I recently subscribed to Derek Halpern’s email list and one of the first emails I received prompted me to write a comment on his blog because it got me thinking. Not because it was something profound or new. But because it is a concept that I’ve seen work in the past and it is what I am planning on doing myself.

To read the post head over to the Social Triggers blog and check it out. Basically the idea is that you can make money online even in a small niche without depending on google adsense or other advertising programs. First you build a loyal following and then you sell stuff to them.

It sounds like a good idea and one that many people and organizations have used in the past. But just like everything else, there is a right way and a wrong way to do things.

The Wrong Way: If you build it they will buy… later

 

The wrong way (in my opinion) is to start building a community in your niche with the express purpose to monetize once it is established by turning on “the sales and promotion machine” to exploit the niche market you’ve cultivated.

This strategy will probably backfire for a number of reasons. There is a better way to launch your “online presence” where your audience doesn’t feel like they have are on a plane that has been hijacked and are now going to a destination that they don’t like.

[box type=”shadow”] I know “exploit” is generally seen as a negative word, but it really isn’t. Exploiting an opportunity doesn’t mean anybody has to be taken advantage of. It just means you are attempting to maximize your return and are hopefully giving something that is as valuable (or more valuable) in exchange. [/box]

If your going about it this way then I believe it will be difficult to build a community in the first place. Partly because people will sense that your passion and enthusiasm is not real or because you won’t have the desire to keep going during the “free” stage in order to capitalize later. But if your passionate about the niche and have real enthusiasm for it then that is what will attract and build the community. If you abruptly change your tone, content and feel to a sales approach and you lose the intangibles (the things you can’t see or read), the relationship with your community changes and you may lose everything you’ve worked hard to build. Maybe you’ll make a few sales. But was it worth it… who knows?
It was a destructive marketing strategy.

The Right Way: If you build it and sell a little now, they will buy a lot more later!

The right way (in my opinion) is to start off in a niche or subject that you are already passionate about. Attract the people that share that passion or are looking to learn about the subject because they need the skills or want what to have what you can teach them. Build the community and establish trust over time but don’t wait to offer products (if you have them) or promote other products (affiliates).

Every now and then and only where appropriate include an affliliate link to a product or service you use and recommend. Dislcose to your audience that it is an affiliate link and that you will make a commission if they buy through your link. Don’t over promote products and don’t promote products that you don’t use and trust. By doing so your community will not react to a sudden change in the attitude of your content because nothing much has changed. You’ve always promoted products and services you believe in and always disclose that you make a profit if your community chooses to use your affiliate links.

By implementing this strategy, no trust is lost. Your audience won’t mind and will probably gladly support you by purchasing products through your link, knowing that they are helping to keep the content coming. And if you start promoting your own products they will support you there too.

This is the direction that I am planning to go with my online endeavors.

What do you think? Is there a better strategy or are you doing something differently?

Leave your comment below.

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Andrew McGivern
Andrew McGivern

Andrew McGivern is a podcaster, blogger and mobile tech guy. Father of three awesome little ones. Interested in Social Media Marketing, New Media and Podcasting, Technology, Natural Health and Green Energy.