Dave at Red Fly Marketing asks: “You mentioned that you would probably not sell problogger because it sells YOU so well. What advice do you have for business bloggers wishing to use blogging to increase their exposure and leverage that exposure to sell THEIR products?“
Thanks for the question – it’s one that I’ve got a few thoughts on – as well as a short case study to illustrate.
The first advice I’d give to business bloggers looking to ‘sell’ through their blog is to be careful.
While blogs can be used as a tool for selling they are at their best when they are relational, conversational and offer their readers something useful that will enhance their lives in some way. Ask most blog subscribers why they follow a particular blog and you’ll find out that in almost every case they get something out of the blog (whether it be entertainment, advice, research, ideas etc).
Every company will have customers who will subscribe to a purely sales oriented blog because they are fans of the products that that company makes and want to keep up to date – however in most cases this will be a fairly small group of people.
Most people will not react overly positively to a blog that is just sales spin. We get it all day, on the radio, on tv, in our inbox, in our real mailbox etc.
So what is a business blogger wanting to ‘sell’ to do?
If I were a business blogger (and I guess I am in a way – but that’s another discussion) I would spend more time actively engaging with and enhancing the lives of my readers (and potential readers) than selling to them.
Make your primary focus to build trust, credibility, profile and perception of expertise while doing everything you can to develop a large, loyal and engaging community around your blog and you’ll find that on those occasions you do sell that your message will be all the more effective.
You’ll also find that instead of pushing your products on readers that they’ll push themselves on your products.
A Case Study as Illustration
I did a little work a year or so back with a company that was selling jewelry. Their blog had largely been a sales blog – mainly announcing new products and announcing specials. While they did have a small loyal readership they were not drawing in new customers.
I advised them that they write a series of articles that didn’t mention their products at all but that helped their readers in some way. The articles that they wrote were along these lines (I’ve changed them slightly as they wish to remain anonymous):
- how to clean your diamonds
- how to tell if your diamond genuine
- Diamond carats – what are they?
They started out with the goal of answering 5 of the questions that their customers asked most frequently and ended up reinventing their blog. They did this by publishing 2-3 new ‘how to’ posts per week. The results were quite amazing:
- their current readers loved it (they were the ones feeding the questions)
- some of the articles went viral and got linked to on many other sites/blogs
- over time the search engine traffic to the site increased
- rss subscriber numbers and traffic to the blog increased 100% in two weeks (and have continued to climb)
- when they did announce new products (they did this about 60% less than they previously had done) they saw sales increase
- they began to see customers searching the rest of their site in larger numbers – leading to higher sales
They found that by providing useful information to customers and prospective ones that they became the number one place in those reader’s minds when they next needed to make a purchase.
I should say that I’ve had limited experience in selling products through business blogging – so I’d be interested in the experiences of others who’ve had more than me.
- Can blogs be effective sales tools?
- How would you advice business bloggers wanting to sell through their blogs approach the task?
Great tips Darren. I agree, those interested in gadgets and gizmos might like to be sold all the time, but it doesn’t work on a business blog.
One of our business blogs is quite new, and we use it to promote our Kwik Fix Plumbing site. The blog is attached to the site and we don’t try to sell our services on it, although if we do release a new product or service, we’ll mention it in the blog with a link to the appropriate page on the site.
Instead, we try to cover various aspects of our business in the blog and keep it interesting. Topics include customer relations, plumbing advice, daily life in the business, working for us, and advice to other service businesses. It can be quite tough coming up with topics for a business blog and we’re also trying to encourage some of our employees to blog.
Because the business operates in our local area, and we seem to get traffic from other areas too, we do monetise the blog with Adsense and Chitika, and we’re looking to add other means of monetising it as we go. Your blog has helped us a lot with this. Thank you.
guess if i were to do it, the first thing is to declare upfront that i have vested interests in the product i’m selling, so ppl do not get misled
next, is to proof effectively why the product is good and not use the mere reputation of my blog as the basis of selling it. If i can strongly justify why the product is good AND RELEVANT to my blog, i don’t see why it should be a bad thing. It can be a symbiotic relationship.
