The Secret to Building a Wildly Loyal Blog Audience

Your blog readers can be loyal as dogsIf you’ve got a blog — even a brand-new one — you’re probably wondering how you can get subscribers.

But the most important issue isn’t how to get them signed up — it’s how to keep them excited to get and open your emails.

So excited that when you want to sell them something, they’d love to buy it. Because they’re not just a reader — they’re a huge, huge fan.

A brief breakfast chat I had with one of my mentors at World Domination Summit last summer changed my outlook on how to build reader loyalty and gave me a powerful new tool for keeping readers excited about my blog.

That mentor is Danny Iny, the super-sharp marketing maven at Firepole Marketing.

When I mentioned to Danny that I was unhappy with my unsubscribe rates, he asked me one question that changed my whole approach to blogging.

“When they subscribe,” he said, “do you ask them to email you and tell you their biggest problem?”

I had to admit I wasn’t doing that.

“Try it,” Danny said.

At the time, my email signup confirmation said something basic like “Your subscription has been confirmed. Watch for the first installment of Marketing 101 to land in your email inbox in the next 48 hours.”

Using Danny’s advice, I changed it to this:

Your subscription to our list has been confirmed.

You should receive your first installment of your free 20-week e-course, Marketing 101 for Freelance Writers, in your email inbox tomorrow.

If it doesn’t arrive within 48 hours, let me know by replying to this email and I’ll give the system a kick and get it coming to you.

In the meanwhile, I’d love it if you’d do one thing for me: Reply to this email and tell me what you need to learn about freelance writing!

What’s the top issue you’re struggling with as a writer today? I’d love to hear from you.

Since then, subscriber retention rates have soared. I’m expecting to crack 10,000 subscribers in the next month or so! A year ago, I had about half that.

Now, not every subscriber takes the time to respond and tell me about their freelance writing challenges. But many do, usually several every day. I try to respond to every new subscriber who takes me up on this offer.

And it’s been a game-changer for my blog.

Here are the three great benefits I’ve gotten from implementing this one small change to my blog signup process:

You learn.

Some subscribers send me pages and pages about their situation, their struggles, and their lives. It helps me discover great ideas for future blog posts, as well as for classes and Freelance Writers Den meetings and bootcamps.

You bond.

I gather that increasingly few bloggers respond to their readers on email. I know that how? Because many readers I respond to are blown away to receive a response from me.

A typical response:

“Wow, I can’t believe you answered my email! I’m going to check out those resources right away.”

To these readers, Make a Living Writing has gone from just another blog they read to their favorite blog. This is the blog where they are heard.

They feel important and valuable. Someone cares about their struggles.

How many blogs are there where you feel the author cares that way about you?

It. Is. Huge.

Some of those readers who email me become friends, connections in social media, guest posters on the blog. Often, it starts a relationship.

When you have relationships with your readers, they never leave.

You sell.

Some of the resources I recommend in my responses to new subscribers are free blog posts here on Make a Living Writing. But often, I also see a paid class, program, or ebook that would be a perfect fit, based on what that subscriber said their big obstacle is to achieving freelance writing success.

Perhaps they they need help learning how to create a portfolio from scratch, get their website up, or find better clients — and I’ve got a Den bootcamp I can recommend for each of those. Might be a thing I created or affiliate sell, or something I just know about that would help them.

You’ve probably heard how important it is to impress upon your readers from the start that your website sells stuff, so that they’re not freaked out when it happens. This is the solution — offer them a paid product or two the minute they subscribe.

Then, they’ll never be shocked-shocked later on to discover you occasionally sell products and services. You’ve introduced the concept at minute one.

If you’re wondering, I have never had a new subscriber give me negative feedback about being presented with paid products in this interchange. That’s because what I’m suggesting is exactly what they need.

I took the time to find out what would help them most and direct them to it. Nobody is offended by that. And often, I’ll see that new reader just up and buy the ebook or course I suggested or sign up on the Den waiting list, right away.

A lot of blogging gurus will tell you readers need time to get to know you before they buy. But I’ve discovered some don’t need 5 minutes — they are itching to grab shortcuts, learn, and move forward quickly and they will pay you for that info now.

It’s work.

If you’re wondering, yes, committing to answering new subscribers’ questions takes time. But in my view, it’s time well-spent.

You tend to get the same few questions over and over, so you can develop some stock language you can cut and paste. Then I customize a bit from there.

If your dream is to create a money-earning blog that runs on autopilot, this technique isn’t for you. But it’s built a wonderful audience for me, with just a few minutes of work a day.

