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The Digital Entrepreneur

Updated 23 days ago

Business
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The Digital Entrepreneur is for people who want to discover smarter ways to create and sell profitable digital goods and services. Tune in weekly as Sean Jackson, Katy Katz, and a host of experts give you the strategies and insight you need to start building your digital business ... the right way.

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The Digital Entrepreneur is for people who want to discover smarter ways to create and sell profitable digital goods and services. Tune in weekly as Sean Jackson, Katy Katz, and a host of experts give you the strategies and insight you need to start building your digital business ... the right way.

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154 Ratings
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Awesome way to prep for an interview

By Olivareza - Mar 14 2018
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I started listening to this podcast prior to a job interview (applying to become a digital marketing strategist), to offer potential talking points. I easily go overboard on articles and information and by listening to contained 45 min episodes I could absorb it more organically and speak more confidently. I feel so much more at ease and prepared. Thanks!

Keep Going Brian!

By mariojann - May 21 2015
Read more
Love the podcast!! The Show Must Go On!!

iTunes Ratings

154 Ratings
Average Ratings
140
8
1
3
2

Awesome way to prep for an interview

By Olivareza - Mar 14 2018
Read more
I started listening to this podcast prior to a job interview (applying to become a digital marketing strategist), to offer potential talking points. I easily go overboard on articles and information and by listening to contained 45 min episodes I could absorb it more organically and speak more confidently. I feel so much more at ease and prepared. Thanks!

Keep Going Brian!

By mariojann - May 21 2015
Read more
Love the podcast!! The Show Must Go On!!
Cover image of The Digital Entrepreneur

The Digital Entrepreneur

Latest release on May 17, 2018

The Best Episodes Ranked Using User Listens

Updated by OwlTail 23 days ago

Rank #1: 6 Business Insights that Could Radically Increase Your Online Engagement in 2017

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Are you looking for smarter ways to engage people in your online business? Then you will want to listen to this episode.

With so many options to engage your website visitors and customers, you might be wondering which ones to focus on.

Well have no fear, because in this new year, there is a way to steer you clear, so let us bend your ear.

OK, enough with the rhyming and now for the rhythm.

In this 38 minute episode, Sean Jackson and Jessica Frick provide clear ideas to help you focus your efforts, including…

  • Trends in mobile, native advertising, online video, and direct mail you should be paying attention to
  • How to turn daily distractions like email into something that improves your productivity
  • The latest book you should be reading and a killer tool that will help you manage your online ads
  • And of course, our question for the week – if you are just starting out online, should you use WordPress or Medium?
  • To sign up for free to the Digital Commerce Academy, send a text message to 313131, with the keyword DIGITS (if you are in the continental USA). If you are outside the USA, email digits@rainmaker.fm. As a special bonus, we will subscribe you to our newsletter when you text or email us

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The Show Notes

The Transcript

6 Business Insights That Could Radically Increase Your Online Engagement in 2017

Voiceover: Rainmaker.FM.

You’re listening to The Digital Entrepreneur, the show for folks who want to discover smarter ways to create and sell profitable digital goods and services. This podcast is a production of Digital Commerce Institute, the place to be for digital entrepreneurs. DCI features an in-depth, ongoing instructional academy, plus a live education and networking summit where entrepreneurs from across the globe meet in person. For more information, go to Rainmaker.FM/DigitalCommerce.

Sean Jackson: Welcome to The Digital Entrepreneur. I’m Sean Jackson.

Jessica Frick: I’m Jessica Frick. I am really excited to ask you, Sean, this week’s question.

Sean Jackson: What is it, Jess? Now, for those who don’t know, we always end our show with a question for the week. Now, Jessica and I are going to debate it. Jess, what was the question that we left everyone hanging with last week?

How to Turn Daily Distractions Like Email into Something That Improves Your Productivity

Jessica Frick: Well, last week we talked about social media accounts and got to hear how wrong you are, but this week we get to hear how wrong you are where it relates to email. Is email a time saver or a time suck?

Sean Jackson: It is a time suck, okay.

Jessica Frick: You’re insane.

Sean Jackson: I’m telling you now, it is a giant time suck. Maybe it’s our generation, too. One thing about email, when it comes to people of a certain age, email is our default communication system. For my daughter, literally her email app on her phone is in a folder called ‘Old People Stuff.’

Jessica Frick: Whoa.

Sean Jackson: I would definitely say email, whether it’s a time saver or time suck, greatly depends upon your age. If you’re too young, you don’t really care about email. It’s for password-retrieval purpose.

Jessica Frick: Oh my gosh.

Sean Jackson: Let me tell you why I think email is a time suck.

Jessica Frick: All right.

Sean Jackson: I don’t think people use email properly. That’s why it’s a time suck. I think that too many times people are so addicted to their mobile device, to their desktop device that they’ll have multiple tabs open, but there will always be that tab to their email program. It’ll have a little alert on there telling you how many unread messages you have. Or it’ll be you get on your phone, and there’s that little icon with that little red circle that says, “You have 55,000 unread messages.”

I think what it does is that it is a time suck because of the way we use it. It is constantly drawing our attention to it. For example, if you go on vacation, which I know you never do, but if you ever went on a vacation, what you would find is that what is a real vacation? If you’re checking email, is that really a vacation? No.

Jessica Frick: It can be if you enjoy it.

Sean Jackson: No. So it is a complete time suck because people don’t use email correctly. What do you say?

Jessica Frick: Well, I say that I would agree with you, but then we’d both be wrong.

Sean Jackson: Okay, well, give me another point. That’s not the point of this. Give me the counterpoint.

Jessica Frick: Counterpoint is, well, yes, I will acquiesce that some people do use email wrong. For example, us, we’re in a virtual workspace. Can you imagine if every time we needed to talk about something we had to actually talk about it over the phone or in person?

Sean Jackson: Well, that we use Slack for all of it.

Jessica Frick: Exactly. Well, Slack or email because email is for long-form stuff if we have to get somebody to sign off on something or strategize something where it’s not in a chat room. I feel that email is better for addressing specific things without the nuances and distraction of that immediate feedback loop.

Sean Jackson: Yeah, but here’s the thing. You spend so much time on email going back and forth when picking up the phone could solve about 20 hours of back-and-forth dialog on the email message. To me, that’s where I get so adamant about email. Not only do we not use it right, but then we go back and forth and things can be misconstrued. Your tone in there, god forbid you put all caps in something, right?

So to me, email can be just an incredible waste of an entire day, especially if you let it pile up and then you’re having to go through and go through and the anxiousness that comes from that. I would disagree with you. I don’t think if there’s any time savings per say. I think there are certain times when it is appropriate, but picking up the phone and talking to someone is, in many ways, a faster form of communication than going back and forth on email. What say you?

Jessica Frick: Well, speaking of old people stuff, how many people do we work with who forget what you guys just talked about yesterday?

Sean Jackson: Yeah, good point.

Jessica Frick: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to go back to the email and say, “Actually, we talked about this on February 22nd, 2015.”

Sean Jackson: Yeah, I know. Next to the send feature on email, it’s the search feature I use the most.

Jessica Frick: Exactly. How much time do you save with that? Email is more than just that one to one. It’s also a group situation. How many times have you been on a conference call that could have been solved with an email?

Sean Jackson: Yeah, you know, if we talked more on the phone, then I would agree with you, but I think we’ve become overly reliant upon it. I think there is a value in picking up the phone and talking to people. I think there’s a value in putting together a webinar, let’s say, where people can have a voice and talk. I think it has more value to look at other alternatives — only because I, again, will push back on this, saying I think people use email incorrectly.

Jessica Frick: I think I would agree with you on that part.

Sean Jackson: Yeah, and here’s why. I think we leave it always on, so I literally, literally just before the show was using the restroom.

Jessica Frick: TMI, Sean!

Sean Jackson: Yeah, I know, I know. Getting really personal, folks. Cover your ears, folks. I was sitting there, and the guy in the urinal next to me was checking his phone. He was coming in, and he was checking his phone. He was going on and et cetera, and he was reading through all these emails, et cetera. Because I know the guy, I wasn’t just talking to a stranger, I said, “Look, email so permeates our business life.”

So what I have done — and I would highly recommend everyone think about this — on my mobile devices, I turned automatic email off.

Jessica Frick: Like when it refreshes?

Sean Jackson: Yeah, I have to go get the email. I don’t let it just sit there and come to my phone automatically so that, every time I pick up my phone, I see this little red circle with 20,000 things that I haven’t done.

The reason I do that is because it goes to the greater point about email and most communication in general — given the tremendous amounts of ways that we do communicate, blocking off time is the best way to manage all forms of communication. Having it always on can be and is a huge distraction to productivity.

Turning your email auto fetch to manual means that, when you’re ready to check your email, then you are in the right mindset. Otherwise, you just ignore it.

I will tell you, doing that, Jess, has saved my weekends with my family. I’m dead serious because, when I pick up my phone, I’m not like, “Oh my gosh, there’s an email I have to respond to.” No. I have certain times when I work, and I have certain times I spend with my family. Turning off email auto fetch and making it a manual process allows me to control the way that I spend my time in communication.

What say you?

Jessica Frick: Well, I like the idea of block scheduling. I’ve never been able to make it stick because so much of what I do is fluid. Somebody might need to get in touch with me right now, and it can’t wait eight hours until my next email block. Like our colleague Matt, he handles a lot of our server operations, and he has a tremendous workload on any given day. If he always makes himself available, he gets distracted and isn’t able to accomplish the huge feats that he does on a regular basis.

Sean Jackson: Yeah, that’s true.

Jessica Frick: He needs to have that focus, but at the same time I can’t imagine how he’d survive if he had too many group phone calls. The best way to get him is email.

Sean Jackson: Yeah, and I will say this, that there is a time and place for it. I think it’s up to you who’s listening to this to really think about your communication plan. How you interact with the communication streams that you have coming at you and really think about it for a second. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it is not a time suck.

Jessica Frick: There is no maybe.

Sean Jackson: No, there is. There is. But again, by controlling your communication stream, you may find yourself to be more productive. Certainly, there are times when you’re sitting around waiting for that one email communication to come in, but I think that if it’s that damn urgent pick up the damn phone and talk to somebody. Jess, I’ll let you end our argument with your point.

Jessica Frick: If you’d like to get in touch with us, you can contact us at Digits@Rainmaker.FM. That’s our email address.

Sean Jackson: Wow, that was a heck of a plug, and way to go to, Jess. We’ll be right back after this short break.

Voiceover: The Digital Entrepreneur is brought to you by the all-new StudioPress Sites, a turnkey solution that combines the ease of an all-in-one website builder with the flexible power of WordPress. It’s perfect for bloggers, podcasters, and affiliate marketers, as well as those selling physical goods, digital downloads, and membership programs. If you’re ready to take your WordPress site to the next level, see for yourself why over 200,000 website owners trust StudioPress. Go to Rainmaker.FM/StudioPress right now.

Trends in Mobile, Native Advertising, Online Video, and Direct Mail You Should Be Paying Attention To

Sean Jackson: Welcome back from the break, everyone. I’m Sean Jackson and joined by Jessica Frick. Jessica, for this particular segment, I want to talk about focus points for 2017. Some ideas for you to focus on for your online business.

Jess, I’m going to go ahead and let you give your top three focus areas that you think our audience should be looking at 2017.

Jessica Frick: Well, my first one is going to be live video.

Sean Jackson: Now, what do you mean by that? What do you mean by live video?

Jessica Frick: I feel like more and more brands are getting into the live video business. Even those that you’d be like, “Well, what could you possibly do a video about?” But they’re all in there, and they’re using Facebook Live or YouTube. I feel that that medium has become a very strong way to reach your audience, and people love it.

Sean Jackson: Yeah, so let me push back on that for a second. Let’s say I sell a digital good, an ebook, a software, a membership system, et cetera. Let’s say I’m not selling a physical product, which tends to lend itself to a video format. What type of live video ideas should someone in the digital goods space be thinking about?

Jessica Frick: I think it depends on the product or service, but people can talk to you. You might be discussing one of the areas of your expertise. Or you know what, maybe you’re just walking around a downtown area that looks really cool, and you just wanted to hang out with your friends and talk about this new book you’re selling.

Sean Jackson: Yeah. Here’s a couple of ideas. Whiteboards, obviously, certainly over at Moz, they do Whiteboard Friday. I think certainly webinars fall into that space, but whiteboards, a constant stream of just very simplistic style of video composition where great audio using your phone. Certainly, talking to customers.

At the end of the day, there may be customers of yours in your local town — just getting together and talking through their issues. When it comes to the digital goods space, you have to be a little bit more creative with video, but at the same time, you don’t have to feel like you’re limited either because you can talk about bigger ideas using video.

Jessica Frick: That dovetails with my next thing — 360 video and imagery. Are you seeing so many people are using that? It goes virtual reality, augmented reality, that kind of immersive experience is becoming more and more popular. I feel like a lot of brands can leverage that to help them.

For a digital entrepreneur, giving them an immersive experience inside it could even be your office. I know that sounds so stupid, but I would totally look at that. Not only would I look at that, but I’d be zooming in on your desk.

Sean Jackson: Right, giving a little bit more appealing to the lifestyle aspect of what you sell, right?

Jessica Frick: Yeah.

Sean Jackson: Certainly, there’s some people who really promote the freedom lifestyle. Your freedom to be anywhere, right? Well, reinforce that.

Jessica Frick: Yeah, you’re hanging out on the beach doing your work.

Sean Jackson: Right, exactly, because you’re hanging out on the beach doing your work. So again, sharing information around there. Certainly, with augmented reality, virtual reality, and some of the other things that are in the pipe and coming down further, I think it really comes down to content creativity. What is a piece of content that is visual that can be associated with both your brand and your product to reinforce it, right?

Then, through that, give them something that is a little bit different. Again, a lot of people are doing gaming right now. The YouTube channels that are coming up where people are touring houses. Certainly, if you’re in the real estate segment, man, you’ve got to be thinking, “What are some of the ways that I can really get above the noise?” And augmented and video virtually reality are methods for doing that, especially where there’s a physical aspect to what you provide online.

Jessica Frick: Completely agree.

Sean Jackson: What’s your third one?

Jessica Frick: The third one and you and I talked a little bit about all of these earlier, but I’m going to make a last-second decision and change my third one. I think physical mail is going to come back.

Sean Jackson: Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Tell me why you think that.

Jessica Frick: Even if you run a digital business, nobody is using actual mail anymore except for the phone companies and the utility companies. How much do you love getting stuff in the mail? I give Amazon all kinds of money just to send me cool stuff.

Sean Jackson: I know.

Jessica Frick: Post cards. I can remember being young, and my mom started getting these weird random post cards from some dude that she didn’t know. But they were all like these rural places with these photos of cool farms. She couldn’t figure it out. Anyway, cut to the chase, the last post card in the series turns out this guy actually worked for a new popcorn company, and they were selling popcorn.

So she’s getting all these random post cards. I want to say there were four or five before he revealed himself, but you can bet your bottom dollar that she bought that popcorn all the time.

Sean Jackson: Yeah. You are absolutely 100 percent spot on. I was thinking about including that actually, so you jumped me on that one. That’s fine. No, I did. You took my idea. I’m looking at it. I’m tapping the desk right now. You took my idea. Let me explain why, folks.

Here’s why. When you start to look at all that data that you’re getting in on both your visitors and your customers — and we talked in the last episode about Clearbit API, which I particularly like — you are starting to get a lot of data about these people. Reaching out to them with something like, I don’t know, a sticker.

Jessica Frick: Oh yes, people love stickers!

Sean Jackson: A sticker for their laptop. One of the things I have on my laptop is a laptop cover that’s really cool. Every time I pull out my laptop, people look at my computer and go, “Oh my gosh, where did you get that cover, that wrap that you put on the front?”

It doesn’t have to very expensive, but what about that social acknowledgement that you could generate with a sticker of some sort — just sending it out to people whom you’ve been able to identify on your site either by them filling out a form or you’re just coming up and being smart about it and saying, “Oh I realize who this is person is,” looking at data sources, and sending them something inexpensive that builds social currency for your online brand.

I will tell you, you send a sticker or a wrap or something like that, people will be Tweeting about it. They’ll be showing you. It really is something so easy, but it requires you to think outside of the Twitter-verse.

Jessica Frick: Yes, and you’re engaging another sense all together, that tactile sensory experience. I’m touching the same sticker you touched. There’s a human connection going on here.

Sean Jackson: That’s right, and it doesn’t have to be expensive folks. All right. So, Jess, you stole my idea, so I’m down to two. I had three, wow. Man, I’m never going to do a pre-call with you. Man, forget that.

Jessica Frick: Sorry.

Sean Jackson: Here’s my big focus I think people should be thinking about for 2017, and it’s going to go into the mobile space. I know, mobile, mobile, mobile — but here’s why. We have really transcended past the mobile-responsive age to the mobile-first age. Let me explain that.

As content creators, we spend all of our time in a desktop-style environment. It’s conducive to the way that we operate, so we have a natural bias to the desktop experience. Knowing that, in certain categories, especially the consumer side, and even in the B2B side, people are consuming information more and more on a mobile device.

In the consumer side, it’s over 50 percent. It’s looking at 60, 70. Heck, even on LinkedIn, a business social media network, most of the content consumption is on a mobile device because executives are reading, learning, and listening to these things as they are in transit. Where I would say that a mobile-first design means that you look at your site purely from the mobile experience first. That if you go into some tool like Chrome, for instance, the Chrome web browser, they have developer tools in there that will allow you to see your site in a mobile environment.

Start thinking about what are the features that are on my site that are not applicable to the mobile experience? I’m talking about forms on your site. I’m talking about content on your site, video. I just went to a site that was on Shark Tank. I was watching Shark Tank, and I went to their site on my mobile device, which is probably how a majority of people watching Shark Tank are going to look at these companies.

I looked at their home page, and I was disappointed. You could tell that it was trying to be responsive, but it just didn’t work. All of that traffic flooding to them, and your first experience is, “Eh, the text looks weird. It doesn’t respond properly.” I’m not saying it wasn’t responsive. It didn’t respond properly because they didn’t look at it from the mobile-first viewpoint because the people who built the website were sitting at the desktop.

I would say that looking at a site, number one, is the current focus. The second big focus area for 2017 goes in line with that, which is really about text messaging. Now, this is something that, again, I have been on a rant for the past two years as I’ve been really thinking about a mobile-first world.

Certainly, video is a big part of content consumption in the mobile world. No question about it. If you have children, you know exactly what I mean. But on top of that, text messaging. You know we went through the app phase where in-app notifications and popping things to your phone, and everybody got annoyed with that because every app wanted to send you a push notification.

The text messaging still out-performs push notification. It has more people using text, more people who are seeing it because, really, unless you unsubscribe, you’re going to see the text. Then, I would also say that, when people are viewing your site and there’s a call to action where you want them to fill in something about themselves, the default of your name and email is laborious and tedious on a mobile device versus just putting in your 10-digit phone number from the United States.

Think about those forms, those calls to action you have on your site, and find a way to intelligently, say, if you’re on the desktop, putting in your name and email is not a big deal. But if it’s a mobile, it better transfer over to a text input and a real input so that the keyboard even goes to numbers, not letters, right? So they can easily put in their telephone number and, again, access, consume, or get a part of your subscription.

Does it cost a little more? Yes — but I want to tell you, folks, email costs. Everybody thinks email is free. It’s not. You pay something for email management over time. Text messaging is no different.

Jessica Frick: You know, Sean, I remember when you first started talking to me about this a couple years ago, and I rolled my eyes. One of the things that’s so annoying about working with you is how often this happens. I roll my eyes, and I’m like, “Oh, Sean, bless your heart.

Sean Jackson: Yeah, you don’t get it.

Jessica Frick: “You think of just the cutest ideas that are never going to work.” Here we are two years later, and I’m getting text messages from certain organizations — and I’m responding. They’re like, “Do you want to find out if there’s a meetup in your area? A for yes, B for no.” And I’m choosing my own adventure with these people via text. They’re like, “Send a 2 if you want to send $2 for this,” and I’m doing it.

Sean Jackson: Yeah. Look at the last campaign. Candidates would have their text messaging number on the podium because they know that they don’t need people to download an app just so they can send their communication. Text is still the fastest way.

I went shopping the other day, and I went to Bed Bath & Beyond. Because I’m on Bed Bath & Beyond text-messaging system, the coupons are sent to me now right to my phone. I don’t have an app or anything like that. Here’s the thing — even when they expire, they give a little note that says ‘resend.’ If you’re a part of the Bed Bath & Beyond and you just hit resend, they’ll give you the current coupon.

Jessica Frick: What? I didn’t know that.

Sean Jackson: Yes, I know. I was trying to use the coupon and it expired. So I went to the text messaging. It just said ‘resend,’ and it came back.

Jessica Frick: Oh my gosh.

Sean Jackson: I know. That’s where I think, again, smart online entrepreneurs are thinking about, “What are we doing today? How are people working today, and what will carry me through to the next several years?” Then I’m going to end, and I’ll put my third one in since you copped one of mine, I’m going to come in. I’m going to take your original idea, which is online ads.

Jessica Frick: Yes.

Sean Jackson: Now, here’s where I think we were kind of moving to. I think if you really look at native advertising, which is essentially paid content, I really think focusing in 2017 on native advertising — using the content networks out there, Google, et cetera — where you can really be intelligent about tagging people as they come to your site, using remarketing to use rich media ads to drive them to content.

Primarily, in my opinion should be video content, but regardless, it can be long form text content, doesn’t matter. Remarketing and focusing on putting your own native advertising together. So if they visit a page about blue socks, then they’re seeing the blue socks ad, not just ads for socks. If they’re reading about hosting, they are coming in, and you’re tagging them and putting something out for them. So being a lot more intelligent about people who come to your site, remarketing to them based on the words that are on that page so that they’re given different ads based on the content they consume.

Let’s recap this, so we can finish off this segment. Jess had number one, live video to focus on — 100 percent agree with that one. Secondly, virtual reality. Certainly, figuring out how to engage people with this new and emerging media. Then third one, of course, offline. Figuring out ways to use traditional mail to get to people and give them, as I pointed out, social currency, something that they can have a brand affiliation that doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg to do.

Jessica Frick: Love it.

Sean Jackson: And my three points were mobile-first design, focusing on that site, looking at it from a mobile experience first and making sure it works perfectly for that, then the desktop. Text messaging, just being smarter about using text messaging, capturing text messaging. There’s a lot of services out there. I happen to use EZ Texting.

I find it to be fairly affordable, very intuitive, and easy. Then, of course, the third aspect that I was talking about which is really about using native advertising, but be very strategic about it. Looking at the per page or the categories of content that you have and using remarketing to drive people back to those calls to action that are related to the content they just read. Those are the six focus areas for 2017. I’m sure there’s many more, but that’s what we could come up with.

Jessica Frick: You can do it, guys.

Sean Jackson: Folks, we’ll be right back after this short break.

Sean Jackson: Hey, everyone. This is Sean Jackson, the host of The Digital Entrepreneur. I want to ask you a simple question. What is your business framework for selling digital goods online? Now, if the question perplexes you, don’t worry — you’re not alone. Most people don’t realize that the most successful digital entrepreneurs have a framework or a general process for creating and selling their digital goods in the online space.

One of the best free resources is Digital Commerce Academy. Digital Commerce Academy combines online learning with case studies and webinars created by people who make a living selling digital goods online. The best part is that this material is free when you register. Are you interested in joining? Well, I’ll make it easy for you. If you’re listening to the show on your phone and are in the continental United States, I want you to send a text message to 313131 with the key word ‘DIGITS.’ When you send that text message, we will send you a link to the registration form right to your phone.

Are you outside the United States? Don’t worry. Just send us an email to Digits@Rainmaker.FM. Either way, we’ll send you a link to the registration form so that you can sign up for free for Digital Commerce Academy. As a special bonus, we will also subscribe you to our newsletter when you text or email us so that you can stay informed with the latest insights from the show.

And don’t worry — we respect your privacy. We will not share your email or phone number, and you can easily unsubscribe at any time. If you want to start building or improving your framework for selling digital goods online, then please send a text to 313131 with the keyword ‘DIGITS,’ or send us an email at Digits@Rainmaker.FM. You won’t be disappointed.

The Latest Book You Should Be Reading and a Killer Tool That Will Help You Manage Your Online Ads

Sean Jackson: Welcome back, everyone. For this segment, we always like to talk about sites, tools, information, and things that we think are very valuable to your online experience. Jess, I’m going to go ahead and start off on this one. Is that all right?

Jessica Frick: Have at it, Sean.

Sean Jackson: I have now found an author that I am absolutely just enamored with. His name is Adam Grant. Now Adam Grant is the new Malcolm Gladwell.

Jessica Frick: That’s a pretty big statement.

Sean Jackson: In fact, Malcolm Gladwell says he’s the new Malcolm Gladwell.

Jessica Frick: Really?

Sean Jackson: Adam Grant is a professor, I believe out of Warden or Chicago I can’t remember. He’s a big thinker. He has written a series of books, one Givers and Takers, which just had true impact in my life, but there was another one — which is how I first ran into him — which is called Originals: How Non-Conformists Change the World, basically.

He goes through and debunks a lot of the preconceptions that we have about success in general. One of the things that he really pointed out in there and he uses a ton of illustrative examples, from Dean Kamen and et cetera, but what he really pointed out was where original thinkers come from and how they actually can do things differently.

He gave a great story, and I use this all the time. He gave a great story in this book to illustrate his point about this study that people were doing about support centers. Specifically, what were the attributes that made someone very good at customer support? They looked at everything. They looked at education, background, demographic data. It didn’t matter.

They looked at all sorts of personality traits, and they could not find any direct correlation between what made someone really, really good at customer support, and succeeded over the long run in customer support, versus those that didn’t. Until they looked into how people filled out their job application online.

Jessica Frick: What?

Sean Jackson: I know. When they researched that, here’s what they found. People that used Internet Explorer and Safari generally were not very good at customer support.

Jessica Frick: Huh.

Sean Jackson: People who used Firefox and Chrome did exceptionally well.

Jessica Frick: Firefox!

Sean Jackson: I know. Now, think about that. Here is what he was pointing out.

Jessica Frick: Who still uses Internet Explorer?

Sean Jackson: Exactly. Internet Explorer and Safari are the default browsers that come with your OS, right?

Jessica Frick: Oh, I can see that.

Sean Jackson: They’re the default ones. Now, think about what you have to do to put Firefox and Chrome. First, you have to go out there and find them. Then you have install them. You have to want the advantages of speed, performance, and security that you feel that they bring to it versus just using what you see in front of you.

When they started dividing people up based on the type of browser they use, what they found were people that went and used Firefox and Chrome were more inclined to find solutions to people’s problems outside of the little box of solutions they were given in customer supports. They were willing to go above and beyond to find solutions versus people that just would deal with the status quo — which, again, goes back to Internet Explorer and Safari. Isn’t that crazy?

Jessica Frick: That is fascinating. I would’ve never made that connection, but you’re right. You’re absolutely right.

Sean Jackson: I told you — he’s the new Gladwell, right? He totally takes something really arcane and really espouses through them. He talks about the Warby Parker guys, who were actually students of his, one of the founders of Warby Parker. He actually had a chance to invest in that company, and he didn’t because his preconceived mindset was, “Entrepreneurs are risk takers. They put everything to the wind, and they’ll risk it all on a roll of the dice.”

When he met with the Warby Parker founders when they were starting out, they were highly risk averse — highly risk averse — and they would take small, incremental steps to get towards a goal. What he found in looking at other entrepreneurs, the people that we really think are the big entrepreneurs, what he found was they were highly risk averse. They would take small, incremental steps and remove risk from the equation as they continued to build their business up.

It’s this type of different type of thinking that make people, what he basically prefaces, original thinkers, people who are willing to go and do different things than the status quo, who are willing to take risks in measured increments — not just throw it out and hope that it lands on black. That was the type of thinking that he really highlighted in his book.

So the name of the books is Originals by Adam Grant. I highly recommend it, especially if you’re in the online space because you’re probably just strange to begin with. You’re not the status quo. You’ve taken a risk to go out there and leave the 9 to 5 job to get into the online space, and I think you will find this book to really appeal to you. I’d also say, his other book, Give and Take — I already called it Givers and Takers, but it’s Give and Take — that was one of his first books and, again, really a powerful author. Easy to read, very insightful.

That’s my tip for the week. Jess, what do you have?

Jessica Frick: Well, I kind of dovetail on that to say, if you’re not super risk taker-y there we go, that was really well said, Jess. I am admittedly a little risk averse. I like to know what I’m getting into. I like certainties over uncertainties. It’s probably why I would have unfortunately passed on Warby Parker, too, but one of the ways that I help us make sure that we know what we’re getting into before we get into it with actual money is using a cool tool called SEM Rush.

I handle our ads, and I don’t like treating the money like so many other people in the world seem to. You know just throw some money at it, see what sticks, and then do more of that. I like to really research these keywords, and I like to research the competitors. I like to know what’s happening in the market.

I like to know if one of the main keywords I want to go after just had a huge drop in people buying it. Those sorts of things save us money. I’d rather learn from your mistakes.

Sean Jackson: Right, and you think SEM Rush is a tool that helps you do that?

Jessica Frick: I do. And I feel that by learning what our competitors do, I can compete better. I feel that we have a definite leg up on the competition because we know not only what they’re doing, but what they’ve done.

Sean Jackson: Well, it goes back, too, because then they know what we’re doing.

Jessica Frick: Well, they do. They do, but at the same time, we also are always looking forward not backward. Beyond just that, I think it’s important to still pay attention to rank even though there’s always these algorithm changes and stuff like that. Whether you’re entering a new market or just increasing your presence in one that you’ve been in, I feel it’s important to see who’s moving up in the scales there. Am I?

Sean Jackson: I think you’re right because, again, keying off what I was just talking about, risk mitigation, the more that you can research, the more that you experiment in small, incremental ways, and find things that work, knowing what may not be working for someone else. These are important insights, and I definitely agree. There’s a lot of great tools out there, folks. And just so you know, we don’t get compensated for this.

Jessica Frick: No. This is something that we buy. We pay for this. We’re not including an affiliate link here. I do use other tools, but I have found the SEM Rush interface to be so user-friendly that I am completely comfortable recommending it to any digital entrepreneur who is considering entering the paid placement space.

Sean Jackson: There we go. All right.

Question for the Week: If You Are Just Starting Out Online, Should You Use WordPress Or Medium?

Sean Jackson: So, Jess, we’re coming to the end of the show, and we’re going to leave our audience with a question of the week. I want everyone to really think about this because I’ve been asked this question by people from the outside looking to come into the digital entrepreneur space, who are looking to maybe give up their traditional office-esque job or want to experiment with the online marketing, online selling of digital goods.

So here’s the question to leave you with. Should you start your online business using WordPress or start with something like Medium’s publisher, Squarespace, Wix, et cetera? Should you go out of the box with WordPress, just make the investment of time there, or should you start with something a little simpler like Medium and Squarespace to start building an online presence.

So, Jess, we’re going to talk about that and, like we do at the top of every show, debate it profusely.

Jessica Frick: Now, Sean, do you promise if I give my actual opinion I’m not going to get fired since we’re a WordPress host?

Sean Jackson: No. We can’t agree, though, Jess. That’s the key to an argument. We both have two sides.

Jessica Frick: I know, we can’t agree. But see, here’s the thing — and this is going to surprise you. I’m going to tell you that I don’t think you need to be on self-hosted WordPress.

Sean Jackson: Ooh, well, I will leave you hanging with my response to her proposition on the next episode of Digital Entrepreneur. You folks have a great week now, okay?

Feb 16 2017

37mins

Play

Rank #2: The Secret to Becoming an Online Expert

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Ever wonder how all those online experts became famous? This episode reveals their secrets.

Rainmaker.FM is Brought to You By

Discover why more than 80,000 companies in 135 countries choose WP Engine for managed WordPress hosting.

Start getting more from your site today!

This is part 3 of a 4-part summer series of short, inspirational, and thought-provoking concepts to help you succeed online.

Jessica and Sean will return to their normal programming schedule starting in September 2017.

Listen to The Digital Entrepreneur below ...

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Aug 17 2017

5mins

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Rank #3: Lessons on Business and Life from the ‘Zen Master of Marketing’

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This week’s guest is a visionary strategist for the digital age. She helps brands reach the next level by leveraging digital opportunities to drive meaningful results. She is Shama Hyder (aka the “Zen Master of Marketing”), and she is a Digital Entrepreneur.

In this episode, Shama walks you through her journey as a digital entrepreneur that started back in school:

  • Why she strives to have a student mindset (no matter what)
  • The importance of the freedom to make contributions without boundaries and limits
  • The lessons she took from her parents (that you can implement too)
  • How she finds humbling moments every day and is always learning something new

And more.

Plus, Shama answers my rapid fire questions at the end in which she reveals why it’s best to close out your browser windows while working.

Listen to The Digital Entrepreneur below ...

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The Show Notes

The Transcript

Lessons on Business and Life from the Zen Master of Marketing

Voiceover: Rainmaker FM.

You’re listening to The Digital Entrepreneur, the show for folks who want to discover smarter ways to create and sell profitable digital goods and services. This podcast is a production of Digital Commerce Institute, the place to be for digital entrepreneurs. DCI features an in-depth ongoing instructional academy plus a live education and networking summit where entrepreneurs from across the globe meet in person. For more information go to Rainmaker.FM/DigitalCommerce, that’s Rainmaker.FM/DigitalCommerce.

Jerod Morris: Welcome back to the Digital Entrepreneur, the show where digital entrepreneurs share their stories and the lessons they’ve learned so we can all be better in our online pursuits. I’m your host Jerod Morris, the VP of marketing for Rainmaker Digital and this is episode number 37. This episode of the Digital Entrepreneur is brought to you by the Rainmaker Platform. I will tell you more about this complete solution for digital marketing and sales later, but you can check it out and take a free spin for yourself at Rainmaker.FM/Platform, that’s Rainmaker.FM/Platform.

On this week’s episode I have a guest that’s been honored at both the White House and the United Nations as one of the top one hundred young entrepreneurs in the country. She is a visionary strategist for the digital age, a web and TV personality, a best selling author, and the award winning CEO of the Marketing Zen Group, a global online marketing and digital PR company that helps turn successful companies into industry leaders. She helps brands reach the next level by leveraging digital opportunities to drive meaningful results. She is Shama Hyder, AKA the zen master of marketing and she is a digital entrepreneur. Shama, welcome to the Digital Entrepreneur. It is wonderful to have you on the show.

Shama Hyder: It’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you so much for having me.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, you’re an award winning entrepreneur, you’ve shared the stage with presidents. We appreciate you taking the time to join us and lend some insight on your path as an entrepreneur.

Shama Hyder: This is my favorite topic so a pleasure.

Why She Strives to Have a Student Mindset (No Matter What)

Jerod Morris: Very good, very good. Let’s start out where we always start out with our guests. I’ve always believed that the number one benefit of digital entrepreneurship is freedom. The freedom to choose your projects and to chart your course and ultimately the freedom to change your life and your family’s life for the better. What is the biggest benefit that you have derived from being a digital entrepreneur?

Shama Hyder: Yeah, I would say definitely the freedom has been a huge part but also just the ability to make a contribution without boundaries or without limits. Really, I think as an entrepreneur it’s the limits that you put on yourself. I think, for me, that’s a very gratifying part of it.

Jerod Morris: All right, so let’s go back. Take me back to before you became a digital entrepreneur. What were you doing and what was missing that led you to want to make a change?

Shama Hyder: Well, I was in school, so I think, unlike a lot of people who sort of go from the career world, I started the company right out of school. I think, just to rewind slightly back, I finished school and I thought that I would go get a job, which is what you’re told you’re supposed to do and whatnot except for me my industry didn’t exist and the idea of social media, social media marketing is just so new. The industry really, honestly, did not exist.

Jerod Morris: Yeah. Now, had you always been an entrepreneur growing up, like is this something that was just in your blood that you had always done?

Shama Hyder: I think so. I’ve always been entrepreneurial, and so … Both my parents are entrepreneurs and, but I think that actually made me not want to do it as much. Because I saw them, and we have very different styles of entrepreneurship, I can put it that way. I guess I’d only seen one facet of that but yeah, I think I’ve always been very entrepreneurial and I’ve always enjoyed the idea of having my own rules and my own way to contribute to society in a way that’s not limited by anyone else.

The Lessons She Took From Her Parents (that You Can Implement Too)

Jerod Morris: You mentioned that you have different styles. How would you describe the differences in your styles?

Shama Hyder: I think my parents with their entrepreneurship, they were also very spontaneous in a lot of ways. I think some of the challenges I saw them deal with was more towards not being as organized. I’m more type A than they are.

Jerod Morris: How did you come by that? Have you just always been that way?

Shama Hyder: I think when you grow up with parents who are not type A it forces you to be type A and so yeah, I think in some ways, to make up for that, even as a kid … Yeah, so I think I got the best of both worlds in many ways.

Jerod Morris: Can you walk us through how your business is organized, because obviously you have Zen Marketing, so you have a marketing agency and you’re taking clients. Then you also are a business unto yourself with your speaking and with the books that you’ve written, how do you keep everything organized and manage your priorities?

Shama Hyder: Yeah, I think that’s exactly it, it’s priorities, it’s knowing what are the absolute things I have to accomplish today and then everything else revolves around that.

Jerod Morris: What kind of systems do you have for helping you do that and make those tough decisions?

Shama Hyder: I want to say pen and paper is sometimes the best. You think it’s tools but it’s not, right. You can have tools that help you focus or support your productivity but at the end of the day it’s really you rolling up your sleeves and saying, This is what I ve got to do. I think certain things that do help, like there is a tool I use that’s like a thirty minute timer on my phone and it’s great because I’ll do … I think it’s also known as the Pomodoro effect where you take, you focus on something for thirty minutes and you go do something else. That certainly helps and try to focus in on things that need me. But of course you only work in such, my schedule, there’s not always a set schedule because the media might call and they might be doing a story on something and they want me in or a client says Oh, we’ve got this great opportunity, can we brainstorm? In so many ways, yes I can have a framework for my schedule, but I have to stay flexible as well.

Jerod Morris: What kind of role have some of the digital products that you’ve created like the eBooks, what kind of role have those played in the growth of your business?

Shama Hyder: Yes, well I ve got two books out in bookstores. One is called The Zen of Social Media Marketing, which is now in its fourth edition and Momentum, my second book, which is about marketing in the digital age that just came out a couple of months ago. And both have been, say, pretty crucial in helping with business development and building a thought leadership platform, and both of them came about from market demand. I wrote The Zen when people really there were no books on social media, where people really needed some insight on what it meant to do, to use Facebook or to use these platforms and tools for business. Being able to create something based on market demand has always, I think, been a key to success.

How to Maintain a Trajectory of Success

Jerod Morris: One trend that we have seen is a lot of people who are in client work will end up starting another portion of their business around digital products, whether it’s courses or membership sites. Do you have any plans to do anything like that or are you going to stay on the same trajectory that you’ve been on?

Shama Hyder: I think there’s always possibility. For me, what’s more important is, How do you stay relevant, right, to your audience, and how do you constantly give them something they want? If that looks like digital products, then it will be digital products. But, I’ve never been one to say, Okay, this is the way we’re going to go and then everything else gets forced around it. It’s much more, Let’s keep listening to the audience. Let’s see where our clients want. Let’s see what the audience is asking for, and then create around that.

Jerod Morris: Yeah. Shama, tell me about the milestone or moment in your career as an entrepreneur that you’re the most proud of.

Shama Hyder: One moment that I think that for me was really sort of a personal like, Oh, wow, moment was visiting a client’s Christmas party A client invited us to a Christmas party, we’d been working with them for two years at this point and we were handling all their digital marketing and attending their Christmas party from the year prior, it had seemed like the company had tripled. All these people and their families and the CEO, I remember was talking to him and he said yeah, We’ve grown so much with your help in the last two years. These are all the people that we’ve now been able to hire.

What was great about that was just to know, sometimes I think that you do, you see the impact on bottom lines, but you don’t see the full societal human impact, right? How we were helping with the marketing and helping this company grow, they in turn were able to hire these people and then, of course, there were these kids and families that were impacted by that. For me, that was a really touching moment in terms of what we do and the effect it really has.

Jerod Morris: Boy, that had to be just a great moment. To just see there and see, yeah, the impact that you had and the help on real people, like you said, because sometimes we can lose sight of that fact. That had to be great.

Shama Hyder: Totally, and it was. And we’ve had moments like that and I’ve had moments like that, being able to see how what we do impacts people.

Jerod Morris: Yeah. All right, let’s take a quick break. When we come back I will ask Shama about the most humbling moment that she has had as digital entrepreneur.

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How She Finds Humbling Moments Every Day and is Always Learning Something New

Jerod Morris: All right, so Shama, tell me about the most humbling moment in your career as a digital entrepreneur, and most importantly, what you learned from it?

Shama Hyder: I think I have humbling moments everyday, honestly. I don’t know, really it’s not like one like Oh my God, I was so humbled, but everyday I think I learn something new and for me it’s a mindset, right, to always stay in that kind of student mindset of there’s … I feel like things make you humble when you get to a certain point or like, does that make sense?

Jerod Morris: Totally.

Shama Hyder: Right, like there’s some place for you to fall from? Or there’s some place to be like Oh wow, I really thought I was going in one direction and this opened my eyes. I think I always come from that perspective where I’m a student. I learn so much from my employees all the time because, let’s face it, I’m younger than all of them, most of them. For me it’s always been a process of being a student and learning so I don’t know if there’s one experience that I would say, I was really humbled by it. I’ll say that everyday there’s at least ten moments in a day where I’m like, Oh, well I don’t know it all, good thing I didn’t think I knew it all.

Jerod Morris: I think that’s probably an indication of why you’ve been successful because obviously those moments of humility are also paths for learning and opportunities to learn. I think the fact that you view it that way is a great sign for your continued growth, because that’s what will keep you learning and growing, so that’s great.

Shama Hyder: Thank you, I certainly think having a student mindset no matter what you’re doing is the way to go. You know, and when the clients you can always tell the difference from the clients who are, I love that our clients are like this, they want to learn. They want to grow. They’re curious, and I have a lot respect for curiosity. I think it keeps you from ever thinking that you know it all, because the moment you do I think is when you have that really humbling moment.

Jerod Morris: Yeah.

Shama Hyder: I just prefer to always keep myself in that mode.

One Word that Sums Up Her Status of Business Today

Jerod Morris: Yeah, absolutely. Let’s fast forward to now. What is the one word that you would use to sum up the status of your business as it stands today?

Shama Hyder: Growing. I mean, really, it’s growing. And maybe, you know what would be fair, I would say, if I was going to be really specific, I’d say momentum, which is the name of my second book. I think part of me writing that and choosing that name was because I feel like, as a company, we have a lot of momentum right now. We’re one of the top social media digital PR agencies in the country, if not in the world, in terms of just being how early we started on to this path. I’m really excited with how much momentum we have and where things are going.

Shama s Biggest Recurring Pain Point Right Now

Jerod Morris: Very cool. What is your biggest recurring pain point as an entrepreneur right now?

Shama Hyder: I would say a reoccurring pain point, and this is just something is constantly, especially in our industry, keeping up. To be totally honest that’s a challenge for anybody in this industry, but it really is when you’re looking at things and you’re saying, What changed while we were sleeping? That’s the joke at the office, right?

Jerod Morris: Yeah.

Shama Hyder: I think and it’s a challenge I love, but it is definitely a challenge to be able to keep you and to know what’s changing, how do we … We have to stay a step ahead for our clients. To stay relevant is the only way that we’re going to be useful to them.

Jerod Morris: How do you do that with so much information out there? How do you make sure that you’re getting the right information and finding out what you need to stay relevant?

Shama Hyder: I think, at this point, I’m very lucky that because I’m an investor in things and I’m, I write for multiple columns and I do a lot of media, that things find me, which is a great place to be.

Jerod Morris: Yeah.

Shama Hyder: I think that’s a nice thing is that I’m able to get sort of what I would say is the early scoop or the insider, the early invites and things to know what’s new.

