The right digital product can continue to make you money forever. You want to know how to make money on your blog? Sell your own product and pocket all of the profits instead of just getting a percentage like with affiliate sales.
It’s an appealing prospect: create a product–something that doesn’t require inventory or physical shipping, put it for sale on your blog’s sidebar, and watch the cash roll in. That’s what all the guru-expert-ninja-bad-ass Internet marketers say you can do, right?
In practice, things don’t really happen that way, unless you have one of two things:
- A huge audience of millions of people who follow you online and buy anything you try to sell them
- A plan
Unless you’re Lady Gaga, let’s focus on having a plan instead! This is my step-by-step guide to selling digital products on your blog the RIGHT way. Yes, it is a lot of work. But trust me, you’re setting yourself up for success.
Step One: Selling Products Online Starts with Relationship Building
Before you sell any product, you need to build two types of relationships: peer relationships and customer relationships. Sometimes there’s a bit of overlap, depending on what you’re selling, but it really depends on your specific market.
Please note: I believe you can start making money from day one, but if you put a product for sale on your blog immediately, before you have much traffic or a strong community, you won’t see much in the way of sales. Instead, consider a free product to get people on your mailing list while you build trust.
It’s hard to successfully sell a digital product if you don’t have the backing of your niche community. In other words, when other food bloggers like you, you’re going to be more successful at selling your cookbook. Why?
- They send traffic to your posts, which can be converted to sales.
- They review your product.
- They mention your product to their fans.
- They become an affiliate for your product.
- They purchase your product themselves (this is the customer overlap I mentioned).
In the beginning days of blogging, it was fairly easy to get to know other bloggers in your niche, simply because there were only a few dozen people. Today, every niche is crowded. There are thousands of bloggers in your niche, no matter what you write about. Why should they notice your blog? Why should they let you into their circle of trusted friends?
Here are some of the top ways I’ve found to connect with other bloggers, even if you are brand new and don’t personally know anyone else in the niche:
- Guest Posts
Contrary to popular believe, I’ve grown to learn that guest posting is not just about reaching new readers. In fact, it might actually have very little to do with reaching new readers. Instead, it’s about providing content that the blog owner loves. We’re all really busy. If someone sends you amazing content so you have a break from publishing on your blog, that’s a really good thing! Even better if that post sends a ton of traffic your way.
So write guest posts for other bloggers in your niche. Make sure it is your absolute best work, and support your guest posts with social shares and mentions on your own blog.
- Community-Building Link Roundups
In every niche, there are certain topics that lots of people blog about. For example, if you’re in the fashion niche, during September and October, many people will likely be posting about fall fashion.
Do some legwork. Reach out to other bloggers, one by one, and ask them to submit a link to their top post about fall fashion (or whatever the topic might be). Then compile those posts into one giant roundup on your blog that includes pictures, links, and encouragement for readers to visit the other bloggers and follow them on social networks.
You can also do something similar, but instead of asking for a link, ask for a tip about a certain topic. For example, if you’re a travel blogger, you might ask other travel bloggers to submit a few sentences about the best restaurant they’ve ever been to or their top tip for traveling with kids. Again, after receiving everyone’s tips, you would create a roundup post on your blog that links back to everyone’s blogs and social profiles.
Doing community-building roundups puts you on the map for other bloggers in your niche, especially if you put work into making them special. Create a button for every participate to display on their blog. Tweet about the post, taking the time to @-reply to each blogger thanking them to participating. Be extremely complimentary about their submissions. Email them the link when it is posted (with no pressure to promote).
- Social and Blog Interactions
Bloggers make an effort to know the leaders in their own blog communities. If you’re someone who comments on all of their posts, shares all their links on social sites, and otherwise supports their content, they’re going to notice you. Easy as that.
You can also interact with other bloggers by linking to them in some of your posts. Huge link roundups are one thing, but why not also take the time to individually link to specific posts when relevant? For example, if you’re writing about the best ways to use Pinterest, you might link to another blogger’s post on a similar topic.
