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From Blog to Profitable Business in Four Steps

This guest post is by Michael Chibuzor of Content Marketing Up.

Let’s face it: updating your blog on a daily basis doesn’t necessarily make you smart. It might be helpful, but there is more to blogging than writing.

How about doing this online “thing” as if it’s a real business? A brick and mortar business?

I strongly believe you could turn a profit easily if you change your mindset and style.

Of course, you’ll continuously write quality content—after all, that’s what your readers need. But turning your blog into a real-life business would help you connect, share, and breathe life into your blog.

It’s about productivity that leads to profit.

You need confidence to win

There are good reasons why you need confidence in your business. Confidence electrifies you and your readers, and prompts action. Entrepreneurs are risk-takers, yet many bloggers may decide to hang on to outdated principles instead of challenging the status quo.

But we can change that.

With all the noise in the blogosphere, it takes extra wit to attract targeted readers and build a tribe. Without confidence, you won’t be able to organize and manage your business.

You need to challenge yourself to take responsibility.

If you want to build a profitable blog, you must run it like an offline business. You need to master:

  • organization and management
  • customer service
  • social etiquette
  • profit

Those are the four essential factors in building a successful offline business—but they’re extremely beneficial to blogging, too. Are you ready to explore?

1. Organization and management

Jesus picked up twelve men from the bottom ranks of business and forged them into an organization that conquered the world.—Bruce Barton

“How do I get more people to trust me?” many bloggers ask.

Trust isn’t a one-off decision. You need to be consistent and build trust over time. As you interact with the target audience and provide valuable information, your readers will start to take your words to heart.

That is why you need to organize and manage your blog. A well organized and managed blog will soon become the go-to resource for your target prospects and readers.

First, you need to organize and manage your time. Use your time wisely. Your blog attracts people who have needs. They want answers. Use the limited time at your disposal to focus on answering your readers’ questions, and outsource the other tasks to professionals.

The easiest and most lucrative way to stay organized is to outsource. Before I launched my first ebook, I didn’t understand outsourcing one bit. I had to do the entire task myself—market research, keyword research, cover design, writing, and marketing. As a result, my blog suffered, and my engagement with my audience was broken. I also observed a drop in daily traffic and comments.

Like offline businesses, on your blog, the management (that’s you) is responsible for delegation. Use outsourcing as a corporation uses its departments, and your blog will grow and produce better results. Identify your greatest strengths. Outsource the other tasks (find freelancers at Odesk and Elance).

You don’t have to be a jack-of-all-trades to succeed online.

2. Customer service

We’re so used to customers in the offline business, but bloggers often don’t recognize who our customers are online.

Your readers are your customers, and how you treat them is important to your success.

It’s your responsibility to respect your readers and visitors. Address them by name and reply to their comments with the proper salutation. When someone comes to your site, they should feel that you care. They don’t have to be strangers—at least, not any more.

Create an environment of warmth with prospects and readers. When you give away valuable ebooks or software, or something that will make readers remember you, you’re building a solid relationship.When you send a quote to a prospect, send a gift, too. No matter how small it looks, it’ll create a bond between you and your target audience.

Also, your readers need to know what’s happening at your blog. If you’ll be making changes, you should notify them beforehand. Surprises are good, but not at the detriment of your business. And when there’s a complaint, accept it peacefully and with good humor. See your readers as your friends.

Good customer service can boost your online business and expose you to a world of opportunities.

3. Social etiquette

You can’t help it—you’ve achieved so much in life, and feel a bit fulfilled. Perhaps you have a slight tendency to brag when you blog. But is this healthy for your audience? I don’t think so.

Social etiquette is an attitude. It requires you to look at your personal life, and consider how you bring it to the table as a blogger. Those who don’t share, communicate, and help others have problems with their lives. The problem isn’t the blog or the business—it’s their personal life.

If you focus on helping people, there won’t be a room for bragging. Your level of blogging success today is directly proportional to the value you create. So change your approach and focus on readers, their problems, and how you can help.

That’s how you can use etiquette to make your blog a profitable business.

4. Profit from your blog

As your blog grows into a business and you build its uniqueness, you’ll begin to attract high-paying prospects and outstanding offers. Are you prepared for the opportunities your blogging business could create?

Blogging offers different opportunities to profit. When you visit my content marketing blog, you won’t find an affiliate banner or link. I sell my writing services and generate enough income to pay my bills. And guess what? I didn’t apply for any writing job; I was contacted directly by entrepreneurs because they discovered I was business-minded.

Land a job

Perhaps you’d like a secure, and well-paid job. If that’s the case, running your blog like a real business can be of help. I’ve worked with a human resource firm prior to running my online business. Employers were looking for hard working, passionate, confident go-getters who could help reach the organization’s goals.

Most bloggers don’t have these qualities. They see a blog as a tool, rather than the true business that it is. Are you confident to put your blog’s URL on your resume? If not, consider running it more like a business that you can be proud of.

You’ve seen blogs featured at CNN, Fox News, and so forth. Those are no half-baked blogs—they’re manned by savvy entrepreneurs. If they can do it, why shouldn’t you?

Monetize your blog

Most blogs have no product to sell, but they’re updated regularly. I once asked a blogger friend of mine, “Why don’t you monetize your blog?”

“I don’t want to chase my readers away,” he replied.

Who says selling chases readers away? Monetizing a blog is as important as setting up and updating the blog. Without this, people won’t take you seriously. You’ll be regarded as a newbie at worst, and an amateur at best.

Sell a product

Selling a product or offering a service via your blog won’t annoy readers, provided it’s valuable and offers practical solutions to their problems.

If you decide to monetize with affiliate offers, be honest in your reviews. Let readers know you’ll earn commissions when they buy via your affiliate link. This helps to build credibility and shows that you genuinely want to help them.

If you decide to create your own product, spend time with your audience so that you can understand what they need, and build a product that truly delivers.

Do you see your blog as a real business … or “just a blog”?  Is it time you changed your philosophy? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Michael Chibuzor is an entrepreneur, a freelance writer and the founder of Make Money Hi. Are you looking for a creative writer to help grow your site/blog’s traffic and increase sales? Hire Michael to write for you. He loves the color Red. He’s 23 years old and likes to meet new people.

Resources for Selling Consulting Through Your Blog

As Ash explained in her post today, using blogging as a platform from which to sell consulting services can be effective and lucrative.

Blogging has long been respected as a method for supporting offline businesses, but as the potential of blogging in general has evolved, so too have the options for those using blogs to sell services.

If you’re interested in finding out more about this business model, have a look at these articles:

Also, don’t forget our series, Build Blog Products that Sell, and ProBlogger’s Guide to Blogging for Your Business—these resources are detailed practical guides that will really help those looking to sell consulting and other services through a business blog.

What other resources and articles do you know of that can help those trying to sell consulting services through their blog? Share them with us in the comments.

Blog Business Model 6: Sell Consulting Services

This post is by Ash Ambirge of The Middle Finger Project.

It’s the sixth and final post in our series on Blog Business Models.

I’m well-mannered, I like pearls, intelligent opinions, and fine French cheeses. (Ditto fine French wine.) (And fine French men.*)

Ash's copyrwiting service

A promotion for Ash's copyrwiting service

I also happen to run a six-figure blog and business called The Middle Finger Project.

As in the bad finger. The vulgar one. The one that angry New York drivers, hormone-laden teenagers and Roseanne Barr use regularly.

And, apparently, me. The overly polite one with the master’s degree who considers herself educated and knows when to use which stupid little fork when.

I won’t attempt to explain this blaring contradiction, but what I will tell you is this: success online comes with confidence accompanied by an opinion you’re willing to fight for, and having a business named like I do implies both.

Certainly those aren’t the only factors, but they’re two of the most important—you can try to be as “useful” as possible, as the standard advice goes, but if you’re lacking confidence—or an authoritative spine—no one will care about you.

And if no one cares about you, you don’t have a blog—or a business.

Right there—there’s an opinion of mine. You can take it or leave it, but one thing’s for sure—you’re listening.

And really that’s the first step in building a successful blog that sells your consulting business—wrangling some attention. And then learning how to keep it. And then learning how to leverage it.

The Middle Finger Project started as just that—a platform for attention. It wasn’t developed as a business first, and a blog later—the platform began as a blog, and quite deliberately. And the reason is because you need attention first and foremost: if no one’s listening, no one’s buying. Particularly in the online space.

I should know; I’ve tried both. In 2006 I opened my first copywriting business, sans blog. Blogging wasn’t even on my radar at the time, quite unfortunately, and that business quickly plummeted to a gory, bloody, bone-shattering demise. Closed-casket style.

