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10 Things TV Shopping Networks Can Teach You About Making Money Blogging

This guest post is by Jill Chivers of www.shopyourwardrobe.com.

I found myself entranced recently by a “presentation” on a TV shopping network. I usually flip straight past these networks, as I was of the opinion that they were cheesy shows, presented by couldn’t-quite-make-it TV presenters, and that they pushed sub-par products onto poor, lonely, hapless, housebound consumers who didn’t know better. Not that I was judgmental about them in any way…

But this time I found myself stopping for a moment, just to see what they were about.

As the “presentation” (which is what they called it—at this stage, I was still thinking of it as a cheesy, garbage-pushing intrusion) unfolded, I found myself becoming fascinated by the sheer audacity of it.

These shows face an enormous sales challenge, the scale of which could appropriately be linked to climbing to Base Camp, possibly without an oxygen mask. While no-one could call their techniques sophisticated, they are effective. The home shopping industry is a multi-billion dollar industry and sales actually increased during the global financial crisis, when all other retailing was going down the toilet.

What can we learn from how the TV shopping networks sell their wares? Without becoming cheesy and surrendering all integrity, of course. Well, the short answer is: a great deal! Here are the top 10 tips that we can take away from those who sell from, and to, the couch.

1. Repetition

The messages the TV shopping networks provide are repeated, over and over and over and over. They know that telling us once isn’t going to do it. Telling us twice is not enough either. We need to be told repeatedly about the product, the offer, the deal, the limited stock. They tell us—and they keep on telling us.

Ask yourself: How often are you sharing your message with your readers? We get bored with our own message long before our readers do. Don’t tell ‘em once, don’t even tell ’em just twice. Tell ’em over and over.

2. Funnel the info

Not only is the information repeated on these shows, but it’s funneled. They start off by overviewing the entire list of products and packages that are being presented. Then they go through each one in turn, detailing each product—what the product’s about, what’s in the deal, and what’s in it for us.

Ask yourself: Have you structured your information so it’s easy to digest? Have you overviewed your offering (helicopter view) first, and then dropped into the detail? Don’t expect us, your readers, to organize your information—lay it out for us.

3. Features and benefits

Aren’t you utterly tired of marketing gurus telling us not to share the features of our products and focus exclusively on benefits? I am!

The TV shopping networks prove how false a technique that really is. Features tell us the what, while benefits tell us the so what. Without the what the so what seems contrived, or made up. Features provide us with evidence—they’re the proof so many of us need. If all we hear is that the product is made from “all-natural products that smooths and brightens the skin with no harmful ingredients” we can find ourselves responding with, “Meh … aren’t they all saying that?” But when we hear the list of ingredients, or hear what’s not in the product, or hear any of the other details about the product, it provides us with proof.

Ask yourself: Are you explaining the what and the so what of what’s in your product or service? Are you making it easy for us to believe in your benefits by sharing at least something about the features?

4. Demonstration

The TV shopping network presentations show us the products in action. We see the Mink, marble-pressed mineral foundation with hydrating beads being dusted onto the model’s face—see how quick and easy it is to apply? We see the weight loss powder being mixed up with fresh fruit in the blender—see how “pantry friendly” the pack size is?

Ask yourself: Are you showing us how easy, quick, simple, effective, or whatever else your product or service is to use? What else can you do to put your product or service into action so your prospects get to see it in use before they buy?

5. Results

The TV shopping networks not only demo their products so we can see them in real-time action. They also show us people who have been using the products for a long period of time (often years), and get them to tell us what a difference their products have made to their lives. This is different to the demo, which is in real time and could possibly be faked. Results from real people aren’t quite so easy to simulate.

Ask yourself: Are you showing us the results that people who use your product and service get? Your testimonials page is one of the best ways of doing this—but are you keeping the testimonials fresh and updated? Build your “mountain of testimonials” over time, and keep adding to them.

6. Updates

Throughout the presentation, the presenters gave us updates about how the product was selling. When a certain level of stock had been sold, we were updated that “this product has just gone limited,” signalling that only a few were left. This happened from minute one: the presenters signaled that the product was already selling. Combined with point 9 below, this creates a compelling case to pick up the phone.

Ask yourself: How fresh is your information about your products and services? Have you updated your product or service in some way, and forgotten to tell your readers and prospects about it? Have you sold a milestone number, such as 100, or 1000 products? Has your list reached a milestone number of subscribers? Share what’s newsy and make your prospects and readers feel part of the action!

7. Packaging and bonuses

These home shopping shows rarely showcase single products for sale. Even big-ticket items are bundled up with bonus products to sweeten the deal. Instead of a single bronzer being sold, they sell us the Forever Flawless package with 3in1 skin perfector and auto lip-liner in a choice of three colours with the Diamonds Are Forever dusting powder—all packaged in a lined satin make-up bag for touch-ups on the go!

Ask yourself: How can you add bonuses to what you already offer? Or how can you make clearer to your prospects the bonuses you already offer? Tell us how much we’re saving or the value of our bonuses, so the final sale price makes us feel fortunate to have been so smart.

8. Pricing

These shows offer discounted pricing (although verifying that is problematic, giving the urgent timeframes they place on the offers); they sweeten the deal by offering some form of discount off ordinary pricing, however small. They also step out what we’re getting (the value of our whole package, with bonuses), and tell us what we’re saving.

Ask yourself: How have you explained your pricing? Is it a flat-footed statement of plain fact, or have you made an effort to show us what a great deal we’re getting? Even if you do not have a limited pricing offer, how can you make it easy for us to see how fabulous your pricing really is? Do you throw in postage and handling? Is your pricing less than some other poorer-quality, higher-priced competitor? What’s special about your pricing? How else can you position your pricing so that we feel oh-so-smart for buying what you’re offering?

