I’m in the midst of writing my book entitled, Millionaire Marketing on a Shoestring Budget™ and, in doing so, have been reaching out to colleagues asking them to share one or two of their most cost-effective marketing strategies.
Here’s an excerpt from a conversation with blogging authority Michelle Shaeffer. Michelle started her business 2000 as a virtual assistant and web designer. However, in 2008 she launched a blog “not realizing the potential it had” as a marketing tool. And her business shifted.
Below Michelle shares how blogging became the main marketing tool in her business.
Debra: So would you attribute your success to your blog?
Michelle: Definitely, at this point it’s what attracts a lot of traffic to my website. I can put up a website that just says, “Here are my products and services,” but nobody wants to read about that. I have over a thousand articles on my blog – articles that are helpful guides and tutorials to different things.
As a result, I get a lot of traffic to my site because when you can solve a problem for somebody and they see that, they realize that you’ve got some answers and then, they want to know more about you. My clients now come from my blog. It’s really the main marketing tool I use.
Debra: So, would you recommend that for other solopreneurs or someone who is just starting a business? As a way to get going?
Michelle: My two cents on that is I do think that business owners should absolutely be blogging.
One reason is because getting your blog to be successful forces you to stop and look at who your ideal clients are, what are their biggest problems that you can solve, and what results do they need. When you figure out that piece and you know what to write about in your blog, it makes such a difference in your whole business.
Aside from attracting clients, learning how to blog – the right way – is really powerful. It transforms how you’re able to connect with potential clients, to understand them, and be able to offer your products and services to them. So for that reason I would say they absolutely should be blogging.
Want to build your audience?
Long term it’s the way to really build an audience. Then, you have the freedom to transition into workshops and group programs and things of that nature that you want to do. It gives you the opportunity to influence and help a lot of people at once as opposed to one-on-one.
Blogging is something that, once you have figured out how to get your content, not just on your own site, but on other sites (where your audience is), gets you noticed. You gain some credibility and authority builds up quickly when guest blogging in combination with your own blog.
Debra: That’s a good point. You and I have both guest blogged on each other’s sites and I’ve reciprocated with other colleagues on their blogs as well. The benefit is that you both get new pairs of eyes from one another’s audiences. So bringing traffic to the guest blog is also important.
Michelle: It’s something that does take some time and some energy to learn, but it’s like anything in business, the things that work do take some time, tweaks and some figuring it out. But it’s something that has worked amazingly well in my business from my personal style and the way that I like to connect with people.
I enjoy writing so it’s a natural fit for me. I also tend to be a night owl, so I work crazy hours. I can’t pick up the phone and make cold calls at 3:00 AM, pretty sure that’s illegal at this point in the US, but I can write a blog post at 3:00 AM, schedule it with technology to publish whenever it makes sense and make that work for me.
It’s something that’s given me a lot of flexibility and freedom to be able to do marketing on my own terms and my own time, my own schedule, what works for me. So I really like it for that reason.
How to create a tribe of followers
Debra: I know you have a big following, but when you first started blogging how did you create that following?
Michelle: Great question. So when I first got started, it was really kind of the same approach that you would take when you are first getting started with any business. It was reaching out to people one-on-one.
When I started my blog I started getting traffic from search engines and I didn’t really know why. It’s funny because I understand keywords, I had done website design for a long time. And I was thinking, “I didn’t do keyword research. I didn’t look this up in Google, or AdWords or AdSense or Word Tracker—any of these tools and people are finding me.”
What I realized is that it was because I was answering clients questions in their language. I was naturally using the phrases that they used and so people from the search engines were finding me that way.
So that’s where some of my traffic started coming from, because the strategy I used was answering my clients’ needs. You see, a client would write to me with a question, I would write down their question (in the language they used to ask it), and then I would answer it.
One of the things that kind of naturally happened as a result was traffic from the search engines. While I love to play with numbers, I don’t like keyword research and I’ve found that what works well for me is to focus on what the problem is in my clients’ eyes and how they phrase it. I use that in my blog post and talk about it in a way that they would say it when they are typing in search engines.
So, when Google changes their algorithm for the five zillionth time and everyone freaks out, my website traffic hasn’t gone down. It stays consistent because I’m not trying to gain search engines and I’m not overly optimizing.
That’s one thing that happened.
Who are you writing for?
The other thing that worked for me was when I would write blog posts, I would stop and say, “Who did I write this for?” Then, I would send them the link and say, “Hey, you remember that question you asked me the other day, I just wrote a blog post about it, here you go. If you find this helpful would you share it and people started sharing it with friends?”
I would then sit down and brainstorm about, “Who else can I send this to?” I would send it to colleagues and say, “Hey I wrote this blog post, I think your audience would really love, would you mind tweeting it for me?”
I know when I share or tell someone some of the things I put on my blog, people respond with “Really? You do this?” My response is “Yes, because it works.”
In addition, I take time to write those emails and send them out and so that’s one of the things where I simply reached out to people one-on-one. I did a lot of leg work like that.
It wasn’t just, put the blog post up and traffic shows up. I did guest blogging. For me, I’m not comfortable reaching out to people. However, I found a really good strategy was to build some relationships with people who would repeatedly publish my content. So I looked for sites that did column type blog posts – where every couple weeks they would have another post from the same person. Then, I developed relationships with those people so I knew that every two weeks my guest post was going to go out to their audience.
This allowed me to keep some consistent content going out. I didn’t have to constantly go through the pitch process of saying, “Hey, here’s who I am, you should publish my stuff.”
I asked myself “How can I do this?” And then I worked on finding strategies that allowed me to work within in my comfort zone.
Debra: That’s not a bad thing to start out by saying, “Well if I’m going to do this, I should at least start out with things I’m comfortable with.”
Michelle: I did a lot of guest blog posts for friends, for colleagues who didn’t have a ton of traffic, but they had some traffic and it was my ideal audience. I also found that inviting others to post to my blog was a great strategy, because then they would promote it to their peeps. As we talked about earlier, it introduced my readers – even if it was only a few people – to someone who could help them. And, it also allowed me to reach other audiences.
Another strategy was writing reviews. If I bought a product or service I really liked, I’d write a review of it and then send the blog post link to the person who produced that product or service. Because it was a positive review, they wanted to share it and as a result, their audience would find my blog.
A lot of strategies just like that, just thinking how can I get someone else to share it for me, who has an audience?
Debra: Those are very cost-effective ways to market. It doesn’t cost you any money to reach out to someone and say, “Would you share a blog with me or can I share a blog with you, or I reviewed your product, I posted a blog about it so wouldn’t you like to share it with your peeps?”
Michelle: Exactly, like a lot of people and probably like the people who are going to read your book, I had more time than money and when you’ve got more time than money, in that phase of your business, that’s what you’ve got to do is just get out there, put your heart into it and find what works. Just keep trying.
Debra: Well thank you for sharing your strategies. Do you have anything coming up? Any programs or products that are new that you’d like to share?
Michelle: I do have some things I’m working on. I’ll let you know when they’re ready to be announced.
Debra: Okay, cool. Thanks so much for sharing your blogging tips. You’ve learned by doing and others will certainly appreciate the strategies you’ve shared.
Have a blogging strategy or cost-effective marketing tool you’d like to share? Please leave a comment below because I’d love to hear from you. Thanks!
About my guest, Michelle Shaeffer: Michelle once wrote 42 blog posts in a single day. She has mentored more than 5,000 bloggers through the Ultimate Blog Challenge and has made just about every blogging mistake possible (and shares them so you don’t have to). Connect with Michelle for fun, smart training to help you make your online presence work for you. http://michelleshaeffer.com