I’ve noticed something interesting in the world of blogging. People attempting to make money online are caught up in product launches, which is awesome, but the ones who are failing often have one thing in common. They don’t deliver any free quality content. I like to call these people “Easy-Bake Oven bloggers.”
Alli’s Tragic Easy-Bake Oven Story
When I was about eight, the thing I wanted more than anything for Christmas was an Easy-Bake Oven. Well, and a SNES, but that’s another story. Easy-Bake Over was the toy of the moment. If you were a child in the early ’90s, you understand. I mean, I guess it’s still around today, but it isn’t the same as the early models that cooked a mini cake with a light bulb. You were definitely not a part of the cool club in the third grade if you didn’t have an Easy-Bake Oven.
My mother was very much against toys that were messy or loud or expensive. She would bake real cookies with me all day if I wanted, but getting an Easy-Bake Oven from her was a no-go. Of course, a kid doesn’t really understand why it doesn’t make sense to buy a pile of plastic that cooks tiny, expensive, pre-mixed baked goods, but that’s beside the point. I was upset that I didn’t have an Easy-Bake Oven, especially when my cousin got one for her birthday.
After hearing all the hype at school, I was super excited when said cousin invited me for a sleepover, with the promise that we could play with her Easy-Bake Oven. I hurried to rip open the mixture packet and dump it into the pan. Then…we waited. For what seemed like hours. *Ding* Our barely-big-enough-to-share brownie was finished. And that was that.
I don’t know what I expected, but after that night, I never bugged my mom for an Easy-Bake Oven again. No matter how much it was hyped, my opportunity to test the darn thing was boring at best. It took us about thirty seconds to do any kind of “cooking” required, and then we just sat around waiting for a dried-out desert. I was glad my mom hadn’t dished out the money to buy me one.
A Culture of Expecting Stuff for Free
My story does have a point. If you want to sell an information-based product, like a video course or ebook, on your website, people aren’t going to buy it if their free experience isn’t awesome. Easy-Bake Over blogging isn’t going to cut it.
Point in case: I occasionally see someone Tweet about a product that interests me, so I check out the website. Usually, there’s some kind of content available for free – a short ebook, a video, some blog posts, etc. I base most of my decision on whether or not to buy the product based on the free content available.
We’re a culture that has come to expect information on the Internet to be free. I get just as frustrated about that as the next person, because I know how much work it takes to create content. If you think about it, though, it makes sense. Trailers entice people to see a movie. Music videos and radio play entice people to buy a CD. Samples at a grocery store entice people to purchase a food product.
Why shouldn’t we get something for free? We don’t want to risk our hard-earned money on an item that we know nothing about. The more we enjoy the free product, the more likely we are to make a purchase.
The Quality of Free
It stinks to spend time doing something that you’ll just be giving away to free. I have three words for you: Suck. It. Up. I’m not suggesting that you have to give your readers a free 100-page report sharing your best secrets. You want to save some really good stuff for whatever you have for sale.
But the quality has to be there. If you’re just regurgitating what can be found in your niche everywhere else, you better at least have a unique way to say it. No one’s going to buy a $497 course from a blogger who has nothing to give away but some posts with scraped content and a half-assed ebook. Look at anyone who is selling information products online. No matter what the niche, the people who are making the most money have proven themselves with free content first.
It’s more about checking your grammar and having an interesting idea, though. Quality also means that you’re providing a product that serves a purpose in someone’s life. Going back to the Easy-Bake Oven example, where this product failed for me, wasn’t in the fact that it was shoddily-made or uninteresting. In fact, for the price, I hope it was pretty decent quality (though as a kid, I didn’t take notice – I just knew that it was expensive), and it was definitely interesting enough to have me begging for one every time we passed a toy store.
But it didn’t solve my problem. One of a child’s most basic problems is “I’m bored. Entertain me.” Easy-Bake Ovens didn’t deliver, at least for me as a child, even though I know they sold quite well, so perhaps I’m the anomaly. In any case, if your product isn’t solving a problem for people, it doesn’t matter how eloquently you write or how cool your concept may be – few people are going to dig out their wallets. So ask yourself, what value are you bringing into someone’s life? Teach them to make more money, to lose weight, to find true love, to be happy with their career, to improve their tennis game…to solve whatever problem is common in your niche.
If your goal is to make money blogging, you need to give people what they want for free. It seems counterproductive, but over time, you’ll build a loyal following, and once you have their trust, they’ll open their tightly clasped fists and the money will start to flow.
Image Credit: Amazon
I stopped by here today, as I saw the announcement the other day regarding your new position with Blog World. Then much to my surprise your title today referenced the Kenner Easy Bake Oven. I totally understand what you mean when you talk about “Why shouldn’t we get something for free? We don’t want to risk our hard-earned money on an item that we know nothing about. The more we enjoy the free product, the more likely we are to make a purchase.”
If we step back to the days prior to e-commerce, etc, what you are suggesting is like the old days of window shopping. Do you see what I mean? The free part was being able to take yourself or your whole family to a store…like Macy’s or much later to a mall and walk around and touch the items, try on the items, dream a little, put something on lay-away…and maybe, just maybe be so pleased by the user experience we would eventually make a purchase.
And that brings me to my Easy Bake Oven story: In November 1968 (yes I said 1968) I was living in San Francisco and I was hired by SEARS to be what they referred to as a Christmas extra (read temporary full-time employee). This was a very large store on Geary, took up an entire city block. At the time it was one of three unionized Sears stores in the US. They hired me to be a sales clerk, I was just 19. I had no idea how to sell anything and I didn’t really like sales people. So I would spend my time on the floor making things look nice and because I was unassuming the customers liked me and would ask for help. I made a lot of sales!
But, because I was a Xmas extra I was an uncommissioned sales person and therefore not only were the regular employees mad at me for my high sales, they were even more made that they didn’t earn the commission on my sales. Since I didn’t really understand any of this and how it worked, I told the other sales people that I would ring my sales in on their cash register key if it would make them happy. Oh! Boy, they were happy, but HR was furious. So they moved me to the next department, office furniture. I made a $1000+ sale the first day and the next day I was transferred to baby clothes. And so it went for about a month. Keep in mind I was earning $2.25 per hour!
About week four, they put me in the toy department: A mad house of a department during the holiday season. On my first day there a man came to me and said he needed help buying toys for his four children. $700 later every regular sales person in toys was complaining about me. The next morning HR came to me and said: “We have a proposal for you. Kenner Toys needs a toy demonstrator and if you demonstrate the toys for 8 hours per day and take inventory of Kenner toys in the morning and evening to see how much has sold, KENNER will pay you a commission at the end of the season.” Problem solved…or so you might think.
Here are the toys I was to demonstrate: A record player – with one record “Hey, Jude” by the Beatles; a race car track; and a Kenner Easy Bake Oven. To make matters more interesting, unlike today, back then parents would arrive at the toy department and say to their children “stay here and play while I shop!” So I became the caregiver, playing with the kids, baking cakes and listening to “Hey, Jude” for three very long weeks.
Sales…you are right, somehow you have to let your customers get to know you and “touch” your product.
Good luck with your new position.
P.S. I meant to tell you that just yesterday, June 9, I published this post
“Mom, I’m Bored!…is Boredom Extinct?
Thanks for sharing your story, Judy (and for the well wishes)! I totally agree, what I’m suggesting in this post can be compared to window-shopping and store demos. With an information-based product, like an ebook or video course, free content is the demo, and if your free content stinks, so will your sales.