9. Urgency

Through the use of updates, limited availability, and discounted pricing, a sense of great urgency is created on these shows. Viewers of the TV shopping networks are lead down a carefully constructed path that leads inexorably to action. Namely: picking up the phone and ordering at least one, if not more, products. Sure, they educate. Yes, they demonstrate. But ultimately, they’re here for one thing—to sell their product. They aren’t embarrassed about it, either. There is no coyness in their communications, no hesitation in their message.

Ask yourself: Why would a prospect buy your product today? What have you done to make it easy for them to feel good about making a Right Now purchase, rather than making it easy for them to delay the buy? If you can only create a false sense of urgency (and that makes you feel sleazy), what else can you do encourage action now?

10. Recaps and the late up-sell

It’s never really finished with the TV shopping networks. The sell, that is. After the presentation ends, there are other messages (commercials on a home shopping network seem like the ultimate act of a snake eating its own tail, and yet they have them!). But they always come back for one more up-sell. Often it’s positioned as a Buyers’ Choice segment—a short segment that highlights one of the packaged up bumper-bonus deals that we’d be mad to miss!

Ask yourself: Where is there an opportunity for you to do a late up-sell in the education and sales process you offer? Where can you offer a “wait—there’s more!” opportunity that truly adds value and book-ends the sales message you are delivering?

TV tactics on your blog?

You may not wish, or even need, to use all of these strategies. The TV and home shopping networks are a particular breed that not all of us wish to emulate in full—their sales approaches are more sledgehammer than fine scalpel, for one thing. But they can teach us a lot about selling: how to position our products, how to present them, how to craft our communications, and how to make the sale. After all, that’s what they’re in business to do—make the sale.

Perhaps you aren’t using the right-kind-for-you aspects of these techniques as conscious convincers for your prospects. Perhaps all you need to offer is one more thing in one more way—a tweak rather than an overhaul—to increase your conversion rates.

Ask yourself:
What more can I be doing to make this sale easy for my prospects? That’s what the TV shopping networks do.

Jill Chivers used to love shopping. After completing her own “year without clothes shopping challenge” in 2010, she created an award-winning website and international business that helps other women create a healthier relationship to shopping. Check it out here: www.shopyourwardrobe.com.

Are You Protecting Your Blog’s Most Valuable Asset?

This guest post was written by Neil Matthews of WPDude.

Are you protecting one of the most valuable assets of your blog—your email list?

The majority of us rigorously backup the content of our blog, but do we give the same thought to our email lists?

Why back up your email list?

“The money is in the list.” is a mantra we often hear in Internet marketing circles, and we hear it so often because it is so true. An email list is still the best way to communicate with your tribe and to make offers to them. Those people are on your list because they know, trust and like you, and are prepared to give you their attention.

Our attention is the most valuable thing we can give to a marketing message. Bombardment with online ads and the resultant ad-blindness means your list is incredibly valuable. You should be protecting this golden asset: the details of those people who have given you their attention.

You email list also represents a huge investment of time. Over the months and years, your list has slowly grown because of all the work your have done creating quality content on your blog and sending great newsletters.

Don’t let your list slip through your fingers! What would happen to your business if you no longer had that asset?

How you can damage your list

There are a number of ways you could kill your email list.

User error

You could accidentally delete all of your subscribers. Email software systems such as Aweber or Mailchimp are not the easiest user interfaces to navigate. You could accidentally wipe your email list.

Being banned

If you go against the terms and conditions of your email provider, there’s a chance that you could be banned from that service and lose access to your list. This is not a far-fetched as you may think: one time I sent out an email to my list which generated a 1% unsubscribe rate, and Mailchimp temporarily suspended my account. I was given the IT equivalent of a call to the headmaster’s office so I could explain my actions before my account was re-instated.

Persistent breaking of your mail service’s terms and conditions will result in your being banned from that service—and the loss of your entire list.

Non-payment

Your list is held by a third party, and can be taken from you if you fail to pay for the mail service because, for example:

  1. you have no cash
  2. you forget to make the payment—perhaps when your credit card expires.

Don’t loose your entire list because of a temporary glitch in your finances or oversight with your credit cards.

How to back up your list

All of the mail services I have used have an Export function. When you create an export, your email data is exported from that mail service as a CSV (comma separated values) list, which can then be stored away from the email provider as your secure archive.

Here are links to the major email providers’ support documents on exporting a CSV of your email subscribers:

  1. AWeber
  2. Mailchimp
  3. Infusionsoft
  4. Getresponse

Once you have your CSV file, you can re-add your subscribers should you accidentally delete your list or move it to another hosting provider if you’re banned.

How often should you back up?

The answer to that question really depends upon your list. If you are adding a substantial number of subscribers to the list per day, you’ll need to back up your list more often; personally, I do this once per month.

But if a recent marketing effort has added a large number of people to you list, do an ad-hoc backup to protect this work.

Even though your list is one of your most important blog assets, I bet many of you don’t back your list. When was the last time you backed up your list. And how did you do it?

Neil provides WordPress coaching and technical support services at WPDude.com.

How Bloggers Can Make Money from Brands

This guest post was written by Mark Pollard of MarkPollard.net.

Let’s face it, how you make money from blogging is in serious flux right now. The thing is, flux brings opportunity. If you’re thinking differently enough to everybody else, chances are you can stand out. That’s what this article is about. How to get you standing out in front of brands and agencies, and find new ways to make money from your blogging pedigree along the way.

Old models are struggling

It’s not just “heritage media” that’s trying to work it all out right now. Bloggers everywhere need to rethink their approaches:

  • display advertising needs reinvention: who’s it working for?
  • Google just downgraded content farms
  • guest posting is the new content marketing
  • selling ebooks is a hit-and-miss affair for most
  • affiliate marketing: how do you pick a product and make it worthwhile?

Establishing an audience and then releasing a book as your monetization tactic is challenging when such a small percentage of books are actually profitable. So, do you make an app? Do you go Kindle? Do you put on a conference? Should your revenue come from the very content that you pour your soul into or from something else, like a better salary, fees for speaking at events or a new business venture?

