Written by: Nathan Hangen, Guest Blogger
If you’re a blogger who’s thought about creating and selling your own product, you’ve probably heard that in order to make sales you need to get a lot of traffic. What I’ve learned, though, is that there’s a difference between getting a lot of traffic and getting valuable traffic. There’s even a difference between getting a lot of valuable traffic and getting a lot of paying customers.
For some reason, people automatically assume that if you build up your traffic, via comments, email, social media, etc., you will automatically start seeing your bills get paid and your bank account grow.
The truth is that converting traffic into customers is a lot more difficult than it seems, especially if you don’t have a solid product to offer up to that traffic. The following steps will help you develop and launch your first product, while keeping your readers happy.
Step 1: What are You Selling?
Sure, you need traffic in order to sell stuff, but how are you going to sell anything unless you have a good product?
You’re going to have a hard time converting traffic into sales if all you’re offering is a “me-too” ebook or the same PLR content as everyone else. Make sure you take the time to develop a product that can really solve problems and offer practical advice to your readers.
Step 2: Identify Your Market
Technically, you should do this part first, but as I’ve learned over the past few years, you sometimes won’t know your market until you’ve tried to sell something and failed.
I’ve had a lot of failed products, but instead of just quitting and closing up shop, I’ve learned to re-evaluate and adjust based on what I learned from my mistakes.
For instance, when I had the idea to write Beyond Blogging (co-authored with Mike Cliffe-Jones), I didn’t have an audience in mind; I just had a general product concept.
From there, though, I spent time sending surveys and talking with my readers on Twitter and in my blog comments. This isn’t something you can skip—you have to really get in the trenches and hang out with your audience.
In doing that, I learned what my audience wanted, which was a product that was inspirational, wasn’t a typical “how-to” blogging book, and had information and advice they could use right away. I used my research to create my product specifically for this group of people, instead of trying to make my book “everything for everyone.”
Step 3: Respect Your Audience
Some people are successful using “hit and run” sales tactics, but that’s not my style. Quite frankly, that shouldn’t be the style of any blogger that wants to build a long-term relationship with their audience. Blog audiences are fickle, and if they start feeling like your values aren’t in line with theirs, they’ll drop your blog in a heartbeat.
How To Build Relationships While Selling
Building relationships is easy, but it takes time and dedication. It starts in your comment section, by providing your readers with replies and feedback to their questions or concerns.
From there, you should make sure your email newsletter so that it provides maximum value to your readers. Keep in mind that value doesn’t always mean commercial-free content. Sometimes, value means relevant affiliate offers. People don’t mind this as long as you aren’t contacting them only when you have something to sell.
Finding the balance between selling and relationship building is tough, and will likely take some trial and error to get right. Some people will absolutely never want to be sold to, and it’s OK if you lose a few people as long as the vast majority of your audience sticks with you. If you get lots of feedback that people aren’t interested in what you’re selling, you might want to consider whether your product is really addressing the needs of your audience.
How I Sold to My Readers
When I started selling Beyond Blogging on my site, I spent a few weeks telling my subscribers and my blog readers that I was working on a really cool book.
I built up anticipation over time so that they not only knew it was coming, but so that I could pre-qualify them ahead of time.
Once the launch started, I gave my readers a head start to an early link and a discount code. They appreciated that I rewarded them for being a regular reader of my blog, reinforcing our relationship.
Although I sent reminders every few days until the end of the launch, I never acted desperate or forceful. Again, readers responded well to being treated like we had a valuable relationship, rather than just being targets for sales.
Lastly, I didn’t harass them or annoy them if they didn’t buy. When the launch was over, I simply added an email to my autoresponder sequence and went on with my blogging as usual.
If you spend all of your time promoting products, people are going to get tired of hearing from you. If you mix it up with good advice, you’re not only helping them, you’re creating a need and a desire to learn more. It’s like building blocks. You’ve got to build them up one level at a time.
When all was said and done, we sold 5 figures in the first 24 hours, and doubled that by the end of the launch. Our names were all over the blogosphere, and people were asking their favorite bloggers to do a review, without us having to prod them. That’s some true social proof.
From there, we’ve built a strong customer list that still wants to do business and is ready to learn more. Our next step is to use what we’ve learned to take them to the next level with a more advanced product, resulting in a second product with a built-in audience.
When it comes right down to it, you need traffic, but you also need to make sure you’re making something worth buying. Don’t go with big ideas—go with what people need. Once it’s ready, launch with as much hype as your audience can tolerate, while still maintaining the integrity of your relationships. After all, we’re building businesses here—not selling used cars!
What strategies have you used to turn your readers into customers? What mistakes have you made that you’ve learned from? Please share them in the comments!
About the Author
Nathan Hangen teaches people how to build digital empires, helps them rock through their workday, and works with small businesses to implement digital marketing campaigns.