Like most people who hold onto the self-employed lifestyle as if it were the only life raft and they were about to drown in a tumultuous sea storm, I came from the corporate world.
I did pretty well for myself there... going from intern, to in-house writer, to Content Director, to Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) all before I turned 26 years old.
As CMO, my only boss was the founder & CEO of the company, and I was the 'boss' to a lot of people. I directed the marketing efforts for the entire company.
I don't say this to brag, because I definitely wasn't a marketing genius. I had to learn a lot on the spot.
And though I did trade un-had adventures for time spent chained to a cubicle desk as a company's top marketing executive, I did learn a lot that's helping me know in my career as a freelance writer and niche site owner.
So, for the sake of those of you who'd rather not spend time in a soul-crushing office space, I want to share the most important lessons I learned from my days in this role.
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What You'll Learn
- What time-saving tricks to use & which ones to avoid like the plague so that you NEVER waste time.
- Two places you shouldn't be afraid to spend a little more money (that are well worth the ROI).
- Why lowering the stress on social media is a good idea so that you save wasting time on it.
- How to nurture your leads via email, even if you don't have time to build an email funnel so you can make more sales.
- Why it's so important to be exclusive in your advertising so that you target the right people.
1. Shortcuts Get You Nowhere So Focus On The Long Term
In my particular company, the CEO loved to step in and micro-manage just about every single thing… even things that weren’t his area of expertise.
So when our email list didn’t expand by 2,000 new subscribers in a single week?
He bought an email list from one of the cheapest vendors possible and told us that we had to send our newsletter to this list.
I told him it would end badly, and it did.
We had so many bounces and spams that we got suspended from using Amazon’s SES email service and had no way of nurturing the legitimate contacts that were on our email list… because we couldn’t email anything.
Had we grown our list organically via white-hat means, it would have been a completely different story.Niche Marketer Lesson #1: Even though it'll take you more time up front, it'll be worth it in the long run if you take the time to build an organic email list via your own, honest content marketing efforts. Trying to 'cheat' or buy your way to the top will only create a bigger crash in your success later.
2. Copy & Paste Is the Worst Idea Ever
And I don’t just mean plagiarism... because that’s illegal and clearly a bad idea.
What I mean here is assuming that if something works in one instance, it will work for another.
For example, one of my colleagues insisted on using the exact same page layout, images & content for multiple product pages, only changing the heading to match the product.
Obviously, things didn’t work out so well. People bounced like crazy and we got no conversions.
You’ve got to consider the visitor’s point of view on what you’re offering and how you can solve their problems.
And only THEN do you start putting together content and a design that will resonate with them… and you’ll be amazed at how much better it works.Niche Marketer Lesson #2: Don’t be so lazy that you don’t take your different website visitor personalities into consideration. If you have more than one product or service offering, tease out the differences between the personalities and desires of those target customers, and create pages customized for them.
3. Keep Social Media Simple So You Don't Waste Time On It
Whether they’re just finding out about your company, are thinking about buying from you, or are a happy customer ready to share your posts with their followers…. social media is crucial to a wholesome brand experience.
But just because it’s crucial doesn’t mean it has to be complicated.
Here’s what NOT to do: Do not, under any circumstances, force your employees (or ask your friends) to participate in a social media blast by posting your articles or pages from their account 10 times in one day to different groups online.
Their own personal accounts will be at risk for getting labeled as a spammer, and social media profiles are very personal, near, and dear to them.
Plus no one takes anyone seriously who does these crazy blasts.
Instead, do this: set a calendar that lets you know how many times per day or per week you’ll post to your different social media profiles.
These you can even schedule in advance with different tools.
When someone responds to one of your posts, interact with them kindly and candidly, and you’ll see your brand recognition and engagement take off with slow, steady practice.Niche Marketer Lesson #3: Don’t over-stress yourself with social media. For example, one 20-minute session planning Tweets in Hootsuite at the beginning of the week and another half-hour session replying & interacting later on is a much more successful & sustainable plan for Twitter than trying to be on top of everything on Twitter all the time.
4. Build a Lead-Nurturing Pipeline And Make More Sales
Rather than trying to sell them immediately and right away, you need to nurture them so they become more educated on their problems, your industry, and how you help solve similar problems so they begin to trust you so they’ll eventually buy from you.
Trying to make the sell immediately almost never works.
If you’re totally new to lead nurturing and online marketing, it can be as simple as emailing out your blog posts when they publish, or a weekly roundup of your blog posts if you publish more than once per week.