It failed because no one knew about me.

But realistically, it failed because I didn’t make anyone know about me.

I had if-you-build-it-they-will-come syndrome, and I still see a lot of that around these days, too. It’s not intentional, of course, but we all get so excited about our businesses, and think the world will share our excitement as soon as we open our doors.

Little do we realize that we have to give them a reason to get excited. Just like hanging your swankiest panties out on the line won’t cause Prince Charming to show up at your door (trust me, I’ve tried), hanging your swankiest web design on the internet won’t cause your customers to magically show up, either.

You’ve got to give ‘em a reason to care about you

Blogs help that process along. Blogs give you a way to make that happen. Blogs give you a chance to prove yourself. And blogs give you a chance to snag their attention long enough to hook, line and swoosh ‘em into your world for the long term. ‘Til dentures do us part.

These days, things are different. My blog is entirely responsible for my success in the copywriting industry. That’s not an exaggeration, or a feeble attempt at sounding like I know what I’m talking about. That’s fact.

Typically I post around two to three times a week, but I have a dirty little secret to share: While the bread and butter of my business is copywriting, I don’t blog about copywriting.

I don’t blog about copywriting for a number of reasons, but the primary one is that my clients don’t care about copywriting. And honestly? Your clients don’t care about what you do, either.

It’s a mistake I see often made—well-meaning businesses trying to blog about their business. The reason it’s a mistake is because, again, your clients don’t care about your business; they don’t even care about what you can do for them, per se.

What they care about is feeling better any time they interact with you and your content. While it may sound oversimplified, this is key.

Whether feeling better translates into them having more confidence in themselves, having more confidence that you’ll be the solution to their problem, or just feeling inspired by your message, this really is the key to running a successful blog and, by extension, consulting business.

One thing I can promise you is this: the blogger who makes his reader feel less alone and more understood wins this game—and wins the business. Because it’s that blogger who will create excitement, and it’s that blogger who will ultimately give the world a reason to actually care about his message.

And didn’t I mention that was step one? Wink.

So how do I pull it off at The Middle Finger Project?

I’ll tell you how.

The Middle Finger Project isn’t just a blog; it’s its own movement, so to speak. It isn’t the blog itself—it’s what the blog represents for my readers and customers. Hope. Hope there is more out there, and it isn’t too late to come alive and be the person you were meant to be. It has nothing to do with copywriting; it’s about having fun in this one racy little speck of life we’re given, and doing what our anxiety-bent insides are mercilessly clawing at us to do.

For one set of my customers, this often means starting their own businesses—then, at that point, my copywriting services are there to support them in making that leap. Another set of customers—for example, my tech start ups—hire me because they, too, tend to be forward-thinking companies led by entrepreneurs who can relate to the core message of TMFproject as well.

The take away here?

Don’t just blog

Think about what your blog represents, and how you can connect it to the underlying beliefs and values of your target readers or customers—and how this can help them get excited and care about you.

If you’re a divorce lawyer, don’t blog about divorce. Blog about the inspirational stories that come out of divorce. Blog about the client who found herself again. Blog about the client who reawakened his love for bowling. Blog about the client who re-married her husband for a second time. Blog about the client who found his real soul mate the second time around.

Give your clients a reason to get excited—and feel better. Give ‘em a reason to want to read. And once they want to read, they’ll naturally want you.

And only when they want you, are you then in a position to successfully sell them your services.

Then, it’s just a matter of aligning your service offerings with the things that you know will make your customers feel better—about their lives, about their futures, about their businesses, or about their decision to choose you over the next guy.

Making it work

For example, one of my most successful offerings at The Middle Finger Project has been the One Night Stand—a rapid-fire copywriting service for those who need hot web copy that sells, at a price that won’t send them hurtling into debt with no pants on. (We like to, ahem, save our debt for things like Victoria’s Secret and The Cheesecake Factory.)

The reason it’s been so successful is two-fold. First, clients feel better because they’re gaining confidence that their business or website is going to be successful, since mouth-watering copy is one of the most important pillars of any online space. But second, this offering has been a success because I deliberately have made it fun—and fun always wins over not fun, as any kindergartener will confirm. And who wouldn’t want to go with the service provider that’s guaranteed to make a more pleasant—and exciting—experience for their client?

