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Ultimate Guide to Building Your Email List

Ultimate Guide to Building Your Email List

Why you need an email list

When I’m coaching a client and I find out they don’t have an email list, I want to cry. I literally want to say, “Oh, bless your heart… you’ve screwed yourself out of thousands of dollars.”

Think I’m exaggerating? Think again.

There are several reasons you should have an email list.

The money is in the list

You may have heard that phrase thrown around before.

It’s funny because we’re so conditioned to focus our time and energy on social media as a primary way to reach and market to our customers, but email outperforms social media by a landslide.

Email campaigns also offer one of the highest conversion rates (an average of 40X more effective than Facebook and Twitter combined, according to a 2014 study by McKinsey and Company).

Email is more personal

Think of it like this. Email is like having a one-on-one conversation with your reader, whereas social is like having a group conversation. It’s direct communication and it won’t get lost in someone’s newsfeed.

It allows you to give your readers an inside peek, and helps you develop a relationship with your audience. And when readers know, trust, and like you, they will keep reading. They will share your material with their friends. And, most importantly, they will buy from you.

You OWN your email list — it’s an asset

No one can take it away from you. If people stopped using Facebook (Think it can’t happen? See: Myspace), you’d have no audience. Same with Twitter.

Plus, only a small percentage of your audience on Facebook or Twitter (roughly 2%) actually sees anything you post in their newsfeed anyway (unless you’re paying to promote your content).

You’ve already worked hard to earn those followers… why should you have to pay for them to see your posts? No thank you.

But with email lists, it’s a whole different ballgame. Even better, email marketing is a form of advertising that is virtually free. Yet so many people still don’t do it!

Today, we’re going to figure out why you’re not taking full advantage of an email list, and then we’re going to flip it around and show you how you can make the most out of yours, starting today.

Why you don’t have an email list (or aren’t using yours effectively)

I’m gonna take a guess and say that most of you fall into one of the following categories:

  • You don’t have an email list because you want to respect your readers’ inboxes. You don’t want to bombard them with emails
  • You’re afraid to put a popup (ohmygodshesaidpopup!) or ask for emails because you don’t want your readers to think you’re being too sales-ey
  • You signed up for MailChimp (or some other email service provider), but you have yet to actually put an opt-in form on your website
  • You’ve got opt-in forms on your site and an email list, but you’ve never actually sent an email out to your subscribers
  • You’ve tried to send out a few emails, but the whole process was confusing, took too long, and what the hell are you going to write about anyway?
  • It’s so easy to get discouraged because you hear other bloggers talking about their thousands of subscribers (often like it’s not a big deal), while you’re struggling just to get a couple hundred

Trust me. I get it. I was there once, too.

If you don’t have a list, you’re losing money (like I did)

Many years ago, I had a small organic t-shirt company, and I knew I needed a way to reach out to past customers to let them know about upcoming sales, new designs, etc.

I sent out maybe 2-3 emails a year. I was so scared to bug them — I wanted to respect their inbox, and I felt like if I emailed them too much, I’d seem desperate. In fact, when I would collect email addresses, I’d even tell them, “Don’t worry — I’ll only email you a few times a year at most.”

Ugh! I think about that now, and I want to crawl under a rock because of how insecure that sounds. That attitude and insecurity is probably one of the reasons that t-shirt business ultimately didn’t take off… (alongside the fact that a major t-shirt company ripped off 2 of our designs and essentially sealed our fate, but that’s another story).

But I noticed that every time I sent out an email to my uber-small subscriber list (less than 100), we got sales. Like lots of them. I wasn’t sophisticated enough business-wise to think about keeping track of conversion rates and all that, but if I had to guess, I’d say it was around 10%. So with an email list of 100, we’d get probably sell 10 t-shirts. 10 x $25 = $250. Those single emails would sometimes sell more t-shirts in one day than we had sold in 3 months!

I wonder what would have happened had I sent more emails?

Choosing an email service provider (ESP)

First things first. If you don’t yet have an email list set up, stop what you’re doing right now and set up an account with an email service provider. There are several, but there are only 2 that I recommend.

