This guest post is by Peep Laja of Traindom.
Blog monetization is a tough challenge for a lot of people. In this post I’ll help you overcome it.
The best way to make money with your blog (even when your traffic is low) is by selling your own digital products—especially online courses that teach people to do or achieve something.
Content marketing (blogging, social media) is the way to position yourself as an expert and build relationships with your audience. Both will make it easy for you to sell a course on your blog.
If you have your own products, you control the marketing, the pricing, and the content, and you take 100% of the profit. That sure beats everything else.
If you’re doing it right, you’re already teaching people through blogging, so teaching shouldn’t be new to you.
Ebooks might not cut it
The easiest way to package paid content would be PDF ebooks. They’re really easy to create, but they also have many problems:
- Low perceived value: People know how to create pdf ebooks—just choose “Save As” in MS Word. So your PDF has a perceived value that’s much lower than the $13 real book you can buy from Amazon. This means you cannot charge a high price for your PDF ebook.
- Ebooks are static: Once they’re out there, they’re out there. You cannot add stuff, correct material, or fix typos.
- Ebooks are way too easy to
sharepirate: Someone buys your $19 ebook and then attaches it to his email and blasts it everywhere. Or uploads to his blog. Or better yet, shares with the world via torrents. So much for your ebook income.
- People don’t want to just read any more: They want to watch videos and use a variety of media.
- There are no analytics: Which chapter is most popular? What are your readers most interested in? You will never know.
- There’s no interaction: People read a chapter in your ebook and have questions. But alas, no interaction is possible.
- There’s no recurring income: Money is in the repeat purchases. You can only sell PDFs for a single payment. So kiss goodbye to the potential of a membership site.
So, what’s better than ebooks? Online courses. They have none of the shortcomings mentioned in this list—in fact it’s quite the opposite.
First, solve a problem
If you decide to build a course for your site, your journey begins with understanding the problem you’re solving. People don’t want to buy online courses. They want to solve their problems.
If your course doesn’t solve a problem, it will be difficult—if not impossible—to sell.
Solving the core issue should be your #1 priority—everything else is extra. You have to get this right.
Your course should:
- give solutions to the problems your readers want to solve
- give solutions to the problems your readers don’t know they have
- be practical and have actionable content (the more specific, the better)
- use a mix of media: text alone is too boring; all video can be too time-consuming (with text they can just scroll down or search for something specific, whereas in video or audio, they don’t know what’s coming).
Determine the ultimate goals for the end user—why is this person buying your course?—and make sure your course contains everything that will help the user achieve her goals.
Survey your audience
If you’re blogging, you probably already have an audience you want to sell to. The best way forward is to figure out what audience members’ main challenges are, and how you can help them overcome them.
If your readers are constantly sending you emails asking the same questions over and over, that’s a clue right there.
Great questions to ask include:
- What is your main challenge when it comes to (the topic you’re blogging about)?
- What are your main (business or personal) goals for the next year or two?
- If you could only ask one question from the world’s foremost expert on (the topic you’re blogging about), what would you ask?
- What kind of information would you like to see more of?
The question you should not ask is, “how much would you pay for it?” People are unable to predict accurately how they will behave in a situation. The answers they will give you won’t reflect how they’ll actually behave. If you want to read up on product pricing strategies and techniques, see this article.
Ideally you will not ask more than five questions. The longer the survey, the fewer people will fill it in. Are the additional questions you want to add worth it, if they mean less peoplewill take the survey? Usually not.
Organize the content in a logical sequence
The best courses give clear instructions: first do this, then do that.
People who buy online courses don’t have the time to go through hours and hours and hours of training materials (there are universities for that) to figure out what exactly they should do. They might think they want a lot of content, but in reality most courses people buy they never finish.
Organize your course modules and chapters in a logical order and structure every piece of content in a 1-2-3 format whenever possible.
Keep it short and to the point
Everybody is crazily busy these days, and making time for learning is difficult. Business books can be frustrating because they are often 250 pages long, while the key learnings can be summed up in ten pages. There’s no reason why your course should make the same mistake.
Have you read the book Re-Work? You should. You can learn a great deal from this book about creating great courses. Two main points to keep in mind:
Keep your chapters (videos, text content etc) short!
If you have hours and hours of video material, try to make each video five minutes long, maximum. Anyone can find five minutes to watch a video, and people will feel that they’re making progress.
Nothing creates more motivation than making progress. People want instant! They don’t like hard work. It’s a known fact that most people don’t complete the online courses and books they buy because they’re simply too long.
Don’t mull over it: get straight to the point
You want to make a point and teach something. Don’t go into in-depth background stories. Just focus on the key learning right away. Your customers will appreciate that.
Also, be aware that people can remember maximum of three points from a presentation, so don’t try to teach more than that. If you have more important points to make, break them into several chapters or videos.
Show me and I may remember
Showing something is way more effective than just talking about something. That’s why using video is way better than just plain text: you can show stuff. (Ideally, use a combination of both text and video.)
If you’re a sales trainer, you can show your emotions and facial expressions, and even enact sales meetings and scenarios. If you’re teaching people how to use a particular software or an online tool, you absolutely need to use screencasts (recordings of your computer screen).
For beginners or advanced-level learners?
Often I’m asked if the course materials should be aimed at someone who is a total beginner or someone who already knows something. The answer is: it depends on your target group. If you’re not sure, create two courses: beginner level and advanced level. This way you can make sure that your course materials are neither too hard nor too obvious, and you can upsell the higher level courses to people who first bought your entry-level stuff.
The beginner market is always the largest in terms of number of potential customers, and there’s only a handful of people who are real experts. This means that it is a good idea to price your entry-level products lower. Advanced level courses can be much more expensive.
Put some personality into it
Plain dry text puts people off. This is your chance to convey your personality and make the content not only useful, but entertaining. Portraying a strong personality is also a great way to stand out from the competition (think Tom Peters or Gary Vaynerchuk).
People like to feel that they know you a little bit, and developing that kind of a relationship helps your sales figures. After all, the money is in the repeat purchases and you want them to buy your next products, too. All the top information marketers constantly release new products. Your current product is your best sales tool.
Seek external input
You know your stuff and you have good ideas, but a fresh pair of eyes is always good to have. Even the best writers have editors and other people who give feedback on the content and structure.
Before you launch your product it’s a good idea to show your course to other experts in your field, and people in your target group. These people can give you feedback on a range of questions:
- Is the structure of your product clear and logical?
- Which content needs more in-depth explanation?
- What parts are unclear?
- What kinds of concerns do they have as a user about putting the know-how into action?
- Which content could be added to the course?
This feedback helps you add what you missed and generally improve your product—and get validation that everything rocks!
Do a pre-launch for the first X number of customers
Once you’ve got the feedback and you’ve further improved your product, it might be a good idea to do a pre-launch for your product.
What this means is that you sell access to your online course only for a select few (first ten, 20, or 50) for a reduced price—and everyone who joins has to give you feedback. You communicate in advance that you will improve your product based on their input.
This increases your sales by creating scarcity (limiting the amount of people who get the low price), and helps you get testimonials right from the start and you get valuable feedback directly from your customers.
If it turns out your course is missing some important stuff, they’ll forgive you since you prepared them in advance and charged them a lower price. Now you can make your course better and do another launch for the general public.
“A year from now you will wish you had started today”
This quote by Karen Lamb struck a chord with me the first time I read it. I always think of it when I’m contemplating when to start something.
Don’t linger too long—aim to get the product out there. The sooner you start, the faster you learn. After all, it’s not how you start, it’s how you end up.
Do you offer a course to your readers? Share your tips and advice for course creation in the comments.