Lastly, guess as darren has mentioned, it is to engage readers and to answer their doubts and questions HONESTLY and truthfully. THis means not hiding the negative aspects of the product as more is at stake here than your sales, but your blog’s reputation as well. So you tend to have to sacrifice alittle of sales in favour of complete honesty, in order to preserve the trust and integrity of your blog
I would have to say yes they are. I have a program called Ceo Audio that I sell through my blog. Which is on how to start a clothing brand. Ceo Audio is a interview with Ceo’s that are running their own successful clothing business. So I guess if you provide real value than yes a blog can be a good tool, but if your trying to just push products on people most likely it will back fire.
I think that the only purpose of a company blog should be to provide something beneficial to the readers. When the reader realises that the blog is worth reading, the company itself gains a lot of trust, which is a lot of what they need to make the sale.
A good example of this is: http://dreamhoststatus.com/
Dreamhost are a popular (Cheap) webhost, with thousands of users, and the company runs this blog. Dreamhoststatus.com’s only purpose is to report downtime/errors/problems etc.. When a prospective customer sees that, it is is literally a list of all the BAD things about Dreamhost (And trust me, it’s a very active blog…), but on the other side, DH aren’t holding anything back. They don’t delete posts to make themselves look better etc. so I know that they’re a company I can trust. It’s been enough to keep me with them for a little while longer. :)
I think you made an important point with that business– give away something of value (the articles) before pitching a product. It sounds like the business was building up relationships with their customers and gaining their trust, which translated to sales.
Having voice is important. Like you said the BLOG sells you, but that is because it is your voice, your spin on things in your own words.
When people BLOG to sell something then they loose their voice and it becomes like a sales pitch. Unless done in a manner to help someone else without concern for your own income.
Great post! As a business blogger myself, I know this all to be very true!
To me, it seems like the more web-savvy people become the less internet advertising is succesful. For example, since I started blogging I notice Google Ads all the time. Before I started blogging, they were just available links. I never click on Google links since I started using Google Adsense.
Likewise, with business blogs selling products. I rarely actually buy a book from an Amazon referral link or a product using the link given. I google the product and read all the reviews then go to the store direct.
I don’t know, just my opinion. I guess I’ll be the pessimist.
Money for Military
I suppose if you want to see the smashing success story for this sort of thing, one blog comes to mind: English Cut. The man has more business than he can handle selling cutom-tailored suits at $4000 US apiece because of how he handles his blog. It’s a great example.
Selling products on your blog, what a blessing. Keep up the good work
“When people BLOG to sell something then they loose their voice and it becomes like a sales pitch. Unless done in a manner to help someone else without concern for your own income.”
I do not believe that is true Michael, it is true that people/ businesses can set up their blog as one gigantic sales pitch but usually that is intentional. I tend to have noticed exactly the opposite, there seems to be more business that are defined by their blog and finding their voice. I would like to use our company blog for example http://www.tuffpup.com since the “Toughpups Gazette” has been online (which isn’t as long as it seems), Our business is truly beginning to blossom, And our voice is being heard on a level that we were envious of a couple of months ago
Darren, I’m not sure if I misunderstand your viewpoint or you’re just being modest, but it seems to me that you’re in the business of business blogging…
You have a business showing others how to have a business, right? And along the way, you sell product – granted, not diamonds, but information.
Excellent article nonetheless! ;>)
You are right brandon about web savvy people, they wont get into ads and stuff but on the other hand they will purchase anything good you have to offer, if they find some value attached.
thanks darren for making your point. i guess the majority of bloggers does not click any google ads but it’s not our target clientele anyways. those bloggers just pass through. it’s the SE result visitors who find my hawaii blog. i must admit, the google ads are a great resource for their hawaii visit. i cannot even cover this great variety with my content. at least not at one glance.
my affiliate ads are a different issue. i keep a limited number, plus i only place those which i am convinced they offer a great deal. still no return from those. i guess i have to share more detailed info in individual posts to tempt blog visitors to at least check it out. aloha, pua
You make a great point on the value of good copy. It is also more rewarding to write something interesting and that ads value to someone’s life than to write plain ad copy.
Hey, good point about the English Cut blog, Michael.
I actually included the tailor for English Cut in my “Premium Menswear and Footwear” article a while back. He has an excellent reputation!
