Blog visitors who only read your blog are enough if you are just counting page hits, but if you want anything of more serious value — sales, for example — you’ll need to turn those readers into customers.
Content marketers love to expound on the fabulous practice of giving content away for free, telling you your business needs it. But how do you turn those readers who absolutely love your great free content into paying customers?
1. Know your market.
You can’t create something that will sell if you don’t know who you’re selling to.
“Know your audience” is a real truth that gets said so much in the content marketing world that it’s easy to roll your eyes and ignore it. The problem is that you aren’t often told how to know who your market is.
If you know who you are selling to, you can actually sell to them. You know what they want, what they need, and what they will respond to.
Google Analytics tells you who your reader is.
Google Analytics is a powerful tool, but bloggers often use it as a glorified hit counter to monitor traffic numbers. Google Analytics can do much more than tell you how many people visited your site, and it’s this next level of understanding that tells you who your market is.
Google Analytics contains data on social metrics in the “Social” section of your dashboard. This data tells you more about the actual person who visited your site. There, you will find several reports that will tell you more about your current readers.
- Data Hub Activity tells you how people are talking about you on social media.
- Landing Pages tell you how engaged people are for each URL.
- Trackback Pages show you what other sites are linking to your site. This allows you to do a little research on their audience, which may overlap yours.
Google Analytics also gives you some basic demographic information about your current readers in the “Audience” portion of your dashboard.
- Age and Gender. Google can give you some basic demographic information about the age and gender of your readers.
- Affinity and Market Segment. Google has been tracking people across all their web activity, meaning they can tell you what other interests your readers have. Handy to know, since you can see if there is a common thread or overlap. Perhaps readers of your photography blog also seem to be interested in Apple products. Can you tailor your content and sales offers to address that interest?
- Geography. Google can tell you where your readers are coming from. Are they local? From a different culture? Perhaps your content and sales offers aren’t a good fit for the location your readers are from.
- Mobile Use. Find out how many of your readers are coming to your site on mobile devices. If your site isn’t optimized for mobile readers, how in the world will you ever turn readers into customers?
Ask your readers who they are.
Sometimes finding your market is as simple as asking them who they are. No need to spend time on guesswork and data interpretation and ignore a seriously powerful method of discovering your market: surveys.
Use a survey and ask your readers questions. Some won’t reply, but some will. Choose questions that will give you the information you need without making your survey too long. 5-7 questions is fairly painless for a blog reader.
2. Understand current customers.
You already have some customers, likely. Take the time to figure out why they are your customers. After all, you want to replicate them among your other readers.
Brick and mortar stores have the ability to actually meet the people buying their product. They can talk to customers out on the sales floor and on the phone. If you are selling completely online, you still have a version of that actual contact. What are you hearing on social media and in your help desk software?
Write down the most common help issue that your current customers need. They are telling you something important about who they are by indicating what they want to be able to do with your product and whether that’s working or not.
Readers who ask questions about something you’ve written indicate a possible content or product gap that you could fill.
3. Create content that’s slightly wider.
Your niche blog might have laser focus on your niche, but if you aren’t seeing the conversions into customers, your focus might be too tight.
Let’s say you are selling fine writing pens. Your blog is tightly focused on talking about fountain pens, gel pens, new pens — all things pens. Your readers, though, tend to hop in, read a review of a pen, and bounce out. No sales.
Your main content is pens, but people who use pens are also going to be interested in paper, as well as inks, trends in pens, manufacturing news, new pen releases, and so on. By creating content that touches on the related topics of interest to your niche, you’ll hold readers longer, attract a wider market, and touch on that concept of affinity that Google is trying to turn into hard data. Readers read specific content to answer a specific question. Customers purchase specific and related products together because it’s easier to do it all in one place.
Turn readers into customers by writing a slightly wider range of related topics than just a narrow niche.
4. Build up curiosity and momentum.
Creating content often becomes a stand-alone affair. You start to think of each blog post as its own separate entity. By planning ahead, your blog posts can build up to a product release in a way that naturally leads readers to become a customer when the product is finally available.
Imagine a blog series, for example, that started by discussing a pressing problem of interest to your audience. Then you wrote blog posts on how you decided to solve this problem.. Then you wrote blog posts that outlined the solution/product you’d created. Then you announced the product’s availability.
Your reader would be ready to buy, at that point.
Think of your blog content as free and helpful, yes, but as continual proof that readers need what you are selling.
5. Readers who are real people become loyal customers.
When people feel as if you see them as real people, loyal customers are the result.
The conversations you have on social media and in blog comment sections with your readers has an effect on the likelihood of them becoming a customer in the future. How do you make readers feel as if you see them as an individual person?
- Use names. In all conversations, use the name of the person when possible.
- Speak “softly”. In a face-to-face disagreement, lowering the volume of your voice can bring things down a notch and calm the situation. Online, you can achieve the same by sincere concern and a focus on the person and their problem. Don’t take the bait even if they seem antagonistic.
- Stay off of defense. Do not justify your failure to a reader, or be defensive. Just focus on them, and what you’ll do to help them or why you can understand their point of view. Defuse the situation. Disgruntled readers can become your most loyal customer if you handle it well. Let them save face, and they’ll return the favor.
6. Make it easy to buy.
This seems obvious, but…do you make it easy for your readers to buy? Do you have enough products, an easily accessible shop, or even a call-to-action? Or is your site visually littered with other options? Do readers trust you?
Don’t give everything away.
Giving things away for free is a big part of blogging, but if you give away so much of such high quality, what is there left to sell? People are motivated to buy for several reasons, one of which is the desire to “act now” after reading compelling content. If they can satisfy that need by downloading something free, you’ll lose customers.
Your blog posts should create a compelling reason to not stop with free, but to go ahead and buy.
Make it clear what you are selling.
Your reader shouldn’t be confused about what you are selling. Clear call-to-actions, and an end to excessive visual clutter on your site will help. Reducing the number of clicks and page changes also help in making that purchasing process simple.
Build trust with your customer.
Content marketing has a built-in bonus going for it: great content that is helpful makes readers trust you after a while. But actually spending money on something takes more of a nudge. Think about what keeps you from buying:
- Buyer’s remorse
- Fear of making the wrong decision
- Fear of not getting money back if it was the wrong decision.
Be great about letting your readers know you want them as customers because you care about them. They can return the product. They can get money back. They have no need to worry about purchasing because it’s completely safe. No repercussions.
As always, you start with readers, and do everything you can to keep them coming back. But you should always have an eye on turning them into customers. Figure out who they are, what they want, and how you can earn their trust. And then, make it easy to buy.