Guest article by Barrie Davenport
Note from Corbett: today we have another interesting established blogger case study to share. Barrie Davenport has become a very successful blogger over the past few years by many standards, but she has felt the need to take the business side of her blogging more seriously. Earlier this year I helped Barrie develop a strategy for taking her online business to the next level, and today she’s going to share with you why (and how) she’s launching BarrieDavenport.com based on her personal brand and expertise to help people find and live their life’s passion.
I have a blog I started a few years ago when I didn’t know what the hell I was doing.
In spite of that, it has become a fairly successful blog, and I’ve generated a modestly successful income with it.
I started the blog as a marketing tool for my personal coaching business. Then I discovered how much I love blogging and began to focus much of my energy on that. I did a good job of creating a blog that matters, as Corbett so wisely teaches. My passion is helping other people live to their potential, so creating a blog that matters was easy for me.
The problem for me was this: as I was building a blog that mattered, I wasn’t focused on building a business that performed.
Or at least one that performed the way I’d like it to. My goal isn’t to make a decent income. It’s to make a great income, a six-figure income, while doing work that is meaningful, fulfilling, and one that serves others in a wildly useful way. Is that too ambitious? I don’t think so. There’s plenty of evidence out there that it is quite possible.
Early in 2012, I had a “come-to-Jesus” meeting with myself. I had to decide if I wanted to be a blogger who made a little money or an entrepreneur who was building a business. I decided it was time to build a business. But before I tell you how I’ve done that, let me share a few of the roadblocks I unknowingly created for myself before I got to this point. Maybe they will help you avoid them for yourself.
Roadblock #1: Niche Too Big
When I created my blog, Live Bold and Bloom, I wanted to help people move past fears and self-imposed limitations to create better lives. This covers just about everything in life. Along with hundreds of other personal development bloggers, I was offering a pupu platter of self-help information. I frequently wrote about life passion, and even created a course around it, but it wasn’t the obvious focus of my blog.
Roadblock #2: Mixed Messages
All newbie bloggers can attest to the fact that they’ve “tried it all” to make money, and I was no exception. I’ve thrown just about every possible income-generating hoo ha against the wall to see what would stick. But that simply throws the reader into a state of purchase paralysis. My brand was confusing because I gave my reader so many options (different types of courses, affiliate programs, books, etc.). Too many readers just enjoyed my free articles, free products, and free information and left it at that.
Roadblock #3: Hiding Behind My Blog
I had been a PR professional for over 20 years, working behind-the-scenes to promote other people and businesses. It felt hugely awkward and uncomfortable tooting my own horn and putting myself out there as an expert. But readers aren’t going to trust you before they see a lot of your face, hear your voice, know who you are, and can relate to you personally. I had to embrace putting myself in the forefront as a key strategy to business success.
Roadblock #4: Lack of Focus
As I got to know other bloggers, so many wonderful opportunities came my way. And I jumped on all of them like white on rice. I became a jack of all trades and the master of none. In the first couple of years after starting my blog, in addition to working on the blog, I launched and managed The Daily Brainstorm (an aggregate blog); created a couple of niche sites; co-launched A-List Blog Marketing; co-created The Habit Course; co-created the Simple Self-Confidence Course; and co-created The Empowerment Pack promotion. I had so many plates spinning, I could have been in the circus.
All of these projects were fun and very useful in helping me get to know a lot of people (which is important). But they divided my time and energy to the extent that my blog suffered.
Roadblock #5: Ignorance
One of the main reasons I floundered and lost focus was that I simply didn’t know what to do in order to create a successful business model. Because I was so busy, reading and researching experts on creating a successful online business felt like an indulgence. Plus, there were so many people giving so much advice, I felt overwhelmed. I was paralyzed and couldn’t act because I didn’t know what to do first to change the course of my business.
One day my friend Scott Dinsmore (of Live Your Legend) emailed to ask if he could interview me as part of new course on life passion he was creating. Scott and I talked regularly to share ideas, and at the time he hadn’t launched Live Your Legend. He was working like the rest of us to get traction for his moderately successful original blog.
The next time I lifted my head up from my platter of projects, Scott had launched Live Your Legend, launched his passion course, generated thousands of new subscribers, and become the overnight wunderkind of the blogosphere.
My first thought was, “Damn. How did he do that, and where have I been?” His success didn’t provoke jealousy (who can be jealous of one of the nicest people on the planet??). It lit a fire under me. It was time to make some decisions and take action.
I needed direction, and I needed it from an expert whose integrity I respected.
The first thing I did was email Corbett.
I had followed Think Traffic for a while and knew Corbett from other blogging circles. And I knew he’d helped launch Scott to success. His advice is golden, but his willingness to help and serve others is truly what sets him apart. I worked with Corbett to get an overview of what he thought I should be doing to take the next steps with my blog and my business. Here’s what he advised me:
- “For God’s sake woman, stop doing so many things and focus!” (He didn’t say it like that. He was very nice. But I’m sure that’s what he was thinking.) So I cut out just about everything except working on my new business.
- Decide what aspect of your work you are most passionate about, and make that the focus of your business. In other words, tighten your niche to what matters most. Just be sure there’s an audience for it.
- Write down your core beliefs around the niche and use these to guide your business decisions.
- Re-design your current blog or create a new site to put yourself front and center — in other words, create an expert site.
- Determine your mid and long-term business goals so you know where you’re going and what to do to get there.
- Find a good blog designer who understands how to create an expert site.
