Email marketing

10 things I’ve learnt the second time round

Read and forget this list at your own peril. I have spent a serious amount of time learning these insights and I strongly suggest you take them on board. Here are the 10 things I learnt when launching my new business

  1. There are still big $’s to be made in Australia – niche markets are great to start in but if you want to make big $’s in Australia you have to own a major category eg cars, finance, jobs, real estate and hotels. You might think that there are already too many competitors in your market. What I have learnt in Australia is that realistically, most businesses in Australia aren’t that great. No one writes about Australian companies in the major blogs and tech sites. They don’t break the mould, they don’t innovate that well and they tend to just sit and let their market share crumble. Most big Australian companies got big because they were the only option. You can still make big money in Australia if you are willing the persist and fight. How did Virgin steal so much market share from Qantas. If you have ever worked with Qantas you will know why. They are SLOW, OLD and have so many dead wood people NOT-working in their business! I’d prefer to compete with Qantas rather than a quick and nimble company. Make your business nimble and give the customer another option. There are always rebels in every customer base!
  2. If you loved your first biz, you will marry your second! – All of your ideas are clearer and the path to growth is easier the second time round. I learnt fast from my first business and made the mistakes quickly! I learnt what worked and just replicated a lot more of that. If you are thinking of starting a business, just do it. Start small and make $1, its damn addictive. I challenge myself always with any new niche we enter to make the first $1. After that it’s easier to know what is required next –> make $2. 😉
  3. Staff are everything – If you want to create a very profitable business you need profitable employees. The easiest way to get this is to hire motivated employees that can manage themselves to achieve results. This has been my most important fundamental focus second time around. Developing a process for this and knowing who you want to hire have been 2 of my best upgrades to my second business. The 3 key suggestions I have here are:
    1. Don’t hire average staff, or you will end up with an average company – Wait and slow down, before hiring. It’s better to just wait that much longer rather than hiring the wrong person. You don’t actually need to hire a person if you are smart and just optimise the systems you are using at present.
    2. Ask more questions not less. The impact of who you hire impacts your other top performers in your company. Hire poor quality people and you say something to them. Hire high quality people and you breed greatness into your organisation.
    3. You can’t motivate people – You can only hire motivated people. Don’t bother with motivational programs, just hire a motivated person. Do some personality profiling to figure out if a person is motivated or not and you will save yourself a lot of time from creating motivational programs and talking to staff members to motivate them. If someone slips through your process. Talk through it, perhaps they aren’t suited to your company and would be better working in a big organisation where they want slow moving and predictable employees. They will like it there more and you will have helped them out. Stop trying to motivate the average staff member in your company and just replace them instead.
  4. Read More – If you are an achiever you will probably have a small, old and outdated television and a large library of books which you have read and used. I always look at the size of someone’s television and the size of their library in their house. It always gives me a good signal. I read a lot, but try and speed through boring parts in the books these days. I find that reading slow in key areas and implementing ideas is crucial but speeding past stuff that is boring and non relevant. I don’t read fiction, only non-fiction and there is usually a book about any area of business that you are operating in. Read it. My suggested Readings:
    1. HR = Top Grading – learn a rigorous hiring process. I read this book on my Babymoon, greatest book on HR I have ever read.
    2. Business Management = Rework – By the guys who made 37signals. A great book which has helped me a lot.
    3. Motivation = 4 hour work week – Read this fast as it won’t all apply to yourself. I use it more as a motivational tool.
    4. HR and Business Strategy = Good to Great – Bit of an essay, but if you want to build a business bigger than in 4 hour work week, this will help you make a great one.
  5. Outsource everything you can – time is the currency. I have literally put my entire life on the internet and pretty much outsource everything. I havent been into a supermarket in 4 years. Supermarkets are time hell, pay the $7.50 and get it delivered instead of spending 3 hours in a supermarket. Key insights to outsourcing a business process:
    1. Test first with a contract or hourly model then lock in good suppliers with retainers.
    2. Start small – just outsource 1 part of a process, then add to it. Either with the same person or with different people so that you keep core business secrets with yourself.
    3. Document it or they will f**k it up – Assume zero intelligence. Prefer that they don’t think as opposed to wishing the outsourced person would think. You want a reliable simple thing done, over and over again. You don’t want a business strategy for taking over the internet.