  1. MailChimp – they have a free plan that’s great for beginners. However, you can’t set up autoresponders with the free plan. You can upgrade to the business plan which starts at $10/month and increases as your subscriber count increases.
  2. Convertkit (affiliate link) – This is what I use and it’s amazing. If you plan on automating your emails, creating landing pages, and creating launches to sell to your list (which you should), you might want to make the leap to Convertkit now rather than trying to make the switch later. Their plans start at $29/month, but the ease of use, the design of the emails, and the automation makes it worth every penny.

Ok, now that you’ve got your account set up with an email service provider, it’s time to start collecting emails and growing your email list.

Maybe you have zero subscribers. Maybe you have 100. Perhaps you even have 10,000. Doesn’t matter. We want to up that.

CLICK HERE TO GET THIS GUIDE AS A PDF

How to start list building

To collect email addresses, you’ll need to put opt-in forms on your blog so people have a place to sign up. You can create opt-in forms via your email service provider, or via 3rd party apps or plugins. My favorite 3rd party plugin is SumoMe.

Once you create your opt-in forms, you’ll need to put them in various places on your site. Here are the 6 places I recommend putting an opt-in form.

Note: You don’t have to put opt-ins in ALL of these places. Think about your readers and put them where it makes the most sense for them.

1. Get subscribers using a landing page

One way to collect email subscribers is with a landing page. A landing page is simply a single page whose entire purpose in life is to collect an email address. That’s it.

You’ve seen hundreds of them. You’ve probably put your email address on dozens of them. They are usually big and bold and simple. Many have larger than life images that grab your attention, while others get your attention with their stark simplicity — maybe just a few words set up in gorgeous typography, and an eye-catching subscribe button.

Landing pages are designed to be unignorable. That’s why they are so effective.

Landing pages are a great option for many reasons. First, let’s say your blog is brand new, and you haven’t finished your website. You might not even have your blog niche totally nailed down yet… maybe just an idea that you’re trying to validate.

You can throw up a landing page without too much effort while you’re building your site, so when visitors land on your page (hence the name landing page), they at least have an opportunity to interact with you or your brand.

They get a feel for what you’re about, or what your business does, and if it resonates with them, they give you their email address.

Boom.

And if you’re in the idea validation stage of your business, you’ll know you have a winning business idea on your hands if if people are subscribing from your landing page. Congrats.

Another clever list building strategy is to turn the home page into a landing page. The page gives the reader 2 choices: Subscribe, or click another button that takes you to the rest of the site. For instance, one button might call for you to subscribe, and the other button might say, “No thanks. Take me to the blog.” like in this example from Brie Beeks of Blissful Bosses.

Landing page example - Brie Beeks of Blissful Bosses

If someone hits the button to join her free course, a form pops up with an opt-in. Otherwise, they can continue on to her blog.

Sometimes, people get really clever with these two buttons, and use psychological tactics to all but ensure you click the subscribe button, by making the other button something you’d totally disagree with.

For instance, if I were a dog trainer, I might have a landing page that looks like this:

Clever landing pages can be one of the best list building techniques

Even though we KNOW it’s just a marketing ploy, we still don’t want to click the undesirable button.

And if you want to take it even further, once they click the button and subscribe to your list, you can set up a “Thank You” page that encourages them to share the page with their friends. You can see a great example Tim Ferriss wrote on how Harry’s razors collected 100,000 emails in one week via a great landing page.

2. Use a lightbox popup form for list building

“OMG she said popup! No — I hate popups! I’d never have one on my site!”

I know, I know. We’ve been trained that popups are terrible, evil things, but I’m not talking about the scammy popups that come with flashing text and warning messages that you can’t X out of.

I’m talking about the kind of popup that looks really classy or cool. It fits the theme of your site, and comes with a great offering, such as a discount offer, or a killer lead magnet (more on that later).

Something like this:

Popup forms can be an effective list building strategy

Yes, I’m cracking myself up for using a men’s underwear site when talking about popups.

