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Bitcoin Is Now Classified as a Commodity in the U.S.

Bitcoin Is Now Classified as a Commodity in the U.S.

Bitcoin will now be classed as a commodity in the U.S. along with gold and oil, according to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), which has started to clamp down on unregistered firms that trade derivatives of the cryptocurrency.

The CFTC stated Thursday that it had ordered bitcoin options trading platform Coinflip, and its CEO Francisco Riordan, to cease trading due to it not registering and complying with its regulations. It added that it had also filed, and simultaneously settled, charges against the San Francisco-based firm.

This might mean a nervous couple of months for other unregistered bitcoin derivatives firms in the U.S. but also signaled that the cryptocurrency will now come under the CFTC’s scope.

“CFTC holds that bitcoin and other virtual currencies are a commodity covered by the commodity exchange act,” the regulator said in a statement Thursday.

Aitan Goelman, the CFTC’s director of enforcement, added that “while there is a lot of excitement surrounding bitcoin…innovation does not excuse those acting in this space from following the same rules applicable to all participants in the commodity derivatives markets.”

Francisco Riordan was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.

Bitcoin is a virtual currency that allows users to exchange online credits for goods and services. While there is no central bank that issues them, bitcoins can be created online by using a computer to complete difficult tasks, a process known as mining.

As well as bitcoin exchanges and wallet services, a small but growing sector of derivatives firms selling products based on the digital currency have also sprung up in recent years. Crypto Facilities was set up in the U.K. this year by former bankers from Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, BNP Paribas and Societe Generale.

The platform pitches itself as a broker which specializes in bitcoin derivatives, and trades financial products like options and futures which are directly linked to the price of the cryptocurrency. Thus, it allows users to “go long” and bet that the price of bitcoin will rise, or “go short” and bet the price will fall.

Technology enthusiasts, regulators and economists have been pondering how to pigeon hole bitcoin since its emergence in 2009. In August 2013, the German Finance Ministry classified it as a “unit of account”, meaning it is can be used for tax and trading purposes in the country and is like “private money.”

To Rapidly Enhance Your Business, Stop Selling and Start Teaching

When I sit down at my desk to write every day, I am simultaneously energized and discouraged.

On the bright side, it is amazing that we live in a time when (and place where) everybody is free to express their thoughts immediately, in a completely unfiltered medium. The Internet has done this for us. You can start a blog tomorrow and publish on anything that you want, for free, without fear of censorship or restraint. Somewhere, Gutenberg is smiling.

On the flip side of that coin, however, this freedom to publish inevitably means that there is a much lower threshold for quality content on the Internet than through traditional publishing mediums. Plainly stated: there is an overwhelming amount of crap out there.

Writers and other content creators struggle daily to find the balance between publishing enough volume of work to be relevant and enough quality work to make a difference in people’s lives. It is not an easy task.

So how does marketing fit into this equation?

First, a paradigm shift for you: Instant access to online content, social media and resources has changed the definition of marketing forever.

It will never be the same. Get over it.

Sales psychology, hard sell tactics, long form sales letters… all those have their places in the marketing arsenal. But much of that stuff is trite and transparent. Old hat, if you will. The new marketing formula is much more elemental than all of that.

Teaching is the new marketing.

The paradigm shift.

Your prospects and your clients are not mindless faces, robots or sheep. They are real human beings. And we paradoxical humans love to buy but hate being sold to.

The easiest way to slice through that human paradox is to teach a person something and let them decide whether they want to further their education with you or not. Your goal should be to provide value to them regardless of their response to you. Now, your followers are no longer your customers, they are your students.

Welcome to marketing in the information age.

The Benefits of acquiring “students” rather than “customers.”

Changing the way you think about your customers will drastically increase your rapport with them and, as a result, your sales. There are many benefits to looking at your customers and clients as students instead of dollar signs.

The immediate benefit for both parties is a softening of the interaction. I recognized this firsthand when I worked at a restaurant for a few years. In the back of the kitchen, we would always refer to patrons as “customers.” As in, “my customer did this” or “I have four customers right now.”

Management emphasized that we refer to patrons not as “customers” but as “guests.” At the time, I thought that this detail was too miniscule to make a difference. But it really did. As soon as I started referring to my customers as guests, I detected an almost imperceptible softness towards them creep up on me. I didn’t have any specifically positive feelings towards a “customer.” The word “guest,” however, triggered a slew of emotional and cultural cues in my head regarding how I should treat them. The cultural norm is to treat guests with love and kindness.

A small word change made me a better server.

This change did not go unnoticed. When I became a better server, all of a sudden, they became better guests. Guess what got better after that?

My sales.

Adopting the mindset.

The mindset for selling any product or service is exactly the same. We have to change the way that we look at our clients and ourselves. Changing the relationship from business-client to teacher-student is a huge shift that injects benevolence into the mix. You’ll care about your students and they will care about you in return.

Whenever you engage a customer, set out first to deliver them information that will enhance their lives. Whether or not they select you or your product, your goal should be to make sure that they walk away knowing more than they did before the interaction.

Luckily, I don’t have to work at the restaurant anymore. My business now is focused on coaching young people and helping them build start-up companies online. Naturally, this puts me in a situation where people have a ton of questions for me. Rather than hoarding all the information and trying to squeeze every dollar out of them before I give them the “secret sauce,” I just tell them what they want to know. There is no possible way that educating them can rob me of anything I’ve worked to build, and in the long run, they will feel grateful that I helped them in a time of need without pressuring a sale. Most marketers (read: 99 percent) don’t do this.

I’ve found that instead of getting taken advantage of, this approach actually brings me many more clients (“students”) than ever before. Even if educating prospective customers means exposing them to the fact that my competitors also have some good products to offer, that’s OK too. My goal is to come from a place of true authenticity.

People feel that authenticity. People will bond with that. That bond will lead to an enhanced relationship and, ultimately, much higher conversions from prospect to customer.

It’s the ultimate win-win.

What Is a Sales Funnel? The Guide to Building an Automated Selling Machine.

What Is a Sales Funnel? The Guide to Building an Automated Selling Machine.

One of the core concepts in the digital marketing industry is the sales funnel. While odd sounding at first, this single core concept can take a business from virtually non-existent and unknown to multi-million-dollar marketing machine with mass saturation, seemingly overnight. In fact, there are skilled practitioners who have built a career around implementing this single concept in business.

