A Simple, No Experience Required, No Budget Necessary, Guide To Online Marketing

confusion

Let me paint a picture that I am very familiar with –  both in my own life as an entrepreneur and in my experience in working with, and coaching, many, many other entrepreneurs over the last five years.

You have a new business.  You are excited about the prospect of what it can do for your life.  You love the products, and you really believe in the value that they give to customers.  You really, really want to be successful.

You have absolutely no prior internet marketing experience, and you have a very limited (if any) budget for marketing expenses. You’ve got to bootstrap this venture – so what that means is that if you’re going to have any exposure on the internet you are going to have to figure it out yourself.

You have a vague understanding of social media.  You have a Facebook page for personal use.  You go to Wix, web.com, or Squarespace and set up a site for free.  Maybe you even take the extra step of getting a personalized domain.   You then do a few searches on the Internet for ways to market your business online, and try to do your best with the advice. You set up a twitter profile, you create a Facebook business page, you get on LinkedIn, may even Pinterest.  You start blasting out posts about your business.  You throw up some pictures for good measure.  Your friends follow you and click on your links but after a month or two no one is going to your page, no one is engaging you, and you are getting zero business online.

You start to doubt whether it is possible to actually see results online and whether you are wasting your time.

So you go a little deeper.  You decide to invest – you don’t have the money to invest in someone to actually build a professional site or give you marketing consulting, but you invest in a book on search engine optimization at your local bookstore.

This only leads to a headache….

You start seeing words that might as well be written in Sanskrit because you have absolutely no idea what they mean – conversion analysis, local map submission, keyword density, the Flesch Reading Ease test, subheading tags, inbound and outbound links, meta description, meta robots, html sitemap.

Ugh….

You are almost ready to throw in the towel.  Then you talk to your friend whose had success online in her business.  You tell her (trying to be sophisticated) that you are reading so and so book about SEO when she interjects – “Oh that book is totally outdated, Google has changed their algorithm three times since then…”

Ugh, Ugh……

She then goes on talking about Penguins, Pandas and Pigeons.

Huh…..??

Ok – there is hope.  I can help you.  I have lived this.  With no experience, and no budget at the beginning, I’ve found success online, and you can too.  Let me simplify the process. No weird words.  No high-priced consultants.  Before you give up try these simple things:

1.  You’ve got to have a place where people can find you or your business.

Simple enough.  You need a website – ideally with a blog.  You should set up profiles for your business with all the major social media networks.  You should set up business profiles with all the major directories and business listing services.  You should submit your sites to all the major search engines.  Easy enough still.

Now – important point – this alone will not get you results.  Setting up billboards on the Internet, as your only strategy will not get you results. So……

2. There has to be a reason why people want to go to your site.

What are you creating that makes them want to go to your site.  What are you offering on your site that they can’t find anywhere else?  Or if they can find it somewhere else, why should they go to your site for this particular product or service?  What additional value are you adding?  How else are you making it worthwhile for them to visit you.

Here are a couple of things that you could do that will cost you pretty much nothing other than some time:

- you consistently blog, and your posts are interesting, relevant and worthwhile.

- you are making YouTube videos that people like to watch, they are interesting, relevant and worthwhile.

- you have some type of freebie (like an e-book or valuable information on your site or social media profiles) that make people want to visit you.

Even more important is……..

3.  There has to be a reason why they want to share your site / social media profile, with people in their network

So not only do you need a valuable offering for people to come to your site, you need a reason for them to want to share your site with others.

This can be easily done if you have a great product, or you give great service, or if you have something about you, your business, your site, that is worth sharing.

You need your business to get outside of your network, the only way (other than the search engines picking it up) that this is going to happen for you online is that people in your network start sharing it with people outside of their network.

This process happens over and over again until before you know it you have exposed your business / service with a much larger network than you could ever dream of reaching on your own.  This is the power of the Internet and it all sources back to one major factor:

Having something worth sharing

What is worth sharing?

4.  Compelling stories are worth sharing

Humans are story telling and story embracing animals.  We love them.  Our world revolve around stories.  Marketing essentially is the art of storytelling.  The better the story the more compelling the brand.

So what is your story that you are telling:

  • Why do you do what you do?
  • Why should anyone care about you or your product?
  • What problem does your product or service solve?
  • How has your product or service helped, or empowered others?

Tell a story. Make it compelling. Again, you can do this through blogs, videos, articles.  All these things are free, and if your story is really compelling, and worth sharing, it will be seen and it will be shared.

