Chris Garrett on How to Turn Blog Readers Into Book Buyers

As part of this blog’s new focus, this is the first of a series of posts I’m going to publish during January based upon interviews I conducted at BlogWorld & New Media Expo in Los Angeles, CA, in early November 2011. While there I had the opportunity to speak with Chris Garrett, Darren Rowse, Liz Strauss, Mari Smith, C.C. Chapman, and a few other successful bloggers, social networkers, and content creators. I hope you will read the posts based upon these interviews, and then start the New Year by applying all the great information provided by these experts. They talked with me about how to produce a better blog, drive traffic to your site, get your readers engaged, sell books and products, and many important things that help  blogged books get discovered by a publisher or, at a minimum, build the readership you need to eventually turn out a successful self-published book. At the very least, if you apply the tips and lessons they offer, you’ll produce a better blog to help you promote your book.

Given that we are discussing blogged books, your ability to create a successful book—one that sells many copies—depends in part upon converting blog readers into buyers. If you also want to make a living—or at least some income—as a blogger and as an author, you need to accomplish this feat. A variety of factors contribute to how many readers you attract to your blogged book and later to the printed book or ebook you self-publish or a publisher produces for you. These same factors determine how easily you sell any ancillary services or products you might choose to offer to loyal readers, such as webinars and teleseminars, coaching or home-study courses, all of which help produce income for bloggers and authors.

So, how do you convert blogged book readers (or simply blog readers) into ebook or printed book buyers? More important, how do you get readers to your blog in the first place and then get them to stay around long enough to later buy your ebook, printed book, other products and services?

I had the opportunity while at BlogWorld to get answers to these questions from Chris Garrett, co-author of ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income, and an online business consultant, teacher, coach, new media industry commentator, writer, speaker, and all-round web geek. Chris has been involved in several startups and has written for some of the web’s best-loved blogs. He also has co-authored four other traditionally published print books and many ebooks. (See the end of this post for a full bio.) Below, find my questions, and Chris’ answers, in part one of this two-part blog post:

What are the most important things bloggers should do to build loyal readers that translate into book buyers as well as purchasers of ancillary products and services, such as webinars and teleseminars?

There are four main things a blogger has to concentrate on: attraction, retention, conversion, and, referrals, or sharing.

The big mistake bloggers make is they only concentrate on one—traffic, or gaining attention. Instead, bloggers should focus on attraction and then retention.

A lot of bloggers think they have to drive traffic, which is a mistake in itself, and forget about the people they have already attracted. Get people to subscribe (especially by your email because hardly anybody outside of technical geeks understand RSS), and nurture that audience so you get them to stick around.

And then you can take action, which is the conversion. Taking action could be a blog reader making a comment, signing up for your email list, signing up for your webinar, buying your book. But you can’t just get someone to give you their attention and then buy straight away or take an action straight away because they don’t know who you are; they aren’t sure they like you or trust you yet. That retention piece is really, really important.

If you do retention well, then the fourth part is getting referrals, getting people to talk about you, getting people to share, and that’s how all of this becomes less of an uphill struggle. You have that compounding affect because you are attracting what in the corporate word we would call advocates. They are basically your fans, people who are going to talk about you.

Is there one mistake you see often that those building a blog readership and wanting to sell something—like a book—should avoid?

A lot of bloggers try to sell something straight away without building up any good will, or they burn out their audience by constantly asking for things. You see this in social media as well. People say, “This social media doesn’t work. No one is clicking on my links,” but you see that all they are pushing out there are links. This is like going up to someone on the street and asking for ten dollars rather than asking a friend you’ve known for years for a loan.

You have to have that good will, and that comes from building relationships. That means you have to retain people’s attention, and that means you have to keep giving people good stuff and telling them what to expect in terms of their future.

So from the point of your audience, it comes down to “What’s in it for me, why should I care, what am I going to get out of this,” and you’ve got to nurture that.

For a writer or aspiring author blogging—someone who may not be a “blogger” per say—what are the things they need to do to attract, retain, convert, and then gain referrals so they might attract a publisher or buyers to a self-published book?

If you are a writer or an aspiring author, you’ve got lots of content to share. Start telling people about what you have to offer. Don’t tell people about your website. Telling people about what they are going to get, what they are going to achieve, by listening to you or the results they’ll get by taking your advice is always better than saying, “I have this awesome website or book I want to tell you about.” Instead say, “Here’s a tip that will help you achieve your goals or solve your problem.” Even if [your book] is entertainment, the focus is on what’s in it for them. That’s what you start with.

You might begin with a tiny audience of people who know you—your network. If you do a good job of articulating the benefit and the outcome of what they are going to get, word will spread. And you can encourage that by sharing more content relevant to their interests and to what they need.

If there are people in your network who can help you spread the message, that’s always better than you saying, “I’m awesome.”  If someone else says, “You need to check Chris out because he’s awesome, and this is where you go to check him out,” it always sounds better than blowing your own horn.

In Mari Smith’s session [at BlogWorld], she talked about Social Media Examiner going from zero subscribers to 150,000 in a really short time. Mike Stelzner went to Mari Smith, Denise Wakeman and myself and said, “[Social Media Examiner] is going to be great, and will you help me get it off the ground? Will you use your influence to get people to check it out?” We knew it was worth people checking out because he had put a lot of value into the site. It wasn’t like telling people, “Please follow me on Twitter.”  This was going to help them achieve what they wanted to do. So we helped.

Again, the main thing to remember is to focus on your audience and on what they want and need rather than on what you want.

Check in on Thursday for Part 2 of this interview with Chris Garrett. In the meantime, if you have had success turning blog readers into book buyers, please share your experiences by leaving a comment.

More About Chris Garrett

Although Chris Garrett has been “online” since the 1980?s, it was in 1994 Chris first became addicted to the World Wide Web. Since then he has helped thousands of individuals, non-profits, small businesses and blue chips such as Heinz, Toshiba, Hugo Boss, Lacoste, Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, and Durex, amongst others, make the most of the internet.

In 2005 Chris left the advertising agency world and founded a company to help smaller businesses and solo-entrepreneurs profit from their skills, knowledge and experience, achieve more with Online Media, and grow audiences of people who know, like and trust them. See how your business could benefit from working with Chris on the services page here.

As well as coaching and training companies and individuals, Chris also regularly speaks at conferences around the world about internet salesmanship, writing compelling content, and social media for business. He has spoken at events such as BlogWorld and New Media Expo, the Successful Outstanding Bloggers conference in Chicago, Think Visibility, Affiliate Expo, Wishlist Member Live, WordCamp, the Netherlands Social Media Congres and the Institute of Fundraising, along with the dozens of webinars, teleseminars and virtual events he holds or contributes to annually.

Chris was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada in 1974. He lived in the UK for most of his life but now lives back in Calgary with his wife, daughter, cat, and a three-year-old Cocker Spaniel.

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