If you’re wondering what a sales funnel is, simply imagine a real-world funnel. At the top of that funnel, some substance is poured in, which filters down towards one finite destination. In sales, something similar occurs. At the top, lots of visitors arrive who may enter your funnel. However, unlike the real-world funnel, not all who enter the sales funnel will reemerge out from the other end.

In marketing automation, Ryan Deiss, co-founder of Digital Marketer, often describes the sales funnel as a multi-step, multi-modality process that moves prospective browsers into buyers. It’s multi-stepped because lots must occur between the time that a prospect is aware enough to enter your funnel, to the time when they take action and successfully complete a purchase.

There are email warming sequences that include things like personalized value-driven stories, tutorials and even soft pushes to webinars, and of course product suggestions that happen over days or even weeks. The truth is that most prospects won’t buy from your website at first glance, especially if they’re only just becoming aware of you today. It takes time. Thus, the funnel is a multi-modality process, as there are a variety of relationship-building experiences and “touches” that occur through several stages.

Much of this is steeped in buyer psychology. The best marketers in the world know that there is a psychological process that must occur for prospects to whip out those credit cards and turn into buyers or even hyper-active buyers. One such person whose perfected this process is Russell Brunson, an “underground entrepreneur” who founded a company called ClickFunnels, a sales funnel SaaS business that empowers marketers from around the world to build marketing automation without all the hassle.

As a software engineer myself, I can tell you that building funnels from an application standpoint takes massive amounts of work. There’s a great deal of coding and integration that’s required here. From email systems to landing page implementations to credit card processing APIs, and everything in between, so many platforms need to “talk,” that it takes the bar too high for the average marketer.

However, what Brunson cleverly conceived with ClickFunnels is to create a SaaS that can integrate with the world’s most popular platforms and virtually anyone can quietly launch a funnel in hours as opposed to weeks of hefty coding and programming. As a fervent user of ClickFunnels myself, I can tell you that the system is impressive beyond measure.


Understanding sales funnels

To better understand the concept of a sales funnel and just how you can implement it in your own business, let’s look at the following image from Shutterstock. On the left side of the image, you see a magnet. That magnet is attracting customers, which happens a number of ways. From blogging to social media to paid ads and everything in between, how the visitors arrive to your website has some impact on the success of your funnel.

What are sales funnels?

Stage 1: Awareness

What’s more important about the sales funnel is what happens when those visitors (we can call them prospects) actually do arrive. Through a variety of means, many of which you’ve already seen, such as email newsletter signups, ebook downloads, online quizzes and more, those prospects enter into your sales funnel through an enticing offer.

The goal of your entire sale funnel and platform is to solve your customer’s problem. When you know the problem, and you build content to draw them in, then offer them a product or service to solve their problem, that’s when the real magic happens. However, getting to that stage takes work and you have to garner their awareness first.

Once the prospect is in the proverbial funnel, you’ve peaked their awareness. That’s the first stage of the funnel. However, getting a prospect aware of you is no simple feat. Depending upon how they’ve arrived to your website (organically or through a paid ad), those customers might view your funnel differently and your opt-in rates will vary significantly.

For example, when a customer finds you organically through a Google search for example, that means you have some element of authority. When you have authority, prospects are more likely to enter into your funnel because they know that if they found you relevantly, that whatever it is that you’re providing must be of a great value. That’s just the nature of SEO and organic search.

Of course, regardless of how they enter into your funnel, your goal as a marketer is to move them through the multiple stages that will take them from prospect to buyer. And once they’re aware of you, you need to build their interest. To do this, you need to establish a relationship with the customer. You might have enticed them with a great offer (lead magnet) to grab their email address, but actually moving them through the funnel is a far greater challenge.

The truth? People are smart. They’re not simply going to buy anything from anyone unless they feel there’s an immense amount of value to be had there. Thus, your funnel needs to built that value and bake it in through a variety of means. But most importantly, you have to create a strong bond with your prospect, and that happens by being relatable, honest and transparent in your email warming sequence.


Stage 2: Interest

You gain the prospects interest through an email sequence. You begin to relate stories to them that tie into who you are and how you’ve arrived to this point in your life. Brunson, in his book, Expert Secrets, calls this the Attractive Character. Are you the reluctant hero whose journey happened almost by mistake, but you feel like you owe it to yourself and the world to convey something of great value?

Or, are you a leader, an adventurer or an evangelist? How you position yourself is entirely up to you, but your message must be consistent throughout your entire “pitch” and it needs to be steeped in the truth. Your backstory, and just how you convey that through parables, character flaws and polarity, has much to do with just how well you can “hook” in your prospects to create a mass movement.

Of course, implementing this isn’t easy. You need to first develop your stories, then decide on how you’re going to convey those stories and at what drip-rate. For example, your first email or two might go out on the day they first signup, then one email per day might go out afterwards. How much of that will be story-based and how much will be pitches?

In a recent conversation I had with Perry Belcher, co-founder of Native Commerce Media, he told me that you also need to train your prospects to click on links. For example, you could have them click on a link of what interests them or link them to a blog post or eventually to a product or service that you’re selling, but you need to train them to build a habit of clicking on those links from the very beginning.

Stage 3: Decision

The next stage is the decision. Getting prospects to make a decision isn’t easy. The best way to get them there? Beyond the art of story telling, copywriting and building the habit of link-clicking, you need to have lots and lots of customer reviews and testimonials. This is one of the most powerful ways that you can get people to take action.

Of course, if you’re going the paid ad route, you could also use Facebook and Google re-targeting to keep that awareness and interest level high. For example, if you’ve ever noticed after leaving a particular website, that you begin to see their ad everywhere, there’s a particular reason for that. Especially if they’ve already entered your sales funnel, this is a very powerful way to get them to act.

For example, you could show them re-targeting ads that have video testimonials or reviews by other customers. If you have media publications that have written about you, you could take that opportunity to highlight those. When they see this in your sales funnel and you follow them around with re-targeting, it’s simply an added element of exposure.

