A number of the new business classics point to the “blog” as an example of a “minimal viable product” — more popularly known by its mnemonic, “MVP.” The minimum viable product is the smallest thing we can create that can stand on its own as something customers will buy. Why is the MVP so important ? Why is blogging such a useful MVP for business? And since no one “buys” the blog, how can it serve this function?
Blogging Certainly Doesn’t Feel Like a Minimum Viable Product
Blogging as a side-gig or side-hustle is very major, not very minimum. It takes huge swathes of time, and since time is money, it can be a very major investment. There is a learning curve that seems to grow every time we look at a new webpage. It is, however, one of the most impactful platforms from which to explore a topic, find an audience–and engage an audience of future customers. I could, conceivably, immediately start investing in and marketing my fantasy product: a cruise for women bloggers and entrepreneurs in the fortysomething-or-better crowd. But who would come? And why would they come? And what would they want?
If I want to create an event that lots of people want to attend, an event that satisfies my customers and make them rave about the experience, then I had better find and engage my potential customers! The larger dream will require a great deal more work and investment–and the blog is part of that investment.
Blogging provides us with a means for understanding what we have to sell (that people want to buy). It helps us develop viable business models. More precisely, blogging gives us the feedback to figure out our next moves in developing our businesses, our reputations and our business sense.
Learning about Customers–From Customers
One of the posts I was most hesitant to create was the post about female founders over forty. In a world where most of my potential customers are somewhere between 20 and 35, admitting I was that much older was the first risk. The second risk was actively reaching out to a niche that seems rather small — women, looking to blog as a side-gig, who were fortysomething or better. Blogging helps us to check our beliefs. The number of people who saw that post was not big. Most of them came from the The WordPress Daily Post’s daily prompt.
But since I’ve published that post, I’ve received fairly regular views of that article. Nothing overwhelming, but response! And comments! My beliefs that those women are out there, and they want to connect, have been validated in a small way. It also showed me that the daily prompt is a good way to get discovered by those audiences. One day I hope to see you on that cruise, sipping bright cocktails on the lido deck, laughing about grammar mistakes, first book stories, and funnels-gone-wrong, maybe with kids and grandkids just getting back from the swimming pool.
A good bit of that response has been from women over 30. Whether they’re struggling at home or fighting the good fight at work, they too are feeling the pinch in time and resources. My envisioned audience has expanded a bit toward women who want to create a successful career, with writing and content marketing as one pillar of a bigger plan. These people understand the pivot concept–or want to understand it better. We’re all figuring out who we are as brands, as businesses and as future founders. Blogging is part of that engagement strategy for developing skills, learning, and beginning to get comfortable marketing ourselves.
Now let’s talk about making money.
Blogging and Making Money
Blogs can serve as an MVP for many different kinds of business, but in almost none of them does the blog ITSELF create enough passive income to be a way for an individual to make a decent living. Oh, sure, you do hear about people making major money through their blogs–in every case, they’re selling something. Most honest souls out there are using the blog to drive sales in engaging ways, adding value to the services they want to provide for income.
There are several different business cases (and potential models) for moving from a blog to an income.
- Selling products
- Selling services
- Selling training
- Selling advice and experience
- Selling writing
- Selling events and experiences
- Selling advertising space
These models can be combined in different ways — but try to do all of them at once? Oh, dear. Talk about burn out, frustration, expense and failure. First, we have to find our feet, discover our path. What can we market? What do we want to market? What do customers want from all of our available (or potential) products? Wouldn’t it be good to know what products to FOCUS on first? That’s where the 80/20 rules comes in.
My Experience from the Innovation World: the 80/20 Rule
In software design, we have learned the 80/20 rule (hey! Another mnemonic!). Also known as Pareto’s Rule, it’s formulated in many ways. One formulation is the idea that 80% of our outputs come from the 20% of all we do to create that outcome. In software design, we formulate this by noting that only 20% of features of the product we slave so hard over is really used by our clients. The other 80% — isn’t used that much. They’re not the features that drive the outcome (sales). We can’t tell, ahead of time, which of those features will end up in that 20% category. If we could discover how to create that 20% first and focus our energies on those key features, wow! That would help so much! For busy women who are blogging as a side-gig, that’d be a serious time-saver.
There are lots of “lean startup” stories that revolve around this idea that there are parts of our grand vision that “have legs” and are ready to take off–and they often are NOT the parts we thought would really work as a business focus. Flickr, the photo-sharing website, began as a computer game. They created this photo-sharing feature to help gamers connect with other gamers. Long story short, the game died, but the photo-sharing feature took off like a rocket. Flickr is the largest and oldest site for sharing photos. It’s bigger and much easier to use than Instagram.
