Do you ever find it easier to do what you want rather than do what someone else taught you, even if they’re an expert?
I do, all the time.
Why? Because change is hard, and we all prefer something more familiar to the friction of a new idea that is not yet fully understood through first-hand experience.
I talk to about three dozen entrepreneurs and business owners a week, many of them some are existing clients, and others are just friends. And beyond that I read about ten different blogs to keep my marketing knowledge up to date with industry and technological changes.
Then, little by little, as I optimize our website, meet with my team, and create content, I also work to implement the best ideas learned from my studies and conversations.
But it didn’t always flow organically like this. I used to not even start, because I didn’t have a clue of where or how I should spend my time.
“Maybe Facebook? Maybe Twitter? I’ll try to get more fans, sure. No, now, I’ll just try Facebook ads. Ok, now maybe I’ll write a blog, I haven’t written a blog in a while… Ok, I wrote five words, now it’s time to take a break and watch Mixergy.”
It comes down to building habits that build your marketing ability and marketing assets over time. Here are the top 10 most worthwhile marketing habits you should consider adopting as your own.
Habit 1 – Write 1000 words per day (Email doesn’t count)
I admire Nathan Barry. He’s an entrepreneur but also a shining example of what you can accomplish when you discipline yourself to write everyday.
After a full year of writing 1000 words per day (about 90 minutes by my count) Nathan was able to complete two books, multiple email courses, blog posts, guest blog posts, and much more.
After calculating his total revenue for that time period and comparing it to the total number of words written, he earned and estimated $0.68 per word or ~$250,000 total.
When I decided to write one new blog post per week (at a minimum) at the end of 2013, I knew it would produce results. But observing what Nathan and others have been able to achieve I’m now inspired to take it to that habit to the next level and write a minimum of 1000 words per day.
Just in the last five days as a result of adopting this habit I’ve accomplished the following:
- Wrote an introduction to my first book tentatively titled “Build Sales Engine“
- Completed one extra article in addition to our normal Thursday in-depth article (Q&A Tuesday: How Do You Create Content & Find Research to Support It?)
- Finished a second productivity / strategy related article (Finding Your Highest Point of Leverage (and Why It’s Important))
And that’s just the start!
What can you accomplish by adopting this kind of habit? How might it make a difference in your marketing?
Habit 2 – Learn by observing what works for others
This habit is incredibly valuable, especially when you’re just getting started. I say that because one of the easiest ways to start emulate people who are already successful.
For some time before I started I closely studied the the blogs of other marketing experts like Neil Patel, Derek Halpern, and more recently, Brian of Backlinko.
As a result, here are the few things I knew in advance would be critical if I was to succeed in building an audience around our “sales engine” concept.
- Consistency – It’s impossible to build a loyal following if you aren’t consistently publishing articles and valuable resources. In the past, I made the mistake of publishing articles sporadically. As a result traffic would drop off a cliff inbetween posts. Our readers back then had no expectation of when I’d be writing something again, so they lost interest.
- Quality of content – Most startups and small businesses are terrible at building content. It’s a skill that just doesn’t come natural to many entreprenuers and organizations. However, I knew that if I was going to have credibility with people as they trickled in to read what I was writing it would have to be content that was (a) original, (b) detailed and well-researched, (c) easy to skim and scan, as well as (d) include images to complement what was written.
- Relevant and valuable – Finally, and perhaps most important of all, I made an observation from watching my friend Brennan Dunn over on his Planscop.io blog. I saw that unless what you’re writing about puts the reader first — their interests, their pain points, their questions — that it would be extremely difficult to build a loyal following. I saw that if I wanted to create a reputation for the AutoGrow website being a resource for entrepreneurs, marketers, and small business owners — and not just a blog with random ramblings — then I needed to need to put my target audience’s needs ahead of my own.
In addition, I also uncovered lots of purely tactical ideas by studying what experts were doing. For example:
- SEO tips
- WordPress plugins
- Style and content format
- Promotion techniques
- Email list building techniques
If you want to be like the best, get in the habit of studying the best who are in and around your niche.
