The one where I rant about Marketing

So, I’m sitting in a conference virtual session this morning, and I’m listening to a woman spew absolute bullshit about marketing that is infuriating.

The ticket to this conference costs $500. My work is paying $500 for me to be at this conference, and they’re also still paying my salary while I’m not ‘in the office’ doing office things for the next two days, which is another bunch of money. So, we’re invested.

The lesson this woman is teaching: to grow online, follow as many people as you possibly can, wait a few days and then unfollow anyone who didn’t follow you back.

This isn’t marketing. This is fucking stupid. Don’t do this, people. Don’t play the ‘how many people can follow me back’ game. Just don’t do it. We’re not in high school. We’re not trying to get people to sit with us at lunch. Marketing is about real-world engagement. I know people typically roll their eyes at me when I tell them that, but it’s true.

The goal with marketing is not to get 100,000 followers. Sure, 100,000 followers sounds great in theory, but if 99,600 of them don’t give a rats ass about what you’re doing, then what’s the point in them following you? The goal is to find people who resonate with your content, your products or what you’re trying to share. If you run a small store that sells candles, you want people who like to buy candles following you. If people don’t buy candles but they follow you, they’re not contributing to you, your business or your marketing efforts. If you run a blog about parenting, you want moms and dads to follow you. If people following you are 16 year old kids who don’t read your content, or even remotely pay attention to your blog, you’re essentially speaking into the void. Marketing is about finding your people, your niche and your space on the internet. Marketing has absolutely nothing to do with quantity of followers, and everything to do with quality of followers.

If you’re good at marketing, it won’t matter if 50 people read your blog or 50,000 people read your blog. They’re all going to pay attention because they care about what you have to say. What’s the point in having 50,000 following you if only 50 of them actually read your blog? There isn’t a point.

Marketing is about appealing to people.

Marketing is about resonating.

Marketing is about creating messaging that matters. Telling a story that’s worthy of being listened to.

Marketing IS NOT adding as many people as you can to try and get them to follow you back to that you can look popular. Looking popular doesn’t translate to real interaction.

If you’re using digital platforms to try and make friends, you don’t need 100,000 friends. You won’t ever have 100,000 friends. So even still, playing ‘how many people can I get to follow me back’ is ridiculous.

Real growth online is slow. It’s calculated. It takes effort. It takes communication. It’s thoughtful. It’s garnering an audience who is exactly who you would wish for your content to reach. If you sell candles, it’s building an audience of candle lovers. If you write about parenting, it’s building an audience of people who care about parenting. It’s not going after the entire population of the planet…

I’m pretty sure this isn’t coherent due to my having been ranting so long. I’m going to end this here.

GameStop in layman’s terms

If you’re confused about what’s been going on with stock-market news lately, especially that tied to GameStop, I tried to explain it as simple as possible.

IMPORTANT DEFINITIONS

Hedge Fund – A hedge fund is an investment fund that trades in relatively liquid assets and is able to make extensive use of more complex trading, portfolio-construction and risk management techniques to improve performance, such as short selling, leverage, and derivatives.

Hedge fund manager put A LOT of eggs into one basket that has the possibility of being dropped and all eggs being smashed and ruined

Short Selling – Short selling is an investment or trading strategy that speculates on the decline in a stock or other securities price. In short selling, a position is opened by borrowing shares of a stock or other asset that the investor believes will decrease in value by a set future dateā€”the expiration date.

If I bet stock ‘Vee Co.’ will decrease in value, I can borrow it at a price of $10. When I borrow said stock, I immediately sell it, hold onto the $10 and wait for Vee Co. to decrease. When Vee Co. stock does decrease, it’s new value is $5 so I immediately buy back the stock I borrowed. I sold it last week for $10, but I bought it today for $5. So, when I give the stock back to whom I borrowed it from and I’ve put $5 in my pocket. Multiply this by tens of millions and this is what happens on Wall Street.

Basically, short selling is betting on stocks losing. If you bet a stock loses and it does, you get rich, rich, rich!

On the flip side, if I borrow the stock and immediately sell it for $10 and the price of that stock rises to $15 then I have to buy back said stock for more than I’ve sold it for. I sold it for $10, but I have to give it back, so I have to buy it back at that $15 price, and I’ve now lost $5. This is why short selling is so risky. If you bet on a stock losing and it increases, you could be out a lot of money.

WHERE GAME STOP / REDDIT COME INTO PLAY

Wallstreetbets on Reddit is a platform for regular folk who try to help each other predict trends in the stock market for their individual trading. These people are what Wall Street refers to as ‘Dumb Money’. It’s possibly someone’s savings. Maybe someone else’s retirement funds. Maybe it’s someone’s inheritance. It’s just regular folk, there’s no hedge funds, these aren’t millions or billions of dollars worth of trades. It’s hundreds, or thousands.

Back in December some members of Wallstreetbets recognized that two prominent hedge funds were short selling millions upon millions in GameStop stock. These hedgfunds were betting on GameStop to fail in 2021. Which, in theory, is not a bad assumption to make, since video games can all be downloaded these days, brick and mortar stores selling hard copies are to 2021 what blockbuster was to 2010.

These Redditors said ‘No way, this is not happening on our watch’. They banded together like a small army knowing that if enough of them purchased GameStop stock, it would drive up the popularity of the stock and drive up the price. Initially the price increases were small. These hedge funds weren’t in hot water yet, because the increase in value of the stock wasn’t anything they couldn’t cover. But, this army of Redditors expanded, both with people hearing about what Redditors were doing, but also with people just noticing that GameStop had had a slight, promising rise and that could be good for them to get in on the ground floor with.

Over the past few weeks, the price per GameStop stock has gone up from $19 per stock to over $400 per stock at one point. Presently it’s hovering around $289 per stock, from what I can see.

So, doing the math with the present value of the stock… if someone borrowed the stock when it was valued at $19 and immediately sold it, they now have to purchase it back for $289. They are out $270 for that single stock in order to purchase it back, to return it to who they borrowed from. Why this is making Wall Street quake is because they don’t trade in hundreds or thousands, they trade in millions, tens of millions and hundreds of millions.

