Teaching Beginners is Good Business and Other Internet Marketing Dogmas

Teaching Beginners is Good Business and Other Internet Marketing Dogmas post image

People often ask me for advice on how to build an effective social media brand, which is funny given how all this started. Some folks, who have listened to our first year of podcasts, have said: “man, it’s inspiring to hear you sound like shit…” 

Yes, we all start out sounding like shit. That’s good to keep in mind. Here’s some other stuff I mention:

  1. Sound like shit for a while.
  2. Know what the hell you are talking about.
  3. Have and demonstrate a track record.
  4. Love it.

I say man, if you don’t like writing, don’t bother.

Also, here’s a new one: don’t focus on helping beginners.

A lot of internet marketers think it’s a great idea to teach beginners how to do stuff. This idea always gets a lot of steam because anyone can teach a beginner. Sweet! Anyone can make money on the webs by teaching beginners basic stuff.

better than 98% of how to blog blogs

To understand why marketing to beginners sucks, first let me share with you what I mean when I say “market.” As in, that’s a good market.

Market = a quantifiable cash flow.

  • “Cat owners”  = not a market.
  • “Cat furniture”= quantifiable cash flow. 
  • “Beginner internet marketers” = not a market.
  • “Premium email marketing services” & “blog set up training programs,” = quantifiable cash flows.

It’s a useful distinction.

Especially if you are just getting started, it doesn’t make sense to convince people to start a website. Instead, you want to offer optimization and add-on services to people who’ve already made the decision to have one. You want to tap in to established cash flows, not create them.

This kind of thinking is important when you are identifying how to approach new niches.

3 Niche identification rules I learned the hard way.

  1. The broader your market the more difficult and expensive it is to find customers. “Cat furniture” is an awful market because it’s so difficult to identify customers. At the beginning I was thinking, anybody could buy my product!!! Awesome-sauce. No. Not awesome. What I didn’t understand at the time is that there is a real cost associated with every eyeball you get on your stuff. If everyone could potentially buy your product, your acquisition (or conversion) costs will be through the roof.
  2. Only go after markets that have demonstrated cash flows. Your goal shouldn’t be to convince people that they need to do something they don’t already do. You can do that when you are rich. You want to find an established, legible cash flow, and improve it. That’s it.
  3. Get good at precedent case analysis.  Get super honest with yourself and capabilities. When you are considering tapping in to a cash flow, ask yourself if you can duplicate, dispense with, or improve all the key resources that the curent players are bringing to the market. You aren’t free from this if you are a blogger or information marketer.

In order to have a business that caters to beginners, you’d need the following:

  • A sustainable funnel of new prospects (because beginners will be harder to retain).
  • Incredible scale (because beginners will spend less money, and won’t go for higher value services).

And the punchline is, of course, that they are both generally expensive to create.

I’m not saying that you can’t make money teaching beginners stuff. I’m saying that that success script is over represented in the blogosphere for obvious reasons. All things being equal you’d be better to focus on non-beginners in any market, because they have already established legible, quantifiable cash flows.

Speaking of being over-represented in the blogosphere, I think there’s a lot of internet marketing dogmas that aren’t always as effective as advertised:

“You need an affiliate program.”

The best affiliates are happy customers. The best referrals go to people who would be great additions to the community.

One prominent internet marketer told me I was “just being silly” for not having an affiliate program on one of our products. “You are just leaving money on the table.” My thought was simply this: “If I had an affiliate program, how could prospective members know if somebody was suggesting they join the community for money or because they really thought it would be a good fit for me?”

Simple shit eh?

Also: having an affiliate program would lower the quality of people that become customers. It would encourage those with affiliate accounts to suggest your product to anyone, and not people who would really benefit from it. If you are building a platform instead of a product, this could hurt the quality of your offering, thus hurting your “best” affiliates– happy customers.

“Traffic is king…”

I’ve seen blogs with large communities fail to get paid products off the ground (I’m sure you’ve seen the same). Chops are more important than reach. Your readers will have an opinion about you and your content that they aren’t telling you about. That’s what I call ‘chops.’ Some blogs become like water cooler blogs– sorta like getting in the friend zone in dating.

How to develop chops and trusting readers that will buy stuff from you? Develop a relentless focus on achieving and demonstrating results, no matter how small.

“Launch, launch, launch.”

Internet marketing “launch” mindset can often keep bloggers and marketers focused on the first 4-8 weeks of their new business. There is no question that launch mindset is effective, but you need to couple it with long term thinking. I encourage you to step back and ask yourself what your 2-3 year vision is going to be.

Where do you hope your community will be in 2-3 years?

