When You Have Writers Block…

I was talking to my son about overcoming writer's block this morning (he was struggling with a school assignment) and I realized that his challenge is one I hear from my product creation masterclass clients and newsletter subscribers. How do you deal with it when you just can't think of anything to write?

Two Tips For Breaking a Block

Stream of Consciousness Writing

This is what I recommend to my son and to clients working on an ebook or website content. Just open a document in Word or similar and start typing what's on your mind. For example:

“I had eggs for breakfast this morning, would have liked cereal but eggs are good for me. Now I'm supposed to be typing a daily email and I have no idea what to type, my mind is off in a million places, like at the car dealership test driving a new car that I really wish I could buy…”

Essentially this breaks the block because you're writing. You just skip a line and start typing what you need to type (like this daily email!) and let the words keep flowing.

Keep a Notebook of Ideas

This works very well for things like daily emails and content articles. As you go through your daily life you'll see things that inspire you, that make you think “I should write about that!” Jot those things down in a little notebook. If you're at a bookstore, you might get ideas from books in your niche, or from magazine covers in your niche. Things in your life (like my conversation with my teenage son) might inspire ideas. People will send questions to you – copy good ones into an idea file and use them to inspire content in the future.

Each of these tips works in different ways – one immediately, and one becomes as an asset that you build and can refer to again and again. Both help you overcome and just start writing (or recording, filming, etc. – Just start talking and hit “record” once you feel warmed up =D).

~Kristen

P.S. Are you having trouble creating a product? Check out the Product Creation Masterclass where I cover, step-by-step, how to find a concept, outline your product, and actually get it written and recorded. Then I show you how to write the sales letter for your product (this is actually a 30 minute recording where I write a letter live and talk you through the entire process!). It's a great fit if you're struggling with any step of product creation.

Click here to get full details on this powerful training

Why WordPress Sucks for Niche Sites (And What To Do About It)

Why Wordpress Sucks

You know that WordPress is super-easy to install.  It's a 1-click thing with most web hosts.  It's easy to enter content.  You just type a title and then type the content.  What could be easier to use to set up an army of niche sites?  

There's just one problem.

WordPress blogs suck for niche authority sites.

Wait…  I can hear you now “Kristen, you just told me how great WordPress is, and now you say it sucks?!”. That's right.  See, the problem is, WordPress is a blogging platform, but your niche site is probably not a blog.  It's an informational site geared to get your visitor to sign up for your list, click on an ad, or buy a product (yours or an affiliate product).

[thrive_text_block color=”blue” headline=”Update!”]I've been using WordPress to run a large authority site for 3 years now, and I've revised my ideas on what parts of WordPress you should use – in the original version of this article, I recommended using Pages for your core content, but now I feel differently. Read on for how I believe you can best tweak WordPress to build awesome niche and authority sites.[/thrive_text_block]

The Bad News

A low-quality blog may get someone to click on an ad (maybe just to get away from crummy content!), but do you really want to build your brand around that?  

No?  

I thought not.  To get someone to sign up for your list or purchase a product, you need to build some trust by showing them you have quality info on the topic they're looking for.  A low-quality blog probably isn't ideal for this.

It is possible to build a blog around a personal project – like a travel diary kind of blog, or a cooking or renovation project. But if you're building an “authority site,” people come to search for particular topics and probably want a kind of order or organization to the topics on your site.

The search engine spiders also have a hard time getting a good feel for your content if it's organized as a blog.  You need a solid, logical layout.  Otherwise, your quality content and vital information get lost in a sea of newer posts.

The Good News

I'm not going to leave you lost in a sea of jumbled categories and newest posts while that brilliant tutorial you wrote last month gets lost forever.  In fact, WordPress is a powerful tool you can use to create your niche site.

Here's where my advice differs from the original version of this article. I don't think you need to use a Page-driven layout. You can still harness the power of blog posts to bring attention to your freshest content.

**The key, though, is that you don't create a Post and move on…

…you first create a logical layout plan for your site.**

First, you can create a Page-driven, logical layout.  Pages are different than Posts, in that they're created to be enduring content.

Here's an example:

So your post giving a general overview on dog grooming leads to a post on giving your pooch a bath, and another on tools you need to keep your dog well-groomed.  Another post (linked in your navigation menu) features feeding your dog.  That post leads to a post on puppy feeding, another on feeding the mature dog, and another on best dog food reviews.  Check it out:

This isn't all, though.  Wordpress makes it easy for you to create custom menus so you can highlight recent content, popular content, etc.  Plus, if you want to have a blog-style page featuring news and opinion pieces, you can set that up, too.  It's very powerful if you do it right.

Another advantage of doing it this way is republishing. You may update the content on your site every year, or when new information is available in your field. If you've created the content as a post, you can easily “re-publish” it with the date you update it so it shows up again on the blog.

Spend a Few Minutes Planning

The key to this is that you do planning. Sometimes your posts may center on current events, breaking news, and holidays. Those posts can probably fall into your archives without you needing to worry about them.

But work through a plan for the rest of your content. What's key, core content that needs to be on a site covering your topic? What are the logical subsections? Market research and keyword research can help you start to get a good feel for the niche and trends within it. Plan a site structure like we discussed above.

Then, as you add new content, you can link it to other, related content, and have pages that serve as “Tier 2” sections – which link to even more detailed “Tier 3” sections. (For example, a dog feeding post can link down to a detailed post on feeding puppies, on feeding your dog a raw food diet, etc.).

When to Use Pages

I do think you should use Pages for some things on your site:

  • Contact page
  • “About” page
  • Disclaimers / Privacy policies
  • Sales letters
  • Squeeze pages / dedicated opt-in forms

Content of this nature is well-suited to pages. They form a backbone of crucial pages, but they're not really informative content pages, so they don't need to go in the blog feed.

WordPress makes it easy to add pages or posts into menus – we'll explore the robust menu-creation system (which can be used for far more than the navigation menu) in a future post!

Don't wait to take action – use a 1-click webhost like Bluehost and do some market research to plan your site. Choose a nice theme and publish well-organzied content – that's the key to a solid, growing authority site.

How to Make Money Online

How to Make Money Online

Have you dreamed about replacing the income from your 9-to-5 job?

Or perhaps you'd like to make a little extra from home…

…whatever the reason or the amount, many, many people want to make money online. The Internet offers lots of possibilities for making a good income, some more promising than others. We'll take a balanced look at the most common opportunities here.

There's No Get Rich Quick Here…

Before we dive into different ways of making money online, I want to make sure you understand that this is no “get rich quick” scheme. There are plenty of get-rich-quick schemes online – but I'm not going to talk about any of them here.

I do feel like you can start to see a modest return on your investment pretty quickly when it comes to building an online business. But you're not going to turn into a millionaire overnight, and you're not going to generate thousands of dollars tomorrow.

You can expect to see a solid start with modest income that you can scale over time.

That may not sound as sexy as promises of instant riches online, but this is real.

Instant riches are a pipe dream, vapor, not real.

What's the point in pursuing something that's not real?

Instead, plan to work steadily for a few months – you will be rewarded with an income that grows each month, possibly exponentially. But, you have to set the foundation, first.

With that, let's jump into different ways to make money online.

Options for Making Money Online

There are several different types of online income. When people think of money online, they often think in these ways:

  • Active
  • Passive
  • Your Products
  • Other People's Products

Active ways to make money include things like creating your own products, heavy affiliate promotion, seeking sponsorships, etc.

Passive means that you're not “actively” making the money – in other words “money when you sleep.” Display ads are commonly thought of as passive. Truthfully, many “active” methods become passive when they've been established – we'll discuss this further in this article.

Your Products are products you've created to market to your audience.

Other People's Products are obviously products somebody else has created. They could be physical products (like cameras, strollers, etc.) or information products (like eBooks and online classes).

Ultimately, active and passive and other people's products vs. your own not the biggest issue because you'll likely use a combination of these methods to grow your income online. Let's talk about each and then I'll give you a “case study” scenario for using them on a website.

Display Ads

Display ads are probably the “holy grail” on online income…

…what could be easier than throwing up a little website with Adsense ads on it and watching the cash roll in month after month?

Unfortunately, that's not really reality. Firstly, you have to have traffic because you only get paid for display ads when people click!

Let's take a step back and look at what a display ad is:

Anytime you're on a website and see banner ads for a product (or another website), that's likely a display ad. When a visitor to your website clicks on that ad, you as the publisher are paid something – often anywhere from .01 to a couple of dollars. High-dollar clicks tend to be high-ticket niches such as investing.

Sometimes these ads are served through networks like:

  • Adsense
  • Media.net
  • BuySellAds
  • Conversant
  • Adblade

There are also inline ads, which are a type of display ad. With these ads, key phrases in your content are turned into links that lead to an ad (sometimes a popup comes up when your visitor hovers over the link with their mouse). Some of these networks are:

  • Chitika
  • Kontera
  • Infolinks

Other times display ads are a private or brokered arrangement.

Though getting thousands of dollars every month in passive advertising income sounds appealing, it's not realistic until you have a very large site getting massive amounts of traffic. Since most clicks are worth only pennies (or less), it takes many, many clicks to build up to a good income.

People also leave your site when they click through display ads, so you lose your visitor and a potential customer for your own products (or affiliate products).

Once you've build out a large authority site, display ads become a possibility. At that point, do your homework and find out which ad networks are most flexible and helpful (a network that assigns you your own representative who can help you customize ads for your site and share best practices is a good choice). You want a network focused on publisher success.

Sponsorships

Sponsorships are most common for sites that have some kind of audio-visual channel, for example, a Youtube channel or a podcast show. Sometimes sponsorships can also be private display ad arrangements, but these are usually arranged on a cost-per-click or cost-per-impression (how many people “see” the ad) basis.

A sponsorship can be very lucrative to the publisher because it's generally a regular, contracted amount. For example, you make make $100 per 30-second sponsorship slot at the beginning and and end of your podcast (click here for my post on why you should podcast, which includes a full sponsorship example). You might sell two per episode, plus you sell a 60-second spot mid-episode for $200 – that gives you $400 per episode. If you're doing an episode per week, that's $1600 a month just from your podcast. Sponsorships for a Youtube channel are similar.

As you can see, this can add up to quite a lot, especially if you're creating frequent episodes.

Sponsorships are much more “active” income, especially at first when you're seeking out sponsors for your show. Once you've lined up regular sponsors, you still have to produce the episodes for their ad spots to air on 😉

Like with display ads, you need to have a good amount of traffic before you'll really make any money. Sponsors pay for ads when they feel that they earn a good return on their investment. You need to be consistent and build up an audience for your show or your channel, then work to attract sponsors.

Affiliate Programs

Affiliate programs are probably the second most popular online income strategy (after display ads) and the pitch is similar:

“Put up a little site with a few pages and some reviews of affiliate products, and watch the dollars roll in!”

Well…

…that's not really how it works 😉

First, just as with display ads, you have to have a site that attracts visitors – it must be a quality website (or email list). You have to offer something of value to your visitors, and a “thin” site with only a few pages and an obvious pitch for affiliate products isn't really a lot of value.

It's better to establish a strong, authoritative site people know and trust. Then they'll value (and trust) your affiliate recommendations.

There are two primary kinds of affiliate promotions, each with its own pros and cons:

[one_half_first]

[thrive_text_block color=”blue” headline=”Physical Products”]

  • High perceived value
  • Somebody else handles shipping
  • Commodity products
  • Cash in on seasonal purchases
  • Low affiliate commission %
  • Many other affiliates

[/thrive_text_block]

[/one_half_first][one_half_last]

[thrive_text_block color=”blue” headline=”Digital Products”]

  • High affiliate commission %
  • Someone else handles delivery
  • Lots of affiliate support
  • Regular product launches (some niches)
  • Lower perceived value
  • Many other affiliates

[/thrive_text_block]

[/one_half_last]

You can often do well with affiliate products if you build a good list and promote seasonal physical products or follow launch schedules on digital products.

A strong mailing list is key to the success of most affiliates. You build list and send them great content so they know you and trust you. When it's time to mail a promotion, they're more likely to listen to your recommendation.

Even if you produce your own products, affiliate promotions can form a large part of your income. Most niches have some kind of product or special promotion/product launch that you can promote. As long as it doesn't directly compete with your products, you can do very well.

An example of this is on my largest site in the pregnancy & baby niche. I'm able to include one of my products in a large bundle focused on natural health for families. This annual promotion is always an incredible value for my readers, and I do very well promoting it.

I believe that, ultimately, you should have your own products – but I also feel that there will be many affiliate opportunities that benefit you. Just make sure that your own website (and email list) provide high-quality content.

Also take affiliate launches into account when you're planning your own promotions, so you can stagger promotions appropriately and not overwhelm your audience.

Creating Your Own Products

Your own products can become your “bread and butter” income. Though they take work to create and promote initially, over time your products can become a passive income stream that generates consistent income while you sleep – or while your family plays on the beach!

There are many different kinds of products to create, but most digital marketers choose one of these:

  • Ebooks
  • Courses / Classes
  • Memberships
  • Coaching

Product creation gives you the opportunity to share your own expertise with your audience, which can create not only income, but trust and a strong bond with your customers and students.

Many are intimidated by product creation because they feel they don't have a lot to teach – but remember, you only need to know more than your prospective customers. You can teach at just above a beginner level, then go on to learn and discover more yourself…

…then teach what you've learned. In this way you'll be able to offer more and more in-depth training to your customers – and stay a level ahead of them. At the same time, you'll have more beginners coming into your initial products. If you eventually learn enough to feel you should revise your beginner's material, you can do that and re-launch.

Information products (ebooks, classes, etc.) let you scale your product sales almost infinitely – limited only by your audience size. In addition, you can create different levels of the products (beginner, advanced, master levels, for example) and create funnels that keep each customer engaged with your product funnel for longer.

Physical products are a possibility as well, but may be limited by production concerns. Even if you produce physical products, it may be good to research possible digital products that compliment your product line (for example, if you sell golfing equipment, you might sell courses on improving your swing; if you sell custom clothing, you might also sell your patterns and tutorials for DIY'ers).

Membership programs can be very lucrative because they build up residual income that recurs month after month – for as long as your member remains enrolled. They allow you to give a lot of value to your customer and build loyalty. Memberships are also a good way to build brand ambassadors – loyal, engaged community members who add value to the membership itself and may also help bring in new members.

A membership program can take a lot of work to build up to a critical mass and it can take time to cultivate brand ambassadors, but it's a good long-term strategy for digital marketers.

As with an affiliate product model, you need to have a lot of trust and goodwill with your audience if you want to sell your products. Selling Kindle books on Amazon can help you gain some initial traction (or great traction if you're writing fiction), but for most information products, you want to have a good website and a loyal list of email subscribers.

As you can see, a common theme with all of these monetization methods is having a quality website and/or email list.

