If you use content to promote your services or digital products, it should be no secret that your goal is to sell on a blog. You want a return on investment for the time and effort you spend on building your platform.
On the other hand, you’re probably also aware that if you spend all of your time relentlessly selling, you’ll alienate a good portion of your prospective audience.
The tricky problem for content marketers is that various readers are at different awareness levels, depending on how long they’ve been reading and how much exposure you’ve provided to your offer.
And the way you approach your offer will change, depending on which stage your prospect happens to be in.
Pause before you directly sell on a blog
Eugene Schwartz tackled this issue in his classic book Breakthrough Advertising back in 1966.
Schwartz broke down prospect awareness into five distinct phases:
- The Most Aware: Your prospect knows your product, and only needs to know “the deal.”
- Product-Aware: Your prospect knows what you sell, but isn’t sure it’s right for him.
- Solution-Aware: Your prospect knows the result he wants, but not that your product provides it.
- Problem-Aware: Your prospect senses he has a problem, but doesn’t know there’s a solution.
- Completely Unaware: No knowledge of anything except, perhaps, his own identity or opinion.
As usual, we often find that the “new” challenges we face in digital marketing, such as how to sell on a blog, have already been thought through decades before.
Bright people like Schwartz and David Ogilvy needed to approach their work in similar ways.
Digital Commerce Partners is the agency division of Copyblogger, and we specialize in delivering targeted organic traffic for growing digital businesses.
The five stages of reader awareness
Let’s take a look at how the five stages of awareness can help you craft content that works for your marketing goals.
This means, when blogging, we don’t dive into directly selling to every audience member who engages with our content.
Instead, we use a variety of strategies — both direct and indirect — to make a case for the offer when the time is right.
1. The Most Aware
The Most Aware are long-time readers who aren’t customers or clients yet.
These are the ones you can speak most directly with, but you’ll need to make sure that those direct messages are not hurting your chances with those at different awareness levels.
Take these readers “off road” for periodic offer-specific messages designed especially for them, such as a high-value sales funnel.
You can also do occasional offer announcement posts in between regular content, or tack on a P.S. to a relevant article.
2. The Product-Aware
These people are still not sure if what you offer is right for them, even though you’ve educated them about it with some creative storyselling.
They don’t want to be pummeled with offer information, because they’re hung up at an earlier stage of the conversion process.
If your content hasn’t made your case for you, you probably need to take an approach that more fully addresses prospect questions and objections. (The basic email autoresponder is an excellent tool for this.)
The key to learning how to sell on a blog is to deliver real content with independent value that also demonstrates a benefit of your offer … with a link, of course, to a well-crafted landing page at the end.
3. The Solution-Aware
This person has a need, perhaps subscribes to your blog, but doesn’t yet know you offer a solution to their problem.
In this case, content marketing will help tremendously. This is the perfect person to offer a white paper, free report, multi-post tutorial delivered by email, webinar, or other high-value content.
Be sure you’re engaging this reader’s attention, normally via an opt-in email list, so you can let them know about everything you have to offer.
This both holds their interest and builds rapport.
4. The Problem-Aware
This person knows they have a problem … but they don’t know you.
They haven’t yet been convinced to subscribe to your blog and begin a relationship with you. They might have arrived via a search engine or through a social media channel.
The key point is they don’t yet know or trust you.
Strong content with independent value is critical to everyone in your audience, but it’s these people who most need to see the value up front to get on board as a subscriber.
We’ve covered this topic quite a bit over the years, so if you’re a new reader who wants to learn about creating the right content strategy to sell on a blog, we have an ebook just for you …
5. The Completely Unaware
This is your typical cold social media traffic, the kind that might come in from Twitter or LinkedIn.
They aren’t necessarily looking for anything about you or your offer … they’re just responding to a piece of content you put out.
This is why I don’t favor click-baiting with off-topic content.
Sure, you might get some links and shares, and that’s good. But it’s a whole lot better to get your perfect audience, not just whoever shows up.
When you’re learning how to sell on a blog, create content that is specifically designed to attract attention. But you need to keep it related to your ultimate goals.
Traffic just for the sake of traffic is a waste of time when you’re selling something other than ads — and we all know the advertising game is a tough one to win online.
Value first when selling on a blog
No matter which stage you find your prospect in, the content that attracts audiences in the first place has to offer value — learning how to sell on a blog can be as simple as that.
Pitching relentlessly from your content platform is a business-killing error for most (if not all) of us.
Again, you’re creating content to promote your business, and there’s no reason to be shy about that fact.
But if your posts don’t offer independent value (telling more than selling), you’ll lose your audience’s trust … and that means that soon, you won’t have much of an audience at all.
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