If you are a blogger, chances are that you want to make money at some point. That’s ok – there is nothing wrong with making money online. There is nothing wrong with making money at all. Quite the contrary – it’s the way the world works.
But at the point when you want to start making money, you may be faced with a situation you know nothing about: Running a business. Running a business means making money from something… but from what?
Your answer may be that you make money from a product – and that is not wrong. But, surprisingly, products are not a core element for a business. Products change – here are a few examples:
- BlackBerry: Just 10 years ago, when someone said “Smartphone” they meant BlackBerry. Then the IPhone and Android came along. And BlackBerry lost most of its core business. Today the Smartphones that are sold under the BlackBerry brand are made under license by other companies. BlackBerry’s core business is now business software – and business security software.
- Apple: Apple’s core business used to be desktop computers and a bit later Laptops. They lost the fight against Microsoft – and then Steve Jobs came back and turned the company around. They still make computers, but now they make phones, make money through music services, the AppleTV, IPads, watches, … Computers aren’t their core product any more. They are not a computer company today – they sell a lifestyle.
- Amazon: When you think about Amazon, you think eCommerce, right? Amazon started as eCommerce in general and books in particular – but today they are much more. They sell cloud hosting through AWS, they produce TV and movie content, they are a video streaming service, and so much more. They are not just eCommerce any more – they basically do everything that brings entertainment to the end consumer via the net – on all levels.
You really cannot say that these companies aren’t successful. That means it’s not the product that it sells that makes a company successful.
In my opinion, there are 3 core elements that make up a successful company – any company. But I see many bloggers fail because often, in the online space, these values have been forgotten:
1. A Mission (or… what you WANT to Achieve)
Heard of a company called SpaceX? Probably – because even if you literally live behind the moon, they are working on paying you a visit, and go even further. SpaceX was founded by Elon Musk (who is also CEO) with the mission of bringing mankind to space in general and to Mars in the near future. Elon Musk was a cofounder of PayPal – and he is also the CEO of Tesla. He is famous for saying things like:
“I would like to die on Mars… just not on impact.” – Elon Musk
Not every “mission” needs to be this kind of visionary (or crazy – depending on your viewpoint) approach. But a mission defines what you work on. It defines the approach you take building your business. SpaceX works on getting into space – so what they work on is building better rockets (yes… what they do IS rocket science, literally). What they sell is transportation into space – satellites for instance.
A mission isn’t only important for a company to define a direction – it is also important because it helps you stay on target when things go wrong. It’s the one thing you shouldn’t change – or if you do then you need a really good reason to do so. Changing your mission will lead to a massive change in your company – to the point where changing the mission is actually the same as closing your company and building a new one.
What does having a “Mission” Mean for Bloggers?
When you are running a blog, this gives you purpose. Without a mission, you will probably aimlessly write blog posts about various topics. You might write a post about handling personal finances – followed by a post about your best chicken salad recipe. Without a mission you will not be able to decide what your blog is about.
Many bloggers start this way – and at least 99% of them fail. Having a mission is the most important thing for any business – but especially for bloggers – because when bloggers want to build an online business, this provides a direction, right from the start.
Even when you are just starting out, and you haven’t identified your niche clearly, you kind of just want to “check out that blogging thing,” having a mission is something you can work on with every article. Having a mission is what allows you to build an audience around that mission. Without a mission – it’s impossible to have a message. Without a mission, it’s also almost impossible to have any kind of persistent audience.
If you want to know what our mission, here at The Social Ms is, here it is:
We want to allow bloggers and small businesses to grow and profit – no matter their size.
Here is why this mission is something that we care deeply about: Our start in the business world was back in 2010, when I and Susanna founded a company called exploreB2B. It was an online publishing platform – similar to Buzzfeed and Medium, but focused on the business content niche. We thought we would hire someone but it turned out that we had to learn marketing and especially growth marketing from the ground up.
exploreB2B failed in the end – but our marketing was sound. We got the platform to 80.000 users and 500.000 pageviews per month. But that was a hard piece of work – and not every business has the time and resources to work everything out from the start. That’s why this mission is important to us. (If you want to find out more about this story – here is the full story of exploreB2B, with all its ups and downs.)
No – it’s this is not yet something you would pay me for, right? But it’s an honest goal – something I work towards!
If you are starting a blog or running one – take some time and think really hard about what you want to achieve. And then write down your mission and stick to it. (Thank me later 🙂 )
2. A Message (or… what you Achieve for Others)
Let’s return to SpaceX for a second – we know their mission is to bring mankind to space. But that’s not their message – and that’s not how they make money. If that was their message, no one would pay them.
I don’t have access to SpaceX’s marketing department – but depending on how they phrase their message, it might be something like:
- “We build better (or cheaper) rockets.”
- “We bring your stuff into space.”
I know these examples aren’t very scientific – but they should get the point across.
Your message is your value proposition – it is what you want others to see you can do for them. Your message isn’t your goal, it is how you achieve goals for others. It’s not “This is what I do for the world” or “…myself”, instead, the message is: “This is what I achieve for you!”
Contrary to a mission, a message can change – but changing your message can still lead to drastic changes in your business. Look at the two messages I had for SpaceX above. The first one leads to a business selling rockets – the second one leads to a business selling transportation.
Having a message is mandatory for any business because it determines how you communicate with your audience. And communication is key for a business.
As a Blogger – When Do I Need a Message?
As a blogger there is one point when you absolutely need a message: When you turn your blog into a business. Without a message, you won’t make money.
But I will go one step further – you should have a message right from the start. You don’t have to publish your message, but a message determines how you communicate with your audience. It will determine whether you are a teacher, a politician, a visionary or anything else. Without a message – you are “just” a blogger.
Think about it – why should I (or anybody else) listen to YOU – when there are millions of other bloggers out there? That is what your message gives you.
I can’t let you continue reading without letting you know about at least one message for a blog. Here is our message at The Social Ms:
The Social Ms helps you start and grow YOUR business MASSIVELY by teaching you FREE online, social media and content marketing methods you can implement RIGHT NOW!
So when you are starting out – write down a message right below your mission. Again: You can thank me later 🙂
3. A Brand (or… an Audience)
Now here is the third core element of any business and that is… (drumroll)… a brand. But what is a brand, really?
A brand is an audience that perceives your business in a certain way. (At least for the purpose of this article.)
A brand is different from the other core elements simply because this is something that you won’t fix with a sheet of paper and scribbling a few words. Any company that wants to sell anything needs to be known within its target audience. And not just known – it needs to be perceived positively.
This can mean a lot of things – I’ve seen companies that had a target audience that consisted of… maybe something like 15 other companies. But each of these companies knew they existed and knew they had the solutions they needed so they were doing extremely well.
On the other hand, usually, when you talk about “brand” and “audience” you mean a very clear perception of your company in a huge group of people.
There is no shortcut to achieving this. You cannot buy a huge audience that perceives you in a certain way – even if you buy your audience through advertising, you still have to work on your brand image – the perception.
This is how Apple has long cues of people in front of their store every time a new IPhone is released. This is why German car companies are selling their cars at higher prices than Toyota – a BMW says “luxury” and “power” while a Toyota is more likely to say… “middle class.” (Don’t turn this into a discussion of what’s better – I don’t drive a BMW.)
How Do I Build my Brand as a Blogger?
As a blogger you need to be ready to invest a lot of time into building your brand… But brand for bloggers translates directly into “traffic” and “audience.”
This is why you need hustle to get eyes on your content – and then convert these eyes into email subscribers and send regular newsletters. What you are doing is building an audience and working on how this audience perceives you. You nurture your new subscribers to have a certain, positive image of you in their brains.
No – this is not something you can work out right from the start. But having a mission, and a message helps. This is why blogs sometimes take a while before running profitably – but this is also why blogs have so much potential. A blog is often run as a sideshow – until it really takes off. A true blogger doesn’t just write for the fun of it – but also not just for money. A blogger publishes out of love for his/her audience! And to satisfy an even bigger audience a blogger will work on achieving a bigger audience!
When you do that – you are set to become a successful blogger – and if you concentrate on these core elements of a business, you will be able to monetize and make a good life just from your blog!
These are in my opinion the core elements of any business. Sadly they are often neglected online – and I do blame some online marketing influencers by making promises of easy money that anyone can make online. Many of these marketers leave out that any business needs to have these core elements – and that any business without these elements isn’t built to last.
Sure, you can sometimes make a few bucks quickly – but that won’t make you rich. And often you will lose more than you gain. For instance – I get offered money for sponsored posts fairly often. But either the content isn’t right for our audience, or the quality isn’t good. Or both.
It would hurt my brand extremely if I started publishing these to earn a few more bucks on the side. And it would jeopardize my mission and destroy my message.