By Carol Tice
It’s one thing to attract readers to your blog, and to get them to subscribe.
The next part is trickier: Getting those subscribers to fall in love with you.
How do you do that? You need some blogger-reader bonding time!
You want to bond with your readers so that they don’t just get your emails—they love getting your emails, and think you’re the top authority in your topic.
Readers who bond with you are readers who buy. The stronger a connection you can make with your readers, the more easily you’ll earn — especially if you only have a small blog audience.
So how do you form a closer bond with your readers? In short, you need to be an approachable, likeable person, and write in service of your readers.
You also need to exceed your readers’ expectations. You need to stand out from the pack with surprising and unusual help that really makes a difference in their lives.
Here’s how to begin:
Listen and Learn About Needs
When I launched, I thought I knew what the freelance writers who read my blog would like to learn from me. But I discovered that’s different from delivering what my readers actually need to know. As I mentioned above, surveying your readers is vital.
I thought I knew my readers—they’re freelance writers, right?—until I started asking them to post about their problems and their lives in my blog comments. Then, my eyes were opened.
Some of my readers, it turned out, were brand-newbies. Others were experienced journalists, but new to freelancing. Still others were experienced freelancers, but hadn’t figured out how to earn well.
Understanding I had different types of readers helped me vary the content of my posts, so that everyone got useful tips. Take a survey, or post a question as a blog post, and just let your readers vent! You’ll get a gold mine of information.
For several years, my welcome auto responder to new subscribers asked them to email me with their top concern. That generated an endless stream of interesting insights about my readers’ needs!
Once you know what readers want, you can design activities that strengthen your relationship. Here’s a list of a baker’s dozen different things I’ve done to grow closer to my readers:
1. Chat Them Up
Many big bloggers delegate responding to blog comments to someone on their staff, or close their comments altogether—so this is a chance for you to stand out. Seize this opportunity to build relationships with engaged readers.Don’t respond just to say ‘Thanks for posting,’ either—have a conversation.
2. Promote Your Readers’ blogs
Look for opportunities to feature or give exposure to your readers. Besides letting readers guest post, I ran link parties on my blog using the InLinkz tool, where my readers were free to post a link to one of their blog posts, and I held a reader vote for the best ones. This gave my readers valuable backlinks—and made me many loyal fans.
3. Use social media to help build their brand
I’m active on Twitter, and do a couple things there I know my readers love. If they retweet one of my posts, I’ll share THEIR comments on it, instead of just sending out my own tweet.
If I see them sharing an interesting link in my blog comments, I make a point of retweeting that, too. That way, their face and name gets in front of a bigger audience. On one of my sites, I show my tweets, so their face and Twitter handle often visible there all day long. Give your audience free marketing and they will love you for it! Often, I’ll get thank-you tweets back, even if what I shared of theirs was really a link of mine!
4. Hold free Webinars or podcasts with Q&A time
The chance to talk to you live and get their specific question answered takes your relationship to a whole new level. You are definitely not an anonymous blogger now—you’re clearly a real person who’s there to help.
5. Take questions in advance
If you want to get people excited about your live event, have them take an action before it starts by leaving you a question. This gets people really looking forward to this free learning opportunity, makes them feel you care, and allow them more time to think about their question! (Some people hate having to cook them up on the fly.) That way, even if they end up unable to make it, they could hear their answer later. Which brings us to…
6. Offer recordings/replays
Lots of people can’t make live events—but you can make them feel included by offering a replay, where they can hear the answer to that question they left you ahead of time.
7. Give a transcript
Many people just aren’t into watching or listening to recordings. (I’m one of them!) If you get your event transcribed, you’ll help—and endear yourself to—more readers.
8. Free E-books and special reports
If you’re writing an e-book, look to your subscribers for beta-readers. Or give a free e-book to all your subscribers when they sign up. I know one blogger who gives out quarterly special mini-course PDFs to his subscribers.
9. Send subscriber-only, informative emails
These days, not all my ‘blog posts’ appear on my blog. Some are emails I send out only to my subscribers, as an exclusive bonus, just for staying on my list. These posts usually don’t sell anything–they just contain an insight or helpful tip, usually from something that happened to me or a writer I know in the past week.
10. Blog or website critiques
Could you help your readers improve their own online presence? Take a day and give them each a quick tip. I’m actually using this method on the launch day of my e-book and handing out free blog feedback, all day.
11. Free coaching
I’ve simply handed out my cell-phone number and invited readers to call me for a free 15-minute coaching session. You won’t believe how excited people are to connect live, and see for themselves that you’re a real person, and to get a little personalized help from you.
12. Free lunch
I’ve thrown pizza parties for subscribers in Chicago and Seattle, and bought coffee at Starbucks in Los Angeles. At World Domination Summit in Portland one year, I took a group of 20 of my blog subscribers out to breakfast at an awesome local diner, and paid the whole tab. Sure, it cost nearly $200…but it was so fun! And I’m still in touch with some of those writers today. (And remember, that’s a marketing cost and a tax write-off for you.)?? Meeting your subscribers face-to-face is a HUGE bonding opportunity you should jump on, any chance you get. Show them you’re no faceless Internet drone! Word will spread.
13. Organize local meetups
If you have a subscriber list, you should be able to segment it by location. That means you could organize a local meetup where you turn up to just meet and brainstorm with local subscribers. I’ve done this, and it’s a super-powerful bonding tool. You can also facilitate bringing your subscribers in other locales together to bond and meet with each other. That strengthens their connection to you, the person who brought them together.
Surprise and delight
Your list of appropriate freebies may be different from mine, but hopefully this starts you thinking. Consider your audience and what they would be thrilled with—then, drop it on them free sometime.
Top online retailers such as Zappos talk about the need to “surprise and delight your customer.” Make blog readers feel special, surprise them with unexpected goodies, and they’ll feel that of all the bloggers in your niche, you’re the one they should buy from.
You become trusted, and your blog becomes an intimate hangout that feels safe and secure to your readers. You become not just a blogger they like, but THE blogger they want to learn from.
Then, when you have something to sell, your readers are clamoring to buy it.
The small blogger’s advantage is that you have more chances to form personal connections with readers. Big bloggers are super-busy! Talk to your readers, lavish them with goodies, and build an audience that will buy from you.
How are you bonding with your blog readers? Post in the comments and share ideas!