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. Bananas gone wild.
Davonte Williams was in school studying to become a cardiac software technician, but often found himself doodling on bananas with markers while in class. Forbes explains that “Wilson was barely passing the quizzes and tests, and one day the instructor wrote on the top of one of his tests, ‘Maybe you should learn to write reports as well as you write on bananas?’ Wilson said everyone in the class poked fun at him and the bananas on which he doodled, but they also would stop by his desk and ask about them.” Davonte saw a business opportunity, and started selling the bananas.
And now? He’s making $8,000 per month with his business, Bananas Gone Wild. That’s about $100,000 a year. Selling bananas with messages on them that are sent to people’s friends. Umm…wow. Okay, there’s got to be a lesson in here somewhere.
2. Popularity conquest.
Well, guess what? It’s time to up your selfie game (or, at least, the social-media-post-as-entertainment game). Twitter and Instagram got all Facebooky a few days ago. Both have updated the way their main feeds work, basing them on the algorithmically driven ranking style of posts that Facebook uses to determine what you see in your personal feed. This means that your Instagram and Twitter updates now have to get a fair amount of likes and comments to be seen by anyone. As Josh Constantine at TechCrunch explains, “The free ride is over. Businesses can’t use these platforms as unlimited marketing channels any more. The hard sell will fade from view in favor of actual entertainment. Rather than a mix of content posts and more straight-forward marketing, each ‘gram and tweet will need to be laced with delight or risk obscurity.”
That phrase “actual entertainment” keeps jumping off the page at me. Like, you can’t fake entertain people anymore with your content marketing dressed up in a green Grinch Who Stole Christmas costume. You have to actually entertain people if you want your social media posts to be seen. I’m not sure that’s entirely true, because I think that helpful, in-depth, long-form content will still engage people on social media. Because helping solve people’s problems for free will never go out of style, no matter what they do to the algorithms. That said, there’s nothing wrong with solving people’s problems while making them giggle a bit. Unless you’re the DMV, and you make people wait for an hour to renew their license plates. Jokes won’t help in that situation.
3. Persuade me.
If you’re not yet familiar with the science of persuasion, here’s a really good, entertaining video on the subject, which forms the basis of many online programs and books that teach about how to market your products, programs, or services on the interwebs. These concepts come from Robert Cialdini, professor emeritus of psychology at Arizona State University, and author of many books on the science of persuasion. (He’s also the one doing the narration in the video above.)
I know that for many of you, when you hear the phrase “science of persuasion,” it might sound like “the science of manipulating people to buy your stuff,” but like any tool, the science of persuasion can be used in good ways, and less than ethical ways. The concepts in Cialdini’s body of work are powerful, but I’ve found that none of them work on my 7 year old son. “Papa, seriously? You’re trying to use the principles of social proof and reciprocity to get me to eat my dinner? Nice try.”
“When you’re a large e-commerce store pushing thousands of orders every month – the last thing you want to think about is completely migrating your money-maker to another platform. It’s a lot of work, and you’re pretty sure it will destroy sales. So you put it off. You keep putting it off until eventually, your site is broken beyond repair, or your competition is gaining too much ground.” That’s William Harris, explaining what it takes to move your money maker (a.k.a., your big e-commerce site with over 10,000 products) from Magento to Shopify Plus.
Migrating your online business, whether you sell physical or digital products, is always a major pain if you’ve been up and running for a while. Harris’ great post details the depths of the challenges and costs at the extreme end of the “migrating is a pain in the ass” spectrum. Migrating is actually pretty easy, though. You just map out your workflow needs, get on the phone with tech support for the software you’re thinking of moving to, and then hire NASA to do the work of moving everything over.
5. Jiminy crickets.
“As painful as it is, you just learned something essential: nobody gives a shit. Nobody cares about you or your product. You’re not entitled to any sales or clicks or shares or love simply because you made a thing. Nobody cares about your thing. What do they care about? They care about themselves, their needs, their wants, their loves.” That’s the team from Fizzle, on what happens after you work your ass off for months and months to create a new product, or program, or service…and no one buys it. Unfortunately, I’ve seen this happen to more than a few new entrepreneurs, and it is utterly heartbreaking to see.
Thankfully, there’s a way to avoid hearing crickets when you launch a new product, and for the Fizzle team, it’s about how you clearly define your audience’s needs, wants, and desires…BEFORE you build something to sell them.