Do you respond to your blog readers’ emails? Leave a comment and let us know your approach.

How to be a Well-Paid Freelance Blogger

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36 comments on “The Secret to Building a Wildly Loyal Blog Audience
  1. Nell says:

    This is why I love reading this blog. Smart and instantly actionable tips. I’ve already changed my confirmation email copy to include an invitation to contact me. Great idea!
    Nell recently posted…Weekend Roundup + Link LoveMy Profile

  2. Yes! You might think I’m backing into blogging but I hope to make it work. Your recommendation about personal responses is A-on target. We (my husband and I) already have a devoted group of readers for our quarterly newsletter for hermits – 1100+ and growing slowly – sent mainly via USPS but introducing pdf file attached to an email). It took us 15 years to get this far! Obviously, we need to do more and a blog for lovers of solitude is our next big step. Thanks to Danny’s presentation, I am planning a Landing Page on which I offer a free resource on Discernment of a Hermit Vocation. I’m planning to make it the first page of my blog – good/not good idea? Also, everyone who gives me their email will certainly hear from me! And will definitely be invited to post a comment. We’re announcing this in the Feb. Newsletter – how best to lure in people who feel alone and misunderstood in their calling but who are “suspicious” of blogs?

  3. Rehmat says:

    An inspiring one Carol. Although I have built a good list of subscribers but I never tried such tricks. Yes it is a fact that subscribers are real customers. My blog followers love to know about products I use for my blog and they love to use what I recommend.

    When visitors realize that the blogger cares about them, they stay forever, otherwise they don’t. Over past few years, I have learned this and your article taught me some more 🙂

    I’m writing an eBook for bloggers right now and will apply these tips to ensure that the subscription rates goes up!

    Thank you for sharing your experience here.
    Rehmat recently posted…How To Get Free Massive Followers On Twitter QuicklyMy Profile

  4. Hi Carol,

    I absolutely love this post. I have enjoyed reading your articles and no matter how far along I have come as a writer, I always find a great piece of advice when I stop by.

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom with other writers. Your generosity is incredibly appreciated.
    wendy mccance recently posted…Secrets of Low Paying Writing AssignmentsMy Profile

  5. Kay says:

    A bit off topic but this is why I enjoy your blog. You actually respond to your comments. So many of the big names online drop the ball with this.

    One of the first things I look at when I visit a blog is if they respond to their readers. I understand having a large audience but if I see you never ever reply I won’t comment, even if I may have something to add. I don’t want to feel like I’m just there to make your numbers look good.

    Back on topic…yes, I make a point to answer all my emails. I even like and/or respond to all my Facebook comments. And you’re right…people are pleasantly surprised when I write back. As hokey as it sounds I like and appreciate my readers. We have fun and learn from each other.
    Kay recently posted…Erykah Badu Rocks A New StyleMy Profile

  6. Hey Carol: Thanks for this. I just made the change on my blog subscription form for my creative writing site and am excited to see the results.

    And you know, this reminds me a lot of teaching… The first day of classes I would often ask my students to send me an email telling me what they hoped to get out of the class.

    Yes, it gives you all their emails right away, but. more importantly, it builds rapport – which is exactly what I’ve felt with you, Linda, and Danny. Amazed at the personal response and the help you’ve been willing to offer.

  7. Alicia says:

    Great advice. I’ve only had one person contact me, and I tried my best to send him in the right direction. He, too, was thrilled that I replied.
    Alicia recently posted…Stop Writing for Pennies Already! You Deserve Better.My Profile

  8. Johanna says:

    Carol,

    I really enjoy all of your blogs, but this one really resonated with me. I’m setting up my website as of now, and I’m trying to listen and learn from all the blogs I read. One of the things I’m worried about is subscribers, and showing them that I truly care and will listen to them. My website is for two types of clientele: new freelance writers, and local businesses. I hope that didn’t sound like promoting, I just want to explain my situation!

    The point is I absolutely love all of your writing, and, like Rohi, I always read the comments. Your readers have the greatest insights, so I make sure to check them (and their blogs) out.

    Thank you!

    -Johanna

    • Carol Tice says:

      I know — my readers are great! Our comments usually are chock-full of more insights, I find. Actually, tune in next weekend for a post where my readers will be giving ALL the advice. 😉

      It’s challenging to make your blog serve two different audiences…think about whether it’s better to concentrate on just one.

