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!
I love to be consistent, but sometimes life (and other businesses) get in the way. You might notice that this newsletter is showing up in your inbox a bit late today. Normally, I like to ship it out around noon-ish, Mountain time.
Alas, today I am in the middle of a big program launch in my other business, I hung a 45 pound log from our ceiling this morning (we got a house warming gift from my parents…an amazing handmade rustic chandelier that they made), and I took my amazing mom to the Denver airport and back. Hence, that late delivery time of this issue of Signals.
Thanks for watching the internet while I was away. And enjoy the latest collection of hand-curated, best of the best of what I’ve found on the web over the last two weeks.
1. Buddha in the boardroom.
“Entrepreneur Scott Belsky said the following in Manage Your Day-to-Day: ‘You are the steward of your own potential. The resources within you—and around you—are only tapped when you recognize their value and develop ways to use them. Whatever the future of technology may hold, the greatest leaders will be those most capable of tuning into themselves and harnessing the full power of their own minds.'” Help Scout’s Paul Jun, quoting author Scott Belsky (yes, I just quoted a guy quoting another guy) on the importance of mindfulness practice in the realm of our business lives.
Honestly, I don’t think I could do this entrepreneurial path if it weren’t for the years of meditation practice I had done before starting my first business. But never, in all my years of sitting with Tibetan and Zen teachers, did I ever imagine that any version of the Buddha’s teachings would become so popular in large and small companies around the world. On the other hand, I also didn’t imagine that selfie posts on Facebook would become a global obsession.
2. Social media’s lost that lovin’ feeling.
Before I read this piece from Kevan Lee at Buffer, I had already realized that organic reach on social networking sites is all but dead. Meaning, it’s impossible to reach more than a tiny sliver of your followers organically anymore. It seems that social networks have decided that the free ride is over. The only way to grow your business via social media is to play the game their way…and pay for ads.
My hypothesis was cemented after Kevan, who manages the content marketing for Buffer (which is an app that helps people do content marketing on social media sites), publicly stated a few days ago that Buffer has lost half of their traffic volume from their own social media efforts compared to last year…and they have no freaking idea why it’s happening.
In a beautiful, moving act of transparency rarely seen in the startup world, Kevan explains that “It feels weird admitting this: We as a Buffer marketing team—working on a product that helps people succeed on social media—have yet to figure out how to get things working on Facebook (especially), Twitter, Pinterest, and more.”
So, if you’re wondering why your friend’s Facebook post about his cat playing with a plastic dinosaur got 487 likes and 325 comments, while the post you put up about your new online program that actually helps people improve their lives in a meaningful way got 2 likes and no comments, know that you’re not alone. Read Kevan’s post [ https://blog.bufferapp.com/lost-traffic ]. It’s fascinating and very telling of the future of social media marketing.
3. These are not the searches you’re looking for.
“In recent months, I’ve apparently asked Google where I can eat nearby, how to take a screenshot on the OnePlus Two, what a Trap Queen is, what the Perseids are, and to play a Linkin Park song. It’s all there—my dumb voice asking dumb questions that I thought were lost into the ephemerality of Google’s search servers.” That’s Quartz’s Mike Murphy on a slightly unsettling reality check: Google keeps an archive of every voice search you ask it via their Ok Google voice search tool. Thankfully, you can delete the archive and Mike shows you how. Guess I better go do that myself, lest the government finds out that I recently asked Google “Is Luke Skywalker actually Kylo Ren in Star Wars Force Awakens?” (I’ve been waiting to see Luke in a new Star Wars movie for 38 years. If he’s turned to the dark side, I’m going to have a major existential crisis.)
4. Check your body at the door.
Not many people talk about the emotional side of being a small business entrepreneur. But oh my, are there ever emotional highs and lows. Often they’re directly related to the amount of money that your business is making and spending. Like when you launch a new product or online program, and your emotions follow a direct, one-to-one correlation with the number of sales happening each day. If lots of sales happen in one day, you feel on top of the world, and you think that your business idea is actually going to work for another month or year. If only a few sales, or (SHIT!) no sales, happen, the world can become dark, as can your imaginations of the future of your life and business.
No matter what the amount of revenue your seeing is, you could use a simple but powerful tool to use around money. It has to do with your body, and it comes from my lovely wife.
5. Commute to the kitchen.
“Remember the old man on Home Alone that salted the sidewalks, and all the neighborhood kids thought he was a murderer? You’re like that, except instead of salting the sidewalks, they just see you slither out your front door every day checking your mail. Some of them only know you as “sweatpants person” because even your gender has become a blurred mystery.” Playboy’s Rob Fee on the all too familiar joys of working from home. Yes, I just linked to an article on the Playboy site, but it’s okay, they don’t publish nude photos anymore, which is great, because I only ever looked at the articles anyway. Ahem, yes, I was just reading the great articles in there, honey.
6. Conoco code.
I know enough HTML and CSS code to be able to handle the basics of doing site layout and design that involves code. Which basically means I’m a dangerous coder who can’t troubleshoot very well when things aren’t working. Like two days ago, hours before we were about to start early bird registration for our year-long Art of Money program.
I’d been redesigning and re-fortmatting the sales page for the program for about 25 hours and got stuck with some CSS code that wasn’t working. And…yep, I’m one of those guys who doesn’t like stopping to ask for directions on a road trip. (Dear wife, why would I do that when I have Google Maps on my phone?) Well, Google wasn’t helping with my CSS mystery, so I broke down and asked Google “where find instant CSS help?” Thankfully, Google doesn’t mind when I speak caveman to it, and it sent me to this great site called CodeMentor.
