Put Some Skin In The Game & Become a Better Marketer, Guaranteed.

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I believe there’s a process that any person can go through that will make them a better marketer, guaranteed.  I started my own business in 2001 after spending seven years at a large company.  I found out very quickly that when you venture out on your own, you truly are alone.

And it’s a lot scarier of a place than being in a corporate bubble.  I found out that when you start your own business, the line between success and failure is razor thin.  And when the decisions you make directly impact how well your business performs, you tend to look at things differently than when you are spending someone else’s money.  And that’s an incredible lesson, and one that’s hard to learn elsewhere.

When It Gets Personal, You Learn Quickly

After launching my own business and mapping out my services and solutions, it was time to market them.  That included taking a chunk of my own money to fund my marketing budget.  And let me tell you, it was an entirely different feeling when I was spending my own money.  Using my own hard-earned money to fuel marketing campaigns was an incredible experience and yielded some powerful marketing lessons.

You can’t learn those lessons in class, from a book, or even at a company that’s giving you a budget to spend.  And the effect it has on your own business perspective and how you manage client campaigns is priceless (no pun intended).  So, if you have never spent your own money to market a product or service before, you should (and I will quickly explain the process I recommend below).  Then I’ll explain some inherent learnings you will gain during the process of “putting some skin in the game.”  Are you up for the challenge?

The Process

If you’re ready to become a better marketer by funding your own campaign, then follow the process below.  Believe me, you may never look at a client’s budget the same way again.

1. Identify Your Product or Service

The first thing you need to do is to identify the product or service you are going to market.  You can market your own freelance service, a product you developed, training you built, an ebook you’ve written, or anything that you feel comfortable selling.  If you don’t have anything to sell of your own, then find someone close to you that does.

For example, approach a family member or good friend that has a business and tell them that you’re going to help them market their product or service using your own budget (for a generous commission of course).  Hey, if you are putting some skin the game, you should have the ability to be rewarded.  Once you identify what you’re selling, make sure there is content online that you can drive prospective customers to.  If a landing page or site hasn’t been created yet, you’ll need to build one (either by yourself or by using part of your budget.)

2. Stretch Out Those Alligator Arms & Reach Your Wallet

Yes, now you need to fund the campaign.  Reach into your wallet and find your budget.  To make this fair, let’s use a percentage of salary that could work for a majority of people.  I recommend taking 5% of your total salary as the budget for your marketing campaign.  So, if you earn $25K per year, you’ll spend $1250.  If you earn $50K per year, you’ll spend $2500.  And if you earn $100K, then you’ll spend $5000.  And yes, it’s obviously ok to use less, if needed.  Just make sure there’s enough budget to make some type of impact.

3. Develop Your Marketing Strategy

OK, online marketing big shot… now’s the chance to put your money where your mouth is.  At this point, you need to map out your strategy to generate sales.  Once you start brainstorming ideas, you’ll probably notice a transformation occurring.  You might be taking this conversation a little more seriously now that your money is in the game.

Will you run paid search, Facebook advertising, how strong are your organic rankings, do you have an in-house email list, and what assets can you leverage that are already in place?  You might experience a sudden feeling of excitement, fear, and nausea, and you might realize that you never felt this way until your own dollars were on the line.  Don’t worry, you’re experiencing a side effect of entrepreneurship, and it’s hard to reproduce that feeling without funding your own gig (or riding roller coasters over the age of 35).  By the way, I’ll explain more about the lessons you will learn during this process later in the post.

4. Projections and The Upside of Entrepreneurship

Even though you run the risk of losing your own money (and some of you will), you can also end up making money (if you do a good job and generate a profit).  I’ll explain more about Return on Investment (ROI) later in the post.  At this point, you should run projections based on various performance scenarios.  Run the numbers using various success levels to identify how much you can earn.  Once you have your strategy in place and your projections, you can get ready to launch.

Prior to the launch, you might have a few extra butterflies in your stomach.  It’s ok, they are attached the money you are risking.  Here’s where it gets interesting.  When you run your own business and launch your own campaigns, there is no limit to what you can earn.  You can earn as much as you can, based on how well your campaigns perform.

And if you started by investing $2500, but your campaigns are highly profitable, keep funding the campaign.  I’m sure you would be ok investing $10,000 if you can earn $25K, right?  On the flipside, there is a floor you can hit.  And it’s a hard floor, and it can hurt.  Unfortunately, you can crash and burn fast, and that can be catastrophic for a small business.  I’m sure you’ve heard the following line before: With high risk, comes high reward.

