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When I was 19 years old, I spent a lot of time online communicating with other people in bulletin boards and newsgroups.
This was back in 1999, before blogs, Facebook, Google, or any kind of social media.
My passion was a card game called Magic: The Gathering. The Internet had become a place where people who played the game competitively would chat for hours in forums, chat rooms, and newsgroups, swapping advice regarding which cards were the best to win tournaments.
I decided I wanted to create a website about the game, specifically targeting the Magic card scene in Australia, where I lived at the time.
I eventually figured out how to get a website up and running (this was long before all the nice website building tools we have today), and started writing articles about the card game. I also invited players from around the country to submit articles.
Slowly my website grew to become a leading destination point for Australian Magic card game players.
Of course being entrepreneurial (and also wanting to avoid getting a job while studying at university), I decided to start up a small ecommerce store selling cards from my Magic website.
It was a simple operation, with plain text lists of the cards I had for sale, and people sending orders in via email, with payment usually in the form of a check in the mail.
Although I didn’t think it was anything special at the time, the first day I turned my ecommerce store on, I had orders immediately coming in. I never did any advertising, or anything proactive to find customers, they were already visiting my website for the content.
It didn’t cross my mind at the time that I had just used a new form of marketing that would eventually become one of the most commonly applied methods today: Content Marketing.
In my mind, it just made logical sense. Write articles that help people to win Magic tournaments, and thus attract an audience who play the game, and buy the cards. If you sell the cards from the same website, then you make money!
From Magic Cards To Blogging
I stopped playing Magic over a decade ago and sold my website shortly after that. However, that experience with my first money-making website stayed with me. I applied the principles of content marketing as a means to get customers in every online business I have had since then.
Today I make a lot more money than I ever did selling cards, but with a different kind of website—a blog.
Since 2005, I’ve been writing the blog Entrepreneurs-Journey.com. It’s the main platform I use to deliver content, grow my email list, and sell products. It’s responsible for generating more than $1 million in digital product sales, without paid advertising.
The formula I use to make money with a blog is quite straightforward:
- You create useful content to attract and help your target audience;
- You invite them to join an email list to receive a structured sequence of content to further help them solve a problem;
- You then offer a product as a purchase to help with the same problem.
It’s a very linear, strategic process, that can be applied to selling any product or service.
To clarify, I do not run a blog to make money with advertising. I’m not running an online magazine, I’m running a blog designed to help people with certain specific problems and sell digital products related to those problems.
How You Can Implement This System To Sell Your Products
As an entrepreneur or aspiring entrepreneur, you are no doubt always working on the problem of how to get more people to purchase your products and services.
What I’d like to do now is map out the steps you can take to tap into the power of just two tools—your blog and your email list—to sell your product or service.
Here’s what you need to get started:
- You must have a product or service to sell, which can be digital or physical. You could also use this to sell other people’s products as an affiliate, but you should think of the affiliate product basically like it is your own.
- You need a crystal clear understanding of who your target market is, what their problem is, and how your product helps them solve it. Make sure you know what their desired outcomes are as your content needs to speak to these desires.
- You’re going to need some kind of sales mechanism—a sales page or video or even just a checkout or buy button where people can purchase your product. I’m not going to teach you how to create a sales page in this article since that’s a topic that deserves a lot of attention on its own.
If you have these things in place, then you are ready.
First though, let’s address one important question…
Why Do We Need Content To Sell Things?
You might be wondering, what’s the point of putting in all this effort to produce content when you just want people to buy your product? Can’t you just run ads directly to convince people to buy it?
The answer is almost always no.
It’s rare to sell any product without content unless you have a generic consumable product, where price is really the only important factor to a customer. Any product? Really? Stay with me.
At the very least, you need some kind of content, like a short video or page describing the product. But even that is usually not enough, especially for more complex or higher priced products.
You can certainly sell without content if you use direct face-to-face selling, or over the phone selling. But in that case what you are really doing is using your voice to deliver the content. It’s still the content that sells, it’s just a different medium delivering it.
Personally, I hate phone sales and door-to-door salesman. I’d much rather own a business where the content on my website and in my email list does all the selling for me.
So, back to the original question: Why is content necessary?
The simple answer is trust.
Without trust, people won’t buy from you.
Content is the tool you use to establish trust. You might do so by explaining your background, or the background of the product itself. You can develop trust through testimonials, endorsements, or case studies. Trust can also come from delivering education, teaching your potential customer why your product is right for them.
Trust is a multi-dimensional thing. Each potential customer needs to see their own combination of trust-building elements before they buy. This is why often the more content you deliver and the more times a person is exposed to your product offers, the more likely they will purchase.
To tie everything back together, the reason my system uses blog content and email content is to establish the necessary trust to convince someone who may never have heard of you before, to purchase your product.
It’s the tool you use to “tick all the trust boxes,” using an automated sequence of information that leads to sales of your products.
Let’s look now at how to structure this content to create an automatic “selling machine” so your products sell online without you.
Step One: Create A Blog Designed To Convert
Your blog is used for two primary purposes:
- As the hub of your content marketing strategy
- To convert people to sign up to your email list
It’s vital you understand how related these two things are. The content you release on your blog will attract a certain type of person. That person must have a predisposition for what your email list offers, so they are more likely to sign up.
In other words, you should focus only on content specifically designed to attract your target customer. Content that focuses on the problem you help them solve works best (take this article you are reading right now as an example).
When I say your blog is your “hub,” I mean all the content marketing you do is centered here. You might build traffic from Facebook, from videos on YouTube, through podcasting or press coverage, but all those things point back to your blog.
Even if you do paid advertising campaigns, chances are the first thing you are going to circulate with your ad is content—an article or video. This is because, once again, content attracts the right people and establishes the trust to get them ready (and eager) to take the next step with you: to sign up to your email list.