A Case Study Example

I'm working on building out a small, niche site called Getting-Pregnant.com. It's my little lab experiment domain 😉

I've thought some about monetizing Getting-Pregnant.com and it's a good example site for many of these strategies. Here's what using these would look like:

My first steps will be to build out more content on Getting-Pregnant.com so that it's a solid resource for visitors. I'll also create a few high-quality lead magnets, or opt-in incentives, to get visitors onto the site's mailing list. That gives me the chance to send high-value information to the list.

I happen to already have a beginner-level product recorded for this site (an audio product), so I can offer that to subscribers once they sign up. I'm thinking through what I want to offer next – likely a more comprehensive online course. I could also offer a membership model very easily on this site. I feel like for this particular membership, a forum (or Facebook group) would be critical, so I'm not certain I want to go that route yet. Once I can bring in a virtual assistant to help moderate the forum. I may consider it. Since this niche is related to my well-established site, it's possible I could hire someone to moderate all those areas for me – but this is just thinking down the line.

Right now I have the small, fertility-diet related product, so I'll work on a few more specific products, and create a larger online course focused on natural fertility.

Fertility and getting pregnant also lend themselves well to affiliate products. Many women interested in conceiving use ovulation test kits, pregnancy tests, supplements, herbs, etc. to help boost fertility and conceive faster. I'll likely review many of these products and recommend high-quality, trusted products on the site and via email. This gives me a nice secondary source of income.

I can also recommend trusted products within my own classes and in the membership if I create that.

An affiliate promotion like the healthy lifestyle bundle I described above would also make a good promotion in this niche, so I can keep my eye out for those opportunities.

A podcast or Youtube channel is a possibility with this niche. I enjoy podcasting, but I don't consider myself an “expert” on fertility yet, so I'd likely look for experts to interview on the podcast. This is also a great way to gain traction for your podcast (or channel) quickly. Then I could look for sponsorship opportunities.

While growing these other aspects of the business, I'll continue to put high-quality content on the website, growing its authority and web presence. At some point I could experiment with display ads for an additional revenue stream.

Monetization Through Multiple Channels

As you can see, monetizing through multiple channels can grow your revenue. It also leaves you with a more secure income because you have multiple streams of revenue flowing into your business. If something fails. You still have a viable business model.

All of this is built on quality content and trusting relationships with your visitors and subscribers, because if you don't have that, your business is not going to stand the test of time!

Focus on good content and trusting relationships, then build on monetization models until you reach the income level you've been dreaming of… and even soar beyond it 😉

Online Business Quick Start

Fast money. Easy money. It's the unspoken dream of many wanna-be entrepreneurs who look at building a business online. But is it a reality?

What does it take to launch a business online?

What does it take to make it profitable?

What does it take to scale it?

Are any of those things even possible?

Here's the straight truth: you can build a successful business online.

You can build a wildly successful, massively profitable business online.

Here's the catch: it's going to take hard work.

Creating a business online is the key to the profit and freedom many entrepreneurs want, but you have to be willing to do some work to get it started.

If you're looking for the latest get-rich-quick scheme, this isn't for you…

…if you're willing to put in some work, follow a proven plan, and commit to making lives better for your visitors, subscribers, and customers, keep reading, because you've already taken the first step to building a successful online business.

You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.

Zig Ziglar

Building a Profitable Business

I've been in online business for over a decade at this point. I've done a lot right – and I've made a lot of mistakes along the way, too. I've taken good advice, and I've taken bad advice. At this point I have a thriving authority site and a growing second site. My sites are geared towards helping families – and that's really the reason I started Milk and Mud as well, too. Online business can bring freedom:

  • Freedom to spend more time together
  • Freedom from financial stress
  • Freedom to travel
  • Freedom from other people controlling your life and schedule
  • Freedom to be with your children
  • Freedom to home school, live outside of the city, or other choices impossible before
  • Freedom to care for parents, give to charity, etc.

I'm sure there are many things you can think of that I haven't even mentioned! All of those reasons – and all of your reasons – are why I created Milk and Mud. I want to help you find the freedom that an online business can bring.

There's actually a dark secret in Internet marketing, and I hinted at it above…

…there's a belief that wild success should be easy (and overnight) on the Internet.

But that's not true.

Building a profitable business is simple but it's not “easy” – it takes work. That's why this website is here – to take you step-by-step through building a website that works…

…and beyond that to a business that changes your clients' lives – and your own 🙂

It's About Changing Lives

Remember the Zig Ziglar quote I shared above? Go back and read it again if you just skimmed over it, because it's a key I want you to hold onto.

You are going to do a lot of foundational work as you build your business:

  • Building a website
  • Starting an email list
  • Creating email campaigns
  • Creating products
  • Creating funnels
  • Tracking and testing

All of that can be really “technical” and “numbers-focused” – which is good but that's not the heart of your business. It's easy to get caught up focusing on the dollars (especially when that's how your family needs to eat.

But it's crucial to realize that the money you make comes from real people. Your business is about making someone's life better.

You might be thinking to yourself “well, my business is all about posting funny cat stories” or “I make handmade soaps” or “I sew linen bread bags” and “how can that really be ‘life changing'?”

But the truth is, what you're doing is making lives better. It may be only in a small way… you're not curing cancer or funding life-saving surgeries… but those cat stories might give a laugh. Maybe your funny puppy pictures give someone the smile they desperately needed to keep going in a hard situation (ask me how I know…)

Your homemade soap could help a mother whose child has horrible eczema, or a family that can't use anything else due to allergies. Maybe your linen bread bag makes baking healthier sourdough bread a joy – so somebody actually does that rather than giving in and buying another loaf of nutrient-lacking store-bought bread…

What you do makes an impact on somebody's life, and you should never doubt that. That's what you need to focus on when you're building your business – especially when you're creating content and creating your products (regardless if they're physical or digital products).

Obviously keeping your eye on the business side of things is important, but always hold your visitor, subscriber, and customer in your mind. Is this content helpful to them? Is your product going to help them get something they want in life (be it personal transformation or something as simple as a cleaner house…)? When you focus on helping real people, your business will thrive.

Successful Internet Marketer

What About Passive Income?

One of the great promises of digital marketing is “passive income” – also known as money while you sleep! It's not going to happen overnight, but it is one of the most important goals you can have in your online business. Passive income has three major benefits:

  • It creates financial security for you
  • It frees you up to test, optimize, and scale
  • It frees you up to focus on delivering amazing value to your audience and customers

Again, passive income is the big dream – usually it's mentioned alongside pictures of tropical beaches and expensive homes. But we're thinking about it realistically here. It's a good goal, and there are big reasons to build a business that creates passive income.

I want you to realize, however, that there's some work involved in getting that started. If you want sales to come in while you sleep, you've got to be willing to do the work that builds a foundation for those kinds of sales.

Having said that, there are many different ways you can create passive income. Here are a few:

  • Create your own products (like books, classes, membership programs, coaching programs, physical products etc.)
  • Share affiliate products (these could be software, information products, or could be physical products like cameras, strollers, etc.)
  • Place display ads on your website so you generate ad income
  • Build a big mailing list and sell marketing slots
  • Create a successful podcast or video channel and sell sponsorship slots

All of those start with building a solid website and taking steps to turn visitors into subscribers and buyers. Doing that is a key in mastering digital marketing.

Relationship Marketing

A relationship is key in creating an online business. In the past people built what were called “thin sites,” or “Adsense sites,” or “affiliate sites.” Not everyone built that kind of website (and not all experts taught these thin sites), but a lot of them were put up and all had great promises of fast cash with no relationship. It was like you'd be taking money from a machine – not interacting with real people.

