It’s easy to get sidetracked by all the tasks of content marketing — planning, writing, publishing and engaging — and forget the bottom-line purpose of doing it. The ultimate purpose of content marketing is to market your business, resulting in higher website traffic and sales.
The optimization and promotion tips we’ve shared in the last two chapters can make a big difference in your traffic levels. But once people are on your site, you need to convert that traffic into sales.
In this chapter, you learn five methods for monetizing your content without advertising. Not all of them will work for every business. But all of them are valuable strategies that are being used successfully by other content marketers.
Read through them all, then pick the methods that could work for your business. Test them out, and then create the unique mix that’s right for you.
Before you start
While monetizing your website is a great idea, there’s a reason we saved this chapter for last. Your first priority is to create high-quality content that people love to read. If your content isn’t good enough, you’ll struggle to monetize it.
That said, you don’t need to wait until your traffic and engagement levels are at some magical level before you start monetizing your site.
If you provide good content but people don’t know you exist, you can still pursue the strategies we talk about in this chapter. You likely won’t sell a lot — simply because you don’t have a lot of visitors. But you can experiment with different strategies as you grow, and by the time your website gets lots of visitors, you’ll know what works and what doesn’t.
Remember, work on the quality of your content first. Then try out these strategies to see what works for you.
Ready to start monetizing your content? Let’s go…
The key to creating a great membership site isn’t finding the right paywall, but getting the concept of membership right.
Before people are willing to pay for content, they need to see the value of paying for it. In other words, the focus needs to be on value received rather than cost of membership.
If a membership site sounds right for you, start thinking about the benefits you can offer members behind the paywall.
Members need to feel like they are gaining:
- Elite status
- High-value information
- VIP treatment
- Network opportunities with other members
- Insider access to the owner/director of the site
- Members-only forum or private Google+ group
Develop a content strategy that offers as many of these benefits as possible.
3 models for paid content
Before asking people to pay for your content, you need to find the right model for your business. There are three ways to handle paid content:
- Subscription or paywall
Users subscribe to your membership site for a monthly or annual fee. For that fee, they have access to all content (and benefits) until their subscription runs out.
When you use this model, you don’t generally use advertising. Once members have paid their fee, they have free access to all content in their membership level.
Individual pieces of content, such as training programs, audio or video downloads, or special reports, are sold separately. People may purchase as much or little information as they need, when they need it.
With this model, you can upsell repeat customers by offering a VIP membership level. Payment of a large, one-time fee provides lifetime access to all products, past and future.
Content is free until a user reaches a certain threshold, such as number of articles or videos viewed, or based on the amount of time spent on your site. Newspapers have been experimenting with this model and are finding that it works well.
This model allows free access to low-volume users, which can actually be a good strategy. It allows them time to read some of your content before deciding to pay for full access.
Mix and match to find the right model for your business
Membership sites ask users to create an account and pay a membership fee before they can access certain pages of the website. You can set it up in one of three ways:
- All or most of your content is behind a paywall.
- A certain number of pages or paragraphs are free, but full access to the content requires membership.
- A combination of free and paid content.
Here are some ways to set it up:
Autoresponder content, dripped over a period of time.
This method of delivery is common for free and paid training courses and gives you a way to control the frequency of content delivery.
For a free course designed to build engagement, it might be delivered daily. That way, you can get people used to hearing from you, building name recognition and relationship at the same time.
For a paid course (like the certification program we talked about in Chapter 9), each module may be delivered weekly or monthly.
This allows you to keep an entire class moving through the course at the same speed so you can provide additional value, such as weekly or monthly calls to review that module’s material.
A training series may also be tied to a renewable membership site. For example, during the course, a membership forum is free. Afterwards, there’s a monthly fee to continue having access.
Renewable subscription, either monthly or annually.
Most membership sites have three or more levels of access. So silver members may have access to articles and special reports. Gold members may also get free webinars and training calls. And platinum members may get coaching time as well.
Decide in advance how many membership levels you’ll offer and how much value you’ll give each level.
Prices for entry-level membership typically range from $27 to $99 per month, and we’ve seen annual memberships begin at $98/year.
Your price should be based on the value you provide and your members’ ability to pay. (For example, stay-at-home moms may require a lower membership fee than stock brokers.)