Jerod Morris: That’s good.

Shama Hyder: Or what’s around the bend, yeah.

The Most Satisfying Part of Her Job

Jerod Morris: You mentioned earlier how rewarding it was to be at that Christmas party and see the impact that your work was able to have on real people, on families, I’m curious what element of your work on a daily basis gives you the most satisfaction? Like the actual just getting down, doing the work, what part of it do you enjoy the most?

Shama Hyder: For me, it’s honestly one of my favorite parts, is the strategic part, working with our clients, coming up with campaign ideas, talking with the team, figuring out how we’re going to help our clients move the needle, whether it’s with their social media campaigns or influence their marketing or digital PR campaign we’re launching. Like, these are all the things that really get me excited at the end of the day.

One Recommended Tool

Jerod Morris: Excellent. Let’s open up your toolbox if we can, and I’m curious what is one technology tool that contributes the most to your success as an entrepreneur? I know you mentioned earlier the app that you have that helps you keep track of your time and keeps track of your priorities. Are there any other technology tools that really stand out as helping contribute?

Shama Hyder: I’m a big fan of Slack. We use that. It’s a communication tool, which I’m a huge fan of that. Just allows me to keep in touch with our team. Our team is all over the US. Our clients are global. We have clients from Lithuania to Hong Kong, so definitely a huge plus in that way.

Non-Tech Ways to Keep Yourself Grounded

Jerod Morris: In addition to pen and paper, which you mentioned earlier, are there any non-technology tools that contribute the most, that help you out?

Shama Hyder: Non-technology tools aside from pen and paper, I would say that I have some favorite apps, things like that but you know my dogs, they’re pretty non-tech. They’re great because they remind you what life is really about.

Jerod Morris: Exactly, exactly. That s why I like asking that question.

Shama Hyder: It’s not Instagram Stories.

Jerod Morris: Right, right. No, that’s wonderful. Okay, so earlier I asked you what’s the one word that you would use to sum up the status of your business as it stands today. You said growing and momentum, we accept both of those.

Shama Hyder: Okay.

Jerod Morris: When we talk again in a year, what would you want that one word to be?

Shama Hyder: Wow, I think that would be a good word. Why not aim high, right?

Jerod Morris: Yeah. What will it take to get there for you?

Shama Hyder: I think just doing what we’re doing. I think that’s the path we’re on. I’m really excited about how we’ve grown and we don’t do any outbound marketing. Everyone who works with us comes through client referrals or they come through our own inbound efforts and that’s really, to me, that’s really powerful.

Jerod Morris: That’s a good spot to be in.

Shama Hyder: Yeah, I’m grateful for it, yes.

Rapid-Fire Question Time

Jerod Morris: Yes. So I have a few rapid-fire questions to close out. Are you ready?

Shama Hyder: Yes.

Jerod Morris: If you could have every person who will ever work with you or for you, read one book, what would it be?

Shama Hyder: Shoot, I know this is going to sound like an unfair question or an unfair answer perhaps but honestly it would be The Zen of Social Media Marketing and we do. We ask people to read it because so much of that is my philosophy. It’s the company philosophy, so in some ways it is like understanding what we’re about and how, what our perspective and approach is on digital marketing.

Jerod Morris: That’s a good way to make sure everybody understands that, and understands the mindset and culture that you’re trying to create, so I think that’s a very fair answer.

Shama Hyder: Exactly. And it helps when someone comes in when we’re hiring and they’ve read the book. To me it’s like, Okay they’re a step ahead. They are already familiar with this. Like, they know what we’re about to some degree.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, so memo to anybody looking to get a job: read the book. If you could have a 30 minute Skype call to discuss your business with anyone tomorrow, who would it be?

Shama Hyder: I don’t think that’s funny because it’s not … I feel like the people who work with us find us so I don’t know who I’d want to be able to talk to. Like totally, honestly, I think it would be the person that is really interested in working with us. Like that would be where my interest is.

Jerod Morris: Okay.

Shama Hyder: That’s the person I’d want to talk to.

Jerod Morris: Yeah. What is the one email newsletter that you can’t do without?

Shama Hyder: Boy, there’s so many, I like my Quora Digest. The digest I get from Quora.com, that’s like the questions people are asking and I find myself looking on it often, so, yeah.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, Quora has some great stuff.

Shama Hyder: Yeah.

Jerod Morris: What non-book piece of art had the biggest influence on you as an entrepreneur?

Shama Hyder: You know, there’s a really cool sculpture at Burning Man. I don’t know if people have seen it but it’s two … it’s kind of a wire frame of two people who are arguing and they’ve got their backs to each other but within that wire frame you can see the children within each other and they’re facing each other trying to find a solution. I always think that’s touching, like regardless of where we are as adults or we’re in our kind of cages you know, inside it makes like the soul within salutes the other souls that it recognizes. I think that’s a really moving piece of art.

Jerod Morris: That’s great. That’s a great answer. What productivity hack has had the biggest impact on your ability to get more meaningful work done?

Shama Hyder: Close out browser windows. I mean honestly it’s amazing how much we’ll get done when you focus on one thing at a time and you don’t have multiple, I mean just me closing out browser windows has been huge.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, it’s amazing how those can just accumulate. You don’t even realize it.

Shama Hyder: Well, such small things, and the other day I learned an interesting hack which I think is great. For people who play on their phones a lot or find that to be kind of, where they keep going back. Turning your screen to be a grayscale. You can do that on the iPhone, so everything’s grayed out, the colors go away and stuff and you find that you’re just, you want to play with it less, which I think in some ways can be a good thing.

Jerod Morris: That’s interesting.

Shama Hyder: Yeah.

Jerod Morris: I might have to try that. Shama, what’s the best way for someone who is inspired by today’s discussion to get in touch with you or to get more from you?

Shama Hyder: Certainly we’ve got two sites, MarketingZen.com and then ShamaHyder.com, both the sites have tons of content so if this is the type of content that you’re interested in and especially marketing, those are the places to go.

Jerod Morris: Excellent. Well Shama, thank you so much for joining us. Good luck getting to wow over the next year, hope you get there and yeah, really appreciate your time and insight.

Shama Hyder: Thanks so much. Pleasure to be here.

Jerod Morris: And that concludes this week’s episode of the Digital Entrepreneur. My thanks as always to Toby Lyles and our production team along with Caroline Early and Will Dewitt for helping to make this episode possible. My thanks to Shama Hyder for taking the time to join me for this discussion. I really appreciated her insight. It was great to get to talk with her and I’m sure you feel the same, and of course my thanks to you for being here and for listening. I always appreciate your attention and your support on the Digital Entrepreneur. If you ever have any questions, comments, thoughts, or anything, or just want to connect send me a tweet @jerodmorris. I always love hearing from you, and we’ll be back next week for another brand new episode of the Digital Entrepreneur. Take care.

Dec 08 2016

22mins

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Rank #4: How Becoming a Digital Entrepreneur Helped Jarmar Dupas Get His Life Right

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This week’s guest aspires to help you get your money right. He wants to assist others in taking back their purchasing power. He is Jarmar Dupas, and he is a Digital Entrepreneur.

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In this 35-minute episode, Jarmar walks you through his journey as a digital entrepreneur:

  • The moment that got his ears “buzzing,” which got him interested in entrepreneurship
  • The simplicity of his proudest moment … and what you can learn from it
  • How being a digital entrepreneur has been conducive to creating his desired lifestyle
  • Why Jarmar sometimes gets in his own way and how he’s trying to overcome it
  • The element of entrepreneurship that gives him the most satisfaction and how it inspires him to keep moving forward

And more.

Plus, Jarmar answers my rapid fire questions at the end in which he retells a famous Stephen Covey story that has impacted his ability to get more meaningful work done.

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The Show Notes

The Transcript

How Becoming a Digital Entrepreneur Helped Jarmar Dupas Get His Life Right

Voiceover: Rainmaker.FM. You’re listening to The Digital Entrepreneur, the show for folks who want to discover smarter ways to create and sell profitable digital goods and services. This podcast is a production of Digital Commerce Institute, the place to be for digital entrepreneurs. DCI features an in-depth, ongoing instructional academy, plus a live education and networking summit where entrepreneurs from across the globe meet in person. For more information, go to Rainmaker.FM/DigitalCommerce.

Jerod Morris: Welcome back to The Digital Entrepreneur, the show where digital entrepreneurs share their stories and the lessons they’ve learned so that we can all be better in our online pursuits. I am your host, Jerod Morris, the VP of marketing for Rainmaker Digital. This is episode No. 36.

This episode of The Digital Entrepreneur is brought to you by the Rainmaker Platform. I will tell you more about this complete solution for digital marketing and sales later. But you can check it out and take a free spin for yourself at Rainmaker.FM/Platform.

On this week’s episode, I am joined by someone who started his journey out of frustration. He didn’t have anyone to turn to when it came to his problems with money. He knew something had to change, and so it did. He did. He began to question his beliefs about money and who stood to make the most from financial advice from mainstream media.

After intensive research, he learned from those doing it wrong. Today, he wants to help others achieve financial freedom. He gives his advice through his podcast, Get Your Money Right, where he strives to help others take back their purchasing power. He is Jarmar Dupas, aka The Money Misfit, and he is a digital entrepreneur.

Jarmar, welcome to The Digital Entrepreneur.

Jarmar Dupas: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Jerod Morris: No, it’s awesome to have you here. You and I first became acquainted as part of The Showrunner Podcasting Course. You joined the course when we launched it. How’s the podcast going?

Jarmar Dupas: The podcast is going pretty good, actually. It’s surprising. After taking the course, just decided to start it with you and Jonny helping me out. It’s been growing ever since. I’m not on your level or Tim Ferriss or anything like that, but it’s amazing the tens of thousands of downloads we’ve gotten from just my little old voice. I don’t do any interviews or anything like that. It’s been great.

Jerod Morris: It’s been all monologues and you basically giving people advice. Your show is Get Your Money Right. So you’re giving people advice about money, and it’s just been you so far doing monologues.

Jarmar Dupas: That’s it. I think what really helped a lot, and I learned from The Showrunner course, was getting into New and Noteworthy. We jumped off to get a good start, got into New and Noteworthy, and got a good boost from that. I guess it just resonates with people. I’m just pretty much just telling my story, talking about money as it relates to real life, that a lot of the financial gurus don’t dig into. Either they’ve made it and forgot what it’s like to still be going through a journey in life or maybe had some other situation.

So I m just telling my story, and it’s helping people apparently. It’s been a lot of fun.

Jerod Morris: Very nice. Well, the podcast is obviously an important part of what you’re doing. We’re going to talk in this episode about your journey as a digital entrepreneur. I’m sure that we’ll be touching more on the podcast and how it fits in. But I want to begin with the question that I always ask our guests to begin these episodes.

That is this. I’ve always believed that the number one benefit of digital entrepreneurship is freedom — the freedom to choose your projects, the freedom to chart your course, and ultimately, the freedom to change your life and your family’s life for the better. For you, what is the biggest benefit that you have derived from being a digital entrepreneur?

What Jamar Sees As the Biggest Benefit of Digital Entrepreneurship

Jarmar Dupas: Man, that’s not fair, Jerod. You already took the answer.

Jerod Morris: You’re allowed to agree with it and expand on it. That’s totally fair game.

Jarmar Dupas: I definitely do agree with it. I guess if I had to add onto it, one of the biggest benefits of being a digital entrepreneur — and it’s fun because you get to see what’s coming down the pipe — we’re turning into a digital world. The world is digital.

If you’re going to be an entrepreneur in this day and age, what other type of entrepreneur would you want to be other than a digital entrepreneur? At least, definitely from a marketing and customer outreach perspective, being digital is almost vital these days. Definitely the freedom, but also being able to see into the future and be prepared for what’s to come.

Jerod Morris: That’s a great answer. One of the reasons why I structure the question that way is because I know most people will say freedom, so I like to get that one out of the way. But everybody always has a unique perspective after that. Yours is one we haven’t heard before, so that’s a great one.

Jarmar Dupas: Awesome.

Jerod Morris: Let’s go back. Let’s get into your story a little bit. Take me back before you became a digital entrepreneur. What were you doing, and what was missing that lead you to want to make a change?

The Moment That Got Jarmar’s Ears ‘Buzzing,’ Which Got Him Interested in Entrepreneurship

Jarmar Dupas: Oh, man, what was I doing? I’ve done a lot of things. I think like a lot of entrepreneurs I meet today, I’m just all over the place. There’s so many things that I want to be doing. I started off, I was born at a young age. There was college, and I wanted to be a doctor, believe it or not. I wanted to go to medical school. I was pre-med in undergrad, and then halfway through that decided I didn’t want to do that because it wasn’t what I thought it was. I wanted to make money. I wanted to travel the world.

I met a guy one day who said he made like $40,000 a month. I was like, “You’re lying. Nobody pays anybody $40,000 a month.” I’ve never heard of such amounts of money. Growing up, we were taught if you could be a doctor, lawyer, even the post office worker, or something like that, then you’ve got it made. When I first heard of that, the gentleman who told me said, “You’re right. Nobody’s going to pay you that much. You have to earn that much.” That’s when I first got my wind of what entrepreneurship is.

It’s funny because I’d never even really heard it that way or even thought that I could be an entrepreneur. It was always grow up, go to school, and get a job. I didn’t even think of me or anybody around me being a business person. That’s kind of when my ears started buzzing. I got my foot wet, and the whole network marketing MLM-type of direct sales type of businesses. I did okay with that. That wasn’t really my cup of tea. Then I started a bartending business.

Jerod Morris: Really?

Jarmar Dupas: Yeah. I started a bartending business. I was doing private parties, which was something else that kind of just fell in my lap. I had no idea that people actually hired people to come to their house and stuff like that to do parties, to bartend and mix drinks.

Jerod Morris: Had you been a bartender before, during that, or was this something that you trained specially to do because you had this business idea?

Jarmar Dupas: Well, I went to a bartending school because I needed money. I went to bartending school. One of the instructors that was there, he asked me one day if I wanted to do a private party. I was like, “Sure, why not?” That grew onto something else. One day I couldn’t make it. I asked a bartender friend that I knew if she could make it for me, go to the party for me, and I charged a flat rate per hour plus tips.

I told her, “I’ll just pay you all my money.” She said, “No, I’ll just keep the tips. You can keep what they pay you.” That was my first taste of making money without having to actually be there, actually doing work for the money. I was like, “I like this.”

Jerod Morris: Yeah, no doubt.

Jarmar Dupas: That kind of grew from there. Then I had some guy come and bought my business from me after that. I was doing Super Bowls. I even did a party for Puff Daddy. It was a bunch of crazy stuff.

Jerod Morris: Oh really? Wow, we might have to do another episode and just talk about stories from your bartending experience.

Jarmar Dupas: Yeah, it’d have to be a late-night edition for that.

Jerod Morris: I bet.

Jarmar Dupas: Can’t let my wife to listen to that. I sold that business. I blew all that money. I started consulting for other people who owned bars, and I was running bars. Then I got into commercial real estate. I’ve done so many different things.

How Being a Digital Entrepreneur Has Been Conducive to Creating Jarmar’s Desired Lifestyle

Jarmar Dupas: To make a long story longer, what brought me out of that was I wanted to get married. I was like, “Okay, this life is not conducive for being married.” I had to find another way.

I remember that time. I actually saw Copyblogger. I was actually on their emails list. I didn’t really pay much attention to it until years later. Now, I’m all over you guys’ stuff. Everything, Rainmaker Digital, I’m all in on. I’ve always wanted to have freedom. I’ve always wanted to be able to live on my own, do my own thing.

That’s what attracted me to a lot of things I’ve ever done, was how does it fit around my own lifestyle? I knew if I wanted to have an awesome marriage and have an awesome lifestyle. Being in the bar business probably wasn’t going to be conducive for that. I had to get out of that.

Jerod Morris: That led you to where you are now?

Jarmar Dupas: Yeah, so I’m actually a firefighter. I work ,unlike most of the people that you have, I actually still have a job. That fell in my lap as well, too, but it was also part of the design. As a firefighter, we don’t work every day of the week. We batch our hours, so to speak. We work 24 hours at a time or 48 hours or whatever, depending on what city you’re in.

That was attractive to me because I can get these hours out of the way and have several days off to pursue my entrepreneurial goals. I could still make some money, and I can manage some money that was steady, so to speak, that could fund my entrepreneurial dreams. That was the thought process behind that.

Jerod Morris: That’s why I love this story because you’re right. A lot of the people that we’ve had on The Digital Entrepreneur are people who have gotten to the point where they’re doing it full time. But for so many people, those stories have a part in them where people are working, and they have a side hustle. The goal, of course, is to make the side hustle the full-time job.

But most people have to go through that transition and manage priorities, manage time, manage money, juggle all the things like you’re doing right now. This will be a great perspective.

Jarmar Dupas: Absolutely.

Jerod Morris: Tell me about the milestone or the moment in your career as a digital entrepreneur, with the work you’ve done online, that you are the most proud of.

The Simplicity of Jarmar’s Proudest Moment and What You Can Learn From It

Jarmar Dupas: To be honest with you, it’s just starting. It’s the biggest milestone because it’s the biggest fear, I should say. Not even really fear because I don’t believe in fear, but more of a doubt. I don’t think people really fear. I think they have too much doubt. Doubt, of course, leads to fear. Doubt is just a lack of information.

I think one of the things that The Showrunner course helped me do, and even podcasts — not just this one, but all types of podcasts — and seeing examples of other people doing things, it gave me enough information to drive out doubt. I was like, “Look, if this person can do it, I can do it.” Even in those times of doubt, I said, “I got to get started.” Even my show today is not where I dream for it to be, but just getting started was I think the biggest milestone for me that got this thing moving.

Jerod Morris: I’m glad you said that. In all the work that we’ve done helping people with podcasts, and it’s the same thing with starting a business or any kind of online pursuit or side hustle pursuit, that fear of starting can just be so pervasive and can stop people in their tracks.

I’m glad that you highlighted that as something that you’re proud of. It’s something easy to overlook. “Oh I started, who cares?” No, that is the biggest hurdle for so many people. I’m so glad that you mentioned that. Kudos to you for starting. That’s awesome.

Jarmar Dupas: Thank you. But let me say this, though, I got into your course about this time last year. I didn’t start till March.

Jerod Morris: Hey, that’s okay.

Jarmar Dupas: But I started.

Jerod Morris: Exactly.

Jarmar Dupas: For anybody who’s out there who is beating themselves up about it, it’ll happen. Just keep getting that information in, and just do it. Just do it.

Jerod Morris: Absolutely. Let’s take a quick break. When we come back, I’m going to ask Jarmar about his most humbling moment as a digital entrepreneur. We’ll be right back.

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Now, back to my interview with Jarmar Dupas, and he, in a little bit, talks about how he uses Rainmaker for his business as well. Stay tuned for that.

All right, Jarmar, tell me about the most humbling moment in your career as a digital entrepreneur and, most importantly, what you learned from it.

Why Jarmar Was Humbled by Realizing the Work It Takes to Do Something Great

Jarmar Dupas: I don’t know if this is a moment, but more of a process of looking at my numbers and then comparing myself, my show, my business to other people. It was humbling because I started to realize the work that it takes, that goes into doing something great. It goes into doing something outside of the norm, so to speak. It’s really humbling that I get to see other people doing such great things.

I’m out here, and I’m working. It’s like, “I’m working, I’m working, I’m working,” and not sure if it’s working, but then you see the results. Then you hear other peoples’ stories. It humbles me to sit back and look at that. It gives me grace for myself. Like, “Look, maybe you’re not making a million dollars a day, but have some grace, sit back and relax. You’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing. It will all happen in due time.”

Jerod Morris: Yeah. We talked about the podcast. Can you give us a little bit of an overview I guess of what your business is right now? I know from looking at your website it looks like you’re starting to build a membership. Do you have any streams of revenue yet, or is that something that you’re planning on for the future? Where are you at with the business right now?

Why Jarmar Sometimes Gets in His Own Way and How He’s Trying to Overcome It

Jarmar Dupas: Right now I’m still in that discovery mode. Working on a course right now. I’ve done a few webinars for research. Really, I’m in a stage of serving — serving my audience, finding out what they want, what resonates with them. It’s funny because I don’t have any services on my site, but I get people that email me all the time and say, “Hey, could you sit down with me? I want to talk about this money thing.” Or, “Me and my wife, or me and my husband were having an issue. How do you and your wife do this?”

My revenue has come out of that, people emailing me. I go, “Okay, we’ll sit down.” I guess you call it one-on-one consulting so to speak. Initially, it was going to be podcasts and courses, but I’m finding so much more by talking with people one on one.

Jerod Morris: I’ll tell you, it’s one of the themes that I’m starting to find out here as we go through these episodes of The Digital Entrepreneur. You find that a lot of people start out doing the services, or doing the consulting, and really learning from those one-on-one experiences and using that to then inform a course. A lot of times they even thought, “Hey, I’ll do courses first.”

Of course, while you’re doing that, you have to pay the bills. That’s where the consulting and the one-on-one stuff comes in. I think there’s a benefit to doing that because I’m sure you’ll learn — and probably already have learned from those experiences — so much that it will inform or make your courses even better.

Jarmar Dupas: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve learned quite a bit. The things that I think that I should talk about a lot of times, it’s not exactly what everybody wants to talk about. I talk about money, but a lot of people want to know about credit. How do we get that credit? — which is a part of the whole equation, but I didn’t realize how much of a mystery it is to so many people. Those are the kinds of things, things like that.

Jerod Morris: What is the one word that you would use to sum up the status of your business as it stands today, if you had to pick one word?

Jarmar Dupas: I’d probably say ‘raw.’

Jerod Morris: Raw?

Jarmar Dupas: Yeah, just really raw. Just like a ball of clay. I’m still in that period of trying to mold it, trying to figure out which way this thing is going to go — which I think all entrepreneurs are always doing that. I think Brian Clark talks about that quite often, about pivoting. If you look at his career, look at where Copyblogger has come from and where it’s going, you watch all these pivots. I think it’s part of the natural evolution of a business. Definitely, I would have to say raw right now.

Jerod Morris: What is your biggest recurring pain point as a digital entrepreneur?

Jarmar Dupas: Getting in my own way. I have so many ideas.

Jerod Morris: I laugh because I feel you.

Jarmar Dupas: I’ve got so many ideas and so many things that I want to do and think I should do. But then it’s like, “Okay, get this one thing done first.” That’s a re-occurring battle that I have with my own self like every day.

Jerod Morris: What element of your daily work gives you the most satisfaction?

The Element of Entrepreneurship That Gives Jarmar the Most Satisfaction and How It Inspires Him to Keep Moving Forward

Jarmar Dupas: Just hearing the stories. I just got an email the other day from a single mom. She has three boys, and she just was bouncing checks and overdraft fees, all this other stuff. I sit down with her, and I talked to her about her money and everything. One of the things that happens a lot of times — I know it’s not particularly about digital entrepreneurship, but just to tell the story — is people over pay their taxes, or they just ignore. They’re distracted by life.

This young lady was getting a tax refund of like $6,000 a year, but she was bouncing checks. She couldn’t make ends meet. I said, “We can make adjustments on your tax returns. That’s a $500 a month pay raise you can give yourself instead of waiting all the way until April or whatever.” We did that. Walked with her onto the IRS website. There’s a little calculator. She typed in her numbers, and it spit out her W-4 for her to change her deal.

She hits me up like three months later. She’s like, “I got a new job. I’m working on a new skill. I’ve made more money. My sons are doing better in school.” Those are the things like that, it blesses me. This is the reason why I do it.

Jerod Morris: There’s nothing better when you create content, especially any kind of educational content, and you get those stories. It’s like hearing you talk about starting after taking The Showrunner Podcasting Course, and those kind of stories. You’re right. There’s nothing better at all. Definitely the most satisfying.

So let’s open up your toolbox real quick. What is one technology tool that contributes the most to your success as a digital entrepreneur?

Jarmar’s Not-So-Surprising (and Old-School) Favorite Tools

Jarmar Dupas: This is such a softball. I hate to sound like a fan boy, but it’s going to be, I have to say it, it’s the Rainmaker Platform.

Jerod Morris: Nice.

Jarmar Dupas: I work out of it. It helps my podcast, the blog, the website. It does the design for me because you get to kind of hire Rafal to do your design for you, off a template. It’s just the tool that I use. It makes everything easy for me. It’s all in one place. I use RainMail. I was one of the early adopters of it. It just makes things, for me, easy.

Jerod Morris: Very nice. I love the design that you have on your site, too. You’re using Digital Pro, which is the same one that I use on my site. I love it. What about the non-technology tool that contributes the most?

Jarmar Dupas: It’s not very green, but paper. I like pen and paper. I have a paper calendar that I work out of that’s on my desk. It’s a little folder that I use. I jot down my thoughts on paper. I journal to get all this junk out of my head. Non-technology, I guess, it’s using paper and ink pen to kind of get things out of my head.

Jerod Morris: We’ve had a few people say that. Pen and paper still holding on strong, even in the digital age. There’s something about — and I like it, too — being able to work it out with a pen. I don’t know. There’s a better feeling when you do it.

Earlier I asked you for the one word that you would use to sum up the status of your business as it stands today. You said raw. When we talk again in a year, what would you want that one word to be?

The Power of Being ‘Systematized’

Jarmar Dupas: Let’s go with ‘systematized.’ I like systems. One of the big draws of my podcast and the work that I do is I kind of design systems around money, so you don’t have to think about money so much. I think a lot of people struggle with money because of decision fatigue. I think I get some of that, too, with my digital business, trying to make decisions every day. I try to make a couple decisions early and just go through the day and just do the work.

Jerod Morris: I love that. I love that concept of decision fatigue and doing what you have to do, creating systems, to combat that. That’s great. I think a lot of people face that. Especially when you’re an entrepreneur and you have so many decisions to make and so many seemingly open-ended decisions, it can be really overwhelming.

Jarmar Dupas: Yeah. This goes to the people who still have the 9 to 5s and stuff. You’re dealing with that. Then you’re dealing with life. I have a wife. I have three kids. We got one on the way — which is the first announcement I’ve made on podcast, so congratulations on hearing that little exclusive.

Jerod Morris: Very nice, congratulations. That’s awesome.

Jarmar Dupas: You got all that. I have a dog, too. Can’t forget about my dog.

Jerod Morris: That’s right.

Jarmar Dupas: You got all that, and you’re trying to be a great person. You’re trying to be a great husband, a father, an entrepreneur, a friend, a son or daughter, you’re trying to be all these things. You don’t have any time to make too many more decisions. There’s already these other things that really need your focus. I am really a proponent for that.

Jerod Morris: Very nice. I’ve got a few rapid fire questions to ask you as we close up here. Are you ready for them?

Jarmar Dupas: Let’s do it.

The One Book Jarmar Would Insist You Read

Jerod Morris: If you could have every person who will ever work with you or for you read one book, what would it be?

Jarmar Dupas: I’d have to go with Proverbs in the Bible. There’s something about having all that wisdom. I think the word ‘wisdom’ even means the ability to live a skillful life. That’s probably one. If they’re allergic to the Bible, it’s something they can’t touch or something like that, it probably would be How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Jerod Morris: Oh that’s a great book.

Jarmar Dupas: For me, it taught me to focus on others and taught me how to talk to people. That is done so much for me. I tell people this a lot of times. My last four or five jobs that I’ve had, or gigs that I’ve had, I’ve not even filled out an application, even in the fire department. Don’t tell anybody this, but even working for the city, I had a job offer before they even had an application on me.

Jerod Morris: Wow.

Jarmar Dupas: Yeah. That’s just talking to people, winning friends, and things like that. It’s a great, great, great book that I think everybody should read.

Jerod Morris: I agree completely. I actually got the audio book for that and listened to it on a drive from Miami up to Virginia Beach like 10 years ago. It’s great. The headline of that book, it’s so benefit-driven. It almost sounds like it’s kind of selfish, like you’re learning how to manipulate people. But you get into it, and it’s all about listen to people, remember peoples’ names. It’s basically be kind, be empathetic. It’s some great lessons that, when you do them, you’ll see benefits from it, too. It’s terrific.

Jarmar Dupas: Absolutely.

Jarmar’s Ideal 30-Minute Skype Call to Discuss Her Business

Jerod Morris: If you could have a 30-minute Skype call to discuss your business with anyone tomorrow, who would it be?

Jarmar Dupas: Probably Tony Robbins. To me, he’s kind of like that digital entrepreneur before it was really cool to be digital. Then he started on books, CDs, seminars, and things like that. Just to watch him grow and watch his business, to see what it is today, he’s a juggernaut. He has so many different avenues and things like that. I was going to say Brian Clark, but I think your last few guests …

Jerod Morris: Everybody says that. I think it’s like a subtle way of saying we want Brian back hosting the podcast, giving us these 30-minute episodes.

Jarmar Dupas: You go to Rainmaker.FM, you still see his little picture next to hosting. It’s like, “Well, come on, Brian, where you been?

Jerod Morris: I know. I’ll have to have him back on here. I’ll say, “Everybody wants a 30-minute Skype call with you, so we’ll do a big group call.”

The One Email Newsletter Jarmar Can’t Do Without

Jerod Morris: What is the one email newsletter that you can’t do without?

Jarmar Dupas: ConvertKit I guess is a good one. They have a pretty good email, or newsletter.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, they do.

Jarmar Dupas: Yeah. If I had to pick one, I’d say ConvertKit is good. I’m not a ConvertKit user, but they have a good email.

Jerod Morris: Their strategy stuff is smart.

Jarmar Dupas: Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

The Non-Book Piece of Art That’s Had the Biggest Influence on Jarmar As a Digital Entrepreneur

Jerod Morris: What non-book piece of art had the biggest influence on you as a digital entrepreneur?

Jarmar Dupas: Probably my family. There’s a big portrait of us when I go outside of my office every day. One of the reasons why I try to batch my hours of work and want to be a digital entrepreneur is because I’ve always wanted to be an involved dad. I’ve always wanted to be around. My door’s always open. I work here in the office at the house. My kids can come in and be kids and stuff like that. They motivate me. They motivate me to try to make income from wherever I am, so I can be with them and do that good stuff. It’s a lot of fun.

Jerod Morris: I love that.

Jarmar’s Biggest Productivity Hack for Doing Meaningful Work

Jerod Morris: What productivity hack has had the biggest impact on your ability to get more meaningful work done?

Jarmar Dupas: I guess it goes back to my family. I first got this from Stephen Covey. He talked about I don’t know if you heard the story of the big rocks in the jar. I’ll tell it real quick because it’s a good story. There was a professor. He was in front of a class. He had these ambitious, very smart people in his classroom. He pulls up this huge Mason jar, and he puts it on top of a desk. He takes another bucket, takes a bucket full of big rocks. He puts all these big rocks in this huge jar. He asks the class, “Is this jar full?” He fills it up all the way to the top. They’re like, “Yes, of course it’s full.”

He takes out some smaller rocks or gravel. He takes the gravel and he pours the gravel into this jar, and he fills the jar all the way up with gravel. Then he asks the class again, “Well, is the jar full now?” They’re like, “Well, we thought it was, but apparently not because we see where you’re going here.”

Then he takes a bucket of sand, and then he pours the sand. The sand flows through the cracks that’s through the big rocks and through the gravel. Then he asks, “Is this jar full?” Of course, at that time, they say, “No, it’s not full,” because we know you got something else up your sleeve.

Then he takes some water, and he pours water. The water kind of sits in until the water starts overflowing outside of the Mason jar. Then he finally asks, “Is the jar full now?” Of course, it’s like, “Yeah it’s full.” The moral of the story is, if you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in. Most people start with sand or gravel. Then they can never get their big rocks in.

My productivity hack for me to get things done especially here being at home, my wife, she’s our chief home officer. She works from home. She raises the children from home. My kids are usually at home. My big hack is to make sure that they are taken care of first. I say, “Okay, we’ve got them settled. We got their activities going,” things like that. Now I can sit down, and I can go put in some work. If not, then I will be interrupted about a million times throughout the day.

Jerod Morris: So it’s a win-win. Take care of them first, and then you’re able to take care of yourself and get your work done.

Jarmar Dupas: Yeah. Here’s a tip, especially for you. I know you’re a new dad. Congratulations.

Jerod Morris: Thank you.

Jarmar Dupas: This is anybody with young kids out there or getting ready to have young kids, if you go out with your children, people always say, “How are your children so well behaved?” Well, I put the big rocks in first. I feed them and make sure they’re watered, and they have tinkled before we go out in public — and naps and things like that. You take care of things, and they’re angels. If not, they’ll wreck you. They’ll wreck everything you try to do.

Jerod Morris: Good advice. Very good advice.

How to Get in Touch with Jarmar

Jerod Morris: Jarmar, what is the single best way for someone inspired by today’s discussion to get in touch with you?

Jarmar Dupas: Just head over to my website, YourMoneyRight.com. Again, it’s just YourMoneyRight.com. Or just look me up on the podcast. The podcast is called Get Your Money Right. It comes out on Mondays. It’s for ambitious individuals. Specifically, I talk a lot about marriage and how to handle money with families, just kind of every-day life, and also my life as a digital entrepreneur as well. It’s a lot of fun. That’s probably the best way to get in touch with me. Of course, you can find me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, all that good stuff, too.

Jerod Morris: Excellent. Well, Jarmar, thank you so much, man, for taking the time. This was a blast. Awesome to have you on The Digital Entrepreneur.

Jarmar Dupas: Thank you so much. This is an honor. I can’t tell you how much this has blessed me to be on this show and to have even get an invite from you guys. Like I said, I’m a big fan of Rainmaker Digital. I love everything that you all are doing. Keep up the good work. Keep leading us to the promised land, so to speak.

Jerod Morris: That’s what we’re trying to do is serve people like you. It’s great to be able to have you on here and tell your story. This was great. Thanks, man.

Jarmar Dupas: Thank you.

Jerod Morris: My thanks to Jarmar for joining me on this episode of The Digital Entrepreneur. It was great having him on here and having him share his story with us. My thanks, as always, to Toby Lyles and the team that edits this podcast and makes it sound so good and, of course, to Will DeWitt and Caroline Early for their help on the production side.

Most importantly, my thanks to you, the loyal Digital Entrepreneur listener. Thank you for being here, for listening to the show. You are the inspiration, the one that we do this for. It’s great to have you here.

If you have any questions, comments, concerns, words of advice, or Tweets about sports, because you know that I like those, Tweet me any time @JerodMorris. I always love hearing from you. Yeah, send me a Tweet. Let me know what’s up, and make sure that you join us next week because we’ll be back with another brand-new episode of The Digital Entrepreneur. Talk to you then.

Nov 17 2016

34mins

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Rank #5: The Essential Guide to Hacking the Growth of Your Online Business

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Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown from GrowthHacker.com join us for an in-depth look at how you can grow your online business.

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We have all been there – that point where you think all you need to grow your online business is a whole bunch of visitors. And while visitors are important, there is a lot more to growing your business than just getting eyeballs on a page.

Smart online entrepreneurs appreciate that growth is a function of testing and improving the entire customer experience, and our guests on today’s show should know.

Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown are the founders of GrowthHacker.com and the authors of Hacking Growth. They break down the key components that any sized online business must use if they want to accelerate their growth.

Sure, their techniques are used by Facebook, Uber, Dropbox and other large billion dollar companies.

But here is the secret – all of those companies started small and used growth hacking techniques to become the brands we know today.

In this 33-minute episode, Sean Jackson and Jessica Frick discuss the key components of growth hacking, including …

  • Which is more important: the quantity of leads or the quality of the process
  • The right mindset you must have to create a growth hacking culture
  • How a solo-entrepreneur can rapidly accelerate their growth through simple testing
  • Why improving customer “activation” is important for growth
  • The essential steps you can take right now to grow your online business
  • And of course, our question for the week – When should you bring in outside help to grow your business?

Listen to The Digital Entrepreneur below ...

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The Show Notes

The Transcript

What Online Entrepreneurs Need to Know about Affiliate Marketing

Voiceover: Rainmaker FM.

You’re listening to The Digital Entrepreneur, the show for folks who want to discover smarter ways to create and sell profitable digital goods and services. This podcast is a production of Digital Commerce Institute, the place to be for digital entrepreneurs. For more information go to Rainmaker.FM/DigitalCommerce, that’s Rainmaker.FM/DigitalCommerce.

Sean Jackson: Welcome to The Digital Entrepreneur everyone. I am your host, Sean Jackson, and I’m joined as always by the diligent Jessica Frick. Jessica, how the frick are you today?

Jessica Frick: I am diligent, Sean. How the Jackson are you?

Sean Jackson: I am well. I am well as always.

Jessica Frick: You sound so much better, Sean. You haven’t been feeling well. You sound great.

Sean Jackson: You know, again, as I’ve always said, it’s for the audience. I feel like absolute pounded poo poo but I am going to make my way through it.

Jessica Frick: It’s that show biz flare. You got it.

Which is More Important: the Quantity of Leads or the Quality of the Process

Sean Jackson: There you go. So we left everyone hanging last week with the question of, “What matters more? The quantity of leads or the process of converting leads?” I’m going to go ahead and take the quantity argument because I want you to go in depth on the process side. Okay? Here is my argument for quantity of leads matters more than the process for converting them. Okay?

Jessica Frick: Okay.

Sean Jackson: If you don’t have leads, who cares what your process is? So you need to get them.

Jessica Frick: Well, that’s a good point.

Sean Jackson: You want a ton of them because being a small business, there will naturally be what I call spillage, right? There will just be people that are coming in who are, you’re just not going to be able to get to. Something is going to break in the system, and if you had a bigger team, if you had a bigger organization, then you can take care of spillage. But at the end of the day, being small, you can’t deal with it, so you might as well get as many as possible so that the few that don’t spill out, you can convert them. That would be one argument. What say you?

Jessica Frick: Well, the argument that I have would be the better argument, but you know, we are a customer-first company, and we always think about that customer perspective, and unless you have processes to treat them right, not only are they going to bail, but they’re going to tell their friends to not talk to you. They’re not taking their ball. They’re taking their ball and all of their friends with them.

Sean Jackson: Ah.

Jessica Frick: Acquisition is hard, but activation and retention, that requires process. And not only that, but if you don’t have process, your team is going to burn out fast. If you don’t have a team, what difference does it make if you have a million leads? You can’t do anything with them.

Sean Jackson: Yeah, very good point.

Jessica Frick: So process is more important, because the amount of leads that you have can be adjusted, but if you can’t activate and retain them, it doesn’t really matter.

Sean Jackson: Well, see. That is a good argument, and I will counter with this. I think that when you have a process, then you’re going to want to fill that pipeline up as much as possible, right? Now, it may not be a perfect process. It may be something that is good enough to get you to some sort of revenue for the business enterprise.

At that point, once you have a process, then of course, stacking as many leads into that pipeline then become paramount. If we find the middle ground, which I don’t always like to do, but if we found the middle ground, I would say that you have to have a process, but then once you have that process, then you want to stack up the quantity. What say you?

Jessica Frick: I think that sounds reasonable.

Sean Jackson: Okay.

Jessica Frick: I think it has to happen in that order. I think you need to have some leads, then work out your processes, then you get more leads and you tweak your processes, and you’re just always growing and changing with the demand.

Sean Jackson: Yeah, and I think that’s a part of it. I think really where the end output of this discussion is, is that it is a constant feedback loop, right? You have to have somebody who wants to buy what you’ve got to begin with and you’re going to have to put a process in. I would say start with the process first, right? I’m giving my honest opinion on this. I’d say have a process, get some leads into it, and then continually refine both the acquisition and quantity of leads and the process that goes with it so that spillage, which is natural, can be addressed through the continuous feedback loop and continuously addressing what is occurring in your little ecosystem.

I will say this. One of the things, it’s always hard to take a side of an argument is that if you are only closing 1% of the leads that you get in, then you could double the size of your business by just improving the process in closing 2%, right? But, if you’ve only got five people. You know what I’m saying?

I think the end output for our audience is very simple. It is a continuous feedback loop. It is a continuous process of putting a process in, filling the pipeline, refining the process, refining the pipeline, and that’s the back and forth. Because literally your business can grow not because you got a hundred million people coming in. It could grow because you’re just taking ten thousand and converting more of them in the process that you have. Would you say that’s a logical statement?

Jessica Frick: That sounds logical to me.

Sean Jackson: Good, and the nice thing about today’s show is that we actually have some experts as our guests who came up with this idea of “growth hacking.” In fact, they’re called the Growth Hackers. I’m going to let Jess really take the lead on this because she really is the process gal, and we’re going to interview the founders of Growth Hackers and the authors of the new book, Hacking Growth.

We are joined today by two, I would say, extraordinary individuals. Jess, wouldn’t you say that?

Jessica Frick: Absolutely.

Sean Jackson: We have with us Sean Ellis, who is the founder and CEO of Growth Hackers, which is convenient, given the fact that he coined the term “growth hacker” back in 2010. But prior to being with Growth Hackers, he was the founder and CEO of Qualaroo with customers such as Uber, Starbucks, Spotify, and Intuit. And he also laid the foundation as the first marketing executive to help grow five different companies including UpRoar, LogMeIn, Lookout, EventBrite, and DropBox to more than one billion in valuation.

Our second guest, who happens to be the coauthor of their book is Morgan Brown. Morgan is a startup marketing veteran with more than 15 years helping early stage companies find traction and growth. He took his first job at a startup in 1999, and then worked for a marketing agency, and then he moved to the startup world again to grow venture-backed startups such as TurnHere and ScoreBig. Morgan also writes regularly at MorganBrown.co. So with that introduction, gentlemen, welcome to the show, and Jess, I’m going to turn it over to you and let you run this interview.

Jessica Frick: I would love to, Sean. So Morgan, Sean, thank you so much for joining us.

Sean Ellis: Thank you Jessica.

Morgan Brown: Yeah, thanks for having us.

The Right Mindset You Must Have to Create a Growth Hacking Culture

Jessica Frick: As I’ve told you both, I’m very excited to read your new book when it comes out, and so since we’re talking about business growth on this week’s episode, I figured you guys would be perfect men to ask these questions. My first question: At a philosophical level, what is the mindset you need to be successful with growth hacking?

Sean Ellis: I’m happy to take that one. I think you have to have this recognition that everything you’re doing, there’s a better way to do it, and the only way to figure out the better way to do it is through testing. And that that testing should really be directed toward delivering more value to users, and when you do that, growth seems to be an outcome of that. That just continuous improvement mindset would probably be what I would latch onto the most. Anything you would add to that Morgan?

Morgan Brown: No, I completely agree. I think just the understanding that there’s always a better way to do things and that you can constantly improve is really at the heart of growth hacking, and I think the only other thing that I would add is that as people, we tend to underestimate how fast things are changing out in the world and how fast people’s behaviors are changing, the competition coming and going. You have to pair that constant improvement mindset with an urgency to move as quickly as possible and not be caught off guard with how fast things are actually moving, so I would add an urgency to that constant improvement.

Jessica Frick: That makes a lot of sense. I would imagine it’s very easy to get stuck. Now, you guys talk a lot about big businesses and rapid, successful growth. How can a solo entrepreneur use growth hacking, given the huge demands on their time already?

Sean Ellis: Well, we talk about big businesses. Most of the businesses that I worked with were tiny businesses when I started working with them. DropBox for example was less than 10 employees and I know that’s still not a solo entrepreneur, but I think for a solo entrepreneur, you want to be able to think holistically about the customer experience and not just gravitate toward, “I need more customers,” but instead think, “How do I get someone from consideration of my product to actually coming in and experiencing it?”

Really thinking about that full journey from there and just an understanding that there’s a lot of levers that can be flipped. And especially for a solo entrepreneur who doesn’t have a lot of time and, potentially, resources, making sure that the focus is on the area where you’re going to have the biggest impact is really important. And sometimes the biggest impact is not going out and spending a lot more money or figuring out how to get a lot more customers potentially interested, but figuring out how to convert and retain the customers that are already coming to you, for example.

How Understanding Leverage can Rapidly Accelerate Growth

Jessica Frick: That makes a lot of sense. That brings me to my next question perfectly. You talk about leverage being an important part of growth hacking. What does that really mean to you?

Morgan Brown: Kind of to Sean’s point, is that there’s so many things that you can do to try to grow your business and what I always try to think about when I’m working on my own business or working with the companies that I work with is, If I make a difference in what I’m doing right now, will it make a difference to the outcome of the business?

I think that’s the essential idea of leverage, is finding the one or two things that you can do and change and improve on that will create outsized results. As a solo entrepreneur, as a business owner, there’s a million things you could focus on at any one time, but you only have so much time and so much money to really … you can’t do it all. In growth hacking, really one of the first steps is identifying where you have the most leverage, where if you’re able to improve that one or two things, it will create dramatically better results and kind of outsized gains as a result of that.

Sean Ellis: I could give a quick example from LogMeIn about just the power of leverage. Sometimes-

Jessica Frick: Oh, that’d be awesome.

Sean Ellis: Sometimes it’s a little abstract without a specific example there, so at LogMeIn, we tried to grow the business initially, and I approached that as most marketers do initially where I just went out and started buying ads and could actually work on landing pages a little bit, but what I found was we quickly hit a wall at about $10,000 a month and how much we could spend to acquire users and get a positive return on investment.

What I was looking at, though, was optimizing to get people to sign up for the product, but basically, the majority of the people who signed up never actually used the product. So if they didn’t use it, then they weren’t going to pay us anything. They weren’t going to tell their friends. They weren’t going to stick around.

It was really beyond my control to do most of the things. After they registered, all of the things that needed to be done were beyond my control, so I brought the data to our CEO. We were still small enough where it wasn’t that hard to get the company to turn on a dime and realize that this activation area was where our leverage opportunity was.

The signup-to-usage was a goal that we put as an overall team where we all focused our energy on improving that. It took a few months of experimentation there, but we were able to get about a thousand percent increase in the number of people who signed up and actually used the product. Once we had done that, we went back to the same channels that previously scaled to $10,000 a month, and now we could spend over $1,000,000 a month on those channels.

Jessica Frick: Whoa.

Sean Ellis: Yeah, the money was paid back every three months so we got a fast return on that investment, so it just shows that power of leverage, where a lot of people are thinking about growth hacking, It’s this really creative trickery,” but ultimately we were fixing something that was kind of confusing in the onboarding path of a new user and then with no new creativity, we were much more effective on our customer acquisition. That’s really this idea of leverage, is just finding what’s that “choke point” that’s really preventing your growth.

The Importance of Experimentation to Implementing Testing

Jessica Frick: So you’re talking about activation and acquisition as huge levers. One thing that I was reading in the pre-order materials for your book, you were talking about testing at a high tempo. Of course, when I read that I’m like, “Oh my gosh. How fast can you actually do that? Doesn’t testing take time?” How would you recommend someone with a very small business go about something like that?

Morgan Brown: You have to start wherever you are. So if you’re a very small business and you haven’t done any testing at all, the first step is to commit to experimenting and to try to experiment with the things that you’re doing. My mom is a solo entrepreneur. She runs her own little business and I was talking with her about the book and she was like, “How can I start testing?” I said, “Well you send that weekly newsletter out constantly. Have you ever experimented with that?”

She says, “No, I just send it.” I said, “Well great. Start experimenting with the subject lines to see which ones generate the most opens so more people are reading your newsletter.” I think really you have to take that approach of just make a commitment to start experimenting and then try to speed up and build in more experiments as you get more comfortable and more adept at running them.

Once you kind of get the hang of what it means to experiment in your business and experiment on the parts of your business that have the most impact, then you can increase the velocity. Sean and I talk a lot about there’s two ways to go fast. You can go fast like a Formula 1 race car going around a hairpin turn, or you can go fast like a truck whose brakes have gone out on a mountain road. You definitely don’t want to be the trucks whose brakes have gone out.

I think it’s really about trying to build your speed as you get more comfortable experimenting. Sure, some companies like Amazon are going to run thousands of experiments. That’s not really what we’re talking about. If you’re a solo entrepreneur, it’s about trying to experiment just on a regular basis and building up your ability to do more and more tests. Sean, I don’t know if you want to add anything to that, but that’s-

Sean Ellis: Yeah, just a couple of things. There’s tools out there like Unbounce for landing pages and Optimizely. As Morgan was talking about with email, there’s really easy tools for doing these tests where some of these tests take five or ten minutes to implement. They’re super fast with the right tools.

It’s not really something that a solo entrepreneur shouldn’t have the capacity to do and they could be so high impact on the business that banging your head against the wall when it’s because you have the wrong headline on your page and that headline is really easy to test in something like Unbounce. It’s worth doing those tests.

Jessica Frick: Absolutely. Another thing you guys were talking about in hacking your funnel is retention. A lot of these things that we’ve been discussing, talk about acquisition and whatnot, but subject lines on newsletters, that’s retention focused. And you can also just keep them coming back for more.

Sean Ellis: One of the things with retention is the right first experience is probably the most powerful way to drive retention.

Jessica Frick: That makes perfect sense to me.

Sean Ellis: Yeah, if they don’t use a product correctly the first time, they’re not coming back.

Jessica Frick: Now, do you think people should be giving more focus to existing or new when it comes to growth hacking?

Sean Ellis: I personally feel like the highest leverage that I see for most companies who are just getting started is around activation. It kind of sits right in the middle of the existing and new. It’s essentially that first user experience, and really I like to start with the most passionate customers, really understand how they’re using the product, the benefit that they’re getting, and then build messaging that reflects that on the surface level, and then start to make the actual experience of a new user coming in. Experiment to get them to the experience as quickly as possible, that will make them a passionate customer.

To Survey or Not to Survey?

Jessica Frick: Now, here’s a question for you. I have my own personal thoughts on this, but I would love to hear your ideas on hacking growth and surveys. How do you feel about directly asking people what they want?

Morgan Brown: Sean, I’ll let you take kind of the mechanics of it.

Sean Ellis: Sure.

Morgan Brown: Sean and I are both passionate about surveying users, going right out and talking to them. Growth hacking, for us, is really a data driven, scientific approach to figuring out what moves the needle in your business and what helps you grow your business. But that data isn’t just the numbers in your analytics. It’s also the qualitative data you get from your customers.

The data in your analytics can tell you what’s happening, but only customer feedback can give you that context to help you understand why the behaviors that you’re seeing are actually occurring. I think at every step of the customer life cycle, there’s a case for surveys and a case for customer input. Sean, I don’t know if you can talk about some different ways to use them but-

Sean Ellis: Yeah. I mean, the only thing I was going to say on the high level question of, “To survey or not to survey,” is that interestingly, I had a VC way back in the early days of LogMeIn who pushed me to talk to customers and do surveys. I told him at the time, “I don’t actually care what customers say. I care what customers do, and I’m going to test, and surveying is really not that important to me.” And he said, “Well I just invested a lot of money and you’re going to do surveying.” So I said, “Okay.”

I really just went through the motions of surveying for several months and then one day I realized that my tests were so much better because I had the insights from the surveys. I was no longer guessing with my tests. My tests were addressing real problems that were revealed in these surveys. I actually ended up, later on, building a survey business that we sold last year. I became such a convert to the importance of surveys that I focused all of my energy on it for a few years.

Morgan Brown: Yeah, and I think one of the things that business owners who are listening should kind of take away is it’s not a one time thing. You don’t just survey people and say, “Okay, I know what people are thinking,” but you have to build it into your overall business process. At the business that I run, we survey our customers once a quarter, just the whole customer base once a quarter to kind of understand how we’re doing. Then we also are running surveys as people sign up for the service or hit a landing page and then go away without signing up. We try to survey them. It’s kind of a continual process of getting feedback and not kind of a one-time event.

Jessica Frick: Interesting, and so as you add more surveys, would you consider that a dovetail with your experimental testing?

Sean Ellis: Yeah, it definitely can, but go ahead.

Morgan Brown: Yeah, I was going to say it’s an input to help you figure out what to experiment on. If you get a bunch of feedback that a particular part of the product or service that you offer isn’t particularly valuable or on the flip side that there’s one or two things that really stand out to people as the ultimate value of what you offer, you should use that input to kind of feed into your marketing and customer acquisition efforts, how you refine and develop new products and so on and so forth.

The Essential Steps You Can Take Right Now to Grow Your Online Business

Jessica Frick: That’s awesome. You know that may be the answer to my last question here. Aside from buying Hacking Growth, obviously, which they could do at GrowthHacker.com, aside from buying Hacking Growth what is the one tip you have for small businesses and solo entrepreneurs who might be listening to this to deploy the growth hacking model to their online business?

Sean Ellis: So my tip, and then we ll let Morgan give his tip, but my tip would be just quantify the number of tests that you’re running. If you run zero tests today, that’s your baseline. Then start to track the number of tests you’re running, and try to get it to the point where you’re running multiple tests per week and when you run multiple tests per week, then you’ll get smarter about which tests you run and where you focus those tests. But for most people it’s about moving from not testing at all or very few tests to actually running more tests and it’s through those tests that you learn about what’s going to work and what’s not going to work. There’s a lot of other pieces that go into place to running really great tests, but start by just committing to running more tests.

Jessica Frick: I love that.

Morgan Brown: Yeah, and my tip would just be to look at your business currently and look at how you acquire new customers and how those customers turn into revenue for your business and identify, like Sean said, the one main pain point, or choke point, where those customers are falling off, where that process of turning a new visitor into a customer is failing and really try to understand that pinch point or that choke point and lean into there to try to improve that.

I think too often, as business owners and marketers, we kind of take for granted what’s broken is kind of the way things are and we go try to find new opportunities, and I think that’s a bit of a mistake. I think the better thing is to look at what’s already happening and then try to find the main choke point or pinch point and fix that first.

Jessica Frick: Love that, and I love that you guys have used that word “activation” as a real important part of the process to really focus on, in the middle of new and existing. So thank you so, so much. I would encourage everyone to visit GrowthHacker.com to learn more from Sean and Morgan. Gentlemen, I know you’re very busy with all of your book launch stuff. I appreciate you taking the time to talk with us.

Sean Ellis: Thank you Jess. We really appreciate the opportunity to share what we’re working on with you and your audience.

Morgan Brown: Yeah, thanks so much for having us. We really appreciate it.

Jessica Frick: And we’ll be back right after the break.

Sean Jackson: Hey, everyone. This is Sean Jackson, the host of The Digital Entrepreneur, and I want to ask you a simple question. What is your business framework for selling digital goods online? Now, if the question perplexes you, don t worry you re not alone. Most people don t realize that the most successful digital entrepreneurs have a framework or general process for creating and selling their digital goods in the online space. One of the best free resources is Digital Commerce Academy. Digital Commerce Academy combines online learning with case studies and webinars created by people who make a living selling digital goods online. The best part is that this material is free when you register.

Are you interested in joining? Well, I ll make it easy for you. If you are listening to the show on your phone and are in the continental United States, I want you to send a text message to 313131 with the keyword DIGITS. When you send that text message, we will send you a link to the registration form right to your phone.

Are you outside the United States? Don t worry. Just send us an email to Digits@Rainmaker.FM. Either way, we ll send you a link to the registration form so that you can sign up for free for Digital Commerce Academy, and as a special bonus, we will also subscribe you to our newsletter when you text or email us, so that you can stay informed with the latest insights from the show.

And don t worry we respect your privacy, and we will not share your email or phone number, and you can easily unsubscribe at any time. If you want to start building or improving your framework for selling digital goods online, then please send a text to 313131 with the keyword DIGITS, or send us an email at Digits@Rainmaker.FM. You won t be disappointed.

Recommendations for the Week

Sean Jackson: Welcome back from the break everyone. So Jess, now it’s time for our recommendations for the week. What should be people reading or using this week?

Jessica Frick: Obviously, I have to go with the book Hacking Growth.” I know this show is going to launch just before it comes out and they have some pre-launch bonuses, but it’s going to be worth every penny after it comes out. I have preordered the book, so I can’t wait to read it, but I know that just the information that these two gentlemen have in their head is worth every penny spent. I cannot wait.

Sean Jackson: And that’s at GrowthHackers.com, is that where it is? Or GrowthHacker. GrowthHacker.

Jessica Frick: Yes, GrowthHacker. I know there’s two of them-

Sean Jackson: Right.

Jessica Frick: But that’s my recommendation. What’s yours Sean?

Sean Jackson: Mine’s going to be Clearbit.com, and I’m going to tell you why. If you are familiar with it, you’ll understand. If you’re not, let me explain what it is. Clearbit.com has an API which is a fancy way of saying they have a way for computers and systems to talk to each other, and what it does is it can take email addresses and append additional information like people’s Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn profiles, the companies they work for, their titles, where they’re located all automatically.

The one feature that they have that I really do like, which I think everyone who is listening should put it on their site right away, is they do have the ability for you to take the Clearbit API. Clearbit.com, get the API key, and you can put it into Google Analytics. So all of the visitors to your site, it can start appending information to the visitor data. Isn’t that cool?

Jessica Frick: Creepy and also awesome.

Sean Jackson: I’m a huge fan of that system and trust me, we have tested so many of them out. If you haven’t had a chance, go to Clearbit.com, sign up, get their API key, put it into Google Analytics. It is totally worth it. They also have a Google Sheets feature, so you can take email addresses in Google Sheets and append additional data.

It’s probably one of the best tools out there that I’ve found for augmenting customer data with additional data points. So we’ve got Hacking Growth at GrowthHacker.com, and we’ve got Clearbit API at Clearbit.com as our recommendations for the week. So Jess, to end the show, what is the question for the week?

And of Course, our Question for the Week When Should you Bring in Outside Help to Grow Your Business?

Jessica Frick: You know, talking with the guys, we were discussing all of this growth and I wondered, Sean, when is it the right time to bring in help?

Sean Jackson: Hm. You mean outside help right? When should you outsource some things versus trying to do it all internally?

Jessica Frick: Yeah, or when do you need to augment your team with someone to keep you from going crazy?

Sean Jackson: Yeah, I think that’s true because there is definitely an idea of the fact that we as solo entrepreneurs want to do it all ourselves, right? Maybe we do need some outside help. When do we bring that in? When is the decision? What do you say, you? When do you think you should bring them in?

Jessica Frick: I think you bring them in early before you lose your mind.

Sean Jackson: Uh, no, see, I’m going to take the opposite. I’m going to say later. You got to figure out what you’re doing so you can instruct them with the data. But you know what, Jess?

Jessica Frick: What’s that?

Sean Jackson: This deserves a bigger conversation, and we’re going to do that next time on The Digital Entrepreneur. Everyone have a great week.

Jessica Frick: Thanks for listening.

Apr 20 2017

33mins

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Rank #6: What Online Entrepreneurs Need to Know about Affiliate Marketing

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Running an affiliate marketing program can be tricky, especially when selling digital goods. So is it worth it?

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As online entrepreneurs, we are always on the lookout for ways to increase sales online. But what about affiliate marketing? Should it be in our marketing mix?

At Rainmaker Digital, affiliate marketing has been an important part of our online efforts. And we are lucky that we have the resources to devote to this important channel.

But what about you? Can it work for your needs or are you better off spending time elsewhere?

For this episode, we interview Brian Littleton – the founder and CEO of ShareASale – and ask him the important questions you need to know when considering affiliate marketing.

In this 35-minute episode, Sean Jackson and Jessica Frick debate and examine the benefits of affiliate marketing, including…

  • The common complaints about affiliate marketing
  • Why the costs of affiliate marketing may be worth it
  • Why performance marketing – and affiliate marketing in particular – is a growing trend
  • How to structure an affiliate program correctly
  • And of course, our question for the week – is Amazon an online business’s best friend, or worse enemy?

Listen to The Digital Entrepreneur below ...

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The Show Notes

The Transcript

What Online Entrepreneurs Need to Know about Affiliate Marketing

Voiceover: Rainmaker FM.

You’re listening to The Digital Entrepreneur, the show for folks who want to discover smarter ways to create and sell profitable digital goods and services. This podcast is a production of Digital Commerce Institute, the place to be for digital entrepreneurs. For more information go to Rainmaker.FM/DigitalCommerce, that’s Rainmaker.FM/DigitalCommerce.

Sean Jackson: Welcome to The Digital Entrepreneur, everyone. My name is Sean Jackson. I’m joined, as always, by the intelligent Jessica Frick. Jessica, how the frick are you?

Jessica Frick: I am great. How the jackson are you?

Sean Jackson: As always, I am well. And what was our question for the week that we left everyone hanging with from the last episode?

Jessica Frick: Last episode, we asked whether you think affiliate marketing is worth it for digital entrepreneurs. And you said it’s too hard for too little return. And I’ve been thinking all week about how wrong you are. But, before I detail all the reasons why it’s totally worth it, I really want to hear you expand on this.

The Common Complaints about Affiliate Marketing

Sean Jackson: You know, I’m becoming a curmudgeon on the show. I’ve realized that now ’cause I’m always in the negative. I’m gonna have a positive affirmation at some point. Let me be the negative guy for a second, okay?

So, here is the dilemma, all right? I think there are three things that make affiliate marketing just hard as hell. Okay, number one: You’re going to get a lot of affiliates that don’t do anything. I think if there’s an absolute example of The Pareto Principle in practice, it is the fact that a tiny minority of affiliates will generate the majority of sales, and the rest won’t do anything. And yet, you’re going to spend all your time with this universe of people that aren’t doing anything. And so if you’ve got limited time, why futz with it?

That’s number one. Number two: Too expensive, okay? Let’s face it. To get on people’s radar, you’re going to have to give a pretty generous commission on top of any fees you’re paying to an affiliate network on top of that. That’s a lot of money going out the door. So why should I be spending all this much money if it’s just going to be less profitable than if I do something, let’s say, like a Facebook ad or Google ad?

And then the third reason: Scammers, right? You know, there’s so many people out there, living on the fringes of trying to get a piece here, trying to get a piece there. They sign up for every affiliate network. And so instead of trying to focus my time and attention on people that are performing, I’m going to have to spend all my time trying to get rid of the scammers out of my network, those discount coupon-esque things that, you know, just don’t really do anything.

Jessica Frick: Oh yeah.

Sean Jackson: So those are my top three reasons why it’s just not worth the effort. You’re better off doing something else than affiliate network. Tell me why I’m right.

Why the Costs of Affiliate Marketing May be Worth it

Jessica Frick: Okay. Well now I hear why you’re so misguided.

Sean Jackson: Oh, okay.

Jessica Frick: First, let’s go with the cost, okay? We’ll go for number two, and then we’ll go one, and then three. So for number two, you’re saying it’s too expensive, but it’s called performance marketing for a reason. You pay when they do something. So, when you’re paying out a commission, it’s because they made a sale. And, quite frankly, it’s probably worthwhile to give them money to market your product than to pay for it what other way you would be marketing your product. You can’t just throw a sign up on your window and have customers run through the door. You gotta do something to work for that business.

Basically, with an affiliate marketer, you are giving them the money to earn that business for you. But that would also bring you to the time thing. You’re saying that you’d spend all this time on people who don’t do anything, but my personal experience has been that people who don’t do anything don’t do anything. They don’t take up your time. And the people who do take up your time are probably trying. Very few people are gonna ask you a million questions if they don’t plan to do anything.

But, you know, you also have to make sure it’s a good fit. The way that we handle our affiliate programs here at Rainmaker Digital is we always offer the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes people will ask you questions, and you’re like, “Are they just wasting my time here?” That’s never how we think about it. We always think about it as an opportunity to educate somebody who just doesn’t know. And whether they use that for us, or whether they use that somewhere else, we know that we’ve established that relationship, and they now trust us. And, perhaps, even if they don’t promote our products, they’ll buy them and use them in the future because they like us.

Sean Jackson: Yeah, but hold on. Let’s go through that one for a second because we’ve seen this before, right? That a lot of people sign up for an affiliate program just so they can get the discount, right, because they buy your product, and-

Jessica Frick: Okay, that’s the scammer part.

Sean Jackson: Yeah. So why, again, open yourself to having to go dig through that and go back and cancel those sales or any of that stuff?

Jessica Frick: Well we have some programs that are big where we will welcome anybody who’s legit and has a legit above board way to promote us that they plan to use. But we also have some programs that are very small, they’re invitation only. You wouldn’t even know about them unless we invited you. The bigger programs, it’s because we have processes in place to watch for that. And, quite frankly, if somebody’s gonna jump through all the hoops to get a discount and pay you for your product, personally, for the most part, I say you let ’em.

Sean Jackson: Mmm. Wow.

Jessica Frick: They’re still givin’ ya money.

Sean Jackson: Wow. I guess I’m just cheap.

Jessica Frick: Well, you know what though? For the most part, people don’t do that. I think that people genuinely are good. And if you have it in your rules that you’re not allowed to do that, most people don’t do that. Some people might do it by accident. I can’t tell you how many people have written us and said, “Oh my gosh. I just noticed I got a commission on my own sale. It must have clicked my link and bought something. I’m sorry. Can you reverse it?”

Sean Jackson: Yeah.

Jessica Frick: Well, we probably saw it anyway, but you saying that kinda makes me wanna let you keep it. But, you know.

Sean Jackson: Well, folks, what do you think? Have you experimented with an affiliate program before? Have you tried it out for your products? Make sure you visit the comments section of the episode, and let us know what you’re doing with affiliate programs. What do you think? Are they worth the time and effort, like Jessica thinks they are? Or are they just too much for too little return? Let us know. And we’ll be right back after this short break.

Voiceover: The Digital Entrepreneur is brought to you by the all-new StudioPress Sites, a turnkey solution that combines the ease of an all-in-one website builder with the flexible power of WordPress. It s perfect for bloggers, podcasters, and affiliate marketers, as well as those selling physical goods, digital downloads, and membership programs. If you re ready to take your WordPress site to the next level, see for yourself why over 200,000 website owners trust StudioPress. Go to Rainmaker.FM/StudioPress right now. That’s Rainmaker.FM/StudioPress.

Sean Jackson: Welcome back from the break, everyone. And Jessica, let’s get into affiliate marketing with our very special guest.

Jessica Frick: Today we have Brian Littleton, who is president and CEO of ShareASale. Brian founded ShareASale in 2000, and since then his leadership and vision have helped shape the industry into what it is today. We are very excited to have Brian today, and not just because of his affiliate marketing skills and knowledge, but also because he is one of the best piano players I have ever heard after a show. So, Brian, we are super happy to have you.

Brian Littleton: Thank you very much. I’m happy to be here as well.

Sean Jackson: So, Brian, I would like you to kind of inform our audience a little about ShareASale. And, full disclaimer by the way, folks; at our company, we have used ShareASale since the founding of the company. So we’ve been obviously affiliate marketers, and we’ve used ShareASale, so wanted to fully disclose that. So, Brian, what is ShareASale for our audience so they know what you’re about?

Brian Littleton: So, ShareASale is an affiliate network, which means it’s a platform for both a online retailer and an online publisher, such as the blogger, to meet and interact and basically have publishers earning commissions from various retailers for referring traffic. So, we’re one of the largest here in the United States, and we were recently acquired by Affiliate Window out of the U.K. to become really what is the largest global affiliate network that there is.

Sean Jackson: Gotcha. And you have about how many active publishers and advertisers?

Brian Littleton: Active publishers, a little over 100,000. Advertisers is somewhere around 4,500 or so, depending on some of the decisions, whether you’re counting private programs or not, but it’s a very large network having been built over the last 17 years.

Sean Jackson: And basically if I have a product that I’m selling … it could be a digital good, right? I could sell a t-shirt or I could be selling an ebook, right? I would go to someone like ShareASale and say, “Here is my product. I’d like to pay a commission for people who refer traffic to me. And that could be for clicks, sales, et cetera.” Fairly flexible, right? But it’s essentially a transaction between someone who has something to sell and someone who’s referring traffic to you. Is that essentially correct?

Brian Littleton: Yes, I would say the important distinction there is that it’s based off performance. We very rarely get into a per-click model. I would call that more of a pure advertising model, but it’s really based on performance. So it’s the sale of products, whether that’s digital goods or retail goods like fashion or what not. It’s all about the performance, which makes it a kind of a win-win arrangement for the publisher and the retailer.

Sean Jackson: Got it.

Why Performance Marketing and Affiliate Marketing in Particular is a Growing Trend

Jessica Frick: Now, Brian, you are also heavily involved in The Performance Marketing Association. For those who are listening, that’s thepma.org. Brian, can you tell us a little bit about why you believe it’s important not only to run your business, but to be so heavily involved with this association in particular?

Brian Littleton: Sure. Yeah, the performance marketing industry in general is just so unique; we’re different than other advertising models, we have different concerns, and it really wasn’t being represented by some of the larger groups that were in existence, such as maybe even the IAB or what not. But, that’s not a critique on them. It just wasn’t represented to the way that we felt it needed to be. So, it’s the only way that we’re really represented.

So we formed it. As one of the founding members, this was several years ago, I’m not even sure how many years at this point, but I became more heavily involved several years after I became the president of that organization, on the board of directors, and really tried to drive that forward. I’m still a member. I’m not the president any longer, as Rachel Honoway, the CEO of FMTC, has taken over that role. But it’s a very important thing for the industry to have.

Sean Jackson: And let me go through that, because performance marketing, for clarification sake, is very different than traditional online advertising, which tends to be display networks, right? Would you consider the barometer of performance marketing is the fact that, if you’re doing this type of marketing, you should be seeing a revenue gain? Is that essentially … that there should be something that you can track back to that says, This is revenue that we’re generating, versus more of your traditional display or even content marketing for that matter?

Brian Littleton: Well, it’s in it s most simple form, one of the ways I describe it is … so a traditional advertising campaign would have a budget. You’d say, “Okay. I want to spend $10,000 here. That’s my budget on display advertising. That’s it.” And then the publisher would kind of decide what the rates are, and you’d figure out how many impressions or clicks or whatever that added up to, and as soon as you got to 10,000, then it would end.

In a performance marketing relationship, you really don’t have a budget. The idea is that every time you are paying out a commission, you’re also receiving revenue from the sale of a product. So, if you’re selling a digital good and it costs $100 and your commission is $10 out to a publisher, you don’t really have a budget to spend because every time this happens, you’re actually winning. So it becomes a very different relationship for both of those parties and, quite frankly, can be much more lucrative in the right situation when the publisher matches the retailer.

Jessica Frick: And I think that that’s a really awesome point to bring us to the next question that I have for you, Brian. We are seeing performance marketing grow in a lot of areas that it previously didn’t apply to. I think people previously considered affiliate marketing kind of a dirty word, but now more merchants and digital entrepreneurs are using performance marketing to help grow their business. Who would you say would be ideal for an affiliate program, and who would not be ideal?

Brian Littleton: Well I’ve definitely been surprised over the years that the number of people who have come in and made this work when I would have said, “Ooh, I don’t know if that’s going to work here.” But, quite honestly, it’s anybody that’s selling a product, from a retailer perspective, anybody that’s selling a product or really even has any kind of measurable action, such as a lead generation or a form fill out, or whatever.

Anything can work with affiliate marketing. We’re talking about kind of the oldest tactic in the book, from a sales perspective, is to pay someone else a commission to refer business to you. Now that’s been going on since the Stone Age, so it’s just automated with the Internet and computers nowadays, but it’s a very old method. So anybody selling a product definitely can get involved.

From a publisher perspective, anyone with an audience of any kind. And that can be a small audience or a large audience. With both, you can be successful. One of the benefits of the performance model is an advertiser retailer can still work with very small publishers because everything is on that win-win basis that I was talking about earlier. So, even if a publisher is only sending five customers per month, that’s still another five that they get to add to their bucket for the affiliate channel, and it adds up in that manner.

It takes them no more resources to manage that group of people because they have platforms to work on, such as ShareASale, that allows them to manage 100 or 1,000 publishers all referring these five customers, and that adds up to a pretty good result at the end of the day. So we have seen a lot of media companies getting into that that have an audience, whether it’s a social media, Instagrammer, whether it’s an old-media publication, anybody that has that kind of audience can really get involved.

How to Structure an Affiliate Program Correctly

Sean Jackson: All right. So, Brian, I’m going to play the devil’s advocate, which is what I always do on the show. All right. So, I have a product. Let’s say it is again a real product that people are buying, and I decide to run an affiliate program with ShareASale, okay? And, I go out there … well, first off, I want to be very cautious about this. So the first thing I want to do is try to set a really low commission.

And, afterwards, I’m probably going to be really, really frustrated with the lack of results that I’m getting, and so I’m just going to abandon the damn thing. So, help me, the idiot guy who’s doing that, figure out a better way to do it. Talk to me as someone who owns a product. What are some of the best tactics that I can be using with something like ShareASale to really start driving that performance mark.

Brian Littleton: Well, you really have to consider the commission, quite frankly, and where you started. You were cautious in your approach, and you decided you wanted to set a low commission. And your cautious approach there probably cost you the ability to even get the thing started and going in that hypothetical example.

If you look at it from your own perspective, you are a publisher of media, and if someone approached you with your own offer, is that something where you could see an income stream that would make it worthwhile of your time spent? And, when you don’t, it’s obviously going to be very difficult to grow that program.

I always argue that a retailer or anybody selling a product is much better off to offer a very, very high commission. Don’t think of this as a cost-control/budget-control channel. It’s more of a new customer growth and acquisition channel, which typically gets a little more funding or interest. When you think of it that way, when you offer someone a very high commission, but do so for a very short period of time, say if I were to tell you, “Okay, I’ll give you a very high commission for the first 30 days of this program being launched,” there’s only a couple things that can happen.

One: I could blow it completely out of the water, and you’d end up spending a little bit more money than you wanted to. Or, the other option is I would not do that. I would not generate the results. It wouldn’t make any difference. It would be a zero. In both cases, you’ve actually earned way more than you thought you did because you now have the information you need to set the appropriate commission going forward. You know that this person either can send you a whole bunch of traffic and a whole bunch of sales, or they can’t. And that information is far more valuable than the difference in commission that you would have paid during that time period. So, in your example, you’ve basically shorted yourself and not allowed yourself to figure out even whether or not the channel was going to work for you, because you were too cautious at the start.

Sean Jackson: All right. So I want to go on this one more time because I know Jessica has a ton of questions, but I have the next part. Okay, so I follow your advice. I get crazy with my commission structure. I’m starting to see some results from it, but I’m also starting to see everybody and their brother-in-law signing up for my affiliate program. And I know some of these are doing it just so they can get a discount, if you will, off the purchase for my product.

Talk to me about the fact that there are so many people that may sign up for a program, but yet so few are actually performing. How does a product guy like me manage that, because that’s going to drive me crazy; I’ve got a thousand affiliates but only 10 are doing anything? Talk to me about that.

Brian Littleton: Yeah, it’s fairly common. I think that even in your own situation, if you think about the affiliate programs that you’ve joined over the years, you’ve probably joined a whole bunch of them that you’ve never actually done anything with. So, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes it just takes us time to get around to things we all wish we could do everyday.

But, from a management perspective, it’s not near as difficult as I think as what you’ve laid out there. The platforms that are out there, such as mine in terms of ShareASale, allow you to manage large groups of people with small amounts of time. You can sort them, you can tag them, organize them, communicate with them differently depending on whether or not they’re sending traffic to you or not sending traffic to you. It becomes … that’s what companies like I do. So it’s not as big of a problem as maybe has been laid out.

Activating those people is the same type of strategy that I’d just laid out with your earlier question, which is to say, Hey, if it’s not working with this 10% commission or this 20% commission, and I find somebody in my program that I really, really want to activate, then you have to make them an offer. You have to get them moving in some way, shape, or form. And it might not be an offer that lasts forever, but it is something that you can try to get them off of the mat with, so to speak. And once you do that, it becomes … again, the information you learn from that becomes the most important piece.

Sean Jackson: Yeah. And I’m going to close this particular section because I will tell you from our own experience, not only working with your team but just in general, there is, I think, a fallacy that when you think of an affiliate program, you’re thinking that all of your sales are going to be coming from that. And the reality … it doesn’t.

And, even in our own business, I see the mix, right? And there are cases where we will spend a lot for certain affiliates, but the overall mix of revenue that comes both from performance marketing as well as organic marketing as well as display marketing, it’s the mix that you look at. And so I think, when you are thinking about those commission rates, realize that not every sale is going to have that extremely high commission rate tied to it. So, it’s something to consider that when you say yes or no to an affiliate program as a product producer, realize that it is just one facet of the revenue stream, but not 100% of it. Jess, what do you have?

Do You Really Need an Affiliate Manager?

Jessica Frick: One of my big questions for you, Brian, and you know that I already know the answer, but this is more to hear you tell the answer to everybody else, do you really need an affiliate manager or can you do it yourself?

Brian Littleton: Well, that really depends on the company and the situation. I think that for most entrepreneurs, and especially those in small companies, you can do it yourself. You can use the tools that are available to your on the platforms. There’s so much information out there to read about, blogs, and conferences to attend to get the information that you need to do it yourself.

Once it gets to a certain point, you gotta think it’s probably a better case that you have someone who has experience in those areas to grow it to the next level, whether that’s an internal resource, such as an affiliate manager or an external resource such as an agency, those are things that are definitely possibilities down the road. But, it’s not a super scary place to be. Like I was saying earlier, it’s the oldest trick in the book. You’re paying someone commission to send you traffic and send you sales. So as long as you just keep thinking about it that way, it’s not too terribly complicated.

The other really important tool to have, and I guess this makes the decision for you, if you have this or don’t have it, but you need a lot of common sense in the affiliate channel. You need to be able to look at an affiliate and say, “All right. The things that they’re doing, the traffic that they’re sending to me, I’m looking at their site, I’m looking at who they are, and this doesn’t make any sense to me.” If it doesn’t make any sense to you, it’s probably a case where you need to look at it a little bit deeper. So if you have that, I think you can definitely manage that on your own.

Sean Jackson: When you say an affiliate network, though, manage an affiliate network, it’s really like managing an independent sales force, right? I mean, I’m old, Brian, so I remember independent sales reps, and oftentimes there would be specific promotions for them, there would be people that you’d kick off for lack of performance or other reasons. But you are managing an independent sales group that really didn’t get a paycheck from you, but they did get a financial benefit from you. So would you say that mentality helps us think of them as, what would you need to inspire an outside sales force, knowing they’re not employed by the company? Is that the right mentality to have in looking at affiliate management overall?

Brian Littleton: Yes, and I think that you need to add in the fact that they’re also not only involved in this relationship with you, but that they have another 10 or 20 or 50 companies that they’re working with on this arrangement. So you need to be able to get their attention in that way as well. They’re very independent, they don’t work for you, they’re not just going to just do what you tell them to do. But you need to make your product and your offer look attractive.

The Future of Affiliate Marketing

Jessica Frick: Now, for the last question, because I know that we’re nearing the end of our time with you, where do you see the industry going? I know that there was a lot of concern about Nexus laws and Internet sale tax reform. What do you see the next five years looking like for those who employee affiliate marketing to grow their business?

Brian Littleton: It’s a very bright future, I can tell you that. It’s so exciting everyday, to be honest. To be in this space is to take advantage of every single innovation in terms of publishing, in terms of apps, retailer innovations, all those kinds of things. You get to take advantage of it because of where you sit in the affiliate marketing industry.

There’s never going to be a time when telling somebody that you’ll pay them a commission to refer you a customer is not going to be a popular option in the retailer world, right? It’s always going to be a very popular option. And so, in that case you’re sitting in the best possible seat you can when you’re in the middle of this channel. So, the exciting times for me are to watch publishers, both new and old, realize that they can make quite a significant sum of money in this industry, and for retailers to realize that, Hey, all this money that I’m spending on display ads …” or “All this money I’m spending on all this stuff … I could probably focus on my partners in the affiliate channel and get a much better return for that.” As we continue to see that grow every single year, it’s really exciting, and a great place to be.

I think the future there is extremely bright. The issues that revolve around Nexus and some of the tax issues that you touched on are things that are definitely going to happen and things that we have to work through as an industry, which is why we have things like The PMA. But they’re nowhere near things that are going to be causing a really big problem for us.

Sean Jackson: And I think there’s a trend, to kind of finalize on your point. One of the trends that I’m seeing is how more mainstream publishers, Business Insider, which is owned the parent company that acquired your company, Business Insider is doing a lot more with affiliate marketing on their site, specifically around digital goods. I mean, I’ve seen you-to-me affiliate programs that they’re pushing to their audience, et cetera. So wouldn’t you say, to kinda conclude on this idea of trends, that it’s not just the independent bloggers that are part of affiliates, you’re starting to see that mainstream media traffic moving there. What do you think?

Brian Littleton: Absolutely. Mainstream media is starting to figure out this channel a little bit. I mean, you’ve seen them experiment with all kinds of different things over the years to try to monetize large volumes of traffic, and they’re looking at this as well. New media is looking at this. There’s a trend in media in general, where you no longer have to be a mass-media producer to have a large audience. That’s kind of the social media phenomenon or whatnot.

All kinds of media companies are looking at this, and it’s because of all the benefits that we’ve laid out over the last 20 minutes or so: the entry to a single program, the barrier is very, very low. You no longer have to call up a PR department and say, “Hey, I’m interested in doing this. Can you provide the rate sheet?” All that kind of stuff is irrelevant. A publisher simply goes to the affiliate program and says, “Okay, great. They’re paying a 20% commission. I can work with that. I want to see if I can send some traffic over here and how much money I can make from it.” The low barrier to entry is what’s made this really popular for all kinds of media companies.

Sean Jackson: Brian Littleton, founder and CEO of ShareASale. Thank you so much for being on the show, and sharing the insight with our audience. Truly appreciate it.

Brian Littleton: Thanks for having me. I really loved it.

Sean Jackson: And we’ll be right back after this short break.

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Are you outside the United States? Don t worry. Just send us an email to Digits@Rainmaker.FM. Either way, we ll send you a link to the registration form so that you can sign up for free for Digital Commerce Academy, and as a special bonus, we will also subscribe you to our newsletter when you text or email us, so that you can stay informed with the latest insights from the show.

And don t worry we respect your privacy, and we will not share your email or phone number, and you can easily unsubscribe at any time. If you want to start building or improving your framework for selling digital goods online, then please send a text to 313131 with the keyword DIGITS, or send us an email at Digits@Rainmaker.FM. You won t be disappointed.

Some Helpful Resources for the Audience

Sean Jackson: Welcome back from the break, everyone. And, Jessica, it’s now that time of the show where we throw out some resources that our audience may find helpful. Do you have any?

Jessica Frick: Well, can I just say real quick to the audience who doesn’t know you on a personal level, one of the things that I love about being friends with you and not just working with you is that you always find the coolest stuff. You do! And you love to talk about it, which makes me super happy. So, you know what, Sean, normally you’ll do one and I’ll do one, but I know that you’ve got a huge pile, so let’s hear two of yours this week.

Sean Jackson: Oh, okay.

Jessica Frick: Can we do that?

Sean Jackson: Yes, yes. We’ll make it easy. All right, so my first site to recommend, and this one is a fee-based site. It’s a membership site, but I will tell you, I have been with them since 2007/2006. It’s called SearchEngineNews.com. Now, let me tell you, as an SEO type, it was the primary resource that I went to to understand what’s happening in the search and social marketing world, primarily search. Over the years it has morphed; they’ve gotten more features, more tools, et cetera.

But, as someone who also has a life and is very busy running a business, I don’t always have time to kind of peruse through the numerous free sources. I sometimes need a digestible content of what’s happening in search marketing. And as our interview with Eric Inge showed, there’s a lot going on. I go to Search Engine News. Yes, it’s expensive, but it gives me a quick digest, and if I need to get something quick, I can go into their archives and find in-depth analysis. So, if you’re wanting to stay on search-engine information, absolutely recommend Search Engine News.

The second tool, though, that I want to recommend is a tool we actually use on the show, Jess. It’s EZTexting.com. So, I gave a presentation recently about the importance of mobile, how mobile is really defining the landscape and how we need to have a mobile-first approach. And to that, I have been a huge advocate for text messaging, because I know people will read it, I know that it works, I know it has it’s own rules, but the best way to start out is just putting it on your site. And EZTexting.com is something that, again, we use, we don’t get paid for this. I use it, one, because it’s free.

So I started using it for my cub scout troop that I happen to lead. And then I expanded to use it on the show, primarily because it’s free, allows me to move up in the pricing structure based on my needs, and is very simple to use. So, if you want to try text messaging as a functional part of your site or your online marketing, go ahead and take a look at EZTexting.com, that’s my first recommendation. And, of course, if you want to stay with search engine information and really want a quality digest of what’s happening, check out Search Engine News. Those are my two recommendations for the week, Jess.

Jessica Frick: Quick question for you, Sean: Are both of those appropriate for beginners?

Sean Jackson: Oh, good question. I think EZTexting, if you want to play around with text messaging, absolutely. EZTexting is very simple, very good, and it can allow you to grow and start free. Search Engine News, though, it really is … that’s for people that are serious about search engine optimization, hence you’re going to pay for it. If you just want the free stuff out there, you’ll see it. But, the reason I like Search Engine News is because it’s a lot of curated content, a lot of writers out there that are known for their expertise and have been vetted by the staff over there. So, one, Search Engine News, not necessarily for beginners but certainly for people who care about it. And EZTexting, absolutely for beginners.

Jessica Frick: Very cool. Thanks, Sean!

Sean Jackson: Of course, of course. So, Jess, we’re at the end of the show. What is the question for the week we want to leave our audience hanging with?

Jessica Frick: Oh this one’s gonna get controversial, Sean.

Sean Jackson: Mmmm. Yum yum.

Jessica Frick: Which I know you like! Amazon: Digital business best friend or worst enemy?

Sean Jackson: Best friend!

Jessica Frick: Really? You’re going pro on this one?

Sean Jackson: I know. And you will not say it is their best friend?

Jessica Frick: No, Amazon is not a digital business’ best friend.

Sean Jackson: Well, we’ll explore this topic in more depth in the next episode of The Digital Entrepreneur. Have a great week everyone!

Jessica Frick: Thanks for listening.

Mar 16 2017

35mins

Play

Rank #7: The Psychology Required to Successfully Grow Your Business

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How you think about your business matters. And in this episode, we delve into the growth mindset you will need to succeed.

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Brandon Bruce, COO of Cirrus Insight (one of the fastest growing companies in America), joins the show to share his experience on growing a successful technology company.

Brandon’s company has been through a lot; from server crashes, failed investment opportunities, and loss of distribution opportunities.

And yet he and his team were able to overcome all these challenges and find opportunities for growth. And their efforts paid off; recognized as #41 in the Inc 5000 list.

In this 34 minute episode, Sean Jackson and Katy Katz talk with Brandon about the obstacles his company faced, and the mindset he and his team had, to grow their business.

Listen to The Digital Entrepreneur below ...

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Important links from this episode:

Mar 08 2018

34mins

Play

Rank #8: The 6 Top Online Marketing Trends for 2018

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In this very special year-end show, Katy and Sean cover the big changes in online marketing for 2017 and what to look for in 2018.

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Online marketing continues to evolve at a fervent pace; with so many innovations and trends emerging it can be hard to know what matters.

To help guide you, Katy Katz and Sean Jackson review the events and topics that defined 2017 and discuss the new marketing innovations that will define 2018.

In this 48 minute episode, Sean Jackson and Katy Katz review the topics, trends, and ideas that will shape your online marketing efforts in 2018.

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Dec 20 2017

48mins

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Rank #9: Why You Should Start a Digital Marketing Agency

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A behind the scenes discussion on how — and why — you should create a digital marketing agency.

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In 2017, the team behind Copyblogger.com launched a digital marketing agency … after 11 years of writing about, and teaching, content marketing to others.

In this episode, we interview Brian Clark and Ed Bardwell to discuss the reasons behind the creation of this new business unit and the ideas they use to stand out in a crowded market.

If you run a marketing agency — or just considering it — then this episode will reveal the tactics and ideas that you can use to launch your own effort.

In this 35 minute episode, Sean Jackson and Katy Katz share the insights and ideas behind the launch of Rainmaker Digital Services with Brian Clark and Ed Bardwell.

