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. OMG. What are they doing?
People are coming to your site (awesome!). They’re signing up for your free offer (you do have something to offer them for free…right?), and some of them are signing up for your paid services and products. But have you started changing the design of your site to try and optimize things like the conversion rate of people signing up for your free thing, or your newsletter, or your paid coaching calls?
If you’ve tried to change the design of any aspect of your site to improve how the site performs, knowing what people are doing on your site can give you invaluable knowledge; knowledge that can guide design tweaks you make in the future.
And the best way to get that knowledge? Is to have Google Analytics installed on your site…and then actually use the data to guide the adjustments you make on your site. Here’s a great beginner’s guide to what stats you should be looking at within Google Analytics and how to get to them.
2. Tugging heartstrings for dollars
“The philosopher Slavoj Zizek and others have persuasively critiqued these partially-charitable business models for falsely exonerating consumers from their participation in global inequality.” In a piece on Medium’s Backchannel that should make you pause and think, D.A. Wallach pulls back the curtain on compassionate capitalism, exposing a bit of the shadow of for purpose businesses.
He points out that many businesses built on a compassionate capitalist business model, like Toms or Warby Parker, often make millions more in profit because they heavily use their charitable deeds in their marketing stories. He’s calling for a different way to go about making the world a better place: do it quietly, and if you can’t do it quietly, donate 100% of the increase in your profits that result from using charitable acts as a major part of your marketing story. Point taken.
I’ve wanted to build a hybrid for-profit/for purpose business model for years. This article has me pausing to examine the authenticity of my altruism because I had been planning on telling stories about charitable deeds that my business does as part of my business model. This one is worth chewing on if you’re considering building a business model like Toms or Warby Parker.
+ This is a long read, but it’s one of the best articles I’ve ever read about giving money to charities: The Atlantic: The Greatest Good. It’s a story about the author, Derek Thompson, who wants to make a large donation to a charity. He goes on a thorough search to find the most effective, beneficial charity that will make the most impact with his donation.
3. That’s not shocking.
In content marketing circles, there has been a fair amount of buzz and discussion about this article, by Mark Schaefer, on the coming collapse of content marketing’s effectiveness. That article caught my attention too a couple months back, and I wrote on it in a previous issue of this newsletter.
If you didn’t catch that issue, the concept of content shock that Shaefer is talking posits that there is so much content being published by marketers that we will eventually see content marketing start to fail because people will have too much content to consume.
Copyblogger’s Sonia Simone disagrees with the main points that Shaefer is making: “We are a long way from the day when too much high-quality, Rainmaker-style content is being created. To repeat myself, there is not a glut of content that is useful, passionate, individual, and interesting.” Sonia makes great points about surviving content shock, and because I love the practice of good content marketing, I’m sticking with Sonia’s story.
4. I’m a convert.
Sometimes your audio and video files end up in formats that you can’t use, or don’t need, like when you have an audio recording that’s a .aiff file, when what you really need is a .mp3 file. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, sorry about that. Feel free to skip along to the next item, but trust me, as soon as you start recording and publishing video or audio files on your site, you’ll run into this issue.)
If you don’t have the right tools, it’s impossible to convert your files to another format. Here’s a great little tool called Video Converter that’s both a stand-alone web app, as well as a Google Chrome plugin.
Upload an audio or video file and convert it to multiple different types of formats like mp4, FLV, Avi, or MPEG, m4a, iPhone ringtone, wav, and a few others. It also syncs up with Google Drive, Dropbox, and Skydrive. Great little handy app.
5. Tools of the paid.
Using free content to build an audience and market your paid products just plain works. It’s solid. Proven. Consistent. If you do the hard work to create useful free content that helps people in some way, word will spread. People will come to know, like, and trust you (all vital prerequisites for them buying something from you.) But HOLY MOLY does it take a lot of work to keep creating high-quality content on a regular basis. Good thing there are some great tools of the trade to help automate, organize and make your content marketing shout louder.
6. A perfect storm.
“When you have a certain death or a near death situation, you think about things like ‘why am I about to die?’, and ‘why was I put here in this life?’ The biggest questions for me were ‘what is my real purpose? Why was I put here? Why am I about to die?’ And when I looked back on everything, the things that came up were about family, and about being of service to others.” That’s Adam Braun, founder of one of my favorite charities, Pencils of Promise, on what brought him to realize what his life’s work in the world is: a near death experience on a ship 800 miles from land, caught in the middle of three gigantic storms.
