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. Just go.
In life and business, you need to make decisions. A lot of decisions. What business should I start? What new job should I take? What products should I sell? Which headline should I use on my sales page? What price should I choose for my online program? And as Jeff Goins explains in this beautifully written post, not all decisions are equal, and often, the best way to make the right decision is just to make one, particularly for the bigger life decisions: “Where you’re going doesn’t matter as much as you think it does. Just go. More often than not, you just need to move in a direction, not the direction. Stop worrying too much about which way to go and just get going. As you build momentum, you can learn to steer. This is the way life works.” I just tested this theory out with a bar of dark chocolate sitting on my desk. It works. I had another square, and I’m better off for it.
+ I’ve been rapt with attention on the science and psychology of making decisions lately. Fascinating topic. If it interests you as well, I highly recommend reading Decisive, by Dan and Chip Heath.
2. The secret is not here.
This is one of the most profound, and profoundly short, blog posts I’ve read in a long, long time. (It takes less than 5 seconds to read it.) Venture Capitalist Jay Acunzo on the one secret thing all successful people do.
3. Grits and biscuits.
“So, yes, there may be no single, truly indispensable element of entrepreneurship. But one thing is pretty close: When you talk to and work with enough entrepreneurs, the main theme that emerges is persistence. Some researchers call it grit.” Entrepreneur’s Amy Rosen, on the one trait that seems to be a prerequisite for making it past the 90% failure rate of most small businesses.
I couldn’t agree more with Amy and the other researchers that have been looking at the importance of grit. Building and running your own online business is not easy. Not at all. (Worth it? YES. But it’s not easy.) There are, at times, long, long days at the computer and a never ending list of 247 things you need to get done. Having a lot of grit is, therefore, vital.
I started gathering my own grit at age 15 when I raced my bike in the Bicycle Across Missouri race. 247 miles of rolling hills in 27 hours. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but the grit I developed in that race still serves me today. When things get hard in life, I dig down into the grit pot within me, and I find a way to keep going.
There’s no way I could pull 3 week periods of 15 hour days in front of the computer during work sprints had I not done that race, and somehow, someway, found the strength to keep pedaling despite the intense pain.
So, yes, this is a sales pitch for you to go do something epic, outside, away from a computer. Something that pushes you beyond your limits. There’s nothing special about me in this regard. I wasn’t born with grit, and I don’t think anyone is. It’s something you learn to make. If you haven’t already done it, go…go and find your own way to increase your grit. It will serve you in more ways I can mention.
+ This TED talk about grit might help: The Key to Success? Grit. (There’s a reason that talk has been viewed more than 7 million times.)
4. Lord of the hoard.
Gmail is brilliant. I recommend it to anyone who’s not using it (especially to those with email addresses that end in @yahoo.com or @hotmail.com.) One of the best things about it is the large amount of free storage space that comes with a free gmail account. 15 GB will last you a long time, even if you never delete a single email, but eventually, you’ll fill up your free gigs of storage, and you’ll have to deal with the stockpile you’ve amassed. Here’s Wired’s Gordon Gottsegen on how to clean up your Gmail inbox (and thus your Google Drive and Google Photos.)
5. The bleeding edge (of marketing).
With new technology platforms come new channels to get the word out about your business. With what’s emerging right now, and what’s on deck to arrive at some point in 2016, there are going to be some very interesting opportunities. Relationship marketing, marketing automation, location-based marketing, virtual reality, ephemeral marketing, searching beyond search engines, and the internet of things. Hubspot’s Meaghan Moraes covers the details of those seven areas of marketing opportunities in this post. My favorite on that list? Relationship marketing. We’ve done a version of that (sans direct communications with customers on their cell phones) for years, and it works wonderfully. Treat people like humans and build relationships with them that you actually care about for more reasons than just their potential to bring you more money.
“In Q4 2014, the top 8 social networks drove 31.24% of overall traffic to websites. As per Shareaholic, ‘The shift from search to social isn’t just in progress: it’s already here.’ Facebook alone accounts for 24.63% of this traffic.” The always good Neil Patel on how to deal with the I’m-going-to-bang-my-head-against-the-wall conundrum of big traffic opportunities from Facebook, when Facebook has now made it nearly impossible for you to reach your audience without buying ads. Here’s 13 secrets that will boost your organic reach on Facebook. This is a long post, but well worth your time if you’ve been chasing Facebook, trying to figure out how to use it to grow your business. Plus, it will save you money on drywall repairs (from the aforementioned head banging.)
