Signals in the Noise – Issue 38

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. Like flamethrowers for telesummits.

“Creating massive events that generate low-quality leads for the purpose of growing your list by thousands is bad marketing. It’s not good for the event organizer (you could get a higher ROI on something else). It’s not good for the guests (they lose out on energy and opportunity). It’s not good for the participants (they’re sold a vague promise and unpredictable quality).” That’s Tara Gentile on why telesummits are almost always a bad marketing idea. Tara gets requests to be a part of telesummits, the online virtual events with a panel of guest speakers, many times a week. We get them once every week or two (asking my wife Bari to be a guest speaker), and every time I see one, I simultaneously want to torch something with a flamethrower and vomit.

If you’re thinking of trying to grow your business by doing a telesummit, don’t. That might seem harsh, but I write these newsletters like I talk to my friends over coffee in a cafe. If you and I were sitting in a cafe talking about telesummits, that’s exactly what I’d say.

And if you’ve bought an online program that teaches you to use telesummits to grow your revenue, ugh…I’m sorry that you fell into their marketing trap and wasted your money. Seriously. I mean that. The people we constantly get approached by (who want Bari to participate in their telesummits), appear to all be using the same email template and approach to running their telesummits, and they are most likely getting said email templates and approach from the same online teacher and program. They are all well-meaning folks…entrepreneurs trying to start and grow their own business. I’m not getting down on them. I’m getting down on the marketing method they’re using.

There are soooo many other (far better) ways to market your business and grow your email list than telesummits. Yes, once in awhile some businesses pull off a good one (one that actually benefits everyone involved), but they are very, very rare.

Most of the time, though, they are built on a set of false promises, false assumptions, wildly overestimated event participant numbers, inauthentic, high ick-factor, forced promotional requirements for the guest speakers, and a severe lack of knowledge of the basics of online marketing strategies that actually work (on the part of the telesummit organizers.) And that sound you hear? Is not the sound of me venting. It’s the sound of me firing up my flamethrower. I’m gonna barbecue some bad marketing models for dinner tonight. Want to join me?


2. The art of honey.

It’s been a long, long time coming. 15 years in the making. Last year my wife and her co-writer wrote the book that’s been growing in my wife’s heart and mind all these years. The Art of Money: A life-changing guide to financial happiness. It’s a beautiful, moving introduction to her life’s work and her year-long program of the same name. It comes out June 14th, 2016, and you can pre-order it now, right here.


3. Mark Zukerstuck.

So, you’d better look into this one. There are likely several legitimate private messages sent to you on Facebook that are stuck in a weird, hidden spot in Facebook Messenger because they were mistakenly labeled as spam by Facebook’s algorithms. I checked that hidden area and found 6 messages that were not spam, sent to me by friends over the last year. There was even one from President Obama stuck in there, which is frustrating, because I keep telling him that email is the best way to reach me.


4. Medium’s the word.

“Medium is launching a set of tools to help publications publish and make money on the web. Dubbed Medium for Publishers, the WordPress competitor will offer publishers a free content management system, a standalone URL, and the ability to participate in two beta experiments—one to host promoted posts, the other to offer paid memberships.” Wired’s Jessi Hempel, on a new model that social networking and long form writing site, Medium, is beginning to roll out.

You can think of it as a white label version of Medium that would stand in place of your own blog. You get the benefit of not having to mess with technology for your site and you’ll also get exposure to the huge audience on Medium. You can run promoted blog posts on your Medium site and create paid membership areas to sell access to premium written content that you post, and Medium will take a cut of the revenue.

It’s available right now, though keep in mind that they are giving preference to writers that have a proven publishing record, high audience engagement, and large traffic on Medium. I’m rubbing my chin a lot right now while I consider taking the leap and trying this myself…right after I figure out what the hell I would write about.


5. Fast and spurious.

“The FTC isn’t the only group contesting speed-readers’ claims. Researchers have consistently debunked them, and according to a new review published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest by Keith Rayner and colleagues, science offers a strong rebuttal. The review cites evidence that some speed-reading techniques such as simultaneously reading large segments of the page—are not even biologically or psychologically possible. This is due to the inherent limitation imposed by our foveal viewing area, which is about the size of one’s thumb held at arm’s length.” That’s Simon Oxenham, with the harsh truth about speed reading. After years of unsuccessfully trying to learn how to speed read, it seems that science has finally relieved me of my reading shame. (I have an average reading speed, but I compensate for it with strong comprehension and a really big pickup truck.)


6. Baby got back(links).

I get a lot of requests from people writing in and asking if I’d post an infographic they made on my blog. I’ve always kindly declined either because the infographics weren’t very well done, or because they asked in a way that made it patently obvious that all they really wanted was a backlink to their site to help their SERP (search engine results page) ranking. But if folks would ask using the method that Brian Dean, from Backlinko, teaches in this video about how to get backlinks using guestographics, I’d be more inclined to say yes to some of the requests.