Today the only consumer is much savvier. They often want to know the person behind the website – or they want to trust the brand. In the past, humanity relied on great hero stories. Today's generations are jaded and skeptical, but there's still a deep longing for heroes, wise sages, daring adventurers, etc. Brands often fill those voids with messages and stories that consumers can relate to. Brands are trusted (and sometimes mistrusted or positioned as an “enemy”).

Commentary on humanity aside, that means that you as an individual, or the brand you're creating for your business, are important and a key to creating something that's going to sell – and it will sell because people trust you and believe your product.

They think you (or your brand) are trustworthy.

Think about asking someone to marry you. You probably wouldn't ask for their hand in marriage on a first date. The other person would think you're seriously weird! You'd spend some time getting to know them and enjoying being around them. You might not think of it this way, but you'd be building up their trust in you – enough to trust you when you asked for their hand in marriage.

A product purchase isn't quite the same as getting married – but people often have a hard time parting with their money, or even their time. They want to feel good about what they'll be getting in return. Building a trusting relationship helps make sure that when it comes time to share your products, your visitors and subscribers feel good about you.

How do you build a strong relationship with your subscribers?

Basics of Profitable Online Business

Content is STILL King

When I first got started many, many years ago, thin sites were the “big thing” – but there were a few voices that kept shouting that wasn't right… that what was right was content.

Content is King

Ken Evoy

Fortunately, I felt like the “content is king” message sounded right, and that's what I followed. Though I had a lot of stops, starts, and even some failed tests with “thin” sites, I kept building my little niche site into an authority site. “Authority site” is a trendy way of saying “a site focused on a particular topic that's filled with high-quality content people trust and refer to.”

Today content is still king. It's true that the Internet is a lot more crowded, but I firmly believe that gives you an advantage. People are hungry for inspiration and they're hungry for real connection. As an entrepreneur you can make that connection because you are small and approachable. You are a real person providing great content.

High-quality content on whatever the topic may be – how to prepare for a new baby, how to transition your pet to a raw food diet, how to start a bicycle courier business, how to become a food truck chef, how to overcome your skin sensitivities, or source quality makeup, or choose the best camera… – the list is endless…

…high-quality content on your topic is the first step to building trust and relationship.

##This relationship often starts with an article, video, or podcast.## Your audience finds you through a search engine or link. They read, watch, or listen to your excellent content and decide they appreciated it. They may want more from you, so they visit your website or listen to or watch more. This is a great way to introduce yourself to people.

Sometimes it stops there – you may choose to make money through display ads, so you never get subscribers.

But usually you want to get people to subscribe to your mailing list. This is a natural extension of the relationship-building you've been doing. Now you can send great email content – a daily tip (my favorite) or a weekly newsletter. Maybe you can offer some subscriber-only content. Your emails build relationship and trust with your audience.

Your email list also lets you share products and promotions directly with subscribers who are eager to hear from you Here's an important note: you should be willing to share your products (and affiliate offers, if you do that) with your audience. If you never share or ask people to look at and buy your products, you'll create a list of people who only want free information, but don't want to buy.

While you do want to change as many lives as possible, and give great information away, you also need to earn a living. This is a balance that takes skill to develop, but it's not complicated. Just remember to provide great content – in your free posts, articles, videos, and podcasts… and in your amazing products and offers 🙂

Funnels are Essential

Like the concept of “passive income,” the concept of “sales funnels” are, well, trendy in the Internet marketing world. Everyone wants the ultimate funnel that converts and brings in passive income.

As I noted when we talked about passive income above, it takes work to create that income stream. It takes work to create a funnel. It's not something magic you just drop into your business and see it work (sometimes it can seem that way, because a funnel helps you take multiple products and organize then market them in a way that makes a lot of sense to your audience, so sales start happening).

But even though funnels are not “magic,” I feel they're a crucial step for every business owner. Most of us can make a small income online, but a funnel is the key to scaling your income to where it makes a difference for yourself and your family.

A well-executed funnel also helps your customers. As I hinted, sometimes customers are just overwhelmed by everything that you offer. When you have a clean, well-organized funnel, they can see the “next step” they need to take or the next product they need to use to get what they want.

People are often excited when they buy, too – they like something that compliments their purchase. Think about a great store clerk who helps you find the perfect outfit. She or he suggests that a particular belt would look great with it. You're excited and agree – so you buy the belt too! Or maybe your plumber tells you that you need X part to fix your sink – but he's happy to install it for you for $100 more. You don't want water flooding your house, so you're happy to pay him to install it 😉

A funnel helps you get your products or offers in front of the right people at the right time. It maximizes your income – and often maximizes your customer's satisfaction with their purchase, too 🙂

Staying Productive in the Trenches

Thus far we've covered core components of a good online business – I hope I've clarified some misconceptions and given you a good idea of what you need. But there's one more thing you need to think about…

…getting it all done. You have to stay productive if your business is going to succeed.

It's easy to spend hours doing nothing but reading emails from other marketers. That's fine for a hobby, but it won't work for your business. You need tried-and-true methods to maximize your productivity – so you can maximize your profit… and your free time 😉

Here are some steps that have been crucial for me:

  • Setting clear, actionable goals
  • Blueprinting out my goals so I can break them down step-by-step
  • Doing the ONE thing that will move my business ahead today
  • Reviewing and adjusting to make sure I hit my goals
  • Developing a working task management system
  • Scheduling my day so I have focused periods of work time
  • Getting up early!

There are many strategies for getting more out of the hours of your day – I encourage you to explore and find the ones that work for you…

…then focus on changing lives, building your business, and keep scaling your income and your success!

Basics of Profitable Digital Marketing

Why You Need to Podcast

Why You Need to Podcast

“Hi, I just wanted to let you know that I love your podcast.”

“I just signed up for your class – I found you through your podcast!”

“Where have you been, I haven't seen a new podcast for a couple of weeks?!”

These are all real comments that I've really gotten – and really get, over and over.

I'll be honest, the positive response to my podcast has really floored me!

I started my podcast because I personally enjoyed listening to podcasts, and I knew there were not a lot of them in my niche. As I've shared before, the Google Penguin/Panda update of 2013 really hurt my niche website (and for the record, I still think it was unfair). I needed to do something to connect to my audience that didn't rely on Google.

Podcasting seemed to be a good fit. I am forever grateful that I took that plunge! Podcasting has been a lot of fun for me. Plus, it's easy to do, and I have seen a return on investment that I never expected.

Here are the benefits I found with podcasting, and why you should consider doing one too:

Podcasting Reaches Your Audience (even when you normally can't)

In case you're not familiar with a podcast, it's essentially an audio show. You can also do a video podcast very successfully, but mine is audio only. Different podcasts have very different “feels” to them, but they are almost all set up to be a serialized show around a particular theme. Listeners generally listen to their shows regularly.

How frequently you podcast is really up to you – I started with every two weeks, and now I publish a show every week. Those are both pretty typical schedules. There are also daily shows, shows that publish every weekday, three times a week, once a month, etc. As with most content online, consistency is a good thing.

Back to reaching your audience…

Your listeners generally download the podcast onto their device – often a phone, or perhaps an MP3 player, their computer, or even their stereo system. Podcast apps automatically download episodes you're subscribed to – essentially meaning your listener gets you delivered straight to them every week.

Because phones and mp3 players are portable, they can take your podcast with them to listen to on their commute, while the exercise, while they cook dinner, and more.

People are getting to know you and consuming your content even while they can't use their computer or phone to be online – that's pretty powerful all by itself.

