Marketing blogs are dangerous.
When they write about a shiny new tactic, they make it sound like a panacea - a cure that will work for everyone, everywhere.
You follow the instructions to a “t”. A week later you pull up your dashboard and the results are… underwhelming.
Surely you must have screwed up somewhere, right?
After all, you saw all these case studies on people who successfully implemented the tactic and got dreamy results.
What (almost) nobody tells you is that not every list building strategy works in every niche.
Take guest blogging for instance.
You write a guest post. Less than 20 people opt in.
Was the writing not engaging enough?
You research copywriting. Armed with your new mind-reading and persuasion skills, you sit down and write another guest post.
0 subscribers this time.
The headline was compelling. You targeted your audience's burning pains. And the copy was infinitely better.
Maybe you offered the wrong “bribe to subscribe”?
One. More. Guest post.
3 months, $$$ in courses and 6 guest posts later, you have a grand total of... 71 subscribers.
“This whole thing is a sham!” you exclaim, shaking your fist at the heavens.
What you don't realise is….
Maybe guest posting doesn’t actually work in your niche.
Wait… but why?
Let’s say Arwen decides to ditch Aragorn and marry a dwarf. (I know. That’s just wrong on so many levels, but bear with me.)
However, she is having a really difficult time finding a good husband. (Read: I’m just not getting subscribers.)
After a couple of dates (read: guest posts) which go nowhere, she can’t help but wonder if she is just a horrible conversationist. (Read: Is my content epic/engaging enough?)
“I know I'm a sexy elf,” she says. “Why doesn’t anyone want to come home with me?” (Read: Why is no one opting in?)
She wonders if she should show a bit more cleavage - or maybe casually hint that Rivendell comes with the dowry? (Read: How do I make my bribe-to-subscribe irresistible?)
After a while, she has this nagging feeling that there just aren’t enough dwarves in Rivendell. So she packs her bags and travels to Gloamwood. Surely, she can find a few gallant dwarven dates there. (Read: Maybe I’m writing for the wrong blogs.)
Of course, Gloamwood has nightmarishly inhospitable guards at the gates. They won’t let anyone in, but thankfully she happens to know the heir apparent to the throne. (Thank you, Legolas! Your hair looks great by the way.)
(Read: A friend introduced me to Arianna Huffington and I got a post published on the Huff Post.)
Still nothing. No suitors knocking on the door. Damn those buggers.
Determined to find herself a dwarf, she puts up posters in every elven forest on the continent: “Attractive female elf looking for dwarf husband. I can’t cook, but if you’re running from the Nazgul and there’s a river nearby - then I’m your gal.”
(Read: I just went on a guest posting spree.)
“I don’t get it, Legolas,” she confides in her friend, crestfallen. "Where are these buggers hiding?” Pointing to the three leather satchels bursting at the seams with scrolls, she asks: “Can you think of any other elven outposts I can post these in?”
(Read: How do I find which blogs my audience actually reads?)
What Arwen doesn’t realise is that she has a much bigger problem than advertising in the wrong treetop village:
She’s looking for dwarves by putting up posters in an elven forest!
Hint: Dwarves don’t read classified ads in elven forests. They’re busy mining, and fighting, and waking up dragons and whatnot. You know, several gazillion feet under.
Moral of the story: Guest posting won’t get you subscribers if your target audience doesn’t actually read blogs.
This is a classic example of wasting your efforts on a list building strategy that doesn’t work in your niche.
There you have it, the Great List-Building Hoax: People make it sound as if the strategy that worked for them will work for everyone, if only they can execute it correctly.
Right strategy + poor execution = poor results.
(Arwen is still crying.)
But how do you know whether or not your target audience actually reads blogs? Where on (middle)* earth do they spend their online time?
*Sorry. Couldn’t resist the pun.
I have a revolutionary lifehack for you.
Forget stalking Reddit forums. Forget online research. Forget software solutions like Buzzsumo which offer premium mind-reading services at $99 a month.
I’m going to introduce you to this amazing tool called a telephone.
It’s been around since 1876 and it’s going to totally change the way you do business.
You are going to pick it up and call one dude or gall you personally know who would make a dream customer. Then you’re going to say:
“Dude, what do you do all day?” (in a very gentle and non-accusatory tone, ofc). “Besides porn, what else do you watch? If I were to pull up your browser history right now, which sites would I see listed there? Let’s see which blogs you've read this week."
Don’t let them off the hook with wishy washy answers like “Oh, I browse Netflix” or “I watch TED talks” or “I read a couple of food blogs”.
Oh yeah, they watch Netflix? Which shows? Whose TED talks? Which specific food blogs are those and when was the last time they read an article there? Did they try out any of the recipes?
You want to get so specific, and know their preferences so well, that their lawyers will have grounds for a restraining order. You want to become the stalker looking over their shoulder (or rather: keyboard).
And the best part?
They won’t think you’re prying. In fact, they’ll be delighted that you asked. They’ll want to nominate you for Best Friend Oscars.
Because you’re finally listening. They’ve been trying to tell you about that stupid TV show for weeks, but chances are you were always in a rush: “It was great seeing you, but I gotta run.”
(Editorial deadline and all. All those guest posts don't write themselves!)
I come bearing even gladder tidings:
You don’t have to spend 16 hours on Google to find out where your audience is hiding. You already know someone who is a dream customer.** And they know what they read.
(**Don’t worry! You don’t have to sell them anything - yet.)
Get your future customers to do the work for you. It’s what smart bloggers do.
Hint: You can rinse and repeat as many times as you want. The fabric doesn’t age.
That kinda speaks volumes - no?
Go where they are. Then find the intersection of your two topics.
Fashion designer writing for an entrepreneur blog? Teach them how to dress for a conference.
Nutritionist writing for the mommy mafia? Show them a breakfast recipe they can cook in 5 minutes. And oh, it can be prepared using one hand only, so they’ll have free use of their other hand to keep their kids off each other’s throats.
Also: conduct an experiment. Write a post for a fashion blog and then another one for an entrepreneur blog. See which one performs better. It’s ok: You can have your cake and eat it too. It’s your business. You make the rules.
Umm… If you can’t even find ONE person to chat with on the phone, how are you going to find customers later on?
Stop being a wuss. Either you’re making excuses to avoid picking up the phone or you’re in the wrong niche.
Courage and connections build a business. You have both in abundance. So act like it.
Remember: We’re calling 1 person, not 50. We’re also not selling them anything, but showing a genuine interest in how they spend their time. If anything, they should be thanking you.You just saved them a therapist’s bill.
Now go out there and call someone.
Seriously. I’m waiting.
I have to warn you though: If you don’t pick up the phone within 10 minutes of reading this blog post, something terrible is going to befall your business.
It’s official. I asked my in-house fortune teller.
The clock is ticking.
Should I create a free course on where to find your people?
As in: “What is the best way to reach my people? I know there are tons of them and this is a problem they pay for, but how do they find resources to help them? Exactly where do I go to find an engaged audience that likes what I have to offer?"
If that would be of interest, I need your help. You see, I can’t design a solution until I know exactly where you get stuck. And why. So I’m looking for "beta testers".
What this will involve:
A lot of listening and note taking on my part, while you get to pour your heart out and vent - knowing that I’m working around the clock to find solutions to YOUR specific problems. It’s almost like hiring a marketing strategist to design a tailor-made course for you, for free. Wait - that’s not what it is “like”. That’s exactly what it is... 😉
(Note: First come, first serve. Only have room for 10 beta testers.)