We've talked a lot about curation here on the 7-Figure Small podcast. It's a smart, forward-thinking strategy for building an audience, and it is leading to success for many people who do it right.
But it's important to remember that we are not advocating curation for curation's sake. Curation is a means to an end, not the end in an of itself.
And in this week's episode, we lay out of the path for how a strategy of building an email audience through curation is the vessel through which you create the environment that can lead to success in building a 7-figure small business. We discuss what that environment consists of, the steps curation helps you take on your way there, and how to figure it all out by leveraging other people's content.
The end result is the 7-figure small business that fits your goals and lifestyle. This is the path.
Most importantly, we provide a call to action for anyone who is interested in taking the next step putting this strategy to work for themselves. The URL you need to know is nextlevel7.com, which will give you access to a free email course that goes into more detail than we have time for here.
So listen to this week's episode, then take the next steps at Next Level 7. This is how you move methodically toward building the 7-figure small business you've been dreaming about.
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How to Create the Environment for 7-Figure Small Success
Jerod Morris: Welcome to 7-Figure Small, the podcast that brings you the stories and strategies that are driving the growing number of solo businesses achieving 7-figures in revenue, without investors or employees. Here are your hosts for this edition of 7-Figure Small — serial digital entrepreneur, Brian Clark, and me, Jerod Morris.
All right, Brian, we are both back. I am back able to speak again, which I wasn't there for a while. And you're back from a trip, not quarantined and supposedly healthy — knock on wood —which is a good thing, considering what's going on out there these days.
Brian Clark: Yeah, number one, I'm not in the same room with you, Mr. Strep Throat.
Jerod Morris: Nor should anybody be, still probably.
Brian Clark: I don't want to joke about that, because I know you were really sick last week, which is really uncool that I was in Hawaii. It was in the back of my mind that Honolulu is one of 11 airports that accepts people from China, but it's all quarantined. It's probably safer than your average airport just because of the precautions they take.
But if you read the article in The Atlantic, odds are a lot of us are going to get this. Hopefully, the mortality rate stays low. I mean, obviously, a lot more people so far have died from this year's flu season. But still, I know people are kind of panicky about it and it's just one of those things that you're never quite prepared for. And it seems, from what I understand, we're not really prepared for it at all, which is kind of scary.
So hopefully we all stay healthy, everyone out there as well.
Jerod Morris: Yeah, I think the best line I heard about it was, “Don't panic, but be prepared.”
Brian Clark: Yeah, absolutely. I've been paying attention to it for weeks, just kind of seeing where's this thing going to go. It may just become something that shows up every year until a vaccine can be developed. Luckily, they're already starting that, and there are some candidates, but it takes a year.
So, we’ve got to definitely ride through this time. But anyway, I'm glad you're feeling better. Take care of yourself. And hopefully you don't get the next wave.
Jerod Morris: Yeah, hopefully, hopefully. Well, there's really probably no great segue to go from talking about the Coronavirus to talking about curation and building a good business. Hopefully, everybody out there is creating the right environment for their health. We're going to talk about today creating the right environment for building a 7-Figure Small business, a successful 7-Figure Small business, Brian.
I guess let's just jump right into it. What is the environment?
Next Level 7
Brian Clark: Well, let me stop you. I do want to just give some information. Obviously, I want everyone to listen through. We're going to try to keep you on the edge of your seat throughout this episode with some good stuff.
But we also have something cool and free for you. It's a free audio course. We're going to talk about it more at the end. But if, for some reason, you get interrupted — the dog starts barking, you have to chase the UPS guy, I don't know, something might happen — take your earbuds first.
But write this down, just so you'll have it and you'll know to go here and check this out. This is a free audio course that we have created for you. It's called Next Level 7. And it really explores some of the concepts we're going to talk about in today's episode, but of course, in a much more elaborate fashion over the course of several days.
