The Blogging Ninja Guide To Strategic Positioning

What I’m about to share with you is a bit meaty, but it can have a huge impact on your blogging income. I want to address questions like:

  • How accessible should you be with your readers?
  • How do you deal with the issue of pricing of your products and avoid “sticker shock”?

I’m aware that some bloggers (those who aren’t making much money, mind you) may potentially take issue with what I’m about to share. However, this blog is all about being REAL with you and help you guys make as much money as possible from your blogging.

What Is Strategic Positioning?

Honestly, I just came up with that term off the top of my head. 🙂 But, here’s what I mean…

WP_NinjaIt is the purposeful positioning of your personal/online brand in order to foster the MINDSET that you want inside the heads of your audience.

In other words, you can custom tailor how you want your readers to perceive you and your perceived value.

This can have a direct impact on the prices you are able to charge as well as the overall level of authority your readers grant you on your subject.

Have you ever thought about what you want your readers to think of you? Obviously, you probably want them to like you and like what you have to say. But, when we start taking this into the realm of business, it doesn’t always translate into income. Being liked doesn’t mean anybody is going to take out their wallet for you.

Likability is a key factor in the art of persuasion, however. You want to be a likable person and accessible, but with some thought put into how you do it. Let’s go deeper.

Make Them Reach A Little

There is a balancing act in life of reach and withdraw. The best way to illustrate this is the world of dating. Yes, dating. 😉

We’re all familiar with this. You deal with a member of the opposite sex who is too “clingy”, who is always there, who is calling you all the time. What happens? You recoil. You need your space. It is just too much! On the other hand, playing “hard to get” stereotypically makes the other person reach more. They want you because you don’t overly want them.

Now, am I saying you need to play “hard to get” with your blog audience? Well, not really. However, this concept does still play a role in strategic positioning.

Let’s take two bloggers with an equal amount of knowledge on a subject. Blogger A is very accessible. He answers every email, replies to every comment, every tweet. He is a social animal. Then we take Blogger B. This guy is responsive to his audience, but not to the degree where everybody gets a reply. He has systems in place to handle communication. Perhaps he uses a VA to handle his emails. Most of his audience’s interaction with him is via the mediums he controls – the list and the blog.

When it comes time for Blogger A to sell something, he is much more likely to run into resistance because he is already insanely accessible. It leaves no room for added value. See, the truth is that in many cases, increased access to the authority is a major selling point. People want to have more one-on-one interaction with the person who knows. Blogger B is in a better position here. He is accessible enough to be in good communication with his audience, but he leaves enough of a gap there to provide an offer of increased access in the form of a paid program.

Having your audience be a little hungry is a good thing. It keeps them coming back and it makes them more open to potentially buying the right offer from you.

Admittedly, this is a difficult concept to communicate in words and hopefully I’ve done it. This is a balancing act. It is important to be accessible and to be REAL to your audience, however it is also possible to be TOO accessible. Having a slight level of authority and elevation within your crowd is good for your bottom line.

The Pricing Position

Now, you have a slightly hungry audience. What about selling them something?

Well, a common issue is the fear of charging too much. The audience may not place value in your offer, so you end up low-balling the price. You think you’ll sell more because of the lower price, but often the opposite ends up being true.

This is where price positioning comes in. If you’re practicing what I talked about above, then you have authority and elevation with your tribe. Next is to position yourself so that you can charge adequate amounts of money for your offers without them freaking out.

What you need to do is “train” your audience what to expect in terms of pricing. Give them a point of comparison.

This is why you need a high-end product for your market. Many people will include a one-on-one coaching option at a fairly high price tag on their blog. It isn’t expected that many (if any) will take the offer, but having it there provides a point of comparison. The high price tag serves to position you as a person who charges what you’re worth. It also positions you as an authority in your market, since most people equate higher prices with increased quality. Lastly, it provides a point of comparison so that future products you release at lower prices look much more attractive.

The Important Follow-Through

In this post, I’ve provided two important marketing concepts. Both serve to affect your perceived value in the mind of your audience.

There is one VERY important item that has to be included, though.