Podcasts Create a Unique Bond

Like I said, there are different podcasting “styles” – some are much like a morning radio show, with a host or a couple of hosts joking around. Some are more interview-style, where the host is talking to a different guest on each episode. Others are more of a monologue where you just listen to the podcast host talk.

My own podcast is a mix of the last two – most episodes are just me talking about a particular topic (at this point, usually topics listeners have requested). I also do a fair number of guest episodes – as my podcast has grown I have gotten a lot more requests to have guests join me on the show. I like these episodes though they take a little more planning, and I think my listeners like them to. I will probably continue the mix in the future.

Guest episodes are also powerful because they create credibility for you (your guest's credibility rubs off on you) and prominent guests often share your podcast with their audience, creating momentum for your show.

Even if you have guests or co-hosts on your show, you are one of the stars, and speaking to someone every week helps build a bond between the two of you. Listeners feel like they know you on a more intimate level than if they're just reading a few words in a blog post. They hear your voice, the tone and emphasis. It's very personal.

This is one of the ways that a starting entrepreneur can gain a lot of traction – you are often the face of your brand early in the game – and you can use something like a podcast to connect to your audience on a very, very personal level. That's powerful, and it's something that big brands don't do as well.

If you look at podcast directories, they are often dominated by solopreneuers or small teams working together. A podcast just has a little more of a home-grown feel, and that gives you a nice way to build a bond 🙂

Podcasts Build Loyalty

Because podcasts help you develop a bond between yourself and your listener, they're also a prime medium for creating loyalty. The serial, or subscription-based nature of podcasting also helps. Your listener can download just one of your shows, but as I said above, they often “subscribe” to your show. There are multiple directories that help listeners discover and subscriber to podcasts:

  • iTunes
  • Stitcher
  • Google Play Music
  • Soundcloud

Many apps also have built-in discovery and subscription management features, too. Podcast listeners like being connected with their shows – and they look forward to hearing from you every day/week/month (however often you're podcasting!). This loyalty keeps listeners tuned in to you as an expert source, so you can share recommendations, upcoming products and classes, etc. with your listeners.

Building Your Brand

Podcasting is Pretty Easy!

One of the biggest benefits of podcasting is just how easy it is. You just turn on the microphone and start recording! Of course if you're bringing guests in, it gets a little more complicated – but not much. Even now, I still have my guests call into my teleconference line. You can put together complicated podcasting setups, but you don't have to.

Having said that, I do think audio quality is important (and if I were recording guests every day or every week, I would look into how to get the best possible quality when bringing in a guest). Fortunately, quality is pretty easy – you can get a great microphone for around $50 USD! You can use sound boards and fancy software, but it doesn't take a lot. When I first started I used Audacity, which is open-source, and it worked well.

I eventually decided to subscribe to the Adobe Creative Suite for Photoshop and since that came with Adobe Audition, I use that. I do admit that it makes processing a podcast episode faster for me (it takes about 5 minutes!) – but Audacity worked well for its' purposes (as an aside, I used The GIMP for graphics at that point, but with freemium web apps like Canva [opens in a new tab] you can make amazing images for your site very easily today!).

Anyways – it is very, very easy to get a good setup for podcasting. I have never used a sound board, though I know some podcasters do. I paid a voice-over artist to do my “intro” and “outtro” and I think that was a good one-time investment. Otherwise, my microphone was the big investment – once I had that, I was ready to go on air!

I generally do a (brief) outline of my show, then I sit down and hit record. I talk for about 40 minutes on average. Then I'm done! It has taken practice – your first episode is not going to sound as good as your 100th. But you get better quickly, and you gain confidence, too. If you mess up, just stop, take a breath, and start again. You can go back and edit the mistake out. I do occasionally edit something out, but at this point I don't need to edit most episodes. I've lost an episode due to computer error before and that's painful – but I generally feel that the “second take” is better than the first 😉

I could never write a blog post at the same level of quality my podcasts are at in such a short time, so podcasts are an incredible way for me to publish content fairly easily.

I do publish “show notes” with my podcast, where I write out bullet points highlighting major points in the episode (this is a great way to get practice writing bullet point copy – you are “selling” the episode!). I also list and link to things mentioned on the show – both products and resources. I often reference other shows, articles, etc. And link to those. If I had a guest on, I always link to him or her.

The show notes take a little time, but I have a template for them that helps speed things up. I also try to keep a note open on my computer while I record so I can quickly type/jot down if I mention something I hadn't already planned on. This makes pulling together show notes faster. You could have a pen and paper nearby for the same reason.

Podcasting feels intimidating at first, but as soon as you establish a workflow it comes together very quickly. You could outsource post-production (many do) but I never have. I don't bother with audio effects outside of the intro and outtro. I would say that unless you feel it's really important to your audience, don't put those things in there! Interesting effects and “professional” sounding cuts can wait until you've gotten the hang of the podcast and know you're getting a solid ROI.

Podcasting Can Create Multiple Revenue Streams

Aside from all of the above benefits, podcasting can be a source of multiple streams of revenue.

One thing I'm still working on is making sure I have a call to action in every podcast. I try to remember, at the very least, to ask my listeners to subscribe to my daily emails and to rate the podcast in their podcasting directory. Many podcasters do a great job of directly promoting a product on each episode, or a webinar, or another upcoming promotion.

I am continually surprised by the number of students I get as a direct result of the podcast. Many, many of the women who sign up for my niche classes tell me that they found me via the podcast. It makes sense to me, since I teach via audio on the podcast, and my classes tend to be mostly audio (some video here and there). Podcasting is a powerful way to reach an audience that may have never found your blog, your guest posts, or even your Youtube channel – and if they connect with you, they may become customers!

You can also directly monetize your podcasting with sponsorships. These are essentially “commercials” you do on your podcast. I haven't begun doing sponsorships yet, but I would like to soon. Sponsors become interested as your podcast grows in popularity, so a podcast with many downloads is a good starting point (we'll discuss how to boost podcast listeners in a future post).

In his sponsorship guide, podcasting maven John Lee Dumas gives these numbers:

A 15-second Pre-Roll commands $18 per 1000 CPMs (listens).
 
 
A 60-second Mid-Roll commands $25 per 1000 CPMs (listens).
 
 
For ease of math purposes, let’s say your podcast averages 10,000 listens per episode.
 
 
18 x 10 (for the 10,000 listens) = $180 is the cost to the sponsor for a Pre-Roll.
 
 
25 x 10 (for the 10,000 listens) = $250 is the cost to the sponsor for a Mid-Roll.
 
 
Therefore, your 10,000 per episode podcast would cost a sponsor $430 for a Pre-Roll/Mid-Roll combo.
 
 
Let's say you allow 2 sponsors per episode, now you are making $860 per episode.

That's pretty incredible! That's a good income if you're podcasting once a week – and a lot of you're airing more often. It's decent even if your show is every two weeks. Regardless of how you look at it, there's a lot of money there.

Podcasting is a powerful way to connect with your audience, and it can create opportunities and revenue streams you had never considered before. Podcasting gives you a little bit of a “celebrity” status, too – which helps you connect with other influencers in your niche so you can build your brand and grow the overall authority of your website.

Have you considered a podcast before? What's been holding you back from getting started?

Why Does Content Marketing Matter to the Little Guys?

Content Marketing for Little Guys

Content marketing – could I build a business on it? I glanced down at the check in my hand, then glanced up at the two kids playing in front of me. I shifted my baby a little on my lap, studying the check again. Should I use that check to buy groceries, or to buy web hosting?

