This is the third and final installment of the ‘How to start a business blog in 2015’ series. If you haven’t read the first two parts, I highly recommend you do that first! As promised, in this third and final part of the business blogging series, I am going to talk about how you would use your blog to collect email addresses and build your email list. So let’s not wait any longer.
In part one, I talked about why you should consider starting a blog before you invest time, money, and effort into launching a website. Especially when you don’t yet know what it is that you want to do. I give you a number of reasons to make the case for business blogging. I walk you through the process of setting up your blog without getting overwhelmed and bogged down by details. Lastly, I teach you how to set up goals for your first six months that you can actually achieve.
In part two, I explain the need for creating a solid content plan. Most people jump head first into the world of business blogging without giving this process much thought. They don’t get it, not truly anyway. They don’t understand what the reason for creating all that blog content is. I teach you three types of content you need to create, how to come up with more ideas you can write about, writing like a pro, and creating content that is truly worthy of people’s attention.
Now, let us jump into generating email addresses through your blog!
Be Clear on the Number One Goal of Your Business Blog
Let me ask you a question first: Do you know what is the number one goal of blogging? Is it to become a credible expert and start getting recognized as a thought leader in your industry? Is to gain maximum reader engagement (comments, likes, shares)? Is it to publish content in the hopes of it going viral? Is it to attract press and become an Internet celebrity? Do you write a blog in order to begin conversations with other important people and creating networking opportunities?
No, no and no.
While all of these are worthy goals to pursue, you should never forget that the number one goal of your blog, or any site for that matter, is to collect leads. The aim is to collect email addresses so you can develop a relationship with your readers over time and nurture this relationship.
ESPECIALLY when you don’t know how you are going to monetize. You have nothing to sell at the moment so you can’t make an offer to anyone who visits your blog for the first time. At this time, all you need is for them to subscribe so they don’t forget all about you.
You’d be surprised to know how many loyal readers actually visit a website. A fraction of them. People are busy. They simply don’t have time to browse the Internet at leisure. If you get their email address, every time you write a blog post, you let them know and they will come. It’s as simple as that.
So while you don’t have a business idea yet, keep your eye on the prize – your email list.
Make it Easy for People to Subscribe
Like I said, if there’s one action you want your first time visitors and readers to take is to subscribe to your email list. Make it really easy for them to do so.
You’d be surprised to know how many people are actually shy about asking for the email. Maybe they don’t have the confidence to do so thinking they have nothing of value to add to these people’s lives, or they think email marketing is slimy and sleazy. In any case, they hide the opt-in box or make it hard for people to see it. Here’s what I recommend:
- Place at least one opt-in box above the fold. What is above the fold? The part of the website or blog your visitor gets to see first, before they scroll down. Make sure you add a sign-up form here.
- Add a feature box. You can get someone to code the email signup into your blog header. This is a fantastic place to put it as it is sure to grab people’s attention.
- Put one on the sidebar. Another great place for it is your sidebar. Make sure you declutter your sidebar so the opt-in form doesn’t compete for attention. Place it right on top so people don’t have to scroll down to see it. If you do end up placing it further down, make it stand out among the rest of the elements.
- Add one on your about page. Your about page is one of the most frequently visited pages of your blog. People want to know who you are and they also want to connect with you. Don’t let this opportunity go to waste. Add an opt-in box.
- Add one after every blog post. Thinking adding one after every blog post is overkill? Well, think again. Imagine somebody following a link that was shared on Twitter, for example. They click and land on your individual blog post and start reading. They might miss other opt-in boxes but if they read your blog post to the end and like it, there is no better time to remind them.
- Create a squeeze page. What is a squeeze page? It is simply a page designed to do one and one thing only – capture email addresses. Normally you would start with an attention grabbling, benefit-laden headline. Then you would add bullet points explaining the best benefits and features of your offer (more about that in a minute) and finally you ask for the email. Not only this page great for getting people to take action, you can also promote this page on social media. When you do guest blogging or appear on podcasts, it is best to link to this page so people don’t get distracted by all the other goodies on your blog and take this most important action.
Create a Specific, Irresistible Opt-In Offer
You not only want to build your email list, you need to build a highly responsive list. Meaning, you want people to engage with your content. You want them to open your emails and click through. You want them to respond to your calls to action. This becomes a whole lot easier when you attract the right person from day 1. Now, this can also become a bit of a problem when you don’t even know who your ideal reader is. This is why I advise clients to not worry about creating detailed ideal customer or client personas at this stage.
