For an internet marketer, it can be difficult to resist the temptation to start a blog in the “make money online” niche. After all, it’s what many of us know and love best, so why wouldn’t we want to share our knowledge with the world (especially if we’re going to make money doing it)?
The problem, of course, is that this is a highly saturated niche. A quick Google search yields over 143 million results for the search term “how to make a living online”, while “make money online” returns a whopping 201 million results. Not only that, but as the state of the global economy continues to weaken, an untold number of employees-turned-entrepreneurs decide to throw their collective hat into the “make money online” ring every single day – chasing visions of fast profits and a more comfortable lifestyle.
Does this mean that you shouldn’t entertain the idea of launching a blog in this niche? Well, there are certainly less competitive niches available, and staking your claim in any of them would involve far less frustration and far fewer late nights hunkered over the keyboard. Still, the prospect of a vast, hungry audience (not to mention the potential for impressive profits) can simply make the “make money online” niche too attractive to pass up.
If you’re determined to build a profitable blog in this niche, differentiating yourself from the competition is critical. As counterintuitive as it might seem, the most effective way to do this is by crafting your content and marketing strategies to be relationship-based, rather than sales-based.
The Role of Relationships in Marketing
Remember the days before the internet became the primary information source for a substantial percentage of the world’s population? Back then, if marketers wanted to get a piece of the pie, all they had to do was launch a television or radio ad campaign, and consumers would line up to buy their products. People did as they were told, and it didn’t matter very much that marketers didn’t care about their buyers – marketers were the gatekeepers of information, and they could spin it pretty much however they pleased. Consumers, for their part, were mostly content to follow along, especially since advertising was considered a “necessary evil” which paid for the programming they enjoyed.
The rise of the internet brought with it a free exchange of information that chipped away at the authority of traditional marketers. Companies that had long relied on being able to tell consumers how to think were left scrambling for new ways to make sales. The ones that prospered were those which sought ways to connect with consumers – to make them feel valued and appreciated. The balance of power had begun to shift from the marketer to the consumer, a phenomenon that grew even more apparent with the emergence of social media.
After all, why believe what a marketer tells you, when you can visit a review site like Epinions, set up a poll on Facebook, or post a question on Twitter, and find out the truth in a matter of seconds?
The same power shift has become evident in internet marketing, as well – particularly in highly competitive niches. In years past, it was sufficient for an internet marketer to launch a blog, slap up some affiliate links, create a course or ebook, and wait for the money to roll in. Today, however, blog visitors want – nay, demand – to be engaged, listened to, and valued. Moreover, they gravitate toward marketers who are transparent, and who allow themselves to be accessible as human beings.
The principle that people buy from those whom they like, know, and trust is more relevant today than ever before.
How to Build a Relationship-Based Approach to Promote Your “Make Money Online” Blog
1) Only promote products that you would use yourself.
This sounds obvious, but it’s safe to say that many “make money online” bloggers choose products based on profit potential, rather than on whether the products can truly benefit readers and subscribers.
You should be prepared to state why you are recommending a particular product. This doesn’t mean engaging in hyperbole (there’s certainly no shortage of that in this niche); rather, it means showing in an unbiased manner the value you see in the product, and the value you believe it represents for your readers.
It’s equally important to highlight any potentially negative aspects of a product. If it isn’t suited to a segment of your reader base (e.g., newbies, people who can’t afford it, etc.), say so. If the product is lacking in a certain area, make that fact clear to your readers as well.
2) Respond to readers’ comments.
Readers take valuable time out of their days to comment on your blog posts. Responding to comments makes them feel as though that time was well spent. We comment on blog posts because we have something to say, and if you let us know that our voices are heard, well, that makes us feel special and valued. As a result, we’re more likely to buy from you.
3) Visit readers’ blogs.
If responses to our comments make us feel special, then visiting our blogs makes us feel downright important (especially if you leave a comment). Few things make us like and trust marketers more than realizing that they want to know more about us. You don’t have to read every post or leave a chapter-long comment – a paragraph or two is enough to win us over.
4) Connect with readers via social media.
The instant nature of social media gives you the opportunity to be seen as a human being rather than a faceless marketer hiding behind a blog. Of course, Twitter is the favored social media vehicle these days – since you’re limited to 140-character-or-less messages anyway, this is a great way to connect with readers on a personal level without giving up a huge chunk of time.
Many internet marketers use social media solely as a means of promoting their sites, products, and services. Although the occasional bit of promotion is fine, that’s not what social media is for. As mundane as it may sound, commenting on a reader’s tweet about what they had for breakfast can go a lot further toward developing a relationship than telling everyone about your latest product launch.
5) If you have the budget for it, don’t be afraid to use “snail mail”.
While electronic communication will go a long way toward helping you establish relationships with your readers, sending a birthday card or a simple “thank you for subscribing to my blog” note will have a dramatic impact on reader loyalty. Imagine going to the mailbox, expecting only a pile of bills, and finding a personal note from a blogger. It’s powerful because it’s unexpected, and because it shows that you value your readers enough to step away from the online world for a bit to let them know how important they are to you.
Building a relationship-based approach to blogging is often a time-consuming effort. It takes far more work to engage potential customers than it does to simply promote products and hope visitors buy from you. This is precisely why many “make money online” bloggers don’t do it – they don’t realize the rewards of investing in relationships, so they regard it as a waste of time.
For those of you who are willing to make the investment of time and effort, though, relationship building is the closest thing to a “sure bet” you’ll find in the internet marketing world.
Lee Rowley is the owner of Blogger’s Workshop, a resource for sharing tips, ideas, and inspiration to help people build successful, profitable blogs. He also co-owns Java Joint Media, a copywriting firm that provides website, blog, and print content for internet marketers, public speakers, consultants, and a variety of other professionals.