Or this:

An example of a good pop-up opt-in form to help you with your list building

This popup on Lewis Howes’s site is nicely done

You can set these popups to appear right when someone lands on your page, once someone has scrolled a certain percentage of the way down, or after a certain amount of time has passed. You can even set up an “exit intent” popup, which only pops up when someone goes to exit your page.

The thing is, like ’em or not, popup opt-ins work. They outperform other opt-in forms which is why so many websites use them. And if you do it right, people won’t hate them. In fact, they’ll GLADLY give you their email because you’ll be giving them something valuable in return for their email address.

Warning: If you use a popup, don’t set it to appear immediately. Use common sense and put yourself in the mind of your reader.

Let’s say they landed on your blog from a Pinterest pinned post. When they land on your post, if the first thing they see is a popup, (when what they wanted to see was your post), then you disrupted that experience.That chance of a good first impression.

You want to GIVE your reader something before you ASK something of them. It’s that simple.

On the flip side, let’s say they land on your page, they’re reading along, and at this point, they are really interested in what you’re saying (because duh!). Then around the 50% mark of your article, a well-designed lightbox appears with a great opt-in offer that’s related to your topic.

At this point, you’ve already engaged them. So when a well-designed popup appears with a valuable lead magnet, they are much more likely to give you their email address.

3. Put an opt-in form at the bottom of each blog post

I love this one because if someone makes it to the bottom of your post, you already have their attention. They read all the way through, which is exactly what you want.

So why not reward them with something valuable while they are still basking in the glow of excitement that was your blog post? Ok, maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but you get my drift. Strike while the iron is hot, so to speak.

Offer them a valuable lead magnet that is congruent with the blog post they just read. (More on that later.)

Opt-in form example showing it at the bottom of a blog post

An example of an opt-in form at the bottom of one of my blog posts.

4. Install an opt-in bar at the top of your page

I’m not sure what the technical term is, but I just call it an opt-in bar. You’ve probably seen these before. Usually these are set to stay at the top, even when the user scrolls. (They can also be at the bottom of the page).

These are simple and unintrusive, but they work well because even if your reader doesn’t subscribe right away, when they are ready, they don’t have to hunt down a subscribe button. Easy peasy.

An example of an opt-in bar at the top of a webpage.

You can get a free opt-in bar from Hello Bar. They also have a pro version which gives you the option to remove their logo and add other features, but I’ve seen the free version on even some of the most sophisticated sites.

5. Put a subscribe form on your sidebar

This is probably one of the most popular places to put an email subscription form. It’s unobtrusive, it’s inoffensive, and it’s probably the least effective place to put a subscribe button besides the footer.

I’m not saying not to put one on the sidebar, but you need to think strategically about it. First, if you have one, put it at the top of your sidebar so your reader sees it first.

Next, you need to spice up the copy, and add an incentive. Don’t just say, “Sign up for my newsletter!”

Which brings me to the next place to put an opt-in form.

6. Put an opt-in in your footer

An opt-in form in the footer of your page is very similar to the sidebar, except it’s probably going to be the least effective option, simply because most people won’t make it to the bottom of your page before signing up. Again, it’s not a bad thing to put one there, but I would also have an opt-in in at least 1 or 2 other places on your page.

Use effective lead magnets in your list building strategy

It’s not enough just to put opt-in forms on your site. You need to give your readers something worth opting in for.

You see, most people just throw up a generic form that says something like, “Sign up for my newsletter to get news and updates.” This is not a good approach because it makes it about you, and not about your reader.

“Hey, over here! Don’t you want updates on me?” No. I don’t even want news and updates on Bradley Cooper. Even the word “news” is depressing, and why should I want updates on you just because I landed on your webpage? What’s in it for me?

So the key is to give them something that they want.

Let’s say you have a fashion blog, and you just wrote a post on upcoming fall fashion. You might offer a video or a guide that shows 10 simple (yet gorgeous) ways to wear a scarf.

If you have a mommy blog, your readers might appreciate a list of your top 10 productivity hacks (since moms are always juggling a gazillion things at once).

Checklists are great. If you write a travel blog, a checklist of “10 things to always have on hand in your carry-on bag” is handy.

