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

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

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.

Photo by ms.akr

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

Passive Income Streams

Money coming in while you sleep — it's one of the most intriguing thoughts out there.  Tons of people fall for “get rich quick schemes” in the hopes of building an automatic money machine.  But even though there many scammy programs to designed to make other people rich at your expense, passive income is real.

I've been making passive income from my websites for years.  It tends to ebb and flow in amount, with the largest amount coming from my large authority site.  I make money via advertising and affiliate sales, with a little bit from my own products.

More passive income is always a good thing (my ideal is to fully replace my husband's “job” income).  Steve Pavlina has been running a series challenging readers to create a new stream of passive income.  I've just started to read through it — it's been in my “read later” queue for months and I'm just catching up after moving.  I decided it would be great to take up his challenge.

Passive vs. Non-Passive Income

Passive income means you set up your product or other income stream once, and it keeps generating income.  Examples are an ebook or a rental unit (where someone rents a house from you every month).  They're “set it and forget it” systems, though in reality they may need a little maintenance here and there.

Non-passive income means you have to do something to generate the income.  A job is not passive.  You have to show up and do something (even if it is most likely just pretending to work).  If you're a freelancer or consultant, your income is not passive.

I'm not knocking non-passive income.  In fact, I'm working on a project for my authority site right now that includes a group coaching program that will take a couple of hours of my time each week.  The homework and training materials coming with the program will need to be made only one time, but I'll work one-on-one with clients on the call and most likely give some guidance via email.  This is really beneficial for my clients and it gives me satisfaction, too.

Passive income streams, however, are very useful to have around!

My Income Stream Thoughts

I decided that Steve's series was a great motivation to create a small income flow for one of my other niche sites.  I originally considered doing it for this site, but I wasn't able to think of something I feel confident in creating yet.  I may revisit Milk and Mud for an ebook project after I finish the current project.  Ebooks are a pretty lucrative passive income stream if you do it right, especially right now.

I ultimately chose to go with my smallest niche site.  I already have a small product funnel for this niche that could use some more traffic.  I've decided to do a menu mailer service to compliment the existing product line.  Menus are in hot demand for this niche, so I think I'll be able to generate traffic and subscribers.  Once I've created the menu plans, they're done and only have to be auto-delivered to subscribers.  It's a great passive income model.

My goal is to have this passive income stream set up by the end of October.  I'd like to see it produce at least $250 a month and think it's a very long-term demand product.  If I really work the traffic I think I could see upwards of $500 a month from it (maybe more).

Info-products like this are always a solid idea for income streams, especially if you're in a niche that you know needs a product 🙂

At this point I'm going to stick with products I can easily create here at home.  Real estate and other passive income streams aren't really going to fit in with my lifestyle at this point, so I'll stick with ebooks, audio teachings, etc.

Are you up for a passive income challenge?  You could start at a basic level with a simple product and a simple goal.  Scale from there.  What plans are you making?

The Dirty Work Behind Getting a Product Launched

Product launches are sexy.  They're full of cool strategies and targeted tactics that get everyone on your list hyped up to buy your product.  All glitz, glamor, and of course, sales… right?  Maybe not.

I'm not knocking product launches.  A well-orchestrated launch can make you (and affiliates) a phenomenal amount of money in a short time.  They can bring lots of interest to you and your brand.  I also have a lot of respect for Jeff Walker, the original reluctant guru, who started the whole product launch sensation.

But It Ain't All Roses

There are a lot of exciting things to plan with a launch (like where you're going to go out to eat when the money comes rolling in).  But it's also a lot of hard work.

I just got a product up and going and it was really, really tough.  And I didn't even factor affiliates into the equation.  In launch lingo, this was an “internal launch” — just to my list for my niche site.  It's also built to be evergreen, meaning that it will keep going in an autoresponder sequence.  So it's not like one of the huge “internet marketing” launches.  Regardless, it was tough. Here's a rough little flow chart I drew up to help myself keep track of the big points:

Your Product

You have to have a product.  “Um, Kristen, that's obvious” — I can hear you saying it now.  But people gloss over this when they talk about launching the product.  You have to have one!  Now some things, like coaching programs or seed launches don't really require a product totally up front.  You can develop along the way.  But if you're doing a standard ebook or training product in your niche, you have to have the product done!

You can go with the bare bones, but I like my products to look a little more polished.  Recording an audio track, cleaning it up, and formatting a nice-looking pdf file – all of that takes time.  Remember it doesn't have to be perfect, but it will take some time to get the polish you want.  Don't leave this until the last minute. 

