How to Use Your Blog to Drive Social Sales

social media how toNo matter how great your company is at playing the social media game, let’s not kid ourselves… The ultimate goal for many businesses is profit, not engagements, retweets or Facebook likes.

The real question is how many people are buying what you’re selling?

Unfortunately, getting your blog readers to buy what you’re selling, especially if you run an online business, can be difficult.  This article will reveal a proven technique to turn your blog into a sales engine.

If your social media campaigns are not netting you any cash, then you’ll be out of the game in a hurry.

Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are great marketing channels, but the blog is king. If you aren’t setting your blog up to convert when new Twitter or Facebook users come your way, then your entire content marketing plan will be in jeopardy.

So what do you do to overcome this? You not only have to find a way to build in social proof, provide a value proposition, craft an offer and convince readers that your product is worthwhile, but you also have to do it in a way that isn’t pushy, doesn’t confuse people and works for you around the clock.

Sounds impossible, right? Wrong.

This article will introduce the concept of using your blog as a lateral sales page.

Leaving Breadcrumbs: An Introduction

Your blog is your content showcase, but it also does more. It functions as a hidden sales agent, ready to market for you.

If you’re selling something, don’t try to force all of the details on a single sales page, blog post or in an email. Why not take Jeff Walker‘s concept of the lateral sales page (once done via email), and apply it to your blog?

It’s simple, really… Define what your blog needs to accomplish, break it into sections and turn those sections into blog posts. You can use a single post for each goal, or you can take your time and work them in on a monthly basis.

The best part about this is that posts don’t have to be in order because there’s no way you can guarantee people will read them in that order; and furthermore, when you introduce them casually, you don’t raise any alarms. You’ve got your audience where you need them, which is focused and attentive.

By doing it right, you’ll slowly work your way into the forefront of your reader’s minds, without having to force your way in.

#1: Create an Offer

For now, stick to the basics. What are you offering (i.e., what is your product?), how much does it cost and what does it include?

Your Product

If you’re blogging already, then you should be talking about your products anyway, but if you aren’t, then start using your blog as a way to describe and explain what you’re offering.

Is it a physical or digital product? Is it something I can download? What does it look like when it arrives at my door?

This part is all about the experience. Use posts like this to help your readers actually visualize owning the product.

The Price

Although you don’t necessarily need to mention price (it should already be listed somewhere on your sales page or shopping cart), you can mention the factors related to price, such as how your product compares to those of your competitors, how important your ingredients or materials are to the value of your product and why the value of your product is far more than a number on a price tag.

The Package

Your product isn’t just a widget, it’s a package or a bundle, right? It’s not just a digital product, but a system… a whole course.

This is also a great time to talk about upgrades, new releases (great for software), trial versions, improvements and any other changes that you make to your lineup. Introduce new products as they come. Create ribbon-cutting ceremonies. Add some flair and spice it up. Get people excited!

37signals has a dedicated product blog that strategically pitches their products without going overboard.

Check out how 37signals does it.

The goal here isn’t to pitch, but to blog about your offer in detail so that you can eliminate this objection right off the bat. Readers won’t buy unless they know exactly what they’re getting, so don’t leave it up to chance.

Notice the call to action at the bottom of the post? This feeds directly into their lateral sales page.

#2: Create Value

Obviously, if you want to convert a reader into a buyer, you’ll need to convince him that your products are worthwhile. You’ve already done half the work by blogging about your offer, and now you’ve got to work to overcome a few objections.

This is where you get to dress it up a bit. Write posts about why your customers can’t live without your product. Provide examples of people who aren’t using it, but could really benefit from doing so.

Build your authority through informative posts and talk about the need for your services. For example, freelancers create need via detailed posts about how to improve design, how to improve copy, or how to build a better application. Internet marketers do this by talking about what could happen if you followed their system.

Online service companies such as 37signals share “insider” industry information and create not just a following, but also a philosophy around their product offerings. It’s even easier with physical products… The classic “before” and “after” shots in weight loss commercials come to mind.

You get the idea.

Feel free to add a call to action at the end of these posts. If you don’t point to the sales page, then point to an opt-in (continue this lateral concept there).

Again, this is where you talk about philosophy.

