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. The lede on leads.
“Well, the data has come out, and it shows as of the end of 2014, that’s what Edison has data on, and they said that from 2013 to 2014 mobile podcast listening increased from 34% to 51%, so more than half of the people who listen to podcasts are listening on their phones.
The #1 thing really is that we need to make sure that we’re catering to people who are listening to our podcasts on mobile devices, and that means making it easy. If we want people to get on our list we need to make it easy for them to get on our list. The #1 way that we found to do that is collecting opt-ins via text message.” That’s Tim Paige, from LeadPages (one of the top companies creating apps for online marketers) on a new and ingenious way to increase your email list size through a podcast. If you have a podcast, more than half of your listeners are listening to it on their phones. You offer them a content upgrade at the end of the podcast and to get it they do this: send a short text message to a number, like 33456. The software then replies immediately to them with a request for them to text back their email. They do that, and then they’re instantly sent a link to the free piece of content. And when they texted you their email? They were put on one of your email lists automatically. It’s brilliant and simple.
The podcast episode I mentioned above is one of the best podcasts on list growth I’ve heard in a long time. There are about four other top notch tips like this one that I’ve not heard spoken of anywhere else on the interwebs. Now all I need is for Tesla to allow me to text “upgrade my Nissan Leaf to a P90D Tesla” to them. That’s the kind of content upgrade I’m talking about.
2. Gab and blab.
What do you get when you put four people in a live video chat room and give access to anyone on the web to watch and comment on their conversation? A new, little-known app called Blab. It’s like Periscope and Meerkat and a group Skype video call mashed up with a live comment box. Mashable’s Adario Strange explains that “One of the biggest potential uses for Blab: public conversations about important topics. It’s not difficult to imagine a live political debate between four people using Blab, all while commenters on the right side of the streams add commentary, questions and “feels” (indicating who might be winning the debate).” (If Trump hears about Blab, I bet he’d use it, only, he’d put four versions of himself in the streaming debate.) The more interesting application: use Blab to host live Q and A conversations with your businesses tribe, or host four-way podcast-like, live videos for your audience.
3. The long and short of it.
“Why use GIFS? They show that you’re paying attention to internet trends. They show that you and your business have a fun side. They can add more context to a short message, post or Tweet. They offer wide appeal in a short time, which is great for the increasingly short attention span of the general public. And perhaps most importantly, they work. The following gif helped us earn over 80 retweets, over 80 favorites, and 760 link clicks.” Win With Social’s Evan Lapage on the power of animated GIF images in social media, and how to create and use them in your business. You can say a lot in a 5 or 6-second looping video. Like this one, which I often embed in emails when I want to brighten up someone’s day with a little smile.
4. Transformation station.
You work your butt off creating content and offers to attract potential customers to your site, but what if they’re coming and not buying what you’re selling? If the people coming to check out what you’re putting out into the world aren’t signing up for your free or paid products, you probably have a conversion problem. (It’s okay. Lots of us have had it.) Spending time optimizing your conversion rates is well worth the time, and it doesn’t have to cost a ton of money. As Neil Patel explains it in a guest post on the Crazy Egg site, “It’s easy to think that conversion optimization has to take tons of time and tons of money. In reality, conversion optimization requires a shoestring budget and not a whole lot of time. A conversion optimization strategy is, at the most basic level, a focused effort to turn a higher percentage of visitors into customers. Small, inexpensive, and consistent changes can help you to achieve this goal.”
Conversion optimization is one of the most fascinating aspects of building an online business, at least to me. Humans with thoughts and feelings and emotions and perceptions are coming to your website, looking at things you’re publishing and selling. So many things are going on in their inner world within the few minutes they spend on your site. Things that you’ll most often never know about. But with a little scientific testing and analysis (a.k.a., conversion optimization), you can find out which things resonate more with your audience (and which things lead them to buy what you’re selling).
If all this talk of testing, analyzing, and conversion optimizing leaves a bad taste in your mouth, think of it like this: you’re simply helping people transform from someone who isn’t yet benefiting from your gifts, talents, and amazing products into someone who is benefiting from those things. Transformation. Just like when my son is having a crappy day, and I take him to get a scoop of cookies and creme ice cream with rainbow sprinkles. Instant transformation. (I wish my conversion rates were as good as the ice cream shop’s.)
5. Much ado about nothing.
Have you ever caught yourself laying in bed at night somewhat drifting off to sleep but mostly daydreaming of the TED talk you’ll one day give when you get the big invitation? Well, if the invitation comes and you find yourself wondering how the hell to deliver your masterpiece on stage, watch this talk. It’s a pretty hilarious TED talk about nothing (at least on the surface) that will show you how to deliver a talk that says something (and makes you sound brilliant.) Whenever I want something really badly, like a new piece of cycling gear, I use this exact method with my wife in the kitchen. I’ve found that well timed, minimally designed slides highlighting the benefits of said cycling gear dramatically increase the wife conversion rate.
