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!
Dude, that’s not funny.
“Comedian Chris Rock has a habit of showing up unannounced to small nightclubs. No one in the audience knows he’s coming. They haven’t bought a ticket to see him; they aren’t even aware of his performance until he’s onstage doing it. Often in front of audiences with fewer than 50 people, he takes the stage and goes through a 45-minute routine. Surprisingly, he isn’t very good…Most of the jokes fail, and that’s because he isn’t performing. He’s practicing.” That’s the always good Jeff Goins, on an alternative to self-promotion in business: practicing in public. This strategy works great with all skills except playing bagpipes.
Category: mastery of your craft
“In the news people in other cultures seem stranger than they are. We visited 240 families in 46 countries and collected 30,000 photos. We sorted the homes by income, from left to right. See how people really live.” Those words are the only words on the homepage of one of the most impactful websites I’ve seen in a long time, Dollar Street. With a few clicks, you can see photos from inside people’s homes all over the world, at income levels ranging from $26 per month to $15,000 a month. The images tell rich stories, as do the smiles on people’s faces, and the things that are not in many of the photos.
Why am I including this in a newsletter focused on helping small business entrepreneurs? Because our businesses don’t exist in a vacuum. They are not cut off from the world nor cordoned off from your emotions. We’re all trying really hard to make a go at running a successful business that can level us up to our ideal lifestyle.
At times we can strive for things or experiences that are part of that next level of lifestyle, and we might come up a tad short. It can be hard to let go of the desire. Really hard. To have to wait longer until you can grow your business a bit more and finally have enough cashflow to do the things you’ve been waiting so long to do.
I get it, completely.
Hans Rosling, the data scientist behind the work on global poverty that led to Dollar Street, has an excellent TED talk on this topic. I saw that video a few years ago, and it stuck with me. Whenever I find myself with that common form of suffering that comes when I can’t get or do something I want (because the business machine isn’t creating enough money yet), I think of Hans’ TED talk. And now I have the excellent Dollar Street website to visit.
Holding the reality of life for others in my mind puts the kibosh on my disgruntled desires. Once that monkey has calmed down, I start feeling intensely grateful for the things and experiences I do have. And then I want to do something greater with my time and income than just satisfy my small minded desires.
By no means am I saying that you need to be like me if you’re having a hard time around your business not yet bringing in the kind of money you want it to be bringing in.
I’m simply saying that if you find yourself having a hard moment with your business, I’ve found that taking a walk down Dollar Street has helped me shift my perspective, and it’s led to me doing things that are helping more people in the world.
I may not ever make a big, beautiful dent in the universe, but dammit, I’m going to try as hard as I can. Grab your hammer and let’s get on with it.
Category: Big vision and planning
“The results were insane. We were featured on Fox, CBS, NBC, Yahoo, Business Insider and countless other outlets. We got 2,000,000 impressions throughout the campaign and we got my hometown mayor elected.” Have you ever heard of “newsjacking”? If not, it’s one of the cleverest forms of marketing to show up on the interweb in the last couple years.
In this great post, Bryan Harris explains how he used newsjacking to get a ton of traffic for the campaign of someone running for mayor of Mobile, Alabama. I’ve been waiting for President Obama to say something publicly about curated newsletters for small business entrepreneurs, and I’m gonna newsjack the crap out of it when he does.
The chart of the matter
“According to Libsyn’s Rob Walch, the median number of downloads for each podcast episode is a humble 150-160 per episode per month . The average number of downloads for each podcast episode is 2,000, not counting ‘A-list’ shows like Serial, This American Life and 99% Invisible, which receive millions of downloads per episode. But despite the cold comfort of the data, between the lines is the question these podcasters are really asking: ‘Does my work matter?’” That’s Sarah Rhea Werner, on Forbes, with a helpful take on how to deal with a question that will come up if you’re working your ass off to create a free podcast: Does my podcast matter? Bottom line…don’t do what I do: directly tie your self-worth as a person to the number of downloads your podcast gets.
Tickle the funny throne.
“You can either annoy people to sell products or you can entertain them to sell products. We take the latter route — specifically humor — because it cuts through the clutter. There’s nothing else like it.” That’s DJ O’Neil, in a confirming piece on The Hustle blog about why the oft-heard adage “content is king” may no longer be true. “Funny content is king” may be closer to the truth.
With hundreds of online businesses popping up each month in every conceivable niche, if you want your business to stand out, blending humor into your content marketing, copywriting, or Facebook ads could have a huge impact on your revenue. My prediction? The most successful online business owners in the future will be funny. Trust me, you’ll get your funny’s worth.
Ever feel at a loss for what niche to focus on, or what domain name to buy for your business, or what to price your products at, or what to call your free offer? If so, you’re not alone. Thankfully, there’s a wealth of market research information that is totally free, just waiting for you to gather…right inside of Amazon. (It can be a bit of a marathon to gather it, but it’s there.) Here’s Roland Frasier, on the Digital Marketer blog, with 13 Ways To Use Amazon.com To Pick Products and Niches, Craft Winning Offers, Increase Conversions And More. The example he uses in this post is focused on an e-commerce business that sells physical products, but you can also use these methods for gathering market research information for digital information products. (Every time I use Amazon for market research, I end up buying three more business books from my wish list.)
Category: market research
People are in a hurry on the web.
Most people scan what you write, reading just a little.
The question then: how to make your content scannable?
One sentence paragraphs.
Simple words with few syllables.
Sprinkle (cat) photos throughout your content.
And read Neil Patel’s guide to creating scannable content.
Category: content marketing and writing
Go big, or go gnome.
“Let’s face it. You probably have a really big idea. You want to start a big business. You want to change the world in a big way. But how do you even begin to accomplish such big feats? My proposal to you is to start small.” Stu Mclaren, with smart advice and great examples of how to get big by starting small. Last winter I used this approach. I started with a small bag of barbecue chips, then increased the bag size each day, and I definitely got pretty big.
The moment of tooth.
“Do you believe in something yet? Truly? Has the world touched you enough, and poked you enough, and ripped open the seams of your soul enough for you to flinch? To push back? To create a chasm between the big, glossy bullshit and your truth? Find the chasm. Find the depth. Find your own meaning buried under the rock. And then tell it to us. Tell us your truth with the conviction of a mother standing up for her babies. Tell us what you know, and tell us in a way that is so raw, and so honest, and so real, that we cannot possibly ignore you.” Ash Ambirge, on how to be successful online: stop bullshitting and start telling your truth. Some of us are getting too long in the tooth not to do this.
Ace of charts.
Sometimes you just need a quick and easy tool to create a beautiful chart for a blog post. Here’s a great tool I found last week that does just that: the aptly named Online Chart Tool.
Thank you for reading! If you’re down here, you’re in the top one percentile of internet users who actually read things all the way through! (Which makes you one of the smartest people on the planet.)
Sure hope you found something useful in today’s issue!
If you did, it would help me a ton if you share it with your friends. Here are a couple links to make that easy for you:
Share on Facebook (where the entire world is)
Share on Twitter (before it dies)
Hope you have a kick ass week with your business!!
All the best,
Editor-in-briefs for Signals in the Noise
Co-founder @ Clarity Lab
P.S. You can find past issues of this newsletter right here.