MAKE SURE YOU DELIVER LOTS OF VALUE.

Simply put, if you do the things above and you don’t follow up with delivering major value and be a straight-up honest person, then it only makes you a manipulative dirtbag.

Engineering authority and elevation in your marketplace when it isn’t deserved is not a good thing. Putting a slight separation in place between you and your audience and not using that to create and deliver truly awesome value to them is not a good thing. And charging higher prices for crappy products is obviously not a good thing.

All of the most successful entrepreneurs out there do what I’m talking about in this post (whether intentional or not). But, it can easily backfire on you if you’re not doing it with your readers in mind. Focus on value. Over-deliver. Treat your customers like gold. Then, all of this jives like a well-oiled machine.

Your Next Move Is…

I’m curious what you think of this material. In marketing circles, this information isn’t really new. For a lot of bloggers, this is probably not something you’ve seen anybody talk about before when it comes to positioning on a blog.

It works, however. And my job is to show people how to use a blog as the face of a successful online business.

What are your thoughts? Do you see how this works? Do you see it in practice?

Post a comment and do your thing! 🙂

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Responses

  1. hi, These players can make life miserable for everyone, …. of the map down for the entire match because it is easily the most strategic position!

  2. These players can make life miserable for everyone, …. of the map down for the entire match because it is easily the most strategic position

  3. I liked David Risley's blogging tips. Yes, blogging in an efficient way is really required to be a good blogger.

  4. Everyone has their own way of making money. And the easiest one is money blogging, which I think is continuously influencing other bloggers around.

    Not only that you earn money, you also help other people learn to what you write.

  5. @Allyn, a mutual friend of ours and I are struggling with how to balance all of this.

    We both love the people that have been with us from the start, but in some cases, their direction as a hobbyist is not compatible with our direction as professionals.

    My hunch is that people pretty much act the same within their peer groups, just that the technology amplifies impact, for good or ill. We see this because such people are in our peer groups. I suspect the regular folks are clingy in other areas, which we don't see.

    But the problem remains.

    My strategy: deliver as much cool junk as I can, interact when I can, let the pieces fall where they may.

  6. @Allyn, a mutual friend of ours and I are struggling with how to balance all of this.

    We both love the people that have been with us from the start, but in some cases, their direction as a hobbyist is not compatible with our direction as professionals.

    My hunch is that people pretty much act the same within their peer groups, just that the technology amplifies impact, for good or ill. We see this because such people are in our peer groups. I suspect the regular folks are clingy in other areas, which we don't see.

    But the problem remains.

    My strategy: deliver as much cool junk as I can, interact when I can, let the pieces fall where they may.

  7. It makes sense to me. Be there but not too much. Find the place where you're there for people and they know it but you're not constantly in their face all the time. Just be there and let that be enough, I think.

    Then with selling, create a price and put it out there. See what others think and communicate why you feel it's a good price. I'm sure there's more detail on the pricing here that I definitely don't understand but the basics I think I might.

    That's what I think. I could easily be wrong here but I'm sticking with this for now.

    What do you think?

  8. That is a great solution Mike! I would assume you didn't get too much push back either because people in that niche are not “MMO savvy” so they don't see it like “he's just trying to sell me something” rather, they just think “it is what it is” 🙂
    AL

  9. I think it probably is niche dependent, although it's not exclusively a problem in the MMO field. We had this issue with our travel blog, where we were getting people emailing us a dozen times before their vacation to ask all kinds of questions, most of which were on the blog somewhere anyway.

    It was fine when we started and it felt good, but it soon became a real burden acting as the unpaid tourist advisor for the island!

    Eventually we set up a chargeable membership area, and with each email request we now have a simple formula. We tell people we're happy to help and answer their question, and then add a very polite note to say that due to the volume of email we get, we can't answer more questions, but if they'd like to join the much smaller member's area they can talk to us via chat or on the forum there, and we, and all the other members will be happy to help.

