How To Make Money Selling Value through Blogging and Social Media

blogging leadership

I’ve found myself on the frontlines of the battle between small business and it’s Big Box competitors.

Other the last three years I’ve developed some battle-derived actionable ideas on the role blogging and social media will play in the small business organizations that desire victory.

See, I’m an independent insurance agent for family-owned agency in Upstate, NY.  I live and breathe the commoditization of small business every day.

price mattersEvery day of my work life I must compete against the misconception that personal insurance policies are all same… This is the belief incessantly drilled into insurance consumers’ brains by direct marketing companies… That PRICE is all that matters.

price. Price. PRICE.

What if I told you that no matter how hard you worked on your product (retail item, professional service, ebook, e-course, whatever) the only determining factor in purchasing that product was it price versus perceived competition… You’d be pissed right?

All your hard work.  All the time and effort and expertise and passion and energy you poured into making your product the best possible solution for a consumer… And all that consumer cared about was price.  I’m pretty sure that would piss you off.

But that is what small business deals with every day.

I know there is so much more to the insurance industry than just price.

But what I know doesn’t matter.

See, the only thing that matters when it comes to the success of my small business is the consumers understanding of my product (This is the case no matter what industry you work in).

Commoditization

The reason small business is currently losing the battle versus Big Box competitors is not because of hard economic times or bloated marketing budgets… The problem is us.  We, small business professionals, are falling into the commodity trap.

The easy sale…

The price sale…

The “right now” sale…

The “my price is lower” sale… (If our price is lower, and most times it’s not, with good reason).

We fall into this trap because we need to keep the lights on.

So what is a small business to do?

Define Your Niche, Own It, and Deliver Value First

Primarily, I make money selling insurance in four ways: Referrals, In-person networking, Cold Calling and Online.

Making money through referrals, in-person networking, and cold calls is all about grinding.  It’s a simple equation:

X amount of Time = X amount of Dollars.  You get what you put in. Simple.

But we have technology and it seems silly that so many small businesses refuse to embrace a tool that allows us to do all the things we used to do to make money, but now leverage our time to make even more.

So for the rest of this article we’re going to focus on some core concepts that deliver results to the BLOGGER… Social Salesperson.

Define Your Niche

The Internet is really big and subsequently there is a ton of information that is already out there to be found.  Some of that information is crap… but much more of it is at least halfway decent.

blogging leadershipThis means that just about anything you write on your blog, post on your Facebook page or tweet out to your followers has been said before (or at least something similar).  So if there is tons of information that is exactly the same as the information that you want to post, how are you supposed to get noticed and be successful?

The answer is frustratingly simple, consistently spread your message to a defined niche at nausea.

You cannot be a general agent in blogging and social media.  The Internet has dawned a new age, the age of the Expert.  Consumers research a topic on the Internet and Social Media to meet an expert.  The quickest way to NOT get noticed on Social Media is to try and be everything to everyone.

For my insurance business I market Professional Liability, Restaurant Insurance, and Local Personal Lines.  I blog enough, tweet enough, and comment enough in my geographic social media universe that I have very good results in those three areas.

Would I love to have an enormous manufacturing risk call me and produce a $100,000 in revenue?  Yes.  But that is not my market and I don’t know squat about insuring manufacturing operations.  I want to be Eastern New York State’s go-to expert for the three niches I listed above.

Take-away: Define your niche so you can stand out from the crowd.

Own Your Niche

The difference between defining your niche and owning it is that you actually have to know what you’re talking about.  I may not know every single caveat of a Professional Liability policy but I OWN why you should have one.

I talk about every facet of the policy, not just generic boring rhetoric that you would hear from some talking head on the Today Show, but gritty details that startle and surprise would-be policy owners.

I constantly inject little ditties that make prospects realize two things before I communicate with them in person:

  1. There is a legitimate possibility they are inadequately insured
  2. I am the agent that has the solutions

What if every client you called on had made these two mental recognitions before you spoke to them.  Do you think your sales would go up?

Heck yes they would!

Take-Away: Be the expert that consumers are searching for.

Deliver Value First

Blogging and social media are not about the number of fans and followers you have.

Blogging and social media are about engagement, subscriptions and conversions.

Your success in blogging and social media will be determined by the frequency in which you deliver value that compels your social community to take action.   

(I discuss Success in more detail in My Awesome Newsletter).

Let’s break that last statement down so it’s a little easier to digest:

First, let’s talk about value and what it means to your social media community.