But however you get them to decide to act, flipping that switch isn’t simple. You need to present them with a great opportunity and use Robert Cialdini’s 6 principles, outlined in his 1984 book, Influence, in one way or another to move them through this stage:

  • Principle of reciprocity — This is achieved by delivering lots of value, either through whatever it is that you provided them as a free offer (lead magnet) in the very beginning, or in an ongoing exchange through your emails.
  • Principle of commitment & consistency — When people commit to something, they’re far more likely to purchase from you. That’s why getting them to agree to something like a free + shipping offer or by agreeing with something you’ve said in some way. This is a powerful principle in sales and if you pay attention to some of the best marketers in the world, you’ll notice that they work fervently to get your commitment to something, even if it’s very small in the beginning.
  • Principle of liking — When people like you (i.e. they relate to your stories) they are more likely to purchase something from you. How well you craft your story and convey that to your prospects is going to play a big role in whether they decide to act or not.
  • Principle of authority — How much authority do your products or services have? Are their respected people in your community that have endorsed it? Scientific studies that are backing it? Are you yourself an authority? All these elements come into play in this process.
  • Principle of social proof — Do you have social proof? Are people on social media raving or talking about how great your products or services are? Do you have some other type of social proof? Best-selling books? Something else? It’s importnat that you present this to prospects if you do have them.
  • Principle of scarcity — How much scarcity have you baked into your email sequence? Again, people are smart, but when you apply the principle of scarcity, as in there are only a limited amount of some offer or time left before a discount expires or slots available for an online class, it entices people to take action.

Stage 4: Action

The final stage of the sales funnel is the action that you’re intending them to perform. In most cases this is the purchase. Again, how well you move them through the various stages is going to set you up with a specific conversion for this action. For example, if 100 people click on your offer and 10 people enter your sales funnel but only purchase people purchase, then you have a 2 percent conversion.

However, the best part about this, and the most powerful route that entrepreneurs take to scale their businesses, is that if you know that sending 100 people to your site costs you $200, for example, but you get two people to convert at $300 each, then you have a $600 return on $200 invested (300 percent). When you know that, that’s when the entire game changes and you can infinitely scale your offers.

This how the world’s smartest marketers scale out their businesses. They know the conversion value and they’ve tweaked and perfected their sales funnels, so they go after this with a vengeance by simply scaling out their offers. If you know that, by investing $1 you’re going to get $3 back, you will infinitely invest $1 repeatedly. Get the point?

However, getting to this stage is no simple feat. It takes an enormous amount of work and effort plus tracking. By implementing sales funnel software, such as the platform built by Brunson, you can definitely cut down the headache, but there’s still lots of work to be done. Copy needs to be written, tracking pixels need to be installed and email sequences need to be created. But that’s what it takes to succeed.

Think about that the next time you’re building out a sales funnel. This complex and intricate concept in business can literally take you from a complete unknown to a global powerhouse quickly through the art of scaling out a highly-converting offer. Don’t try to take shortcuts or implement hacks, and put in the time if you’re looking to eventually reap the benefits and results.

The 4 Elements of an Irresistible Offer

The 4 Elements of an Irresistible Offer

“Retailers have shot themselves in the foot, there are so many offers and sales all the time, people are conditioned to wait to get a deal,” says Beth Smith, owner of Smith Browning Direct, Inc., a Flagstaff, Ariz.-based direct marketing consulting firm.

She was one of many speakers at the Direct Marketing Association’s annual conference this week in Chicago.

“Offers are bait,” Smith explains, and the businesses that succeed package the bait in a way that’s attractive to consumers. Smith shared four key components of an irresistible offer, and highlighted several direct marketing campaigns that successfully implemented these strategies.

1. Package the bait.
Businesses should be prepared to communicate their unique selling proposition –what distinguishes them from the competition. “What do you have that’s new, different or better than what others have?” Smith asks.

For example, earlier this month, airline Jet Blue announced it would allow family members to pool their miles at no additional cost. And last year, T-Mobile in the Netherlands entered the competitive music service business by offering a number of playlists for different occasions, such as the “Run Till You Drop” playlist for runners and “Time for Another Drink” playlist during happy hour. By “packaging the bait” and making it easy for consumers to try the service, the campaign netted trial numbers at 700 percent over their target and paid conversions at 12 percent over their target.


2. Mention the savings.
If you’re going to offer volume discounts for a service, such as $9.99/month or $99/year, always do the math and include the actual savings on the ad, Smith says. This lets the customer see the actual benefit. Businesses should also consider the long-term effect of offering discounts on sales, Smith says. For example, does the customer make a repeat purchase? Does the discount cannibalize full-priced sales? In other words, are you simply shifting the timing of the purchase?

3. Throw in an incentive.
Incentives can give consumers an opportunity to try something with low risk, or offer a “free gift with purchase” that appeals to the target audience for a product. For example, tax preparer H&R Block offers a free “Second Look” review, where tax specialists review a tax return to find deductions that may have been missed. This type of offer makes customers say, “I’d be crazy to ignore this,” Smith says. Premiums or gifts that enhance a product or service, are popular as well. Just be careful that the gift doesn’t overshadow the product. Smith suggests watching to see which programs businesses repeat; they’ll repeat what’s worked for them.

4. Create a sense of urgency.
A free trial or low-risk commitment offer is another way to get consumers to act, Smith says. Last summer, eBay offered consumers the chance to sell one item on its mobile platform for free over a three-day period. And Boost Mobile’s retention strategy gives customers a $5 reduction in their bill every six months for on-time payment.

Businesses may set deadlines or limits to encourage consumers to get off the fence and act, Smith says. For example, online retailer eBags has a “Steal of the Day” offer with a limited number of bags available. The site also shows the remaining quantity available, as well as a message to “Hurry, there are X people shopping now.” Smith says this gets consumers asking, “What am I going to miss out on if I don’t respond?” If you’re going to run a limited time offer, Smith suggests providing an end date, between two and four weeks.

7 Ways Solopreneurs Can Turn a One-time Webinar Into a Content Goldmine

7 Ways Solopreneurs Can Turn a One-time Webinar Into a Content Goldmine

Webinars are a powerful and affordable way all “solopreneurs” can leverage their time to share a powerful message with their audience. One reason is that webinars provide an opportunity to speak directly with your audience and clients worldwide in real time. Another is the great opportunity they provide to spotlight your expertise, informally pitch and promote your product or service and potentially gain new clients.

Webinars are also fairly easy to mount, given the variety of platforms out there, like the popular applications GoToWebinarWebinarJam and SpreeCast. With all the bottom-line business and sales implications of a webinar, the marketing potential a well-produced webinar offers might be missed.