  10. Hi David,
    Great post. I agree there are lines that need to drawn both in your own head and in your business/blog whatever in terms of what is free and accessible and when a commercial relationship should begin. Surely, though, that's when 'sales' skills come in and being able to say 'no' or to stop a conversation and reposition it as a different type of relationship is key. Anyone, who is having trouble with this should, as you suggest, think about their positioning and brush up on their sales skills.

    Do you agree?

    Adrian

  11. Wow, excellent post! I've actually seen the reverse in action in our own business. We started a blog because we found ourselves answering the same questions over and over via email. So our blog is a way to help our clients out and save us some time. But then some clients started calling and expecting free help over the phone, and were aghast when we said we charged for our time. “But your blog is free…” Amazing! So we actually created a separate identity for our blog so they would see it as a separate entity from our business.

    I work with a business coach who has followed this strategic positioning model for years. It is very difficult to get an appointment with him, and those who do almost always sign up to coach with him. He coaches over 60 clients a week, and he is constantly getting referrals. If he schedules to appear at a seminar, they are guaranteed to fill up the room because of course it's much cheaper to hear him speak at a course than to pay him to coach each week. He strongly believes in the scarcity model to improve perceived value.

  12. Great comments all around (minus @dotcom note..grr) I especially relate to what @jp moses and @remarkablogger said. It's challenging to find the sweet spot of accessibility and pricing, but Dave makes some excellent points in his post. The dating reference is completely accurate…

    The goal is to adjust your accessibility until you find the sweet spot – and with that hunger, as Dave said, they want more of you. (Note to the girls: If you're too easy, there's no challenge…) If you provide value, but hold back your high-level stuff, they'll step up and pay for it. And if they don't…well, as @remarkablogger says….you gotta dump 'em.

    Hmmm. I'm getting flashbacks of dating nightmares… ; )

  13. @Dave— have you found that people outside of tech,MMO, IM and social media marketing niches act this way also?
    I find that once you get away from the niches I mentioned, people are more interested in casual access if none at all. They are also willing to spend money over and over again as long as the product is good (like David mentioned in the post)
    Just curious what you think, as I find that fellow bloggers are the clingy types whereas regular folks who just use Google and Yahoo in their daily lives are not.
    AL

  14. Interesting point here. I have never really thought about strategic positioning too much. And you are right if you position yourself as an expert and authority then people are willing to pay more for your products. Once you are an authority than you need the help of others to keep you there.

  15. I think the problem is that too many people stay in the internet marketing and MMO and tech niches.
    If you have a site in a real world niche like gardening, tools, travel, etc… you can be highly accessible, make big money and get very few emails. I had a site (I sold it last year) that made around $1,000 per month and I got on average about 2 emails per month. it had no twitter page, no facebook, nothing like that… just good content and an email newsletter.
    People in the real world are not looking to be your friend on Twitter (yet)… they just want a good product from a source they trust. They come in from Google, read some stuff, buy something, subscribe to your email feed and are happy to buy more because they trust you, period.
    I know because I make pretty good money and its all in real world niches, not MMO and tech where people are clingy and needy.
    AL

  16. PS. He demonstrates what many 'gurus' do. Promoting scam offers so they collect commissions. Eg Tellman and a few others you already know.

  17. Strategic Positioning

    Yes I like that. I think this also comes from getting to know yourself, and then being true to what you know. It is good to have boundaries and I can see how our technology now enables us to be too accessible to be efficient, and too accessible to leave something that needs to be paid for. After all we are in business.

    As for low-balling; I am guilty for sure.

    Phil

  18. This is a very interesting concept, something I'd definitely not thought of. It ties back into the world of sales though. You want to make your product as appealing as possible, and as much as we hate stupid little psychological tricks like this, they definitely work.

    I think that this also depends on what stage you are at with your blog. I would put building an audience over and above this concept for now. You need to have a big enough reader base to even be able to sell stuff.

    I think being a little bit less accessible makes you seem busier, which equates in peoples minds to seeming popular, and we all know that people want to be with the “in crowd”.

    Thanks David, excellent stuff as always.

  19. Great article, I really like the points on delivering amazing value and neither be too needy or too withdrawn from your audience. It is a delicate balance but once you achieve it, it sends waves throughout the rest of your life 🙂 Good waves of course.

