Playing Offense

Playing Offense: A mental model for stressed out founders

6:24am: You wake up to a client’s slack message: “We need to talk” 
You: Sh*t 💩

8:45am: Forbes wants you to guest post. 
You: Alight! 🎉

10:17am: Your rockstar analyst walks into your office and starts crying. 
You: Wait, do I have tissues? 😭

Noon: A notable VC emails about doing a webinar. 
You: Yes! 😀

1:00pm: Your new Sales Director drops the ball (again) on a big prospect.   You: WTF. 😡

3:10: Your junior designer’s mockups aren’t horrible. 
You: Helleluha. 🙏🏻

6:38: You check Quickbooks and see $45k in outstanding invoices from clients. 
You: Breath slowly.  💸

8:52pm: Your wife asks: “So how was your day?”
You: . . .  🙃

How do you even begin to answer this question?

Do you go positive? Negative? Both?

More importantly, how do you control your state of mind?  Especially on those days when the sky is falling.

I have had two near-death experiences with my company.

  • 2017: A client walked out on $40k of outstanding invoices (after we did all the work)
  • 2019: A key leader was forced to leave because of health reasons . . . after we closed our biggest account he was to manage.

But, in those times it’s important to control your focus and your energy.  

PLAYING OFFENSE: a Mental Model for Founders

So what to do on those days when the sky is falling as a founder?

When times get tough I change my mindset to be proactive rather than reactive.  While bad things happen to you, you still control your actions and your perspective. 

I start playing offense.  

Iverson vs. Jordan – The Crossover against the GOAT

I list out all the momentum we have at the company.  Then I identify the positive things I can control.  Examples include:

“We have 5 contracts out to leads worth over $50k.”
Action: Send email follow-ups.

“We have 6 speaking gigs lined up in Q2.”
Action: Schedule social promotions for the talks.

“We’ve doubled growth and haven’t even started marketing yet.”
Action: Create SOPs for how to run your content distribution strategy.

“Three clients just told us how happy they were to be working with us.”
Action: Ask them for testimonials. 

This simple exercise immediately changes my mindset from thinking “oh no, this is so hard.” to “Damn we’re so close to taking off.”  It also removes me from the day to day and puts me in a strategic mindset.

It doesn’t guarantee things will get better but it shifts my focus to being proactive rather than reactive.  And to focus on the high impact items that can help us grow.

I constantly see people quit on their companies too early.  Sometimes it’s justified but other times it’s because they focused on the negative that comes with the chaos of running a business.  The truth is they were a few steps away from turning the corner and really growing.

So the next time you get beat up as a business owner or you’re facing a near-death experience. Ask yourself how you can play offense.

It might be the mindset shift you need to get to the next level.

Why I’m Launching a Content Site

Recently, I announced the launch of our new content platform: FunnelTeardowns

Some people went bananas 🍌. Some people asked why would we invest our agency’s time on this instead of other growth initiatives.

Here are my thoughts.

Wait, Why Would a Growth Agency Launch a Content Site? 

“In a world with unlimited competition for attention, you must find a way to deliver value to your customer before they ever make it to your product pitch.”

Someone Really Smart

What does this mean for most companies? At the end of the day, all businesses will be media companies

If that’s true then the real question is this: what type of programming do you want to make for your “media” company?

  • Print newspapers?
  • Write blog posts?
  • Weekly posts on Twitter and Facebook Produce YouTube videos?
  • Short-form clips on TikTok?

Are You Running a Half-Assed Content Strategy?

The unintentional answer that most brands make is what I call the Half-Assed Content Strategy (HACS) of the internet. 
What does a half-assed content strategy (HACS) look like?  Here is the exact recipe: 

  • Spend very little time thinking of content to post and eventually delegate that task to an intern 
  • Post the same half-assed content on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin 
  • Promise to write a weekly blog post but never meet a deadline
  • Last, send a weekly email newsletter about the same things you tweeted about that morning . . . but with the occasional emoji in the subject line.

I know the half-assed content strategy (HACS) because I have been practicing it for years.  Yes, you can get some nice little benefits from the HACS but you’re not going to grow significantly.

Oh, and while you’re half-assing your content every channel you’re on is getting more competitive and oversaturated.

So what’s your move?  How do you go from half-ass to whole-ass . . . or something like that.  

You pick one thing and you do it better than anyone else on the web.

We’re making a bet that it’s about doing less of everything and more of that one thing that makes you unique and special.  What can you own?  What can you do differently?  Here is our answer.

We’ve decided that our media programming is an entirely new site called Funnel Teardowns.  Here we’re breaking down the top marketing funnels of the year for vc-backed b2c and b2b brands.  We love case studies but we have issues finding them for up and coming brands that are truly the most innovative.  That’s why we’re creating this.

  • It’s the onboarding strategy of Peloton.
  • The retention plan from Curology.
  • Glossier’s $3B sales funnel.

These are 40+ page slides and YouTube videos breaking down everything you need to know from the most innovative brands.  We want to be the go-to place for marketing funnel case studies.

Full disclosure: this wasn’t my idea.

I stumbled upon the creator of FunnelTeardowns and was blown away by the concept.  So much so that I tossed him on our exec board.  His name is Yonathan Ayenew and he is now the GrowthHit COO.  Watch out because he is about to blow up like a Lizzo single on Labor Day Weekend.

