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:
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.
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”.
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.
Finally, here are the most important blog post published on im impact in 2011:
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 marketer and product creator. Read more about my story here.