Let’s say, one of these two hedge funds that bet on GameStop losing value borrowed 10 million stocks at $19 each. Their short sale earned them $190,000,000 in December. Now that the GameStop stock is $289, they have to buy back that stock for $2,890,000,000. These Wall Street Hedge Funds are BILLIONS of dollars in to the negatives and they don’t have that money stored away in a shoe box to cover themselves.

One hedge fund has already liquidated assets and begun filing for bankruptcy.

Those hedge funds that weren’t even involved in this particular short-sale fiasco are quaking because they’ve now realized if Redditors have the power to do this one stock, they can do it to any stock. No stock is safe. No short sale is safe. Redditors can do it with any company that Wall Street undervalues. Essentially, Wall Street is Goliath and Redditors are they underdog, and the underdog has just let Goliath know they’re watching every move and they have the power and propensity to knock all of them down like dominoes, if they so choose.

THE ROBINHOOD (AND A SLEW OF OTHERS) ISSUE

There’ve been a few different companies doing this, but RobinHood has gotten the most notoriety, so I’ll share it from the perspective of RobinHood.

RobinHood is an app where individual regular folk like you and I take part in commission free stock trading and investing.

As GameStop stock continued to rise, regular folk like you and I flocked to ‘RobinHood’ to their already existing accounts, or went so far as to make brand new accounts, to get in on this amazing increase in value. Millions of people continued purchasing GameStop in the hundreds or thousands of dollar values. RobinHood, a stock trading application that prides itself on catering to regular folk, something that Wall Street refers to as ‘Dumb Money’, realized that purchasing GameStop was causing Wall Street to bleed. So, RobinHood stopped allowing people to purchase GameStop. You could only sell GameStop on their application, you couldnt’ purchase it.

If RobinHood and others stopped allowing people to purchase GameStop then no one could have access to it. If no one had access to GameStop, the price won’t continue rising, essentially trying to soften the landing for Wall Street. So, RobinHood, that caters to regular folk, blocked regular folk from making money in an effort to protect Wall Street.

CONCLUSIONS

Wall Street is crying foul. They’re crying market manipulation and that what happened should be illegal.

Legally speaking, what Redditors did is not against the law. It is a grey area. Regular folk have realized they can take on the 1% and win.

Why this matters?

  • Millennials and are a hell of a lot fucking smarter than people give them/us credit for
  • The one-percenters are not ‘untouchable’ like they’ve perceived themselves to be
  • No short sales are safe, ever again…
  • A small group of people have the power to vastly effect and change the world which we live, the Redditors have proved that
  • If Redditors could take down Wall-Street so easily, seemingly without them realizing until it was too late, are any industries safe?
  • Your reach is farther than you could imagine. One day you’re a regular joe reading reddit and the next, the stock market is in tears directly because of your forethought

FOOD FOR THOUGHT.

If anyone else has tidbits that I missed, please let me know.

Edit: Sorry for all of the spelling mistakes. I’m fixing them. Slowly.

Algorithms that I predict will ‘pop off’ in 2021

On blogs, on vlogs, on podcasts, YouTube, social media and beyond, these are some of the subjects I predict will see exponential growth in popularity throughout 2021.

BUDGETING

With the world still deep in the throws of this pandemic, tens (if not hundreds) of millions out of work and a lot of those still working truly struggling with their finances, I predict we will see a shift in the digital paradigms away from ‘hauls’ and frivolous spending, towards budgeting.

What is a budget? How do you budget? What’s an appropriate budget for a single person, or a couple, or a family? While it might seem like second nature, it definitely doesn’t take the importance in the high-school curriculum that Pythagoras Theorem did. I predict people are going to be using the resources they still do have to research how to make better use of their money going forward.

Where does one go to get budgeting advice when they cannot afford the fees of a financial advisor? The world wide web.

COOKING/MEAL PREP/ELIMINATING FOOD WASTE

Food prices are going up in 2021. In a lot of places they have already begun to rise. $100, or whatever you spend on your budget, isn’t going to stretch as far as it used to.

I predict people will, in droves, be searching advice of how to meal prep, how to cook and eat from home (rather than going out) and how to eliminate food waste. Gone are the days in which purchasing a $5 salad kit only to have it go bad in your fridge over two-three weeks is acceptable. People will be doing all that they can to eat the food that they purchase and get as much food as they can for as little as they can (how to shop sales).

PREGNANCY/BABY RELATED CONTENT

The pandemic baby boom has already started, and will only continue to grow as quarantine babies are brought into this world.

I’ve already seen a lot of these moms sharing their stories on various digital platforms. From what they need for pregnancy to what they need for baby. From how they adjust to being a parent to what it’s like giving birth in a world that’s anything but stable, the mom content is going to grow in popularity over the next year. Moms will search other moms. Prospective parents will search moms. Random people will find moms and stay for the fascination aspect.

RECOVERY RELATED CONTENT

Another topic that will be popular due to a direct result of the pandemic and how it’s affected people. Yes, people struggled with drugs, alcohol and other substances prior to 2020, but 2020 made it just that much worse for a lot of people. As said people come to grips with their reality of addiction and try to find recovery, I do believe they will search for positive reinforcement and someone who understands what they’re going through.

Recovery. Healing. Acceptance. Rock bottom. Mental Health. These subjects all sort of… intertwine. I see 2021 being a big year for all of them in the digital sphere.

INVESTING

I don’t quite fully understand why this one has picked up so much steam so quickly, but it has. Gone are the days of investing being owned by the fiscally well-off, responsible, nearly a grandma/grandpa group. The promotion of investing from any age is taking hold. Simple blogs nurturing knowledge about penny stocks are garnering hundreds of thousands of views per week. Teenagers are becoming millionaires and convincing other’s to do it as well. I truly believe more people will seek out investing as their side-hustle, and if they do well enough, their primary hustle. (It’s worth noting it’s more of a rarity for it to become a primary hustle… in spite of what they want you to believe on the podcasts)


I’m already starting to see a shift into self-reliance and independence. I’m also seeing a shift away from ‘buy all the things’ to ‘us what you have’. I think that subjects elevated in 2021 will largely be about self-improvement. Last year everyone tie-dyed their clothing and learned how to make bread, this year they’re going to face their demons, their shortcomings and probably try to teach themselves how to play guitar.

