The Road Ahead – 2018 Thoughts

Yesterday I talked about the year that was and said that today’s email would be about the year ahead.  I’ve admittedly struggled to pull my full 2018 strategy together over the last month and it really only came together in the last couple days.  I won’t go into too much detail, but I will talk about some of it and the mindset shifts so that you can maybe take away a few things you can apply to your own online business.

How about I start with why I think I struggled and how I got past it.

In a lot of respects, over much of 2017 and maybe even skewing back into 2016, I’d lost sight a bit about the core audience I want to work with.  It wasn’t so much that I had stopped delivering or speaking to them, but because I wasn’t actively defining in my own mind the problems those people are having in their journey, I wasn’t delivering products and services broadly enough to help them.

As I mentioned yesterday – success in Casual Marketer as a business came quickly and easily in mid-2016, so I didn’t have to struggle and push.  That lack of struggle meant that I wasn’t pushing myself hard enough.

What does that have to do with my plan for 2018 and why it didn’t naturally come together?

If you think about it, when your audience’s “pain” isn’t clear in your mind it’s almost impossible to figure out how to serve them.

Reading Ray Dalio’s “Principles” crystallized a few things for me and in fact, I went back through my notes and in September I wrote down a bullet point in my Moleskine cahier:

“2018 – focus more solutions on the prospect’s pain”

I’d also say that doing the work for Authority Matrix has been super helpful because it got my brain working at just the perfect time and thinking along the right lines.  That was kind of serendipitous more than good planning on my part.

Alright, let’s move on…

I started constructing my plans from the products and services out.  As I said, I’d figured out the audience I wanted to speak to more definitively and what their problems are, so it made sense to align that to products and services I could deliver to help move people along their journey more quickly.

Those are big terms that I’m trying to embrace this year – velocity and viscosity.

I see myself as helping people get to where they want to go faster and with less friction.

That’s kind of my mantra for the year and comes back to Ray Dalio’s ideas around guiding principles about what I’m doing – “Will this thing help people get their business to where they want it to go faster and/or will it help remove some of the friction in their journey?”

Once you have those ideas in your mind, it’s a bit easier to start structuring products and services around achieving those outcomes.

Authority Matrix will be “THE” anchor product for 2018.  It’s going to be the thing where everything else eventually leads my audience.  I’ll re-open it a couple times this year at escalating price points and by this time next year, I intend for it to settle in at its ongoing price which I think will be $497, but could be $997 – so people who are buying now with the lifetime Foundation Member access for just $150 are getting a pretty great deal, IMHO.

I’m also going to work on releasing some books this year.  Obviously, “No Hyperbole” is done but was never released beyond my newsletter members.  That will get released on Kindle and probably Audible later in January is my thinking – I’m just locking down the dates in the coming days.

I’ve got two other books planned that I’d like to write this year.  My objective is to get the first one out by July which means I could have time to do the second before the end of 2018 if I go head down and bum up.

Another area of focus will be increasing number of smaller information products and training courses with lower price points.  These products will be very specifically targeted at helping people tactically get more things done in their business, faster.

I’d talked a fair bit in the past about Casual Marketer Academy as a membership site with ongoing training products being available to members – this is in the “maybe” basket for 2018.  It would be an amalgamation of those info products for people who’d rather pay monthly and get everything rather than buy each one individually – kind of like Spotify as opposed to buying on iTunes.

I’ll be sorting out my coaching and mentoring program again shortly.  I’m moving away from opening it up sporadically a couple times a year.  I’m going to be following a “one out / one in” model where I will have a limited number of spots (probably 5 or 6) and a waiting list – when one person drops out, the next eligible person the waiting list will be offered their spot.

Alright, so once I’d gotten my high-level product ideas down, I moved forward to thinking, “Where will the traffic come from?”

This forced me to face some hard truths about my own efforts with the Casual Marketer website – it’s been less than spectacular.  Ok, let’s not sugar coat it, it’s been a tire fire.

Organic traffic is virtually non-existent because well, I don’t publish stuff on there at all and I’ve not really optimized the site.  Google is sending me the EXACT amount of traffic I deserve – virtually nothing.

Organic will be a big part of my plan for 2018 – I need to get the fundamentals sorted out with the site and start publishing my content on there.

Luckily, this Authority Matrix course is all about this kind of thing, so I’m going to use myself as an ongoing case study.  Part of the plan for 2018 is to lay the groundwork for Casual Marketer to be a well-respected authority site in my market.

That will have the side benefit of ideally driving traffic organically, but also it gives me an affiliate marketing revenue channel that I’ve largely ignored.  That will be something that gets seriously fleshed out over the course of 2018.

The next traffic source is my email list.  This has been for the last couple years my absolute bread and butter.  This will certainly continue because no matter what anyone tells you, email converts better and at higher margins than any other traffic source.

The problem is, I’ve done a poor job of growing my list.  This has to change, period.

There’s also been a question about my daily emails – will they continue in 2018?  For now, the answer is, yes.  I had toyed with the idea of not doing them anymore and switching formats, but for now, I’ve shelved that idea and will stick with this – bar one minor change that I’ll discuss later in the week.

My third source of traffic will be social media.  There is nothing that frustrates me more than the fact that I’m actually pretty good at building authority on social media, but I’m largely terrible at converting that into leads and opportunities for my own stuff.  This will be an area of focus for me early in the year.