If you’ve been in the online marketing world a little longer and know your visitors well, you can build out an email autoresponder series that people start to receive at pre-set increments after they sign up to receive one of your freebie offers. These are tailored to the offer type they’ve signed up for, and are therefore more relevant and more effective.Niche Marketer Lesson #4:: Always nurture your leads. Even if you're just starting & don't have a big email structure in place, emailing your list with a new blog post will go a lot farther than waiting until you've got the time to build something big. Plus, you'll make more sales in the mean time.
5. Have a Content Plan & Use a Calendar to Make the Most of Your Content Types
Know what content you’re going to publish when and for what purpose.
What kind of blog posts will you publish to lead up to a new product launch?
What kind of blog posts will you need to keep providing value to both new and old visitors alike?
What are some blog posts you can use to gain credibility with and social shares by the rock stars in your particular niche?
Each of these types of posts can be incredibly effective if timed right. But when you go at content haphazardly without having a set content plan, you’ll either find yourself scrambling to put together a good lead-up series to a product launch, or worse, waiting until after the launch to make any kind of attempt of letting your list know about what you’ve got for sale.Niche Marketer Lesson #5: Taking the time to plan ahead, especially with content publishing, results in far more wins than the losses you might incur with the time spent on it. I use Google Calendar and love it. It's easy, free, and you can color-code different 'calendars' to easily see what you need to publish and when.
6. Be a Person When You’re Marketing and Selling (And Make More Sales)
Think about it for a second.
How would you feel if you were thinking about buying into a service and after your inquiry you received an email from “Sales”?
Suddenly that company you were thinking about doing business with is a lot less attractive, isn’t it?
Because rather than treating you like a fellow human being in business, they’re treating you like a number in the cog of their sales process.
On the internal side of things, I realize it can be a little tempting to want to do that to be able to better categorize your emails (especially if you’re a small operation), but fight the urge. For the sake of making more sales, fight the urge.
At the very least, create a false person to be your “Sales.” Like “John,” for example. (It’s still better to use an actual person, if possible.) John might not actually exist in your company, but he’s a much nicer, more relatable guy that “Sales” is.
And within your email copy, talk to your sales prospects just like you'd talk to a friend thinking about buying your product.Niche Marketer Lesson #6:Be the guy you’d want to buy from. Even if you use email templates because you sell a lot of smaller-ticket items, make sure the messages themselves are personable and inviting.
7. It Really Is ALL About the Visitor. Make Every Single Sentence About Them. Not You.
When you're blogging, especially the bigger your business gets, there’s this tendency to use at least one post per month to talk all about yourself and what’s been going on with your business.
There’s a place and a time to talk about those things, but your blog is not it.
Your blog is designed to attract people who’ve never heard of you before to your website, to genuinely help them out so they stick around, and to convert them from a mere visitor into a lead.
While the fact that you’ve grown enough to hire three new team members in the last month is impressive, none of your visitors or mailing list members are going to care. They care about the value you can provide them and how it’s going to help them do their job (or live their life) better.
Yes, you can use one of your own stories to illustrate a point you’re trying to make… but that’s a different thing altogether.
Making even just one post all about you really harms the quality of your blog feed and makes it instantly less enticing to potential (and current) subscribers, making you miss out on loads of potential customers.
Not a good thing.Niche Marketer Lesson #7: Stop being so self-centered. Make your blog about offering useful advice to your visitors, and you'll discover that you'll get a lot more traffic and sales over time.
Extended Hint: Even your ‘About’ page should be about the visitor and their goals. It’s one of the most-visited pages on any website, so writing about their struggles and their desire to overcome them on your About page makes them love you even more than if you rattle on and on about yourself. (Example: Unless you’re running a Mommy Blog, no one cares how many kids or dogs you have.)
8. Grow Your Team & Tools Slowly So You Don't Slow Down Your Business
Growing and hiring a team too quickly may not be as big of a problem for solopreneur niche marketers, but growing carefully is incredibly important.
In my own experience, I was busily trying to train 4-5 writers to bring their quality of output up to my standards when I walked into the office one day to find out HR had hired enough writers to double my team, even though I was already struggling to keep up and we had absolutely no need for another person.
I don’t know what the motive was behind such rash hiring, but these guys were completely untrained and some couldn’t even write a proper sentence.
As you can guess, things got really chaotic and because I wasn’t allowed to dismiss any of the employees (new or old) that I had on my team, the quality of absolutely everything we did suffered.
It was like watching a train wreck happen.