(If you’re interested in getting your pictures “out there,” or if you want cool pictures for free, check out their creative commons.)
If we are paying attention to our statistics, whether in WordPress or Google Analytics, then we’ll get many answers to the “how” we’re doing–but WHY that is? That’s the big question.
I’ve been fooling around with Google Analytics for a few weeks now and I have to say, they are not helpful for the usual inhabitants of my niche. WordPress analytics provide more because they are focused on audiences and what they read. Google Analytics are more about audiences and what they “do.” Until we are ready to sell things, to create those “business funnels” that walk an audience through to a purchase, Google Analytics are just a way to ponder and puzzle and learn. But it’s like getting a car when you’re thirteen. You are not quite ready to drive. We can learn from sitting behind the steering wheel, but first we need much more knowledge to make the thing actually do what we want. Blogging helps us find out how to make that match between all the things we could possibly market — and what the market is eager to get.
We can learn about that 20 percent from our blog interactions
(Also from our social media interactions). Looking at those stats, seeing what topics get the most views and contents, is important. Were they the posts that you expected to get traction? Were there surprises? As we move on from writing to getting sales, we need to have a better understanding of our audiences. A sales funnel is a content marketing term for the path from reading and engaging in content consumption (reading, playing with games, etc.) to making a purchase.
Many folks start out trying to make that path the SHORTEST one in their blog. They use all kinds of shady techniques for this. Take for example those TIMERS that give you a few moments to make a decision to buy something ELSE, just after you’ve purchased something or even just signed up for an email. Are they effective? Well, yeah, I’m sure they are–but it does kind of feel like you’re being robbed, doesn’t it? And hey folks, people learn fast. Now, I’ve gotten some great content out of those bargains. But I don’t always feel good during the purchasing experience—and I bounce (leave the site) fast.
It’s best to make that the funnel the EASIEST path and most natural path. Those paths become easier and more natural after you create a sense of a relationship with your customer.
The Landing Page Blog
Studying the stats from our posts help us to figure out what that “20%” is for our blog–the topics, ideas and engagement points where our customers are likely to gather and move. I recall well one podcasting book that made a sale of some excess content to me using a timer. I had purchased the book, Introduction to Podcast Technology: Discover the Essential Tools and Techniques You Need to Record, Produce, and Launch Your Podcast on Amazon. It’s by David Power and it is SO TERRIFIC. Great advice, super-cheap price ($2.99) and it comes with a video course. I read the book, then signed up for the course and got hit by the “buy now!” — and I bit.
Why Did I Buy?
I bit because when I signed up for the course? I got an email from David Power that was from an actual person. Real human being. He made the connection with me, asking questions about why I bought the book and what I hoped to get out of the course. I bit because the book was super-cheap but so very helpful to me as I considered the podcasting option. And I didn’t regret the purchase. From him? I’d buy again. (Disclaimer: the link is to Amazon and as an Amazon affiliate, I’ll get some pennies if you purchase through my link. I hear the rate is around 4%. You won’t pay more than the 2.99 — about 11 cents for me. Heh. Amusing, no? And it comes with a free video course. If you’re pod-curious, I highly recommend this.)
David Power knows his customer. He uses email, e-books, and video to create training courses and material for passive income. That’s his business model. And here’s his blog! I was surprised to find he had one: most of his interactions are through sales on Amazon and I presume, other selling platforms. His Amazon profile has links to his blog posts (most of which are around 6 months old or older) — because his main business is providing videography services and selling his e-books and courses. Landing page blogs are helpful for people with things to sell but not a great deal of time to do the content marketing. David’s writing is all wrapped up in e-books, and that’s time consuming. Writing has to compete with getting gigs for his day job, videography. In future posts, we’ll look at other business models and blogging strategies for blogging as a business.
Note some of the features of “landing page” blogs. They often don’t have regular content. That’s not good as it depresses SEO ranking. David should be posting at least once a month. (I know I would show up!). For those starting out, once a week is very necessary. They need to be pretty but also center on the business of selling. David’s blog as tons of other kinds of content though, as befits a guy whose main thing is video. David does what David does well. It’s a model that works for him; and he can change and grow it from there.
Making Sales is About Building a Reputation
What do we want our reputations to be? Do we want to be a trusted business that people remember well and cheerfully provide referrals? Do we want to be that person whom people go back to see? Creating a blog as an MVP gives us that starting place to learn and develop our business models, our reputations, and our dreams.
More soon. And by the by, would anyone be interested in my class on podcasting? ~ Warm wishes, Lola