As you learned in the first two installments of this series ( and here), having a good webhost and quality content is essential in laying a solid foundation for your digital business. As I alluded to in those posts, there is a critical third pillar.
That pillar is email marketing.
Too many online businesses start without a hint that email marketing is even a consideration, much less a vital pillar. I know I did it. I ran a heavily-visited fitness site for years before I started collecting email addresses.
But it's not just about collecting email addresses. It's about engaging with your email subscribers and–yes–selling to them.
I think a lot of us worry that we'll seem “too pushy” if we try to sell to our email subscribers. Just remember this: Most people not only don't mind being sold to, but they actually like it (and want it).
Here's how I think of it. I encourage you to do the same:
You have a business. You have to sell something (otherwise, you don't have a business–you have a hobby). If you had a retail store, how would you handle this situation?
A person walks in. He has a list in his hand. He looks around.
Would you approach him? Maybe say, “Hi.” Start up a conversation…”Hi, how are you. Something I can help you with?”
Now, you may not go into full sales mode right away. You'd qualify your customer. Find out what he's looking for. If you have it, show him. Perhaps you delve a little deeper. What is he trying to accomplish by buying X?
Maybe there's a better alternative. Suggest it.
Selling at a physical locale is not very hard. It's really you matching what you have to offer with what your would-be customer needs or wants. Dig a little. Make a few suggestions. Point him in the right direction.
Online, especially with email, it's harder. Why?
Because it's a one-way conversation. And you may not even get a “Hi,” back from your email subscriber.
Maybe he didn't open your email. Maybe he didn't even get it.
Maybe he sees your email but you have never offered him anything of value (content, advice, suggestions, products) so he just doesn't open it. Maybe he's too busy. Maybe he subscribed three years ago and no longer cares about you or your emails.
The truth can hurt. But don't let it get you down. Get stronger. Focus more intently on helping.
Truth: Selling via email is analogous to selling in a physical setting. It's harder, but all the factors are the same.
There are several considerations to make when planning your email marketing program. They are, in no particular order:
Now, I couldn't put together a full email marketing tutorial in a blog post. (I guess I could.) I encourage you to read my List Building Blueprint for more information. It's free on Amazon (Kindle).
Know what your audience wants. And then:
Give it to them in the form of quality content.
I could end it here. But you probably want more than that, right?
So let's start at the beginning, briefly, where we find out what your audience wants, and then continue through how to deliver what they want to them.
(That's content, by the way.)
If you're building any type of business (online or not), in some essence you are providing people answers to questions they have, solutions to problems they have, or giving them pleasure where pleasure may not exist (get your head outta the gutter, okay — think a vacation when you're really stressed out).
You get the point.
Your job is to help. And in payment for your help, you want to be compensated. Compensation isn't always in terms of money. But money is often used because it pays the bills and is easier to account for than “good will.”
Put another way, good will doesn't pay your mortgage.
So the first part of your job is to find an audience that you can help. Maybe your area of expertise is health. You put together programs that help people feel better, lose weight, get stronger, and perform better in a sport or in the job that they have.
How do you do that? Luckily, we talked about that here, here, and here. I also talk at length about that in my book about blogging, The Ultimate Guide to Blogging Laying the Foundation Part 1.
You have a collective of knowledge and experience that nobody else has. It's yours and yours alone. You need to marry that with the right audience.
And ALL of your content creation will be the result of matching what your audience needs and/or wants with what you know. What you know comes from that collective of knowledge and experience PLUS research (i.e., new knowledge).
In short, you don't need to know everything about a given subject. What you do need to know is how to find the information you need to package it into a product that your audience wants to consume.
It's as simple as that.
A lot of your content will be published on your own site (I consider that a product). Some may be published elsewhere, say on Medium, LinkedIn, or Reddit. Other content may be in the form of books, videos, or courses you create and present to your intended audience.
In addition to creating your own content for the consumption of your audience, you can (and should) curate content from other quality sources. There is nothing wrong with publishing a blog post that quotes and links out to a quality source.
In fact, you may derive untold benefits from doing so. An influential blogger in your space may notice that you've linked out to one of his blog posts. He may reach out to you and ask if you could do a guest post for him. He may reciprocate and share a link to a blog post you made – and his audience may visit your site.
You could, in fact, become a great go-to source for everything about a topic or subject matter if you spend time creating your own quality content and curating others' quality content.
But enough about that. You know you need to create and curate quality content.
How will somebody know that you're producing all of this awesome sauce? They won't, until you promote it (or somebody else does).
A major part of ensuring that your audience actually knows about your content lays in the promotion of it. In short, you need to spend a considerable amount of time and effort promoting your content.
My advice: Spend at least as much energy promoting your content as you do writing it. And spend a good amount of energy (i.e., hours) creating your content.
It's a lot of work. Nothing worth doing comes easy.
However, if you produce high-quality content, and people know about it, you'll be much farther along than most people trying to accomplish the same things as you.
Now, you know I'm calling content only one of the three pillars. Here's why:
Let's say you have awesome content. But your webhost sucks. So nobody can ever consume it.
Maybe your site loads very slowly. Or your host has poor uptime. Or maybe, just maybe, your host shut down your shared account because their server security and maintenance is so bad that they shut YOUR account down because there was malware on your server (this happens, and it's YOUR server, Mr. Webhost, not mine, and if you'd a) harden things this wouldn't happen and b) it wasn't me, you jerk).
Or, let's say your webhost is incredible, your content is what everybody wants, but you leave out the third pillar (to be revealed in the next post)? You're outta luck.
Because leaving out the third pillar is something nearly every online business owner does at first, and it costs you dearly.
So, content is vitally important. But it works in conjunction not just with the other pillars but with a lot of other factors. The more of these you get right, the more profitable and satisfying your online business is going to be.
There are a few pillars you need in order to build a sustainable, long-term online business.
A good webhost is one of them.
I want to say,
But for most of us, especially when we're starting out, that's really not true.
It IS true that a bad webhost can break you. But a good webhost won't make you–your information will do that.
Then you'll wish you had gone with the better webhost 🙂
But you don't really need an all “bells and whistles” webhost until your traffic warrants it. And if you pick a good one out to start, you may be able to just buy more horsepower if and when you need it.
That's kinda cool.
There are 2 webhosts that I stand by. And I have accounts at both. One lets you start out slow, build up over time, and pay more as you need more power and features.
The other is a thoroughbred out of the gate. Oh, you can pay more as your needs grow, but you start out at step 10.
Either way, check them out:
As I said, I like them both. If I were just starting out, I'd go with the first option and scale up as my traffic rose.
UPDATE: A2 Hosting just introduced their new “Build your own VPS” plans starting at $5 per month – pretty cool! Just add the services you need to customize.
(By the way, I love Namecheap for domain registrations but not for hosting.)