This option is great for people who want to purchase access to one piece of content at a time. In essence, you treat each piece of content as a single product.
Usually this is done with longer content, such as reports, ebooks, and surveys. But it could be used for individual articles too, if your content is perceived as high-value and if you set the price right.
After payment, access to the content may be permanent or expire after a period of time.
If your site starts out with free content and you suddenly change to a paid model, you could lose as much as 50% of your following. People rarely like to pay for something they’ve never paid for before. So how can you make the switch? Here are five ideas.
Create your paid model separate from your free.
Domain.com may have your blog and free content. Set up Domain.net to be your membership site.
- Continue to provide free content on your blog, but make it shorter and less specific.
Save the highest-value, in-depth information for members. In this case, the free content is designed to create a taste for your paid content. It must still be high-quality material, but for in-depth content, you must pay.
- Grant access to an article’s introduction for free.
To continue reading, ask for membership sign-in.
- Continue to offer free content on your blog.
But open a members-only forum with access to you (and other perks).
- Continue to offer a free blog.
But also create information products, books, and courses for a fee. (We cover this strategy next.)
If you have a paywall, you also need a payment processor. Here are a few options:
Social-ink.net Striped Members
$80 for single license (individual)
$110 for single license (corporate)
PowerPay with Authorize.net.
With this option, you use two services: PowerPay as the merchant account, with Authorize.net as the payment gateway. This solution gives you credit card processing of all major credit cards and the Authorize.Net seal for your website.
Inexpensive and simple to use.
How to set up your paywall
There are lots of options for setting up your paywall. Here are a few that we like:
(available at GetPremise.com)
Premise is a combination landing-page platform/membership gateway that you build yourself, thanks to smart integration with the authentication and user access management protocols, plus easy digital product listings and check-out pages.
- Build different levels of membership within WordPress
- Take recurring payments with automated access management (You’ll need an SSL certificate)
- Automatically drip content out over time
- Securely sell ebooks, apps, and other digital downloads
- Confidently create private forum areas with vBulletin*
- Quickly set up password-protected content libraries
- Easily build check-out pages for PayPal and Authorize.net
This is a free plugin for WordPress websites that hides portions of your content behind a paywall.
With Cleeng you can sell any individual piece of content directly from your own website. It allows you to sell content or digital products in 3 different ways:
- Sell single items
- Provide a 24-hour daily pass
- Give access to all your content via membership subscriptions (weekly, monthly, annually)
Pivotshare is a video platform designed specifically to monetize your videos.
It provides a fully branded, high-quality media channel with no up-front cost to you. Revenue is based on how much your community interacts with your content, and Pivotshare takes a small percentage if that income.
If you aren’t ready to set up a paywall yet, you can still create a stream of income from your content by creating content for sale.
The key is to provide high-value content that people want.
Deciding on product ideas
If you already know the topics your followers are interested in, you have a head start. Just create your content and run with it.
But if you aren’t sure whether people will respond to your product idea, don’t invest too much time or money until you get a feel for people’s interest level.
You can do this in two ways: test your idea before producing them, or produce short versions of your final product to test responses.
Test your idea first
This is like dipping your toes in the water before jumping in. To do it, you have to present your ideas and see if anyone responds, or point-blank ask people what they want to learn.
Test titles or ideas in Facebook and Twitter.
Post titles as status updates and see how many likes or retweets you get. Or post a comment and see how many people respond.
Write a blog post.
Write a blog post that talks about the topic you’d like to cover in your product. If the blog post gets good responses, you can assume your product will do well too.
Alternatively, write a blog post that point asks people to comment with their greatest need about a certain topic. This works well if you have a high-traffic site. The comments can be used as a source of ideas for all types of content, but especially for paid products.
Send a survey to your list.
You can also send an email to your list, asking them to fill out a survey. The survey should have as few questions as possible and still give you the information you need. The key is to ask this question:
If I could solve one problem for you and make your life 100% better, what would that problem be?
Create a short version of the product first
If you still aren’t sure about the viability of your idea, consider creating a small version to see how people respond to it.
For example, rather than creating a full-blown training course, produce a webinar on the topic. If your attendance is high and people engage well, you know you have a good idea for a product. In addition, you can use the questions asked in the webinar as a guide for the information you need to include in the course. And you can include the webinar recording in your course, which makes it a higher-value product.
