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20 Tips for Better Business Blogging: How to Use Blogging to Generate Leads

Lead Blogging

This is a guest contribution from Zoe Uwem.

Blogging can be an effective lead generation strategy, if done correctly.

The majority of companies that hope to use content marketing to grow their businesses all understand that blogging is one of the most effective ways to go about it.

Big corporations, start-ups and even smaller companies are buying into it. Internet marketers, freelancers and agencies all use blogging as a means of generating qualified leads for their businesses.

Recent statistics show that B2B marketers that use blogs receive 67% more leads than those that do not. In addition, marketers who give precedence to blogging are 13x more likely to enjoy positive ROI.

In another report published on the Huffington Post, members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) went from agreeing that blogging has great value to listing out 12 benefits of business blogging.

Whether you’re running a sole venture or managing a big corporation, a business blog can work for you in generating leads, even when you’re sleeping or while on vacation in Zurich. There’s no paying for ad space, no paying of affiliate commission, and no offline networking which obviously takes more time and resources.

Not only can a blog serve as an evangelism tool for generating leads for your business, you can also use it to creatively position yourself as an expert in your field.

What’s more, with a blog you can:

  • Reach more customers through strategic content marketing
  • Get the word out about your offering
  • Boost company visibility or even ameliorate your brand image
  • Target a global audience
  • Expose your products and services
  • Increase brand awareness
  • Build loyalty

Blogging is also a great medium for encouraging customer interaction and enhancing engagement.

But, how do you make blogging work for your business? What are the things to do to bring all these benefits of blogging to bear on your business?

If you’d like to build a following for your brand, generate quality leads, and ultimately grow your business through blogging, here are 20 things you can do to pull that off successfully:

1. Start with a Plan

Business blogging, unlike regular blogging, is blogging with a purpose. You’re not blogging just for fun (or as a hobby) but, you’re blogging because there’s a particular goal you want to achieve—to generate leads and grow your business.

With that in mind, if you want to see results, then you need a solid plan in place.

A solid plan here implies setting SMART goals and devising doable strategies. It involves knowing what you want, who you want to attract (the kind of leads you want to generate), where you’re going and how you’ll get there.

Before even writing your first blog post, develop a blueprint with which you’ll meet your business blogging objectives.

There are a lot of factors that can affect your blog business plan, some of which include your target market, your niche, your business size and even your business goals.

So, when making a plan, remember to consider all of these in order to make your goals truly SMART.

Further Reading: Setting Blogging Goals: Why You Need Them, and How to Write Them

2. Blog from Your Business Website

For effectiveness, let your blog be an extension of your business website; this can be a subdomain or a subdirectory of your main business domain.

Subdirectory and Subdomain

Blogging from a separate domain may not produce much results because most site visitors coming from traffic sources like search engines and social media will first land on your blog. It’ll take extra work to get them to go over to your business website where your products and services are displayed.

On the other hand, blogging from your business website helps drive traffic to your product/service page, convert the traffic into leads, and ultimately drive long-term results.

3. Develop a Blogging Culture

By blogging culture, I mean a set of strictly followed practices that are well-thought out and tailored to help you meet your blogging goals.

I love to call this kind of practice “systematized blogging” because it entails following a set system consistently to achieve results.

This involves practices such as following a publishing schedule, planning an editorial calendar, concentrating on the same topic and so on.

Developing your own blogging culture will help you remain focused and help you meet your blogging goals fast.

You might want to follow general rules and tips spread across the blogosphere, but it’s always better to come up with your own rules to see what works for you and what doesn’t, well because all businesses are not the same.

Further Reading: 3 Ways Scheduling Will Make You a Better Blogger

4. Think Long Term

Even though you can get near-quick results from business blogging, it’s vital that you don’t lose focus on the long-term aspect of things.

Can the content you’re creating today still show up in search results five years from now? Or, are you putting up a subnormal body of words that Google will kick out in five months’ time?

Truth is, it’s always better to create evergreen content. It’s always better to think long-term because that’s how to get results that are worth your effort, time and investment.

Evergreen content can drive steady traffic, generate consistent leads and produce regular conversion for a long time.

hubspot quote

Create something that adds value, something that helps people, something that both humans and search engines love. This might even mean investing in great content (see our next point below).

Here are some quick do’s and don’ts of evergreen content by 60 Second Marketer:

Evergreen content

Related: How to Write Great Blog Content

5. Invest in Killer Content that Provides Value and Truly Helps People

Running a blog is primarily about helping people, providing them with valuable information, and answering their questions.

To do this effectively, you need good content; content that provides value. More or less, the quality of your blog posts reflects the quality of leads you generate from your blog.

Successful content marketing now depends on the content quality. To get this right, let your focus be on providing value rather than on selling something.

There are a handful of ways you can provide value to readers. One of such is by helping them solve simple problems that are related to your industry.

For instance, if you operate a marketplace for developers to sell their apps, see about providing the developers (your target customers) with content that can help them improve on their app marketing skills; see about helping them make more money through their sales by offering them tips on how to market their products effectively.

Invest your time, money and resources in truly valuable content. I recommend you hire a professional writer if you don’t have the time or aptitude to create such content yourself.

6. Market your Blog Like it’s the Only Thing that Matters

That’s because the success of your blog (and that of your lead generation campaign) largely depends on how many people know that your blog exists in the first place.

You may have the best content ever, but if nobody knows that the content is there on your blog, of course nobody will go there to read it.

Imagine standing in front of an empty classroom to deliver the best lecture ever. You’d be wasting all that time talking your socks off, right? And worse, nobody is listening.

That’s a bummer and that’s the same way it is when you publish the best content on a virtually empty blog, traffic wise.

This does not rule out having truly quality content on your blog. While having quality content on your blog is vital, it’s even more vital that you get the right people to come to your blog, regularly.

The number of people who visit your blog can determine the number of leads you generate, but not necessarily the quality.

There’re a whole lot of ways you can market your blog, but you have to be tactical and invest your time smartly by focusing only on those strategies that are worth your time and resources.

Guest blogging, advertising, social media marketing and blogger outreach campaigns are some of the strategies you might want to consider.

Growing blog traffic

It’s all about going for targeted traffic, driving them to your blog and getting them to become interested in what you have to offer. Period!

Further Reading: How to Find Readers For Your Blog

7. Practice “Diversified Blogging”

Just because written content is the most widely accepted type of content doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try out other types. Add some fuel to your blog with the help of images, videos, slideshares, infographics and the like.

Publishing diverse kinds of content broadens not only your audience, but also your reach because people will want to share your content on a variety of platforms other than on the traditional bookmarking sites.

Again, you may find that there might be people who prefer other forms of content to written content.

For instance, the chart below shows an increased demand for infographics:

Search demand for infographics

8. Have a Solid Conversion Strategy

As leads begin to verge on your blog, don’t let your blogging effort be in vain by letting them go without purchasing from you or at least leaving their details.

Have a solid conversion channel set up on your blog, for converting ordinary visitors into regular visitors and then into loyal readers and ultimately to purchasing customers.

Some of the best ways to do this are:

  1. Strategically placing well-written calls to action on your blog and website
  2. Collecting visitors details through a well-configured email optin box.
  3. Using every opportunity you have to link to your sales page/landing page from your blog
  4. Systematically integrating your services into your blog articles

To make this even more effective, offer an incentive. It could be a free trial or a truly useful resource that can help them in any way.

Whatever it is, just ensure that it’s attractive enough to reel them in.

A reliable conversion strategy is the tipping point between an ordinary visitor becoming interested in what you sell.

Conversion

Without a solid conversion strategy in place, your whole “blogging for leads” endeavor may not produce as much result as you’d expect, thus the importance of getting this step right.

9. Take Your Blog Seriously and Be Consistent

Want to generate serious leads from your blog without being serious? You can’t be serious!

It’s not all about setting up a blog and creating a solid business blogging plan, you’d have to sit up and be serious with your blog; you’d have to follow your plans and goals seriously in order to turn your blog into a lead-gen machine.

In my escapade as a professional freelance blog writer, I have come across dozens of abandoned business blogs. And, whenever I asked to know the reasons those blogs were abandoned, the blog owners, in general, would blame it on lack of time, no one to create content on a regular basis and all that excuses.

But the truth really is, those who abandon their blogs are not serious about blogging.

For a blog to produce results, you need to take it seriously.

Also, as one blogging to generate leads and attract clients, you have to be consistent, not just in your publishing frequency, but also in your blog topic.

You really shouldn’t be writing about catfish farming this week, and switching to writing about how you partied in an airplane last month.

Maintaining an considerable level of consistency not only show that you know what you’re doing but also show that you’re serious about it and so every other person should be serious with you, too.