Just where will the money come from?

As a blogger, you need to make some serious strategic calls on where to put your focus because content-making is heavy going.

Why listen to me?

I work in advertising. It took me a long time to be able to say that. It’s not something I identify with—”advertising,” that is. I’m in it to disrupt it for the better. I’ve been publishing content online since around 1997, since the days of Angelfire, Tripod, and Geocities; since the client request of “Can we have an animated .gif on our homepage?” To which one would reply: “I’m not sure the modems will be able to handle it.”

I made my first website to publish interviews with hip hop artists that I liked at the time—underground ones. I’d network on IRC and ICQ, email my questions to them and put them up on a very ugly Geocities-hosted website. Within 2 years, I was hosting the main hip hop radio show in Sydney, Australia, and started publishing the first full color hip-hop magazine in the southern hemisphere: Stealth Magazine.

Since then, I’ve worked in digital agencies, dot-coms and advertising agencies. Most recently, I’ve been working with Aussie Bloggers Conference. One of the questions that Sarah Pietrzak asked was, “What should brands expect of bloggers and where do you see this relationship going?”

I started listing all the benefits that I see available from working with bloggers, and they fell politely into these four buckets.

1. Perception

What a marketer wants from you is to look better and more relevant to the people they’d like to sell to—as many as possible, too. Once they’ve finished a campaign, they will screengrab the blog posts and other media for a case study. They may use a sentiment analysis tool to establish the reach and positivity (hopefully) of what you made.

To be honest, this is where a lot of agency and marketing types finish. But it’s not enough in most cases. If I were their boss, I’d be asking about the results. This brings us to:

2. Action

What a marketer should really be measuring and focusing in on (at least in the medium term) is working with you to get people to do stuff. My perception of Bugaboo strollers is that they look and work great but they’re too expensive, so I wouldn’t buy one. Great perception, no action. Having said that not all actions have to be “sales.”

When I work with a brand over an extended period of time, the first step is about establishing credibility, respecting the existing communities, engaging with them. These are softer metrics—they will harden over time.

Examples of four common actions that you can sell:

  • sales: work out how you can sell their stuff directly within a matter of clicks
  • high-quality website visitors (defined by a conversion or engagement)
  • increasing their email/RSS subscribers, followers, fans
  • consumer reviews: no, not fake, astro-turfing stuff—legitimacy or nothing.

Now, if you want to be professional, you need to work out up-front exactly what you want to be held accountable for, and how to measure it. If you bring this rigor to your approach, you will get taken seriously, you’ll start having conversations with more senior people, and possibly get access to more serious budgets.

3. Contacts

This isn’t often something a marketer will ask for, as they may have a PR agency that gets paid to do this, but if you can act as a connector, then you have value to sell or exchange. You may connect them to other bloggers like you, bloggers not like you but with a potentially relevant audience, readers, media, event organizers, and so on.

4. Knowledge

Every brand is working out how to do this right. Business is typically a very alpha-male environment—things are rigid, political, and bureaucratic. And, yes, “male” more often than not. Marketers are always under the pump to prove they have something to offer—typically, the CEO is a sales or logistics guy, and the sales teams always tease the marketers about doing the fluffy stuff compared to their frontline activity. They have to compete for budget.

New leaders understand the values of transparency and vulnerability. These are values one needs to have to succeed in social (I believe). However, these values are not widespread—they involve admitting that you don’t know stuff, that you made an error, that you’re learning.

Some of the things you know that you can package:

  • what topics are hot-button topics in your community
  • how to talk, write and deal with your social media world
  • what ideas you believe are likely to succeed or flop.

How to get out of the monetization rat-race

If you’ve explored any of the ideas below, I’d love to know how it went. They all aim to set you apart from the rest by making you more of a strategic partner with a brand—not just a place for ads. It can take time to earn the trust of a brand to be able to implement it all. If you’re contemplating giving it a shot, have a go at doing one of these for free so that you can approach your key targets (and their competitors) with something in hand and a 30-minute offer to see it.

1. Research and research groups

Marketers spend thousands of dollars every year on research groups. The most common way to do this is to get eight people together in a research room with mirrored windows and for a facilitator to ask questions. Now, it’s important to realize that the people you recruit to these groups—if based on your audience and connections—will not be representative of the population at large, so don’t pretend they are.

How much money is there in this? A typical range would be $2500-$10,000 per group. The higher fees are charged when it’s harder to recruit people and they expect bigger incentives (e.g. doctors, CEOs).

Your costs? A venue, food, drinks, stationery (butcher’s paper, cards, pens), a projector, recording the session (video, audio), phone calls, incentives (for 60-90 minutes, you may pay $50-$70), printing of disclaimer forms, and your travel.

How can you make money?

  • Bring your audience together for your own research groups.
  • Bring bloggers together for a research group (incentives will cost more).
  • Create your own side-business focusing on a handful of key audiences that you can credibly claim to know better than anyone else and have ready access to.
  • Undertake depth interviews, where you spend a day with a person and document everything relevant.
  • Complete desk research, preparing white papers that pull together audience-specific trends (what they like, where they are, how they communicate, with text, photos and/or videos).

2. Online surveys

Marketers often conduct surveys about their brand, competitors, trends in the market, ideas, and advertising. They use online research companies who may have built up a database through cheap banner ads.

How much money is there in this? It depends on the speed of turnaround required, the number of people they need, and the dashboard/tools and analytics you’re offering. My gut feeling is that a typical bit of online research and interpretation would be worth $5,000-$20,0000.

Your costs? If you have ready access to an audience, your costs would simply be in the technology plus your time to make it all happen, perhaps an email blast if you don’t use free tools.

