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Making Money Online – The NEW Standard

A Guest contribution from Nick Thacker from www.LiveHacked.com.

I’ve been a leech for most of my life. By “leech,” of course, I mean I’ve basically existed online as the type of person who consumes considerably more than I’ve created.

But this year things changed. I was, and still am, a student of the Internet age, and I hope to always be. But in January of 2012, I decided to begin giving back to the world that’s educated me for the past ten years.

I started a blog and focused on asking the right questions, rather than finding the right answers.

At first it was a simple “living better” blog, through which I would provide the little “hacks” here and there that helped me get more done, live better, and generally enjoy life to the extent we should. After a short while, though, things started leaning more in the direction of “helping writers write better, and sell more books.” Actually, our catchphrase right now is “On living and writing well,” and we’ve (in my mind) lived up to that mantra quite well.

For me, this blog post is a reflection of my blog’s transition from a moneymaking blog that makes money through helping people to a blog that helps people and generates income on the side. The difference is in some ways minute; semantic even, but the implications are major:

I have been experiencing the “new standard” of making money online in the current world we live in.

Let’s first look at the “old standard,” for comparison’s sake:

The “Old Standard”

Flashy sales pages. You know what I’m talking about – these types of sales pages were “flashy” in the “pay-attention-to-me-or-else” way, and not the “good-looking” way.

Sure, they worked. But the expense was the lowering of credibility toward these site owners – the chase after a quick sale, in lieu of a long-term customer.

These sales pages got the job done – they sold product extremely effectively, and still do. But take a look at the number one grossing sales company in the world (Apple) and show me where they’re using this strategy.

Blogging was used as a means to drive traffic. Nothing more, nothing less. The usefulness of blogging was probably equivalent to the current usefulness of social media – it can certainly help, but it’s a way to drive traffic toward already established sales and lead-capture mechanisms.

Blogging has had a precarious upbringing, however. As some of you “older” bloggers might recognize, the word itself is a mashup of “web” and “log” – literally a log of a person’s current activities; a way of “keeping tabs,” not unlike the type of update Twitter now eloquently provides in 140 characters at a time.

Somewhere along the way it changed into a “reverse-chronological list of information,” ranging from video content to short, sweet, to-the-point rants (props, Seth Godin!).

This transition was great for the industry of blogging, but it hasn’t quite caught hold in corporate boardrooms – heck, even at my last company I was given a project to “generate leads through blogging.” Facepalm.

Emphasis on short-term problem solving. Think back to the last “Internet” product you purchased: was it a teaching or education-based course, or was it a one-stop solve-all-your-problems infoproduct? If it was the latter, it falls into the “old standard” of Internet marketing:

Give the customer the answer, in the form of a one-size-fits-all product that can be sold over and over again, at little to no cost.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this business model. Heck, many companies thrive on this model. The problem for bloggers, however, is that bloggers exist – by definition – in an information-dominant world.

This information dominant world is new, but it’s unfortunately not the same as the “old world.” We can’t rely on telemarketing, direct mail campaigns, and slick TV commercials to sell our products. ­­

Great. So what’s the “new standard” of making money online? What’s the “new way” to create products, generate leads, and make a living?

The “New Standard”

Like most “new” standards, the “new standard” of making money online isn’t really new, nor is it something revolutionary: it’s simply something that’s been working better for its implementers than the models of yesteryear.

Let’s break down this “new standard” in comparison to the old:

Beautiful, web standard design

The new design trend we’re seeing springs from the Web 2.0 style of five years ago, with even more emphasis on beautiful, minimalistic design, focused on getting the information to people as quickly as possible.

Instead of relying solely on the information presented, the current trend in the “new standard” conveys the messaging through super-simple, easy-to-read text in a beautiful, well-presented design. The effect is that we get an idea of that blog’s (or company’s) level of professionalism, which leads to trust.

Beautiful design is a far cry from “showing off,” at least in my opinion – it’s the expectation. Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, our readers, site visitors, and our customers expect this level of quality from us.

And why shouldn’t they? They usually have a plethora of options out there to choose from; there’s no reason they’ll purchase from you if your design isn’t attractive or standards-compliant.

