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. Be Your Own Business Advisor
I found a beautiful gem for you on the interwebs a few days ago: my friend and brilliant business strategist, teacher, advisor, and mentor, Hiro Boga, is starting another round of her online program, Become Your Own Business Advisor…and it’s happening today.
My wife, Bari Tessler, has collaborated a number of times with Hiro, both for our Art of Money program, as well as some of Hiro’s programs. Hiro is a beautiful anomaly. Describing her isn’t easy for me…she’s kind of like Rumi, Paul Coelho (author of the Alchemist), and Marie Forleo (founder of B-School)…all rolled into one very bright being.
Her teachings and writings are something to behold (I devoured one of her pdf ebooks in a day, and it was so good that I wanted to print it out and eat it.) And, her private work is profound (Bari and I did a session with her and we left feeling illuminated and clear and ready to make some changes in our business.)
If you like your business advice infused with world-class poetic, spiritual perspectives, you’ll want to check Hiro’s program out. She is truly a gem in this world of business.
2. Help people for the win.
I’ve always felt that a product or service is only as good as their customer support is. A great product plus crappy customer support still equals a bad customer experience. The companies that have a great product and over-the-top amazing customer support are the ones that I often recommend, and the ones I keep using year after year. Wistia, Rainmaker, Help Scout, Zappos.
Those companies, and others like them, understand that taking good care of your prospects and customers is the best way to build long-term relationships. They know that relationships like that eventually lead to more revenue, and that taking care of people is just the right thing to do.
Many, many other companies, offline and online, still don’t get that though. Seth Godin doesn’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing: “Customer service succeeds when it accomplishes what the organization sets out to accomplish. Google doesn’t have a phone number, doesn’t want to engage with most users. McDonald’s doesn’t give you a linen napkin. Fedex used to answer the phone on one ring, now it takes 81 seconds for them to answer a call. None of these things are necessarily bad, they’re merely examples of alignment (or non-alignment).”
Seth has an interesting take on what customer service is for. I agree with him for the most part, but I will continue to champion those companies who fully grok the marketing power that comes from taking very good care of your prospects and customers. And I’ll continue to strive for that standard in my businesses. Do the right thing. Take care of your peeps.
3. Giving is the new getting
Many of you already know that in order to create a successful business online, you have to build up an email list of qualified, interested prospects that might buy something from you one day.
And you likely know that it’s not just about getting people on your list. It’s about how you build a relationship with them over time so that they come to know, like, and trust you.
This train of thought naturally leads to the tactic of giving away something highly valuable for free on your site in exchange for a person’s email address.
Some call it a free offer, others, an ethical bribe, and yet others call it a Big Banana. It could be an ebook, or a 20-minute video, or a series of 14 emails delivered over two weeks that forms a mini training course. Or it could be a free content library full of multiple ebooks, videos, downloadable pdf worksheets, and podcasts.
You’ve probably heard about this many times before, but many people struggle with figuring out what topic to pick for their free offer. In this Rainmaker FM podcast called Hit Publish, Pam Wilson interviews a few of the stars from the Copyblogger Media team about how to go about choosing a topic for your free offer.
Here’s Robert Bruce on the issue: “Rather than trying to come up with something out of the blue, take a look back into your archive, the archive of your website or your blog, and pick out the most popular work. This could be your most popular articles, your most popular blog posts that you have done, or podcasts or infographics, or whatever it may be. Basically the ones that your audience responded to the most. Then take a look from many different angles about how you might be able to repackage that, expand upon it and build it out even more, to make it more valuable than what it is.”
That’s some of the best advice I’ve ever heard about how to pick the right topic for your free offer.
4. Do something that matters.
I’ll be honest with you, I have a thing for Venn diagrams. Here’s a fantastic one from Anais Bock, over at her refreshingly honest website, Bullshit Elimination.
That diagram points at a solution for something that I see a lot of online entrepreneurs struggling with: how to build a profitable business around something they love doing.
It’s no easy task. I struggle with it at times too. You can get the “something people want and are willing to pay a good amount of money for” part, but you’ll not quite get the “I’m really passionate about this because it has a lot of meaning” part. Or, you nail the part about your work having a ton of meaning and impact in the world, but you can’t figure out how to make money doing it. Argh!
Try meditating on Anais’ diagram. Maybe you’ll find some answers in the silence.
+ Speaking of doing something that matters, here’s a profile of 5 companies that are doing great things in the world while turning a profit. Yay for triple bottom lines (which I think should just be called “Triple bottoms.”)
5. Friends don’t let friends launch duds.
From my friend Craig Cannings at Education U: “You invest your time, your knowledge, your creative energy – heck, even your soul – into creating an online course that you just know is going to kill it and take the market by storm. Then, you put it out to the world and … crickets! I understand the pain, believe me.”
Launching online programs can be a challenging, intense, amazingly beautiful, terrifying experience. When they go well, launches are a thrilling adventure…well, at least toward the end of them. I’ve never done one that wasn’t hard, but there are degrees of hard, and they do get easier the more times you do them.
Being in the online marketing world for the last eight years, I’ve seen many friends, colleagues, and people in mastermind groups launch their programs and…nothing happens. They make no sales, or just a small handful of them. It’s heartbreaking to see this happen to anyone, especially when you’re aware of how much time and effort goes into preparing for a launch.
