How I Doubled My Blogging Income to Achieve the Most Profitable Month

In today’s lesson, I want to talk about my blogs monetization strategy that is responsible for our biggest month of profit every year.

problogger_171Back in December 2010, I rather impulsively did something on my photography blog that led to our biggest month of earnings ever. It almost doubled a normal month of earnings on my blogs.

It was our very first 12 deals of Christmas campaign.

In this episode, I want to walk you through exactly what I did that first year and talk about how we’ve evolved that campaign over the last 6 years and have expanded it to run other campaigns and to start a whole new sister business for Digital Photography School.

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Welcome to episode 171 of the ProBlogger podcast.

My name is Darren Rowse, and I’m the blogger, founder of ProBlogger.com – a blog, podcast, event, job board and series of eBooks all designed to help you as a blogger grow your audience, to create content that helps that audience, and to make money from that blog – to build a profitable blog. That’s what ProBlogger is all about.

You can learn more about it and find all those eBooks and the job board over at ProBlogger.com.

In today’s lesson, I want to talk about a part of my blog’s monetization strategy that is responsible for my biggest month of profit every year.

Back in December 2010, I rather impulsively did something on my photography blog that led to our biggest month of earnings ever, to that point. In fact, it almost doubled a normal month of earnings on my blogs in two weeks.

It was our very first 12 Deals of Christmas campaign.

I’ve talked about 12 Deals of Christmas or 12 Days of Christmas numerous times on ProBlogger, but never really gone into the specifics of it. I kinda mentioned it and kinda described it in a sentence or two, but in this episode, I wanted to walk you through exactly what I did on that very first year and talk about how we’ve evolved that campaign over the last six years, have expanded it to run other campaigns during the year, and also how we expanded it to start a whole new sister business for Digital Photography School.

As I’ve said, I’ve never talked in this detail about these 12 Days of Christmas campaigns before, so I hope you find it useful to you. I’m going to share the shownotes as well as some further reading and some links to some of what we’ve done over on the shownotes at problogger.com/podcast/171.

Okay, let’s get into it.

As I said, today I wanna talk to you about 12 Days of Christmas, the campaign that we’ve been running on Digital Photography School. Now the idea for this particular campaign back in 2010 really started quite simply. In the lead up to Christmas that year, I wanted to put some of our eBooks on special on Digital Photography School. Digital Photography School to this point had been running for about three to three-and-a-half years, and we had launched three eBooks in the previous year-and-a-half. I’ve talked a little bit about the first eBook that we launched Portrait Photography eBook in the previous episode, which I will link to in the shownotes today.

Really the idea was to find a way to put that eBook and the other two that we launched since on sale the week or so before Christmas because I was thinking it might be something that people might give to friends and is just is a good time of year to be promoting something.

Now at first, I was thinking out loud that I was gonna put them all on sale together for a week before Christmas and just put up a blog post saying, “They’re on sale. They’re 50% off or 30% off (or whatever the percent-off would be).” I would just put them on sale for a week. But as I thought it through and as I brainstormed about how I would do it, I began to talk with a few friends, one of whom was Shayne Tilley, who worked with me for numerous years after that, but at that time was working for a site called SitePoint.

As I was tossing the idea around, the idea for a 12-day campaign came to me. Twelve Days of Christmas is a song that I grew up singing, and so I began to think, “What if we did 12 different deals over 12 different days?” From memory, Shayne, who I mentioned before was working at SitePoint at that time, and I’d seen him in the previous year run a 25 Days of Christmas campaign at SitePoint, which he’d mentioned had gone really well. I guess, I got a bit of inspiration from that and from the song Twelve Days of Christmas, and the idea kinda came together.

Now it was all very hastily arranged. If you had heard me talk about my entrepreneurial ideas in the past, you can see a bit of a pattern here. I tend to get an idea, and if I don’t do it quickly, it tends to be something that I procrastinate on. So, I’ve learned that if I’m gonna get something done, I need to just do it. This is one of those occasions, where I didn’t procrastinate, and I just got excited about this idea so I began to arrange it.