Don’t get intimidated by this step. It doesn’t have to be super fancy. It just has to be valuable. In fact, the best lead magnets are often ones that are short and tactical. Things that the reader can implement right away.

If you don’t have a lead magnet that pertains to your blog post, you can always convert your blog post to a PDF in Google Drive, and make that your lead magnet. Just say something like, “Want a copy of this post to print and read on the go? Sign up and I’ll send you a PDF right away!

It’s that simple!

Beyond the opt-in form: other ways to get more subscribers

There are other ways you can get more subscribers outside of just your opt-in forms.

  • Encourage sharing – ask your readers to share your content, both in your posts and in your emails. If they signed up, chances are they’ll know someone who would also be interested in your blog
  • Online contest/giveaway – host a contest or giveaway that requires someone to opt-in to enter (I recommend KingSumo)
  • Create a free online tool or product and require email to get it – I saw this recently done by a graphic designer. She created a really cool font and gave it away for free, but you had to give your email address to get it. I saw another example of someone who had a free online tool to help track your Amazon book sales, but to get access to the free page, you had to subscribe.
  • Integrate social media and email
    • Promote your lead magnet on social (link to a special landing page for your lead magnet instead of linking to your homepage)
    • Use the call to action button on Facebook to get your Facebook fans to sign up
    • Use Twitter Lead Generation cards. Followers can subscribe with the single click of a button without ever having to leave Twitter)
    • Use share links in your emails so others can share your actual email
  • Do you use video? Add a call to action to your videos to encourage subscribers
  • Put a CTA to subscribe on every page of your site
  • Guest blogging – this is one of the best methods for list building. Write a kick ass guest post on a site that has a bigger audience than you. Instead of just linking to your homepage in your byline, create a specific landing page or page on your site with a lead magnet that goes perfectly with your guest post. At the bottom of the post, give them a teaser for your lead magnet and link to the page where they can get it.
  • Co-promotions / JVs – Team up with another blogger in your space and combine your resources! You create one lead magnet, she creates another, and you both promote them both as a package deal (and get new subscribers to each of your lists!)
  • Webinar – Host a webinar and get emails during registration

List building challenge

Ok, now you know why you need an email list. You have some recommendations on email service providers. You know 6 places you can put opt-in forms on your site. I gave you some examples of lead magnets to use to help maximize your list building efforts. And lastly, I gave you 10+ other ways you can build your email list.

CLICK HERE TO GET THIS GUIDE AS A PDF

My challenge to you: post a comment below with:

  1. How many subscribers you currently have right now, at this moment (if it’s zero, that’s fine!)
  2. What method(s) you read here that you haven’t tried (but you’re going to implement)

Bonus points if you check in later and let us know how much your list has grown.

Good luck!

5 mistakes to avoid when you launch a new product

5 mistakes to avoid when you launch a new product

The time is here — you’re ready to launch a new product on your website.

You’ve spent days, weeks, or even months creating a killer info product that will become your new source of passive income, the Holy Grail of online marketing.

You slaved for another week, setting up your social media plan, drafting an email blast to your subscribers, and now you’re ready to hit the ground running. It’s finally time to launch your sales page.

Ready, set, PUBLISH!

Now that your product page is live, you hit that gloriously scary send button for your email campaign. (Am I the only one that has a brief moment of sheer panic every time I hit send on an email campaign?) You post across your social media accounts and get excited when you see a few likes on your Facebook post. A good sign.

You wait patiently for the PayPal app on your phone to ding, indicating you made your first sale. Ok, so the first sale isn’t happening as quickly as you thought it would, but you know it’s coming.

You hop over to Google Analytics and see that you’ve had 60 hits to your sales page. Awesome! Aaaaannnnny minute you’re going to get a sale.

Refresh. Refresh. Refresh. Now you’ve received 100 hits on the page. And Still. No. Sale.

This is one of the hardest things about being an entrepreneur. The excitement of creating something that will make you money, shadowed by the reality that no one is buying your product.

This moment though — this moment of sheer disappointment — is what either makes or breaks most entrepreneurs.