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Dec 14 2017

34mins

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Rank #10: 6 Steps to Building an Audience That Builds a Business

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It s taken a while, but the startup world is starting to recognize the power of building an audience before building a product. That s music to our ears.

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That s the way our company grew out of a one-man blog. Back in 2012, while chronicling how that happened, I coined the term minimum viable audience, effectively tying content marketing to the lean startup movement.

A case study on Copyblogger Media in The Lean Entrepreneur brought the message to a wider audience of entrepreneurial hopefuls. Now, my friend Joe Pulizzi is dedicating an entire book to the subject, which may well provide the tipping point.

It s called Content Inc., and today Joe joins us to provide the methodology that many, many companies have used to turn an audience into successful products and services. Plus, Joe shares several examples of companies you may have never heard of that have used content as the catalyst for a startup business.

In this episode Joe Pulizzi and I discuss:

  • Why startups are more innovative than large companies at content
  • The coming exodus of talent leaving the enterprise for startups
  • Multiple examples of successful companies that were audience first
  • When Content Inc. is available for purchase
  • The inspiration behind the Content Inc. Summit

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The Show Notes

The Transcript

6 Steps to Building an Audience That Builds a Business

Voiceover: This is Rainmaker.FM, the digital marketing podcast network. It’s built on the Rainmaker Platform, which empowers you to build your own digital marketing and sales platform. Start your free 14-day trial at RainmakerPlatform.com.

Brian Clark: Hey there, everyone. Welcome to another episode of New Rainmaker. I’m your host, founder and CEO of Copyblogger Media.

Today, we have yet another very special guest, Joe Pulizzi, or as I refer to him, the guy who I can’t outrank for the term ‘content marketing.’ I’ve been trying, Joe. You know I’ve been trying. Did you make up that word? Did you make up the term ‘content marketing?’ Was you it?

Joe Pulizzi: And I love you. It excites me that you tried so hard to get down first. I really dig that about you, actually.

Brian Clark: I do have a competitive streak. I can’t help it.

Joe Pulizzi: Did I make up the term? I started using it when I was running custom media at Penton Media in 2001. Actually, the backstory about that is, we were in the custom publishing industry, and we were called Penton Custom Media, two very boring terms. You go with custom publishing at Custom Media, nobody wants to buy anything from you.

So I was like, How can I get these chief marketing officers at least interested in what I’m talking about? I tried everything. I tried branded content, custom content, and I’m throwing it all at them, and then I started using content marketing in the pitch, and I could see the reaction change. Like they were, “Oh, hey. I’m a marketer. We do content-y type stuff. Maybe that’s what we’re doing.”

If you’re targeting marketers in every way — and you know this, because you and I both work with a lot of marketers — they’re very simple people. You have to keep things simple, and things resonate with them around the term marketing. I saw that, and I said, “Hey, look. This thing that we’re doing, this building audiences thing through relevant, valuable content on a consistent basis — we better call it something like content marketing because that’s what’s resonating with these folks.”

Yeah. I can’t prove it. I can’t prove that I was the first one, probably as much as you were responsible for popularizing it, because you didn’t like the term, but then you started using it. I said, “Thank Jesus for that.” It helped us.

Brian Clark: Well, maybe I just didn’t like it because I didn’t come up with it. I don’t know. So yeah, I talk about now, In 1999, I started doing this thing we now call content marketing, and then in 2006, I started a blog talking about this thing we now call content marketing.

But it was you who convinced me, and grudgingly, I guess, and I don’t know what my issue was with it. I don’t even think it occurred to me that it needed to be called something. But for those of you who don’t know who Joe is — you probably do — he is the founder of Content Marketing Institute, the world’s leading enterprise solution provider. No, I’m trying to come up with a tagline for you.

Joe Pulizzi: Leading training and education company for enterprise marketers, something like that.

Brian Clark: Exactly. According to Google.

Joe Pulizzi: Hey. If Google said it, it must be true.

Brian Clark: It must be true.

Joe Pulizzi: Absolutely.

Brian Clark: Also, more impressively, is that Content Marketing World, without doubt, is the largest and the finest content marketing conference out there. It s something I’ve been involved with every year since the beginning.

Joe Pulizzi: Every year, that’s right.

Brian Clark: It’s so aimed at the enterprise. Why am I there every year?

Joe Pulizzi: Because everybody aspires to be a big company. It’s interesting. You know this, because I think we’ve had some conversations on when you target the enterprise, you can’t target the mid market. You actually have to say enterprise, and you get the mid market.

Then you get small companies that actually want to aspire to be big, so then we got a lot of really high-growth small businesses. That’s what we target. So you get mostly marketers at large businesses, and because of that you get the mid market, and then you get the small businesses that want to be big.

It’s just interesting. That’s why you fit in. You probably target what, the growing small business, mid-market audience? Would you say that that’s your target?

Brian Clark: I think a lot of our customers fall into the biggest group of the small business market, which is the very small business, but it does move up from there.

Joe Pulizzi: Yeah.

Brian Clark: I think, again, a lot of the work you have done has made what we talk about relevant to even larger companies. I think our hearts are with the small companies, because that’s our affinity. But the information percolates all over the place, which is fascinating to me.

Let’s get to the issue here, because historically, an enterprise-focused institute and conference, and now you’ve written Content Inc., which is squarely aimed at the startup and small business world, the whole audience-first theme that we’ve been talking about for years. I was fortunate enough that you allowed me to write the foreword to the book. As long as I get in somewhere.

Joe Pulizzi: Allowed is a good way to put it. It defaulted to you. You had to write that because it’s your story. Thank you for that, by the way.

Brian Clark: Yeah. It’s a great book. It’s going to be out in just a few weeks here. It’s available for pre-order, called Content Inc. There’s also an excellent podcast that Joe’s been running called Content Inc. also.

How do you like that? Let’s talk about podcasting. Everyone is doing podcasting now. You’ve taken to it. I love your show with Robert, This Old Marketing. How has it been reaching out to this new audience with a podcast? Because it seems like that’s your primary engine.

Joe Pulizzi: This is all a big experiment. Actually, everything is, even writing the book to this audience. Because as you said, we’ve never targeted the small business, startup, entrepreneurial audience, so to start with that was completely selfish on my part, because I wanted to write this book.

I literally said, This book needs to be written. What we’ve done at CMI, what Brian’s done at Copyblogger Media, and dozens and dozens of other examples, they need to be told, because we have to get away from this idea that you have to be a big company to do this thing called content marketing.

I think there’s actually a better way to launch a business, and it’s the way that you and I launched the business. I said, Okay, I’m going to do this book, but I’m not going to make it about me. We’re going to talk about some examples, but let’s talk about what all these companies did and how they went audience-first and then built products and services on the back of that. I said, Okay, well, what’s the best way to do this?

With Epic Content Marketing, which I wrote in 2013 and is squarely for enterprises, I started to release blog posts ahead of time. That was the thing: “Okay. I want to tease it out. We’re going to give pieces of the book out ahead of time.” I said, “Let’s do something different with Content Inc.,” and I said “Whoa. Let’s just share everything ahead of time but do it in a podcast form.”

So far, it s seemed to work. Every week, we get more subscribers, more listeners to the show. People have started to talk about it more, and honestly, we haven’t really marketed that much at all. It’s just sort of there. It just sort of happened, and we’re letting people know about it. I like the fact that it’s almost like we had the blog-to-book idea. I would say “Hey, if I’m going to write a book, do a blog-the-book. Just plan out six months of content, write your chapter outline, start blogging, and then in six months, you’ve got 80 percent of a book, and you’re done.

I started to do the same thing with podcasting. So I started to write episodes of the podcast, which became chapters of the book. I started to release those, edited them down, and then we’ve got part of the book done. As I’ve been going through and doing this podcasts — two a week, and they’re really short, like five to seven minutes long — then okay, I’ve got more content for the book.

It seemed to have worked out well, and it just takes a lot of the burden off me from a content production standpoint. At the same time, I can build an audience. I think that that’s a smarter thing to do than everybody just saying, “Wait. We’re not going to send any content out. Here comes the book, and now it’s ready.

Brian Clark: Yeah.

Joe Pulizzi: I think you just give it all out as much as possible. Build some anticipation over it. Build your audience so that when you release the book, it’s already there. The audience is basically your customer list for buying the book or the audio book. It’s all ready to go.

Brian Clark: You’re demonstrating the principle of the book in a way that you’re building an audience to sell the book. I like that. You’re getting very meta, Joe. That’s been our thing for years.

Joe Pulizzi: My life is meta.

Brian Clark: Exactly, right.

Joe Pulizzi: We’ll see if it works out. So far, it looks like We’ll know right away. September 8th, the book comes out. It comes out at Content Marketing World. I think we’ll know within the first two weeks if that strategy has paid off. Fingers crossed, it looks like it will work.

Brian Clark: Well, I m certainly going to help, because again, my foreword cannot be unseen. I mean, I must have spent 20 or 30 minutes on that Joe, and you had to write the whole rest of the book.

Joe Pulizzi: It could go down as the greatest foreword in business history.

Why Startups Are More Innovative Than Large Companies at Content

Brian Clark: Let me ask you this: I had your partner in crime, Robert Rose, on last week. We were kind of dancing around this thing, but I’m not sure we ever just came right out and said it, but I almost came out and said, “Don’t you think the real innovation in content marketing really comes from the startups who build the audience first and all that?

I never came out and said it, and then right after I asked you to be on the show, I see you’ve written an article saying Why Startups Basically Beat the Pants off the Enterprise at Content Marketing. I mean, the headline was something to that effect. Tell me what you think about that.

Joe Pulizzi: I totally agree with that. It’s the premise of the book. I’ve spent too long — 16 years now — working with these large companies. There are so many politics, red tape, fiefdoms that you have to deal with, meeting after meeting to get something done.

Culture change has to happen of some nature, or you have to have a content champion that’s so strong that it s actually willing to risk their job, at least doing it the way that it’s been done, to make some of these decisions to say, “Look, we’re not going to market the way we’ve always marketed. We’re going to go out and build an audience that knows, likes, and trusts us, and if we do that, we believe in our heart of hearts that it’s going to help our business, and here’s how. Basically, that’s the approach.

There are very, very few large businesses that can do that, because they’re so set in, We have these products to sell. That’s what marketing’s for. Get the darn brochure done, set it, and make sure the sales people have what they need. Marketing, get out of my way, and I’ll sell. Especially in large B2B companies.

Now what we notice is, if you have a belief structure around the practice of content marketing, that you really believe that this is the way that you can go to market, you have one person that could make that decision. And you have such other focus on a content niche, which is also another issue with large companies. They want to target every one of their buyer personas, audience personas, and in a B2B company, that could be seven to nine people, and then their content becomes so irrelevant, it doesn’t do anything.

But if you’re a startup, you’re focusing on that audience — building that audience, focusing on that person and that audience that you’re building — that becomes your future customer database.

It takes time, and it takes patience. Large companies have no patience. Large companies — usually the ones that we work with — are public companies. They’re on some kind of a quarterly fiscal financial release schedule. Nobody has patience for anything.

If you go in to a chief marketer’s office and say, “Hey. Here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to target this audience, which is not a large audience but it’s a particular audience that we could be the leading informational expert for, and we’re going to distribute content to them. We’re going to build them. They’re going to know us more, like us. It’s going to lead to this. We’re going to build subscribers. We think this is going to happen — that’s the hypothesis, but we don’t know for sure. We might have to change it. And I need 15 to 17 months to make that happen.

The next two words are — with a contraction in there — “You’re fired.” That s basically what it is. Get out of here. Let’s do some advertising. Let’s drop some demand right now.

Brian Clark: It’s amazing, the short-term thinking at the largest institutions on the planet, because it’s this quarterly mentality. I know there’s so much money at the enterprise level, but I’ve never wanted to deal with what you described, that mire of entrenched silos and infighting and the inability to move quickly.

That’s also why I refer to myself as unemployable. Could you imagine me in that environment? I’m on the evening news at some point.

Joe Pulizzi: Yeah. I wouldn t even start to imagine that crisis. I don’t think any large company would imagine that. “Let’s go and get that Brian Clark. He’s going to really disrupt

Brian Clark: No one’s in the history of the world have ever said, “I wonder if we could get Clark to come on board.

Joe Pulizzi: We just had our team meeting, and we were talking about it being a noble effort. This is a mission that we can really get behind, because who’s going to do this? Who really cares about this? There’s a lot of really good people and marketers in these large companies that are struggling, and that’s our job to support them and to give them the air cover so they can go in and make change happen.

If you can make change happen — a good example is Julie Fleisher of Kraft. The change that she’s made happen in Kraft has been phenomenal. I don’t even know how much they respect it inside Kraft, but she’s so respected outside, and she’s an inspiration for marketers at large companies all over the place. Because we know it can be done, and we know that that is a real asset inside that organization that’s valued.

We need more of that, because it’s the large companies that have large access to these large audiences that can actually help the world communicate better. Because we all know that we don’t need another ad. Do we need more advertising campaigns? For that matter, do we need more content campaigns?

I hate that term. I hate content campaigns.

Brian Clark: No, it’s not a campaign. It’s a shift in thinking.

Joe Pulizzi: What is a content campaign? I didn’t even know what that is. Is that a short-term content viral burst?

Brian Clark: Do magazine publishers have magazine campaigns? No, they produce a magazines. It s more that type of thinking than it is a campaign.

Joe Pulizzi: Well, yeah. We’re going to go do a blog. What the hell? What does that mean? We need, “Oh. Somebody get content for the blog today. Today we have to do a post. What?

The Coming Exodus of Talent Leaving the Enterprise for Startups

Brian Clark: You know what occurred to me, when I heard you were writing a book and thinking about the audience you have? A lot of the enterprise people will send certain designated people from the marketing department or corporate communications or what have you to events like Content Marketing World. They’re in charge of figuring out this content thing.

Then these people come back, and they’re inspired. They re fired up. They know what to do, and they know what will work if they can get internal buy-in, and it doesn’t come.

Has it occurred to you that some of those people in the existing audience may be looking at Content Inc. and thinking, “You know what? I know how to do this. I’m going out on my own. To me, that would be fantastic. Some of the enterprise companies out there may not think that s so great, but have you thought about that?

Joe Pulizzi: The dirty little secret that’s going on in our industry right now is you have a lot of really smart people in big companies that understand how to build audiences, that don’t get quite the respect they deserve or need or even support.

And yes, frankly, I’ve never seen — and I’m not saying any names, because we won’t do that, no names please — there are a lot of people that you and I know right now that are dissatisfied at their corporate job, and they want to do something for the greater good. They want to do something for themselves, and they want to do something for their families. And they know that they can go build an audience if they have the level of patience and determination and passion. They’re going to get there.

To answer you, that’s a long answer to your question, but yes, absolutely yes.

Brian Clark: But I mean, how could it not be?

Joe Pulizzi: This is our future entrepreneurs. And they are going to Content Marketing World. That’s why Robert Rose and I, we ve kicked around, “Hey. You know what, are we going to do like this startup thing around, because we see so many of these possibilities of companies launching from these corporate marketers that really want to be entrepreneurial. Because they’re already entrepreneurial. If you’re a content marketer, you probably have that entrepreneurial spirit already, because you have to in order to survive in a large company atmosphere.

Brian Clark: Yeah. That’s why my new project is aimed at the power of the small, the power that a media producer mindset could bring to a startup or even a production-style environment.

And you hear all the things that are threatening or radically changing the future of work, including automation, robotics, computerization. But it’s also just the dissatisfaction with how large companies work, and I think there’s a big movement coming. I think content may be the catalyst in a lot of ways, because the light bulb has gone off, as you’ve mentioned, for a lot of these people that are like, “Wait. I can do something here without a lot of money, with all these tools that are out there and just the freedom to do it correctly. I think that’s awesome.

Joe Pulizzi: It’s the golden age for entrepreneurship. Right now. And I think that the whole content movement and the no barriers to entry in the technology area and we’re all publishers. It’s all the same thing. We can all do it.

Just a quick story, because I think it’s interesting. I was speaking at a startup event, a bunch of venture capitalists in the audience — it was around the Cleveland area — and they were all talking, “We need more investment. We’ve got some group. We got this great momentum going on with these companies that are launching, and they’re creating these differentiated products and going to market. I heard the same old spiel or whatever: “You created a great, unique product. Put a lot of money behind it. Get that investment. Get your series A. Blah blah blah.

Of course, there’s me, the content guy, I’m like, I don’t even know why I’m on this panel, but hey, I’ll answer your question. I basically said, “You know what? We’re all doing it wrong. We are all launching businesses the wrong way thinking that our idea is so good that we’ll be able to figure out our audience s needs right now — that we’ve got it. That doesn’t work that way, even if you look at maybe the most famous accelerator on the planet. Y-Combinator has a 10 percent success rate. That’s pitiful.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to say, You know what? Let s go out and build an audience first. Let’s understand them better than anyone else in the world, and then we will know — just like you did. You’ll inherently start to figure out what products and services they need and when we’re ready to sell, we will have our buyers, because they’re going to buy anything we offer them because they trust us. I just think that’s a better way for startups to go today but nobody does this.

Everybody talked — even Peter Thiel in Zero to One, the book. Even though I love what he’s done: investor in Facebook, co-founder of PayPal, and he wrote a great book called Zero to One. But it starts the same as every other startup book. You have to create a product that’s different than anyone else … You know how hard that is to do?

Brian Clark: I know, and what we were talking about last week with Robert was that content, media, is the last way to truly differentiate. I can manufacture anything I want in China. I can copy any service model. It’s this unicorn thinking that drives me crazy.

Joe Pulizzi: It’s not a new concept either. I mean, Don Schultz, who is one of my heroes, the father of integrated marketing. I read an article that he wrote in 2003 in B2B Magazine. B2B is no longer around well, it s part of Ad Age, but the magazine’s gone now.

He wrote and said, “Look. Everything that you are creating as a business, as a commerce-backed business, can be duplicated except for how you communicate. He said it, and here we are. You’re talking about it. I’m talking, Robert — we talk about that all the time. But now, the difference is that you actually have more power to make change happen through content, because you can communicate directly. You don’t have that power 20 years ago. You had to have some kind of budget behind you. You don’t have to have that today.

Brian Clark: Yup. Preach, brother. This is the choir over here. Amen.

Joe Pulizzi: Preach it. Amen.

Multiple Examples of Successful Companies That Were ‘Audience First’

Brian Clark: All right. Let’s talk about some examples of companies who have done this. Now, there are a lot of companies that are really well-known to my audience. I think we do owe them acknowledgement here, because a lot of our peers have done what you’ve done and what I’ve done. We all have different businesses, and maybe we ended up with a different answer about, What problem or desire am I going to solve? and yet fundamentally, the mechanism that you lay out in Content Inc. is the same.

Joe Pulizzi: It’s the same thing. It’s basically, focus on who that audience is going to be. Figure out what your passion area is, mixed with what is something that you actually have authority — you like to use the word authority — to communicate on? What’s that content differentiation area? We call that the content tilt. Then build that base. Build that audience over time.

Some of the examples, of course we use the Copyblogger Media example throughout the book. We use the Content Marketing Institute example. We basically did the same thing, but we monetized it through different ways. You monetize that through the products that you sell. We monetize that through mostly our events, like Content Marketing World.

You ve got Moz, Rand Fishkin, who did the same thing. He built 100,000 email subscribers and made the pivot from the consulting business to selling products. We know the folks at Social Media Examiner have done the same type of model, where he monetizes his through mostly online products and services.

So there’s the ones I think we know about. The ones that we talk about in the book that we don’t know about, which I think are so interesting. If you look at somebody like Michelle Phan, who was a designer online, started a blog in 2005, started to build an audience, launched her books in 2010, launched her Pinterest page in 2011. She has now something like 13 million followers on Pinterest when it comes to all the designs she shares. I actually get her email newsletter, believe it or not. Now she’s got licensing, merchandising deals with Target, with Microsoft — a multi-millionaire. It’s just amazing what has happened by building an audience.

One that you may not have heard of that I think is good for the people listening to this who are trying to figure out, “Hey, I want to sell products,” is Trish Witkowski over at Fold Factory. Basically, what she’s selling is direct mail templates. Like If you want to put a mailing together, here’s some templates you could use.

So she created — and Andrew Davis, author of Brandscaping, tipped me off to this one — a video show, a regular video show, called The 60-Second Super-cool Fold of the Week. Just to think that you don’t have to have a lot of audience or subscribers to do this, she built her subscribership up to 3,100. So you might be thinking, “That’s not that much. For a B2B audience, that’s a good, solid audience. She’s been able to get about a million views of her videos over that time, and she’s been able to rack up well over $500,000 in direct revenue because of the videos.

By the way, that was an existing business, so she’s trying to figure, “Okay. How do I take an existing business concept and add in what we know as the Content Inc. model to that?” And that’s worked really well for her. I ve got a lot of good ones.

I love what Ann Reardon’s done, the baking queen of Sydney, Australia. Basically, in 2012, she was up late at night. She had a baby, and she was doing night feedings. She got bored. She was a qualified dietitian at the same time, and she created a blog called How to Cook That, and she did regular videos. But her content niche, or her content tilt, was around impossible food creations.

I don’t know if you remember, did you see the video of the Instagram cake? Brian, did you see this?

Brian Clark: No. I didn’t see that.

Joe Pulizzi: You are the only one that didn’t see it.

Brian Clark: You know me. I have to work for a living.

Joe Pulizzi: Basically, the outside looks like a chocolate cake, and you cut into it, and it was a replica of the Instagram logo. She did that inside the cake. It got millions and millions of views, so she went from 100 subscribers in 2012, to now, she’s got 1.7 million or something like that subscribers. Sixteen million views. I think her monthly view level is 16 million. It’s unbelievable, and Ann has been able to transform her business. She’s got licensing deals going on, promotional deals, merchandising deals. It’s just amazing.

The other thing you don’t think about when we talk about the examples — and you’re probably the best example of this, but I do a little bit on this as well — is the number of different ways you can monetize the platform. The average is like five to six different ways that people do.

It’s like “Oh hey, I’m selling this product. Well if you have a Content Inc. model, and you create a platform and an audience that knows and loves you, you could sell lots of different stuff. That’s what we see on all the examples we cover in the book. It’s like an average of four or five or six different ways. Like at Content Marketing Institute, we monetize in like 10, 11 different ways with different products we have. I think you guys probably have what? Four or five?

Brian Clark: Yeah.

Joe Pulizzi: When you look at it with the event, and the sponsorship, and the products that you sell, and the affiliate stuff. I mean, you ve got a little bit of everything going on.

Brian Clark: Yeah. We actually built the Rainmaker Platform by building each part and selling it, the classic bootstrapping strategy. Then we end up with, “Wow. We ve got a lot of stuff here.

You almost think about consolidation at some point, but as long as this thing is something that satisfies the problem or desire of the audience, they’re going to be inclined to work for us hosting. We got into that really to build the hosting component of the Rainmaker Platform, but that was the hosting that Copyblogger uses for its own site. Some people are like, “Sign me up. You know, we didn’t even push it hard, so yeah. It’s amazing.

Joe Pulizzi: It really is. The most amazing thing, just to kind of wrap up all examples and I think there’s a total of well over 50 examples in the book, and I love them, because most of them started with nothing. They started to create amazing content consistently over a platform.

But the one thing that we did, is when we did the interviews for the book and we look at each of the models, every one — and I’m not kidding you every one followed the same six steps. They did it in different time frames, but basically, the same six steps.

What’s the passion area? Define that first. What’s the content tilt? How are we going to build the base over time? How do we then harvest the audience? Then we move in to the diversification of, once the minimum viable audience is attained, we diversify into books or events or into social media channels or whatever. Then monetization.

The same thing. And that’s why I believe that if somebody reads the book, they could take this model and actually replicate it. Learn from you and I and everyone else and do this if you follow these steps. It just blew me away.

Actually, the most exciting for me is the simplicity of the model. It’s actually not complex at all. Like, if you go to building the base, it’s pick one main content type in one main content channel. Consistently distribute content over time. That’s like mind-blowing. But that’s what it is. That’s what everybody did. It just blows me away.

When Content Inc. Is Available for Purchase

Brian Clark: Yeah, I know. We’ve both been talking this for so long. I think sometimes, What’s not to get? But I will say that the way you boiled it down in Content Inc., over time, you find ways to explain things slightly differently, and you’ll see the light bulb go up.

So Content Inc. is released on September 8th. It is available for pre-order right now on Amazon. I think everyone who listens to this show needs a copy of this on their shelf. Other than my foreword, it’s a really good book. I ve got to do the false humility here.

The Inspiration behind the Content Inc. Summit

Brian Clark: Let’s talk a little bit about the Content Inc. Summit. So we ve got the big enterprise event, and companies big and small show up to Content Marketing World. But on the following day, September 11th, will be the Content Inc. Summit.

I want to talk about an example, and this is a guy who’s going to be there along with me and you, John Lee Dumas, the podcasting mad man. I mean, literally, this guy’s story amazes me. Not because of where he’s at, necessarily, although that’s impressive, but just how he attacked the world of podcasting as his content channel. Maybe you can run through a little bit of how John exemplifies some of these six steps or maybe the early ones.

Joe Pulizzi: Basically, he said, “We re going to focus on the entrepreneur, and we are going to solve entrepreneur’s problems and help them build their businesses. Specifically, we’re going to do this through this channel called podcasting, and we’re going to consistently deliver that message over time. He basically built that audience. He didn’t really have a revenue line or an idea of, How do we consistently build revenue?

I think what I love about John more than everyone else is that he does those monthly podcasts where he shares all of his financials. I dig that. Talk about some pure authenticity. It’s giving everything up.

Brian Clark: Yeah. At Moz, Rand was the first one I remember who had that kind of ultra-transparency. We try to do it to a certain degree, but it’s hard. I think we’re a little more old-school. Buffer does that really well. But John, yeah. He just lays it all out there.

Joe Pulizzi: Basically, he built an audience, and then once he built that minimum viable audience, he was able to sell.

The root for Content Inc., for the summit, it s the same thing, right? I had the last book — Epic Content Marketing — great for enterprise marketers. I wanted to have something for that small business, that entrepreneur, to say, “Hey. Here. This is for you. Just do this. Like they would say, “Hey, Joe, can I hire you for consulting? I’m like, “No. Save your money. Just read this, and then do it, and you’ll be fine.

And then we re going after the same thing at Content Marketing World. I mean, we ve got 11 concurrent sessions at Content Marketing World, mostly really shaped for — there are some SMB sessions, but most of them are shaped for the big boys. So we’re like, Okay. Well, I want that same thing for small businesses. Hey. This is for you.

You’re going to be talking. I’m talking. We ve got Matthew Patrick coming in, who — I don’t know if you’re familiar with his work on Game Theorists. He s got 4.8 million subscribers and has built an amazing business. He’s like YouTube’s number-one go-to guy or go-to to figure out analytics for YouTube. He’s going to be on there.

John Lee Dumas is going to be there. Andrew Davis, of course, is going to be kicking it off. It’s going to be fantastic, and I love it. You can be a small business startup entrepreneur in that room, and you will get nothing but six hours of value. You will come out of there inspired, but you will have enough that you will be able to say, “Look, I can do this for my business,” or “I can add this on to my existing business.

That was the hope. We’ll see. I think we’re going to get a really good crowd for it, but again, it’s a different audience that we’ve targeted. It’s on the back of Content Marketing World on Friday, 9 to 3.

Brian Clark: Yes. I’m attending both, but tell us how this works. If you want to go to the Content Inc. Summit alone, is that possible?

Joe Pulizzi: Yes. If you want to go to the Content Inc. Summit alone, actually, the easiest way to do it is just to go to the book site. Go to Content-Inc.com, and that’ll take you to the book site, and there’s a link right at the top for Content Inc. Summit. Just click there, and you’ll just go to the Summit site instead of having to go to Content Marketing World and go through all the other hoops. You don t have to do that. Just go to Content-Inc.com, and you’ll go directly to that page, and it’s going to be a blast.

Right now, of course, that’s where my passion is at, because I love to see these smaller businesses or entrepreneurs actually feel like they have a chance, and you and I both saying the same thing. You actually have a better chance in some cases that the one with all the budget money, because it’s so much more difficult in a large enterprise to do this.

Brian Clark: Yeah. Okay, we’re going to link that up in the show notes as well for easy access. Joe, my friend, you know, every year, I give you a hard time about Cleveland, which you love. You love your city.

Joe Pulizzi: I do.

Brian Clark: I’m looking forward to being there, and I’m really excited. I don’t know, after all these years, I still get fired up, and that’s a good sign, because if I don’t, I need to retire.

Joe Pulizzi: Hey, man, you’ve been along for this ride. It’s hard to believe. Remember the first year, we were just hoping for a couple hundred, and I said, “Brian, would you please speak? I need your help,” and we had 600 show up that year. Now we’re going to be over 3,000 this year.

Brian Clark: I know. That’s amazing.

Joe Pulizzi: It’s hard to believe.

Brian Clark: You put on amazing show. Every year I m just like, This is huge, and yet — no names on this side either — I’ve been to a few shows where they were just horrible. I mean, everything was wrong. The speakers are not treated well. But you really put on a class show. It’s amazing. I know you work hard to do it, but you make it look effortless while wearing orange, I should mention.

Joe Pulizzi: You know what, if you wore a little bit more orange, I think the world would be a better place as well.

Brian Clark: I’m a Broncos fan now. Can I wear just a Broncos jersey, or is that going to offend your Browns sensibility?

Joe Pulizzi: You know what, you’re fine in the convention center, but if you wear it around downtown Cleveland, you may be lost.

Brian Clark: I don’t mess around in downtown Cleveland. I just keep eyes forward.

Joe Pulizzi: We still remember the drive and the fumble.

Brian Clark: I know. You never get over that stuff.

Joe Pulizzi: Oh no. We can’t get over it because we haven’t won a championship in over 50 years.

Brian Clark: If LeBron could bring it home, I think it might ease some pain, but …

Joe Pulizzi: It will ease all the pain. It’ll all be forgotten. So hopefully soon, because people are dying here.

Brian Clark: I was going for the Cavs. God, I just want you guys to win something. Anything.

Joe Pulizzi: It’ll happen. It s certainly not going to be the Browns this year. But it could be the Cavs.

Brian Clark: All right, my friend, thank you again. I will see you shortly. Everyone out there, seriously, for the price of the book, I think you’re going to be over-delivered with inspiration but also methodology, and I think that’s important. So Content Inc. Check it out. Joe, take care.

Joe Pulizzi: See you soon, bro. Thanks for all your support.

Aug 20 2015

38mins

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Rank #11: A Different Way to Think About Your Online Competition

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Every online business faces competition for its product or service. But competition does not have to be a bad thing, if you look at it the right way.

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Online entrepreneurs tend to think of their products and services as unique. So unique that they don’t always worry about their competition.

The truth is we all face competition when selling our wares online; whether it is someone directly competing against our offering, or just the status quo.

However, with a slight change in your thinking and approach, you may find that understanding what constitutes your competition – through competitive research – may actually be a huge benefit to the growth of your business.

But be careful, if you don’t approach competitive research the right way, you may find that you become too distracted with trying to match what others are providing, and lose focus on what makes you unique.

Our guest on this episode is Jon Henshaw of Raven Tools. Jon was an early pioneer in SEO and the co-creator of one of the top SEO reporting tools in the space. He shares with us his journey in creating a market-leading online application, how he responded to all of the competitors that came after him, and his advice for how you can meet the challenges presented by your competitors.

In this 36-minute episode, Sean Jackson, Jessica Frick, and Jon Henshaw discuss the best ways to address competitive factors, including …

  • A new way of thinking about competition
  • Why being one of the first in a market can be a challenge
  • How to respond to knock-off products
  • And the best way to make sure your online efforts don’t get derailed
  • Finally, our question for the week – Should you write a book?

Listen to The Digital Entrepreneur below ...

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The Show Notes

  • If you’re ready to see for yourself why more than 201,344 website owners trust StudioPress — the industry standard for premium WordPress themes and plugins — swing by StudioPress.com for all the details.
  • One of the best tools for online marketing reporting, Raven Tools
  • A simple way to do competitive research on websites, SimilarWeb
  • A very comprehensive SEO Analysis tool, Majestic SEO
  • Follow Sean on Twitter
  • Follow Jessica on Twitter

The Transcript

A Different Way To Think About Your Online Competition

Voiceover: Rainmaker FM.

You are listening to The Digital Entrepreneur. The show for folks who want to discover smarter ways to create and sell profitable digital goods and services. This podcast is a production of Digital Commerce Institute, the place to be for digital entrepreneurs. For more information go to Rainmaker.FM/DigitalCommerce. That’s Rainmaker.FM/DigitalCommerce.

Sean Jackson: Welcome to The Digital Entrepreneur, everyone. I am your host, Sean Jackson. I’m joined, as always, by the eclectic Jessica Frick. Jessica, how the Frick are you today?

Jessica Frick: I am eclectic, Sean. How the Jackson are you?

Sean Jackson: Very good. I got a new thesaurus, so I’m going to try new names.

Jessica Frick: Oh boy.

Sean Jackson: Oh boy.

Jessica Frick: Oh boy, it’s on now.

Sean Jackson: We left last week’s episode with the question of the week, which is this: How much is too much competitive research? Obviously you’re going to do some of it if you’re an online entrepreneur, but how much is too much? Jess, what do you say? Should you do a lot of it, a little of it, or none at all? What do you say?

Jessica Frick: I think you need to do a lot of it. Obviously you can’t focus all of your attention on it, but I don’t think you should ever really take your eye off of the game.

Sean Jackson: Yeah, I understand that. But here’s the thing though — if you’re a small business guy or gal, your time is probably the most valuable asset that you have, and you never have enough of it. There’s only 24 hours in the day, that’s it. If you are spending too much time worrying or looking at what other people do, don’t you think there’s a tendency to start to morph into meeting what your competition is doing and not trying to concentrate on your unique proposition by yourself?

Jessica Frick: Well, I can see how being untainted with your view of your product could certainly help you be unique. But if you don’t know what’s in the market and perhaps what’s failed or why, or what the market even is asking for, how could you possibly know whether a) you’re unique, and b) whether you’ve really got something you want to put your weight behind?

A New Way of Thinking About Competition

Sean Jackson: Yeah. Maybe it’s a matter of semantics. Competitive research, to me, implies this concept of, “I have a competitor out there. I’m going to be watching them diligently and I’m going to be meeting them step by step by step.” As opposed to — and I’ll throw out a new idea — alternative research. We have alternative facts. If we have alternative facts, we can have alternative research, right?

Jessica Frick: Oh boy. Oh Jeez. Okay, so what is alternative research, Sean?

Sean Jackson: Alternative research is this concept of, “What are the alternatives to my product or service that are available out there?” Not, “Who is my competition?” per se, but, “What are the alternatives that I’m competing against?” Maybe people are using a very simple Excel spreadsheet to do their job. That’s an alternative to what you’re doing, that’s not a competitor. You’re not going to compete against Microsoft, for goodness sakes, but it is an alternative to what is out there.

So maybe, as part of your normal work week, thinking about what are the alternatives that people are turning to, and then looking at that as a way to understand your audience better. While at the same time realizing that those alternatives have competing factors that you may be able to address. What do you think of that?

Jessica Frick: I think that’s really smart. I think the message here is, “Don’t try to keep up with the Jones’, but know why you’re better than the Jones’.”

Sean Jackson: Don’t ignore them either. That’s right. I think that comes down to it. I look at competitive research, and I’ve seen companies that have actually gotten so fixated on it that they’re trying to match feature for feature, or they’re trying to play … They get pulled off of their messaging and start to morph into their competition’s messaging, which pretty much makes them indifferent — not indifferent, what is it?

Jessica Frick: Yeah.

Sean Jackson: Non-differential in the marketplace.

Jessica Frick: Yep. Master of none.

Sean Jackson: Yeah, exactly. So I think there’s a balance. But I do think you are correct. You need to be keenly aware of the ecosystem. What is happening there? What is going on? What are people looking at doing? That could be a direct competitor — a product or service that is literally targeting you — or it could be, “Hey, people are figuring out some other way to accomplish what they want.” That’s the alternative that they are using. Knowing that may make your product better if you can make that alternative not so attractive.

Jessica Frick: I think that — what you just said — is airtight. I got nothing.

Sean Jackson: Oh wow. I finally got one right? Oh my gosh, Jess. It only took us so many episodes for me to be right about something. Holy cow! I feel so special.

Jessica Frick: Yeah. Nailed it.

Sean Jackson: So, now that I’ve won one, Jess. Let’s do this. Let’s talk about who we have on the show today. Because we have a very special guest coming up in the next segment.
Who is that, Jess?

Jessica Frick: We have Jon Henshaw from Raven Tools and now TapClicks.

Sean Jackson: Exactly, and Jon, I think, understands this idea of competitive research. He created up a product that was a leader in its space. Where many people came in and copied him, etc. He has gone through the trials and tribulations of being the only person, to having tons of people — what that did to his business, where it led him, and what he learned from it.

When we get back from the break, Jess and I are going to be interviewing Jon Henshaw from Raven Tools — a very close friend of ours — about how he thought — and thinks — about competitive research in the technology space. You won’t want to miss this, so stay tuned.

Voiceover:The Digital Entrepreneur is brought to you by the all-new StudioPress Sites, a turnkey solution that combines the ease of an all-in-one website builder with the flexible power of WordPress. It’s perfect for bloggers, podcasters, and affiliate marketers, as well as those selling physical goods, digital downloads, and membership programs. If you’re ready to take your WordPress site to the next level, see for yourself why over 200,000 website owners trust StudioPress. Go to Rainmaker.FM/StudioPress right now. That’s Rainmaker.FM/StudioPress.

Sean Jackson: Welcome back from the break, everyone. Jessica, we have on today’s show, a good friend to both of us, actually, our good buddy, Jon Henshaw. Will you please introduce Jon Henshaw, The Awesome One, to our amazing audience?

Jessica Frick: The Awesome One, and of course the All-American water polo player.

Sean Jackson: Oh, good one.

Jessica Frick: I know, but I do have a much better intro. Jon is the director of digital marketing and product evangelist for TapClicks and Raven Tools. Big news there, TapClicks and Raven Tools. He is the co-founder of Raven Internet Marketing Tools, an online marketing management and reporting platform that was recently acquired by TapClicks. He has lived all over the world, and is most certainly a subject-matter expert and one heck of an awesome guy. Jon Henshaw.

Jon Henshaw: Awww. That’s the greatest intro I think I’ve ever had. I want you to introduce me as “The Awesome One” to my kids. I want to see how they react.

Sean Jackson: More importantly, to his wife actually. She wouldn’t even know who that is.

Jon Henshaw: Right. She’d be like, “What? Who are you and why are you saying that?”

Sean Jackson: Hey, Jon, thank you. Thank you for being on the show, man. Really appreciate it.

Jon Henshaw: Thanks for having me.

Why Being One of the First in a Market Can Be a Challenge

Sean Jackson: So let’s get into this, Jon. Your story is fascinating to me, insofar as what you did with Raven. I got into SEO back around 2006ish, 2007, and Raven was at all of these SEO conferences that I kept attending. It was great because Raven was the only person there with a suite of tools that were designed for the SEO space at the time. Your story is fairly interesting. While you were the first ones, you weren’t the only one. Tell us a little bit about how that was — to be one of the first out of the gate — and the metamorphosis that occurred over the years.

Jon Henshaw: Well, it’s interesting, because being first out of the gate is both a blessing and a curse. It’s the type of thing where you’re definitely getting attention for what you’re doing, because you essentially were in a position of innovating. If nobody’s done it before, you’re basically innovating. You are creating something that nobody has yet.

At the same time, when you’re the first person doing it, it’s not exactly the best. It’s just the best we had at the time. When we first launched it, it was not good, and people told us. We actually took it into a private beta after that. The reason why was because we had some big agencies both in the U.S. and the UK. They saw what we were doing. They needed it, and they didn’t want to build it themselves because it was complex, what we were doing. They were basically like, “If you will work with us, we will help you in what we need,” as far as … We had a few problems we still weren’t solving for them, so they worked with us to help them solve those problems.

After about six to nine months, we re-launched it and that ended up being successful. That’s even a good piece of information for anybody trying to enter a space and to do something where maybe there isn’t a solution there yet. That is, you’re going to get the best product when you work really closely with the people who need that product. That was really what set us on a good foot and made us, I would say, successful — particularly for the first several years.

Sean Jackson: Right. I think that’s an interesting part and a good story. You were coming into the SEO space when it still had a big black hat or black box mystique around it. It was this very unique art form, etc. You were one of the first people to put all of these tools into a suite that people could use to manage their online marketing, specifically in the search marketing space. But there was a downside to all this, Jon. Because you were the first one, you had to focus and make it better. Then you released it out there and everybody starts saying, “Wow. Raven Tools, Raven Tools, Raven Tools,” But then something happened along the way, which is …

Jon Henshaw: Competition.

Sean Jackson: Exactly. Which is the whole point of today’s show.

Jon Henshaw: Was I supposed to answer that?

Sean Jackson: Yes, you were. You did. That had to drive you crazy. Here you are, small guys in Tennessee coming out with this tool, and everyone’s finally raving about Raven Tools. You got it working, and then every day it seems like there’s somebody new. Talk about that.

Jon Henshaw: Well, it was interesting at first. When it’s such a small field of players everybody knows about each other. Back then, we would really know about our competitors because there weren’t that many people to look for or look at. On top of that, if you’re very competitive, like I am, you’re always going, “What are they doing?” and trying to second guess what their next move’s going to be. “What do they mean by that particular blog or press release?” That type of thing. You drive yourself crazy.

That is okay, particularly when it’s a small field and everybody’s innovating, because it keeps you innovating at a very quick pace. The same is true for them. What you do, then they’ll do, and then the other person will do something. But I would say, as the market matures in that area and you start to get more people, it’s not really sustainable. As you start to expand what you do …

In other words, if you’re constantly innovating, then you’re most likely making new tools and new features, then another tool, and then a new feature — which was generally the case with us and especially those early competitors. Then you get to a point where you can’t live like that. I think for us, we started to want to make our own path and have our own vision. I remember where we started with SEO. I had this vision of, “Oh, I want to be more than SEO now,” There was a whole, “We could go way down this path, and we can do social and we could do paid,” that type of thing. The other people we were competing with earlier on started to go down another path, and that seemed like a really good idea at the time.

It seemed like that would help us remain competitive and make us unique and different, but something along the way happened that I didn’t see coming — some of this is from lack of experience — that was the bigger you want to get and the more that you want to do, it opens up opportunities for new competitors to come in and take a piece of your pie. What I saw that started to happen was — there were people who would go, “You know what? That’s a really awesome tool that they’re doing over there. I see they’re making money off of that. We’d like to make some money off that too.”

Sean Jackson: Yeah.

Jon Henshaw: I think the very first one where people started coming in was with the rank tracking. Nobody was doing it. We were one of the very first people — we may have been the first person, or first company to do a web SaaS-based model of rank tracking. I think before us there was WebCEO, but that was all desktop-based. You ran it off your computer.

I think we were one of the first ones to actually, back then, do the scraping and then get the data as a web service. A lot of people started seeing that and entering that space. Before you knew it — I would look around and it was, “There are five companies doing this now, there are 10 companies, there are 20 companies.” It was insane. It seemed like practically every week there would be a new company that’s like, “We do rank tracking. We do it better than Raven. We do it better than — ” maybe some other competitor that started to become more well known. It gets kind of crazy.

Of course, we’re off trying to do all these different things. I guess what happened was … They have an advantage that you don’t have if you start building your product more diverse, bigger, and with more tools than maybe it needs to have, and that is that they are focusing on that one thing to try and make that better than you. That’s their core focus and that’s their only focus. It is easy to not be able to compete as well as you go forward if you’re focused on too many things.

Sean Jackson: Right.

Jon Henshaw: It’s easy for them to actually come in and take market share if they’re only focused on that one thing. So that was something that we definitely experienced around at least the ranking and a few other areas that we added to our platform.