Inherent Learnings By Funding Your Own Campaign

After launching your campaign, there are some key lessons and learnings that will naturally occur.  I’ve listed several below along with a quick explanation of each.  These learnings will stick with you forever… I know they did for me.  Most importantly, you will never look at a client’s marketing budget the same way again.  And that’s an awesome lesson.  Note, I obviously didn’t provide every lesson you’ll learn below, but feel free to add your own learnings in the comments (if you’ve funded your own campaigns).

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1. You’ll Learn The Formula For ROI Really Fast

Poof, where did your money go??  If you don’t already know the formula for Return on Investment (ROI), you will after launching your campaign.  As money goes out, and some money comes in, you’ll want to know how well the campaign is performing.  It doesn’t necessarily matter how much gross revenue you generate if you’re spending more than you bring in.

During your campaign, you’ll find yourself running this formula across campaigns and channels to understand your most profitable efforts.  Once you do, you’ll naturally want to allocate more budget to the most profitable efforts.  This is a great lesson and one that’s (insanely) overlooked too often by marketers…  By the way, here’s the formula for ROI in case you need it:

ROI = (Gross  Revenue – Expenses) / Expenses * 100

i.e. $7500 – $2500 / $2500 * 100 = 200% ROI

2. Web Analytics Is Critically Important

After launching your self-funded campaign, you might find yourself checking your web analytics reporting obsessively.  Actually, your netbook might be connected to your hip with your web analytics reporting set to refresh every five minutes.  🙂

As your money rushes into your campaigns, you are going to want to know several things about the resulting traffic.  Is it quality traffic, how many visitors are converting, how much revenue is being generated, and what are those visitors doing on the site?  All traffic sources are not created equal and you’ll want a way to identify poorly performing efforts in order to kill them.  You can achieve this by mapping out an analytics strategy and tracking conversion goals and events, but many bypass this process.  They choose to fly blind, and flying blind is a dangerous thing to do in online marketing.

When it’s your own money on the line, you’ll want to track everything you can.  If you can’t, you’ll be angry, frustrated, and run the risk of biting somebody’s head off.  Again, it’s a strange side effect of entrepreneurship.  It’s one of the reasons I dedicated an entire chapter of my ebook to tracking your online marketing efforts via Google Analytics (setup, strategy, and implementation).

3. Continual Optimization is Key

Big companies notoriously move slowly.  But small companies can turn on a dime.  I’ve always felt that refining campaigns on the fly is one of the most powerful things you can do in online marketing.  You’ll want to structure your campaigns so they can easily be tracked, refined, and paused if needed.  Online marketing is about continual optimization.  You’ll find that you rarely knock it out of the park on your first try.  That’s ok, as long as you have the right tracking in place, and you are measuring ROI properly.  Wait, did I just thread key learnings together?  🙂

4. Destination Does Matter, Welcome to Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

Have you ever seen paid search campaigns that drop visitors on a homepage?  When you launch your own campaigns (using your own money), you’ll probably never do this.  Or, you’ll realize quickly how it can negatively impact your performance.  If your goal is conversion (which it should be), then you’ll start to heavily analyze your landing pages.  And as you start to analyze your content, you might start wondering how certain changes to that content can impact conversion.  Yes, welcome to the incredible world of conversion rate optimization (CRO).  What seems like small changes could actually impact a lot of revenue.

5. Uptime is Critical

As an extension of the previous bullet, you’ll understand how website uptime is critically important.  If your site is down, you have 0% chance of converting visitors.  And if you think they’ll return when your site is back up and running, you’re wrong.  Chances are they visited one of your competitors to buy one of their products.  That why I believe website monitoring is a simple, yet powerful tactic you should employ.  Don’t skimp on hosting or your technical setup.  You might end up paying a heavy price.

6. SEO is Amazing, I Want More SEO

We all know how powerful it is to rank highly for target keywords, but you will truly understand the importance of strong SEO when you are spending $X per conversion in other channels.   When you pay for traffic and you pause those campaigns, you also pause revenue.   That’s an ugly situation.  SEO is residual and trusted.  You’ll realize how incredible this can be for your business when it’s working 24/7 without an advertising budget.  It’s not free, since you’ll have to work hard to rank for target keywords, but it can be a heck of a lot cheaper than paying for every visitor.  Once you experience the SEO effect on revenue and compare the ROI of organic search to your paid efforts, you’ll turn into a big fan of search engine optimization.  You might even where a giant “S” on your chest.  🙂

So What Are You Waiting For?  Put Some Skin in the Game

As I’ve explained above, there’s a lot you can learn from investing 5% of your salary in a campaign.  I think it’s an incredibly important process for any marketer to go through.  I know how much I learned by going through this process earlier in my career, and I still learn new things as I launch my own campaigns.  But in my opinion, the most important effect will be how you view client budgets moving forward.  You’ll be more sensitive to how that budget is spent, you’ll have a laser focus on performance, and you’ll scrutinize every aspect of each campaign.  You’ll realize that the concept of “success” is much clearer than some people make it out to be.  It’s about making more money than you spend.

