Raise your hand if you've ever been a part of a failed collaborations? Working with other people means you WILL run into trouble. Of various kinds.
Here are some of the issues you may run into and some tips for dealing with your difficulties!
The famous quote tells us that "the money's in the list." As in, your email list. But for many people, this is still somewhat of a mystery. Marketers and entrepreneurs have this DOWN, but for writers and bloggers, monetizing your email list is often a foreign concept. I'm going to break down a few main ways that you can monetize your list and some best practices to sell to your list without being smarmy.
**This post contains affiliate links!**
There are a few main ways that you can monetize your email list as a writer or blogger. You may choose one main way or a combination of a few.
Affiliate sales are when you promote products for other people and earn a commission when people buy through your link. There are a number of great affiliate opportunities for email, but be sure you check the Terms of Service for your email service provider and also for the company you are an affiliate for. Amazon does NOT allow for affiliate links in email, PDFs, or ebooks.
Be sure that you ALWAYS disclose affiliate links. You should be disclosing BEFORE the first outbound link and in a way that is clear to someone who isn't marketing savvy. (Don't use aff or spon. Those words are not easily understood by a general audience.) Even if the gateway to a paid product is through a free product, DISCLOSE. If there is a cookie involved, you should disclose. (More on the FTC guidelines or check out my post & episode on disclosure!)
Here are some other sources for affiliate programs:
Tools & Tech
Do you create online courses or write ebooks? Many people say you SHOULD, but I want to argue that you COULD. This may not be for you if you don't like creating and teaching. (In which case you could be an affiliate for products that relate to your audience.) Some people are afraid to teach or create courses or digital products because they don't feel like enough of an expert. Don't sell yourself short, but don't do it because everyone else is.
If you aren't sure where to start, consider your most popular posts, the questions people always ask you, or what you're really passionate about. You can also check out the market. Finding other courses or ebooks on the same topic doesn't mean you shouldn't create your own. It's a good validation that there is a market for it. And YOUR people on YOUR list who love YOUR style are more likely to buy YOUR course or product.
You may be a coach or virtual assistant or help people with the backend of their Wordpress site (like Merri Dennis of WPTech Cafe, my go to when I break things!) As with courses, your people who know you are more likely to hire you for their needs.
Your email subscribers are like validated customers in that they have already taken the time and effort to sign up for your list. They are your BEST chance at making sales. Unlike a follow on Twitter or a like on Facebook, people don't let EVERYONE into the sacred space of the inbox. So if you land a spot there, you are already a step closer to having someone be a customer. (But stay tuned for best practices on how to treat your email subscribers!)
I don't have a LOT to say here because I've found a few ad networks that do email, but haven't vetted them and can't recommend them. I DO think that sponsored content and ads are going to continue moving into the email space since blogger and writers are way more savvy now than they have been in the past about growing an email list.
If you already work with brands, your email list is something that you could leverage, either on its own or as part of a package deal with a blog post and other social media shares. Consider reaching out to a brand you've got a relationship with and ask if they'd like to sponsor an email or a month's worth of emails. I do foresee this being a direction that email moves into as more and more bloggers take their lists more seriously.
The thing about monetizing your email list is that you can't JUST sell. If you've ever been on a list like that, you know how impersonal and how smarmy it feels. You don't feel like a person. You feel like a number or a customer. Here are a few tips to treat your people well. This will establish a better relationship with your people which should naturally result in more sales.
Always treat your email subscribers like your inner circle. They really have jumped through all the hoops to let you in their inbox, so they should receive great treatment from you. I often give out exclusive content or let them know what I'm up to first. I speak to them more intimately and personally and I encourage replies to email so that I can actually have a RELATIONSHIP with them. Most of the other best practices fall under this umbrella.
I heard someone once say that if you don't know how to treat a list of 200, you won't know how to treat a list of 2000. No matter what the size of your list, connect. Don't focus on growth alone, but quality growth and actual relationship with those people. If you can effectively reach your small list, you'll learn to scale as you go.
