Blogs are a powerful tool for connecting with potential customers—haven’t we all bought something online just because we followed and loved its creator? But any entrepreneur can tell you that it’s no easy feat to turn a first-time blog visitor into a repeat reader. And then to turn a repeat reader into a loyal customer? It’s enough to make a girl want to get back into bed.
Part of my job as a Literary Agent is to scout for talent, and every month I look at hundreds of blogs, businesses, and brands, and try to determine which ones have a high “stickiness” factor. Without stickiness (which is a powerful cocktail of engagement, loyalty, and goodwill), it’s difficult to support a major product launch, such as a book launch.
Luckily, there are a few secrets to make your blog an online home for your brand that turns casual visitors into engaged readers. And they’re not the secrets you’re expecting—they have nothing to do with marketing, or social media, or advertising. Those will bring visitors to your site, but they won’t guarantee that they stick around.
As publishers, retailers, and other gatekeepers have figured out, strong traffic and impressive social media numbers don’t always translate into sales. Sales only happen when a dedicated reader loves you and your work so much that they’re willing to put their hard-earned money behind it. We all work hard for our money, so that’s a big deal!
Here’s how to do it—3 secrets to help you turn casual visitors into dedicated customers:
DESIGN A SITE THAT ENCOURAGES LINGERING
The Internet is full of beautiful, bright websites that offer stunning infographics, gorgeous product photos, and distinct, memorable logos. But the other half of the Internet is littered with generic website templates, poorly lit photos, and amateurish logos. Think of it this way: would you rather spend a couple of hours in an Apple store or a 7/11? Don’t overlook the value of creating a space where visitors want to linger and explore.
Action Step: Go to Pinterest, create a board, and start pinning logos and designs you find beautiful. Then carefully analyze each image and determine what makes it lovely and how you can recreate it for your blog. If you don’t want to build it yourself, you can also search sites like Wix.com for templates (but beware the generic templates we’ve all seen before!). Or, if you have the budget, you can share your Pinterest board with a professional designer who can turn your vision into the website of your dreams.
WRITE IN AN AUTHENTIC, MEMORABLE VOICE
Blogs are not textbooks (thankfully!) so make sure that, even when your post is meant to inform, it’s written in an exciting, engaging voice. This doesn’t mean ending every sentence with five exclamation points (don’t do that, please…). But it does mean writing in an authentic, natural voice.
Action Step: Dig up the last email you wrote to your best friend. Take note of your authentic voice—are you usually upbeat? Sarcastic? Totally nerdy? Go with that. It’ll be infinitely more interesting to both you and readers if your posts are chock-full of personality!
BE A REAL PERSON, NOT A BRAND
Entrepreneurs often completely forget that the most compelling part of their business and brand is them—the real, live person behind it. Readers and customers want to connect with you, the three-dimensional person, not you, the woman who’s trying to sell them something. So be open, be real, share your struggles and your victories, and create a community that encourages two-way conversation. Ree Drummond of The Pioneer Woman was able to successfully crossover into other ventures because her readers felt like they knew her as a friend. And friendship is way more powerful than marketing.
Action Step: Create a pre-publish checklist for yourself. Alongside checking for typos and adding in links and images, add a check for “You.” Before you hit publish, ask yourself if the post still has some of you in it. Is this a post anyone on Yahoo could have written, or is rooted in your real life and your unique perspective?
So get out there, be yourself, and start building a community of people who love your work!
MARIA RIBAS // The Howard Morhaim Literary Agency
Maria Ribas is a Literary Agent at The Howard Morhaim Literary Agency based in Brooklyn, NY. She specializes in helping entrepreneurs, bloggers, and other creatives expand their brands by landing book deals with publishers. You can read more of her thoughts on business, creativity, publishing, (and food!) at www.cooksplusbooks.com, or you can follow her on Twitter @maria_ribas.