One of the things I learnt pretty early on when I started to monetise this blog, was that having multiple income streams was a good idea. While I continue to earn the bulk of my income from banner advertising and sponsored content, only relying on this every month wouldn’t be that smart. I mean, what if all my advertisers suddenly decided to go elsewhere?
Around mid-2012 I started to brainstorm other ways I could make an income from this site. One of those was selling products. I dabbled with a number of things but the most significant for me have been The Blogcademy, my print magazine and my headpiece collection with Crown and Glory.
If you want to start selling products through your own blog, then here are a few keys things you need to consider.
Bring your readers on the journey with you
The reason the people that read your blog will buy from you over anyone else is because they are invested in YOU. There are a million wedding magazines out there and a squillion brightly coloured headpieces on Etsy, but the reason mine sell is because my readers love the Rock n Roll Bride brand.
In order to capitalise on this fandom (for lack of a better word!), you should bring your readers on the journey with you. Share sneak peeks of the design process and tease the launch on social media. Run exclusive discounts or contests on your blog. Let your readers know, before anyone else, what you’re working on and when they can buy it.
Last week I was shooting the look book for my new collection with Crown and Glory (which is launching on September 15th by the way!) and I made sure I shared a few behind the scenes shots on Instagram. I also snapped some other photos to tease out slowly before the launch (ahem, like in this blog post!) This way, my readers are hopefully already excited about the new collection before it’s even released.
It’s important that you don’t give too much away with your previews though. You don’t want your readers to feel like they’ve already seen everything before you launch! You’ll notice, for example, that I haven’t shared any close up shots of the actual pieces yet. You need to keep some mystery!
Collaborate with others
There is no way I could sell any of my products without a team behind me. With The Blogcademy I have Gala (co-founder), Shauna (co-founder and designer) and Gareth (developer); with the magazine I have Shauna (designer) and Gareth (packing and shipping); and with the headpieces Sophie and (another!) Gareth of Crown and Glory (designer, making, packing and shipping). It would be impossible for me to do all these things on my own.
If you’re thinking of selling something yourself, collaborating with someone else might be a smart move. Not only can you pool your skills, but also your marketing power. Naomi and Josh of Love Taza just joined forces with Joy of Oh Joy! to launch their app, Pippit, for example.
Have a launch plan
It’s all very well and good spending months working on your product but if you don’t have a launch plan, no-one will ever know about it! Unless you have an enormous Kardashian-sized audience, if you don’t work hard to promote it, no-one else will do it for you. Word of mouth may start to spread down the line, but you need to kick the process off.
Obviously you should share your new products on your own platforms, but that’s rarely enough these days. What else will you do to get the word out?
You could reach out to other bloggers and magazines, do some paid advertising, or run some competitions. Marketing is a slow and steady process, so don’t ever launch a product without some kind of idea on how you’re going market it.
A Beautiful Mess just did this really well with their latest iPhone app, Party Party. First they announced it on their blog. Then, they sent out a care package with some fun props to some of their blogger friends with access to the app so they could try it and share the results on their own platforms. They now continue to write content on their own blog that shares the behind the scenes process of app building, as well as images and gifs made with the app. They’ve also managed to secure some major press features.
If you want to learn more about marketing a blog or product, have a gander at The Blogcademy Home School’s PR and Marketing module!
Pricing is key
Pricing can be really tricky, and this is probably a whole other blog post in itself, but finding your pricing sweet spot is imperative. If it’s too expensive no-one will buy it, but if it’s too cheap people might assume it’s not worth the money and not buy it either. You also obviously also need to cover your costs and make a profit!
Do some research on your key demographic. How much are they likely to spend on whatever is is you’re offering? What are your competitors charging? How much is the product actually costing you to make and ship? How many do you need to sell to break even?
For more advice on this subject, have a gander at our brand new The Blogcademy Home School module How to Set Your Rates!
Promote your products within your editorial
One of the bigger mistakes a lot of bloggers make when they sell their own products is that they simply write a post staying “Here’s my new product, please buy it!” and leave it at that. This should just be stage one! The key to successfully selling a product through your blog is to seamlessly incorporate mentions of it into your already popular editorial… and do it often.
Think of some fun, creative ways that you can mention your product without shoving it down people’s throats. Let’s say, for example, that you’re going to sell clothes. Why not write a post that shows different ways to style your items? If a reader is not interested in buying your clothes, that’s still going to be valuable content for them (they could get some ideas on how to style clothing they already own). But if they are in the market for some new threads, that post will subtly remind them that you sell clothes through your site too.
Regularly revisit it
As I said before, marketing is a slow burning process. You can’t just mention something once and think it will keep on selling forever. So how do you keep reminding your readers that you have products for sale without annoying the hell out of them?
It all comes down to regular, subtle, editorial mentions. Change up the ways that you mention your products. Don’t always do the same old thing. It will get boring for your readers and start to become very obvious.
Make sure you keep the balance between writing the same amazing content that you’ve become known for, and mentioning your products. We’ve all fallen out of love with blogs that started out one way, and over time seems to morph into nothing more than an extended sales platform. The main focus of your blog should still be that thing your readers initially came to you for, the product mentions should be a small addition. They should not take over entirely.
Listen to what your readers want
It is important to listen to your readers’ feedback, after all, they’re the ones buying! While you should take what they say with a pinch of salt (it’s your vision and ultimately you should know what’s right for your business) they might come up with some amazing ideas that you never thought of.
A good example of this is The Blogcademy Home School. It came about because we had so many people telling us they wanted to learn about blogging but couldn’t make it to an in-person workshop. We didn’t start the business with the idea of also offering online courses, and we would have never got there without listening to this feedback.
Not everything will work
You also need to realise that not all your ideas will be smash hits. Launching and learning is key here. Something you think is utterly brilliant just might not resonate with people. The pricing could be wrong, the margins too tight or the competition too fierce. This is all part of the process and dropping something that isn’t working isn’t a failure, it’s smart.
I’ve done plenty of things that didn’t really work in the past. I sold Christmas cards, notebooks and even wall planners. None of them every really took off. While they were technically failures on their own, in the grand scheme of things, trying them really helped steer me in the right direction. I learnt a lot from those collaborations, lessons that I continue to benefit from to this day.
Know when to try something else
This can sometimes be hard to swallow, but you need to recognise when it’s time to drop something. Maybe it started off as a best seller but now it’s fizzling out and barely making any money. Or maybe it’s now so old you no longer feel its a good representation of who you are and what you do.
Someone recently told me that the things you do with your business either have to be amazingly fun or have to actually make money (ideally both actually!) otherwise what’s the point? I think this is really astute advice!
As much as many of my readers continue to tell me how much they love my print magazine, and ask me when the next one is coming out, I’ve actually decided not to do another one. I know many of you will probably be quite sad to hear me say that, but the truth of the matter is I think it’s run it’s course. It’s a huge, massively time consuming product to produce and the margins on it are so damn tight (print is SOOOO expensive to produce at high quality). Although we do make some money from it, it’s really not significant enough for me to devote my time to any more.
Dropping the print magazine after this current issue sells out is a bit of a bummer because it’s been such a huge part of what I do for the past few years, but making this decision is a giant weight off my shoulders. It’s a really positive move, because it will free my time for working on some new offerings.
PHEW! That post was a lot beefier than I expected it to be. I guess I had a lot to say on the subject! If you’re a blogger and you’re thinking of selling your own products I hope you’ve found my musings helpful. If you don’t sell anything yourself right now, do you think you might give it a go one day?