Value is information or action that means something to the consumer.  Very few people care what insurance awards I won this year (doesn’t mean awards aren’t important just means your community doesn’t need to hear about it twenty times).

Consumers do care about:

  • You philanthropic endeavors,
  • New discounts available in their market,
  • Simple tips to make their life easier,
  • Behind the curtain understanding of products,
  • Basic How-To’s,
  • Additional resources and experts,
  • Answers to everyday questions.

Consumers care about the things that affect their own lives, so talk about those things.

If you don’t know what those things are, ask your clients what types of information they could receive from you that would add value to their life.

Second, let’s address the frequency of posting on a blog or to social media because I know this is big question.

Again, the answer is very simple, post as frequently as you can, provided the post adds value to some section of your community.

I give you permission to post 100 times a day if each post is value-filled.

If you can only come up with one valuable post a day, only post once.  But you can’t post your office hours once a month on Twitter and wonder why no one follows you.

Third, and most importantly, your consistently valuable social media posts must compel your social community to take action.

This is the “Give to Get” principle, only in social media if you don’t ask there is going to be NO get. 

It’s ok to think about yourself too…  This is how we make money, “The Ask.”  Not every time you post, but often enough that potential customers know what you want them to do.

  • “Connect with me on my favorite social network.”
  • “Subscribe to my newsletter.”
  • “Stop by my office for a free car wash coupon.”
  • “Let me review your Home and Auto Insurance with our trusted carriers.”

Did you notice anything about the progression of those asks?  Each “ask” was a slightly larger commitment by your social community, then we took the relationship offline, and finally we asked for the business.

(I talk more about the increasing psychological barriers consumers must hurtle to purchase Online in this short video How Blogging Turns Traffic to Leads and Leads to Revenue).

Take-away: Deliver value on a regular basis and ask for the business.

The Rub

I always finish my blog posts with a section called The Rub.  If you read no other portion of each blog post The Rub would be the section you want to read because it’s where I summarize all the BS I laid out in the previous 200… 500… 1,000 words.

In this manifesto I want you to leave with these two thoughts that I hope will haunt you:

“We as small business professionals, (no matter if you’re a main street business or Internet Marketer), hold the key to our own success by utilizing social media and blogging to sell Value.”

“Own your niche and deliver value relentlessly.  Cash will rain from the sky… Figuratively.”

Want to hear more?

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About Ryan Hanley

This blog was created to help brands grow their audience, to grow their business. When I'm not writing, podcasting or creating the videos you'll find on this site, you'll usually find me watching baseball with my son Duke and a cold beer in my hand.

  • http://www.cadebill.com/ bss oss

    Really appreciate this post. It’s hard to sort the good from the bad sometimes, but I think you’ve nailed it!

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      Thank you… I’m glad you found it valuable!

  • http://www.blognetworking101.com Jeevanjacobjohn

    Hey Ryan,

    Just got to your blog via Traffic generation cafe ;)

    Awesome article.

    I agree with you. For a small time business blog owner to be professional, he/she must identify their niche, own it (through learning, analyzing and experimenting) and provide value to the customer.

    But, I do have a question: How can we “own” our niche? Can we truly become experts in something? (I just believe that we get better at it, just better. But, does that mean we are experts?). Yes, we could try to make the customer perceive that we are experts (since you are better at it, I think you can be considered as experts).

    Anyways, thanks for the awesome article,

    Jeevan Jacob John

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      Jeevan…

      Thank you so much for your fantastic comment!

      When I say “Own It” what I really mean is Dedicate yourself to it. Make your niche part of who you are. Agree that the term Expert is relative… So my advice is to Dedicate yourself to Niche…

      Great to meet you!

      Ryan H.

  • http://paraduxmedia.com/ mike

    Ha!! First time here and love the ‘RUB.’ Great concept but also you followed through with the execution and left me with two thoughts, not so much that will haunt me, but make me say yep!

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      Mike,

      I very glad you enjoyed to article and I’m to connect with you.

      All the best!

      Ryan H.

  • Morris @ Get Great Coffee from the Nut inside

    We as micro businesses (pico businesses) have challenges no matter what direction we look. If price was the only thing that mattered… But prices does matter. It is part of the perceived value statement.
    My business is offering the very best coffee. One of my products is Jamaican Blue Mountain at the highest extreme. I have also sold Yunnan at the other extreme. Others sell them too. Which is the better value? It’s what you add to the product to give it’s true value.
    Enjoy.

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      Morris…

      I agree with you more. “It’s what you ad to the product to give it’s true value.”