+ How to turn Instagram into a revenue channel.
“Have you ever come across a website and thought “Wow, how did they do that?” I know I have. New websites are popping up all the time that challenge convention and push the limits of what a website can (and should be). But what about sites built on WordPress in particular? Because so many people use themes, there’s a reputation that follows this CMS around like it can’t be used to create truly remarkable things. But I’ve got news for the naysayers: WordPress sites can have just as much wow factor.” That’s Brenda Barron, leading into a fascinating list of some stunningly gorgeous and innovative sites built on WordPress. It’s still my number one favorite platform to build a business website on, and has been for years. I’ve yet to see anything else come close to the power and flexibility that WordPress gives you. The Grid might be a contender, but it’s taking a looooong time to get released to the full list of people who have signed up for an account.
8. Blogging for dollars.
Before I started my first business (a freelance web design and development gig), I went through a smattering of odd jobs that paid around $15 an hour…if I was lucky. Most of those jobs involved manual labor on construction sites. Lots of shoveling ditches and hauling wood around. And at the end of the year, my gross income was always $27,000 or less. Often, far less. Oh, how I longed for a “sit down job,” as I would call the dream in my mind while digging ditches. A job where I could sit in a chair and use my mind, rather than my muscles, to make money. At the time, I would have cried with gratefulness for a podcast like this one, from Darren Rowse, founder of Problogger: How to make $30,000 a year from blogging.
If you find yourself at a grand inflection point in your work life, where you’re poised to make the leap from a low paying job to running your own show, this is a fantastic podcast to listen to, particularly if you’re interested in making a living from writing.
I’ve met Darren a few times at different marketing conferences, and he’s one of the friendliest, authentic people in the online business world. One of the things I love about this podcast is that he’s not telling you how to make $500,000 a year from blogging. He’s showing you how to make $30,000 a year, and how, exactly, he first reached $50,000 a year when he began. Darren is the real deal. Authentic, true, and brilliant. Plus, there’s that Australian accent. I could listen to that all day long. (Funny how you never hear people say that about American accents.)
9. Therein lies the hub.
“Content marketers beware: The battle you fight for attention is hard and getting harder. Customers don’t know what content they’re looking for (or even that they’re looking for content). They simply want answers. While a company blog is a smart content marketing play, it’s probably not enough. Consistently creating and publishing great content can be insanely difficult.” That’s Barry Feldman, of Feldman Creative, leading into the solution to these problems: creating a content hub. Feldman defines a content hub as “a destination where website visitors can find branded, curated, social media, user generated, or any type of content related to a topic.”
Think American Express Open Forum. This newsletter you’re reading is a type of content hub too. Though I don’t layout the content in the manner of a web magazine, like Open Forum, I’m doing a very similar thing: finding great content for small business entrepreneurs and linking it to it from my site (and newsletter.) I also set the things I’m linking to in a larger context (rather than just sending you guys a very short list of the titles of great things I’ve found.)
Content marketing takes a lot of time. It works well if you do it right, but ohhh my, does it take time. If you’re looking for a way to make it a little easier, consider building a content hub, or, at the very least, curating great content you find in your niche.
10. They just want to be heard.
Over the past month, I’ve seen a number of sites starting to use an interesting new app called VoiceStak, which gives your prospects and customers a way to leave you voice and video messages right on your website. It’s a pretty clever, unaggressive way to gather information from your potential customers about what they actually want to buy. I’ve also seen it used as a way to have podcast listeners send in their questions to a podcast host. The audio questions are then edited right into the podcast, and the host answers the question during a show. Brilliant. I’m thinking about giving it a whirl on our Art of Money site. Listening to what people really want. That’s absolute gold.
If you enjoyed today’s issue of Signals in the Noise, maybe there’s a friend of yours out there that would enjoy it too. Your friend and I would be super grateful if you send them a link to this issue. Here are a few different easy ways to do that (and thank you if you do!):
Go old school and forward this email to them.
Until next time, my friend, keep pedaling. You got this. No problem.
Signals in the Noise
p.s. You can find the archives of past issues right over here.