3 Juicy Marketing Questions Answered

Three really smart questions from the audience … and some in-depth answers

This week I’m crazy lucky to have three big questions from Authority, our community of content marketers.

Major thanks and kudos to David, Julie, and Mike for the food for thought …

In this 22-minute episode, I talk about:

  • How long it takes to make a decent living online
  • Where to put your focus to get traction with your business
  • How to find the right balance between creativity and the “rules” of good content marketing
  • The 3 simple questions to ask yourself to get on the right track with your marketing
  • How to handle the 2 main types of visitors to your website

The Show Notes

Try to go into your business with a strong vision of what you want to accomplish, and a weak vision of how exactly you’ll accomplish it.

Because as time goes on, the tools and techniques you’ll use will change. You’ll respond to your customers, you’ll learn new skills, and you’ll have more opportunities at your disposal.

Don’t get attached to exactly how you’ll get to your destination.

~ Pamela Wilson

Share your questions!

If you’d like to ask me a question about business, productivity, marketing, finding work/life balance, or some other topic, just drop it into the comments below! I’ll be addressing them regularly in future dedicated Q&A episodes. You can also throw me a tweet at @soniasimone, ideally with the hashtag #rainmakerfm.

Looking forward to hearing what you’re up to!

How to Strengthen Your Talents

Sonia Simone: Greetings, superfriends! My name is Sonia Simone and these are the Confessions of a Pink-Haired Marketer. For those who don’t know me yet, I am a co-founder and the Chief Content Officer for Copyblogger Media.

I’m also a champion of running your business and your life according to your own rules. As long as you don’t lie and you don’t hurt people, this podcast is your official pink permission slip to run your business, or your career, exactly the way you think you should.

These Confessions of a Pink-Haired Marketer are brought to you by Authority Rainmaker, a live educational experience that presents a complete, effective online marketing strategy that immediately helps you accelerate your business. If you want more details on that, head on over to rainmaker.fm/event.

Today I’m going to be answering some questions from the audience, and I’m very lucky to have three juicy questions that have come out of our community of content marketers, which is called Authority.

If you’d like to ask a question for a later episode, you can comment on this post or you can just tweet me
. If you use the hashtag #rainmakerfm, it will make it a little bit easier for me to see it in my stream. But either way I would love to see your questions and see what you have on your mind.

So the first one is from David Bourne. And I will be including links to these folks sites in the show notes, so you can go check out what they are doing.

How Long Does it Take to Make a Decent Living Online

Here’s David’s question:

Based on your years of experience doing this (online marketing, making a business for yourself online, call it what you want) and watching and helping people do it, how long does it take to make a good living? Of course, we all define “good living” differently, but in the US we could pick a national average or something.
< br />And is the hard work worth it? Why is it worth it to you and most people you come across who are doing it and making it work?

I know you are not a “get rich quick” kind of person but I also know you totally believe in this system. Assuming that you say that it takes a while, how does someone start while they are also working at another job?

It’s a big question, but I’d love your perspective. Thanks!

This is an awesome question. It is definitely a big juicy question, and thank you David for asking it. And you know I’m going to say it depends — but it might be helpful to talk about what it depends on.

So the first question is not “How long does it take to make a living online?” The question is, “How long does it take to make a living from a business?”

Your online marketing is just a way you get customers, and a lot of businesses do well with it because it’s cost effective. But there is more than one way to get customers. Your presence online, your content marketing online is really an element — it’s a way for you to get more customers, more clients to do what you do.

Where to Put Your Focus to Get Traction with Your Business

So how long does it take to make that happen? How long does it take to get traction?

One of the things it depends on is, is there an audience for what you do? Is there a market there? And do they want to spend money?

Some things are just easier to sell than other things. It’s easier to sell smart phones than it is to sell life insurance. It’s easier to sell fat loss than it is to sell sustainable health and strength.

Now it doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing if you are in a more difficult market, but it very well might take longer.

Another question to ask yourself is, “Are people able to instantly get why you are different?”

So for some industries, some kinds of professions, it really takes a long time to get traction because it’s hard to build that differentiation. It’s hard to get people to understand what’s different about you.

For most people it takes forever to build a real estate practice, or a financial planning practice, because people don’t see the major difference. And there might be one — but you have to find a way to communicate it. Other than, you know, taking out ads on bus benches and going to networking breakfasts at the Better Business Bureau.

Now because it’s hard, that doesn’t mean it’s not possible. There are a lot of personal trainers who hang around the gym, kind of broke and wishing some clients would come in the door. But Josh Hillis does really terrific content on his blog, along with great email, and he has no trouble filling his calendar.

Take a look at his site so you can see what it looks like for a real-world person, who is promoting a real brick and mortar, face to face business.