Don’t be afraid to tell people when you’ve linked to them, but never be pushy about them sharing your stuff. Link to people because you want to show your readers great content and you want to say “thank you” to the blogger for writing it, not because you want someone to share your stuff.
- In-Person Meetings
When you meet someone in person, it’s easy to remember them. So, if you can meet your favorite bloggers face-to-face, do so! Have an intelligent question ready, and keep the conversation short. You want to be memorable, but not because you droned on and on!
Where can you meet other bloggers?
- Events (like NMX of course) where they are speaking
- Events they are attending
- Book signings
- Tweet ups and Meet ups
If you’re going to be in town where one of your favorite bloggers lives, or you know they’re going to be in your town, you can also offer to take them for coffee. Don’t be afraid to ask. Not everyone will take you up on the offer, but heck, I would never turn down free coffee with someone who enjoys my blog!
There are tons of other ways to continue building your relationships with peers in your niche as well, depending on your specific niche. Just keep in mind that you also want to be a giver, not a taker. In other words, when you’re trying to build a relationships with someone, be helpful, flexible, friendly, and kind.
At the same time you’re building peer relationships, you also want to be building customer relationships. This falls into two categories:
- Reaching new people
- Strengthening the relationships you have.
Let’s talk about reaching new people first.
Most bloggers understand that making money is truly a numbers game. The more readers you have, the more money you’ll make. Now, this doesn’t mean that someone with 1000 readers per day is going to make more than someone with 100 readers per day. You can’t compare yourself to other bloggers. But if YOU have 1000 readers per day, you’re probably going to make more money than a few months ago when YOU have 100 readers per day.
So, you want to reach new people, constantly.
Whenever possible, target, target, target. Paying for targeted traffic is an option that we recently covered here on the NMX blog, but even when you’re looking for free (organic) traffic, spend your time looking for readers who are going to be extremely interested in your blog and able to purchase your product. For example, if you’re a food blogger, it probably makes more sense to focus your time on Pinterest than it does to build a presence on LinkedIn.
What most people don’t realize, however, is that strengthening the relationships you have with current readers is just as important, if not more important, than finding new readers. And it’s actually not very hard. Here are some of the best ways to strengthen your relationships with current readers so that someday, when you’re selling digital products, they throw their money at you:
- Reply to comments. Sometimes you can’t respond to each comment and sometimes you have nothing to say in reply to a comment. That’s fine. But I know bloggers who don’t respond to any comments.
- Reply to emails. When someone actually takes the time to write out an email to you, that means a lot. The least you can do is respond, as I wrote about here. If you don’t have time to respond, it’s time to hire a VA.
- Take time to visit your readers’ blogs. I know, I know. There are only so many hours in a day. However, visiting someone’s blog can really make them feel special. So, once or twice a week, sit down and see where your commenters are blogging. Visit and leave a comment. They’ll feel like a rock star.
- Follow your community on social sites. I really don’t like when I see bloggers following just a few people. It tells me that you want to broadcast your stuff but you don’t give a crap about what your fans are saying. Use the private list function on Twitter, circles on Google+, etc. to filter out the people you know personally so those messages aren’t lost in your stream, but occasionally see what your community is saying.
Most importantly, write content so valuable that they have to keep coming back.
“Valuable” is a term that means different things to different bloggers. It might mean that you write posts that are so entertaining, your readers have to come back for more. It might mean that you write posts filled with information that helps someone reach their own goals, even when nothing else could. It might mean that your content is presented with a unique voice that really makes them think about life in a new way.
In other words, you have to consistently publish content that people can’t get anywhere else. That way, when you have something to sell, people know they have to buy from you, because they aren’t going to be able to get the content they’ve grown to love anywhere else.
To summarize, step one of selling digital products has…well…nothing to do with digital products. It’s all about building relationships with your peers and with your readers!
Stay tuned for our next installment, about figuring out what kind of digital product to create.
See Other Posts in This Series:
- Step One: Building Relationships (this post)
- Step Two: Choosing the Perfect Product
- Step Three: Creating Your Product
- Step Four: Planning Your Launch
- Step Five: Customers Service
Image credit (altered): Bigstock