So to get to that, write this down — Nextlevelseven.com. Now, Jerod, the question on everyone's mind right now is how do you spell that?
Jerod Morris: That's true. I think you can spell it either with the numeral or with the letters, right?
Brian Clark: That is correct.
Jerod Morris: Look at that.
Brian Clark: If you want to say “nextlevel7.com,” knock yourself out. If you want to get a little more formal and say “nextlevelseven.com,” you can do that as well. The only thing you can't do is misspell one of those words — nextlevelseven.com. That's kind of difficult. Not dot co, we got the official dot com.
Jerod Morris: That's right.
Brian Clark: We're old school that way. Anyway, write that down. That's where you'll go to get this free audio course. We'll talk more about it at the end, but just in case something intervenes, I wanted to make sure you had that.
All right, now let's proceed.
What Is the Environment?
Jerod Morris: Thank you for doing that and saving me from that very awkward segue that I was trying to shoehorn in here. So let's talk about it. What is the environment?
Brian Clark: Well, I guess we could say, “Audience is the environment,” and that is certainly correct. Another way to put it is to say, “Email is the environment.” But really, I'd have to say, “Email is the vessel,” and a very powerful one at that. You supply the environment by building the audience, which produces information about that audience. And the combination of audience and email is just more powerful, I think, than most people really understand.
I mean, we know that email is still the highest converting sales channel. So, of course, you want an email list when it comes time to promote what it is that you're going to sell. But when we're starting up one of these 7-figure small businesses, often we don't have anything to sell. We're relying on the audience to tell us.
The great thing about email is also that it's the highest data collection channel. In other words, by adding audience in to your email software, you are able to glean more insight about them, including what it is that they need you to either create for them or to promote on an affiliate basis or whatever the case may be. That's how you figure out what it is.
When we talk about something like email segmentation, it shouldn't be a frightening concept. It's become crucial. But think about it this way — it's really structuring all that audience knowledge that you're gleaning from interacting with them.
Of course, segmentation is a way to speak differently to different members of your audience. And that's absolutely crucial. That's important, because what good is it if you can't speak individually or in small groups to people based on things that you know they are different than the commonalities of the broader audience?
But even beyond that, it's just a way to get your head around, “What does it look like? What do they really look like?” You can glance over tags and segments and whatnot inside whatever software you're using, whether it be ConvertKit, something else. And right there, you have a visual representation. Some people like to take it to spreadsheets and do pie graphs and all this kind of stuff. I get a good feel from it just from looking at how things break down according to different segments and interests.
Jerod Morris: This is really important, because I think it's easy to maybe get the misconception with what we've been talking about, what we've been teaching with email curation, that it's about the email curation. But really, the email curation is a vehicle for something bigger. It's a vehicle for building a business, as we've talked about.
I feel like that's a little bit of a misconception. The curation isn't an end of itself — it's a path to get someplace bigger, which is kind of what you're getting at here.
Brian Clark: Yeah, in that sense, curation is a tool the way original content is a tool. We've talked about it before — if you could build an audience without creating content or without delivering content, I suppose you would. You just have this audience that loves you and you sell them things and everyone's happy. Well, if you figure out how to do that, let me know, because that would be wonderful.
But generally, you need the catalyst to attract the audience and to engage the audience. That can be original content, but it can also be other people's content. We're going to talk about that a little bit later in the episode. But, first of all, we have to figure out what kind of audience do we want in the first place.
Step 1: Who do you Want to Serve?
Jerod Morris: Yeah. And so, as we look at how to create this environment for 7-Figure Small success, we talk about the big picture of the environment. Now let's kind of go through it step by step for how you actually do that.
And so step one is, as you just alluded to, as you just said, who do you want to serve?
Brian Clark: Yeah, I think people see audience as their holy grail, and it is, or at least it's the vessel by which everything flows out of that. So it is hugely important, but the right audience is more important than audience. I'm a big proponent of intentionally attracting the audience you want. And that, by definition, means excluding the type of audience that you don't want.