For example, I could have just called this, “Copywriting service,” but I didn’t, and deliberately so. I named it the One Night Stand, and furthermore went on to label each part of the service as:

  • Innocent Flirting, AKA Pre-Session Jamming
  • Intimate Discussion: 1-hour call on the day of our session
  • Down + Dirty Sweat Sesh: Up to five pages of cunningly cool copy
  • Nightcap + Pillow Talk: Your Feedback
  • Oops, You Forgot Your Panties: One round of final edits

While the simple act of naming of a product or service might seem trivial—and is often an afterthought—it isn’t just about naming. It’s about the anticipated experience. I know my customers intimately (look who’s got puns!), and I knew that this type of offering would be something they’d not only get a kick out of, but would be racing to purchase particularly because of the element of fun that The Middle Finger Project brand has become known for. And a fresh start, with fun at the helm, is what many of my clients are so desperately craving.

Moving forward, The Middle Finger Project will continue to stand for having more fun than everyone else, in both life and business.

Registration has just closed for a six-week online copywriting workshop I’ll be hosting, and before the year is out, The Middle Finger Project (the book) will be released: because life is short and vodka tastes better abroad.

Selling consulting through your blog

I’m beyond honored to have the opportunity to make a living doing what I do—the (mostly) prim and proper chick rocking the hell out of a rebel’s brand. Yet, it all started that fall afternoon in 2009 when I began the blog as a way to build a platform, connect like-minded folks, and really give the world a run for its money.

  • It’s about standing up for what you believe in—and rallying others to do the same.
  • It’s about reaching for your megaphone—and not just expecting attention, but going out and grabbing it.
  • It’s about helping people care—first about themselves, and then about you.
  • It’s about generating excitement—from your message to your brand to every single thing you sell.
  • It’s about remembering that every single one of us is human—and most of us just really want to feel understood.
  • And above all, it’s about getting off your backside, and making it happen already.

You got this. Roseanne Barr and I believe in you.

*I’ve never actually dated a French man, therefore that statement was partially false. Okay, entirely false. However, I do imagine that I would thoroughly enjoy one.

Ashley Ambirge is the sassiest freelance writer, entrepreneur and digital strategist on the block. She authors books on leveraging the internet to make a business out of your passions, runs her semi-insane but lovable blog (click here to subscribe), and does one on one strategy sessions with new bloggers, entrepreneurs & small businesses looking to rock their online space with the brilliance of a diamond (and finally make some damn money). She’ll also kill you at beer pong without batting an eyelash. Just the facts, Jack.

Tips and Techniques for Selling Training on Your Blog

Training and electronic courses are common product offerings for bloggers, and as the range of tools and services available to help us create and market engaging courses has grown, so has the competition in this space.

Jules Clancy talked earlier today about offering classes and training as a blog business model.

Still wondering why you’d choose ecourses over other models? Have a look at 8 Great reasons to add an ecourse to your blog. This post explains the not-so-obvious advantages of this business model.

What does it take to create an online course? Peep Laja explains the basics in Creating Online Courses 101. It’s a great guide for those who are considering dipping their toes into the training waters—but want to know what they’re in for ahead of time.

What about the launch? How to launch a product on your blog (and sell out in 12 hours!) is Danny Iny’s story of the wildly successful launch of his first online course. Also see his post Make money locally—and globally—through your blog—there are more than a few tips in here to help you make the most of your own launch when the time comes.

Finally, Ramit Sethi’s advice on products, focused mainly on the launch of his course, has many tidbits to get you on the road to a great course launch. Even seasoned course sellers would do well to read this one!

Do you sell courses through your blog? What tips or resources can you add to the list?

Blog Business Model 5: Sell Training and Courses

This is the fifth post in our series on Blog Business Models.

When you think of online training as a blogging business model, cookery classes may not be the first topic that springs to mind.

The Stone Soup courses

The Stone Soup course homepage

But Jules Clancy of The Stone Soup has created a successful cooking class business around her food blog.

Hi Jules. First up, can you share a bit of your history with us? How did you get into blogging?
My background is in food science. I used design chocolate biscuits for a living—for Australia’s largest biscuit manufacturer.

I love everything to do with food, so it was only natural that after getting addicted to reading food blogs, I took the leap to starting my own.

Your blog supports online training product offerings. Did you develop the blog first, and then adopt that business model, or develop the business first, then build the blog?

