revenue will keep rolling in. One thing I would mention is that is well worth sharing your entry with your social networks and a few key people – which will make all the difference!

  12. Rich says:

    I started out as a 100% salesman i.e. I had products but no blog.
    I have since come to understand the benefits of keeping a blog – it is what I call ‘content for social presence’, that is, my blog is a way for me to engage with potential customers and gain their trust.

  13. Hey Greg,

    thanks for an entertaining article. I am of a similar philosophy but kept reading as your writing is really good. I agree entirely and reckon many people (myself included become obsessed with their blog being THE platform when actually, as you so rightly say, it’s just part of the overall package you’re offering online).

    People do have less money and the world economy has gone crazy – that being said, people are still buying and people are still making money. In the end the only way you will find out if you can is by actually testing the market.

    take care & best wishes,
    Alan

  14. oops I put my ) in the wrong place … sorry!

  15. wade says:

    This is a great idea. I have never been able to think of a product to create though. Many people do this effectively. I just have the Profits Places system where you can make money creating free blogs. Its nothing that I made up, but just found out! This would be good though if you could create something that people wanted.

  16. I’m working on an eCourse and I have a new blog that’s doing well so far in my niche. These tips are great because I’m nervous about selling the product on my blog and I want my readers to accept my blog advice first so they know the product will work.