Does Blogging Make Money?

Special Report: Does blogging make money?  This is the question on everyone’s mind these days after the Julie/Julia movie and when others are saying they make full time incomes blogging.  I have been blogging about small business and multi-level marketing now for nearly three months now and I can say that I make some money but it doesn’t cover my expenses.

My main source of income is my job and I like my job.  I also like writing and I had been looking for something to do on the side.  I wanted to teach class or consult a little, but nothing is available right now so I decided to blog.  Blogging gives me an outlet for my thoughts and is something I like to do regardless of how much I make.  Now, I wouldn’t mind making enough to cover my expenses, at least that would be a first step towards justifying all the time I spend on it, but I am also not too worried if I end up making nothing.

I am generating over 300 page requests per day now and that is truly a milestone, especially when I advertise very little.  That means that I do have an audience to sell to or to recruit.  I do not actively recruit and my selling is limited to advertising for other websites, but there is potential there.  If you are trying to build a multi-level marketing organization, blogging is an opportunity to get some eyeballs on your organization.

As far as how much money I make and where I make it from, Google Adsense is currently my biggest earner, bringing in 77 cents yesterday.  I have also made a few cents from Chitika.  I haven’t made a dime on anything else… so don’t think you’re going to get rich overnight.  If you love to write and want to get better, blog.  If you want to get rich quickly maybe the lottery is a better choice.

It’s About Business

Back in the 1990’s when we were first starting our business, guys were starting “.com” businesses and investors were just throwing money at them.  Having an internet website meant money, sometime in the future, even if you didn’t know how you were going to get it.  Putting a great site on the internet meant a great future for the company, and investors were buying the Brooklyn Bridge over and over again.  Then, people came to the realization that these businesses they were investing in didn’t make any money, and they probably wouldn’t into the foreseeable future.

And that is the problem.  Doing business on the internet is still about doing business.  About selling a product.  About making a profit.  It’s business.  And being an entrepreneur is about starting and building a business.  It doesn’t matter whether that business is built on the internet, or if you’re building a business using a multi-level marketing plan.  It’s still business.

Starting a business is partially about motivation.  But it is not all about motivation.  Having a certain set of skills in your bag of tricks is important.  Knowing how to market and sell is exceptionally important early on.  Finding good information.  Executing your business plan.  These are all very important skills to learn.  They can all be learned “on the job”, so as you are starting your business you learn the skills you need at the time.  Sometimes, though, you don’t know what you need to know… so it is a good idea to study general business concepts.

You can do it.  You can start a business of your own and be successful.  Just remember that no matter what you do and how you do it, it is still a business.

Small Business Marketing Workshop – Part 6

At this point, you should have your marketing plan and be able to execute it.  Make sure to give yourself and budget and stick to it because your business success will be partially based on how long you can work at building your business before you make a profit.

One thing you may want to add to your plan are measurements to use to make sure your plan is on track.  As you execute your plan, you should be making sure that the results are what you expect and be prepared to make changes.  Nearly 100% of the time something will be slightly different than you expect.

Good luck and make sure to let me know how it goes.

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Small Business Marketing Workshop – Part 5

By now you have done your marketing research to help you confirm or revise your answers to questions about the customers for your product. These answers will help you devise a marketing plan to describe the following:

  • Who is the customer for your product?  How big is the market?
  • Where you can find them (online, magazine, newspaper, yellow pages, etc.)  For instance, you might find people who cook reading Cooking magazine.
  • How you can appeal to your customer in your mini-marketing message, i.e. advertisement
  • How to sell the product in your sales presentation.
  • How likely they are to buy.

You may not be able to address all of these points but you do your best.  Your marketing plan is usually a big part of your business plan that you can show to potential investors or banks, so the more specific you are, the more people will feel confident investing in your company.

Your assignment for part 6 is to devise a marketing plan.  You will take the information you have and try to address the above points.  If you have additional items to add to your marketing plan, please feel free to do this.