**I need to make a mental note to come back to this post in one year’s time to see how close, or far off, I was from what turned out to be the year in trends.

SEO for WordPress bloggers

Photo by Stephen Phillips – Hostreviews.co.uk on Unsplash

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is such a loaded subject. If you’re new to SEO it can be extremely overwhelming to subject to try and comprehend. Heck, even if you’re a seasoned vet with SEO it can be an extremely overwhelming subject to try and comprehend.

I’m no expert when it comes to SEO. But, I have learned a thing or two over the past decade. So, included in this post are some of my basic, easiest to understand suggestions to help you improve SEO for your blog. Whether you use the free WordPress plan or the Business WordPress Plan take some small steps and watch how your stats change.

SEO TIPS

If you have the WordPress business plan, use the Yoast plugin. This won’t be applicable unless you have the business plan. But, if you have the business plan, Yoast gives you what is essentially a step-by-step guide of how to take a post from a basic post to an SEO superstar.

Pick a valuable keyword for your content. Keywords are are words or phrases that describe the content on your page or post the best. Essentially, a keyword is what you think people will search on Google to find the post that you’re writing. It’s important to pick a keyword that speaks to what you’re sharing, and that it also be something people will search. Keep in mind that if you pick too generic, you might not get indexed. And, if you pick too specific and people might not actually search it often… if at all.

Utilize keywords throughout your content. It’s important to ensure that selected keywords (subject matter) for your posts are woven throughout your content. This means trying to include your keyword within the title, any headings and subheadings used, DEFINITELY within your introductory sentence, and the concluding paragraph. Do not put your keyword in places where it is not applicable.

Optimize any images shared. If you’re uploading a photo to your blog, include keywords in the file name. If you have a business account, use a keyword rich description in the ATF. If you do not have a business account, use a keyword applicable caption.

Reference both internal and external links within your posts. With respect to your content, you should think of your blog as a sort of… digital spider web.

  • An internal link is one that links from your post to another page or post on your site. This is really quite simple, actually. If you make a post, link other similar posts. If you frequently talking about anxiety, link other posts you’ve made about anxiety. If you talk about parenting frequently, link some similar posts where you speak about parenting. Doing this creates a digital spiderweb within your own site, which tells search engines you’ve been around for a while.
  • An external link is one that goes elsewhere on the web. You can link to posts made by other bloggers. You can link to the site that possibly motivated you to write your post. When you are linking externally, make sure the site you’re sharing a link to is one relevant to your article. Don’t just link to link. Quality links are a valuable piece to any site looking to rank higher on search engine pages and the digital spider web you’re trying to weave should speak to your blog and it’s content/value

Use social media to broaden your reach and share your blog posts. Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are all great resources for sharing your posts and garnering more views. You can make new friends and acquaintances on these sites, grow your audience and your blog’s reach. And, in sharing links to your posts on social media, you’re both adding to the digital spider-web of your blog, and creating valuable back-links to your website.

Have a user friendly website. If your website is difficult to navigate, search engines are not going to rank it highly in indexes. If your menu is difficult to find, search engines are not going to rank it highly in indexes. If your text is a neon green colour that can be difficult to read, search engines are not going to rank it highly in indexes. The sites which rank the highest within search engines are the ones that are most user-friendly to the masses. It makes sense if you think about it – why would google recommend a website to you that’s going to give you a headache trying to navigate? If your website is confusing, maybe it’s time to make some upgrades.

Fix broken links. Broken links can do a lot of harm to you when you’re trying to get your site indexed for search engines. If you do everything you can to have your content indexed but you do have broken links within your site, those broken links are going to ‘delegitimize’ your site/blog to search engine crawlers responsible for indexing. Think of broken links like people who try to clean by shoving everything in the closet and shutting the door. The mess is still there, you’ve just hidden it. Even if you’re taking every other step possible to be indexed, if you’ve got broken links within your site, your mess is still there, it’s just hidden.

Fix your blank pages. If you have a menu item on your site that goes nowhere at all, that’s going to harm your ability to be indexed. Even if it has nothing to do with your post content. If there’s a blank page somewhere on your site, search engine crawlers could possibly believe your site is incomplete and deem it not worthy of being indexed.

Make your posts content easy to read and understand. Use short sentences. Use headings. Use subheadings. Use bolded sentences when you’re trying to accentuate a point. Break up the content into small chunks so that, even if someone is an idiot, or if they have a short attention span, they can make it through your post. When you’re sharing your content you should be dumbing it down so that the stupidest person on earth could read it and understand it. The reason for this is, search engines want to rank pages highest that are easiest for everyone to read. One long run-on paragraph is going to be harder for people to get through. Content that is rich in technical language is going to be harder for people to get through. If something is difficult for people to consume, search engines are not going to rank it as reader friendly.

TO CONCLUDE

As with every suggestion, tip or trick I offer on this blog, please take all information provided with a grain of salt. Use what works for you and leave what you don’t want

SEO is such a convoluted subject that there’s a lot of advice floating around the interwebs. Quite honestly, you could probably take any number of the first two hundred suggestions that come up from a quick google search and see some improvements in your site rankings. To be successful with SEO, it’s all about doing including the small details and taking those extra little steps to make you content user/reader friendly.

If you have made it through all of this and have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. Leave a comment below and I’ll be happy to answer whatever I can.

Let’s talk about Sales

Disclaimer: If you disagree with anything I’ve written in this post, please feel free to share your opinions with me in the comments section. My only ask is that you would be kind about it. Sales is a subject matter that is not one-size-fits-all, so if you read this and think something is a good idea, please make sure you adapt it to properly fit your good or service being offered. If anything doesn’t make sense, or you have questions, ask me in the comments below and I’ll try to clarify.