No one will probably be serious and consistent in visiting and reading your blog if you aren’t serious and consistent with it yourself.

Further Reading: How to Get Serious About Blogging and Make It Work for Your Business

10. Optimize Your Blog for Search Engines

This is especially important if you’re looking to build a magnetic system that attracts leads to your business on auto-pilot.

One sure way to show up in search results is by regularly updating your blog with epic content. By continually publishing informative and actionable posts that are search engine optimized, your content will rank high on search engines thereby bringing more people to your website, which will ultimately earn you more leads, sales and revenue.

Statistics show that over 70% of buyers use search engines at the beginning of their purchase process.

SEO

Organic search traffic is of extreme importance. If you can build this system, then you will have a sort of always-on-duty marketing tool that’s available 24/7 to bring you quality leads.

11. Be Approachable, Helpful, and Friendly

Sometimes, it’s not all about providing great content. If you really want to create impact that can translate into leads and sales, you may have to condescend and relate with your audience at their level.

For instance, if a reader reaches out to you for help, maybe to ask a question, be kind enough to respond. I would even recommend you sometimes reach to some of them and bring them to the spotlight. This can be done by mentioning a reader in your post or even posting an intelligent question one of them might have asked and answering it there for the rest to benefit from.

One question to answer is, if one of your readers meets you sitting at McDonald’s, can they come up to you freely, without feeling fettered?

Be approachable; be sociable and you’ll find that you can gain more instead of being inimical.

12. Gather Feedback and Encourage Interaction

You want your business to be better than it was yesterday, right? You want to be able to provide your audience with exactly what they need, uh?

The best way to do that is to gather feedback, and there’s only one person that can provide you with genuine, practical feedback— your blog reader.

Continually improving on your approach, strategy and offering is important for remaining indispensable in the hearts of people, especially in today’s fast-changing world of advanced technology.

Gathering customer information and assimilating the same helps you to actually improve.

There are a number of ways through which you can gather customer information. For instance, you can conduct surveys, host live sessions, use in-product request forms, or even encourage them to send in their thoughts via email.

Beyond gathering feedback, you should also encourage interaction. One benefit of interacting with your audience is that it opens doors for opportunities and also gives you the chance to learn from them the things that really matter to them.

Interaction can be achieved through the comment sections of your blog and through social media.

13. Know Your Audience and Know What You’re Doing

Imagine blogging to generate leads without actually knowing the people that are following you. That’s not cool , right?

Sure!

Successful business blogging demands that you not only know the people that are following you but actually care about them.

Do you care about your audience? (Or more honestly, how well do you care about them?) Do you care about the way they respond to your articles? Do you care about the kind of information you pass across to them?

Yet more, do you know their demography? Do you know what they want, where they hang out at (good for promoting your content), what they like, the keywords they use when searching for your kind of product/service, their preferred method of receiving information etc.?

Or, are you just blogging blindly?

Having at least an appreciable knowledge of your audience is vitally important for successfully blogging for leads.

Know your audience plus

Beyond knowing your audience, get to know your stuff; know what you’re doing. Analyze your blog often and make improvement where necessary.

14. Make Your Blog the Hub, But Don’t Be Self-Centered

Your blog should focus on helping your customers (both current and potential) solve problems related to your industry/product. But unfortunately, too many business blogs have been turned into some kind of repository for press releases, company news, and other natters.

News about your company may be interesting to you and your team, but it’s not what will ultimately exert a pull on leads and keep them engaged.

Posting what they care about should be primary. Making announcements can come in second.

However, when it comes to publishing your company news, make your blog the hub.

For instance, if you have any announcement to make, don’t go over to Twitter and rant about it without first talking about it on your blog.

The information should actually emanate from your blog to other sources and not the other way round.

This forces people to visit your blog, encourages link-building which further promotes your blog.

15. Promote Your Product/Service

While sharing helpful and interesting information with your readers, remember the purpose of doing that—to generate leads.

So, in the midst of the valuable information you’re giving out, also strategically promote your business.

You can do this by:

  • Tactically integrating your services/product in some helpful blog posts
  • Displaying some of your important web pages prominently on your blog
  • Linking to your product page or landing page from epic blog posts that receive massive traffic
  • Advertising your services, products, events etc., on your blog sidebar
  • Regularly sending well-crafted marketing emails to your blog subscribers, or by at least remembering to end every email you send with a signature showing your name and company.

Promoting your product/service doesn’t mean asking for the sale, but mildly and continuously keeping your offering in front of people who may likely buy them.

16. Be Professional, But Add a Bit of Personality

It’s important to keep your blog professional, but did you know that readers are equally interested in knowing you as a person?

Don’t be that faceless, robot-like being behind the computer that’s always posting. You have a name, right? So why keep the default “Admin” as the publisher? Maybe a picture of you and your team will do over on a well-written Team Members page.

I know you’ve got awesomely actionable tips but, blog posts with a sense of personal touch tend to do great as well. So, once in a while share a little beautiful story about yourself to inspire and endear your readers to you. That way, they’re likely going to buy from you or at least become loyal visitors which is all good.

Emotional stories work pretty well at this. The charts will help you choose the right emotions to target:

Popular emotions

And another one:

emotions

17. Establish and Portray Yourself as an Authority

That’s because without being or presenting yourself as an expert, nobody may really listen to what you have to say.

Except your mom. And maybe your cat, too.

So, get your skates on, do epic content, talk like you invented that niche, guest blog on some top sites, get interviewed and they’ll listen to you.

Why is it important that people listen to you? Well, it’s because you can only get their attention when they’re listening, and getting their attention is essential for conversion.

Good news is, with a blog, you can set yourself apart, establish & portray yourself as an expert, and grab people’s attention through authoritative posts.

18. Encourage Your Readers to Share your Content

You don’t have to do the work alone; this is why you have to create viral content and have social sharing buttons on every blog post you publish.

When your readers share your content, other people in their network will see the content and head over to your blog, resulting in increased reach and more leads.

Social media and blogs generate real customers

To get readers to share your content, create content that resonate with them, kit out your blog with easy-to-use social sharing buttons, lead the way by sharing first, and openly ask them to share the content if they love it.

Related: 10 Quick Tips for Going Viral

19. Demonstrate Positive Results of Your Product/Service

Use your blog as a medium to demonstrate how remarkably awesome and result-oriented your product and/or service is.

This will egg people on to purchase from you.

You can do this by quickly sharing, in a blog post, a success story of how your product helped a person solve a problem. Case study articles are good for this, too.

Even more, you can interview some of your clients and publish the interview on your blog. You can also invite some of them to share their positive experience through guest posting.

People are more likely to buy from you when they see the positive results your product is producing.

20. Remember to Sell

A lot of businesses that blog to attract customers may end up selling nothing, not because the visitors were never interested in buying from them but because they never sold.

Unlike promoting your product/service mildly but continuously, here, you’re bold to ask for the deal. This shouldn’t be done every time but once in a while, lest you bug your readers.

Wrapping Up

Running a blog for your business holds many benefits especially when following business blogging best practices and the right steps to successful content marketing– developing your goals, building your audience, publishing creative content and so on.

business blogging

Beyond generating leads, you can nurture those leads and eventually convert them into buying customers.

This list of business blogging best practices is far from exhaustive, but if you’d be diligent enough to apply them, you’d be on your way to generating quality leads with a business blog.

Zoe Uwem is an entrepreneur, a successful freelance blog writer, copywriter, and a content marketing expert who is passionate about helping businesses generate quality leads, reach more customers and make more sales. Zoe writes for and helps companies spread the word about their businesses. You can hire him to write for you, too. Find Zoe on his website, ZoeUwem.com, or connect with him on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or Google+.

How To Advertise Your New Business In Blog Posts Without Looking Too Promotional

Image via Flickr user twicepix.

Image via Flickr user twicepix.

This is a guest contribution from freelance writer Victor Ijidola.

Sometimes we just want to advertise our new businesses in blog posts so people can quickly know the new product or service we’re selling.

But then, we don’t want our readers to see us as being too promotional. So often we say little or nothing about our product, thereby making a lot of them read, get value, and leave. without ever having a glimpse of what we sell.

Honestly, that doesn’t sound good for business.

So how do you solve this puzzle?

Here’s the truth: Millions of people visit various blogs every day to get tips that would help solve specific problems for them. If they begin to read your posts and notice that you’re all about how to get their hard-earned cash, they mostly won’t have a reason to give you their attention.

And when when they don’t give you their attention, they’re not in the right frame of mind to buy whatever you’ve got to sell.

So you really don’t want to look too promotional in your blog posts.