Are you green, easy to use, complex, efficient, experienced, and so on? What is it that makes your company tick, how does this feed into your product offerings and why should I buy from you instead of your competitor? You could easily write dozens of posts on these topics alone.


Look no further than Zappos if you want a great example of how company culture can drive sales revenue.

#3: Employ Social Proof

Social proof is one of the most important aspects of the blogging sales engine. It’s not essential, but it makes your job easier. It’s also something you should be doing on a constant basis because it creates a culture around your products and in today’s market culture is extremely powerful.

Written testimonials are decent. They’re a start. Most people don’t really believe them, but they like to see them. So if you have them, post them on your blog in a place that’s easy to see. If you don’t have any, then get some.

Video testimonials are even better because we get to see a face. It’s closer to being real. I prefer testimonials that are rough and imperfect because let’s face it, if they’re too polished they’ll look like a late-night infomercial. Nobody believes those are real, do they?

Also, interviews work well too. In fact, interviewing customers is a great way for you to put them in the spotlight. Who wouldn’t like to be on the blog of their favorite company’s website?

Both audio and/or video work well, but it just doesn’t have the same effect.

Another tactic is to post photos of your customers, or even better, of your customers with your product in/on hand. That’s about as real social proof as you can get.

Lastly, as we all know, Tweet streams are extremely useful for showing social proof. “Surely this must be good if everyone is talking about it,” right?

Tweetizen allows you to embed streams, as does TwitStat.us. Strategically placed on a blog or sales page, these streams work as street teams for your product, and they do it 24/7.

Artist John T. Unger has 10 pages of customer photos on his homepage.

#4: Take Your Time

Creating a lateral blogging sales page isn’t a one-time thing, it’s ongoing. If you do it right, you’ll always be selling without having to sell, your customers won’t have their guard up and you’ll still be providing useful information. That’s the goal really, to make use of your blog in a way that maximizes your ROI without making you feel like a marketer… even if you are one.

Just remember that a blog exists to serve one purpose, which is to keep your business in the black.

Are you using your blog to sell? If so, what tips have you discovered? If not, what’s holding you back? Leave your comments in the box below.

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About the Author, Nathan Hangen

Nathan Hangen is an internet marketing strategist and founder of Webrepreneur Media. He co-authored the book Beyond Blogging with Mike-Cliffe Jones and provides small business consulting services at Making it Social. Other posts by »




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  • http://www.velocitydigital.co.uk/blog-social Mike McGrail

    Lots of nice info here but ‘secrets’? I’m not so sure.

  • http://www.hypenotic.com/ Barry A. Martin

    Agreed with Mike. This is a good reminder, and certainly a nice intro for people getting started, but ultimately it’s just a question of long you can let the tail be. The more useful your blog is by sharing quality resources and information, the more credible you’ll be.

  • harly00

    you have a nice post.One of the key benefits of social media that’s not talked about nearly enough is its ability to mitigate doubt and confusion among fence-sitters.Yes, your prospective customers are confused and uncertain. After all, why would they even be coming to your Web site unless they had questions about your product or service? To be entertained? I think not.

    http://www.megri.net

  • http://virtuousgiant.com Nathan Hangen

    Well, I’m not sure I mentioned that they would be secrets, and to be honest, there really aren’t many (if any) secrets with social media, but sometimes, it’s the little things that count.

  • http://virtuousgiant.com Nathan Hangen

    I suppose it depends on what type of blog you have. Most of the time I’m on a company blog, it’s because I can’t make a decision about something or I want to know more about their product.

    Credibility is certainly important, but there are lots of ways to achieve it.

  • http://virtuousgiant.com Nathan Hangen

    Exactly, confused and want more information. If we’re being honest with ourselves, most people don’t read blogs anyway, and when they do, they aren’t there to hang out. They want enough information to make a decision and get out.

  • http://www.velocitydigital.co.uk/blog-social Mike McGrail

    Ok perhaps not secrets, but I feel the post very much reads like ‘if you do this you will succeed’.

    Like I said very interesting though and thanks for pulling together.

  • http://www.johnpaulaguiar.com/ John Paul

    Nathan.. I like that lateral idea. The more information you can share about your product the better, and if you can share that info in nice readable bite sizes make sit even easier for the reader to see the beniis, and learn what they need to to decide if they want to buy.