You guys know I’m a content marketing person, that’s what I believe in, it’s what I teach. One of the reasons for that is it is a quick way to differentiate yourself among other kinds of business, whether you are a service, whether you make a product, whether you offer professional services, anything along those lines.

Content is a great way to differentiate yourself, a) because most companies don’t do it. They just can’t get their heads around it. And b) because it gives you an opportunity to express a different approach, a different personality, a different set of beliefs and values, which is really important.

So that’s one of the many reasons that I like content for promoting businesses of all kinds, and especially smaller businesses that don’t have unlimited budgets.

And then the other question to ask is, “What’s your revenue model?”

So if you are booking one-on-one clients for $75 an hour, $100 an hour, or more than that, it’s not that hard to make a living. As long as you have some good solid marketing technique that you know how to implement.

Now if you are selling 99-cent books on Amazon, that can take a lot longer, depending on what the audience is for the kind of book you write. And there are people making wonderful livings doing that, but it takes longer to pull the audience together because you have to make the sale more times, of course.

So how long it’s going to take you to get your business to the point where it can comfortably support you, is going to depend on how the revenue comes in, how many people you need every month to make your numbers work. And you need to run through that calculation.

You need to know, “How many customers do I need and how many dollars average per customer every month to make my numbers work, to get all my bills paid, to get my expenses paid and to get an income for myself coming in, that’s reliable and steady?”

I was able to make a living the first year that I started my business because I had already been building my audience. I had a blog, I had an email list, I was regularly guest posting on a larger blog, which was Copyblogger.com.

I also had like eight different ideas for bringing revenue in.

I had a lot of business models that I knew I could capably implement. So I just kept working through that list. I had Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, Plan D and I got to around Plan E or Plan F, before I found the one that got traction. And if you are starting a business or if you are still in that phase where it’s not making a living for you, you have to be able to put a number of irons in the fire.

You want to go ahead and try a couple of revenue models and get one that works. In my opinion, you do not want to put all of your eggs in one basket, and then just put everything you have into that basket. Not at first. You need to do some experimentation to find what’s going to work, because if you put all of your energy into a revenue stream that’s just not well suited to you, or it’s not well suited to your audience, you will try and try and try and it’s never going to come together for you.

Be Willing to Put Some Irons in the Fire and See Which One Gets Hot First

I actually thought I was going to make a living as a freelance copywriter. And I did definitely make some decent money as a freelance copywriter. But for me, it turned out that I needed to find the product — which was an educational community — that my audience wanted to buy from me. That was what worked for me, for my combination of my skills, my audience, who I was as a professional, what they wanted to get from me.

And as for the question of, “Is it worth it? What is it that makes it worth it?” for me it really is that theme of this podcast, which is making your own rules. You can do that sometimes in a larger organization, if it’s a quality organization and they are progressive and smart, but there aren’t as many of those organizations out there as we would like.

So sometimes you have to make your own rules. You have to make your own gig. I’m a real fan of that. I have a fairly high tolerance for stress and a very low tolerance for boredom. So trading boredom for stress when I quit my job was okay with me. It worked for me. It might not work for you. It doesn’t have to work for everyone.

And you mentioned getting things rolling while you still have a “day job,” which I’m a big proponent of. A side hustle to your 9-5. Get your bills paid with a reliable 9-5 and start a side gig, a side hustle to get to a meaningful percentage of what you need.

So you need a certain amount of money, and a decent living is a different number for me, than it might be for you or another person. If you’re smart, you’ll get that number as low as you can, because that makes it a lot easier to become successful.

So maybe you have a number in mind. Try and get to a solid 15% of that with your side hustle, or even 20% of your number you need to get your bills paid and you know, not necessarily be eating beans and ramen every day of your life.

If you’re smart you will suck every penny of what you are making on that side hustle into the bank, because you’ll want to have a cushion. It’s just very, very helpful to have a cushion.

Most people who go out on their own don’t have the cushion they need, and frankly it does work, but it’s like a thousand times more stressful than you need it to be. So try and have that cushion and then come up with a real world plan, a reality-based plan, please. Not that “a miracle happens.” A plan to scale what you are doing now.

So first of all, are there enough people in your market to support your business? If your business is one-on-one, are there are enough people within easy driving distance of you to make your one-on-one client base actually work? Are there enough audience members? Are there enough customers, potential customers for what you do, to make it work?

Given the fact that you’re going to convert a tiny fraction of 1% of those people, so you can’t say, “Well there are a billion people on the earth who need nutritional counselling and so I’m going to have a billion customers.” Of course, it doesn’t work that way.

But think about how many people there are in your market, how you are going to get hold of them, is there a way to reach more of them? So could you do something like buy some advertising on a social site. Some pay-per-click advertising on Facebook or Google, or whatever it might be that’s a good fit for your site.