In this post, I’ll be sharing two basic strategies by which you can effectively advertise your new business in blog posts without turning people off.

Strategy #1: The challenge approach

Okay, this approach will stress you. However, you will discover that it’s worth the effort in the end.

Basically, here’s how it works:

  • Come up with a problem
  • Solve the problem with your product/service
  • Get results
  • Share your results in blog posts

The following posts will give you a clearer picture of the challenge approach:

  1. Neil Patel’s How I Grew Techcrunch’s Traffic By 30% In 60 Days

So what’s the problem in this case? Traffic.

It’s something anyone who makes blogging a part of his marketing strategy would crave for. But if you’re running a blog, you’d know how challenging it can be.

Neil solved this problem by using his digital marketing service to grow TechCrunch’s traffic by 30%, and then shared his result in a blog post.

See how it works?

This way, he’s not only sharing some great tips with his readers, he’s also advertising his craft.

  1. Zac Johnson’s How I Made $860,538.38 PROFIT in 4 Months!

Six figures in four months?!

Seriously, that’s a big problem for a heap of us bloggers.

Zac got it solved and made a blog post out of it — telling the whole world that he really is a genius in making money online.

How does this apply to his products and services?

Well, there are a lot of bloggers out there who would do anything possible to make as much as six figures in a year, let alone in just four months.

Hence, if Zac is offering any make-money-online coaching service, trust me, people would sign up from all over the world.

But how do you get these kind of challenges and results to share as blog posts while you’re just starting out your business?

After all, these guys have being in their respective niches for years. Of course, they would have even more to share form their experiences.

Well, it’s the same approach:

  • Challenge yourself with a problem – particularly one that your peers find challenging.
  • Use your product/service to solve it
  • Then share your results in blog posts

It doesn’t have to be multiple challenges at once.

Just pick one. After all, we all face challenges at one point or the other in our lives, and we discover that one problem is better tackled than two or more.

Here’s an example of a post by a blogger who challenged himself to write 270 guest posts around the year he started out blogging.

Bamidele Onibalusi’s How I Wrote 270 Guest Posts In 8 Months.

Bamidele started blogging in 2010 and challenged himself to write more guest posts that every other blogger in that same year.

Long story short, he was able to write 270 guest posts in 2010.

The problem here is this: getting 40 guest posts published in eight months is a huge problem for a lot of us bloggers.

Bamidele wrote 270! Seriously, that’s huge.

So what results did he get? He puts it this way

“…I got no true results until I told people what Im capable of. It all started when I wrote a post on my blog telling people how I wrote 270 guest posts in 8 months, this boosted my credibility, made people to start respecting me, brought a lot of interview offers and eventually landed me a big client…”

See how it works?

If you’re freelance writer, for instance, you come up with a challenge like: getting a good number of social shares on a particular articleor getting published on a big blog.

When you’re done with the challenge (if you succeed, of course), you can then come up with a post like: How I Got [xxx] Number of Shares on a Single Guest Post.

This would tell your prospects that, as a freelance writer, you can write articles that will get their prospects engaged and in turn, expose their brand to more customers.

See how it works? When you solve a common problem, you become recognized.

Strategy #2: The business blogging approach

If you run a regular blog, don’t worry, it won’t hurt to do some business blogging once in a while.

After all, you want to advertise your product/service blog posts without looking to promotional, right?

By the way, what exactly is business blogging?

As Corey Eridon of HubSpot puts it Business blogging is a marketing tactic that uses blogging to get your business more online visibility.

It’s simply the art of running a blog that talks about how your product or service can solve specific problems for people.

For example, HubSpot is an inbound marketing company, hence, you’ll usually find topics related to inbound marketing on their blog. That’s business blogging.

Okay you get the drift.

So if you’re an internet marketer, for instance, you can simply write posts like:

  • 7 Incredible Reasons Why Internet Marketing Is A Must For Every Business
  • How Internet Marketing Can Get You Longtime Customers, etc.

Here are few tips you need to make this approach effective:

  • Content is king – you’ve heard that a million times. So genuinely write great contents. We know it’s really not about word counts, but take your time to dive into every corner of each topic. This way, you would get your prospects’ attention.

Ive just developed a handful of simple habits that have bumped my pay rate much higher than the pay rate of the average freelance writer 

See how she dropped the hint that she’s a freelance writer?

  • Lastly, craft a compelling author bio.

Bonus tip: You can use this approach on your guest posts on bigger blogs. This way, you’ll be reaching a wider audience, telling them how much you know your stuff.

I used this approach with my guest post on Blogging Tips.

The result? I got a client.

Here’s the harsh truth 

If I’m going to be honest with you, I’ll let you know that the strategies above don’t always bring an overnight success.

However, it does bring success.

But you’ve got to use them to write a heap of great posts, on your blog and on other blogs.

Danny Iny of Firepole Marketing puts it this way, “You understand that if you want blogging to part of your marketing strategy, then you’re going to have to write great posts, and lots of them on your blog, and on bigger blogs, too” .

What are your thoughts?

Victor Ijidola is professional freelance writer and copywriter. You can learn more about his freelance writing services or more get sales and marketing tips for your new business on his website. Some of his works have also been published on Forbes and Blogging Tips. Connect with on Twitter @veeblogs

Your Blog as Part of an Overarching Business Strategy

This is a guest contribution from Sabina Stoiciu.

So you have a business blog (you DO have a blog for your business, yes?). Well it’s a great decision, and a decision that is growing in popularity. In a 2012 HubSpot study, 62% of respondents claimed to run a company blog. A number which has consistently grown from 52% back in 2009.

Business blogging stat

Today is also not the first time somebody tells you a blog will bring several advantages to your business. You’ve heard professionals tell you that writing blog posts gives you the opportunity to leverage the human side of your business. Or to showcase your products a little bit more, all while still offering value to your readers and not just babbling advertising copy.

What I’m telling you now is that your company blog should be a piece in your overall business puzzle, that perfectly fits among the other pieces. Your blog is not just the place where you write something for someone. It’s a place where you engage with your audience. On the other hand, your blog is also the place where you can run a marketing action, like a contest for your customers and potential clients. And the functions of your blog as part of your overall strategy don’t stop here – bear with me, the full list is coming.

So, your blog fulfills the role of…

1. Branding

As stated above, your company blog is the place where you write about yourself. About who you are, what you do and why you do it. And perhaps even why you do it better than others. But beware: the catch here is that you have to tell a story, not to repeat the corporatist, stiff copy you traditionally display about your company. Get emotional, be honest and be relevant – that’s what your readers are looking to see. Give your business that human touch we are all attracted to. And most important, try to put yourself in the shoes of your audience: what would you like to read about on a company blog? I’ll bet my lunch that it’s not an advertising catalog or a constant “look how awesome we are”.

If you want to be relevant for your readers, and even become an industry resource, always offer more than expected. Add that plus of value people will come back for over and over. That means that besides posts talking about you (in a moderated way, of course), you should strive to extend your content towards covering more general, yet still related industry topics. Have a look at the Hootsuite blog for example. In case you didn’t know, Hootsuite is a social media management service you can use to easily handle your social networks. On their blog, they not only speak about Hootsuite features or company updates, but also about more general topics, such as how to publish articles on LinkedIn or what a social media manager should check off their daily to do list. You see, while the posts are somewhat related to Hootsuite (it’s their blog, after all), the content exceeds their own functionality and becomes more useful to readers.

 

2. Presenting your products

Yes, I did say that your company blog shouldn’t be an advertising catalog. And I stick to that. But that doesn’t mean you can’t talk about your product or service. The tweak lies in doing this from a more objective point of view. Don’t be all braggy about how great your product is. Instead, think of advanced ways of using it to maximize the user’s experience with it. For example, if you sell ice cream machines, spare your readers from hundreds of words from the technical jargon. Delight them with ice cream recipes they can try while using your ice cream machines, and you will give them a reason to keep reading your content.

Furthermore, you can help customers and potential clients get a deeper understanding of your product by surrounding it with scenarios or real use cases of it. For example, at 123ContactForm (the company I work for – an online form and survey builder), we do run a blog  where we try to imagine all kinds of use cases for various form types, so that our customers can see the full potential of a form they’d like to use. Along with this, we aim at shedding light upon other apps and tools that are around, which people may see fit for their own business use.

Print

3. Showcasing your activity, accomplishments and campaigns

A blog tells a story. Like a fairy tale, where the main character is born in a far away kingdom, raised by fairies, exposed to magic challenges, and eventually defeats the evil, your company also goes to different life stages and experiences. Along the road, it might meet a new partner, open a new business unit, change its appearance, gain special prizes or run awesome CSR campaigns. All these tiny parts of what represents your company’s identity and existence are great blog material, as they put together an unique story: the one of your company.

