How Rowse Can Convince Internet Marketers to Blog

    March 6, 2007

In today’s post, Darren Rowse at Problogger asks:

“If you had the attention of 400 internet marketers for an hour and were given the brief to talk to them about blogging – where would you take the session?”

It’s a great question, and a great opportunity to lay some important points out on the table. And why should you listen to me? Because I am a professional blog consultant who works with Alliance Software, a company whose clients are almost exclusively high-performance internet marketers. (We’re talking “gun” entrepreneurs running highly-leveraged businesses turning over millions per annum off online sales.) I am therefore in both worlds all the time, and never sure whether to call myself a blog guy or an internet marketing guy!

But back to dissecting the question…

What’s at the Heart of Internet Marketing? Profits!

The first concern Darren has is to understand the people in the room, and what drives them. And here, we can be thankful that internet marketers are pretty transparent people: they want to grow their business, which is fundamentally about two things:

  1. More sales of their stuff; and (to achieve that)…
  2. A big list.

To get a bit technical for a moment the internet marketer’s “mathematics” — whether he/she sees it this clearly or not — hangs off just a few really critical numbers:

  1. Leads
    This number represents the total number of prospective customers the marketer gains access to. He uses the various devices of on- and offline marketing and promotions to get this number as high as possible. Internet marketers I hang around talk about “the list”, meaning the total number of opt-in subscribers they have reading their newsletter, receiving their marketing and/or buying their stuff. A big list is everything! If you have no leads you have no-one to sell to. Of course, you can always buy someone else’s list. And a good internet marketer is always diving into someone else’s list… that’s call a Joint Venture.
  2. Conversion Rate
    This number measures the percentage of your leads who buy something from you (or make money for you via commissions, if you’re a “super affiliate”-type), as well as the frequency of sales. The internet marketer’s goal is to write such good sales copy, and apply such good split testing, that he/she is confident everything is being done to convert the greatest number of leads into purchasers.
  3. Transactions per Customer
    This number reflects the degree of success an internet marketer has in convincing customers to buy more. A one-time sale is great, but a value-rich long-term relationship full of repeat purchases is better, and a smart marketer knows that it’s easier to get another sale out of an existing customer than to get that first sale from a lead. So a good internet marketer expends loads of energy dreaming up campaigns targetting his/her existing customer-base.
  4. Average Transaction Value
    This number measures the dollar-value of each customer purchase, and reflects the important question: “how can I get people to spend more every time they purchase from me?” Up-sell techniques are designed to push this number up, for example… “Would you like fries with that?”
  5. Profit Margin
    This number factors in all the costs-of-sale, leaving you with the money you can actually pocket and take home to Mommy. The challenge here is to get your expenses down as low as possible, which is why internet marketers love the internet in the first place – online commerce is so cheap!

As a formula the numbers above look like this:

  • Total Leads X Conversion Rate = Total Customers
  • Total Customers X Transactions/Customer = Total Sales
  • Total Sales X Average $/Transaction = Gross Revenue
  • Gross Revenue X Profit Margin = Profit!

There you go. That’s the five critical numbers all internet marketers live and die by. Simple, when you look at it like that, isn’t it!?

(For clarification I should say: by “internet marketer” I am talking about the person who pockets the money, not the consultant he/she hires to help improve one of the above numbers. The consultant might be a great SEO guy, product development guru, or somesuch, but it’s the business owner I have in mind… the guy/gal who looks at all the numbers together and carries the risk for the decisions made.)

It follows then, that Darren needs to consider how he can demonstrate to an internet marketer that blogging can positively influence each of these numbers.

What’s at the Heart of Blogging? Conversations!

But here’s a question I am pondering: do internet marketers (and the rest of us) need blogging, or do we moreso need to embrace the whole “social media” paradigm in which blogging finds its proper place? Can you even speak of the value of blogging in isolation from its context?

I ask this, because I am seeing and hearing about a lot of corporate blogs failing at the moment, and I think this is at least in part because a lot of businesses take to blogging, but not to participation in conversation in the world of social media… without which blogging is neutered.

See, blogging is — at minimum — about the (near) daily discipline of posting and engaging commenters. But that’s a lot less than what successful blogging requires. To me, successful blogging (read: an ever-growing readership and ever-growing respect from the blogosphere) requires at least as much time spent in the “social” world of bookmarking, discussion forums, wikis, commenting on others’ blogs, etc.

