ROI. Return on investment. Three magic letters that every executive has muttered. “What’s the ROI?” While they might not understand what it is you’re doing (Viral video?) they do understand black numbers on the balance sheet. So if you’re trying to get your boss to let you blog more (which we know can be a pain to justify), here are a few tactics you can use to convert blog readers into customers.
When I first started to really use a blog as a marketing tool (as opposed to a personal blog) I thought the funnel would go something like, Blog > Homepage > Sign Up. NOPE!
Wow. So naive. It is really rare for someone to land on your blog, navigate to your main marketing site, and ultimately sign up/download whatever it is your are selling. If that is the direct path someone takes, I’m sure they had several other pre-existing touch points with your company beforehand. Either way, turning a blog reader into a customer isn’t that easy. Your amazing blog post isn’t going to magically push a reader into a customer. If it did, I’d be a lot richer.
Blogging takes time, as does converting a blog reader into a customer takes time. Step back for a moment and think about the last five things you purchased (not food/drink). Can you remember how you learned about them? What kind of research did you do? How many times did you interact with the company before purchase? This quick exercise will give you a insight how a person makes a decision.
For example, I just downloaded the game Boom Beach (don’t download this game if you have a lot on your to-do list). Why did I download this game? I’m not particularly into gaming, but the seed was planted months ago by a friend. We were at lunch and he was playing Boom Beach while we waited for our food. Then I was watching TV and saw a commercial for the game. Still no action. Then I watched a video ad from an app and I saw the ad for Boom Beach again. After seeing that ad three times, I decided to download it.
While this isn’t a perfect example, it does reinforce the notion that a potential customer has to go through multiple touch points before ultimately taking action. This idea has to be the foundation for all your efforts to converting a blog reader into a customer.
My experience has taught me that content (including your blog posts) + email = a winning combination. There are different types of content and different ways to use email marketing to convert a reader, but those two components will be extremely valuable to you in the long-run.
Content is the centerpiece of this strategy. You’re looking to add value to readers through different types of content. Content can be any number of things. It starts with your consistent blog posts, that’s what brings people to your site regularly. But in addition to your blog posts, you can offer different content, like a guide, an eBook, case studies, or stock images to your readers. You don’t necessarily have to create every type of content, but whatever it is, it has to be something valuable enough that readers are willing to exchange their email address for the content.
I’m oversimplifying this right now, since content is so broad. But the point is, you need to be creating excellent and relevant content on a consistent basis. I’ll get into this more at a later date, with a separate blog post. eBooks and guides are more along the lines of content marketing, while case studies are more sales focused. Each type of content drives a different intent from the reader, so your following email marketing will be different.
Build an Email List
This tactic is now ubiquitous among blogs. At some point, every blog will ask you to subscribe to a blog’s RSS and get the blog post in your inbox. As a reader, I love it. I only subscribe to a few blogs, but the ones I do get in my inbox, I read. Religiously. If you’re providing quality content that people want to read, they will trust you with their email address. Each time you email them with a new blog post, that’s another touch point, another chance to build on the trust you already have with the reader.
There are plenty of tools you can use to collect emails. You can see on this blog alone, we use three different options. At the top we have a HelloBar. On the side is a simple MailChimp widget. And you’ve probably encountered our SumoMe pop-up at some point. There are dozens of other tools out there that do the same thing. Exit Monitor, Bounce Exchange are two others that come to mind. A simple search will give you what you need.
Retargeting or remarketing is a great tactic for your blogging purposes. I’ve found that many blog readers come from outside known channels. Known channels being things like RSS and social media. Organic search and forums are great ways to generate traffic. But users often don’t know about your company beforehand. Your content answers a question they have (or piques their interest). That’s what brings them to your blog. Then they forget about you, after they have the information they need.
If you’re unfamiliar with retargeting, it serves ads to a visitor of your website, AFTER they’ve visited. These ads can be on a search engine like Google, or social media like Facebook. So if you visit this blog, afterwards you might be searching for mac and cheese recipes online. When you visit Auntie May’s recipe blog, you might see a banner ad for Prepare.io. We didn’t pay Auntie May to advertise on her blog, that’s retargeting. It’s like a company following you on the internet (for better or for worse).
Retargeting is useful because it reminds you of the company whose website you just visited. Maybe you got distracted and just left. Or maybe it didn’t resonate what company wrote that blog post you just read. Either way, retargeting can get readers back to your site, giving you an other opportunity to turn them into a subscriber.
If you want a primer on how to get started with retargeting, read this article I wrote for Examiner.com on retargeting.
Drip marketing is really what nurtures your leads. Drip marketing is a series of emails that are sent to subscribers, intended to eventually get the reader to take action. Most every email service, like Mailchimp offers some sort of automation for a drip marketing campaign. Or you can use a specialized service like Drip that automates the process for you. Guys like Patrick McKenzie can really teach you a lot about what you need to know. But what you’re doing is taking all the emails you’ve collected from your blog and guiding them to the sale.
Drip marketing is a pretty complicated process, one that will take time to refine. You can’t just set up a series of emails as a catch all. What type of content the reader downloaded plays a role. Did they open the first email? What if they didn’t? How many emails does it take for your reader to make a purchase? All these variables (and more) play a role in your drip marketing. I’ll go into more details at a later date, since this post is already 1200 words long. But here are two resources (along with Patrick McKenzie) that can help you get set up.
As you can tell, converting a blog reader into a customer is not an easy task. It takes more than one blog post. Often it takes more than two or three. I read Kissmetrics blog for more than two years before I paid to use them. But when I was ready, it was an easy sell. Don’t get discouraged. Blogging is valuable to your bottomline, it just takes some time.