Don’t forget to add characters to your story. What’s a fairy tale without Prince Charming? Or without the enchanting princess? Your company’s staff is definitely part of the company’s story. Whether their individual personality comes to life in collective posts about your team, in writers’ bio boxes or in single presentation posts about a team member, this kind of content helps you show the human face of your company.

4. liaison

4. Liaison between your business’ website, social media channels and other communication channels

A blog is a valuable asset for a business, since it is part of your overall strategy. Picture it as a link within a chain, where each link is strongly tied to its neighbours, and where you can’t take one link out, unless you destroy the chain.

The company blog has the power to establish a connection and link other communication channels you use within your business. How come? Well, think of how your social media icons are displayed on your blog, letting readers get to your company’s social accounts or share your blog content via social media. In a similar way, remember you can (or quite should) share your posts across your social media channels. Further on, your blog and company website are also linked, as each one of them refers to the other. This way, visitors can bounce from your official presentation site to your story telling corner and back.

In terms of content and its connection to your blog and other channels, remember that you should keep the content coherent. Each piece of it should form a part of the whole ensemble, and you should not ignore the proper tone for each channel. For example, your website presents a product in a more promotional, professional way. The blog adds a story to it. Social media then completes it with rich media and short, but strong messages.

5. Interaction with your audience

Just like other channels, your company blog is a communication tool. Customers and prospects can use it to get in touch with your company, whether they ask you about a product or feature, they engage on a topic you talk about, or solicit you some general advice you could help them with.

Don’t hesitate to engage back with them, answer them, challenge them to talk to you, so that you can strengthen your relationship to them. This can happen through your blog post content, your post comments, as well as through a contact form you may be using.

6. Feedback gathering

Don’t underestimate the power of your blog as a feedback tool, unless you want valuable data to get passed by you.

You have three options to harvest feedback on your blog:

  • specifically ask for it using a dedicated tool, such as a feedback form you share within a blog post (see a feedback form template here)
  • look at direct reactions of your readers in the post comments or messages coming through the contact form or social media comments
  • read between the lines, meaning you can look at Analytics, social media shares, likes and comments count, in order to observe your audience’s behavior and get an idea about their attitude towards you.

After you’ve received your feedback, it’s time to draw the conclusions and, based on them, take the necessary actions. There have been cases where people or companies were asking their audience for feedback, the latter offered it, and the ones asking failed at doing something with that feedback. So basically their effort was in vain. Don’t forget to implement your feedback as much as possible, whether it’s aimed at your blog content, product suggestions or ideas for your company.

7. customer care

7. Customer care aid

We’ve cleared this one off the myth list: your company blog is not just about you, but about your customers and prospects too. That means there will be times when your blog might turn into a customer service aid. Clients might stop by to read your content and then suddenly remember they needed assistance with something related to what they’ve read. And if they are already there, they will probably drop a comment that is directed towards your customer care team. Thus, this is how the blog can help readers solve their problems.

As it’s best practice to let customers and prospects speak to you through whatever channel they prefer, handling customer care matters on your blog will eventually add to your to do list. But wait: you can turn this into an advantage. Namely, other readers will see the responses too if you offer them in the comments section. Hence, if they have the same problem, they will find a ready made answer. Moreover, you can select common customer inquiries and turn them into detailed blog posts.

8. Running marketing actions – (contests, giveaways, announce special offers, etc)

As a place where you have the opportunity to present more in-depth content, your blog is a proper medium for hosting an online contest, a giveaway, or for announcing special campaigns. Since you won’t probably update your website as often as you do your blog, the latter is a good destination for hosting some of your marketing actions, also allowing a more interactive approach from users. Readers can engage through comments, see what others posted, and even reply.

Contests and giveaways can represent effective ways to entice your audience, so you should definitely give them a try if you haven’t up to now. Just think about a topic for your contest, or something to offer for free in your giveaway. Establish participation guidelines and think of the submission mechanics. Something like a contest entry form can help you in registering all people willing to take part in your marketing action, also offering an overview on all submissions. Or you can ask people to participate through blog comments or through engaging on another communication channel, such as social media.

9. Running marketing research

Besides marketing actions, you can use your blog for the purpose of administering a marketing research form at some point. Along with the research that concludes from what your readers tell you through comments, you can specifically ask them certain questions useful to you within a market research action.

Keep it short, though. Unless incentivized (as offered to enter the chance to win something by filling out your research form), and perhaps even then, people dislike never-ending surveys. A tool that might help you conduct a structured market research on a topic or some key point you’re after is a market research survey. You can find a template here if you would like to adapt and use it. Like with the feedback you are asking for, be careful to effectively make use of the data the research provides you with.

10. Lead gathering

We’ve reached the final point in our list: your blog can help you with getting new leads for your business. While this alone shouldn’t be your goal when running a blog, you may take it into consideration along with offering great content to your readers.

All the points I mentioned above can conduct to gaining new leads. People that leave a comment, prospects who fill out your contact form, readers who take part in your contest or your giveaway, or who subscribe to the blog newsletter to get fresh content from you – they can all represent leads for your company. If you take good care of them, they might even convert to paying customers. So don’t neglect this role of your blog, but focus more on the value you deliver to your audience.

What about you? Can you relate to any of these roles above, supposing you run a company blog? I’d be happy to hear your thoughts.

Sabina Stoiciu enjoys blogging, photography, traveling and finding ways of gathering and sharing relevant business knowledge. You can follow her on Twitter. She also writes for 123ContactForm, the online form and survey builder – try it for free.

How to Craft a Blog that Attracts Customers and Converts Like Crazy

This is a guest contribution from entrepreneur Natalie Sisson.

So, you want to turn your blog into an online business?

Congratulations, so does every other person with wifi.

Now, I don’t mean to to bust your buns right off the get go, but if I’m being honest (and I always am!) then you need to know one thing:

A blog that doesn’t make money is a hobby, and a hobby is not a business.

The truth is, many of us don’t know what we’re doing when we’re first starting out online. Learning how to create a website, identify your ideal customer and convert them into sales will be a process, one that I am here to help you with though.

First things first; when you think of your website does it make you proud? If you are uncomfortable sharing your url with friends and family because it looks horrendous, then chances are your audience will be thinking the same thing.

Have you ever heard the theory that when shopping, if you hold an item for 10 seconds or longer you are more likely to buy? Well, the same principle goes for websites, but you have far less time to convert them – you have four seconds, to be exact.

A lot can happen in four seconds, which is why you need to make the most of it. If your viewer can’t find what they’re looking for, then they will surely go elsewhere. So how do you grab their attention and keep them on your site? It all starts by building a connection.

Every great relationship revolves around feeling a fundamental connection between two people. In this case, you need to build the foundation between your website and your audience. One of the best ways you can do this is to ask yourself what the primary goal of your website is.

Since your website is a platform to introduce yourself and your products to the world, knowing exactly what you mean to sell or achieve from having the site will help you target the ideal target audience.

The easiest way to convey this message is by creating a crisp, clear homepage. Your homepage is basically a landing page for any and all visitors. It will be the first thing they see, so capture them in those four quick seconds.

A few key tricks for ensuring a stellar home page is to:

  • Choose a clear web design – the more hectic your layout, the more likely your visitor will bounce
  • When asking your audience to opt-in to a free mailing list or free download, create one simple, to-the-point call to action
  • No one likes getting lost, so make navigating your site simple. Have a clear menu at the top so visitors can easily find their way around
  • Selling a product or service? Make it evident on the homepage. The harder they have to look for it, the more likely they will go to your competition
  • Outline what it is you’re all about. I’m not talking a novel, but one clear paragraph about who you are, what you stand for and what you’re offering

Now, to really start converting your audience you’re going to want to check off these next five steps from your to-do list.

1. Determine what it is you are selling

What do you feel jazzed about making money from? Whether it’s a product or a service you are are going to want to make this particular item forefront on your homepage.

Many people make the mistake of offering several different service on their homepage and it only confuses their visitor. For example, if you really wanted to sell business coaching, but offered website design coaching and business coaching on your homepage, how would they know which to choose?

Besides the fact that these two products sound beyond similar, why would you offer something you aren’t keen on doing yourself? Take away the option by simply promoting one service on you homepage.

2. Keep it clean

Some people just don’t know when to call it quits when it comes to web design. If you’ve ever happened across a site that seems to be hoarding widgets, images, links and more, then you know how unappealing and distracting that is to the eye.