Another important thing…

5. Make sure that your stuff is actually sharable.  

I am amazed when I look at a website or blog that hasn’t incorporated sharing features. What is the purpose of the site?  A billboard online, that doesn’t tell a story, and that can’t be shared, is useless.

So make sure that whatever you put out there can be shared by other people.

Now, a very important concluding point….

6.  You’re going to have to work at this, and be consistent for a while, in order to get results

The reality is that there are thousands of other strategies that can also help you.  A large portion of these strategies are the realm of professional internet marketing consultants, who in many cases do add great value.

However – as we’ve established – at least at this point you don’t have the budget to afford their services.

So, because of that, you have to accept the fact that you might not get the results you want, as quickly as you may want them, but you can still get results.  You have to be consistent to get results.  You have to consistently put out a valuable message, and a compelling and shareable story.

But rest assured, if you are willing to stick with it, and most importantly if your story and message is valuable, compelling, and capable of being shared.  You will find success online.

Just Start: Tomorrow Is Always More Difficult Than Today

starting line

Let me tell you a true story. In June of 2012 I officially quit my practice as a lawyer to go full time as an entrepreneur.

From 2009 to my “departure month” in 2012, my wife and I worked like crazy to get our home based business to the point that it could support a full time income.

During this time I was learning a ton about small business marketing, social media, and entrepreneurship – all from the “University of actually running a business” while I was concurrently pursuing a graduate degree in “overcoming my fear and stop caring about what others think of me.” I started blogging, and had several posts that got really good traffic. Then I thought, “I should capture my ideas in a book.”

Well I sat on that thought for two full years without taking any action on it.

I’d blog, but there wasn’t a single step taken on materializing the idea of getting a book done. Then in the fall of 2012 I went to a business leadership conference. At the conference there was a speaker, about my age (early thirties at the time), who had a book and was giving a talk based on the concept from his book. As he spoke I felt a tremendous surge of motivation because I realized that the only difference between us was that he had actually sat down and written a book, while my book hid inside my head buried under a pile of internal resistance.

As soon as I got home from the conference I immediately (literally the next day) went to a local coffee shop determined to start my book. I forced myself to sit down and create a structural outline of my now published book.

Here is the powerful lesson that I learned that day:

Starting the book in 2012 wasn’t any easier then it would have been in 2010. In fact, it was probably more difficult. 

In 2012 there were more reasons that I could think of as to “why” I couldn’t do it, there were more fears, there were more self-doubts.

We really deceive ourselves if we think that things will get easier in the future. They won’t. They get harder. If you are having difficulty getting that business started today, it won’t get easier in a year. It will be more difficult. If you’re having trouble blogging today, it won’t get easier in two years. It will be more difficult. If you’re dreaming of that book, it won’t be easier to write when “things settle down.”  Things never settle down.

Here is a philosophy that has utterly changed my life:

Today I’m going to take action on my passion.

Plain and simple – tomorrow is always more difficult than today. Right this moment is the moment of least resistance. If your heart sings to do something – start it today. Start it right now – even a tiny action forward.

Ithaka: A Visualization I Created That You’ll Resist (But It’s Very Empowering If You Try It)

ithaka

Want to play an empowering mental game that will probably mess with your head a little, but the end result will be really good for you?

I’ve done it to myself many times and it’s resulted in a really interesting sense of awareness. It’s also impacted how I view each day as I work towards my goals.

So if you’ve read this far, and if you’ve ever enjoyed anything else that I’ve ever written, stay with me for a minute.

Ok – lets first assume that you know exactly what you want out of life – you are crystal clear with your goals, both short term and long term (which in my experience is only the case with a small portion of the population – most people don’t know exactly what they want other than a general sense of happiness, comfort, significance and success).

But assuming that you do know exactly what you want out of your life, I want you to take a moment, close your eyes, and:

Intentionally visualize yourself achieving your goals, but have it take WAY LONGER than you want it to take. See yourself achieving your goals, but they aren’t achieved until much later in life. That is, you have to work at them for years, and years, decades even, before you achieve them.

I bet your ego is resisting me right now isn’t it? This goes against your nature. It also goes against what you want. You want your goals to manifest as quickly as possible don’t you? You want it now! And you want to find that golden path that will get you the results that you want now, right now, don’t you?

That is why this exercise is so effective – it plays against your natural tendencies and biases based on your ego. The fact that you are feeling this resistance is a great thing. So stay with me and let’s play with the visualization a little:

In your visualization you achieve your goals, but it takes WAY LONGER than you wanted it to take, but (and this is the most important part of the visualization) you now see yourself really, really grateful that it took so long, because the journey to your destination has completely changed the person that you are for the better, and without the journey itself you would never have experienced the growth that you did.

