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 Hunger Names.
Naming things for your business is HARD. The business name itself, product names, online program names, live event names, the name of your podcast. Though it’s hard, personally, I love the name game, even when it takes months to complete. There’s a process I’ve used for years to arrive at business related names (I can’t recall where I originally learned it from), and Amy Harrison, on the Big Brand System blog, just explained the same process so clearly. I’ve used that same system to come up with names like The Art of Money, TechHusband, and Naked Bookkeeping (that last one was just a joke name meant to make my wife laugh 15 years ago when I was working on a name for her new bookkeeping business. I still think that for the right entrepreneur and target market, it would be one hell of a business name.)
2. Scratch my back(link), and I’ll scratch yours.
“Backlinks remain an extremely important Google ranking factor. We found the number of domains linking to a page correlated with rankings more than any other factor.” The inimitable Brian Dean, from Backlinko, with the first of 11 research findings on what appears to be the top factors involved in ranking high in Google’s search engine results, as of a couple of weeks ago. After reading this, I just realized that a bunch of my foundational search engine optimization knowledge is SEOut of date.
3. A beautiful grind.
“I used to look at other entrepreneurs who seemed to intuitively “know” what products to create, how much to charge, etc. Years later, I learned they actually used sophisticated models to help them make decisions. (Weird how they failed to mention that.) Over time, I learned that it’s not magic — it’s math.” That’s Ramit Sethi, on Tim Ferriss’ blog, about exactly what it looks like inside a $5 million product launch week.
It may seem unrealistic to study the structure of these huge mega-launches, but for one thing, Ramit didn’t come out of the gate doing launches this yooooge (he started small and built up to this over time.) Secondly, there’s a ton of nuggets in this post that you can start applying in your business right now, no matter how big your list is, or how much revenue you made in your last launch. Third, it’s just plain fun to imagine the adrenaline rush of bringing in $5 million dollars over the course of 6 days. Um, yes please. I’ll have what he’s having.
4. Swiping write.
If there were a pedestrian mall somewhere in the world where only small business entrepreneurs walked down the street, I’d be the guy loudly performing passionate spoken word slam poetry about the importance of emotionally engaging copywriting. When I’ve accepted business growth consulting clients in the past, if their business was already up and running and they came to me for help around growing it, without a doubt, there’s one place that always catches my eye as a weak part of their business engine: their copywriting.
It usually lacks emotional appeal, elements that speak directly to the values of their target market, and personality that helps them stand out from the ever-increasing crowded online space. It’s okay. Really. I wasn’t able to see the importance of this when I started either. And I, like so many other small business owners, was stuck in a loop of trying to sound professional while also attempting to appeal to the widest audience possible. Trouble is, both of those approaches will significantly kill your sales. Such is the power of words.
The key to great copywriting for your business is not just injecting personality in your writing. As Ash Ambirge explains, it’s actually about sounding human. “This is even more important when it comes to the internet because the internet is basically like one giant Tinder app—people are swiping left and right through a Google full of websites trying to find a match. So if you say completely mechanical things like, ‘Thank you for visiting my website,’ no one can make any judgments about whether or not you’re a good fit, because you sound about as unique as a cardboard box.”
In my businesses, I’ve seen that the more I let myself be me in my writing, the more people keep swiping right on me in the giant Google-Tinder app. I’m just planting my feet firmly on the ground and saying, “May the Forest be with you,” and people are responding. Not because I’m a particularly great copywriter (I’m not), or because I’m a brilliant marketer (I’m not that either…I have much to learn). I think people are swiping right because I’m just being a real human, they can see that I actually care about them, and I put out useful things that help them.
Yes, that’s great for increasing my revenue, but you know, it just feels like a much better way to do business…resonating with people and making friendly, human connections with them. Because at the bottom of all this, I love helping people reduce their suffering so they can enjoy life more. And I bet you do too if you’re reading this. Let yourself out of the box, plant your feet firmly on the ground, and let you be you in your copywriting.
5. Viral tap.
“Positive uplifting content always gets shared. Remember, there’s a lot of unhappy people in the world, and while there are different reasons for being unhappy, content that is uplifting and inspirational helps people get out of their rut… even if it’s only for a few seconds.” That’s Derek Halpern, from Social Triggers, on one thing that makes content go viral. Here are his other secrets to creating viral content. I’ve never created anything that went viral, but this video of me trying to read a teleprompter while riding my bike on indoor training rollers (for a marketing video) went viral with my friends. It’s only 20 seconds long. Just watch and…wait for…wait for it…
6. Tabula rasa.
Facebook’s new Canvas ads are in the wild, and they open up a whole new medium for telling stories in ads. Jon Loomer, one of my favorite Facebook ad experts, explains that “TechCrunch has described Facebook Canvas as ‘Instant Ads.’ Canvas allows you to build a unique experience with the combination of text, images, videos, carousels, product feeds and more.” For a quick how-to guide on how to create Canvas ads, read Jon’s guide here. As if creating a still image Facebook ad wasn’t hard enough, now I can combine videos, carousels, text, and wide images that viewers can pan around in by moving their phones, augmented reality style. Too. Many. Options.
+ Here are some examples of ads using Canvas.
+ Did you notice? Google just killed off the right sidebar Adwords ads. This is kind of a big deal in the paid ad space. What The Rise In Ad Blocking And The Fall Of PPC Ads Means For You.
