The advertising world is obsessed with “eyeballs.” If you want to sell ads on your blog, for example, you’ll have to show potential advertisers how many unique users are coming to the site each week–how many eyeballs are looking at your stuff.
But readers are made of more than eyeballs. If you want to get beyond advertising to where the real money is, and find your village of profitable customers, you’ll need to get beyond simplistic eyeball thinking and start addressing whole human beings.
Here are some places to start.
If you want to use content to create or support a profitable business, the most reliable strategy is to provide some real benefit to your audience.
It’s not that entertainment and fashion don’t work–they do. (And you can argue that they provide a benefit we all want: relief from boredom and a break from our routines.)
But fashion and entertainment are inherently ephemeral. 99 out of 100 of today’s hot topics won’t be on anyone’s radar in 18 months. You want to be The Beatles or Bob Marley, not Big Country.
The problem with alleviating boredom as a business model is that the customers tend to be, well, easily bored. If you’re a highly creative soul who can keep things fresh and relevant, more power to you. But it’s a tricky game to play for the long haul.
The safest bet in business is to solve a significant problem that’s genuinely bugging your potential customers. Fitness, dating, business, self-help, and parenting are perennially profitable topics for just that reason. They provide plenty of interesting problems to solve.
Don’t, however, make the mistake of thinking that entertainment and fashion won’t play a role in your business. If you can take your accounting blog or parenting site and infuse them with personality and style, you’ll do much better than a competitor who sticks to just the facts.
The brain wants smart solutions to significant problems. It also wants fun, interesting, novel content to play with. Blend entertainment with practical benefits for combination no brain can resist.
The human heart was made to connect. When you’re creating your worldwide village of happy customers, they’ll want to know they’re part of something.
Make room for customers to connect with each other, to share their experiences and discoveries. Sure, they’ll gripe sometimes. That’s part of the game. The griping just brings them closer to each other and, believe it or not, closer to you.
Real relationships include conflict, and that includes commercial relationships. It’s how we resolve conflicts that strengthens or weakens those bonds.
Care about your people, and let them know you care. A site or a business that’s founded on respect and deep affection for your audience is truly recession- and competitor-proof. It’s also just more fun to run.
Customers don’t only want solutions to their problems. They want solutions they can talk about.
What commonly-held assumption about your industry could you (constructively) turn on its head?
What detail could you make so amazing that your customers couldn’t help but talk about it?
Relationships can provide talk value, but they’re not the whole story. Barney the Dinosaur is only remarkable if you’re four.
Yes, being remarkably caring and attentive to your customers might get you there. Zappo’s built a billion-dollar business out of just plain loving their customers more than anyone else does.
But also consider attention to details that no one else gets right, or about creating a crossroads at the intersection of two paths no one thought of bringing together.
Imagine your customers saying, “You’ve got to check out this site, it’s really cool. They . . . “
Now fill in the blank.
Taking care of your whole customer
Anyone who’s looking to make a living online has been known to chase that elusive unicorn, “multiple streams of income.”
Most people think of this as creating dozens of little money-printing machines that make you rich while you lie around on the beach trying to find out how much tequila your liver can absorb.
But you can also think of it as taking care of the whole customer, and not just a little bit of one.
If you’re serving readers with great content on your blog, what else could you offer them? Would they benefit from the option of one-to-one consulting with you? From an e-book? From a six-week teleseminar workshop?
If you have an email list of happy buyers for your information product, what else would make their lives better? Who else has products that would genuinely complement yours?
The very best affiliate marketers understand this. They’re not looking for ways to monetize their list. They’re looking for ways to serve their people.
Move beyond serving pages to eyeballs and on to serving people you care about. You’ll enjoy it more, and the odds are good you’ll make lots more money while you’re at it.