Scale and Momentum: A Look Back at 2011

Just like last year, I want to share the most important lessons that I learned during the previous 12 months. Both from a business perspective and in my personal life, it was a successful year, although it was also a year filled with many unexpected turns, plenty of challenge and at least as many setbacks as victories.

Without further ado, here are the top lessons learned in 2011:


Change of Objectives

At the beginning of the year, my plan was to focus on product launches. It’s a common model, especially with information marketing. Create a product, put together a launch with as many affiliates as possible and (hopefully) make lots of sales in very little time. Then, start working on the next product.

SECockpit, the keyword research/SEO tool that I spent probably most of my time working on in 2011, changed this plan. Originally Sam (the developer of SECockpit) and I were planning to do a big launch for SECockpit. We wanted to create a course on niche marketing as a front-end product, offer it at a low price and integrate SECockpit as a back-end product. A low-priced front end product like this would have mass appeal and would get more potential customers on board for SECockpit.


As we were working on this plan, we soon realized that if we actually did put together a big, successful launch like this, it would likely only hurt us. SECockpit is a cloud-based application and it’s very resource intensive. More users equal higher demand on our servers. A typical “big launch” would lead to a huge spike in usage and required resources. High costs and technical difficulties would be almost inevitable and could lead to long-lasting damage to the brand. This kind of thing has happened before, in the IM space, when products were launched only to be followed by a slew of complaints and refund requests because neither the technical team nor the support team can keep up with the sudden surge of new users.

What we need for SECockpit is not a massive launch, what we need is steady growth. That way, the resources can gradually grow with the user base and we can continually keep adding new features, refining the existing features and quite simply keep making a better and better product.

This experience made me realize that the product launch doesn’t suit every business model and it opened my eyes to a longer-term view of creating and delivering a service. This long-term view is one that I now apply to all branches of my business.

Stunted Growth

How many hats are you wearing in your business?For SECockpit, the plan of gradually growing the user base has been working out and it is the most successful product I’ve ever worked on. For my own projects, including products, niche sites and this blog, things didn’t go so smoothly.

At the beginning of the year, my income was increasing rapidly and I was hoping I could keep that momentum going. I couldn’t. In fact, it’s almost as if my income hit an invisible ceiling at some point and wouldn’t progress from there.

The reason is simple: I was doing everything myself. I was writing all the content, creating all the graphics, building all the links, making all the videos,… I was a one-man-show. I need to learn how to keep increasing the scale of a project and take myself out of the equation. I need to learn about outsourcing and team management and I need to learn to say no to new projects, at least once in a while. And I’m still working on all of that.

It’s fair to say that I’ve mostly failed at my attempts to scale up my various business projects. Sure, there were some successes, most notably my “throw money at it” case study, but there was also a lot of time and money lost on attempts at scaling that simply didn’t work out.

Even if you are an avid follower of this blog and my newsletter, there’s always a bias towards noticing success only. After all, you’ll never see a product that I invest thousands of dollars and countless hours in, but failed to ever complete (yes, that happened). And if I publish a boring blog post that nobody pays any attention to, then… well, you probably didn’t pay attention to it.

The reason I mention this is just as a simple reminder: even in a successful business, it’s often a matter of “failing forward”.

The Year Ahead

I have many plans for 2012 and just like last year, I expect many of them to change or fall by the wayside, as time progresses. That’s a good thing. My outlook on marketing and my career a year ago was much less mature than it is now and I hope to be able to say the same thing again, one year from now. What I know for sure is that I will keep working hard, I will keep experimenting and pushing myself to grow and I will keep sharing as much of what I learn as possible, as directly as possible, through blog posts, emails and webinars.

I will keep biting off more than I can chew and then do my best to chew it. If you’ve been following my progress for a while, you know that can get messy sometimes, but it ends up working out.

Most Important Posts

Finally, here are the most important blog post published on im impact in 2011:

Thank you very much for your support! Wishing you all the best for 2012,

About the Author Shane Melaugh

I'm the founder of ActiveGrowth and Thrive Themes and over the last years, I've created and marketed a dozen different software, information and SaaS products. Apart from running my business, I spend most of my time reading, learning, developing skills and helping other people develop theirs. On ActiveGrowth, I want to help you become a better entrepreneur and product creator. Read more about my story here.

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  • Nice post Shane,

    Have to say, your posts are always refreshingly honest and unpretentious, while being very informative, and often inspirational. Yours is one of the few on my personal reading list that I always look forward to.

    And speaking of looking forward, I hope we can continue working together – the webinars for your subscribers have been great, and I can tell you that the SECockpit webinar you did for our subscribers was the best-received presentation we’ve hosted.

    Here’s looking forward to a fun, prosperous, and positive year ahead.

    Happy New Year!


    • Shane says:

      Thank you very much, Michael!

      I have no doubt that we can continue working together, as I think everyone benefits from our “combined forces”, so to speak. :)
      All the best for the new year!

  • Kevin says:

    Shane. Lets hope 2012 is as good as 2011 and that Google gives the smaller sites a chance to get onto the first page for its keywords.

    I know your software is good, I have tried it, and hopefully one day I can afford to come back to it.

    It will be interesting to see if you decide to outsource in the future as it seems many swear that this is the way forward when building a small but growing business.

    2012 will be my first year of trying this full time, so keep up the good work identifying the crap out there, and producing good quality posts with relevant content for those who need it.

    Good luck in your new country and with SECockpit.

    • Shane says:

      Hi Kevin,
      All the best for your first year doing full-time IM!
      Concerning outsourcing, I’ve already shared my experiences in this webinar and I’m sure that in the months to come, I’ll have more to share in some form or another.

  • Fran Civile says:

    What a great post Shane, you inspire me to do something similar – recap wins and losses – and sharing disappointments and hopes for the future. I like your illustration – too many hats – about doing everything yourself, and we can read between the lines when you bring up gaps between projected success and failing forward.

    I’m going to read a couple of the posts you listed and I wish you continued success in 2012.


    • Shane says:

      Thank you, Fran.
      Regarding the hats: for me, it’s often also a case of wanting to control everything too closely. It’s sometimes difficult to let something go enough for someone else to take over a task. But it’s something we have to learn, I think.

  • Paul Stock says:

    Hi Shane,

    Very few blogs have held my interest this year. Yours is the exception. I’ve enjoyed reading your reviews and watching your videos. I know this because I was kind of disappointed if there wasn’t a Sunday video.

    The phrase “honest marketer” now seems like an oxymoron, like “honest politician” however, you come across as very sincere, so don’t go changing. I look forward to more of the same.

    I wish you luck and more success in 2012 and hope the new home goes well.

    All the best


    • Shane says:

      Thanks for your comment, Paul!
      And here I was about to announce the beginning of my political career! Guess I’ll have to rethink that one. ;)

      Joking aside: I’m glad to hear you enjoyed the content on this site and I’m motivated to keep producing more of it.

  • Nisheth says:

    Thanks, Shane. Some great lessons are in this post for everyone. For me, most notably it’s the fact that we (less successful IMers) see only the positives and the successes of people who have made it and don’t see the failures. It’s refreshing to know that everyone is human and we all fail before we succeed. The one lesson I learned is business is hard and a lot of work, it doesn’t matter if it’s online or not. You are one of the few in the IM space who actually say that. :)

    For me, I ended 2011 in a very different place from where I had planned to end and the plan changed several times along the way. Lots of unexpected twists and turns along the way. 2011 was also my first year as a full-time IMer.

    Well, I’m happy to report that I just created a partnership today that is a game changer for me and should propel me into the league of those IMers who “made it”.

    Thanks for your great blog and hopefully we all have a great 2012!

    • Shane says:

      Thanks, Nisheth and congrats on your partnership! I wish you all the best with it!

  • Shane,

    Last year was your success year, i have no doubt about it. You was one of the most important sources of honest and up to date (and free :) information on IM for me. I really appreciate your efforts and time to keep all of us, your readers, “busy” reading and writing here on your blog and, most importantly, you provided us with unique experience and very valuable information about various topics of running online business.

    As you and many other good marketers emphasized in last year posts – you have to be a businessmen and run online BUSINESS to be successful and survive online. This is very true!

    I wish you all the best in new 2012 year in your new life in Romania and much success in online business.

    Alexander Umanets

    P.S. As a side note regarding running online business…

    1.My first note:
    Internet created phenomena when people are buying products from basically anonymous persons who can disappear at any second and left you loosing your time and money without any hope to get it back. This is still a mainstream in affiliate marketing and especially in IM niche. Just take a look on Warrior Forum and try to find real names of many who publish WSOs as a hot cakes…

    So, I came to conclusion that, as in offline life, you have to have a “face” in online life and business relations (I mean a real human face, real name and real address). This will create trust and long lasting relationship with your customers and will grow your business much faster than “no-face” business.

    Unfortunately, Internet has “the dark side” as well – possibility to be hurt or scam by those no-face persons who anonymously trying to make money from you scamming you.

    The only real solution to have real face and not be scammed is, in my opinion, NOT to buy from people that hiding under nicknames and avatars with no face and no address selling you something. My solution for this issue – i will just boycott them. It will be simple role – No real name, picture and address that I can verify – No deal, No sale, and it doesn’t matter how good their product or service could be.

    2. And my second note:
    I am thinking about software created by internet marketers for internet marketers. Particularly about software updates. We buy some plugins and online services assuming that this products will be supported by their creators forever. But this is not the case for many plugins and other programs. In 1-2 years it disappears and we left with not working software.

    Mainly, in my opinion, this happens because of the nature of this business. As you said before Shane, in many cases this is one-man-show business and this is definitely unsustainable model for software creation.

    What could be the solution? For me obviously solution is in company based model when product is continue to be updated regardless of who is doing it personally.

    what do you think, Shane?

    (sorry for the too long comment)

    • Shane says:

      Thanks, Alexander!
      I 100% agree with your comment regarding having a face online.

      Concerning products gong obsolete, I think there are two things that can happen: sometimes, a product goes obsolete because no one is updating it and sometimes, things just change, to make a product obsolete. For example, a website might be very popular and then lose it’s popularity (e.g. myspace), so that any product related to it simply loses it’s relevancy.
      The thing is that the “big lauch” model often doesn’t allow for sustained development, either. Because money is basically only made once, the product creator can’t keep paying developers to improve the product, because he’d eventually just run out of money. Unfortunately, it’s often hard to tell whether a product creator is in it for the long-run, or just after a one-time thing.
      From consumer perspective, the only other option would be open-source. If open-source software is popular enough, there’s usually someone who keeps working on it, even if it’s not the original creator.

  • Peter says:

    Thanks for the post Shane.

    Have enjoyed my first full year as one of your subscribers [and customers] I am delighted to say. If I had to look back and focus on achievements and failures for 2011 then the balance would be very “Positive”.

    I think the single most significant thing I have gained last year was finding Backlink Battle Plan. Some structured backlinking was required in my business and I really had no idea how to do it until BBP so I have to thank you for that and the financial windfall that came in conjunction with my new found insight into Affiliate Marketing. It all seems to make sense now that I know how it all fits together. Well some of it anyway.

    Certainly agree that “Failing Forward” is something we all experience and we can only become better for it.

    Cheers Shane and fellow subscribers. All the best for 2012.

    • Shane says:

      Thank you for your comment, Peter!
      I’m very happy to hear that you got so much use out of my stuff! :)
      Congratulations on your success and I hope you will manage to “fail forward” at great speeds in 2012. :)

  • James Hussey says:

    It’s interesting you decided to back off the product launch model, I personally didn’t think that was really your style, at least that’s not my impression of you as an IMer. Actually I have a couple of your products and have tried and liked SECockpit, good to see you plan on long-term support with an eye for your brand being at the center.

    Too few, I think, really care about hurting their brand, which further stunts growth.

    Here’s to hoping your 2012 unfolds much better than you could’ve imagined, and thanks for some great products.

    • Shane says:

      Thanks, James!
      It’s not that I won’t launch products anymore. In fact, I’ll probably launch more products this year than I did last year. But to me, the long-term sales after the launch and the possibility to keep improving the products is now more of a focus than just trying to get a big splash with a launch and then letting things dwindle away. Also, the products I’m working on now are mostly things I just want for myself (software stuff) and if I have someone create them for me, I might as well sell them. :)

  • Norm says:

    Next on tap, “SHANE THE MOTION PICTURE!”

    Nisheth mentions, “IM’ers who have not made it.” Maybe I ought to use my unused Internet Clubhouse domain to produce a website for that. It should have plenty of members. God knows I’d make a good president. Ha.

    Still looking for that nugget ‘neath the next mountain. I’ll find it one of these days.

    One small tidbit you can plug into your autobiography is that in following your adventures this past year, Norm has been challenged to keep on keeping on. More than anyone else in this racket, you have shown that the little guy can make it. I happen to know that I have the experience and sand. One of these days I’ll put together the pieces of the puzzle, stop experimenting and start earning.

    In the meantime, my wife told me yesterday that her boss was looking at a cloud based program of some kind or the other. She asked me what cloud based meant. I told her I had NO idea. And now look, I are also cloud based thanks to your gee whiz SECockpit! Wow! Things are coming along despite myself!