Create front-end and back-end products
Generally, information marketers have one entry-level product that provides basic instruction or information about their core topic. Because it doesn’t provide high-level solutions, it can be priced to sell.
Then they create back-end products that provide higher-level information or solve other problems their customers are likely to run into.
It doesn’t matter what type of business you run, you can add an information marketing element that generates another stream of income.
Think about the questions your customers always ask. Then consider how you could produce a piece of content that answers one of those questions and provides useful solutions and information.
Your goal is to create such a good experience with your flagship product that customers want your other products and services as well. Simply by creating one product at a time, you can develop a library of products that keep customers coming back for more.
Here are the types of products you can produce:
Low-end, entry-level products
These products are inexpensive and easy to digest, such as short ebooks that provide simple solutions to everyday problems or high-level discussions of challenging topics.
These might sell for $19 to $99. They usually consist of one or two of the following:
- Special reports
- Entry level training
- Audio or video download
Mid-level products, front-end or back-end
Mid-level products provide more in-depth information, such as training programs or longer ebooks.
These might be prices at $200 to $500 and include several if not all of the following:
- Instructional material in ebook format
- Audio or video recordings
- Access to membership forum
High-end, back-end products
These are more comprehensive programs that offer a lot of value.
Cost may range from $600 to $1,200 and include:
- Instructional materials
- Audio, video, or seminar component
- Monthly group coaching
- Some personal coaching component
These products promise the highest level of value. They provide in-depth, often personalized, solutions and can sell for $1,500 and up. They include:
- Instructional materials
- Audio and video materials
- Worksheets and resources to facilitate learning
- Personal coaching
- Seminar or retreat component
- If the information is good enough, it can sell at this level even without the personalized components that usually add value. Take this ebook, for example:
10-Step Checklist for
Producing High-Value Products
If you create content, you already have many of the skills you need to create products. In fact, it’s an easy thing to repurpose much of your content into high-value programs, ebooks, and more.
Start with the sales copy.
The secret to creating high-value content is to work backwards. Write your sales copy first. Then create a product that lives up to it.
To create a landing page and ads, you’ll need to focus on the program’s unique selling point (USP) and your offer. You’ll also need to create bullets points itemizing the benefits of the program and what students will learn.
Start with your order page and a landing page for each product. Then use the selling points you promise to create an outline and decide what types of content to include in your product.
Using the Creative Process taught in Chapter 4, write your content.
Create your modules and training materials using the same techniques you learned in Chapter 4.
Use your landing page copy as a guide.
Make sure you spend lots of time researching the topic so your information is accurate and timely.
Hold nothing back. Make this the highest-quality content in your repertoire.
Refine your sales copy based on the final product.
After your content is complete, go back to the sales copy you wrote in Step 1. Edit the benefits, descriptions, and your offer to match your final product.
Develop your sales process.
Will you launch the product with a webinar or videos? Will you create a free autoresponder series about the topic, then pitch the product in the last email?
How will you follow-up the sale to add value and develop relationship with your customers?
Start these projects now.
Create ads to place on your site and in your newsletter
Create your ads with the colors and style used in your product and sales page. Design textual ads, banners, and space ads for your website and newsletter. If you plan to advertise in Facebook or through AdSense, create those ads too.
Write the autoresponder (drip) emails that you’ll use before and/or after the sale
Before the sale, you can offer a free promotional “course” that teaches high-level concepts related to the topics you cover in your product. Offer it free for sign-up, then deliver one email per day, each touching on a different “lesson.” Any length from five to 30 days is acceptable. Your final email should promote your product.
It’s a good idea to develop an autoresponder series for after the sale as well. Your emails should answer questions that people may have, offer additional training, and promote other back-end products.
To create your autoresponder series, brainstorm the topics you’d like to cover in your emails. Each email should talk about one topic or answer one question.
While you can make them any length, in many cases, these emails offer “quick tips” that can be read and digested in just a few minutes.
Write promotional emails for your list.
Design an email campaign to sell your product to your subscribers. Create a series of emails that introduces the product, gives features and benefits, and addresses any objections that may arise.
Consider giving a discount to people on your list if they respond by a certain day.
