Isn’t it infuriating how experts on entrepreneurship always say…
“Find one thing that works, and excel at it! There’s nothing worse than being mediocre at 15 different things!”
…but then fast-forward one week, and they post things like:
“99 Business Blogs Every Entrepreneur Must Follow!”
“365 Plugins No Blogger Should Be Caught Without!”
Let me see if I understand correctly:
I should pick one strategy and stick with it… but never put all my eggs in one basket? I need to implement things as quickly as possible, without sweating the small stuff… but also here are 10 different tools you recommend?
It’s all so clear now!
I embellish, but only slightly. Bottom line (as much as it pains me to admit this), the experts have a point—to an extent.
Excelling at one thing is great—as long as it’s not your only thing. Ask anyone who’s lost their entire business because of a Google algorithm change how that worked out.
Building an audience is no different. Guest posting is great—Mirasee owes its entire existence to a brilliantly executed guest posting strategy. And it still works, despite people declaring it dead what feels like every other day.
But it has its limits, and shouldn’t be your only audience building strategy.
We wrote about possible alternatives to guest posting back in 2013. And a lot has changed since then, so it’s time for a refresher.
Let’s look at three (yes, just three) audience building strategies that have little to do with guest posting, and everything to do with adding value, creating high-quality content, and meeting your future audience where they are.
The 4-Step Process at the Heart of All Audience-Building
Guest posting, and the strategies we’ll talk about below, relies on four simple steps to work:
- You find your people (or make it easy for them to find you).
- You help them by teaching them something valuable.
- You incentivize them to come to your website.
- You convert them with a promise of something even more valuable, like solving a problem.
When you look past fancy tactics like pitching, content upgrades, conversion rate optimization, and everything else, that’s all there is to it.
And so the question becomes, “How do I replicate this process without guest posting?”
I’m glad you asked!
1. Find new subscribers through online communities
One of the best things about the web is finding communities of people on practically any topic: from fly fishing—so beloved by Pat Flynn—to personal finance, to training cats (probably—Google it?).
Those people, the audience in need of your message, congregate on forums, social media, Q&A websites, specialized communities like Growth Hackers, Product Hunt, and others. They are easy to find, and most of the time they need and will appreciate your help.
Here’s how you can make that help pay off in new subscribers:
- You find or start questions and topics related to your niche within the community or the wider platform you’re using. For Quora, it would be questions, for Growth Hackers, it would be various threads, etc.
- You strive to be as helpful as possible and provide useful advice for other members of the community. The goal is to stand out in a crowd of spammers and self-absorbed people who do nothing but sell by genuinely adding value.
- You lead them back to your website with a link to a landing page. It can be as low-key as using it in your signature. It can also be a soft invitation for them to come to your website and learn more about the topic. Make sure you check the community guidelines beforehand, though, to make sure you don’t violate any rules about self-promotion.
But the all-important question is… is it worth it? On balance, this is an investment of time and effort comparable to guest posting.
So does it work?
The answer is yes—especially if you’re doing it for a market that isn’t too jaded, or on a website that makes your posts searchable and available to all users, like Quora. Then your helpful posts become an evergreen source of traffic, coming in at a steady trickle 24/7.
And you didn’t have to stroke anybody’s ego to publish them!
Tip: if you don’t feel like investing all this time and effort, here’s an easier version for you—put a link to your landing page in your email signature, along with a one-line description, and see what happens. Surprisingly few people do it; a wasted opportunity, if you ask me!
2. Repurposing and republishing old content
Even if your blog is new, you most likely have some winning, super-useful content. And the worst part? If it’s an older post, chances are that only your spouse and your cat have read it. Let’s change that.
Take that content elsewhere, in front of your target audience, so they could also benefit from what you teach—and hopefully sign up!
If you feel like copying and pasting go to Medium, LinkedIn Pulse, or Quora blogs. If you want to make it visual, turn that post into a presentation and host it on SlideShare. If you feel like doing even more work, record an audio-blog or vlog to upload on SoundCloud or YouTube.
Obviously, you have to do something else first… Besides re-purposing the content, you will have to devise a content upgrade that’s compelling enough to lead people back to your website. And you will want to spend a few minutes learning how to make your newly republished content easily searchable on the platform you’re using.
With millions of active users on different platforms, combined with highly relevant, valuable, and targeted content, anything is possible (like this unbelievable case study).
Tip: Unsure of what would make a useful and quick content upgrade? Turn the original post into a PDF and make it an opt-in incentive. Or create a checklist/cheat sheet to complement your content. Or pick one from this list by Sumo.
3. Teach free workshops for other people’s audiences
I know what you’re thinking, “You could have just said ‘webinars,’ Oleg—we all know what they are!”
I have two things to say about that.
First, call me “Mr. Hairy Ukrainian” (I would ask nothing less). Second, these are a bit different. Actually, they are completely different.
Think about free workshops as a guest post only live—and visual and interactive.
Here’s what happens:
- You ask someone you know with an audience if you can do a free training for their subscribers. No sales pitch, just pure value.
- You give them a swipe email or two to make the offer to their list, and set up a registration page on your website, so they subscribe to your list. In the long run, if they buy anything from you, your partner will get a commission.
- You show up and teach the best workshop you can on your topic (shouldn’t be too hard, with your level of expertise!). Then you point people to a landing page with special bonuses they can download. This is useful both to overdeliver on your promise and qualify them as high-quality subscribers.
Why does this work? The offer of a free value-packed workshop is hard to refuse both for your partner (even if you aren’t working together closely), and for their audience (everyone loves free workshops).
Tip: if you don’t have partners, or don’t know any influencers in your space, or related niches, here’s how to find them.
Your Homework for This Weekend
There you have it. Three solid strategies that will help you get more subscribers even as you wait for your guest posting efforts to pick up steam! Now here’s your homework for this weekend:
- Write down at least three opportunities for each of the strategies outlined in this post. Three communities you could post, three platforms to republish your content, and three potential partners who would let you teach their audiences something, sales-pitch-free.
- Take a long hard look at this list and prioritize those 9 items according to difficulty and time you’re prepared to invest. See if you can spot some easy wins (little time, big potential for awesomeness).
- Pick one of those options and set a goal for the next couple of weeks to implement it.
- Share that option in the comments and get some free advice from me!
Go forth and conquer, Weekend Warriors!