Please check out FunnelTeardowns and let me know your thoughts. 

We’ll see if this bet pays off but we’re extremely excited to do something that feels different from all the noise that is out there. As a bootstrapped founder, it’s about calculated risks as you try to grow the right way.

My 2020 Goals

Here is the process I used for setting my 2020 goals.  It’s inspired by the framework used at Atomic Habits by James Clear.

Here is the breakdown:

  1. Layout the identity you aspire to have in 2020.  
  2. Create the goals that align with that identity. 
  3. Break down the goals into simple habits you can do every single day or week.  

Why this structure?

Big goals are exciting to set but easy to ignore. If I don’t break my goals into small action items then i’ll ignore them because they’re too daunting. Then I get bummed.

And then I’ll eat my emotions in the form of HaloTop ice cream 🍨.

If I can turn these goals into micro habits I can put them into my calendar. Then I might actually do them.  Here is how I did it: 

To start, I broke up my goals into the following categories:

💻 Work
👪 Family
💪 Body & Mind
⛱️ Travel
💸 Finance 
 🙀 Get Out of My Comfort Zone

Before diving in, I took a step back to decide how these goals support the person I want to be.  What is my “identify” if I’m using the Atomic Habits language? Here is what I came up with: 

IDENTITY:

  • A Dad/Husband that is Kind & Patient
  • A CEO that’s Uniquely Strategic
  • A Content Creator that’s Thinks Differently (Not to be confused with innovative)
  • Someone that’s Health Focused
  • Someone that’s Interesting because they’re interested 

Okay, now to the exact goals that I set for 2020.  Here they are by category: 

WORK

  • Hit our MRR financial goal by Q4 2020
  • 3x our 📧email list size
  • Create one piece of content per week
  • Launch one startup out of GrowthHit’s Startup Lab
  • Close LinkedIn as a content partner

FAMILY:

  • West (2): Get her into 1 sport, 1 creative hobby and up on skis b4 she is 4.
  • Wren (10 weeks): get her to stop crying
  • Wife: Bi-weekly date nights, 3 concerts in 2020, 5 family trips, and one killer b-day party

BODY & MIND

  • Pay basketball once per week
  • Eat healthy 6 days / week
  • Read 24 books (2 Per month)
  • Charity event with ALS

TRAVEL

  • Rent house in Europe for 2 weeks 
  • 3 Ski Trips in 2020
  • 2 Beach Trips 
  • 1 family trip on Oregon Coast

FINANCIAL

  • Hit our monthly savings goal
  • 1 rental property
  • Hit college savings goals for our two girls
  • Identify spots for a dream vacation home 🏠 . . . just incase we hit the lottery  

OUT OF COMFORT ZONE*

*These are fun ones and I only need to pick one to do this year.  Ideally, these are things I am bad at, have never done, or make me nervous.

  • Standup comedy
  • Ballroom dancing
  • Build something with my hands so I feel like a damn “man”  
  • Find my go-to Karaoke song

Finally, the most important part.  What are the daily habits I can do that roll up to me actually hitting these goals?  I tried to keep the habits as small and simple as possible.

The habits don’t actually hit the goal but they create the action that leads to me working on the goal. 

Example: Laying out my running shoes every night and setting my alarm at 6am. If I do that there is a very strong chance I go for a jog in the morning.  

HABITS

  1. Write 2 sentences every night before I go to sleep [NIGHT]
  2. Do 1 pushup everyday before I have my coffee [MORNING]
  3. Read 1 page everyday before I end lunch [LUNCH]
  4. Read my goals everyday before I check my email [MORNING]
  5. Put basketball shoes in bag every Friday night and set alarm [SATURDAY]

This doesn’t include all my goals but it includes most of them.  For the rest of them, I put reminders in my calendar and I revisit them every month.

Hope this helps as you look to create your goals for 2020.

A Look Back at My 2019

I’m busy. You’re busy. We always have an excuse to focus on the urgent and ignore the important. My excuses are endless. 

🔥 Client fires. 
📕 Slack attacks.
📧 My endless pursuit for inbox zero.

I rarely pause to reflect on what I have done or NOT done in the past 12 months.  Did I focus on the important?

So here’s my attempt at reflecting on 2019.

GrowthHit Named FORBES Agency Partner 

FORBES named us an agency partner. This doesn’t mean much to me. (It’s just something my Mom can understand!) What I like is that we saw 4 rounds of funding for our clients and our team got bigger and smarter.

GrowthHit hired two executive level hires and two part time contractors. We now have a rockstar senior team that’s positioning GrowthHit to be a leading CRO agency.  I’ve never been more excited about our team and future.

Finally, something my family can understand about what I do.

Highs & Lows of Being a Founder

Running a business is full of surprises.  One minute you’re closing an exciting partnership and the next minute a client loses funding and cannot pay you.  One client will sing your praises. Another client will text you at 3am with life or death emergencies.

The days can be so eventful and extreme that it makes me immune to the high highs and the low lows of owning a business.  Sometimes I feel brilliant and other times I feel like a complete moron.  

It’s hard for people to really understand the ups and downs unless they know the pressure of managing payroll and keeping a business moving forward despite your own uncertainty.  

It’s damn challenging but extremely fulfilling. 

31 Speaking Engagements in 2019

Speaking took me every where from San Francisco for a workshop with Sephora to Peoria, IL for a talk at Caterpillar.  This year I landed my first international speaking gig in … Cancun, Mexico #Tequila.  The ANA named me one of the top 3 speakers.  I love teaching but I hate being away from my family and living in airports. It’s a tough balance.

The Growth Marketer’s Playbook Turns 1

In 2018, I wrote The Growth Marketer’s Playbook and it got to #1 on Amazon for 72 glorious hours. A year later I am still seeing momentum and the book continues to open more doors than I realized. From bigger clients at GrowthHit to getting an AMA with GrowthHackers. I (finally) think it was worth the two years it took to write it.

Launched Funnel Teardowns

Funnel Teardowns is a content site that dissects the hottest 🔥 marketing funnels on the web.  We analyze the websites of VC-backed startups, direct to consumer brands, and high-growth SaaS apps. It’s the best marketing case studies on the web.

Why would we do this?

In a world with unlimited competition for attention, you must find a way to deliver value to your customer before they ever make it to your product pitch. At the end of the day, all businesses will be media companies. We’re betting on this as our form of media.

Hired an Executive Coach

As I listen to impressive founders, I noticed they have one thing in common: they all have executive coaches.  So I engaged one myself.  His name is Rick and he has been a game-changer. He has challenged how I approach problem solving by using frameworks and mental models for each issue.  

Plus, it’s nice to have a 3rd party look at my business and tell me if I am crazy or if this is just normal. 

Went All-In on “Systems

Behind every successful founder is a successful system.  It has taken 3 years for this thought to get into my thick head. But, it has finally stuck. After hiring a rockstar COO (sup Yoni!), systems and operations are my #1 priority. Here are the books that have inspired this: Atomic Habits, GTD, Traction, and Scaling Up.  

Moved Into a House #FamilyMan

After college, I went to Dallas and then to New York City.  That meant my living arrangements got smaller and more expensive.  Now that I’m married with two little girls, it was time to grow up.  

My wife and I are living in a house for the first time since we were 17.  I thought I would hate getting out of downtown Seattle but I absolutely love it. Plus, I can geek out on security cameras so I know exactly when our UberEats arrives.

Jim, Kyle, West (2) & Wren (negative 3 months old)

Basketball = My Meditation

As I break up my day into what gives me energy and what takes it away, my weekly basketball games are at the top of the list for energy creation.  It’s my meditation that helps me clear my mind.  So many founders burnout because they don’t take care of themselves. I (attempt) to build this into my calendar every week.

And Last . . . Meet Wren!

We welcomed Wren Holiday Huffman to our family this year!  According to our doctor, my wife and I went from “a couple with a kid” to a “real family of four.”  It’s a blast having two little girls. But, this dad / founder thing ain’t no joke.  It does feel that when you go all in on one you’re neglecting the other.  The four burners principle is very real.

And my oldest, West (2), is just as curious as she is hilarious. And she is always down to party. Even if that means riding around in the Shaggin Wagon on Halloween night!

Okay, back to work.

Want to see my notes from last year? Check out my 2018 reflection.

Hope you have time to reflect on everything you did!

How I Self-Published My Book to #1 on Amazon (and Beat Seth Godin for 72 Glorious Hours)

How I Self-Published My Book to #1 on Amazon (and Beat Seth Godin for 72 Glorious Hours)

How have authors self-published on Amazon and catapulted their book to the #1 spot?

And, how did they become a bestseller without a publisher or a big budget?

That was the question I was asking myself when thinking about writing a book.

There has to be a path to launching a book that doesn’t involve lots of money and old school publishers. I wanted to take what I know about launching brands with my agency GrowthHit and translate that into a book launch on Amazon.  

One problem: I know nothing about writing a book and even less about how to self publish. 

Game on! 

Fast forward 422 days. After countless hours of research, writing, recording,  and promoting, I was #1 on Amazon and ahead of Seth Godin for 72 glorious hours. 

Yes, I have the screenshot to prove it!

Here’s exactly how I did it so you can do the same.  (Seriously, if I can do it then anyone can.) 

The short version:

  1. Write a Book Worth Reading 
  2. Determine Your Platforms for Sales
  3. Price Your Book Competitively 
  4. Design a Page Optimized for Conversion 
  5. Identify the Right Amazon Category for Your Book
  6. Design a Thunderclap Launch Plan
  7. Schedule a Product Hunt Launch
  8. Design an Email Automation Flow for Your Lead Magnet
  9. Engineer a Referral Mechanism
  10. Push a Book Launch Promotion
  11. Go on a Podcast Roadshow
  12. Book Review Blitz & Give Books Away for Free
  13. Paid Ads on Social and Amazon

It’s that easy. 

Now, the long version.  These aren’t necessarily in order but I want to provide some insights from my experience that can hopefully help you self publish a book and blast it to the top of Amazon without any help from a publisher.

Here we go.

Write a Book Worth Reading 

For the past six years, I have been teaching founders and marketers at General Assembly, Techstars, the Associate of National Advertising (ANA), WeWork Labs and more.  I’ve led international workshops in five-star resorts for executives and I’ve taught to an audience of two 18-year-olds in a basement with no AC.