How can you make money? By producing:

  • fast-turnaround surveys based on hot topics—especially brand-specific topics (e.g. if a brand gets bagged out by a celebrity, perhaps you can run a survey about sentiment and seek ideas about what to do)
  • rolling surveys: a survey that repeats itself, capturing data about the same questions every few months
  • bespoke surveys: when needed, when asked for (but don’t be scared to suggest)
  • Facebook insights, polls, surveys (although Facebook may not appreciate it)

3. Conversions

Instead of selling blanket advertising space, what about selling more relevant and useful space on pages that tend to convert well or get a lot of quality search traffic? Obviously, you don’t want to cut off your nose to spite your face and stop selling your own products to do this, but, again, it positions you as someone who takes how you work with brands seriously. Offering deep links with correct title tags is another little bonus you can throw in.

How much money is there in this? You’d either charge per acquisition (trial, sale, registration, fan, follow), by the impression or by time period.

Your costs? It depends how you do it—they’d range from simply time to upload images/text through to costs associated with creating high quality content.

How can you make money? By providing:

  • video content that helps them sell better and fits with your values ($500-$20,000 depending on quality, if they are allowed to re-purpose and syndicate the video, etc)
  • a whitepaper or ebook on behalf of the brand ($1000 to $10,000 depending on design, contributors)
  • designing good performing advertising ($200-$20,000 depending on what’s required and how much is required, whether they can use it elsewhere)
  • additional pages on your website: there’s no reason for advertising to have to lead away from your site when people are at your site to stay on your site
  • advice about how a brand should optimize their landing pages for your audiences (if you know; also a research opportunity).

4. Shortcuts via statistics, data and numbers

This is a combination of a few points above, but if you do your own research, you can re-package it all and re-sell it. Your sources may include: website analytics, search behavior (keyword search volumes, trends, seasonality, geography), bit.ly analytics, PostRank, Twitter, social bookmarking websites, and so on. With this data, you’ll help brands understand what content, which headlines, what time of day, and which days work. You may build a report on who comments the most, who Stumbles, how people use the key, relevant Facebook pages.

How much money is there in this? This sort of data is very precious. You could shortcut a brand to beat you at your own game if you’re not careful. If you did an annual report, you could try to charge a few thousand dollars for it, but you may need to collaborate with an existing research company. Perhaps the value in this is really to only share it with senior marketers and CEOs (to be honest, I’d use this directly only, not with agencies).

Your costs? Your time, perhaps you can buy others’ research to use in your own (transparently), perhaps a venue to present your findings to key targets.

How can you make money?

  • You’d possibly use this tactic as a way to set up selling everything else.
  • You could sell a teaser (a top-ten list, for example) and then sell other services to unlock the rest.

5. Affiliate marketing

This is something I’m exploring: how to help brands that are typically sold in supermarkets sell online on your blogs. Brands have guns at their heads right now. The chain stores and big supermarkets have so much power: they bully price changes, and reduce shelf positioning, all while introducing their own competing home brands. If you can solve this problem, you win.

How much money is there in this? What did Groupon sell for?

Your costs? How much did Groupon cost to make?

How can you make money? How does Groupon make money?

In all seriousness, there are free tools out there to help you do this—you just need to work out the logistics with the brand (that is, delivery), as well as how to make them feel that the big stores won’t come for payback.

6. Talent and representation

Like everyone else, you have blogging friends. Like everyone else, you’re getting approached by PR companies, agencies and marketers. Like everyone else, you think it could all be done much better. Well, do something about it! Set up your own company and systems to help your friends get paid more doing stuff they want to do and help the people with the money achieve their goals.

How much money is there in this? If you’re serious about this, then it’s a completely new business for you so the possibilities (and risks) are as big you want them to be.

Your costs? Time, legal fees, business setup costs, and so on—unless you can trial the idea using firm handshakes as contract-makers.

How can you make money?

  • Coordinate book proposals with publishers you’ve built up relationships with.
  • Talent agency for advertising agencies.
  • Event-speaking representation.

7. Band your ads together

You could also set up your own ad network via Adify. You’d need to work hard to establish credibility and scale. You’d also need to decide whether you will do the sales or whether you’ll hire or outsource that responsibility. Either way, it’s worth exploring.

What do you think?

If you have questions, need clarity, want to collaborate or simply debate … let me know in the comments.

Mark Pollard blogs about account planning, digital strategy and Twitter and Facebook.

Blog Monetization Outside the Box

This guest post is by Matthew Kepnes of Nomadic Matt’s Travel Site.

Someone once told me that the only way to make money with a blog is to sell massive amounts of text links. “There’s no other way,” he said, and he was resolute in his opinion.

I couldn’t change his mind, so I just listened and nodded my head. I didn’t bother to argue, even though I knew he was wrong. I know plenty of people who make money online and they don’t do it by selling text links. Yet lots of people seem to think that the only way to make money with a blog is through text link sales. When I hear people say this, I often think to myself, “You only think this way because you aren’t thinking outside the box. You aren’t being creative enough.”

Don’t get me wrong. Text links can be good money. I’ve sold text links in the past, and I know many sites that still do. Those sites still rank highly in Google, and they still have good PageRank. Sites that sell text links are controversial, especially after the JC Penny controversy, and I won’t get into whether or not you should sell text links.

This post is about a larger issue: the idea that without text links, you can’t make money online. I think that is a great fallacy and it is a line of thinking that is perpetually argued by those who are stuck in the box.

Outside the box

When most people think of the phrase, “think outside the box,” they imagine a big boardroom of people brainstorming the next big idea. There’s some guy at the head of the table going, “Come on, people, we need to think outside the box on this one!” and then everyone at the table looks around nervously at each other, unsure of what to do.

However, thinking outside the box, as contrived of a statement maybe, is the only way to succeed with a blog.

When most people think of monetization, they think AdSense, sponsored posts, affiliate sales, or text links. But the biggest sites in the world don’t use any of those techniques. They get more creative than that.

Let me give you two examples.

First, take a site like Zen Habits by Leo Babuta. It’s a popular site on simple living that probably gets over 500,000 visitors per month. But it didn’t start that way. Leo grew the site every day, and he has made it a point to never sell advertising on the site. It is completely ad-free, and his site eventually allowed him to quit his job and focus on what he loved doing.