How to Respond to Knock-off Products

Sean Jackson: But how do you handle this? What is the recommendation that you have to handle this going forward? Here you are, you’re creating up something new in a space. You’re getting attention. You start to make some money. You decide that you can do so much more and you start branching off. All these people come, chipping away. How do you handle that? How do you recommend people look at that? Inevitably, if you have any type of success online, this model will be something that happens to you. How do you recommend people should handle this?

Jon Henshaw: I can tell you how we did handle it, but I’m not sure that’s the right way to handle it. A lot of it depends on your resources. I think the trouble we got into was that I in particular had a very ambitious vision for what I wanted the product to be, but at the same time my business partners and I wanted to remain bootstrapped. We were prideful and liked the ability to retain control and make decisions on our own and to not have to be able to deal with a demand from a banker or something like that. We liked that level of control, yet we wanted to build this gigantic thing. Looking back on it, that’s really hard to pull off. I think very few people pull it off.

If we had gone originally the VC route and we actually had a lot of money and we could spend it on a lot of resources, I think it may have worked out a lot better than I thought it would have — or did, that is. In that case it might work out. But if you’re asking me, “What have I learned?” Looking back, I would not have tried to build so many different things — especially tools and resources — that were very different from each other.

The reason why is because a lot of the things that we were known for early on ended up being chipped away and taken, from those other companies who were only focusing on those core tools. Whereas we were trying to do all these other things. I would even say that is what led us to why people use Raven today the most, and why we were even of interest to TapClicks to acquire us, which is, at the end of the day we were able to sustain the best link management and link building tool out there.

We had it at the time, but we had people like BuzzStream come along and because they were micro — just totally focused on it — they were able to just innovate and make a better version of that than what we had originally done. What we were able to do is the reporting. Because we had become so diverse and made tools all around this, it enabled us to connect to a ton of data connections, so we evolved into a marketing report platform almost unbeknownst to us. Originally it was all about management tools and outreach, that type of thing. When it was all said and done, we ended up becoming more of this analysis and reporting tool set. We allowed these other people to come in and grab market share on the smaller areas.

Sean Jackson: Gotcha. Let’s talk about how you factor in the competitive side for our audience to think about it. In other words, you were doing a lot of innovation, but it wasn’t necessarily driven in response to your competition. It was more driven into the view that you had in this world. “I want to achieve this. I want to create this. I have the resources to do it, hence I’m going to go do it.”

But when you started to see that competition, how did you respond to it? There is a psychological aspect when you saw some people that were innovating on tools that you had literally created up and were basically drawing away. What would you suggest our audience think about that? How to respond to that competition, if you will?

Jon Henshaw: You obsess over it. If you are a person who it’s your company and it’s your thing, or you’re the product person, it’s really difficult to not obsess over it. So you definitely obsess over it. If anybody out there is like, “Yeah, I obsess over it,” then you’re normal. If you’re not obsessing over it, you’re not normal. You should probably be doing something else.

So you obsess over it, but the most practical way to approach it is don’t freak out, just look at what is it they’re doing that you can do and what is it that they’re not doing that you could do. That’s generally how I would approach it. I would go, “Okay, that’s really cool, what you did. I don’t like it because that’ll probably appeal to my prospective customer, but now let me think of what’s the thing that I can usurp that with? What is the thing that I think is next? What is something that is current that I think would be incredibly useful to our customers and potential customers. Something that would be very marketable.” That’s what we would do.

That would be my advice to anybody out there if they’re sitting there like, “Okay, here’s my product. I already have my road map. I’m happy with where we’re going, but now this competitor over here has come in and they’ve released this really cool feature and I don’t have that.” Then I think the approach is basically, “One, can you add that and can you do it quickly? Then two, can you make it better?” Then the third part being, “Is there something they don’t even have that’s not even related to that, that if you added would make you look even better than them?” That’s generally how we’ve approached it in the past and that is how I approach things today.

The Best Way to Make Sure Your Online Efforts Don’t Get Derailed

Jessica Frick: Obviously you’re a data guy, big into analysis. Is analysis paralysis even real for digital entrepreneurs? Can you go too far? And if you do, how do you know that you’re there?

Jon Henshaw: As far as data goes, data’s important to me, but I’m more interested in the result of that data. I want to know, “What did you find?” A lot of times people can get stuck in looking at the data constantly, even thinking, “I don’t have enough data.” The truth is that you’re never going to have enough data.

The other problem with obsessing over data is that you can never come to conclusions sometimes. In other words, we did a bunch of research around different areas, and when we looked at it we were like, “I have no conclusion. I’m not even sure what to do here. The data’s all over the place.” It’s so difficult to get to that. So instead of getting mired down in data — especially if that data doesn’t have a clear direction or solution — what we would do in those situations is … Just talk to your customers.

It’s literally almost from a UX perspective. How they do those type of interviews and things. Talk to your existing customers. Talk to the people who are loyal to you. Talk to the people who will be honest with you. Talk to the people who have left, if they will give you the time of day. Find out what it is that was keeping them there, why they were drawn toward it, why they left, or why they went to that competitor.

That’s the type of research that, I think, ends up giving you the most insights. Especially when it’s person to person, not some survey. Literally spending time with them on the phone or in real life and getting an idea of what’s really going on there. Then as you start to collect that — you don’t have to interview 100 people or 1,000 people. Typically, in the past for us, once we’ve talked to about 10 or 15 people we had a pretty good idea of what was going on around a certain area.

From there you can use both data and your gut to make better product decisions and maybe pivot or change some of your roadmap to take care of some of the issues that you found after talking with them. Those things will present themselves. They’ll start to become obvious. I think the problem that people get into is when they stay at one of those extremes, meaning that you’re almost always going to make bad decisions and get in trouble if you are only following your gut, and you’re almost always going to miss something or go the wrong direction if you’re only looking at data.

To find that happy medium, to not do things based on a giant committee but have a couple decision-makers … “You guys make the decision and just do it.” It’s either going to work or it’s not. That combination of: get enough data that’s actual hard data, that’s quantitative, but then get that qualitative part. Then you just have to make a decision from there and hope it’s the right decision.

Sean Jackson: Jon, I want to follow up on that. I’m going to tell you, as someone listening to this, I would be thinking, “This is all great information, except for what you just said.” Which I 100 percent agree with, which is, “Talk to the customer.” Literally talk to the customer. But here’s something that can happen. The customer, especially if they are someone who switched to the competition, may call your baby ugly. Not your physical baby, but the baby that you put blood, sweat, and tears in. Months and years of building up and seeing your competitors attack.

Talking to someone who’s left … How do you get over that? There’s no question that Raven Tools — the passion and soul that you and Scott brought to this was huge. You can see it manifested in the product. And then to talk to someone who’s left you has got to be gut wrenching. Someone who you’re talking to and they may not even get it. Or they may be paying you, but they’re not really happy about it, they just were told to do it. How do you get over that psychology of having someone tell you the truth?

Jon Henshaw: By me not talking to them. That’s really what it comes down to, seriously. The amount of confirmation bias that I bring to something — I don’t think I’ve ever done a survey where my bias wasn’t all over it based on either what I wanted the answer to be or what I was interested in. Probably the only way to go about doing this is to make sure that a founder — or somebody who’s a stakeholder in the sense of stock and financial interest and that type of thing — is not doing the actual asking, is not doing the interviewing.

You always want to try to find somebody who has the least stake into it, in that sense, to be the person who does the interviewing, who does the questioning, or that works with the data. That’s your best chance of it not being tainted. If you’re a co-founder, or if you’re somebody who’s in that decision-making place and you still can’t deal with that data, well you have your own personal problems. You’re going to have to deal with that yourself.

In other words, part of being a leader and making good decisions is that you can handle things that you don’t like and information you don’t like, and you can make good decisions based on that. The best decisions we’ve ever made with a product have always been either having a third party or somebody who is truly impartial do the questioning and gathering that information, running the analysis and creating those insights, and then presenting that to us so we can make good decisions.

Sean Jackson: You know what, Jon? I loved how you ended this interview, and I think you’re 100 percent spot on.

Jon Henshaw: Wait, it’s over?

Sean Jackson: Yes. I cannot thank you enough for being on our show today and truly sharing both your insight — which was a hard learn, to put it mildly, over many years. Again, congratulations on your new role with TapClick. We truly appreciate you and everything you do for us.

Jon Henshaw: Thank you, and I have to say — you said it earlier, but both of you are wonderful friends. I’ve known you for a long time, and I really look forward to seeing you soon, hopefully at State of Search or something like that.

Sean Jackson: There we go. Jon Henshaw, everybody. We’re going to be right back after this short break.

Hey, everyone, this is Sean Jackson, the host of The Digital Entrepreneur. I want to ask you a simple question. What is your business framework for selling digital goods online? Now, if the question perplexes you, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Most people don’t realize that the most successful digital entrepreneurs have a framework, or a general process for creating and selling their digital goods in the online space.

One of the best free resources is Digital Commerce Academy. Digital Commerce Academy combines online learning with case studies and webinars created by people who make a living selling digital goods online. The best part is that this material is free when you register. Are you interested in joining? Well I’ll make it easy for you. If you’re listening to this show on your phone and are in the continental United States, I want you to send a text message to 313131 with the keyword “DIGITS”. When you send the text message, we will send you a link to the registration form right to your phone.

Are you outside the United States? Don’t worry. Just send us an email to digits@Rainmaker.FM. Either way, we’ll send you a link to the registration form so that you can sign up for free for Digital Commerce Academy. And, as a special bonus, we will also subscribe you to our newsletter when you text or email us so that you can stay informed with the latest insights from the show. Don’t worry, we respect your privacy. We will not share your email or phone number, and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.

So if you want to start building or improving your framework for selling digital goods online, then please send a text to 313131 with the keyword “DIGITS”, or send us an email at Digits@Rainmaker.FM, you won’t be disappointed.

Welcome back from the break, everyone. It’s the time of the show where we give our recommendations for the week. Jess, let me guess what you’re going to say. I think you, being the nice sweet person that you are, are probably going to say that people should be looking at …

Jessica Frick: What’s your guess?

Sean Jackson: Um … Raven Tools?

Jessica Frick: Yes, that is my tool to recommend. When I worked with Rainmaker I used Raven all the time. Now that I’m working with PushFire, obviously we are huge fans of Raven Tools and also TapClicks. The difference here — I think for those who are listening to this show, you’re probably not enterprise level just yet. You may be running an agency, in which case TapClicks is a fantastic option for you and your client reporting. If you need just the essentials — bringing everything together, helping you do a comprehensive overview of everything that you should be knowing as far as the digital landscape is concerned with your business — Raven Tools has what you need.

Sean Jackson: This is not a sales pitch. This is a recommendation. I would concur with your recommendation, but not in such a sales-y way. Mine is actually something that Jon told us that he likes to use. When he’s doing competitive research he actually likes to use SimilarWeb, which is kind of interesting. It is a service site I hadn’t really learned or heard a lot about. He’s definitely a big fan of SimilarWeb. I’ve used it. It’s a good way to get sites and categories in some sort of order and listing. Then on the SEO side, they use — at Raven Tools — all of the different SEO services out there. Right, Jess? They are very comprehensive in what they do.

Jessica Frick: Absolutely.

Sean Jackson: The one that he tends to turn to though is Majestic. Even though Moz is fantastic, Ahrefs, etc. All of them have their strengths and weaknesses. Majestic has been a tool, from the SEO perspective — looking at the backlink structure, looking at some of the SEO details that are somewhat technical, to be fair. He tends to lean towards Majestic.

So that’ll be my recommendation. Using SimilarWeb to look at sites and categories and rankings they’re in, and then, of course, conversely looking at Majestic for the SEO aspect of your site at a fairly detailed level. You’ve used Majestic. It’s a phenomenal tool, like all of them, but it can be very detailed, which is why Raven makes it so nice. At the same token, those are the two that I recommend. We’ve got Raven, TapClicks, SimilarWeb and, of course, Majestic as our recommendations of the week. Jess, ready for the question that we want to leave everyone pondering as we conclude this episode?

Jessica Frick: I’m ready.

Sean Jackson: Should you, as a digital entrepreneur, write a book?

Jessica Frick: No.

Sean Jackson: No? What?

Jessica Frick: You can, but you don’t need to.

Sean Jackson: Ah. Well, that’s a good point. Maybe you don’t need to.

Jessica Frick: I feel like everybody’s saying, “You have to.” I’m going to guess you’re going to say you do.

Sean Jackson: Well of course I’m going to say you do. I think if you’re going to be in the online space and if you really want to stand out … You remember how we were talking about how weird do you need to be or how unique and remarkable you need to be? I think a book puts a big value on there. I call it the $15 business card. Trust me, you go into any meeting and you put that down — no one’s going to read the thing — boy, you become an instant authority just because you have a paperback volume with your name on it.

Jessica Frick: I think we should discuss this more at length.

Sean Jackson: I think it is deserving of a deeper conversation, which we will do on the next episode of The Digital Entrepreneur. Everyone, have a great week.

Jessica Frick: Thanks for listening.

May 11 2017

35mins

Play

Rank #12: The 5 Things Your Customers Actually Want to Buy

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Struggling with how to sell the benefits of your online products? Then this episode will help.

Rainmaker.FM is Brought to You By

Discover why more than 80,000 companies in 135 countries choose WP Engine for managed WordPress hosting.

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In marketing, we often hear the phrase “sell the benefits, not the features.” The truth is that it is hard to find the right benefit unless you know what your customers actually want to buy.

In this 15 minute episode, Sean Jackson details the five things people actually “want” from any product they purchase, including…

  • The real reason “easy” is such a powerful benefit
  • Why promoting physical comfort is actually a reward trigger
  • Why a bored customer can be a great buyer
  • The role of identity and social acknowledgment in marketing copy
  • And the tool recommendation for the week

Listen to The Digital Entrepreneur below ...

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The Show Notes

Oct 12 2017

15mins

Play

Rank #13: The Biggest Challenge to Running an Online Business

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Online entrepreneurs must overcome many factors to succeed online. But one challenge stands out the most.

Rainmaker.FM is Brought to You By

Discover why more than 80,000 companies in 135 countries choose WP Engine for managed WordPress hosting.

Start getting more from your site today!

This is part 4 of a 4-part summer series of short, inspirational, and thought-provoking concepts to help you succeed online.

Jessica and Sean will return to their normal programming schedule starting in September 2017.

Listen to The Digital Entrepreneur below ...

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Aug 24 2017

6mins

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Rank #14: Just Because You Can, Doesn’t Mean You Should (Plus Other Life Lessons from Seth Spears)

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This week’s guest specializes in helping small business owners and bloggers take their businesses to the next level. He wants to assist others in creating a strategy for long-term success. He is Seth Spears, and he is a Digital Entrepreneur.

In this 34-minute episode, Seth walks you through his journey as a digital entrepreneur:

  • How Seth used just-in-time learning and a strong work ethic to go from “miserable” to pursuing his life dreams
  • His advice on just because you can do something, doesn’t mean that you should
  • Why being a self-learner has helped him accomplish what he’s set out to do
  • The importance of focusing on what you’re good at (and where there is demand)

And more.

Plus, Seth answers my rapid fire questions at the end in which he reveals the productivity hack that you can implement into your routine to get more meaningful work done.

Listen to The Digital Entrepreneur below ...

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The Show Notes

The Transcript

Just Because You Can, Doesn’t Mean You Should (Plus Other Life Lessons from Seth Spears)

Voiceover: Rainmaker.FM. You are listening to The Digital Entrepreneur, the show for folks who want to discover smarter ways to create and sell profitable digital goods and services. This podcast is a production of Digital Commerce Institute, the place to be for digital entrepreneurs. DCI features an in-depth, ongoing instructional academy, plus a live education and networking summit where entrepreneurs from across the globe meet in person. For more information, go to Rainmaker.FM/DigitalCommerce.

Jerod Morris: Welcome back to The Digital Entrepreneur, the show where digital entrepreneurs share their stories and the lessons they’ve learned so that we can all be better in our online pursuits. I am your host, Jerod Morris, the VP of marketing for Rainmaker Digital, and this is episode No. 36.

This episode of The Digital Entrepreneur is brought to you by the Rainmaker Platform. I will tell you more about this complete solution for digital marketing and sales later, but you can check it out and take a free spin for yourself at Rainmaker.FM/Platform.

On this week’s episode, I have a guest who’s been obsessed with quality from a young age. Seriously, he is crazy about quality. If it’s not the best, he won’t have it. He got his start in digital entrepreneurship in 2009 when he founded his own one-man digital marketing shop that has now grown into a small boutique agency of employees and contractors serving dozens of clients around the world.

He specializes in helping small business owners and bloggers who are crazy-passionate about their area of expertise take their business to the next level by creating a strategy for long-term success. He is Seth Spears, and he is a digital entrepreneur.

Seth, welcome to The Digital Entrepreneur. It’s great to have you on the show.

Seth Spears: Hey, Jerod, thanks for having me.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, for sure. This will be really good. It was great seeing you at Digital Commerce Summit. Glad you were able to make it out there.

Seth Spears: Yes, I had a great time.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, it was good. Let’s hope in here, Seth. I’ve always believed that the number one benefit of digital entrepreneurship is freedom. I think that’s what a lot of people feel that it is — the freedom to choose your projects, to chart your course, and ultimately, the freedom to change your life and your family’s life for the better. What is the biggest benefit that you have derived from being a digital entrepreneur?

Why Seth Loves the Balance Freedom Brings to Keep Him Centered and Focused

Seth Spears: I would completely agree with that statement as far as freedom. Especially the time freedom. Some people, they have monetary freedom where they make a lot of money, but they don’t have any time to enjoy it. They’re a slave to their desk, their office, or wherever. They’ve got to be there 24/7. When I think of that, I think of attorneys or doctors.

They’re high paid professionals, but they’re completely reliant upon being there and doing the work, so they don’t have the time to spend with family and friends, travel, and do the things that they enjoy. So I completely agree that having that time freedom and being able to work either in an office or coffee shop or at home or traveling is definitely the biggest benefit to being a digital entrepreneur.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, there’s certainly something admirable about putting in tons of hours and doing the work, but it does kind of lead to the question “what’s it all for?” if you don’t have the time to spend it with the people that you care about most and doing the things that you love doing the most.

Seth Spears: Yeah, exactly. That’s something that I’ve thought about a lot, especially over the past six months or so because I’ve certainly put in a lot of hours over the past few years as far as just work on either my own business or the clients’, et cetera. No stranger to the hard work and putting in lots of hours. But then at the end of the day, it’s, “How much work do you actually want to do?”

You get to a certain point where you’re like, “I can continue to grow this. I can continue to push and make more and make it bigger and better, but then why? Why am I doing this? Why am I pushing so much if I’m not using either the money or the time, et cetera, to spend time with my family, do things that I enjoy, or hang out with friends?”

I think it’s all part of finding a balance there. Both of them have their time and their place because, on the flip side of that, if you just spend all your time just doing what you enjoy, well, then you’re not going to be very motivated. You’re going to be kind of lazy. That’s great and all, but at the end of the day, I think you got to have some balance. That keeps us centered and focused.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, I agree. Balance is definitely the key.

Let’s go back. Take me back before you became a digital entrepreneur. What were you doing, and what was missing that lead you to want to make a change?

How Seth Used Just-In-Time Learning and a Strong Work Ethic to Go From ‘Miserable’ to Pursuing His Life Dreams

Seth Spears: Great question. Back in 2009, I was working for a small college in Nashville, Tennessee. I was the Assistant Director of Admissions, so basically recruiting students, handling paperwork, traveling to college fairs, and all kinds of stuff like that. I was miserable. I hated it.

When I was in college I always had this expectation that I was going to major in business. I was going to graduate. I was going to meet the girl of my dreams, get married, have kids, start my own business, and sail off into the sunset and live happily ever after.

Jerod Morris: You had it all mapped out.

Seth Spears: Yeah, except that didn’t actually happen. It’s kind of happened now, but not exactly in the timing or the way that I was hoping for or expecting it to. I graduated college, bummed around for about a year, did some nonprofit mission work and stuff, waited tables and bartended, then went to work for this college. Got married, started having kids, but I was miserable in the job that I had.

I always had entrepreneurial leanings. I always had a really strong work ethic, worked a lot, and was always doing something on the side. I dabbled in some real estate investing. I tried some little side ventures here and there, but nothing ever seemed to work.

I basically came to a point … we had a new administration at the college, and it came to a head. I said, “You know, it’s either me or them. Since they’re not going anywhere, I’m going to have to go somewhere and make a decision to do something else.”

Now on the side, I had a little side hustle going. I was doing some independent collegiate consulting for homeschool students, helping them to prepare for college. I saw it as an under-served market, so I was doing a little bit of consulting on the side for them. I was homeschooled in high school, so I understood what it took to get in to college — and also, having the administrative side working for a university, I knew what it took to get it.

I began doing that. That was fall of 2009. During that time, as I was leaving, I realized that, “Well, I’ve got to market myself to get myself out there, to get more clients, and to create content and use social media.” Then realized I need a website. “Somebody’s got to be able to find my website, so I’m going to have to learn how to rank that in the search engines, use social media to promote it, and all of that.”

It was a really steep learning curve. I have a marketing degree, but what I came to realize was that that degree was worthless because everything has changed so much. All those theories as far as product price, place, promotion, and all that stuff, it wasn’t really relevant to what I was trying to do as far as market myself and the content that I was producing.

I basically went on a journey to learn as much as I could about digital marketing. I bought some courses, and I read as many blogs, articles, and things as I could, just to really teach myself. During that process, I discovered WordPress, StudioPress and the Genesis Framework, and started teaching myself website design.

As I begin doing that, I really enjoyed it. I like the creative side. There was a really steep learning curve for me, though, trying to figure out what FTP was. I was like, “I have no idea. I don’t understand.” It’s funny to think back now. That wasn’t that long ago. It was 2009 I guess. One thing basically led to another, and I began building out my own website.

Then some family and friends were starting businesses, and they asked for some help because they knew that I was into marketing and technology. I was building a couple here or there, one for myself and some other people, so I did. Then I began to get a couple clients, asking them to help, and I was like, “Huh, this is interesting. I actually really enjoy this. I don’t even like the collegiate consulting site, so why don’t we just kind of pivot and roll it into marketing? That’s what my degree is, and I can kind of do that.”

That’s where Spears Marketing was born. That was in 2010 basically. Then began doing a lot of website design and getting into social media marketing, search engine optimization, and that whole game.

Jerod Morris: It sounds like there was never really a grand plan for Spears Marketing and where you’re at now. It was almost just like one step led to the next, and it all sounds very logical as you explain it. Did it feel like a logical progression as you were going?

The Inherent Opportunities of ‘Flying by the Seat of Your Pants’

Seth Spears: I’ve never thought of it like that. I felt like I was flying by the seat of my pants for the most part.

Jerod Morris: It’s easy to put the pieces together in retrospect, and that’s kind of what I’m wondering. Did it feel like that as you were going through it?

Seth Spears: I don’t think so. It’s hard to take myself back there and feel the feelings as far as what I thought. I just saw an opportunity. I’ve always really enjoyed the study of economics and looking at the market and where opportunity lies. I was definitely in the right place at the right time as far as getting into WordPress and the whole digital marketing side because it was so new. It still probably is, but granted, there’s a lot more noise, traffic, and competition now.

Looking back, it does feel kind of like a natural progression, but at the time, I had to learn what I thought that I needed in order for my own business and then for clients. That’s how things really grew — working with a few clients here or there, just helping them with whatever they needed, teaching myself, and learning and growing from there.

Jerod Morris: Tell me about the milestone, or the moment, in your career as a digital entrepreneur that you’re the most proud of.

The Pride That Comes with Realizing the Difference You’re Making for Clients

Seth Spears: Over the years, I’ve had a lot of success working with several different clients and helping them to improve their traffic and search rankings and their growth, income, and revenue. A year or so ago, I looked back at statistics, the traffic statistics for pretty much every client. And those that actually followed the recommendations that I made — and this would include a website redesign, improved content, some search engine tweaks, and things like that — I had seen, on average, about a 30 percent increase in traffic for the clients.

Jerod Morris: Wow.

Seth Spears: That made me really happy. Just seeing the improvement that the clients would make because that was directly influencing their bottom line. They’re making more money. They’re having more success, and I was really proud of that.

Jerod Morris: That had to be a moment of real pride. Is that something now that for prospective clients that you will tell them? Kind of slip in there like, “Hey, clients who follow our recommendation are seeing 30 percent increases over the ones who do not.”

Seth Spears: I wouldn’t say still because I think the game has changed so much, and there’s so much more competition. Yeah, there were things that we were doing, and still do, that cause you to see a lot of growth. At the same time, I feel like I was on the cutting edge, but everything has caught up so much.

There’s so much noise just in the online space. The competition is a lot greater. Google’s in a state of flux. Social media — just the reach that we used to be able to get on social media — it’s not the same now. Now it’s pay to play. I still think there’s huge opportunity if you’re willing to throw a lot more money at it than before.

Because I always focus on the organic side, but I’m slowly beginning to transition and realize that the paid side is probably where the biggest bang for your buck is right now — just because it’s so much more pay to play.

Jerod Morris: Which, I suppose, was always the inevitable outcome of social media.

Seth Spears: I guess. It’s unfortunate that that’s what it is, but I guess that’s just the nature of markets, you know?

Jerod Morris: Yeah. All right, we’ll take a quick break. When we come back, I’m going to ask Seth about his most humbling moment as a digital entrepreneur.

Jerod Morris: As you probably know, stitching together a website that truly gives you everything you need to demonstrate your authority, connect with your audience, and earn recurring profit isn’t easy.

You have to find good hosting, plus security and support you can trust, which is a headache. You need a patchwork of plugins that can prove to be a nightmare at the worst possible time. You need the ability to create content types, ranging from blog posts to podcasts to online courses — and what about integrated landing pages, email marketing, and marketing automation to deliver a truly adaptive content experience? These aren’t nice-to-have features anymore for the smart, profitable entrepreneur. They are necessities.

Well, you have two choices. You can piecemeal it together, pay more in total, and then cross your fingers, and hope everything plays nicely together — or you can use the Rainmaker Platform.

Rainmaker is a fully hosted, all-in-one marketing machine that gives you everything out of the box in one dashboard. You can run a successful podcast, host authority-building membership areas, and sell in-depth, module-based, revenue-generating online courses.

You can even use RainMail to host all of your email lists and send broadcast emails and autoresponder sequences right there in your Rainmaker Dashboard. Plus, the full email integration with your website platform gives you insight about your audience and your content flexibility that you simply cannot get with separate solutions stitched together. Oh, and rather than having to choose from one of a hundred different places for support when you have a question, with Rainmaker it’s just one support team ready and excited to help you out.

All of those reasons and more are why Rainmaker.FM runs on Rainmaker and why all my personal sites do, too. Don’t just take my word for it, check out the Rainmaker Platform for yourself. Go to Rainmaker.FM/Platform, and start your free 14-day trial today.

Now, back to my interview with Seth Spears.

All right. Seth, tell me about the most humbling moment in your career as a digital entrepreneur thus far and, most importantly, what you learned from it.

Seth’s Advice on Just Because You Can Do Something, Doesn’t Mean That You Should

Seth Spears: Probably when I realized that I took on a client — it was a good sized project — and then I had to fire them about a week into the project, realizing that it wasn’t a good fit, that they were very needy and high maintenance. The amount of handholding that they needed, myself and my team would not be able to provide that.

It made me take a step back and realize that I needed to improve my processes as far as onboarding and do a better job of due diligence to make sure that I was only taking on clients that were a good fit. Just because there was an opportunity to make a lot of money there, if it’s not a good fit, it’s not worth it.

I’d say that was definitely the most humbling and also one of the biggest lessons that I learned in business — just because there’s opportunity, doesn’t mean you need to take it. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Jerod Morris: That’s a great, great lesson to learn.

In 2014, you learned that because you can provide a service for a client, doesn’t necessarily mean you should, as you explained. You also, I was reading, you got tired and kind of burnt out. You decided to scale back and go to more of a one-on-one marketing approach. Can you talk about that time period, what you learned for it, and how it’s helped you move forward?

Why Being a Self-Learner Has Helped Seth Accomplish What He’s Set Out to Do

Seth Spears: Yeah, so when I got started, it was just me — just freelancing, consulting and strategy, website design, SEO, social media, and all that stuff. Then I began to scale up and bring on a team. I basically had formed a little digital agency from about end of 2011, early 2012, until the beginning of 2014.

Like I said, I took on a couple clients who just weren’t a good fit and just some bad experiences. I had an employee or two that left, and I realized, “You know what? I don’t like the managing the employees. I don’t like offering all these different services.” I was offering so many different services to clients based on whatever they wanted. Then either the on-staff employees that I had would handle that, myself, or I would contract out some of it — just whatever the client wanted.

Then I realized, “Just because I can offer something, doesn’t mean I should offer it. Maybe it’s time to look at what I’m good at, what I really enjoy, and focus on those things.” And that’s what I did. I really narrowed the focus as far as specifically to the consulting and strategy side, just to work with digital entrepreneurs, online business owners. Specifically to help them figure out what they needed and only work with those.

I stopped offering all the other services, like the done-for-you social media and SEO work and some of the website design, although we still do a little of that. But I really narrowed the focus down and only began offering just those services that I thought that I was the best at and enjoyed the most.

Jerod Morris: What does your business look like now? Because you have Spears Marketing where you’re doing client work, and then you also are obviously with Wellness Mama as well, where the blog and lots of digital products there. There’s really two sides to the business right now, right?

Seth Spears: Yeah, so Katie and I have a partnership there as far as she handles all the content, and I handle all the strategy and everything, the technical side of everything. They’re two completely separate businesses. But yeah, that’s strictly a passion play. She loves to help people on the side and tries to help as many people as possible.

That was another one of those accidental businesses that was nothing more than a hobby, that grew, and that I basically use WellnessMama.com as a testing ground for client work. Like, “Hmm, I think this might work. Let’s try this.” Or, “Let’s try this new technology.” Or, “How about we try this with social media, SEO, or whatever.” It just so happened it worked really well.

Again, we were in the right place at the right time for it, but at the same time, there was a lot of work and effort that went in to it. A lot of content created and a lot of strategy. We’ve been strategic with it as well, but it was definitely one of those accidental things and not something that we set out to say, “Hey, let’s create a business there.”

Jerod Morris: But you know it’s funny how often that’ll happen. You have a main business, and then you have maybe a sandbox that you’re kind of ‘playing in.’ You’re trying stuff out, and eventually there’s kind of, “Whoa, there’s an audience here. I’ve created digital products, and there’s a real business here.” I’ve had that happen to me, too. It’s funny how that happens.

The Importance of Focusing on What You’re Good At (and Where There Is Demand)

Seth Spears: Yeah, exactly. It is very funny how that transpires. There are two schools of thought here. Some people say that you should just do what you love and the money’s going to follow, but I disagree with that. I think that, if there’s no demand for what you love, then the money’s not going to follow. You might enjoy it, but you’re going to be broke. Then eventually you’re going to hate it because you can’t support yourself.

I think you should focus on what you’re good at and where there’s demand for, and then you’ll learn to like something. If you’re that good at it and it’s bringing in money, you’ll learn to like it enough to do it. But having a side project that you enjoy and not even trying to use that as a business, or trying to monetize it necessarily, but just dabbling in that sandbox to play and just because it’s a passion project, I think that’s a good thing. It takes you away from the day-to-day and helps the creativity juices to flow.

Jerod Morris: Yeah. Let’s fast forward to now. What is the one word you would use to sum up the status of your business as it stands today? What would that word be?

How to Evolve and Enjoy the Journey of Taking the Next Step That Makes Sense (Even When There’s Pain Points)

Seth Spears: ‘Evolving.’

Jerod Morris: I like it. Where do you want to evolve to?

Seth Spears: I don’t know. I think the journey over the past several years has just been flying by the seat of our pants. It’s never been planned out to say, “I’m here. I want to be here.” There’s been elements as far as short-term goals. “Hey, I want this much traffic, this many subscribers, or maybe even make this much income per month.”

But as far as the long-term, five, 10 years down the road, I think the Internet is constantly changing so much. It’s very hard to set those long-term objectives just because there’s so much flux and volatility, especially when it comes to Google, Facebook, and everything.

Jerod Morris: Well, hey, that’s part of your story — not necessarily knowing where you’re going to go but just taking the next step that makes sense.

Seth Spears: And trying to enjoy the journey as much as possible, which I’m not that good at all the time, but I’m working on it.

Jerod Morris: What is your biggest recurring pain point as a digital entrepreneur? What sometimes doesn’t allow you to enjoy the journey as much as you’d want to?

Seth Spears: Seeing dips in traffic and not understanding why. A couple of years ago, I felt like I had Google figured out. I can rank pretty much any website, you know, “We put out this type of content. We promote it here. We do this and this and this, and it works.”

Now, I feel like their algorithms have gotten so very specific, and it’s not a one size fits all. There’s so many variables that, for different clients, it’s a lot harder just to get content to rank than it used it be. So trying to figure out that whole game, it’s a never-ending process. I’d say, currently, that’d be one of my biggest pain points.

Jerod Morris: Yeah. What element of your work gives you the most satisfaction on a daily basis? Not necessarily the outcome, seeing X, Y, Z success, but what part of the actual work gives you the most satisfaction?

Why Seth Thinks It All Comes Back to the Freedom to Work When You Want

Seth Spears: I think it goes back to our conversation earlier as far as the time freedom. This might not be the answer you’re looking for, but just realizing I can work a whole lot right now, work 60 hours this week, and then next week I can take off and only work 10 hours. Is that the answer you’re looking for, sort of?

Jerod Morris: Yeah, sure. Because to me, that’s the kind of thing that, in the moment, keeps you motivated to work right now. It may not be that you necessarily love researching SEO in this very moment, but because of what it allows you to do later, I think that’s definitely a fair answer to that question.

Seth Spears: Yeah, exactly. I think the other side of it, I like seeing progress made. I like being able to do something and see the outcome from it. If I put in a whole bunch of effort and I spend, say, an hour crafting an email, either for myself or for a client, and then see the outcome of that — see the open rates increase and the click throughs based on that — I really enjoy that side of it as well. Even though I’m not a copywriter per se, but just seeing you put in the effort, you put in the input, and then the output is positive.

Jerod Morris: By the way, I just want to commend you on your use of the phrase ‘crafting an email’ as opposed to just writing an email. It truly is crafting it when you’re trying to write something that’s good that will drive an action that will be enjoyed. It really is crafting. I appreciated that turn of phrase right there.

Seth Spears: Very much so. And that really is an art and a science. It’s funny how trying to get out of your own head and just write I’ve always said I’m a better editor than I am a writer. I’m a good writer, too — or I feel like I am — but it takes me longer to do that. I’d rather take something that someone has already created and tweak it to make it that much better. I feel like my strengths are better there as far as not creating something completely from scratch, but taking bits and pieces from here and here and here, and making something so much better, 10x-ing it or more.

Jerod Morris: Yeah. So let’s open up your toolbox. What is the one technology tool that contributes the most to your success as a digital entrepreneur?

The Not-So-Secret Tools in Seth’s Toolbox

Seth Spears: The one technology tool. There’s so many. Obviously, WordPress is huge because everything’s online, so using that for website build-outs. Google Apps would obviously be another one, and Dropbox. I’d say those would be the three that I couldn’t live without. There’s lots of other ones as well, like smaller ones like Evernote.

Jerod Morris: Is there one kind of off-the-radar one that people might not be familiar with that’s maybe a newer one that you found to be especially useful?

Seth Spears: As far as a general one, not that I can think of right now, but an app that I really like as far as just content creators one of the things that I focus on over the past year or so is website speed and really focusing in on and proving site speed because that’s something that Google really looks at. And images are a big, big issue. Because people upload massive images, and that takes longer to load, especially if you’re on mobile.

There’s an app called ImageOptim. You can download it for Mac and I think PC as well. Basically, you just drag your images into this little app that sits in your dock and it smushes it down. It reduces the size of it without any loss of quality, so it gets rid of all the underlying data that is added to an image when you take a picture. So when you upload that to your site, it’s going to be quite a bit smaller. In turn, it’s going to improve your site speed.

Jerod Morris: Nice. What is the non-technology tool that contributes the most to your success?

Why Seth Loves Unplugging to Enjoy the Great Outdoors

Seth Spears: Taking time away from the computer, from the phone, from being inside, and just getting outdoors. I’m a bit outdoors guy, so I love hunting, camping, and all that fun stuff, skiing. Getting away so you can take a mental break and just get in touch with nature and relax.

Then, also, reading something good from an actual physical book. I think there’s something about holding a physical book in your hands and sitting back and just reading, and not just reading on your phone, on the computer or Kindle, or whatever.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, I agree with that. Earlier I asked you for the one word that you would use to sum up the status of your business as it stands today. You said evolving. When we talk again in a year, what would you want that one word to be?

Why Seth Wants to Evolve into a Place of Consistency

Seth Spears: ‘Consistency.’ Consistency is something that most people struggle with — whether that’s business consistency, personal consistency, your personal life, business life, whatever. I think I’m pretty consistent, but that evolution of things it’s hard to stay really consistent — whether it’s your making X number of dollars per month, you have X number of clients a month, or X number of traffic, whatever.

Trying to make things so that they’re more consistent across all those so that you don’t have the flux of being up or down with clients, revenue, and traffic, et cetera.

Jerod Morris: I have a few rapid fire questions for you to close out. Are you ready for these?

Seth Spears: Yeah, let’s do it.

The One Book Seth Would Insist You Read

Jerod Morris: If you could have every person who will ever work with you or for you read one book — and obviously, they would read it as a physical book — what would it be?

Seth Spears: I’m going to go with Brewing Up a Business by Sam Calagione, the founder of Dogfish Head.

Jerod Morris: Oh nice.

Seth Spears: It’s a phenomenal business book about entrepreneurship, business, and marketing from somebody who’s crazy passionate about what he does. I read this years ago and just really connected with his story, his work ethic, and the way he sees the world and business in general.

Jerod Morris: Also a great brand of beer, too.

Seth Spears: Yes it is.

Seth’s Ideal 30-Minute Skype Call to Discuss His Business

Jerod Morris: Okay, if you could have a 30-minute Skype call to discuss your business with anyone tomorrow, who would it be?

Seth Spears: I’m going to go with Jeff Bezos from Amazon. I think he would have a lot of insights just where things are going and heading digitally just because he has been such a visionary over the years and Amazon has gotten so big and all the other things he’s doing as well. I think having a little call with him would definitely be interesting.

Jerod Morris: What would you ask him? What would be your first question?

Seth Spears: Did you envision where Amazon is now, or was it just a natural progression? That would be one thing.

Jerod Morris: I would love to hear that answer.

Seth Spears: And where do you see things going over the next five years?

Jerod Morris: Very good.

The One Email Newsletter Seth Can’t Do Without

Jerod Morris: What is the one email newsletter that you can’t do without?

Seth Spears: I’ve pretty much unsubscribed from almost every newsletter just because email is such … I get too much. But the one I’m really digging right now is Brian Dean from Backlinko.com. He’s got a really good one. He focuses on SEO and some social media, but I feel like he’s got his finger on the pulse of the search game right now. I really enjoy his. He’s a great writer, too.

Jerod Morris: Brian Dean, Backlinko.com?

Seth Spears: Yup. Backlinko.com.

Jerod Morris: Okay.

The Non-Book Piece of Art That’s Had the Biggest Influence on Seth as a Digital Entrepreneur

Jerod Morris: What non-book piece of art had the biggest influence on you as a digital entrepreneur?

Seth Spears: I am very passionate about quality. I always look for the best. If it’s not incredible quality, craftsmanship, I really don’t care for it. So I’m going to say Saddleback Leather Company. I came across them five or six years ago, and I read something about them. They were just the small little company in Texas that created these amazing leather bags.

Over the years, I’ve purchased some, and the quality’s just amazing. They’ve built up an incredible following. They’re pricey, but their story is fascinating and just their focus on quality and not skimping on quality based on price or whatever — so I would say one of their bags.

Jerod Morris: What productivity hack has had the biggest impact on your ability to get more meaningful work done?

Seth’s Biggest Productivity Hack for Doing Meaningful Work

Seth Spears: I think kind of like I mentioned earlier, just getting outside and disconnecting from technology for a while. Probably over the past month or so, I’ve been somewhat burnt out just because I worked so much over the past several months. The past four weeks or so, I’ve basically kind of taken a little time off and I’ve gotten outside.

I’ve been hunting a lot. I’ve been camping, taking my kids and just hiking and stuff. Just getting away, reconnecting with nature, getting away from technology, and realizing there’s a lot more out there to see and do and not just being in front of a computer all the time. That’s really tough to do as an online entrepreneur.

Jerod Morris: Yeah it is.

How to Get in Touch with Seth

Jerod Morris: And finally, what is the single best way for someone inspired by today’s discussion to get in touch with you?

Seth Spears: Either Twitter, my handle’s @SpearsMarketing, or on my website SpearsMarketing.com/Contact.

Jerod Morris: Excellent. Well, Seth, this has been a great conversation. Appreciate you being on here and lending your insight to us.

Seth Spears: Thanks, Jerod. Great talking to you as well.

Jerod Morris: Yea, take care.

Seth Spears: You too.

Jerod Morris: My thanks to Seth Spears for taking the time to join us on this episode of The Digital Entrepreneur. Also, as always, thank you to Caroline, Will, and Toby for helping to make this episode a reality.

And thank you for joining us. I always appreciate your attention here to The Digital Entrepreneur, and I’d love to hear from you. Shoot me a Tweet @JerodMorris. Let me know your thoughts on this episode, guest ideas that you have, future topics you’d love to see us cover — always love hearing what you think of the show.

All right, thank you, and I will talk to you next week on another brand-new episode of The Digital Entrepreneur.

Dec 01 2016

32mins

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Rank #15: 3 Simple Hacks for Better Copy and More Conversions in Less Time

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Joanna Wiebe of Copy Hackers joins us this week on The Digital Entrepreneur to offer up a handful of simple copywriting hacks that work especially well for digital products.

Joanna knows a thing or two about copywriting for digital products. Not only is she a digital entrepreneur herself, but her company has worked with some of the most well-known digital products out there: Buffer, Wistia, and even our own Rainmaker Platform.

In this 29-minute episode, Joanna and I discuss:

  • A simple A/B test anyone can use to gain valuable insight into audience behavior
  • The surprising button placement that actually worked wonders for one company (and the larger lesson this represented)
  • Why copywriting fundamentals like the Rule of 1 still work (and why we doubt them at our own peril)
  • What the “stages of awareness” are and why they matter
  • How to listen in a way that actually leads to meaningful results
  • The oft-overlooked importance of frameworks and formulas (like P-A-S)

And much, much more. We cover a ton in this episode, and we hope you enjoy it and get a lot of out it.

Don’t forget: Joanna will be speaking at Digital Commerce Summit coming up this October. Early Bird tickets are still available (as of now), so don’t wait to get yours. You won’t want to miss Joanna’s talk, as well as the presentations of so many other successful digital entrepreneurs.

For more information, go to: rainmaker.fm/summit

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The Show Notes

The Transcript

3 Simple Hacks for Better Copy and More Conversions in Less Time

Voiceover: You’re listening to The Digital Entrepreneur, the show for folks who want to discover smarter ways to create and sell profitable digital goods and services. This podcast is a production of Digital Commerce Institute, the place to be for digital entrepreneurs. DCI features an in-depth, ongoing instructional academy, plus a live education and networking summit where entrepreneurs from across the globe meet in person. For more information, go to Rainmaker.FM/digitalcommerce. That’s Rainmaker.FM/digitalcommerce.

Jerod Morris: Welcome back to The Digital Entrepreneur, I am your host Jerod Morris, the VP of Marketing for Rainmaker Digital. This is episode number 20 of The Digital Entrepreneur. Today I am joined by Joanna Wiebe, the conversion copywriter for Copy Hackers, where they promise to help you write more persuasive, believable, and usable copy sans pixie dust, so you can boost your website e-mail conversion rates. I’ve had the good pleasure of working with Joanna, so we can certainly vouch for their work. They do a great job.