It was blog first for me. I had no idea where blogging would lead me, or that it was even possible to use a blog to make money online. It wasn’t until I’d been blogging for a few years that I came across the idea of turning a blog into a business.

And at what point did online cooking classes appear as an ideal product idea? Did you always think that that might be the way to go, or did you need to be convinced of the model’s viability first?

It wasn’t until I saw a class on the A-List Blogging Bootcamps called something like “Create Courses that Sell” that I even had the idea. But as soon as I had that “a-ha” moment, I decided to give it a shot.

Cooking is something that works really well on TV and video, so I figured it would translate well into a class format. (Although if we could get someone to invent ‘scratch and sniff’ video that would be even better!)

Ultimately, it was an organic evolution of my blog—that was just how it happened. There was no grand (or evil!) master plan.

Great. So in what ways does blogging support your training offerings?

Primarily, my blog attracts customers to buy my ebooks and my online cooking classes. It’s a way of developing a relationship with my readers to turn them into buyers.

That being said, my blog also works as an online business card. I have a book coming out next year because of my blog—my publisher discovered Stonesoup and contacted me about doing a book. It also works for speaking gigs, and I’ve done a bit of freelance writing based on contacts from my blogging.

What kinds of challenges do you face in using your blog to build your business?

At the moment, my biggest challenge is moving away from making most of my money when I launch a new cooking class to a more continuous (and sustainable) model. I haven’t figured out how I’m going to do it, but I think building a process with email marketing at the centre will be part of the solution.

I’m also struggling with conversions. For the amount of readers and traffic I get, I don’t think I’m doing a good job of turning them into paying customers.

So what converts best for you: your ebook or your courses? Do you think the blog reading marketplace is saturated with certain format offerings?

In terms of overall revenue, about 50% of my income comes from ebooks and 50% from courses. So even though ebooks are cheaper and convert better, the total income is about the same as the higher priced classes.

In terms of saturation, I think there’s always a market for high-quality products that solve real problems for people, regardless of the offering format.

You mention price. How did you work out how to price your classes?

Pricing is something I’m still experimenting with. At the beginning, I thought about what other classes cost, then considered what I thought I’d be prepared to pay for a course, and took it from there.

What are the key elements that have helped you get to where you are with your blog?

Passion! It’s a bit of a cliche, but in my case it’s totally true. I love cooking, writing about food, and taking photographs of what I cook. I can’t imagine doing anything else and enjoying it as much as I love working on my blog and my business.

Consistency has also been key. I promised myself when I started I would publish at least once every week and I’ve been doing that right from the beginning.

The quest for continuous improvement is also important. I’m not a perfectionist by any standards but I’m always thinking of how I can do things better.

That’s interesting. How do you continuously improve your courses? What’s involved in that process—from a content perspective, but also from product integrity and delivery viewpoints?

I ask my students for feedback. After I run a major class I do a short survey using Survey Monkey to collect testimonials and also get feedback on what worked and what needs improvement.

I’ve also started running a Poll Daddy quiz on my cooking school site so my students actually vote for the topic of the next class. Actually, you’ve just reminded me I’ve been meaning to set up a feedback option on the site using something like uservoice.com so it’s really easy for my students to give feedback, get help, and make suggestions.

Cooking’s a very cluttered niche. What’s unique about the way you’ve developed your offering?

I’m all about simplicity. All my recipes have only five ingredients and deliver big when it comes to flavour and healthiness.

And have you carried that philosophy through to your cooking classes?

Absolutely! Simplicity is really a core philosophy of my life, so even if I wanted to do a “fancy” or “complicated” cooking class, I wouldn’t be able to do it.

Right. So you mentioned Survey Monkey and uservoice, but what other tools or services do you rely on as you develop your business?

I’m using:

  • Aweber for email list management
  • Clickbank for selling products and their affiliate network
  • Visual Website Optimizer for split testing (although I’ve had a few issues recently with them).

What tools do you use specifically in developing and delivering your courses?

At first I had a little flip video camera for making my videos but I’ve since upgraded to a Nikon D7000 for recording video. And I just use  imovie for editing videos. And then in terms of my membership site management, it’s a WordPress blog using the plugin Wishlist Member.

And how did you go about researching and sourcing those tools?

I’m very lazy when it comes to researching things like that, and I’m pretty sure the flip cam and Wishlist Member were what was recommended in the “Create Courses that Sell” class I took.