It’s a network of code ninjas that you can contact, instantly, and get help via text chat or video conference and screen sharing. Totally. Badass. In 4 minutes, I was on a video conference with a friendly code ninja in India named Prashanth. In less than 25 minutes, Prashanth saved the day. CSS mystery solved…for $20. Best $20 I’ve spent in months. After I told my wife that I got some help from a nice guy in India and solved the code mystery, she half sarcastically said, “Good job honey. You stopped and asked for directions.”
7. Mining their minds.
I’ve said it many times before in this newsletter, and this probably won’t be the last time you hear it: the importance of writing emotionally compelling copy on your site and in your emails is one of the most mission-critical things to get right when you have an online business of any kind. And the most important part of doing that most important thing? Is knowing what, exactly, to say to your new possible customers that will cause them to take action and buy what you’re selling. To pull that off, you have to know what your prospects are thinking and feeling INSIDE their private, first-person world.
But Joanna Wiebe, of Copyhackers, thinks that “You shouldn’t write copy. You shouldn’t look inside your head for the messages that will convince your prospects. You’re not your prospect. So how the hell could you know what they need to hear? It’s vanity to think you could. Instead of writing your message, steal it. Steal it directly from your prospects.” Steal? Yes. But it’s a good kind of stealing, I promise.
In this post, she shows how to go about mining reviews on sites like Amazon, Trip Advisor, or Yelp to find exact phrasings of words that come from inside the inner world of people in your target market. When you do it right, it’s almost like your prospects are writing your copy for you. And that? Is pure gold.
8. The price is right (sometimes.)
“I did the math. If my email list is 1,000 people, I will make 20 sales from an email (at a 2% conversion rate). If I charge $200 instead of $100 for my course, I’ll make twice the income.” From the department of “how the heck am I supposed to find the right price for my online program,” comes The Next Web’s Ashley Hockney, on using some basic math to reverse engineer the price to set for your programs. Pricing is an art, not a science.
While we all wish for an easy pricing formula to follow, I’ve never actually seen one that works. Most often, it’s a lot of trial and error: you launch a program at a price point that you deliberate about for weeks and weeks and which finally, after many long discussions, feels right. And then? You launch the program and see how people respond. Do enough of them pull out their credit card and buy? That’s really the only way you’ll find out if the price is right.
It’s a hard way to do a science, because if you get it wrong and price your program higher than people’s perception of the value of your product, you’ll have problems. And if you go too much lower than said perception of your program’s value, you’ll have another set of problems.
Either way, you’ll learn, and eventually, you’ll nail the right price point that will allow you to create a sustainable, and profitable business…as long as you do about 14 other things just right. What? You didn’t think I was going to sugar coat that, did you? You can TOTALLY get the price right. Seriously. BUT, the reality is that there are so many other things that you have to get right at the same time for everything to really start humming along in your business.
I like reality checks like that, personally. Too many online marketing gurus out there try to make it seem like building a successful online business is easy: “Just learn these slick marketing tactics and you’ll start raking in lots of passive income.” Yeah. Um, okay. So, that’s not how it works in real life. Unless your my 7-year-old son, who seems to have a pretty sweet stream of weekly passive income every week (otherwise known as allowance.)
9. Two years at sea.
Speaking of reality checks, here’s another guy who likes them: Cameron Moll, founder of Authentic Jobs. When asked by people wanting to learn from him how long it will take their business to get traction and create a level of income that will support them, he tells them: “Plan on any new idea taking two years to gain sustainable traction. Two years feels daunting, and the expression on their faces when I utter this confirms the feeling. But when that reality is accepted, expectations are more manageable.”
He’s mostly referring to startups, but what he’s saying holds true for other online businesses, like those that sell knowledge, or information, products. I’ve seen non-startup type online businesses reach that point of getting traction faster than two years, but it’s rare and takes a combination of a lot of things happening in the right way all at once to get to that point before two years.
I’m not trying to dissuade you from the path. Not at all. The thing is, I see a lot of small businesses fail before they reach a point of sustainability. And I don’t want that to happen to you. I think one thing that causes a lot of folks to throw in the towel with their online business is that they didn’t know what it was really going to be like past the first few weeks of their venture, and when it got really hard, they gave up after a while. I have a hunch that if more people have a good, clear map of what the trail ahead is like, when it gets really steep and rocky, they’ll be able to keep going, because 1) they expected it and planned for it, and 2) they know it’s just one part of the trail, and that there are other more enjoyable bits ahead. Reality checks save lives (and businesses.)
10. Growth hack your funnel, baby.
“Example conversation: we need to drop our Top-Of-The-Funnel Potential Leads into our drip email campaign. It’s shown to convert at least 20% of the email recipients into Qualified-Warm Leads, so you can add them to your Pipeline for Erica, our Relationship Success Manager, to ping them or talk to them ‘offline.’ After all, she is a ‘Growth Hacking Prodigy.’” Jeffery Wisard, from Web Designer Depot, on eight web industry surprises that no one warns you about. In that example, he’s pointing out that there are A LOT of buzzwords in the online marketing world. Oddly enough, that example conversation he referenced made perfect sense to me. I’m not sure whether to be embarrassed or proud of that.
If you enjoyed today’s issue of Signals in the Noise, I’d be super grateful if you’d share a little somethin’ about it with your friends. Who knows, your post might even reach more than three people (news feed algorithms be willing.) Word of mouth does a business good, so thanks heaps if you share.
Or…go old school and forward this email to a friend 😉
I sure hope you’re making some good progress in your business. If you’re like me, you’re playing whack-a-mole with a lot of emails and items on your to do lists. May you get some good whacking done over the next two weeks until I write to you again.
All the best to you,
Signals in the Noise
p.s. You can find the archive of past issues right here.