Signals in the Noise – Issue 9

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!

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1. Pulling back the curtain on a marketing funnel (and: How to Get Published on Huffington Post.)

Here’s a great, short little guide on how to get published on Huffington Post, From Jon Morrow at Boost Blog Traffic. This short pdf is free content that leads to a small upsell of a $7 product: a list of email addresses of the Huffington Post editors (and dozens of other top website looking for guest post authors).

This information is highly valuable if you want to get published on bigger sites and have a good chance of getting a lot of traffic back to your site from the publicity. But here’s another fascinating dimension to pay attention to: what Jon is doing here with his marketing. Let’s break it down:

He’s created a little mini funnel that begins with sending out an email to his list with a compelling subject line that gets you to open it. His subject line for this one was “Want to write for the Huffington Post?”.

That email is a short pitch to check out a free resource. The email has a link that leads to a page where you can get the free report. In order to get it, you need to enter your email address.

For people not on his list already, they’ll be put on his email list at this point in the funnel. So, it’s important to notice here that he’s not only making sales on a low priced product, but he’s also building up his email list at the same time. Two birds with one stone.

So, you enter your email address, and you arrive at a nice looking (short) pdf with a persuasive headline that makes you want to read the rest of it. In this case, he used this headline: “A Little-Known Trick for Getting Your Business Featured on the Huffington Post. Even If You’re in a Boring Niche and You’ve Never Received Any Publicity”.

Next, if you’re building a funnel like this, you give people some real value in this free report. His was very short, but to the point, and it is valuable…even if his knowledge isn’t radically new. (You can learn how to get published on the Huffington Post elsewhere on the web.)

It’s important to note that his free pdf report explains a method to do something that can have huge benefits for your business, then points out a big problem related to actually doing the thing he’s sold you on doing (in this case, getting published on Huffington Post.)

Once he’s presented the big problem, he offers a solution…and the solution costs money. In this case, it’s pretty minimal. $7 for a list of 100 or so emails for editors at some big websites that are looking for guest blog post authors. (Doing guest blog posts on other (bigger) sites is the primary marketing method Jon is focusing on in this free report.)

If you’re not familiar with this kind of thing, this is a marketing funnel. They often go from email to free thing to an upsell on a paid thing. There are many, many variations on this theme, but Jon’s free report on how to get published on the Huffington Post is a great example of how you can build a funnel to not only build your list, but make some revenue from small products.

 

2. Shave time. Shave money.

“It can break through the noise, make a dry subject interesting, and help people fall in love with your brand.” That’s Alec Brownstein, the creative director at Dollar Shave Club, on the power of using well-crafted humor in your marketing content.

I don’t know about you, but the companies that make me laugh, which are few and far between in the online business space, are always the ones that stick out in my mind. Their humor seems to make them more human and likable and draws me into whatever it is they’re selling. Wistia, Mailchimp, Ontraport (in their tutorial videos), Old Spice, and now Dollar Shave Club. They’ve all used humor in a way that grabbed me and made me want to be a customer.

Here’s an example of how powerful humor can be: I’m a huge fan of electric razors. They’re fast, painless, and easy. But there’s this romantic part of my personality that pines for the simplicity of the days of old, specifically, the late 1800’s. I don’t understand why, but I have a thing for that period. The clothing, the mode of transportation (horses and horse-drawn carriages), and…single blade razors.

So, five months ago, I bought a reasonably nice single blade shaving razor (it was a safety blade, not a full on old school single blade.) I lathered up my face with a horsehair brush and promptly shaved off a large patch of my cheek skin the size of a dime, all the way to the red zone. “Screw this! I’m using my electric shaver!!”

I put the single blade razor away and haven’t touched it again. But this video from Dollar Shave Club? Is so freaking funny that it’s got me wanting to sign up for their subscription service, which will send nice razors right to my house. Ohhhh…the power of good humor. Now I just have to learn to not press the blade on my face like I’m trying to scrape paint off a house.

