Blog Tips From A Haven Conference Mentor

Hey guys, this is a little different than my normal woodworking plans or tool review content, but I assure you it’s still relevant. I was asked to be a Mentor at this year’s Haven Conference. What’s that mean? That several hundred attendees put on their sorting hats and then get paired off with about 20 of us industry vets (wait, I’m an industry vet?) and we’ll share with them the secrets of our success. Did you just laugh a little too? Well success in this community comes in all shapes and sizes and even though I’m just three years into this venture I might have a few tips and tricks to help bloggers of any size!

Still confused what Haven is? Check out my previous reviews of Haven from a Guy’s Point of View (it used to be all women…) and then How To Avoid the Conference Sophomore Slump. If you’re interested in even more conferences, check back in a few weeks! I’ll have a full write up on my trips to Haven, Workbench Con, Spring Make and Weekend With Wood to give you an idea what conference is the right fit for you!

Blog Tip: Invest In Yourself Early

Whether it’s social media or your website, one of the biggest hesitations I see from people comes from the size of their following when deciding to “invest” in their content creation hobby. I say invest because let’s be honest, if you’re going to go to one of these conferences you’re spending around a grand for tickets, hotel and travel. That’s a lot of money if only your high school friends and your grandma follow you. But here’s where I’ll challenge that notion.

I launched my website in March 2016 and bought a ticket for my first Haven three months later… then I started hyperventilating about money…then it got worse. An eight hour drive later I was standing in a crowd of 300+ women in what I can only describe as a sorority house reunion on steroids (or Prosecco). Sundresses, cocktails and absolutely nothing in common with what I thought this was going to be… I panicked. I had only 200 followers on Instagram and about 100 views on my website per month if I was lucky. I was out of my element. Then I took my first class and they started talking about how the information was only applicable if you were averaging 100k views (doable in a few years)… per month (ah crap).

So when does this get better? The programs might have been geared to more Decor friendly content at the time, but I quickly realized I was witnessing something special. Not to generalize an industry, but these bloggers were gaining hoards of followers by all posting pretty much the same white painted rooms styled in farmhouse decor. I know I know, I just offended a lot of people, but if all of these bloggers can post similar content AND gain a following, they are clearly using techniques worth paying attention to. No matter what the industry. So I watched, I listened and then I tried it myself. By the time I left a few days later I had new friends for life I could lean on for help, several brand contacts and my first sponsorship lined up. My several hundred dollar investment into my channel paid for itself in actual sponsorship dollars within 45 days… and then some.

Blog Tip: You Set The Expectations

Ready to ruffle more feathers? Anyone that tells you that you need to post content every day or multiple times a week to be successful is full of crap. I tried posting twice a week when I first started my website and I burnt myself out in about 6 months. Good, original content is tough to come by. Readers know when you’re struggling for quality material and they are willing to give you a little slack if you’ve built up brand equity with them. Quantity over quality gives you short term gains.

Don’t you dare publish another “15 Great Kitchen DIY Projects” round up this month to meet your 10 posts a month goal. If you set the expectation with your readers that you will post twice a month on the 15th and 30th, then your readers will know when to come back for your content. This is where quality wins over quantity. Of course you won’t get that initial click bait ad revenue, but what you will get is a very engaged audience that consistently returns and grows. Which leads me to my next tip…

Blog Tip: Rise Of The Micro-Influencer

Just a few years ago there were only a handful of influencers in our space who controlled a majority of the marketing dollars allocated from brands. These are the pioneers who inspired us to chase our passions. As their followings grew, so did their proportionate rate sheet. This is absolutely not a knock to those people. They paved the way and put in the hours to charge those prices. However, brands are frugal and are good at business so they quickly realized splitting that one sponsorship between five smaller bloggers gets you a more engaged audience than putting it all with one industry leader.

Think about it strictly in terms of social media. I’m Kim Kardashian with 143 million followers (jeebus really?). Okay, bad example. Every brand wants part an audience that size…

So let’s say you have Influencer A with 150,000 Instagram followers. How often do you think Influencer A responds to DM’s and comments? Not very often (or they pay someone too). So their follower engagement is probably pretty low, closer to 1.5%-3% which means 3,000 or so people. Meanwhile, Influencer B has only 15,000 followers, responds to every comment and constantly comments on posts in their feed. So let’s say their engagement is a modest 15%… that’s 2250 people. If Influencer A is charging $3000 for a sponsored post and Influencer B is charging $300… why wouldn’t a brand hire 10 different Influencer B’s? If you’re a bigger blogger you can certainly get angry at that statement, but that’s good business. Which means if you’re a smaller account, DO NOT HESITATE to make a pitch to a brand. You’re more valuable to them than you think.

Blog Tip: Make Relationships, Not Deals

When working with brands I like to think about the whole interaction in terms of dating. We can either skip the formalities Tinder style and cash out and move on, or we can court each other and build something long term. I’ve played both games. I’ve celebrated the one-time sponsored content where I’ve made high dollar paydays, but I’ll tell you none of them have paid off like the slow play in the long run.

There’s a strong movement right now to do nothing for free. And by free I mean decline brands who will exchange product for content only. That’s a strategy for established influencers who have brand equity and not for new bloggers. At this point in my career I consult for brands and get to see what it looks like when bloggers and influencers make their pitches. It’s enlightening to see how entitled people are and that the assumption is all businesses have thousands of dollars to throw at our community. Realize nine times out of ten that you are dealing with a smaller business than you think. I can’t tell you how many times I see “I have 300 followers, now give me $1,000 worth of product!” Budgets are tight so it’s a calculated risk in deciding to work with you and that strategy is not gonna cut it.

So for that reason, my point of contact with those brands is my new best friend. And in time, they very well might be. I am here to build a new long term relationship, because honestly, that is the one that will end up being the most fruitful in the long run. Send me a product, let me check it out informally and open the lines of communication. Let me find my own passion with the product and then I can share it with my audience with no strings attached. If we both like where this is heading, then let the business talks begin. We are both invested. We both know what the other is about and hopefully at this point we have a full rapport.

My best partnerships started with free product and a passion we both shared for the product line. Now I have long term deals, new friendships and even monthly paychecks from these companies. That would not be on the table if I had asked for a bunch of money up front.

~Lazy Guy

*image credit Haven Conference

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Eileen Curinga
4 years ago

Great tips here! Thanks for keeping it real!

Suzy Knapp
4 years ago

Thanks for this. Really encouraging to me as a brand new blogger!

Morgan Murray
4 years ago

This is great! As a newer blogger, I was reading things from the veterans about “don’t you dare do anything for free” and “you make it hard for the rest of us when you only take product”….But how do you build a brand’s trust and loyalty (and visa-versa) if you don’t start small? Can’t wait to hear your insights from working FOR brands to find influencers.

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