I did a bit of brainstorming, talked to Shayne a little bit about it, talked a little bit about how they ran their 25 Days of Christmas campaign, and I decided I was gonna do a deal every day for 12 days before Christmas. Three of the deals would be on the three eBooks that I had already launched on Digital Photography School. That left me nine other days, and I was like, “What am I gonna do with these nine other days?”

I began to look around at what affiliate products I might be able to promote. To this point, on Digital Photography School, I had done a number of affiliate campaigns in the past, and so I had a bit of a head start there. I had some previous relationships in place with people who had products that I could promote. So I began to email out to all of these previous affiliate partners saying, “Are you able to put together a deal for my audience on this particular day?” I was looking for them to put a product on sale at a percentage off.

       

I hadn’t really thought much about it, and so I was really just open to anyone about the idea. Just before the 12 days came up – I guess, it was the 13th of December – I had worked out my 12 deals. They were three of our eBooks. There was one deal on a physical product. We had a partner who offered a lens and some camera bags. That was another day. We had a training course. That’s five deals. Then we had six software products, mainly relating to post-processing of products.

There were three eBooks. There was the lens and camera bag. There was a training course and then the software products. I had 11 deals, and I decided that on the 12th day, because I didn’t have a 12th deal, would bring all the deals back. The idea was that every day of the 12 days before Christmas, I would publish a blog post, announcing that day’s deal. The blog post itself would be the sales page for that particular day. I would also send an email out to our list saying, “Here’s today’s deal.”

Each deal ran for 24 hours only, so the email would be, “Hey, we just launched Day 2. It’s a camera bag.” Or “It’s an eBook, and it’s 30% off.” We’d send that email out, and I would point people to the blog post. As I mentioned, Day 12 was an “all deals back,” and we opened up all the deals at the end for a week, until New Year’s Day. From Christmas to New Year’s, people could get the deals again. Then we sent out a final email with 24 hours to go, just before New Year’s Day.

You can kind of get the flow for it there. There was a daily deal. Most of the deals were about 30% off. I’ll actually link in the shownotes to a post I wrote at the end of this campaign, which sort of highlights the deals, and you can actually see there the 11 deals that we’d arranged. You can see that most of them were about 30% off – maximum of 30% off. Some of them were 10% off. They weren’t massive deals, but they did pretty well for us. Actually, the week was massive! As I mentioned before, it doubled a normal month of earnings for us.

I didn’t really get too many records of our sales back then. We do it a lot better – with keeping records of these 12 Days of Christmas campaigns today. In that first year, I think it was about $87,000 profit, from that 12 Days, and that kind of blew me away. It was a lot of work putting it all together, negotiating it all, but it was well worthwhile. I immediately started thinking about next time. Man! Started thinking about how could I improve this.

Some of the lessons I learnt in that first year – firstly, physical products were not really working. We had to run it on Day 1, that lens run, so that people could get that product before Christmas. Our readers didn’t really respond well to it, and those products sold out pretty quickly as well, which frustrated some of our readers as well. Having a virtual product, like an eBook – you’re just not going to sell out of that product, but a physical product – you will sell out. So that was one of them. We were like, “Maybe we shouldn’t do that next year.” It actually turned out we did the same deal the following year, but that was the final time we’ve ever done a physical product.

The second lesson I learnt was that the bigger the discount, the better our deals typically went. You’ll see, if you go and have a look at those 11 deals, that 33% off was the biggest deal we had. That worked quite well, but I had in the back of my mind that maybe a bigger discount would work better. I’d actually talked to Shayne about that and what they’d done on their 25 Days of Christmas campaign, and certainly that was something that he reflected back. So I resolved that I wanted to try some 50% off or even more type of deals the following year.

Another lesson I learnt was that some of the affiliate partners that we’re working with were offering really quite small commissions. Some of them were offering 50%, which was great, but some of them were only offering 10% commissions. That might have been because they had less margins to play with, particularly with physical products although I couldn’t understand that, but it made those deals, those days – they weren’t as profitable. We were able to generate income for that partner, but we were only taking a small cut of that.

So I resolved that in the following year, I wanted to work with partners, who could offer higher commissions, and ideally, 50% commissions because that’s typically what you can earn on an eBook, particularly when you are in a position of power and being able to drive quite a bit of traffic. So I started to look for affiliate partners, who were willing to negotiate on the commission and offer up to 50%.