I’m probably going to toy around with some paid traffic on Facebook as well – extend my audience and pay to get my content in front of my existing following a bit more.  Nothing groundbreaking, it will be pretty pedestrian in terms of approach.

Podcasting… Far out.  I don’t think there is anything I want to do more than to have a podcast for Casual Marketer.  I just can’t for the life of me work out the format that I want to use – I find interview shows boring and me just sitting here talking at you isn’t interesting either.

Doing a podcast is on my plan, I just need to figure it out – no excuses, it will be a 2018 thing.

There are some other traffic sources I have in my plan, but they’re experimental or minor, so they’re not really worth talking about because they are in the “maybe” list.

Once I had my traffic sources and products done, my thinking changed.  Those were “goals” and “aspirations” and you know my feelings about those things.

It was time to turn those things into something tangible.

I decided to start with metrics.  I’m a big believer in the idea that you can’t manage what you can’t measure, so for my “focus objectives” I created some success criteria and targets.

I’m not going to go into the intimate numbers and details because I tend not to share that sort of stuff about my business, but I’ll talk about the high-level stuff.

First of all, organic traffic on Casual Marketer.  It sucks and it needs to suck less.  There’s not percentage increase or anything I can use to quantify this number properly.  I’ve just decided that I want to get to a certain amount of organic “users” per month by the end of 2018, so that’s the number I’ve set.

Secondly, I want to more than double my list size this year.  Right now it hovers around 1800-2000 and I want to get it to 5000 by the end of 2018.  Increasing my organic, social and podcast traffic will help drive that, so this metric is a proxy for how successfully I do those things.

Thirdly, there is a number of customers I want in Authority Matrix by the end of 2018.  As I’ll only be opening it every three or four months for a week at a time and I’ll be significantly increasing the price, getting to this number will represent a substantial increase in customers.  In simple terms, I want it to be 4x the number of spots I had open for this initial launch – which by the way I will probably fill.

Then there are a collection of “metrics” which are less about objectives and more about what I call “signposts”.  If I can achieve these metrics then it’s likely that I’m on the right path to achieving my overall objectives.  These metrics are like warning indicators to help me track my progress.

To help me stay on top of those, I’ve created some simple visual dashboard in Excel where I can pump some simple data in and the graphs will update themselves.  I have set a calendar reminder for myself for the 1st Saturday of every month to spend an hour updating those graphs.  Each graph has a target trend line and it will have an achievement trend line so I can see at a glance where I am against my target and what direction I’m trending in.

One interesting thing that you’ll notice is there are no “financial” metrics.  That might surprise people because as I pointed out yesterday, shutting down the newsletter product left a pretty sizeable financial hole in the Casual Marketer business.

Here’s the thing… Money is a byproduct.  Focusing on trying to achieve a certain revenue volume or whatever is stupid – it’s a trailing indicator at best.  It shows you that the work you did before succeeded.

I’d rather track the thing that impacts the likelihood of overall success.  If I can increase my organic traffic, generate more leads, create more products and convert those leads into customers – the money just appears as a consequence of that.

Sitting around worrying about my income from last month doesn’t help me this month.

Now, the last piece of the puzzle is still a work in progress – I know the metrics that I want to hit and I have the “signposts” I should be shooting for, so the last step is putting the processes in place to get the things that need doing, done on a consistent and frequent basis.

I have some pretty big objectives for myself this year, so I need to be very methodical in my approach or time is going to get away from me and I’ll be buried in work.  That’s the stuff I’m figuring out right now and will probably spend part of the next week on documenting.

Ok, let’s summarize…

You have your focus objectives and you establish key metrics to allow you to measure your success.  Once you have those you can work out what your “signpost” metrics are that will help keep you moving forward if you can meet or exceed those.

At this point, once you have your metrics defined, I suggest you figure out a process to track them that is simple and easy to use.  As I said, I built a pretty simple spreadsheet with some dashboards and set aside an hour a month to update it.

In an online business, you need to have traffic, so it’s important to figure out what your main traffic sources will be.  Once you have those, then that’s where your “signpost” metrics come in handy because you can use those signposts to make sure you’re putting in the work required to hit your traffic targets.

The whole point of traffic is to generate leads that go to your products and services.  The number of people who do everything else EXCEPT they fail to have anything to sell always staggers me.  You need to have a product portfolio that fits your target audience.

Now, I started from the bottom up – product, traffic sources, metrics and then processes and I think that’s the right way to go about crafting your plan.  I think starting at the metrics point is a “money first” attitude and you start trying to massage everything else to hit those.

You can do it any way you’d like, but I think my way is best because it means your metrics are realistic and predicated on where you’re at with only a small dose of optimism and forward projections.  The trick is you need to make your targets big enough that they stretch you, but not too hard that they break you and lead you to quit.

And that’s the big thing for my 2018 – I’ve set myself some “big hairy goals” but I’ve worked really hard to ensure they’re all entirely achievable so long as I get about 75% of what I want to do, done.  If I deliver 100% of everything I want to do, then by all rights, I should absolutely smash my focus objectives and the associated metrics.

The psychology behind this is simple – I’ve given myself an achievable task and if I do everything properly, there’s the potential for upside.

So that was a pretty exhaustive and introspective look at my 2018.  Hopefully, it wasn’t too self-indulgent and you can take away some valuable lessons from it.

No matter what, I want you to have a hugely successful 2018 and I look forward to hearing about your journey throughout the year!

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