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  • WebPro Technologies

    I surely like your perspective on SEO.

    Once you experience the SEO effect on revenue and compare the ROI of organic search to your paid efforts, you’ll turn into a big fan of search engine optimization. You might even where a giant “S” on your chest. 🙂 – totally agree. Great post.

    • Glenn Gabe

      Thanks Bharati. I appreciate it. When you are using your own money to increase sales and see how powerful strong organic rankings can be, it's hard not to buy a shirt with a giant “S” on it. SEO surely can be a super channel. 🙂

  • jasoncormier

    Glenn, although I read your post like it's written for an individual or small start-up… the funny thing is there are plenty of mature businesses out there that continue missing even some of the basics within what you have listed.

    I also know from experience that good SEO (the kind that drives daily business) tends to sometimes create laziness when it comes to employing other tactics that can impact growth… consider this a confession 😉

    • Glenn Gabe

      Those are great points Jason. There are definitely times that larger companies with deeper pockets can overlook the analysis and optimization pieces of what I listed above. Again, that's because it's not tied to someone's wallet. 🙂

      Regarding SEO, I definitely hear you. That's related to the “working 24/7 without an advertising budget” reference I included above. The funny part is that strong SEO (business-wise) can fund some of the other, less tested channels. I guess that's only if you need those other channels!

  • yourfurniturenow.com

    Great post. I own a small start-up and couldn't agree more with you as I was definitely one of those people checking analytics every 2 seconds. Spending your own money always makes you look at things differently and question your ideas. We are lucky in that we are starting to reap the benefits of SEO. I agree that once you nail SEO ( or nail as much as you can) it becomes best friend!

    • Glenn Gabe

      Thanks and I'm glad you liked my post. It's amazing how important analytics becomes when it's your own money on the line. 🙂 I'm glad to hear your SEO efforts are paying off. Did you order your new shirt yet? The one with the giant “S” on it?

  • Steve Jobs

    This is a comprehensive list of how to become a better marketer. This will greatly help those upcoming marketers but the real concern is the strategy and the implementation as it is where most had failed.

    • Glenn Gabe

      Great point. Implementation is critically important. And, you'll learn that quickly when you're funding your own campaign. That's one of the side effects of entrepreneurship!

  • CashOrPoints

    Thanks so much for this. Helped a lot.A while back when I gave it a shot I was a noob and wanted all sorts of help. This will totally help me out. Thank you again.

  • CashOrPoints

    I messed up on my last comment. This really did help me out on marketing …I tried for a start and hopefully it helps more

    Thank you!

  • Info

    Awesome post. I started with paid adverts for one of my online businesses, and it was very frustrating at first. Spending more than you are making isn't fun at all. That got me to start investing in seo. 11 months now and i can say it was indeed a good learning experience. High rankings is organic rankings truly rocks!

    • Glenn Gabe

      Absolutely, it's easy to see the value of SEO when you're spending a certain $ per conversion via paid efforts. Glad to hear that's working out for you.

  • uptraffic

    Hi Glenn,

    Its nice that when we spend own money then we get much better experience than job and new excitement appeared at our face.

    Your post is very real and original.

    • Glenn Gabe

      Thanks and I'm glad you liked my post. I hope a lot of marketers take the challenge and fund their own campaigns. Like I said in the post, you'll never look at a client's budget the same way again. 🙂

  • Визитки срочно

    Thanks for the informations!

  • Ruth @ SEO Services

    I was going to try and beg for a mentor but with this article I can breath a bit more with your great advice. It's going to hurt puting 5% into marketing but if I don't invest in myself then who is going to buy from me. I will def be heeding your advice and work on my website analytic skills

    • Glenn Gabe

      That sounds like a great plan, Ruth. It's an invaluable process to go through. Good luck and I'd love to hear how it went for you.

  • Tim

    I totally agree with your perspective on spending you own money. You can learn everything in class, and read thousands of books on marketing but there is nothing more valuable then you own experience, especially when it comes to spending your own finances. Great read!

    • Glenn Gabe

      Thanks Tim. You are absolutely right. Feeling the risk and reward personally is extremely powerful. 🙂

  • Dario

    SEO is really the way forward but only when combined with other efforts such as PPC and video marketing it one part of the overall marketing pie

  • yuregininsesi

    This is a comprehensive list of how to become a better marketer. This will greatly help those upcoming marketers but the real concern is the strategy and the implementation as it is where most had failed.