This make sense to people on a rational level. And yet, at an emotional level, they have the impulse never to say anything that might send someone headed in the other direction. And I'm like, “No, you can't do that.” That whitewashed, don't offend anyone type content or tone or voice, however you want to talk about it, it doesn't work.
I honestly believe this is why so many people struggle to build any kind of a valuable audience is they're not really standing for anything. They're not saying anything to anyone in particular, and therefore, they're not resonating with anyone in particular.
So you start out topically. I mean, you choose a topic. Right there, that's going to exclude some people and those are the people who are not interested in that topic. So okay, right there, get comfortable with that exclusion. I have no interest in Indiana basketball. I'm sorry, Jerod, but I'm just not your ideal audience prospect. And you're okay with that, because you don't want me going, “Hey, you guys suck. Talk about the Rockets or the Nuggets.”
Jerod Morris: That'd be a very strange response to one of our shows.
Brian Clark: That would just really not go over well at all at Assembly Call.
Right there, topic is one. But you really have to go much deeper than that, because whatever profitable topic you can think of out there, there's a ton of competition. So how are you going to differentiate yourself?
Well, you do that by finding people that you want to serve according to: what are their core values? Are they similar to what you believe in? How do they view the world? It's really easier if you can share your own worldview, therefore, attracting similar people and sending other people off on their way.
When we're coaching people, we spend a lot of time on the process for developing exactly who do you want to serve, by choosing who you want to serve, and then attracting them. It's something that we have to focus on that much, because I think there is this tendency to not want to exclude anyone. And yet, exclusion is the essence of building the right audience.
Step 2: What Do People Do?
Jerod Morris: So step one is who do you want to serve? Now you sent me this quote, it's a quote from Andrew Carnegie. And it is, “Judge a man by his actions and the truth will make itself known to you.” How does that lead us into step two?
Brian Clark: Yeah, that's such a great quote. Now, it's such a common sentiment — actions speak louder than words. I was actually searching for, I think it was one of the stoics who had said something like, “Don't listen to what a man says. Watch what he does.” And instead, I found that quote and I was like, “Oh, that's cool,” because I like the use of the word “truth.”
Because really, once you've chosen who you want to serve and you've kind of narrowed down the universe of people who are going to come to you, and they're resonating with you based on those core values and worldviews, you still need to find out more particulars about them.
Generally, I would say over the last five years to a decade, the mantra was, “Well, you've got an audience, ask them. Ask them what you want to know.” And I'm not opposed to that. Even though we built an 8-figure business without ever doing a survey. I mean, it still blows people's minds.
But I'm a big proponent of the sentiment expressed in that quote. I want to see what people do more than I want to hear what they say, because sometimes people tell you what you want to hear. Sometimes you ask a question in the wrong way and you skew the response.
Now again, I have nothing against surveying, and we do include this in our process for understanding our audience better. It's invaluable, but it's one tool in the toolbox. The one that you can use week after week and is the most unobtrusive and doesn't require anyone to do anything other than what they want to do, is how they interact with the email that you're sending them.
You've got open rates. Right away, you can tell, “Hey, this subject line is topical, but it's also a form of communication.” You can split test headlines and all that. But without even getting complicated, some topics resonate stronger than others. That's valuable information based on action, behavior.
Next up, you've got click rates overall for the content within the newsletter. I'm a big proponent of sending people elsewhere instead of publishing 100% within the email. Just because someone opens an email doesn't mean they read it. In fact, I open every email I get just to delete them. 90% of them.
So I keep getting on these people's follow-up autoresponder, because I opened it. That just means I wanted to look at it before I deleted it. It did not mean I was interested whatsoever. Anyway, click data is much more telling. It's a behavior that shows interest.
The essence of this is yes, any sort of information — demographic, surveys, “Just hit reply to this email and tell me what you think” kind of feedback — all of it is part of the toolbox. But behavioral leads to the truth, because it is truly just unprompted, unscripted.