One more thing: You probably already know to record your webinar for playback to any registrants unable to attend the live version. But are you leveraging the goldmine of content marketing creation you can garner from the video?

Here are seven simple ways every solopreneur can turn a one-time webinar into a content goldmine.

1. Consider gate-keeping.

Before you automatically provide a recorded video link of your webinar to registrants who missed it, consider a few alternatives. First, think carefully before allowing and advertising a free recap link ahead of time; if you do this, there’s less incentive for people to attend the live event.

Some critics will argue that you’ve already gotten what you want — viewers’ registration info — and that with everyone’s busy schedule, it’s hard for people to attend webinars live. But while, yes, you now have them as prospects in your database, your real leads will make the time to attend live. So, by seeing who attended live and who did not, you’ll distinguish who is a prospect vs. a warm lead.

Utilizing CRM platforms like Infusionsoft or Marketo that offer common webinar service plugins, you can segment and follow up with your leads for the chance at a better sales conversion opportunity without offering anyone the video recap. You could alternately offer the video recap on a landing page for those who missed it, but only after they register to download it or exchange their contact information for it.

That’s a gate-keeping method that, again, will allow you to find out who is a prospect and who is a warmer lead. Utilizing your webinar for content marketing and contact segmentation will help you get the most from your efforts. To find out if your content is valuable enough to work with a gate-keeping strategy, check out this helpful infographic from HubSpot.

2. Make your recordings available for your membership.

Another option for your webinar recordings is to make them available only to your membership base, behind a login dashboard. If your business or site supports membership programs, offering recordings can be a great “members-only” perk you can advertise and utilize. Members will still be required to register, but by doing so will be guaranteed access to the video posted after the webinar event and have the convenience of viewing the content afterward.

The only caveat here is to ensure that your webinar is packed with the right kind of valuable content to truly enhance a member’s experience. Your webinars should never be straight sales pitches; this rule becomes particularly critical if you’re offering video recaps only to members, who won’t appreciate or find value in a membership program that offers only sales-pitch videos.


3. Utilize SlideShare.

You can quickly and easily curate the slides of your webinar presentation into a simple, elegant SlideShare presentation. By offering a cohesive sample of your webinar content to the SlideShare audience, you can share your expertise without giving away the entire presentation, create residual traffic and views to your site through the SlideShare platform and leverage the time you spent creating a valuable presentation.

Again, the name of the game here is value. Even as you scale down your full presentation from the webinar into a SlideShare presentation draft, the content still needs to be meaningful, valuable and well presented. Don’t think of this as a receptacle for your old sales-pitch decks or you’ll find a backlash against, or outright ban of, your presentations.

4. Segment for socials.

Whether you have video-editing skills, or you hire a freelancer, for a relatively cheap and easy investment you can break out your webinar into content-packed short segments, give them individual title pages and provide them to your social media followers in short, action-packed video chunks that get the most traction out of your video.

Obviously, if you choose this tactic, you won’t be able to gate-keep your video as explained in Step one, but this can be a great opportunity to segment your large webinar into bite-size content with distinct titles and calls to action that will play well on social media.

5. Transcribe to transform.

White papers are an important part of a healthy content-marketing mix, but they can take a substantial amount of time to create if you aren’t careful. One great trick with a webinar is to have the video transcribed by a professional service, then move in to quickly and efficiently parse that transcription down to a great source of content for a white paper.

Services like Speechpad will transcribe your video for as little as one dollar a minute. Once you have your white paper outline, you can find and hire a graphic designer for a baseline price of just $5 on Fivrr, to add visual design to your transcribed outline of content. Then, voila! You have yourself a great white paper for an affordable cost.

6. Create brilliant Q&A graphics

Don’t leave question-and-answer segments off the list of content sources. Utilize your video transcript’s Q&A session to create some simple and effective graphics you can use as blog post images or social media posts. Take a question and distill the answer from the webinar recording into a single sentence, or simple, short takeaway. You can then provide that copy to a graphic designer, like the one you found on Fivrr, to make a single image.

For example, a “buy local” nonprofit program in Alaska transformed a question about why it was important to buy local into a simple image that shared key stats and demos about the impact of local purchasing decisions. You can use this same tactic for highlighting a great quote from the transcription. Quotes, questions and answers that are presented in a visual way are much more compelling to view and much more sharable, helping you to create a viral aspect to your webinar, too.

7. Make questions into topics.

Now that you have segmented all your questions and answers from the transcript, you can turn that content into blog posts or article topics. Utilize the question itself to be the topic or to formulate a related topic title. Then lean on the great content already in the answer from the transcripts, to formulate the basis of a response that you can add to for a unique piece of content.

By having already extracted the outline and bones of a great article from your webinar transcript, you’ll only have to add a minimum amount of time and effort to fill in some additional information, to round out a great piece of content. Do this for the majority of your questions generated during the Q&A session, and you should have anywhere from three to five solid posts at your fingertips.

7 Hacks to a 5-Figure Webinar

7 Hacks to a 5-Figure Webinar

Online trainings are a simple and low cost way to grow your audience and revenue, but only if you do them right.

My team and I are looking for ways not just to replace the income we’re going to lose when my speaking business grinds to a halt in the second quarter due to my pregnancy, but actually grow and exceed our current revenue curve. Webinars (or online training sessions or seminars) are by far the most promising.

Webinars rock because you can use the Internet to reach a large number of quality prospects. Choosing a single topic to dive into allows you to grow your list of prospects by introducing your concept to folks who might not have realized you’re a solution to their problem. And for those who understand the value of what you offer, a good webinar can be a chance to deepen their understanding and relationship with your company, leading to more and bigger sales.

Of course, anyone who’s ever gotten a GoToWebinar account knows that running a successful webinar isn’t as easy as some of the industry’s heavy hitters make it look. So to shorten my learning curve, I reached out to Amy Porterfield, a social-media strategist and online marketer who has built a multi-million-dollar empire in less than a decade using webinars.

I chose Porterfield because I’ve loved her blog and podcast for years and have actually bought several of her paid programs off her webinars, so I can personally attest to her skill at selling online. She has my credit-card number.

1. Live is better than automated (at least at first).

Everyone who’s making five figures or more off webinars agrees that live webinars (where you show up live and interact with your audience) always outperform pre-recorded or automated ones.