For more information:

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Small Business Marketing Workshop – Part 4

In Part 3 of the marketing workshop, I asked you to somehow come up with data about consumer behaviors as they relate to your product, and adjust your answers from part 2.  If somebody told me to do this 10 year ago, I would think they were out of their mind.  Basically, I’m telling you to do something that you may have no idea how to do.  Here are some ways you can come up with data for this assignment:

  1. Do a Google search
    See if there is any information you can find in articles or on websites about your product.  You are looking for factual data about consumer behaviors.  They may be hidden so you will have to look.  If something references a survey or study, then the survey or study is factual.
  2. Directly
    You could “…call people on the phone, talk to people face to face, send [emails], send a letter through the mail, assemble people in a group and talk to them…” (http://money.howstuffworks.com/market-research1.htm)
  3. Online Surveys
    There is all sorts of information on http://www.surveymonkey.com/ about doing surveys and they will allow you to set up your survey for free.  Then you find people willing to be surveyed and send them to this site.  You could also set up a survey on your web site or blog.
  4. You Could Buy Research
    I talked about a web site called http://www.marketresearch.com that sells primary research on various subjects.  It is very pricey so personally I would avoid going this route.  If you’re like me, you have 10 family members or friends you can interview instead of spending $3,000, but it is an option.
  5. You Could Measure It Or Observe It
    This article discusses high-tech tools for observing and measuring consumer behaviors: http://www.fastcompany.com/blog/rob-tannen/designing-humans/three-high-tech-tools-understanding-consumer-behavior.  Rather than asking people questions about their attitudes about a product, you actually observe people or measure people relating to the product.  You can do this via web site information or hang out at the Target and watch people buy similar products.  There are many other ways to measure or observe that are only limited by your imagination.

I am going to give you an extension on collecting data until I post part 5 to give you more of a chance to actually complete the assignment.  Then we will talk about applying the information you’ve gathered.

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Small Business Marketing Workshop – Part 3

In part 2 of our workshop, we guessed about what the answers would be to our questions that we came up with in workshop 1.  Understanding that the answers are purely guesses but they lay the foundation for our theories about what is going on in our market.  Next, we will try to prove or disprove our theories by doing some sort of research.  For research, we want factual information that could be either primary or secondary information.

Primary information is when we do our own surveys or gather our own factual data directly from whatever sources we have available to us.  We can do surveys, do a question and answer session with customers, gather web data about our customer behaviors, or somehow measure consumer behaviors in other ways.

Secondary information is when we find an article or paper on our market which references primary information.  We would be interested in the factual information revealed and not the interpretation of the information that is often contained in an article.

For secondary information, we definitely want to get information from a reliable source.  CNN, Yahoo News, or Fox News might be reputable sources of information but Bob’s web site probably would not be.  Note that CNN and Fox News might have opposite interpretations of information but we want to gather the factual information and not the interpretation.

I went out and did a search for picture frames and could not find any free consumer information, only a site that wanted to charge $3,000 for research; so in my case secondary information is out.  My choice, then is to gather my own information.  The way I usually like to do this is to go with my initial answers and measure various website activities to see if my guesses are accurate.  If not, then I make adjustments and try again.

I will say this, though: The better the information you can gather in various ways, the more likely you are going to be successful selling your product.  So do as I say, not what I do… Survey people to gather information about their behaviors or gather some other type of primary information.  Your assignment for part 4 is to come up with as much data about consumer behaviors as they relate to your product as you can, then adjust your answers from part 2.  You can use either primary or secondary information.

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Small Business Marketing Workshop – Part 2

In part 1 of our small business marketing workshop, we were coming up with good questions to ask to help us narrow down and define our market.  My example for a product was picture frames.

So we have a list of questions and we can do one of three things: Search the internet to see if we can come up with answers to our questions, create our own market research for the answers to our questions, or, my favorite, guess the answers to our questions.  I am going with the last option but only because I will research for the answers to see if they align with my answers in part 3.  If you cannot find answers to your questions and cannot afford to do market research, you can use trial and error by guessing at the answers then evaluating the results of your sales and marketing efforts.

Here are my questions from part 1 and my guesses as to the answers:

Would a man or woman be more likely to buy a picture frame?

Men 40%
Women 60%

Would a certain income level be more likely to buy a picture frame?

Under $30,000 family income    30%
$30,000 – $60,000 income    60%
Greater than $60,000   10%

Would somebody who owns a digital camera be more or less likely to buy a picture frame?

No digital camera   60%
Digital camera    40%

Your assignment before starting part 3 is to come up with your own answers to your questions.  Understand they will be purely guesses, and you may be wrong.  That’s ok.  We are just trying to paint our own picture of our customer.

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Small Business Marketing Workshop – Part 1

Marketing is about figuring out who would buy your product and why.  With that information, we can develop an advertising and sales strategy.  Advertising, in this case, encompasses all methods of spreading word about your product.

So we have a product, let’s say a picture frame.  We want to find a market for picture frames and sell them.  So who would buy a picture frame?

Would a man or woman be more likely to buy a picture frame?  Would a certain income level be more likely to buy a picture frame?  Would somebody who owns a digital camera be more or less likely to buy a picture frame?  Like the last question, often questions we ask will lead to more questions.

Many of the questions we have asked may have research written about them.  Doing a google search, we can probably find all kinds of demographic data that we can use.

Your assignment for part 1 is to take your product and see what kinds of questions you can create for it.  The questions should help you narrow down the market for your product by identifying the types of people that are more likely to buy your product.

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How To Achieve Customer Service Excellence

What does customer service excellence get you?  It gets you what we call customer retention and hopefully word-of-mouth advertising.  Customer retention means that the customer will buy from you again when they are ready to reorder, or when they want to buy other products that you sell.  A new customer costs money or time to get, but an existing customer is very inexpensive to manage.  The better your customer service is, the more likely you will have customers who would never think of buying anywhere else.

With top quality service hopefully comes word-of-mouth advertising.  Customers are so thrilled by the service you give them that they tell their friends, associates, co-workers, family members, and so forth.  It takes a lot to get to this point as customers are more likely to share their bad experiences than their good.  But with superior customer service, as in perfection, comes customers who will spread the good word about you.

Top quality customer service is also something you can sell to potential customers.  You want to let them know that doing business with you has no risk, that you will take care of them no matter what happens.  You prominently display your money-back guarantee, you talk about your quick shipping, and you can even have customer testimonials that will talk about the quality of your product and service.  Customers love this kind of information and will do business with people who can demonstrate quality customer service.

With our business, we chose Nordstrom as the company we wanted to emulate.  Nordstrom goes the extra mile for their customers, often having sales people personally deliver a purchase to the customer, accepting returns for things they don’t sell, and allowing flexibility for customer service people.  Doing business with Nordstrom is a dream.  They charge more than other stores but you will never be unhappy buying from them.  I have included a link to a book about Nordstrom’s customer service.

During the run of our business, we developed policies and procedures to help our customers.  We had our 6 month money-back guarantee where the company offered a 30 day guarantee.  This allowed our customers to try the product for longer before they gave up on it, and we had a higher level of success among our cusotmers.  That meant that we also had fewer returns.  The MLM company would have refunded our money for product returned by customers, but because of our policy our returns could not be refunded .  Well maybe we could have but it would have been a hassle.  Still, we wound up with a box full of empty bottles (less than 50) so I never really did get around to trying to get a refund.  Many of the other distributors we met with talked about much higher return rates.

Our policy was also that if a customer asked for a refund for something they purchased from us, we would refund it.  Period.  I could have been a year or two it didn’t matter.  If there was any question if they purchased the product from us, we would refund it at full price.

We also had a policy that if a customer ordered from us, we would deliver the product.  If it was a new customer and their credit card was declined we would go to the ends of the earth to try to contact the customer and if we couldn’t, we wouldn’t ship the product.  But that was the only exception.  An existing customer who ordered and their credit card was declined, we would go back to our old records for a good credit card, we would try to contact the customer for another credit card, but ultimately we would ship the product without payment and bill the customer.

