Many of you read an article I wrote a few months back entitled 10,862 Comments Later, I Realize Blog Comments Are NOT a Business Model. At the time, the article certainly got a lot of comments and interaction.

Some understood it.

Others completely missed the mark.

But today’s post is a harder and deeper look at a subject that affects each and every one of us—the misunderstood concept that is ‘Online Community.’

Yep, Let’s Talk Money

As you can tell from the title of this post, today we’re going to talk about money.

The reason for this is simple: Businesses don’t exist without money.

I think this statement is one of the most forgotten truths when discussing the subject of online business success.

Again, nothing happens in business without money.

If your business makes enough of it, you smile and turn a profit.

If your business doesn’t have enough to pay your bills, and the creditors are after you, and you can’t make payroll…well then life stinks.

I should know—been there, done that.

Blogger’s Denial

Let me give you an example and then to my point.

A few months ago , while I was attending blog world and grabbing a bite to eat, I happened to see a lady sitting alone at a small table and being that I was looking to meet someone new, plus the fact that all the tables were taken,  I asked her if I could join her and she happily obliged.

We proceeded to have a very pleasant conversation about her blog, her large community, the high level of engagement, etc.

Upon hearing all this, I told her that I thought community was great, but blog comments, in and of themselves, were not a business model nor a strong success indicator.

The lady disagreed with me but as we continued our discussion, it came out that her blog was clearly not making enough money .

In other words, she couldn’t pay her bills and was very, very concerned.

Although her blog appeared successful, there was a reality check happening beyond what was showing in ‘the community.’

In many ways, this very kind lady was wrapped up in a belief that is killing the success of many, many bloggers and businesses today—that ‘community’ means ‘profits.’


Not even close.

Make the Choice

Now for those of you who legitimately don’t care for one second if your blog ever makes a dime, please understand this article doesn’t apply to you, and you’re welcome to hit the ‘delete’ button now.

But for the large majority that are doing their best through blogging, content marketing, and inbound marketing to make a living, I’d ask you to consider this question:

Would you rather have a thriving online community or a thriving bank account?

And no, you’re not allowed to say ‘both.’

Yes, of course the ideal answer is ‘both,’ but in this case, let’s just pretend you’ve got to make a choice.

What’s the answer going to be?

I submit that too many bloggers are worried more about ‘offending’ their community than actually leveraging said community to turn a profit.

Again, we can love our communities to death and have the greatest intentions in the world, but if we can’t pay the bills, it’s all for naught.

Focusing on What Matters

Someone recently told me they didn’t like my opt-in box on the homepage of this site because it was too ‘pushy,’ and that others in the community probably didn’t like it either. But considering the incredible amount of eBook downloads that form generates everyday, plus the fact so many of those same readers turn into actual consulting and HubSpot customers of mine, I really don’t care if a few people are offended with the box.

Again, it’s about priorities, and paying customers are #1. Because you can’t always please every  reader you have with every decision you make, sometimes you’ve simply got to choose the one that leads to the greater good.

You see, I don’t think many folks online would ever make such statements, as ‘community’ is viewed by most as the ‘Holy Grail’ of the blogosphere.

And although community is very, very important, it is not the Holy Grail.

What is?

  • Happy Customers
  • Profits
  • Business success

Now that is the Holy Grail.

And if it happens by way of an amazing blogging community, then great…wonderful. In fact, when a blog/business finds a way to better monetize their community and give great value in the process, then believe it or not the community itself grows stronger. (As noted by the 100+ emails I got last week alone from people that read my newsletter yet don’t actively comment on my blog.)

But if a blogger or business owner loses track of this extreme priority, then we have a serious problem.

This Ain’t the Field of Dreams

Blogging for business is not like the movie ‘Field of Dreams.’ Sure, ‘If you build it, they will come‘ is a start, but there needs to be a few more words attached to the end of this statement to make it applicable to our industry: “And once they come, know how to make enough of them happy and paying customers.”

So before your business starts focusing too much on the number of Facebook likes, tweets, silly Alexa rankings, massive amounts of blog comments, or even frivolous Klout scores….please remember the one thing that we all must have first and foremost on our minds—Financial Peace.

Your Turn

I must admit, I’m very curious as to what the reactions will be to this post. If you had to choose just one, would you say ‘community’ is your blog’s #1 goal, or is it ‘profits’?(Remember, just because you list profits as #1, doesn’t mean your not extremely pro-community, as that’s certainly the case with me.) Also, what has been your experience in balancing these two all-important aspects of effective online marketing?

Your thoughts matter, so jump in in folks…

Download your FREE copy of my 230 Page Inbound and Content Marketing Made Easy eBook now and start reading in 60 seconds!


162 thoughts on “Why ‘Community’ is NOT the Holy Grail of Blogging and Online Success

  1. Hi Marcus

    Well done you for writing an honest post that should be a reality check for a lot of bloggers. I wrote a post ages ago and believe it is still true today “Comments Don’t Equal Sales” and the same goes for a huge community following.

    One of the reasons I looked to diversify and also make changes to my blog was because I realised I needed to. Also as my marketing friends ask me when I am busy replying to comments, blog hopping, tweeting or whatever: how many sales have you made today… that is always a reality check for me.

    I’m still learning heaps about marketing and I’m sure it will take time to get away from the blogger mindset but this post has again reminded me of what I am doing on-line and what my goals for 2012 are.

    Thanks heaps for sharing Marcus and I’m sure you will get some interesting feedback. And it probably helps to be able to be objective about this topic cos you were a business owner before you were a blogger ;-)

    Patricia Perth Australia

    • Isn’t it funny how almost every discussion we have Patricia comes back to goals?

      When you and I are very focused on our business goals, everything seems to have the right perspective.

      But when we get offtrack, and worry about that which doesn’t matter nearly as much, well then we struggle.

      It has been cool for me to watch you grow with your goals Patricia, it really has. Obviously, I’m doing my best to do the same.

      Either way, thanks so much for commenting and I very much appreciate your thoughts. :-)


  2. Marcus, you know my answer to this one! Profits. I’ve not hidden it, nor do I discount my community (of which you are part). The folks who take the time to come and visit, and share my posts, whether they comment or not, are outstanding. Wrapping myself up in the numbers or the visits, like some sort of grand cape is silly. No. I take the comments and visitors for what they are, use their insight to grow further, but stay extremely focused on my sustainable and profitable business model. Blogging is not the business model. Blogging is just a part of the online marketing strategy. The business model is something else entirely and it was only when I started focusing more on THAT and less on the blog as a model, did I start to see an upturn in my business.

    Timely post for many a blogger out there, I would suspect. I wholeheartedly agree.

    (might I marvel at the fact that I am first in!!!)

      • I think you and Patricia were in a race there Erica ;-)

    • Amen, amen, amen Erica.

      And that’s one of the things I like so very much about you– you’ve addressed your priorities. You’ve been open about them. You care about community but you understand how things work in terms of financial survival.

      I just hope everyone reads your comment. ;-)


    • I agree Erica and will elaborate more when I properly comment. Some people make money from their blogs. Some people use their blogs to make money. If that makes sense. And I think you and I are the latter hoping it brings us business off line. (sorry if I confiused former and latter drives me nuts)

      • Totally understand you, Howie and yes, you and I are in the latter where we use our blogs to help us make money, but our blogs in and of themselves do not make the money for us. Those are 2 very different animals, or aliens.

  3. You hit the nail on the head when you mentioned those that are in it for a business. If you are in it for business you should not have any remorse at all. Af you think your optin box is obnoxious look at my home page :)

    I am a big believer of the sales funnel. If you come to any of my sites I am going to give you something free in exchange for your email address. I am then going to move you into a progressive sales funnel. From $20 product to a $500 product. It has nothing to do with I have to eat. It has more to do with the fact that I have fun doing this, I do it well, and I deserve to get compensated. I don’t care for blog comments, and I turn them off in a lot of cases. I don’t care about visitors. I care about check out receipts showing up in my email, the amount of time people spend on my sites, and how many clicks. That shows interest. Interest in my free stuff leads to interest in my my paid stuff.

    Great work.

    • I’m very glad you brought up the concept of ‘sales funnels’ Patrick, and then broke it down for the readers. What you’re explaining is exactly what I’m talking about in this article.

      This doesn’t mean your dismissing community, but rather ‘aligning’ community with the goals you have, thus getting the best of both worlds and reaching the goals you’ve set.

      Very well said my man.


  4. As someone who built an large, thriving and profitable online community, I’d like to recommend not being so quick to write off online community. First, not every online community is successful. But, also, sometimes community efforts aren’t focused as they should.

    For example, your business installs pools. I’m assuming it’s a location based business and that you’re not going to be driving up the coast to New Jersey to install a pool in my yard. So while you have a wonderful, positive community here, it’s not necessarily going to drive sales. However, your community has brought attention to the Sales Lion and Marcus Sheridan and put you on the radar, and now you’re speaking at conferences and even keynoting.

    So perhaps your community here isn’t about driving sales, but rather helping to establish expertise and recognition. Also, if you didn’t have this wonderful community to interact with each day, I wonder if you would have kept this blog going as you should. Because if it wasn’t a success you wouldn’t have the traffic and you wouldn’t have everyone talking about Marcus Sheridan right now. Maybe it’s a little holier than you think. Just because it doesn’t drive sales, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an important purpose.

    Now, if you have online products to sell – for example, ebooks or courses – many people in your community will buy those products because they interact here with you every day and trust you. That’s another area where your community will support you and bring profit. Your community wants to support you but because your business doesn’t apply to them, they can’t.

    Is community the holy grail of blogging? I maintain it could be, it depends on your focus. Your community has actually done a lot for you and your brand, even if it’s not driving sales. However, if you take your community efforts local and even offline, you may find more success.

    • What you have to understand Deb is that I’m not writing off online communities at all here. Rather, I’m trying to help folks understand that if their blogging coincides with their business, and they want to make a profit, they need to align the two.

      You monetized your blogging community, and I’m assuming that was your goal. Wonderful, as that’s a classic ‘How to do it right’ case study.

      I love community. The amount of time I’ve spent investing in it is in the thousands of hours. But I also have a plan of giving value to my community, which leads to a call-to-action, which then possibly leads to a sale.

      This community has lead to sales. Lots of sales. Some direct, some indirect. But in no way am I inferring that communities don’t lead to sales, but again, this assumes the blogger/business understands how to use/leverage said community.

      But I understand that the business part of this comes first, and then I tie the community in with those business goals, thus forming the end result.

      Does that make any sense?

  5. I couldn’t agree more.

    The only examples I can think of where a community can generate income are:

    1) The blogger has high profit products they create which sell to their community.
    2) The site has a premium “paid” area.

    I’ve seen a few examples of sites where those methods seem to work, but they are pretty few and far between.

    On another note, I love your statement:

    I really don’t care if a few people are offended with the box.

    You could have written an article on this idea alone. You can’t run a business trying to please every single person out there. If you make a change to improve your business and some people don’t like it – so what? Are they willing to pay you to change back? ;)

    • Very well said Mike.

      To I care about my readers? Yes, very much. Anyone that reads this site regularly knows this.

      But at the same time, The Sales Lion is a business and my brand. Yes, the community impacts that business and brand very much, but only if I’m able to draw from said community.

      Thanks so much for stopping by Mike and I hope your 2012 is starting out great :)


  6. So true Marcus! It’s nice to finally hear someone come out and say it. I see many clients who are scared or uncomfortable with making sales a priority of their blog. Somehow, they feel that being compensated for their work is “uncool.”

    For me the truth is simple: If you provide value to your community via your blog and create additional products/services for sale that people want and need, you have an obligation to make them visible. Imagine if you have a product I need but I don’t find it because you are afraid to sell… now that would be uncool. Plus, there is nothing wrong with being compensated for the value you provide.

    That’s my 2 cents.

    Nick Bogatin @ eBizMastery

    • If you provide value to your community via your blog and create additional products/services for sale that people want and need, you have an obligation to make them visible.

      Now that,Nick, was beautifully said. This concept of ‘being compensated is uncool’ is one I’ve never, ever understood. Sure, I’m never a fan of selling junk, but that stuff almost always comes back and works itself out.

      Sage advice bud, thanks so much for the comment,


    • Rebecca Livermore

      Nick, isn’t it funny how people are uncomfortable with making money a priority on a blog? Why is it that people feel uncomfortable with that, when they don’t feel uncomfortable with making money on a 9-5 job? Maybe it’s because we’ve all encountered people online who only care about making money and go about it in ways that are less than ethical, and we certainly don’t want to be lumped in together with those people.

      In spite of the bad ones, obviously, there are people out there doing it right and it certainly pays to be one of them.

      • Rebecca,

        Absolutely! Not that I agree personally with what I am about to say, I suppose people feel uncomfortable because of their perception on sales. I don’t think most people object to being obscenely wealthy from their blogging. I imagine most people would like that. Their problem with making it a priority is they feel they have to sell to accomplish it. And their perception of sales is similar to the archetypal “used car salesman” – someone that nobody wants to be.

        More than that, it’s not just that they don’t want to be a “salesperson”, they don’t want to be perceived as being one by others. Nobody dislikes a hard working 9-5er or judges them harshly so people are fine with being perceived as that. And of course all 9-5 jobs are about money (what else could they be about since 99% of people don’t enjoy what they do).

        But if people would only realize that sales does not equal sleazy. That sales and long term success today, and especially on the Internet, has to be the opposite of sleazy. It is simply sharing a product or service that benefits a certain niche and making sure that it is visible, easily accessible, and enticing for potential clients.

        What do you do?

        I’d love to connect further… are you on Facebook? Look me up there if you wanna stay in touch.

      • Oh, Nick Bogatin is my full name. LOL, it would be hard to find me with just a first name.

        • Rebecca Livermore

          Nice to meet you, Nick. And yes, the last name is helpful. :) Regarding what I do, I’m a writer and virtual assistant. I’ll look forward to connecting with you more.

  7. You’re right, Mane man. Damn I keep agreeing with you. I can’t help it, but you’re right. Profits are the holy grail, along with community. But what about a blog without a community (but has TONS of traffic), and no profits from any kind of product except for those Adsense ads (apparently, some are getting enough to feed them REALLY well, or so they say). Does that count as success for a blog, in your opinion?

    • It all goes back to goals Josh.

      If someone only cares about community, and nothing about monetization or profits, then community is their holy grail.

      If someone cares about making $1000 a month in ads, and traffic is the indicator to meet that goal, then traffic is the holy grail.

      But if a company wants to stay in business and hope to achieve that with the help of their blog, then profits are the holy grail.

      Make sense bud?

      • Yeah, it does. Thanks for your input, Mane man.

  8. Hi Marcus,

    I agree with you. Community is good and looks impressive to the people looking in. I’m learning it takes time and patience for both community and finances to grow.

    I’d like to have both in the future, if I had to choose, of course, I’ll go with the bank account, who wouldn’t want that?

    As of now, I’m just learning and finding my way.

    Very informative and timely post!

    Take care,


    • Hey Evelyn! Yes, I’m with you, it is nice to have them both. But I think if you understand your priority chain, and have clear goals and focus, things will go well.

      So glad you stopped by Evelyn and hope you’ll make it back! :-)


  9. Hi Marcus,

    I just wrote about this – and linked up to the post with this comment – 2 days ago.

    The post: focus on generating leads before comments. I know what you speak of, because I struggled. For a long time. I had all sorts of comments and shares, and things looked rosy, but no bread on the table. Because I feared being “too self-promotional”, or “too salesly”, not realizing most of this advice/feedback was coming from broke people, or people who feared criticism, or people who wish they had the faith to monetize their site, like I was monetizing mine.

    Like many bloggers, I let the opinions of a few impatient or money-allergic folks dissuade me from using pop-ups, or including an enticing opt-in form. I soon learned the Universe plants folks like these in our lives so we learn to say: “Ahh, screw ‘em”, in a nice way, of course ;)…and move forward through this resistance. Kind of like a test, as in, will you stick to your money-making guns in the face of resistance?

    Seriously though, do what makes money for your blog. If people do not like that you’re making money, that’s their problem, and do not let their problems interfere with your money making.

    Thanks for sharing your insight :)


    • Ryan, Ryan, Ryan….there may be many people that comment on this post, but this one is sure to make many, many people think.

      “For a long time. I had all sorts of comments and shares, and things looked rosy, but no bread on the table. Because I feared being “too self-promotional”, or “too salesly”, not realizing most of this advice/feedback was coming from broke people, or people who feared criticism, or people who wish they had the faith to monetize their site, like I was monetizing mine.”….WOW

      I could seriously talk about what you just said all day man, but let me just say congratulations to you in making your business work for you Congratulations in finding peace and prosperity from your site. And I’m sure there are many, many customers of yours that are more than glad you chose this path as well.

      Continued success my friend,


  10. Except for some rare cases (mainly the blogs that talk about how they make money blogging) the blog is not the business. The blog contributes to the business. I do get a little upset sometimes when I see people selling courses on how to blog. To me that is like buying a course on how to talk.

    Look at the credible people that say they make bank blogging. They have problem being very up in your face about selling things and getting your email address. I like the ones I’ve me. John Chow came to OKC awhile back and after having dinner, drinks and a basketball game I trust him. You could look at his site and say it is obnoxious. But I doubt he has any problem sleeping at night, or any problems with his bank account. He is in the game to make money.

    The community part is also important: It gives you retention (time per visitor, click per visitor). Your community is also more likely to mention you or your blog to somebody else. That is a unpaid outsides sales department. Keep them happy.

    • Whoops… That was supposed to say they have NO PROBLEM (2nd paragraph, 2nd sentence)

    • ‘The blog is not the business’ is a very interesting point Patrick. Like you said, it does contribute. For me, it is what starts the ball rolling. It gets potential clients in the funnel. But after that, there must be a strategy to take a prospect further, and that’s what I want people to remember from this article.

      I don’t want people to think from this article that I devalue community. Far from it. My relationships with folks have lead to opportunities, sales, etc. But just the ‘relationship’ in and of itself doesn’t keep the lights on, and I hope people understand this…

      Thanks for your thoughts here Patrick,


  11. So this is what you were burning the midnight oil on eh? Ok well here’s some gasoline. Since you’re being (thankfully) blunt I’ll be too.

    First off I do think community is the key to a business. However you and I may define community differently. I believe that there are 2 groups of people that compose the “community around a business”:

    1. The people that will never be your customer (the larger community)
    2. The people that will become your customer or a referral partner

    Now here comes the gas – people don’t do enough to cultivate that second group because they cannot tell the difference between the two. They get caught up in the numbers of comments and social shares and fail to connect with the people not just on a personal basis but also on a business basis. They don’t follow the URLs of the people that comment and learn more about the people that are on their blogs.

    In addition, comments are a gold mine! I created my 30 Days of Blogging program based on the needs mentioned by commenters here and on other blogs I read. People do tell you what they need, though it’s often indirectly. So…

    Problem #1: Opportunities fail to be spotted because people only go half way.

    Problem #2: Rules are not created or enforced

    As an example, I created a comment policy on my blog a few weeks ago and am strictly enforcing it. I email people that don’t adhere to it and give them a chance to give me the right information (typically I need a name). If I don’t hear back within 24 hours I spam their comment. Not everyone will do that.

    So I do feel that community is extremely important. We need to find ways to connect with the two groups of people I mentioned above, connect with them on a personal and business basis (something we small businesses do much better than large corporations), and look for business opportunities.

    Do that and your community can bring success. Fail to and well, we’ve seen the alternative.

    • Awesome comment, man. Just awesome.

        • Yep, that Dempsey is kinda smart and stuff. ;)

          Good seeing you Jason,


    • I really do think this was an exceptional…VERY exception actually, point Robert.

      It’s funny you bring up the two parts of the community because I’ve got an article coming out about that very same subject. What that is going to have a tone of depth. Believe it or not, you’ve stolen my thunder a little bit Robert and so now I’m going to have to ban you from commenting here again, because you’re too dang good. ;-)

      What I don’t want people to think from what I’ve written is that community does not have value. If it didn’t, I wouldn’t kill myself to make this place as interactive as it is, much of which folks never see because it’s done in email, and not commenting, form.

      So should they mesh? Yes, absolutely.

      Furthermore, we need to find ways to discover the silent majority, the referrers, and the customers.

      And that’s where I’m going with all of this bud. But I want people thinking from top down, with clear goals and vision, and then know what it takes to get there.

      Cheers bro,


      • When I read your post I didn’t read anything that said you don’t value community. If you didn’t you’d turn off comments and respond to no one. On the contrary as you’ve responded to many you do value community. Having said that…

        There is a lot of information out there about blogging that focuses on getting things shared and comments and points to those numbers as the “success metrics.” That’s all well and good unless you have an actual business to run, which you, I, Danny, Michael, and many other commenters here do. That means we need to be making money.

        I learned many years ago that having a blog as a business and having a blog for your business are two completely different things. I chose the latter as I’ve always been either providing services or building products. I’ll keep the word legitimate out of it here :)

        So in that sense if you are blogging as part of your business – which many of us are – that means you need to be generating leads one way or another. I have a daughter I want to send to college later (one that won’t stamp out her creativity or personality) and would like to grow our family. That requires money, and I’m a business man. Having said that…

        There are many ways to grow the community around your business, some better than others. Don’t let what you see out there limit your direction.

        • Have to give you another shout out Robert, excellent comments sir, most excellent.

    • Seriously Robert, I was half way through the comment and knew I was going to say great job! Incredibly well said.

  12. Hey Marcus – great insights here on this post.

    Much of this for business owners is just about ‘socializing your assets,’ and the process that’s involved.

    Yes, we are in a completely different world from a year or two ago and there are some great ‘proven’ strategies out there that folks can plug into get an effective fast start to monetizing social media efforts.

    However, for most business owners, social is as foreign to them as it was to you and I when we dipped our toes into the water.

    Numbers, fans, social proof, Alexa rankings, comments, and active community – these are all things that take over the mind and emotions when getting started in social media. Most of what I still see out there regarding money and social is “how do you monetize your social media efforts.”

    Its experience – those little success and light bulb moments that provide the understanding of the medium to successfully the leverage the social web to make profits.

    Experiencing the process is just as important for new business owners as it was for you. It’s probably the single most important factor in how you have become a thought leader in the space. Trial, error, light bulb moment, adjustment, move forward. Repeat.

    What social practitioners need to do is reset the paradigm so business owners can turn their social efforts into profits. The social marketplace has made ‘numbers’ the main focus. Who’s popular, who’s getting the comments, twitter followers, Klout scores, et al – – And not who is leveraging the social web to make profits for their business, as indicated by your examples above.

    The social web needs a shift of focus from numbers, popularity and poverty – to building businesses, relationships and profits.

    You’re doing a great job at changing the current paradigm :)

    • Mark, you’ve left many, many profound comments on my blog before, but let me be completely sincere in saying this one took them all. Between what you’ve said here, and what Robert D. said, I really think I need to erase my post and just copy and paste what ya’ll have said.

      But of everything you mentioned, here is what really, really got me man:

      What social practitioners need to do is reset the paradigm so business owners can turn their social efforts into profits. The social marketplace has made ‘numbers’ the main focus. Who’s popular, who’s getting the comments, twitter followers, Klout scores, et al – – And not who is leveraging the social web to make profits for their business, as indicated by your examples above.

      That paragraph should be a standard for the entire world of blogging for business my friend.

      Incredible stuff bud,


      • You’re a gracious leader Marcus. Nuff said.

  13. Marcus,

    I was emailing with Ana over at Traffic Generation Cafe (personal favorite of mine) the other day and she said something to me that really struck deep (Actually her comments and yours are what finally pushed me to separate my insurance business from my Marketing work):

    You have to ASK for the business. Your eBook is Free but the email address has value and you want that value. So you ASK for it. Yeah some people will be offended but they weren’t really customers and didn’t really understand your community anyway if they were offended.

    Great article dude.

    Ryan H.

    • Yeah, Ana is awesome Ryan, and she has been doing this enough to say things as they are, so I’m glad you have connected with her.

      But yes, you have to be will to ASK for things. Assuming that folks are going to take action can be rather naive.

      This is sales and marketing 101, and just because it’s called ‘social media’, doesn’t mean we should forget every great rule to earning the sale.

      Always great hearing from you man,


  14. As usual, you play on key buttons for an engaging chat 
    You make really valid points and at the same time I am thinking shouldn’t it be a balance? Ie an active online community AND a thriving business. If you are just getting started, I think you start with building this engaged community ( emphasis on engaged). As you grow your business, your online community is a place where you customers can come and join the discussion. Seeing a level of engagement is like an open door to join in.
    However, your point is well taken in that at some point you have to make a living and balancing that is critical. I must admit, I am still working on that.

    • Hey Shirley, thrilled you stopped in today.

      Ideally should there be a balance? Yes and no.

      Let me give you an example– On my swimming pool site, which is the most popular of its kind in the world, I get few comments on blog posts,and almost never get facebook shares or twitter likes. Notwithstanding, those things don’t align with my goals for the business. My goals are to get people to the site through the blog (SEO), and then have them move down the sales funnel, and eventually turn into a customer. From the outside, you’d never know the site has any ‘community’…but it does very, very well.

      Then we have this blog, which, for a long time, had a nice ‘community’, (outside looking it), but the blog wasn’t really producing much business. Now that I’ve aligned my goals appropriately, I am able to have what I feel is a balance in both, but ‘customers’ are the priority, with community being second.

      Does that make sense Shirley?

      Again, thanks for all your support,


      • How can I not stop by with those titles? Powww :)
        You certainly have given me something to think about and reflect. A good debate. Key here is- it must align to your goals and having a clear priorities which your have exemplified here. I have always been an advocate of an active community- however the revenue stream is very important and hence with that so is the customer base.
        Thank you for planting the seed.

  15. Marcus,

    You might remember the article I wrote at GROW about turning your social media attention into income. As I’ve talked with business coaches and other successful people, I’ve noticed one thing. They see money the holy grail. In fact you’ve probably never heard of some of the people who make tons of money online because they’re busy working on building their empires and enjoying their $$$.

    The other day I decided to make a twitter list of all the people who I know make money online. I wanted to observe what they’re actually doing there over the next month. The first thing I noticed was that they are not there all day. The second thing I noticed is that they promote their stuff although sparingly . It’s a balancing act that I think we lose sight of when we get too focused on community and conversation. In fact I think back to what Dan Andrews at Tropical MBA says about the silent majority. The people who comment on your blog are not the most accurate representation of your readers/customers. So we have to be careful not to confuse community with customers.

    In conclusion, I’d say it’s about finding a balance.

    • Interestingly enough Srini, I thought about you when I was writing this, and that statement you made about social media being a form of online currency.

      I love your observation about the high online achievers. In fact, that’s an article that needs to be written (please tell me you’re going to write it)…Because people need to understand the behavioral pattern of many of these successful entrepreneurs.

      Thanks for always pushing the thought envelope man,


    • Hey Srini – it’s interesting, but I have many friends who make A LOT OF MONEY online – one of my most successful friends who makes 7 figures a year, all online, just started his Facebook page 2 weeks ago.

      Making money online and savvy social media marketing are two totally different things.

      Both offline and online based businesses can greatly benefit from a solid social media strategy.

  16. I think this post is a really interesting look at how we measure success in the new media industry. There are a lot of “unsung hero” types out there – people who don’t have crazy, huge communities, but who are making a good living online. Yet, when we read someone’s blog for the first time, we often determine whether or not they are successful (and worthy of our time) by how popular they are. I think it’s a good “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” lesson. I’d rather take advice from someone with two comments and a six-figure income than someone with hundreds of comments who can’t pay the bills. It’s not that community doesn’t matter at all, but I think you’re right that too many people make it the main focus. Unless your blog is about promoting a cause or some other non-profit venture, working on monetization shouldn’t take a back burner to community.

    • Hey Allison!! So great to see you :)

      I appreciate your angle on this. You want to learn from those who have produced results, and who can possibly fault that?

      At the end of the day, when we are in business, banks and creditors only care about one thing— have they been paid?

      Is it romantic to talk about this subject like this? No, it’s not. But I think it’s a subject we’ve got to be willing to address, and I’m certainly glad you were willing to talk about this as you have.

      Hope your 2012 is going great Allison!


  17. Right. All of the cushy comments and sense of belonging to an on-line community are not going to put food on the table, and worse, they can sometimes (not always, but sometimes) be a HUGE distraction to the bottom line. You know, like when we convince ourselves that all that community building is going to pay off financially – someday. Just not right now. When we tell ourselves, just wait, it’s coming, the money – just let me write another (hundred) blog posts and my network will be so large that I can’t HELP but be financially well-off someday….. Well, the business plan just has to be a whole lot more solid than that, doesn’t it?

    If blogging is just for fun, ok, then don’t tie it in to the profit picture at all and let it just be a hobby. But if blogging is part of a larger plan – which includes products and services – then it has to be kept in its perspective and must be viewed as a tool for building a business. That does not mean there is not a lot of giving involved with tending to an online community – there is a HUGE amount of giving. But — and this is a big but – it’s giving with purpose. And that’s OK, I think.

    • As someone who has some serious fans and followers, this was profound stuff Diana, and I can’t thank you enough for chiming in, because what you’re talking about is ‘reality’.

      And yes, sometimes the focus on community, community, community can backfire…because we’re not doing things and projects that will have the greatest ROI.

      And this statement: But if blogging is part of a larger plan – which includes products and services – then it has to be kept in its perspective and must be viewed as a tool for building a business. That does not mean there is not a lot of giving involved with tending to an online community – there is a HUGE amount of giving. But — and this is a big but – it’s giving with purpose. And that’s OK, I think.

      That, my friend, is one that I can only wish ever person that comes by this post will read. “Giving with a Purpose” is really the perfect way to put this.

      Loved this comment Diana. Thank you!


  18. Raj

    In a technical blog that I own (which actually makes the most money among all the blogs I have), there are lesser comments than the total number of posts. But the visitor stats keep improving with every post (they mostly come from search). So, I agree with the message of this article. BTW, Marcus, I am taking a break from my online activities for some time. Hope to be back when I do get enough time. I wish you the very best with all your endeavors. Let the sales lion roar :)

    • Wow Raj, first of all, thanks for the comment and well-made point, but more importantly, thank you so very much for letting me know about your plans.

      That’s incredibly kind of you and I sincerely wish you tremendous success, as your support here has been exceptional.

      God speed and I hope we’ll chat again,


  19. Marcus,

    I have been at this blogging gig for over a year now. My first goal was community. I have a pretty good one. I won’t disclose my daily visits BUT my comment to visit ratio is pretty high. I know bloggers with much more traffic yet no comments. This tells me I am doing something right in terms of getting people to trust and like me enough to comment. But they don’t buy from me. I know they need to trust me to buy and use my services.

    I know I am not in their face about it and I don’t really tell them too much about what I am selling. Basically I have been too shy to sell.

    I think I have part of the equation right. I have loyal readers and they trust me. I just haven’t made that jump into that business frame of mind.

    What I am saying is, I agree. Community is awesome and it is an indication that you can succeed. But I am trying to earn, this is the hardest step. Like Diana said, I need to look at my blog as one of the tools to my business success. It is one of the steps and I should be concentrating on what makes the dough, not whether I have a bunch of comments. It’s been a fun year of discussion, now I need to get down to business.

    Thanks and congrats on the nomination in SME!


  20. Up until now, my perception has been that without Community and Forums, blogs may not succeed online. Thanks for opening my eyes…

    • I think it all comes down to goals and actual performance Moses. Every blog, and every industry, is different.

      Good luck to you,


  21. People would say that I have a great community around me, and I do.

    Also, days after writing the Problogger post, I had $4 in the bank and no idea where my next gig was coming from. 2 days later, I got a pretty cool client.

    I agree with this. Many bloggers, especially early ones, don’t understand that social proof doesn’t necessarily translate into cash. Yeah, it can lead to opportunities and sales, but you need to have a business plan in order to take advantage of it.

    Last year, community was my primary goal. My work and personal life was falling apart (lost a client, then got caught up in subsequent drama) so I focused primarily on community because I knew that I was in this for the long hall. I had to borrow thousands off the boyfriend to survive and I couldn’t pay my parents rent, so now I owe them 10k.

    This year, I believe things will be different. All that time engaging and learning has set me up for success once I roll out biz strategies. But last year? If community is your main goal, keep your day job. It’s easier.

    • Wow Jade.

      Double Wow actually.

      The perspective you’ve brought to the conversation here with such transparent honesty is very, very powerful.

      I can only thank you for keeping it so real, and fighting to make this year your best ever.

      You seriously rock Jade,


      • :-) Transparency in conversation is great – but it can also cause a lot of trouble financially. I was open about bad stuff last year as I was going through it, and it caused some people to lose faith in me. I justified it as saying “I don’t want to be friends with people who don’t want to know the real me” but that’s BS. Friendship is one thing, but community is another. Teaching from experience, when you’ve failed, is fine. Freaking out publicly? Not so much.

        So many things that could go wrong last year did but you know what? My community looked out for me. This is seperate from my blog community – this is my peers and friends. I had people help me out, pro bono, because “you do so much to help people.” People have chucked random freelance work my way because they knew I had bills.

        I’ve started reading about startups and from what I’ve learned, this is normal. People pivot and evolve. I don’t know of anyone talking about this from the perspective of trying to grow a business based on a blog. I’m thinking of having a column this year where I talk about specific lessons and experiments, but time will tell if people resonate with it.

        Tomorrow I’m introducing a new post series that will help me learn whether this year will be profitable or not. To say I’m scared is an understatement but oooh, I reckon it’s going to combine community + money in an awesome way.

        Oh! And I’m not trying to romanticize the stuff I went through. I should have been a lot smarter with how I handled things. I just remember being on a career high and wondering how I was going to afford cat food the next day.. last week.

  22. Good stuff Marcus, thanks for sharing your perspective (and the perspective of any bottom-line business owner). Blogging is so important for many of my clients’ online marketing strategies; however, we never build a project with “community” as the number one goal…it will always be secondary to sales and revenue generation. It may turn out that building the community becomes our number one lead generation tool…and therefore building the community becomes the number one method by which we measure activity as KPIs (key performance indicators). Those KPIs are still just numbers to help us perfect and analyze the real results (and are just tools to reach the real goals) — sales generated by blogging and the activities surrounding said blogging. Cheers!

    • I think you and I are cut from the exact same cloth Laura. Really.

      KPIs are critical, and I’m really glad you’ve brought them up.

      As business owners, first and foremost we start with ‘the bottom line’, it’s importance, and how we can make it better.

      Thanks so very much for bringing your wise perspective Laura!


      • You’re welcome…thank you for the post and being so diligent to comment!

  23. Another great conversation starter, mate, and interesting topic.

    I did have a long answer to write, but Robert Dempsey said it so much better than I coud have. And he got it bang on.

    I will just say it’s a double-edged sword – can you have sales without a community? Yes, if your site is just an e-commerce platform and you’re not too bothered about the views of your customers (existing or potential).

    But can you build an even more fervent sales channel by having a community that will recommend you based on your treatment of them? Hell yeah – and that can bring in the dollar when the advertising wells run dry.

    Good stuff, mate.

    • But can you build an even more fervent sales channel by having a community that will recommend you based on your treatment of them? Hell yeah – and that can bring in the dollar when the advertising wells run dry.

      Completely agree with that DB. Yes, absolutely.

      I don’t want people to think from this that I have lessened the value of community with my points here. Really, this more than anything was a calling cry to everyone for a clear understanding of their goals and what defines success.

      Like Jade said above, she spent a year building a great network/community, but she monetized it poorly, and thus really went through a tough spot.

      I think we have to have balance in all things, yes, but the amount of bloggers and businesses that are not making it out there right now is very, very high, and many simply are confused because they thought a ‘community’ would solve all their financial woes, yet no great action plan was ever implemented, and we all know the results of that.

      Thanks, as always DB, for adding your thoughts here man.


  24. I agree with you completely and although community and traffic is important if you are doing it all for free and you need to make money but you are not then there is a problem. My blog is not my main business at all but I did set it up to sell my books so if I only get 10 visitors a day and they all buy my book and email me to say they loved it I am immensely happier than getting 2000 visitors and 200 comments but no book sales.

    • Perfect analogy Matt. Sounds like you have your priorities lined up, and now it’s just really a matter of making that happen.

      Best to you sir, and thanks so much for dropping by!


      • Thanks, I really enjoyed reading this, I’m looking at some of you other posts now.

  25. By the way and apropos of nothing, this is why you are making every list in the world!

    Social Media is funny. Well, funny in a “I’m laughing to keep from crying” kind of way. A lot of people really do think that followers = money, comments = money, etc. I am not sure how this line of thinking was developed but my suspicion is that a lot of people who jumped on Twitter first were people who were not steeped in the business world. They were steeped in, well, Twitter. It perpetually amazes me how people preach things in the online world that go against every common sense business rule there is.

    Your post is a refreshing breath of fresh air for this here lady.

    • Margie,

      If I may interject, my guess is that it follows the advertising model meaning that the more eyeballs you reach the more opportunity you have to sell advertising.

      That is the most simplistic approach. It doesn’t touch upon demographics at all and that is critical information. Advertisers will pay handsomely to reach their target audience, provided that you can demonstrate how you provide access to them.

      There are all sorts of tools that can be used to try and identify who is reading/liking/tweeting your stuff. I often question the validity of these, but that’s a different topic.

      But for the sake of discussion I’ll tie my Twitter “community” into this. I run Twitter ads and earn enough from this to have a couple of bucks in my pocket. That works because I have developed a community that engages and interacts with me.

      So while I agree that community isn’t the sole ingredient in success there is a lot to be said for it.

  26. I know you’ve said feel free to dissent so here goes :-) I’m going to say there’s a flaw in the question this time. With all due respect (and you know I have oodles of it for you) this choice is not between equal things. Making money is the number one goal of a business. A blog commuity is a tool, part of a strategy to get there, in my opinion. If you have a goal to build a community, it’s more a sub-goal to support the overall goal to make money.

    As stated, if you don’t make money, you go out of businesss, simple as that. Even if your goal is to give stuff away for free, there are still going to be costs you need to cover so you have to have an income of some kind. If not, what you have is more likely a hobby and you already noted that this post really isn’t for those who blog just for fun.

    So if making a profit is the starting goal, the choice wouldn’t really be between making a profit or building a community in my mind, but rather will building a community help you make money or not? If you think the answer is yes, then you still have to define how that will happen. How will having a community help you make money/sales/get clients. If it can’t, directly or indirectly, I’m not sure there would be much of a point to having it and you might choose another tool instead. Profit is not a choice, but the path to achieving that profit offers lots of them.

    • I completely understand what you’re saying Cheryl, but here is the thing— Some people get into this to make money, but then, without them even realizing what’s happening, their focus becomes only that of community, and not monetization. And then they don’t do certain things or write certain posts because of their fear of how it will do with ‘the community’.

      If you haven’t seen this phenomena before, I can assure you that it’s going to happen.

      That’s what this article is all about. It’s a reminder to businesses about priorities and, as you say, sub goals as well.

      Make sense?

      • Definitely. Getting past making decisions based on you and your business vs. making your community happy, can be tough to do because we are told not to be selfish, to think of others first. In this case though, putting yourself and your business, and the goal of staying in business making money, does need to come first, selfish or not.

        • Ahhh yes Cheryl, and so the debate….to be selfish or not??? But I think if we can be selfish while giving value….then that’s the ultimate ticket. ;)

          Great seeing you lady!


  27. Love this perspective, Marcus. It’s one that’s often ignored.

    I remember reading that post from Gini and was admittedly floored by her admission of near-bankruptcy, especially given her stardom on the social web. However, I gave her major props for being so open and honest about it. I think there’s a myth that business ownership is all rainbows and unicorns – it’s not. It’s hard work. And, just because a million people “like” you, doesn’t mean that turns into dollars.

    I think the point is that a thriving community can help you build a thriving business. But, you can just “hang out” with your community, you have to sell them something. Unfortunately, many folks are more worried about offending people than paying the bills. If your blog is your business (or part of the marketing for your business), you have to find ways to sell to that community you built. Otherwise, you’ve got a lot of friends, but not a lot of money.

  28. Nicely done, but I really wish you’d stop pulling your punches. These fluffy, take no stance posts are just getting old :)

    All joking aside, it’s interesting hearing your thoughts on this, especially as you’re clearly working on the business to blog ratio of the site. The one thing I’d add (and I don’t think you were saying otherwise, I just think it went unsaid) is that often times people assume that there is the free blog audience and then the paying customer base. I still think there is a lot more potential crossover. Sure, many of the people who are most involved in these types of comments are mainly DIY folks who will never add to the bank, but there are still customers swimming in that water as well.

    Nice food for thought and thanks as always for getting a fire started.

    • Hey bud, appreciate your words my man.

      Honestly though, I’m just talking about what I see and observe, you know? We’re all trying to figure this stuff out. And if there is one thing I do know is that I really don’t know much. :-) Which is why I then have to talk about what’s on my mind. ;-)

      Thanks for stopping by man,


  29. Awesome article Marcus. I am still new to blogging but I know that monetizing my blog is important and although I am still building an engaged community (and having fun doing so) there is no point if I can’t afford to spend the time doing it and don’t use it to make a living (or to supplement a living). This is one of the most honest and authentic posts I have read in a long time. Thanks.

    • That’s so very kind of you to say Donna, and I’m so glad you dropped in to share it. :-)

      Continued success with community AND profits on your new blog!! ;-)


  30. Robert, Mark, Danny, Margie really said it all. So, three things:

    1. Love the new signup box
    2. Building any viable business, you will inevitably make choices that alienate some in the pursuit of creating economic value with others.
    3. If you want your blog to be a business, see # 2.

    Excellent post Marcus!

    • Hey Adam! Great seeing you bud.

      Thanks for the signup box compliment. That thing works man, you should consider it. ;-)

      And yes, sometimes choices do alienate. This is very tough for some to understand, but that’s why I’ve forced this ‘make a choice’ question in the post.

      Thanks for being awesome bud,


  31. Hey Marcus,

    Unless your blog is solely a labor of love, the answer is very simple – profits. For anyone whose blog makes up part of their full time business, there should be no question of priorities, because without profit, the community will cease to exist.



    • ‘Without the profits, the community ceases to exist.’

      Yep, that’s exactly it Tom. That’s what I meant by ‘the greater good’.

      Thanks for the wisdom brother,


  32. As always, thought provoking and blunt. Love it, Marcus.

    I’m fortunate in that as a blogger, I work for a company. I don’t have to monetize my blog. I simply have to create content (blog, video, social media, eBooks) and I receive a paycheck. However, the bottom line for all of my effort is money. We are here to offer a service and we want to gain customers. While I want to do that through a great community, the bottom line is always making a profit. If that profit dries up, I lose a job and the company could fold. Money is definitely the driving force. I love to see my work shared and a community grow around. But that’s the icing on the cake.

    I do pose a question though: does a thriving community and doing what you love more often than not, pay off with opportunities and profits? Maybe not in the same month or year, but in the long run? Are we successful because we build a great network? Or do we have a great network because we are successful?


    • Exactly, Dan. There’s no fire-sale success with blogging, just as there isn’t with social media and pretty much any business venture. It’s what you put in and willing to do that breeds success.

    • Dan, great stuff bud, as always. Your initial point: If that profit dries up, I lose a job and the company could fold. Money is definitely the driving force. I love to see my work shared and a community grow around. But that’s the icing on the cake. —-You really nailed the message of this post for me. That’s what I call the ‘reality’ of business. It comes down to money. Sad, yes, but true.

      As for your second point, I do think community can be GREAT for the long run, and indirect sales. I’ve certainly experienced this in terms of speaking engagements, public brand awareness, etc. It all helps.

      Thanks again Dan!!


  33. I try not to worry too much about getting comments or not. Sure, I’m happy to get them but remaining in business is my number one goal.

    My clients are not so social on the net, often lurking around as the majority are here in Sweden, and tend not to comment as I write in English. Still, I get the feedback and community through Twitter and the listeners to my podcast.

    The one benefit I have noticed about getting more comments is that these folks often retweet my post too and share it with their network. This in turn can really impact on lead generation.

    • Good observation Jon. I find commenters are great for indirect sales. They spread the gospel through twitter, fB, etc. In some industries, that is very,very necessary for success.

      And then there are those that don’t talk, but they buy, and that sure is nice. ;)

      Continued success Jon and thanks so much for dropping by,


  34. People laughed at my G+ New Years Post where I added ‘Hoping 2012 also brings cold hard cash’. But it is true. Cash flow keeps a business running.

    I know some in the comments have felt you missed an angle here. If your money comes directly from your blog via selling stuff, advertising etc this post completely fits that business model.

    I don’t have many commentors because my blog platform sucks and my comment system sucks (yes I have to fix it this year). But I have mentioned I don’t love blogging. But my blog gets readers and page views. And my hopes are for the following: Name/Brand exposure. Repository for strategy and insights that I can show potential clients. As an aid to bring in potential clients. All this leads hopefully to money. Lastly and more altruistic is I hope my readers garner insights that help them be better marketers and improve the work they do with their clients.

    • You used the word ‘sucks’ twice in the same paragraph Howie….well done bud. ;-)

      But seriously, what I like about you man is you’re comfortable in your own skin. You know who you are. And this is what works for you.

      Nuttin wrong with that brother. :-)

      Thanks for all your support man,


  35. I think the issue is nomenclature. Swap out community for relationships. Relationships alone won’t make money. But without them, you’re not going to get your deals. One leads to the other, the deals lead to more relationships. Understanding the amount of investment you provide towards cultivating relationships versus the amount you invest in sales efforts is a management issue.

    • I like how you said that Geoff– relationships instead of community.

      I hadn’t looked at it like that,but it’s very valid.

      Thanks for dropping in,


  36. I think anyone who says they are in it for the community should call blogging their HOBBY. Community is great, but it should be part of a much larger sales strategy. The goal should be to engage and develop relationships that will move a potential customer through the SALES process. Should the blog entertain, engage, teach and inform? Absolutely! It gives the prospect a taste of what it would be like to do business with you. But, ultimately, blogging needs to be a business strategy, not a hobby.

    • Very, very sound strategy and thoughts Kimberly.

      I think you’re dead-on. :-)

      Thanks so much for dropping by,


  37. Okay….here’s what I think…

    I think it partly depends on your business model.

    Comments (much like Facebook likes or retweets) are pretty meaningless on their own.
    It’s a bunch of fanfare, with no real substance.

    But I do believe that having an ENGAGED community of stakeholders is absolutely essential to any business, on or offline (you’ve read Danny’s book – you CONTRIBUTED to Danny’s book…and you talk a lot about the importance of comments).

    I make ZERO directly from my blog. There…I said it. My bread is buttered offline.

    And while I’m looking at ways to extend my online income, my blog DOES serve to engage prospective clients for my offline freelance business. Does that engagement always manifest in the form of a comment?

    Not always.

    But my online presence, and my effort to reach out to my stakeholders, understand their needs, address their pain points and solicit their feedback, enhances my OFFLINE business offering. My blog gives me credibility, positions me as a thought leader in my industry, allows me to network, etc., and while those things might be ancillary to actual REVENUE generation – they are nonetheless important.

    It’s all boils down to content marketing…and an interactive, engaging blog plays a role in that process.

    I try not to get swept up in the blogging hype (which can really distract from my more lucrative business pursuits), but I definitely wouldn’t discount the importance of comments altogether.

    I’m pretty sure you used the same model with your pool company, no?

    • Hey Ruth, really great stuff.

      Regarding Danny’s book, that’s an article I wrote about 11 months ago on here that was really focused on networking and building relationships, with ‘comments’ being a way to start online relationships. Honestly, its focus really wasn’t about the core value of comments, good or bad, on one’s own blog.

      Regarding my pool company, I get very few comments (with the exception of a few articles). Almost zero ‘likes’. And almost zero ‘tweets’. The community looks non-existent.

      But the blog kills it as a lead gen tool. It’s SEO based,and the content is rockin, and it earns trust, and people call us or fill out a form once the blog brings them into the top of the funnel.

      I agree that every industry is different. I’ve heavily used inbound marketing now in two completely different fields, and coached many other fields. The principle don’t change, but the strategies sure as heck to.

      But in all that I’ve done, ‘profits’ have always been the focus, with the blog as a means of leading to those profits.

      Thanks so much for dropping by Ruth, you’ve always got good stuff to say,


  38. When I came onto the blogging scene there was sufficient jaded criticism of “fans” and “likes” that I knew what you’re saying was true before I wrote my first post. But comments and tweets feel good–and I think a lot of bloggers are literally, psychosomatically addicted to that good feeling (and I won’t include or exclude myself from them, either).

    Most of the richest and fastest growing businesses I’ve seen on social media (not the giants, but the ones set up by entrepreneurs) are the ones that post the useful stuff. The stuff people can implement in their realities. The stuff people pick up and run with, sometimes leaving a “thank you” behind, sometimes not.

    Then there’s the other category of blogs: those with enormous engagement from hundreds of people who share commonalities, joke around, start relationships, get married, have kids… you know what I mean. But they don’t honestly give much hint that any purchases are being made behind all that camaraderie. I honestly don’t know. Out of those thousands of loyal visitors, even courtesy book reviews tend to be few and far between.

    Davina Brewer wrote a post months ago addressing the issue with doing business with “friends” on social media. She talked about how getting to know someone–even liking them–can sometimes kill business thoughts, because… basically, you don’t like them “like that.”

    When you start a blog not as a hobby but as part of your business, there needs to be a plan, and I think most of us instead start out with a glow in the distance. When that glow turns out to be a massive smiley face stoking our ego every day, it’s probably really hard to prioritize.

    Thanks for saying this.

    • Holy Guacomole Shakirah…this was dang awesome. (and when I use the word ‘dang’, it’s REALLY awesome :-) )

      If I may repeat your last sentence, because in many ways you said it way better than what I did:

      When you start a blog not as a hobby but as part of your business, there needs to be a plan, and I think most of us instead start out with a glow in the distance. When that glow turns out to be a massive smiley face stoking our ego every day, it’s probably really hard to prioritize.

      This was great Shakirah, thanks so very much for adding your wisdom here!


  39. Great post Marcus! I think it is about making it SUPER EASY for your community to buy. So often I see a wonderful blog that lacks clear call to actions to purchase something and a company wondering why they aren’t seeing sales conversion. The same thing happens on Facebook. How many brand pages don’t allow you to email subscribe or buy from their Facebook pages. It’s not a new way of thinking, really, more realizing that you can leverage your community to reach your sales goals too. Thanks for the great post!

    • Ahhhh yes Nichole, very,very good point.

      But I think at the same time, there are many folks that are scared to ask for the business (or make it easy), for fear of ‘offending’ that community. This, to me, is a huge bummer.

      You’re so very right though. We’ve got to make this stuff easy. We really do.

      Rock on Nichole. :-)


  40. In lieu of more comment bombs, let me add a “Word.” to Danny, Robert, Margie, Geoff and a few more. Good one Marcus, well done. (Side note: I remember Patricia’s “Comments, not sales” post.. things do come back.) Since I can’t write it any better than Robert, Michael, others I’ll just say this:

    I want to make money from my business/career. Like Erica, my blog is part of marketing strategy for my business. The goal is to build awareness about who I am, what I can do and make connections with others. Others who can help support my business by driving traffic, making referrals or becoming customer themselves. My current post is about how – done well, done right – a blog can help do that by reaching out, expanding my audience and community much further than I can on my own. One of my resolutions blogging/business is to write less for the audience I have (community, love ya) and more for the readers I want (potential customers). Hope that answers the question, FWIW.

    • “One of my resolutions blogging/business is to write less for the audience I have (community, love ya) and more for the readers I want (potential customers).”

      That says it all, right there Davina. I’m sure, in the past, your commenters have swayed your content, correct? If the answer is ‘yes’, then we’re in the same boat. I’m not saying that is wrong, I’m really pointing out we need to have clear priorities, and when push comes to shove, we’re making sure we’re financially sound.

      And I really, really do hope you’re able to achieve that goal in 2012 Davina!! :)

      Thank you so much for taking a moment to stop by,


  41. G’Day Marcus,
    Abloody men mate. Abloodymen! And in the words of Merryl Streep in “The Devil Loves Prada:”…..That’s all.

  42. For me it is community. My site is a side project built in the hopes that people will feel empowered and encouraged when they visit.

    I view it more as a ‘non-profit’ than a business.

    I enjoyed your article though and I think those folks who are looking at their sites as businesses will get a number of valuable nuggets from it.

    • The great thing Steve is you know exactly where you stand with this. That’s what matters. And because you know, your blogging actions can have a clear strategy to lead to said goal.

      Continued success my friend!!


  43. Well, I guess at the end every blog should at least pay its expenses.

    As regards your question I think that if your bills are paid then enjoying your community is much easier. I don’t know the percentages, you probably will, but I guess that either on the surface or deep down below most bloggers are into blogging at least to make some money too. If there is an ad, an affiliate link, a sale proposal or a phisical business promoted than a blog is in also for the money. Maybe not at the first place of course.

    But if it ever happens that one day your blog can give a decent income to pay real life bills then why not? Clearly it will probably take years and commitment and at the beginning you count money in dollars so it’s not such a great business. But if you stay around long enough decent earnings are at the hands of everyone. Quality, time and commitment, plus a lot of patience.

    Having said this there are many ways to make money with a blog and all have their strong and weak point. I’m not much into affiliate marketing or creating a sale funnel for something, at least until I’ll have a product made by me to sell; I prefer to use ads which cost nothing to see for my readers. The weak point is that not all readers “see” ads and let’s forget how many times in a day ads are really relevant to posts.

    Affiliate selling is good but to earn someone has to buy and this is easily said than done; no sales equal no money. And I wonder how many people will go on buying every month to give a steady income. Well the products can change from month to month. But there is also the risk that what is written in a blog is seen as just a way to drive people to buy a product. I would feel more comfortable to write a book and post articles related to it.

    Then every blogger chooses the method he or she feels more comfortable and gives better resutls.

    As for me I want readers and subscribers who like my writings and help me become a better writer, and possibly that looking and clicking on ads let me make some money. That’s as I see blogging. A passion which requires time and given that I think I’m giving something to my readers than I find it correct to earn some money from it.

    Community mean a lot for every blogger but at the end we have to pay for our blogs and for our bills. Unless someone makes money in another way then money must come out of the blog. Readers then will decide if it’s done fairly or not. If not they will unsubscribe and quit commenting. What I usually do when everything is just an excuse to sell something, which makes me feel a bit scammed, so to speak.

    Very interesting post Marcus, much appreciated and good food for thoughts. :)

    • Wow Andrea, what a comment! Seems like you’ve been thinking about this one yourself a bit, ehh? ;-)

      But as you said twice, when all is said and done, we must be able to pay our bills. That’s a big, big deal.

      And if we can’t, then it’s time to change things up. ;-)

      Thanks so much for dropping by Andrea,


      • Yes, but just a little bit :) . Well, I guess any blogger sooner or later thinks about community and money relationship and where to go. I would just add that while I don’t have a great community on my blog nevertheless money from ads is coming in so probably not always the two things are related. It might be due to ads blindness or ad blockers extension for regular readers but that’s it. Anyway when a blog is able to self sustain itself then it’s easier to work on the community side. Not that I don’t enjoy every single comment I receive without regards to the money.

        It’s like being continuously on a razor’s edge, more or less. :) Blogging on the edge.

  44. Amazing, my friend… reading your post today (actually, you had me at the title) was like READING MY MIND. “Get out of my head Marc!!” I am creating a beautiful community (via a Facebook Group) that is getting lots of value from interacting with each other but I’m not benefitting by making any money. Actually, I have a beautiful beautiful website that cost me thousands of dollars and continue to cost money to maintain… and I’m not seeing an ROI of any kind at this point.

    Everything you said about this aint the field of dreams and being afraid of offending my community rings true for me. (Again, get out of my head. Kindly speaking of course. ;)

    My answer would be the same as most.. A thriving bank account.

    It’s my goal this new year that I learn to create an income from my community. I feel like I have enough information on how to do it (create products,etc).. it’s facing the fear that you mentioned above.. offending the community or pissing them off with asking them to pay me and just DOING IT!

    Thank you hon… for your MUCH needed b#^ch slap.

    • So very nice to hear from you old friend.

      As one who is such a ‘pleaser’, it honestly doesn’t surprise me to see you in this dilemma KL. But I really do think you need to take that same passion for pleasing and helping others, and realize you can achieve it at an even greater level with your products and services. If you can make people happy, the amount they’re paying doesn’t bother them at all. So that’s really the thing. Channel that passion of yours. You have it as strong as anyone I know—seriously.

      Now do it! :-)


  45. There’s only answer to that question… You blog to make money. The community is nice but if it is not paying the bills then something is most definitely wrong. Thanks for laying out the facts for all to see

    • Hi Rhuarhii! So glad you were kind enough to drop by with this frank talk…I always respect that!

      Continued success!


  46. When I first started blogging my focus was completely off. I wanted to be that blogger with tons of blog comments, Facebook likes and Twitter retweets, but in the end it was not making me any money.
    All the social attention was wonderful, but I was losing money and for that matter, I had to stop blogging and revisit my goals. I did not understand how important it was to have a clear plan of how I was going to make profits through my blog.
    This time around I have taken time to plan things out. I am in the process of working on the products that will make me money through my blog. I do not plan on creating another blog until my products are ready because I do not want to waste any time.
    It can be hard to get our products completed when we are going through the everyday responsibilities that come with blogging.

    Great article man!

    God bless,
    William Veasley

    • It’s really cool how you talked about this change and your new found direction William.

      I commend you on the ability to take a hard look where you were and now the path you’ve chosen.

      And may you start turning some profits as well!!



  47. Marcus.
    Honestly, I don’t KNOW…

    I KNOW what my GOAL is for Alaska Chick’s Blog. I KNOW what I am aiming for in 2012 and from that, in 2013.


    I don’t, and never intended (even after I learned of the option) for Alaska Chick’s Blog to MAKE the money, but to MAKE the connections and to inspire and hopefully provide the ground work for the trust, for the business that the Blog lives on…

    Is this naive?

    Am I STILL missing the point? I know I am still missing the “right” demographic (? word I am looking for? Audience?)… How do I know? Because we (Pioneer Outfitters,) still, after almost a year (end of this month!!) and 2000 visitors (I know not much to most of you, but WAY more letters received in our not to distant past!)- we STILL only represent “Hunting” to most people…

    Our goal, my passion and direction, is to turn Pioneer Outfitters Big Game Hunting into a personal choice and pleasure, while focusing Pioneer Outfitters on the (unknown to the world) great many MORE and AMAZING opportunities as our “Livelihood” and living.

    Marcus. I know this will work. I know what we offer is special and wanted. I do not know how to tell those people about it.

    So. I keep writing, learning and meeting people I wouldn’t trade for 10 guests each! (DO NOT tell my Dad I said that! LOL, but it is truth!)
    Thanks for another great one.

  48. My suggestion, based on having made a lot of companies a lot of money, though the years, in many various ways, which is why I respect what you’ve done with your pool company: (One can’t argue with what works. ; ) )

    When trying to figure out what to make of the promise of social media, there’s really only one question to answer before heading down the road to social-media-generated riches.

    Start with the premise that every social media backer would have you start with: If I get social media ‘right,’ I will end up with found, increased or even maintained income from the effort that will more than exceed the cost of the man-hours put into it.

    Then answer this one simple question…


    Answer that one, and you can roll your program/messages/branding out across all sorts of additional media, as well.

    With you, Marcus, it would seem to be because fiberglass pools are better than other types of pools, and you could not only prove it, you could talk about it in detail with a very friendly, warm and encouraging voice. But, at the same time, and in comparison, I read the headline for your previous post on here — “Do ‘Top Blogger Lists’ Mean Anything at All?” — and there’s nothing in that head that interests me.

    What interested me in this head was the word “success,” though not the term “online success,” because whatever delivers ROI is what a small business should be going for. Online. Offline. Flyers on windshields. Whatever. Find it. Do it. Bring in work. Do great work. Repeat.

    Like…it sounds like Amber-Lee, above, has a marketable service. Offerings people would want. And she sounds conflicted because she’s enjoying putting time into meeting really nice people who will never buy the service and in fact might be distracting her from solving her actual marketing challenge.

    But if she can answer: WHY should someone be excited about what we’re offering? Who are these people? Where are their eyeballs now? Can we be where they’re looking? Then she’s looking at it from the right end. WHY will they end up here? Because we’ll have done A, B and C, and pulled them to where they want to be.

    • I loved this comment John, and I also always enjoy your fresh honesty too….

      But the reason why I like what you’ve said is because you asked the core question that we’re always forgetting: Why?

      And you don’t just stop with that, you keep going. Keep pushing the question.Keep looking for answers.

      I really dig that man, I do.

      Thanks for dropping by,


  49. Hi Marcus,

    I really needed this post. I have been focusing in on the community part for a while, and especially since I’ve been writing a novel and working at the University. And I just love to get feedback on what I’ve been writing. It makes me happy, and I get an awesome feeling by helping people as well. To me, my blog is successful because it makes me feel good and I get feedback that people like what I’m writing. But it’s exactly what you’re saying, I’m not earning any money (probably because I haven’t been really focusing on earning money, but that’s about to change).

    Now, I want money instead of the community (because I can’t have both). I am still trying to figure out a strategy for my online marketing business, and my main business will be Norwegian (and a Norwegian website). But, I need to figure out a business model, before launching anything new.

    Thanks a lot for this awakening Marcus :)

    • Hey Jens, really great comment man. (as always)

      I think you can still have both,. In fact, I think you can have a community that’s just as strong if not stronger.

      Notwithstanding, yes, your goals and methods now need to be realigned, and your decisions need to reflect those new goals.

      And personally, I’m looking forward to seeing them bud!

      Much thanks,


  50. What a great topic! When I started blogging for SYDCON, my initial goal was to form this great active community. Being active over at Spin Sucks, and seeing the great community over there, who wouldnt aspire for the same? But, in reality, our blog is used to give our clients valuable information to help them with other aspects of their business. Being as though we are a custom development shop, many of our clients are looking for tips on marketing, advertising, PR, copy-writing, etc. Thats where our partners come in. And we love to showcase them on our blog, to give our existing clients new ideas and options on who to call to fullfil the needs we cant always meet.

    Our blog also helps prospective clients get a feel for who we are and what we offer. So, while we don’t have a large community of comments (we do get retweets and have regulars that we love) we do get new business from folks who found us via our blog. By sharing information or our knowledge we are opening ourselves up to good initial conversations with potential clients or helping existing clients further their internet goals, which in turn increases their revenue and ours as a result when the use that knowledge to expand on their web presence.

    In the end, my answer would be we obviously want a thriving bank account versus a robust blog community. At the end of the day its the bank account that pays the bills, feeds the kids, etc – not the blog!

    • Hey Jennifer!! I’m so very thrilled you dropped by and shared your experience. As I’ve mentioned before, my swimming pool blog gets very few comments, yet it does very well for lead generation and sales.

      Here at The Sales Lion, the blog also gets the leads, but obviously there is more of a conversation.

      It always varies, but it appears you’re having success, and that’s truly what matters. So continued success to you and SYDCON in 2012 Jennifer!


  51. Great post Marcus. Looking back on what was mentioned, I think if most bloggers had an authentic success indicator to begin with they’d at least know when they’ve strayed off course and be able to re-adjust.

    • I don’t disagree with that at all Karl. ‘True and clear goals’. There is nothing like them, yet so few, especially when it comes to blogging, have them.

      Really appreciate you dropping by Karl, have a great one,


  52. It’s amazing how many comments a post about community not making sales gets…. wonder how many of these commenters are (or ever will be) clients of your Marcus? I can tell you from my own experience, with a thriving community of bloggers, on a blog about blogging (yep, the worst kind!) getting 50 to 100 comments per article… I put out a paid product, and I sold plenty, but none of the names sounded familiar, most of the sales went to one time visitors or lurkers. I would even guess that less than 10% of my sales went to someone that had EVER commented or connected with me online.

    Having said that, you still need the community, it gives things like social proof. So, in essence, you can’t really choose, that is my stance. :-)

    How’s that for an answer?

    • I think we share a similar view on this one Keith. The way I see it, there are two communities: The ones who comment below the article, and the one’s that email me.

      They both have value, but the one that comments on the post lead to indirect sales– they share your stuff more, spread the word, assist with networking, etc.

      Then you have the emailers and, well, they clearly are where the main ‘sales’ are at.

      Until I had a newsletter and the eBook, I only new the first community.

      Now I’m thrilled to know both.

      Thanks for dropping by Keith!!


  53. This is why I subscribe to you Marcus! Thanks for all your help and chatting with me on the phone!

    • Too kind Rob! Thanks bud, and I hope business is going well. :)


  54. The lion roars again and how it hurts our hearts ;)

    Blogging has many reasons for all. Some might be blogging for personal reasons, to write, to just get out there and for them, a sense of community might be a strong factor. For example, I know some bloggers who blog about their life’s journey, maybe they have been going through a tough phase and they are lonely, they need support through the online world. So, a sense of community always helps.

    But when people claim to be running a business and giving some services so the community only counts when bills are paid! So, yes I would like to have a great community on my business website (if I ever begin one) but I would love it if my bills are paid and I still have enough to go on that vacation to Paris! :) Really, what else does a girl want

    Thanks for the eye opener!

    • I love the way you write Hajra. It makes me smile. :)

      The bottom line is I think so many of us here would love to have both. We’d love to have online friends and community, one that is vibrant, and one that helps with sales.

      And my goodness we’d all like to be able to pay our bills….especially in this economy!!

      Thanks again Hajra, as always,


  55. Marcus, always love your stuff. And I completely agree with you. This gives us all a better reason to rationalize why we don’t get as many comments as your posts do … :)

    However, there’s also a debate with this sort of thing — with PR and branding activities, which involve content marketing. Much of blogging and content and PR is about building the brand, making the brand cool, building trust around the brand, etc., which do affect sales, but you can’t always measure leads and sales that tie directly back to each activity. Other KPIs are necessary to judge the real affect of of those activities.

    You don’t measure the HR department by how many leads it generates. But it’s a cost of doing business. Good brand-building activities are the cost of doing business today. You can measure profitability and awareness, trust, etc., but I think it can be dangerous if the only thing you base content marketing on is leads. Then, instead of trying to make your brand interesting and useful to your audience, it becomes a sales pitch. Those two things have a much different affect on the consumer. And there’s a different place for that. There’s a delicate balance there that marketers need to find with their audience.

    • Dan, love your points man and I’m glad you’ve brought up these other areas.

      I understand that sometimes, we’re not going to have a number. Very true. But at the same time, if we can, then awesome. And I think that needs to be our goal. Measurement is a beautiful thing.

      But as you said so perfectly, “There’s a delicate balance there that marketers need to find with their audience.”

      Again, thanks so much brother,


  56. Marcus, I am a bit disappointed that you wrote this before talking with me. You know I would have told you the ins and outs of my ONE statement in ONE blog post that we nearly went bankrupt.

    You see, we have a great business. We have lots of fantastic clients. All of whom pay their bills on time. But the United States, last summer, had a near crisis when our government couldn’t come to agreement on what to do with our credit. So, like everyone, our clients retreated to their corners and held on to their money as long as they could. And it hurt us. Just like I’m sure it hurt other small businesses.

    But the issue was not due to our clients. The issue was due to *me* forgetting that cash is king. You see, I let our expenses get out of control (it took me 18 months to get out of a lease that was much too large and expensive for us) and I let the business live from paycheck to paycheck, essentially. So, when clients went from 30 to 90 days, overnight, I didn’t know how I was going to make payroll.

    Let me be very clear. This was not their fault. This was only my fault. I know better, but I was “hoping” everything was going to be OK. I know hope is not a strategy, yet I focused on it in 2011. That is no one’s fault but my own.

    On the point of community. Spin Sucks and Arment Dietrich have two entirely different goals. The blog does not, and will not, feed business to Arment Dietrich. It definitely helps with credibility and, like you, I follow a person through the process when they’re getting ready to hire us. The blog is always a place they visit.

    But the reason I cultivate the community there is because of Spin Sucks Pro. The community is our target audience for our monthly webinars and for the subscription-based model. Those are the people who buy. Sure, not all of them do, but a good majority of them either buy or send people to us.

    I absolutely think community and business go hand-in-hand. We know exactly who buys and who is our referral network. If we didn’t cultivate the community, we’d have a hard time distinguishing those things.

    It’s not fair for you to make a statement that we almost went bankrupt even though we have a vibrant community. That’s not the case at all. It’s simply because I made some bad decisions.

    • This is why you are awesome, Gini – fantastic comment and oozing confidence in your goals and how they meet. Thanks for being the leader you are.

  57. Hi Marcus,

    first… wow.. what a very long and interesting discussion!!! For few weeks, i visit your site and find it very interesting and good to read for me. ( i`m from Germany and my english is not sooooo good, sorry for my grammer, i need and use whitsmoke for grammar :-( )

    “The blog is not the business’ is a very interesting point Patrick. Like you said, it does contribute. For me, it is what starts the ball rolling. It gets potential clients in the funnel. However, after that, there must be a strategy to take a prospect further, and that’s what I want people to remember from this article.”

    That i find really interesting, because, i start in Juli with a blog on blogspot for learning about online marketing. it`s not easy in this business, but its sooooo cool and interesting. You have so many things and plugins and tools and methods to make money with fun!!!!
    ok, make money… *gg* that is my dream, interact with the people. They have a question, i have the answer and can help. one way, with two happy ends.

    Can this happen? i hope this so much.

    With best wishes from Germany and i like your site.

    Sandy :-)

    p.s. i think, lions are cool ;-)

  58. I liked the ‘This Ain’t the Field of Dreams Part’. Sometimes these nasty things (like the one you talk about in Gini’s case) can kill the momentum.

    If one doesn’t act quickly then no amount of pleas can save a blog on the brink of collapse. I know that a venture that turns in some profit can motivate bloggers to continue working on their blogs.

    It doesn’t necessarily have to be a large sum. If my bank account is the size of a basketball and it gets filled half-way with $$ that can help me build a blog that will be more useful to the current users.

    The money can also help build a blog that is friendly to new visitors. Some other blogger may have a bank account the size of tennis ball. If he can get it filled, he’ll be happy and keep on giving value.

    Sometimes a community without money doesn’t work and vice versa. We should always go back to our blogging goals to ensure that we are doing things that have a blog’s long term interests at heart.

    I believe profits and community are just like to cars – Car A cannot do more than 80 km/h. The other car can only go 79.9 km/h max.

    Car A has to be in front but it shouldn’t be far away from car B. In other words they roll together but one needs the driver to exert a little more pressure on the gas pedal.

    Happy blogging Marcus.

  59. This may come off as obnoxious, but I promise it’s not meant to, it’s a genuine question. Reading this, I couldn’t help but notice it somewhat contrasts the “Empowering People Through The Power Of Community” tagline for the site. As you grow as a blogger is that over aching philosophy expanding to something along the lines of “Driving Business Through The Power Of Content and Community” or even just empowering people through it?

    • Not obnoxious at all, and a very legitimate question. Heck, I’ve thought about it myself Michael.

      There are two points I’d make:

      1. This site’s first goal is to help businesses rock at what they do, hence, The Sales Lion.
      2. This site’s next goal is to empower people in general in life, much of which is done through the community that is here.

      What many folks forget is that despite the fact that I have a premise of ‘profits first’ when it comes to blogging for business, I continue to push my limits in terms of community. And the comments/conversation here tend to be some of the most quality-driven in the entire web, IMO.

      By no stretch do I feel any of this is ‘all or nothing’. Every singly niche I look at seems to vary in the proper strategies needed for each, and where the pendulum swings.

      So for now, I still feel the tagline works Michael, but I could see it developing into more as the future rolls forward, and I’m completely open to that.

      thanks for the question,


      • I figured you wouldn’t, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to something that could be perceived as “calling someone out”. You certainly prove daily that community is a key aspect and I agree on the caliber of the comments (except for Danny Brown’s comments of course). Certainly d0n’t think it is ever an all or nothing kind of thing, just more an interest in how you see the three pillars of content, community and commerce fit together. Especially as content helps drive the community and both the content and community help drive the commerce.

        Happy Saturday!

        • “The 3 C’s of Marketing”….hmmmmm, that’s a good one I hadn’t seen before Michael.

          When you hear me speaking of those 3 things in the future and acting like I’m a genius for saying them, please know I stole it directly from you. ;-)

          • Steal away! Between that and my 4 C’s of Blogging, we have a lot of C’s :)

  60. Regardless of whether your goals for your blog are earning an income or just providing good content to your readers, one of your primary factors of success will be the community that forms around your blog.

    • It is a factor Andreas, but if that community is not leveraged to action, then it’s very likely we won’t reach our goals.

  61. This is a good blog post.

    When I first started my technical blog, I lost so much time through blogging and social networking that I was loosing revenue from not seeking and actually doing profit-making work. So I have drastically cut down on my social networking and now blog only once a month.

    My blog is popular although due to its nature, it doesn’t attract too many comments. Which is fine. It means I have more time to keep my actual real-life clients happy.

    Of course we all have different aims and goals for our blogs but for me, less is more ;)

    • Sounds like you’ve now got a clear understanding of your priorities…Amen to that! :-)

Comments are closed.