Another thing that I noticed in that first year was that we probably could do better if we had a central page for it. The idea was every day I sent an email out, and I had a blog post. That was pretty much all we did every day – or I did because I ran most of it that first year. So I had a blog post, and I had an email that went out. The idea kind of came that maybe we should have a central page, a 12 Days of Christmas campaign page, where all the deals were listed. This would particularly help when we brought all the deals back, and so that was something – I was like, “we really need to bring in the following year.”

The last thing I decided as a result of that first year was that I needed some help to run it. It was a lot to juggle. I was writing blog posts every day. I was writing emails every day. I was negotiating with partners. I was trying to iron out problems with coupon codes and doing all the social media, and I needed someone to help me with it. So the following year, I decided I wanted someone to help me.

The next year, I implemented all of those changes. I can’t actually point you to the sales page that we implemented, as it no longer exists unfortunately, but I will put a screenshot of it for you in the shownotes today. Basically to describe it with words though, if you can’t get to the shownotes at problogger.com/podcast/171, it was basically a WordPress page, which featured the deal of the day, and that would change every day. It had little kind of Polaroid pictures of all of the other deals that had been and that were coming. All those little Polaroid pictures were kinda greyed out if the deal wasn’t live. Then on the last day, they weren’t greyed out, and you could click on them to change the featured deal.

It was just a place that I can point everyone to every time I mention 12 Days of Christmas, and it kind of was this central place, where people could find all of the deals. That worked quite well for us.

I got some help that year. I actually brought Shayne on, who ran that SitePoint 25 Days of Christmas campaign on. He actually came on to run the 12 Days of Christmas campaign for me, which was amazing. He actually did the next few years as well, which took a load off my shoulders. I focused more on writing the blog posts. He focused more on writing the emails and getting that sales page together.

We also knew what worked in terms of products in the second year, so we’re able to say to some partners, “No, we don’t wanna do that one anymore because it didn’t convert. We’d rather do different type one.” I was able to negotiate a bit better with some of the partners as well. We negotiated quite a few big discounts, so if I can find the page, I’ll link to it in the shownotes, but the second year, I think over half the deals were over 50% discount. That worked really well.

We’re also able to negotiate some bigger commissions from most of our partners as well. It certainly helped that we’d done the 12 Days of Christmas the previous year. We’re able to say to partners, “Hey! This is what we did last year. These are the products that worked. We think we’ll be able to do pretty well.” We’re able to negotiate some pretty good deals and some pretty good commissions as a result.

Another change that we did in Year 2, which we’ve continued to do ever since is that we noticed in that first year, when we offered a bundle of products together, that our readers really responded quite well for that. I think in the first year, we offered a few eBooks together. You can buy a library of eBooks, and that converted very well. There’s something about getting a number of things together that our readers really responded to. It also meant that we could charge a little bit more for some of the products. When we offer the higher value product, we’re able to earn more per sale, so we didn’t have to sell as many to get a reasonable return.

The second year, over half the deals were actually bundles. We would say, “Buy this eBook and this eBook together.” That really did work very well. Of course, by Year 2, we also had a few more of our own eBooks to promote, which helped as well. I think that year, in Year 2, four of the days where our products, as opposed to three the previous year, and seven of them were partners. We’d also grown our list over that second year as well, and so that helped to contribute to better results. In Year 2, we almost tripled our profit from the first year. That was the biggest leap that we’ve ever had in terms of the returns on these. That was the first two years.

Now I’m gonna fast-forward to today. We’ve now completed five of these 12 Days of Christmas campaigns, and in the coming couple of days, we will start our sixth one. If you’re listening to this a couple of days after this podcast goes live, it will already be going, and if you just go to Digital Photography School, you’ll be able to find where the campaign is running.

The concept today is very similar. We still do daily deals. We still email our list every single day during the campaign. It is worth saying that the first email we send – we actually send an email before the first day, so we send an email on Day 0 (we call it). In that email, we let our readers know what is coming, and we give them a way to opt out of getting those emails. Some of our readers just don’t want the deals, and so every email we send, we give them an option to unsubscribe from getting any more deals. That enables them to unsubscribe without unsubscribing from our regular newsletter, so we acknowledge that some of our readers just don’t want to get these deals. We don’t wanna annoy them, so we allow them to unsubscribe at that point.