And don’t just plan on that, actually do some testing while you are still small. Do some testing while you are in your side business, and see if there is something there that can be scaled, so that you are going to be able to hit 100% of what you need, once you go out on your own.

And the final thing I want to say about this question is, don’t think about how long does it takes to make a living marketing online. Think about, how long does it take to get this business some traction? Think of it from a business perspective, not a make-a-living-online perspective.

I think too many people have become caught up thinking that finding customers online is somehow a different kind of endeavour than running a business. It’s not.

The way you make money online is that you run a business and you use the Internet to support certain elements of that business. And the key to business traction for most people is finding most customers or clients, and then getting them on at a reasonable cost. So that’s normally where you want to put your time and attention.

If you can do that well, and you can keep your costs under control, typically you are going to make it work. It’s going to happen for you.

How to Find the Right Balance Between Creativity and the “Rules” of Good Content Marketing

All right. Question two comes from Julia Rymut. And she asks:

With all the online businesses you have seen grow, what is your take on the balance between going with tried and true content practices, and going out on a limb with your own individual take?

Some people write online content in their own, unique way. They jump in and start. Often these businesses are very creative and quite unique. Their posts are “too long” or “too short”. Their headlines would not pass a Copyblogger quality check. They don’t follow “the rules”. Lots of passion, sweat and duct tape. Seth Godin loves these types of people.

These businesses have so many interesting ideas that people love them, even if you wouldn’t expect their newsletter subject lines to get clicks.

Other people follow “best practices.” They write headlines that are catchy and have a reader benefit. Their posts are pithy and relevant (with a list so they’re easy-to-read). They get clicks. They follow the rules.

How does a person find a balance between their artistic, unique ideas and the practical, best practices? What have you found about the relative success rate? Do you find that one type of content tends to succeed over the other?

When is it good to be a Wild Thing, and when is it best to rein it in?

First of all, I just want to thank Julia for an awesome question. I love this. I think not enough people ask this question. So I love that she brought this forward.

Remember that my thing is “don’t lie and don’t hurt anyone,” and otherwise do what you need to do. Live according to your own rules.

But if there was a rule it would be: Do more of what works and do less of what doesn’t work — based on your own observations for your own scenario: your own skills, your own strengths, your own voice, the technologies you are using, the channels that you are using, and the audience that you attract.

That combination of elements is different for every business. So the reason there are best practices for headlines or formatting your content and those kinds of things, is that those tend to make your ideas easier to communicate, so they work better.

But the principle that falls directly under this “do more of what works, do less of what doesn’t work” is this: Do not be boring because that doesn’t work.

Nobody wants generic business. Nobody wants generic marketing. And especially nobody wants generic content.

Boring is already covered with Wikipedia. They have that nailed. They have it down. They own it. You’re never going to get a piece of it. So leave boring aside. It’s not going to work for you, it’s not going to work for your business.

The 3 Simple Questions to Ask Yourself to Get on the Right Track with Your Marketing

So the questions you want to ask yourself are:

  1. Is what I’m doing useful?
  2. Does it solve an audience problem?
  3. Is this presented in an interesting way?

So once you have those down, then you use the “rules” for your headlines, for your content formatting to get the wider audience.

And the only reason you use them — they are not really rules, they are sort of typical best practices — is because they let you present this cool interesting thing you are doing in a way that’s easier to see.

So when you start from the rules, very often you get something that looks like it ought to work because it’s following these so called rules but it’s not interesting. It has no heart.

It’s missing what I call “G.A.S.” And G.A.S — cover your ears if you are sensitive to language — stands for Give a Shit.

If you don’t have G.A.S in your business, your business is really not going to go anywhere.

You have to care. You have to care enough to do something different from the way everybody else is doing it. And I do see this a lot with sites that are working on content marketing. They read Copyblogger and they follow our practices, which is great, but there is no heart. There’s no G.A.S. There’s no soul in the middle of it that makes the whole thing live.

That spark has to be there, unless you really do have a super practical solution that nobody else has. For example, you have a patent. But even then, you are going to do a lot better with a spark.

So spark first, unique first, interesting first, passion first, personality first. Then take all of the rules — that are just guidelines really, just best practices — and make them work.

That works a lot better than taking the shell, the appearance and trying to work backward from that. Start with your gut, start with your passion. But the rules will help you communicate that passion more effectively, so more people can find you and discover how cool you are.

How to Handle the 2 Main Types of Visitors to Your Website

All right. Number three comes from Mike Davenport. And he’s over at CoachingSportsToday.com.

His question is conceptual and it goes to design. He says:

It seems there are mainly two types of website consumers, a) those who have a specific problem, and they want a solution and b) those who are casually consuming information, they are just surfing.