I reckon this goes to the heart of the question of what a blog even is. Is a blog really no more than the “technical” definition of an XML-RPC enabled content management platform for the simple publishing of chronologically-listed posts, along with integrated “taxonomic” categorization/tagging and reader commenting??

Or is a blog not moreso the “social” definition of a publishing/communications platform for plugging into the tangled web of online conversations which we call the blogosphere?

I am firmly of the opinion that internet marketers can gain so much from blogging, but only as long as they take a hold of it in context of its place in the social media world of participation and conversation; and this is something that is pretty fundamentally counter-intuitive to profit-driven entrepreneurial types, the likes of whom we work with at Alliance Software.

Why? Because it’s hard for them to connect these “social” activities to profit-taking.

How to Convince Internet Marketers that Conversations Deliver Profits

So how do we convince internet marketers that “participation in conversation” is what blogging is really all about, and that it’s worth doing?! Bearing in mind that their motive is money

Here’s what we do: we attack them at their “achilles heel” — credibility and trust.

See, most internet marketers today are confronted with a marketplace that is smarter, better informed, more cynical and less trusting than ever before. And most internet marketers are still firmly wedded to the long-form salesletter (which, believe it or not, works best for selling to fellow marketers!). In short, they have a credibility issue. We don’t trust them, and they “feel” it where it hurts most: in those five numbers I gave you earlier.

So, I think Darren can come to their rescue, showing them how some or all of these numbers can be positively influenced by the credibility and trust generated by blogging and participation in conversation online.

Let’s explore how blogging positively engenders credibility and trust, and in turn influences each of the above “numbers”:

  1. Blogging generates leads.
    Internet marketers whom we at Alliance Software have introduced to blogging are telling us that they’ve entered a whole new world of lead/traffic generation strategies. PPC is not under any immediate threat, nor is SEO, but social media marketing is booming! Lead generation here is closely aligned to bookmarking, linkbait, viral strategies and a great way to effectively access the “long tail” of search engine and directory traffic. I don’t have room here to unpack all this, but Darren might, on the day :)
  2. Blogging can increase your conversion rate.
    The jury is in: the long-form salesletter sells, but the conversion rates are very very rarely extraordinary. However, this morning I was on the phone to a top-gun internet marketer discussing my ideas for this post, and he excitedly explained to me how he has seen extraordinarily high conversion rates from blogs, compared to long-form salesletters. He attributes this order-of-magnitude increase in conversion rate to the much greater credibility and trust levels he and his business partner have established with their target market, thanks to the highly relational and transparent conversational style of their blogs.
  3. Blogging can help you sell more stuff to your customers.
    I asked this same marketer about sales volume, and he explained that his customers were happy to pay a premium price, if only they could gain greater “access” to him and his business partner. (My client sells educational products to the personal investor market.) What a perfect justification for blogging, as a means of delivering greater value to your customers, who are asking for ever more value (in this case, access to/dialogue with the “gurus” themselves).
  4. Blogging helps you sell more expensive stuff.
    There are few more effective ways to engage your customers, survey them, and determine what premium product/services they’re willing to pay for, than blogging. There can be challenges to keep your eavesdropping competitors out of the most valuable and juicy conversations, but that’s usually a price worth paying, I think. Blogging can also function as a very effective “suggestive/up sell strategy” in the form of case studies, customer interviews/testimonials, etc.
  5. Blogging is dirt cheap and highly effective marketing.
    Finally, blogging costs remarkably little. Frankly, the biggest cost is time, not money. As blogging proves its worth to internet marketers, we will see them diverting internet marketing expenses away from SEO, PPC and banners to social media marketing (SMM), which includes blogging, as well as bookmarking, participation in various online forums and “conversations”, etc. And this kind of effective marketing spend may well deliver sizeable savings, even in the short term.

Again, it’s all about the unique value that blogging and online social engagement has in building credibility and trust with our marketplace. This is an area I am deeply engaged in and pretty passionate about, and which our internet marketing and dot-com clients are diving into, more and more… because it makes solid economic sense to them to do so!

This post is already too long to fill it up further with the much-needed case studies, examples and testimonials to back up my argument. I will leave these for later posts, including (hint!) a podcast/interview with the top-gun internet marketer I have mentioned repeatedly above. I’m really excited because he’s agreed to spill the beans, speaking frankly and honestly about his passionate embracing of all things blogging.

So bookmark my blog (that button just below!)… sit tight… and I won’t be long with that interview!


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