What advice, tips, and insider secrets would you give to someone who was just starting out with a blog business model based around selling training?

Get your own product out there sooner rather than later. I made the mistake of quitting my job and then not launching my first product for seven months, so there was no income coming in.

That was fine, but I would have been much better off to get something out there and start learning how to market etc. sooner rather than later. It’s definitely one of those things that you can only get really great at if you keep trying different things.

Interesting! So what does the future hold for Stonesoup and your course offering?

Hopefully lots more sales! And I’d like to have things more automated so I can step back a bit and spend more time in my veggie garden and less time in front of a computer screen.

Thanks to Jules for her time and advice. To find out more about Jules’s business, visit The Stone Soup, and check out the article she wrote for ProBlogger.

More Affiliate Marketing Advice, Tips, and Techniques

Affiliate marketing is one of the blogger’s mainstay business models. It’s simple, and as Anshul proved when he shared his story earlier today, it works—but it does take effort and commitment.

The first challenge is to understand how the process works, and for that I can point you to no better resource than the four-part series Brian Clark wrote for us. Still current, and pulling no punches, this primer is a great place to start if you’ve never sold targeted affiliate products before:

  1. The secret of blog products that sell
  2. Why this blog sells tons of ebooks and how it can sell even more
  3. How to sell niche products with your blog
  4. You don’t need a product of your own to have a successful product blog

Once you’ve worked through those, try these more specific posts that deal with individual challenges that affiliate bloggers need to master:

Of course, here on ProBlogger we have an archive dedicated to affiliate marketing, so if you’re after specific advice or solutions, take a look at the posts there.

What other resources can you add to this list to help those who want to improve their affiliate marketing? Share them with us below.

Blog Business Models 4: Affiliate Marketing

This guest post is by Anshul Dayal of Nichsense Niche Marketing.

This is the fourth post in our series on Blog Business Models.

Many entrepreneurs who own successful online businesses have followed similar paths through the world of blogging, internet, and affiliate marketing. Perhaps they were working a never-ending grind stuck in a nine-to-five day job they hated until one day they discovered the power of the internet—a medium that has likely made more millionaires than any other in the last ten years.

Anshul Dayal of Nichesense

Anshul Dayal of Nichesense

My journey to the world of blogging and online entrepreneurship is not dissimilar, with one exception. I came from an extremely rewarding, fulfilling, and successful career working on computer-generated visual effects for multi-million-dollar Hollywood productions. That’s probably the definition of a dream job for many people!

So what led me to blogging and the world of internet marketing? The answer is my never-ending desire to conquer new challenges and create something of my own. My initial foray into internet marketing wasn’t completely based around blogging. In fact, I first started by building small affiliate and AdSense sites sometime in mid-2011—a process I wrote about in this post for ProBlogger.

Within a matter of months, some of these sites started turning over decent monthly revenues, and that was really the lightbulb moment for me. I’d heard about internet marketers making millions on autopilot using the web, and while I was by no means making millions, I could see real, tangible evidence that by using the right strategy, it was very much possible for me to make a comfortable living online.

I also felt that there was a lot of misinformation surrounding what it really takes to make money online. That’s when I decided to launch my own blog, nichesense.com, as a place for me to share the proven strategies I was using on a daily basis, and help budding online entrepreneurs.

Blog or business?

In its infancy, nichesense.com was very much an information-focused blog supporting my affiliate niche marketing business, and sharing my journey to building a successful online business.

There were two reasons for taking this approach:

  1. it allowed time for defining the so called “unique selling proposition” for the blog
  2. it helped me build a loyal online audience and somewhat immunize the blog from unreliable search traffic.

This approach also allowed me to test various monetization strategies I was going to implement as part of my development of a long-term business strategy for nichesense.com.

A different approach to blog monetization

From a current business and monetization perspective, the majority of my blogging business success has come through affiliate promotions of various products and services that I used to build successful niche affiliate sites. This includes WordPress themes, keyword research tools, SEO tools, hosting services, and also various information products.

Effectively, I’ve taken the techniques I developed through my work building successful niche affiliate sites, and repurposed them to suit my blog.

Most of these affiliate promotions are gradually drip-fed to subscribers through a series of follow-up emails as part of the free training they receive when they first sign up to the blog. This approach reduces unsubscribe rates and also helps me achieve better conversions, as many new subscribers are also guided through the process of using the products to achieve real results.