If you’re creating anything that will be for sale online, like an online program or coaching services or a weekend workshop, you’re launching something, at least in my book. A launch happens when you create something and put it out into the world for sale (even if it’s a free offer…you still have to sell free things.)
When launches don’t go well, there’s a lot of variables involved and many possible reasons for it not doing well. Craig describes 5 of the big reasons that launches fail in this podcast episode.
In my experience, there is a handful of other reasons involved in addition to the 5 Craig covers. To his list, I would add: 1) Are you launching at a bad time of the year in terms of being able to get people’s attention, like during the Holidays? 2) Do your price point and payment plan match people’s perception of the value of your program? 3) Is your offer strong enough to justify your price point? 4) Is your copywriting on your sales page (or in your video scripts) really, really well written by a professional, and does it resonate with the worldview and values of your target market?
There’s probably a few more, but I’ll stop there. The most important thing here is that I don’t want to see your launch fail. There is a handful of things that can cause launches to fail, and it’s incredibly valuable to know about them BEFORE you launch anything.
6. Great stories = great business.
“If you don’t have a story, you’re going to lose your prospects, just like that, because they don’t care. Story gives people a reason to plug in, it gives them a reason to feel deeply about whatever you’re passionate about. If you tell the right story, then you make your prospect, your customer, your lead, passionate about what you’re passionate about and it makes them part of a team. It makes them part of a cause or a movement…It makes them care. Whatever it is that you feel passionate about is what you want your prospects and customers to feel passionate about, and story is a shorthand way of making that happen.” That’s Sean Platt, an incredibly prolific author and great marketer, talking with Jeff Walker, the founder of the product launch formula marketing approach, about the power of story infused marketing.
There’s a reason I keep linking to great pieces, like this one with Jeff and Sean, about how to use stories to create better marketing. It’s because good stories in your marketing materials will help you get where you want to go A LOT faster.
Why do I want you to create and experience the lifestyle you want to create sooner than later? Because I’m probably a lot like you…I want to do something that matters in this world. These days, at least in my case, that has to do with helping people like you create businesses that give them a chance to live the kind of life they want to be living. Good story telling and copywriting will fill your sails with strong and steady winds as you sail towards your paradise island. Land ho, me hearties!
7. What a minimum viable product is not.
When you’re building something new, like an online program, you’ll probably hear one teacher or another talk about the concept of starting with a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). It means that you don’t aim to launch the full blown product you have in mind, but instead, you create just enough of it to allow you to launch it. Then you listen closely to the feedback that the people who use your product give you.
Based on that feedback, you start a process of iteration with your product: you change it, adjust it, and evolve it based on what people actually want and need (not what you THINK they want and need.) It’s an incredibly smart way to create any product, online programs or otherwise.
Sometimes though, people can get tripped up on what it means to create an MVP. It’s not about creating a cheaper version of the full product you have in mind. It’s about getting the right kind of feedback and learning in a smarter way before you spend too much time and money on creating your product or service.
8. One profile photo to rule them all.
In an online business world where you will never meet 99% of your prospects and customers face-to-face, photos of you on your website and social media outposts matter more than you can imagine.
Here’s some good science to help you put your best face forward. That’s it. I’m taking some new self-portraits, and I’m going to try the squinting thing.
9. To repost or not to repost?
That is the question. Whether ’tis nobler on the web to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous search engine fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of search engine penalties
And by opposing end them.
Said in another way: If Shakespeare were alive, would it be less-than-smart for him to repost his blog posts on other sites to gain exposure to large audiences? Maybe. Or, maybe not. You can get penalized by the Google gods sometimes for doing that. There’s been some controversy about this topic over the years in the SEO (search engine optimization) world.
Here’s some current data to help answer the question. While you read that, I’m going to imagine what it would be like if Shakespear were alive today…blogging, podcasting, making Youtube videos, and generally marketing himself in a noisy world. What a trip that would be.
10. The price is right.
The intersection of human psychology and business is what makes marketing so utterly fascinating to me. This fascination begins to scintillate when you dive into what happens in people’s minds when they ponder the price of your product or program or service.
Getting the price of your products right can make or break your next launch, and even your entire business. In the past, I’ve messed up by pricing things too high and also too low, but I’ve also been able to find the Goldilocks price point (not too high and not too low.)
Maybe I should have paid more attention to Bob Barker on The Price Is Right when I was a kid. It’s probably much more useful to read something like this though, which will show you how strategy and psychology work together to create (almost) perfect prices.
Sure hope you enjoyed this week’s issue of Signals in the Noise. If you did, I’d be ever-so-grateful if you could tell your friends about it by forwarding them this email or saying a little something about it on social media.
Thank you in advance if you do a little sharing. Honestly, it means a lot to me when I see folks sharing these issues. It lets me know that I’m doing something that matters, and it helps me grow my own business, which allows me to help more people. Good stuff all around.
You can find past issues of Signals in the Noise right here.
Here’s to you growing a high-impact business
Until next week,
Signals in the Noise
p.s. You can find the archive of past weekly content roundups right here.