Signals in the Noise – Issue 44

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!

Last week was a hard week in America. So much violence and hatred and sadness and anger. I won’t get into the topics here because that’s outside the scope of this newsletter, but it feels important to me to at least acknowledge what’s happening.

A big reason that we do what we do with this newsletter, and our other work through Clarity Lab, is because we want to help entrepreneurs who are striving to make a better life for themselves while also working their asses off to make the world a better place.

With that in mind, here are ten of the best things I’ve found over the last two weeks to help you on your entrepreneurial journey. May they provide you with an insight or an action step to take, or maybe just a little chuckle here or there. I think we could all use a little smile and some help after what’s been going on in the world over the last week.

drop shipping business
1. Work till you drop(ship).

The allure of setting up an online store and selling physical goods is strongly appealing to many small business entrepreneurs. (What’s with that label anyway? Does that mean that they’re hobbit sized small entrepreneurs that have businesses?) Stocking and shipping hundreds of physical products yourself, though? Is not so easy. If you’ve been bitten by the physical product e-commerce store bug but don’t want to deal with inventory and shipping aspects, you can have your cake and ship it too. It’s called “drop shipping.”

You set up an online store, display your products, and when orders come in, they’re fulfilled by a third-party and shipped directly from their warehouse.

Like any business you could build, it’s not easy, but, with hard and smart work (and some patience) within a year of building it on the side, your drop shipping business could make $60,000 or more every year.

Sound interesting? Andrew Youderian and Mark Hayes created an incredible, in-depth, free guide about how to create your own dropship e-commerce business. When I let the dish pile get too big, my wife often talks about drop shipping me, but I’m pretty sure that involves a different business model.


2. I want to hold your hand.

If you read the above guide on drop shipping, and you want to look for one of the best e-commerce software platforms to use for your venture, my business partner, Chris Bleill, has you covered. For the last 2 ½ years, Chris has run an online drop shipping business, and in this review, he’ll give you an in-depth visual tour of what it’s like to use his favorite e-commerce platform.

You’ll get the lowdown on the pros and cons, the features, the things he loves, the things he wishes were different, and he’ll help you figure out if it’s right for the business you have in mind. There’s nothing better than getting the opinion of someone who’s field tested a piece of software for 2 ½ years, except, perhaps, when that someone has a geek crush on said piece of software, like Chris has on this one.


3. The Bullshit Industrial Complex.

“In these pitches, there’s nothing to suggest the person has any original experience or research or insight to offer said advice. Instead, they choose to quote other people who quote other people, and the insights can often be traced back in a recursive loop. Their interest is not in making the reader’s life any better; it is in building their own profile as some kind of influencer or thought leader. Or, most frustratingly, they all reference the same company case studies (Hello, Apple and Pixar!), the same writers, or the same internet thinkers. I often encounter writers that share “success advice” learned from a blogger who was quoting a book that interviewed a notable prolific person.” That’s Sean Blanda, editor-in-chief, and Director, at 99U, in a brilliant piece on what he calls the Bullshit Industrial Complex.

It’s where people aggregate the knowledge and wisdom of others who are actually in the trenches experimenting and learning and shipping things, and then passing the wisdom of those people off as their own. As someone who is always learning, experimenting, curating, teaching, shipping, and helping others in the business realm, this article raised a big yellow caution sign in front of me. I’ve got to continue to be sure that I’m not unintentionally passing off someone else’s knowledge as my own.

+ From Paul Jarvis: The Advice Gold Rush.


4. Hired ground.

If you start a small business by yourself, without a team, you’ll wear not just many hats, but all of them. And if you make it past the first couple years, and your revenue grows, somewhere in there, you’ll most likely want to start hiring people to grow and help you run the engine of wonder that you’ve built.

Hiring is hard, though, and can be even trickier to do when your primary criteria for hiring people is how much you like the person and whether or not you’d want to be friends with them outside of work. The folks at Gimlet Media (creators of the fantastic Startup podcast) recently started creating a branded podcast for Ebay called Open for Business. Their second episode is great listen. It’s all about the challenges of hiring people, and how to avoid the pitfalls.

+ From the always good Michael Hyatt: The Right Way to Hire the Right People.


5. The dark side of the Force(book).

“Dark posts, or ‘unpublished page posts’ as Facebook officially calls them, are the page posts that are used for newsfeed ads. They are identical to a public page post on a Facebook page, except they aren’t actually displayed on a Facebook page and are used solely for ads…What many Facebook marketers don’t know is that there are actually two types of dark posts – those automatically created by Facebook when an advertiser creates a standard newsfeed ad and those that are manually created.” That’s the Growth Pilots on the power of dark posts on Facebook. (It sounds so…mysterious, and enticing, and Star Wars-ish to call them “dark posts,” doesn’t it?) If Luke Skywalker were running Facebook ads for a free Jedi webinar, he would be all over this “dark post” tactic. It can increase your ad’s clickthrough rates by 43% and decrease your cost per click by 15%. Actually being Luke Skywalker, however, can increase your clickthrough rates by 95%.