    Testimonials are great, but I think photos or videos work better then just a written test.

    Your blog is your Sun..Your social media efforts should revolve around your “Sun” all those efforts should lead back to your Sun.

  • http://www.freemansign.com Kevin

    I own a business that I write a blog for and it works quite well. I don’t have a shopping cart and don’t mention prices. I do pack as much info about our products as possible, trying to keep each blog entry under 5 paragraphs. The photos of our products are the key. We make a unique product and the photos illustrate them like nothing else. About 30-50% of our customers mention they have read our blog and are quite educated about our products when they arrive in our showroom. Our blog has been a terrific enhancement to sales.

  • http://virtuousgiant.com Nathan Hangen

    Exactly right. I like to think of it in terms of sales funnels, with you social media accounts being a way to drive traffic to that funnel (blog), which then points to a sales page of some sort.

    I think a lot of bloggers are afraid to sell from their blog, but my question is…why? That’s what we’re here for. If you’ve got a great product or service, then use your blog to nudge them in that direction. It’s smart business.

  • http://twitter.com/notesonpaper Julie Kirk

    Thanks for this Nathan. I’m in the process [literally, right now, this minute] of setting up an etsy.com shop and your point about customer photos is perfect for me! I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of it before and have already added a request for photos to my ‘shop policies’ page. Hopefully I’ll get enough to turn into a slideshow for my blog. Such a great, simple, focussed, idea I can actually get my head around and see how it would benefit my sales. Thanks again. Julie

  • http://dinodogan.com/ Dino Dogan

    Late night infomercial testimonials are not real? WHAT? Does everybody know this? lol

  • http://virtuousgiant.com Nathan Hangen

    It’s like learning there’s no Santa isn’t it…:)

  • http://virtuousgiant.com Nathan Hangen

    Perfect example. Take a look at http://johntunger.com for an example of what I’ve seen work. There’s no reason to blog for the sake of it…have a goal in mind.

  • Dark Lord

    Nathan, well said. Nice article.

  • http://dinodogan.com/ Dino Dogan

    WHAT??? No Santa either? Thanks a lot @nhangen , the destroyer of childhood dreams lol OK…Im a stop now :-)

  • leilani haywood

    Very cool. I just started a discussion about who blogs on the social media group on LinkedIn. I got over 100 comments. A company in Australia blogs for their clients and has seen huge sales for their clients as a result of their blogs. Another company in New Zealand is doing some blogging for their clients that’s also converting to to sales. I plan to write an article based on all the feedback I’ve gotten. So blogs convert leads into sales if the content is relevant and engaging.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bethbarany Beth Barany

    Nathan, Thanks for your info. I like your idea of “lateral.” Blogs are a nonlinear form, useful for sharing lots of information in no particular sequence. But you already knew that. :-) What I’m curious about is how to translate your suggestions for novelists and nonfiction book authors. Readers and potential readers come to author blogs usually wanting either information for their next purchase, or desiring a stronger more personal connection with the author. The latter is what seems different than other business operations. Any thoughts?

  • http://about.me/russalman Russ Alman

    This gives me a lot of ideas. I am passionate about our products and services and love to share. I need to make a point about writing at least one product-related blog article for each site every week.

  • http://www.beautipage.com/AandO Tisa

    Thanks for sharing and love the link!!! Especially the story of how this artist birthed his blog out the the debris of his snow crushed house!!!!!!!!

  • http://www.socialcubix.com/ Facebook Apps

    You’re absolutely right Nathan! I believe, in this era of Social Media, Blogging is seriously necessary for any type of company! A Blog is what defines about you and your company, also your blog will answer all those hidden questions which a general consumer can’t find on your website! A Blog generally works quite well with E-Commerce sites as well, regarding the prices of products and all the other stuffs likewise!

    Thanks for sharing the useful info! It was a nice read Nathan! :)

  • http://marketingpearloftheweek.tv Dr. Alan Weinstein

    Great blogging article. I created a video that goes along very well with point #2 above Creating Value. I think it fits in well whether using a written blog or a video blog as I do in http://marketingpearloftheweek.tv/video/video-marketing-creating-value. Check it out!

  • http://virtuousgiant.com Nathan Hangen

    I’ve seen a lot of success with free chapters, but you’re right, some just want to get to know “you.”