  20. Hi David and Brent,

    I appreciate the clarification. I think I understand better where you're
    coming from now.

    As I thought through it, I think I see now what you're saying. In many
    situations, especially like the Blog Mastermind Program, where part of the
    allure of the program *is* more access and a direct line of advice to an
    authority on the subject, that becomes part of the value proposition. And I
    see how as a part of strategically positioning yourself that's definitely
    more valuable than *not* having that as part of the value proposition.

    So I was wrong =)

    My personal experience is different though, since I do tend to purchase the
    product from the guy who has interacted with me more. The difference? I'm
    not like many ebook purchasers – my personal relationships already give me
    access to a lot of the bloggers that I purchase items from =).

  21. David, this strategic stuff is very good. I think most bloggers would think that given the online medium they should be very much accessible to their audience. Even I thought so.

    But this post does prove a point. Its just human nature. We all want to have the “forbidden fruit”.

  22. hi Graham
    I completely agree with you about blog posts.

    I should have been clearer. My problem is more with private emails than public blog comments. I find a lot of people want to contact me offline rather than on the blog, it could be because my blog area is more personal than say IT or other forums. I work with spiritual and personal growth, with a specialty in clearing abuse issues. So it makes sense that people feel a need to contact you privately. This has been a real challenge for me in running a time-effective business. That's probably why there aren't many successful blogs in my field (compared to say IT).

    I have a lot of trouble just hitting “delete”, even to clearly “low-value customers”. (I define that term using Tim Ferriss' approach). It's that “everyone deserves a reply” idea that makes it hard for me to be inacessable!

    I'm not seeking any magic solutions here, just sharing my experience with fellow bloggers.

    warm regards
    simon

  23. Is it not about advancing the conversation/discussion? You reply if you have something to say, not because you want a response there. If you do that in a targeted way then commenters know you are reading what they are saying but that they have to say something to advance the conversation/discussion themselves. So, in a sense, you reward those who get fully engaged.

  24. to those upset by this post, relax. I think he's just trying to generate click-throughs to his blog, which is actually pretty good.

    Mr Dotcom Note, your humor on your blog is good, but surely you'd be better off not insulting your clients? Just a thought.

  25. I've been hugely inspired by Tim Ferriss' 4 Hour Work Week book and blog; his message is very similar to yours. Despite following him for a couple of years I still fall into that bad habit of being too accessible.

    I feel guilty about not replying to an email or blog comment with a question. Any suggestions to that?

    (it could be a fear of loss of business from someone who would otherwise have bought but got put off by the lack of reply. This has happened to me in the past when I was just too busy.)

    Simon

  26. Interesting read – especially about the comments. As my current blog grows and as I put up my second blog, I figured that I would not be able to comment at the same rate that I do now. I know that when I visit some blogs, I leave a comment and don't expect a response – but I still visit and comment. Glad to see that I don't have to expect fewer followers because of that.

    As far as pricing – I know that's true from years of retail including marketing my own products and having my own B&M. It's a fine line, though – over pricing can be just as bad as underpricing, in my opinion.

  27. Thank you, David for your wonderful post!

    I agree with limiting accessibility – bloggers have a life to lead.
    Will note this when I launch my blog end of this month!

    Cheers,
    Caleb
    Singapore

  28. I agree with being accessible while maintaining the right gap from your readers. In addition to keeping your readers hungry for content, this also makes them sort of curious about the man or lady behind the site, making them want to know more about you.

  29. Great post David..

    I think for us 'newbie' bloggers it is hard in the beginning to find the right balance. We are so eager to be out there and do what we 'are supposed' to do.. Then we wake up one morning finding out that what I am doing was not really what 'i was supposed' to do.

    For me that has 5 kids that gone through the teens, I can compare it with the period where 'they know it all'.. In this period they know all the answers, and your logic is so '2001'.. Then with proper guidance, experience, tools they also will discover the principles in your logic.

    It is the same for us if we want to make money with our blogs, we need to mature. And then follow your guidance, value your experience and count on that the tools you provide us with will help us discover the logic of actually making money with our blogs..