Social Triggers

SocialTriggers.com – a perfect example of beautiful, web-standard design.

Emphasis on long-term problem solving.

By reaching out to people, engaging, interacting, and gently pulling people toward your offerings, you’re creating not just a strong focus on them, you’re creating a long-term solution and a full pipeline.

When you focus on always adding value, you’re not just adding value for other people: you’re adding value to your business. Sure, it’s indirect and sometimes takes a while to gain traction,  but the long term benefits of continuing sales, happier customers, and an increase in trust far outweigh the “quick” sales you might otherwise gain.

Copyblogger

Copyblogger.com’s homepage (below the fold). Plenty of easy-to-understand solutions and offerings.

Blogging is used as a means to build trust.

Rather than being used as simply a catalyst for traffic and attention, blogging is now used as a way to further perpetuate the trust that you’ve built up. You’ve done the difficult deed of attracting people to your website; your blog “closes the deal” so to speak by offering amazing, epic content that people highly value.

Your blog is your means to an end, not the end. Driving traffic to it is just a piece of the “trust puzzle,” followed by offering great advice, help, support, or whatever at a great price (free), and then gently reminding people that you’re in business – they can hire you for more of the same awesome stuff!

Think Traffic

ThinkTraffic.net is the epitome of a website dedicated to helping people build trust and noteworthy content – and they’re pretty good at it themselves!

The takeaways, and how to implement this “new standard”:

Here are a few things to focus on as you go about implementing this modern standard of making money from an online business:

1. Focus your design on what the market wants and expects.

I made the mistake long ago of building a site using a template that I thought was cool. It was grungy, new-age, and was a well-designed WordPress theme. Later, I decided to go with a straight-up Thesis theme, unaltered. It looked fine, but it didn’t do anything to help me convey the message of what my site was all about:

Nick's original homepage

NickThacker.com, the predecessor to my current site, LiveHacked.com.

The problem?

I was trying to build a business around my being a “professional,” when well-respected professionals in my field “looked” completely different. Their websites were slightly more corporate, minimal, and didn’t focus on them – they focused on the visitor.

As you can expect, it didn’t turn out so well. I changed my theme, focusing this time on what my target market expected (whether consciously or subconsciously), and the results were stellar.

Nick's new homepage

More of a focus on what LiveHacked.com is about, with a simple yet impossible to miss call-to-action at the top.

2. Focus on “solutions,” not “fixes.”

There was (is?) a wildly successful ebook on the market quite a few years ago called Desperate Buyers Only, and it taught a very important principle: focus on people who are desperate for a solution, in the form of a “quick fix.”

Basically, offer them the “immediate fix” to their problem, and you’re a hero.

This model can work, but what about those of us who are in a market where our target customers aren’t exactly desperate? Maybe they’re struggling with something, or aren’t sure what they’re struggling with, but they’re not quite ready to make a purchase.

In that case, you need to focus on providing long-term solutions. Rather than screaming, “I have what you need!,” try grabbing their virtual hand and walking them through – for free – how you overcame the same problem they’re currently facing. [GL3] For my own blog, I wrote an in-depth “hand holding” post on my favorite piece of writing software, Scrivener.

When it’s all said and done, and they’re emailing you “gee, thanks”-type comments, you can gently mention that you have further support available for an attractive price. It may not be the Glengarry Glen Ross (language) [GL4] solution (it won’t win you “used-car-salesman-of-the-year” awards), but it’ll probably win you a lifelong customer.

3. Focus on creating a massive, amazing resource with your blog – for free. [GL5] 

Keep in mind that there is always another option out there for your clientele. Maybe it’s not exactly what they’re looking for, but rather than trying to persuade them to use your service because it’s the ultimate answer, seek to help them so much it hurts.

Seriously. Focus on providing more and more and more until they give up. “Fine,” they’ll say, “this is clearly amazing stuff you’ve got here – how can I start to work with you?”

That will be the easiest sale you’ll ever make.

I tried to do this with my totally, 100% free fiction-writing course. It’s 20 weeks long, and I tried to pack as much content into it as I could, keeping it actionable (read: immediately usable), valuable, and something that will provide ongoing “replay value.”