We still do a mix of our own products and other people’s affiliate products. I think this year, we have five internal deals (these are our own products). We also have five affiliate products. And this year, we are bundling together one day, where we are putting together an affiliate product with some of our own products. We’ve got a course and some ebooks that we’re putting together. That’s a little bit different again. Takes a little bit of a hack to put that together in our backend, but we found a way to do that.

A few other things that we now do that we didn’t use to do that might be interesting for those of you who are thinking about doing this type of thing – one of the big things that we try and do is to really shape the 12 days. We think about the flow of the 12 days, and there’s a number of things I guess that we are factoring in here.

We treat the 12 days as an event for our readers. We want to take our readers on a journey, so one of the things you’ll notice, if you do get our emails, is that quite often we will refer from one day to the next. We’ll say something about yesterday’s deal in the introduction, and towards the end, we might point to what’s happening the next day. We don’t reveal the next deal, but we actually, I guess, get our readers used to the idea that there’s more coming and that we’re building some momentum with this thing. If we have a deal that really works well, the next day, we’ll mention the fact that yesterday our servers nearly crashed, if that was the case, or if there’s a big deal coming the next day that we think’s really going to be great for anyone liking portrait photography, we might mention that to build some expectations. We’re thinking about how we take our readers on a journey a little bit more.

We’re also thinking about the days of the week. Now, we’re running this over 12 days, and we’ll generally finish the campaign on Christmas eve, Australian time, which isn’t a great way to celebrate Christmas eve, let me tell you. It’s a lot of work, and we typically send our emails at 10:00pm so I am up until 10:00pm on Christmas eve, as is my team. But we’re also thinking about the days of the week, and so during that campaign, depending upon what day of the week Christmas falls, we will be sending some emails on weekends and some on weekdays. Some years – we actually send out three or four emails over weekends. We find weekends are slower, so we try and put deals on the weekends that we don’t think will convert quite as well. We put our proven winner deals – deals we’ve had in the past or deals that we think will really appeal to our readers – we try and put them in the midweek. So we’re shaping the flow of the week that way.

We’re also thinking about not putting too many of the same type of product in a row, so typically we will have a couple of courses, some eBooks, some software, and we don’t wanna have three days in a row of ebooks or three days in a row of Lightroom presets. We wanna mix things up on that front, and we also wanna mix things up in terms of the topic. We don’t want three days in a row all on portrait photography. If we’ve got more than one portrait photography thing, we do this year, we try and split them apart a little bit so there’s variety there, so our readers aren’t getting bored. I guess, we’re trying to do the same thing with price points as well. We don’t want four really expensive products in a row. We wanna break that up with a cheaper one.

One of the things actually I will mention in terms of price points is that the first year, most of our products were quite cheap. We did have a couple of expensive ones, but most of them were kind of under $15 in that first year. One of the things that has changed a little over the years is that we do have more in the medium price range. This year, our first day is a $5 product, so it’s more of an impulse buy, and we’ve put that on Day 1 to kinda ease our readers into it. We’re putting a cheap one right up front.

We also have a cheap one right at the end as well. We have what we call our “$9 eBook Day,” where we put all our eBooks on sale for $9. Bringing those ones under $10, tends to bring a bit more of an impulse buy. It removes one of the barriers from people engaging with this campaign, but in between those, most of our deals actually are in the medium to more expensive price range. They’re $29 up to $90. Some years, we have them over $100, and these are a little bit more expensive, but one of the things that we’ve noticed is that our readers do respond well to bundles of products, as I’ve mentioned before. They also do seem to respond in their price range, once they warmed up, once we’ve given them a few cheaper ones at the start.