I made a gamble with that money – a small inheritance I received when my grandmother died. I banked that money on a website and a content marketing plan to build it into a business (except we didn't call it “content marketing” when I started this game).

In the years since I made that decision, I've often wished my grandmother could see how I've multiplied that little check over, and over, and over again countless times 🙂

I built my business on the back of content – and I built it by myself. Recently, Scott has come home from corporate America to help in the business, but for a long time, it was just me, one of the little gals, building something pretty big.

Can content marketing work for beginning digital marketers? Beginning niche businesses?

Yep.

Let me tell you how…

What's Old is New Again

It's important to realize that “content marketing” is a buzzword today. You hear it everywhere. It's like it's some new, fresh thing that you just have to do.

The problem with that perception is that it's wrong. Content marketing has been around a long time. It's just that it wasn't really called that (I'd say that the Content Marketing Institute really helped push the lingo ;)).

We used to call it “article marketing” or just “recording training” or “writing great blog posts” or “writing consistent posts that your visitors love.”

Of course there were many variations back them, and some of them were kind of spammy and even black-hat-ish (if you don't know, “black hat” search engine optimization (SEO) means trying to fool the search engines into giving you higher rankings – it's not a good idea).

But many people honestly just created great websites.

The Content Marketing Juggernaut (or, everyone thinks it matters)

Today we still believe in creating those great websites, only we call it “content.” To be fair, content tends to be distributed farther today than it was in the past – there are many more channels for marketing with content. Plus, there are so many accessible channels for every medium:

  • Videos (Youtube, Youtube Live, Facebook Live, Vimeo, etc.)
  • Audio (podcasts on iTunes, Stitcher, Soundcloud, GooglePlay)
  • Text (your site, your blog, guest posting, social media properties, email)
  • Images and Graphics (infographics, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr)

I only named a few channels and only covered mediums that are prominent today – it's hard to imagine what might be coming. So there are complexities in content marketing that weren't there even five years ago, and certainly not a decade ago.

But the core of all of that is still high-quality content that keeps your audience coming back for more.

Content marketing is essential to most corporate strategies today for good reason: people want quality information. They want to know, like, and trust.

In the past, we had heroes and fables, the people and stuff of legends. People looked to that for inspiration and guidance.

Maybe you still do look to something higher for guidance – but many people just don't. They're looking for a “hero,” or for a “wise elder” of some sort to lead them. Today, brands fill that role!

When brands build credibility and trust with their audience, the audience is likely to remain loyal – and to buy. Content marketing opens the door to access your audience and to grow that relationship with them. It brings people onto your mailing list (arguably the most important part of your marketing strategy) Savvy corporate marketing departments realize this key, and they build entire teams to deploy well-rounded content strategies.

Content Marketing for the (much) Smaller Business

Where does that leave you, the (much) smaller business? If you're like our business, you are likely a team of one, or maybe two. Maybe you're where I was for a long time – running the business by yourself with a little bit of help from a spouse here or there to read over a blog post before you publish it. Or you've got a virtual assistant to help with some of the grunt-work, but really, this is mostly you.

Is a content marketing strategy worth having if you're only one person? Is it even possible?

And, most importantly, does it make a difference when you're a very small fish in a very big sea… a sea filled with well-organized marketing departments going after your target audience.

**The answer is a resounding YES. You should have and execute a content marketing plan **

On NBBC, my primary website and the business I've been building for the past decade, I am essentially a one-person marketing team. I am a one-person content team. I am also fighting against very big fish in my niche. One key for NBBC has been that I sit firmly (and unapologetically) in a sub-niche. But the SERPs (search engine results pages) are still dominated by corporate websites with content written by paid “experts.”

Even with this reality, I am still able to rank relatively well in the search engines, and more importantly, my content helps me to connect with my audience on a deep, personal level. I bring them something that a corporation can never bring. I bring something that a bunch of “experts” can never bring. There's a human side, an “I've been there and understand you” side…

…that's something you can put into your content strategy.

Though you may eventually grow too big to personally reply to everyone who writes you, that day will likely not come for awhile. You can take the questions you receive and create content that speaks to that need. It's highly likely that many others reading your content have the same questions, so you connect on a deep level with all your audience because they feel you know their thoughts, wants, fears, and needs.

Another example of something that has been very successful for me is podcasting. My niche podcast has over 100 episodes and I get emails almost every day thanking me for recording and producing the show. I do have guests on many episodes, but most are me speaking directly to the audience – sharing my thoughts and experiences in my niche, and giving practical advice, how-to's, etc.

This personal voice is harder for a corporation to capture, but it's something you can do regularly in your own niche without too much cost or extra work. A simple budget microphone works well. Share snippets of your story (stories) in your articles.

Live video is taking off right now, and that's another area that being an individual who connects with your audience works well. People like seeing you, and they like hearing your responses to their questions. It doesn't have to be long, 10-15 minutes to answer one a question a week can be plenty. Your phone is good enough, or your phone with an inexpensive lavaliere microphone. Then you just go live and record, respond, and build relationship.

Of course, bringing in some strategy really helps – you can repurpose your podcasts and videos into written content. You can pull together a series of blog posts to create a book. There are many options available to the small content producer.

The bottom line is: content marketing makes a difference, even for the small digital marketer and niche marketer.

It Takes Planning

You do need to plan for content.

At first, you may have the enthusiasm to write excellent articles or to record podcasts or videos, without much planning. The content keeps flowing just because you're full of ideas, or you want to establish a strong base of content about basics in your niche.

But you'll likely come to a time when you need to think about your strategy for a couple of reasons:

  • You need to keep ideas for content flowing
  • You need to keep up with a consistent content schedule
  • You may want to bring writers, editors, etc. onto your team

Truthfully your audience will give you a lot of great ideas for content. If I feel particularly un-inspired, I can just send out an email along these lines:

Subject: I need your help

Body: I sat down to write today and just couldn't think of what to write. So could you take just 2 minutes to let me know what your two biggest questions about [insert niche/topic here] are?

Just hit “reply” and let me know, it comes right to my inbox!

[sign off here]

Once you have a small email list, a simple email like this can get big results. You can also write back with a few lines, acknowledging people for responding you. This is a great way to build further relationship.

Paste all the questions into a document or Onenote (it's what I use!), and you've got a great list to work from when you need content ideas. A little bit of planning will help you keep those content ideas flowing.

Another key is consistency. This is something I have really struggled with throughout the years of running my business. When I started my site, I had 3 kids. Now I have 7 kids! I love my kids, and I love homeschooling them, but life with a large family can get really hectic. There are times when it's just hard for me to produce content.

Staying consistent, however, has always lead to more success in my business. This has been especially true with my podcast, which brings many new students into my program. I want my products and classes to change lives, and to do that, I need people in them! So creating valuable content on a schedule is worth it to me.

You may need to tweak your schedule (often you're too ambitious at first), but planning out how frequently you publish and what kind of content you create is helpful.

A final reason for planning is because you may want to bring in a team at some point. I would eventually like to hire a writer or writers to help me on a smaller niche site I'd like to build out. I know that having a set content calendar and a set plan for getting the initial drafts in, having editing and formatting done, etc. will be crucial to the success of my team.

If you hope to have a team working on your content, you need to consider at least a loosely organized plan to keep everyone on track.

Strategy = Success

I hinted above that content like a podcast or video can be repurposed into further content. Having the plan to do this is crucial.

I've been reading the stories of other marketers recently, and a common theme has been carefully re-purposed content. I've decided to implement this with my live videos.