Your email can be simple, like this one:
Or it can be html like this one:
Write social media posts to promote your autoresponder series and/or landing page.
As part of your campaign, create social media posts for Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Then set a schedule for posting them so they coordinate with your emails.
Create the artwork and opt-in form for your website.
Once you have your sales pitch and ads created, all you need to do is adapt that artwork for your opt-in form. This can be as fancy or simple as you like.
Create blog posts and other content to talk about the topic in your new product.Plan a series of blog posts, videos and podcasts that generate interest in your product. At the bottom of each, place an ad that take people to your sales page.
http://drivingtraffic.com/dont-waste-traffic-free-landing-pages/If you are active in Pinterest, create original graphics for your content that can be pinned in Pinterest. These pictures will link to your content, which will bring more traffic into your sales funnel.
Upload everything so it’s ready to go.
Create a zipped file for customers to download your product or create a microsite for your training program. Then start promoting your product.
Tips for selling
Before people will buy your information products, they need to know, like and trust you. So much of your content marketing and social media efforts have one major objective: build trust.
Once you’ve secured people’s trust, it’s not hard to sell high-value information products to them. Here are a few tips:
Get testimonials to use in your sales copy.
Send samples of your near-finished product to peers and friends for review while you’re finalizing your product.
If you’re writing a book, email thought leaders to ask if they’d be willing to review a chapter of your new book. Don’t ask for a review of the entire book (few people have time to read and respond quickly). Just ask for a review of one chapter in their area of expertise.
It’s a good idea to connect with and follow these people before you begin asking favors. Most of them are incredibly busy, and lots of people ask favors from them, so your request can get lost in the pile unless they recognize your name,
Consider a request like this:
Do you have time to give a quick review of my new book?
I’ve written a book about [topic] titled [give the title of your book]. Since that’s your area of expertise, a statement from you would be invaluable for helping it sell.
I know you’re busy, though, so if you like, I can send just one chapter for your review. You might be interested in one of these three chapters:
Give one chapter name.
Give a second chapter name.
Give a third chapter name.
Would you be willing to do that?
If so, please let me know which one you prefer, and I’ll send it over.
Run a beta test of your program. Send invitations to your list (this is one of the perks for subscribing). Offer a 50% discount for testing out your new program — with the requirement that they also give you a testimonial when it’s done.
Tap into your social media connections. Offer your product for free in return for an endorsement or testimonial.
Provide lots of freebies or premiums with purchase.
Premiums can add a lot of value to your product.
In fact, sometimes people place such a high value on the premiums, they pay your purchase price just to get the freebies.
- Offer access to you as one of the premiums.
This can work well if you have a large community of loyal fans. You can structure it any way you like. For example:
- Email or call with any questions free for one month after purchase.
- Included in your downloads is a private email address that’s only for customers of this program. Use it to get priority answers to your questions.
- If you haven’t had the time or resources to develop your own products yet, you can still sell products on your website. By becoming an affiliate (or sale rep) for another brand’s products, you earn a commission for each sale made. If you’re just starting out monetizing your website, this option may be right for you. But it’s not only for beginners. Some businesses focus primarily on selling affiliate products — with great success.
Two rules for selecting affiliate products
- The products you sell must be related to your core topic or product.
- The fact that you sell them is an endorsement. Make sure they’re high-quality products.
- Finding affiliate products.
To find affiliate products that fit your brand and marketing plan, use one or more of these five techniques.
Google “[your core topic] products affiliate program.”
Visit the links and check out their programs. Each affiliate program is set up differently, so you’ll need to make sure it will work for you. For instance, the brand may require a minimum number of sales before you get paid.
Become an affiliate of
products you’ve purchased in the past.
When you buy a product that you like, check the vendor to see if they have an affiliate program. Since you’ve tried the product, it’s a no-brainer to sell it as well.
If there is an affiliate program, you’ll find a link like one of these:
Check out affiliate networks. An affiliate network is a middleman that helps connect publishers like you to merchants that offer an affiliate program. Some of the most common are:
Set up link skimming on your website.
Skimlinks.com converts links and product references in your blog posts into affiliate links. So it’s affiliate marketing, but automated so you don’t have to think about it.
In their words: “Unlock the cash in your content.”
Set up Infolinks on your website.