As I said, I sell things all day long on my blog. I only feature products that I really, really dig or that I feel passionate about. Otherwise, my readers could sense that I’m not really into it…so why should they be? They can feel my passion in every word I write.
If I like your product or service, I will promote your offerings better than a Hollywood agent. :-)
My best friend’s painting sold the very next day after I posted an article about her art site and uploaded her art pics. My feature drove up her own traffic to her site. Others have given me similar feedback.
I’ve sold something as simple as Creole mustard on my blog from my Amazon store. Why?
Because I love this spicy mustard, and I know lots of people with more sophisticated and spicy palates will love it, as well. I try to expose folks to foods and cuisines that aren’t all that mainstream. If you live in the middle of Idaho and you’re a homebody, you may have never even heard of Creole mustard, let alone mixed it into your potato salad or slathered it on your favorite sandwich.
It’s a window on my world, really.
I could do nothing but agree. After seeing and hearing ads and promotions all day, coming to a blog to see the same thing would definitely make me not want to read it as much. As always, content is king ( and value), so the more a blog does add to my life, the more willing I would be to keep up with it.
I sell my book on my blog, I provide a tremendous amount of content and no one can disparage my intellectual generosity. Due to content, I rank in the top of the search engines for my industry; it’s widely recognized as the “go-to” site. I very rarely sell the book directly. The only time I mention it is as a source, a citation and why not? I list many other books (with my affiliate link embedded) too. The only time it becomes a source of contention is when a visitor is asking a very basic question. Then I suggest in comments (or other visitors do) that they buy the book; I’m not going to cannibalize my sales. Many of the youngest generation think everything should be free and have an amazing sense of entitlement. Well, they won’t give me their products for free so why should I?
My site is a B2B site, for those who’ve exercised due diligence and are serious, not starry-eyed teens addicted to project runway. If I published literal trade secrets (such as sampling minimums and how to get them), I’d be ostracized in my community and suppliers would avoid those with a referral from me. I have a long history (27 years) in this industry and I’m not willing to risk my credibility or reputation on someone too cheap to fork out money for a book that will solve their entry level problems. If they’ll jerk me around for a few bucks, they’ll give my suppliers and contractors a hassle too -and they don’t need more problems anymore than I do.
I take my site and it’s content very seriously and invest in it quite heavily. Among many things, I bear the expense of attending trade shows to report on them; I don’t go for myself! I’m not a six figure blogger yet but I earn every penny.
This is great! This is the same thing I tell my marketing clients about article writing. No one likes being marketed to, but everyone loves free information! I find that I build trust with my blog, and for now, that’s enough. If people start contacting me to become marketing clients as a result, so much the better!
Excellent advice Darren. I found the case study particularly interesting because I’ve been trying to do much the same thing with a Jewellery website blog myself – and failing for all the reasons you outlined. You’ve given me some good ideas going forward, so thanks!
I’ve been trying to sell these 1″ buttons, but they aren’t making a big splash. They are not completely blog related, but a little.
A good strategy for selling via your blog is a content strategy.
Disregard all sales pitches for a year. Provide a ton of great content. Even if that means patting your competitor on the back. In the end you’ll win put more content into the search engines and your site will capture relative search traffic.
After a year of doing this you can begin to capitalize on that traffic. But dont lose your voice. Capitalize by deep linking to product pages where relevant. Its ok to link to related products so far as a sales pitch does not make up the content of the post.
I pitch my product sometimes but it always follows a bunch of great non sales posts and it almost always is an educational pitch, so that rather than sell my readers, im still educating…even if im pitching.
This is a great point. When I was first introduced to blogging, I was quite turned off by the whole concept because it seemed people only pushed their products on their readers. But by giving value to your audience (customers) they’ll keep coming back for more. After all, your target market comes to your website to purchase products they are already interested in, and they’ll be more than likely to come back when they see there are solutions to the problem(s) they are having within that product line. They’ll see you are a valuable resource and are interested in helping out your customers, not just taking their money.
The only time it becomes a source of contention is when a visitor is asking a very basic question. Many of the youngest generation think everything should be free and have an amazing sense of entitlement.
Excellent list. I tend to have noticed exactly the opposite, there seems to be more business that are defined by their blog and finding their voice.