Adam survived, and when he got another chance at life, he realized it was time to start something that held more meaning for him. What came forth from his soul was Pencils of Promise: an incredible organization that builds schools around the world. Adam wrote a great book about his whole story, called “The Promise of a Pencil.” I’ve read it and highly recommend it if you’re interested in creating a business or organization that has more depth to it than just increasing the amount of money it makes.
7. Orange will put you in the black.
Okay…now, be honest. Have you been creating quote cards and blog post images for posting on social media sites just because you’ve heard that you’ll get more shares of your content on social networks? If so, you’re on the right track, but there’s more to it than just throwing up any old image with some quote text slapped on top of it. “Turns out, there’s tons of actionable, research-backed advice on how to create social media images that get shared—the ideal colors, fonts, text, and more, all leveraging what we know about design, psychology and the Internet to get more shares and engagement.” That’s Share As Image’s James Johnson, on the science behind creating social media images. (Share as Image is a great tool for making social media images.)
Here’s the meat of the article: Make your images emotional. Use simple layouts. Use relevant imagery and the right colors for the job (hint: images with orange in them get shared the most. I guess orange really is the new black.) Use a powerful font. And use the right hashtags to bring your images home across the finish line.
8. Think inside the box.
I’ve been looking for an excuse to use Shopify for years. It’s my favorite e-commerce store app out there. Beautiful user interface, great support, and all the features you need to sell physical products in an online store. Here’s a quick overview of what Shopify is, and here’s a solid review of it. Now, if I could only think of that perfect something I could put in a box to sell folks. (After selling information and online training for so many years, I have a hankering to sell something physical that people can hold in their hands.)
9. Leave no Estonia unturned.
This one’s a bit more advanced, but if you’d like to geek out on some great, condensed notes about conversion optimization and list building from the Elite Camp conference in Estonia, check this out.
Elite Camp is one of the best conversion rate optimization and traffic conferences in the world, and even just reading through these condensed notes from all the speakers will give you enough gold nuggets of advice to chew on and implement for the next year. The speakers covered the gamut.
A little word of warning though: if you’re new to optimizing your online business, there’s a lot of advanced jargon in these notes. But you know what? I think you should dive in anyway. Conversion optimization is just the process of sciencing the shit out of your business, and even just a wee little bit of applying the scientific process to your online venture can increase not only your revenue, but the amount of impact you have in the world.
10. The art of ebooks.
At some point in your journey of building and running an online business, you’re going to want a beautiful pdf ebook to deliver to your prospects or customers. You can do so much with a great ebook, like build your email list, offer it as part of a collection of bonuses on a paid product, or make the learning experience inside the member’s only area of your online program much better by allowing members to download gorgeous pdf workbooks (or “playbooks,” as my wife likes to call them) for your lessons.
Creating beautiful pdf ebooks can get expensive though. Hiring a graphic designer to create one for you can cost hundreds of dollars. Fear not though. Chase Reeves, of Fizzle, has a thorough guide on how to create stunning pdf ebooks on the cheap. Long live the pdf ebook.
Whoomp, there it is. Another issue of Signals in the Noise, written by hand, just for you (and yes, I just made a reference to a popular song from 1993. Sigh. I’m getting old.)
Before I leave you, I wanted to give a heartfelt thank you to all the folks who have been telling me in person, and via email, how much you enjoy reading this newsletter. More than anything I’ve ever created in any of my online businesses, these newsletters have generated the biggest amount of love from people.
I’d be lying if I said that the compliments don’t matter to me. They do. They’re a critical part of the feedback loop, letting me know I’m doing something that matters to some people; something that’s helping people in some way. At this point in my life, if that kind of help isn’t being delivered by me as part of my work in the world, then I won’t do that kind of work. So, thank you for letting me know I’m on the right track.
If you found some bits of help in this issue of Signals in the Noise, I’d be ever-so-grateful if you could take 30 seconds and click on one of the links below to say something about it to your peeps. Thanks heaps if you do that. This train runs on old-fashioned word-of-mouth marketing.
Until the next issue, keep on walking the trail of building your business, and always keep this question in mind: “How can I help my tribe with some of their troubles?” Answer that question over and over with free content, services, products, and programs that help them, and you’ll never be short on money.
Signals in the Noise
p.s. You can find the archives of past issues right here.