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. A ticket to ride.
“As things become less available, they become more desireable. Like a lot of psychological processes that nudge us in a certain direction, scarcity is an adaptive shortcut: a decision making shortcut.” That’s one of the Cardinal Path team on why the psychological trigger of scarcity is so powerful to work into your marketing approaches. In that video, he also dives into scarcity’s cousin, loss aversion, which says that we are much more motivated to avoid losing something we have than we are to gain something we don’t yet have.
These two aspects of human psychology are incredibly powerful in the realm of increasing your revenue, but be careful with how you implement them. If you follow the advice of some of his examples in that video, you will likely end up creating marketing materials with a high “ick” factor. And the higher the ick factor, the greater the chance of your marketing backfiring. For example, if you say “Limited supplies, hurry before it’s too late,” and you’re selling a digital ebook or seats in an online program, your scarcity message will probably come off as bullshit scarcity (i.e., you’re lying), which makes people not trust you, which makes them not want to buy from you.
Scarcity works, but look for authentic, non-icky ways to do it. My favorite way to create it with information products or online courses? Is to build in a big, live, online event to start the program. It’s a live event with a specific date and time that will come and go…and if you make the event compelling enough, people won’t want to miss it. It’s a natural, easy way to create scarcity without using bullshit scarcity tactics, like using countdown timers to let people know when the opportunity to sign up for your thing is going to end. (If you’ve done that, you’re not alone. I tried it too…but I didn’t inhale.)
Maybe it’s time to try some authentic scarcity in your next product launch? You have until this coming Sunday at midnight to decide. The clock is ticking because seats on the authentic marketing train are limited.
2. The price is right.
“When I was creating the “Get 10,000 Subscribers” course, I went through a 5-step process to find the “right” price. It was the difference in my launch producing $23,000 in sales and $220,000 in sales.” That’s Bryan Harris, from Video Fruit, on how he goes about one of the harder parts of building a business around information products: getting the price point of your products just right.
His is an interesting method, and while I like the reliance on testing and validation (yay for the scientific method!), if you use this method, be careful of how you do it. If you do what he’s suggesting, you’ll end up selling the same program at different price points to different people, and we’re dealing with the internet in a socially connected age. People talk, and inevitably, you will have someone who paid $497 for your product find out that their friend got it for $197. The person who paid $497 as a result of you testing your price point will get pissed off and want a partial (or full) refund. That’s not the kind of customer experience you want to create.
Testing is good. Validating is good. If it were me, I’d use Bryan’s method, but I would test one price each time I launch a program so that everyone gets it for the same price. It takes longer, but it allows you to treat people like people, and not impersonal metrics that can increase your profits.
+ Speaking of putting people first instead of profits, I’m reading a great book right now called People Over Profits. It’s about how to create a business that treats people well, because people matter more than just making money. This is a highly recommended read.
3. Launches gone wild.
Launching anything online is a nerve-racking experience. You never know how it’s going to go until it’s over. And if you’re like most people who launch something online, your emotions will be tied to the number of sales coming in: “We sold 25 seats in the program today!!! I’m on top of the world!!! This is so freaking awesome!!!” can turn into “Ugh. Only one sale today. People don’t want what I worked my ass off to create over the past year. I suck. This sucks. That’s it. I’m throwing in the towel. Screw this internet marketing crap.”
But what happens when a launch goes far better than you expected? Here’s Mark Dawson, interviewed by David Siteman Garland, on what happened during the beginning of his first launch of his first online program: “The first half hour was crazy – we had a long sales page and a 30 minute video, but we had ten sales within the first five minutes (so people were buying without reading or watching; that says to me that I got the marketing spot on). We had sold $10k in the first 30 mins, and then $20k an hour for the next few hours. I knew we would do well from that point, and it was just a question of how well.”
He ended up selling $226,000 in that launch for a $497 online program that teaches authors how to increase their book sales using Facebook ads. Catch the full interview here. There are many great bits in this conversation that will give you a clear glimpse into what it takes to create and launch a successful online program. Personally, I think Mark’s launch did so well because of his British accent. Everything sounds better (and more valuable) with a British accent.
4. Pop a wheelie.
“When my brother and I first started shipping our product, we had absolutely no idea what we were doing. We handled everything ourselves, filling a two-bedroom apartment with bicycle wheels and boxes and personally packing and sending every order.” That’s Chris Thornam, co-founder of Flo Cycling (makers of carbon fiber aerodynamic cycling wheels), on the trials and tribulations of starting and running a business that sells physical products online. You’d think the hard part would be designing, testing, and manufacturing their product. But it’s wasn’t. It was all the other stuff, like fulfilling all the orders that started coming in. The solution? Get your systems optimized. Have a read of that post to get a rundown of their top tips for making your business run like water in a mountain stream when you’re dealing with shipping physical products.