So what is on his site? Ebooks. Leo created a trusted brand and now people buy his books to learn more. The site even got him a real, physical-book deal. By focusing on delivering what his readers wanted, Leo was able to develop a following of loyal fans that supported him by buying his products.

Everyone has an ebook these days, but the most successful ebooks are completely unique. For example, everyone seems to have an ebook on how to travel the world these days, but I decided to think outside of the box. I launched a new ebook that offers a bit of a spin on the traditional travel ebook by lining up travel companies and offering exclusive discounts in the book worth over $700 USD. Now, my book is more than just another travel book on the internet. I found something people weren’t doing, I did it, and I also created a better way for my readers to save money.

Secondly, look at the lifecaster, iJustine. All she does is video-blog her life. She didn’t just start a website and think, “I’m going to sell text ads.” No, she did something unique and cutting-edge. She thought outside the box. (And the fact that she is a beautiful blonde certainly helps!) She started doing crazy stuff online like singing and dancing in Apple stores and she got a great following. Now, she gets sponsorships and speaking deals. (After all, you can’t put text links on YouTube!)

Take guest blogging, for example. I focus on travel, but this isn’t a travel site. I guest blog on finance blogs, life hacking sites, and a wide range of other topics. I do this to leverage my knowledge into other fields, because, after all, everyone likes to travel and everyone likes to save money. So when I blog on other niches, I let people know I’m an expert in travel to people who would never have come into my own niche on their own. But many bloggers never do this. They only stay in their niche—but if you do this, you have nowhere to grow. Think laterally. Blog in niches that are similarly related. Don’t always get stuck in your niche.

Experimentation pays

It’s important to continue acting outside of the box. You should always be trying something new. In the words of Thomas Edison, “I didn’t fail; I just tried 1,000 ways that didn’t work.” You must be willing to experiment, take risks, and lose in order to finally win. I’ve tried Facebook ads, AdWords, guest posting, using AdSense, not using AdSense, Facebook ads again, different hostel booking engines, and flight engines in order to see what works and what doesn’t. I’ll try new products and services. I am always testing. I’m always experimenting to find that perfect mix.

If you limit the online game to text links and banner ads, you will fail. My friend is right. You won’t make any money. Even with over 100,000 visitors a month, I still have trouble attracting banner ads. The ad space in travel just isn’t there yet. So I got creative, I found ways to expand my audience beyond just travel blogs, and I figured out how to expand my income beyond text ads. I experimented. I tried. I failed. I keep trying. I keep failing. I keep experimenting. And in the long run, I succeed.

There are many ways to make it online. Those who have made it have done it by bucking conventional wisdom and thinking outside the box. They got creative. They went right when everyone was going left. If you also want to make it with your blog, you must do the same. Narrow thinking won’t help you last on the Internet. Be bold. Be daring. And when you are, you’ll be successful.

Do you think outside the box when it comes to monetizing your blog? Let us know in the comments.

Matthew Kepnes has been traveling around the world for the past four years. He runs the award winning budget travel site, Nomadic Matt’s Travel Site and has been featured in The New York Times, The Guardian UK, AOL’s Wallet Pop, and Yahoo! Finance. He currently writes for AOL Travel and The Huffington Post For more information, you can visit his Facebook page or sign up for his RSS feed.

Ditch the Job Mentality and Develop an Entrepreneurial Mindset

This guest post is by Caz Makepeace of y Travel Blog.

Having success in the blogging world is attributed in large part to your own thinking and the mindset that you bring to this new avenue of making money.

Most people arrive here wanting to break free from the rut of a nine-to-five job that they’re no longer passionate about. The hours are long, the work is never-ending, and the pay is poor. Huh! On second thoughts, it sounds very similar to the beginnings of blogging.

What many people don’t realize is that the major hindrance to success in their blogging niche has nothing to do with technique or value, but with the job mentality that they have brought along with them.

Crossing over from a job to blogging is not just a physical move—it also involves a complete change in your mindset. It is a completely different world to what you’re used to in the cubicle farm. I often see arguments break out online which immediately make me wonder whether the people involved have an entrepreneurial mindset or a job mentality.

To cross over to the entrepreneurial world, you need to adopt the following ways of thinking.

Change is evolution

Job people become stuck in the way things are done, and always have been done. They are used to rules, schedules, and procedures. When they cross over into the blogging world, they discover that the rules have changed—and often, they can’t handle it.

Entrepreneurs understand that in the business world, the rules are always changing and if you don’t evolve with them, you’re going to die.

The major arguments that always emerge within the travel blogging community arise between those from the journalistic world and those bloggers whose success has had less to do with their linguistic ability than with their ability to market and network.

Really I just want to shout, “Listen up! The rules have changed. You are not in the journalist world any more. You are in the online world. The place where degrees and awards don’t matter. Anyone can start a website and have massive success with it. Whether you like it or not, doesn’t count. This is the reality of online marketing and building your own business. You either become an entrepreneur and adapt to the new world, or you sink—fast.”

How many highly successful entrepreneurs do you know who were never great at school and didn’t get a college degree? Let’s see. There’s Bill Gates, Andrew Carnegie, Walt Disney, Richard Branson … They have gotten where they are because of their entrepreneurial mindset. Entrepreneurs don’t try to fit the square peg into the round hole—they become a round peg instead.

Think big

Entrepreneurs think big and focus on the ultimate vision of what they are doing. They think outside of the box to look for new and unique ways to be successful and make money. They do not follow the herd. They watch and learn, and then say, “How can I make this better? How can I do this in a different, yet bigger way?” When you think outside the box, you create things that make you move above the crowd.

Job people concentrate only on the tasks at hand, and follow what most other people are doing. They are not used to focusing on the bigger picture as it has never been their vision to worry about. Bringing that limitation over to the entrepreneurial world can stifle your creativity and restrict your ability to handle and solve the many challenges that will arise.

