I ran across an interesting quote today on Content vs Business. Here it is:

There is still an illusion to the effect that a magazine is a periodical in which advertising is incidental. But we don’t look at it that way. A magazine is simply a device to induce people to read advertising. It is a large booklet with two departments – entertainment and business. The entertainment department finds stories, pictures, verse, etc. to interest the public. The business department makes the money.
– James Collins 1907

You read that right, 1907! There has long been a connection between content (entertainment) and business. The advertising is not incidental, it’s integral to the model.  You could easily replace blog for magazine in the above quote and over 100 years later it is still true. However, instead of two departments it’s often a solo-preneur wearing both hats. Entrepreneurs write blogs to make money. Ads, whether they are affiliate ads, paid placements, sponsorships or house ads (advertising for your products or services) are what keeps the lights on.

But where blog writers and content developers often go wrong is that they lose site of the audience and the needs of the readers. Because of the dual focus, it becomes a delicate balance. When one department outweighs the other,  you have either an entertaining site that makes no money or an ad-heavy site that is not very entertaining, difficult to navigate, or out of tune with your market.

Solution

Here’s a really easy solution to the Content vs Business quandary in 5 steps:

  1. Be Transparent
    If you are writing a sponsored post, say so. If you are wanting someone to subscribe at the end of your article, say so. If you want someone to click on this affiliate link, say so. A touch of transparency goes a very long way. (BTW, I’d love it if you subscribed to my opt-in list 😉 )
  2. Get Comfortable Wearing Both Hats
    I have seen good artists and educators get caught up in the tangle of “I hate selling”. Look, it’s all about YOU giving your AUDIENCE something they want. Create that and tell them where to get that. IT’S OK if you share a tip and tell folks where they can get more info. AND, it’s OK if you charge for the info. The audience are not idiots. They understand that you are in business to make money. So don’t be shy and…
  3. Ask For The Sale
    I am still amazed at business people who hate selling or think it’s sleazy. Asking for the sale is only sleazy when you try to be tricky or you aren’t 100% transparent. Not asking for a sale means you have a hobby. Business people who I don’t resonate with don’t get my time – or sale. If you resonate with people you will have no problem selling them – provided you are not afraid to ask for the sale. Only offer what is a perfect match for your audience.
  4. Listen To The Audience
    Your audience’s tastes and attitudes change as much as yours do. So you must keep a keen ear attuned to them at all times. As they learn what you have to offer, 20% will want to learn more so be ready with an advanced class or pro-level offering. Polling your audience has been done to death, so I like the “choose your own adventure” style using audience tagging to determine wants and needs. Give the audience what they want. Don’t assume you know what they want – have them show you with their wallets.
  5. Engage
    You must engage with your audience. Everywhere you are present you must show up and engage. If no one is engaging give them an opportunity. Ask for feedback, make it easy to respond. Respond to every comment. Talk it up and show folks you are present and interested. If you’re not going to play ball, get off the field.

I worked for a very smart guy with a huge following. His audience loved him. For a while. The issue as to why sales were declining was obvious. He didn’t like selling. Hated it. Thought everything about selling was sleazy. He quit giving his audience what they wanted as well, and soon the majority matriculated. New students were MUCH more difficult to get due to the fact that they grew up on the internet and were savvy and had a lot more options then clients of old. The content that was produced was tone deaf and had no relation to what the paid offerings were.

I had another client who was very gadget savvy and up to date on all the latest tech. He let his audience know he liked and trusted them and he gave them a lot of respect. He never spoke down to them and listened when they had a question or concern. He always asked for the sale and knew he would be able to help whoever was ready to buy. He is very engaging and loves to continue the conversation. He offers professional level options to his top 20% and they love it. He continues to focus on the beginners in his field because he understood the long term value of helping a newbie and shepherding them all the way through their journey.

I hear a few of you rolling your eyes and saying “yeah great, but that doesn’t scale”. Not so fast there buckaroo…

What you do for a few permeates the whole. I incorporate some engagement in my follow-up emails that really ups my good will across the board. I communicate with enough people that the mojo becomes a power unto itself. Kid you not. Let me repeat – what you do for a few permeates the whole. Listen, good will goes a long way. You should try it.

Hey, it’s your business and your content is what drives the traffic. You got folks to your site, now be a sport and show them where to go next.

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