      • Johanna says:

        Hi Carol,

        Thanks so much for responding to my comment! I definitely have had doubts about two audiences especially since I’m new to the game. My passion is helping other people who find themselves in a situation that I’m also in, so if I take an audience away it would definitely be the businesses. Thank you for the advice!

        Best,
        Johanna

  9. Taiwo Adeyemi says:

    Great piece! It gladdens the heart when bloggers do not present themselves as too-busy – can’t reply superheroes. After all, isn’t it all about people management? Left to me, writers that cannot spare some moments to reach out on a personal level to just a few subscribers on a regular basis shouldn’t be in this business in the first place. Teachers should know that their students value customized attention.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Well, I have a good friend who has recently gone the other direction — closed her comments and does not respond on email. I think there are good reasons for that as well, as it can clear the decks to create more great products for those subscribers, including freebie giveaways.

      But I have felt good about how a policy of high engagement is working for me, so I’m sticking with it.

  10. RosSumiati says:

    I was thinking to start a subscription form for my recent blog, thank you for the idea. I will try your advice, i think i will confident enough to attract subscriber for my site. Regards
    RosSumiati recently posted…30 Days Milestones of My WordPress Learning Program (Day 1 to Day 14)My Profile

  11. Gary Turner says:

    Great insight Carol, very helpful. I have recently set up a blog site (Saturday actually) so welcome all your useful tips and advice. To say the experience is daunting is an understatement, but I’m getting there, slowly.

  12. Good advice, Carol! Couldn’t agree more with your new approach to personal contact with subscribers: it’s what’s been currently taught about social media, i.e. respond to fans, engage them, etc. Cudos!
    Helene Poulakou recently posted…Blogging Your Processes, Writing Your BookMy Profile

  13. Aahna says:

    Certainly useful tips Carol,

    People gets excited when they receive response from the blog owners. This helps your blog to build your connection and trust. So I guess all blog owners should find various ways where they can easily interact with their targeted audience and then convert them into a loyal reader.

  14. Laurie says:

    Hi, just looking for advice/feedback. I’ve just published illustrated children’s ebook
    Published on KDP . Need advice on marketing .
    It’s not selling . How do I change that ?
    Haven’t started a blog site yet but obviously have to.
    Any help would be greatly appreciated

    • Carol Tice says:

      You’re kind of off topic here, Laurie, and self-publishing and marketing ebooks is a big topic. I can recommend sites like Build Book Buzz, Writer Unboxed, and Storyfix for places to go on the fiction side.

      To sum up a lot, Laurie, you’ve done these things in the wrong order. In self-publishing, first you blog and build a platform and an audience, then you publish. It’s uphill sledding now…but you can find some of my thoughts about self-publishing here:

      http://www.makealivingwriting.com/tag/self-publishing

      If you need to learn more about how to build a blog audience, be sure to come to my training with Danny Iny tomorrow at noon Pacific — that’s what it’s ALL about. You can register here: http://fpm.ontraport.net/t?orid=139&opid=124

  15. I love the idea, it speaks to your audience in your own voice. They get to know you personally, and feel closer to you.
    Dr Rie Natalenko recently posted…The importance of saying, “Thank You.”My Profile

  16. Romy says:

    Carol, I just discovered your blog through a post from someone else and LOVE what you just shared, thank you so much. As a freshly born blogger, the egg shells just slowly falling off, I am, of course, curious and on the look out for ways to gain subscribers and am wondering whether I could do some version of this in my sign-up prompt….. plus include it in my sign up confirmation. Lots to ponder.

    I will certainly be back for more. Lovely to meet you:)

  17. Jennifer says:

    Great post! I think I am going to do with my Content Marketing Writing Blog. Fantastic idea. I also love how you respond to most every post and try to do that as well. I think it makes a huge difference. Very interesting about changing the posting schedule. I am doing MWF right now, but Fridays are always not as well read. I start tweaking my posting schedule to see the results.
    Jennifer recently posted…More than Just a Number: How to Use Your Income Goal to Make More Money in 2014My Profile

  18. Thanks, Carol!

    I’ve been in a stall with my blog and my email list. Your tips and suggestions are just the ticket.

    I’ll be changing up my email signup confirmation right away!
    Brenda Spandrio recently posted…5 terrible, horrible, no good, very bad things that will happen if you throw away photosMy Profile

  19. I write back to anyone that emails me (as long as they are not spamming me lol) but for the most part I get comments more than emails. I ALWAYS ALWAYS reply to all comments, even if its a quick ten word response!!