Most salespeople (and all of us are in sales) focus so much of their energy and time on sales tactics, tricks to persuade, and conversation segments that are designed to circle around to your solution – “tricking” people into buying from you.

In some markets, this is the expectation, and while it’s usually never fun to buy in those markets, it’s understood as the norm.

The Web has changed to a new norm: a place in which buyers and sellers both have something to lose and something to gain. Don’t smear your brand and reputation on chasing a sale, learning sleazy tactics, or wasting your time with people who won’t benefit from what you have to offer. Focus instead on how you can help, and then – and only then – remind them that you’ve got even more available to them if they ever need it.

The exceptions that prove the rule

Before you think to yourself, “yeah, but” – remember these words:

The “new standard” is already here. You might be in the lucky position of having an outdated marketplace, but know that times are changing. Be willing to adapt, accept that the new status quo might not be what you’re used to, and be ready to change.

The few industries that might not need to bother with this are the exceptions that prove the rule, not the other way around. Truth is, they’re not in an unchanging industry anyway – just one that’s a little slow to accept new things.

Be a leader in your area, especially in the way you’re offering your wares to your people, and you won’t have anything to worry about!

Nick Thacker is a blogger, marketer, and author who writes about self-publishing and selling books at www.LiveHacked.com. He also has a free 20-week course on planning and writing a novel.

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Comments

  1. Jaky says:

    Absolutely. I’ve took up the same model after understanding that the evolution of the web is about building trust. So, while some bloggers are still using “sqeeze page” I decided to put the signup box only after I told them what I did. I use information and tell them exactly what they’ll get.

    Suddenly, those squeeze pages look tricky to me. I’ve been working on user interfaces and trust designing for over 5 years now and have discovered that the more you get to the visitor’s heart, the more they want to convert with you.

    Instead of asking them to signup, I give them the ebooks and things for free, and they can always signup if they want to receive newer free versions of my books and worksheets. And it works miracles. The online model is dramatically engineering into into building trust..before signups.

    This is definitely a thoughtful article for new age beginners.

  2. Steve Faber says:

    Nick,

    Great piece. Blogs help do something that’s become something of a corporate marketing buzzword recently, increase consumer engagement.

    It’s true , though. Increase engagement and you build that most important of business assets; a relationship.

    That’s a major step toward doing something which should be the goal of every marketer; making consumers love your company. As you noted, you’ll never make an easier sale.

    Perhaps the best thing though, is that it likely won’t be the last to that customer, even in the face of stiff competition.

    Steve

  3. This is so funny – as in ironic, not ha ha – just a couple of days ago I participated in a conversation in a FB group all about using “gates” to charge for blog content. I said I could see charging for more personal or specialized content – much like a premium newsletter – but I thought charging just to access regular content on a blog might not be receive very well. Just FYI – my view was in the minority so apparently not everyone buys into the new standard.

    • Nick Thacker says:

      I don’t think this “new standard” is equivalent to “charging for everything” — quite the contrary: it’s just recognizing that there’s something just as good as yours out there that’s already free and accessible, so you should strive to build something that’s drop-dead amazing if you want to charge for it.

  4. Love, love, love this post as it so perfectly describes what I’m trying to do.

  5. Nizam Khan says:

    Awesome and brief post. Well, it’s about engagement with the audience to build trust not just to build traffic and indeed a good blog design is important to attract visitors/readers. Thanks for sharing and tweeted :)

  6. This New standard really attacted me, Sir definitely I will try to make my new blog according to this standard of blogging. I am sure by following above mentioned tricks, one day I will be able to create trustable relattion with my readers through my blogs. Thank you very much sir.

  7. What you just preached is what Guy Kawasaki teaches!

    Amazing!

    Guy says to focus on design and gain trust by giving stuff away for free.

    Great post!

    • Nick Thacker says:

      I’m a big fan of him, and there are LOTS of other guys preaching this stuff online — this is my little reworking of it though!