Launch mindset can convince you that “all the money is to be made in the launch.” Constantly creating resource-sucking events is a tough way to sustain a business. By building something more focused on cash flows (like a membership platform or subscription service) you are more likely to have a solid cash foundation to build something bigger.

Hope you have a great weekend and holiday! Would love to hear from you if I can help in any way.



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Published on 12.30.11
  • Nice!
    I’ve just launched a website focus on beginners and I’m starting to regret. I’ve been thinking about marketing and, yes, I’ll probably pivot to a senior market.

    Thanks for the post.
    Have a awesome 2012 and I hope I can join you guys soon at DC.


    ps: Yes, I’ve been hearing your first podcasts and that sucks :)
    Great content, but down in other variables.

  • Awesome stuff, Dan.  This is a lot of what we talked about yesterday and thanks for pointing out to us the importance of selling where there are established cash flows, instead of spending so much time and money trying to sell something to the uninterested.  It definitely has me thinking and re-thinking.  

    “I’d rather preach to the choir than evangelize the unconverted!” (forget where I got that but I love it).  

    Thanks for the great tips and have a Happy New Year!

  • Dan

    Cheers Joe was great to meet you too and hear about your business. Looking forward to keeping in touch. 

  • Dan

    Haha cheers Paulo!! thanks for checking out stuff out, even our crappy beginnings ! :D

  • This is extremely powerful   “You want to tap in to established cash flows, not create them.” it’s amazing how the simple things are always the best.

  • Dan

    thanks Neale! Happy new year.

  • “Market = a quantifiable cash flow.” – love the examples you provide afterwards. Yea, working on partnering up with manufacturers on getting some relevant products – *2012* goal. Happy New Years to you Dan!

  • Dan

    Cheers Harrison! Happy new year to you as well, and good luck with the new product lines. 

  • On Writing…

    Look forward to following the changes you make.  Are you planning on measuring or assessing these and sharing your findings?

    There are many books on writing.  They inspire you.  They also sit in a pile.

    The book Writing Tools: 50 essential strategies for every writer gave me 50 mini-workshops.  I liked.

    Along different lines but the same-Martin’s recent post on The Sunk cost Fallacy held an ass beating for me.  Have you read it yet?


  • Good stuff, your niche identification suggestions are spot on! 
    Picking the right niche where you can add value, have room to grow and make a profit are paramount to success. Find markets with a need, common sense.

    IF you do a Google search and there are no AdWords displaying, a subtle hint you may be barking up the wrong tree :)

    Have a great 2012 Dan!

  • Dan

    thanks for the links! i got through a good chunk of clark’s book yesterday, was a fun sunday read!!! cheers. i’m familiar with the sunk cost thing, that’s always a tough on.

  • Dan

    good point RE: adwords. Cheers jeff and happy new year to you.

  • Hey Dan,

    Real eye opener on the bit that teaching beginning internet marketers is clearly not the way to go.

    I think that explains why there are more and more sites about doing blog setups, installations, site customizing, etc.


  • Dan

    cheers Sergio. Thanks for dropping by :)

  • Interesting angle Dan.  I reckon the “I can teach anyone”, “lots of people will buy my stuff” is an easy mindset to slip into.  Your advice is refreshing.  Another thing I liked from reading 4HWW and others was considering where your prospective customers are at in terms of spending habits or ability to spend: if your potential customers have no money, they can’t pay, no matter how good the product is.

  • P.S. Happy new  year!

  • Dan

    Cheers Tristan, thanks for checking out the blog and happy new year to you as well. 

  • Jim

    Like the thoughts just wondered why cat owners aren’t a market, that would also discount dog owners too?

    If you look at clickbank there are many big selling info products for cat owners (how to stop them peeing) and dog training programs.

    Also haven’t Chris Farrel’s and Joe Barnes very successful membership sites which are skewed towards Internet Marketing newbies proven there is a lot of reward in helping beginners?

  • Dan

    hey Jim… I’d say it’s more useful to say ‘people who buy x brand of dog food’ a market rather than dog owners in general. 

    i do think there is tons of money in helping beginning internet marketers, it’s a tough market for people without a lot of scale, resources, or big time relationships (similar to cat furniture in that respect) because the customer acquisition costs are high and the churn high as well. people in the first 1-3 yrs of online biz training would be better off doing adwords training courses or similarly focused stuff, in my view. 

  • staceyjamie

    This was solid, thank you for the well written reminders. Awesome stuff Dan,

  • Dan


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  • Meaghan Janisse

    Hey, I would love to be on your email list! Great blog, I’ve just found it today and I can’t stop reading haha!
    My email is: meaghan.janisse@gmail.com

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