  6. Make a simple business – if it’s simple you spend less time producing and more time marketing and improving your product. If you can’t explain your business to someone else in less than 60 seconds, it’s too complex. Simplify it. Do less, specialise and earn more. My business is so simple, we compare credit cards, home loans or savings accounts. That’s it. We just spend all of our time marketing it and improving the product. My previous business was a very smart business, it needed smart people. But, I think I prefer the simple business these days. How do you make a simple business in your niche? Just do the core, really, really well.
  7. Meetings, Emails and telephones, instant messenger and Facebook are trying to kill your business – If you want to be part of the crowd, using the aforementioned tools is a surefire way to make that happen. I have taken active steps to kill these distractions in the business. Four practical tips to dealing with these items of distraction:
    1. Meetings kill productivity – Avoid meetings at all costs. Meet if you are going to make a decision. Meetings sap away time which you could use to be productive and make money. I personally only have 2 meetings per week and they are a maximum of 20 minutes each. Set your meeting times for unusual time increments and start them at unusual hours like 10:17am to ensure you finish your meeting quickly.
    2. Emails and telephones are poison – Only open your emails twice per day. If anyone in your organisation has responded to an email faster than 1 hour, they are spending too much time reading and waiting for the next email. That is just communicating, its not actually getting work done. Read your emails twice per day, preferably on your iPhone while you are commuting. Emails are time poison. At Hive Empire, we don’t have telephones. There is no need. We don’t even have business cards. Email us to communicate and we will reply in a timely manner. Nothing is really that urgent.
    3. Instant messenger – This is the perfect tool to collaborate with when you are working with people overseas. We have several overseas team members. But most of the time there aren’t many things that couldn’t be done over email. Email helps you think out your ideas and formulate them into a productive communication. Instant messenger is a distraction and kills peoples ability to focus and deliver productive work. When you get distracted from your work you essentially lose money. Kill the instant messenger and you will see an increase in profits.
    4. Facebook and Twitter are productivity hell – The walled garden of Facebook is the ultimate time killer. Ever noticed how often someone updates their Facebook or Twitter status? This number of updates is inversely proportionate to their profitability. Kill your Facebook account and only read the twitter updates from your business colleagues when you are waiting for someone or something to happen. In actual fact, if you want to be even more ruthless with your time management, kill your twitter aswell. No piece of information is really that important that you won’t eventually find out.
  8. Great things come to great businesses – you can tell how great your business is going to be by how relevant the current business headlines are to you. If you have nothing to do with it, you’re in the wrong market. If the news is relevant, you are going to be a great business because your market is newsworthy and there is growth potential. I prefer big markets as opposed to small ones in Australia. The small ones aren’t big enough to sustain many businesses, unlike in American where niche markets are really big. I used to work in niche markets with small customer bases, there was little scale and little profit. If you are a niche best of breed biz in Australia you have to go global to expand. Be courageous and challenge a big market in Australia. You will be surprised as to what happens. We started our site during a credit crisis, mortgage broker  meltdown and credit licensing. It didnt bother us because we know its a long haul and its a big market, so all we need is a slice to be profitable.
  9. Say no – this time around I’ve learnt to say no to things I don’t want and not grin and bare it. It comes with confidence and experience. Play it slow when you are unsure and wait for a better option. How to say no without actually saying no:
    1. Price – Put the price up so high that you would be ok to do it if you were paid that obscene amount of money.
    2. Refer – Give the work to someone else. You would be amazed as to how referring things come back to you in spades.
    3. Say nothing – Don’t respond to someone who is opening a dialogue with you that you don’t want to engage with because you know they are going to ask you to do something you don’t want to do. Ignoring people is rude, but not opening a dialogue to a broadcast request is different.
  10. Be persistent – In my previous business my Joker card was that I was persistant. I literally just stuck it out and kept picking up the phone. This time I’m the same and I know it’s what makes me win. The most important times to be persistent:
    1. A customer turns you down – If a customer won’t do business with you, wait, they will leave and you can do business with the new person.
    2. You don’t have enough business – Keep marketing and selling. Someone will buy eventually if you have something worthwhile to sell. Pick up the phone and dial your most important prospect.
    3. You don’t have any good staff – Fire someone and hire someone else. Why wait, just do it. It’s not really that bad, stop putting it off and start realising your business potential.
    4. Too much office politics – Fire the politician, no matter how good they are.
    5. You don’t make enough profit in your business – Stop doing unprofitable things and do more profitable ones. Isolate the profitable things and transition to just doing that, and that only.
    6. You don’t have enough time – Stop doing things which take up a lot of time and deliver little output. If you only had 1 hour in a day to do all of your work, what would you do and what would you not do. Outsource the things which are mindless and repetitive and just do really profitable things all day.

