Thursday, March 6th 2014 was a good day.
It was the day this blog reached 5,000 subscribers. But it didn’t stop there
In less than two months, that number doubled. I could barely believe it.
What did I do to make this happen? And more importantly, what can you do to get there too?
Well, I can tell you right off the bat that I don’t have some secret formula, or a shady deal with one of those companies that promise to take your website to the top of the major search engines. It’s just me and my virtual pen that seem to be on to something.
However, I’m not going to fall back on the predictable answer that attracting readers is all about content. There’s more to blogging than telling stories people like to hear. If writers could simply rely on the quality of their work to reach bestseller status, the world of literature would be a lot more interesting, don’t you think?
So, if we set content aside and we forget about that illusive magical box of SEO-tricks, what could possibly account for this wave of new visitors and subscribers?
I think the answer may lie in sociodynamics, or the study of group behavior and interaction. The basic premise of this study is the fact that human beings are influenced by other human beings. Perhaps the growth of my subscribers could have to do with what I call the “Late Night Commercial-Effect.”
When I still had cable, those infomercials were one of my guilty pleasures. Although I never bought any Japanese steak knives or Diamonique jewelry from TV pitchmen, it’s a fact that millions of people do, so the home shopping networks must be doing something right. For one, they know about the workings of the human mind.
Here’s one tool I’m sure you’ve seen in action. No matter what’s being sold, there’s always this counter telling you how many people have bought whatever the featured product is, and when this exclusive deal is running out. This may seem like a silly little gimmick to you, but the payoff is huge.
QVC is available in 300 million homes worldwide through its programming in the U.S., UK, Germany, Japan, Italy, and a joint venture in China. In 2013 it shipped more than 169 million products to these markets, generating $8.6 billion in revenues. It was all started by one man in 1986: Joseph Segel. He based his company outside of Philadelphia in West Chester, and today he has 17,000 employees worldwide.
By the way, don’t think that all QVC orders come from late-night television watching shopaholics. Last year, over thirty percent of sales came from mobile platforms. In other words: QVC has learned to be where their customers are, and these customers can’t seem to get enough of it. QVC has well over one million Facebook fans around the world who blog, comment, “like,” and share 24/7.
Feedback from fellow-shoppers is driving sales like never before. It makes sense. When it comes to buying decisions, we all want to minimize risks and maximize the rewards of our investment. We find it easier to trust the opinion of people we can relate to. That’s why other shopping giants like Amazon.com use comments from customers to try to influence purchase decisions.
Acclaimed author Guy Kawasaki wrote “APE, How to Publish a Book.” It’s a step-by-step guide for those who want to self-publish. I have inhaled the info as I was preparing to market my book “Making Money In Your PJs.”
Kawasaki recommends pitching a book to thought leaders, bloggers, and online communities to generate publicity. He calls this process “Evangelizing.” One of the things he tells new authors is to turn to Amazon’s best reviewers. Five-star feedback from them is worth more than a positive review in the New York Times.
Compare this strategy to expensive book launch parties, advertising campaigns, and paying PR professionals to pimp your product. Leveraging the power of social proof is practically free! That’s why it’s such a good tool for the solopreneur. All you have to do is target the right people with the right connections, and word of mouth will do the rest.
Of course it’s not that simple. It took me four years before my readership reached critical mass. In order to get to this place (for my career in general and my blog in particular) I have used a few tools you might want to consider as well. The first I call “The Power of One.”
THE RIGHT QUESTION
It’s based on the idea that a consistent sequence of small efforts can, over time, bring about big changes.
Every morning, I start with a simple routine. I ask myself a question that isn’t necessarily new or revolutionary, but nevertheless transformational:
“What’s the ONE thing I can do today, that would have the greatest positive impact in the area of…”
I purposely limit it to one, to keep things manageable. I’d rather do one thing really well than a whole bunch of things half-heartedly. To me it’s also important to focus on the notion of having a positive impact. Everything we do and everything we don’t, has an effect. That’s a given. But the result of our actions isn’t always positive, unless we make a concerted effort to bring about good.