Too much distraction will confuse and deter your visitor from becoming a sale. So here’s what you should do:
Remove any external links from your homepage that take them off your site
Choose social widgets that allow them to like your content without leaving your site
Avoid flashy text or image that takes their attention away from the product you want them to purchase

Are you starting to see a pattern here?

3. Implement a sales funnel

Your sales funnel should start on your homepage. That little chunk of screen you see when you land (referred to as ‘above the fold’) there should contain everything you need to compel your visitor to buy what you are selling.

Using your best copy, image, video or what-have-you to convey the many benefits of your product should all be visible here. To further resonate with your audience, feel free to direct them to your About page so they can get to know you and strengthen your bond together.

4. Make buying simple

You may have convinced them to buy, but if you make it difficult to pay that is a surefire way to lose a sale.

The easiest way to rectify this situation is to have a “buy now” option on your landing page; and be sure to make them feel safe when buying from you. To do that make sure you use and advertise a secure shopping cart option, like Paypal. A money back guarantee always helps solidify the sale as well.

5. Make sure your new landing page is working

I have no doubt that if you managed to follow the first four steps you will have created one heck of a landing page. Now that it’s there, it’s time to find out if it’s converting, which is where analytics comes in.

  • Set yourself up with a free Google Analytics account and add in the tracking code to your website. Every few weeks head back to that analytics dashboard and see:
  • How many unique (read, first time) monthly users are visiting your site
  • Where they are coming from, aka. traffic source
  • Your average bounce rate – how long they stay on your site before leaving
  • Which page exactly your visitors tend to exit your website from the most – visitor exit

You don’t need to be a geek to be able to read this data. For example, if you’re traffic is mainly mobile then make sure that you are using a mobile-optimized web theme. On the other hand, if your visitors continually exit on your product sales page, it’s time to think about doing a redesign.

With these five strategies, there is no doubt in my mind that you will be able to turn your current website into a cash converting sales machine.

Now tell me; what is the biggest change you need to make to your website after learning these steps? Share your thoughts and progress in the comment section.

Natalie Sisson is a Kiwi entrepreneur and adventurer who shares creative ways to run a business from anywhere. To start your very own lifestyle online business be sure to check out her new program, The Freedom Plan. And don’t be shy, – drop her a line on Twitter or Facebook.

Blogging Like a Shark: 10 Secrets to Bootstrapping Your Blog into a Business

This is a guest contribution from Matthew Capala of SearchDecoder.com.

Shark bloggers are experts in their field of choice. However, they rarely call themselves experts or gurus. Skilled blogging pros, such as James Altucher, establish their authority on social networks and search engines by creating immensely authentic and valuable content, establishing strong connections with their readers.

1 - James Altucher 2

James hardly resembles a shark, but make no mistake. Think more in terms of a “pool shark” versus a voracious eating machine. Shark marketers are at the top of the promotional food chain but not because they use force or deception.

2 - shark definition

In today’s competitive times, bloggers need to bootstrap intelligently to stand out from the scores of new blogs and brands with million dollars content-marketing budgets. Your objective as a bootstrap blogger should not be praying all day for one kill. Your aim should be the top of the food chain.

3 - predotorty shark

Predatory Marketing Tactics Dont Work Anymore

Shark marketers rarely if ever address themselves as “experts.” This crowd is too busy helping and connecting to pat themselves on the back. Think of yourself as a center of distribution. As you disseminate more helpful content to a growing number of people an inflow of leads, opportunities and money flows in to you.

Contrary to popular belief, the idea of bootstrapping is not based on using free marketing to spread the word about your brilliant idea. According to dictionary.com, bootstrapping means “relying entirely on one’s own effort and resources”.

Play to your strengths by leveraging your time and talent. Growing your blog usually requires a minimum injection of capital to build momentum, combined with persistent, intelligent labor. For example, hiring a designer may be a good idea – online readers tend to judge the book by its over before they commit any attention to what you are saying.

5 - time money talent ven

Unlike the monstrous, ferocious predators which roam the infinite online seas, whale sharks don’t need to use predatory tactics to promote their businesses. They use great content marketing to attract the visitors to their blogs like a magnet.

Today’s intelligent buyer will be repulsed by hard-charging, competitive marketing tactics.  Operate on a creative plane of thought to attract people like a magnet. Shift from a competitive to a creative mindset and you will win big on the Internet.

Stop stalking. Start connecting. Turn your marketing into a conversation.

6 - magnet

Market with a Magnet

Web users are tuning out marketing noise. Click-through rates are dropping like a brick. Visualize marketing with a magnet instead of the old, worn out sledgehammer advertising approach. 

7 - sledgehammer vs magnet

Use pull marketing to employ the principle of attraction versus the old school push marketing tactics that turn off today’s sophisticated consumer. Create value to become valuable.

8 - Own your ZMOt

Own Your Zero Moment of Truth

80% of consumers search for a product or service before purchasing it. Ranking your blog on Google for quality keywords can turn your blogger status to a rockstar overnight. 

Place a heavy emphasis on nailing down one of the top positions on Google for your desired keywords or key phrases. Keep in mind that only 15% of search results are the old-school ’blue links.’ Estimated 85% of Google search results are social media, videos, images, maps, and the knowledge graph. Fish where the fish are.

Increase your click-through rates by designing attention-grabbing page titles and headlines. Include thought-provoking or funny images in your blog posts to stand out and boost engagement. 

Owning your zero moment of truth inspires you to increase organic search engine click throughs by improving your ad creative writing skills. It’s a win-win.

9 - personal branding

Personal Branding Is Branding

Beginner bloggers often ask me: How do you draw a line between your business name and your personal brand?

You don’t. It’s one and the same.

Steve Jobs built Apple, not the other way around. You have built your own company, You Inc. However, being a blogger is much different from being a CEO. The first is a hobby, the latter is a job.

Consider using SlideShare to tell your brand’s story, including the problems you are solving and why people should care about your brand. Readers like eye candy. Creating a visually appealing tale forms an emotional bond with your target audience.

 

10-media company

Every Business is a Media Company

Blogs serve as one-stop shopping for any website visitors. Post articles, reviews, podcasts and videos on your blog to brand your business. Companies that blog get 55% more website visitors and B2C companies that blog get 88% more leads per month, according to Hubspot. 

Yet many businesses fail to achieve desired results blogging. They fail and give up on content marketing because they don’t operate like a media company.

11 - optimize blog content

Frequency is key to success. Blogging regularly encourages your audience to know, like and trust you. Build your blog on WordPress for increased functionality. Use plugins to capture subscribers and improve your presentation. Position sharing button beside each blog post to leverage your presence. Sharing buttons like the Floating ShareBar can increase sharing by up to 30%. Details matter.

Open your blog to guest posting and build strong business relationships. Join blogging communities, such as Triberr, to build solid relationships with fellow niche bloggers.

12 - startegy

Win Your Battles Before the First Shots Are Fired

Understand the difference between content marketing and content strategy. Content marketing is the creation and promoting of content to attract a targeted audience. Content strategy is the creation of scalable and repeatable content for a built-in audience. Content marketing is like baking a cake while content strategy is similar to owning a bakery. 

13 - cake bakery

Developing a content strategy requires intensive planning. Create content based on researched user needs, deliver this content through various mediums such as video and podcasts and promote along channels which resonate with your target audience.

14 - healthy heartbeat

You Need a Healthy Heartbeat

A healthy, vibrant blog looks similar to a healthy heartbeat. Imagine the steady, predictable ticks on an EKG meter measuring your heartbeat. Engaging through social media channels like twitter and Facebook creates tiny ticks. Sharing Infographics, videos and blog posts creates a larger spike which creates a big impact with a small hit. PR and branded content creates massive spikes. The large hits which make big impacts target news outlets and other large audiences through macro content campaigns.

15 - Heartbeat

Build your inbound marketing campaign on being disciplined. Work your system on a daily basis. Set up a content calendar. Starting at a calendar can inspire you to create content even if you don’t feel like working. Use this motivational strategy to hold yourself accountable.

16 - lead genertion

Invest in Lead Generation at the Outset

Create in-depth, thorough content you could sell for a handsome profit and give it away for free. This approach might seem counterintuitive to bloggers looking to monetize every click, but karma ensures that the value you offer will return to you in some way, shape or form. Use your free giveaway as link bait. 

Build your email list through this exchange of value. In return for your helpful, free giveaway subscribers will gladly offer their name and email address. Use tools like “Pay with a Tweet” to increase social sharing. Users can access your free giveaway by tweeting your giveaway link. This expands your presence and gives visitors a quick and easy way to access your free product.

17 - be interesting

To Be Interesting, Be Interested

Successful shark bloggers follow the teachings of famous behaviorists, such as Dale Carnegie. They generate interest by expressing interest. 