Let me know what you think?

Here is a presentation I did about this post.


Inspiration is the cure for Depression

Inspiration is the cure for Depression

Persistence at something is how you achieve it. But every now again you feel a bit down and just get confused as to why you are persisting at what you are doing. I have found that at these times it will take something quite revolutionary to change this. Something will just snap you out of that feeling of being stuck in mud. Some people call it depression, but you might feel that is a bit of a strong word to attach to your feelings, so lets just say you are feeling depressed, but not clinically depressed that you are taking negative actions on yourself.

Inspiration cures depression
Personally I go in swings and round abouts, my mood goes from “Allan Bond unscrewing the America’s Cup to hoist it above his head!” to “I might just go back to sleep even though I have been sleeping for 14 hours. At least I can ignore the telephone that way.” Usually when I find myself in the down patches I know and can eventually self assess that I am a little depressed. Usually I am self aware and start asking myself, “Why are you feeling down?” As a logicaly person I can figure that out can’t I. Sometimes I can, by sometimes, unfortunately, I just can’t seem to figure it out. The logical side of me becomes stumped and I fall back into a shallow pool of waiting and passing time by. I consider myself quite a motivated person and when I see myself like that I get confused.

What I have realised is that when I feel a bit depressed, the best thing to do is to inject yourself with a bit of external motivation. Normally people who have done something amazing call it their “inspiration”. If you are feeling down, get your hands on some material with some super powerful motivation in it. The thing about online marketing is that it can get lonely, sitting by yourself for 8 months can take the wind from your sails every now and again. Things can get really tough when you lose focus of your vision. This is where you need to make a little reboot.

5 ways to inspire yourself out of depression

1. Watch an inspirational movie – “The Last lecture”, Randy Pausch was dying of pancreatic cancer and gave this speech on “How to achieve your childhood dreams.” The twist at the end will get you.

Other inspirational movies: The Aviator, A beautiful mind and Fightclub.
2. Read an inspirational book – These are the books that inspired me to create Freestyle Media. Richard Branson’s autobiography, John Singleton’s autobiography “Singo” and the book “How to win friends and influence people” helped me get there. I have heard that “Get the edge” by Tony Robbins is good too.
3. Hang out with your grandparents – For some reason they can give you truths that you can’t see at present and it will help give you clarity about the future.
4. Meet someone inspirational and talk to them – Sometimes I have spoken with people who I thought were gods, and they caused me to go home and double my efforts. Some of these people included: Michael Kiely, Wayne Kingston, Peter Steele and Jessica Schebesta.
5. Go back over old photos and notes – Reminiscing helps you see where you have been and gives you a point of reference on where you want to go.


NSW Young BizStar Entrepreneur Competition

My fellow director of Freestyle Media, Frank Restuccia had a great time talking at the final of the NSW Young BizStar Competition 2007 yesterday.

He told me it was a great opportunity to pass on our experience of the pros and cons of being young and starting a successful business to the next generation of entrepreneurs

I know he inspired them to great deeds with our story of:

  1. Starting Freestyle Media while studying at University in 2001
  2. Building it up to group revenues exceeding $2M in the past financial year
  3. My being appointed ADMA Australian and NSW Young Direct Marketer of the Year 2006 for pioneering work combining traditional direct marketing with online marketing techniques.

Most importantly he motivated them to persevere in their quest to be entrepreneurs because in the words of former President of the United States Calvin Coolidge they should:

“Press on: nothing in the world can take the place of perseverance. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent”


How to build a niche market forum business? Interview:…

I like interviewing webmasters from time to time to find out some info about them and their web businesses. Following is an interview with Mark Doust who runs a web forum for people with new web businesses. Some great advice in here that I think is valuable especially on how to get started. Very interesting method of promotion in terms of referral marketing and article PR.