Corbett’s advice gave me some clear direction and a starting point for building my business. But I knew I needed someone to help me stay on track, so I hired an online business marketing coach, Jason Gracia. Jason and I worked together weekly for several months to keep things moving. Here’s what he helped me do:
- Refine my brand, my target audience, and my key selling proposition. I chose helping people uncover and live their life passions, as this is a subject around which I have a lot of experience, as a coach, a publicist, and someone who has gone through the process herself.
- Required me to read everything I could get my hands on related to my niche of life passion to further my expertise.
- Study my competition and find my point of difference. (My point of difference is that one doesn’t necessarily have to live passion through work or by starting an online lifestyle business. There are other ways to live it and create a fulfilling, happy life.)
- Define and develop a specific, customized “solution” that I would be offering readers — “Barrie’s formula” for finding and living a life passion. This formula would be offered in my coaching, courses, books, and other products.
- Define and highlight all of the experience, expertise, and credibility I brought to the table to use in my messaging, products, etc.
- Create a free guide as a lead magnet (this required many revisions and edits to ensure it was extremely useful and valuable to the reader and to make sure it had the right call to action at the end of the guide).
- Learn the basics of expert site design and navigation, what to highlight, where to direct the readers’ attention, and the copy to use for the various elements of the site. I studied a variety of other successful expert sites (including Think Traffic) to see what they were doing and learn why they were doing it well.
- Create coaching packages to have immediately available for purchase when the site launched. Launch your expert site with something that you offer for money (in addition to loads of quality free posts and products) to teach your readers that this site is a business.
- Forced me to get over my anxiety about featuring my name and face and suggested I use my name for the title of the blog, BarrieDavenport.com.
At this point, it was time to hire a designer. I hired Stephanie Wetzel, a designer I’ve used many times, whose work ethic and talent I respect. I gave her an overview of what I was creating, the brand, the target audience, and the solution I would be providing.
She asked me to provide her with:
- links to other sites I liked and the specific design elements that stood out to me;
- colors and type fonts that resonated with me;
- any specifics that I knew I wanted on the site (navigation titles, images, etc.)
- professional photos featuring me in a way that best reflects my personality (I tried to avoid hiring a professional photographer, but in the long run, it was one of the best decisions I made);
- testimonials from clients and readers;
- social proof — the logos of publications and other blogs in which I have appeared or guest posted.
While Stephanie was working on the site design and layout, I was busy writing copy for each of the various pages of the site, creating a video to put on my “about” page, and writing blog posts to have ready on the site when it launches.
The copy for each of these pages should be written with care – every word crafted to reinforce your brand, build trust and credibility, and to invite the reader to subscribe. I learned from studying Corbett’s new site design how important it is to have a subscriber opt-in form and lead magnet on nearly every page.
Also, I’ve been writing a book, The 52-Week Life Passion Project, that will be available in November 2012. So I continued to write furiously so it would be available shortly after the site launch. Of course, having a published book (even self-published) adds to your credibility as an expert.
And I worked on my launch plan long before the launch. More on that below.
After a series of site design iterations, several copy re-writes, much proofing and re-proofing, lots of testing, and all fingers and toes crossed, the site was ready.
The Launch Plan
Two months before site was finished, I started planning how to launch it. If I’ve learned one thing from Corbett, it’s that you can’t wait until launch day to let people know what you are doing. In fact, I went straight to Think Traffic to find a launch plan blueprint which he lays out so beautifully.
I have been informally mentioning my plans for a new site to my blogging peers for several months. But in the last 6 weeks, I’ve really ramped up my efforts. Here’s what I’ve been doing:
6 Weeks Before Launch
- Wrote a personal email to all of my online personal development peers and other online entrepreneurs, letting them know about the new site, what it will be about, and the new book.
- Sent out some Facebook and Twitter messages about my plans.
5 Weeks Before Launch
- Wrote an announcement post on my blog Live Bold and Bloom to let my 13,000+ subscribers and other readers know about my plans to create a life passion expert site and how it can help them — with an invitation to join the new site when I launch.
- Began contacting people to include in a launch day post on people who have uncovered their passions and found a way to incorporate them into their lives.
- Started contacting bloggers with similar niches to ask for a guest post or interview on their sites for launch day. Offered a book giveaway for their readers.
- Continued the occasional tweet and mention on social media.
4 Weeks Before Launch
- Began writing the various guest posts for other blogs.
- Began preparing my launch-day post by sorting through responses from people who contributed their life passion stories.
- Created a list of online peers and bigger bloggers to ask to tweet about my launch.
- Continued the occasional tweet and social media mentions.
Final 3 Weeks Before Launch
- Continued writing guest posts and participating in video and written interviews.
- Wrote a “welcome” post to run before launch day.
- Created a mini-manifesto post explaining the core principles of BarrieDavenport.com to run during launch week.
- Created an additional free report to offer subscribers who invite 3 friends to subscribe.
- Began brainstorming amazing content for posts throughout launch week and the weeks following.
- Continued with my social media efforts.
I’m finalizing this post for Think Traffic during the week before launch day — so I can’t tell you now how the story ends. BarrieDavenport.com has been a work in progress for over 7 months from conception to inception. Every decision and action has been balanced against my core beliefs around my niche and my desire to build a sustainable business. Hopefully, I’ve done what I need to do.
If my mentors on this journey are any measure of my future success, I will have found a way to turn my own passion into a business that really performs. If you follow their expert advice, I know you can too!