      That’s the deal brother.

      Thanks

  • http://www.ranashahbaz.com Rana Shahbaz

    This post full of action pack points.

    “People don’t buy your product or services, they buy solutions to their problems”

    Social media and especially blogging provide you an excellent way to explain them how you are capable of solving their problems. The more good you get at it the more sales you will do.

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      Thanks Rana…

      Solutions are the entire deal. Consistently provide solutions to people. More solutions, more value, more sales…

      Ryan H.

  • http://www.roycoletraining.co.uk Royston

    Ryan,
    I’m keen to start a blog and I’ve been researching ‘blogging’ over the past few week and have to say the information you provided here has been by far the best value.
    Thank you, i think i just found my niche as a personal trainer…

    • http://www.RyanHanley.com/ Ryan Hanley

      Royston,

      You just made my day buddy… Thank you so much and Good Luck.

      If I can ever be of additional assistance please let me know.

      Ryan H.

      • http://www.roycoletraining.co.uk Royston

        You’re very welcome… It’s a welcome change to come across an online presence that isn’t just trying to get you buy into their program and sell it on – Looking forward to your ebook i just downloaded – CHEERS from sunny London..!

        Royston

        • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

          I’d love your feedback on it when you’re done!!!

          Have a great weekend.

  • http://www.productivesuperdad.com/ Timo Kiander

    So true!

    I just figured out my niche (with some external help) and this is something I can relate to – 100%

    Many people get stuck on defining their niche and I believe that one of the reasons is fear (which is something I experienced too). Fear of missing out something big, if you narrow you focus.

    Of course, this isn’t so and in fact, once dominating the small portion of a market (narrow niche), you can move to conquer the wider portion. Or what do you think?

    Cheers,
    Timo

    • http://www.RyanHanley.com/ Ryan Hanley

      Timo,

      I think the most prudent course of action is to “conquer” one Niche at a time. Work in verticals unless you can figure out how to combine verticals while staying in the same Niche.

      People search the Internet for Experts… Not generalists.

      Does that help?!

  • http://www.reallygoodwriting.co.uk Mike Garner

    About numbers. No it’s really not about numbers. I saw Chris Brogan speak last year and he wondered whether when Alexander Graham Bell’s invention was first popularised people went around comparing how many phone numbers they had (they probably didn’t have any actually because they called the operator but you get my point.

    Most of us only actually need a handful of really good customers. My other job is translation and when I first started in that many years ago, I was told, “There are two types of translator, the specialist and the hungry”. I think that says it all.

    I also like the cool design, I have a Genesis site in the pipeline!

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      Mike…

      Specialize or Die that’s the deal. People are looking to the Internet for Experts not “I know a little about most stuff”.

      Thanks!!

  • http://www.carmensognonvi.com Carmen Sognonvi

    Great insights, Ryan. Commoditization is such a big problem for small businesses, especially in industries that are pretty well-established. It’s something that I think about a lot.

    For example, my husband and I own a martial arts school. And the problem I see within the martial arts profession is that a lot of schools have figured out the basics of marketing. That is – selling benefits instead of features.

    The problem is that all martial arts schools talk about *the exact same benefits!* Focus. Respect. Discipline.

    And those are the main reasons parents sign their kids up for martial arts, so *not* talking about those benefits doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    But how do you do it without sounding just like every other guy?

    It seems to me that if you want to differentiate in this type of market, the best way to do it is by telling your personal story and showcasing your personality.

    And social media, blogs, and video are a great way to do that.

    On our site for instance, we have mini-documentary on our About Us page that tells the story of how we came to open the school, who we are, what we’re all about. And a lot of students have talked about that video as one of the main reasons they decided to come to us.

    As you said, commoditization can be a death sentence for small businesses – the key is to figure out ways to stand out from the crowd.

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      Carmen

      You are exactly right… The differentiator in most cases is personality and willingness to open about who you are and what you’re all about.

      Thanks for some great thoughts and a fantastic example!

  • http://www.rightmixmarketing.com Tom Treanor

    Ryan,

    Great article and very helpful. Define your niche, own your niche and add value makes it really clear to follow. I also love the specific examples on what you mean by add value – sometimes it’s hard to really get it if it’s just a concept.

    I think “the rub” (at least the first one) for so many of my clients is getting a clear enough niche to find their customer groups and to be able to speak to them. I think you provide a great way to do that and some helpful examples.

    Thanks for another great post!

