If you want people to pay attention to you, it helps to be an expert.
But as you know, becoming an expert takes time. You must amass knowledge, apply it and then develop a strong record of practical success before the internet will consider you an authority.
It’s hard to shortcut that process, but today we’re going to look at a business that managed to do just that.
There are many websites you could be visiting and many blogs you could be reading. So why spend your time here, on ActiveGrowth, instead of out there, where hypey content, distraction and funny cat gifs beckon?
There are 3 good reasons to be here. ActiveGrowth stands for 3 things, above all else. There are 3 things that, in my entrepreneurial journey so far, have given me an unfair advantage over my competition.
This post is about those 3 things.
Watch the video at the top of the post to get the main content. Below is a summary of the points, for reference and for those who prefer reading over watching.
In online business, perhaps more than anywhere else, the most alluring promise is “quick and easy”. We see an endless parade of books, products and marketing fads that promise a new shortcut to quick and easy results.
Building a business sounds complicated and really, why bother with all that? Isn’t it much more appealing to use [latest automation software thingy] to auto-post scraped content to [latest social media fad] all day and make money on autopilot?
Why bother with product creation, software development, bug fixes, customer support and all this complexity that real businesses have to deal with? Why bother, when you can just create a bunch of simple niche sites and earn money from AdSense clicks?
You get the idea: there’s no limit to business models that try to avoid or shortcut past all this “real business” stuff. And they’re alluring.
They’re also, for the most part, doomed to fail.
On ActiveGrowth, the first principle is a simple creed that will help you circumvent all this nonsense: the foundation of a real business is a product. The way to make an online business work is to create something people want and/or need and then sell it to them, directly.
I call this a value based business.
The antidote to get-rich-quick nonsense: create a valuable product and sell it directly to people.
When I talk about “products” or “offers”, that can mean many things. For example:
What all these products have in common is that they are uniquely created by you and you sell them directly to your customers.
This is the crucial point. You’re not earning a bit of a kick-back from ad clicks, you’re not promoting other people’s products as an affiliate, you’re not tied up in a multi-level-marketing scheme and trying to recruit more sellers… you’re simply selling something useful to people who want it.
One of the problems with a value based business is that it doesn’t sound much like passive income. And everybody loves the idea of passive income!
You know what? Screw passive income.
First of all, look at Pat Flynn (SmartPassiveIncome) and Tim Ferriss (4 Hour Work Week). These two guys are the icons of passive income. The very embodiments of the concept. And guess what: they both work their asses off, every day.
If that’s the reality for them, what are your chances?
On a more serious note: the real problem lies in the pursuit of passive income. If the only way you’re motivated to work is because of a promise of passive income in the future, you’re not going to make it.
When you work on your own product and with your own customers, it’s easy to find enjoyment and fulfillment in your work. You’re creating something of your own and something that has meaning to your customers. Customers you’re in direct contact with.
Working on something you care about helps you get through the inevitable hard times. It helps you get through those times when there’s lots of work, but no money yet.
If money is your only motivation, you’ll not last very long through those “no money” periods.
What it comes down to is this: the pursuit of passive income doesn’t work. For most people, it just leads to being passively broke.
The pursuit of passive income (and shortcuts to it) will lead you to being passively broke.
Building a business out of thin air is difficult, creative work. It’s an extraordinarily challenging task and to conquer it, you must become an extraordinary person.
You have to develop your own skills, mindset and character to the point where you have:
…than is ever expected of anyone in an “ordinary” employee role. That is what I mean when I say you need to become an extraordinary person.
In an employee role, you may be highly skilled and motivated, but as an entrepreneur you need a whole set of skills and character traits on top of what an excellent employee would have. Most people don’t have this and most people don’t do this.
The point here is that you cannot disconnect your character and skills from the success or failure of your business. You can’t be lazy and scatterbrained and build a company that’s highly effective and focused.
You can’t be lazy and scatterbrained and build a company that’s highly effective and focused.
On ActiveGrowth, we don’t just post about the latest tricks, tools and marketing tactics. We also post about how to be more productive, how to think strategically and how to communicate with and manage a startup team.
More importantly, I it as part of the purpose of this site, to provide you with strategies that will help you become an entrepreneurial badass. Marketing and business know-how are not enough. Habits, skills and mindset are just as important.
Also consider this: your skills and mindset are an asset no one can take away from you. Business models change, opportunities come and go, but if you are excellent at learning new skills and you have the right work ethic and mindset, you’ll always do well.
This is one principle that manifests in two ways. To explain what owning your platform means, let me first illustrate the opposite:
If you’re a YouTuber, you don’t own your platform. You may be very successful on YouTube and make a lot of money from their ad-revenue sharing program, but you’ll always be dependent on YouTube. If they make a change that causes you to lose revenue, you can’t do anything about it. If they suddenly close your account without warning (happens more often than you’d think), you can’t do anything about it. You just lost your business from one moment to the next, and all you can do is complain and be upset.
If you understand why 3rd party platforms are inherently unstable, check out this post: Instagram Created a Monster
Owning your platform is the opposite of that. It’s when you host your own content, in a way no one else can interfere with. It’s making sure that you set up your business in such a way that it’s never dependent on one single 3rd party that you have no control over.