The Dreaded Letter

Yes, you have to write a sales letter.  If you can hire a copywriter well, your troubles may be over.  Of course, you still need to be sure your copywriter is worth his (or her) salt…

But bullets, headline, actual body copy, graphics, formatting… yeah, all of that has to be done.  As they say, Rome wasn't built in a day.  Your sales letter won't be, either.

Your launch copy can really help you with your sales letter because you'll probably tell a similar story in both, but don't make the mistake of thinking that you need no sales letter because you're doing a launch.  You still need it.  Doing one of those fancy video sales letters?  You should still have written copy, and you still need to storyboard your video sales pitch.

Load it Up!

If you have a tech team you can probably forget some of this and let them worry about it.  But if you're bootstrapping it you have to do this for yourself.

You need to get your product uploaded properly — so your customer can download it.  Don't forget that you have to upload any launch bonuses and product bonuses, too.

This could be as easy as loading something onto your server.  But you may have to configure it to be a secure download via your shopping cart… and all of that can end up taking a lot longer than you initially planned.

Shopping Cart Mayhem

Again, maybe you have a tech team to take care of this… but I don't (yet).  This can be fairly straightforward or fairly complex, depending on your cart and what you need it to do.

At the bare minimum you probably need to load in your product and set up price, download links, etc.  Do you need a custom download page?  I spent ages wrestling with getting an autoresponder issue set up on my thank-you page (thankfully my hubby helped me figure out the javascript issue).

Your shopping cart may require even more hoops… plan on taking the time that's needed to get that product up there and get them right.

Sales Letter… Again

Now it's time to get that sales letter uploaded and linking to the order page correctly.  Did you do everything right?  Did you forget anything?  Have you got the graphics for that magic order button that's going to magnetize your prospect?   

This is where you make sure everything is in order and you test.  Test, test, test, test!  Be sure there are no glitches in your ordering funnel.

Make sure all links from your letter to your order page works.  Make sure your order page buttons go to your payment processor correctly.  Make sure your download links work.  Make sure the order confirmation emails are dispatching.  Make sure your customer gets signed up for your buyer's list when they buy.  Test, test, test!

Email / Launch

Of course, after all of that you still have to get the product launch off the ground.  And I'm not even going to go into all of that.  You need to write the launch copy, integrate your bonuses, execute your launch timing, etc. 

Oh, and if you have affiliates and JV's on board, you've got to coordinate everything with them, too.  Go back to your cart, sales page, and order page and make sure they're getting credit for their leads.

Even if you, like me, are planning on using a responder sequence to sell, you need to be sure that you get your emails loaded into it and timed properly so people are getting what they're supposed to get when they're supposed to get it…

The Upside

The upside of all of this work is that you get to sit back and watch your well-oiled machine run when you're done.  You watch the money come rolling in, grin, and pretend that you're a product launch ace who worked magic with a few emails and a shiny product.

But the truth is, you've got to grease those gears first, and it may get a little messy.  Do yourself a favor and make a checklist the first time you do it… then refine that checklist the second.  By the third successful launch maybe you can just hand that checklist off to your tech guys and be the hotshot you've been playing all along 😉

Photos by bsabarnowl, evelyngiggles, and jurvetson

A Market Research Shortcut to Mine Your Niche

You've heard the stories — somebody invests their life savings into a business only to have it fail.  A friend boldly left his or her job for self employment only to be right back in the work force two years later.  Or, more common in the internet marketing world, somebody spends 6 months on their product only to have nobody buy it.

How can you prevent wasting your time and money?  How can you make sure that you're building an income stream that will continue to grow and continue to build your bank account?

Market research.

Knowing if there's a market for your product(s) — and knowing what that market wants — is vital to your business.

I'm going to give you a quick shortcut for figuring out if there's market… and exactly what that market wants 🙂

Your Shortcut

Amazon.com

Yep.  It's that easy.  Amazon is a treasure-trove for not only finding out if a market exists for your product, but also finding out just what your market wants.

Head to Amazon and specifically to the bookstore portion of Amazon.  Put in a keyword that describes your niche.  Are there books on your topic?  Books being written on your topic is the first market check.

Now take a look at the books.  Are there several books (at least 5-6) in the niche that have a good number of reviews?  It's really good if the books have at least 30 reviews each, though you could possibly get by with less.

niche search on Amazon

If your niche passes this test, you know there's a market for your niche.

What Do They Want?

Now you're going to mine your books.  Choose the top 5-6 books, those with the most reviews.

When you look at the reviews you can sort them by most helpful.  Take a look at the number of people who found a review helpful — these are the reviews that lead towards a “buying decision.”  This means someone used that review to choose to buy or not to buy a product.