 

3. Look at me!

“I believe that attention is the fundamental currency of the modern economy. I kind of came to this conclusion after my years at Mashable and my years since working as a venture capitalist working with startups. Because nothing gets done without attention first, or over the long term.” That’s Ben Parr in a fascinating Brainfluence podcast with Roger Dooley, on the importance of getting people’s attention.

As our world-wide society becomes more entrenched in online life and business, getting people’s attention is going to continue to become more and more important. If you’re reading this, you probably have an online business, or you’re working on building one. At a very fundamental level, your business isn’t going to succeed unless you can get people’s attention long enough for them to listen to what you have to say (and sell.)

Because the web is so text-based, you will most often need to get people’s attention, (and then emotionally hook them with your message), with the words you use on your website (even if those words are in a video or an audio recording.) That’s why I’m so passionate about copywriting, and why I mention it so often in issues of this newsletter.

The conversation between Roger and Ben in the above podcast is well worth your time. Science-backed insights on why attention is so important to you on the journey of building a thriving, successful business.

 

4. Please Understand Me.

“[Empathy maps are] a tool that allows your team to join the conversation that is going on inside your customer’s heart. It allows you to understand how they feel about you and your topic. It helps you uncover their pains, what they hope to gain.” And it’s only by truly understanding those things at a deep level that will allow you to write winning headlines that get your content viewed and shared on the web. So says Demian in a post on how to get inside your customer’s mind and heart using an empathy map.

Getting clear, accurate information about what, exactly, is going on in the interior world of your customers: it’s one of the most challenging steps in building a business. Despite the challenge, there is nothing more important that you could spend a large amount of time on in the very first stage of building your business.

Knowing the rich details that make up your customer’s worldview, the things they value, the problems and pains they have, and what keeps them up at 3 am…knowing all of that will inform every single decision in your business. Or, perhaps it’s more accurate to say that is should inform everything.

The titles of blog posts. Email subject lines. What products and programs you create. The words on your homepage. The content of your free offer you create to build your email list. They copy that goes next to the opt-in form for people to get your free offer. Your entire approach to marketing and launching products. How you care for people in your customer support emails. The entire overarching mission of your whole business. You can’t do any of that successfully unless you know what really, truly matters to the people in your tribe. An empathy map is a great tool to help you get a full grasp on all of that.

 

5. Size matters…but not as much as how you use it.

The size of my email list. It’s a metric I check weekly…and often daily. Seriously. Until someone invents something better than email, direct marketing via email is still the most effective way to build an online business that will support you and your family.

The size of your list is, therefore, really important, and keeping list growth goals front of mind can be a huge help to that end. Here’s a new, simple, free app, called List Goal, which helps you do just that. I’ve been trying it out over the last week, and the simple awareness it brings is great.

Every time you open up a new tab in your browser, it displays how many people have signed up on your list, and how close you are to reaching your daily goal for how many new people joined your list. It also gives you links to little tutorials on different methods you can use to grow your list faster.

Now, list size is important. In general, the bigger your list, the more money you can make, and the more lives you can touch with the knowledge and help you’re sharing with the world. But there’s another email list metric that’s even more important than how big it is: how well you use it. Sexual puns aside, there’s truth in that joke.

In the online marketing space, which is heavily dominated by male experts, list size is almost always given far more importance than the warmth of the relationship you create with the people on your email list, no matter how big it is. To me, that’s giving undue importance to a masculine priority. There are times when you need masculine energy in business. But it’s not all the time.

What tends to work better, at least as far as I’ve seen, is a balance of masculine and feminine approaches to doing business. In this case, a more feminine approach to building a very profitable email list would be to spend more attention on creating a solid relationship with people on your list. One way to do this is to show up, often, with amazing free help. Year in and year out. Build up people’s trust. Let them see you as a relatable, vulnerable, inspiring human being. When the time comes for you to sell them something, do it with integrity, honesty, and openness.