    Think I still is more A then B, so just have to keep learning from you David..

    Cheers.. Are

  30. Well, I have to say that I've considered myself a natural business person most of my life. It just comes to me. What you are describing in this blog is how I have done very well with staying quite busy as a dog trainer despite the fact that in the last couple of years suddenly there's been a surge of those who “just like dogs” taking it on as a “business” to make ends meet.

    I don't make myself hugely accessible. I don't do initial consults for free like most are doing to try and survive… or to try and wow people and sell them a big package off of a “free” consult.

    I make people come to me, I won't go to them. Another strategy many dog trainers do to keep business going… drive all over San Diego for free! Yeah right. Never worked for me.

    This has been all fine and dandy offline. Now, taking my running dog programs online I'm finding that it is much the same game even though I didn't realize it. For instance, I have had my Running Dog 5K E Book priced at $17 for a few months. (Way cheap considering you are getting me as a coach!) I just recently raised it to $27. I got more sales. Immediately. Hmmmmmm….

    Thanks for the awesome blog posts! Wag!

  31. I agree with this. Moderation is key. There is only so much time in the day. I personally ENJOY talking with other bloggers and readers on my own site…as I'm sure you do as well. But it's when we take it too far and feel OBLIGATED to respond to every single person, even if it's 1am and we're sleep deprived…that's not a win-win 🙂

  32. I don't perceive a direct correlation between accessibility and pricing. However, it's really smart to address this concern deliberately as you suggest. I know marketers in both camps…very accessible and those that hardly respond to anyone personally…and both kinds can be successful at charging a good rate for products and services.

    I called my attorney recently and talked with him for 20 minutes and that was free, but if I ask him to write something up for me or whatever, I fully expect to pay his rate, and his rate ain't low.

    I think it breaks down like this…no matter what you charge, there are going to be chumps who complain about it, and that's cool…because that's not who you're selling to anyway 🙂

  33. G'day David,
    The really important part of your excellent post is the bit about the mind. As Al Ries and Jack Trout pointed out in “Positioning” back in 1981, marketing occurs in the mind.
    I ran on offline business for 13 years. I've recently moved it online. As an online newbie, I'm fascinated that so much so called online marketing is straight sales tactics. It appears devoid of any strategy other than to take my money as quickly as possible.
    Of course there's a limit to what you can give away. But if you lack a proper marketing strategy, you attempts to define that limit will be arbitrary and imprecise.
    As you're constantly reminding us, we're running a business. We're not engaged in a Great Online Marketing Crusade led by the Blogging Brigade.

  34. David

    What you say makes lots of sense, getting the balance right, make people hungry, but be accessible not remote. I am wondering, though, how do you place Chris Guillebeau in this? He is a very successful blogger who prides himself on his open contact. He is very accessible and his audience love it.

    I definitely agree with the point about pricing. Outside of the online world I am a designer/consultant in the architecture/construction area. I have found that pricing too low does not always get you the job. One design practice I know prides itself on being high priced. They make a point, though, of giving great service for the money. The have to turn work away!!

    This is great stuff, david, keep it coming.

    Graham

  35. Yeah, just be sure to BE accessible. I don't want anybody to read into this the advice to ignore your crowd. That's stupid. Its just a balancing act. Hope it makes sense.

  36. There have been times when I've drawn the line and had to say, that's where the paid territory begins. And people get offended. I'm as nice about it as can be. It's not me, it's them: they're freeloaders and they don't actually value what they want enough to invest in it.

    If you buy a product or consulting from me, that line moves further back, but even then, it still exists.

    The problem with freeloaders is they'll never think of themselves that way. They'll always turn it around so you're the bad guy. But whatever. They'll also never succeed. No freeloader was ever a success.

  37. I completely agree with this post, and I think I saw it to a degree when I launched my first e-book recently. I tend to be more on the “be overly accessible” end of the spectrum, and to a degree I think it hurt because a lot of the information I included in my ebook program were already written about on my site. Also to a degree the added access to me offered through the program, is something I was already giving to people for free. It definitely hurt sales I think, and I need to reconsider just how accessible I am, and how much information I'm sharing in the future. I'll still obviously be active in social media and commenting, just maybe not to the same degree – or at least leaving bits and pieces out to have some mystery there.

  38. Dude…epic reminder. THANK YOU. I'm that guy who's way too accessible and simultaneously afraid to price stuff too high. I'm always lowballing myself. Thanks for the verbal kick in the pants I needed today. Very timely. I'm truly glad I've discovered your blog…you've already enhanced my blogging endeavors notably.

    My best,

    …jp moses

  39. It's about time.

    The current culture in “blogging” is full time, instant accessibility, fully quid pro quo return on commenting, and “marketing” is frowned upon.

    That doesn't scale.

    I've found that my commenters and customers don't overlap very much, but that the commenters who are customers are, uh, rabid. Those are the people I'm looking for. I attempt to over-deliver to everyone, but it's a distinct pleasure to delight such customers.

  40. Damn, this would've been a perfect intro to my recent “perceived value” series. Good stuff man, and very important.

  41. Yeah, see Brent's comment. I'm not saying to avoid your crowd. I know first-hand the value of interaction with the audience. I'm referring to being over-accessible. Hard to put into words, really.

  42. Sid,
    I think you missed the point about being accessible. The added value in the sale of a product or service is the direct access to the professional. If you dilute that everyday by being accessible to everyone all the time, then doesn't carry that perceived value.
    At least that is my take on the post.

  43. Heh. I think his next business idea should be “Internet Marketing Scumbags Anonymous.” Definitely should have a continuity option. 😉

  44. You know the thing that really jumped out at me when reading this is the issue of accessibility, because I'm not sure whether it's completely true – but I haven't sold anything, only bought.

    The bloggers I tend to buy from though are not the stand offish ones – I tend to buy things from the people who do answer comments and emails, who link out to me, etc. Basically the people who I have a relationship with, and who I can see really nurture their communities

    Of course, I'd be interested to see results from other bloggers who perhaps don't spend as much time in the comments, being accessible etc.

  45. This is some of the best information that you have ever posted! It's the kind of stuff that you know works and you know people do it, but most do not like to talk about it. I use it in one of my businesses and it works great, but I would surely not blog about it. Maybe I should…

    You nailed it. Personal Value > Pricing Position > Follow Through = Strategic Positioning

    I like the term that you used Strategic Positioning.

    Good stuff.

  46. Couldn't agree more. On one of my blogs I sell a printed (paperback) book. In the past I posted frequently to the blog and always thought that doing so would help me look like the expert and increase sales.

    But the exact opposite has happened. Since greatly reducing the number of posts I spit out, sales have increased…by A LOT!

    I have to think its got something to do with being a little less accessible and creating the idea in my reader's head that, hey, you're not getting the best stuff for free.

  47. I've seen both people who are way too approachable and people who aren't at all. It can be hard to find the perfect balance but either of the extremes you just don't want to go with.

    For example, for me it's hard to play 'hard to get' (in the online world at least, haha). I love being able to help people and communicating with others, and often I have to remind myself to step back a little and keep them just a little hungry.

    I assume this gets more natural with time, but for now I have a note on my corkboard reminding me to step back just a little.

  48. Well I understand exactly what you're saying, so your words did the job. I even agree with it, and can see how it should work. The big question is can I do it myself?

  49. I used to be one of those “reply to everyone” bloggers, and I learned that it eats into way to much of my productivity. When trying to build a blog as a business venture, you have to think of it in business terms. Yes, be accessible, but you don't need to go to extremes. I never thought of it along the lines of being too accessible and therefore not seeming to add any value through a paid service or product…. food for thought definitely!

  50. Great idea and now I can see why I am able to make money by promoting CPA offers like colon cleansing and other stuff to financially challenged people. I just laugh every night when I think how I was able to fool lots of financially challenged people who think a $39 continuity program is better than $4 Walmart product. Of course, I have learned all these techniques on the web without spending any money. What a wonderful world1

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