I guess that’s something that I would encourage you to look for: what price points are people responding well to? For example, Day 1 is a $5 eBook. Very cheap. Very impulse buy. Day 2 is actually a more expensive one, and what we’ve done with Day 2 is we’ve put a cause together with six eBooks so it’s really quite a big bundle. It usually would retail for $414. It’s a portrait photography bundle, and we’re doing it for – I think it’s probably gonna come out at about $90, so it’s a fairly large discount. $90 though – it’s a fairly significant price. It’s not an impulse buy, but I guess, one of the things that’s good about having a $90 product is you don’t need to sell as many as you do when you’ve got a $5 product to make a certain amount of money. Mix up your price points. Work out what works well.

The other thing I’ll say that we do differently this year is we have a mix of products that are single products and bundles, and we also give people an “and/or” option. This year we have one day, on Day 4, where you could buy our Lightroom presets for $19. These are plugins that you get for Lightroom, and we offer three of these products. You could buy each one of them or anyone of them for $19, or you can buy all three for $49. That’s another variation. Rather than having just a bundle, you can actually buy that one as single products as well. We find that’s good because some of our readers have already bought one so they don’t need the whole bundle. They just need the extra one that they haven’t got yet, whereas some of our readers haven’t got any, so giving people options on that front sometimes works as well.

We’re mixing things up. We’re always trying new things. As I mentioned before, we have our $9 eBook Day right at the end. It’s our last day, Deal 11, and that’s where we put all of our eBooks so there’s 30 or so eBooks. They’re all on sale for $9, and the beauty of that day is that some of our readers actually end up buying four or five of them. They add a number of things to their shopping cart, and that day works quite well because people are picking up multiple products in one transaction.

That’s some of the things that we’re doing to shape our 12 days to mix things up in terms of what people can buy, different price points, different options to buy different types of things.

A few other things that we do today that we didn’t do in the past – now we really put a lot of effort into promoting the deals around the rest of the site. Everyday on Digital Photography School, we’ll have over 100,000 people come to the site, and only a small percentage of them would ever have found those deals because they were just blog posts. So this year, we actually have a small hovering bar across the top or the bottom of the site, depending on which page you’re on, which will feature the deal. So anyone arriving in from Google or from another site or from social media will see the fact that we’ve got a deal on, and the hovering bar will have the product featured but also have a countdown ticker showing how long there is on the deal.

We also promote these days to social media everyday during the deal. A blog post goes up. An email goes out. I’m sharing it on Facebook once a day. I’m sharing it on Twitter multiple times a day as well. We’re driving people to those deals a lot more.

Last year, we also did a big opt-in push to our list in the weeks before the deal, before 12 Days of Christmas last year, we gave away a PDF, like a little mini eBook on how to photograph the holidays. We gave it away to all of our current subscribers, and that was just like a gift. We positioned that as, “Hey there! The holidays are approaching. Here’s a gift to help you to photograph.” That helped increase readers’ sentiment from our readers. We actually had quite a few really nice emails from readers saying or subscribers saying, “Hey, thanks for that. That was really good.” I guess, in some ways, that primed them a little bit for the deals that were coming, and we mentioned the fact that there were some deals coming as well. We also offered that guide as an opt-in as well to new subscribers. We worked I guess for the weeks before this campaign to really grow our list as much as we possibly could.

Another thing that we do that might be interesting to those of you doing this type of thing – the first few years, we tried to send emails or I tried to send emails that were html emails, that had the graphic. They had a picture of the product in the email. We found that html emails didn’t really convert for our audience, and so we switched to sending very short sharp, plain text emails for these 12 deals. That was a bit of a surprise for us, but we found when we did that – when we split test that, that we converted a lot better.

So the emails we send to our audience over those 12 days are very short, to the point. They’re informative. They’re polite. They’re not very sales-y. They’re very simple. Our readers seem to respond well to that, and those emails seem to get delivered at a higher rate than the html ones did for us. That’s one thing that we have changed over the years. We’ve tested a variety of different approaches with email, and our plan text ones always seem to go better.

Another thing that we’ve put more time into over the years is to only try to promote things we know will work. This is really hard to get right. Every year, we have products or deals that unexpectedly flop and deals that unexpectedly fly. Last year, we had one day, which just blew us away. It unexpectedly blew us away. It was a product that we weren’t completely sure of, but it just flew. It did really well, and then we’ve had other deals, where we thought it was gonna be big. We had a big discount on a product we thought really would appeal to our readers, and it just didn’t. Sometimes you just don’t quite know, but wherever possible, we try and test the deals or the products in the year before we do the 12 Days of Christmas.