Expressing genuine, heartfelt interest in other bloggers will result in similar reaction towards you. Focus on helping others who need help. Engage in genuine conversations, add value wherever you show up and answer questions to gain the trust of your target audience.

Use social media tools like Topsy to find your audience. Run searches to connect with interested parties through twitter, blog commenting, and everything in between.

18 - marathon

It’s a Marathon Not a Sprint

Take a big picture approach to blogging. Each seemingly tiny step taken leads to solid if not spectacular results in the long term. If only you don’t give up to see it.

Work your way through temporary frustrations by visualizing yourself achieving great things. Professional athletes employ this technique. Clearing your inner world can motivate you to succeed. 

Shark bloggers are a driven, dynamic, and focused bunch. However, they combine high-octane enthusiasm with a significant dose of planning, tools and preparation to stay focused and play a long-term game. 

It might not be easy to be positive every day when you grow a blog from its infancy but doing so can provide you with immense returns in the long run.

Good luck!

Matthew Capala is an inbound marketing strategist, personal branding coach, Internet entrepreneur, keynote speaker, and author. He is an Adj. Professor at NYU and Head of Search at Lowe Profero. His free personal branding e-book, Away with the Average, has been widely praised. A leading voice in the start-up community, Matthew founded SearchDecoder.com, a venue for SEO ideas for entrepreneurs. You can find him on Tiwtter at @SearchDecoder.

3 Mistakes that Are Keeping Your Readers from Becoming Cash Customers

Image via taxcredit.net

Image via taxcredit.net

This is a guest contribution from Sonja Jobson.

You’ve been told that blogging is a great way to grow your business online, snag leads, and ultimately make sales.  And so far, your blog is helping to boost your traffic, spread the word around on social media, and build up an audience.

But leads? Customers? Money? Not so much.

There is a difference between blogging and blogging for business and, if haven’t been seeing much return on your blogging investment, you’re probably participating in the former.

But don’t sweat it – you can easily turn things around and start transforming your blog readers into cash customers and clients by avoiding three common mistakes and counter-acting them with simple changes to your blogging strategy.

Mistake #3 – Never mentioning your products or services

We’ve all been warned that, when it comes to marketing our businesses via social media platforms, we should avoid “pitching” our audience at all costs. That being promotional and sales-y will just turn people off and leave you shouting into an empty void.

Look, over-promoting your business is never attractive. If you’re constantly trying to make a sale – at the cost of being helpful and human – then you’re going to alienate your audience. Content and social marketing is all about being of service, providing value, and giving before getting. But there is a limit to this rule.

We can get so caught up in avoiding the “pitch” that we become media producers instead of business owners. 

You have to find a balance between producing really helpful content that your audience will get value from (which is very important) and educating your audience on your business and what you sell.

If you leave the last piece out, you may attract an amazing, engaged audience – but you won’t make any money.

Mentioning your products and/or services in appropriate places, at an appropriate frequency is not an offense, it’s a smart business move.

#2 – Creating content that appeals to peers, not prospects

A blog isn’t going to help find valuable business leads unless you are attracting the right readers. It may sound obvious, but a lot of people miss the mark on this one.

It’s all about the subtle differentiation between creating content that would attract your peers (or other industry leaders) and your prospects (people who are ideal for your product or service).

Let’s say you’re in the career coaching business. Your prospects probably don’t care about the latest development in career coaching techniques – that would be your peers. Your prospects would much rather read about how career coaching can help them get the raise they’ve been working so hard for or the five simple steps for figuring out what type of job they should pursue.

When writing blog posts that would appeal to prospects, it can sometimes feel like we’re writing about “dumb” stuff. Topics that surely everyone knows about. But it only seems that way because you spend all your time immersed in those topics. You’re the expert. Your prospects aren’t.

#1 – Not focusing on the opt-in

The number one reason most business blogs aren’t converting readers into customers: a lack of strategy for moving blog readers through the sales funnel.

A blog in and of itself isn’t a direct selling tool. It’s powerful way to grow awareness of your brand, build the “know-like-trust” factor with your prospects, and educate people about your business, but on its own it doesn’t generate sales.

A blog can get people ready to become a customer, but you need to have a strategy that goes beyond the blog to convert readers into buyers.

And that strategy is all about your email list. Once you get an interested blog reader to opt-in to your email list, you can begin the sales conversation.

Directing people to your email list should be one of your top blogging priorities. Include opt-in forms on your blog (the side bar and below each blog post are good locations) and prompt readers to subscribe often.

Once you get people on your list, you can deliver more great content to their inbox (like your latest blog posts) as well as sales messages.

Wrapping Up:

Remember that it’s OK (and smart) to mention your products and services on your blog when appropriate. Don’t get super self-promotional, but don’t hold back from including a link to your newest product or mentioning your helpful service if it fits naturally into the context of your post.

Your content should always be written for your ideal prospects, not your peers. Even if something seems obvious to you, it might be just what your prospects were searching for.

A blog all by itself won’t convert readers into customers. You need a follow up system: aka your email list. Make growing your list a top priority when blogging for business.

Sonja Jobson helps small business owners and entrepreneurs become incredible on the internet with content marketing. Grab her free, weekly biz training series and profitable marketing guides for even more business-growth goodness.

All You Need to Know About Using Exclusivity for Better Product Launches

This is a contribution by our very own Shayne Tilley.

Image by Flickr user EricaStLeonards

Image by Flickr user EricaStLeonards

Launching products and campaigning can be fast-moving and complex beasts. There are so many layers, and even the best-laid plans can be scrapped in an instant as it all goes amazing well, or horrifically wrong…

Two promotional tactics we use in our product launches and special campaigns on both ProBlogger and Digital Photography School are the notion of “exclusivity“, and “limiting factors“.

I thought today I’d share with you the how and why of this approach, and what we’ve learned along the way.

So what do I mean by “exclusivity” and “limits” in the context of a launch or promotion?

Exclusivity:

Exclusivity is about creating a proposition that will not be available to the general public. It’s an offer specifically for you, because you meet some sort of criteria. It might be because you’re an existing customer. It might be because you showed early interest in a product. It might be because you are a newsletter subscriber, or a member of a community. It can be anything as long as you can define it.

By me giving you this offer I’m making you feel special. You’re acknowledged and rewarded and hopefully rightly so! This can then drive two responses:

1. the “nah-nah-na-na-nah!” response

We like to brag. Sometimes it’s about how much we paid for something, sometimes it’s about how little we did. When I make you this exclusive offer, it means when you take advantage of it, you’ll have something the chump next to you paid way more for and it’s only because you were you. It’s like winning without having to even play the game! Of course you’ll head to the checkout.

2. the IOU response

By giving you this exclusive offer you immediately think that you owe me something. I’ve taken the time to create this special offer and reward you for some reason. That I value you so much I’m willing to give you something that no-one else can have. The only way you can pay me back is take up the honour in which I bestowed upon you and head to that checkout.

An example we’ve used recently on ProBlogger.com:

We soft-launched the new ProBlogger Community in the last couple of weeks, and before making it available to all, we exclusively launched it to existing members first. We provided with exclusivity in two ways: offering members the chance get into the community early and establish themselves in addition to receiving a great price as a foundation member of the site. Why? Because no matter how great the content and site technology is, it’s the people there that make it special — and we wanted to ensure our loyal problogger.com members were part of the new site. A real win-win situation.

This idea of exclusivity has been one the tech start-up community has really embraced. Take Pinterest for example: it had an ‘invite-only’ sign up process for some time. You had to request access, and when you were given it, (because you’d been ‘approved’ by them), you are much more likely to actually use the service. There are secret back-door and referral systems built-in to make you feel even more special.  Whilst you’ll see what sound like legitimate reasons for this, trust me –  it’s a marketing tactic. One that’s designed to create an emotional debt with the product, person, or service you are using. Which makes you more likely to stick around.

And it’s quite effective.

Limited:

When limiting your campaigns, you are communicating some sort of restrictive factor. It might be stock, it might be seats, or it could be time.  By doing this, you are creating a sense of urgency. A sense that “if I don’t act now, I might miss out“. These responses are driven by our past – we’ve all missed out on something because we waited too long, and it made us feel bad.  It’s the desire you have to avoid that negative emotional trigger I’m pulling by limiting an offer in some way.

How we use this on Digital Photography School:

Every single new product launch we run will have a limit. For the most part, it’s in the form of an earlybird special. For a time-limited period, readers will receive a special discount, or a special bonus for a few weeks. Over the launch period, we up the focus on this to increase the urgency.  The first week we’ll focus on the product or offer and just mention that it’s Time-Limited.  The next week, we will announce the cut-off date with a little more prominence, and the final email we’ll send 48 hours before that date will be the core message of the product.