    • Shane says:

      Thanks, Norm! I think that motion picture will have to be animated, though. My attempts at acting would probably be cringe-worthy.
      There are definitely more “IM’ers who have not made it” than “IM’ers who have made it”. Just look at how many products in IM are aimed at newbies vs. how many are aimed at “advanced” marketers…

  • Thank you for your excellent blog post. I can agree with many of the things that you talk about. A one man show is not a sustainable model for continued business growth. I am in the boat myself and also learning how to outsource some of my work over seas. All of times it the best ways. Please let me know if I can be of any assistance to you.

  • Greg Taylor says:


    I really enjoy reading post from you. Keep being real and build loyal following for long term sustainable business.

    Here in Thailand for 20 months being mentored by a 7 time 7 figure earner and have also experienced frustrations, set backs, major IM changes and more during this period.

    Being an entrepreneur is the only way we can go, but many marketers I have met go through a lot before they get to that point where everyone sees the “glamorous” Internet marketing results!

    Shane, I believe “TRUST” and “relationship building” in 2012 and beyond is the path to long term sustainable profitable success and brother you have earned my trust by being “REAL”!

    Wishing you and all honest marketers with integrity abundance in 2012!!

    • Shane says:

      Thanks for your comment, Greg!
      I’ve experienced the same thing. Practically every entrepreneur I’ve talked to went through at least a couple of years of struggling and “failure” before they broke through to success. It can be tough, but it’s worth it.

  • Hugh says:

    Hey Shane,

    Been along for the ride from the beginning, SECockpit and all your other products. The value and enjoyment I have gained from using your products and reading and watching your posts and videos have been immense.

    Yourself & Dr Andy are the only 2 marketers that I “really” follow, listen to, buy from & implement… Although I like to keep my eye on a few others for various reasons.

    I wish you the very best in 2012 in all your endeavors both personally & professionally.

    Thanks Shane,


    • Shane says:

      Thanks, Hugh. It’s always a pleasure to read your comments and I’m glad to have you on board. :)

  • Dave says:

    Hi Shane,

    Great post and summary for 2011.

    There is no question that you are one of the few internet marketers newbies should follow and I say that because when I was a newbie just a year ago, you and your site (RQR) really helped stir me in the right direction.

    So thanks for that and here is for the best year yet, 2012. May all of your goals be achieved :)

    • Shane says:

      Thank you very much, Dave! I’m glad to have had a part in your IM ventures. Let me also say that I love your site and I check it on a regular basis, to keep up with new SEO tools and such.
      Here’s to an awesome 2012!

  • Shane, As you know by now we’re not even in the same business and yet I read your blog religiously. In fact you’re one of only a handful of blogs that are on my must-read list. I finally bit the bullet and started outsourcing in a serious way at the tail-end of 2011. Here’s hoping that strategy frees up a lot of time – your’s and mine – and allows us to reach new heights in 2012!

    • Shane says:

      Thanks, Jolenta! I’m glad to know that what I do is not limited to just one business model. :)

  • James Debono says:

    Hi Shane,

    A very honest reflection of your past year. And as you rightly concluded it allowed you to fall forwards, making both yourself and your business stronger for it.

    The IM industry is plagued with the rags to riches stories and so called wonder products that can make you a million while you sleep and unfortunately a lot of newcomers into the market place fall for such tactics, giving a bad name to the industry in general and also depriving the IM industry of potential future IM superstars that give back to the community in abundance -Much like you do.

    I enjoy your blog and value your opinion and I will continue to be!


  • Ken says:


    Thanks for such an honest and thought provoking post. I think anyone that anyone that has the guts to get out there on his/her own and make a business work will have a hard time working themselves out of a job by effectively building teams. I am working the “team building” model into my plans as I build my business, but it is hard.

    Keep up the great work!

  • Rema says:

    Hi Shane,

    I have not been following all your posts for the simple reason that I have been preoccupied with my own work and I am still learning. And your blog is one that I visit when I find time.

    Hats off to you for the honest and straightforward post. I have always read only about the achievements of the successful Internet marketers and never about their failures. You have proved your genuineness by categorically saying that ‘to err is human’. Great post. Lots of lessons in here. Thanks a lot Shane.

    Here’s wishing you a very successful 2012.

  • Hi Shane

    What a breath of fresh air this, and all your posts, make in an online world populated it seems largely with charlatans, fools, and outright rogues.

    May your courage in sharing your failures as well as your successes pay off ten-fold. You deserve it.

    And in a short while – immediately after I finish writing this – I will buy your Backlinks Battleplan and begin studying your ideas with some intensity and seriousness.

    best wishes for a successful and happy 2012,


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