It’s also why I like social media listening so much, which is the conversations that are happening out there. Not because you asked anyone anything, it's just people talking to each other. And to me, that's more honest and raw and unfiltered.
So judge by actions first and foremost, and you'll find the truth. But you can combine that in with other forms of information such as surveys and demographic information.
Speaking of demographics, I like to use demographics as part of my audience limiting factors in step one. Think about Further. It's aimed at people who are 40 – 53 by definition of Generation X or midlife, whatever you want to call it. So that's a way of choosing who you want to serve through demographics as opposed to later going, “What age bracket are you in?” At that point, it seems less useful to me.
Step 3: What Do They Want to Buy?
Jerod Morris: We're trying to uncover this truth — what people care about, what they're interested in, what problems they have — all so that we can move on to step three, which is figuring out: what do they want to buy? Which is a place that everybody wants to get to as quickly as possible, but it's important not to rush to this spot, right?
Brian Clark: Yeah. All of this audience building and serving and paying attention to them is all about patiently acquiring a hypothesis that has a high percentage chance of being correct. That's what audience-first product development is. Because I'll go into any topic, any niche, anything like that with general ideas, because I'll know what the competitive landscape is like just doing my own research. I know what people are selling out there, so I can't help but have ideas or unfounded hypotheses about what this audience wants to buy until they tell me otherwise.
That's why we've been really successful at developing products that succeed, because you can't rush it. Everything flows from how well you know the audience. You've got to do that work first, but realize you're building the most important asset of your business through the process of building and understanding that audience.
So it's not something to cry about. It's a very important exercise in order to get that audience. Through the process of segmentation and behavioral observation, surveying, everything else that we can find out about them, we're getting indications, we're seeing patterns of, “Hey, maybe that thing I thought of first isn't the best path to a successful product. But, holy cow, they just revealed something to me that opened up a whole new realm of product possibilities.”
Step 4: What You Say is More Important than How You Say It
Jerod Morris: So as we move on to step four here, you have another quote from the great David Ogilvy: “What you say is more important than how you say it.”
Brian Clark: Yeah, I love that quote because every copywriter in the world just flinches when they hear it. They're like, “What? What?” If it weren't Ogilvy saying it, they might not accept it, but it's true.
I mean, come on, out of the three fundamentals that we talk about — audience, offer and copy — copy is fundamental, but it's the least of the three. Because if you sell the wrong thing or if you're speaking to the audience, you're just saying the wrong what to begin with. You can't fix that, no matter how artfully you say it. You're either alienating them or you're trying to sell them something they don't want.
So the “what” is more important than the “how.” But every time I say that, people go, “So wait, why are we creating content?” or “Why are we learning copywriting?” It's still fundamental. You have to have it.
But what you say is more important than how you say it. That's why audience and offer, which is what do they want to buy, are the things that we focus on first and foremost.
I like to think of copy as a form of optimization. Now let me explain that so people don't get the wrong idea. If you don't have basic benefit-driven copy that reflects back to your audience, what they're telling you matters to them, then you're going to fail. That's just baseline copywriting.
What I'm saying is, beyond that, once you've got audience, once you've got the thing they want to buy, the right offer, then you can play around with split testing your headlines and running a control sales page against another sales page. Before that though, you're really not spending your time on the right thing yet.
So you know how you say things, the kind of messages that you send, the different approaches to copy, it's optimization — it's next level type stuff. Hey, it reminds me of that Next Level 7 thing we're going to talk about.
But it's next after the first two fundamentals, which are generally if you follow an 80/20 — audience is 40, offer is 40, and copy would be 20. It doesn't mean it's not essential. It just means you have to do the first two first.
Putting It All Together
Jerod Morris: We started out talking about how email is the vessel and it's going to help us go through these four steps: figuring out who do we want to serve, what can we find out about them, what do they want to buy, how do they respond. Now, how do we tie this all together? How do we figure this out?