That one question alone has resulted in a cascade of small improvements in the way I run my business and my life. In the beginning, the changes were barely visible. But when I connect the dots backward and see where I am now in relation to four years ago, the transformation is dramatic. Here’s another tool.
A CUE FROM QVC
After having reached 5,000 subscribers, I made a small change to my blog that proved to be immensely effective. I added a Call to Action in the top right-hand corner. I’m sure you’ve seen it. It says:
“Join over 10,000+ subscribers!”
I made sure to update this number at least once day, if not more.
At first I thought this was a rather self-congratulatory act. I’ve been raised not to boast about my accomplishments. I still believe humility is a virtue, but I’ve also learned that it’s okay to be proud of my achievements. Without an advertising budget or the help of a PR guru, I embraced the principles of social proof.
My “Join over 10,000+ subscribers!” is the equivalent of QVC’s sales counter with one exception. As long as I still have things to talk about, what I have to offer will not run out.
I don’t believe this counter is totally responsible for the increase in subscribers, but it’s the one small thing I changed since March.
MAKING MONEY IN YOUR PJs
Because I was reaping the rewards of social proof on my blog, I applied some of these principles to my newest venture.
While creating a website for my upcoming book “Making Money In Your PJs,” I decided to prominently feature testimonials. I did not want to wait for comments to roll in, so I sent people whose opinion I respect an advance copy, and asked them for a quote.
Later on, I will ask those readers who received the first fifty copies as a gift for a testimonial too. It’s a small favor, considering they got a 500+ page book for free.
Social proof is not only something I use as a book seller or blog writer.
The other day I needed to buy something online. After reading the description from the merchant, I wasn’t one hundred percent convinced that I should spend my money on this product. That is, until I read one positive comment from someone I trusted. Before I knew it, my mind was made up and I let my credit card do the talking.
Sometimes that’s all it takes.
One person starting a hugely successful business.
One good review.
One small change to a website.
One good question at the beginning of the day.
I’m telling you:
Never underestimate the Power of One!
If you still don’t believe me, ask Hans Brinker.
Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice
PS Be sweet. Please retweet!
Debby Barnes says
This is power-packed, Paul. Well expressed. I too, have always believed in the Power of One. After all, we have to be our own best advocates, right? Initiating one small, but significant change/action every day, does pull us toward our ultimate goals.
Paul Strikwerda says
It’s good to hear from you, Debbie. There are lots of examples of the Power of One throughout history. Some people have used the power for good; others excelled in spreading evil. Ultimately, I hope mankind comes to realize that all of us are ONE on this planet we call home, and that the action or inaction of one person, has the potential to influence the fate of millions.
Justin S Barrett says
Spot on, Paul! It also has a collection of “one” references running through my head:
“ONE day more!”
“All for ONE and ONE for all!”
Paul Strikwerda says
Justin, I think you have WON the contest of ONE-reference once and for all!
Matt Forrest says
While it’s amazing you were able to double your readership that quickly, I’m not surprised at all that you did…you’ve put a lot of time & effort into what you do, and those two things themselves are what separate most of the success stories from the pack. All my best as you launch your new venture!
Paul Strikwerda says
It’s been very cool to see the number of subscribers double, I won’t deny that. At the same time I will remember that every number is one person who took one decision to connect. In the end, it’s not the size of the podium that matters, but what the speaker has to say, that makes all the difference.
David Chase says
This was way beyond inspirational,,, because there really is something that can change someone’s life, when it is only said by One Person. I cannot thank you enough for your kind thoughts and words of wisdom, I really enjoyed reading your entire article and the entire Blog is very educational.
Paul Strikwerda says
Thank you so much, David. Small change can lead to big change. That’s the core of the empowering message I’d like to spread. It’s a simple principle that can be used in almost any context. I’m glad you’re enjoying my blog. Please do me one (small) favor: tell other people about it. Thanks!