So (again in your visualization) even through you are much older than you initially wanted to be (when you first set the goal) you now are really, really grateful that this is the way that it is. You see yourself as an elderly person, who just now achieved their lifelong goal, but you are way more appreciative of the journey itself than you are the actual achievement of the goal, and you are sincerely happy that it turned out this way.

Visualize this. Hold this image in your mind right now.

This is a visualization exercise that I created for myself after I read the poem Ithaka by C.P. Cavafy:

As you set out for Ithaka

hope the voyage is a long one,

full of adventure, full of discovery.

Laistrygonians and Cyclops,

angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:

you’ll never find things like that on your way

as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,

as long as a rare excitement

stirs your spirit and your body.

Laistrygonians and Cyclops,

wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them

unless you bring them along inside your soul,

unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

 

Hope the voyage is a long one.

May there be many a summer morning when,

with what pleasure, what joy,

you come into harbors seen for the first time;

may you stop at Phoenician trading stations

to buy fine things,

mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,

sensual perfume of every kind—

as many sensual perfumes as you can;

and may you visit many Egyptian cities

to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.

 

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.

Arriving there is what you are destined for.

But do not hurry the journey at all.

Better if it lasts for years,

so you are old by the time you reach the island,

wealthy with all you have gained on the way,

not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

 

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.

Without her you would not have set out.

She has nothing left to give you now.

 

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.

Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,

you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean

 

When I first read this poem I was struck with an unsettling idea (an idea however that I would later come to realize was a really empowering one): what if I intentionally wished that it took a long time to reach my desired outcome. I can tell you what – my ego really resists this. I don’t want to wait. I want what I want right now – just like you do as well. But the more I linger on this idea the more empowering I see it to be.

In the end isn’t the pursuit of a goal really just an attempt to grow personally (and help those around us in the process)? And if this is the case then shouldn’t my real goal be to improve myself as much as possible (and in turn help those around me as much as possible)? Then, by implication, it would seem that I would want my goals to take a long time to materialize so that I could benefit as much as possible from the journey.

At a minimum this visualization exercise makes me much more present, and appreciative of the moment, and embracing of my path. In my experience the more that I get fixated on an outcome, the more I am likely to experience anxiety if the result doesn’t materialize quickly, and in turn the less likely I am to appreciate the journey itself.  When this happens even if I get my goal it feels hollow. The goals that I have set in my life where I really embrace the journey are the ones that are the most meaningful. My Ithaka visualization is a tool that I have created to help me be present, and appreciative of the refining gift of the journey itself.

What Makes A Venture Worth Pursuing? Pretend You’re Van Vogh

vincent-van-gogh-85799_1280

Ok – you’re an entrepreneur, writer, musician, innovator, or creator of some sort (or at least you have aspirations of becoming one), and you’re evaluating a potential venture: a new business, a new book idea, you get my point.

Here’s my question:

What makes a project worth pursuing? How do we judge whether or not we should pursue something?

Let’s start with the practical answer:

We do our research and we make sure that there is a market for what we’re going to make.  We “begin with the end in mind” because if we’re going to put our hearts into something we want to at least know that there is a good chance that it can be successful.

Right?

Fair enough, success feels great. It gives us a relative way of judging ourselves against each other, and the power of reference is real (at least internally).

Many people’s self-image, and self-confidence for that matter is a direct consequence of how they believe that they compare with others. Also, success allows us to buy and experience things that are comfortable. These “symbols” reinforce our relative sense of self-worth, and we get to see the reaction that other people make towards us. Also it feels great to have people acknowledge our success. It makes us feel really important, and it provides social validation of our place within the hierarchy of society. We feel that our efforts, our sacrifices, our blood, sweat and tears, those early mornings and late nights, they were all worth it.

Right?

Well how do we define success?  Is it money? Do we judge the success of a venture based on the amount of money that it makes. Is one creative enterprise of less value than another because it doesn’t make as much money?

There are many things in life – non-profit and charity ventures for example – that are worthy pursuits that weren’t created for the purpose of making money. I can also think of many things like Twinkies and Cigarettes that have made millions upon million but haven’t really benefited society on the whole, and they haven’t added any value (other than a momentary fix) to the people who are consuming them.  So money can’t be the only factor.

Here’s the other problem with money – can we guarantee, at the start of our project, that the venture will be commercially successful?

Of course not, that is the whole nature of risk.