7. Best-selling scoffer.

Is it just me, or do you also find the rampant spread of the “best-selling author” label on people’s bios a bit…insidious? Brent Underwood, one of the partners of Brass Check, a marketing agency that helps a lot of books reach the New York Times best-seller list, got fed up with how meaningless the title “best-selling author” had become, so he wrote an article about it that went viral. As he explains, “Last week, I put up a fake book on Amazon. I took a photo of my foot, uploaded it to Amazon, and in a matter of hours, had achieved “No. 1 Best Seller” status, complete with the orange banner and everything.” It took him a total of 5 minutes of work.

After the story had spread all over the web, Amazon banned his book (which was aptly named “Putting My Foot Down.”) But in a funny twist, a publisher reached out to him about the story and offered him a book deal. Yes, an actual book deal to make this an actual physical book (which now has 35 pages with pictures of Brent’s left foot.) Left foot, right foot, feet, feet, feet. How many, many feet you tweet.


8. Buddy system.

“We spent a day together and he downloaded his 15 years of affiliate program management into my brain. It was intense. But it gave us the framework we needed to run the first version of our 10ksubs affiliate program. Total cost of Stu = $10,000. Total revenue generated from what Stu taught me = $160,000.” That’s Bryan Harris, explaining, in his characteristic super detailed and useful long form how-to post, how he went about running his first affiliate launch (which he learned to do from entrepreneur and business coach Stu Mclaren.)

Affiliate marketing can get weird and awkward, quickly. If you’re new to the world of using affiliates to help promote and sell your products or programs, Bryan’s post is a great primer on the subject. Done well, affiliates launches can give your business a huge boost into a new revenue orbit. With the help of a great crew of affiliates, I was able to launch a brand new online business and program with only 197 people on my email list. In 11 months, I went from idea to $96,427 in my business bank account (that’s gross, not net.)

Yes, there are plenty of online businesses that make way more than that in much shorter periods of time, but that was my first time creating a business that sold knowledge, and it felt like a lot of money to make in 11 months. Compared to 10 years earlier, when I was living in the wilderness in a tipi and making only $7,000 per year from making and selling didgeridoos (an interesting chapter in my life), $96,427 in 11 months still feels a bit mind boggling.

It was a crazy, crazy amount of work on my part to make that money in that short of a period, but I wouldn’t have made it that quickly without the help of some amazing and generous affiliates. I’m not as big a fan of affiliate marketing these days (that’s a story for another time, because I have a “one marketing rant per day” limit, and I already ranted today), but for the right product and business, it can be a great path to take.


9. If you can’t persuade, you won’t be paid.

“Persuasion and conversion go hand-in-hand. If you’re not persuading visitors – to sign up, to comment, to share, to buy – it’s going to be very hard for you to boost your conversion rate…” Joana Wiebe, with four uber useful bits from the world of psychology, and how you can use them in copywriting to increase your revenue (without being a sleazeball used car salesman masquerading as an online marketer. Whoops. Did I just say that out loud?)

We are, all of us, selling things all the time, even if what we’re selling are just ideas or things we want other people (like our intimate partners) to do. You might as well learn the inner workings of the humans you’re trying to sell things too, particularly when your livelihood depends on it. A little bit of psychological knowledge around how humans think and feel during purchasing decisions will go a long way in your business and in life outside of business.

My 7 year-old son and I have been patiently trying to sell the benefits of owning a Tesla to my wife for a year now. He says, “Mama, it’s the safest car in the world! It even broke the safety testing machines it’s so strong.” It hasn’t worked yet. So, he did what any child of two entrepreneurs would do: he’s reading a classic direct response marketing book from my library: How to Win Friends and Influence People.


10. You down with MVP? (Yeah, you know me.)

“Creating an MVP should be an efficient process. You start with big assumptions about your audience’s needs, then go to them with simple questions to test your hypotheses. Then you make another bold assumption, either about pricing model or user experience or marketing strategies, and you develop simple tests for those. In a way, each of these tests is a mini-MVP as long as it solidifies the core of your idea when put under the microscope.” Jeff Pruit, CEO of Tallwave, on the essence of what it means to create and launch your business with a minimum viable product, or, in other words, three ways to make sure that your product actually solves a problem.  This stuff about MVP’s forms one of the core tenets of the Lean Startup methodology…a methodology that can easily be applied to both non-tech businesses and raising small children.


As always, my friend, thank you for taking the time to read this week’s issue of Signals in the Noise. And yes, I know we’re most likely not really friends (because we’ve probably never met), but I like writing to you as if we were.

Speaking of friends, if you enjoyed this week’s issue, I’d love it if you share it with some of your actual friends on your favorite social media network or elsewhere, like 3D space where people have (gasp!) actual physical bodies.

Here’s some links to make sharing in the former online space easy peezy:

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As for sharing this newsletter with friends in 3D space, the best way to do that is to give them a warm, friendly hug and tell them something authentic about what this newsletter gives you.

Keep going with those to do lists.

Good things come to those who work their asses off.

~Forest Linden
Signals in the Noise
Founder at Clarity Lab

p.s. You can find the archive of past issues right over here.

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