These helpful reviews are a gold mine for you.  As you read through them you'll discover common themes come up again and again as to what people were looking for and found (or didn't find) in the book.  Read the helpful positive and negative reviews.  Take notes.

Do this for each of the top books.  Amazon shows related top-sellers in your niche on the comments page for each book, making it easy for you to get a good feel in your niche.  

You get well-informed about the viability of your niche and what you should include in a product just from this hour or two of research!  Plus, you don't need a list 🙂

Another way to look for top selling books is to look at the best sellers list and then your niche's category.  This is a little broader than a keyword search.

Other Quickies 😉

You can also visit a forum that offers products (such as the Warrior Forum in the internet marketing niche) and read what people are saying about products and specials (WSO's) to get an idea of what people want.

Even if there are no product ads, looking at “stickied” topics or topics that seem to come up again and again can all give you an idea of what you should cover in your market.

Amazon is by far my favorite, since you get really detailed information relatively quickly.  You find out what you should (and should not) do and include with your products.  You even find exact “buying phrases” to put in your sales letter.  You should do keyword/competition research, etc, but Amazon is a real wealth of information!

Photo by David Friedel

How to Set Up an Aweber Email List (Video)

Today I'm going to show you a video of how quick and easy it is to set up an Aweber list.

I use Aweber for my mailing lists and I've almost always been pleased with them.  The only issue I've ever had was with building web forms and HTML emails.  Their editors are a little clunky… but really they've done a good job with them.  WISYWIG (“what you see is what you get”) editors aren't always easy, especially when it comes to email.  So I think they've done fairly well — but it does annoy me from time to time!

Other than that, though, Aweber is great.  I really like that I can keep all the mailing lists for all of my websites together in one account.  Only having to manage one autoresponder account makes my life easier.

Today I need to set up a sublist for a product launch I have coming, so I wanted to walk you through it.

Before You Start

I recommend you have a few things ready in a text editor before you start your own list.  This makes putting your list together go much more quickly.  Think about these things before you set up the list and you'll be golden!

Initial Setup

Your list name: what do you want to call this list?  This is mostly only seen by you (it can be seen on the subscriber preferences for your subscriber, but most people don't go to that screen).  It has to be unique among all lists on Aweber, not just yours.

Your list description: this is just for you – your subscribers don't see it

“From” Name and Address: This is the name that will display in the sender line of your subscriber's email inbox.  The address is the email address that will show up.  For instance, the Milkshake newsletter shows up as “Kristen Burgess kristen @ milkandmud . com”

Contact address: This is your physical mailing address (or that of your business) — you must have a valid mailing address in your emails!

Notification email:  If you want to be notified each time someone joins your list (for instance, if you welcome each new subscriber), fill your info into this section.  Otherwise, leave it blank.

Company Branding:  Fill this out with information about your website or company – Name, URL, and an Email signature if you'd like one.

Confirmation Message:  Aweber is a Double Opt-In service, meaning your subscriber will get an email confirming he or she wants to subscribe.  This is your chance to edit that email.  You only get a limited number of characters, so keep it to a few sentences asking your subscriber to confirm their interest.  You can also edit the subject line, but it should still say something about the fact they need to confirm their subscription.  If you change it you'll need to wait on Aweber to approve the changed line (usually within 24 hours).

Confirmation Success Page: This is the page your subscriber is directed to after they click the confirmation link.  If you're offering an incentive to get them to sign up, this is where you put the link to the page they can download or access it.

Your Web Form

Next you'll want to get  a web form set up so you can collect subscriber information.  You'll be able to play with the WYSIWIG editor and templates for this to find one you like.  Here are a couple of things to think about:

Your Form Name:  I suggest you use lots of forms (they can all be the same design) to test sign-ups in different places.  For instance, I use a different form for leads I get from article marketing… so I can track how many leads I'm getting from article marketing!  Think of a descriptive name.  Example “Article Bio Box Link” – this lets you know they're getting to this form when they click a link in your article's bio box.

Subscribed Page:  You can leave this at the default and your subscriber will get the famous Aweber “your confirmation email is on the way” page.  Or you can create a page on your site to direct your visitor to.  You'll paste that link into the second step of the form if you do that.  This would be a good way to direct your visitor to a sales letter, video, or some other special content.

Your Follow-Up

I'll talk more about this in the video, but if you are giving your subscriber a bonus for signing up for your list, have the URL of the page you'll be directing them to get their bonus handy.  When you create your follow-up message thanking them for confirming, you should include that link again, in case they didn't get it after they opted in.

The Video

Here's the video where I go over these steps!  As you can see, it's quick and easy to set up a mailing list with Aweber!

Photo by Joe Shlabotnik

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