So we can’t guarantee, even if we do our research, whether a given venture is going to be successful at the beginning.  Many people at least have a hope that fortune will smile their way on this project, and if riches don’t flood in, well at least positive acknowledgement.

Let’s up the ante then….

What if we knew, at the beginning of our project that our work would fundamentally influence generations to come, but that we would never experience any of the fruits of our labor.

Do you know the story of Vincent Van Gogh? The Dutch painter. You know Starry Night Over the Rhone?

What if you knew that you would have similar results to him? What if you knew that you were going to toil in obscurity for your entire life creating something that no one would even see or experience value from when you were alive? You would experience no material success or acknowledgement for your creation. Did you know that Van Gogh painted his entire life, and when he died he had created over 2,100 pieces of art including oil paintings, watercolors, drawings, sketches and prints and yet he hardly sold any of them. When he died he was an unknown and had no money.

What if you knew that your fate would be like his? Would you still create your art?”

I think if we knew that it would influence generations to come, then we’d be willing to do it.

Ok then, let’s keep raising the stakes.

What if our life was like Van Gogh’s, we toil in obscurity, and when we die our creation, whatever that is, is obscure, and it remains in obscurity. It will never be found. No one will ever associate our name with talent in the area that we worked painstakingly on.

If this were the case – we get no rewards, and no one ever benefits from our creation – would we still create our art?”

Let’s break it down a little more.  How do we define reward?

I think most people would say that it’s something that we get, and that something has value.

Is it possible for some things to be there own reward? It is possible that for some actions in life, we don’t need anything else, some actions are enough?”

Absolutely – often that is where our best work comes from. When we aren’t motivated by the rewards of our actions.

When we are creating for the sake of creating and if something comes of it (from the outside) then good. If it doesn’t then good also, because the act is enough. The act itself refuels us. When we live with this mindset we will continually product our art. We won’t be discouraged at the first sign of failure, or setback or negative criticism. We’ll be undeterred in our motivation.

We’ll be like a moving train that can’t be stopped – and guess what – we may encounter crazy ideas, our creation may take us on a wild ride, but at the end it will all be worth it, regardless of the rewards. Our life will be the accumulation of our days, and as we look back we’ll realize that we spent our time in creative enterprise, and for that we won’t have any regrets. As we think about our life we will realize that each day we were fulfilled. We weren’t living for the future, we were immersed in the present. That is a life that is worthwhile.

There’s also an even more difficult path – the one where you know that you need to pursue an undertaking, and you are almost certain that there won’t be material success, and there is also going to be a lot of resistance as well (and probably even pain) but you do it anyway because you feel compelled by something deep inside of your soul.  Maybe you feel it is just your purpose, and you have fully detached from the outcome.  This has happened to me before.  I’m sure it will happen again.

I don’t know how you decide whether or not to pursue a venture.  All of us want success, money, acknowledgement.  At some level these are basic human needs.  But I’ve learned that my fulfillment on a venture, win or lose, is highest when my motivations are strongly aligned with the potential for intrinsic rewards – that is, when I know that by pursuing a venture the journey itself will make me feel like it was a worthwhile pursuit.  So that’s mostly what I try to look for these days.

So What, You’re Not Like Steve, You Can Still Be Like Rocky

rocky statue

I like stories about Steve Jobs, and I really like Apple products.  I read all 656 pages of Walter Isaacson’s book As we speak I’m writing on a MacBook Pro, I have my iPhone 5s plugged in beside me, and my iPad mini within arm’s reach.

I love what resulted from Steve’s passion and vision – particularly the synthesis of art and technology.  All good stuff, and I really hope that Apple can maintain that vision and keep creating amazing products.

Over the past couple years I’ve seen many, many articles on “being like Steve”, the “leadership secrets” of Steve, how to “innovate like Steve”, how to “build a business like Steve”, why I should “emulate Steve”, etc., etc.  A quick internet search of “be like Steve” pulls down hundreds and hundreds of articles.

Steve Jobs is amazing – a visionary, a leader, an innovator. But I’m not like Steve.  I don’t relate to him.  

In coaching many entrepreneurs over the years I have found many people feel the same way – not just with Steve Jobs but with many of the business leaders and innovators that are heralded (Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, to name a few).  Many people consider them special intellects, really talented creators, and so advice on being like them doesn’t feel congruent to the average person who does their best with what they have each day.

Guess what – you, me, we aren’t Steve.  Most of us won’t get the billion dollar idea, and then have the guts and courage, to bring it to life.  

So what.  

We can still be successful, and happy.