If you run more than one website. What is the name and URL of your primary website?
Site Reference ( is easily the largest website that I am associated with. I am also working on and, although these are more hobby sites at this time.

The internet provides access to global audiences and markets. Where are you located and is your market influenced by your location?
I am located in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Although my market is not influenced directly by my location, I always find it fascinating to see the demographics of my visitors.

What were the circumstances that led you to start your site/online business?
Initially I got started on my own sites/businesses after I found myself without a job. It is amazing how much motivation you can have when next month’s rent depends on making some money. I have actually always been involved in some business venture in one way or the other. I love the process of starting something, growing a business, and watching it morph into something entirely on its own. I promise you that at any given moment, I am working on at least two or three new projects.

What does this site do?
Site Reference is a resource for webmasters with a concentration on the newer website owner. We offer advice on web design, search enigne optimization, and various marketing methods. We also have built an extremely useful community of users in our forums.

Is this your only site?
Sometimes I wish it was. 🙂 I always have new sites being built.
Are you a full time web business person or do you have other income as well?
I am a full time web business person and have been fulltime since 2003.

There are many methods of promotion for website. What do you do and which do you think are the most effective?
Well there is no single answer to this question – it depends entirely on your website. What works for an information based site like Site Reference will not necessarily work for a retail website.

Site Reference depends almost entirely on people referring other people to the site. We try to publish high quality articles which others will refer to their friends, talk about in forums they participate in, or link over to in their blogs. This has been extremely effective for us for years and will certainly be a corner stone of the site’s continued growth.
But as I said, of each of the many methods available, I am not too partial to any one in particular. I think PPC is a great promotion method if you are selling a product or service with a known value. Article marketing (if done correctly) can be extremely good if you are selling an informational product.
But if I were to talk about my favorite and least favorite, it would break down like this:

Favorite Marketing/Promotion Method:
Referral marketing/viral marketing/public relations. This is so powerful, and so cost effective, it is easily my favorite method of marketing. Unfortunately, it is also one of the more difficult methods to master (I certainly have not yet mastered it). The web’s most popular services and sites today grew as a result of referral marketing.

Least Favorite Marketing Method:
SEO. This may surprise some people, especially since I focus a lot of my time personally on SEO. The problem that I see with this method is that people tend to rely on search engines making sales for them. It makes absolutely no sense to base your business’s success on the whims and fancies of another company that you have no control over. Don’t get me wrong, SEO is great – I love SEO as a bonus to any marketing campaign, but I would never base the success of my business on a search engine.

What techniques did you use in the beginning to launch the site?
Site Reference was built using article marketing almost exclusively. Article marketing falls under that referral/public relations in my opinion. If you write quality material that actually helps people, you will quickly find that you will be looked to as a resource.

What are your main sources of revenue from the site?
Ad sales are the primary revenue from the site, although the site does fairly well with affiliate product sales and adsense revenue.

Where do you see key opportunities in the future for revenue?
Really just an expansion of the advertising sales. Site Reference is recognized by literally hundreds of thousands of website owners. At the same time, we try to keep our ad rates extremely reasonable that our advertisers can see a real return on their investment.

Where do you see yourself in a few years time?
I’m sure my wife would like to know the answer to this one as well. When I look back on where I was five years ago, I never would have thought I am where I am today. So where will I be in a few years? I honestly don’t know. I see no reason to believe that I won’t be building new sites that will hopefully help people in some way.

If you could give two pieces of advice to aspiring or new webmasters/internet business owners, what would they be?

  1. Just get it done. I talk to so many people who say that they want to work for themselves or get something started, but they never do anything about it. When I was first starting out on the Internet, I had a full-time job which involved the Internet. So after a full day of work online, I would come home and spend an additional 6 – 7 hours working on my computer. It certainly was not fun, but the work needed to be done.
    If you really want to start something, realize that you just need to get it started. Plan your steps, but most importantly start doing and stop saying that you want to do.
  2. Do not be afraid of technology. Learning the technical side of the Internet (such as how the Internet works, how to manage the basics of a webserver, learning HTML/CSS and a basic programming language) is invaluable. Do not be afraid of it – it is actually easier to learn than you may think. Iniitally it will seem completely foreign, but as you continue to expose yourself to it and play around with technology, it becomes quite easy to manage.