This guest series is by Greg McFarlane of Control Your Cash.
Welcome to the final installment in our hexalogy, concerning how to sell blog products in an era when people are reaching into their pockets and finding mostly lint. So far, we’ve discussed how to plan out products drawn from your expertise, create them, distinguish yourself from your competitors, test-market, figure out how much to charge, and find a clientele. If you’re late to the party, check out the previous parts of this series, right from the start, before going any further.
Say you’ve done all of the above. Now, the only remaining step is to get the sale. Sounds obvious, but all the preliminary work means nothing if you don’t close. You need to tell people to buy, rather than just crossing your fingers and hoping that they might.
It’s not just writing…
There’s a certain finesse required with this. You don’t sell in the same voice in which you entice, cajole, or inform. Lots of bloggers have trouble making the transition. If you’re going to put yourself out there as a seller of “you-branded” content, you don’t have the luxury of stumbling through and hoping that your sales pitch falls on receptive ears.
At this point, considering how much you’ve put in, selling yourself is mandatory, not optional. You have to use language forcefully, more forcefully than you do in your blog posts. Burrow into your prospect’s head, and by extension, your prospect’s wallet.
Focusing on the benefits
There’s a timeless axiom in the advertising business: People don’t want a bar of soap, they want clean hands.
The benefit of the product is far more important than the product itself. When you instead start focusing on the product—which, granted, you expended considerable effort to create—you’re not exactly empathizing with your clientele. It’s supposed to be about them, not you. No one cares how many hours you spent interviewing people for the DVD series you’re selling. Nor could anyone be less interested in how many pages your ebook is. (Beyond a certain point, of course. If you’re going to charge $329 for a three-page ebook, it had better contain the GPS coordinates for the Ark of the Covenant.)
No, cost-conscious buyers—any discerning buyers, really—want to know the answer to the universal question:
What’s in it for me?
How are you going to make your readers’ lives easier/simpler/richer? State how you’re going to do it. Yes, it’s great that you poured your heart and soul into your work, but that doesn’t necessarily make it sellable.
The human tendency is to concentrate on oneself, rather than other people. Which makes perfect sense—of course you’ll brush your own teeth and wash your own windows before doing the same for your neighbor. But if you want other people’s money, you have to force yourself to think about them first, as unnatural as that might sound.
Here’s an example of what not to write to get people to buy your products. The example is technically fictional, but it’s a composite of other bloggers’ calls-to-action:
“Starting today, I’m running a discount on my latest project. You can get my 36-page, 8,459-word ebook for just $11.99. This ebook, Car Noises And How To Diagnose Them, is the result of many months of research, and is now being made available to you for a special introductory price.”
Wow. Thanks for doing me the favor of offering to take my money. This is like the employee who walks into the boss’s office requesting a raise, and the first point he cites is how many hours of uncompensated overtime he puts in. Or that he has a baby on the way. You need to give your employer, or anyone else in the position of enriching you, a reason for doing so. Again, concentrate on the end users here. Without them, you and your product are nothing.
Here’s an alternative sales script, one that focuses on the buyer. It’s longer, but it also (hopefully) appeals to the buyer’s senses:
“Your car makes an unfamiliar noise. So naturally, your first reaction is to drive to the nearest mechanic, and waste maybe half an hour in the waiting room, putting yourself at the mercy of a professional whose livelihood rests on finding as many things wrong with people’s cars as possible.
For the love of God, don’t. Stop throwing your money away. That knock you hear doesn’t mean you need a new $1400 transmission assembly. It means you need to spend a couple more dollars on higher-octane fuel. That ear-splitting undercarriage rattle can be quieted in seconds, with the appropriate ratchet and a quarter-turn of your wrist.
My new ebook, Car Noises And How To Diagnose Them, breaks down the most common, least pleasant sounds that can emanate from your car. It tells you where they originate, what they mean, and how to prevent them. Some will require a look from a technician, but you’ll be amazed how many won’t. Fix them yourself instead, and you’ll save untold time, money and aggravation.
Car Noises And How To Diagnose Them includes sound files of dozens of the most common noises, along with complete directions on how to locate and assess them. Download it here for just $12, and I’ll include a mobile link for iOS and Android (because very few car noises occur when you’re sitting in front of your computer at home).”
Obviously that sales treatment isn’t going to be suitable for your blog and its products, but you get the idea. People are more budget-conscious these days than they’ve been in some time. They will part with their money, but you need to give them a compelling reason to.
Drawing the line
This doesn’t mean you should be penning advertising copy with dubious assertions. (“Scientifically proven to regrow hair!”) Quite the contrary. If there’s ever a time to be honest, it’s when you’re explaining to your readers what your products can do for them. Your readers will respect you for it, and if you give them value, they’ll spread the word.
For an established blogger, creating products that extend that blog can be a rewarding way to engage your readers and foster an ever-growing audience. For an up-and-coming blogger, selling a worthwhile product can cement your reputation as an authority in your field all the more quickly. Creating blog products takes plenty of time and effort, and while selling them in a rough economy can be a challenge, it’s such challenges that separate the average bloggers from the remarkable ones.
Say what your product’s benefit is (not what your product is, what its benefit is.), and sell.
Understand that writing sales copy is different than blogging.
Don’t write about yourself.
Don’t write about your product.
Write about your product’s benefits.
Practise makes perfect: keep trying to improve your sales writing skills.
That’s it for our tour of the tricky business of building blog products that sell. How are your products selling at the moment? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Greg McFarlane is an advertising copywriter who lives in Las Vegas. He recently wrote Control Your Cash: Making Money Make Sense, a financial primer for people in their 20s and 30s who know nothing about money. You can buy the book here (physical) or here (Kindle) and reach Greg at [email protected].
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