If you’re working on your own, this can apply to building out your use of third party tools as well.
There’s so many cool SaaS (software as a service) offerings out there that do so many cool things, that it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that adding this, this, and this will help you scale your business overnight.
But honestly, that’s hardly ever the case.
I’m 100% in favor of scaling and fast growth, but it needs to have a sustainable support system behind it.
And 95 times out of 100, it’s better to grow one piece of technology and one new hire at a time… making sure that each time you add something (tool or employee) you take the time to select the best of the best.Niche Marketer Lesson #8:Grow with care. Adapt one awesome new tool at a time and take at least a week to make sure it's use is easy and sustainable for you. If you're drowning in too many tools, you'll spend more time managing them than you spend on growing your business. Which is not what you want. Remember Aesop's Tortoise & the Hare.
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9. Google is King. Whether you like it or not.
As a content writer, I have this tendency to snub my nose at the idea of selling out to Google-based SEO.
The human touch of writing is always better, I think, so I don’t like to “sell my soul” to get rankings.
But, the reality is that business is business.
We’re in business to make money and we get that money from our traffic.
And where do we get that traffic from? Google.
So, the smart thing to do is to play by Google’s rules, and rise up the ranks it’s set out for us to climb in order to prove ourselves worthy of a high ranking.
That means biting the bullet, doing keyword research, figuring out where to insert keywords in headlines and subtitles, and completing the ever-monotonous job of adding alt-text to all of your images.
And then, of course, participating in the game of giving & receiving backlinks.
It’s not fancy or enjoyable in the moment, but once you see the hard work paying off, you’ll be glad you took the time to do it.Niche Marketer Lesson #9:With each page and post you publish, make sure you choose a focus keyword and integrate it into your copy, headline, sub-headlines, meta description, and image alt-text. Once you get the hang of it, it really doesn't take that much time. Live according to the law of King Google.
10. It’s All About Pain. Pain, Pain & More Pain.
No, I’m not some kind of behind-the-scenes pain-inflicting weirdo.
But I do know one thing that I learned very poignantly as CMO: the fear of missing out is approximately 3,967 times greater than the desire to add something good to our businesses or life. (That's a scientific number, based on real research…. yes.)
Here’s a more concrete example I’m talking about.
You could tell someone that you could help them increase their revenues by $10,000 per month. And who the hell doesn’t want that?
Obviously, you’ll be brining people on board with that claim.
But if you told someone that by not doing or using X, they’re leaving $10,000 on the table that could easily be in their pocket each month? Suddenly they’re a lot more interested and need to know more information right now.
The potential to make $10,000 more per month isn’t a pain point. It feels good.
The fact that you’re leaving $10,000 on the table per month just because you haven’t made a certain shift yet? So, so painful.Niche Marketer Lesson #10: Everyone likes to say that sex sells. But the data will show you that pain sells more. Focus your sales page copy around something your visitor has full rights to, but is missing out on because they're not using whatever product or service you're selling. Your sales will go up.
11. Paid Software is Almost Always Worth the Investment
Don’t try to skimp on spending $50 per month by using free trial after free trial of similar softwares.
You spend way more time re-entereing all your information than that $50 is worth.
I felt horrible every time I had to ask our in-house SEO guy to configure our page information into Moz, then HubSpot, then Raven, then who knows what other tools we had to use before we finally got access to the company credit card.
I don’t even want to know how much productivity we lost in those weeks. It was awful.
Good software has a fee for a reason. Because it really does make your life THAT much easier.
And more often than not, I’ve found that it’s a steal considering the time, value and sheer brain power it saves you to buy into a software someone else has already taken months to years to develop.
This holds true for a DIY software approach, too. It's better to cough up $50 than to struggle with a wonky in-house version that has a million bugs and nowhere near the functionality.Niche Marketer Lesson #11: Time is your greatest resource, not money. When you get a little bit of traction and are making a little money with your niche site, you'll be surprised how much more you'll be able to scale your business with the time you used to use for mundane tasks. (For example, spending money on a plugin to help you make nice-looking call to action forms and buttons will save you loads of time building pages that you can instead focus on getting traffic to those pages.)
12. When it Comes to Content, Quality is WAY, WAY, WAY More Important than Quantity
There’s a tendency we all have to try to get a bargain on everything.
It’s not bad. Most of the time, our money is a limited resource and it’s only natural to want to spend it wisely.
That includes looking for the best deal.
But with content, this well-meaning intention often gets misplaced.