7. Fresh emails, now with 40% faster baking time.
Here’s an easy, free way to get emails done 40% faster than you normally do. Google docs just beefed up its speech to text engine in a big way. It now functions almost exactly like $180 Dragon Naturally Speaking speech to text products (I’ve used them and they’re great), which allow you to use voice commands to do just about anything you normally do with text, right inside a Google doc.
When you’re responding to emails, just pop over to a blank google doc and activate the speech to text recognition feature (go to Tools > Voice Typing.) Then, keep your dancing hands still, and speak your response instead of typing it. It’s seriously about 40% faster than typing. (You do, however, have to actually read what it types for you, because the typos can be very, um…awkward. And yes, you can, of course, use this for typing any kind of document.) When you finish, copy and paste your reply into your email and hit send. Your welcome.
8. Live long and prosper.
“Your goal for Wednesday morning is to decide which solutions to prototype. Our motto for these decisions is “unnatural but efficient.” Instead of meandering, your team’s conversations will follow a specific process. The structure is socially awkward, but logical — if you feel like Spock from Star Trek, you’re doing it right. It’s all designed to get the most out of the team’s expertise, accommodate for our human strengths and shortcomings, and make it as easy as possible to come to a great decision.” That’s an excerpt from Jake Knapp’s new book, Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days. If the team for your business is bigger than just you, you’re inevitably going to have meetings that involve making big decisions about how to do things in your business, like how to approach a new marketing campaign. (Actually, I have meetings like this all the time with the Clarity Lab team, which…tops out at a total of one person.)
And these kinds of meetings? Can lead to hours and hours of your business ship being steered first this way, and then that, and then another way, with no clear decision at the end. I never realized why these kinds of decision meetings unfolded like this…until I read that excerpt from Sprint.
More important than the “why” though, is the “how” of how to make critical business decisions differently: a 5-day, structured process of presenting ideas, critiquing them, and voting for them. It’s brilliant, and I am sooooo using this method the next time we need to make a significant decision for our business, like whether or not to use cat photos in our marketing materials. Wait, bad example. That’s a foregone conclusion.
9. A battle of knits.
“Marketers often talk about finding the “pain point,” but this pain language can be misleading when your business addresses desires instead of pain alleviation. For example, I want to know how to knit. It would give me something to do with my hands, I could make gifts for people, I could make some things to use around the house. I don’t NEED to knit; my life doesn’t depend on it. But I WANT to. How can you market effectively when your business focuses on a WANT, not a NEED?” That’s the crew from the Fizzle podcast, in a fascinating discussion on the difference between your target market’s needs vs. their wants, and how to market to them when what you’re selling fulfills more of the “want” side of things. If I was naked and someone air dropped me into the Alaskan wilderness with two knitting needles and a hay bale sized chunk of burnt orange yarn, I would have SERIOUS knitting knowledge needs (not to mention psychological evaluation needs, because, why would I be naked on a helicopter in Alaska?)
10. The greatest good.
“Using the data above, doubling your income will add about as much to your life satisfaction (0.5 points) as doubling the income of a Give Directly household from $1,000 to $2,000. So that means it takes 43 times as much money to increase your happiness the same amount as a poor Kenyan. This means that giving some of your income to Give Directly has over 45 times as much social impact as spending it on yourself.” Benjamin Todd, on the 80,000-hour site, describing the most effective, impactful way you can have the biggest social impact in the world (based on science) with your business: by donating 10% of your income to one of the top-rated charities on the GiveWell site.
Through the work done by the 80,000 hours team, the Giving What We Can team, and the folks over at Effective Altruism as well, I finally had a large, nagging thorn removed (it had been lodged in my heart-mind for years). I so dearly wanted to find a way to build in a social impact element into one of my businesses (so that I could make a positive impact in the world while making money at the same time), but could never figure out a model that would work.
Then I learned the concepts in that article above while listening to a podcast with Will McAskill, and that thorn was removed. I found out that based on the research of many people in the organizations I linked to above, it turns out that we can have a much bigger positive impact in the world if we aim to make a good amount of money from our career or business, and then donate 10% of our income. Bigger impact than what? Bigger than starting our own non-profit, or working for a non-profit, or creating a hybrid for profit social impact business, like Tom’s shoes. The effective altruism folks call this concept “earn to give.”
If you have this same desire to make a meaningful social impact through your work in the world, it’s well worth it to read the article above and at least consider the concepts. You may not agree with it 100%, but it’s a worthwhile idea to mull over. Maybe it will remove a thorn in your own heart and mind, and set you free to go and make a bigger impact than you could have otherwise made.
As always, thank you for spending a handful of minutes with me in this issue of Signals in the Noise. I’m thanking you because without all of you who keep reading these newsletters I’m creating, I wouldn’t get to experience the joy I get from creating them, nor would I get to feel the happiness that comes from helping others. So, thank you for continuing to read this newsletter. I hope you’ve found some useful bits in this issue that will help you move the needle of your business in the upward direction.
If you found some goodness in this issue, I’d be ever so thankful if you could let your friends know about it by sharing this issue on social media, or just forwarding it to someone you think would benefit from reading it, using the original “like” button of the internet: the Forward button in your email software.
Here’s some links to make it easy for you to share on the various websites where we all post selfies:
May your business hum in the zone of badassery over the next two weeks,
Signals in the Noise
Founder at Clarity Lab
p.s. You can find the archive of past issues right here.