Most entrepreneurs would be inclined to assume that no one wanted the product, and fairly quicky move on to the next idea.

However, a small few of us know it’s important to deconstruct the process from start to finish to see where something might have gone wrong, or what could be improved, before writing it off as “another idea that didn’t work.” This is when you should take a step back and look at everything objectively (an absolute must in order to be a successful entrepreneur).

If you’ve had hundreds, or thousands of views on your sales page, and not a single sale (or only a few sales… the ones from your mom don’t count), the issue isn’t necessarily with your product. There are several potential mistakes you might be making on your sales page so I’m going to talk about the most common reasons why you may be lacking in sales when you launch a new product.

1: Nobody wants your product

Notice I didn’t say that your product isn’t a good product. I just said that there’s no demand for it. So many of us skip the step of validating our idea to make sure it could be profitable before we spend our valuable time creating it.

Sometimes validating your idea is simply a matter of a Google search. If other people are selling a product like yours successfully, it means there’s demand for it. Other times you have to dig a little deeper, but before creating your product, always make sure that there’s an audience who actually wants what you’re selling.

If you’re getting lots of hits to your sales page, and likes on your social promo posts, then that’s a good indication that your product is at least interesting, but you can’t rely on social numbers alone. You need to talk to your audience. Go where they hang out and ask them if this is something they would buy.

2: Your price is too high… or too low

I caught you by surprise with the “too low” part, huh? Well, having a price that’s too low can be just as detrimental to sales as pricing that’s too high.

Let’s say you created an ebook, and you’re charging $5 for it. $5 is almost free. If I land on a page for a $5 information product, I’d assume I’d be getting something with a value only slightly better than free. Therefore, it probably isn’t worth the time and trouble for me to find my wallet, take out my credit card, enter those numbers, my billing address, etc. You get the idea.

However, if I saw an ebook that I wanted, and the price was $10, or even $20, I’d actually be more willing to pull out my credit card and buy it, because I would see it as having more perceived value. Something worth me taking the time to actually go through the process of buying it. Crazy, huh?

Your time is valuable, your work is valuable, so don’t be afraid to assign the appropriate value to your product.

This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes, by one of my favorite artists:

“Look, it’s my misery that I have to paint this kind of painting, it’s your misery that you have to love it, and the price of the misery is thirteen hundred and fifty dollars.” ~Mark Rothko

Just as you want to validate your product, you also want to do research to see what others are charging for similar products in your niche. This will give you a good gauge of what people are willing to pay. This will give you a baseline price to start with.

You are the ultimate judge on what you believe your product is worth. Don’t base your pricing simply on metrics like “# of pages in an ebook.” I’ve seen ebooks with just 10 pages or so sell successfully for $20 all the way up to $99. Set your price and adjust accordingly based on audience feedback.

3: Your sales copy isn’t hooking the readers

Ok, on to the actual sales page copy. This is important, because it’s where most of us go wrong.

We write copy that is compelling to us, but not necessarily the reader. Our natural inclination is to talk about ourselves and our product, when instead, we should be talking about them.

Your readers are on your sales page because they are looking for something to solve their problem. When they are in potential buying mode, they only care about themselves, so make the whole page about them.

For instance, let’s say you’re shopping, and you find an awesome new boutique with the cutest clothes. You go inside, find the best outfit, and as you are headed to the fitting room, the salesperson is talking to you about why they opened the store, how long it took them to get everything set up, etc.

At that moment, all you really want to do is go try this killer dress on to see how fabulous it looks on you. It’s not that you don’t care about what they have to say… it’s just that you care more about how awesome you’re going to look in that dress!

Lead with something that will make them think, “Oh my gosh, she totally understands me”. Hook them right up front, not halfway down the page. More about them, less about you.

Another thing we often do is focus on the features, but not necessarily the benefits. Benefits are what sells a product. Benefits explain how the product will make your life better.

Here’s another example: Let’s say you’re shopping (I’m sending a pattern here…) and you find a pair of amazing Jimmy Choos. I mean, these shoes are so fabulous, they give you heart palpitations.