    Have you tried starting an email newsletter, perhaps giving away portions of your writing inside, as a way to build your following while still being able to pitch the book/s in a non-threatening way?

    Seth Godin released his entire book via email, in a LOOOONG email. In between each chapter was an Amazon link. 37 Signals did something similar with their book, Getting Real.

    I suppose it depends on what you want. If you have time, and don’t mind just blogging away, then go for it, but if you’re looking to keep an eye on the clock, I’d encourage something like a fanpage or Twitter community.

  • http://virtuousgiant.com Nathan Hangen

    He’s also a really cool guy. Love his work!

  • caseyhibbard

    Hi Nathan,

    I like your breadcrumbs concept. As a service biz, I’ve been following a different approach in that I mainly provide desirable content (99%) and only very occasionally mention an offering. Then folks who come to my site can explore around if they want. Sounds like I need more salesy info. What would you say is the right balance of valuable content vs. product mentions?

  • jbaron41

    Hi Nathan,

    Thanks so much for this post. I am very reluctant to post my products on my blog. Now with your tips in this content I feel like I have picked up some great tips on how to go about it.

    Thanks

  • Albert

    Nathan, this scares me a little bit, I’d like to get into the social media element for marketing my service as a garden designer, but I don’t see how I can put in the hours required. What time commitment would you recommend for a ‘one man show’ small biz?

  • Cordelia

    I like the idea of bogging about the company policies in combination with real customer photos and videos. We have some of those on our site but not in the blog. Would love to hear some creative ideas about how to get customer photos with product…

  • http://twitter.com/tim_malone Tim Malone

    Thanks for a great post. One concept that I am finding in my 2 year long plus journey into social media and blogging is a lack of foundational information. What I mean is, people post about how to do this or that and then go on to outline how they did it. They use terms that they never define, explain steps 1 through 4 and then skip to step 8. While I understand that it may be difficult to explain every point of every process, but if you are out there blogging to help people with something, then at least define your terms, give direction on where to find the missing information.
    This article did do a great job of presenting some foundational information necessary to employ a successful social strategy. Sometimes I feel like people who work within the social networks and platforms try to make it a members only club by hoarding information. This article didn’t do that and I found it very useful. Thanks.

  • http://virtuousgiant.com Nathan Hangen

    Well first I’d ask how well your current strategy is working for you? Is anyone buying or are they just handling the goods? :)

  • Ahoward

    This is great information. I’m going to be starting a WordPress.org blog soon, which I’m really looking forward to. I believe the points you make above will by crucial to the success of my blog. My major concern at this time is that I want to sell my products directly from the blog, and I don’t see much in the WordPress examples and themes that have that capacity. I know I’ll figure it out eventually, but I could use any advice that’s out there.

  • Corey Washington

    Very good article. Definitely things we have considered for our blog. However, since our product is t-shirts that use the concept of flirting (http://www.flirtatious-t.com), we decided to create a blog to complement the product. A blog “All About Dating” (http://blog.flirtatious-t.com). Now that the blog is successful and grow into a blog about dating. It seems hard to now through in posts about the product. What’s your thoughts?

  • caseyhibbard

    Hi Nathan,

    I do sell stuff with my 99% desirable content approach but perhaps could sell more with more product mentions, perhaps woven into informative posts.

    Thanks!

  • http://www.mantywebdesigns.com Jill Manty

    Since we’ve primarily been in the info blog/advertising monetization model until recently, this was a great article for me. When we talk to clients about blogging and using their blog to increase sales, I definitely plan to use some of the information contained here.

  • http://www.SusanRedmon.com Susan redmon

    Thanks for the tips . . . especially #3 about social proof and creating tweet streams.

  • http://twitter.com/jonathan92591 Jonathan Thompson

    I’ll admit that I’ve been afraid to push my company’s products on our blog. I’ve really been trying to show how awesome they are in a vague and indirect way. I’m going to write a more product oriented blog tomorrow. I’m also going to look into Tweetstreams. I’ve yet to unlock Twitter power for my company.

  • http://www.gospelhall.org Christian Church Pastor

    Some “products” are not purchases as at. For example, a request to know more about the church is really the product I “sell”. We don’t make money. We make relationships. A blog is about getting credibility.







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