Brian Clark: Yeah, I mean, what I'm trying to get across to people is I haven't once said “Create content” in any of this, right?
Jerod Morris: Nope.
Brian Clark: I've told you that you need to build an audience, you have to figure out what they want to buy, and then you ultimately have to find the optimal way to communicate with them.
Now, we need a value proposition to get the audience in the first place, which brings us back to content. But it's of my current opinion that people are spending way too much time creating content and not near enough time figuring out the important things: Who are my audience members, really? What do they want to buy and how do they like to be spoken to?
We just kind of breeze through this process, but it takes focused attention in order to figure these things out. And that's what you should be spending your time on.
The great thing about this is I'm finding that the value proposition of curation — meaning, “I'll find you the best content from wherever within this topic. Not just what I happen to write that week” — builds the audience faster.
And number two, just think of the data environment that you're creating when you can choose the best stuff each week and then see what people like the most. So if it takes you three hours to write a really great article, that's three hours you're not spending on figuring out the other stuff.
Now let's say you need an article every day. Quickly, we're up to quite a bit of your work week spent creating content. But you can glean the same information from finding five bad-ass articles or whatever — podcasts, videos, whatever the case may be — for your audience and still get the data that you need — open rates, click through rates, individual item clicks, all of that kind of stuff.
You can still say, “Hit reply to this email and tell me what you think of this issue.” You can still send out a survey. I mean, you've got the environment right there, and it doesn't really matter if it's original content or if it's someone else's.
The irony is it's easier with other people's content, and these days that's a value proposition that people are actually looking for over, “Get my blog post for the week.” It's just not as compelling. So that's my model after 20 years of original content creation.
It doesn't mean you don't create content. You do when you know you have to. A lot of times that'll be something like premium content that works as a lead magnet, which also sets the stage for your other objectives. Or it could be content upgrades. From looking at all this data that you're accumulating about what people respond to, you're able to create very targeted, very good content that furthers your aims.
But you have less of that content treadmill type thing where it's the weekend and you're like, “What am I going to write about this week?” You should never ask yourself, “What am I going to write about this week?” You either know it or you don't need to create it, odds are.
What Is the Next Step?
Jerod Morris: Hm, well said. So what is the next step for someone who's listening to this, they're intrigued by this, they believe in this and they want to learn more about it and take the next step?
Brian Clark: Okay, yes, you have that URL already, but we're going to repeat it. This is an audio course. What did we end up with? Six parts.
Jerod Morris: Six.
Brian Clark: Yeah. It's basically a drill down on some of the stuff that we've touched on today. Again, that is Next Level Seven. That could be either the numeral 7 or the word seven spelled out, Nextlevel7.com. Head over there, get a little bit of copy about what the course is about and what you're going to learn.
But yeah, just basically at that point, you can sign up for it. Obviously, we'll be hearing from many of you over the coming weeks. Whenever we do something a little bit new, we're very interested in hearing what you have to say about it. So we'll probably be revisiting this over the next few episodes and what have you.
But yeah, next step is Nextlevel7.com. The name is really alluding to the fact that there is a process to follow on your way to 7-Figure Small success, whether your goals are actually to hit that kind of revenue. Again, it's structuring an audience-first business that gives you the freedom to emphasize whatever it is you want — your lifestyle, your income, both, what have you.
The next step for you is to check out this audio course and find out how this incremental process gets you there one step at a time.
Jerod Morris: And heck, maybe with all of this pandemic talk, maybe this is the right time to stay inside and enjoy an email course.
Brian Clark: Exactly. This is very much indoor listening. You do not have to take it on the bus or anywhere in public.
Jerod Morris: The time is right. Nextlevelseven.com, go there and Brian will be back next week with another brand new episode of the 7-Figure Small podcast.
Brian Clark: Absolutely. Thanks for listening, everyone.