Make sure your list is valuable. Offer great content that's free before you ever try to sell things to your people. There should be a nice balance when it comes to the proportion of value offered and sales presented to your list.
A lot of this (to me) hinges on disclosure. I've gotten so many promotions for so-and-so's free webinar/book/video series. No disclosure. But having been on the back end of these same programs, what I know is that there are cash prizes (SIGNIFICANT cash) for those who get the most signups. And that those free things attach a cookie that result in a commission if there is a sale down the line, even months later.
This feels like a breach of trust when there is no disclosure. Because it DOES affect how I feel if someone promotes simply because they support the product OR because they get a commission. It doesn't mean the product is any less good, just that we should KNOW about that relationship. The FTC agrees, so remember to disclose clearly.
I think a lot of bloggers and writers struggle with selling if they haven't been trained in business or sales copy. This means that often when we try to sell, it feels stiff and awkward and it's overall ineffective. What you need is to find your selling "voice."
I've talked about finding your writing voice before and your selling voice is similar. It's the way that you sell that feels and sounds natural to you and to your readers. It should feel familiar and authentic. It should be confident. It should be clear.
If you are struggling with confidence, you should ask yourself these two questions:
If you fall into the first camp, then you simply need to sell more. Get more comfortable and confident in your sales. If it's the second, then you need to consider NOT selling that product or being an affiliate for that product. There is nothing worse than promoting something you really aren't sure of just for the money. Ew! Don't do that.
I don't think that you have to have tried or currently use every product you promote. But be sure you can stand behind it (because you trust the creator or have seen the back end or used it in the past when it was a better fit for you) and that it's a good fit for your people.
Monetizing your list can result in more income than monetizing your blog or other social media. It can be more enjoyable too, because you are providing for a need that your audience has through a personal relationship.
Facebook groups are a useful tool to build your business, either as a group owner or a group member. Much of the advice recently about finding your perfect readers or customers is to use Facebook groups. The only problem? This has created a culture of people behaving badly in groups. From shameless self-promotion to poaching group members, people seem to have forgotten their manners.
The easiest, overarching thing to remember in a Facebook group is that it's not YOUR group.
If you want to bring value to the group, you can engage in conversations and respond if people ask questions. When it comes to posting content in the group, make sure what you are posting is not a thinly guised, smarmy promotion, but something that's actually helpful.
Remember that you didn't build the group. This is someone else's work. If you feel bitter that you can't share or build your own platform from the group because of the rules, you may be there for the wrong reasons. Build your OWN group.
Many people join the larger groups because they are unhappy with their own group and want to access more people.
REMEMBER that at one time, that giant group was small. It grew because that group owner valued the people in it.
Pinterest is my favorite social media platform. Well. My favorite for TRAFFIC. As an introvert, it's also my favorite because I DON'T HAVE TO TALK TO PEOPLE THERE. Pinterest is actually more search engine than social platform. Surprised? This interview with Alex Evjen from AVE Styles is going to give you Pinterest best practices so you can use the platform like a pro to drive traffic.
Connect with Alex!
Find her on her blog, Pinterest, or Instagram. If you gel with her style, she also has some fabulous (and affordable) classes! I'm an affiliate for them (and you KNOW I'm only an affiliate if I love things, right?) if you want to dive deeper with Alex after this interview! Browse her Pinterest classes to see if one suits your current needs.
Alex was an early adopter, using the platform for her personal stylist business. She was able to replace bulky binders of magazine clippings with a simple, easy-to-use digital format of Pinterest. As an avid user, she gained the attention of Pinterest's founder and has actually been invited TO Pinterest headquarters where she has received training on Pinterest best practices. Who better to share with us today?
Interaction on Pinterest looks like: repinning content mostly. Likes and comments can actually help, but most people don't do them.
She logs in daily and uses Pinterest itself, not a scheduling tool.