The past few months I’ve noticed a lot more people using their platforms (blog, social media, podcasts, etc…) to make sales. Whether it books, clothing, consulting services… whatever it is, there’s been a huge influx in people selling.

While I deeply admire those who are exhibiting the entrepreneurial spirit in the best way possible, showcasing their goods and creativity, I have noticed a lot of people could be being smarter about the way they’re selling.

Now, that’s not to say that anyone is doing it wrong. If you’re doing it, that’s one hell of a great first step. But, I think it’s important to keep in mind that, very much like life, you should always be looking to improve.

How many sales have you made this week? This month? This year? Are you satisfied with the sales you’ve made? Are you looking to make more? How do you make more sales?

WHO IS YOUR AUDIENCE?

Are you selling your products to a business? Are you selling your products to individuals? Are you selling to men, women or both? Perhaps you’re selling to Gen Z, or even Gen X. Whoever you’re trying to sell your products or services to matters greatly with respect to how you sell. Knowing your audience is so important.

WHAT IS THE STATE OF THE MARKET?

You know, I don’t want to be a debby downer here, but COVID has brought a lot of the world to a screeching hault. There are two things people don’t want right now… ‘nice to haves’ and commitments.

Unless you’re selling an essential good or service, you’re likely going to see some suffering in your ability to make sales. If people don’t need what you’re selling then a lot are likely going to skip purchasing it. This nothing against your product or service, this is a reflection of uncertain times and a desire to keep the money they do have for the things they need, or ‘just in case’ scenarios that could come up.

To speak about commitments… from a psychological perspective, very few people are signing up for something that requires a commitment because of the fact that no one knows where we’re going to be or what the situation will be in a week, two weeks, five weeks or more. If they can’t see that far ahead, the don’t want to sign themselves up for something that commits them to that far into the future.

WHAT IS YOUR VALUE VERSUS MARKET VALUE?

This is a controversial topic because a lot of people believe that if they lower the price of their goods or service they’re lowering the value they provide. When, in reality, it’s likely that your product is only valued at that lower cost anyway.

Take a house, for example. Your house might be appraised at $500,000 (hypothetical numbers). The housing market, while it hasn’t drowned in a COVID world, has taken a bit of a hit. The market value of the home might only be $400,000 right now. That’s not a reflection of the home itself, that’s a reflection of the market. The house is still the same. It’s not as though there’s less of it, or it’s damaged. It’s just a reflection of the market.

Pre-pandemic, people might have spent $50 for what you’re selling because they had the $50 to spend. During pandemic pricing can’t be a reflection of pre-pandemic life. People don’t have that extra $50 to spend right now. They might only have $10. You, selling your product or service at $10 does not devalue the product itself, it shows that you understand market fluctuations. Just let people who purchase know that you reserve the right to raise the price again in the future when the world becomes more stable.

Besides, selling 5 at $10 is better than selling 0 at $50. Maybe, for those 5 people who you’re selling at $10, work out a deal that they also provide you with an online review. Reviews are HUGE for making sales.

Selling a house for $450,000 is a lot better than not selling at all because you’re so damn stubborn. Sure, the housing market could bounce back… eventually. How long are you able to hang onto the house for before you go bankrupt? Sometimes you just have to accept the time the world is in.

ARE YOU PROVIDING CONSUMERS ENOUGH TIME?

This one is very important. In my corporate job, one of the things I’ve been teaching my team is that it takes time for a company to decide upon purchasing our product. It’s an investment. They need to think about it, discuss it, work it into their budget. This isn’t just the case with companies purchasing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of software, this is the case across all industries, platforms and audiences. See, unless your clientele is strictly people with the wealth of Bill Gates, they need to think about the purchases before they make them.

If you’re saying ‘Buy this, it’s such a great deal and it’s only on sale until Monday’… well, whether it’s Tuesday and people have six days or Sunday and people have one day, that’s not enough time.

If someone is very interested in your product or service, at the very least, they need time to budget for it.

When is a typical pay day? Are you factoring in that as a consideration? The first of the month is when rent is due and typically around the time a lot of mortgage payments are due. (Not everyone, just a lot) Often times the start of the month people have less money to play with in their budget then in the middle of the month. If you’re offering a ‘steal of a deal’ that’s only good until the 5th of the month, are you doing yourself any favours? Are you doing your potential customers/clients any favours? No, not really.

Whether your product or service is $10 or $10,000 dollars, you need to provide people adequate time to determine whether or not they can, want to, or should purchase.

DON’T OFFER PAYMENT PLANS

This is an entirely personal opinion, but just don’t do it. Not unless you’re selling a car or house. You’re not a debt collector and you don’t want to be seen as such.

Payment plans are in place for people who require a good or service now, but cannot afford the full price at this moment in time. Thigns like ‘Quad-Pay’ drive me crazy. Payment plans are meant for essential goods, not a purse or a lego set. If someone can get by without what you’re offering, then you’re doing them a disservice by putting them on a payment plan and adding another bill to their long list of bills each month.

If you’re not offering an essential good or service, but you’re offering a payment plan, you’re taking advantage of people by selling them something they cannot afford.

WHAT ADDED VALUE ARE YOU PROVIDING?

This is something we talk a lot about with my day-to-day job. People aren’t purchasing your product to purchase your product, they’re purchasing your product to purchase you. I truly mean that.

How’s your small talk?

How’s your real talk?

Do you care about the people you’re speaking with?

My work sells software. Everyone on earth sells software. If you’re reading this post, you’ve bought software and are using it right this very instant. What makes people buy from us? Not the software, that’s for certain. People purchase from us because of the customer service we provide. People buy from us because of the team of extremely intelligent people with masters and doctorates who line our support staff and are at their beck and call whenever needed. People choose our software because they know they’re not getting software, they’re getting the company too.

How does that relate to individuals, you ask? Well the same concept applies. If you’re an indie author, very few people in this world are just going to purchase your book solely for the reason that it exists. Very few people are going to purchase your book for the reason that it belongs to a genre they enjoy. People are going to purchase your book because of the connection it has to you, and because of the connection that you have to them.