I don’t try to be like Steve.  I’m more interested in being like Rocky, and for you movie enthusiasts I’ll reference some specific scenes:

Rocky I: When he gets up early, drinks the raw eggs, and struggles to run, when no one is awake, and no one is watching.

I want that kind of hustle. 

Rocky I: When he’s talking to Adrian in bed the night before the fight with Apollo and he says that he doesn’t even care about winning – he just cares about going the distance.  Because if he does he proves to himself that he did something worthwhile and that he wasn’t just another bum from the neighbourhood.

I want that kind of internal motivation.  I want to do things for the internal reward. 

Rocky II: When Apollo wants a rematch with Rocky and Duke Evers is trying to talk Apollo out of it saying “I saw you beat that man like I never seen no man get beat before. And the man kept coming after you. We don’t need that kind of man in our lives”.

I want to be that kind of person.  The kind who just keeps coming. No matter what. 

Rocky III: When Rocky realizes that he can’t beat Clubber on his own – he doesn’t have the tools. So he swallows his pride and goes to LA to “start again” with Apollo.

I want to be alert to that kind of feedback, and willing to swallow my pride, if it will get me the results I want.

Rocky IV: When he agrees to fight Drago in Russia, after Drago killed Apollo in a fight.

I want that kind of courage. 

Steve, Elon, Richard, they are all awesome. If they inspire you, and you can relate to them, great!  Me, I’m going to try to be like Rocky.

The Most Rewarding Thing (For Me) As An Entrepreneur

germ-59159_1280

Freedom?  Nope.

It’s awesome, but as every entrepreneur knows, before you can really experience life freedom you often have to put in a significant amount of time – usually much more time than you would have otherwise invested if you were just an employee of your business.

Not having a boss? Nope.

Don’t get me wrong,  I hate having a “boss”.  The idea of an annoying “boss” or “office manager” trolling around, micro-managing you, and always on your case, is cliché at this point, but unfortunately those types exist.  Not having a boss is wonderful, but’s it’s not the most rewarding thing.

Money?  Nope

I’m not that money driven.  Unlike other entrepreneurs (and I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with this) I don’t dream of a yacht, a Ferrari, or a 20,000 square foot mansion.  I’m not hoarding up “stuff” to fill a void in my soul (and I’m not saying that people who chase these things necessarily are as well).  People are motivated by different things.  All I’m saying is that the perpetual acquisition of material things, and “symbols” of success doesn’t appeal to me. I’m not into it.  In our businesses, after we had enough money to be able to do what we wanted to do all day long, and travel whenever we wanted to, I found that I wasn’t motivated just for the sole sake of making more money. There had to be something else (see below) to keep me pushing.  So money is not the most rewarding thing for me as an entrepreneur.

So what is it (for me)?

For me, without a doubt, 100% certain, the most rewarding part of being an entrepreneur, the thing that gets me up excited each day, and pushes me to work into the night, is the chance to witness the act of creation.  I LOVE (caps intentional) seeing something that didn’t previously exist come to life because of my work.   I LOVE taking ideas and making them real.  

Yesterday I was on a walk with my dog and my son Cohen.  For some reason I started to think about the things in my life and business that didn’t exist one year ago, and have been created alone in the last year.

I came up with a list:

  • A book, now in bookstores with signing events, that literally didn’t exist (other than in the form of a word document) one year ago;
  • Multiple public speaking engagements and opportunities including an upcoming TEDx talk in Kelowna on September 26th;
  • Consulting opportunities that have brought me into contact with many new and interesting people and companies;
  • A newly launched website and re-branding strategy for our business;
  • Growth in our business including several hundred new people joining our organization;

All in the past year.  Then my mind started racing about what I can create this next year.  I took out a pen a started to write down lots of cool ideas.  Stay tuned!

What are you going to create this next year?  Have fun with it!

Taking an idea, and making it real (in my opinion) is one of the most rewarding things you can do! 

Three New Book Signing Dates Confirmed For Unsuited

unsuited book

I’m excited to announce that I have confirmed three new book signing dates for my book Unsuited:

Calgary Chinook Center Chapters / Indigo (6455 Macleod Trail)

Saturday September 20th from 12:00 pm – 4:00 pm.

 

Calgary Chapters / Indigo Downtown (317-7th Ave. SW)

Thursday October 16th from 11:00am to 2:00 pm.

 

Calgary Shelf Life Books (4th. St. & 13th. Ave. SW)

 Tuesday November 4th from 7:30pm to 9:00pm

 

If you are in the area I’d love to see you!