If we were to describe the features, we might say:

  • Made in Italy
  • Peep toe
  • Leather Sole
  • Patent Leather upper

…yawn… Those features (which I pulled straight from the website where I found these shoes) would not entice me one single bit to buy these babies.

What if, instead, they just had a big page, with a large image of the shoes, and the copy:

Sexy peep-toe stilettos will make your legs look fucking fabulous.
Men will want to do you, and women will want to be you.

What this sales page for Jimmy Choo shoes can teach you about what mistakes to avoid when you launch a new product

I wear a size 8 in case anyone’s feeling generous. (Image courtesy of Raffaello Network)

Those 3 things (fabulous legs, sex appeal, and being girl-crushed on) are benefits. Benefits sell products. Features are fine and all, but they don’t necessarily help me, the buyer. Benefits, however, are what makes us go, “I have to have that!”

So make a list of both features and benefits, and highlight the benefits throughout your sales page. You can put features in there as a bulleted list if it’s appropriate, things such as number of pages, whether you’ve got checklists or worksheets included with the ebook, etc. The benefits would be things like, “I’ll show you how to do x like a pro in y number-of-days” type of thing.

You also want to make sure the focus is always on them. Don’t make your sales page all about me, me, me. One thing that might help is to ask yourself where your audience is at before they have your product, and where they’ll be after your product, and connect those dots for them in your sales copy.

4: You have too many distractions on your sales page

Another mistake I often see bloggers make is that they have too many distractions on their sales page. The sidebar is there, with all of its “shiny objects”, there are ads on the page, and at the bottom, there are sharing links, with call to actions asking them to share, etc.

When you’re trying to sell someone something, you want ZERO distractions on your page. Your only CTA should be the buy button for your product.

You want ZERO distractions on your sales page. Your only CTA should be the BUY button.Click To Tweet

Take away your sidebar — you don’t want your reader getting distracted by your Pinterest widget. You want them fully focused on the product you’re selling.

And for crying out loud, lose the 3rd party ads on your sales page. Seriously — this page is all about your product. Do not give people a reason to click away to someone else’s website entirely.

As far as having social shares on your sales page — I recommend that you remove those, too.

First, they’re usually at the bottom where your buy button is located. That’s too many CTAs at the bottom of your page.

Second, if someone is planning to buy, they aren’t going to share with their friends at that moment. If someone isn’t planning to buy, chances are, they aren’t going to share it with their friends, either. So the share buttons are a waste of space and an unnecessary distraction on this page.

What I would recommend is putting share buttons on the sales confirmation page that they land on after they buy. This makes much more sense. They just bought, so they’re still excited.

You could say something like, “Thank you for buying my [insert badass product name here]! I know you can’t wait to get started on it, but real quick, would you mind taking a few seconds to share this with your friends who would also enjoy it? Thanks again!”

Doesn’t that make more sense?

So eliminate the distractions on your sales page. Have only one CTA, which is to buy your product.

5: Tech glitches and overall user experience

As awesome as the tools we use to help sell our products are, the fact remains that sometimes things break. There are bugs in the plugins we use, compatibility issues, the rest of our tools aren’t supported, etc.

Before making any sales page live to the public, it’s essential that you test the entire process first.

If you’re using WordPress (which is my platform of choice), then you can publish a page or post in “private” mode so you can test everything. Just go to the box above the publish button, and click “edit” next to where it says “Visibility: Public”, and switch it to private. Then hit Publish. This will allow you to see it in fully published mode as long as you’re logged in to WordPress.

Test your sales button(s). Go through the entire purchase process, and actually buy your product. Did everything check out ok? Did you get a confirmation email (if your process is set up to send one)? If your product is digital, did your digital delivery system send you the actual product or link for you to download it?

Launch day certainly isn’t the time you want to find out that something’s not working. Test it on different browsers, test it on mobile, test, test, test!

In addition, how complicated was the entire process? In other words, are there too many steps for you to go through as a buyer? If your buyer has to jump through too many hoops to get your product, it becomes a pain in the ass, and you may lose them midway through the actual buying process.