Quitting becomes an easier option. Entrepreneurs know that the road to eventual wealth and success can be long and difficult, and the bigger vision helps move them through that period.

One of my favorite Donald Trump quotes is, “If you are going to be thinking anyway, you might as well be thinking big.” If you think small, you receive small.

We began our travel blogging world with the intention not to make a few ad bucks here and there, but to look towards a bigger picture that can lead us to earning vast amounts of income from many different sources. This bigger picture has an impact our strategy.

We haven’t made much money from our blog yet, and we’e okay with that. We have had success with the bigger picture we have focused on: building our brand and online presence, building a strong community, and networking with the right people. That will become our springboard for future projects that will bring in bigger rewards.

Self-promotion

I know people who are afraid to hand out their business cards, or tell people who they are and what they do. When you are able to do that confidently, you have made a big jump over into the entrepreneurial mindset.

No one is going to promote you for you. No one is going to care about what you have to offer more than you.

If you want to have success in an entrepreneurial world, you have to learn to promote yourself. Think of all the big brand people you know: Richard Branson, Donald Trump, Oprah Winfrey. What are all these people good at? Self-promotion.

Entrepreneurs are willing to do whatever it takes. Hand out those business cards, shake that person’s hand, and speak confidently about what you do and how you can offer value to others. Invite people to check out your website and connect with you via your networks. Share your work and successes.

You are guaranteed to receive criticism for doing this. Concentrate on your bigger picture and understand the criticism comes from those who want to do what you do, but have not yet broken free from the job mentality.

Networking is vital

Job mentality people tend to call this a “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” kind of deal, and in some ways it is. But, in my entrepreneur mind, I never see it as being the case that if I do something for you, you have to do something for me in return.

It has more to do with building relationships and from those, interacting with those you like and trust. A natural extension of a relationship with someone you like and trust is to read their work, use their products, and recommend them to others. People do business with those they like and trust, just as they are friends with those they like and trust. There’s nothing shady about it.

Entrepreneurs immediately start building their networks of professional and business contacts. They understand the power and truth in the saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

Networking is not just about what others can do for you, but what you can do for others. Being an entrepreneur means helping out others and providing value when you can. It means creating a mastermind group of people you can share and bounce ideas off of. You don’t hold your cards to your chest for fear of losing out and having others rise to the top over you.

Learn from those you want to be like

In the job world, we are taught that to move up the ladder and get that much-desired promotion, we need to prove we are better than the rest. It becomes a dog-eat-dog world: the knives come out and we are prepared to stomp all over those beside us in order to get to the finish line first.

Entrepreneurs have the intention to be the best at what they do; they are competitive and like to win. But, they know they don’t have to destroy others in the process. They understand that we each have a unique perspective or value that we can offer.

They understand that the best way to get to the top is to learn from those who are where you want to be. They don’t look at the person in the mansion on the hill and feel jealous. Instead, they find out that person’s name, they give them a call, and they say, “Hey. I really like what you have achieved. I want to be like you. How can I learn what you know?

And usually that successful entrepreneur replies, “Well, how about we meet up for coffee and I can go over a few things with you?”

Entrepreneurs understand the concept of abundance. They understand what it takes to get to the top and they are more than happy to take the time to help someone do the same. As with everything in life, there will always be anomalies, but I have never met an entrepreneur yet who I have not had an interaction with that’s similar to what I have just described.

Making money is a good thing

“I think it’s scammy … dirty. I don’t want to ask for it. I feel funny asking for freebies.” These are just some of the comments I hear thrown around in the blogging world when it comes to making money.

I recently stayed in a hostel in Sydney free. It wasn’t really free, because in return for that I tweeted about the hostel the whole time I was there. I wrote a really great review of the place. I also wrote a couple of other spin-off articles on my site that linked to that piece. I promoted it through my social sites.

I had at least six people say to me that they would definitely stay in this hostel when they come to Sydney. That was on the day it was published, and from those who spoke. But let’s keep it at six and say that for one night’s stay in the dorm room where it costs $40, the hostel would earn $240. It cost them $140 to give us a private room for the night. We made them money.

Entrepreneurs think like this. They believe they can offer value and know they deserve to be rewarded for it. Because of this, they are not afraid to ask for the money and they don’t believe it’s dirty when they get it. They approach all transactions from a win-win perspective and there’s nothing bad about this.

On a similar level, I hear many bloggers say they feel they are selling out on their readers by selling advertising. Really? If your readers expect you to spend countless hours every day writing valuable content that informs and entertains, without receiving any compensation for it, then you need to get new readers.

Do you think they feel the same way when they pick up a magazine, a newspaper, or turn on the TV? Why do people think that when you enter the blogging world, suddenly you should start writing and work for nothing? If you have a job mentality then you may not get past these uncomfortable feelings of “selling out.”

You are doing this for the passion—yes! But you are also doing this for the income you originally craved so you could start living your life by your desires.

Think like an entrepreneur: “There is nothing wrong with making money. Making money enables me to move forward and grow, so I can in turn provide more value.”

If this article has struck a raw nerve with you, then ask yourself, “Could this perhaps be a sign that I have not yet crossed over?” Well … have you crossed over?

Caz Makepeace has been travelling and living around the world since 1997. Along with her husband Craig they are the founders of y Travel Blog. You can visit her Facebook Fan Page or sign up for herRSS Feed.

How to Create an Instant Yes

This guest post is by Goddess Leonie of GoddessGuidebook.com.

Over the last three years, I’ve launched fifteen rounds of ecourses, four meditation kits, and two workbooks. It’s been a delicious combination of spectacular, exciting, and exhausting.

The thing about my business is that I adore creating new products. I love love love helping people. I need to make it as profitable as possible so I can support my sweet family and keep doing this thing that I love. But, oh gosh, I was so, so tired of launching products endlessly to reach my income goals.