Habit 3 – Tweak your sales engine weekly
If you’ve watched the second season of House of Cards, you’ll recognize this quote:
“To change is to improve. To change often is to perfect.”
Many of the top websites, especially in the B2C space are constantly changing, sometimes on a daily basis.
Just the other day, Facebook rolled out a new interface which quite similar to Google+ actually.
With the AutoGrow website, in the last two months we’ve rolled out a new landing page, a new homepage design, updated and simplified our blog layout, as well as added a number of WordPress plugins and email capture widgets.
As a result, of laying out a linear, linked funnel we’ve started to grow our email list, and from January to the end of February managed to double our opt-in rate.
A word of caution here though: you want to make sure to differentiate between changes that can have a macro impact and changes that can have a micro impact.
The reason for this is because, when you’re in the early stages of building up your audience and sales engine, it’s easy to go from zero to “80%.” However, trying to optimize for that last 10-20% is probably not worth your time.
For example, I could run an A/B test on the AutoGrow blog right now to see which offer or wording increases the number of newsletter sign-ups we get. But considering the time it would take to get a result, it’s a better use of my time to try something with a higher likelihood of success and less time risk. Retargeting visitors, for instance, or finding a new source of traffic that can double or triple the number of email opt-ins we receive.
Rule of thumb: micro optimizations matter a lot more when you’ve got some scale (minimum of 10,000+ visitors per month and 5,000+ email subscribers).
Habit 4 – Send a weekly newsletter
Mark Twain once wrote,
“Do the thing you fear most and the death of [that] fear is certain.”
Like many people, I used to have a fear of public speaking. But now that I’ve sat on numerous panels, practiced giving speeches, as well as recorded myself interviewing others — it’s no longer a fear of mine.
It works the same way for something like a newsletter. Most people don’t adopt the habit of writing a newsletter, not just because they’e lazy (that’s an over-simplification). Rather, they worry:
- Will I annoy people?
- Who would want to hear what I have to say?
- I wouldn’t know what to write…
- What if I make a mistake?
- It wouldn’t work for my business
The inertia of such worries is what keeps most people from creating content in the first place, even though the potential benefits greatly outweigh those short-term concerns.
My friend Brennan Dunn started his email list about two years ago with zero subscribers at first. But he started the consistent routine of once a week sending out a newsletter with helpful information and tips that his target audience of freelancers were interested in.
Today, that weekly email remains the key foundation of his inbound marketing strategy and his email list has now ballooned to over 10,000 subscribers, adding 40-50 new email subscribers per day.
Of course, we’d all like to immediately get results like that when we first start out but it’s not realistic. This is why, if you’re able to discipline yourself like Brennan did over the long-term of time and focus on writing consistently, delivering value to others, you will gradually build up to that kind of result.
Habit 5 – Exercise your creativity: write down 3-5 marketing ideas
Thomas Edison is famous for his quote:
“Genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.”
This is true, however you can never reach any level of success if you don’t first have an idea of where to apply your time and effort. So inspiration, though it is seen the “easy” part, is just as essential as the actual work; achievement begins with an idea.
Moreover, as more people become educated about the benefits of content marketing and other online marketing tactics and strategies, the likelihood of competition will increase for all niches.
Growing competition will only increase the need for creativity in your marketing. Afterall, no one will want to read the same information twice or in the same format.
For example, I saw the other day on CNN.com that a video of 20 strangers kissing for the first time was trending.
I was surprised to find out that this was the work of an independent artist and not one of an online dating company. An original idea like this, associated with a brand like match.com or one of the other top players in the field would have produced noticeable results. The video has already been seen by over 38,000,000 people on YouTube.
“I don’t have the resources to pull something like that off though. So how can I generate creative ideas that will help me get the market’s attention?”