Do not underestimate the power of a small, but very warm list. Your list might be small, bit it can also be mighty. You can build a multi-six figure business with such a list. I know it’s possible because my wife and I have been doing it for several years in a row. Maybe I should go create a plugin that reminds you how warm and mighty your list is.

 

6. Google to force mobile responsive website design.

In a little over a week from now, if your website doesn’t dynamically resize itself and change its navigation to a phone-friendly version of your site’s navigation, Google will penalize your site. When a site reorganizes its layout and navigation automatically, based on the screen size its viewed on, that’s called mobile responsive design.

This upcoming update to the Google algorithms means that if your site isn’t mobile responsive, you’ll start getting a negative hit from Google, lowering your search engine result position for keywords that your site has been ranking well for.

This is a big deal. Really big. It’s going to affect a lot of people. Me included. Clarity Lab is a mobile responsive site. If you go here to my homepage on a computer, and then go to that same page on a phone, you’ll see that the layout dynamically changes on your phone. No pinching and zooming needed to navigate. But my other business, which I run with my wife, doesn’t yet have a mobile responsive site. We’re in the process of redesigning it right now, but it will be several months until our new, mobile responsive site is up. And until then, we’re going to start losing some organic search traffic. Thanks, Google.

 

7. Speaking of mobile responsive website designs…

One of my favorite premium WordPress theme companies makes it incredibly easy for you to get a beautiful, mobile responsive site. All of Studiopress’ themes are mobile responsive, so if you’re at a point where you’re about to build a new site for your business, or if you want to start looking for other design options that will allow you to avoid getting slapped by Google’s upcoming update, I highly recommend considering Studiopress themes. (Clarity Lab is built on a StudioPress theme.)

 

8. The money is where the enthusiasm is.

“Money, in my opinion, especially big money, is most often a by product of enthusiasm. If a person, secretly in his heart, wants to be an architect, he shouldn’t go into selling real estate, for example, just because he has heard that that is where the money is. The money is where the enthusiasm is.” That’s Gary Halbert, one of the greatest copywriters of all time, writing a letter to his son, from prison. He’s explaining to his son a key lesson on how to make money. For him, success follows enthusiasm.

From hiring the right people, to writing great copy, to creating products that people want badly, authentic passion and enthusiasm keeps your business from becoming a one-dimensional, I’m-doing-it-just-for-the-money endeavor. When you do things just for money, most people can smell it from a mile away, and once they smell it, they leave your site in .42 seconds. Click. “Hmmm, I wonder what’s going on over on Facebook…”

 

9. How to market yourself as a sellsword.

Positioning yourself as a freelancer can be challenging. (I think it would be a lot easier if we called the profession “sellswording,” because, you know, Game of Thrones season 5.) Here’s a great newsletter from web designer Paul Jarvis, on how to avoid competing with other sellswords on price alone.

Here are the big takeaways from his newsletter: don’t join the race to the bottom, competing on price alone. That’s a race that hourly laborers win, and there are hundreds of these kinds of freelancers on sites like Fiverr. You won’t be able to beat them on price, but that’s not a race you want to win anyway. Instead, position yourself as a leader. Someone who brings a tremendous amount of value to the project; value that your clients can’t measure by the number of hours you spend working on something.

 

10. Drones are the new phones.

This one is just for fun: When building a business brand that people come to know, like, and trust, it’s important to show your human side sometimes. Here’s a short, one-minute movie I made with my son during the first flight of my DJI Phantom with a Go Pro camera attached to it. I expect that you’ll see some drone footage appearing in some of our marketing videos in the near future. These are the kind of business write-offs I love.

 

That’s it for this week’s edition of Signals in the Noise!

If you got some good nuggets from this issue and would like to spread the love, I’d love it if you’d share this issue with your friends.

Click on a link below to make the sharing oh-so-easy:

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You can catch the past issues in the archive, right over here.

Until next week, I wish you all the best as you build and run your business! I’m off to find a good excuse marketing purpose for my drone.

~Forest Linden
Editor-at-large
Signals in the Noise

p.s. You can find the archive of past weekly content roundups right here.

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