    I think interacting and engaging the readers/followers is most important. The content of my blog does not have one specific topic. There are a few topic choices and it is based on the comments from my readers or something im dealing with. 🙂

    I point many people to your website though. I just love it!
    Margo Dae Johnson recently posted…A Way to Make A Living Online.My Profile

  20. Rohi Shetty says:

    Hi Carol,

    Thanks for this valuable insight.

    I was a Den member for a couple of months and now am doing Danny’s ABM. So both of you are my mentors.

    Not only do I read every post that you write but also all your comments (and replies) because they contain invaluable nuggets, more often than not.

    For example, this one here:

    ‘One other tip — my signoff is now “see you on the comments.”

    That signals what it is I’d like them to do next — participate in the blog! I think that’s made a big difference in the number of comments I’m getting. A lot of writers are shy and I believe that specific invite to participate makes a difference.’

    Pure gold!

    Thanks for making Sundays so special.
    Rohi Shetty recently posted…The Best Thing You Can Do With Your LipsMy Profile

  21. Lisa Baker says:

    Love love love this. It’s so true. There are blogs I read — and there are bloggers I LOVE. And you can’t love someone unless you know them and feel like they know you. You, obviously, are one of the latter. Not only do I take all your advice as fast as I can implement it, I eagerly buy pretty much everything you sell AND everything you affiliate sell. (Did I ever thank you for introducing us to Danny, by the way? He’s on the list too. In fact, almost all of the bloggers I LOVE are people I discovered through Den events or your recommendation). Not only that, but I tell everyone about you. I am constantly telling aspiring writers about the Den (my neighbor joined recently, actually!), and I usually don’t even bother to give them my affiliate link, because I just want them to get the benefits.

    There’s a HUGE difference between a reader/subscriber and a raving fan. 🙂

    However, I don’t ask that question of new subscribers, despite the fact that I’ve taken Danny’s class, and I’m totally going to add it to my response email today. I hadn’t done it because I was trying to create a whole engagement sequence, but obviously even one question would be much better than nothing. Another case of DONE being better than PERFECT.

    (Sidenote: I am just loving your Sunday postings. Nobody else is posting on Sundays, and there’s nothing to read and it’s so booooooring, and then you show up in my inbox and I think, SCORE! It’s still a big surprise every week, I haven’t gotten used to expecting it yet.)
    Lisa Baker recently posted…3 Devious Ways to Simplify Your Child’s BedtimeMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Glad you’re enjoying the change in my posting schedule!

      I fell into M-W-F because that what I’d seen other blogs do…until recently, when a friend of mine — Gail Gardner from GrowMap — pointed out to me that generally Mondays and Fridays aren’t good days to post, not as good as T-W-Th. So as an experiment I shifted to T-Th-Sunday, and I am also LOVING the results.

      And amazed at how many people are on on Sundays. 😉

  22. Emelia says:

    Hi Carol,

    I encourage my blog visitors to contact me if they need any advice on freelance writing. I wasn’t aware of how important this is hence the invitation to connect and the contact email can only be found on my “About” page. Thanks for sharing this. I will think of where I can put it so that anyone can know they are welcome to communicate with me anytime.
    Emelia recently posted…Believe Them If You want to Fail Terribly: Misconceptions Spread by Some Successful Freelance WritersMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      I think the confirmation email is THE place to put it. You don’t want to just post it on your site to encourage everyone on earth to email you…you want to converse with SUBSCRIBERS. They’re the ones that have made the commitment to follow your blog.

  23. Daryl says:

    Hey Carol,

    I make sure to respond to every single email that I get. I also make sure to include a section at the end of every blog post that I’d love to hear from my readers, and make sure to respond to every comment as well. It really does make people feel valued and is a great relationship builder when they see an email back from you.
    Daryl recently posted…My Monthly Freelance Income Report – December 2013My Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      I’m not always able to respond to every single email I get anymore…but I think it’s important to have that initial, individual interaction with new subscribers.

      One other tip — my signoff is now “see you on the comments.”

      That signals what it is I’d like them to do next — participate in the blog! I think that’s made a big difference in the number of comments I’m getting. A lot of writers are shy and I believe that specific invite to participate makes a difference.

  24. Willi Morris says:

    I surely do. Then again, I have a very small list. It really did make a difference to have you reply to my emails. That’s why I consider you a mentor. Thanks, Carol!
    Willi Morris recently posted…Give Yourself Permission to Fail in 2014My Profile

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