Why People Want to Know
What’s In It For *You*

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that I harp on one thing over and over:

The key to successful copywriting, business blogging and marketing in general is to focus intently on what’s in it for *them*.

Them, of course, refers to your readers, your prospects, your current clients and customers, and the giant mass of people out there who don’t yet know who you are and couldn’t care less.

In other words, you’ve got to offer as much unique value as possible.

If It’s Too Good to be True…

An unexpected corollary of offering unique value, though, is that people want to know what’s in it for you. It all comes down to the old cliché:

If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

This is a classic example of having a great benefit that triggers an emotional acceptance response, but nonetheless needs to be backed up with a rational reason why.

Remember the second of The Two Most Important Words in Blogging?

  • We’re slashing prices to the bone because we need to clear out inventory to make room for the new 2007 models!
  • I don’t usually discount my fees, but because I got hit with an unexpected tax bill, you can save 25% if you sign up this week.
  • We’re giving you your first three months free, because we’re so sure you’ll be delighted that you will never want to miss a single issue.

Giving a reason why you’re willing to make the offer that you do is a fundamental of good marketing. Without it, an excellent offer can be seen as untrustworthy.

And I totally forgot about it myself early on with this blog.

Back during the first six months of Copyblogger, I would constantly get email from people who thanked me for the content, but also really wanted to know what was in it for me as the author.

I didn’t have ads.

I wasn’t soliciting clients.

I wasn’t selling anything.

I wrote all of those people back, thanked them, and told them not to worry about me.

But they weren’t worried about me.

And then I read this post from Seth Godin (in particular his mention of “user confidence”) about why Fred Wilson has ads on his blog (even though he doesn’t need the money). It was one of those forehead-slapping moments, and I understood why people were emailing me, some sounding concerned.

There was no apparent reason why I was doing all this work.

The Reason Why I Started This Blog

So now I have a few ads on this blog. I don’t make much from them, and although not in Fred Wilson’s league, I don’t really need the small amount of money that they bring in.

But no one emails me sounding concerned anymore.

It never occurred to me to just explain early on what my reasons were, even though I should have known better. But even now when I tell people the real reason it seems like they think I’m crazy.

The ads are easier, but I’ll tell you the reason anyway.

The real reason I started this blog was just to throw my hat in the ring; to come out from behind the scenes and get involved in a meaningful way. From my perspective, that meant I needed to demonstrate to others what I know and what I have to offer.

This is a very exciting time online, and I had a blast during Web 1.0, even though the whole thing was based in large part on stupidity that ended badly. I’m digging Web 2.0 a whole lot more (pun intended), because I think it’s sustainable, and because it empowers individuals and small groups more than anyone else.

And thanks to this blog, I now have a business network and several lucrative working relationships that didn’t exist this time last year.

The point is this—blogging can serve many commercial purposes.

You can make money from ads.

You can sell products.

You can sell services.

Or you can simply blog to meet cool people with great skills and great ideas and do business with them in a variety of ways.

That last one is the reason why I started this blog.

And I’ll probably go ahead and take a shot at the other ones too. :)

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Comments

  1. Mystery: Solved.

    Confession: This had been bugging me for some time.

    Assumption: You were building toward critical mass.

    Hope: Some master monetizing scheme would be unveiled.

    Truth: I’m disappointed.

    Upside: I still love your stuff.

    Keep up the good work — Nick.

  2. Nick, you won’t be disappointed.

    The reason why I started the blog is completely separate and distinct from what I’ve come up with by actually writing the blog.

    You know better what move to make from jumping in the game then you do from sitting on the sidelines thinking about it. :)

  3. Love it Brian,
    I had the same feeling – some of those (I’m late on tax) makes me ask if you will be around in a few months when I need support for the product, is your organisation that poor?

    But the others, like “We’re giving you your first three months free, because we’re so sure you’ll be delighted that you will never want to miss a single issue.” is something that I will use soon :)

  4. Awesome post. Everyone should read it.
    Nice work.

  5. Brian – I never thought about the “because” word.

    Great points!

    With my blog I think people understand I am selling a book on my topic.

  6. Another informative article, but – the link to “The Two Most Important Words” was excellent. Thank you for linking back to it.

  7. Nice one Brian, and it does not go only for blogs, but also those long sales copy too (if you are in that type of Internet marketing)… sometimes deals really sound too good to be true.

  8. Nice post. ;-)

    This is something I’ll have to keep in mind when I create my blog as it’ll require me to really think about it. A lame “because everybody else is doing it” just won’t cut it. The “what’s in it for me” must be something real.

    As always, keep the posts coming. We’ll read. :-)

  9. Interesting post. Could it be that people can’t imagine something can be done for free, for the “art”, simply to share and communicate ?

  10. I started blogging as a form of research – to stay one step ahead of my clients, but have stuck with it because of the reason you started blogging. I have been introduced to a large network of individuals who have helped me develop skills and learn an amazing amount of information in a short amount of time.

    Did I mention that most of them are pretty cool too?

  11. Brian,

    Thank you for posting this. It’s been bugging the jeepers out of me.

    Being a cool person, I’m happy to have helped you meet your initial objective. *duck*

    If you come up with an information product, I’ll buy it.

    Don’t start charging for your services. I’m enjoying picking your brain for free.

    And yes, I still love you, even if you are a rotten capitalist.

    -Jon

  12. Great write-up. You are quite good at diving into the psyche and into what makes people tick and how it relates to the written word. I have recommended your site to several friends.. Cheers from the UK and Seattle

  13. I agree with all of these comments. It’s good to hear your motives and see that they are pretty much the same as most blogger motives. You just want to share your thoughts and find a community of people to share them with.