We do this a number of ways. We do do some affiliate campaigns during the year, where I’ll be able to test it a little bit. We’ve got a sister site for Digital Photography School called SnapnDeals, which I’ll talk about in a few moments, where we’re able to test some of the deals as well. I guess, we’re also looking at our own products and what’s worked well for us in the past, what type of bundles are working. We really are trying to think very carefully about the deals that we put together and try to put together deals that have a proven track record. Everyday during this campaign has the potential to make us really quite good profit, and if we have a flop day, that hurts the business so we try and test as much as we can beforehand.

The other thing that we do differently today, that we didn’t use to do, is that if we’re promoting an affiliate product, we no longer send our readers from our email to a landing page on our site. We send them directly to the affiliate’s page, so we’re trying to get people directly to the page they’re gonna purchase from, rather than put another page in the middle of that process. Rather than sending them to our 12 Days of Christmas page, we’re just sending them straight to that site. That really has eliminated the need for our readers to click an extra thing. It’s one less hoop that they have to go through to get the sale, and as a result, we get less readers getting lost. We get higher conversions, so that works quite well for us.

A few other things that I would encourage you to know about this campaign – I really want to emphasize – firstly, it takes an enormous amount of work, and whilst it’s very profitable for us, it is worth acknowledging that it kind of destroys the lead up to Christmas for us as a team on some levels. It is hard work. As I said before, we actually send our emails at 10:00pm Australian time, and that’s because a lot of our audience is in the US. We want to get those emails to our audience as they’re waking up.

Now we could schedule a lot of that, but we don’t wanna send our emails until we know the sales page is perfect, so we’re staying up. We’re making sure that when the pages change over from one product to the next, that everything’s working, and then we send the email. That does mean a lot of work both during the day, but also some late nights for us as well. I typically give the team a bit of time off after Christmas, but it is worth acknowledging that it’s a lot of work to do.

In the lead up to this campaign, we are negotiating deals with partners. We’re writing sales copy, setting up sales pages, setting up our own products. During the campaign, there’s a lot of work, getting emails ready to send, writing blog posts, and getting them ready. We can do some of this beforehand, but some of it just needs to be done at the last minute. Getting social media ready, changing prices on products, making sure that everything’s working, monitoring social media, and then there’s the customer service that comes with this as well.

When you are doing a lot of sales of your products, you get a lot of emails from people saying, “How do I download it? It’s not working for me. The PDF isn’t opening” – those types of little issues that people have when they buy your products, and so there’s a lot of work during the campaign and then after the campaign as well. You’re looking after the partners, sending them their revenue share, refunding customers who aren’t satisfied, and changing everything back on your site to the way it should be. So there’s a lot of work in it, and it’s worth acknowledging that.

Yes, it can be very profitable, but you are going to work out a lot on this type of campaign.

Another thing worth knowing is that you will get some pushback from your readers. As I mentioned before, we put a big button in the first email, where readers can unsubscribe from getting any more deal emails. That’s totally fine. Some of our readers do that, but some don’t press “Unsubscribe” and then complain to you and get annoyed even though you’ve given them a way out. You are going to get some pushback.

We find that it’s a relatively small percentage of our readers, who push back or unsubscribe from everything and never come back again, but you will get some of that. That can hurt. You’ll get some nasty emails. You’ll get some people telling you that you’re greedy even though this is the way you produce free content for them for the rest of the year. So you kind have to psych yourself up for a bit of a battering on that front. I guess, thicken your skin for a little bit for that as well.

The way I kinda look at it is that these 12 days does enable me to put together all the free content on my site for the rest of the year. This is a big profitable time for us, and it’s the way that we monetize our site and keep it sustainable. So that’s typically what I go back to. Any reader who pushes back – if I get a nasty social media comment, I try and explain that to them. Some people get it; some people don’t. Unfortunately, that’s just the way it is.