A valid point, but don’t feel discouraged. Here are the key steps to help you develop the habit of generating 3-5 quality marketing ideas every day:
1) Start with the end in mind. What is the result you want to produce? Write that down first and then begin to work backwards from there. For instance, your goal could be to build links (to boost your search rankings), drive email subscribers, drive traffic, drive leads for a service, or drive purchases on your website. First deciding on the end goal will focus your creative energy.
2) Begin to brainstorm. Write down ideas that come to mind. If my end goal was to drive more traffic, I might write down “write articles more frequently… send two email newsletters per week instead of one.. guest blog once per week…” The more time you spend brainstorming, the more ideas will naturally come to you. Don’t try too hard to censor your thoughts. “… Hang a banner outside our NYC office… message 20 bloggers per day and ask them to tweet or link back to us… create a press release on PRLog … conduct a research report about something related to what we sell … write about something controversial in the web marketing space then pitch myself as a resource on the issue to reporters and national news stations.”
3) Select the best 3-5 ideas. Do not underestimate yourself, even if some of your ideas seem difficult to implement. However, you should balance that with the knowledge of what resources you have at hand, as well as with your near and long term goals.
I recommend buying a separate notebook to keep track of all your ideas, that way you won’t lose them and you’ll always know where to turn if you need inspiration.
Most of your ideas will probably never be implemented, but as your company grows and your team and financial resources multiply, some of those “far out” creative ideas will become more within reach and worth trying out.
Habit 6 – Observe what is already working for you. Focus on scaling the “peaks”
Often the easiest way to take your business to the next level is to look at what is already working.
I recently found this video on Youtube of Noah Kagan (founder of AppSumo.com) being interviewed about how he built up his email list of 600,000+ subscribers in record time.
Somewhere towards the middle of the interview he talks about how part of the way you grow your key metrics is to look at outliers in your analytics, like where there was a “peak.”
After you understand what caused that peak, ask yourself: how do I repeatedly produce this kind of result?
To give an example, here’s how I am applying this marketing habit to my own business. In late January, I wrote an article about how to create a high-converting landing page.
So far, that has been our most popular article this year and outperformed all other articles in terms of traffic by at least 400%. The article has been shared over 50 times on social media, and has received nearly 100 upvotes on Reddit.
Here’s what the traffic spike looks like:
Upon further analysis, part of what made this blog post unique was the length (5000+ words), depth of detail with links back to credible sources, and the step-by-step “how-to” nature of the article from beginning to end.
So, if I wanted to mimic and “scale” the success that I had with this article to future articles, I should seriously consider writing in-depth article guides of equal or greater length.
But that begs the question: on what topics? How do you lower risk?
Using Trends, I typed in the keywords “landing page” along with “content marketing” and “social media marketing.” What I’m looking for is validation that there is strong and growing search traffic around these keyword phrases.
Once I establish that there is strong and growing demand around these keywords, I want to dig deeper for ideas–and I am especially curious to see what advertisers think are the most valuable keywords.
After I input these keywords into Google’s planner, I click on the “ideas” tab and sort by “competition” (this means which keywords are advertisers most actively bidding on, as well as bidding a highly for).
At the top of the results I notice that “landing page designers” is both highly relevant since AutoGrow offers custom landing page design services and it is a search phrase I hadn’t thought to optimize our content around in the past.
As far as finding other worthwhile content ideas, I might want to consider creating extensive guides like:
- The Beginner’s Marketing Guide for Small Businesses (Both Online and Offline)
- The Complete Guide to Social Network Advertising
After I created these guides, I would want to submit them to all of the key places I had when it was time to promote the landing page article whose results we’re trying to mimic (like Reddit.com and Twitter, since those drove more of the referral traffic and social shares).
To review the key point here, the purpose of doing an exercise like this is to show you how you might go about scaling one highly successful piece of your marketing efforts.
Habit 7 – Send at least 5 emails a day to complete strangers daily
Are you going out of your way to expand your network and connect with new people every day?
