One of the best ways to learn anything in the internet marketing world is to get out there and take action. There is absolutely no substitute for finding out what works for your exact business model and personality than by experimenting and tweaking what you focus on based upon your results.
Having said that, the second best way to learn has to be from other companies and individuals who have been through the phase you’re at already, and have been kind enough to package their own lessons into easily consumed content for you.
Often, this comes in the form of a blog, where you can regularly get updated on whatever the topic that person or company has expertise in. For entrepreneurs, here are 4 that are especially awesome and go out of their way to deliver constant value to readers.
1. The Groove Blog
Honestly, this is one of the best transparency blogs around for entrepreneurs. Run by Groove CEO Alex Turnbull, the blog follows this customer support startup every step of the way as they journey to $500k per month in recurring revenue.
As you can imagine, there are a lot of insights to be learned from a company well on their way to hitting those ambitious numbers. The nice thing is that they share a lot of things that didn’t work as well, and provide the data to back up anything they say or recommend.
2. The Daily Egg
Crazy Egg is a product all about data, so it’s not surprising that the research that goes into posts on the Daily Egg (CE’s blog) are packed with awesome research. Plus, they have a great track record of securing some awesome guest posters, which help to flesh out the blog as an authority on a wider range of subjects.
As if all of that weren’t enough, the blog is one of Neil Patel’s projects. If you don’t know Neil, he’s one of the most prolific writers and content marketers around, and just about everything he touches is gold.
3. Swift Branding
A new player on the scene, Swift Branding is run by George Karboulonis over in Greece, and it’s got a good thing going for it right now. The blog does a great job of committing to providing as any useful resources, freebies, and guides for IM’ers as possible.
While some of the content is more general or entry level, there are some real gems as well, and George seems to have a knack for getting people to share their interesting stories with him in the form of revealing case studies.
Finally, Copyblogger. Copyblogger has been around for a long time, and even has a now-rebranded media branch you can find at rainmaker.fm
While CB’s original focus was, no surprises here, copywriting, the team have really branched out over the last few years and broadened their topic reach without any falloff in quality.
In the online marketing space, there seems to be a false equivalency between the “freedom of quitting your 9 to 5” and “being an entrepreneur.”
More appropriately, there’s the misunderstanding that becoming an entrepreneur won’t mean putting in many, many more hours than 40 per week; this is especially true if you’re hoping to ever be able to replace, let alone exceed, the salary you made in your previous ‘normal’ job.
Not everyone’s cut out for it, and that’s ok.
If you are one of the brave few who’s going to go it alone or has already started working from home or on your own business full time, well, here are a few things you should keep in mind.
#1) Being an entrepreneur means more discipline than ever before.
Working for yourself, “being your own boss,” etc. all sound pretty sweet, but they also mean that you’ve got to really be on top of things.
Organization and discipline need to be far above average to succeed as an entrepreneur.
You will spend long hours starting at a computer screen, even on the activities you aren’t that excited about doing, so make sure you can keep yourself in line.
#2) Being an entrepreneur means sacrificing ‘you’ time.
Not only will you need the discipline to keep hacking away at important tasks, you’ll also need to change your mindset to include less ‘you’ time. As you look at people who have become famous for their entrepreneurial spirit and success, you’ll notice they don’t often subscribe to the same personal reward system that the rest of us do.
For example, you’re worked 9 hours today already, so you should reward yourself with a beer and an hour of your favorite show, right? It sounds great to me, but top tier entrepreneurs are going to shun that time in favor of getting more done.
#3) Being an entrepreneur means managing others.
Whether you’re after “work from home” freedom or want to build a company that someday hits the Fortune 500, you will need to interact with and manage others. Whether their regular employees in an office, or freelancers completing online contracts, smart entrepreneurs know that the biggest key to their own success is the people that they associate themselves with.
Not only that, it’s how they interact with those people. Make sure you’re ready to make the swap from being the one who asks questions to being the one who is constantly asked for direction. Can you keep sane balancing your own tasks with the needs of others?
#4) Finally, being an entrepreneur means leveraging.
Starting out on your own is scary, and so the quickest (and most comfortable) way of growing fast is learning to network with other people who have already been through what you’re going through.
Find out what you’re good at that others aren’t and use that skill to barter early on. Maybe you evaluate someone’s website for SEO for them, and they give you advice on your marketing funnel, etc.
Whatever you have to do, be scrappy and don’t stop working until you’re where you want to be (then build something new).
One of the biggest mistakes one can see marketers making again and again is trying to replicate the success of others. I hear you now, “Wait! You’re saying I don’t want to follow the example of someone who has been wildly successful in growing their business?! You’re crazy!”
But hear me out: While there is of course much to be learned from the triumphs of those before you, the approach I see too often is straight up copy and paste. Ew. It’s both sad and ironic to see, because most of the social and growth hacking thought leaders preach day in and day out that you need to learn how to tailor your communications to your business and audience. Obviously, this means that a golf brand is not likely to find success by following the social media plan of McDonald’s.
Instead, you should be looking at what successful brands are doing, and then thinking about how you might be able to attack the same channels with similar quality content, but not simply copying. Copy = bad. Emulating = good.
So, how do you identify your strengths and put them to work promoting your brand. For most people, identifying some obvious strengths will come the quickest when they look into what exactly it is their business already does. For example, an obvious strength of almost any business is going to be their knowledge of the market within which they operate. Obviously, if you own a golfing company, you’re going to know a thing or two about the sport of golf.
One great way to leverage your strength for engaging social posts is looking at what insights you have about golf that others haven’t acted on yet. Do your products have a unique selling point that is extremely relevant to golfers? That sounds like a good jumping off point. Alternatively, you might find that you can use this knowledge to drop yourself into social conversations on twitter, tumblr, and other platforms that are very conversation based. People get hung up on creating their own content on social media, but some platforms are better suited so most of your content is actually repurposed and the result of interactions with others (but that’s topic on its own could take up books on end, and does).
Leveraging your strengths doesn’t just mean working within the niche your business exists in, it also means playing on the actual skills you’re good at. So if you’re a strong writer, content marketing might make sense for you. Alternatively, if you’ve never studied paid marketing and advertising, your best path to growth is probably not through paid social ad campaigns. Of course, you may have other team members involved in your brand that can fill in the gaps that you have in your skillset, leaving you more strengths to play on.
Above all, be consistent with the efforts that represent your strengths.
Often times, you will try 20 things that yield mediocre results before you hit the one approach that starts getting you big amounts of attention, traffic, etc.