Keep that in mind. It’s for that reason, we try and actually keep the weeks before 12 Days of Christmas fairly low key on the site. We don’t tend to do much promotion on the site. We don’t tend to launch any products in the month or so before 12 days of Christmas. The month after 12 Days of Christmas is pretty low key as well. One, it’s for us as a team to recover. We typically take some holidays over the summer period here in Australia, so January’s a fairly low time for us. But it also gives our readers a bit of a breather as well. They’ve just had 12 emails from us in 12 days, so we wanna pull back a little bit on that front, and it’s worth keeping that in mind.

The other thing I’ll say is during the 12 days, I try and keep the rest of the site as normal as possible. I don’t want the whole site, the whole blog to be all about the daily deals. We still do a blog post everyday about the deal, but we still also publish the two normal blog posts we do everyday. There’s two normal tutorials going up on the site everyday, in addition to the promotional stuff. So anyone coming to the site for the first time’s not just gonna see 12 promotional posts on the front page. They’re gonna see some of that, but they’ll also see some other good content as well. That’s also a good thing to come back to. Readers, who push back and say, “All you’re doing is promotion.” You can actually say to them, “Actually, no. We’re still doing the same amount of tutorials in addition to the promotional stuff.”

Last thing I wanna talk about is how we’ve kinda extended the 12 Days of Christmas. We’ve done that in two ways. Firstly, we now also do a midyear version of this. We call it our “Summer Sale” for those in the northern hemisphere. We also call it the “Midyear Sale,” and it’s not as long. It’s not 12 days. It’s actually a 7-day campaign. We typically do it at the start of July, so it’s kind of right in the middle of the year. It’s seven days with seven deals.

We did this for a couple of reasons. One – it’s a revenue-earner, doing these types of campaigns so we started to wonder, “Could we do this again during the year at some point?” so we tested it a few years ago. It worked quite well. I guess, the other reason that we wanted to do it was to have a place, where we could test some of the deals that we might feature at the end of the year. We actually wanted to put more sure bets up in 12 Days of Christmas, and so this is one place where we can test a few of these deals and also make some extra income.

You don’t have to do this in 12 days before Christmas. In fact, if you’re hearing this and thinking about doing it this year, may be too late to pull it together. You might better pull something together like I did in my first year relatively quickly, but maybe you could do a campaign similar to this for New Year’s. Kick your year off with a bang, with seven deals. Or maybe if your site’s related to relationships, you could do 12 Days of Valentine’s Day or 7 Days of Valentine’s Day, sort of a lead up to Valentine’s Day. Maybe you could do something midyear like we do or maybe there’s some other event in your calendar, seasonal event in your calendar that’s relevant to your readers. I know some parenting blogs do these types of deals in the lead up to school, going back. It could really be anytime of year. I guess, I wanna put that out there, that it doesn’t have to be 12 Days of Christmas. It could be shorter. It could be a longer campaign. You wanna be careful not to tip your readers over too much, and it could be any time of the year.

The other thing that we did in 2012, we’d run two of this – 2010, 2011, but both worked really well for us. We started to talk as a team about the fact that there seems to be a segment of our audience that really wanted deals. They were responding to these deals in the lead up to Christmas, and we actually were getting emails from some of our readers saying, “Can you do more deals?” Now that kinda frightened us a little bit cause it was so much work to do, and we also knew that some of our readers didn’t want any deals so there was this bit of a tension between two types of readers then.

We started to ask ourselves, “How could we do more deals without annoying our current readers?” So we came out with this idea that instead of doing weekly deals or monthly deals during the year, that we would do a whole new site called SnapnDeals. This was around the time that Groupon and other daily deal sites were starting up, and we started to kind of think, “What could we do that’s like a Groupon for photographers?” That’s where the idea for SnapnDeals came about.

I registered the domain, and Shayne, who was working with me at that time, set it up. Basically if you go to SnapnDeals.com, you’ll find there our response to the fact that we saw amongst our readers, people who wanted regular deals. We do two or three deals a week there that all relate to photographers. We send an email to anyone who signs up from that site, that wants the deals, and so we do a weekly email there. We promoted it that first year very lightly to our audience on Digital Photography School.

