Teaching Beginners is Good Business and Other Internet Marketing Dogmas

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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