Ideally, the buyer simply has to click one button, which takes them directly to the checkout page. Boom, boom, done. Make it stupid simple for them to buy your product.

Recap: things to remember when you launch a new product

  • Validate your product idea, so you don’t waste valuable time creating something that no one wants
  • Scope out similar products in your field to get an idea of what people are willing to pay, but price based on value, not just number of pages or modules, or what everyone else is doing. Don’t be afraid to charge what you’re worth!
  • Step into the stilettos of your readers, and write sales copy that resonates with what they want or the problem they need solved. Focus on benefits — how will your product help them or make them better?
  • Remove all distractions on your page, and have one clear, concise call to action for the reader to buy your product
  • Test for tech glitches, and make sure the entire purchase process is smooth and painless

What mistakes have you made when launching a new product that we can learn from? Go ahead and share so we can all commiserate in the comments section.

Smart business lessons from a 7-year-old

Smart business lessons from a 7-year-old

I started my first business back in 1982. I was a passion-driven 7-year-old living in Arkansas, and I just knew that I could make a small fortune selling worms from a small roadside stand to the local fishermen for cheaper than the bait shop down the road.

On the day of my “grand opening,” I woke up early and went outside to dig up those big, wiggly worms that were sure to earn me enough to buy a stable for my My Little Pony collection.

Boy, let me tell you, it sure was hard digging up so many worms. Turns out those little bastards don’t like to be caught!

I finally got a dozen or so, put them in some dirt in a jar and hung my sign up on my worm stand.

Worms Cheap Sign - Smart Business Lessons

WORMS CHEAP, it read.

And I sat. And sat. Aaaand sat. Do you know how many worms I sold?

ZERO.

At the time, I was perplexed. Why didn’t anyone want my worms? What was I doing wrong?

Looking back, I realize exactly what I did wrong. I jumped head first into this business idea, with no real idea who my market was, or if there even was a market for worms. I just assumed there was, because the bait shop down the road carried them, but that doesn’t mean they were selling many.

Learning from my previous mistakes

Luckily, as a headstrong 7 year old, I didn’t let my failure discourage me, and it didn’t take long for my next idea to take shape.

It was August, and August in Arkansas is f-ing hot. Like fry an egg on the sidewalk hot. Like Bradley Cooper hot.

Bradley Cooper Hot

There was a new apartment building being built on my street, and I noticed that everyone on the construction crew was all sweaty. I thought, “I bet they’d like some Kool-Aid.” So I walked over and asked them if they might want some.

The yeses were unanimous, and although some might argue that it had more to do with the fact that I was a cute kid than their actually wanting to drink a sugar-filled drink laden with Red No. 10, I beg to differ. They were thirsty, the drinks were cold, and I had found (and validated) my niche before wasting time making something nobody wanted.

You see, I wasn’t selling Kool-Aid. I was selling ice-cold relief from the heat.

I made $13.50 selling Kool-Aid that day for a quarter a cup. That’s 54 sales.

In fact, so many of them wanted to buy from me that I ran out of cups. And rather than just calling it quits for the day until I could get more paper cups, I struck while the iron was hot, and I ran to my house, grabbed a few glasses from our kitchen, and served drinks in those, telling the crew they had to drink fast because I had to reuse the same glass for the next person!  (To be honest, I didn’t even rinse them between uses — but they didn’t even care!)

I learned a valuable lesson that day: Figure out what your customers desperately need, validate your idea, then deliver the solution to them on a silver platter (or in a paper cup).

The concept is so simple a 7-year-old can do it — yet most of us never grasp this hugely important concept. The one that could make or break your business.

Don’t sell products. Sell solutions.

Don't sell products. Sell solutions. Click To Tweet

If you implement this business lesson, my friends, I guarantee you’ll see better results in your business. It’s truly the golden ticket that gives you an all-access pass to the hearts and minds of your customers, and when you get there, they’ll happily snatch up anything you’re selling and they won’t care about the price…

…or if it comes in a re-used glass.

Leave a comment below with your best childhood lessons!