“When you’re first starting out, you need to do them live so you can test them and make sure your trainings are converting the way you need them to,” Porterfield says. “It gives you a chance to listen to your audience and test things.”

2. The fill-up formula.

Though webinars are certainly a quick cash machine once you have a big email list, those of us who are starting smaller need to plan 30 days ahead.

Porterfield recommends creating a bunch of free content using whatever channels you already have: blog posts, podcast episodes, videos, etc., about your webinar and its promise. Then, at the end of each piece of free content, present your audience with an opportunity to register for your webinar (or be notified when you open registration).

She also believes that for those with small lists and small budgets, Facebook ads are the solution. They’re inexpensive as ads go, but require a fair bit of tweaking and testing. Drive free social-media traffic to that free content you’ve created and boost sign ups with paid ads on whatever social platform your target audience is most active (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google, Pinterest, etc.), but if you had to choose just one, Facebook is the way to go.

3. Warm up your audience before the webinar.

Generally speaking, only 20 percent of those who register for your webinar will attend live. These folks are also the ones most likely to buy. To keep attendance high, Porterfield recommends sending out three to five emails in the week leading up to the webinar (she only starts promoting the webinar actively about seven days out).

When our team at Baby Got Booked previously dabbled in webinars, we used Ryan Deiss’s email campaign templates (included in his course The Machine) and customized the heck out of them. It worked beautifully. We had a 50 percent attendance rate and even before the webinar, folks were writing us back with questions and excited comments.

4. Keep engagement high during the webinar.

On her podcast, Porterfield interviewed Tim Paige of Leadpages (who’s currently in the running for a Guinness World Record for the most number of webinars conducted in a 12-month period). One of his hacks to big revenue from webinars is to answer questions and engage with your audience throughout your live webinars instead of only during the Q&A section at the end.

Porterfield adds that you should always aim to stay online until each attendees’ questions are answered (instead of busily jumping off right on the dot when the session is supposed to end). The folks who still have questions are the ones who might be on the fence and just need some clarification.

5. The money is in the post-webinar follow up.

If only 20 percent of those who registered for the training show up, there are plenty of potential sales still on the table. Porterfield recommends starting an email series with an invitation to watch a limited time replay.

“Always specify that the replay is going away, because if there’s no deadline, people don’t make the time to watch,” she says.

Follow up with four to five emails over the next seven days with testimonials, results and responses to common objections. Dive deep into the program and present it as an opportunity to do business with you.

6. The cart close.

Always have a “cart close” date after which people will no longer be able to purchase your program at the discounted rate or have access to the special bonuses. This is their last chance to get an amazing deal.

7. It’s time to automate.

Only after you’re closing between 2 to 10 percent of sales, depending on your price point and industry, you’re ready to record that presentation and automate it. At this point, it’s time to use Infusionsoft or whatever you use for email marketing and customer-relationship management to build out a series of campaigns and automate the entire funnel.

This is a whole post unto itself, but well worth the effort, according to several Internet marketers who are making five and six figures from doing it. Porterfield recommends for your recorded webinars. There’s also EverWebinar, which seems to be the other heavy hitter in this space.

Finally, lean back, sip a (virgin) mojito and watch the cash roll in.

Have you hosted webinars successfully? We’d love to hear your tips on making them work in the comments section below.

5 Steps to Building Your First Online Sales Funnel

5 Steps to Building Your First Online Sales Funnel

As an entrepreneur, you understand marketing’s importance: Without marketing, your business would eventually fail due to the absence of new customers. Therefore, if you haven’t already put time and effort into this mission, now is the time to start; and one easy way to start is the utilization of a sales funnel.

What is a sales funnel?

This strategy is so named due to the fact that in diagram form, this particular marketing strategy looks just like its name.

The top category is the biggest one and represents the largest number of people — potential customers. The bottom category represents the smallest number — committed customers — which is why it’s smaller.

Now, here are the five steps to follow to construct your own simple online sales funnel.

1. Create a great landing page.

Your website’s landing page is the first impression potential customers will instantly have of your business. Therefore, take time to make sure that it looks great. A good landing page will also encourage visitors to sign up for some sort of list, or subscribe to the website. This gives you that all-important contact information, which becomes your first line of communication.

2. Present a front-end offer.

The next step is to present potential customers with the opportunity to buy a product or procure your service. “When constructing your main front-end products and associated upsell offers, you should be engineering them with the additional mindset of . . . how will this help create more desire for the next [backend] offer [you’re] going to present them with,” explains Todd Brown of

In other words, at this step you should be “pre-selling” on the next step in the funnel.

3. Give an upsell offer on the back end.

Offer your customers who just bought or are about to buy a product or service the opportunity to upsize, or upgrade, that service. For example, create an offer that will deliver even more benefit to the customer if he or she upgrades. This strategy is called an upsell.

Consider this the steak dinner to the regular offer’s appetizer. You are offering your customers more substance if they choose to upgrade. Of course, that also means you make more money because an upsell typically involves a larger or more expensive item or service.

4. Offer a downsize option.

In the same way that you encouraged customers to upgrade services in the upsell step, this element of the funnel calls for you to offer a downgrade option to certain customers.

No, a downsize option doesn’t represent a failure and should not be looked upon as the loss of a sale. Instead, consider this a way to keep a customer unable to buy from you due to budget constraints. Keep in mind that those constraints may change. Be considerate and offer cheaper options for these individuals to keep them as potential customers.

5. Keep it going.

The last step in the sales funnel is to keep your momentum going. Follow up with all the new customers you have acquired and ensure they are happy with their product or service. A great way to accomplish this is to offer a membership-based rewards program. This will allow you to remain in contact with customers, giving you the perfect means for telling them about new deals and services.

The steps listed here are geared to a business with an online presence. Of course, this might not describe your particular business. However, every business can benefit from the sales funnel model.

Just remember: Your potential customers category, which represents the greatest amount of people, goes on top of the funnel; and the smallest category, established customers, goes on the bottom. The categories in between may be altered to meet your specific business’s needs and sales goals.


The Science Behind the Sales Funnel

The Science Behind the Sales Funnel

When customers buy your product or service, businesses have them entered into a “Sales Funnel” or “Customer Retention Path,” where they receive regular mailings or e-mails promoting the backend products. I’ve studied sales funnels/customer retention paths for years, and there is a science to them. They all involve a lot of testing, and they take time to implement. But once they are fine-tuned, they create HUGE customer lifetime value.