An exit-intent popup from one of my students Traci Raftl’s TheLoveVitamin.com
At strategic points during your audience’s interactions with your blog, you’re going to provide opportunities for readers to submit their email addresses, called “opt-in offers.” Here’s a valuable tip based on my own experience: One of the simplest changes I made to my blog to increase the number of people who signed up for my email list (and later bought my products) was to tailor email opt-in offers to specific content categories.
For example, in my blog’s “mindset/personal development” category, which includes all the articles I’ve written about that subject over the past 10 years, I present a specific offer for my free mindset and productivity email course.
The same goes for the category of “how to buy and sell websites and blogs,” something else I wrote about extensively back when I was a part-time website investor. Again, I have a free email course about this subject that leads to a product.
In your case, you may only have one opt-in offer to invite people to sign up to your email list. It might be an email course, free report/ebook, video, checklist, or a “discounts and new releases” newsletter, if you’re in the world of ecommerce.
Your goal is to present your email offer using as many different tools as you can, including:
- Header and/or footer opt-in box or bar
- Entry or Exit-Intent lightbox popup
- In content opt-in boxes
- Welcome mat opt-in
- Sidebar opt-in box
- Left or right side scroll-in slider opt-in
- Standalone landing pages
Header opt-in from Joel Friedlander, another graduate of one of my courses.
There are lots of great resources out there to help you develop these tools, and it’s amazing how quickly you can ramp up your email list simply taking the time to add more invitations to join.
Step Two: Create An Email Sequence With Strategic Intent
Once a person has joined your email list, the education process continues.
I’m often asked the difference between the education you offer in a blog versus what you offer in an email list.
The answer is that your email list has a more specific focus. Your blog might be on how to lose weight, but your email sequence would be specifically about the foods you should eat (and not eat) to achieve that outcome. You may have another email list about the exercises you should do.
Look at your email list as a way of narrowing to a more specific strain of the problem or more specific solution.
This is important, because your email list is not just an education and trust-building tool, it’s also a filtering tool. It helps attract only the right people for the product you sell as a next step, and keeps other people away.
This is why the more niche-focused your email list is, the better it will perform when it comes to selling your product.
Over the years I’ve experimented with various types of email sequences. I started with a once a week newsletter, which worked reasonably well. Today, however, I teach my coaching clients a simpler way to get started—a two-week email course.
This is a brief breakdown of the two week sequence:
Welcome Email: Deliver the resource requested
Lifestory Email: Explain your background, or the background behind your product
Ah-Ha Moment Email: Break down the big revelation that led to finally solving the problem
How-To Email: Deliver step-by-step instructions to solve the problem
One Week Special Email: Explain your product is on special this week
Case Study Email: Present a case study of someone who used your product
Product Breakdown Email: Specifics about the product and bonuses
Final 24-Hour Warning Email: The weeklong special is about to end
You can combine some of these elements together and rearrange the order. But the important thing is that you take your subscriber through a process. You introduce yourself, explain your breakthrough, teach them how to do it, then offer a product to help them further.
Step Three: Embed Multiple Offers
One of the big realities you have to accept is how hard it is to get someone to buy from you for the first time.
This is why we do content marketing and set up these automated blog sales funnels. People need to see the offer for your product many times before they finally buy.
Timing plays a huge part. A change in life circumstances can lead a potential customer to finally become ready to buy, and when your email arrives, it’s done, no more content is required to make the sale.
Maybe they came into some money, or finally reached a breaking point with the problem you can help them solve, or they needed to read something specific from you before they made the decision to purchase.
These things are largely out of your control. What you can do is make sure you’re always present in your prospective customers’ online world, constantly addressing different concerns and barriers to them buying, and of course always making offers for your product.
This is why you must embed multiple offers throughout the entire blog sales funnel. By that I simply mean you need to keep telling your audience through your blog and email list there is this great product they can buy.
Here are some of the ways I embed multiple offers:
- In blog posts that are part of my email courses, which can be at the start, middle, or end (or multiple places) within the post;
- Through the entire email sequence, starting with shorter offers during the first first week (for example you might end an email mentioning you have a product) to much more specific, longer, and overt offers (for example an entire email just about the product);
- On social media, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (seeing an offer in their email inbox, then being reminded on Facebook can trigger a sale—multiple offers in multiple places!);
- In any other media you might use to communicate with your audience, from YouTube videos, to Podcasts and Webinars.
The important point here is to remember that you’re first establishing trust through content, so early product offers should not be too strong or you will turn people away.
However, once trust is established you can sell much harder, sending multiple offer reminders, especially when you have a special discount price or offer that is going to expire.
Automate The Process For Passive Income
The process I have introduced you to in this article is exactly what I use to create automated blog sales funnels.
Once you write the blog posts, set up the email sequence, and embed multiple offers that take people to a page where they can buy your product, you’re done.
Your content will do all the heavy lifting for you, and your offers are made automatically. This is how I sell my products every day without needing to be constantly working, doing launches, live promotions, etc.
You set up a blog sales funnel once, make sure it’s converting, then let it go to work for you.
You do need some source of traffic to make this work. In my case, regular blog posts arrived at through organic search results (that’s another topic for another day!) have been my primary source of traffic. But you can plug a blog sales funnel into whatever source of traffic you want to.
If this process appeals to you and you want more guidance, I offer a free report in text PDF and audio MP3 called the Blog Profits Blueprint. You can download the blueprint for free here –
I hope you found this article helpful and can apply these ideas to sell your products and services using just your blog and email list.
How are you using blogging and email to promote your business? Let us know in the comments.
Keep up the good work and don’t give up!