  8. Kim Doyal says:

    THANK YOU for this Nick!
    I have felt this in my GUT for a while now. Gone are the days of the old internet marketing philosophy’s (AMEN). Well, I’m sure they still exist and there are plenty of people out there who will fall prey (the old saying, “you don’t know what you don’t know” applies here), but I use this as a standard for who I subscribe to and WHY I subscribe.
    If someone doesn’t treat their blog as the primary foundation from which they’re building a relationship I unsubscribe.

    One of my FAVORITE points you made was the difference between teaching /educating and the quick fix! SOOOO true!
    I have also found that the more I focus on sharing value and creating valuable content the more people engage with me (which sounds pretty “duh” now.. :-) ).
    And the bonus?
    It feels WAY better and the income happens in such an organic way you don’t have to spin your wheels trying to figure out how to earn money with what you’re doing.
    Awesome way to start the weekend- great post!

  9. marty says:

    I think its important that everyone understand the new methods so they can be successful.It took me forever to realize that the game has changed so I could change my tactics.Great post

  10. Suresh S says:

    Excellent write up and wonderful describe. Your post is very helpful for me. A big thanks for sharing !!

  11. Vivek Bhatt says:

    Seriously it is. i am quite agree with this Article -_- Getting traffic is the most difficult task i guess :/ well I am also gonna try this out :P thanks

  12. I think apart from blogging there are many ways which are making money online like forum networking website, everyone have to give a try on those.

  13. Cori says:

    I completely agree with everything in this and I’m so glad that somebody else thinks the same. I’ve worked 3 times as hard as the auto spinning auto blogging websites, but it’s been much more rewarding. You’re awesome! Thank you :)

    • Nick Thacker says:

      Cori, that’s awesome to hear — it’s probably going to work out even better financially for you in the long run as well!

  14. Gurwinder says:

    Excellent write up, I agree with this completely!

  15. I definitely approached my blog, from the very beginning, as a way to connect with people and help them, just because I wanted to. It was only after I started learning more about blogging that I even realized I could make money from it. I wasn’t that person who only started a blog because I had dollar signs in my eyes.

    So yeah. I want to make money on my blog now, particularly because it will allow me to blog more. I merely need my blog to make money, so that I can afford to work on it even more.

    That’s my bottom line.

  16. Really great analysis! For me I think the best part of the article is about focusing on solutions. This is so true. You cannot expect to make money online if you have nothing valuable to add. You have to give them first then get results after it.
    It seems obvious, but unfortunately there are so many people that get this all wrong.
    Really good article! Thanks for sharing.

  17. Felix says:

    One thing I learned from social media/ blogging/ etc, it’s not about selling. It’s about sharing valuable content with your users and creating a relationship. Good post!

  18. Jon Rhodes says:

    I totally agree with you Nick. Instead of spending loads of time and energy trying to trick people into buying from you, spend it on helping them and making friends for life. Give people a great deal and they will come back to you, and recommend you to their friends. I run an internet marketing blog that focuses on ethical practices. I know from experience that doing the right thing can really help you become a big success online. Building trust is the key. It’s great to hear other people who think the same!

  19. John Smyth says:

    Yep, another wonderful post, Kim, detailed and to the point.

  20. ashish says:

    thx for sharing this tips you share an accurate tips for makeing money through online and i m going these tips with my beginners friends

  21. Ashraf Milon says:

    great post. blogging is great and your writing style inspired me very much. I want to be a blogger like you.

  22. Steve M says:

    This was great post about how to have a site work out to be one of the best. Focus on design and how the site looks is a must. If it does not look good people are going to leave and your bounce rate is going to go up and that will drop your rankings for sure. You must have some way to socially engage with your readers, with as big as social media is today, this is also a must. Great post for sure. I could continue to comment on many items that you have made in this post.

  23. Peter J Osterberg says:

    Hi, you have an excellent blog. Wish i could blog like you. Well, everyone need to Focus in the work on the internet, work with 1 or 2 things, no more. And stay sharpe and not stop marketing then you will fail..

  24. Gabriel says:

    I discover a way to win $710,000 in 28 days, if I did anyone can! its amazing!

  25. Thank you for another great read, i have shared this post with all of my followers,friends, circles etc.

    All the best,
    Rich