With this urgency we often see more sales on the last day than we did when we first announced the product. This of course goes up a new gear when we run our 12 days of Christmas Campaign, where each deal only lasts 12 hours.

It’s not about making the sale, it’s about closing it.

With both of these techniques, it’s not about making the sale. Your products benefit and the offer still needs to do that too (sorry). What limits and exclusivity will do is just give the potential customer that little extra nudge to head on through the sale process.

Digital vs Actual

These techniques have been around longer than the internet, and digital content is actually just an adaptation of what retail stores mastered a long time ago. If you’re selling a digital product, such as a book or a video course, then as long as there’s power you have an infinite amount of stock.  However if you have a service, or a course, or a physical product, you don’t just have time up your sleeve to use as a sales technique – you also have ‘While stocks last’ – just as powerful, maybe even more!

The ProBlogger team recently witnessed action that a stock/seat limitation can create. After putting a limited number of tickets (450) on sale for this years ProBlogger Event, within minutes, half of them had sold.  That creates a bigger, more urgent call-to-action, as people realised they only had a short time to make a call to attend or not. If they waited they’d miss out!

… and it snowballed.

This accumulation of momentum resulted in all tickets being sold out in 6 hours and a re-engineering of the event set-up for us to allow another 100 people to attend. Which sold out quickly again!

Time and its subtleties

If you can’t use stock as a limiting factor, then time will be your best friend – just like it is on Digital Photography School.

With time there are some subtleties in language you need to take into account.

Ends in two weeks‘ is much stronger than ‘soon

7 days only‘ is much stronger that ‘next week

In the next 48 hours‘ is stronger than ‘In the next two days‘.

When putting your copy and messaging together, you need to think about which time terms feel closer; and ensure that you are giving specific time periods rather than just writing generic terms like ‘soon’. As I mentioned earlier, we tend to get more specific and forthright as we get closer to the end.

Be prepared to shift gears

In your campaign and launch planning, you’ll have a nice start and end time for your offer. You’ll communicate that clearly as suggested above, but you also might find yourself in the situation where you need to change things up.  We’ve done so a few times when:

  • Our readers demand it: Because you have a limit and things change back to normal after it’s reached, some people will miss out.  If you have enough of them you might, ‘by popular demand’, bring it back if possible for a little while longer.
  • Because something broke: If something goes wrong, your website might crash – or in the case of us in the last product launch on dPS, our email provider went down – you’ll have people that missed out through no fault of their own.  In this case you’ll have little choice but to extend the sale for those that missed out.

Truth is better than fiction

These techniques are powerful motivators, and you might be tempted to ‘manufacture’ them. Which is essentially lying to your readers.  Now I can’t stop you doing that, but in the interests of a long-term relationship with your customers, truth is much better than fiction.

If you never intended to raise your early-bird price don’t call it an early-bird offer. If you’re thinking about putting up an out-of-stock sign on your product with a warehouse full of them, just don’t.

Eventually, people will figure it out.

When we put 450 tickets up for the ProBlogger event, we only ever intended to sell 450. As a result of what we witnessed, we were fortunately able to react quickly and find room for some more.  It’s that authenticity that help build the demand in the first place, and lying will break that over time.

So that’s my take on exclusivity and limits, and how we use there here at ProBlogger and Digital Photography School. I’d love to hear if you’ve used these on your own blog and how it went.

Shayne Tilley is the marketing guy for ProBlogger.net and Digital Photography School.  The author of the PB Guide to Online Marketing and a long time contributor to the blog.  When he’s not thinking of new and interesting ways to grow the ProBlogger sites, he’s either bashing up developers or hanging out with the swiftly.com team.

4 Ways to Sell More Products Online

This is a guest contribution from Rosie Scott of The New Craft Society.

As we discussed recently in this post, making money via blogging is far more than fanciful thinking; for an increasing number of dedicated bloggers, it’s a rewarding reality. But there’s a difference between, “Hey mom! I made 30 cents this month using nothing but my typing fingers!” and, you know, actually making a living. Whether you generate sales through coaching, services, eBooks, physical products or any of the many other ways bloggers can pull a profit, selling more products online means thinking more like a business. Don’t worry – it’s not as intimidating as it might sound, and you won’t lose suddenly turn into a heartless corporate shill.

1. Optimize Your Website for Sales

It may sound obvious, but if you’re going to sell products through your blog, you’ve got to get it primed for sales. This is intuitively done on business websites, where the focus is all on the product and there’s all of one section devoted to a blog. It can be a little less natural, however, when blogs are the central focus. Here’s how to get it right.

Make a separate tab for your store. Each product or service you’re selling should have its own, dedicated page. If it’s a digital product, it should be downloadable in as few clicks as possible. If you’re using a shopping cart, that should also be easily accessible, with few to no barriers to purchase, like long contact or sign up forms.

Don’t fear the long-form sales page. When in doubt, it’s better to give more details than too few. Don’t skimp on shipping policies, product details, contact info, technical specs, product FAQs – anything you can think of that a customer might need to know. You can separate this easily with on page grids or columns. However, even a long form sales pitch can be highly effective, as long as it tells a great story (and as a blogger, isn’t that what you do?). Take a look how writer and writing coach Alexandra Franzen does it for her I <3 Email course. That is one long sales page, but it’s broken up well with catchy headlines, all the essential details about the course, bullets, testimonials, and at one point, an easy sign up, but it’s off the site now as the course has sold out. The point is, if you’ve got the details, make ‘em known.

Take excellent photos. Customers may like the convenience of online shopping, but there’s just nothing quite like holding a product in one’s hands to really get a sense of it. Photos go a long way towards mitigating that problem, allowing customers a much more in-depth look. As such, it makes sense to invest in a good photographer to take clear, high quality product photos, from just about every angle you can imagine.

Make sharing easy. These days, having a social bar on a sales page is essential, so that customers can easily share products or services they think are great on their favorite social networks. Whether it’s at the bottom, on the side, or several places throughout the page, you’ll do best when sharing is one-click easy.

Encourage feedback. Reviews are by and large one of the biggest deciding factors for potential customers. In this social age, they’re also a form of social proofing (i.e. if that personable looking guy thinks it’s good, it probably is). Three weeks after purchase, email your customers directly to ask for a review, and feature the good ones prominently on a testimonial page.

Consider a third-party selling platform. Managing shopping cart software on your own can be difficult, not to mention handling payments. It can be a lot easier to simply integrate a third-party platform like Shopify into your site, as you’ll get to retain the look and feel of your site while Shopify does all of the backend heavy lifting. Alternatively, for certain kinds of bloggers, sending followers to a different site altogether can be an even better option, especially if you want to keep your blog from getting to sales-centric, and it makes things much simpler from a design standpoint. A good guide to Etsy, for example, will get you quickly set up to sell on that particular site without any of the work you’d have to do to fit a store onto your personal blog. Doing so will also enter you into a wider pool of sellers that customers already trust, thereby broadening your reach and doubling your efforts.

2. Up Your Content Strategy

As a blogger, you’ve already got somewhat of a built-in strategy; content is, after all, kind of what you do. But if you really want to up your sales, you’ve got to get organized about just what you’re posting, when you’re posting it, who you’re promoting it to and how you’re doing so.

Do some sleuthing to determine what readers want. Maybe you’ve already furrowed down into a profitable niche, or maybe you’re still just sniffing the ground to figure out where the best scents lead. Either way, it’s always worth doing a little detective work to determine just what your readers (or potential readers) want to read – all the better if that just so happens to tie into a service or product you’ve got for sale. To do this, take a look at some of the keywords that are bringing people to your blog, and be on the hunt for any questions you have yet to answer. Comments on both your blog and on other blogs within your niche are also a great place to look for this, as are trending topics on places like Google+ or Twitter. Or, hey, here’s something novel: just get on social media and ask your readers all about their deepest questions within your niche. Boom: you’ve got a wealth of posts, ready to go.

Change up your format. Sure, how-to blogposts and scintillating written stories are great to read. But why not change it up a bit from time to time? Videos, infographics, and especially contests and giveaways are a great way to engage readers, and they each provide plenty of room for your unique personality. Launching a new doggy daycare service on your pup-centric blog? (See, I can’t stop with the dog thing!). Have your readers send in cute photos of their pups for a chance to win free services. The more varied and creative you get with it, the more readers you’ll get sharing your work, the more products you’ll ultimately sell.

