You know that feeling you have when you’re onto something big?
Your heart is thump, thump, thumping, your mind races down the roads of future possibilities, and you drift through the day with strange grin plastered on your face, like someone shot you up with happy juice, and you’ve yet to come down. It’s a wonderful place to be, and if you’d come looking for me on October 7, 2011, it’s exactly where you would’ve found me.
Seven days into the launch for my new blog, I already had 1,740 email subscribers. I’d picked up over 1,000 new twitter followers, hundreds of whom were enthusiastically gabbing about me to all their friends. I also had 673 likes and dozens of comments on a new Facebook fan page.
Oh, and did I mention I didn’t write a single blog post?
It’s true. My blog consisted of two pages, a video, and over 200 comments from readers who were so excited they could barely sit still.
What’s more, a half-dozen A-list bloggers sent me the direct messages on Twitter, telling me how impressed they were. One of them even said he was jealous. I was shocked. My baby blog was only seven days old, and already people were envious.
Sounds impossible, right?
Normally, it is. For many bloggers, getting traffic and respect is an incremental process, built one blog post at a time over a period of months or years.
It takes patience. It takes perseverance. It takes lots and lots of hard work.
But what if it didn’t have to be that way?
What if you go from a nobody to the center of attention in your industry in a matter of weeks?
What if you could become an authority without writing a single word?
What if you could get hundreds or even thousands of people talking about you, generating a massive tidal wave of traffic that carries you for years to come?
In our world, it’s unheard of. Blogs just aren’t built that way.
So, to learn how, I had to visit another world, a world inhabited by the brilliant and the beautiful, a world where billions of dollars are won or lost based solely on the strength of an idea, a world where nobodies transforming into superstars isn’t just normal but routine.
What is this strange place?
Chances are, you’ve probably heard of it.
It’s called Hollywood.
The Hollywood guide to blog promotion
Have you ever really paid attention to the way Hollywood creates blockbuster movies?
Yes, they spend gazillions of dollars on advertising. Yes,
they have an opening night where the cast turns out in all their glitz and glamour for a showing of their film to the Who’s Who of the movie biz. Yes, they have an army of crackerjack marketers creating special promotions, building strategic alliances, and merchandising everything imaginable.
But it all starts with a trailer. Editors chop two or three hours of film into a 30-150 second spot designed to leave you spellbound and begging for more.
And the stakes are high.
A good trailer gets millions of people excited about seeing the film, where a bad one confuses, or worse, bores viewers into believing the film will suck. A good trailer captures the attention of the media and creates a blitz of free publicity, where a bad one is ignored or even made fun of. A good trailer is the starting gun for a blockbuster movie that rakes in hundreds of millions of dollars, where a bad one is a bullet to the brain of a project doomed from the start.
Good or bad though, every movie has one, and that’s because people need them. Nobody wants to go into a movie having no idea what it’s about. They need you to condense it down for them. They need to make it easy to decide. And so they give you 30-150 seconds to do it.
In the movie business, it’s accepted, but I couldn’t help thinking…
What if it’s true for other media too?
If you’ve ever looked at the percentage of new visitors who subscribe to your blog, you’ve probably been shocked by how abysmal it is.
The average blogger only gets 1-2% of new users to subscribe, and even the rock stars who do everything perfectly only get about 5%. To improve the percentage, there are several things you can do, like creating landing pages, offering incentives, or installing pop-up reminders to subscribe, but there’s only so far you can go.
You’re making it too difficult to decide.
Visitors have to figure out what your blog is about, they have to read your content, and they have to decide whether or not it’s interesting to them. The whole process takes ten minutes or more, and that’s too long. The truth is, Hollywood has figured it out: you only have 30-150 seconds, and after that, they’re gone.
So how can you make the whole process shorter?
Well, you can’t. The problem is, you’re asking people to watch the movie before they see the trailer, and most of them decide it’s not worth the trouble.
To make it work, you really need to reengineer the process from the ground up. And that’s exactly what I decided to do.
How I got 1,740 subscribers in seven days
When I launched Boost Blog Traffic, I built my whole strategy on an insane idea:
In the beginning, the best way to get subscribers is to publish nothing.
No blog posts. No podcasts. No content at all.
Instead, I would offer a short video trailer, very similar to what Hollywood releases for movies. I would give visitors the bare minimum they need to subscribe. I would spend several months promoting the trailer before writing a single blog post.
Pretty much the same way Hollywood does it.
If you look at the trailer, you’ll see Hollywood’s fingerprints there too. It has dramatic music. It has slick animation. It has shamelessly over-the-top quotes from social media big shots.
And then it asks for a decision:
Will you subscribe, or will you leave?
A lot of people resist asking that question, because the answer is scary. What if they decide to leave? What if you end up with nothing? What if everybody thinks you’re an idiot?
I wish I had some comforting truism to offer in response, but the truth is, it happens. You could fail. But what’s worse: finding out your idea sucks after only a couple of weeks or waiting three years before you finally face the facts?
Personally, I’d rather do it fast. Rip off the Band-Aid, have a good cry, and then get back to business.
If it works, it’s worth it. If it doesn’t, it’s still worth it, because you learned some valuable lessons without paying too high a price.
But this whole idea of starting slow and waiting for things to snowball?
It’s silly. You’ll wait months or even years to find out if your idea is going to work.
A far better approach is to put up a simple website, release a snazzy trailer, promote the hell out of it for a few weeks, and see if you can talk anyone into signing up. If you can, you’ve got a winner, and if you can’t, cut your losses as quick as you can.
You either go big or go home
Some people are going to get pissed at me for saying this, but I believe the blogosphere is changing.
Gone are the days where anybody can build a successful blog. Gone are the days where you can start writing and expect anyone to pay attention. Gone are the days where you can tinker around with it on your lunch hour and expect it to become a full-time career.
The new rule is, “Go big, or go home.”
To be successful, you need big talent. To be successful, you need big connections. To be successful, you need a big launch event that makes everyone sit up and pay attention.
You can be releasing a movie, a blog, a book, or whatever. It doesn’t matter. Regardless of the media, the rules are the same.
If you want to be big, start big.
Launching your blog with a trailer is one way to do that. It creates buzz, excitement, maybe even a little jealousy, because let’s face it, putting together a Hollywood-style trailer is hard.
If you’re wondering about the technicalities of how to do it, I’ll tell you everything you need to know next week. In the meantime, go watch the trailer, study how the subscription process works, and then copy it.
Nobody gets bonus points for originality. Success is about doing what works, period, full stop.
And by getting 1,740 subscribers in seven days, I’d say it works pretty well. So give it a shot.
We’ll talk more next week.
Jon Morrow is also on a mission to help good writers get traffic they deserve. If you’re one of them, check out his upcoming blog about (surprise!) blogging.