Infolinks.com provides in-text advertising that isn’t subtle and verges on annoying. But, it has a proven track record of generating revenue. So you might want to check it out.
How to sell other people’s products for a commission
Write blog posts and create other content to talk about the issues or topics surrounding your affiliate products. Then, as with your own content, place an ad with the content and encourage click-through.
Promote the product to your list
Draft promotional emails to send to your list. Consider creating a special offer in which you offer a premium from your own content to anyone who buys before a particular date.
Sometimes, the affiliate or joint venture partner provides ready-made sales materials. All you have to do is place ads on your website, send emails to your list, and post occasional social media recommendations.
Other times, you have to create your own artwork and sales copy. If you know how to use Photoshop, create ads just as you would for your own products. If not, use text ads, in which you hyperlink the words when you mention the product.
The idea is to incorporate these ads into your normal marketing. For instance, the marketer who sent out this newsletter creates her own products and sells affiliate products. This issue of her newsletter has an ad for both types of products.
If your blog draws enough traffic, you may be able to find sponsors for your website/blog. Sponsors are organizations that place space ads on your website because your audience is among their target groups.
In many cases, the sponsor organization will initiate the relationship. If they’re looking for a sponsorship opportunity, they might contact websites that attract their ideal customers.
But you don’t have to wait on someone to reach out to you. If sponsorship seems right, you can look for sponsors for your website.
How sponsorship works
Generally, sponsors pay a monthly fee to secure ad placement and media promotion on your website.
As a website owner, you promote your sponsors in whatever way you can. As with an affiliate partner, you might run email campaigns, mention the products in your content, and build a landing page.
But since sponsors pay up-front, rather than per-sale, they should always get preferential treatment.
Getting started with sponsorship
If you like the idea of having a sponsor, make it easy for sponsors to find you.
Place a link in your sidebar that lets people know you use sponsors.
Create a sales page to give more information to potential sponsors.
The link in your sidebar should take visitors to this page. On this page, you need to explain your different sponsorship packages, prices, and payment methods.
Provide traffic statistics and demographics information.
Potential sponsors need to be able to evaluate the value of sponsoring your website.
In particular, they need to see the number of unique visitors, page views and subscribers.
Put together clear sponsorship packages.
Detail the benefits sponsors get and how much it costs.
Put a simple “buy now,” “order,” or “make payment” link at the end of each package.
Tell people their next steps.
People are more likely to respond if they know:
- How to contact you.
- Terms of sponsorship.
- How to pay.
So spell it out and make it easy.
The screenshots shown here are from http://www.entrepreneurs-journey.com/advertise/
Where to find sponsors
Check out the sponsors of other blogs.
One of the keys to making sponsorship work is finding brands that have the same target audience as your own website.
To find organizations that sponsor websites like yours, check out the advertisings and sponsors on other sites in your niche.
Make a list of companies that appear to be a good fit.
- The company must specialize in your niche.
- The topics you produce content for must align with their products/services.
- You must have the traffic levels they are looking for.
Approach the companies you are considering.
Here’s a template you might use:
SUBJECT: Sponsorship opportunity with [your brand or website]
Dear [contact name],
My name is [your name], and I [name your position or responsibility and your organization].
Recently we began looking for sponsors for our website, [domain name here], and we think there’s potential for a unique synergy between our brands.
Have you ever considered sponsoring a website? It can be a terrific way to generate traffic for your own website, especially if the website you sponsor shares your same customer base.
Here are a few of our website statistics:
Unique visitors: #
Page view: #
Many [list or describe the type of people who visit your website] use our services and we think that many of them also need yours!
We have room for four sponsor ads to be placed in a prominent position in our sidebar, and each sponsor will receive promotion through media mentions and other marketing campaigns as well. In addition, we’re willing to offer a discounted trial period to let you test the waters, so to speak, and see whether our website is a good sponsorship opportunity for you.
We look forward to hearing your thoughts on this and setting up a call to discuss some creative options in partnering with you!
Please visit my website at [URL]. Then, if you agree that this could be a good collaboration, call or email at [contact info].
Putting your list to work
The biggest asset of content marketing is your email list. Nurture that list, and use it to stay connected to your followers — and generate a fan base that loves your products.
Notify your list every
time you create new content.
If you publish content one to three times per week, you may email your list with the link each time it goes live.