Something else that I learned recently about Joanna — I actually learned this earlier today — is that she likes making up new words, like indeedly for instance, and using them casually in conversation. I too share in this wonderific pastime, which may be why she and I get along so well. Joanna, welcome to The Digital Entrepreneur, it is great to have you here with us.

Joanna Wiebe: It’s wonderific to be here.

Jerod Morris: Yes, indeedly.

Joanna Wiebe: Indeedly.

Jerod Morris: Joanna’s appearance today continues our series here on The Digital Entrepreneur, where we’ve been talking with some of our esteemed speakers who will be at Digital Commerce Summit, which is coming up this October. Joanna’s going to be a featured speaker, and her session is going to be titled, “How to Make Good Copy Great When Selling Digital.” In this session, she’s going to be discussing real-life examples from actual projects that Copy Hackers has been working on with companies like Buffer, Wistia, and our very own Rainmaker Platform.

On today’s episode, we’re going to explore a few of those projects, some of those ideas here today. But make sure that you come to Denver so that you can hear Joanna and all of our other terrific speakers live. Early bird tickets are still available, so you’re definitely not too late. Joanna’s going to be there. I will be speaking. And, of course, members of the Rainmaker Digital team like Brian Clark and Sonia Simone will be speaking as well, along with a host of our friends from around the digital entrepreneurship space, including Rand Fishkin, Jeff Walker, Tara Gentile, Joanna Penn, Chris Lema, and many, many more.

As we say right there on the website — in the kind of conversion copy that we hope would make Joanna proud — this is the conference and networking event where you will discover smarter ways to create and sell profitable digital products and services. So don’t miss it. For more information, go to Rainmaker.FM/summit. That’s Rainmaker.FM/summit. Again, early bird tickets are still available for now.

Joanna, let’s dive in here, and I would like to kick this off with an admission that I need to make to you.

Joanna Wiebe: Uh-oh.

Jerod Morris: No, it’s okay, and it has nothing to do with the admission that we just talked about before we went …

Joanna Wiebe: Let’s not talk about that.

Jerod Morris: No, you will not. You spoke at the first Authority conference, which was now more than two years from the day that we’re recording this.

Joanna Wiebe: Right.

Jerod Morris: In your presentation at Authority, you spoke about improving our call to action buttons, and you discussed the two elements that prevent people from clicking on buttons, that is friction and fear. To this day, that is one of the lessons from that conference that has stuck with me. Every time I have a call to action button I’m always thinking, “Okay, how do I reduce friction and/or fear to make this as easy to click on for as many people as possible?”

I’m sure the alliteration had something to do with it. You also talked a lot about the lizard brain and engaging the lizard brain. I think just because this little easy framework — friction and fear — it works. So thank you for that lesson. It’s another reason why going to conferences is such a great thing to do. In addition to the networking, you can pick up these little nuggets that really carry through. Maybe everybody will have different ones, but I’m very appreciative of that one.

Joanna Wiebe: Oh, that’s cool. I’m glad you remember that. That’s awesome to hear. That was a really fun conference.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, it was, and this one will be good too. To start, just give us a little background, if you would.

Joanna Wiebe: Sure.

Jerod Morris: Can you explain a little bit more about what you and the Copy Hackers team does?

Joanna Wiebe: Yeah, absolutely. We get to work with some pretty cool companies — present company included — where we optimize copy, essentially, or we aim to, at least. Sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t. That’s the nature, and that’s why we test. We help organizations either write better copy, or copy that’s worth testing and measuring, or we teach them how to do it. Our blog teaches you how to do it. Our courses teach you how to do it. And if you really want to see how we work and to have us go in and help you hands-on, then we sometimes accept clients. Only the coolest clients, obviously. Just kidding. No, we’re really lucky to work with very cool people that we love, so that’s wicked.

That’s what we do, and the biggest thing that we focus on — outside of being really dedicated to copywriting and messaging — is testing. To be sure that we at least know if something’s working or not. Then we can hopefully have a good hypothesis so we know why it didn’t work or why it did work, so we’re not just constantly guessing and then guessing at something else and then something else. Yeah, that’s what we do.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, that’s the thing that’s been so clear in working with you guys, is the culture of testing that you have and the commitment to testing. Do you find with individuals that you work with, with companies that you end up working with, that the people aren’t testing enough or that there isn’t enough of a commitment to it?

Joanna Wiebe: Yeah. I think it’s a scary thing for a lot of people. It depends where you’re at when you’ve heard of it, but testing feels like … If you’ve just heard of it, it sounds exciting. And then you go and you look into it, and you’re like, “Oh man, I need so much traffic to test a page. And then I need to have a big enough change in the conversion rate to close a test. Wow, I need so much, it’s just going to be too hard.” But you try doing one test, you don’t get any conclusive results, and you just throw your hands up and say, “Testing doesn’t work for me.”

Then there’s the other end where it’s like, “Okay, we don’t test, we only engage in marketing automation, behavioral automation, behavioral marketing, and personalization as a subset of that. So if we A/B test, it’s within this really complex system of marketing automation, essentially.” Those are the bigger businesses that look at A/B testing as trying to find a single solution for a whole bunch of people, which we all know isn’t possible in most cases — to find a single solution or way to message something that works for everybody visiting that page or reading that e-mail.

At the other end of the spectrum, people discount it as trying to do too much with too little, and at the first side of it, the newer people coming into testing, it just feels like you need too much traffic to make it work. Naturally people shy away from it, and I certainly don’t blame them for it. When you get into testing there’s a lot to consider. Where the sources of traffic are, should you be including mobile traffic in your test? If not, should you be doing a separate test just for mobile traffic? There’s so much to think about that I think it can be a bit off-putting for people.

When it comes down to it though, A/B testing is really just, “Here’s the page that we’re currently working with. Here’s what we think we might want to replace that page with because we feel — based on a lot of different data points — that this is the stronger message to go with, but we don’t know. So we’re going to A/B test it one page versus the other.” That’s really, at its core, all it really has to be about. But it’s easy to over-complicate that.

Simple A/B Test Anyone Can Use to Gain Valuable Insight Into Audience Behavior

Jerod Morris: For someone who’s listening to this, maybe they’ve thought about testing but they haven’t done it yet, or maybe they have but it’s been kind of complicated and it feels real convoluted for them. Do you have any suggestions for a simple test folks can go out the door with? Maybe dip their toes in the water? Maybe it’s changing just a headline on the homepage or changing a button. Is there a universal first step people can take to start wading into the testing waters if they haven’t yet?

Joanna Wiebe: Yeah, and it’s basically those two things you just talked about, actually. There’s two ways that I recommend if you haven’t done a test before. The first one is to do an A/B test on your highest traffic page, generally. Generally on your highest traffic page, where that new variation you come up with has a new headline and a new button. Not one or the other, but both changed on variation B. That’s because that button is the real site of conversion. It’s where the measuring happens, on the button.

If you only change the headline but the button isn’t improved, then it complicates things a little bit, or it means you’re going to have to really swing for the fences with that headline, or be dramatically different. I recommend if you’re just starting out do a headline plus button test where that becomes your new variation. Another really easy way to start testing is to test the placement of that button or call to action. If you currently have it in your homepage hero section — where basically every digital business on the planet has a button, in that hero space — try moving it.

Now, obviously, any CRO person will absolutely say, “Well, you have to have a reason why.” We can get into that at some other point, but if we’re just talking about, “Here, test it,” just to get into testing, just to dip your toes in the water, then just test removing that from the hero and moving it further down the page. See what happens. Or test it as a sticky button that follows you as you go. Buttons are the absolute easiest test to start with.

Jerod Morris: But don’t move it so much that there’s increased friction.

The Surprising Button Placement That Actually Worked Wonders for One Company

Joanna Wiebe: The question when we’re like, “Okay, where does a button go?” is at what point is our prospect — our one reader, the one we’re actually trying to convert — at what point are they ready to move forward? You put a button in front of people, they will click it. People like to click the button. That’s the lizard brain, right? “Ooh, I see it, I just – Ta-da! I click it! I didn’t even really look at the things that I need to look at yet.”

We actually did a test on Sweatblock.com, which is an e-commerce site. It’s a little bit different. But we tested a variation of the homepage, kind of a one-pager. Our variation B moved the button way down. The control had the button in the hero section. Variation B opened with a problem agitation solution opening, which is kind of odd on homepages.

You usually just lead with the solution on a homepage and then you might try to back up and go into problem agitation solution as a framework. But we were like, “Nope, we’re not going to lead with the solution. We’re not going to put that button in the hero section. We’re going to lead with the problem. No button. We’re going to agitate the problem, still no button. We’re going to talk about the solution, and only when we’ve said enough about the solution will we put the button on the page.”

I actually just wrote about this on the site. We saw 45% more paid conversion when we did that. More products purchased — not just clicks, but products purchased — when we moved that button down and made people feel something first. The question is, where do you need to put the button? It obviously depends on where your prospect is at, but I would say be sure to be confident in your ability to move people to click, but don’t let them click whenever they feel like clicking. That’s part of having that button test.

Jerod Morris: Wow. That’s great stuff, right there.

Joanna Wiebe: It was fun.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, I bet it was. As I mentioned before, your session title is going to be “How to Make Good Copy Great When Selling Digital.” I want to talk a little bit about what that means, making good copy great. But not just for any reason, for any type of copywriting, but specifically when it comes to selling digital goods. Are there specific elements — and I think you just hinted at some right there — but are there specific elements to writing great copy for selling digital goods that may be different from other types of copywriting?

Why Copywriting Fundamentals like the Rule of 1 Still Work

Joanna Wiebe: I have found that selling digital goods has more to do with traditional direct response copywriting than not. Using the old tried-and-true rules that we read about from Shorts and Caples and all those awesome dudes — those still work. Those still completely and totally work. It’s when we pretend that the rules have changed that we harm our conversion rates.

There’s this sense that people buying online or people reading online are these completely different thinking beings that don’t follow any of the old rules and can’t be persuaded the old ways so we’re going to just throw stuff at them. They like to look around so let them look around. But we haven’t found that that’s been anywhere near as successful as controlling the flow of information.

That comes out in different ways. Sometimes it will mean we take a long-form sales approach and we put it into a “palatable” form on the page so it doesn’t look like a long-form sales page. It still acts like those old sales letters, it just doesn’t look like a letter. When it comes down to it, it’s really about those formulas and frameworks and just listening to your prospect and repeating what you heard on the page. That goes a long way. You think back to Great Leads and books like that, where they talk about basically what I’ve summed up. I don’t even know if it was from the book, I read it so long ago.

The rule of one, where you’ve got one reader, one offer, one big idea, and one promise. If you still follow those when selling on a landing page — it’s hard to do that on a homepage because you generally don’t have one reader, but that’s a big discussion unto itself — if you follow those parts and organize your page with that in mind, you can still see great conversion lift. We did something similar with Buffer, which I’ll be talking about at the summit so I don’t want to talk too much about it. Come to the summit if you want to hear the story.

We followed some of that like, “Okay, what do we need to say to the prospect to move them from the stage of awareness they’re at to the stage of awareness we need them to be at on the page in order to move forward to the point of being a paying customer for Buffer? For their business plan?” We did some cool stuff, we saw very cool lift, and that’s all I’m going to say about it because we’re talking about it at the summit.

What the “Stages of Awareness” Are and Why They Matter

Jerod Morris: You mentioned the stage of awareness. How do you know what stage of awareness folks are at on different pages and in different parts of the process?

Joanna Wiebe: Yeah, totally. Generally a good thing is to look at where they were before, and that should indicate in many cases — maybe not all cases, but we’re looking for as much solid info as we can use. Sometimes it’s imperfect, but oftentimes it’s better than nothing. We look at where they were first. That could mean, “What keyword phrase did they use? Or where were they? Was it a Facebook ad that brought them to us? Are they already on our list or are they not on our list? Are they a returning visitor or are they not a returning visitor?”

Those sorts of things can help us say, “Okay, if they searched a branded keyword phrase like ‘Buffer for business,’ or ‘Buffer for business pricing,’ chances are good they’re in product to most aware.” Those are the two places we’d want to put them, so where do we then kick off the page, that landing page for them? Well, we’ll want to mention the product if they’re in product aware. We might also mention it if they’re in most aware, although what the page looks like will probably be different for those two.

A most aware person — it always depends, but a most aware visitor landing on a landing page meant for most aware visitors is probably going to see a shorter page that does more of the things that we see in Cialdini’s Influence. All of those sorts of persuasion techniques that are great for the lowest hanging fruit, like a lot of social proof, urgency — maybe scarcity, if you’ve got it. Those sorts of things that we hear about as persuasive but that might not work as well for somebody who’s solution aware. But for product aware or most aware they could work much better.

Now, product aware — we might find ourselves putting a lot more on the page to get them to the place where they’re ready by the end of the page to pay. I don’t know, is that clear? I feel like I could talk for an eternity about stages of awareness.

Jerod Morris: No, it is. I think it’s important. It’s funny, because I think we got into this on the call that we had earlier today too. You can have this great piece of copy and it feels really well written and it feels good, but you can’t really tell how successful or good a piece of copy is outside of the context. You’ve got to understand when the person who is the target of this copy, the audience, when are they getting it? What do they know? What have they done already? Where are we trying to get them to go?

I think you don’t want to over-complicate it, because I think the fundamentals of copy are pretty simple. But you also don’t want to underestimate the importance of really understanding the context and putting that copy into the right context for the audience member so that they can actually take the next step that you want them to take.

Joanna Wiebe: Yeah, exactly. This is something that any UX person would absolutely agree with, that context is huge. Even as you’re talking, I’m thinking of how these disciplines all come together today and how it’s helping us all, I think, to produce better materials that are — all of these same principles keep coming up. Like you say, where’s the context? Where are they actually at in experiencing our brand or our product?

If you don’t think about that — this is why targeted landing pages are so important. They’re so easy to create today, as well, that it’s shocking when people don’t. If you write and you send everybody to one or two landing pages that are somewhat generic, they’re just never going to work as well. Or you send e-mails that aren’t specific to what a person’s really going through, they’re just not going to work as well. We all know that.

But sadly — and I know why it is, I go through this for business too — it’s like, “Okay, well I have to prioritize what I’m going to do,” and doing something else generally looks better than sitting there and saying, “Okay, well we have to write six different drip campaigns for six different triggers. It’s going to be a 10-week job to get to the point, and we’re going to have one person on it full time.” You’re like, “Holy crap, well what if they don’t work?” Yeah, it’s true. If you don’t know the context or you don’t know where the prospect is at when they’re looking at the page, none of us should be terribly surprised when they don’t convert as well.

The Difference Between What You Care About and What Your Prospect Cares About

Jerod Morris: Do you think that that’s one of the biggest mistakes that you see individuals and companies make when it comes to their copy? What might be some other ones?

Joanna Wiebe: Yeah, it’s a biggie. It’s not knowing the reader you’re talking to so you put down on the page what you think. I hear this a lot, even in our comments on our blog. I’m sure you’ve seen the same for Copyblogger when you’re talking about copy. We had a bunch of comments recently on one of our posts where we asked people to comment on what they would differently with the copy. One thing that kept coming out was, “I would need to see this,” or, “I wonder about this.” The person is thinking that because they care about it, the prospect cares about it.

Obviously as we’re talking about it, everybody listening is like, “Well, of course not.” But how often do we actually sit there and do that? Write a page where we’re like, “Oh, okay, well let me imagine what you want to know in order to move from where you are to where we want you to be. I think you might care about this, so I’m going to make this the headline.” That’s, I think, the biggest problem, and it happens again and again. Imagining that you could possibly know what your prospect wants, or that your prospects wants the same things you want in the order you want them. For me, that’s an ongoing, continual problem.

Jerod Morris: How do you get around that? To start, you have to have some kind of hypothesis. Is it then just refining based on data and what you see? How do you approach that?

Joanna Wiebe: Start with lots of data. I know that that can be problematic for people who say, “Okay, that’s our business before. Data reflects the business as it’s been and the users we’ve had, not who we want.” If you let that be your reason not to use research or data, then I don’t know. I’m sure other people will know how to help you — hire somebody who does. I don’t know. What I know is that if we look at the data — like the analytics, like click-tracking on the site — if we ask questions about the landing page that identifies who you are …

Help me understand. Put a Hotjar poll on the page you want to optimize and ask questions, or a question, to help you figure out where that prospect is at so you can write for them. Then put click-tracking on there to see where they’re not paying attention. Then consult your actual survey responses that you might have that are from a larger survey that you’ve done, where you can split your data up. Do those sorts of things and you’ll be more likely to write a page.

But that’s how you find what you ought to write about. We all know it’s not sitting there, staring at the page, thinking, “Hmm, what do I care about? To optimize this page, what do I want to know differently? What’s not on here that I need to see?” We all know that’s not the way to do it. Usertesting.com — you can send people on and actually pinpoint. I know it doesn’t get that granular, but you can get down to marketing managers and have only marketing managers — let’s say if you wanted to sell a product to marketing managers — have marketing managers on usertesting.com spend 20 minutes. Get 5 of them to spend 20 minutes on your page answering questions, and that alone will illuminate some opportunities for you and some of the things that your prospect might actually care about.

How to Listen in a Way That Actually Leads to Meaningful Results

Jerod Morris: Yeah. As we were working with you, that was one of the things that you guys did early on and wanted to even do more, was talk to actual customers.

Joanna Wiebe: Yes.

Jerod Morris: How important is that?

Joanna Wiebe: It’s everything.

Jerod Morris: Yeah?

Joanna Wiebe: For me, it’s everything. Interviews alone. There’s all sort of stuff that you can go out and do. We talk about this all over the place. I could make a list, and probably just will. Interviews are hands-down — they’re the thing you want to do least, and they’re always the most revealing if you can get somebody to sit there and talk with you on the phone or in person for an hour, and listen like a crazy person. Just listen the whole time and then transcribe what you’ve heard. Yeah, for me — and I know others will say they don’t do it this way and it works for them to do it their way. Cool. All I can speak about is for me. And for me, time and again, I get the best results when I just shut up and listen and then repeat what I heard.

Jerod Morris: I think that’s true for most folks. It’s so important, and it is underrated.

Joanna Wiebe: Yeah.

Jerod Morris: It’s interesting. What would be your biggest general piece of copywriting advice for folks? I feel like what you just mentioned, listen — the irony of that being the biggest skill that you can have as a copywriter, someone who is producing content, is to actually listen … Maybe that is the best piece of advice. But what is your best general piece of advice for folks to take their copywriting to the next step, to get a little bit better today the next time they write some copy than they were before they listened to this episode?

The Oft-Overlooked Importance of Frameworks and Formulas

Joanna Wiebe: Yeah, I would say listening, doing that research, that’s huge. In one hand: research. In the other hand: frameworks and formulas. I took a long time to come around to the idea of not basically starting from scratch, or of letting somebody else tell me how to frame the page or how to organize a headline. I think a lot of us as copywriters — you still identify heavily with the writer side of that, which is nice and great. But I recommend you have something else you’re writing on the side as a creative project and then make copywriting about copy writing. That means take frameworks and formulas and use those.

This is the hardest thing for people to get their head around. Even when they start listening, they’re like, “Oh, cool. I got all these survey responses. There were these long answers, and look at this sticky copy in there, awesome!” They go and start using it on the page, but they use it without any formulas, without any frameworks, without any way to say this is the right way to organize it. And that’s a problem as well. Don’t try to dream it up from scratch in any way, shape, or form. Listen, and then take what you have heard, and use frameworks like PAS, which I mentioned already and which happens to be my favorite for organizing any message or writing anything. PAS comes through for me every single time.

Jerod Morris: Which is problem, agitate, solve?

Joanna Wiebe: Yes, exactly. Sorry. Headline formulas, crosshead formulas, and button formulas. Just use them. I know it feels like, “Ugh, it’s not as fun,” but you know what’s super fun about it? You get to see cool results. For me as a copywriter, that’s where the real fun is, when a client’s like, “Holy crap, you actually brought in twice the number of paid conversions, that’s amazing.” That’s going to feel better than saying, “Oh, those are my words on the page, organized as I think they ought to be.”

Those are the two things. Research in one hand, frameworks and formulas in the other. Put your hands together.

Jerod Morris: Yes, and it simplifies it. Maybe it makes it less art in your own mind, but it simplifies it and you can be more efficient and get better results.

Joanna Wiebe: Yeah, absolutely.

Jerod Morris: It all makes sense.

Joanna Wiebe: I find that, at least.

Jerod Morris: Yes. Excellent. Joanna, this was great. I can’t wait to hear your presentation at Digital Commerce Summit and see what great nugget you say that I’m still thinking about and talking about on podcasts two or three years later.

Joanna Wiebe: Sweet, and I can’t wait to reveal your giant secret.

Jerod Morris: Cut. Yes, it’ll be great. We hope that you will join us at Digital Commerce Summit. Go to Rainmaker.FM/summit. The dates are October 13th through the 14th. We will be in beautiful Denver, Colorado. As I said, on the date that this episode goes live, early bird tickets are still going to be available. I don’t know how much longer they will be, but they are still right now, so go to Rainmaker.FM/summit. Get your ticket and join us in Denver. We can’t wait to see you. Joanna, I will see you there.

Joanna Wiebe: Yeah, thanks a ton, Jerod.

Jerod Morris: Absolutely. We will see you all there and on next week’s brand new episode of The Digital Entrepreneur. Have a great week.

Jun 23 2016

30mins

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Rank #16: 5 Compelling Reasons Why You Should Use Free Online Courses as Lead Magnets

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This is the fourth episode in our ongoing series on the essential elements of the modern marketing website. Today we take the next step after access, and break it down by using free online courses as the perfect lead magnet for digital entrepreneurs.

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In this 22-minute episode, Brian Clark and Jerod Morris discuss:

  • How free online courses help you carve out attention (and authority)
  • What the topic of your course allows you to learn about your prospects
  • Why a free online course helps you solve the identity issue
  • How you can adapt the experience for the people who take your free course
  • What this all means for conversion

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The Show Notes

The Transcript

5 Compelling Reasons Why You Should Use Free Online Courses As Lead Magnets

Voiceover: You are listening to The Digital Entrepreneur, the show for folks who want to discover smarter ways to create and sell profitable digital goods and services. This podcast is a production of Digital Commerce Institute, the place to be for digital entrepreneurs.

DCI features an in-depth, ongoing instructional academy, plus a live education and networking summit where entrepreneurs from across the globe meet in person. For more information, go to Rainmaker.FM/DigitalCommerce.

Jerod Morris: Welcome back to The Digital Entrepreneur. I’m your host Jerod Morris, the VP of marketing for Rainmaker Digital, and I am joined this week by Brian Clark, the founder and CEO of Rainmaker Digital.

Brian, the last time we talked, you were preparing for a trip to the Philippines. How did you manage the long flight? Did you get as much work done as we had hoped for?

Brian Clark: Not really. It’s interesting because I also didn’t really sleep. I was just so exhausted the whole time that I watched a whole bunch of movies. Going over there, I was just trying to make it. That was, by far, the longest series of flights I’ve ever had. Coming back was easier. I guess once you understand what you’re in for, and the long leg of the flight this time was 10 hours instead of 13. That makes a difference, trust me.

Jerod Morris: Oh, I’m sure it does.

Brian Clark: But I got back, worked it so that I would go to bed early the day I got home and start waking up really early, which was one of my goals coming out of the conference. As you know, I’ve been up at four and five in the morning pummeling you with emails. But you also get up early, so it actually works out.

Jerod Morris: It did. It worked out great.

Brian Clark: With you in Central time zone, I actually have to get up an hour earlier than you just to be even with you, but it’s all good. I’m feeling back to normal a bit but, actually, more productive now because I’ve implemented this new morning routine. I’m just much more productive in the morning, but by three in the afternoon, I’m pretty much done. Just stick a fork in me.

Jerod Morris: I’m the exact same way. I get so much done when I get up early, so I like to do it. We had some fun while you were gone. Robert joined us. Chris joined us. We had a really good discussion on last week’s episode really linking together what you and I talked about before with adaptive websites and what we’re going to talk about today with free online courses.

Talked with Robert. He took us back to the beginning of the New Rainmaker strategy, talked some about that. We got some of Chris’ insight on adaptive websites. So you and I now, we’re going to take the next step in the conversation that we’ve been having about these elements of the modern marketing website.

We talked in episode six about the power of an adaptive website, and today, we’re going to talk about why people should be using free online courses as lead magnets. We’ve got five really compelling reasons why this is a good strategy. Any kind of overview statements before we dive in to these five reasons?

Overview

Brian Clark: Well, after we did the adaptive episode, we did the access episode. Access is a broad concept with a whole bunch of benefits that we went over in that episode. A lot of people, that seemed to really resonate with them. Then it’s what kind of access should we provide? There’s all sorts of different things that you can provide access to.

In this episode, we’re really going to make the case for you that, from a marketing standpoint, you really can’t beat providing access through registration to a free online course as the best way to not only begin a relationship with the right prospects, but to convert more of them.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, access. You’re right. I got my A words mixed up. Speaking of A words, that’s the first reason why people should be using a free online course: attention.

How Free Online Courses Help You Carve Out Attention (and Authority)

Brian Clark: Yeah. Even dating back to the old-school funnel, created by a guy named St. Elmo, by the way. I don’t know why no one says ‘St. Elmo’s funnel’ because it just seems perfect, but they don’t.

Attention is the top of the funnel, regardless of the metaphor that you want to use. This is one of the key beginning reasons why we migrated to this type of strategy. Part of the reason why it’s so effective is perceived value.

The days of the crappy PDF ebook or some other kind of marginal lead magnet, in a lot of industries, it just doesn’t work as well because people are like, “Eh, it’s probably not going to be that great. I’m probably going to get spammed and I’d rather just not.” Great content marketing means giving away something–in this case, information–worth paying for. We’ve made this point before.

People are definitely paying for online courses to the tune of $15 billion a year and growing rapidly, so the perceived value of this type of giveaway is much higher. That’s a constant battle that we’re all in–how do we create more perceived value for our prospects, and how do we deliver more actual value?

It begins with perception, and perception is a function of attention and whether or not that attention leads to the next step.

Jerod Morris: Couldn’t you also add another A word here, authority. If you have that perceived value of the course, then when people actually get in the course and they get value and they see your knowledge, you’re also building authority here, too, aren’t you?

Brian Clark: Yeah, I think so. You establish the authority after they’re involved in the course–let me say, demonstrate authority. In your landing page copy and with your other content, you’re going to have to give indications of authority that way as well for people to find the offer attractive.

But it’s a true authority enhancer once you get them to actually finish the course. As we’ll go through these elements, you’ll see that the fifth one is really compelling, and that’s a big part of it.

Jerod Morris: It is. So attention is the first reason. Let’s move on to the second reason now, which is interest.

What the Topic of Your Course Allows You to Learn About Your Prospects

Brian Clark: Right. Any time you’re trying to get someone something, whether you want to call it a ‘lead magnet,’ an ‘ethical bribe,’ or whatever terminology, you’re offering something to establish what this person is interested in–and by that, I mean what problem are they trying to solve?

By using these very strategic assets based on topical interest or problems to be solved, you’re learning something very important about them. That tells you what content you have to deliver to match up with your business objective at the end–whether that’s selling a product, getting them to call you for consulting, or some other kind of client engagement. You get the idea.

Interest is the bridge between attention and conversion, but it also informs, “What do I have to teach these people in order for more of them to want to do business with me?”

Jerod Morris: We often talk about how one of the benefits of digital products and an information product like a course is that the marketing is really baked into the product. That really comes out here–which, again, helps you develop the product that people are going to need. Then you already understand who those people are, so it’s easier to get it out to them once you have it done.

Brian Clark: Yeah. So my interest is learning how to create online courses. I know what I have to teach you as a preliminary matter to get you to take my broader course. Or you’re selling software or software as a service, and that functionality accomplishes something for people.

But let’s say with Rainmaker Platform, if you’re not well-versed in some of the strategies that the platform allows you to execute on, you’re going to feel lost. That’s just a perfect example of someone has an interest and you’ve got a solution–but what needs to happen in between those two things?

Why a Free Online Course Helps You Solve the Identity Issue

Jerod Morris: Now we move on to a topic that we’ve talked about before on previous episodes. We’ve got attention. We’ve got interest. Now it’s about identity, and again, we’ve talked about how every buyer’s journey is going to be different, and we’ve got to treat them as such. This concept of identity helps us take that first step toward doing that.

Brian Clark: Yeah. Identity is the fundamental opposite of one-size-fits-all marketing blast (you just send out the same message to everyone). Identity really allows adaptive content and automation principles to be used. In this context, it has an advantage over some of the more traditional uses of marketing automation, which rely on cookies.

Again, with an access concept, and specifically with an online course, the registration process provides identity–just like Facebook knows who you are, or Twitter, or Basecamp. Yet because you are experiencing this content marketing–which, make no mistake, that’s what this course is–inside a logged-in experience, then no matter where you come–whether it be your iPad, your iPhone, your desktop, your laptop–the identity piece is always there.

You don’t have the infamous cookie drop where your automation just falls apart because they switched devices on you, and you got this disrupted experience. That’s got to be jarring for everyone, but I definitely think that it impacts the ultimate success of that funnel.

How You Can Adapt the Experience for the People Who Take Your Free Course

Jerod Morris: Yeah. And when you have identity, this then allows you to take the next step. This is the fourth reason why creating a free course is a great thing to do and a great product to use as a lead magnet. You can adapt the content.

This is one of the reasons why creating a free course–for example, using an LMS is so much more beneficial than doing it if you just create it via email–is because you understand who the people are. Then you can adapt the experience to them, which is obviously quite beneficial.

Brian Clark: Yeah. This goes beyond even an access concept. For example, you give away an ebook, some other kind of process map, or a free download of some kind. All you know is, basically, did they opt-in, and did they download it.

If they don’t download it, you can adapt a little there and say, “Hey, don’t forget to download your free strategy guide because you haven’t yet, and we want to make sure you get the blah, blah, blah”–but you know nothing about what happens after that. It’s probably sitting on my hard drive, on my desktop

Actually, I have a reading file in Google Drive that has so many PDFs in it that I have not read. That happens, right? I opted-in. I got the thing. I never consumed it, and your follow-up emails I probably got annoyed with. I hadn’t achieved the benefits of knowledge that I was looking for from that download, so I just opted-out at that point.

With a course, it’s a very different thing, especially in a learning management system, because you know if they’ve consumed the content. Did they take lesson one? Yes. Check. Go on to lesson two. Lesson two, they got halfway through it and stopped.

Now, at that point, you can send a different kind of message that says, “Hey, I know life is distracting and things happen, so I just wanted to give you a gentle reminder that your lessons are still there available to you. Maybe you can pick it back up, blah, blah, blah.”

You see the power there. Could you watch someone with an ebook to find out if they were actually progressing through the information, but were they also progressing through chapter by chapter or page by page? We do have that ability with an access concept married with an LMS-style course.

I know you have done this kind of stuff with your Showrunner course, where you see where people get stuck, and you have tailored messages for them. That’s an amazing thing. That’s real adaptive content. You just can’t achieve that with just a static download.

Jerod Morris: Right. Well, you can even take it to the next level where, if you introduce something like quizzes, not only can you find out if someone’s progressing through the material, you can actually find out if they’re understanding the material and really getting it.

Brian Clark: Yeah. That’s actually a teaching strategy, too. If you test them, they will actually retain better than if you don’t. But you’re right. At the same time, that’s another indication of engagement that is very valuable to how you treat that prospect, someone who’s that highly engaged even at the quiz level–which, by the way, coming in Rainmaker very, very soon, I can’t wait to implement some quiz strategies. We’ll talk about those in the future.

When you see that level of high engagement, you might be more inclined to make an offer sooner than someone, obviously, who’s kind of poking through it, nitpicking here and there, skipping around, or just kind of fell off.

Again, every buyer’s journey is different. Yet if you don’t have the information about what they’re actually doing, consuming, engaging with, then how do you actually tailor that journey for them?

What This All Means for Conversion

Jerod Morris: Yeah. We’re talking about five compelling reasons why you should use free online courses as lead magnets. We’ve hit four of them so far: attention, interest, identity, and adaptation, and of course, now we go on to the fifth one. This brings us back to the ultimate goal with what we’re really trying to accomplish with all of this, which is conversion.

Brian Clark: Yeah. So often, this is really a mystery to me. It’s only because I’ve been doing it a long time, and I’m not being critical of anyone. But content marketing is about educating a prospect, so they can do business with you. It’s not enough to have attention, interest, or any of these other really important things on the way to conversion if you’re off the mark on what you’re teaching and how that is married up to what you’re selling.

When you understand what their problem is and you understand how your solution solves that, a course is like a laser-focused educational experience that can better convert a prospect into a customer or existing customers into repeat or recurring customers.

Now, this is the reason why we say that you need to understand your prospect and your customers almost better than they do. We have all of this information and data that we’re generating through a more adaptive content approach to where you can be constantly refining and testing.

Once you get to a point where you understand that they need to know boom, boom, boom, boom, five lessons, whatever, and that more people convert at the end of that than otherwise, that’s one of the more compelling reasons for this format.

Again, we’ve evolved along the way ourselves. Blogging every day hoping that day’s article connects with the right segment of people, and then maybe tomorrow the next one will connect.

When you create these type of very focused funnels using online courses, you’re going after a specific type of person in a very concentrated period of time with a sale in mind. This is going to be liberating to a lot of content marketers and digital entrepreneurs out there. The days of heavy-duty blogging are kind of over. I’m not saying blogging’s dead. I’m saying that laser-focused content is more effective and, ultimately, when you look at volume, easier to create.

Jerod Morris: Yeah. Like you said, you’re teaching people exactly what they need to know to, and you’re giving them little wins along the way. As you also mentioned, it’s a process then of adapting and figuring out what’s working, figuring out what’s not, adapting the message, adapting the content also to the people that you’re serving and the people that you’re trying to move through and get to take that next step.

The Importance of Testing and Understanding What’s Working, What Needs to Be Tweaked, and What to Double-Down On

Jerod Morris: That’s going to lead us into the fifth element that we’re going to talk about, which is about testing and really understanding what’s working, understanding what needs to be tweaked, understanding what needs to be doubled down on so that you really are, in a sense, creating a machine that is educating people, giving them value, giving them something that they really need, and at the same time, moving them along with you so that they can take the next steps with you–whether that’s business for the first time or becoming recurring customers. Then when you put it all together, it’s a beautiful thing.

Brian Clark: Yeah. All the elements we’ve talked about right now are incredibly important and incredibly powerful, but without testing, you’re still flying a little blind. I will say that, if you did steps one through four as a strategy and left off testing, as long as you executed well, you’d do better than you would do with another approach–but why not do your best?

That’s what testing allows you to do–the right word, the right button, the right case, the right that. It’s all discernible, and the technology is easier than ever. I know you and Lauren have been running tests I don’t even know about, but you guys are like kids in a candy store right now going, “Ooh, let’s test this.”

Jerod Morris: Yeah. Hey, if you can get a 20 percent bump in conversions for the same effort, why wouldn’t you do it?

Brian Clark: Absolutely.

How to Take Your Digital Commerce Education to the Next Level

Jerod Morris: Yeah. You might as well, and I do want you to know, if you’re listening to this right now, and obviously you are because you just heard me say that, if you want to take your digital commerce education to the next level and if you want to learn more specifically about courses and how to put together courses that really work, then you want to go get your free taste of Digital Commerce Academy if you haven’t already.

When you do that–and you can do it by going to Rainmaker.FM/DigitalCommerce–as soon as you sign up–and again, it’s free–you get four lessons in Brian’s course on how to build an online training business the smart way.

You also get three case studies, and one of those case studies is a story of Danny Margulies, who we featured on a previous episode of The Digital Entrepreneur–who went from soul-crushing job to six-figure freelancer, all the way to creating the mega-successful Secrets of a Six-Figure Freelancer course.

Now, that was a paid course, but the elements of what make courses work–whether they’re free or paid–there are obviously similarities there. There’s a lot to learn from both in Brian’s lessons, in that case study, and in some of the other content that you get in your free taste that will really help you, that you can apply to your situation and business. All of it’s available as soon as you register. Plus you get our free weekly newsletter, too.

As I said, it’s free. Go to Rainmaker.FM/DigitalCommerce and get activated, get your free membership today, and start learning more, so you can put this into practice for you. The sooner you do, the better off you’ll be.

Brian Clark: Yeah. They also get some free access to our marketing funnels course–which, when you think about courses in the context of lead generation and conversion, as opposed to paid courses, that’s what you’re creating. You’re creating an adaptive content funnel. You’re just doing it in a very methodical way with some very powerful learning management technology on your side, which is pretty cool.

Jerod Morris: Yeah. All right, Brian. Stay warm. I’ll see you on email at 3:30 tomorrow morning.

Brian Clark: I slept until five today, man. I’m just slacking off.

Jerod Morris: I’ll talk to you next week, and we’ll talk to you next week on another brand-new episode of The Digital Entrepreneur.

Brian Clark: Take care, everyone.

Mar 31 2016

22mins

Play

Rank #17: How to Build and Profit from a Hyperlocal Community Site

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A comprehensive review of the tactics and strategies you need to create an engaging community site.

Rainmaker.FM is Brought to You By

Discover why more than 80,000 companies in 135 countries choose WP Engine for managed WordPress hosting.

Start getting more from your site today!

Building an online community is hard work. But it doesn’t have to be, if you have the right blueprints to guide your efforts.

In this episode, we take a probing look at what it takes to build, grow, and profit from a website that focuses on a specific geographic area.

And this framework can work for anyone trying to build a unique online business.

In this 31 minute episode, Sean Jackson interviews Kendall Guinn from Aquila Commercial to reveal the most successful tactics you need to create a hyper-local site, including…

  • The most important thing you need to define first
  • How to engage with your community
  • Content tactics you can use to exponentially grow your audience
  • The business models that can make your site extremely profitable
  • And my tool recommendation for the week

Listen to The Digital Entrepreneur below ...

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The Show Notes

Sep 14 2017

31mins

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Rank #18: How to Market Like a Magnet and Build Your Personal Brand

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What are you trying to chase down right now in your business? This is a question my guest on this week’s episode asks himself constantly. And he’s here to share some wisdom that will help you chase your it down faster and better.

In this 50-minute episode, Chris Ducker and I discuss:

  • His speaking role at Digital Commerce Summit
  • Two steps to building a successful membership business that are often overlooked
  • How Chris’ desire to help people has driven his success
  • The touching story of how his book changed one reader’s life by giving him more time to spend with his young daughter
  • Why Chris’ philosophy of “marketing like a magnet” has worked for him, and can work for you too
  • His definition of digital entrepreneurship (and how he’s lived it)
  • Why “Chase it down” is the buzz phrase permeating his mind and his organization
  • The importance of pursuing quantifiable metrics
  • Why building a personal brand offers important flexibility and freedom

And so much more, including our patented six rapid-fire questions at the end.

Enjoy.

Listen to The Digital Entrepreneur below ...

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The Show Notes

The Transcript

How to Market Like a Magnet and Build Your Personal Brand

Jerod Morris: Hey, Jerod Morris here. If you know anything about Rainmaker Digital and Copyblogger, you may know that we produce incredible live events. Well, some would say that we produce incredible live events as an excuse to throw great parties, but that’s another story. We’ve got another one coming up this October in Denver. It’s called Digital Commerce Summit, and it is entirely focused on giving you the smartest ways to create and sell digital products and services. You can find out more and get a killer early bird price on your tickets at Rainmaker.FM/Summit.

We’ll be talking about Digital Commerce Summit in more detail as it gets closer. For now, I’d like to let a few attendees from our past events speak for us.

Attendee 1: For me, it’s just hearing from the experts. This is my first industry event. It’s awesome to learn new stuff and also get confirmation that we’re not doing it completely wrong where I work.

Attendee 2: The best part of the conference for me is being able to mingle with people and realize that you have connections with everyone here. It feels like LinkedIn live. I also love the parties after each day, being able to talk to speakers, talk to other people who are here for the first time, people who have been here before.

Attendee 3: I think the best part of the conference for me is understanding how I can service my customers a little more easily. Seeing all the different facets and components of various enterprises then helps me pick the best tools.

Jerod Morris: Hey, we agree — one of the biggest reasons we host a conference every year is so that we can learn how to service our customers, people like you, more easily. Here are just a few more words from folks who have come to our past live events.

Attendee 4: It’s really fun. I think it’s a great mix of beginner information and advanced information. I’m really learning a lot and having a lot of fun.

Attendee 5: The conference is great, especially being a single-track conference where you don’t get distracted by, “Which session should I go to?” and, “Am I missing something?”

Attendee 6: The training and everything, the speakers have been awesome, but I think the coolest aspect for me has been connecting with both people who are putting it on and then the other attendees.

Jerod Morris: That’s it for now. There’s a lot more to come on Digital Commerce Summit. I really hope to see you there in October. Again, to get all the details and the very best deal on tickets, head over to Rainmaker.FM/Summit.

Welcome back to The Digital Entrepreneur. I am your host Jerod Morris, the VP of marketing for Rainmaker Digital, and this is episode No. 24. On this week’s episode, I am joined by a friend, a mentor, and a guy whose work ethic is second to none, even though he only works six hours a week these days and takes Fridays off.

He burst onto the scene by teaching other entrepreneurs how to leverage the power of virtual assistants to build a more efficient and effective business, and he hasn’t stopped helping entrepreneurs since — both as a constant creator of useful content and as a leader by example.

Today, he runs the highly successful entrepreneurial community Youpreneur, and he hosts the Youpreneur podcast on Rainmaker.FM as well. He is a coach, author, expert, speaker, blogger, podcaster, and he is here to share some important wisdom with you that he has learned along the way throughout his entrepreneurial journey. He is Chris Ducker.

Chris will be joining me on stage this October, actually, at Digital Commerce Summit in Denver, Colorado. As I have told you in the last few episodes, as you surely know by now, the conference will be held on October 13th and 14th, and all of us at Rainmaker Digital really hope that you will join us at what we are planning on being and really hope is a one-of-a-kind event.

Why Digital Commerce Summit Will Take Your Digital Business to the Next Level

Jerod Morris: Here’s what we hope will make this event one of a kind.

First, it’s not like a lot of the other cattle-call conferences that you may have been to, where every 90 minutes you have to make a difficult decision about what presentation you want to go to. At Digital Commerce Summit, you are treated to a single track of speakers, curated personally by Brian Clark, that follow a step-by-step progression to take you from point A to point B with your digital product and services.

We really want to help you take the next step, that’s the goal. There’s a bias for action at this conference. We don’t want you leaving Denver in the same place with your business that you showed up. The event is about action, and you’re going to be buzzing with ideas and an itch to execute by the time it’s over and you’re traveling home. That is our goal.

Second, in terms of what will make this event unique and one of a kind, is what other conference is held at a famous theater, and treats you to a special music performance by the band Cake? Well, you’re going to get both at Digital Commerce Summit, and this combination of fun and education is what makes it a great place to network and why it is the premiere live educational and networking event for entrepreneurs who create and sell digital products and services.

But here’s the deal. The early bird price goes away next week. This episode is coming out on Thursday, July 21st. That’s when this episode is coming out. The early bird price goes away next week on Thursday, July 28th. You really don’t want to hesitate to get your ticket because you’re only going to end up spending more.

Here’s something even better. Since I am going to be speaking and since Chris is going to be a speaker at the event, I can actually give you the special speaker link, which allows you to get an even better deal than the one that is being offered publicly. This deal with the special speaker link that I’m about to give you also expires with the early bird price on July 28th.

Here’s the link. Make sure that you remember it or write it down. It’s Rainmaker.FM/Summit-Speakers, and that link, of course, will be in the show notes as well. Go there, make sure that you book your ticket before the early bird price goes away. With that link, you get a price that’s even better than the early bird price, so make sure that you go there Rainmaker.FM/Summit-Speakers.