That lifetime value often makes the time and effort it takes to set up a Customer Retention Path more than worth it.

I have a number of different clients who sell introductory courses that teach how to use a particular investment technique. The back-end usually consists of some kind of continued subscription to a website or newsletter that provides the information needed to implement the program. Then, there might be various video programs, advanced course modules, advisory services, coaching, or even live seminars that are available for purchase.

A Successful Customer Retention Path

In order to create a successful customer retention path, you need to know what products to offer, what order to offer them in, and what price points to use. It takes dedicated trial and error to get this knowledge, but a well-designed sales funnel can completely transform the nature of your business.

The best way I’ve found to put together a sales funnel is to start with your lead product. What is the first item that most people will buy from you?
Then, figure out what product or service you offer that will complement that product. Outline the next 3 or 4 or 5 products or services that are congruent with the initial product your customer buys from you. Next, try mailing (or emailing) a sales piece out for each product or service. You’ll want to mail them a week to 10 days apart.

This will give you your initial sales funnel. Once you implement it, it will take time to read the results and determine what areas of the sales funnel are working well and what areas are not. It could take up to six months to track this.

If you see that the first offer and fourth offer are working well, then keep mailing them. If you see that the second, third, and fifth offers are performing poorly, try replacing them with something else or try moving them to a different position in the sequence.

In addition to planning sequential mailings for your back-end sales funnel, you can also use the sequential mailing approach for a single product. For example, the clients I just mentioned often put on live seminars. These can be expensive and may involve making a trip to another city. This requires a little more selling to get buyers to respond.

So in advance of the event, they might send out an invitation with a long letter. Then 10 days later, they might send a postcard with a reminder that the seminar is filling up fast and if prospects don’t want to miss out, they should call right away. Then another week or two later, they might send out a third “last chance” letter.

Sequential Mailings to “Cold Prospects”

You can send sequential mailings to “cold” lists too. These are rented or purchased names of people who don’t know you, and perhaps have never even heard of you. In this case, you want to get a feel for the kind of response you get to your first mailing before sending out subsequent mailings. If you don’t get ANY response on your first mailing, don’t bother sending the rest of the sequence. You don’t want to spend good money on bad names.

Your mailings will likely get more notice with sequential mailings that vary the headlines and the format so people don’t think they’ve already seen the piece and know what’s in it. Even just printing a “Last Chance” stamp above the headline will help get attention. You want to try to get the prospect’s attention by using something different in each mailing. IF you just send the same old sales piece, then they are less likely to respond since they’ve already seen it before.

Never Let Up

You must keep reaching out to your customers and best prospects, reminding them that you exist and asking for their orders. This is one of the best ways to expand your business and customer base. Be prepared to keep dipping into the well, try out new offers and sales copy, and measure the response.

Your direct mail or email program is a living thing, and the success of your business depends on how well it does. Keep it healthy and growing, and you will enjoy a flood of orders for years to come.

Want to Get Famous? Make Amazing Stuff.

We all make mistakes, but not too many of us have made a $100 million blunder, as AppSumo founder Noah Kagan claims to have done when he got fired from Facebook. And there are lessons to take away from this story that are enormously relevant to each and every one of you, so pay attention.

Kagan joined Facebook as a product manager in 2005, about a year after Mark Zuckerberg founded the social network in his Harvard dorm room. But as the company grew from 30 to 150 people, Kagan couldn’t adapt, his issues got the better of him, and he was deemed more of a liability than an asset. And then he was gone.

As he tells it in a blog post, “I wanted attention, I put myself before Facebook. I hosted events at the office, published things on this blog to get attention and used the brand more than I added to it.”

He also says he was fired for going around the marketing team and for not being “great at planning or product management,” skills that the company needed to scale, not to mention that they were also part of his job description.

Now for the lessons. Some are his and some are mine, but they’re all counterintuitive. Not only that, they fly in the face of some massively overhyped myths that masquerade as common wisdom, these days, especially among the entrepreneurial crowd:

Build great products, not your personal brand.

According to Kagan, “The BEST way to get famous is make amazing stuff. That’s it. Not blogging, networking, etc.” He couldn’t be more right. If you focus on helping to make great products that customers love, that will make your company more valuable and that’s what matters.

Business is about business. It’s not about you. And when it becomes about you, that’s when things go south.


Figure out and fix your career-limiting weaknesses.

One of today’s most insidious fads is that people should focus on their strengths, not their weaknesses. And they should focus on the positive, not the negative. Not only is that a complete load of nonsense, it’s absolutely the worst advice for advancing your career and your business.

“If your weaknesses are hindering you at your job,” says Kagan, “fix them or move to another position.” The only way to grow – personally, in your career, and in business – is to figure out what issues, blind spots, or limitations are holding you back and fix them. We’re each our own worst enemy.

Getting fired can be the best thing that ever happened to you.

You heard it from Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford commencement speech, you heard it from me in my new book, Real Leaders Don’t Follow, and now you’re hearing it from Kagan: Getting fired can be the best thing that ever happened to you, but only if you take a cold, hard look in the mirror and face the truth.

On getting fired from Apple, Jobs said, “It was awful-tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick.” The truth is, we often lock ourselves in our own little self-destructive cages, and it takes an emotionally charged, painful, and traumatic event to break us out.

It’s way easier to admit our faults than to change our behavior.

Kagan says that getting fired from Facebook was a $100 million lesson. And while I’m sure it was a big lesson for him, that statement is more than a bit of a stretch. It’s actually a Grand-Canyon-sized leap.

Maybe his shares or options were worth that much when Facebook went public, but he was only there for eight months and was fired in 2006 – a full six years before the company’s IPO. In other words, he still had many years to go for the shares to fully vest and for a liquidity event that would allow him to cash out.

My concern is this. One of Kagan’s self-professed issues is that he put himself and his need for attention ahead of the company and its product. I could be wrong, but I’m not so sure he’s addressed that limitation as well as he thinks. I’m just saying that maybe he still has work to do.

12 Profitable Hobbies You Can Monetize (You Probably Have At Least One)

12 Profitable Hobbies You Can Monetize (You Probably Have At Least One)

We’ve all got our hobbies—pastimes we dedicate some of our spare hours to because we find them fun or fulfilling.