If you’re not you should seriously consider adopting this daily discipline because the long-term benefits are significant. Here are several examples of how your company or brand can benefit from this:
- New blog readers or visitors to your website
- New newsletter subscribers
- Recommendations (“check out XYZ’s blog, I know the girl / guy behind it, good resources there”)
- Guest blogging opportunities
- Social media follows
- And even customers
“Ok, I got it, networking is great for just about all business opportunities. But my time is already short on a day-to-day basis.”
Which is exactly why you limit yourself to just 5 emails per day. This takes about 10-15 minutes max and you don’t even have to leave your desk.
Here’s how to do it.
- Start with the end in mind. Think strategically about what’s most important for you to achieve with your networking activities. Let’s assume for instance that you’re seeking guest blogging opportunities to build authority for your brand and website.
- Next, open up a spreadsheet in Google Drive or Excel and make a list of all of the blogs in your industry. Start with the ones you know, even if they seem “too big to pay attention to you” put them down anyway. For each, make a note of their contact email address or webpage where there’s a contact form, 1-2 relevant articles, and the average article length they seem to prefer (500 words? 2000 words?). Do this until you have a list of at least 50.
- Each day, come back to this list and write a personal note to the next 5 people on the list. If you want to know what your email message should look like, check out the quick template recommendation in Step #3 here.
- With a list of 50, this will keep you busy for exactly 2 weeks, and you can expect a response rate of around 20%.
Remember, the purpose of your networking is not just to make friends and contacts within your industry but to build your business. And to accomplish that you can apply the simple step-by-step guide above. Just make sure you have a strategic objective in mind first.
Habit 8 – Post relevant content to your social media channels
In an upcoming guide, I’m going to show you how to how a close friend of mine was able to organically grow his company’s Facebook page to over 28,000 Likes in about 3 months at a rate of approximately 200 new Likes per day.
Part of the reason I wanted to interview my friend about this topic was because at first, I found it a chore to do: finding articles… quotes… thinking of what I might want to tweet about from a personal standpoint.
And the worst part was, I find that whenever I’m on social media, especially Facebook, it’s like a A.D.D. vortex and it’s easy to get “sucked in” and end up wasting time.
The secret I discovered to getting the most ROI on your social media marketing time is to plan ahead and set a time limit. Here’s what I recommend more specifically:
- Plan out what content you’re going to use in advance. As you discover worthwhile links, quotes, etc. that you want to share, toss them into a Google Doc or bookmark them into their own folder on your browser.
- Use a tool like Buffer to help you optimize for best time to share each piece of content to each of your social networks.
- Repeat this process once per week, then review results and engagement with fans at the end of the following week.
- Services like Scoop.it can help you find relevant content in your niche if you’re having trouble with this part of the equation.
- Don’t expect bottom-line results right away, this is a long term discipline and the results will build slowly over time. This is true because unlike email marketing, people are not in a “buyer” state-of-mind when they are browsing funny cat pictures on Facebook.
To ensure this habit will produce results you need to be consistent in your posting, and finding a balance between posting content that advertises your business vs. posting content that entertains or (for some other reason) catches the eye of a casual social media user.
Are you typically a passive reader or do you act on the ideas written in articles like this one?
Regardless of your answer, do me a favor and adopt one of the marketing habits I wrote about above, and take action to make it your own today. Just start with one, that’s it.
Because change that matters and is change that is sustainable for your business doesn’t happen all at once. It happens gradually, bit by bit over time.
It’s like the story Will Smith told an interview years ago. His father owned a store when he was a child, and he assigned him and his brother the task of building a brick wall as part of an extension on the property. Miraculously, he and his brother did it, and about a year and a half later they had built the wall…
What Will learned from this experience was that you don’t start out by trying to build a wall. You start out by just trying to lay one brick at a time, as perfectly as possible. And then you move on the next one and do the same.
In life, as in business, there will always be something left to accomplish. But don’t stress yourself out and forget to even start because you’re so “focused on the wall.” Instead focus on having good form by developing good habits.
Now, which habit do you think can have the biggest impact on your business?