And yes, this is part of the super important process of idea validation, which I mentioned in the last issue of this newsletter. I can’t tell you how important this is to your business and your livelihood and revenue stream and actually creating the lifestyle you’re wanting to create as a result of having a kick-ass business. It’s like doing self-help for your business. Which reminds me of the time I walked into a bookstore and asked a clerk behind the counter where the self-help section was. She looked at me and said, “If I tell you, won’t that defeat the purpose?”
6. Chart topper.
Infographics. Those super long images packed with beautifully designed, visual representations of data (a.k.a, charts and graphs and cartoon characters.) They’re a killer form of content marketing, but they can also kill your marketing budget because hiring a graphic designer to create one from scratch can cost over $1,000. What’s a small biz entrepreneur to do? Piktochart. For a low monthly subscription (yes, I know that sounds like a commercial), you get access to a ton of great, predesigned infographic themes that you can customize while you roll your own infographics for your blog posts.
And, because I know you’re on the edge of your seat wondering, here’s an infographic about why humans like infographics (I know, I know. That’s so meta.)
“I’ve been itching to get a standing desk. After all, America’s sitting itself into an early grave. Sitting is the new smoking. Clearly, a standing desk would stop me from sitting, and standing is just so much better for you than sitting, right? Contrary to popular belief, science does not say so.” NPR’s Angus Chen, on the myth of standing desks, which are, apparently, more of a fashion statement than a boon to your health. I bought one a couple of months ago. After three weeks of using it, I can now see it out of the corner of my eye while I lay down on the couch and work.
Two weeks ago, I met with three friends for three days in Arizona. The four of us form a mastermind group that we call the “Impact mastermind,” because each of us want not only to make good money with our online businesses, but we also want to make a positive dent in the universe. Every Friday for over a year, we’ve met for an hour to support and help each other grow our businesses. This group of guys is remarkable. Outstanding. Brilliant. But that’s another story for another time.
We met in Arizona to do a 3-day intensive meeting, which involved each of us being in the hotseat for a 3 to 4-hour session. One guy in the hotseat, and the other 3 guys entirely focused on analyzing, optimizing, and growing the business of the guy in the hotseat. And somehow, for each guy, we organically began with about an hour of nailing down the big why of their business, which is something I’ve written about in past newsletters.
Finding your big why is more like a ladder of why’s, with each level down containing deeper meaning and purpose. In this piece, Jeff Goins inspires us to inquire within to find our big why. “All great writing, and certainly many great blogs, are about something bigger than the author. When you set out to build a community, you have to create something that’s bigger than you. And before you can do that, you have to know what you are all about. What’s your worldview? What gets under your skin? What wrecks you?”
His suggestion to find that thing that’s bigger than you is to write a short, but powerful, manifesto…and put it out in the world on your website. It’s well worth a quick read, but more importantly, it’s well worth it to take the time to write your manifesto. Why are you doing what you’re doing with your business?
9. Content is bling.
“It’s time I bust this thing wiiiiiiide open. ‘Content is King’ is HORRIBLE advice. Question is why? Content is how you get traffic. Content is also how you keep loyal readers and customers happy. So, what’s the problem?” The problem, as Derek Halpern from Social Triggers sees it, is that studies show that for actual humans visiting websites, there’s something initially more important than your content: the design of your site. And it’s not just the aesthetics. Rather, it’s mostly about usability and the ease with which people can figure out what your site is all about (and how it can help them.)
10. One dimensional.
“What we’ve learned is that group chat used sparingly in a few very specific situations makes a lot of sense. What makes a lot less sense is chat as the primary, default method of communication inside an organization. A slice, yes. The whole pie, no. All sorts of eventual bad happens when a company begins thinking one-line-at-a-time most of the time.” That’s Jason Fried, CEO and Founder of Basecamp, on the 4 things that live chat (like Slack or Skype) is good for, and 17 ways that it causes problems in businesses. He forgot one way. The 18th bad thing about live chat rooms is that it causes people to become one dimensional. You relate to people’s written words only. With video chats, at least people have two dimensions, and a mouth the has audible words coming out of it (even if the words aren’t synced up with their mouth movements, because then at least you feel like a badass in a dubbed kung fu movie.)
Wait, what? This issue is already over? Sigh. That was so much fun!
Hope it was as fun and useful for you to read it as it was for me to create it. If you enjoyed today’s issue of Signals in the Noise, would you do me a yoooooge favor and share it with your peeps? Here’s a couple links to make the sharing easy (and thanks a ton for sharing if you do):
Here’s to you making big strides with your business over the next couple weeks until I pop into your inbox again.
Keep going. You’re doing awesome.
Signals in the Noise
Founder at Clarity Lab
p.s. You can find the archive of past issues right here.