From CMOs to the unemployed with an idea, I’ve worked with people at various steps of the growth journey and I’ve learned a lot by teaching.  Along the way, I’ve been able to see what helps people learn and grow a business themselves.  

After making 600+ slides worth of digital marketing presentations, I thought it was time to package up what I’ve learned and share it with aspiring marketers outside of the classroom.  That was the main goal of writing the book. It took me a year longer than I thought to produce it but it happened.  

Tip: It’s easy to start writing a book. It’s hard to finish a book. The best thing I did was to create a little social pressure on myself. I did this by sending an email to my list that I was writing a book and launching it that next summer. People would respond asking me how it was going. That actually lit a fire under me to make sure I wasn’t a liar and I actually delivered.

Determine Where to Sell Your Book

I knew I wanted to self publish but I struggled on whether I should just sell the book exclusively on Amazon or sell the book on my own site.  Amazon has the market and the credibility while my website allows me to have better margins and I own the customer data.  I decided to sell my book on both for one reason. I don’t solely care about sales.  I care about getting the book to as many people as possible.

On Amazon, I sell the ebook, paperback book, and audiobook for around $11.99.  It’ll be very easy for you to just do the ebook and ignore a paperback version and an audiobook version.  For me, I had to have all of them for a couple of reasons.

First, if you’re going to spend all this time writing a book go all in and make it a paperback book.  It’s rewarding to have your first proof mailed to your front door. (Even if you find a typo on the first page as I did.)

Look, a real book! (Not pictured: the typo on page 1.)

Amazon has some impressive tools that make it actually very easy to turn your ebook into a paperback book.  For more on publishing your own paperback book, check out this guide on how to self-publish a hardback book

As an audiobook power user, I consume most books through audible so I wanted to make sure I made a version for someone like myself.  Plus, I wanted to test all potential channels with my book launch.

You can record an audiobook at a pace of 8,000 words per hour. This is assuming you’re a flawless reader.  Turns out, I am not. It took me under 6 hours to record the book. Instead of renting out a recording studio, I took a $90 microphone, a pop filter, and my free Garageband software and recorded it under my dining room table surrounded by couch pillows. 

It felt more like a fluffy death sauna than a recording studio. But, it worked.

For the final recording, I leveraged an agency to edit the book for Audible and other audio platforms. Here are the best resources for how to record an audiobook yourself from TCK Publishing and Self Publishing School.

On the book website here, I sell everything mentioned above (ebook and audiobook) plus some bigger ticket items.  That includes my online growth marketing course, growth templates, and 100+ growth tactics. The price ranges from $29 to $487 based on what the product you want.  

How should you process orders on your website? I ended up using Gumroad to sell the book on my own because it is hands down the easiest tool to use for processing orders. It integrates with all platforms and you just pay a percentage of the transaction. 

For your first book, go with the easy solution unless you have tech resources or unlimited time. Don’t reinvent the wheel and make something custom because there are so many other things that you need to get right.  You can go custom on your next book that’ll be a NY Times Best Seller. 

How to Price Your Book

I mentioned prices above but let’s dig into my thought process. I decided to have two very different strategies based on the two platforms I was targeting. 

With Amazon, I wanted to be affordable and on-par with other books in my category. This is despite the fact that I am taking a smaller margin because I am not selling exclusively through Amazon with KDP Select. (More on deciding to sell exclusively through Amazon with KDP Select here.) 

My goal on Amazon wasn’t sales dollars.  It was awareness, order volume, and reviews because that helps become a best seller. I sold an ebook, paperback book and an audiobook with prices that were the average of the top 10 books in the category.  See full pricing here.

The book website is where I wanted to have better margins while offering more content. (This is the point of self publishing!)  For pricing on my site, I followed the structure laid out by Nathan Barry in his book Authority and had two products. 

Pricing page on the book website. (Notice which package gets the most real estate.)

With product #1, I did an ebook, an audiobook, growth templates, and 100 growth ideas. The prices were $89 but marked down to $29 during promotions. 

For product #2 the Growth Package, I did everything in product one plus my custom online growth marketing course. The price was $499 but I marked it down to $89 during promotions. The Growth Package was hands down the most popular product and the product that made me the most money. 

If you’re writing a non-fiction book that educates people then it is a huge miss if you don’t make a premium product with an online course. It’s easy to make, it’s how people want to learn, and it’s where you’ll make all of your money.

Design a Page Optimized for Sales

Before we send traffic to the book page on Amazon, it needs to be designed to convert.  There are consultants that specialize in just writing copy for Amazon book pages. It’s an art and science. 

The more I learn the more I realized that the very first sentence of your book description was everything. This one section can make or break your page because it’s the part that helps get the attention of the reader.  The common theme was to lead with a benefit-focused sentence that helps the reader understand what they’ll become after reading your book or what they will gain from your book.

Here is my first sentence: 

“Imagine if you had the exact playbook used by today’s top startups to grow a business online.”

In addition to winning over the customer, include keywords that will help Amazon rank your book based on relevant searches.  I made sure to do keyword research (using Google Keyword Planner because the google searches overlap Amazon searches according to my little research) and I include relevant phrases that were also covered in the book.  Examples include “growth marketing” and “startup growth”. 

For additional social proof, you can also include your own editorial reviews on your Amazon page. This helps build social proof into your page. For me, I was able to get three authoritative people to help. 

For the book website, I wanted to factor in the best practices for CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) that our firm, GrowthHit, uses for clients.  Here are the five things I settled on for the page:

  1. A Benefited-Focused Headline
  2. Free-Access to Chapter 1 
  3. A Compelling CTA (Call to Action)
  4. Social Proof with Testimonials
  5. A Timely Book Promotion 

Below is a look at two parts of the landing page for The Growth Marketer’s Playbook. But see the entire page here.

Identify the Right Amazon Category for Your Book

As I dug into the Amazon ecosystem, I realized how thoughtful you need to be when deciding how you go-to-market.  For example, if you want to be a NY Times bestselling author then you need around 10,000 pre-sales of your book on Amazon just to get considered.  That’s pre-sales.  

That’s not happening.

My main goal was to own a category for 3 hours so I could be #1 in the Amazon charts and call myself a bestseller.  (Yes, it’s trivial and dumb but you have to have goals.) The main drivers of that ranking are the following:

  • Number of orders
  • Number of quality reviews
  • Competition in category 

The first two are obvious but that last one was fascinating to me because there are so many categories and your choice can make or break your launch.  Amazon allows you to select up to three categories. However, there is a hack where you can request even more categories.

Tip: do this category hack – more details here

To understand what categories to select, I took the books I viewed as competitors and analyzed the three categories on their Amazon page.  From there, I clicked on each category to see how many books are in this category and how long the top sellers have been in the top ten spots.  

If it was highly competitive and changed a lot then I would want to stay away.  If there was no movement in the category but also no high-profile books then it might mean that people don’t search in this category.  In addition to that, you can select different categories for a Kindle book, a paperback book or your audiobook. Yes, it’s overwhelming. 

As an example, you can target the marketing sub-category that’s under the entrepreneurship category or you can go after the direct marketing subcategory under Business & Money.  It gets pretty messy once you get into it.

Your category can make or break your book. Wait, so where do you start?

I wanted categories that were in the middle.  Meaning they had high demand but weren’t packed with best selling authors.  This resource was one of the best guides for helping me hone in on the right categories for my book

Design a Thunderclap Launch Plan 

My goal was to be the #1 book in marketing on Amazon and hit 5 figures in sales during our launch sequence.  As a marketer of big brands, I wanted to take a consumer product launch approach to self-publishing a book.  

After realizing that I need lots of momentum on launch day in the form of reviews and sales, I strategized a “thunderclap” launch series that would help make a lot of noise to produce immediate reviews and sales to jump up in the rankings.  

This strategy included a pre-launch email sequence to existing subscribers, a blitz of emails to thought leaders, hyper-targeted ads on social, a product hunt launch, a podcast roadshow, and a referral mechanism with a giveaway to all users.  The goal was getting sales and reviews within the small time frame, 24-72 hours.

I ended up getting 19 5-star reviews, $13,000 in sales at launch and I was trending as the #1 book in marketing for 72 hours.  

Where did I do wrong? My big oversite was accidentally launching on the same weekend as  Seth Godin. Doh!

via GIPHY

If you don’t know Seth then just type “Seth Godin” into Google and note all the best selling books he has written.

Design an Email Automation Flow for Your Lead Magnet

With lots of initiatives leading to email signups on the book website, it was extremely important that I designed an email automation strategy that would help maximizes purchase conversions and Amazon reviews. 

I made a 5-part growth lesson email series. The goal was to showcase a preview of what’s in the book, add value to customers, and get them to take action. The email series was dripped over 5 days with a content download or growth lesson every day.  On the last day, I included a promo code to nudge people to convert.  

Here is a look at the email flow.

In addition to a promo, I also baked in a referral mechanism into the email sequence.  More on that next . . . 

Engineer a Referral Mechanism

I had a limited budget so I knew I needed to get creative by turning customers and visitors into marketers. 

With direct to consumer brands like Harry’s and Girlfriend Collective, the most successful product launches involve a referral campaign with a strong incentive to share.  This type of growth loop at launch is designed to turn customers into marketers with 24 hours of making a purchase.  

I wanted to create something similar to my book launch.  I leveraged Gleam.io to make a book launch giveaway.  If you did a tweet, Facebook post or email about the book then you would be entered to win a free $5,000 Growth Plan from my growth agency.  This resulted in 501 entries and created social buzz for me on launch day. 

Here is a look at the referral mechanism we made.

I served this referral mechanism up three different ways:

(1) As a dedicated email in the launch sequence

(2) On a landing page after someone purchased the book from my book website

(3) Pushed this out on social and on community forums

As a result, this created buzz on launch day with tweets like the following. 

Book Launch Promotion & Giveaway Books for FREE

During the launch sequence, I decided to offer the entire growth package at 80% off to, hopefully, make the price extremely affordable.  Also, I decided to give away ebooks to specific organizations, startup accelerators, and charities.

It might sound counterintuitive to give away your book for free if you want to make money but it’s all about starting a conversation.  There isn’t a better way to do that than to get your content to as many people as possible. My #1 goal was to engineer a conversation about the book on social so people would know that it exists.

Product Hunt Launch

Product Hunt is an ideal product for a launch day because you can be on the front page of the website and their users are trained to upvote and share products, books and tools they like.  I wanted to leverage a trusted author to “Hunt” the product and Ben Yoskovitz (Author of Lean Analytics) was kind enough to help by sharing with his community.  On launch day, I emailed my list about the launch and requested upvotes.

As a result, we ended up getting 300 upvotes.

Verified Book Review Blitz 

If you could do one thing for your launch that would have the biggest impact then it would be to get verified book reviews.  A verified book review is when a confirmed buyer leaves a review of your book on Amazon. There is not an easy way to get this other than asking your customers to leave their feedback.  

My attempt at getting book reviews was done through manual email outreach, Amazon giveaways, and third party book review tools and platforms. The only one that worked for me was manual email outreach.  The other options failed.

I was fortunate to have a database of former students that I had taught so I was able to email them, send them to my book page and then ask them to give their feedback within the Amazon reviews. 

To be honest, I would do more research on this for next time because I think it would have kept me in the #1 spot for longer.

Paid Ads on Amazon

To amplify the reach of my book, I launched Amazon ads and social ads.  That was particularly important on launch day because I wanted to make sure we increased our visibility to help get that #1 ranking. 

On Amazon, I did a manual PPC campaign that targeted phrases and books related to my topic. I had the best success targeting marketing books that just launched and targeting keywords that were specific to my category.  Those keywords include growth hacking, growth marketing and startup marketing.  

Here is a look at the ad. 

With Facebook ads and Instagram ads, I targeted people interested in startups, digital marketing growth hacking, Gary V, Neil Patel, Tim Ferris, founders, CMOs, engaged shoppers that bought something within 14 days, and more. I played around with US, Canada, UK, Australia, and New Zealand. I actually had some pretty good sales in India but had to be careful because Facebook would push all my budget there if I didn’t set up my account properly.

On launch day, I ran one prospecting ad campaign that used a problem-solution format with a slideshow video to get them interested in the book and the concept. I sent everyone to the Amazon page.

After the Amazon launch, I switched the urls to my book website. Then I ran a retargeting campaign about the growth package with an image that reengaged anyone that engaged with the ad or my book website and didn’t purchase. The results are below.

Podcast Roadshow

Leading up to the launch, I decided to go on a podcast tour to help spread the word of the book.  My goal was to get all the podcasts to air in and around the launch date of the book. This is easier said than done. 

Podcasts proved to be very hit or miss for me. Some were extremely fruitful while others had zero sales. I used promocodes (provided by Gumroad) to track the sames on my site. I was unable to do attirbution for an Amazon sales. The ROI was pretty mixed for the most part.  But, here were the top two podcasts for my book in terms of sales.  

Podcast Tip: I wasn’t very strategic about having a unified message for the book and I wasn’t thoughtful in how to sell it to each audience.  Looking back, I wish I would have been more prepared to endorse my book in a creative way for each individual audience. 

The Result

Within 24 hours of launch, it happened! The Amazon algorithm gods decided to bless me with the #1 book in marketing / PR ahead of Mr. Seth Godin. 

Amazon God giving me the blessing via GIPHY

For the next 72 hours, I was on top. I was the #1 Hot New Release on Amazon in PR Marketing and I did it as a self publisher.

For 72 glorious hours, we were #1!

Come Monday, the thunderclap mega storm blew over and Mr. Godin was #1.  My book dropped to third place and the algorithm gods we’re blessing another author. 

But, I still have my screenshot and the ability to say I am a Top Selling Author on Amazon . . . even if just for 72 hours.

Hope this blog post helps you self publish your book and get to the top of the Amazon charts.

Like this post? Please share some love on twitter.

Our New GrowthHit Website is LIVE

Today, I’ll get right to the point.

Our new GrowthHit website (version 1) is LIVE and we want your opinion. (Seriously, just leave a comment with what you like and don’t like.  The more honest the better bc we’ll be iterating on this.)

Check it out HERE 👀.

Some highlights include the following: 

📈 Added case studies 
🛠️ A “conversational” services page 
☎️ An easier path for prospects to connect with us

For version two of the site, we’ll be rolling out a new blog, our company page and one special project that I cannot tell you 😶 about yet.  Get excited. 

Wait, so how easy or hard was it to do this little redesign?

Most website redesigns go over budget and over time significantly. I know this because I have missed the initial “new website launch date” many times.  Here is what we did well and not well.  Hopefully, it’ll help you with your next redesign. 

WHAT WE DID WELL:

👍 We removed features (and pages) to hit our launch deadline #noscopecreep 
👍 We had the designer make two completely outlines to pick from before we went really deep
👍 The designer did multiple check-ins to mitigate any “surprises”
👍 Set hard deadlines for each milestone

WHAT WE DIDN’T DO WELL:

👎 We didn’t nail down the copy on each page which impacted design more than I thought
👎 We went over budget by $1k because we had changes during development 
👎 We didn’t get to update every page we wanted bc of the above changes

Hope that helps!

As a bonus, here are five growth articles that caught my attention. 

  1. How To Rapidly Grow Your Instagram Following
  2. 24 Free Website Plugins for Marketing, Lead Generation & Growth!
  3. Social Commerce: How to Take Your Digital Sales to New Heights
  4. 7 E-Commerce Case Studies Every Marketer Can Learn From
  5. Here’s How to Incorporate Site Search into Your E-Commerce Store (The Right Way)

The Journey of a Bootstrapped Founder

For VC-backed startups, their path to success might look like the following:

💡 Develop an idea. 

💸Raise a seed round. 

💸💸💸Raise an A round, raise a B round, and raise a C round. 

🔥 Hire. Fire. Grow like hell and cross your fingers that your valuation climbs. 📈

🤑 Sell to a Fortune 500 company for $1 Billion.

🛥️ Cash-out. Buy a yacht, Tesla and one gold plated suit.

That’s one route you can go with financing your business.

But, what about the majority of people that aren’t raising venture dollars and looking for 10X exit?

What’s their option?  How do they grow?

They bootstrap it.  

What does that mean?  Bootstrapping is when you fund your startup or business with your own money or the cash you make from the business.

This is where I fit in.  I’m bootstrapping and I’m always looking for inspiration from other bootstrapped founders on how they self-funded an idea into a sustainable business.

Here are my favorite articles on how a few brave founders bootstrapped their business.  

  1. A Six-Figure Side Project: The ClickMinded Story (Tommy Griffith)
  2. Growing Growth Machine: How We Went from 0 to $100k MRR in One Year (Nat Eliason) 
  3. How Rob Walling Bootstrapped Drip into a 7 Figure SaaS Business
  4. Want To Sell Your Agency? Here’s How I Did It 💰
  5. 7 Ridiculously In-Depth Case Studies on Starting an Ecommerce Business from Scratch

Maybe one day I’ll publish my story of bootstrapping.  For now, I post annual updates. Here is a look at my 2018 annual update.

What’s Your Number?

The Hard Truth Every Founder or Startup Employee Needs to Know about Money

It’s about to get awkward.

Yup, we’re talking about money.

How much money do you make?  And does that income get you to “your number”?

From breaking even every month to F-you money, what are you really working towards?

Sadly, most people haven’t thought through this question.  Even though we spend most of our waking hours doing this thing called work.  We don’t have a plan for our income or for our number.

For whatever reason, it doesn’t feel natural to talk about money.

So, what is your financial goal?  What is your number?

Is it cash-flowing $2k a month with your side hustle or is it hitting $1.75 million in the bank?

Do you want just enough cheddar to pay the bills?

Or, are you looking for the exact amount of gold coins that enable you to tell your obligations “peace out” and then Scrooge McDuck into your pool of gold?

F-You Money Pioneer: Scrooge McDuck

It’s that number that should drive your financial goals as a founder, a side hustler or an employee.

As a bootstrapped founder, this was the talk I had with my wife before going all in.  My personal number sits between breakeven and Scrooge McDuck.

The Truth: It’s Not About Your Number. It’s About Your Lifestyle

Before we get into your options, let’s talk about that number.  How much money do you really want?

Actually, scratch that.  

It’s not about money.  It’s about your lifestyle.  What do you want to do and how much do you need to support that?  

Maybe you want to work forever at a big company.

Or, you want to retire early on an island in the Caribbean.

Maybe you want to spend half of your time working and the other half volunteering at the local YMCA teaching kids how to widdle wood.

For me, I want to own what I do and have the luxury of choosing what I do with my time – ideally traveling with family, working on passion projects and playing basketball against other washed up dudes still holding on to the dream.

Raindrop!

The real question for me is this:  How much do you need to support the lifestyle you want?  

Money doesn’t bring you happiness. It brings you options.  What are your expenses and how much extra cash do you need? To keep it simple, lets talk about lifestyle expenses in the following buckets:

  • Living Expenses
  • Family Expenses
  • Travel Expenses

My friend, also a bootstrapped business owner,  and I are good examples of two very different lifestyles from a cost perspective.  I live in a city that has the highest housing growth in the US. We don’t have any family close by so our childcare expenses aren’t insignificant. Plus, we’re a family that enjoys eating out, shopping (one of us may have a shoe problem) and we love traveling.  Those decisions (city, family, travel) have raised my monthly expenses compared to most people. Esh.

On the flip side, my friend lives in a small town in a house his family owns and is close to grandparents.  His family also likes to travel so they have that as an important line item. It’s smaller because they love road trips which are cheaper than flights.  Those decisions alone have put his lifestyle expenses much lower than mine. So his break even number is much lower.

Here is a simple breakdown of two scenarios

Obviously, these expenses don’t include things like any car payments, healthcare costs, entertainment, groceries, car payments, Parkour lessons, etc.  But, you see how certain lifestyle decisions have a huge impact on your number.

Based on your lifestyle expenses, that is the starting point for your break-even costs and then you can start to think about the original question.  What is your number?

Let’s break down your number into three options:

Option 1: Break-Even

With the exercise above, you can start to figure this exact number out.  Simply put, you’re making just enough money to pay for your monthly expenses but an unexpected surprise would rock your world.  A water pipe breaks in your new home, someone in the family is laid off or you find out you’re having triplets. #blessed

Option 2: I’m Feeling Comfortable

You’re kind of rolling in the dough.  You’re able to pick up the tab on group dinners without blinking an eye and you’re looking at options for a rental property.  You could take time off of work for a little bit and you’ll be okay. But, not too much time because the money will run out.

Option 3: F-You Money

You hit a big exit with your company or you’re cash flowing at a rate that far exceeds your expenses and it’s not slowing down. Teslas, yachts and a timeshare on Mars might not be that crazy.

Now that we know the options. Let’s talk about how we reach to those outcomes.  Let’s attempt to answer that specifically for people in the startup community.

What are your options for hitting your number?

Obviously, there are lots more than the three but I am laying out three scenarios for income.   

Scenario 1: The Employee with Golden Options

Scenario 2: The VC-Backed Founder with an Exit Plan

Scenario 3: The Bootstrapped Founders with Cash Flow Dreams

Now, let’s dive in and see the pros and cons of how these options get you to your number.

The Employee with Golden Options

Image Source: Adioma

You’re an employee at a high growth startup.  You have chosen to live off a startup salary with the hope that the value of your future stock options will lead to the land of milk and honey (or financial freedom).

Pros: Taking on less risk of a founder but still get to participate in the upside.

Cons: 90% of startups fail.  You get diluted during fundraises. Plus, a vesting schedule makes you work 4+ years for your options.

The VC-Backed Founder with an Exit Plan

Image Source: craft.co

You’re a founder that has raised sophisticated money from a venture capital firm and you’re looking to exit through a sale or IPO.  Your recent funding has extended your runway but it has diluted your shares and set your valuation to exit much higher.

Pros: You’re the majority shareholder and if you strike it big then it’s life-changing. You have extended your runaway with the influx of cash and can (finally) invest in quality developers, sophisticated software and the much-needed ping pong table.

Cons: Again, 90% of startups fail.  Also, your new board might fire you if you don’t deliver.

The Bootstrapped Founder with Cash Flow Dreams

You have an idea and decided to roll up your sleeves and fund it with your own money or with cash from the project.

Pros: You own 100% of your business so your exit number or cash-flow number is much more attainable than a VC-backed business.

Cons: Don’t stop making money.  If your cashflow goes away then your business goes away. Oh, and 90% of startups fail.

So, what path did I pick to hit my number?

My Final Answer

I have opted for option three.  For me, it’s not about the money.  It’s about the lifestyle and I’m playing the long game. I want to work on projects I am passionate about and I want the freedom to push them in whatever direction I please. I’ve been inspired by people like Rob Walling, Dan Andrews and, obviously, Tim Ferris. These guys have bootstrapped ideas into successful businesses built around their lifestyle.

So what’s your number? Or more importantly, what lifestyle do you want to support?

Are you on a current path to get there?

7 Successful Product Launches to Inspire Your 2019

Hey,

Are you launching a new product in 2019?

brand launch is a lot like getting up on stage as a stand-up comedian.

No matter how confident you are that people will love your material, you can never quite shake the fear that all you’ll hear is crickets when get on stage.

According to Five By Five Global, three-fifths of people weren’t aware of any new launches in the past 12 months, which doesn’t make for great reading if you launched something last year.

But that doesn’t mean what you’ve created is bad. It means that it hasn’t been marketed right.

To show you how to avoid the deafening silence of no one noticing your product, we’ve picked out seven of the most successful launches of recent years to inspire your launch efforts, along with some tips on how to implement the tactics.

Read the entire article here.

As usual, here are five articles that caught my attention this week.

(1) How To Grow Your Email List With Facebook (3 Steps)
(2) The Definitive Guide to Influencer Marketing for Ecommerce Stores
(3) Landing Page Versus Home Page: 18 Money Making Differences
(4) How to Successfully Launch a Product in 2019
(5) How to Track Social ROI for a Local Business

Cheers,

Jim

ROWTH PACKAGE Book + Online Course + Templates + 100 Growth Tactics

GROWTH PACKAGE
Book + Online Course + Templates + 100 Growth Tactics

This was originally sent from Jim Huffman’s email newsletter.  Sign up to get weekly insights in your inbox.

How to Make a Growth Plan for a B2B Company (See Case Study)

Hey all,

I work with lots of B2C companies and you can see how we growth them here.

But, how do you make a growth plan for a B2B company?

How do you keep your marketing team focused and on track with a clear plan of action?

Sadly, most people don’t know how to make a growth plan.

Worse, they end up going to google and typing “growth plan” or “marketing plan” and it takes them to a black hole of outdated templates and tactics.  

To help, I’m going to go deep on how to make a growth plan for one lucky company, ConvertKit. I am a fan of this company and it’s founder, Nathan Barry. Hopefully he sees this as a compliment to his tool.

The growth plan will go into detail on everything from value proposition and analytics to how to setup a landing page and what growth experiments to run.

Here is how we’re going to categorize the growth plan.

1) Identify Customers
2) Competitor Research
3) Proposition Mapping
4) SEO & Content Strategy
5) Analytics Infrastructure
6) CRO & List Building
7) Paid Campaigns
8) Growth Experiments
9) Growth Projections

Check out the entire blog post here.

Cheers!

Jim Huffman

ROWTH PACKAGE Book + Online Course + Templates + 100 Growth Tactics

GROWTH PACKAGE
Book + Online Course + Templates + 100 Growth Tactics

This was originally sent from Jim Huffman’s email newsletter.  Sign up to get weekly insights in your inbox.