If you publish more often than that, consider creating a weekly round-up email that lists titles, blurbs, and links to everything that was published that week.
Each of these emails may be formatted as a newsletter or as a regular email. And you may include an entire blog post or just a teaser.
In this example, there’s a teaser for the article, followed by a link to learn more about our product.
This is a low-pressure way to include a sales message that monetizes your regular emails.
Create email campaigns to generate sales.
Use email marketing tactics to promote products by your sponsors and affiliates, as well as your own products.
- Send promotional emails.
- Include space ads and banner ads in your newsletter.
- Create autoresponder (or drip) campaigns to promote products.
Build your community by giving
VIP treatment to your subscribers.
You’ve heard the old saying, “The customer is always right.” That’s a simplistic way of saying your business depends on strong relationships with your customers.
As a content marketer, you have an advantage when it comes to building and nurturing relationship with your followers.
These people have already raised their hands to say they want the information you publish. They know what your products are and what the going price is.
So when you offer a discount or give them a piece of content for free, they fully grasp the value of that gift.
And this type of VIP treatment can go a long way to building long-term relationship with the people who are most interested in your products and services.
Monetize the community that builds up around your content
One final way to monetize your content is to create community around it. People develop strong loyalty to the people who invest in their success.
If you can identify a problem that your customers tend to struggle with, and if you can create a forum or event that helps them network and develop relationship with people who have similar goals and struggles, you can often generate a strong sense of community.
This, then, allows you to sell training programs and personal coaching, as well as live and digital events.
How to do it
Create a forum for your community.
Create a facebook group, Google+ community, or place a forum on your website.
Create a campaign for membership.
- Send invitations to people on your list.
- Notify your social media followers.
- Include a mention in your newsletter.
- Create a landing page on your website.
Create a campaign for membership.
Be the guru, but let others get involved as well.
Think of yourself as the host at a big party. Help people get involved and have a good time.
Connect with your community
Recognize people’s successes. Mention people on their birthdays and other special days.
Use the forum to get a feel for
people’s strengths and struggles.
Then create events and products around those needs.
How others are doing it
The Self-Publishers Online Conference is a brain child of authors and business owners, Susan Daffron and James Byrd.
The annual conference is sponsored by their three core businesses: Logical Expressions, Self-Pub U, and SPAWN. It generates an additional stream of income and directs business back to these businesses.
A conference is a great way to use live delivery of content to grow your business. It does take a lot of work to put on a conference — whether digital or live — but it can build credibility better than any other format for delivering content.
Steve Roller created Copywriter Café to serve as a gathering place for new and developing copywriters. His goal is to offer training and coaching services, but rather than starting with a business launch, he created a membership site that puts people first.
One of his training events is the Ultimate Writing Retreat™. He travels to different locations around the US to meet with members of his community and hosts a 3-day writing retreat in their location.
The event is popular because it allows people who have been interacting online to meet face-to-face.
As a content marketer, your primary focus is on building relationship first, then leveraging that trust to sell your products and services.
A unique type of training event that does this well is a retreat. It allows you to offer training in a variety of ways.
- Inner circles with private forums.
- But if, like Steve Roller, you focus on helping your customers, it doesn’t matter. People attend simply to connect.
There may be no better example of coaching than the Glazer-Kennedy Insider Circle
Most coaching programs provide three basic tiers: in this case, gold, diamond and luxury. But coaching programs can easily add other levels by removing or adding features, making it accessible to everyone’s needs.
Coaching can be delivered one-on-one or in a group setting. It’s a great way to add another stream of revenue. Because it is personalized, it is perceived as a high value product.
Best of all, members develop a sense of community that makes it easy to promote products to them.
Pick the monetization strategy that
fits your brand and personality
It doesn’t matter which option you choose. In fact, you can mix and match them to create a unique business model that reflects your own personal style.
The key is to focus on solving your customers’ problems, not selling to them. Your underlying motivation comes through loud and clear. So be genuine about your desire to help your community. Then try out the different models we’ve covered here:
- Membership site
- Product development
- Affiliate sales
As you incorporate monetization strategies into your content marketing strategy, you’ll find that it gives focus to your content production and helps you reach your overall business objectives.
That being the case, as soon as you feel confident in your content marketing skills, it’s time to start monetizing.