While we don’t typically get into hobbies to make money, some of them can become a stream of income if you take it seriously enough. Depending on how you direct your talents and interests, you can get anything from free stuff to extra spending money to a full-fledged business where you sell things online—all by doing something you might’ve done anyway.

Here’s a list of 12 common lucrative hobbies that make money, whether it’s through freelancing, becoming an affiliate, building an audience, or starting a business.

1. Writing

Writing and publishing online has the potential to offer you a lot of practical value outside of being a mere hobby. You can use it to further your career and establish yourself as an expert on a topic. You can build a platform for sharing your ideas. Or you can rent out your skills.

The most obvious way to make money writing is to sell it as a service—freelancing on sites like Upwork or Fiverr or reaching out directly to blogs for paid gigs. Good content writers with niche expertise are usually in demand.

However, if you have the discipline and know how to write a good blog post, you can create your own blog-based business by picking a niche and building an audience over time.

Whether you care about tech or travel or cooking, our guide to starting a blog that you can turn into a business will walk you through what you need to know.

For more inspiration, check out how:

Best Self Co. used blogging to sell its productivity tools.
Wait But Why built a business around Tim Urban’s humorous and insightful content.
2. Illustration and design
illustration design

Like writing, illustration and design are creative money-making hobbies you can do at home on a freelance contract basis. Fiverr, in particular, features many newer artists with a variety of illustration styles. Clients post projects for which they need to hire these skills, whether it’s marketing projects or custom portraits or anything in between.

If you want more control, you can put your art on items—from t-shirts to posters to canvases—and sell those instead. It’s important to understand that to turn your art into a product, you’ll need to cater to a specific market or build a unique brand. The former is usually easier.

Hatecopy is an excellent example of a business that was started by an artist putting their work onto things people can buy.

And you don’t need to front the money for inventory either. Print-on-demand services offer a low-risk way to take advantage of your creative hobbies. You’ll just need to create mockups of your products to list online. Once you make sales and know what designs and creative have the most demand, you can consider investing in your own inventory.

To learn more, check out the following resources:

How to Start a T-Shirt Business: Everything You Need to Know
How to Sell Art Online: The Ultimate Guide
3. Music

Next up for profitable hobbies that make money? Sell music. You can take this hobby business in a few different directions.

For starters, there’s the traditional approach to making and selling music—recording your own songs or albums and selling them on your website or hosting them on a platform like SoundCloud.

You can also create different types of sounds that aren’t full-fledged songs or albums, things like beats or samples. Beats are short hooks composed from different sounds and meant to be a background for a musician, while samples are a portion of a sound recording to reuse elsewhere.

You can list beats on third-party sites that work similarly to stock photo sites. Essentially, people purchase your music to use in their own content. These are typically shorter in length and rely more on instrumentals and less on lyrics. There are a variety of sites where you can list your beats, like Airbit and BeatStars. Airbit paid out $32 million in 2019 to its artists, while BeatStars sellers made an estimated $40 million—double what they earned in 2018.

Samples by Vanity sells samples that artists can remix and splice together to create their own music.

samples by vanity

You can make your audio exclusive or non-exclusive. There’s more money to be made when you sell exclusive rights, but you need to produce high-quality work, like SoundOracle. His excellent work has earned him quite the reputation—and his sounds have been featured in more than 20 Grammy Award–winning songs. He sells his beats with both exclusive and non-exclusive rights.

4. Cooking
Food has become an art form worthy of taking elaborate pictures and spending the time to perfect the craft. It’s not only amateur chefs who are involved, but people with adventurous palettes looking to explore new tastes.

Cooking is one of the hobbies that make money that you also can share with the world in a variety of ways, from starting a blog, YouTube channel, or Instagram account dedicated to recipes to diving head first into a business by creating your own food or cooking products. Some even hit the road with a food truck business.

According to Google, 59% of 25-to-34-year-olds take their mobile devices into the kitchen, using resources on the internet to find and practice new recipes. There’s definitely a market of DIY chefs looking for content (as well as products) you can create to serve them.

For inspiration, check out:

Spice Girls: From Hobby to Family Food Business
The Secret Ingredients to Building a 7-Figure Meal Service Business
Overdraft: Will His Family’s Food Business Turn into a Recipe for Success?
How to Start an Online Food Business (guide)
Template Icon
Shopify Compass Course: Sell Your Homemade Goods Online

Have a product you’re ready to sell? The Kular family shares their experience building a business around mom’s recipe book. From selling one-on-one to reaching the aisles of Whole Foods.

5. Gardening

Gardening has seen a spike in popularity as people spend more time at home. It’s a hobby that can make you happier, healthier, and perhaps even richer. Millennials spent $13 billion on plants in a single year.

Leaf & Clay sells succulents, either for a one-time purchase or on a subscription basis.

leaf clay

You can also sell products to help your customers indulge in their own gardening hobbies. Technology seller ēdn introduced an indoor garden to their product line.


6. Photography

If you own a nice camera and know how to use it, you’ve got a few ways to turn photography into one of your hobbies that make money on the side.

While you can become a freelance photographer, this can restrict you to shooting local events and gigs. And when there are no events, there are fewer photography gigs.

For a more scalable side hustle, sell your shots as stock photos or prints. You can also use your photography skills to grow a massive Instagram following and monetize it. You need to pick a niche to serve or a “lifestyle” you want to capture in your photos.

Fun fact: Professional photography accounts are the second-most lucrative on Instagram in terms of how much brands are willing to pay for a sponsored post. And you don’t need hundreds of thousands of followers either.

Check out our guide on how to sell photos online for a more detailed look at how to monetize your photography.

7. DIY crafts

Crafting is another on our list of profitable hobbies that make money. If you enjoy working with your hands, there are plenty of things to make and sell: candles, bath bombs, jewelry, soap, and more. This is a $40-billion industry waiting for your next idea.

“Handmade” communicates a certain quality, care, and uniqueness that department store alternatives often don’t offer. You can test the market for your products by selling them on a smaller scale to friends, family, or on Etsy, and think about scaling into a full-fledged business as you rack up customers.

If the idea of crafting the goods yourself isn’t striking a chord, you can also sell products that allow customers to flex their own maker muscles at home. Create DIY kits for fun projects, like FlowerMoxie’s DIY bridal bouquets. Or, tap into the home improvement industry—between 2018 and 2019, home improvement spending increased 17%.