All righty. Well, let’s get to this weeks discussion. Here we go. Enjoy some wit, wisdom, and lots of energy — and lots of great stories, too, as you would expect — from the one and only Chris Ducker.

Mr. Ducker, welcome to The Digital Entrepreneur. You and I last saw each other in February, and I’m looking forward to seeing you again in October in Denver.

Chris Ducker: Yes, yes, it’s going to be good. Thanks for having me back on the show, man.

Jerod Morris: Oh for sure, for sure. It’s a pleasure having you here, excited to talk with you about all this stuff today. This will be good.

Chris Ducker: Yeah.

Jerod Morris: So speaking of Denver, your talk at Digital Commerce Summit is titled The Six Steps to Building a Successful Membership Business, which you have clearly done with Youpreneur. Don’t give away any of your big secrets here, but what’s maybe one important step to building a successful membership business that people often overlook, in your experience?

Two Steps to Building a Successful Membership Business That Are Often Overlooked

Chris Ducker: I think ultimately it really comes down to should you even do it in the first place. I think that’s the main reason why the majority of membership sites fail — the people that are starting them shouldn’t actually be starting them. For example, you shouldn’t launch a membership site if you want to make money quickly. You shouldn’t launch it if you want it to be a passive business. You shouldn’t launch a membership site if you’re not thinking long term, if you’re not committed to the community, and so on, and so on, and so on.

I think that’s the big issue right there. A lot of people don’t think enough about it. They think, “Oh it’s a new shiny object. Let’s jump on the bandwagon, and see how much money we can make.” I think that connected to the lack of validating of your idea in the first place is probably the biggest reason why memberships fail.

Before we launched Youpreneur, one of the big things that I did in terms of validation — and we’re talking about this time last year actually — I was hardcore on Periscope as you might remember.

Jerod Morris: Yes.

Chris Ducker: Obviously, Periscope has changed a little bit, and Facebook Live has come into the game very much so. So Periscope is not as popular as it was. I still feel like they’re going to be doing a good job in being part of the leading focus in live streaming, but it’s not the big kahuna it was this time last year.

What I was doing this time last year was pretty much Monday through to Friday, I was on Periscope for about 15 to 20 minutes every day, conversing with my audience on there, and I was validating everything for Youpreneur before we went into hardcore launch mode, which was beginning in September.

We were a couple of months ahead of time. We were validating everything from just the concept, with whether or not we’re going to make it more community-focused or whether we’re going to make it more deliverable of content-focused. We were validating everything from the headlines that we were going to use on the landing page, the subtitles, the benefit points — you name it. There are things that I was saying on Periscope, which I thought were going to be brilliant on a landing page, that just fell horribly flat. We removed them from our landing page script completely.

But there were certain things that really stood out, and the one big one was, whenever I said anything that remotely resembled the sentence of, “The entrepreneurial community where nobody gets left behind,” everybody went crazy on the comments and on the hearts. That right there is the tagline right at the top of the landing page.

We were validating the idea for Youpreneur.com a long time before we were actually launching it, and we were doing it with a live audience. You were getting that live feedback. I think, yes, a horribly long answer to a very simple question — make sure you’re validating your idea. But before you even go there, make sure that a membership site is even for you to begin with because it might not be. That’s fine, but you’ve got to be honest with yourself and then maybe move in a slightly different direction.

Jerod Morris: No, that’s a great answer. I’m really glad that you mentioned what you did about validating. I think that is overlooked, and I think it’s amazing a lot of times what you find out that surprises you. It’s like you said. Stuff that you thought was going to be a home run and it falls flat, and something that you maybe didn’t think was going to be that great and everybody is responding to it.

It’s one thing to validate it and get the feedback, and it’s another thing to kind of be able to put your ego aside and, if it’s not the idea that you loved in the first place but something else, to be humble enough to say, “Hey, this is what the audience wants. Let me give it to them.”

Chris Ducker: Yeah, absolutely. That’s why I always say it’s so important for you to listen to your audience. Your audience will ultimately guide how your business builds and grows, but if you’re ignoring them, particularly on an important decision, such as a new product or service offering, then you’re destined for doom.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, you are for sure. Chris, I’ve always believed that the number one benefit of digital entrepreneurship is freedom. I have a feeling that you agree with this, especially considering the books that you’ve written, how you got your start. The freedom to choose your projects, the freedom to chart your course, and ultimately, the freedom to change your life and your family’s life for the better.

I’m really interested to know what benefit of digital entrepreneurship do you appreciate the most?

How Chris’ Desire to Help People Has Driven His Success

Chris Ducker: Well, I think it’s being able to ultimately touch as many people as I can and trying to help as many people as I can. As I’ve grown my career as an entrepreneur in the last 12, 13 years or so remember I’m a brick-and-mortar guy. I still own brick and mortar. I have over 450 people working for me right now in a facility probably 20 minutes drive from my home, but I’m only there once or twice a month. I’m a very old-school, brick-and-mortar-type entrepreneur that happened to get involved in the digital space in late 2009, early 2010 when I started blogging, podcasting, and all the rest of it.

When I started, I didn’t really know why I was doing what I was doing. It was a bit of a strange journey for me. But I knew that I was enjoying it, and I knew that I was enjoying being able to get in touch with people, work with people, help people, inspire people, and all the rest of it. For me, I think the biggest benefit is being able to build an audience, a community, and ultimately, a client base from literally every corner of the globe.

I truly am blessed to have a community from all around the world. Yes, 50 percent of it’s in America, but when you look at the map, that’s an obvious reason why. But when I hear from people that are based all over Europe, all over Asia, Australia, the UK, Canada, and all these other places — even Africa and places like that — not everybody is going to end up spending money with me. I get it. But if I can still help and inspire them, then I’m a happy camper.

I think that’s probably the biggest benefit for me is being able to genuinely garner that kind of worldwide audience. I love it. It just inspires me greatly.

Jerod Morris: Why do you think you’ve been able to do that? A lot of people have had that goal, to build that kind of audience, and you’ve been so successful doing it and building a global audience. Clearly, your gratitude and your appreciation for the audience comes through in everything you do. What do you think it’s been about you that has allowed you to build an audience so successfully?

Why Chris’ Philosophy of ‘Marketing Like a Magnet’ Has Worked for Him, and Can Work for You Too

Chris Ducker: Well, I think a couple things. Number one, I’m me all the time. You know me. We’re buddies. We’ve hung out. What you’re hearing on the podcast right now is me in real life as well — maybe minus a few F bombs here and there. No, honestly what you see is what you get with me.

I’m of the mindset where and the term I like to use is ‘I market like a magnet’ — I like to attract the best, and repel the rest. If I can attract the right people towards me, my vibe, and what I’m all about, then I know that I’m going to be ultimately creating the right kind of tribe for myself. I think that’s the first thing, genuinely just being me all the time. What you see is what you get.

The second thing is that I’ve never focused on one particular market. There’s nothing wrong with doing that, but I think a lot of people let themselves down a little bit in terms of their growth potential, where they focus entirely, say, on a US market or a UK market. I’m of the old adage where money is good all around the world. I don’t need to be prejudice towards one particular location, country, or one particular area of the world. I’ll take anybody’s money. You know what I mean?

Jerod Morris: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chris Ducker: I think a lot of people actually do genuinely let themselves down in this regards, where they’re focusing on one particular area. Now look, if that’s okay with them, if they’re totally all right with that, and they’re going after that for a very clear reason, then that’s all good. I’m not here to moan about it, but I do believe that a lot of people could be A) making a lot more money and B) providing a lot more help and support for people around the world if they were to maybe open up their horizons a little bit and not focus on smaller geographical locations.

I’ve never done that, and I believe that’s one of the reasons why I’ve been able to grow the global brand that I’ve got. That and the fact that I travel genuinely all around the world for speaking I think has also helped me as well.

Jerod Morris: Now when you say, “In terms of the market,” you’re talking about geography, right? It’s like with Youpreneur. You’re clearly targeting entrepreneurs, so you will target specific markets in terms of interest or worldview, that kind of thing.

Chris Ducker: Oh yeah.

Jerod Morris: But you’re talking specifically just about geography, not pinning yourself down to one place.

Chris Ducker: Correct, absolutely. Yes.

Jerod Morris: So I’d love for you to tell me about a milestone or a moment in your career as a digital entrepreneur that you are the most proud of. What story comes to your mind first when I ask that?

The Touching Story of How His Book Changed One Reader’s Life by Giving Him More Time to Spend with His Young Daughter

Chris Ducker: Most proud of, God there’s a lot.

Jerod Morris: Good.

Chris Ducker: Yeah. I think that one of the biggest moments and it had nothing to do with money or anything like that. I think one of the biggest things for me, I was doing a book signing in New York a couple years ago. I was getting to the end of the session. It had been going on for a couple of hours. I was getting a little tired, but I was still trying to bring the energy to everybody that came up with a copy of the book to sign.

This middle-aged gentlemen came up, and he said to me, “I want you to know that this book has changed my life.” You know what? As an author, you get genuinely repetitive comments like that quite regularly. Now, I don’t take it lightly. Don’t get me wrong. Those words are incredibly impactful.

I don’t know why I did this and why this guy. Usually I’ll just say, “Oh thanks very much. I really appreciate you picking up the book,” sort of thing. With this guy, there was something about him, and I said to him, “Why? How did it change your life?” There was just something in me that just needed to know.

He then went ahead with a minute and a half or so, and I’m paraphrasing brutally here. Basically, he had lost his wife the year before to cancer. He had a four-year-old daughter and was working nine to six. His daughter was getting picked up by child carers, dropped off at a play group and kindergarten or whatever. He would get back at eight o’clock at night. She’s already had her dinner from the carer, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

He was making good money, but he was never with his daughter. And he really wanted to be with this daughter after her losing her mother. He basically started a side hustle, and he picked up my book and hired his first VA to help him with the marketing at that. Within inside of eight to nine months or so, he was making enough money on the side to quit his full-time job and to go full-time working at home, so he could be there with his daughter all the time.

As he was telling me this story, I felt my eyes welling up with tears. I just blinked, and they rolled down my face — which, in turn, made him start crying. My wife was standing by, and you’ve met her as well, and she started crying. It just turned into one big cry fest.

I always think of that one moment actually. I remember the guy’s name. His name was Brad. I remember the look on his face when he told me that story. When you have that kind of impact, oh man, no amount of money can put … I mean, that little girl has her dad now. She doesn’t have her mom, but she has her dad every single morning, every single afternoon when she comes back from school, every single night — and that’s incredible.

That’s impact that’s not measurable with any dollar sign, euro sign, or pound sign next to it. I love that stuff.

Jerod Morris: Well, it goes back to the benefit that you mentioned earlier, that your love of digital entrepreneurship is being able to help people. You took something that you were an expert in, working smarter not harder, helping people add efficiencies to their days, and by teaching that to someone else, totally changed his life. That’s an amazing story.

His Definition of Digital Entrepreneurship (and How He’s Lived It)

Chris Ducker: That’s the very definition of digital entrepreneurship, isn’t it? Taking what we have as an expertise, and everybody’s an expert in something, I believe anyway. Obviously, in varying degrees of expert level. But that’s the very definition of what it is to be a digital entrepreneur in my mind. Taking what you know, putting it into a format — whether it be a course, a blog, a podcast, a video, or whatever it is — and giving it out to the world, or selling it to the world where you then go ahead and move the needle for somebody else. I love that stuff.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, okay so let me flip that around now. Tell me about the most humbling moment in your career as a digital entrepreneur and what you learned from it.

Why Chris Finds Speaking Humbling

Chris Ducker: Hmm, humbling moment. Well, these are good questions, man. You’re good now. This is it. You know your job, my man.

Jerod Morris: Thank you.

Chris Ducker: Well, I think that could be humbling as well, that story could be humbling.

Jerod Morris: In a sense, yeah it is.

Chris Ducker: Yeah, I don’t know. I always feel incredibly humbled when I’m invited to speak at events. That’s not digital. That’s live. That’s in person. I think because, obviously, of the work that we do online, and the stuff that we put out there — there’s a nice technical word, ‘stuff’ that we put out there — for people to consume and learn from. I’m blessed to be in a position where I’m getting invites to speak at events, like the event coming up in October in Denver.

I think when I’m in front of a crowd of a few hundred people, or even a larger crowd I think the largest crowd I’ve spoken in front of is about 900 people or so. When you’re in front of a crowd of people like that, of any size, that’s humbling. You’ve got their attention, or at least you want to have their attention. You don’t want them on their phone unless they’re taking notes because you’re fantastic.

I think that’s pretty humbling. Also, when you’re done with the talk and you see a little bit of a line forming, and people want to come say, “Hi,” just want to say, “Thanks,” or they want to ask you a question, that’s humbling. I like all that. For me, that’s one of the reasons why I talk live. That’s one of the reasons why I travel so much is to be able to meet people, converse, shake hands, get out a few hugs, and all that sort of stuff, you know?

Jerod Morris: Yeah, totally. I agree with you completely. Let’s fast forward to now, and let’s talk a little bit about your business now and what you’re doing now. What is the one word that you would use to sum up the status of your business as it stands today?

Why ‘Chase It Down’ Is the Buzz Phrase Permeating Chris’ Mind and His Organization

Chris Ducker: I don’t know whether I could have one word, but I mean one phrase that we’re using a lot internally — and I also use it externally as well with my tribe and people that follow me online — that is ‘chase it down. I say it all the time. We’re actually in the process of getting T-shirts designed.

Jerod Morris: Nice. Chase it down T-shirts? I like it.

Chris Ducker: Chase it down T-shirts. I’ll have one with me hopefully in October for you, brother.

Jerod Morris: Excellent.

Chris Ducker: Yeah, that, for me, is what it’s all about right now. I’ve been active online for six and a half years. I’ve been incredibly blessed and honored to build the personal brand that I’ve got to get a bestselling book out of it, to launch Youpreneur, and everything else that we do. Now it’s about chasing it down. ‘It,’ by the way, in that sentence is different for everyone, obviously.

Whatever it is that you’re wanting to achieve, whatever level of success that you want to aspire to, that’s the it. You’ve got to chase it down. It ain’t going to fall in your lap, plain and simple. There’s no luck in business. I’m a big believer of that. You make your own luck. I am on that chase it down mission right now with my team, with my community, with my subscribers, with every one that I come into contact with on a day-to-day basis. It’s all about chasing it down.

Jerod Morris: What’s one of the specific ‘its’ that’s at the top of your priority list now? Something specific, and what are you doing to get there, to chase it down?

Chris Ducker: Yeah, so our number one focus right now is to get to 1,000 mastermind community members for Youpreneur by the end of this year. We’re about halfway there now, and what we’re doing right now, actually, is we’re completely rebuilding our automation funnel. We are planning out and launching, probably in about three weeks from now, maybe even less than that actually, a scarcity launch before we put the price up on September 1.

We are also putting in place a number of different live webinars that I’m going to be doing, on a number of different topics as well. The crossover between our two shows here, it’s quite adamant. Everyone can see it. The perfect client, customer, or member for Youpreneur is that digital entrepreneur, is an author, speaker, coach, consultant, expert, blogger, podcaster. Whoever, it doesn’t matter — what I call a ‘personal brand entrepreneur.’

We’re going to be teaming up with a lot of individual communities and groups that focus on, say, providing info for authors, providing info for speakers, providing info for consultants, coaches, and all these sort of types of things. Seventy percent of the webinar will ultimately be the same, but there’s going to be a lot of personalization and customization for each one. That’s where we’re looking to try and bring in those additional 500 members.

Jerod Morris: I like how you’ve got specific numbers there. Have you found that’s been really useful for you? I mean in terms of being able to chase it down, to really know what it is down to a level of specificity like you want 1,000 people. How important is that for you?

The Importance of Pursuing Quantifiable Metrics

Chris Ducker: I’m a sales and marketing guy. I have been since I was 17 years old. Through the very big majority of my 20s, I had no salary. I worked 100 percent on commission. That takes some balls for anybody, and I was just in a position where I’m a good sales guy, plain and simple. We’re talking when I was still back in London. I was working at the publishing company. I actually said, no to a basic salary, even with two children in tow, because I wanted the higher rate of commission because I had confidence in myself to make the sales I needed to. I’m a very, very target-orientated entrepreneur to this day because of that beginning in sales and marketing world.

Everything we do, everything is broken down, by the way, per month. August, we want to have 200 people sign up to Youpreneur based on that scarcity launch that we’re putting in place. Then there’s 75 people in September, and so on, and so on, and so on. We’re very, very number-focused. I have a saying that the numbers never lie. The numbers never lie. If you ignore the numbers, you do so at your own economic peril. They will tell you exactly what you need to do, how you want to change things.

As digital entrepreneurs, we do it anyway. We should be looking at our analytics, our autoresponder, our open rates, click-through rates, and all these things. If you’re not looking at those things, you’re letting yourself down, and you’re letting your audience down. Sometimes, it only takes very small tweaks to boost all those numbers up, and more people end up getting touched and inspired by what you’re all about. You help more people. You support more people, and so on, and so on, and so on.

Yeah, very, very number-orientated, extremely target-focused as well.

Jerod Morris: You talk about this goal you have of getting to 1,000, and you can just tell the enthusiasm and the confidence in your voice, and you’ve clearly got a plan. I’m curious, though, what’s maybe your biggest challenge right now? What is something you see as a hurdle to getting there, and how are you trying to overcome that or preempt that from keeping you from your goals?

Why Chris’ Biggest Current Challenge Is Fighting for Audience Attention

Chris Ducker: Yeah, I think that’s a really good question. I think that it’s because there’s a lot of other membership sites out there. The old adage of, “Well, there’s a lot of competitors on the horizon,” or whatever. For us, there are a lot of competitors. There are. What we do is exactly what I preach, and that is I focus on selling the benefits and the features around what Youpreneur is. That is an authority community based around me and my brand, my expertise, and the way that I coach people to build successful businesses.

That’s our number one thorn in the side right now is the fact that there are a crap-ton of entrepreneur-focused communities online right now. The way that we get over that, or hope to get over that, and have been getting over that to a certain degree, is by ultimately putting me front and center for the community at this current moment in time.

The ultimate goal for Youpreneur is actually to have a team of experts inside of there that can help people across the board — everything from content creation and marketing, down to sales, down to conversions, and you name it. Ultimately, right now, the focus is on what I can do for you as a member of the community. It’s working well, but yeah, that’s the biggest issue, man. There are a lot of membership communities right now for the entrepreneur out there. You are fighting. You’re fighting for the eyeballs. You’re fighting for the Buy Now clicks, but I’m okay. I can handle the old scrap.

Jerod Morris: Well, and the thing is, I mean that’s something that a lot of people are facing now. As more and more people go online, there’s going to be more competition out there. How do you go about really trying to position yourself? When you are in a crowded market, what are some of your strategies for making sure that you do stand out?

How to Stand Out in a Crowded Market

Chris Ducker: Like I said, number one, you be you all the time. Gary Vaynerchuk calls it ‘do you.’ I believe, particularly because of the focus of Youpreneur being a community for personal brand entrepreneurs, if I’m not being me, if I’m not building that business around my personal brand, that’s not the best postage stamp for that. You know what I mean? I kind of feel like I have to lead the way for my members by doing it myself. If I put something in the community — a piece of content, for example — and then I don’t follow my own advice, I’m an idiot. You probably shouldn’t be listening to me.

Honestly, I truly believe one of the ways to get out of that, stand out from the crowd is just ‘do you,’ as Gary says, is to be yourself all of the time. Please don’t talk about stuff that you don’t know anything about. That’s the one thing I see a lot of people doing now. What they’re trying to do is they’re trying to kind of broaden their horizons a little bit. They’re trying to go after a certain part of the market or the Internet that they see a lot of money attached to, and they’re talking about stuff they don’t know about.

If they’re good at talking, they will be able to convince a certain number of people. But let me tell you something. Sooner or later, they’re going to fall flat on their face, and they’re going to look ridiculous. People are going to ask for refunds, and their reputation’s going to be scarred online. Don’t talk about stuff that you know nothing about. If you don’t know anything about something and you want to cover it inside of your community, then bring somebody else in to do a workshop, a webinar, or something for you. Don’t try to be the jack-of-all-trades, and just be yourself. That’s what I’m doing.

Jerod Morris: Are there any red flags that you would tell people to look out for, to know if they’re listening to a Charlatan, or someone who actually knows what they’re talking about?

Chris Ducker: Well, whenever I see anybody online that’s standing in front of a Ferrari look, not that many people have Ferrari’s. How many people do you know that own a Ferrari? I literally know nobody that owns a Ferrari. Nobody. When you see things like that, or if you see guys on yachts, walking around a huge mansion, all this sort of type, for me, it’s just cheesy. For me, it doesn’t do anything for me at all.

I guess there are some people that want to have that dream life and everything. For instance, Tony Robbins stepping off of his private jet on the tarmac somewhere on the way to do another live seminar in front of 3,000 people, that’s believable because you know it’s Tony Robbins. If it’s some guy you’ve never heard of before doing the similar thing, you’ve got to question it. You just have to.

It’s things like visual red flags like that, and then also actually listen to what they’re saying. If all they’re doing is skating on the surface, the chances are there’s no real substance there. When you talk about building a successful business, don’t say that, “I made $15 million last year, and it was awesome. I can teach you … ” No, tell me how you made the $15 mil, and then I’ll listen to you a little bit more, that kind of thing.

Jerod Morris: Did you just slip into an American accent right there?

Chris Ducker: Yeah. Was it any good?

Jerod Morris: It was pretty good, yeah. I like that.

Chris Ducker: Oh dear me.

Jerod Morris: Earlier I asked you what was the one word you would use to sum up the status of your business as it stands today, and you used the phrase ‘chase it down.” If we talk again in a year, and I’m assuming that we will talk again in a year, what would you want that one word or phrase to be than? You can’t use ‘chased it down’ because that would be cheesy.

Why Building a Personal Brand Offers Important Flexibility and Freedom

Chris Ducker: ‘Still chasing it down.’ I don’t know.

Jerod Morris: Maybe you could. You can always be chasing something down. You can just be onto the next thing I suppose.

Chris Ducker: You can. I think that also one of the reasons why I focused in … and I remember, it was the middle of 2012, I had just had back surgery, and I was thinking about what I was doing online. We were building the businesses and everything at the same time, and I figured you know what? The blog at the time was Virtual Business Lifestyle. I don’t know whether you remember it or not. We had the blog and, we had the podcast under the same brand name, the same domain, the whole lot.

But it was never, “Are you reading Virtual Business Lifestyle, or do you listen to the Virtual Business Lifestyle podcast?” It was always, “Are you reading Chris Ducker’s blog, or are you listening to Chris Ducker’s podcast?” I had started to develop this personal brand for myself quite out of, I guess, just pure luck to a certain degree, or maybe it was a mistake. I don’t know.

Once I had decided, following the surgery, that I was going to zoom in on my personal brand, one of the reasons why I was so excited about it was that I knew that, if people were following me for me and what I personally could bring them because they liked me and my vibe, that ultimately I could pivot without any major loss at any point in my career going forward.

For example, in 2013 going into 2014, I was talking a lot about virtual stuff, how to delegate, build virtual teams, and things like that, and I still talk about it now. But I really zoomed in on that because Virtual Freedom was coming out in April of 2014. Now, since the book, and because I knew Youpreneur was going to be launched late 2015, I started talking more about the personal brand side of the business and all the rest of it. I’ve been able to pivot, and I think that word itself is a great word — being able to pivot. We’re not always going to want to talk about the same thing forever.

Jerod Morris: Right.

Chris Ducker: It got to the point, actually, with the whole VA thing that, if I got asked a question, “Where’s the best place to find a virtual assistant?” again, I was literally going to pull out whatever hair I had left because it was so boring to talk about virtual assistants for the 300th time that year. I think we have to pivot. We have to move forward. We’ve got to change our visions and our goals. Yes, still chase it down, but ultimately it’s okay to pivot.

I think that word right there is a nice word to focus on and not shoe box yourself or pigeon hole yourself too much into one particular focus. Brian Clark is the perfect example of someone who’s pivoted. Some pivots have been huge pivots, massive, life-changing pivots, but he’s been able to do it one time after another because of the overall quality of what he is known for and what his team is known for. He’s been able to do it without any major loss of business. In fact, if anything, it’s just got better and better and better. I like the idea of pivoting.

Jerod Morris: I’m curious. The way that you have built your business and built it around a personal brand, I wonder if that has ever created a dilemma for you as a coach. What I mean by that is, there are a lot of people who want to be digital entrepreneurs but maybe don’t have the charisma you have or just the comfort-ability being out front, being the face, having their name being out front, and would maybe be more comfortable being associated with a topic than it being associated with them. How do you coach those folks who have seen you do it this way, but maybe don’t have the same comfort level with doing it the way that you’ve done it?

Why Sometimes You Need to Say No More Often Than Yes

Chris Ducker: Yeah, generally speaking, that kind of thing is very, very hard to change. I have tried with many coaching clients. Even within Youpreneur, we see some people join, and they’re not comfortable being front and center — and they’re very vocal about that inside of the community. Some people want to learn how to get out of their shell and be more front and center, but some people genuinely do not. I’m at the point in my career as a coach now that I don’t want to work with those people because it’s like trying to run up a 65-degree hill. It’s going to kill you.

I genuinely now will steer away from those kind of people. We kind of know. We know whether or not we want to do something or not. But it’s a tough one, and I think that, particularly as we get older, we kind of make these choices where sometimes you’ve got to say no more often than yes. If you think about it, whenever you say yes, you’re saying no to something else immediately, at exactly the same time.

If I say yes to coaching someone who is like that and isn’t too sure about whether they want to be out in front, and possibly I probably won’t be able to change that mindset, I’m saying no at exactly the same time to working with somebody that does want to genuinely be out in front and that I know I can help achieve some great success.

It’s a tough one, I tend to steer away from that kind of situation nowadays.

Jerod Morris: Yeah. Well, and it allows you to have the maximum impact when you’re not spending so much time trying to change someone’s mindset that may not change. It makes a lot of sense.

Chris Ducker: Yeah.

Jerod Morris: Are you ready for some rapid-fire questions?

Chris Ducker: Oh god, go on then. Some of these questions have been rapid fire. You know the old adage of, “This guy knows his job.” You know your job. No doubt about it.

The One Book Chris Would Insist You Read

Jerod Morris: Thank you, so let’s start out with this one. If you could have every person who will ever work with, or for you read one book not written by you — you can’t choose your own — what would it be? What would the book be?

Chris Ducker: Oh dude. Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk.

Jerod Morris: Hmm, that’s a good one.

Chris Ducker: That was the book for me. Late 2009, I picked that book up and just loved it. I fell in love with the whole personal brand business idea right there and then. It would be Crush It!.

Chris’ Ideal 30-Minute Skype to Discuss His Business

Jerod Morris: Yeah, good one. Makes sense, too. If you could have a 30-minute Skype call to discuss your business with anyone tomorrow, who would it be?

Chris Ducker: Sir Richard Branson.

Jerod Morris: What would you ask him? What would be your first question?

Chris Ducker: How the hell are you so energetic at 66?

Jerod Morris: Yeah, no kidding.

Chris Ducker: But you know what? Maybe the answer is just there plain in front of you — just stay active I think in general. We can all get a little lazy, myself included at times. I would deep dive with Sir Richard on the subject of teams, people, and building businesses with great teams. That would probably be my focus with him. The guy’s just incredible. He’s easily my number one influencer when it comes to entrepreneurship in general.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, and such a great example of doing new things and finding new challenges to keep you fresh, to keep you energetic and motivated.

Chris Ducker: That’s his ‘screw it, let’s do it’ mantra right there. He’s just tried so many different things, and some of them have failed horribly. Obviously, the successes that he’s had wouldn’t have come about if he hadn’t followed that mantra.

Jerod Morris: What is the proper way to address him? Would you say, “Sir Richard … ,” as your question? Is that the proper way to ?

Chris Ducker: If I was introduced to him for the first time, I would call him Sir Richard as a fellow Brit for sure. I guess it’s ingrained in us, too. It’s like if you meet the queen, it’s Your Majesty. You would never call the queen Elizabeth or Liz. You just wouldn’t do it.

Jerod Morris: “Hey, Liz.”

Chris Ducker: Yeah. It’s funny. For instance, Sir Elton John, I wouldn’t probably call him Sir Elton. I’d probably just call him Elton. He’s a rock star. You know what I mean? Whereas with somebody like Sir Richard, I would definitely call him Sir Richard. But knowing people that have spent time with him, he squashes that immediately and says, “Please, just call me Richard.”

Jerod Morris: That’s good.

Chris Ducker: But I think I’d show him the respect out of the gate and drop the sir in there.

Jerod Morris: Very nice. Okay good. Just in case I ever run into that situation I’ll be prepared now, which is good.

Chris Ducker: Yeah.

The One Email Newsletter Chris Can’t Do Without

Jerod Morris: What is the one email newsletter that you can’t do without?

Chris Ducker: Oh. Ah, Ramit Sethi.

Jerod Morris: Hmm.

Chris Ducker: God, he’s so good.

Jerod Morris: He is good.

Chris Ducker: If you’re not on his list and you’re a digital entrepreneur, you need to get on his list. That guy knows his job. He writes some of the best copy I’ve ever come across in my life. By the way, if you ever get the opportunity to be an affiliate for Ramit Sethi, say yes. It’s not an open invite to pitch his stuff. You need to be invited by him. I very luckily was invited by him a couple of years ago, and I continue to promote his stuff as and when I see the match there for my own community.

I remember he was coming onto the show, onto my podcast, and we were talking about a launch. I was going to be behind the launch. He came on the show, and before he came on the show, I spoke with Pat Flynn, who is a close friend of mine, and Ramit had been on Pat’s show a couple of times. I said to Pat, “What’s the deal with Ramit?” I had met Ramit, I’ve hung out with him, but I’ve never had him on the show, like “What’s the deal?”

He said, “Dude,” and Pat begins every sentence with the word ‘dude.’

Jerod Morris: Dude.

Chris Ducker: He’s from California. That’s just his vibe. “Dude, just ask your question, and shut the hell up until he’s done talking.”

Jerod Morris: Great advice.

Chris Ducker: “Then ask your next question and shut the hell up and let him talk again.” The guy is just incredible. He’s an incredible digital entrepreneur himself. Everybody should be on that guys mailing list just to learn from him.

Jerod Morris: He was on a recent episode of The Tim Ferriss Show, too, that was really good. In fact, I think it wasn’t like a proper interview, but Tim Ferriss took clips of a course that he taught. I learned some great negotiating skills from it. I actually negotiated by cable bill down using a tip that I learned on that episode. It was great.

Chris Ducker: Yeah, you and thousands of other people have followed that tip, and they’re always raving about that cable bill tip, the telephone tip, or whatever.

The Keynote That Had the Biggest Influence on Chris as a Digital Entrepreneur

Jerod Morris: Right, it’s good. What non-book piece of art had the biggest influence on you as a digital entrepreneur?

Chris Ducker: Piece of art, can live keynotes be a piece of art? I guess they’re a piece of art, aren’t they?

Jerod Morris: Absolutely, yes they are. No question.

Chris Ducker: I saw Jay Baer live. I believe it was the closing keynote at the National Speaker’s Association conference in Philadelphia about, good god, three, four years ago. I’ve known Jay for maybe five years or so, but I’ve never actually seen him speak live before. Jay was up on stage doing a keynote in regards to … bear in mind, this is the perfect lead into Youpreneur for me, all those years back, where he was talking about becoming your own media channel, your own media station, or media company.

Obviously, the room is full of thousands of professional speakers and coaches at the NSA. He just blew me away. Not only was his content bang on for the audience itself — and that in itself is a lesson where a lot of keynote speakers will do the same keynote over and over again in front of many different types of audiences — but the way he tailored it to this audience with the examples, with the takeaways, with the insights, you knew that he had done his research and his work, and had practiced.

It was just the way he delivered it as a keynote speaker. And as someone who, at that point, was starting to do more and more breakout sessions, concurrent sessions, I’d yet to keynote a big conference. I sat back and was kind of in awe of Jay and the way that he projected his message in front of thousands of people. Very, very big event, the annual conference for the National Speakers Association.

That night I actually had dinner with Jay. I said to him, “Dude, you just blew me away. You’re my hero. You’re my speaker hero.” Yeah. Jay Baer on stage. If you get the chance, go see him. He’s incredible.

Chris’ Biggest Productivity Hack for Doing Meaningful Work

Jerod Morris: Yeah, agreed. What productivity hack has had the biggest impact on your ability to get more meaningful work done?

Chris Ducker: Hmm, good one. I think there are two things that I do. Can I overachieve quickly?

Jerod Morris: Absolutely, I would expect nothing less.

Chris Ducker: All right, so I think the first thing is that I get my creative work done first thing. I’m up early. I get to work usually around 8:00 am, and by 10:00 am usually I’m done with my creative work. What does that mean? It means writing a blog post, recording a workshop for Youpreneur members, maybe recording a video, or doing a podcast interview.

Whatever the case may be, it’s creative. I do that first thing before I look at my email, before I look at Twitter, before I go into the community and converse with members there. It’s creative work first. That’s the first thing. That, in itself, is meaningful work at the end of the day.

Jerod Morris: Oh yeah. It’s the most meaningful work.

Chris Ducker: Yeah, the other thing that I do when it comes to email and email is the bane of every digital entrepreneur’s life, let’s face it. For me, the big thing that I do is actually follow a three-click rule with a three-sentence rule combined. If anybody’s ever received an email from me, at the end of my email signature you’ll see, “Why is this email three sentences or less? Click here to find out.” There’s a little link that you can click.

If you’re too lazy to send me an email and figure this one out for yourselves, anyone tuning in, you can just go to ChrisDucker.com/ThreeRule, and you’ll see exactly what the deal is. Ultimately, what I do is, when I open an email, I do one of three things. I either delete it, I either reply or forward it, or I archive it. I do it there and then and never open an email twice, ever.

Jerod Morris: Hmm.

Chris Ducker: I reply to it the moment I read it, or I forward it, or I delete it, or I archive it. That’s the reason why I get to inbox zero basically every single day.

Jerod Morris: Hmm, when you archive it, do you have a way of categorizing special emails that maybe you didn’t want to reply to, but there’s a nugget in there that you don’t want to forget?

Chris Ducker: Yeah, I’ve got probably 25 or so labels inside of Gmail that I use. That’s the way we do that.

How to Get in Touch with Chris

Jerod Morris: Got you. My final question, and this one is an easy one. The pressure is now off. What is the single best way for someone inspired by today’s discussion to get in touch with you?

Chris Ducker: That is really easy. That’s a good one. Everything I do is linked to at ChrisDucker.com. That’s what I’m all about.

Jerod Morris: Very nice. Mr. Ducker, this was a pleasure. I appreciate you being here.

Chris Ducker: The pleasures all mine.

Jerod Morris: Yeah, I look forward to seeing you in Denver coming up this year, in just a few months.

Chris Ducker: It’s going to be a blast. Man, I’ll tell you what, you guys are putting on a great show by the looks of it. I cannot wait. I’ve never been to a Copyblogger, Rainmaker, Brian Clark event before, but I am incredibly excited to be at the event in October.

For me, it actually honestly has nothing to do with things like the venue, the show, the great band you’ve got playing, or anything like that. It’s just the fact that because I know it’s done by you guys, I know it’s going to be awesome. I just can’t wait to be there with you guys. It’s going to be the highlight of my speaking year. There’s no doubt about it.

Jerod Morris: Yeah. Well, thank you. You’re speaking on the first day, as am I. Let’s set the bar high.

Chris Ducker: I was going to say, are you going before me or after me?

Jerod Morris: I think I’m before you.

Chris Ducker: So I’m screwed. I’m totally screwed.

Jerod Morris: No, no, you’re going to show them how it’s done. We’ve got to set the bar high for everybody who’s speaking on day two. We got to really put the pressure on them.

Chris Ducker: Yeah, I want to see Jeff Walker walk out shaking, literally shaking, coming on the stage.

Jerod Morris: That would be awesome. Well, Chris, thank you. Give my best to Erc.

Chris Ducker: I shall.

Jerod Morris: And we will talk soon.

Chris Ducker: All right, my brother. Thanks for having me.

Jerod Morris: Yep, thank you.

All righty. Well, my thanks to Chris Ducker for joining me here on this episode of The Digital Entrepreneur, and my thanks to you for listening all the way through. I hope you enjoyed that conversation. I definitely enjoyed it. I feel much better now knowing that, if I run into Richard Branson throughout any of my travels, I will know to address him as Sir Richard at first, and then he will probably say, “No, no, no, that’s okay,” which is cool.

All the links for stuff that we talked about, those will be in the show notes, so you can go check those out at Rainmaker.FM.

One more reminder in terms of the event, the link is Rainmaker.FM/Summit-Speakers. Again, the early bird price goes up next Thursday. That’s Thursday, July 28th. Make sure that you go to that link. Get the best price possible. Book your ticket. Join us in Denver because you’re going to want to be there.

It’s going to help take you, again, from point A to point B with your digital business, with your digital product, your digital service. Whatever it is, we want to help you take that next step. Digital Commerce Summit is the place to do it. You’ll get the education. You’ll get the networking. You’ll get the motivation that you need. That is why you should go. I really hope to see you there. Rainmaker.FM/Summit-Speakers.

All righty. I will talk to you next week on another brand-new episode of The Digital Entrepreneur. Take care.

Jul 21 2016

53mins

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Rank #19: How to Use Amazon Publishing to Grow Your Online Audience

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The Amazon publishing ecosystem is a great way to build your online audience — if you know what to do.

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Search and social media play an important part in growing your online audience. But what about Amazon?

Even if you don’t sell physical goods, Amazon can play a vital role in helping you build your online audience.

How?

By using Amazon’s self-publishing features.

But there is a lot more to being successful on Amazon than just publishing an ebook.

In this episode we explore all the elements of how to use Amazon to grow your digital goods business with our very special guest, Bryan Eisenberg.

Bryan is not only a bestselling author, he is also one of the top thought leaders in online marketing. Bryan is the co-author of Wall Street Journal, Business Week, USA Today and New York Times bestselling books, as well as a professional speaker.

But best of all, Bryan shares the tactics and techniques he is personally using to promote his latest book – Be Like Amazon – on Amazon.

In this 36-minute episode, Sean Jackson, Jessica Frick, and Bryan Eisenberg go in depth with practical tips you can use to grow your audience via Amazon, including…

  • Why Amazon self-publishing should be in your marketing mix
  • The types of strategies you should use
  • The difference between publishing for Kindle versus an ebook
  • The tactics that Bryan is using right now to build awareness for his book
  • And of course, our question for the week – How do you know what the “right price” is for your digital goods offering?

Listen to The Digital Entrepreneur below ...

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The Show Notes

The Transcript

How to Use Amazon Publishing to Grow Your Online Audience

Sean Jackson: Rainmaker FM.

You’re listening to The Digital Entrepreneur. The show for folks who want to discover smarter ways to create and sell profitable digital goods and services. This podcast is a production of Digital Commerce Institute, the place to be for digital entrepreneurs. For more information, go to Rainmaker.FM/DigitalCommerce. That’s Rainmaker.FM/DigitalCommerce.

Welcome to the Digital Entrepreneur, everyone. I’m your host, Sean Jackson. I’m joined, as always, by the witty Jessica Frick. Jessica, how the frick are you today?

Jessica Frick: I am fabulous. How the Jackson are you?

Sean Jackson: I am actually sick. If you’re listening to the show, I actually have a horrible ear infection and cold.

Jessica Frick: I’m so sorry, Sean.

Sean Jackson: Well thank you. But here’s the thing, Jess, I love our audience so much that I’m going to plow through this episode, because it’s too dang important. But the good news is, it’s going to be short, because I’m going to go back home and go to bed.

Jessica Frick: You’re pretty hardcore.

Sean Jackson: Well, I only do it for our audience. So, Jess, where did we leave the last episode?

Jessica Frick: Well, the last episode we were talking about Amazon. Is it your best friend or is it your frenemy?

Sean Jackson: Well, what do you say, Jess?

Jessica Frick: I say frenemy.

Sean Jackson: Oh, well let’s get that argument out there. I want to hear it.

Jessica Frick: Well, first off, I don’t think Amazon is a one-size-fits-all solution. Do I think that it should be considered as part of the marketing mix? Absolutely. Do I think Amazon is in business to help you? Hell no. I think they will shortchange you every chance they can because they’re in business to make money for themselves. They don’t care about your book. They don’t care about your brand. They care about money for themselves. So I think if you really want to succeed as a publisher, you really need to consider all of the options available to you, with Amazon playing a very small part.

Sean Jackson: Well, I am going to tell you how wrong you are. Here’s why I say that it is your friend — I’ll put it out there this way — first off, let’s just look at the big numbers. The amount of transactions that go through Amazon.com dwarf any other site on the planet. It’s over 40 percent. It’s huge. The audience is there. All of your audience is there.

I do think that if you’re looking at Amazon publishing as a way to write the classic book you’ve always wanted to, and thinking that you’ll retire as an author in some mountain hillside retreat, that’s probably the wrong way to look at it if you’re a digital entrepreneur. I think that it is probably one of the best vehicles to test ideas, to put thoughts down, and establish thought leadership. And doing so from a marketing perspective, not necessarily from an “Oh, I’m gonna make a ton of money doing this.”

I think that’s the trap. I think a lot of people get into publishing and they think, “Oh, I’m gonna make all this money doing it.” The problem is you have to look at it as part of the marketing mix. Can you create up content that inspires action to get them back to your site? Where I say it’s your best friend, is because it is a giant universe of potential people out there that you could communicate with through writing an ebook or actually doing self publishing on Kindle. But — and this is the big caveat — if you think that you’re going to write the classic book that’s going to help you retire, I would say no publishing platform’s going to do it, regardless of how big it is.

Jessica Frick: Unless you’re 50 Shades of something.

Sean Jackson: Well, those are the anomalies, right? That’s always the thing.

Jessica Frick: They totally are.

Sean Jackson: It’s the ones that come up and you’re like, “Oh, they did this on that.” And sure, yes, there are anomalies to it. But in the world that we happen to have it, which is “we gotta do things that make money today,” I think that you would be smarter to look at it slightly different. I don’t think that you are going to approach it with the right mindset unless you think of it as marketing versus making money from an ebook. That’s how I look at it.

Jessica Frick: Well I would agree with that. Let’s be real here, traditional publishing is slow.

Sean Jackson: Yeah.

Jessica Frick: Whereas somehow — my son and I were talking about this the other day — you go see a movie in the theater, and now it’s out like two months later. When we were kids, we had to wait like six months, sometimes longer, for the movie to come out on VHS.

Sean Jackson: Yeah. It takes time.

Jessica Frick: Yeah, well things are moving faster. But traditional publishing? Not so much.

Sean Jackson: That’s right. You’re right.

Jessica Frick: So yes, I agree that you can take control. But using Amazon as a delivery mechanism for an audience you already have? Now you’re giving Amazon money when you could’ve just kept it for yourself.

Sean Jackson: Interesting point. And the good news about today’s show is we actually have an expert on who has not only written numerous books and has published, but is also one of the leading thought leaders in online marketing, Bryan Eisenberg. The best part of today’s show is the fact that he actually has a book that he is about to release — another book, I should say. Another book that he is about to release on Amazon. He is actually going to walk us through the process that he is using to write a book for Amazon to build his business through that vehicle. So stay tuned after the break. We’re going to interview Bryan Eisenberg and talk about what a true expert and author does to promote their work in the Amazon ecosystem, so stay tuned.

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Welcome back from the break, everyone. Jessica, please introduce our very special guest for the interview today.

Jessica Frick: Today, Sean, we have the devastatingly handsome and phenomenally intelligent Bryan Eisenberg. He’s co-founder of Buyer Legends and co-author of the Wall Street Journal and New York Times best-selling books, Call to Action, Waiting for Your Cat to Bark?, Always Be Testing, and Buyer Legends: The Executive Storyteller’s Guide. And the forthcoming, hopefully best-seller, Be Like Amazon: Even a Lemonade Stand Can Do It.