Of course, you’ll still use 3rd party tools. But you protect what you own. You can use YouTube to host your videos, but don’t send visitors to the YouTube video, send them to your own website, where you embed the video. Don’t try to grow your YouTube subscriber base, grow your own mailing list, instead.
From this follows the concept of owning your brand. The opposite of this would be something I did quite a lot in the past: I used to build small niche sites and monetize them with AdSense or affiliate links. I’d get traffic to them (sometimes a lot of traffic) via SEO. These sites made good money, but they were faceless middle-men to my visitors. A visitor would click through from a search result, spend only a brief time on my site and then (ideally) click on an ad or affiliate link.
No one ever remembered my site. And I had almost zero return traffic. When Google changed its algorithm to remove sites like mine from the results, my earnings from these sites dropped to zero and I had nothing to show for my work.
If you build a brand that people will recognize and come back to, you are no longer vulnerable like this. Even if you get banned from YouTube or lose your search traffic, you’ll have an audience of fans and people will find other ways back to your site.
As Kevin Kelly postulates in his legendary post about 1,000 True Fans, owning your brand doesn’t mean that you have to compete with Coca Cola or become a world-renowned superstar. What matters is that you connect with real people, not just anonymous traffic that passes by your site for brief moments.
Create and own your brand. Don’t be a slave to platforms you can’t control.
In summary, the 3 principles are:
This is what I believe to be the most effective, lowest risk and fastest approach to building a real, sustainable online business, created for long term growth.
It’s what I have focused on in my own development as an entrepreneur and I attribute my success to following these principles. If you want to learn more about this and you agree that this is the way to build a business, you’re in the right place, here on ActiveGrowth.
You've been lied to.
I'm sorry to be the bearer of such bad news, but you've been lied to. And it gets worse: you've been lied to by some of the people you admire and look up to, the most.
Specifically, you've been told that you should always give it your best. That you should always give 100%. Perhaps even 110%.
That is the path to success and excellence, is it not? That's how the rich and famous managed to climb to their position in life.
In reality, this is an idea that, if followed in earnest, will keep you small, weak and frustrated.
In content marketing, should you focus on quality or quantity?
In other words: should you spend a lot of time creating fewer pieces of content, but make each of those pieces as epic as possible? Or is it better to publish a lot and get your message out there as often as possible, in as many places as possible?
The answer, it seems, depends on who you ask. But in today's post, we'll settle the debate, by asking the right question...
There is one promise, one dream, that is the most alluring of all, in our industry.
The promise of easy money.
The hope for easy money brings floods of newbies into the fold of online marketing, entrepreneurship, digital nomadism etc.
Bold-faced promises of a simple trick to make money easily is the domain of (rather obvious) scams aimed at the naive and underinformed. However, everywhere you look in online marketing, there are echoes of the promise of easy money. From headlines of trending blog posts to the sales messages of even the most serious and enterprised-focused marketing tools, the implication is always that this will somehow make you more money, more easily.
Is it just an alluring trap? Or can making money truly be easy?Continue reading
What happens if you take 6 bright, creative marketers who are eager to learn, bring them together in an apartment in a vibrant European city... and make them work and learn with me for 3 months straight?
Even though that's a question no one in particular was asking, I wanted to find out. So I did this as a marketing and recruitment experiment.
In today's podcast, the guinea pigs from this experiment talk about what it was like and what the biggest marketing and business lessons were, that they took away from this experience.Continue reading
Like last year, Paul McCarthy and myself took some time to reflect on the year past and extract the most important and transformative lessons we learnt.
2015 was a year of fast growth for our company (Thrive Themes) and today's podcast episode is chock-full of tips you can apply to grow your own business, become a more focused and productive entrepreneur and much more...Continue reading
As an entrepreneur, you have one job: conjure a working, profitable business out of thin air.
But while most of us can work hard in short bursts, how can you stick with it for the long run? When the excitement of starting a new business has worn off, how do you keep motivated for the day-to-day work?
That's what we're answering in today's video...Continue reading
If you follow the advice you find here, you'll soon find yourself with a product or service ready to present to the world and perhaps you even orchestrate a small launch for it.
Now, what if you do all this and get virtually no result? What if no one buys your minimum viable product, no one signs up to your launch list and you get no feedback from the market? Is it time to give up or are there other options?
Discover the answer in today's podcast episode...Continue reading
In the last post, I introduced the concept of Hustle Mode - a state of extreme focus that is necessary to get a new business off the ground quickly.
As was correctly pointed out by several commenters, while Hustle Mode is a great way to make a business successful, it's not a great way to live. If you're in Hustle Mode, your health, social life and perhaps even sanity are taking a hit.
What's worse, Hustle Mode will only get you so far and if you don't know how to successfully escape it again, you'll be stuck in entrepreneurial purgatory.
Watch the video below to learn when, why and how you need to leave the hustle behind.Continue reading
There are parts of your brain that really aren’t qualified to run a business at all, but they’ll trick you into making bad decisions (if you let them).
This post is about the ups and downs you experience as an entrepreneur, why they don’t matter and what you should focus on instead. Plus, discover the one question you need to be able to answer about your business, if you ever want to achieve breakthrough success…
If you want to build an amazing, huge business that will change the world, you should start by selling an ebook on a simple, single-column sales page.
That might seem like strange advice, but watch the video below to see how starting with something simple has several benefits (including ones I bet you didn’t think of) and how you can use it as a “skill builder”: