How to Get New Clients at Every Stage of Your Business

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Posted by dohertyjf

I remember when I first went out on my own to build my business. Because I planned to bootstrap the product into existence, I needed to pick up some consulting work to cover my own bills before I felt comfortable taking time to build my product.

I had a sizable group of peers that I contacted to let them know that I was no longer with my last company and was looking to bring on a few new clients. Within a week, I had to stop taking introductions because I was so busy! If you’re a brand-new freelance consultant, this post has some goodies for you.

I have other friends who are purposefully freelance consultants with no current plans to scale beyond it. In fact, they’ve resisted these opportunities because they enjoy what they’re doing so much, and are able to charge a premium for it. This post will help you out.

Some of my friends are at a different stage. They’ve worked for themselves for 3–4 years or longer now and are growing an agency beyond themselves and their own skillset. Along the way, of course, they’re figuring out the challenges of growing headcount and types/sizes of clients while they themselves learn to level up as a CEO, as a manager, and as a sales executive, since agency founders are often the salespeople for the first few years of their company’s existence. The client acquisition strategies change. This post is also for you.

And finally, agencies often decide that they are ready to expand beyond their main core offering and offer tangential services that they are either being asked for actively or where they perceive an opportunity exists. Since they already have a functional and maybe even (wildly) profitable services business, how can they justify taking time away from that to build out a new service offering? The mindset and strategies change once again. We’ll get into some of those.

Building a service-based business is hard

Over the last two years, I’ve worked with over 150 agencies and have seen over 800 businesses (it’s probably closer to 1,000 at this point) looking to hire an agency or consultant. I’ve also worked in-house, as a solo consultant, and for a quickly growing boutique digital agency.

After the experiences I’ve had seeing everyone — from new scared-out-of-their-wits solo consultants all the way to long-established agencies looking to grow their practice — I decided to take a step back and reflect on the strategies I’ve seen both work and not work for consulting entities at different stages of growth.

That’s what we’ll cover today. If you’re a new consultant, an agency looking to level up the size of your accounts, or an agency looking to move into new service offerings, you’ll find something in this post for you.

Along the way, you’ll hear from consultants and agency owners at different stages of their business and what they did to get to where they are currently. After all, war stories are way more fun than “here are x steps you can follow to also be amazing” anecdotes.

New consultants

Tell me if you’ve seen this happen before: a friend is tired of their job, gets laid off, or otherwise finds themselves unemployed. They decide that they’re going to give freelance consulting a go.

Three months later, they’ve taken a new job at a new agency and are repeating the cycle they went through before.

Screenshot 2017-06-28 10.38.26.png

Sound familiar? If you’re in the digital marketing consulting world, you likely know at least a few, if not closer to a dozen people where this has held true.

I’m not going to say that everyone goes back to traditional employment because they’re having a difficult time getting new clients, but this is far and away the largest reason I see. They get a few months in, they have too few clients paying them too little, and so they panic and go take a job doing what is comfortable. They’ll repeat the cycle in a few years again.

I get it. The beginning of working for yourself can be terrifying. I’ve been there. Saw a therapist, got the t-shirt, am I right?

What if I told you that you could avoid this if you really want to? That you could use some proven techniques to get new clients that pay you what you’re worth?

Overcoming common “new consultant” fears with strategic thinking

You’ll hear entrepreneurs who have built and sold their companies (sometimes multiple times) tell you to take a “burn the ships” approach, where you set off and don’t give yourself a time limit or an out if you can’t make it work.

The problem with this is that it’s a fallacy brought about by survivorship bias — defined as “the logical error of concentrating on the people or things that made it past some selection process and overlooking those that did not, typically because of their lack of visibility.” Often these entrepreneurs look back and talk about how they could have done it, or how they did it for their second or third business once they’d already made quite a bit of money.

Quite simply, if you want to set yourself up for success, you should already have replaced (or have a clear path to replacing) your income from your day job before you even go out on your own.

You can do this by picking up freelance work on the side from your day job. Get one or two clients that pay you every month and learn how to manage those. Learn what it takes to retain these clients and even grow the accounts.

Next, figure out the minimum amount of money you need to make every month while only working the number of hours you want to work before you take the leap. If you have two clients, you can probably get two more pretty easily. If you spend 10 hours a week on these two clients and only want to bill 30 hours per week (which is actually quite a lot), then you know you can bring on four more clients at the same level (and fewer clients if they pay you more) and have the lifestyle and income you want.

It’s simple math.

The “new consultant” sales mindset

Clients come to solo consultants instead of agencies for a very specific reason. They want direct access to your specific brain and to be able to speak with the person actually doing the work. In fact, I’ve seen many companies come through Credo who need multiple services (not just strategy) across organic and paid, but they don’t want an account manager setup like they’ve had before with an agency.

This, plus your experience, is your competitive moat. During the initial discovery call with every potential client, don’t forget that you’re interviewing them as much as they’re interviewing you. You need to learn:

What they are specifically looking to accomplish through retaining someone’s services; What their expectations are for how quickly they will see this; If they have resources to get done what you recommend, or if you have time to implement what they need; Whether they’re willing to pay you what you are worth.

Assuming all of these check out, then in my opinion, you’re good to move forward with the proposal process.

A quick word on pricing

If you’ve never worked for an agency before, you should ask agency friends or other freelance friends what they charge per hour, then use that as a benchmark. If you want to raise your rates, then do it slowly with new clients until you hit a ceiling. Now you know your price ceiling for the current services (whether strategy, implementation, or both) you offer.

New client acquisition channels

Now that we have the common fears identified and you’re armed with a better sales mindset, let’s explore the strategies you should leverage first to build your consulting practice to a base where it sustains your lifestyle and you’re able to remove the stress of starting from the equation and eventually think about growth.

The strategies I always counsel brand new solo consultants to use are:

Referrals – Ask your circle of professional peers if they know anyone looking for what you have to offer; Referrals – Ask your friends and family if they know anyone that might need what you’re offering; Agency white label – Approach agencies in your area to see if they need help on a contract basis with their clients; Teaching – This is a longer-term play, but a great way to get clients in the long run is to teach others how to do what you do. I’ve seen it hold true that if you teach people how to do what you do, they’ll want to hire you to do it for them.

These are the easiest and most direct ways to get introductions to potential clients who are highly likely to close into clients.

Long-term this does not scale, but it can get you to the point of covering your expenses, allowing you to breathe a little bit and invest for the future. And if you’re smart about it and haven’t signed yourself up for 60+ hours per week of billed work, you can have a great life balance.

To give some real-world examples, I reached out to two of my friends who became solo consultants in 2013/2014.

First is Tom Critchlow, who went solo in late 2014 after two years at Google New York. When asked how he got his first consulting clients, Tom said that his first leads came from direct referrals from a friend:

“Since that first lead I’ve gotten about 80% of my clients through referrals from my direct network,” he shared. “I’d definitely emphasize the importance of a strong network and ensuring that you’re communicating with your network often to keep them up-to-date with what work you’re doing.”

Next I chatted with Michael King, who has since built his agency iPullRank into an industry powerhouse, and asked him how he got his first clients when he left the NYC agencies he worked for. To get his first, he shared that thought leadership played a huge role:

“My first two clients came through two different methods of thought leadership. One came via a post I’d written for Moz about content strategy, and the other came from a panel I spoke on. Overnight, I went from 0 to 10.5K MRR.”

Solo consultants happy staying solo

If this is you, then congratulations. In my mind, you’re finding nirvana in a lot of ways.

Solo consultants with more years of direct consulting experience are able to charge good hourly rates and monthly minimums from clients, according to my data.

solo consultant pricing.png

Once a consultant has survived the initial push to get new clients, the journey is far from over. In fact, many solo consultants have come up against this and gone through droughts where they were between projects.

This brings up the question: How can solo consultants, who can only realistically bring on a limited number of clients before they become too numerous, keep a strong potential client pipeline?

Define your niche and build processes

The answer is usually to tightly define your niche and then, depending on your niche, to build processes to deliver high quality work.

High-touch strategic consulting does not scale. It also does not have to scale if you charge a high hourly rate ($300/hr for strategic consulting that drives large revenue increases is not crazy, and may even be too low), in which case you can work with just a few clients and still create a great income for yourself.

When you’ve defined your niche, whether affiliate marketing driven by content or local SEO for realtors, then you put together the strategy to reach them.

This should go without saying, but if you’re asking how to define your niche, then you aren’t ready to be a highly paid solo consultant yet. Hone your craft and discover who you love to do work for, then go serve those customers on your own.

Once your niche is defined, you can focus on that group.

Targeting your ideal audience

As mentioned above, the toughest part of being and staying a solo consultant is managing your workload and saying “no” or “not yet” to potential clients, while at the same time protecting your downside should a client decide to stop your services for any reason, whether your fault or because of internal actions.

The best solo consultants that I know, who also have a strong pipeline of potential clients, have built this through:

Content. They produce content related to their target market’s problems and thus become a thought leader in that niche. This will often lead to recurring columns in industry publications. A strong referral network. They know the who’s who of their niche and are their go-to when someone needs the consultant’s specific skillset. Speaking. Getting a one-off or set of speaking engagements in front of your target audience often directly drives potential clients and cements you as an expert in their minds.

The goal is to build your own name as an expert so that you consistently have potential customers approaching you to see if you can work with them, while also knowing your limits and when you may next have available time.

The goal isn’t to magically be able to get new inquiries when you need them (though this may happen if you’ve built this system), but to be able to go back to a group of people who have already inquired about your services and tell them that you have some availability. A pro move is also to ask if they know anyone who may need your services, as well.

Creating processes

Not every consultant desires working with large clients who each pay the equivalent of a full-time salary. Some consultants prefer working with smaller clients, mostly small or local businesses, because of the unique challenges that these clients face.

In this case, the challenge is to work out how you scale quantity without sacrificing quality or client retention. There are many ways to do this:

Find an agency or group of consultants you trust that you can outsource certain parts of the project to; Leverage technologies like HubSpot, Moz, or others that allow you to automate a lot of the work; Use tools like HubSpot, Calendly, UberConference, or others to help scale scheduling and admin parts of the business; Use virtual assistants, bookkeeping services like Bench, and payroll services like Gusto to alleviate a lot of the business operations so you have more time to work for clients.

As Francois Marcil of shared:

“When you have over 10 clients, the time spent attending meetings is the biggest obstacle to serving all your clients well. For this reason, I reserve 2 days of the week for meetings and 3 days for work. The rule is strict, and I inform my clients from the start.”

When a solo consultant sets up these processes, it not only makes their life a lot easier and their clients happier (which leads to better retention, which leads to a healthier business), but it also sets them up for success should they decide later that they want to start an agency. In this case, their processes of both acquiring and managing new clients will let them generate the cash flow needed to make the leap to employing someone full time.

Agencies leveling up

Some business owners don’t feel the need to constantly push and grow their business. They’re bootstrapped, their business affords them and their employees a great lifestyle, and they have no desire to take on more responsibility with their business. If this is you, then I’m a bit envious and encourage you to enjoy it.

If you’re anything like me, though, you’re never happy with maintaining. You always want to be growing, to be learning, to push yourself and your business to see what it’s capable of. If you’re on this course, then keep reading.

Your strategies have to change a bit when you go from being a solo consultant to growing your agency. A lot of your processes are going to break or need tweaking as you grow the number of people working on accounts. Your challenge now becomes managing the growth of your headcount while maintaining quality and bringing in great new clients at the same time.

This is likely way too much for one person to handle, so at some point you’ll be forced to decide what you are great at (and love doing) that is also instrumental to the business’s success. Then hire out for the rest.

Let’s focus on the sales part, of course.

At the beginning of your journey as a brand-new consultant, you were likely heavily dependent on one-off referrals from family and friends. But referrals don’t really scale.

As you’re looking to grow your business quickly, your channels have likely shifted to:

Speaking. If you have a dynamic founder who is a keynote-level (or heading in that direction) speaker, this can be great lead generation; Strategic partnerships with investors or other agencies; Your own search traffic and thought leadership on your own website; Your own advertising of your services online.

You’re facing the unique challenge of increasing the quantity of potential clients contacting you while not sacrificing quality. While difficult, this is absolutely possible. You can grow your revenue by:

Targeting new clients who have similar traits to your existing ideal clients; Growing accounts by upselling your existing clients to other services you offer that they need; Defining a specific niche or type of company where you get outsized returns, and then target them specifically through content, speaking, education, or both.

Sales changes as you grow. You’re looking for long-term sustainable clients as it is four to ten times cheaper to retain and grow your current clients than to get new clients (source). If you’re investing in landing new clients, you should not also have to worry about retaining your current clients. If you are, then you are simply refilling a leaky bucket and you will not grow.

Michael King of iPullRank is no stranger to the challenges that agency founders face as they grow, but he’s successfully transitioned from solo consultant to now managing seven figures in agency income. So what does he do differently?

“The difference is really that it’s far more dire,” he shared. “The maintenance of payroll becomes the battery in your back to have to just figure it out. Whereas when you’re by yourself and you have a low month or you lose a client, it’s not that big of a deal.”

Johnathan Dane of KlientBoost credits lessons he’s learned about sales along the way in growing KlientBoost from himself to $4M in revenue in just a few years:

“We’ve been very fortunate to have 99% of our sales come from our content, and when that happens, our sales cycle is drastically reduced because the potential client already likes us and has found value from what we’ve given them,” he said. “So even 2.5 years in, I still handle the inbound sales — which I know isn’t scalable — but you gotta allow yourself to still have some fun.”

I should also note that at this point, you should have someone dedicated to sales and onboarding new clients full-time. This can be filled by the founder if the founder is stellar at sales, but most often I see this role being given to a dedicated sales executive who hopefully also has marketing experience, or has proven their aptitude for learning and applying it so they sell the right work.

Agencies moving into new service offerings

At some point, you may max out your growth in your current niche and with your current offerings. At the same time, you want to continue growing but don’t have the option of increasing client budgets. Or, maybe a new platform emerges (think: Snapchat) that has the opportunity to be big and you want to be an early mover in helping your clients get exposure.

But moving into new niches is hard when you’ve established yourself in another service offering and that’s how you’re known. Every agency has a primary service offering, so how do you move into new niches?

There are two main ways:

Think of this new service offering as a startup in and of itself. It is responsible for its own profit and loss (P&L), as well as landing its own new clients; Upsell your current clients into this new offering as well.

This is hard. Brandon Doyle of Wallaroo Media, who went from being a generic SEO agency to leading the way in travel marketing and Snapchat from their offices in Provo, Utah, knows this firsthand:

“With a background in SEO, we strongly believed in its ability as a channel,” he shared. “We utilized SEO and evergreen content to carve out a name for ourselves both in the travel space, and more recently as a leader in Snapchat-related content, strategies, and news. The latter paid off, as we were just recently named an official Snapchat Agency Partner!”

Will Critchlow, CEO of digital marketing agency Distilled (full disclosure: I used to work for Distilled), also knows a thing or two about moving into an adjacent vertical. The agency recently become recognized for not only SEO, but creative content and outreach services, too:

“All our moves have come from the passion of the team,” shared Will. “Team members saw an opportunity, started doing part of the solution, and pitched the rest.”

Finally, your marketing will change as you seek traction in this new vertical. The topics you write about, the people you reference, the outreach you do, and the places you choose to interact will necessarily change.

This is specifically why I recommend tasking someone specifically with building out this new area. At Wallaroo, this was Brandon. At Distilled, this was Mark Johnstone who was previously an SEO consultant who had an interest in big creative content and Tom Anthony with an interest in technical A/B testing for SEO.


Consistently generating new potential projects at every cycle of your business’s growth is the best skill you can learn as a services business owner.

Leave a comment about the channels you’ve found to be the most effective!

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What’s in Store for WordStream in 2018

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When I joined WordStream as President in June of 2017, I jumped in head first to what turned out to be the highest-energy environment I’ve ever worked in by far. I’m thrilled and grateful to be part of a team that’s so passionate, and I’ve been so impressed by our hundreds of smart, dedicated employees who come to the office every day with a mission to help our customers succeed. Our customers run an amazing variety of businesses, employing tens of thousands of people and delivering products and services all over the world.

This week, I’m excited to begin a new chapter with WordStream. I’m stepping into the role of CEO, where I’ll continue to oversee our day-to-day operations as well as building and leading the team that is driving continued rapid growth through 2018 and beyond. My friend and colleague Ralph Folz will move into the role of Executive Chairman, where his focus will increase on external relationships, partnerships, and growth by acquisition. I’ll also be joining the Board of Directors.

howard kogan ceo wordstream

Introducing new hires at one of my first company meetings

2017 was a big year for WordStream. We landed on the Inc. 5000 for the fifth year in a row, the Boston Business Journal’s Top Places to Work list for the third year in a row, and were named one of the Boston Globe’s Top Places to Work for 2017. We were named the #1 highest rated search advertising software by G2 Crowd. We now have over 250 employees and power more than 10,000 advertisers and agencies globally.

Our track record of growth has been impressive, but we’re not slowing down now, and today I’d like to share with you some thoughts on our current challenges, opportunities, and my vision for the company this year and in the future.

My First Six Months

I have a customer-first philosophy, so when I joined WordStream in June, my first order of business was to spend lots of time with our customers. From jumping on sales and consulting calls, to hosting events in our office, to visiting our customers’ offices, to talking to customers who are unhappy or leaving WordStream, I’ve done it all.

wordstream customer event

A workshop from our customer insight roundtable in November

I have heard countless stories of how WordStream has helped to both grow and simplify our customers’ businesses. The proactive suggestions that the software provides, the simplicity of the user experience, and the talent and compassion of our customer success reps are consistent themes across these conversations.

But our job is not done. To build on this success we are actively working on innovating within our existing ability to advertise across multiple online advertising platforms including Google, Facebook, and Bing (for example, releasing Smart Ads to automate display ad creation), as well as developing brand new product lines and service offerings to meet an expanded set of growth opportunities for our customers (such as the newly released Facebook Ads Grader).

wordstream smart ads software

Smart Ads makes it easy to build great-looking display ads fast

There’s much more to come as we move through the year, so watch this space for more new features and product developments that you’ve asked for.

Our Most Critical Asset: Our People

One of my favorite parts of my job has been my mobile “office.” I’ve sat in several different desks already, spending time with teams across the company, and I like moving around as a way to get to know our people and the specifics of how each different team functions. You can’t build a great company without great people, and our people and culture are two of our most powerful assets.

We are growing rapidly, and this trajectory presents both challenges and opportunity. We need to scale the way every aspect of our business works to support our growth in the coming years. Two excellent opportunities arise for our employees – the ability to take on new projects and technologies, and the ability to take on new roles and responsibilities. This is one of the core purposes of the organization, to provide professional development for our talent so that they are continually learning and preparing for what’s next.

wordstream best places to work

Accepting our award from the Boston Globe with WordStreamers from across all teams

If this sounds like something you want to be a part of, check out our careers page – we’re always looking for creative, driven people to join our engineering, product, sales, customer success, and marketing teams.

My Vision for the Future 

The digital advertising market is incredibly dynamic, with market leaders such as Facebook and Google driving constant innovation as well as hundreds of tech companies striving to disrupt the industry. To stand out in a crowded, fast-paced space, we must constantly challenge ourselves to listen more closely to our customers so we can truly partner with them, leveraging emerging technology to ensure we deliver the simplest and most valuable solutions available to businesses and agencies of all sizes.

We’ll add dozens and dozens of new employees this year, who will bring new diversity of ideas, experiences and richness to WordStream – furthering our vision and accelerating our progress. One way we’re powering that effort is through our new partnership with Hack.Diversity in 2018. We’ll develop new ways of going to market, new products and services, and new geographies. Through it all we will focus on making sure we stay close our customers, use them as inspiration for all we do, and deliver ever increasing value to them.

Thank you to everyone who has been a part of our journey so far – we couldn’t do it without you. Here’s to a happy and prosperous 2018!

231: From Imposter Syndrome to Tech Influencer – One Tech Podcaster Shares His Story

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From Imposter Syndrome to Tech Influencer – A Tech Podcaster Tells His Story

Today’s episode continues our series where I hand the podcast over to you, the listeners, to tell your stories and tips of starting and growing your blogs.

231 Neil Hughs Start a Blog Series

Today’s blogger is Neil Hughes from Technology Blog Writer. Neil shares how he started out writing articles on LinkedIn, and talks about some of his struggles, accomplishments, and goals.

Links and Resources for From Imposter Syndrome to Tech Influencer – One Tech Podcaster Shares His Story

Technology Blog Writer Blogger Neil Hughes Start a Blog Course Facebook Group PB121: 7 Strategies for Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Full Transcript Expand to view full transcript Compress to smaller transcript view Darren: Hi there and welcome to Episode 231 of the ProBlogger podcast. My name is Darren Rowse and I’m the founder of – a blog, podcast, event, job board, series of ebooks and a course all designed to help you as a blogger to start an amazing blog, to grow that blog, the traffic to it, the content on it, and to make some money from it as well. You can learn more about what we do at ProBlogger over at

In today’s episode, we’re continuing our little series of blogger stories which we are ending 2017 and starting 2018 with in the lead up to our Start a Blog course. My goal in 2018 is to see hundreds, if not thousands, of new blogs started. We’ve developed this great little course which you can find at It’s free and it will help you, all your friends, to start a blog.

As part of the launch of this new course, we wanted to feature the stories of bloggers who had started blogging and to tell the stories of the opportunities that came from that. Also, to share some tips particularly for those starting out but also for those who are on the journey.

Today I’ve got a tech blogger from the UK who is gonna share some of his tips. He’s actually used blogging, podcasting. He started out on LinkedIn. He’s got some expertise in that as well. He’s really built himself an amazing little business as a result of that, a business that has enabled him to leave his full time job and work for himself. He talks a little bit about imposter syndrome and pushing through that. He gives a brilliant tip that I wanna add some thoughts to at the end of his story as well.

I’m gonna hand over now to Neil Hughes from Tech Blog Writer. You can find his blog at You can also find a link to that on today’s show notes at I’ll be back at the end of Neil’s story to wrap things up and tell you a little bit about tomorrow’s show too.

Neil: My name is Neil Hughes. My blog, podcast, and everything that I do comes into the name Tech Blog Writer. My URL is predictably I’m hoping that you know what I do from the title there. That was the idea from the very beginning. My story really began in July 2014 when I published my very first post on the LinkedIn publishing platform. It was a simple post calling out gurus, ninjas and those self-proclaimed influences, you know the kind, the Instagram expert with 72 followers.

The post was called The Rise of the Social Media Guru. This is where my tech blogging journey started. At the time, I didn’t have any objectives, any hopes, goals or dreams for the blog. I just wanted to share my insights having spent 20 years working in IT. I gotta be honest with you, I was originally scared about blogging on the LinkedIn publishing platform and crippled with that self-doubt and imposter syndrome that so many of us go through.

I still, to this day, remember nervously hovering over the publish button full of fears and doubts. What would my professional colleagues, friends, and contacts say? This was my personal brand on a professional platform that everybody would say and judge but obviously, I did hit publish on that post. It was instantly picked up and promoted by LinkedIn themselves. It received thousands of views. More importantly for me, fantastic engagement.

A year later, I had over a hundred tech articles against my name on LinkedIn that seemed to act as my own portfolio and cement me as a thought leader in the tech industry. What was also great about writing on the LinkedIn platform at the time was that they displayed all their sharing and viewing stats for everyone to see so everyone could look at all the articles you’re creating and how many views, how many likes, how many shares that you have.

Suddenly I found myself with one million views and was voted the number two tech writer on the whole of LinkedIn. Quickly I started getting accolades from my way including being named one of the top nine influential tech leaders on LinkedIn by CIO Magazine. ZDNet included me on the list of you need to follow these 20 big thinkers right now alongside from million names which is Jack Dorsey from Twitter, Elon Musk, Sheryl Sandberg and Jeff Weiner to name a few.

I still struggled with that pesky imposter syndrome. When I looked back at the mistakes that I made and I’d advise other people to avoid in their blogging journey, I would say that my biggest mistake was to unwittingly become too reliant on one platform. That platform was also somebody else’s playground. Essentially, I was just a guest there. Obviously looking back, I should’ve diversified my work much soon.

My best advice to anyone who wanna be a blogger is that never have all your eggs in one basket and don’t rely on a game where you’re playing by somebody else’s rules and in their playground. Saying that, but I did make the most of so many great opportunities. My LinkedIn work suddenly catapulted me into the tech writing stratosphere. I now have columns in Inc. Magazine and The Next Web. Millions of article views no longer excite me, it was finding other ways to meaningfully engage with those million readers.

I launched my own podcast around the same time that Darren launched his ProBlogger podcast. I still remember, on launch day, we were featured side by side on the New and Noteworthy section of iTunes. I tweeted Darren a pic which he immediately replied to. This is where things got really exciting. Fast forward two years, I’ve now performed over 400 interviews with the most significant tech leaders and startups in the world such as Adobe, Sony, Microsoft, IBM, writers and even TV chat show host, Wendy Williams and movie star William Shatner.

I still have to pinch myself. This work has enabled me to leave my day job as an IT manager and setup my own business. I’m now living by my own rules and doing something that I love to do. I guess worth pointing out, for me it was never about the Neil Hughes show, it was about me sharing insights and my guest sharing insights.

I’m then throwing it out there to all the people listening and reading and consuming my content and asking them to share their stories. This was always my biggest motivation because if we think about it, our ancestors thousands of years ago went from town to town exchanging stories around the campfire. We’re doing the exact same now but around virtual campfires. We’re tearing down geographical barriers and stereotypes by talking, working, and collaborating with each other. That’s what this recording is doing right now, isn’t it?

My number one tip for any new blogger would be don’t get carried away with this age of instant gratification where everyone wants instant success, [inaudible 00:07:27] solution but it doesn’t exist. Do not believe anyone that offers you a shortcut. Remember, we all digest content differently. If you wrote two blog posts per week, you can also turn those two blog post into podcast and to videos too.

After one year, you could realistically have 100 articles, 100 podcasts and 100 YouTube videos. If your audience likes to read, listen or view their content, you’ve got all bases covered. Most importantly of all, think of the SEO there because all of that content is against your name. That will cement you and your reputation as a thought leader within your industry.

Think of the SEO on iTunes, on Spotify, on YouTube and your own personal blog as a hundred pieces of content that sits next to your name. However, most people will end up doing 5 to 10 pieces of content in the New Year and say this is a waste to time and give up by the time they hit February or March. It’s that grind of getting 2 of pieces of work against your name every week until you have a 100 or 300 if you repurpose your content. That’s where the value is.

I think this is the only real secret to success. It is hard work. As Gary Vaynerchuk often says, “Don’t complain that you haven’t got a few hours to spend each week when you binge watching TV shows on Netflix.” My number one tip for new bloggers in 2018 is two blog posts per week every week. Two per week becomes eight per month and that becomes a hundred over a year.

Along the way, don’t forget to build on your success and grab opportunities along the way. Just like a snowball rolling down a hill, your content and your portfolio will get bigger and bigger. That’s it for me. Guys, what are you waiting for?

Darren: That was Neil Hughes from You can again find the links to Neil and his blog on today’s show notes at I loved Neil’s story today. I love today that we’re talking a little bit about a podcast as well because I think a podcast is essentially, whilst a lot of people would differentiate it from a blog because they would say a blog is a written content, a podcast is an audio content.

In many regards, they’re a blog, they’re both a blog and they share many features, they’re both presented in chronological order with dates and usually with show notes and comments. I generally would say it is an alternative to a blogger and a nice addition to a blog. I love Neil’s story for a number of reasons.

Firstly, he mentions the imposter syndrome there. I know many of you who are thinking about starting his blog in 2018 are probably wrestling with that right now. There are others of you who have already started your blog, this is a very common thing to wrestle with. You have fear, you have doubt about whether you really have the credibility to say what you’re saying on your blog, whether anyone is gonna listen to you. It’s something that we all face in different stages of our blogging and podcasting career.

If you’re struggling with that, can I really encourage you at the end of this podcast to go and listen to Episode 121. In that episode, I gave you seven strategies for really dealing with imposter syndrome. It is something you need to push through. In that episode, I gave you some practical things that you can do to really push through that imposter syndrome. That’s Episode 121.

I also love Neil’s story because he mentions there a mistake that many bloggers make and that is becoming too reliant upon a platform like LinkedIn. This really could be any platform at all that you don’t have complete control over. Neil mentions there that he really built his asset, he built his archive of articles on someone else’s playground.

LinkedIn owns LinkedIn, LinkedIn ultimately controls the content that he put onto LinkedIn. With the algorithm changes that’s on their domain, ultimately what you’re doing by building on LinkedIn or Facebook or Instagram or Pinterest or any of these other places is building someone else’s asset. You put yourself at the mercy of other people.

This is something a lot of bloggers who are starting out fall into the trap of. They see a tool like Medium or LinkedIn’s blogging tools or even Facebook and they’ll say, “I can just blog there.” There are certainly some advantages of using these types of tools because they can help you to get some exposure. If that’s all you do, if all your eggs are in that basket, you’re setting yourself up for trouble down the track and you put yourself at the mercy of their algorithms and their rules and there are limitations on what you can do.

What Neil did in starting his own thing, in his case it was a podcast, in many other cases it’s a more traditional written blog, in other people’s cases a video blog. Setting something up of your own that you have control of on your own domain, on your own service is one of the best things that you can do. Certainly I’m not saying you shouldn’t be involved in these other platforms.

I think LinkedIn is certainly a place that some of you should be working and building a presence but do it to build your own presence as well, drive people back to your own blog, your own podcast, your own email list and build the asset there. I think it’s great to do those things in conjunction. That’s what Neil is doing today.

I also love Neil’s tip there of not getting carried away with instant gratification, there are no shortcuts in this. Do what he said, his great call to action there. Create two pieces of content every week, two blog posts every week and then repurpose those two blog posts into two audio files if you can or two videos. You have 100 articles by the end of the year if you do that. I think that’s a brilliant goal for a new blogger just starting out, 100 articles by the end of the year.

As you get going, you might wanna then start repurposing and aim for 200 pieces of content with 100 articles and 100 podcasts or 100 videos as well. Start with those articles, start with the medium, I guess, that you’re most comfortable with. In most people’s cases, that does tend to be a written content but you might wanna start with a podcast as well and then learn how to repurpose those things.

Ultimately, that grind of creating that content every week is going to pay off in the long term because you’re gonna end up with an asset. The asset will be, if you set up on your own blog, in your own home base, something that you control and gradually over time, that asset builds. Every one of those articles is a new doorway into your home base. It’s a new potential reader who you can get the email address of and you can build a relationship with.

Over time, the more articles you’ve got, the more doorways you’ve got into your site. It doesn’t happen overnight, there’s no instant gratification here. This is something that does take time to build but it’s an incredibly powerful thing. It can open up opportunities for you in the ways that Neil has talked about in new relationships in building a business as well.

Also, I love that he said that we all digest content differently. This idea of not just creating written content but also exploring some of these other mediums is a very powerful thing as well. I know many of you who are listening to this podcast today have already got blogs. Maybe 2018 is the year where you need to explore that idea of podcasting for the first time or maybe you do need to start creating some videos in some way as well.

I hope that you’ve got some ideas and inspiration from that. If you’ve been blogging for a while, you’ve already got this amazing archive, hopefully, of hundreds of articles that you’ve written. It’s not too hard to repurpose those in today’s other mediums. I encourage you to explore that in 2018.

Again, today’s show notes are at You can find our Start a Blog course. We’re just two days away from launching that course now if you’re listening to this in the day that this episode goes live. You can find where you can signup to claim your spot in the course at If you’re listening after the 10th of January 2018, then that course is, hopefully, live now for you to go to as well. If you go to that URL, you’ll be at a signup and start that blog as well.

As I’m recording this, over 1300 people signed up already for that course. There’s a whole group of people going through it together. We’re gonna have a Facebook group where you can begin to interact with one another, support one another, ask questions. We’re also going to help you to launch your blog as well. I’ve got some great things planned where we’re going to feature all the blogs that start as a result of this course over on ProBlogger and hopefully find you some new readers as well.

Again, I can’t wait to get going with that course in the next couple of days. I hope you are finding some inspiration in this series. If you wanna listen to a few more stories of this series that we’ve been doing, every episode between 221 and 232 which will be tomorrow’s episode will be these blogger’s stories. Thanks for listening today. We’ll chat in the next few days.

How did you go with today’s episode?

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The post 231: From Imposter Syndrome to Tech Influencer – One Tech Podcaster Shares His Story appeared first on ProBlogger.

     Related Stories230: How a Blog Helped Grow My Voice Coaching Business229: 2 Finance Bloggers Share their Tips for Building Blogs from Hobby to a Full Time Business228: From Crying in the Bathroom at Work to a Multi Six Figure Online Business – A Writing Blogger Shares Her Story 

3 Ways to Resurrect Your Dying Display Ads

Originally published on:

Did you know that 86% of consumers suffer from “banner blindness”?

Only 14% of consumers who participated in that study could recall the last display ad they saw. Let alone the last one they clicked.

That was back in 2013. Now, consumers are proactively taking measures to block banner ads. The latest 2017 AdBlock report from PageFair shows a massive shift in consumer behavior from 2013 to present day:

devices using adblock software

Even mobile ad blocking is gaining steam. It’s gone from zero users to over 300 million in just two years.

Why the dramatic increase in ad-blocking technology over the last 3-5 years? Interruption and annoyance seem to be the biggest factors, beyond data security:

user motivation behind implementing ad blocker technology 

People don’t trust display ads. On top of that, they have a perceived impact of slower load times.

Another study by the Internet Advertising Bureau in the UK found these reasons as to why people block online ads:

why do people block ads 

Interruptive. Annoying. Slow. Irrelevant. Privacy. A display advertiser’s worst nightmare.

But this should come as no surprise considering how many ads the average user sees per day, month, and quarter:

display ads viewed per quarter 

(Image Source)

63 freaking display ads per day.

If that isn’t enough to drive you insane or download ad-blocking tech, I don’t know what is.

Another troubling report from eMarketer suggests that by the end of 2017, one out of every four users online will use ad-blocking technology. Based on the latest numbers for worldwide internet usage, that’s 971,391,904 people using ad-blocking software worldwide.

Trying to reach your target market? 25% of them are going to be blocking your ads.

This data may suggest that display ads are dying … but they aren’t dead yet. With the right strategy, you CAN get strong performance from display ads!

Resurrect your display ads before it’s too late by following the three simple tips below.

1. Make your audience targeting as specific as possible

Too many advertisers still have this old-school mindset: The bigger the audience, the better.

In reality, you don’t want a 1,000,000,000-person audience, unless you’re Coca-Cola, with seemingly unlimited funds to throw around. Chances are, you probably aren’t Coca-Cola.

Think about it this way: If you were selling PPC services, you wouldn’t advertise on the Hallmark channel, right? You’d likely only gain the interest of 1-2% of viewers if you were lucky. And those people probably either (a) don’t have the authority to buy or (b) can’t afford to even if they wanted to.

So why are you still creating audiences on AdWords and Facebook with hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of people?

The majority of them aren’t interested. One study found that only 2.8% of people reported seeing an ad that was relevant to them.

2.8%! That means 97.2% of people don’t even know (or care about) what the heck you are trying to sell them.

That’s why specificity is critical for optimal success. AdEspresso proved this with their $1,500 display ad test on Facebook – they compared how ads performed with different lookalike audience sizes. They tested 1%, 5% and 10% audience sizes. Can you guess which size won?

 display audience facebook lookalike audience re purposed creative

If you guessed 1%, you were right.

The more specific the audience, the lower the costs, and the higher the clicks and engagement. Oh, and also more conversions, too.

A 1% sized audience had half the cost per lead when compared to 10%. And almost double the clicks.

Try getting more specific with your display audiences and cutting out anything that won’t convert.

Lookalike and customer list audiences on Facebook and AdWords are great for specificity.

On AdWords, you can create an audience based on a customer list to match users similar to your existing customers:

 adwords customer list audience for display ads

You can do the same on Facebook by creating a lookalike audience from a customer file or an existing audience that’s performing well for you:

 adwords display ads vs facebook lookalike audience for remarketing

Make sure that you select your audience size as 1% for any lookalike audience to get as specific as possible.

Fight banner ad blindness with better targeting methods. Most audience sizes are too big, making most ads irrelevant to the consumer.

Focus on getting a specific, small audience that you know will engage with your ads.

2. Take the user to a dark place

I promise this tip won’t be as creepy as it sounds.

If your display ads aren’t grasping attention, it could be because you’re just like everyone else.

Recently, WordStream looked at 612 top-performing ads on AdWords to see what sentiment the ads conveyed: positive, negative, or neutral.

Here’s what they found:

 display ads sentiment analysis negative ad creative

2% of the ads had negative sentiment, and the rest were either positive or neutral.

And that should come as no surprise if you’ve seen your fair share of ads online.

Most are akin to: “Is X a problem? We can fix it!” Everything tends to be sunshine and rainbows. Which is great and all, but it’s not different. It doesn’t stand out.

One way to stand out is to evoke an emotional response from a visitor if you want to get noticed.

Take this example of a display ad from a weight loss company showcasing a clearly negative sentiment:

negative sentiment display advertising creative

This creative change led to a 47% increase in CTR!

WordStream also tested this on their own search network ads and saw an 18.8% increase in conversions when they used a negative sentiment.

search ad creative positive sentiment

Switching up your tone and testing different emotional triggers could make a big difference in your creative and your display ad performance. Try using the AdWords ad rotation tool to A/B test positive and negative messaging to see what resonates with your audience.

Rotate each ad evenly and compare the data at the end of the test to see which performed best. And remember, if you change too many factors in your display ad all at once, you risk confusing your results.

 adwords display network ad rotation

Of course, this tactic won’t necessarily work for everyone. Remember, WordStream did find that most top-performing ads are positive or neutral. But you never know until you test!

3. Use Facebook (and Facebook remarketing!)

If your typical display ads aren’t performing well, Facebook is always a good place to turn to.

It’s often overlooked as lacking intent. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth when it comes to the impact that display ads can have.

Let me explain: It features billions of active users monthly, meaning you’re guaranteed to find your target audience on the platform.

 top social networks by size of user base

Want to reach fortune 500 workers with an income of $200,000-$250,000 that have an outdoor-based hobby but hate camping and love fishing? You can do that with Facebook’s targeting options.

Plus, traditional ad blocking technology doesn’t work well on Facebook.

We live in a capitalistic society. And that means one thing: Facebook exists to make money! Cha-ching baby! They don’t want ad blocking technology to deplete the incredible amount of revenue generated by on-site ads.

The New Yorker recently reported that Facebook is taking serious measures and efforts to make ad-blocking tools less effective on its platform. According to a recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Facebook stated that their business would be in danger if ads were eliminated altogether.

For Facebook, blocking ad blockers protects their bottom line. A bottom line that includes billions of dollars in ad revenue every year.

So what does all this mean for real advertisers? Security in the form of your ad actually being seen by your target audience. You don’t have to worry about half or more of your audience blocking your ads.

Facebook’s massive user base combined with powerful targeting options makes it a perfect place to invest part of your display budget on. On top of that, Facebook remarketing is arguably the best place to retarget interested users.

You can create diverse custom audiences based on tons of different factors from website traffic to social engagement:

 source of facebook custom audiences

Remarketing on Facebook is powerful because you’re only showing ads to people who have previously shown an affinity for your brand. And we know from hard data that affinity has massive positive impacts on average ad performance.

brand affinity impact on adwords display ad ctr 

People are simply more likely to engage with and buy from you if they’ve heard of you before.

To resurrect your dying display ads, try creating a self-sustaining funnel directly on Facebook using remarketing based custom audiences. You can do this by creating two different custom audiences within the Business Manager:

Remarketing engaged social or blog visitors to download a lead magnet

use your blog as a lead magnet 

Creating a lookalike audience based on users who’ve engaged with your social and blog posts

create lookalike audiences based on users who have interacted with your blog posts 

Doing this will allow you to keep generating audiences that are highly likely to engage with you further and become leads. You’re taking already brand-aware users from previous engagements and funneling them into a lead magnet offer.

Next, you’re copying that active audience into new, lookalike users who are highly likely to engage with your content. It becomes a self-sustaining funnel that can help you get the most out of your display ads.

With next month’s budget, try splitting half of it into Facebook display ads. Create these funnel-based audiences and watch your display ad metrics go sky high.

In conclusion (the good news)

Display ads aren’t dead. They aren’t “as good as gone.” But they do require tender love and care to perform at their best.

No longer are the days of setting and forgetting. You have to take matters into your own hands. But there is still good news:

In 2015, Google introduced a “No Impression, No Charge” policy on the display network, meaning you won’t be paying for impressions that aren’t seen by real users. That includes display ads stuck below the fold, in a background tab or being blocked by ad blocking tools.

While this doesn’t specifically fix the impacted reach that might result from ad-blocking tech, it fixes the major problem of paying for it.

You can have peace of mind knowing that your ad spend isn’t being wasted on impressions that aren’t going to convert, and you can focus your energy on making sure the display ads you do pay for are as effective as possible. 

MLSP Week-in-Review: December 25, 2017

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It’s been a busy holiday week. However let’s not forget that the New Year is right in front of us. We know that YOU want to become the best you, and have major success next year. The thing is, that any of this content from our leaders this week will allow you to have your […]

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