+ Want to get ship done? Shipstation has been the bomb for some friends of mine who ship physical products as part of their business, Jones Design Company. They say it saves them thousands of dollars every year.
5. The life of Brian.
Somehow, some way, Brian Clark, founder and CEO of Copyblogger Media and Further, has started yet another amazing business. This will be number 17. (And Copyblogger Media is now an 8-figure business.) Recently, Brian launched Unemployable, which is a podcast and webinar series designed to help freelancers and entrepreneurs kick things up to the next level of their business. The free content on this site is, as usual for things Brian and his team create, some of the best content you’ll ever find on the web, free or paid. Sign up and dive in, folks. Brian’s working his magic again…and I’m over here scratching my head, wondering how he manages to do everything that he does, especially with several kids.
6. Oh Canada!
This makes me want to move to Canada even more than I did before: a new kind of community funding model is starting, called Radical Generosity. 1,000 women donate $1,000 each into a funding pool, and female entrepreneurs enter the competition to win one of the 10 funding prizes out of the $1 million pool. Why is Canada so right on about so many things, and why isn’t osmosis working on us neighbors to the South yet? Sigh.
7. Breaking bad…bugs.
This just in: WordPress has released an important security update to fix a security flaw that would let any registered member of your site do just about anything to your site. Not good. This is a badder bug than usual, so it would be best to update your WordPress site (if you have one) asap.
8. Conversion aversion.
Conversion rate: the percentage of people who come to your site and take an action you want them to take, like sign up for your free offer or buy one of your products. This is one of those metrics that’s well worth keeping an eye on…and optimizing, but most small business entrepreneurs don’t do it. “Conversion optimization is like compounding interest. New increases in revenue per visit or conversion rate are built on top of last month’s wins. An increase in conversion rate of just 7% each month will double your revenue in one year.” That was Brian Massey, The Conversion Scientist, explaining why the benefits of optimizing your conversion rate are like the compound interest growth of retirement savings.
I’m still trying to figure out how to do what my 6-year-old son just pulled off. He saved his allowance for six months and convinced my wife and me, and his two sets of grandparents, to match his total savings on his birthday. The birthday is about to happen, and he’s saved $100, netting him $400 for Lego sets he’s been drooling over for the last six months. My kid just 3X’d his revenue.
+ Speaking of entrepreneurial kids: Are You Raising The Next Steve Jobs? Here’s How To Parent Your Budding Entrepreneur.
9. I’ll have a full stack of marketing pancakes, please.
Lauren Holliday went from waiting tables 40+ hours a week to being in the top one percent of millennials in 6 months. How did she pull that off? By positioning herself as a unicorn. (Is it just me, or is the unicorn metaphor going through a meteoric rise in usage lately?)
The unicorn she became was one who had a rare skillset of being able to do everything needed to run marketing campaigns for small businesses. In other words, she became a full-stack marketer. As she explains it, “If you’re a full-stack marketer, you can complete everything your client needs from start to finish. A purple marketing unicorn will be able to easily produce successful campaigns at every stage of the marketing funnel.” Here’s a step-by-step description of how she became a purple marketing unicorn.
10. Instant developer team. Just add money.
If you have an entrepreneurial mind, and I’m betting you do, you probably habitually look for problems in the world that can be solved with a business idea. And I bet that like me, many of your solutions are apps that you could design and have built by someone who can code. Come on…Admit it, you have a list of like ten killer app ideas sitting somewhere, right? And you daydream of getting some funding and a team of developers to make your idea a reality, and you’d build the next software company unicorn. (There’s the unicorn again! Pretty soon, unicorns aren’t going to be so special anymore. They’ll be as common as cows, and then what metaphor will we use?! Rainbow sparkle dragons?)
So, there are two problems with this daydream: 1) Getting funding for a software startup isn’t easy, and 2) finding a solid, reliable team of developers who can build your app is hard. The second part is where Gigster comes in. It’s like Odesk (a marketplace of freelancers), but with a manager to manage the team of developers you hire.
Here’s Gigster co-founder Roger Dickey, explaining how it works: “Say you want to build an Uber for pizza delivery. You get [a Gigster sales engineer] who’ll ask about the details. ‘How do you want to handle delivery?’ ‘Are you going to use your own fleet or a fleet service?’ ‘Does it have to show exactly how long until the delivery?’ They figure out the budget and work schedule, and you pay with Stripe. On the backend, we assemble a team for you of both algorithms and people. You get one project manager, one or more engineers, and a User experience/User Interface designer. The team gets started and you get weekly updates.” Now all we need is an Uber for getting investment money.
Thank you for spending some time with me in today’s issue! Sure hope you got some good bits of usefulness out of this one. If you did, I’d love it if you’d spread the usefulness around by telling your friends about it. Here’s some easy peezy links for you to share this issue:
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Hope you have an amazing week of progress with your business!!
p.s. You can find the archive of past issues of this newsletter right here.