You’ve spent the past 2, 3, 4 years building a loyal audience for your industry specific blog, or maybe you’ve just started but your domain expertise is so niche that you’ve already collected a small but growing following. Whatever the case, sooner or later you’ll want to start generating some income (if you are not already) for your efforts (the small percentage of bloggers who choose not to monetize their blogs need not read any further!)
ProBlogger.net wrote an excellent post in 2005 that pretty much sums up your options for making money from your blog. For the purposes of this article, I’ll be focusing on a new breed of Affiliate Programs/ Sponsorship for the B2B blogger.
Most of the top affiliate networks (and even the smaller ones) rely solely on B2C offerings, consumer plays (primarily consumer retail-type items) from sites like Shopzilla, Amazon.com, Bizrate, etc. Those advertisers are beginning to see a significant decrease in earnings due to the struggling economy and decreased consumer spend, as reported in this article from Silicon Valley Insider in August 2009.
Even more previlent are the many “free trial” affiliate programs that have become increasingly popular, including diet pills, online dating, etc. where the model is to get as many people to provide their credit card info as possible via a form. Not necessarily the kind of programs you want to run on your blog about Small Business Accounting best practices!
So, you’ve tried Google AdSense and made a few bucks. You’ve thought about going the sponsorship sales route, but are too busy writing blogs, tweeting, and collecting content from contributors (not to mention your day job!) to know where to start. Sponsorship sales make sense for a few reasons: they provide a fixed level of income for a set period of time, and if you land a sponsor that converts well for them (meaning they get the volume of leads they were hoping to get via clicks from their banners on your blog) chances are they’ll come back for more. But most sponsors won’t get what they want out of their campaign, and you’ll have to start over finding new ones.
The easiest way to solve this problem is to join a network that sells sponsorship onto sites — i.e. FederatedMedia, TechnoratiMedia or RepFolio (who I work for) – a company which matches advertisers with niche bloggers on CPM (cost per thousand impressions) sponsorship deals. Great news, right — but a network like Federated has certain criteria you must meet as a blogger/publisher, and you may not meet those requirements (you can get a better idea of what they look for here.)
So what then? You don’t have time to build and manage your own sponsorship sales program, you don’t qualify for the best ad networks (or have tried them but haven’t gotten a lot of results), and AdSense just isn’t cutting it for you. There’s got to be a way to better monetize your 2500 unique visitors a day who come to your blog to learn about SEC Reporting best practices or marketing automation strategy in large corporations.
With the rise of SaaS-based technologies (software as a service) where businesses can now find a hosted solution for just about any business problem, new marketing/lead generation/sales strategies are being implemented to stay consistent with the on-demand model that SaaS provides. The traditional VAR (value-added reseller) approach, where a third party sells software externally from the manufacturing company, is changing (SaaS requires little if any implementation, integration, etc.) Software manufacturers today are increasingly depending on external referral agents to compliment their internal sales efforts, as evidenced by the success we’ve had at Repfolio attracting top SaaS companies like Coupa.com, Intand.com, and SurePayroll.com into the Repfolio virtual sales rep network.
So what does that mean for B2B bloggers?
These same companies that are relying on independent, external third party “referral agents” and “virtual sales reps” view you with the same lens. You’ve got what they need – relationships with their target customer – and they are willing to pay for it – handsomely.
Many SaaS companies are now looking for blogs relevant to their domain that they can leverage to drive sales of their product. Sure, prospects aren’t going to click a banner on your site and then drop $100,000 on an annual license with Coupa, but Coupa may be willing to pay you $5, $10, $15 for every click to their site they get from your site. They also may want to pay a % of sales (CPA) from leads generated from your blog — virtual reps are earning as much as 30% (in some cases more for smaller, newer companies) of sales by just providing a lead.
So where do you start? The easiest answer is to join a network as a publisher. They’ll review your blog content and audience and attempt to make matches on your behalf with SaaS companies looking to reach your target market. Don’t worry about slim traffic figures — if you’ve got focused and niche content in the B2B space, you’ve got enough to work with.
These companies will provide you with banners to work into your blog, where appropriate. You may even be given links with a dedicated affiliate ID if you want to send out Tweets or Facebook status updates about these solutions.
The best news of all is that now there is a way to make some money for all the hard work you’ve put into building up and nurturing a following for your blog. After all, delivering relevant and valuable content is what you, as a blogger, do best!