6. It’s not the size that matters, it’s how you view it.

“Attention span has a pretty direct impact on content and video marketing. SumoMe looked at 650,000 sessions and found that only 20% of people actually read articles start to finish. We assumed there’s a similar drop-off in video engagement, so we dove into our customer data to find out how long videos should be, when you should go long, and if there are any situations where seconds matter.” That’s Ezra Fishman, from Wistia, on the results of diving into the viewer engagement statistics of 564,710 videos hosted on their business video streaming service. So, how long should your next video be?


7. We’re here to make a scent in the universe.

“Do you feel like your work is meaningful? Naturally, we all want to feel like whatever we’re devoting the vast majority of our time and energy to, day after day, year after year, decade after decade…Makes some kind of positive difference to others. That’s why I was intrigued when Renee wrote in. She’s struggling because she’s just left a meaningful career as a chaplain to start a fine art business.” That’s Marie Forleo, in an episode of MarieTV, where she dives into the heart tug that many of us entrepreneurs feel: we want the work we do through our business to be meaningful, and we want it to “make a dent in the universe,” as Steve Jobs said.

For many entrepreneurs, it doesn’t feel like we’re making any dent. (This is the part where I scratch my head and wonder why I’m writing these newsletters every two weeks. Ahem.) If you’ve ever wondered about the level of positive impact your own business is making in the world, Marie’s got some great advice for you.


8. How to sell coolers to Eskimos.

“Jeff came into the conference room, sat down, and said ‘we have taken the entire messy and complex world of telephony and reduced it to five API calls’. I said ‘get out of here, that’s impossible.’ Jeff proceeded to reel them off and I said ‘wow’. He then pulled out his laptop, fired up an editor, and started live coding an app. He asked me for my cell phone number and within 30 seconds my phone was ringing. I said ‘you can stop there. That’s amazing’.” That’s Fred Wilson, venture capitalist and blogger, describing the best seed pitch he’s ever seen.

Even if you’re not seeking VC funding, you will need to sell your idea to many people, in many different formats, and in many different places if you’re going to build a successful business of any kind, online or offline. Pitching your business idea to a VC is simply an intense form of selling.

The art of selling is an art worth learning and mastering. One of the best places to learn it is by watching, or reading about, great business pitches to venture capitalists. Forget the fact that most pitches you see will be about tech startups and their software products. When you’re learning to sell, the product doesn’t matter. It’s how the entrepreneurs deliver the pitch that’s important to watch. That short story of Fred’s above is a powerful example of how to nail this art form.


9. Gravitas

When grabbing great looking, free stock photos and slapping some text on top of them won’t quite cut it for the graphics or images you need on your site, in your content marketing materials, or in your ad campaigns, sometimes you just need to crank something out from scratch. If you don’t have the cash flow to hire a graphic designer for the task, nor for buying expensive software like Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop, this new free app called Gravit might fit the bill.


10. Prying for attention.

It’s getting harder and harder to get people’s attention on Facebook. Every week something changes with their algorithms or their approach to showing you what they think matters most to you in your news feed (which is now focused more on showing you things from your friends and much less content from paid advertising or branded content.) As Neil Patel says, things are getting harder on Facebook for marketers because “50 million small businesses have created Facebook pages. Also, 2.5 million advertisers vie for the user’s attention on the platform. As they keep sharing content (low or high quality) to interact with the fans, the competition rises, and they eventually clutter the news feed. Many marketers have taken to Facebook, complaining about their drastic drop in organic reach.”

Entering the paid ad game on Facebook is now the default first necessary step if you want to get new potential customers to your site from this social media juggernaut, but increasingly, just running paid ads isn’t going to work well alone. In this post, Neil lays out some strong approaches to use within your paid ads, as well as along side them, to reach more people on Facebook (like doing live Facebook videos and becoming among the first to break the latest news in your industry.) If live video continues to get more and more popular, and if that’s going to be the best way to reach a target audience with content marketing efforts, I’m going to need more valium.


And on that note, thank you so much for spending a few minutes with me today reading this newsletter. I hope the ROI on your investment of time reading it is crazy high.

If it helped you in some way, I’d love you even more if you share it, because friends don’t let friends wander around the roughly 7.4 million new pieces of content on the web each day, trying to find the best stuff. They just tell them about this Signals in the Noise newsletter, which you can do with a few clicks:

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Sending you a big business {{HUG}} for the next couple weeks until I drop by your inbox again with more useful things for you.

All the best,
Forest, the slightly larger than hobbit sized small business entrepreneur’s friend.

P.S. You can find the archive of past Signals in the Noise issues right here.

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