LASTLY, IF YOU CAN, JUST GIVE IT AWAY

You can trial software for several weeks before determining whether or not you wish to purchase it. You can drive cars before determining whether or not you wish to purchase it. There are umpteen thousand things on earth that offer you the opportunity to try, test, read or view said good/service before purchasing.

Why? Because if your product/service is so superior, then providing a free sample of the product/service is going to hook people.

It’s not manipulative, it’s smart.

If you’re a graphic designer just starting out, offer the first design free to show someone what you can do. After that, charge them per design. Until you’re well established, this is going to be a good means for you to drum up business and increase awareness of your capabilities.

If you’re an author and you’re legally allowed, post the first chapter, or even just the first few pages, of your book. Get people excited about the content they wouldn’t otherwise be able to see.

If you’re a social media phenom, teach someone the strategy to one platform and they’ll come to you seeking the strategy to others.

I am in no, way, shape or form saying that you should give away everything that you do. I’m saying that you should give away a teaser. Give away a piece… something to excite people… something to get them talking. It incentivizes people.

TO CONCLUDE

Whatever you’re selling, however you’re selling it, just remember to put yourself in the mind of your ideal consumer. Think like they think. Do what they do. If you can truly understand the people you’re trying to make sales to, you’ll have a far easier time making connections and eventual sales.

Remember that sales is not a one-size-fits-all business plan. It differs from person-to-person, industry-to-industry. Do your research. Be flexible. Be confident. Lastly, but certainly not least, be proud. be proud of what you’re providing.

“Selling” your blog.

Do you want to use your blog to sell products or services? Perhaps you already do? Have you had much success with the products or services that you’re selling? Perhaps it could be better?

If there’s a saying that’s applicable to sales… pretty much across the board, it’s that ‘things can always be better’. There can always be more sales. There can always be more customers. There can always be more value.

Value.

Hold onto that word.

The primary error that most people make when it comes to sales is that they believe they’re selling a product or service. They’re not.

Sales is about fixing problems. Sales is about providing value. Sales is about creating a need for something that people didn’t even realize existed. Sales is not about shoving a deal down people’s throats.

Listen… when people buy cars, they’re not buying a car to have a car. They’re buying a car for transportation. They’re buying a car to save time. They’re buying a car that has room to carry all of their kids, soccer equipment, furniture and tools in one trip. They’re not buying a car because someone told them to. They’re buying a car because they need a car. They’ve determined that the car provides them value.

Does everyone need a car? No. Does everyone need what you’re selling on your blog? No. To those that do need what is being sold on your blog, what have you done to show them value? I ask not to offend, but out of genuine curiosity. Are you just leaving a link there and hoping for clicks? Are you trying to guilt people into purchasing? Are you showing them the value provided through purchasing your product and the problems that it will solve when they do?

Think of it this way: you could sell consulting services or you could provide prosperous futures. You could sell your book or you could provide a page turning cure for quarantine boredom. You could sell t-shirts or you could start new fashion trends.

Successful sales provide value beyond the good or service. This is because those selling are aware that people aren’t buying an item, they’re buying their own personal solutions. You can throw all of the discounts and special deals to the universe as possible, but if the value isn’t communicated, the message won’t register.

I love seeing bloggers succeed. I love seeing bloggers find their passions, build visions for their platforms and accomplish their desires. I love seeing bloggers selling their personal goods and services because I believe in the power of the entrepreneurial spirit. That being said, nothing pisses me off more than seeing “50% off! Today only!” on someone’s platform. 50% off of something that I don’t need is still something that I don’t need.

Instead of focusing on the deals, discounts, flashy pitches and shiny packages, ask yourself how many people need what you’re selling. Ask yourself if they know they need what you’re selling. I want you to make sales, so I want you to remember that 50% off of something they don’t need is still something they don’t need.

Can your poetry help anxiety sufferers? Can your graphic design help with Pinterest metrics? Can your book instill a sense of wonder and adventure within readers? Can your consulting help someone find their passions, financial freedom and hope for the future?

If you’re selling on your blog already, I strongly encourage you to reassess your sales tactics. Even if you’ve made sales, there’s always room for improvement. And, if you’re not selling yet but you’re considering it, I strongly encourage you to asses what values you can provide with the products or services you’re looking to sell. Quite often people aren’t even aware of the problems they have. They aren’t aware of the solutions that could be available to them because they’re so used to living with what is instead of what could be.

Show your audience what could be. Make those sales matter. It’s more than just money. It’s people. It’s passion. It’s relationships. It’s entrepreneurial spirit that knows your value and provides it through your offerings. Discounts don’t matter. Solutions do.

Spending money on your blog

Between Pinterest, YouTube, Medium, Twitter, Instagram and WordPress, there are infinite sources on the internet that will convince you large investments need to be made into your blog in order for it to be successful.

This is simply not the case.

If you want to spend money on your blog, and have the money to spend money on your blog, have at’er. But, if money is tight, if you have to watch your expenses, if you’re not independently wealthy, you do not need to spend large sums of money to run a successful blog.

From a personal standpoint, in the past year and a half that I have been running this blog, I have spent $120. That $120 spent is solely on the fee for having a Personal WordPress account. I consider that a worthwhile investment because I wanted the millenniallifecrisis.org URL. For what I desired from this blog when I started it, I would consider it to be successful. I’ve met tons of incredible people, I’ve shared stories, had stories shared with me. It’s been a very valuable resources for me. All that being said, some people want more from their platform. I completely understand that.

If you’re someone who wants more from your platform, if you’re someone who wants to start a business with your blog or wants to start earning income from your blog, I would strongly encourage you to do your research. I’d also encourage you to proceed with caution and understand that you need to walk before you can run. And, depending on how fresh and new your blog might be, you need to learn to crawl before you can walk.

In the past year and a half I’ve seen some really incredible writers invest hundreds, if not thousands of dollars into their blogs only to quit when they didn’t get the response they wanted. Not only is their potential wasted when they quit but that money they’ve invested into having a business WordPress account is wasted. The hundreds of dollars spent on Pinterest ads, the hundreds of dollars spent on Instagram ads, all for nothing.

The biggest mistake that I see people making is that they want to direct as many people as possible to their blog without having a plan in place to keep people interested, to keep people reading and to keep people coming back. They sign up for a blogging network to grow their blog and they don’t know what they want to grow their blog into.

You have to have a plan. A vision of where you want to take your blog and an establish process of how you intend to accomplish that vision. Don’t just throw money at people or platforms and expect your follower count to grow. I can tell you with 100% certainty that if you start throwing your money around, people will always take it. If you don’t have a plan, however, throwing that money around won’t do you any good.

I guess, what I’m really trying to say is, whether you’re rich or not, be smart about investing your money. Money is still money, no matter how much of it is in your bank account. You work hard for that money, so spend it wisely. Blindly charging Instagram ads to your credit card is not only poor marketing for your blog, but thoughtless promotion as well. Throwing money at a network without fully understanding what it can or cannot do for your will only leave you frustrated and feeling helpless.

I don’t want to see you quit.

I don’t want to see anyone quit.

Blogging brings a certain catharsis that everyone deserves. If you’re struggling to find your way in the blogging world and seeking more from your platform, I would strongly encourage you to

  1. Build a vision for your blog
  2. Then, and only then, do a lot of research about different options for promotion, marketing and growth investments.
  3. Get a second and third opinion from someone you trust, or from an unbiased source. If you ever need or want advice from me, I’d be more than happy to make suggestions and provide any help that I can. I’m not an expert, but I am an unbiased opinion.
  4. Then, and only then, make a worthwhile investment that you feel will benefit your platform.

You work hard for your money. Use it wisely. I don’t want to see you quit because you’re not getting the outcome you hoped for. I don’t want to see anyone quit.

YouTube is the ‘ultimate’ modern day MLM

That’s right, I went there.

Multilevel marketing (MLM) is a strategy that some direct sales companies use to encourage existing distributors to recruit new distributors. In MLM schemes, there can be hundreds or thousands of members worldwide (or in the case of YouTube, Instagram and the likes, millions upon millions), but relatively few earn meaningful incomes from their efforts, indicating a possible pyramid scheme. Multilevel marketing is also referred to as ‘referral marketing’.

The entire premise of multilevel marketing is that people make sales for a company without being actual employees of that company. The ‘consultants’ make a small commission for their work and those higher up at the company will always be the one’s making real money. While companies like LulaRoe, Amway, Mary Kay Cosmetics and Avon might be struggling in a pandemic-ridden 2020 due to the structure and nature of their corporate pyramid, YouTube has been reaping the rewards of their corporate pyramid one-hundred-fold over the past decade.

Before you roll your eyes, hear me out!

Content creators are not employees of YouTube. They’re consultants. They don’t get benefits. They don’t have taxes taken off of the money YouTube pays them. They don’t earn a regular income. They’re paid based on performance. And, if they so like, they can take some of that payment from YouTube and put it directly into the membership costs of belonging to a YouTube network that promises to help them grow their platform. Furthermore, YouTube relies on content creators to bring in new creators and grow the YouTube platform further and bring in more money. In the case of YouTube, content creators are selling advertisements.

Now, let’s compare YouTube to Mary Kay Cosmetics, a widely known MLM. Mary Kay Cosmetics does not hire employees, they instead opt for a company structure that sees consultants making sales for the business, and, bringing in new consultants. Consultants are not paid a regular income, instead they earn based on performance. The more they sell, the more they earn. Mary Kay Cosmetics consultants also have the option to take their earnings and put it towards a network that will allow them to grow their platforms, and (hopefully) in turn sell more makeup.

Sounds familiar, right?

YouTube operates monetization on a sliding scale. Content creators are required to meet certain thresholds with their channel in order to even become monetized in the first place. As an audience grows for a particular content creator, new opportunities open up for them on the platform, such as being able to live-stream, finally earning a portion of the adsense dollars that YouTube is already making from their videos, and eventually even being able to open up their own ‘Membership structure’ for their channel in which people can pay the content creator directly for things like shout outs or sneak peaks. The better you perform, the more chance you have to earn. But also, if you don’t perform at all, it does not hurt the company whatsoever.

Mary Kay also operates their pay structure on a sliding scale. Sales consultants are required to make an initial investment in the company and sell ‘x’ amount of dollars worth of product before they’re able to even earn a profit. Depending on the amount an individual is able to sell, Mary Kay opens the opportunity for said sales consultants to earn bonuses – these can be anything from extra commission to free trips to the chance to drive a pink, branded car. The better that you perform, the more chance that you have to earn. But also, if you don’t perform at all, it does not hurt the company whatsoever.

In both cases, networking is pretty key to finding any sort of moderate success.

Now, wait a minute, wait a minute. The initial investment into a company like Mary Kay Cosmetics is one that you pay directly to the company. What is the initial investment in YouTube?

I’m glad that you asked.

While the initial investment one must make to begin a YouTube channel is not paid directly to the platform itself, you are required to have some form of technology – be it a phone, camera or computer – that allows you to film, edit and post videos to the platform. No, you don’t buy those phones, cameras or computers directly from YouTube. But, what you do give YouTube is your time. And time is valuable. For reference, when you’re just getting started with video editing, it can take as much as thirty hours to edit a single ten minute video. For someone like myself, last year I worked for an economic development firm part-time. The hours weren’t regular, but when I was working, I was earning $20 an hour. If I spent 30 hours on a project, I would earn $600. For a new content creator on YouTube, until they reach 4,000 hours of watch time, 1,000 subscribers or more and compliance with YouTube’s community guidelines, they’re not earning a single cent. That’s 30 free hours of work they’re providing YouTube with, each time they upload a video.

Depending on the content creator, it can take a couple of months before earning monetization, or it can take a few years. This is why hustle culture on YouTube can, at times, be very toxic… which is not unlike the culture among any MLM company on earth. In YouTube, and in Mary Kay Cosmetics, the deck is stacked in favour of the bold, the beautiful and those who are the most ‘commercial friendly’. But, when you’re getting the tips and tricks of the trade from someone in the trenches, they’re not going to tell you that.

