This guest post is by Danny Iny of Firepole Marketing.
Our blog is less than a year old.
We started Firepole Marketing less than a year ago, and we’ve done pretty well with it over that time. A lot of people know who we are, and what we do.
I’ve even been dubbed the Freddy Krueger of Blogging.
And while we’re not at the scale of a major site like Copyblogger, we still do pretty well, to the point that we make a decent amount of money online, and occasionally even help others to do the same.We aren’t the only ones to have done that, and I remember that a year ago, when I saw others make the same sort of claim, I always wanted more information. I wanted to know how much money they were really making, and where that money was coming from.
All right then, I’ll tell you…
Where did we start? Where did the money come from?
Let me start with a bit of the back-story—who we are, and where we came from.
I’ve been an entrepreneur for longer than my adult life. I quit school when I was 15 to start my first business, and I’ve been doing it ever since.
For the last several years, in parallel with my various entrepreneurial ventures (some of which were successful, and some of which were less so), my regular income was earned by consulting for small businesses, usually in the zero-to-ten employee range. Sometimes I would get involved in an advisory capacity, and sometimes they would bring me in for something very specific (i.e. they need a new website)—either way, I would end up helping them make more money by tuning up their marketing and business strategy.
My partner Peter is a marketing and business coach, with similar expertise. We connected on the networking circuit, and while comparing notes over coffee, we agreed that while there were lots of businesses in our target market that were doing well enough to afford our services, there were also a lot of businesses that really needed help, but hardly had any money. We both gave away a lot of free coaching and advice, but that could only go so far.
So we decided to create our training program—that was the birth of Firepole Marketing.
That was more than two years ago. Fast-forward to last year, and the program was done—now we needed to get the word out about it, and that’s when we turned to blogging.
Obviously, my income started out completely offline. I had grown my consultancy to a six-figure business before we ever launched Firepole Marketing.
I think that’s pretty normal—very few people start their careers online, so it makes sense that you would start your transition into the online world still making money from offline opportunities.
Then we launched our product and blog, and half-expected the sales to start rolling in…
Disappointments and False Starts
Almost immediately after launching the blog, we announced it to our (small) lists, and did a small product launch. This was in the very beginning of 2010.
It flopped miserably.
We didn’t make any money at all from that launch, and in hindsight, it wasn’t hard to see why.
Nobody knew who we were, and our audience was very small (less than a hundred people on our list).
So who were we launching our product to?
It was after that false start that we realized we need to focus on building an engaged audience first, and then worrying about product sales later.
- get my name out in front of as many targeted people as I could
- consistently offer as much value as I could, so that if people remembered me, they would remember me in a positive light.
And it started working. I built real relationships with lots of other bloggers, our traffic numbers grew, and we started seeing some really interesting discussion and debate on some of our posts. In less than a year, our Alexa ranking dropped from over a million to just about 85,000, where it hovers today.
And we figured that as the traffic numbers increased, we’d start seeing more people buy our training program. But we were wrong…
Next: Online Feeding Offline
We did start seeing product sales, but not as many as had hoped, and not as soon as we would have liked.
That was fine, though, because it turned out that there were a much more lucrative income opportunities that literally found us.
Those opportunities were offline opportunities … sort of.
It turned out that a whole bunch of people in our networks—some of whom we hadn’t spoken to in years—were reading our blog, and following our growth online. They were impressed, and started contacting us out of the blue, to engage our coaching and consulting services.
Once we noticed the trend, we put out a few feelers to our list (which had a couple hundred people on it by this point), asking if anyone was interested in working with us on a one-on-one basis.
More than a few people said yes, and working with us on a one-on-one basis isn’t cheap!
In other words, before we even started making product sales, we had generated something like $10,000 in extra revenues from new clients that found us through the blog.
But it didn’t stop there.
Product Sales and More Clients…
Eventually, people started buying our training program.
It was just a trickle at first—after all, this is a $900 training program, not a $17 e-book!
But people were buying, culminating in a big chunk of publicity that we got at the end of August, when we took the program off the market.
All in all, we’ve probably made another $10,000 or so from product sales, and we expect that number to grow dramatically each time we open the program to new students, which will probably happen once or twice per year (that way, we can focus on building our audience in between).
And in between launches, we get new coaching and consulting clients, which will realistically continue to make up the majority of the income that we earn online—at least for the next year or so.
So, how can you do the same?
Are you wondering whether you can do exactly what we did, and get the exact same results?
The answer is that no, you probably can’t.
I could tell you what’s worked for us—but that probably won’t be very helpful, because we’re different people with different strengths, we’ve had different experiences, and we’re in different circumstances.
What you really need is some hard data about what seems to be working, across the board.
Everybody talks about making some money locally and some money online, but there’s no hard data about what results large numbers of people are seeing, and how long it’s taking them to get there.
We wanted to change all that, so we created the Semi-Local Business Survey.
The survey will ask you how much of your income is generated locally, how much is generated remotely, and how you came to be where you are today.
Your answers are completely anonymous, and will be added to the answers of many others, so that we can see what the real trends in the industry are.
There’s no offer here, and nothing for sale—we just want to gather the data and share it with the community.
So please, take a few minutes and complete the survey!
Danny Iny (@DannyIny) is an author, strategist, serial entrepreneur, and proud co-founder of Firepole Marketing, the program that turns non-marketers into expert marketers. He wants to know where entrepreneurs, freelancers and small businesses are really making their money – help out by completing the Semi-Local Business Survey today!