I did live video for NBBC for months and posted the video on my blog after the live broadcast. That's as far as I went with “repurposing.” After taking a break from live-streaming due to a family emergency, I decided to start again. I polled the NBBC subscriber base and heard (overwhelmingly) that they wanted Youtube Live and were also interested in Facebook Live. So I decided to stream from both services. Another successful marketer (Wardee Harmon from Traditional Cooking School – thank you!) gave me the idea to also repurpose into a podcast.

As I shared, my podcast has been a great way for me to personally connect with the NBBC audience. A second, shorter podcast seemed like a good idea too. So when I record the live video, I also have my microphone hooked up and recording just behind the cameras. I capture two live streams and an audio at the same time (I could also extract audio from the Youtube Live recording if need be). As I type this, we're about to launch the second podcast. It will have a post with the podcast and the video embedded, and the podcast will go live to each podcasting directory while the video is on Youtube and Facebook.

This does take a little extra time (mostly to get the blog post together) – but not much – and I'm distributing quality content out that goes to social media, sits on Youtube, and I can share with my subscribers and readers.

Podcasts and videos can also be transcribed to create further content. You can use a short transcript to form the foundation for a longer, more detailed content piece like this one.

All of that takes strategy – and this is just one example of a strategy.

If you're just getting started, choose one content medium and master it.

Then determine how you can repurpose that content strategically to widen your reach.

Remember, even if you don't have the money (or time) to do a lot of fancy work with video and audio, you have a huge advantage with your audience – you are real and relatable – people can form a connection with you easily. Flashy video effects are cool, but real people sharing real information and experiences still wins most of the time (look at reality TV – as “real” as you can argue that is ;)).

After you've mastered one medium and determined how your first repurposing plan works, you can look towards expanding and bolting more onto your business – always thinking strategically about how this advances the whole business.

Another hint: don't be discouraged if something doesn't work, or if you can't juggle quite as much as you're doing. Evaluate what does work and stay consistent with that.

Moving Beyond the Blog Post

I think I've already given you some great ideas for moving beyond a simple blog post, and as I've emphasized several times, I think this is a place where you, as a small content provider, can really shine.

Audio is powerful and simple, even if you're nervous about the way that you look or how messy your house is 😉 Video is a great choice if you want to seem personal and real to your audience. Don't worry if things are rough at first – you'll get better. I'm planning to do some posts here with tips to help you feel more confident from the start… but never forget that the more you write, record, and film, the better you'll get. The same is true for teaching, too 🙂

Remember that you can and should look beyond your own blog, too. Where you look past that point depends greatly on the niche you choose – some niches, for example, are good fits for LinkedIn. Others are not 😉

Look for places your audience hangs out online – those are good places to start sharing content. Today it's very easy to share articles, audio, and video.

Images are also very big today, and can be used to enhance and spread awareness both online and offline. In fact, I think that images should be part of your strategy. A clean graphic can make even an article more eye-catching and appealing to your audience. It can also set the tone for your brand (think about a cursive script font vs. a whimsical, child-like font – font can immediately set the tone).

Images can go way beyond “Pinterest-ready” graphics, however. Your niche may really lend itself to a strong presence on a site like Instagram. Phone apps make it easy to capture and share pictures. If this is a good fit for your niche, it's time to think through strategy (and consistency) – don't go too big too fast 😉 This is something I'm thinking of exploring for NBBC or even here at Milk and Mud – but I haven't done a lot yet so I'll be learning along with you!

The point is, there are many ways to think creatively about content marketing both on your blog and off your blog, and in many mediums. After you've built up a few quality content pieces on your website, and you've gotten a mailing list set up, guest posting can be powerful, so it's definitely an option to consider!

Small Start, Massive Growth

Key takeaways are:

  • Consistency is important for building relationship and traction
  • Being “small” is a big advantage – you can connect on a very personal, real level
  • Start slowly and add on more as you master content mediums (and locations)
  • Grow strategically – consider how to repurpose content

If you start slowly you can master each thing you do (or dump what doesn't work and move on to something that does), then bolt on something new. Measure and evaluate results so you know what works for you.

As you refine and built a content marketing strategy that works for you, you'll gain momentum. It's like a snowball rolling downhill – the impact on your business grows exponentially, and the impact you have your audience also explodes. You reach more people, change more lives (including your own), and people like you, respect you, and listen to your thoughts, opinions, and recommendations 🙂

Do you have a content strategy that's working for your online business?

Back into the Saddle

Back into the Saddle

It has been quite awhile since I've written on Milk and Mud – mostly because my life has been really busy and we've gone through major changes in my family.

I won't go into all of the nitty-gritty of those changes because I know that what you want to know about is the business side of things 😉

I think it's enough to say we've added a 7th baby to our family, we're learning what it means to try and balance a young family with helping aging parents, and Scott was laid off from his corporate job.

That means we're really busy…

…and my online business is what's paying the bills!

A Rocky Transition

I can't say that this has been a comfortable ride at all. Change is rarely comfortable, and with the exception of welcoming our youngest daughter, none of this change has been fun at all.

But it has pushed me and my business to places I never expected.

We went from what was a lower-level, “side business” kind of online business, to a more powerful, mid-level internet business.

Make no mistake – I am still not where I ultimately want to be, but I am learning and growing in ways that were hard for me to imagine even when I started Milk and Mud (and were certainly unimaginable when I started NBBC).

Growing a niche information marketing business alongside my family has been very interesting, and we are still in the process of growing.

I'm picking up writing here on Milk and Mud again because I want to share what I've learned in the school of really hard knocks over the past couple of years – and I want you to walk along with me as I start to scale this up even more 🙂

Broadcast vs. Follow-Up Emails to Your Mailing List

Once you've decided why you have a list (to create loyal fans who buy stuff from you), you have to decide how to communicate with those fans – either via broadcast emails, follow-up emails, or a mix of both. Both emails have a valuable place in your business.

Broadcast Emails

Broadcast emails are sent in the moment. You write these then go into your mailing list host and send send them off to your entire list (or some list programs let you send to a segment).

This kind of email is ideal for sending one-time news, sending a periodic newsletter, and/or sending out promotional emails.

Follow-Up Emails

These emails are loaded into your mailing list program and go out automatically when a user signs up to your list. You put the emails in and select the amount of time that passes between each email.

Follow-up emails are what give an “autoresponder” its name – your email service sends these out to automatically respond when you get a new subscriber on your list.

They can also be called an autoresponder sequence, email sequence, follow-up campaign, etc.

Creating a Winning Email List

Follow-up emails are the backbone of your email campaign. They let you communicate with your subscriber automatically. You can send great content emails along to your subscriber, helping them get to know you, love you, and trust you! It's nice to get a subscriber, and this is an awesome chance to build relationship with them.

You want to balance giving away great content with other kinds of emails:

  • Bonus / Freebie downloads here and there
  • Emails containing a couple of paragraphs teaching something awesome in your niche
  • Credibility builders (links out to articles you've written, for instance)
  • Engagement emails
  • Planned story arc launch sequences

Bonus or freebie downloads are self-explanatory. You probably already have a small ebook, white paper, or mp3 download that you give away to encourage someone to sign up on your list. You can give away something like this here and there throughout your campaign. This creates loyalty and a sense of reciprocity (the need to “give back”) in your subscriber.

Emails that teach something are extremely valuable to your subscriber. They're the emails where you share your teaching on something, your point of view. They give the reader high-quality information that he/she can really use.

Credibility builders help your reader see that you're an expert in your field. These can be links out to an article on your site, but mix it up and add links here and there to articles you've had published elsewhere. Guest blog posts, article directory articles, your book in an online bookstore – all of these can be worked into a link in an email and build up your status as an expert on your topic.

Engagement emails are very useful. Ask questions in these emails. You might even label them as “homework” for your reader! These get your reader thinking and actively engaged in what you're teaching. You can also send out emails where you ask your readers if they have a question for you. Remember, you can't spend all your time answering questions, but you can send a response out with a quick answer and questions to provoke more thought. If you keep getting questions from the same person, refer them to the product that will help them.

Your email sequence also gives you the chance to implement small launch sequences, or story arcs leading to a product recommendation. You can and should include these throughout your entire campaign – you want your subscriber to realize you're selling something.

Remember what you discovered in the last post in this series… your subscriber isn't just a consumer of your content. He/She is a loyal fan that can really benefit from the product(s) you offer. Build those offers up over a section of your email campaign, leading your visitor from the “getting to know you” phase to trusting you and realizing how much your products and courses can help him/her.

Combining the Two

You can combine the Broadcast and Follow-Up emails. Don't be afraid to launch a product via Broadcast here and there. Or, send a weekly newsletter to update your list on changes and additions to your website. Maybe you'll announce a holiday special, a new project, a new baby, or something else you feel you should share. These add life to your campaign.

A solid follow-up campaign with a broadcast sprinkled here and there keeps your list engaged, loyal, and ready to see how you can help them.

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Giving Great Stuff Away is Not the Purpose of Your Email List

Everybody gives lip service to having a mailing list. When I say everybody I mean everybody. Where you go with your list from there, however, differs.

Some bloggers, site owners, and marketers send out a weekly newsletter here and there. Some have a sequence of emails they send out automatically for awhile after you subscribe. Some mail relentlessly, promoting affiliate offer after affiliate offer, or product after product. Some send nothing at all, then blast an offer out of the blue. Then of course there's a mix of all of the above (and everything in between).

What should you do? Why should you have a list? That's what this series is going to look at. Today's topic is the real why.

The Real Why

Since everyone gives lip service to their list, I had an opt-in form on my first niche site from almost the very first day the site was up. It was to my web host's default mailing list program, and I sent out an email newsletter every month or two. I actually got a fair amount of sign-ups, accumulating a list of around 2,500 subscribers.

Now some people say the purpose of your list is to send great content. The reasoning is: great content = loyal fans.

I think this is good reasoning, but it's fundamentally flawed. See, loyal fans are wonderful. But you want something else.

Your list is to create loyal fans, and provide you a return on your investment.

You don't invest your money just to make the bank your loyal fan! You expect a return on your investment. Right? The fact that the bank likes you and sends you nice perks here and there is, well, a nice perk.

I'm not saying don't create good content. But your list is there for you to provide value to and receive a return on the investment of value. Another example: your doctor provides high-quality care, but he expects payment for that. Your college professor pours his life into educating you, but face it, he expects his paycheck in return for that investment.

You are helping others through your mailing list. That's one “why”. That builds relationship and a loyal following. But you also want a return on your investment in business and in enriching the lives of others. That's your other “why.”

If you never ask your subscribers to buy anything, you've created a list of loyal freebie-seekers. Ask them to buy something one day and they'll probably cry mutiny.

Only great content = loyal freebie seekers.

Great content and great offers = loyal fans who benefit from your deeper trainings.

Does that make sense?

You're Still Providing Value

Let me make this clear: you're not going to mail offers to your list relentlessly and that's it. You are going to provide value, or “great content”, “epic content”, etc. in today's trendy internet marketing lingo.

It's important to really provide value.

But look, you can't give all your information away for free.

Regardless of your niche, you have expertise to offer. You're valuable and you have a lot that you can pour into someone else's life. You can give some of that, awesome parts of that, here and there in your email newsletters, email sequence, etc. But surely there's more to you, more you know and can share, more ways you can personally help.

Maybe you choose to create a product. Maybe you want to coach people in your niche. Whatever you choose, that's deeper, more intimate help. Your loyal fans need to know you can help them 🙂

Have a mix of great content and offers for great products. Maybe they're life-changing. Maybe they greatly increase somebody's enjoyment in life (think of hobby-related products). Maybe they just solve a pressing problem (think of all the marketers selling menu-planning services, or cooking and cleaning how-to's).

Whatever you offer – life-changing, satisfaction-bringing, or problem-solving – you can offer great content and provide great products.

A mix of both gives you the ideal list:

Loyal fans who benefit from your basic information, and who want your deeper information — and are willing to pay you for it 🙂

Photo by grenade

Creating a Coaching Program

Writing for this blog has been a struggle. I've gotten back to a fairly regular publication schedule with my other sites, but this one has been tougher. I have a series that I want to write, but my heart just isn't in it yet. I'm not quite ready for it!

It hit me this week that I should just write from where I'm at right now, and I'll get back to that series in a few weeks. I wrote last on passive income streams, and how I'm planning to build one out over this month. Right now I'm debating if I want to go through with that or not. It's not a huge project, but it is time-intensive.

The reason I hesitate is because I'm currently focused on an even bigger project – creating a coaching program. I'm actively working on this project, and after holding several “test run” teleseminars to see how I feel teaching, I'm excited. I don't know that I want to take time away from this project to work on the passive income stream yet (I don't consider a coaching program passive because I have a weekly call with my clients).

Love of Teaching

I love to teach. I enjoy teaching my children every day – we homeschool, and there are many life skills to teach above and beyond academics. Over the past month I've also found that I love teaching my teleclasses. These are focused on my biggest niche site (pregnancy/birth/baby niche) and I am totally passionate about the subject matter. I also have a lot to offer and lot to teach on it after a decade “up to my ears” in it… and several of my own pregnancy, birth, and baby experiences.

Writing is enjoyable to me, but I am truly enjoying the experience of teaching a live class. I really can't wait to get my program launched and work with clients that I get to know – to make a personal difference in their lives.

The Benefits of a Coaching Program

I know first-hand the benefits of a coaching program because I've been participating in a business coaching program this year. It has been a great resource for me. My coach/mentor is full of knowledge about business and marketing. Our group coaching calls are always informative. The accountability is very helpful.

For instance, the coaching program begins with a set of lessons delivered via email. Those lessons spurred me to really get two information products I'd been working on finished, uploaded, and selling. Those are now generating passive income for me every month.

Recent lessons have focused on traffic generation, so I will soon be seeing much more traffic to my niche sites, where I can effectively monetize my subscribers while giving them great information. My coach stresses the importance of giving great value, so it encourages me to keep the quality of my work high.

Like I said above, the accountability factor is huge. We moved and I found I was pregnant in the spring of this year. Those are two huge changes in life, and I got way off track with my business throughout that. Knowing that my coach was there and I had weekly calls to attend (or listen to, even if I missed the live call), made a big difference for me. I could have probably just skated by for months, using pregnancy and moving as an excuse to do nothing with my business. But I wanted to get the full benefit of my coach and coaching program, so I pulled myself back together and got back to work. Huge benefit.

Because of my first-hand experience with coaching, I know this is a great way to really reach and touch clients in a way my simple niche sites (even those that are “authority sites”) do not and cannot.

Deeply In

At this point I'm deep in the process of developing my coaching program – email campaign, class materials, audio recordings, etc.

I'm planning to write about each step in this process since so much of it is applicable to all information products. I'll also write some about other strategies that I'm working with (such as the traffic generation my coaching is covering right now). I'm hoping that writing about what I'm working on right now will keep me writing here more consistently and give me a place to get feedback 😉

What projects are you working on? Have you set aside one project to fully expand another? How did that work out for you?

Photo by woodleywonderworks