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      Tom,

      Thank you… Understanding the “right” niche is probably the most important step of the entire deal. Niches tend to sound great into you get start dealing with them on a daily basis. Not always the best fit.

      Ryan H.

  • http://www.internetentrepreneurconnection.com Hector Avellaneda

    Ryan – I cannot agree with you more about the misconceptions in insurance and not because I am an insurance agent or because I am knowledgeable in the subject, but because (I will admit) I’ve had those misconceptions myself.

    You brought up an interesting point which was what if people (consumers or the market place) valued your product or service, regardless of value or content, according to price!?

    Well, I know that would not make me very happy! Some of us know that entering price wars with competitors is only a recipe for disaster.

    Not to long ago I read a book titled Start With Why. If you havent read it I highly encourage you add it to your reading list. Int he book Simon Sinke, the author, made a very good case for starting and leading causes and to not focus on price because in order to win a market you first have to win over the 12% of the population that believes what you believe and will do anything to promote your cause.

    Being able to lead a cause definitely requires defining your niche, owning your niche and delivering value! What do you think about this approach to becoming the expert?

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      Hector,

      That is a great point. You need raving fans on your side. You need people that completely bought into what you do and who you are. These people become a powerful salesforce!

      Thank you!

  • http://ryzeonline.com Jason Fonceca

    Heheh… awesome, Ryan, as expected ;)

    Value, and expertise. Great topics :D

    I’d like to add that, for me at least, there is a number of very key things that go into “Owning Your Niche” and I don’t see them talked about very often.

    They are:
    -Clearly defining yourself
    your vision, your meaning, your purpose.
    -Clearly defining your others
    your clients, your team, your suppliers, etc.
    -Clearly define your desired perception
    position, personality, creation myth, behaviours, key viewpoints, communications channel, masteries, targets, presentation.

    In my experience, everyone told me to own my niche, but no one told all the self-knowledge, introspection, and clarity needed to Actually Do That :)

    I know I’m on the right track though :D

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      Dude,

      You definitely are… It takes Thought Time to Own Your Niche… Because what may sound like a great niche may not actually be.

      Love the way your brain works dude!

  • http://www.appsblogger.com/leverage-marketing/ Jeanne Pi

    This reminds me of a great quote by Jim Rohn: “You don’t get paid for the hour. You get paid for the value you bring to the hour.” Once you understand that and more importantly, once your customers understand that, you can break out of the pattern of trading time for money. The value you bring dictates what you’re paid, not your time.

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      Exactly… People are paying for the value not for you to fill their time… If anything people are demanding more Value in the less time…

      Thanks!

  • http://mightywisemedia.com Eric T. Wagner

    Howdy Ryan. Bingo. Well said on the value proposition. And you’re right, most small businesses today get caught up trying to compete with the big boxes on the same value propositions.

    Give it up, ’cause it’ll never happen. You’ll never beat WalMart on pricing and selection. BUT, figuring out how YOU can add a different kind of “value” is key.

    Good stuff here Ryan. Thanks for sharing your wisdom… :-) Eric

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      Thanks for stopping by Eric!

      We all have a different Value to deliver… Figuring out what that Value is and how Deliver it is the tough part.

  • http://easyretweet.com Enstine Muki

    Hey Brent,
    Unfortunately, many bloggers buy followers, Facebook fans, website hits to make readers think they have huge social stands. They are just failing as soon as they don’t give value to their audience.

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      Providing value to your audience and growing naturally is hard and takes time. That is why most “bloggers” don’t do it. The words are work for them. It’s how they make a living… Using the latest gadget or gimmick to attract a few more eye-balls. However the success is fleeting.

      Only by consistently delivering value do you building a True Community.

      Thank you for stopping by and sharing!!

  • http://evenminds.com Jason Anthony

    Also like the new design, Ryan!

    I agree. Content cannot be king without value. You can write and post all day long, but if you’re not providing the right type of advice and resources, than to what avail? It’s also refreshing to see someone post about the commodity trap.

    Killer stuff, as usual, Ryan!

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      Thanks Jason!

      I can’t get past Value… The concept just has me right now. How do we add True Value to our readers?

      There is so much inside that question…

      Always appreciate your thoughts!

  • http://brentmkelly.com/ Brent Kelly

    You hit it right on Ryan. Value, value, value is the key. Love the redesigned site. It looks great.

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      Thanks Brent… I think I finally have a design that highlights the content and is easy to read. Now I just want to write. The last week of conversions was a huge pain.

      Really appreciate you stopping by!