Is anyone else tired of the launch process? All that marketing. All the deadlines. All the talking about it. All the effort to try and get people to see the value in what you’ve produced, and say “yes” to it. The sales pages, the tweet campaigns, the sequence mailing list emails. How on Earth do we find the balance between making money and not overdosing the ones you love the most—your clients and yourself—on the thing you do?

I knew there had to be a better way. I’m kind of a renegade that way. And as these things happen, there was.

Now, full disclosure time here: I’m a hippy. I make a living being a Goddess. So it’s totally, totally normal for me to come up with business ideas and strategies in my dreams. Which, of course, the Instant Yes did.

One night in the moments between nursing my newborn daughter back to sleep, I dreamed a dream. I got told to offer all my ecourses, all my meditation kits, all my workbooks—everything I had created over three years, and everything I was going to create for the next year. And I got told how to price it: $99 for a year’s access to over $600 worth of my stuff.

When I asked why I needed to do all this, my dream elders just said:

You want people to say “yes.” Without hesitation. With tremendous ease. Just: “I see what you are offering. It will help me beyond any doubt. Yes.”

So I listened, and they were right. Over 500 Yeses later, my Instant Yes has become the linchpin and the perfect income source for my business.

There is tremendous power and beauty to the Instant Yes. It means crafting an offer that is as simple as saying “Oh heck yes!” to. Without hesitation. Without concern. Without needing to be pushed or launched or funneled or marketed. All I need to do is turn up. Write. Create. Do the things that I was born to do. And my clients turn up, and say “yes.”

How can you craft an Instant Yes in your business? There are three elements to an Instant Yes.

1. It’s inexpensive

My program is super-affordable. Something clients can easily say yes to. And those who can’t? I created monthly subscription payments using Paypal, and offered that too.

Questions to ask yourself:

  1. How can you make your offer affordable?
  2. What would they say yes to?
  3. How can you offer payment plans?
  4. How can you make it as easy as possible for as many people as possible to say “yes?”

2. It’s generous

I wanted to be able to give my clients absoolutely everything I had that could help them. My program gives away not just everything I had created, but everything I was going to create as well. Wildly generous. Everything my goddesses could want, I’ve given to them. Easily, it’s a yes!

Questions to ask yourself:

  1. How much can you give your clients?
  2. Why not give it all away?

3. It’s wanted

I already knew my tribe wanted a permanent membership home. They were asking for it again and again. And I knew my products were popular and needed. I decided to combine the two and fill the need.

Questions to ask yourself:

  1. What do my people ask for?
  2. What would I want from me?

How can I make what I offer as Yes-able as possible?

In Twitter-speak, if you want an Instant Yes, make it:

Affordable. With payment plans. Be wildly generous. Give your people what they are asking for.

Thus, the Instant Yes. Personally, I think I’m starting a revolution. I wish more online businesses would do the same—offer everything they have for under $100. Launch less. Produce more. Market less. Let the clients flood in, and let their creativity out.

Have you offered your blog readers an Instant Yes? Let us know about it in the comments.

Goddess Leonie is the creator of the upcoming Business Goddess course and GoddessGuidebook.com, a popular creativity and spirituality blog for women.

Is Advertising Revenue Dead as a Blogging Income Stream?

Earlier in the week I observed a conversation between two Internet marketing bloggers on Twitter which grabbed my attention.

The topic of conversation? Monetizing blogs by selling advertising directly to advertisers.

Their conclusion on the topic? It’s a dead and obsolete method of making money.

It was a fascinating conversation to observe. They gave some solid-sounding reasons for their conclusions, including:

  1. There’s been a decrease in the budgets that companies are putting into marketing (due to the economy).
  2. There’s much more money to be made in selling your own products and services.
  3. Advertising, by its very nature, sends people away from your blog, to advertisers’ sites.
  4. Online banner ads don’t convert and just distract people from what you are on about.
  5. Selling ads directly to advertisers takes too much time and administration.

As I watched the conversation unfold I found myself agreeing with some of these points, however I also wondered if they might also be writing off an income stream that need not be mutually exclusive to other forms of income.

In my own experience of making money online, advertising has always been a part of my income mix. In the early days, it made up 95% of that mix (too much, to my mind), but even today it remains an important element for me. (Advertising made up around 24% of my income in December if you include direct ad sales and ad network income.)

Let me explain the reasons why I think it’s worthwhile to keep advertising in your mix.

The economy: rebounding more strongly for online advertising?

In talking to a number of bloggers who rely heavily upon advertising revenue, I would agree with the assessment that in many niches there seems to have been a contraction in the amounts companies are spending on their advertising. However I do know of bloggers who have seen an increase in spending in some niches.

Also, as we see the economy improve, I suspect we’ll see money return to advertising budgets—particularly in the online space. Companies are realizing the potential of online media to reach target audiences and get conversions. I suspect we’ll see online advertising bounce back bigger than it was before the Global Financial Crisis.

Your own products and services

I completely agree that bloggers should be looking at ways of developing their own products and services. I’ve written about how I’ve done this myself on numerous occasions over the couple of years, however I do think it’s possible to do this in conjunction with running advertisements on your blog.

In my own experience of blogging—particularly on Digital Photography School—I’ve found there’s a limit to how many of your own product/s you can promote on your blog.

While we sometimes talk about the “ad blindness” of readers to the advertising we run, I suspect the same can be said about blindness to your own products. If all you ever do is promote your own products, readers can switch off from those messages. Mixing things up with other people’s messages (whether they’re advertising or affiliate promotions) can actually keep things fresh (to some point).