Get serious about an editorial calendar. In the old days, you could get away with blogging about whatever interested in you from post to post. When you’re trying to sell products and services, getting organized with an editorial calendar is key. This way, you can better vary your content and spread out your product marketing, so it’s not all “buy, buy, buy!” one week and random blogposts the next. In fact, depending on your product, you’ll still want to plan so that you’re primarily focusing on your regular blogging, with your promotions more widely staggered.

Organize your audience into categories. Readers who follow you on Facebook aren’t necessarily drawn to you for the same reasons as Twitter followers, nor do they expect to engage with your blog or products in the same manner in each place. Take some time to research your followers on each social media platform, and to curate posts and shares, whether promotional or otherwise, that really make sense for each one. Even if the ultimate message is the same, it should be communicated differently on each platform. Taking the time to tailor your social media messages will make the much more shareable on each one.

3. Engage More With Your Followers

This may be something you already do, but if not, it’s time to start engaging at a much deeper level and more comprehensively with your potential and current followers. In one respect, it makes sense again to think of yourself like a business with need for customer service representatives; if someone comments on your blog or tweets a complaint about a product, they deserve a response, even if it’s just a “Thanks!” or a retweet. (Caveat: You still retain a blogger’s right to ignore trolls).

However, it’s important not to take the customer service representative idea too far and let yourself turn into an automaton. Big businesses, after all, are increasingly trying to sound just as personable as bloggers, so you’ve already got a real advantage in that department. Which is to say: respond in your characteristic tone of voice, using the full force of your personality. Just be polite and encouraging wherever you can.

And hey, if you’ve already got a loyal following, use it! As you promote your posts and products on different platforms, reach out to followers directly with @mentions, as long as you think they’d truly be interested in what you have to say. Pose discussion questions, or host a Google Hangout where you can talk issues of the day or simply, well, hangout. The greater the response your followers get from you, the more they’ll feel like they know you and that you’re on the same team, the more willing to buy they’ll be.

4. Cross Sell 

On the other end of the corporate vs. personable blogger spectrum, there’s the essential art of cross selling. Hey, if the big guys benefit from it everyday, why shouldn’t you? If it’s done right, cross selling is really just the process of giving your customers even more of what they need, not just randomly throwing more advertising at them. Think of what happens when you book a flight on Kayak. It’s not like when you check out, the site offers you low, low, LOW prices on used cars or trucks, for a limited time only! Rather, the deals they offer are on hotels or car rentals at your destination. You know, stuff you’re probably going to be booking anyway.

Just how you cross sell will depend entirely on the kind of product or service, and you will be the best person to determine just what matches well with what. Cross selling might be done, as we just saw in the Kayak example, at the moment of checkout. It can also happen in the form of a bundle, like when Amazon offers you a deal or sometimes just the convenience of packaging three similar items in one. It can come in the form of an incentive, or in the form of data, by suggesting similar products or service that other people bought in conjunction with the one the buyer added to their cart. It can also come in the form of expert recommendations, or in a 2-for-1 type of offer.

Don’t have anything to cross sell yet? That’s fine. You’ll still want to draw the purchaser further into your brand by suggesting they sign up for your newsletter or connect with you via social media as they check out. The goal here is to think beyond the single sale.

The Takeaway

Chances are, you came to blogging so that you could talk about your passions, and you dreamed, too, of that passion supporting you full-time. Well, in order for that to happen, you’ve got to sell products or services, and doing that requires a good dose of business savvy. With a little education and experimentation, I know it’s doable for you. So get going, and have fun!

Rosie Scott is a content strategist at a digital marketing company. An avid blogger, you can find her at The New Craft Society or on twitter @RosieScott22.

 

5 Reasons Why Blogging is Not Working for Your Business

This is a guest contribution from freelance writer, Jawad.

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Over the last few years, the significance of high value content, in generating qualified sales leads, has increased tremendously for businesses.

More than ever before, businesses are now focusing on generating regular content for their target markets to keep a steady inflow of customers.

This, of course, cannot be done without a well-managed and regularly updated business blog.

However, over the last few months I have come across a number of business owners who have not managed to get a single client despite regularly updating their blogs with useful content.

At first, their arguments about the ineffectiveness of blogging seemed to carry weight. But a closer look revealed certain patterns behind the failure of all those business blogs.

In this post I’ll try to sum up the reasons why some businesses find it hard to achieve success through blogging.

This post assumes that,

  • Your business takes blogging seriously and has either hired permanent blogger or contracted a professional freelance blogger to manage your blog.
  • You follow a fixed posting schedule and update your blog regularly.

1. Your Blog Doesn’t Have a Clear Objective

This, in my opinion, is the biggest reason why a number of business blogs fail to make an impact.

They seem to lack focus. There’s no set pattern to their content and it is difficult to understand what they’re trying to achieve through it.

Like everything else in business, you need to have a clear objective that you want to achieve through your blog. You can’t expect a blog to get you customers if it is only updated with your latest corporate event pictures and news.

Your blog should be a part of your greater business strategy. You should be clear about the objectives you want to achieve through it.

There should be a reason why you’re putting so much effort into your blog.

Are you looking to attract customers? Or are you focused on creating awareness about your product?

Whatever the objective is, you need to be clear about it. Because your objective will ultimately give direction to the type of content you post on your blog and the type of marketing channels you choose for promoting your content.

 

2. You Don’t Have a Blogging Strategy

Blogging alone is not going to get you customers. You need to have a broader strategy and use blogging as a key component of that strategy.

Your strategy should not only include the type of content you’re going to create for your target market, but it should also include a comprehensive plan to promote your content so that it reaches the right audience at the right time.

The same goes for your social media strategy. Blogging, content promotion, social media etc. are all connected with each other and cannot be used in isolation.

Each of these components has a unique role in achieving your objectives and they should complement each other in your overall content marketing strategy.

What I see with many business blogs is a random set of posts that does not contribute to any particular direction.

Develop a sequence in your content and connect it with the greater strategy. That is the only way to move forward

3. You Are Not Blogging for Your Target Market

One of the most obvious, yet common, reasons for ineffective business blogging is the lack of focus on your target market.

You don’t want irrelevant people to come to your blog. Traffic alone is useless if it is not converting into regular visitors.

For example, if you are a blogging agency or a freelance writer, why would you want to write about freelance writing on your blog if your objective is to get clients? The only people who are going to read such content are freelance writers themselves. And they are certainly not your customers.

Identify your customers and write content that provides solutions to their most common problems.

That is the only way to not only get their attention but also to convert them into regular visitors and, eventually, loyal customers.

4. Your Blog is All About Hard Sales Pitches

If you’re trying to make sales through every post on your blog, then you’re probably better off without any blog at all.

Nothing damages the credibility of a business in the eyes of potential clients more than hard sales pitches. It simply shows that you’re not concerned with the problems of your target market.

Blogging is NOT a direct sales channel.

By its very nature, blogging should be focused on developing a credible image of your brand as a company that cares about its customers and offers solutions to complex problems.

Once you establish this image, getting sales is not an issue.

Look, customers are not afraid to spend money on the right solutions. Your job is to convince them, through your content, that you indeed ARE the right solution.

And that can never be done through hard sales pitch content.

Offer solutions, the clients will come themselves.

5. Your Blog Content is Not Driving Action

You might not be making any of the mistakes I’ve listed above.

You have a great plan for your blog, you have a great strategy that compliments your business goals and you realize that hard sales pitches never work.

Then why is your blog still not bringing results?

Chances are that you’re being just a bit too neutral in your content.

It’s obviously recommended not to push sales pitches in every blog post, but that does not mean that you leave your readers with no clue about your services.

At the end of the day, your blog is a part of your business strategy and businesses need sales.

What should you do then?

Make sure every post on your business blog makes your readers take action. For example, if have a product that can genuinely solve the problems of your readers, then there’s no harm in adding a link to the product page at the end of your post.

Similarly, never forget to drop hints to your readers within your content about how you can solve their problems.

Like your overall blogging strategy, have an objective for every blog post as well.

You’ll be amazed how small signals within your content can help your readers take the actions you want.

Conclusion

There’s absolutely no question that the significance of blogging for businesses is only going to increase in the coming days.

However, unlike the old days, blogging is much more about long term planning than short term gains.

Get your strategic hat on and develop a plan around your blog. If done correctly, it will be the perfect catalyst for achieving your business goals.

If you are a business, online or offline, that is using blogging to drive sales, I would love to hear your comments about the strategies that work for you.

Jawad is a freelance writer and professional blogger with a keen interest in content marketing, blogging and wordpress. With professional experience in Web Project Management, he also provides content and design consultancy to a number of tech companies. He blogs at WritingMyDestiny.com