6. Reaching their hearts through story.
“At one point I saw one of the cameramen wiping his eyes. My executive producer, Tara Montgomery, reached for yet another tissue after I asked Shaka, ‘But weren’t you the smart one who wanted to be a doctor before you claimed the street life at 14? Why did you want to be a doctor?’
He paused for 23 seconds—an eternity in TV time—before answering. I could tell it was the first time he’d really thought about it.
‘My mother was always nice when she took me to the doctor.’ He paused again. His eyes welled. ‘I guess I imagined if I became a doctor, she would be nice to me.’” That’s Oprah, telling the story of Shaka Senghor, author of Writing My Wrongs. Shaka’s story is a powerful one. 19 years in prison for murder and seven of them were in solitary confinement. Her story of interviewing him for an episode of Super Soul Sunday is deeply moving, but what does this have to do with growing an online business? It’s an amazing example of the power of telling stories.
If you start studying online marketing and copywriting, it won’t be long before you hear someone talking about the importance of telling compelling stories in your website copy, emails, and any content you publish. When you keep hearing that message over and over, it’s easy to assume that people are telling you to use the power of storytelling to get people to buy more of what you’re selling. Some people may believe that’s the only good reason for telling good stories in your marketing, but it’s not the only reason.
You and I aren’t in business only for the money. Yes, it’s vital. If you don’t make enough money, you won’t have a business, and you’ll have to figure out another way to support yourself and your family. But there’s more motivating us. Much more. You want to make a real difference in people’s lives. Real change. Real help. Real inspiration. Because you care. Deeply. And one of the best ways to accomplish those things? Is through stories. Keep an eye out for powerful stories in marketing materials and take notes when you see it done well (a great example is Charity:Water’s stories.)
+ Don’t believe that using stories can help grow your business in a big way? Listen to this 12-minute podcast: Proof That Stories Can Increase the Value of Even ‘Worthless’ Items.
7. Just give it.
“Bureo gives and takes in an incredibly positive and socially conscious way: they design skateboards made from plastics pulled from the ocean, and educate communities near their collection sites about environmental causes. Aside from the fact that a cool, eco-conscious skateboard comes out of the deal, Bureo also is removing something negative from a community and returning something positive. That makes for a great story, and a perfectly rounded, socially aware business.” Kristen Moses, of Design Good Studio, on how one of their clients incorporated social impact right into their business model, and how you can go about doing the same in your business. How beautiful would it be if Apple had a one-for-one program, like Tom’s Shoes? For every computer or ipad they sell, they deliver one to a child in need of a lift up in a developing nation. Come on, Apple. You have like 3 trillion dollars in the bank. Share the love.
8. When your hard drive runneth over.
Have you taken a peek at how full your Mac’s hard drive is lately? Find the “Macintosh HD” icon on your desktop, right-click, and select “Get info,” then look at how much available space you have left. The closer your hard drive gets to being full, the worse your Mac will run. No joke. I’ve seen it many times in our house. Want to quickly free up a boat load of space on your hard drive? Check out Clean My Mac 3. I’d gladly pay $100 for a Clean My Garage app.
9. Selling from a penguin suit.
I’m not totally sure why, but I’ve always had this daydream of putting on a live, fake parade and creating a short film to promote one product or another of mine over the years. It seems I wasn’t alone in this daydream. The Wistia team actually did it. As they put it, the thought “‘We could do a parade!’ It was one of those video concepts that seemed way easier to pull off in our heads than it actually was. Nevertheless, we forged ahead and ended up with a final product we’re excited about.” If you’re planning on creating a mini-parade for some marketing video content, have a look at how Wistia pulled off a one-shot parade (complete with a guy in a penguin suit) in this behind-the-scenes post. Is there an Uber for parades yet?
10. Psychological thriller time.
“Why would a bargain beer company like Miller Lite choose “It’s Miller Time!” for its slogan? Shouldn’t they emphasize their lower prices? Stanford University’s Jennifer Aaker argues that in many product categories, customers recall more positive memories when asked to remember time spent with the product over the money saved.” That’s Help Scout’s Gregory Ciotti, on one of 10 absolutely fascinating strategies to increase your sales by getting your pricing right. Speaking of Miller time, it’s time for me to go do my version: cycling time. Taste’s great, less filling.
Thanks for spending a few minutes with me today! As always, I hope you got something good out of this issue of Signals in the Noise.
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Go now, dear entrepreneur, and grow your business!
p.s. You can find the archives of past issues right here.