Get creative with what you offer advertisers

I also think there’s a variety of other creative ways to weave advertising into what you do as a blogger—without just slapping banner ads everywhere. For example, a couple of things we’ve experimented with offering advertisers on dPS include:

  • Sponsored competitions: here, an advertiser sponsors a competition on your blog. They provide a prize, you highlight their products, and you earn income for giving them that publicity
  • Newsletter advertising: one of the surprises to me in the last year is that we’ve found advertisers willing to pay more for ads in our newsletters than for banner ads
  • Sponsored content: by this I don’t mean that we sell space on our blog for companies to actually write their own content—or even for us to review their posts. Rather what we’re exploring with companies is to have them sponsor particular posts. For example, a company might sponsor a series of posts on a topic related to its industry. They’d have no influence on the actual content—they’d simply be mentioned in the intro to the post as the sponsor of that post.

The above options just scratch the surface of what can be offered to an advertiser—particularly as part of a bundle of sponsorship opportunities.

What I’ve found is that when an advertiser buys multiple points of presence on a blog, rather than just a CPM banner ad, they’re much more likely to get conversions, and renew as an ongoing advertiser.

Is advertising revenue still in your income mix?

I’d be interested to hear if ad revenue is a focus for you. Whether you’re using an ad network like AdSense, or you directly sell ads or sponsorships, do you focus upon it?

Mastering the Moments that Matter

This post was written by the Web Marketing Ninja—a professional online marketer for a major web brand, who’s sharing his tips undercover here at ProBlogger. Curious? So are we!

Ask any seasoned marketer which is easier—finding new customers, or selling to existing ones—and you’ll always hear the same answer: it’s easier to sell to people who’ve already bought from you.

Ask what’s the most powerful form of marketing, and nine times out of ten you’ll hear the answer, “word of mouth referrals.”

Yet still so many marketers fail to focus on being exceptional on both fronts.

Delighting your customers in such that they’re likely to buy more stuff from you, and—even better—tell all their friends how cool you are, isn’t rocket science. It’s all about mastering the moments that matter.

What’s a moment that matters?

Let’s image you go to the same cafe for lunch every single day. Today, you order a slice of pizza.  You slice arrives and you dig in.  After the first mouthful you realized that the pizza is cold, so you flag down the waiter.   What happens next is a moment that matters…

  • The good: The waiter apologizes and organizes a new slice of pizza post haste.
  • The bad: The waiter sticks his finger in your slice, says “There’s nothing wrong with this pizza,” and walks away.
  • The magic: The waiter apologizes, organizes another slice, organizes another round of drinks for you and your friends, and slips you a voucher to come back tomorrow so they can make it up to you.

Which of these outcomes do you thing is likely to drive repeat business and a customer referral?

Moments that matter for bloggers

As bloggers, we’ve got a mountain of moments that matter.  Here are just a few…

  • First impressions: Does your content make an impact?  Is it relevant to what visitors expect they’re going to be reading about? What types of ads are appearing on your site? Do they benefit a reader or will they leave a bad impression?  Do you encourage engagement with, and promotion of, your content?
  • Trust and email addresses: When someone trusts you with their email, do you honor that trust not to share it or spam them with irrelevant messages?  If you promise something in your newsletter do you deliver?  Do you allow people to unsubscribe if they wish to?
  • First conversation: If someone reaches out to engage you in a conversation with a comment, an email, or even face to face, do you ignore them, acknowledge them, or make the extra effort to make them feel special?
  • First purchase: If someone decides to spend money with you, does their dollar deliver what is promised? If it doesn’t, will you return their money? Will fulfillment of the product purchase be seamless and will their details be protected?
  • When something goes wrong: When something goes wrong, how quick will you react and how will you turn a frustrated customer into your strongest advocate?

How you perform in each of these moments can have a long lasting effect on a customer.  You can’t make everyone happy, but if 100 people tell five of their friends about your product, that could mean 500 new sales, and if you repeat the performance with those 500, you could be looking at an extra 2,500 sales.

If you’re selling a $20 product, that’s $50,000 extra in your pocket.

If you want to make money the easy way, then referrals and happy customers are important. How do you rate on the moments that matter? I’ve shared five moments that I think matter for bloggers, but I’m sure there are more.  I’d love to hear from your own experience how you’ve turned a good situation into a great one by mastering the moments that matter.

Stay tuned from most posts by the secretive Web Marketing Ninja — a professional online marketer for a major web brand, who’s sharing his tips undercover here at ProBlogger.

My January and February Blogging Income Breakdown

Today I spent some time looking at my monthly income figures. I wasn’t quite sure how the stats would look for January and February.

  • On one hand, after the record month I had back in December, I had a feeling things would look a little down by comparison.
  • On the other hand, we launched a new ebook on my photography blog late in January/early February, which saw a rise in ebook sales. If we’d launched that ebook all in one month, I suspect that month would have rivaled December, but as we did it over Jan/Feb the income is also spread out.

Here are the monthly trends in the different income streams (click to enlarge):

monthly-blogging-income.png

While both months were certainly down on December, it’s good to see that the upward trend we’ve had since last September continues. February is now our second-highest month in revenue ever, and ebook sales over the launch period of the most recent ebook would have eclipsed the spike in June (which was previously our most successful launch).

Note: “continuity” includes membership sites like ProBlogger.com and Third Tribe Marketing.

Here are the monthly splits of income:

blog income jan 11.png
blog income feb11.png

While affiliate income was the resounding winner in December, ebook sales took the #1 position for both January and February. Interestingly, we’ve seen a real shift in the revenue stream in #1 position over the last four months:

  • November: AdSense
  • December: affiliate income
  • January-February: ebook sales.

This only reinforces what I’ve been saying for months now: the income streams do vary from month to month depending upon seasonal factors, promotional activities, and so on.

Also worth noting was the big swing in direct ad sales in February. This is partly due to us not getting as many invoices paid in January (where they made up a very small amount of revenues), but it’s also a trend I suspect will continue for us. This is partly due to an increased effort to sell ads, but it could also be influenced by the increased budget going into advertising with the economy on the upswing a little.

Also note: I’ve now started calling the grey category “other.” It includes speaking, book royalties, courses, etc.—none of which are significant enough to really warrant a category of their own.