Someone with heavy investments into Mary Kay Cosmetics is definitely not going to tell you how hard it is for them to earn an income because they need you to sign up to help boost the income they’re struggling so hard to earn.

Someone with heavy investments (yes we’re counting time and money) into YouTube isn’t going to tell you the cost/value ratio of a single YouTube video because the minute they do, they’re going to lose out on opportunity for earning potential. Yeah, there’s a reason why YouTuber’s don’t comment about how much money they make. The moment they do, YouTube can flag their channel and decrease their earning potential. And, in an industry in which their money isn’t guaranteed, they don’t want to risk earning less if they don’t have to.

In a 2020 world, especially with the ongoing pandemic, marketers and large corporations have realized that there’s a certain je ne sais quoi about having regular folk advertise their products. What better way to do that then to enter every person’s home/life through the technology they already have. Advertisers pay YouTube to be able to run commercial campaigns during videos on the platform. In turn, YouTube promises advertisers that their ‘Consultants’ (Content Creators/Regular Folk) will bring enough people to the platform to bring a valuable return on investment in said advertisement. When you really stop to think about it, this isn’t that far removed from well known MLM companies that do the exact same thing through Instagram and, in a lot of cases, YouTube as well.

Somehow, though, YouTube has morphed itself into a ‘Legal’ pyramid scheme. One where those at the top get richer, and those, even in the upper echelon of the platform, still seek out sponsorships and affiliate codes/links to earn the majority of their income.

YouTube was estimated to earn more than 15 billion dollars in Ad Revenue in 2019. (From Business Insider) Only between 10-30 percent of that revnue is distributed to the content creators who are responsible for earning that income in the first place. That means that between millions of content creators who earned YouTube that 15 billion dollars, high-end estimations of that would suggest they shared 4.5 billion. And that’s being reaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaally generous.

Sure, a portion of 4.5 billion sounds great, right? Let’s say that there was 4.5 billion to go around and approximately one million channels on YouTube to split that among. That’s $4,500… for a year of work. Now take into account that those dollars aren’t being spread evenly. Those who performed better are going to be earning a larger piece of the Adsense pie. Realistically, the dollar amount a content creator could be making from YouTube could be absolutely abysmal compared to a regular nine-to-five job. This is why there are sponsored videos, affiliate links and free giveaways. But that’s a story for another day!

The pandemic has hit this world hard. People who work for companies like Mary Kay Cosmetics can’t just go do what they’ve always done because hosting a ‘Mary Kay Party’ to show off the merchandise isn’t exactly recommended when there’s a deadly disease sweeping the planet. They’ve taken to Instagram and YouTube and made some sponsored content of their own to try and keep their company afloat amidst all that is going on in the world. And, while the blow YouTube might be suffering due to the pandemic isn’t quite as large, they’re hurting too. It’s not easy for companies to produce advertisements for YouTube when their entire staff is/was working from home. For this reason, YouTube has recorded a loss in their second quarter profit earnings from ad revenue. That is also the reason why there are so many more ‘this video is sponsored by’ and ‘this product was gifted from’ videos circulating YouTube. In a work-from-home world, content creators are learning the already low revenue they were earning from adsense is going to be even less in 2020.

What really gets me, though, is when I’m watching a YouTube video and there’s an advertisement for an MLM company or product within the video itself. It’s become a bit like Russian Nesting Dolls… an MLM within an MLM, within an MLM. As the world continues to adapt to circumstances around us, these instances are only going to become more and more prevalent. Especially since YouTube won’t be going anywhere any time soon.

And, because I went ahead and called them the ultimate modern day MLMi in the title, I will add that where struggling MLMs require high investments for you to even test the product, all that is required to test YouTube is technology and boredom. Thus making them a far superior MLM to any other in existence right now.

Your blog layout matters

Imagine that you’re a realtor and you’re trying to sell a house with neon green walls. Sure, the odd house hunter who comes through might really like the colour, but for the majority of customers, seeing neon green all over the walls is going to be something they cannot look past. It can, in a lot of cases, be the deal breaker.

Sure, they might stay. They might finish looking at the house. But they also might just look at the walls and walk out. Neon green walls take work. Not only are you spending a profound amount of money on a home, but you’ll have to put considerable effort and money into repainting the entire home when you move in.

This is why when people are getting ready to sell their homes, most people will paint any bright walls a neutral colour. Neutral colours are easy on the eye. Neutral colours go with all sorts of different furniture. Neutral colours allow a house to feel as though it can be made into a home.

Now, imagine this same notion applies to blogging. If you’re blogging as a hobby and don’t care who, if anyone, ever sees your blog, it’s perfectly awesome to have ‘neon green walls’. But if you’re blogging in hopes of garnering an audience, to gain followers and reach new people, those neon green walls are going to be a deal breaker.

In laymans terms – if you want people to love your blog as much as you do, your layout needs to be neutral. Your layout needs to be one that appeals to the mass population. If people stumble upon a blog that is difficult to navigate, has broken links or empty pages, crazy colours and designs that make scrolling difficult and reading tedious, they’re not going to fall in love with your blog, regardless of how good your content is.

Your blog layout matters.

If you’re seeking blog growth, pretend you’re a realtor. Pretend you’re enticing potential buyers into paying attention to your content. If you want people to notice your blog then you need to give them reason to get beyond the layout to see the content that you share. That is considerably harder if you have the equivalent of neon walls.


Disclaimer: As with all advice that I provide on this blog, please take what you like and leave what you don’t. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to running a great blog, so if you don’t like the advice shared, don’t use it! You know what is best for your blog, these types of posts are merely to lend a helpful suggestion.

Referral Links: What’s the point?

Referral links is a common business practice when a company provides you a link that you can use to share with your friends, family, social media followers, YouTube channel or blog. If your friends, family, social media followers, YouTube subscribers or blog followers use the referral link to make a purchase, they get a discount off of their purchase and you get a credit towards your next purchase with that company.

This is different from affiliate marketing because, with affiliate marketing you make a small commission from someone purchasing a product that you’re advertising. This commission varies depending on the type of product, the following you might have and the amount of people who purchase. It can be as low as a few cents that you get per purchase that someone makes on a product that can cost fifty or sixty dollars. If you save that money up over time, it could turn into a pay cheque of sorts, but unless you have a vast reach across the web, it’s likely only ever going to equal pocket change.

With referral links, the company guarantees that if you sign up one of your friends or family members, one of your blog followers or YouTube subscribers, or someone from social media, the money is given to you in the form of a credit off of your next purchase. The value does not change, and the referral link is only for a certain period of time.

So, Company X will say ‘If you share this link with your friend and they make a purchase, they will get $20 off their purchase and you will get $20 off of your next purchase as a thank you for referring your friend to our company’.

Why referral links are so beneficial? If you’re smart about it, you can share with your blog, social media accounts, friends and family a referral link to a company that you already make purchases from. So, if one of them does make a purchase, then you’re essentially lessening the amount that you’re required to pay the next time that you order that thing or use that service.

Take for instance the company that I purchase my contact lenses from. I’m blind as a bat without some form of glasses or contact lenses so, over the years I have become frequent purchaser of contact lenses from an online distributor. This distributor offers their lenses at anywhere between $20-$50 less a box than if you were to purchase them from your local eye doctor. So you’re already getting a great deal. My contact lenses cost $140 every three months. Now, due to my frequent purchases from said company, the company has recently provided me with a referral code. This referral code is for $20. If someone uses my referral code to purchase contact lenses or glasses for themselves, they will get $20 off of their purchase and I will get a $20 credit for my next purchase. If three people use this referral code, each of them will get $20 off of their purchase and I will get $60 off of my next purchase, making the cost of my next order of contact lenses $80 rather than $140.

It’s a way that companies use their own customers to market their products to new customers. In the case of the company that I purchase contact lenses from, if I were to share my link and have just seven people make a purchase using my link, the next time I went to purchase contact lenses, they would be free.

Sweet deal, right?

There’s inherently more value to someone for choosing to use a referral code rather than trying to use affiliate marketing for their blog. Whilst referral codes might not put money directly in your pocket, they do make the items you use cheaper, thus leaving the money in your bank account that you would otherwise need to spend.

Keep in mind, if I referred even one person to purchase their contact lenses from the same company that I do, that’s $20 that stays in my pocket because I have a credit from the company. A program like Amazon affiliates, depending on the size of your following and how hard/fast you pump out the affiliate links, may take you several months to reach a $20 sum that you can cash out for money in your pocket. So, if you’re already using said service or program anyways, its a worthwhile consideration to see if there’s a referral code available.

Some examples of companies that offer referral codes (in no particular order):

  • Uber
  • HelloFresh
  • Clearly Contacts
  • AirBnB
  • RobinHood Commission Free Investing
  • Rakuten
  • Daily Harvest Meal Prep
  • Grove Collaborative

Some companies, such as Uber, offer a referral code to every single customer who has an account. All you have to do is share this code with your friends to start earning credits towards the next time you need to take an Uber.

Other companies will send out referral codes to customers who are frequent purchasers from their company.

And some companies you can receive a referral code for sharing by contacting their customer service department.

Please note that the value of each referral link will be different as they are all set by each individual company. So, one referral code for a company might have a value of $20 whilst a referral code for another company might only be worth $5. I would highly recommend that if this something you’d like to consider doing, when doing your research on referral codes that you would like to share and use, make sure you don’t just share every referral code you can get your hands on, but that you choose to share the codes that will bring you the most benefit. If you don’t order meal prep then don’t share a referral code for Hello Fresh. If you do take Uber rides frequently, then share that code as far as your reach can reach.

I would also like to add and important point here in that Referral Codes are different from Discount Codes. Discount codes are those which a company creates to give to an influencer to determine their reach. The company keeps track of how many people use that influencer’s code to determine the value of working with that influencer for future projects. And, in turn, the influencer gets a small commission off someone using that code (usually a percentage of what overall purchases were made with said code). So, providing discount codes is essentially another form of affiliate marketing.

Referral codes are for anyone who uses that business or service. Whether you’re an influencer or not, whether you have ten followers on social medial or a million, you can have a referral code. Because the company banks off the fact that you’ll promote to more people than they’ll have to give company credits for, it’s largely free promotion for them. Also, a lot of people never take advantage of the credits earned. Which in turn makes the referral program even more valuable for a company.

If you use it properly though, stick to the referral links that are most valuable to you, you can purchase items that you need for free.

Considering referral codes? Do your research. Find out of there are companies that you shop with online, or through apps like Uber, that you can get referral codes from to start saving you money off future purchases. Stick to only companies that you use and make an effort to share that code as far and as wide as possible.

Personally, I haven’t seen too many bloggers use Referral Codes as a means of monetizing their blogs. But if done properly, it is a smart way to monetize your blog. If you have any questions about referral codes, leave them in the comments section below.


Lastly, for self promotional purposes, if you purchase your glasses or contact lenses online and live within Canada, The USA, Australia or New Zealand, you can use my referral code. In the case of “Clearly” (also known as “Clearly Contacts and Glasses”, it’s a referral link.

CLICK HERE TO USE MY REFERRAL LINK >

If you use my referral link to purchase your next pair of glasses or order of contact lenses, you will get $20 off your purchase and I will get a $20 credit that will go towards my next order of contact lenses.

If you’ve never heard of this company before but order your glasses or contact lenses online, have a poke around their website and see their prices. You might be surprised. They’re very competitively priced and base shipping largely takes only 2-3 days… even with the ongoing pandemic. Their website can be found here >

Who knows, you might like them and want to start ordering from them and ask the company for a referral code of your own if you’re blind as a bat like I am.

If you purchase glasses or contact lenses online and haven’t been getting much out of it CLICK HERE TO USE MY REFERRAL LINK > or seek out to get your own referral link from this company.