Roughly a year ago I tried to monetize Quick Sprout. My goal was to start making $20,000 a month consistently and build up to $100,000 a month in revenue. As you probably can guess, things didn’t work out the way I planned.
But before I go into what I learned from trying to monetize Quick Sprout, let me break down how I was monetizing the blog.
I have been blogging for a few years now, and I have built up a very loyal audience. For that, I thank you. So, about a year ago, I decided to create a membership area on Quick Sprout in which you could get premium content for a one time fee of $197 (you are no longer able to sign up).
The premium content wasn’t like the content on the blog. Instead, it was an 8-week training course on how to grow your business. Each week I would email you a module that would help you grow your business. After eight weeks, you would end up with about eighty pages of marketing content from me.
Here is why the program didn’t work:
Lesson #1: Recurring revenue is the best form of income
For one reason or another, I didn’t want to do a recurring subscription model. I had hundreds of signups for the Quick Sprout membership program, but the biggest problem was the revenue wasn’t recurring. If I made it recurring, I may have not hit the $100,000 a month mark, but I probably would have hit the $50,000 a month mark.
If you are going to monetize your blog, it is better to create a monthly subscription program because you don’t have an infinite supply of readers. For example, I have a few thousand loyal readers. Although you can make a ton of cash in the short run if you charge a one-time fee for your premium content, you’ll make a lot more in the long run if you charge a smaller recurring monthly fee.
Lesson #2: Email marketing doesn’t work
I could have done things wrong, but the way I tried to get new members was to first send them to a free rant/whitepaper I wrote. I was hoping that by receiving something for free first, you were more likely to read it and then convert into a paid member.
The problem was people who were sent to that free rant/whitepaper were four times less likely to convert into members. I am not exactly sure why this was, but my thinking is that I was making you go through one extra step, which can cause conversions to reduce.
In addition to that, I have already built a relationship with you. So, the rant/whitepaper may work well for new Quick Sprout readers, but it doesn’t work well for regular members.
Lesson #3: Price doesn’t affect sales
If you create a membership program, you will quickly realize that price doesn’t really affect purchasing decisions. Yes, some people will not like your program, and they will cancel or ask for a refund.
But for the people that love your program, they’ll gladly pay $297 instead of $197. So, don’t be afraid to increase your prices if you feel you are providing your members with a lot of value.
Of course, if your program is only worth $9, they won’t pay $297, but if your program provides a ton of value, you can easily charge in excess of $100.
Lesson #4: Don’t be afraid to change things up
Quick Sprout is a blog. Its homepage is a typical blog page. If I really wanted the membership program to succeed, I should have made the homepage about the membership. And I should have moved the blog to www.quicksprout.com/blog or some other URL.
Instead, what I did was place ads on the blog to drive you to the membership program. The ads were simple and clean, but they didn’t get many clicks. I did a ton of A/B tests on the banner ad, calls to action, and copy. I found that most of those elements didn’t affect the sales. (On a side note, the call to action “Get Started Now” converted the best.)
Lesson #5: Promote your membership program
I was shy when it came to promoting my membership program to you. I never wrote a blog post on it, and I should have. Over 10,000 of you read this blog through RSS readers or email. If I wrote a blog post about the membership, I think I could have made an additional $40,000 to $60,000.
Other than not making my membership recurring, that was the second biggest mistake I made. If you aren’t willing to blog about your membership program, then you shouldn’t release it in the first place.
I didn’t write about my membership program because I wasn’t sure how good it was. I was seeing a handful of refunds, and the last thing I wanted to do was market a product that was going to hurt my personal brand.
Lesson #6: You can’t assume
My membership program was a long sales letter. I learned about sales letters from some of the top email marketers. Because they were making millions of dollars, I thought that format would work for me as well.
If you look at my sales letter, you’ll notice that I eliminated all navigational options, I included testimonials to help with social proof, and I explained why you should become a member. Heck, at one point I even created a sense of urgency by saying that the program was going to be limited to only one hundred members (which it was for a while).
Although that long sales letter worked well for other bloggers, it didn’t work well for me. If I could do it all over again, I would create a Slidedeck and present membership features and benefits in a visual format. I think this would have also helped reduce the number of emails I received asking: “what do I get as a member?” A lot of people just don’t read long sales letters.
Lesson #7: Actions speak louder than words
Before I created the membership program, I asked people if it was a good idea. Almost everyone said yes. People expressed interest in signing up.
When I launched the program, I emailed most of the people I surveyed. Most of them didn’t sign up. I am not trying to knock them, or you, down, but it taught me that you can’t just rely on a survey, and you shouldn’t expect everyone to sign up from the get go.
I am not saying that surveying people isn’t a smart thing to do, but you should take into account that all of the positive responses may have some bias.
Like anything else, monetizing your blog isn’t easy. Yes, you can throw up some ads and make some good money, but the best way to make a ton of money is through a membership program that is recurring.
Do you have any lessons to share when it comes to monetizing your blog or website?