Sean Jackson: Bryan, welcome to the show.

Bryan Eisenberg: I’m excited to be here.

Sean Jackson: So, Bryan, I want to preface this for our audience. I want to tell you something that happened back in 2013 that you did that really inspired me. I want to set the stage. We were in Denver at our very first conference for the company, and you were the closing keynote that Friday. You remember that? You were there …

Bryan Eisenberg: Yeah, and I was shocked about coming onstage to talk about the topic I did.

Sean Jackson: Exactly. So you come up on stage and you start talking about Amazon. Now, I’ve been in marketing for a long time, and I’m like “Marketing? Amazon? What the heck is he talking about?” You went through for an hour on all of these amazing things. I remember walking out of that presentation and I said, “I have to buy stock in Amazon right now. I have to go buy it.” At the time it was trading at $270, today, that stock is worth $848.

Bryan Eisenberg: Jessica, he hasn’t even sent me a gift basket.

Jessica Frick: I was going to say.

Sean Jackson: Well I bought a share.

Bryan Eisenberg: It was only a gift basket, man.

Why Amazon Self-Publishing Should Be in Your Marketing Mix

Sean Jackson: That’s right. But even me, as a financial guy, I was sitting there going, “Holy cow!” Your insight into Amazon blew me away. So when Jessica and I were thinking about topics for the show, I was coming up and saying, “Okay, we need somebody about Amazon.” Your presentation stuck in my mind. So let’s get into it, Bryan. Other than invest in stock, why should a digital entrepreneur even think about Amazon in their mix?

Bryan Eisenberg: You know, it’s a great question. I have a few buddies in the space right now who have had their own ebooks for a long time, and they’re asking the question, “Should we be on Amazon?” So I’m hearing this a lot lately. The answer is: absolutely. That’s where buyers are. 43 percent of all e-commerce sales — all of them — happen on Amazon.

Jessica Frick: Wow.

Bryan Eisenberg: Amazon Prime members — who are their largest Kindle audience — are a great demographic. They spend three to five times as much as regular customers. I think when you start looking at that … To top it all off, they convert about 74 percent of the time once they’re on the website. So it’s definitely a place where you want to be, because it’s the mass audience that you can reach that you probably couldn’t have reached before. And there’s also a brand perception of you being an author on Amazon, versus being an author who has his own little ebook.

Sean Jackson: Right. But isn’t there competition though? Yes, you can get some authority by being on Amazon for your ebook, but isn’t there so much competition and pricing pressures are so much that … Are you going to make any money doing it, putting your ebook out there, knowing that there’s so much competition and pricing pressures are intense?

The Types of Strategies You Should Use

Bryan Eisenberg: It’s a great question. I’ve written now six books, and the lesson I’ve learned from basically all my author friends is you don’t necessarily make money from the book. You make money because of the book. So you need to think of your Amazon strategy slightly different than your ebook strategy. This is what’s happening with one of my buddies, Bobby Tewksbary. He’s one of the top-hitting baseball coaches in the country. He’s actually a Rainmaker client as well, he’s been hosting a membership site there and he has his ebook there.

What we’re doing is going to come out with a different book for a much broader audience. An intro book, so to speak, on Amazon, because that’s where the customers are. Go for the wide net that Amazon has, and then bring them down the funnel into his profitable membership site and his profitable ebook. That’s where he makes the money. Think about the Amazon thing as a lead generator.

Sean Jackson: Yeah, I think that is a very valid point, that it is a lead generator. It is a way to test ideas. See if something that you came up with is even resonating. If it is, then you can expand upon it and grow from it. As well as the fact that it can and should drive traffic to your site. But there is a difference though. You talk about ebooks, and I know a lot of our people who are listening know about ebooks, but what about Kindle books versus an ebook. Is there a difference? If so, what is it? And should we even be concerned with it?

The Difference Between Publishing for Kindle Versus an Ebook

Bryan Eisenberg: There’s a few differences, and I think there’s a couple of other key things that we have to consider on Amazon. Number one: those reviews are second-to-none. You can have as many testimonials on your website and everyone could think that they’re baloney, but the Amazon reviews and the verified reviews are amazing. The advantage to Kindles is there’s a whole ecosystem on there. We’ve used this to our advantage many times. Amazon will often do different kinds of promotions where they’ll take some of … Especially if you have a great product, they’ll go ahead and they’ll do their Kindle Unlimited and basically put your book out there. All of a sudden, you’re getting customers who you would have never imagined beforehand.

Being able to read on the Kindle — what I love about it, personally … Every book I get is on Kindle, and occasionally audiobooks. I love being able to highlight the books in the Kindle and then export all my notes into Evernote and have a place where I can come by and search for it and do all that, which I can’t do with any other book.

Sean Jackson: You mentioned audiobooks, let’s go into that for a second. Do you recommend people should try an audiobook? Do you have to have a book to have an audiobook? I think that’s the first question.

Bryan Eisenberg: You know, that’s a good question. I don’t think so. The key is, audiobooks are a little harder to produce than a regular book today. The only reason I’m saying that is the production value of an audiobook — you better have good recording. Of course, that’s not hard to do today, we see it in the quality of podcasts. But you really have to have an engaging voice. You have to have somebody who’s reading it well. It has to be a good production. If not, people are not going to jump into it and keep listening to the book. But I definitely think it’s another part of the audience that you can go after that you should be looking at, because there are millions of customers there who will absolutely want to potentially engage with your brand if they can find your book on Amazon.

Sean Jackson: You made that great point about the reviews. That’s another aspect of using the Amazon network. When you get those reviews, you can use those reviews on your site. You can say, “This is how it’s recommended on Amazon,” and reference back to it, so it gives further validity when people get to your site.

Bryan Eisenberg: Exactly. They have all kind of widgets that you can put on your website to put the book there. It can show the number of reviews and all that. It really gives it another air of, like I said, this credibility factor that being on Amazon has. And of course, there are a lot of people who also do the little Amazon Best Seller tactics, and that’s a whole other way that we could talk about it. Finding a niche category that they can go ahead and all of a sudden be the number one book in such-and-such. You start doing those kinds of things and they just add a boost to the credibility.

Sean Jackson: Let me ask you something. Back to my ebook. In the hypothetical, I create up an ebook. I’m using it to catch a wider audience. It’s going to be a simpler type of book with primarily the purpose being to drive people back to my site. Should I be selling that ebook on my site via Amazon, or should I put my own shopping cart on my site?

Bryan Eisenberg: Oh, I would definitely sell it through Amazon. Again, Amazon customers convert better than just about anyone else. It’s funny, I’ve been having this discussion about my current book — and I’ll get into that in a minute. People love being able to check out with Amazon. It’s just way easier for them. The credit card is in there, just a couple of clicks and they’re done. They don’t have to think about it.

Yes, you can certainly sell it on your site. But again, you have to get that trust factor initially. It’s way easier for them to feel comfortable giving their credit card through Amazon than through you. Once they’ve bought that book, and now they’ve read it, and they’re like, “Oh yeah, I trust this guy.” They’ve become part of your tribe. Now, all of a sudden, it’s way easier to get their credit card again for a membership site, for a more in-depth ebook, webinar, or class — whatever digital product you’re actually selling.

Sean Jackson: Right. And you’re finding that the information that Amazon stores and provides to you as a publisher, that’s useful? You can use it? They’re giving you everything and anything you need to be successful with the ebook?

Bryan Eisenberg: Yeah, pretty much. They’re not very good yet for bulk purchases, which is definitely a sticking point. It’s one of the reasons why for our new book we’re actually going to print our own hardcovers of the book so that we can give them out at conferences. But, yeah, for the Kindle version, which we’re actually going to release before the hardcover, they give you everything you need.

The Tactics That Bryan Is Using Right Now to Build Awareness for His Book

Sean Jackson: Gotcha. Let’s talk about your new book in a second. You brought it up. Let’s talk about your tactics for it. Granted, the title should work well on Amazon, I would hope.

Bryan Eisenberg: Or not. I think in some ways it’s actually going to be a hard search. The funny part is, our first self-published book, which is a book that we did in 2002 called “Persuasive Online Copywriting” — worst title for a book ever. However, back then, Amazon search engine was so primitive that we wanted to rank for the word “online copywriting.” My friend Nick Usborne — I’m sure you know Nick as well — had wrote a book called Net Words. These were the first books on online copywriting on the web. I know Bryan’s — one of his favorite books, and he’s talked about it in the past as well.

Persuasive Online Copywriting ranked, and it helped us get a lot of sales that way. Today, it’s going to be a little bit tougher. There’s a lot of things that are branded Amazon, so I don’t know. That’s going to be a tough one. We’re going to have to hope that the book alone and the reviews that we’re getting so far really go about it. But I think what’s interesting is, like you said, if we go into the marketing tactics behind the book. I think a lot of people will benefit from understanding what we’re trying to do, and some of the strategies to make this book a best-seller book. I’m not worried about New York Times best-seller, the goal is to get it to 100,000+ readers over the next couple of months.

Sean Jackson: Well, let’s go through it then. You brought it up. I want to hear it. Reveal all. You came up with the book, primarily … Let’s say that the purpose — beyond informing and helping the person that’s reading it — it also is a way to increase the authority that you have in the space, and thereof is a lead generator to you for your services. Would you say that’s an accurate statement as the bigger goal?

Bryan Eisenberg: Yeah, and services, primarily, are speaking, some of the workshops we do, and a little bit of consulting. But it really is — for 20 years I’ve been trying to get people to understand all about continuous optimization. Building a better business. Always be testing — which was another one of my books. Creating better customer experiences. Obviously we’ve had some success doing this.

But at this point, people are becoming desperate at how big Amazon has become, they really are. 43 percent of e-commerce is ridiculous, I’m sorry. It’s just an obscene number when you think about it. And they just keep growing every single year. Every conference I’m going to, people are asking me — I’m going to home improvement conferences to speak and people are telling me, “This year we’ve been spending time trying to think of how we can be more like Amazon.” As you know, we’ve been talking about this topic for a couple of years now. It was time to get this book out. We’ve had a real interesting roll-out strategy, very different than any other book we’ve done in the past.

Sean Jackson: Well tell us all.

Bryan Eisenberg: So the first thing we’ve done is we’ve actually let out every single chapter of the book for free, one by one. As we’ve been publishing them, essentially, we have released the 12 chapters of the book. People can go to the Be Like Amazon website right now and they can have the book, free.

Sean Jackson: Wow.

Bryan Eisenberg: It’s a draft version, so there’s still a couple of commas missing, stuff like that. We actually now have the edited version back from the publisher. But what happens is there are three things you have to do when you’re selling a book, and I think a lot of people miss this. The first one is you need to build awareness for your title. So a lot of people do all kinds of blogging, guest blogging, guest posting, and all that kind of stuff. It’s a tremendous amount of work. You’ve got to get people talking about your title. By the way, we switched title names, so that backfired a little bit on us. We started as Brand Like Amazon and now we’re Be Like Amazon.

Sean Jackson: Gotcha.

Bryan Eisenberg: For the most part, these 12 weeks people have gotten used to it. “Well, this is kind of interesting.” The second thing you need to do, is you need to get people to a website or to a store to actually purchase the book. And 95 percent of the time you don’t control that experience. They want to buy it on a third-party website. You’ve got to convince them to spend the money for a book. That’s already another obstacle. Then the third one — and this is the hardest one to do — is you need to get them to invest their time to read your book.

Sean Jackson: Yeah, that is the hardest, absolutely.

Bryan Eisenberg: That is the hardest thing. So we’ve done two things. This is what we did in our last book, we kept the book super short. I think the days of 200+ books … This is one of the reasons why publishers are also struggling. I forgot the exact number, but it’s something like 70-something-percent of all books — especially non-fiction books — people never get past page 39.

Sean Jackson: Oh, wow. Holy cow.

Bryan Eisenberg: Even today, I was reading something from a friend of mine who says, “What do they do with most business books? They read the first chapter, last chapter, and they then skim the little bit about each chapter, the beginning and the end of each chapter. And then they’re done. The rest of it’s filler.”

Sean Jackson: I would also say this is where the audio portion comes in too. With the rise of podcasting, with people coming through, you can help augment a little bit of that. It’s not just reading the book, it can also be “Hey, you bought this book, here is a special to go and get the audio version of the book that you can download to your mobile device and listen to it as you’re driving.”

Bryan Eisenberg: Absolutely. It’s definitely one more piece to it. So we put that together. Now we’re finishing up publication of the book, but like I said, we’ve only had the Kindle version out for a while. We don’t care if people get the book for free or if they pay for it — it doesn’t matter to us. Now, we’re also going to be releasing it as an audiobook. We are going to do an Audible book. But — same thing — we’re going to release one chapter a week as a podcast. It’s the same thing. If I can get you hooked on any one chapter, you might be interested in all the rest of the chapters.

Sean Jackson: Gotcha. You know, it would be funny to have Samuel L. Jackson do it for you, just saying.

Bryan Eisenberg: Yeah, I think he might be a little out of our budget for this one.

Pricing That Drives Customers While Still Indicating Perceived Value

Sean Jackson: I agree. Let’s talk about pricing strategy though. This is also going to come up again, both in the ebook and the Kindle universe. Because I do think they are slightly different universes, there’s different goals, different ideas. I 100 percent agree that shorter is sometimes better, but does shorter mean I have to charge a lot less? I’m trying to throw a wide net. I don’t want price to be an inhibitor, especially in the Kindle universe where prices are fairly well set. How do you think of pricing around these things?

Bryan Eisenberg: There’s a few things that are really cool with the Kindle. Especially if you’re doing it as a KDP and you’re publishing yourself, then you can set the price and discount it pretty much as often as you want. You can’t always make it free, but you can discount it as often as you want, which is really cool. I think one of the key things is, I would focus on keeping … Again, this is part of understanding your global strategy. You don’t have to make money from your Kindle book. That is giving the girl a flower on the first date before you go out. Just make it really easy to advance the relationship. Don’t worry about the next steps.

Keep the book $2.99, $3.99, $4.99, depending on how big the book is, what the topic is, how niche. You can play around with that. The hardcover of the book is going to be priced at $19.95 even though it’s still a relatively short book. But again, it’s going to be a hardcover, it’s a perceived value that you’re still trying to do. So this is the challenge, do you price it low enough that you make it really accessible and avoid the obstacles? Or do you want to increase the perceived value of the book and charge a lot more?

You’ve got to balance that based on what your strategy is, so I don’t want to give a definitive answer. We’ve really enjoyed making it way more accessible — the last book and this book as well — by pricing it on Kindle very inexpensively. All the other formats we’ll charge way more for it. Remember, it’s bits and bytes. Yes, the information has value, but we’re hoping that as you read it … Because you didn’t pay a lot, you’re willing to keep giving more money because there’s more to the ecosystem. We actually have something that’s tied to the book, where they’ll be able to come to our website and evaluate themselves on the criteria that we talk about in the book.

Sean Jackson: Right. But I do think the perceived value argument — I think there’s a lot to be said for increasing the price of something so that when you do give it away, the perceived value of the giveaway, it means a lot more. Especially if you’re using it as part of a strategy where, let’s say, you’re doing webinars. You’re saying, “Because you listened to this webinar, not only will I give you this, this, and this for free, but here’s my Kindle book, or here’s my book. It is normally $20 or $30 or $50, but because you’re here, I’m going to give it to you for free.” Or for $1, or whatever. Or, “Go to Kindle and you can get it on promotion right now if you do it in the next 30 minutes.” Because pricing discrimination is a motivator.

Bryan Eisenberg: Absolutely. Again, this all comes down to what their overall strategy is. In other words, if in a ideal world you had multiple books — one that you could price very low, one that you could price a little higher. They all cost essentially the same thing. But yes, if you could set that perceived value, absolutely go for it. I think that it’s as you said, it allows you to do different things with a high-value versus a low-value book.

Does a Digital Entrepreneur Need an Ebook or Kindle Book?

Sean Jackson: Now let me ask you — and we’re getting kind of towards the end — I do want to ask this question from a strategy perspective. If I am selling digital goods — specifically, I’m selling a membership system, I’m selling a training program, and I’m selling a paid online workshop, all in the digital goods space — is an ebook or Kindle book a central requirement of that universe to help draw people in? Or is it an add-on to the other things you were doing in the online marketing space?

Bryan Eisenberg: Let’s put it this way. My friend Mark Schaefer just finished the book Known. It’s interesting, he talks about how you can go ahead and become more well-known, and a big part of a lot of people doing this “known” thing is obviously producing their content and all of that. But there’s a value in having a book.

The other thing that being able to print it on Amazon, which is really cool, is that you can also go through CreateSpace and they can create the print-on-demand books. So you don’t have to go ahead and print a ton of physical copies like we’re doing, because we’re doing it for a whole different purpose and a whole different strategy. First of all, there’s some people who only want physical books. So you want to be able to have that option. The second thing is, if you do want to grow your speaking opportunities, there’s a big difference between having your own little self-published ebook on your site than having a published book that people can feel and touch.

Sean Jackson: About a $10,000 to $20,000 difference, I would think.

Bryan Eisenberg: Yeah, it depends on how good of a speaker you are, but yes. Absolutely, I think there’s some real value in using their platform, the CreateSpace, to create your Kindle and create the print-on-demand book. That’s what we did with our Buyer Legends book. Again, people have ordered them in bulk for their events. It’s cool. What bothered us is that it was so expensive for the people that bought it in bulk. The majority of what we want to do as a strategy is give away the books at conferences this coming year and plus, so we just said, “Okay, we’ll just print the books in advance as hardcovers so that people can give them away. Then we control the price of what the event organizer is paying for it.”

Sean Jackson: So Jessica, has Bryan convinced you that Amazon is an online entrepreneur’s best friend?

Jessica Frick: He has. But at the same time, I still say it’s not for everyone and every reason.

Bryan Eisenberg: I would agree with that.

Sean Jackson: Yeah, but that’s so benign, Jess, come on. You could say that about driving. “Driving’s not for everybody.”

Jessica Frick: Well, absolutely. But I think because Amazon is handling 40 percent of e-commerce, people are looking to that to be their white knight. And that cannot be what it is.

Bryan Eisenberg: Oh yeah, it’s not going to automatically sell books for you.

Jessica Frick: Agreed. Just as going junking, you can’t make a million because of eBay. It doesn’t work that way. So I think that yes, there is a lot to be said for Amazon as a power in the e-commerce and publishing space, but I think Bryan said it too. Sorry, Sean.

Sean Jackson: Well, like most things on this show, we’re just trying to put it out there for our audience to make their own decision. Hey, Bryan Eisenberg, thank you for being on our show. The title of the new book is Be Like Amazon. We’ll make sure to put a link to the website in our show notes. Really appreciate you being here, Bryan.

Bryan Eisenberg: Oh, it’s always a pleasure.

Sean Jackson: And we’ll be right back after this short break.

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Welcome back from the break, everyone. Jess, wasn’t that a great interview with Bryan Eisenberg?

Jessica Frick: I’m partial because I think he’s the bees knees.

Sean Jackson: He really is. And he’s so smart. He was able to put a lot of things that he’s doing, that’s why I liked that interview. Because he is actually sharing things that he personally is doing based on his experience in publishing books to the Amazon ecosystem.

Jessica Frick: As cool as it was, if you have a chance to see him live, you’ve got to go hear him as a speaker. He is enigmatic.

Sean Jackson: That’s true.

Jessica Frick: It is true.

Sean Jackson: So here’s the thing. Jess, what is our tip and tactic that we want to recommend for this week?

Jessica Frick: It’s easy to choose this week’s. It’s going to be Bryan’s new book that he has co-authored with his brother Jeffrey Eisenberg and Roy H. Williams. It is Be Like Amazon, and you can go grab it today at BeLikeAmazon.com. As Bryan mentioned in his interview, he’s actually giving this book away, which is crazy to me. Having read some of it already, it is fabulous and I don’t understand why he’s giving it away. Well, I do, but … You should go check it out. You’re going to love it. BeLikeAmazon.com.

Sean Jackson: Yeah, and the way that he writes … For those of you who have not read it yet, it’s written in a narrative style, so it’s a story. It’s an actual story about a protagonist and these two individuals, and the guide that is helping them literally be like Amazon. It reads much more like a story than an actual bland business book. So that’s going to be our recommendation for the week.

Jess, I want to end the show with our question for everyone to ponder, and here it is: Jessica, we’ve talked a lot about the things that we enjoy about the online space, but in running an online business, what is the least favorite thing that you’ve had to deal with?

Jessica Frick: I know exactly what you’re going to say when I say this, but, Sean, it’s pricing. It makes me crazy.

Sean Jackson: Pricing? Pricing an online product?

Jessica Frick: It’s pricing. I never know whether to go too high, give it away, or whether I’ve got the right price. I’m always afraid to test, because once you put the price out there what do you do? Pricing just makes me crazy. What say you?

Sean Jackson: I will say that being the CFO of the company and watching the pricing process first-hand, it’s one of the more interesting and fun aspects of running your business. And I’ll leave you with this thought: remember that in the online space, you as a digital entrepreneur are in total control of your pricing. That gives you both power and flexibility and allows you to control your destiny. We’re going to teach you how on the next episode of The Digital Entrepreneur. Have a great week, everyone.

Jessica Frick: Thanks for listening.

Mar 30 2017

36mins

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Rank #20: A Simple Framework for Pricing Digital Goods

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Do you struggle with how to price your online products? Well, this episode will help.

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Pricing your product or service can be a challenge. Too cheap and you can’t make your rent, too expensive no one will buy. So what do you do?

Pricing does not need to be a huge challenge … if you start with the right framework.

In this episode we deconstruct pricing models and give you a proven formula you can use to set the right price.

Yes, there is some math involved (sorry), but in the end, pricing your eBook, training course, or any digital good, does not have to be a huge challenge.

In this 30-minute episode, Sean Jackson and Jessica Frick discuss the most common concerns and proven strategies for pricing, including …

  • The #1 rule that you must follow when setting your pricing
  • Why understanding your costs is the key to an effective pricing strategy
  • Solid guidelines that will help demystify pricing
  • Why you should always start out at a high price
  • And of course, our question for the week – Is PPC for everyone?

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The Show Notes

The Transcript

A Simple Framework for Pricing Digital Goods

Voiceover: Rainmaker FM.

You are listening to The Digital Entrepreneur, the show for folks who want to discover smarter ways to create and sell profitable digital goods and services. This podcast is a production of Digital Commerce Institute, the place to be for digital entrepreneurs. For more information, go to Rainmaker.FM/DigitalCommerce. That’s Rainmaker.FM/DigitalCommerce.

Sean Jackson: Welcome to The Digital Entrepreneur, everyone. I’m your host, Sean Jackson. I’m joined, as always, by the eclectic Jessica Frick. Jessica, how the Frick are you?

Jessica Frick: I am eclectic, Sean. How the Jackson are you?

Sean Jackson: Oh well, I’m still suffering from this cold that has been going around, but as I said before, our audience is too important and the show must go on.

Jessica Frick: You are a trouper.

Sean Jackson: I’m going to suffer through, but I will make it happen. Jess, where did we leave the last episode? What was the question of the week we wanted everyone to ponder?

Jessica Frick: See, here’s where I know that you’re pretending like you’re doing this just because you believe in the audience, but I know secretly you have been looking forward to this conversation. I have been having so much anxiety about it. Just the idea of it makes me anxious. Last week you’d asked me what I disliked the most about online business, and my answer was pricing.

Sean Jackson: Ah, yeah.

Jessica Frick: You know, I thought more about it, and just the concept of pricing is enough to put me into analysis paralysis. I won’t launch anything because I’m too afraid to put a price out there. Then you can’t really change it once it’s out there. “Did I go too high, too low?” Sean, what is your best piece of advice for someone like me who is not a numbers, math, or money person like you and can just say, “This is the price”?

The #1 Rule That You Must Follow When Setting Your Pricing

Sean Jackson: Yeah, your fear and anxiety around this is very common. I think especially when you’re starting out with anything new, you’re always worried, “Am I going to set the right price?” I think at the end of the day it helps to remember the fundamental rule, which is you control your pricing. That control gives you both responsibility, but it also gives you a lot of latitude. To address that fear, we have to realize that there’s no set book that says, “All things must be priced accordingly.” That you actually can pick a price. And picking that price — the goal is to defend the price, to make people not even question it.

When I was in sales many years ago there was a great quote that I used, which is that if they question the price you haven’t sold it enough. I love that quote, because it says that really pricing is a function of justifying it through the sales process. How you support it is what makes that price seem reasonable. Let’s do this, Jess. Let’s go to a break, and then when we come back, let’s get into the mechanics of this. I want everyone who’s listening to this episode to feel empowered that they are in control.

In the next part of our show, we’re going to talk about how they can actually do that, but I don’t want to leave this section without everyone sitting there going, “I have control. With that control, I can do what I need to to make my business successful by pricing the right way.” Is that a good way to end this particular section?

Jessica Frick: I am in control.

Sean Jackson: That’s right. When we come back from the break, we’re going to talk about how you can maintain that control. We’ll be right back, folks.

The Digital Entrepreneur is brought to you by the all-new StudioPress Sites, a turnkey solution that combines the ease of an all-in-one website builder with the flexible power of WordPress. It’s perfect for bloggers, podcasters, and affiliate marketers, as well as those selling physical goods, digital downloads, and membership programs. If you’re ready to take your WordPress site to the next level, see for yourself why over 200,000 website owners trust StudioPress. Go to Rainmaker.FM/StudioPress right now. That’s Rainmaker.FM/StudioPress.

Welcome back from the break, everyone. Jessica, we left the last segment with you wanting to know how to price your online product. Is that correct?

Jessica Frick: It is. There’s so many things that I feel like you need to put into that total price. What all goes into it, Sean?

Sean Jackson: Okay. Well let’s start with a very basic idea. Let’s use this as the example for the show. Let’s say you want to make $400,000 in revenue. Is that a good target? Would that be okay for you, $400,000 in revenue for the year.

Jessica Frick: I wouldn’t kick $400,000 out of bed.

Sean Jackson: Sure. You sit there and say, “Okay, I want to have $400,000. That’s my target for the year. That’s the amount of revenue, money, that I want to bring in for the year.” Let’s use that. “I want to do that by selling some sort of digital goods online, membership, ebook, etc.” All right, so we want to make $400,000. Let’s start looking at that number in a little more detail. Jessica, let’s say you want to sell some sort of membership site or some sort of training program or something like that.

Jessica Frick: Okay.

Sean Jackson: You want to make $400,000 in revenue. That’s our target. How many customers would you need to reach $400,000 in revenue? The response is, “Well, it depends on the price,” right?

Jessica Frick: Totally.

Sean Jackson: If you have one customer paying you $400,000 … But let’s go through the math a little bit more, because I want people to understand an important part of that $400,000 number. All of the money you are going to spend to make that is going to be taken out of that $400,000. And part of that $400,000 is the cost for you to deliver your product.

Jessica Frick: Okay.

Why Understanding Your Costs is Key to an Effective Pricing Strategy

Sean Jackson: Now this is different than the expense of running your business. An expense of running your business is like your Internet connection. That is an expense for the business, but it’s not a cost of you providing a product or service to a customer. Let’s look at what I mean by cost. In any online business that’s selling a digital good, your target should be around 20-25% of the money you collect should be the cost of providing that product or service to the customer. All right?

Jessica Frick: Okay.

Sean Jackson: Let’s use 25%. You want to make $400,000, right, Jess?

Jessica Frick: Yeah.

Sean Jackson: But 25% of that money is going to be the cost of delivering that product or service over to your customer. So what is 25% of $400,000?

Jessica Frick: $100,000.

Sean Jackson: That’s right, $100,000. By the way, every business has a cost to provide the product or service, every single one of them. 20-25% is a very good rule of thumb, simply because there’s a lot of money that you spend to give that customer the product or service. Even if you’re giving a training course, you still have to do customer support, right, Jess? That’s a cost, right?

Jessica Frick: Yeah.

Sean Jackson: You still have to have a website for them to go to. That’s a cost. There’s a lot of costs. Even if I bought your training program and it’s all online, I still have a cost of supporting you. I have a cost of collecting your money via credit card.

Jessica Frick: Yeah.

Sean Jackson: When you look at it … Now let’s go back. Jess, you want to make $400,000. You know that $100,000 is going to be the cost of providing that product or service to your customer. The question is, Jess, how many customers can you support for $100,000? That is the key. If you know it’s going to take you $100,000 of costs to support them and you have $400,000 of revenue that you want to make, how many customers can you support for $100,000 a year? To make the math easy, I’m going to say it’s 1,000 people. Would you say that feels about right for your training course, let’s say, that you’re trying to put up?

Jessica Frick: On average, because you know, again, there’s a 90/10 rule.

Sean Jackson: Sure.

Jessica Frick: 10% of the people are going to take up 90% of your time.

Sean Jackson: Right, but if I come in and I want to buy your training course, I want to buy your ebook, I want to buy your membership system, or I want to buy whatever digital good you have — your software product, whatever — then you have to say, “For $100,000, how many people can I support?” Now in this example I’m going to say 1,000, because it makes the math real easy.

Jessica Frick: Okay.

Sean Jackson: Let’s go through. You want to make $400,000, right, Jess?

Jessica Frick: I do.

Sean Jackson: You know that if you spend $100,000, you can support 1,000 customers. What is the average price you have to charge to make that $400,000? You’ve got 1,000 customers and you want to make $400,000 in revenue. How much do you have to charge on average?

Jessica Frick: On average, about $400.

Sean Jackson: That’s right. See, this is where it becomes kind of fun.

Jessica Frick: But Sean, that assumes that all of the things that I sell are going to be $400. What if I want to scale it?

Solid Guidelines That Will Help Demystify Pricing

Sean Jackson: Ah, that’s right. This is where we come through the next part, because we know we need to make $400 per sale. If we have 1,000 customers at $400 a sale, it’s $400,000 a year. I got my $400 average. Now let’s put the price together. This is why we have to know a little math, folks. We know we need to make on average $400. Here is how you get that $400 average. You don’t do it by selling one product. You do it by providing three to four options for people to buy online.

There’s a whole science and study around this, but I’m going to make this easy because, again, we’re trying to figure out the price of what we want to sell. We know we have to make $400 because we’re going to sell it to 1,000 people. That $400 is going to be the average between the things that you sell online. Now let’s do this, Jess. We’re going to create up a product that we’re going to call the anchor product.

This is important psychologically, because the anchor product is the single most expensive thing you ever sell. It is the thing that when people look at it, they go, “Man, I wish I could buy that. I wish I had enough money to buy that particular offering.” It’s like when you go to buy a car. Sometimes they’ll show you the most expensive car just so that they can put your … Because they want to sell you …

Jessica Frick: Oh yeah, I watch that on the DIY shows all the time. They show you the house that has everything you want.

Sean Jackson: That’s right.

Jessica Frick: And then you find out it’s half a million more than your budget.

Sean Jackson: That’s right. Now let’s come through this, folks. You need to create what I call the anchor product. The anchor product is the single most expensive thing you would ever provide to anyone from the products and service of your business. This is the uber offering of everything. This is the consulting. This is the come and wash your house for you. It is everything and anything that you would want to sell, and you’re going to price that at a level that is extremely high.

Remember, we want to make an average of $400 in our example. So your anchor product is going to be way more than $400. Let’s call it $2,000, just to throw it out there. Here’s why the anchor product is so important: No one’s going to buy the thing.

Jessica Frick: It’d be nice if they did, right?

Sean Jackson: Yeah, a few people will, but the anchor product sets the expectation. For instance, if I had two houses that you can take a look at, and one is this uber million-dollar house that is gorgeous — it’s got all this finish-out, etc. — and then I show you a house that’s $200,000 that is kind of like the million-dollar house, you’re going to sit there and anchor in your mind the features of the million-dollar house and look at it in the $200,000 house, and say, “Oh, that fixture right there. That was in the million-dollar house. Well, this must be just like the million-dollar house.”

Jessica Frick: Yeah, and you start negotiating with yourself about the different things.

Sean Jackson: That’s right.

Jessica Frick: It makes that lower price one so affordable.

Sean Jackson: That’s right. You’re like, “Well, it has some of the same features of the big expensive one that I can’t afford, so it must be as good as that really super nice thing that I can’t afford that I really want.” That’s why anchor products are crucial. The beauty of an anchor product, folks, is you can make up the price. You know what your average is, and you’re going to sit there and jack that anchor product up way higher than your average. In this case, let’s go ahead and say it’s $1,500 to $2,000. It really doesn’t matter if anybody buys this product. By the way, folks, you should be super excited that they do. But no one’s going to do it. It sets expectation.

The next thing that we do is we set up our mid-tier product and our lowest-tier product. These are important in the digital goods space because, again, we want this average of $400. What should we price our mid-tier product and what should we price our lower-tier product? Very simple. We want to make $400 in our example. That’s the average. No one’s going to buy the anchor product. It’s solely there to set expectations. The average of the money that we make is going to be the difference between the lowest-tier and the mid-tier, so let me give you how that would work. If you know you need to make $400, then your mid-tier product should be about $600 and your lowest-tier should be about $200. Your average price is going to be the difference between them, which is $400. See how that goes, Jess?

Jessica Frick: I do.

Sean Jackson: Your anchor product is there to establish the value. Your mid-tier product, which you hope a lot of people will buy … It turns out people will tend to buy that mid-tier product. A lot more people will buy the low-tier product. Your average is going to be the difference between the two.

Folks, let’s stop for a second and run through your personal situation. You have a product or service that you want to sell. Number one, set a target price, the target revenue. How much is the revenue you want to collect? Number two, how much is it going to cost you to support that revenue? It’s generally about 25%. Then from that, figure out how many customers can you support with that cost, that gives you your average. Once you find your average, then you create up a really expensive product called the anchor product. Then you have your mid-tier and lower-tier, and your average revenue is the difference between those two. I know this is a lot, which is why we’re linking to a post on exactly how the math goes.

Jessica Frick: It actually sounds a lot less intimidating when you break it down that way.

Sean Jackson: It does, because it really gives you a formula that you can key off of. You can take any ebook that you’ve got, any learning management, any software, any service — anything that you’ve got — and break it into three buckets. “My really expensive anchor one, my mid-tier one, and my low-tier one, all of which are similar together. Knowing that the average amount of money I’m going to make is the difference between the mid-tier and the low-tier.”

That universally works out. You will always have costs, which will help you figure out what your average is. That’s why it is important to understand how much money you want to make in the year, how much it costs you in the year, and how many people you could support in the year. Then from that simple little math you can figure out all of the rest of what you should price the product at. Okay?

Jessica Frick: Hmm.

Sean Jackson: Don’t worry, folks. Look at the link to the post that we wrote about this. It will make it much clearer than the audio portion of this exercise. Now I want to go into Jessica’s question. I have figured out how much I’m going to charge now. How much I have to charge to meet my goals. Jess, you asked a question earlier. “What about discounts? Can I change my pricing? Can I move this up or down accordingly?”

Jessica Frick: Yeah.

Why You Should Always Start out at a High Price

Sean Jackson: Okay. The simple answer is yes, you can always change this. I would say that it is — to start with — better to price high than low. Now, why do you think I say that?

Jessica Frick: Because you can always discount, but you can’t really go up unless you add more to it.

Sean Jackson: Exactly. See, folks, when you’re coming up with this hypothetical for your personal situation, what I want you to realize is that it’s better to start out high and discount back than it is to start out low and try to increase up. You’re going to have to justify the price no matter what you do. At least if you start out high you can create up additional incentives that decrease the price to the person or add more value into it, versus starting out really cheap and saying, “What I was charging you $100 for is now $1,000.” To make that psychological leap from $100 to $1,000 requires a ton of effort, versus, “Hey, it was $1,000, but we have a special this week and we’re going to discount the price back.”

Again, I want you to feel that you’re in control. But realize that any time you are discounting or increasing your price, you’re going to have to give a lot of justification around it to make sure that your audience understands why you are doing what you are doing. If you’re starting out high, it’s a lot easier to come down low than it is to go back up and have to justify why you increased the price up. It’s definitely possible. Jess, I’ve given you $400,000. Congratulations.

Jessica Frick: Yay.

Sean Jackson: You have to spend $100,000 for it. You’re going to generate 1,000 customers. They’re going to pay you, on average, $400. You’re going to create up your anchor product, which is super expensive. You’re going to create up your mid-tier and your low-tier offering. The difference between them is going to be your average. That’s the basics of the pricing for whatever you are selling online. Okay?

Jessica Frick: I dig it.

Sean Jackson: That formula works from day one, and you can tweak it accordingly.

Jessica Frick: Now, I have one tricky question, and this one always catches me up too. When you’re working out your pricing, how do you know — based on what your business needs to stay afloat — whether you should offer monthly, quarterly, or annual pricing, or just the one-time, done-with-it thing?

Sean Jackson: Yeah, that’s a good question. When you come in and look at how you collect that $400 in our hypothetical, do you ask for it all at one time period or do you try to break it up? I’m going to let you folks in on a little secret. The world revolves around credit cards. What I mean by that is everyone is debt financing almost all the purchases they make in their life. It is amazing to me how much debt people are using to buy the goods and services they have. Credit cards are hugely important in that, because it helps people finance the purchase.

To your question, should you offer a payment plan of some sort — a monthly, quarterly type of subscription — or should you ask for all the money upfront? My feeling is that you should give people the option, but you absolutely want to help them finance the deal. What I mean by that is, if you can afford to do monthly, provide them a monthly. If you can afford to do quarterly, give them that.

It is so much nicer when you have someone’s credit card to charge that on regular intervals. It makes that easier for the person to buy it because they know they don’t have to give you $400 right now. They can give you, let’s say, $30 right now, and then they pay you every single month thereafter.

I always recommend, if you can finance a purchase, then absolutely finance it by offering payment plans — whether they be subscription, monthly, quarterly, etc. Or, if you’re going to charge them a big chunk of money upfront, let them pay it off over four months. You would find that in doing so, they would be more inclined to buy because the money perception going out is a lot less than if they have to give you that $400 right now.

Jessica Frick: I see a lot of people setting their prices higher when they charge monthly. Then they give you a discount if you pay it all at once.

Sean Jackson: Yeah, I think so. You should do that. That again goes to the point that … Remember when I talked about cost, there is a cost of the fact that if you want an average of $400 but you’re going to be giving discounts. Then your average goes down. Again, it goes to your cost. Can you afford to give people that discount? I think a lot of people can, because you can always increase your price up.

Jessica Frick: Yeah, that’s true. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off of me. Thank you, Sean. I was dreading this call.

Sean Jackson: Well, I know a lot of people listening to this are rolling their eyes, going, “Gosh dang it, Sean. I’m a marketer, not an accountant. Why are you doing this to me?” But here’s the thing, folks — to really end this particular section, remember you’re in control of all of the pricing when it comes to your product or service. Start high to begin with. Do some very simple math. Set some targets. Figure out what it’s going to cost you. How many people can you support? Realize that the average is going to be a function of how your different offers are put together.

For God’s sake, please read the post that we have tied to this, which is The Smart and Simple Framework for Finding the Right Pricing Model for Your Site. By all means, please read this post. It makes it so much easier. I have seen, Jess, so many people underprice what they have. That are struggling to make a dime online because they think that they needed to be cheaper, not more expensive. That were not comfortable with the money side of this. Yet they’re doing it because they want to make money online. Get comfortable with the math, and then you’re going to find that the money is there. You just have to have the right pricing strategy, which we’ve given you a formula to do it. Does that help?

Jessica Frick: Makes sense to me.

Sean Jackson: Perfect. Folks, hopefully it’ll make sense to you. When we come back, we’re going to share some tips, tactics, tools, and ideas that you should be thinking about for the week ahead.

Hey, everyone. This is Sean Jackson, the host of The Digital Entrepreneur. I want to ask you a simple question. What is your business framework for selling digital goods online? Now, if the question perplexes you, don’t worry, you are not alone. Most people don’t realize that the most successful digital entrepreneurs have a framework or a general process for creating and selling their digital goods in the online space. One of the best free resources is Digital Commerce Academy. Digital Commerce Academy combines online learning with case studies and webinars created by people who make a living selling digital goods online.

The best part is that this material is free when you register. Are you interested in joining? Well, I’ll make it easy for you. If you are listening to this show on your phone and are in the continental United States, I want you to send a text message to 313131 with the keyword “digits.” When you send that text message, we will send you a link to the registration form right to your phone. Are you outside the United States? Don’t worry. Just send us an email to digits@Rainmaker.FM. Either way, we’ll send you a link to the registration form so that you can sign up for free for Digital Commerce Academy.

As a special bonus, we will also subscribe you to our newsletter when you text or email us, so that you can stay informed with the latest insights from the show. Don’t worry, we respect your privacy. We will not share your email or phone number, and you can easily unsubscribe at any time. If you want to start building or improving your framework for selling digital goods online, then please send a text to 313131 with the keyword “digits,” or send us an email at digits@Rainmaker.FM. You won’t be disappointed.

Welcome back from the break, everyone. Jess, now it’s time in the show to talk about recommendations. What do you have this week for our audience on something they should take a look at?

Jessica Frick: Well, my very favorite resource for all things data and analytics-related is Annielytics.com. That’s Annie — her name is Annie — lytics.com. Annie Cushing has created a number of guides that make analytics sexy. I know. It sounds completely insane, but once you read it you’ll see what I mean. She teaches you how to do an actual site audit or develop a marketing strategy or an analytics audit with real life data. Also, her blog takes complicated concepts and puts them in such a familiar voice that when you read it, there is no anxiety whatsoever. By the end of it, you are actually working on your data without hired help.

Sean Jackson: This is very important, because at the end of the day, when it comes to the work that we do on the online space, we are awash in data. Certainly Google Analytics plays a big part of that data — both aggregation and research. Having someone like Annie Cushing can really help you understand all of this data and how to put it into context so that you can make informed decisions. Would you say that’s the end benefit of going to Annielytics?

Jessica Frick: Absolutely, and she has a number of resources available for free. She does have some paid resources, but when you look at the pricing, you’ll find that she did a really great job at making it completely affordable with a huge payoff.

Sean Jackson: Ah, very good. I like that recommendation. My recommendation for the week is a book called Contagious. I am absolutely blown away with this book. Jonah Berger created this book up, and he really went through the science of why things go viral online. I was fascinated. It’s not a long read. It’s a fairly short read. It’s called Contagious by Jonah Berger. He really goes through the science of analyzing, “Why do certain videos go viral? Why do certain products just take off?” In doing that, he found a formula that they all use to make something go viral online. The read is absolutely fascinating. I highly recommend it. Backed up by some real science, some real data.

It’s funny, because he’s also in that same universe. Have you ever read the book Made to Stick by the Heath brothers? He’s in that same universe. These are guys all know each other, and they all talk about the psychology and behavioral dynamics of online marketing. I highly recommend taking a read of this book, Contagious. It’s not very long, and I think Jonah did a phenomenal job with it. That’s the recommendation for the book.

Of course, folks, we will put into the show notes on the webpage links to Annielytics as well as to Contagious so you can take a look at them. Jess, what is the question of the week we want people to ponder while we put together the next show?

Jessica Frick: We are talking about analytics and it also got me thinking — paid traffic. Sean, is pay-per-click for everyone? Should everyone be doing it?

Sean Jackson: Absolutely. Everyone should be doing pay-per-click.

Jessica Frick: Not everyone, Sean. Not everyone.

Sean Jackson: I’m sure Google thinks so.

Jessica Frick: Well yeah, Google, Microsoft. They’re all like, “absolutely.” But there are cases where you shouldn’t. We should talk about that next week.

Sean Jackson: Really?

Jessica Frick: Yeah, we should talk about this.

Sean Jackson: Let’s do this. What do you think, folks? Should you be doing PPC or advertising on Google, on Microsoft — on all the major search engines and all the other ad networks out there? Or is it not right for you? I think that’s a good question to ponder for the week. We will answer that and much more in our next episode of The Digital Entrepreneur. Take care, everyone.

Jessica Frick: Thanks for listening.

Apr 06 2017

30mins

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