From a broader perspective, the key elements in nichesense.com’s growth are still to do with offering practical, hands-on internet marketing training. The primary focus is on providing genuine strategies and techniques, and less on selling the next magic bullet to online success—which is what many of the “make money online” blogs tend to focus on. That’s what makes nichesense.com unique in the internet marketing blogosphere.

My recipe for success

Social media, email marketing, YouTube, and organic SEO have all been key tools for success in my blogging arsenal. However, there is one thing that stands above the rest: outsourcing. I have used virtual assistants for just about every aspect of my online business. This includes using dedicated social media managers to grow Twitter and Facebook follower counts, plus assistants to research content, publish content, conduct SEO tasks, and so on.

Outsourcing has been pivotal in helping me focus on the developing the blog as part of my larger business, rather than simply letting it turn me into a workhorse who researches, writes, publishes, and does just about everything—something that I think can be a real hurdle to growth and success.

Moving forward, some of the biggest challenges for nichesense.com will still focus around continuing to evolve a long-term traffic and monetization strategy. Using affiliate promotions on the blog achieves only a small part of its monetization potential.

Publishing great content is no longer enough for serious bloggers looking to make a mark in the lucrative internet marketing niche. Most successful bloggers in this niche in recent years have used innovative methods of engaging the audience through interviews, podcasts, reviews, and real-life case studies. This is very much the path I intend to take with the blog while still keeping a unique identity through the “hands on”-style content which has made it popular so far.

Creating high-quality information products, attracting guest posts, and presenting expert interviews will also be an integral part of my revenue and growth strategy for nichesense.com in the coming months.

The key

I recommend anyone looking to build a successful business through blogging is to at least write down a vision statement of what what will make you stand out from the crowd. This is especially true if you plan to launch another “make money online” blog. Think differently and don’t be afraid to innovate.

Remember, the key to a building successful blog in any niche is more than just good content. If you want to treat it as a business then you ought to be making money from it and in order to make money you need to to envision a strategy to attract “buyer” (or paying customer) traffic very early on.

Anshul Dayal is the author at Nichsense Niche Marketing blog offering cutting edge niche marketing strategies for starting a real, sustainable and profitable online business. You can download his step-by-step guide to launching your own profitable niche website on his blog http://www.nichesense.com

Get Started Selling Electronic Products on Your Blog

Today I explained a bit about the strategy I use to sell electronic products through my blog at Digital Photography School.

I sell ebooks, but as technology evolves, bloggers face a growing array of product creation possibilities.

Just as many hop on board the product bandwagon, so many keep well away from it. But developing a blog product can have many benefits for your blog, so it’s definitely not a business model you should simply ignore.

Importantly, you need to know before you begin where products fit within your overall blog strategy. That will help you to avoid premature product launching, and ensure your product meets a real audience need.

Devising, creating, and launching a product is hard work, so you want to do it carefully, and in a way that rewards you for all the hard work you’ve put in—and the hurdles you’ve overcome.

There’s as much advice about product development and sales as there are blog products available on the internet. But here are a few of our favorite ProBlogger posts:

Have you developed an electronic product strategy for your blog? Share your tips, advice, and resources with us in the comments.

Blog Business Model 3: Sell Electronic Products

This is the third post in our series on Blog Business Models.

On Digital Photography School, we currently sell nine ebooks on different aspects of photography. When you look at the blog now, it looks as if it was built to sell products, but it wasn’t.

dPS ebooks

A couple of dPS ebooks

The site is five years old now. I remember brainstorming potential ways of monetizing early on, and I’m pretty sure that products were on the list. I didn’t have specific ideas on what ebooks those might be, but I knew there was potential with an educational site to go in that direction. (Other niches might have been tougher to develop products for.)

My strategy for the first two years on dPS was to build the audience, and if I could cover my costs, which were very low, with some advertising, then that would be a bonus.

So I had advertising and affiliate marketing on the blog before I developed the products. I was mainly using AdSense on dPS, as an easy way to make money while I built the audience.

Preparing for products

From the beginning I knew I was building the blog as a platform for monetization—building audience and building community, which are such a big part of selling products. If you can get a community feel on your blog then your readers become advocates for you, both to each other, and beyond your blog.

The other way I used the blog was to test product ideas. So after two years of writing, I had a fair suspicion of what might work. I knew my audience, what they were commenting on, and what questions they were asking.