Rather than spending a set amount of money on quality content that moves our online business marketing methods forwards by leaps and bounds, we often try to spend less on each content piece so we can get “more” for our money.
But after working with countless outsourced copywriters that were hired because their fees were lower and I could “train” them, I learned my lesson.
Turns out, it’s way better to spend $100 on one blog post that gets people excited, interested, and props some real action than to pay $100 for 10 blog posts that do nothing but create new pages on our site that might get a handful of retweets, if we’re lucky.
On the other hand, if you make a worthwhile investment into your content—either taking the time to write things yourself or hiring a good writer to help you out—you’ll be seen as a quality source of information and a place where people know they can come back to for useful information… rather than a site that cranks out posts that are nothing more than a waste of time.Niche Marketer Lesson #12:Don’t hire writers that charge $10 a pop. It’s a trap and no one will take you seriously after reading their writing. Instead, go for someone that knows how to create emotionally-evoking content and/or is an expert in your niche. If nothing else, study buyer emotion for yourself and write your own content.
13. AdWords Can Work, But Not if You Try to be Everything to Everyone
When you’re first building up your site and aren’t getting the organic traffic you desire yet, AdWords or other types of paid ads (done right) can be an incredible way to boost traffic, conversions and sales.
You get customers you wouldn’t have had otherwise, simply by paying a small fee to acquire them.
But… and this is a big but… if you use your AdWords ad text to try to be everything to everyone, you’ll end up paying out more money in customer acquisition than you’re gaining from your sales.
With AdWords, it pays to be specific. And even though it will mean less initial click-through rates, you need to be specific about exactly who you’re speaking to in your ad text. You’ll save a ton of money and get better quality traffic in return.
For example, if you’re running a website that offers vegan diet plans, you want to be specific about that. You don’t want to advertise only a diet plan that will help someone lose 20 pounds in a month because you’ll get people looking for the Atkins diet. You want people who want to (or are willing to) eat plants, not meat.
And if you accidentally attract those meat eaters to your page via ad clicks? You’ll be losing loads of money.Niche Marketer Lesson #13:Not all traffic is created equal. Use self-selecting ad copy to keep undesired visitors away. You'll be able to do a lot more with your advertising budget.
14. Price is Not the Issue. Perceived Value & Edge is.
You’d be surprised at how much money people are willing to pay for a product or service that solves exactly the problems they’re the most irritated about.
When your website reads more or less exactly like the websites of your competitors, then you’ll be competing on price.
But when you take the time to really explore the frustrations and goals of your target customer… and I mean really explore exactly how the problem and solutions make them feel, not just brainstorming a word vomit of cliche phrases onto a sheet of paper… you’re able to create a connection with your website copy that your competition could never compete with.
If you try to write a landing page like this but can’t seem to burst past having a website that sounds like everyone else in your space, a good copywriter schooled in the science of buyer emotions (wink, wink) can do it for a price that’s not exactly cheap, but will give you an ROI many times over.Niche Marketer Lesson #14:When you start justifying your price right away, it breeds doubt rather than confidence in your readers' minds. Instead, use your valuable web page real estate to up your perceived value in their minds. If the perceived value is high enough, people will happily hand over the money for whatever price you ask.
15. Learn From Your Idols So You Can Copy Their Success
Even if you do find yourself in the big-boss situation like I did, there’s absolutely no reason to go at everything on your own.
Just because you’ve got seniority doesn’t mean you’re also expected to be a know-it-all.
So, when you’re trying to do something, think about the people you know who are already doing that one thing really well.
Read their tutorials. Take their courses. And if they offer it, buy an hour or two of consulting from them.
It’ll be worth every last minute and penny you spend, and you’ll be surprised how much better you get at your job in a short time.
These are the people that will help you cut through the crappy advice and focus on the exact things you need to do now to improve and get things running smoothly and profitably.Niche Marketer Lesson #15:People who know what they’re doing really know what they’re doing. Read their blog posts, download their free e-books, and take their courses. You'll get better at what you're doing much quicker than if you try to figure everything out on your own. In short, don't be afraid to Google something.
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Rock Your Niche Market Without Wasting Time in a Cubicle
Luckily, you don’t have to get into a high-stress corporate job to be just as good at online marketing as some of the gurus.
The internet exists, arguably exactly for this purpose.
In fact, if I could sum up the lessons I learned as a CMO into one big lesson, it would be this: use Google to find the best and learn from them. If you do that, you’ll get better at your job.
What's one of the biggest lessons you've learned about marketing? (Whether you learned it in a cubicle or a home office in a beach house?)