Here are a few more inspiring stories about DIY businesses and resources to show you how it can be done:

Growing a Handmade Brand: One Family’s Journey from Etsy to Shopify
Etsy and Shopify: How Three Makers Used Both to Grow Their Businesses
Why JM&Sons Launched Their Furniture Business Out of a Shipping Container
Etsy Alternatives: 8 Online Marketplaces and Website Builders for Makers
8. Comedy

Are you good at making people laugh? Do you know what the hottest memes are right now? Why not take that sense of humor and use it to build an audience on the internet? Comedy is one of the more creative ways to make money on this list.

You can probably think of several Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter accounts that amassed large audiences simply by curating memes and viral videos or tapping into a niche of humor that no one else was serving. Who knew all those hours scrolling your social feeds would be one of the hobbies that make money?

Once you have an audience, you can partner with brands to do sponsored posts or turn your best running jokes into t-shirts and other products.

Examples of this include:

The WeRateDogs Twitter account
The Méme Bible
Yes Theory’s YouTube channel
9. Coffee
Selling coffee online is a great way to turn a common hobby into a business idea. Globally, people drink more than 400 billion cups of coffee every year, fueling an industry worth $60 billion annually. And as coffee drinkers have become accustomed to brewing their caffeine fix at home, it’s a prime time to capitalize on this opportunity. If coffee is one of your own passions, it could be next on your list of lucrative hobbies.

Whether you enjoy the hunt for the perfect bean, creating a perfectly frothed cappuccino, or just sitting down to your morning cup with a book, coffee drinkers can take this business idea in a number of directions.

Globe-trotting creatives Jeff Campagna and Tania LaCaria found that coffee mixed well with one of their other passions: motorcycle travel. They opened up their own bike garage, Steeltown Garage Co., complete with coffee shop and merch for sale, and they’re cultivating a whole community through their hobby-based business.

Check these out for more inspiration for your coffee biz:

How a Coffee Obsession Became a Business That’s Doubling in Growth Every Year
They’re Making Fair Trade Coffee a Bit Fairer
Overdraft: How This Army Vet Fought His Way out of a Financial Ambush
10. Memberships
Memberships are a great business model because they set you up for recurring revenue—often automatically withdrawn from your customers’ chosen method of payment. These businesses work by charging customers a recurring fee in exchange for products and/or services.

Here’s where the hobby aspect comes into play: memberships can be based on almost anything, in almost any niche. Gardeners might look to the California Native Plant Society for inspiration. Its memberships grant buyers access to educational content, events, and discounts with partnering businesses.

Danielle Spurge turned her crafting hobby into a full-blown business. Now, her company, The Merriweather Council, sells memberships to help entrepreneurial makers leverage their talents to create sustainable craft-based businesses of their own.

The Merriweather Council

The possibilities are quite literally endless here—you just need a hobby and some imagination to get the ideas rolling for your own membership-based business.

11. Brewing beer
Homebrewing, or making your own beer at home, is next on our list of money-making home-based hobbies. More than a million Americans have brewed their own beer at home, and it’s trending upward. In 2018 alone, the global homebrew market was worth an estimated $12 million.

If you love sampling or making craft brews, there could be a viable business opportunity there. Brooklyn Brew Shop sells homebrew kits and accessories so its customers can enjoy the hobby themselves.

Brooklyn Brew Shop

If you want to go this route, make sure you brush up on the legal requirements in your local jurisdiction. Alcohol products come with extra restrictions and regulations—and not being privy to that can end up costing you big time.

12. Gaming

You might be skeptical about the notion of gaming being one of the hobbies you can make money with from home. But if there’s a pattern in this list, it’s that if you can get people to pay attention to you, you can potentially turn it into a profit.

In this case, it’s the rise of the “Let’s Play” video format that has enabled us to make money via gaming, in particular live-streaming on Twitch. Just like learning how to make money on YouTube, you can monetize gaming by sharing ad revenue. But there’s also the potential to get one-time and subscription donations from a large community of viewers. This means the amount you earn through live streaming will vary greatly, but that it’s relatively easy to start at least making residual income.

While the amount of commitment you need to make a significant income might turn gaming into work for you, you can still have fun with it if you choose to stream a game you love, are good at it, and bring your personality to the table.

Gaming is a fast-growing industry with a lot of passion behind it. If you’re an avid gamer who understands the needs of the market, you already have an advantage as an entrepreneur in this space.

You can consider building a business of your own to cater to the needs and interests of gamers, like how:

PC Gaming Race speaks to the superiority of PC gamers.
Corey Ferreira sold gaming glasses inspired by his own gaming needs.
How to make money from a hobby
To start a business based off your hobby, you’ll need to take the following steps:

Validate your business idea: Do some market research to make sure there’s demand for your offering.
Find a business name: Give your business a unique identity.
Make a plan: A business plan will keep you on track to meet your goals.
Understand business finances: Set up business accounts, payment processing, and other money matters.
Develop your product or service: This is where you turn your hobby-inspired offering into something customers are willing to pay for.
Pick a business structure: Legitimize your business and protect your personal assets.
Research licenses and regulations: Ensure you’re conducting business lawfully.
Select your software systems: Build your website, set up accounting software, and get the rest of your tech stack up and running.
Find a business location: Determine where you can operate your business, whether it be from home or somewhere else.
Plan workload and team size: Bootstrap or hire help, depending on your plans.
Launch your business: Let the world know!
When you make money from a hobby
When you start making sales, you’ll need to keep track of the cash coming in and the money going out. This makes tax time easier, simplifies the process in case of an audit, and protects your personal assets. Additionally, it helps you ensure your business stays profitable. It’s a good idea to get set up with an accounting software to manage your books.

Make money from your paid hobbies
I enjoy writing, so I started a side hustle as a freelance writer to earn extra cash in school. I also like to dabble in dance, so I started a Shopify store dropshipping LED shoes for dancers.

In many cases, when it comes to our side hustles, it’s the things we tend to do for free and for fun that hint at the kinds of businesses we can pursue using our own passion and interest as fuel.

So if you have the urge to start something but don’t know where to start, ask yourself what you’re good at or already know about.

What do you already do in your spare time that could turn into something more?


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