The blog itself was almost a bit of a research tool, as was the social network that surrounded it. I used the social network to research things like what type of information did people read, and what formats did they use.

On the blog I did a little of research around pricing—I did a survey about what people were buying (books, magazines, and so on) and I got a sense from that as to what people were regularly spending their money on. A lot of photographers buy UK photography magazines which are about $15. That gave me a hint as to what sort of price I could expect for my ebooks.

And of course the blog and the social networks gave me ideas about products that actually would help people.

Challenges of a product strategy

I’ve faced a couple of pretty major hurdles in developing a product strategy on dPS.

Firstly, I’m not a pro photographer—I’m more of an enthusiastic amateur—so it’s always a challenge to put together material at a level that’s going to help people. While my knowledge might be beyond what a normal camera owner’s is, I’m not confident about it as the basis for an ebook!

So the challenge has been to develop partnerships with pros to write the products. That whole process of partnerships is a challenge, as is finding a model that’s a win-win between myself and the author. Then there’s the task of maintaining that business, and managing the day-to-day logistics of that—profit sharing and so on.

The key for me is the team I’ve built around the product strategy. We outsource our design and editing, as well as the writing of the ebooks. So a lot of energy has gone into drawing that team together and getting them working together well.

One of the other big challenges is trying to build a platform to sell the products—choosing shopping carts and so on. I’m really not a technical person so I spent a lot of time researching the options for delivering the products and collecting payments.

If you don’t have the skills yourself, it’s important to find the right people—people who are passionate and can deliver the product content you need.

Building the business

The key to building a paying customer base around dPS has been email: we use the blog to get people on our email list.

If we were relying on people reading the blog posts, or subscribing via RSS and Twitter and so on, we’d be much smaller than we are—and significantly less effective in selling.

The vast majority of our sales come when we send an email, not from when we put up a blog post or Tweet or Facebook. It’s the email address. We’re more about email marketing than we are about anything else, so the email address is the big key.

Our email strategy is pretty straightforward—we send a weekly newsletter, which is like an RRS feed in an email. And when we launch a product, subscribers receive a series of weekly emails over four weeks. Each of those emails does a different type of thing—announces some aspect of the launch, reminds people of product features or special offers, and so on.

Really, though, the success of that strategy rests on the quality of our products.

Quality information is also really important. Our ebooks are longer and deeper than many of the other photography ebooks around. We do charge a little bit more for them, but we get a lot of feedback that the quality is really good. So we emphasize that.

We also take our time publishing them—each ebook takes four to six months to write and publish, which is significantly longer than what a lot of others are doing in this space.

Quality also plays into the design. We put a lot of emphasis on getting the design right—our ebooks are far beyond a Word document converted into a PDF. We really invest money into that, because we feel it’s important.

The other aspect that’s crucial to the growth of the site—and product sales—is the work we put into the launch process.

Our first launch was a ten-day launch; now we’re doing four-week launches and thinking about how we can really build the momentum over that time.

How can we build the launch into an event? How can we tell the story of the ebook and showcase it in a way that’s not “hypey” but builds anticipation and highlights what customer needs it will help with?

The creative process doesn’t stop once we’ve written or designed the ebook. That’s just the beginning: once you’ve got the product, it’s about creative selling.

These days, for us, the marketing starts before we even write a word. We’re always thinking, what need is this fulfilling? How would we sell it? And that informs how we work with the writers as well—we’re always trying to get the authors thinking about selling the content, rather than just writing it.

In terms of new challenges that will help us grow the business, I’m now looking at new ways to keep the sales momentum going after an ebook’s launch.

I’m thinking hard about the long-tail opportunities that surround products like educational ebooks, and how I can create a stronger, longer sales life for each product.

One thing I’m looking at is developing channels that will allow us to resell the materials we’ve already developed over a longer time period. Basically, I want to leverage the wealth of already-developed content by looking for new channels through which to sell it.

Just starting out?

If you’re just starting out with a product model, I think it’s critical that you know your readers and the needs that they have. Then, you can develop products that really are taking those felt needs and solving thproblems.

Some of the ebooks we’ve published have done better than others, and they’re the ones that solved a really felt need. The ones that don’t sell as well were products that we felt might be useful to people, but our readers didn’t feel those needs.

So it’s about getting to know your readers as much as possible.

Are you building a product strategy around your blog? How’s it going? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments.