For two and a half years, every two weeks I sifted through over 140 blog posts and podcasts that talk about how to build successful online businesses. I found the best content, summarized it, added a bit of my commentary, and delivered it to the inboxes of entrepreneurs around the world…for free. I’m no longer writing Signals in the Noise issues (because my business partners and I are focusing on other parts of Clarity Lab), but please enjoy these archived issues. There’s a ton of useful information in them!
1. Haters gonna hate. Ship anyway.
“And you show up, and you show up, and you do the work, and you’re generous, and you feed the community, and you do something worth talking about, and the skeptics won’t like you, and the haters will hate, and the critics will criticize, but you will outlast them and then they will move on.” Seth Godin on the long grind of becoming an overnight success.
Every time I read or listen to Seth, I find it nearly impossible to summarize everything he says succinctly. I read and listen to a lot of people talking about building and marketing businesses, and so far, Seth’s work is the most brilliant that I’ve found. Here, he’s being interviewed via Skype by Landon Ray, the founder of Ontraport, which is a popular all-in-one software platform for online entrepreneurs.
If you’re crunched for time, you can do what I often do: read the transcript of the interview. You miss the body language and vocal intonation, but you can get the main points quickly.
2. One brand to rule them all.
“And that is what people who buy from Tiffany’s are paying for. A chance to reinforce the story they so desperately hope to be true about themselves, to themselves. A chance to wear a feeling. And a chance to belong to an exclusive *mental* world that the Tiffany’s brand has created, one blue box—and $250,000 ring—at a time. Because when nothing about buying is rational, the way you sell doesn’t have to be, either. Turns out, a person’s feelings about your product are your product.” Explaining it in a way that only Ash Ambirge can, that was her getting right to the heart of why some brands are so unbelievably powerful that they can command higher prices, even when an almost identical product sells at Costco for far less.
So often when we write sales pages for our services or products on our website, we expect that if we take the logical road and tell people everything they need to know about the product, they will be well informed and will buy it. We pack our pages full of things like what our online course is, what it teaches, how many downloadable pdf’s there are, how many hours of videos there are, and on and on.
If we’re smarter than the average online entrepreneur, we’ll add in some benefits to our copy: things that will make our customer’s lives better in some way after they go through our program, or get coaching from us.
And if we’re smarter than that, we’ll get to the level that Ash teaches about: how will people FEEL about themselves after they go through our online course? And what exact thoughts and feelings will flit around inside of them as they read your sales page? That level, the level of emotions, is where the money is. People buy with their emotions first and justify their decision later with their mind. Crap. Writing on this topic has gotten me all emotionally worked up. I think I should head down to the Apple store for some shopping therapy.
3. Email’s throne.
Direct marketing via email is still the most effective way to build relationships with prospects and customers, and eventually sell them your products and services. I have a feeling it will remain that way for a long time. Because direct marketing via email is so effective, there is no shortage of email marketing apps and tools out there.
Here’s a short list of some of the best email marketing apps. Keep in mind that there are a number of apps not on that list that are very popular. I have a feeling that the author left some of the options off his list because they aren’t stand alone email marketing apps. Regardless, here’s a few that didn’t make it on that list that you should be aware of:
Aweber. It’s what I use for these Signals in the Noise newsletters. It is, by far, the best email marketing app I’ve ever used.
Infusionsoft: I use this in my other business, The Art of Money, that I run with my wife. Infusionsoft does a lot more than just email marketing, which makes it more expensive, but I’ve never been a big fan of the email marketing features inside of Infusionsoft. It does many other things well though, which is why we continue to use it.
Ontraport: Infusinsoft’s main competitor. It has a very similar feature set as Infusionsoft, but costs less upfront. (The interviewer in the first piece of this newsletter is the founder of Ontraport.) I’ve never used Ontraport in a live business, but I have messed around with it before. Many people swear by it and have been known to leave Infusionsoft for it.
+ Hubspot: 5 Email Marketing Metrics You Should Be Tracking (But probably aren’t)
4. Social “meh…”
“‘Boring’ products and services help make the world go around; but, unlike things people are clamoring to buy, they’re not so easy to market on social media. After all, how do you promote pesticide spray (or financial services, for that matter) on social, when the only thing your followers are liking and re-sharing are cute animal videos and the release date for the Apple watch?” That’s Bench’s Cameron McCool (who’s last name is far cooler than everyone else’s) on how to promote boring products on social media.
Promoting anything on social media and having your efforts return enough revenue to warrant those efforts is a big challenge. Facebook, in particular, seems to be programming aggravation into their algorithms on purpose. If you have 10,000 followers on your Facebook business page, one day a post will reach 2,000 of them. Then, the very next day, another almost identical post will reach 42 of your followers. The situation becomes more dire if you’re not marketing cute cat videos. Sigh.
So, what is a business owner to do if your product or service isn’t super exciting? Educate, take advantage of viral content, become a go-to answer source, make your posts about your customers (and not you), and show your fans what happens behind the curtains of your business. More on those five things in Mr. McCool’s post.
5. SEO FTW
This is, hand’s up (because why the hell do we say “hand’s down” when we feel passionate about something anyway?), the best beginner’s guide to search engine optimization that I’ve ever read. It’s called, not surprisingly, The Beginner’s Guide to SEO and is written by the team at Moz. I read it years ago when it first came out, and they keep it updated as things in the SEO world shift and change, which they seem to do every few months.
I’ve never been a huge fan of spending a ton of time trying to push my search engine results position higher for given pages on my site, but, I do spend at least some time focusing on the most important parts of the SEO game.
The low hanging fruits of the SEO game don’t take too much time, and if you do them right, you can end up making tens of thousands of dollars more each year. I can’t recommend the Moz Beginner’s Guide to SEO highly enough. If you learn and practice anything that has to do with optimizing your search engine results position, read that free guide and put some of their tips into practice on your site. It will be, hand’s up, some of the best work you do for your business all year. SEO for the win.
6. Promote unto others as you would have them promote unto you.
“Look for ways to promote others as a full 50% of your social network activity and you will find your own exposure and opportunities growing at a rate unmatched by any other practice.” Duct Tape Marketing’s John Jantsch, on one of the most powerful, effective ways to use social media to promote your business: don’t promote yourself that much. Instead, promote and thank and lift up others on your social networks. What goes around comes around. If you scratch their back, they’ll scratch yours. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. That’s two cliches and a Golden Rule. I’ll stop here before I break any more writing rules.
7. Deep dive.
“Want to see better results from your content marketing campaigns? Well, let me give you a little hint…It’s not going to come from cranking out the same 800-word blog posts you’ve been writing three times a week for the past year. And it’s not going to come from building an infographic from one of the popular templates floating around out there.” That’s Sujan Patel absolutely nailing it in this post on how to create badass content for your content marketing efforts.
The business end of his message is this: aim for quality, not quantity. Personally, I’ve always erred on the side of going deep into a topic in blog posts that I write, and I completely ignore the recommended guidelines for how long blog posts are “supposed” to be. I probably go far overboard on some of my posts, but I’ve never once heard anyone complain that my posts are too in-depth or too long.
If you write well and if you’re consistently delivering useful help throughout your post, don’t worry too much about how long your posts are. Focus first on helping people; on providing benefits that can make a difference in people’s lives; on creating something worth talking about, and I swear, everything else, including ranking well in Google’s search results, will fall into place.
When you’re starting out, the best goal to have is getting your first revenue stream flowing with money. I know, I know…money isn’t the only thing motivating you. I’m totally with you on that. We want to make a positive impact in people’s lives with our work. Truth is though, you will be able to make a bigger impact with your work in the world if you’re bringing in more money than just what you need to get by.
If you’re at the beginning of the journey of building an online business of some kind, I highly recommend not spending a lot of money on your website and logo design. This is one of those easy-to-fix areas at the beginning of the journey that can help you get beyond the “make more money than just what you need to get by” part.
There are so many ways to get beautiful, inexpensive sites and logos without spending $5,000 on a new site and custom logo. Wait until you have the bases covered, and until you’ve got a good amount of money flowing out of the pipes first. Then you can get all stylie and custom and create the exact kind of visual brand you want.
If you’re not there yet, here’s two great options for getting a nice looking logo on the low down:
1. Buy a pack of predesigned logos that you can customize by entering your business name in Photoshop, like this pack of minimal Scandinavia inspired designs.
2. Hire someone on Fiverr to create an inexpensive logo for you.
3. Use 99designs and let a group of designers compete to create a logo design that you love for around $300.
Bottom line: don’t get too hung up on getting your website, graphic design, and logo design perfect in the beginning. Aim for good enough and spend more time and money on the other important areas of building your business, like creating and shipping something worth talking about.
9. Woman power.
So much of the content that’s published online about building businesses and becoming a successful entrepreneur comes from men. And yet, so many women are starting businesses, and I’ve been hearing from several sources over the last couple years that women are starting to earn more than men in the small business space.
There’s a disconnect here, which makes a podcast episode like this one, from the Fizzle team, so refreshing. This episode dives into what it looks like to be an entrepreneur, either in a startup or a smaller lifestyle business, from a feminine perspective.
So many of the most successful things we’ve done to grow our Art of Money business have been things where we’ve taken traditional, masculine approaches to marketing and growing an online business, and we adjust them into a way of doing things that is more feminine. This path won’t work for every product and market, but for our market, which mostly women, it works wonderfully.
Yes, formulaic, masculine, aggressive marketing works well for some products and some markets, but I think both men and women are growing more and more weary of such tactics, no matter what market we’re talking about. These approaches often ring hollow, devoid of authenticity and connection and honest relationships. There is another way though, and it can often yield more success. You just have to open your mind and listen…listen to the woman’s perspective.
10. Honest and uncool.
“Stop trying to change the world. Change the way other people see the world, one person at a time. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll do that first thing, either in your lifetime or long after you’re gone… Doing it this way makes [changing the world] a little easier.” Franklin Leonard, founder of The Black List, from the 99U Conference stage, on how to go about making a positive impact in the world.
For many of us small business entrepreneurs, it’s not enough to make a lot of money. We have a strong pull in our hearts, telling us that we can do more. More than just filling up our own bank account. The path to the kind of success I’m interested in involves not just taking care of myself and my family, but also constantly seeking ways I can serve others.
In that pursuit, I often find myself doing what Kelly Sue Deconnick, a leading comic book writer who also spoke at the 99U Conference, suggests we do: “When I do my best work,” she said, “I am leading with my heart. The goal is to proceed with courage…When you do, you find your way to a level of honest, uncool, messy humanity. This is your goal.” Honest, uncool, and messy. Now there are some goals I can achieve today.
That’s all for today’s issue of Signals in the Noise, my friends. As always, thank you for taking a few minutes out of your busy week and spending them with me in this newsletter. In return for your time, I hope you found some helpful things to bookmark and come back to in your browser later this week. Maybe after your kids have gone to sleep and you get 30 minutes of quiet time one night.
If you enjoyed this week’s issue, it would be a great help to me if you could tell a few friends about it. Here’s a few links to make sharing easy peezy lemon squeezy:
I hope you make some great headway on your to-do lists this week! If your lists are anything like mine, the tasks are pretty much never ending. But you know what? Doing them means that we’re working on building something we love. So please, go build more love…
Editor in Chief
Signals in the Noise
p.s. You can find the archives of past issues right here.