Instead, I want you to imagine the person who would be most interested in hearing about what you have to say. Remember the exercise we did earlier (check out part two of this series) where I suggested you come up with a list of blog posts ideas and then categorize them? Revisit that list and start thinking about the kind of person who would be most likely to benefit from reading your blog posts.
Imagine this person and start brainstorming ideas for your freebie offer. Keep it simple and keep it specific. If you try to make it all encompassing, it will serve no one.
I have seen many people do this: They offer a very generic freebie offer. For example, as a business coach, they will offer, ‘How to make sure your business works.’ This is very generic and quite a broad topic. What kind of business? What aspect of it? What do you mean by works? Will it teach people to make money or the technical side of it?
When you offer a generic opt-in incentive, you end up attracting no one. Or, you might end up attracting a lot of freebie seekers.
You want to avoid both scenarios. Your goal is to create a freebie that will appeal to your ideal reader. For example, if you are passionate about travel and you write about how to travel with children, you want to create your incentive around that. Maybe create something like, ‘Top 10 places to visit around the world when you have small children.’ You get the idea.
How to Build Your Subscriber Base on Your Blog
You’ve got your opt-in forms and you have your freebie offer. You also have your relevant, highly useful content on the blog. What else can you do to make sure everything works well together?
Here are my best tips:
- Showcase your best content. People will find your site through a variety of avenues, and you want to make sure you have the best content available so that once they get a taste of what you have on offer, they will sign up for more. Consider adding ‘resource boxes’ to your sidebar where you list your best posts under a specific category.
- Make it easy for them to discover your best content. Your blog is not static. Every time you publish new content or update it, the older content is pushed down. Some of your best content gets pushed off the main page and becomes invisible as new visitors will not dig very deep for relevant content. Add links to your sidebar and title it something like ‘Reader Favorites,’ ‘Most Popular,’ or ‘Posts I recommend.’ Your new visitors will get to sample the very best of you and spend more time on your site. It’s a win-win.
- Engage in social media promotion. You’ve got this invaluable content – great, but it is not enough to write a blog post, polish it, and then hit publish. Push your content on social media sites to attract new readers. You don’t have to be on every single one of them, but it is generally a good idea to focus on one or two platforms at a time. You think your audience hangs out on Facebook? Great – then that’s where you should share your content. If you think they are more Twitter kind of people, or Pinterest, or Google+, reach out to them there.
- Add social media buttons after every blog post. But don’t go crazy here! If you give people too many choices, they are more likely to do nothing. Do you know where your audience hangs out? Give them the option to share there, and maybe a few more.
- Create special updates for social media. Not only should you give direct links to your blog posts, you should also post status updates created especially for a particular platform and make sure you respect the medium. For example, photo quotes work really well on Facebook, animated videos work superbly on Tumblr and, of course, gorgeous images belong on Pinterest. However, realize that not everybody will see your updates. Not everybody is online at that time, and even if they were, it would be virtually impossible for them to see what you, and everybody else is posting. Repeat your social media updates to give them the maximum chance for success.
- Do guest blogging. For those of you who are new to online marketing, guest posting simply refers to the process of getting your name published on another site/blog to drive their people to your site, and have them sign up to your email list. You want to get in front of audiences that belong to someone else.
- Make a list of sites you want to guest post on. Go to Alltop and search under relevant category. Google ’50 best …. Sites’, etc. Include the blogs you follow. Research the blog you wish to write for. If they have a submission process, follow the guidelines, if they don’t, you might want to build a relationship with the blogger first. You want them to recognize your name when you pitch your idea.
- Nail your pitch. Look at the kinds of posts they publish – posts that do really well. Come up with an idea and make a pitch to the blogger. Address them by their name. Submit the completed post only if they ask for it. Send a personalized pitch. Getting your post idea accepted is the most crucial part.
- Forget about webinars and Facebook ads for the time being. The reason why I don’t recommend webinars at this stage is because there is a learning curve involved. You need to understand the technical side, and that can take a lot of time. Then you have to promote the webinar itself. Facebook ads require a budget to start off with, and require some experimentation.
At this stage, I’d rather have you spend time on creating valuable content so that you can build your email list as soon as possible, and quickly figure out your first offer.
So, There You Have It
The whole process of starting a blog, creating a content plan, and using your blog as the best tool for lead generation.
Drive the right people to your blog. Dazzle them with your best content. Entice them with a killer freebie offer and ask them to subscribe. The reason why you need to know the whole story is simple: When you are clear on the process and the why behind it, you are much more likely to take action and stick to it for the long haul.
Most people are not and this is why they struggle. But you are not one of them – so go ahead and start your blog. And share with us in the comments below how your blogging adventures are going!
All the best!