When we were first doing business, we didn’t take credit cards.  This made doing business on the internet tricky.  What we did was we billed the customer and collected from them after the fact.  And it worked well, we would get paid.  There were a handful of customers who never paid, though, and we were watchful for additional orders from them.  After a few months, I would get on the telephone and call to see how they were doing.  Some paid us, others didn’t.  If I was able to get in touch with a customer and they had a good reason for not paying, I wrote off the bill.  This actually led to additional business where we did get paid.

There were many examples where we went above and beyond for the customer and sometimes we would do something, then have a meeting to discuss the issue and what should be done to make it better next time.  We didn’t want to get taken advantage of so we did try to prevent fraud, but we found that customers were generally honest so we always tried to do the right thing for them.

One thing I forgot to mention is that we did sell at about 15% – 20% higher than the cheapest distributors on the internet and we sold a ton.

Maybe I Should Make A Video

I have been seeing prospecting pages with videos of people talking about how great their program is and how I should just enter my name and address to be sent information valued at $198.99.  Hey, with about a week’s worth of time I could make a two minute video also… but I can also type just as fast as I think so I’d really rather give out the best information I can and hope that people read it.  I was also thinking that I am really old (45) and that people really aren’t interested in seeing my non-photogenic face.  If I had abs of steel, perhaps I could go on camera shirtless and get some attention… but if I went on camera shirtless now people would run for their lives.

I also really kind of wonder if I have anything unique to say.  I think I know stuff that might be helpful, but there are so many people out there saying stuff they think they know, how do I know that my stuff is better than theirs?  Well, one thing, I am really, really old (remember-45) and I have done stuff.  I have been professionally employed for 26 years.  I started out programming 6502 assembly language for Apple II computers in 1984, creating editors and compilers, and writing code that ran on programmable controllers in robotic plants.  Yes, in fact, there was computerized robots and machines back in 1984.  I moved on to writing ‘C’ language by 1986, then taught myself AS/400, RPG/400, APPC in 1988.  An AS/400 is a midrange computer created by IBM, previously called Silverlake.  It replaced the System 38 in 1989.  I wrote banking software at the time.

I moved on to business software in 1989, working first for Pansophic Systems, then SSA when Computer Associates purchased Pansophic Systems in October of that year.  I wrote software for personal computers and the AS/400 to communicate between computers.  In 1993, I went to work for a consulting company to modify business software.  I was a consultant off and on (mostly on) until 2003.  In 1997 I went to work for J.D. Edwards, purchased by Peoplesoft and then Oracle… but I have worked on Oracle’s JDE EnterpriseOne (One World) product since 1997. 

I started back to college in 2002.  I had received my AAS as a Systems Analyst in 1984, but I started my Bachelor’s Degree in 2002, finishing it up in 2005.  After a break I started taking classes towards my MBA, finishing it in 2009.

Among all of my career accomplishments, I have accomplishments in my personal business life.  In 1989 I began learning about mail order marketing, trying a few different things.  In 1990, I learned about multi-level marketing and applied what I knew about mail order to it.  With life being so busy by 1992, I gave up on the idea of having my own business until 1997, when we learned about the weight-loss dietary supplement and I began using web pages to promote the product.  Although we gave up our personal web activities by 2002, I continued programming in HTML and ASP for my employer.  I haven’t used perl since probably 2000 though, and I miss programming server-side code.

I took a long break from personal business, but I was really busy and I needed time to cope with the loss.  What I had done in my career helped my business, and what I did for my business helped my career.  In 26 years, I have learned so much about business, life, and technology, and I really hope I can pass it along.  This blog is my attempt to capture what I know and share it.

So I really don’t want to make a video.  I’m not selling snake oil.

Since I originally wrote this article, I have made a couple of videos and have posted them on my YouTube site.  What a hypacrite!?!?!?

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