We didn’t really push it too hard during 2012, but at the end of 2012, when we did our 12 Days of Christmas, we added a 13th email to our campaign. This was an email that we sent our readers on New Year’s Day. Once the deals had all finished, and it was like an email that said something like, “Do you want more deals? We know some of you don’t, but if you want more photography deals, we set up this new site that has weekly deals for you.” Anyone who was interested went and had a look at the site.

We actually found out first year that 4000 people from our list signed up to get weekly emails that were purely deals. Now 4000 is not that many in comparison to how many we have on our full DPS list. We’ve got hundreds of thousand of people. It’s a relatively small audience, but every year, since we’ve done that, we have seen that list grow. I think we’re approaching 20,000 people on that list now. Now that’s a more smaller list, but it’s a list of people who have self-identified as wanting more deals. As a result, it is a very responsive list, in comparison to our general Digital Photography School list.

If you think in your audience that perhaps there is a segment of your audience who want a lot more promotional type of stuff – it won’t be everyone. It’s probably not the majority of your readers, but there might be a segment of people there who do want more promotional type material. Then maybe, there’s some sense in setting up another site or maybe setting up a list that is purely for those types of people, that you can promote a little bit harder, too.

This is a little business that started in 2012. It started relatively small, but every year it grows. I would think, over the years ahead, that every year that we continue to do 12 Days of Christmas and finish off with that type of email that it will continue to grow even more. It’s just another idea that might be an extension upon this type of concept for you.

I really hope you found something useful in what I’ve talked about today, whether you do a 12-day or 12 deals of Christmas campaign or whether you take it and run with it in a different direction, this has been an important part of my business over the years. It continues to be the most profitable month of the year for us. We have had some years that have been bigger than others. It all really depends on the deals, so we have our fingers crossed that this year, we have some great deals. If you are interested in checking them out, it goes live on the 13th of December at Digital Photography School, and you, like some of my readers, know what some of the deals already are if you’ve listened carefully today. Check that out. I will link to it in the shownotes as well.

You can find today’s shownotes with some links to some examples of what we’ve done in the past at problogger.com/podcast/171. You’ll get a full transcript of today’s show there. You’ll get some links, and you have the opportunity to leave a comment. If you have any questions or if you have any examples of similar types of things that you’ve done, I would love to hear about them. Share the knowledge. Share the tips. Share the things that you’ve found that have worked well there, and we’ll all learn as a result of it. Again, the shownotes are at problogger.com/podcast/171.

Thanks again for listening to the ProBlogger podcast. If you like to be updated every time we publish a new podcast, you can subscribe to our ProBlogger Plus newsletter on the shownotes, if you go to problogger.com/podcast/171 and scroll right to the bottom of the shownotes. You’ll see a yellow button, and if you click that, you can add in your email address. We will send you an email once a week that has a link to the new shows in the ProBlogger podcast, as well as any new ProBlogger blog posts that we have published and the occasional promotional posts.

We will promote occasionally an affiliate partner deal that we have arranged. Speaking of deals, after today’s show, or if we launch a new product, which we do plan to do – early new year, you’ll get notified of that. We don’t spam you with lots of deals. It’s a very occasional thing.

Really, what you will be subscribing to there is the free weekly ProBlogger Plus newsletter, which comes out every Thursday night, Australian time, Thursday morning if you’re in the US. Anyway, if you want to check that out, look for the yellow button at the bottom of all our shownotes, and you can subscribe and get notified of all new episodes. The other way to do it, of course, is to subscribe to our podcast over in iTunes. While you’re at it, if you leave us a review and a rating – that would help, too.

Thanks for listening. Chat with you next week on the ProBlogger podcast.

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  • Writer’s Block Workshop

    Great podcast, Darren, thank you. I took away some good campaign ideas to use for the upcoming year! I look forward to more of your blogging insights. ~Lynn at Writer’s Block Workshop.

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  • Hi Darren,
    I love your podcasts. Thank you so much for getting past your procrastination and starting it! 🙂 Hopefully I can follow suit and accomplish my goals I’ve been procrastinating.
    Anyway, just writing because I’ve tried to listen to this episode a few times on itunes and itunes keeps telling me it’s unavailable. Thought maybe you and your team could take a look at it to see if there’s something wrong.
    Thanks!
    Amy

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