Her perfect number of pins/repins is around 25 a day.
She shares 90% of other people's content and 10% her own.
If you are on boards that are just made up of bloggers pinning their own and each other's content, Pinterest KNOWS. These kinds of boards are having their content pushed down. It can hurt you to be on these boards and the boards can even be shut down.
Group boards are supposed to be collaborative and share great content, not a way for bloggers to game the system. Consider your group boards and how people behave. If your traffic is dependent on this traffic, then beware because this is not going to last.
She has four classes (or a package of all) that are affordable and deal with creating the perfect pin, how to create a strong business profile, driving traffic to your blog, and how to grow your following. Find her classes through my affiliate link HERE.
If you hadn't noticed, many people are utilizing challenges and courses to grow an audience, bring in revenue, and build their brand. You can create free or paid challenges and courses, serving to explode your email list or bring in passive income. Ready to learn more about using challenges and courses for YOUR brand?
***Can you take a moment to tell me about yourself? Click HERE to fill out a super simple 5-question demographic listener survey! ***
Connect with Jennifer
How Jennifer Runs Her Detox Challenges
Evergreen Challenges vs Group Challenges
If people want to buy and are interested, evergreen offers a chance for people to start now and not wait. But the accountability piece and the group piece of doing a challenge together has been more popular and more successful for people. People can post successes or slip-ups, which helps them and also the group as a whole.
Promoting a Challenge
Planning a Course
Start with a targeted audience in mind
Solve the problem or pain point that you know that specific target has
Speak the language of those people so they resonate
How Content Will Be Consumed
Decide between dripped content (released one week at a time), evergreen content (where people can access everything and bing if they want), or live courses (where you literally set dates and show up live to teach.
What Kind of Content
You can have live videos (for the live course option), videos of you talking to the camera, or videos of you talking over slides. Or you don't have to use video at all! I've taken courses that are a mix of video and audio or written content. Just know that many people EXPECT video, so if you are using another format, be up front about this.
Where Content Will Be Hosted
You have the option to build out a course yourself using membership software and course software OR hosting it somewhere else like Teachable, where you pay monthly and/or transaction fees to have someone else host your content. With both, you own your content, but when you host it yourself you have more control, which ALSO means you are responsible for the issues that arise. (Story of my life as I type this.) Even things like an affiliate program are tied into Teachable's platform!
When you use another platform, you don't have to worry about the tech side, but it means your things are at another place and you are dependent on that platform's limitations. There are not great free options, so realize that you will be paying either monthly/transaction fees (with another hosted program) or paying for the course/membership software.
If you can't decide between self-hosting and having it hosted somewhere else, don't let this decision hold you back if you're ready to get moving. Consider your big picture why and your current needs. If you take the time to learn all the software yourself, will you be losing out on potential revenue? Worse-case scenario, you can put things up on Teachable and move the content later if you want a membership site or something self-hosted.
When looking at software and plugins for hosting yourself, consider all the pieces you will need. For courses, you'll need to set up and take payments, protect content, have a course interface, and a way to capture emails and communicate with the students. Those are the BASIC needs. You may also want to have the option to drip out content through the software or have it connect to your email service provider to drip content that way. Each of these pieces may be included or may be extras that cost more money. You'll also have to consider how to run an affiliate program. Sometimes this may be included and sometimes you will need a separate plugin to handle the affiliate piece.
Using an Affiliate Program
Teachable makes this SIMPLE and people can automatically be added to the affiliate program. Your happy customers are the best salespeople for your products. You may want to consider using different language for your affiliates (but still clear under the FTC for disclosure!), but you can control how you talk to your people about being an affiliate and help train them to be better affiliates and share with their people in a way that isn't smarmy.
Final Thoughts from Jennifer: Consider your actual passion. Where can you take less time to do something that ISN'T your passion or isn't something that needs YOU in it, you can save more of yourself to do the things that you really love or that need you personally involved with them.