    That’s what all marketing is about, right?

    It’s only a scam when we’re trying to create false community or make a cheap sales pitch or manufacture authenticity.

  14. Hello Brian:

    There is an interesting conversation going on in CK’s blog that might be of interest to this group http://www.ck-blog.com/cks_blog/2006/11/oh_marketers_th.html — marketers who talk about why they blog.

  15. Shakespeare, Aristotle, Paris, Lord Chesterfield and I are all glad you wrote this, because we were afraid you’d never come out of that closet and admit to being a capitalist dawg.

  16. This rings very true for me. As a consumer I become EXTREMELY suspicious when I can’t see what’s in it for the seller. The little bullshit light in my head pops on straight away…largely due to past experience

  17. A major contributor to “why” people want to know what’s in it for the seller is the whole concept of building relationships. People love to buy from people they can connect with on a more than webpage/sale/thank you type deal.

    People want more and they definitely want to know why you do what you do.

  18. Thanks for all of the articles. I too have started a blog, mostly as a means of participating more actively in my hobby, but I’ve discovered that I’m having a lot of fun writing posts. I’ve been experimenting with your writing suggestions and I really appreciate the free advice.

  19. I read copyblogger, because I believe you can actually be an honest marketer. Honest.

    All kidding aside, I like this blog — I think you give back quite a bit, and that makes me far more receptive to hearing you out before pulling the dirty-marketing-woe-for-us-all flag.

    These tips have helped me start my copywriting “from the ground up”, so to speak, and really are golden.

    I’ve started a blog because I’m actually passionate about business & marketing, and if I can share those ideas with others, then waking up today, tomorrow, or three years from now will be worth it.

  20. Your willingness to invest time and effort into sharing your valuable ideas is bound to pay back. Even if you haven’t worked out how yet. Makes me feel like a lazy slob…better start work on a good post now. Love your work Brian.

  21. Brian, this post answers a lot of questions. I started my blog to help people and now I offer many document downloads. They all are available free of charge.

    Unfortunately the word “FREE” is a bad word anymore. I know that I don’t like to go anywhere where the word free is used since it usually means popups, spyware, or lots of other junk.

    Running Google ads on my site alleviates the “why” question. I never thought of ads as a “plus” before. You’ve given me a new perspective. Very Interesting!

  22. I have to admit that the ‘why’ never actually crossed my mind. I’m naive like that, perhaps. Or, perhaps it is because the majority of my blog reading/writing is of a more social nature.

    Business blogs are a new hobby of mine. Most of my online ‘haunts’ have been simple slice of life spots. The goal there isn’t to sell anything or be anything as much as it is to create a community and a social network.

    When I look at a business blog I see first if it’s connected to something to be sold. If not, I assume it has a networking function.

    I do think that as marketers we’re often good at selling something or someone else. We tend to fall short on selling ourselves. Creating a network and establishing a format to share our skills/knowledge is a strong step in marketing ourselves. If that’s your goal – anyone’s goal – in a blog like this, fantastic. More of us ought to do it. Build community. Build a network. Showcase skills. Market yourself.

    Hey, if you can make some spare change with ads while you’re at it – good for you. ;) (And if this makes no sense, I blame my lack of a morning coffee.)

  23. Well, my natural assumption turned out to be the right one. It never even occurred to me to ask why; I always just assumed it was for the relationships.

  24. Thanks for your logical statement of a stunningly obvious customer concern that is sooooo obvious we simply overlook it. Great post!

    I’m not sure about the example:

    I don’t usually discount my fees, but because I got hit with an unexpected tax bill, you can save 25% if you sign up this week.

    I’d be concerned about the financial stability of a business that needed to run a sale to pay tax. I don’t know if I’d sign up for a long-running subscription or for months of service.

  25. The implication I intended was that the business made more money last year than they thought they did, and now needed to make up for the shortfall in estimated tax payments.

    The rest of the copy would have made that clear. ;)

  26. The real reason I started this blog was just to throw my hat in the ring; to come out from behind the scenes and get involved in a meaningful way. From my perspective, that meant I needed to demonstrate to others what I know and what I have to offer.

    I can so relate to that. Although you end up spending so much time, the wonderful people you come acrosss almost on a daily basis is worth it. When I started blogging initially I had no idea why I was doing it, or may be because half-heartedly I too wanted to earn some advertising revenue…and that’s why I kept losing interest (no, I love money by the way).

    Now I do it for fun, and to meet people and share ideas with them. I’m actually working hard, with greater focus ever since I’ve started blogging.

    Another great benefit has been the amount of information I have been exposed to. I’ve learned a lot more about SEO and online marketing in one month than I had done in 3 years.

  27. Many thanks for this. Readers of my blog know I go on periodic quests for good content and to understand what blogging is all about. Your post here ranks high in my learning curve, so thanks. – Joseph

  28. Great blog you have here!

  29. I started blogs to see if it really was possible to earn money from ad revenue. Now I’m interested in seeing what kind of relationships might come from it. This is more interesting to me now than simply trying to make money from ads on my blogs–which I still do.

  30. Super groovy to see your site supporting what I’ve done with my blogging foray.
    I have very limited ads/banners, only those I actually use myself. I started my blog to spark other business opportunities, sharpen my writing stick, and meet kick-butt people. All of which I’ve done thus far. It certainly has been a win-win situation for me hopefully those I’ve met, and I especially appreciate all of your advice here.
    Cheers to you and thank you!