So you have any thoughts on how to design for each type and suggestions on how to convert either to subscribers to an email list? Thanks, Mike.

You basically do have two kinds of audience members who show up in your business, whether you’re on the Internet or not.

You have the person with a problem or a desire and it needs to be addressed right now. And then you have the ones with problems that are going to need addressing at some point.

This isn’t just an online thing. In any business, you are going to have prospects who are ready to move forward, make a decision in the next very short time frame, and then you have leads who are not quite as ready yet. They have some interest, but they need to be nurtured until they get to that point of being ready to make the buying decision.

It’s very smart to have materials that help both of those types of audience.

So you might have a product or service that addresses an immediate need. If you do, make sure it’s very clearly visible everywhere on your site for the people who need a longer term solution. Maybe they are not ready yet, sometimes their need is not real well defined yet. They know they need to do something about this problem or desire that’s been bothering them, but they haven’t really decided what move they want to take next and you are just part of their research process. You are part of what they are thinking about. That’s where content will tend to come in most effectively.

We have things like sequences of email messages, that are called email auto-responders. And we have blogs. And we have membership content libraries for prospects and customers. And we have special reports and white papers. All of those exist to nurture the lead until they turn into a prospect who’s ready to make a decision.

That process is sometimes called lead maturation. You take someone who comes in with a rather unformed need or desire, and you educate and nurture that person until they are ready to make the purchasing decision.

So the real decision or content structure you need to address is to just make sure that throughout your site and throughout your content you have well defined, easy to find points, where you say, “If you are ready to take the next step, here’s how you do that.”

It’s also really smart if you can swing it, to have something available all the time.

Let’s say you are a fitness trainer and your schedule is full. You do not have any room for clients right now. It’s really smart to have something like a book that somebody could buy on Amazon, or an online course, or a PDF ebook. Basically something so that they can get started with your method, your way of doing things.

And then they can go onto a waiting list, and that way you’ll have them ready when you have availability for clients again. Because one of the certainties of business is that revenue ebbs and flows, and you always have weird blackout periods when you had ten great clients and then one week, eight of them quit.

That is just part of the reality of business. Things don’t flow in and out smoothly, they tend to go in lumps or chunks. So if what you have for sale primarily isn’t available all the time, you want to have a good process in place for some form of waiting list, or some way to keep people’s motors running until you are ready to take their business.

It’s helpful to think about this in this way. Every business exists to meet a customer or client need for transformation. So your business is helping them do, be or become, or have something different, than what they have today. And it’s really smart to have something available that will help them make that transformation in a small way.

Even if the big way might be out of their reach, it might be something they are not able to do right now financially, or with time, or for some other reason, or you just might not have it available right now.

It’s a good observation, Mike, that you do definitely have these two different kinds of leads and prospects. You have the people who are ready today and then people who might not be ready for quite a long time. Content is the way you keep their motor running and keep them interested and engaged with you while they become ready to do business with you. And it’s one of the more useful ways you can use content for a business.

I want to wrap up with a quote from a great marketer, her name is Pamela Wilson. She is part of the Copyblogger team. She heads our content right now and I will give you the link to the full post containing this quote in the show notes.

Try to go into your business with a strong vision of what you want to accomplish, and a weak vision of how exactly you’ll accomplish it.

Because as times goes on, the tools and techniques you’ll use will change. You’ll respond to your customers, you’ll learn new skills, and you’ll have more opportunities at your disposal.

Don’t get attached to exactly how you’ll get to your destination.

I really like that. I thought that was really valuable, and it’s very aligned with the way I see business.

The Confessions of a Pink Haired Marketer have been brought to you today by Authority Rainmaker, a live educational experience that presents a complete and effective online marketing strategy to help you immediately accelerate your business. Don’t miss the opportunity to see Dan Pink, Sally Hogshead, punk legend Henry Rollins, and lots of other incredibly smart speakers live … not to mention the secret sauce of it all: building real-world relationships with other attendees. I, personally, would love to connect with you there.

Get all the details right now at rainmaker.fm/event, and we look forward to seeing you in Denver, Colorado this May. That’s rainmaker.fm/event.

And major thank-you to my peeps over in the Authority marketing community for their questions. I really appreciate it guys. I think you really outdid yourselves in coming up with some juicy ones today. And remember, if you’d like to ask a question for a later episode, just tweet me @soniasimone/event! If you use the hashtag #rainmakerfm, it will make it a little bit easier for me to see it in my stream.

And you can also leave a comment below. I would just love to hear what you’ve got going on, what kind of questions you have. So thank you everybody. Thank you for your time and attention. Take care. This is Sonia Simone with The Confessions of a Pink-Haired Marketer.