Dan Hollings is an online marketing legend, having worked in the industry for more than 20 years. He’s one of the “original” online marketers, having started when the internet was in its infancy.
Dan has masterminded hundreds of successful book launches and marketing campaigns. He helped create the strategy and tools for the launch of The Secret which brought in hundreds of millions of dollars in sales.
Today, Dan is a marketing consultant for entrepreneurs, authors, and thought leaders. He helps train authors and business owners on how to grow a business and brand online without spending a lot of cash on advertising or promotion. Dan is a huge fan of free marketing because the ROI on free marketing is the best you can possibly get!
Dan has no traditional education in marketing or computers. He can hardly type. His career is proof that you don’t need an expert level knowledge of technology, and you don’t need to take a million marketing courses to be successful online. You just have to know how to do a few things really well.
Starting Out in Marketing
Dan got started in Internet marketing at the very dawn of the Internet age when AOL use to send out floppy disks of their software.
When Dan got his AOL floppy disk he had to go out and buy a computer. From that point on he set about experimenting. He taught himself how to program. He taught himself how to design webpages and a few other skills.
The good news is if you want to learn those skills today you don’t have to learn by experiment. You can seek out someone successful who’s already learned by trial and learn their shortcuts to success, or take a free course online.
Dan’s marketing journey was always one where he was looking for an inexpensive way to be successful. Dan Hollings has been referred to as The Czar of Zero because many of his marketing strategies cost no money.
The Best Marketing is Free
Don’t operate under the illusion that you have to spend money to promote your product, service, or book. That’s just not true. There are times when spending money can make a difference for sure, but there are always ways to do things at low cost or at absolutely zero cost.
“The thing about business is it’s not about how much money you make, it’s about how much profit you make. It’s about how much money you get to keep.” – Tom Corson Knowles
Whether it’s a product or a book a lot of what you have to do in the beginning is experiment with the product—your title, your topic, your chapters and sections, and how you organize the material to affect the most people.
One of the nice things about the Internet is that it allows you to get data before you finish and publish your book. You can do surveys and polls. You can use social media to figure out what the best title will be for your book.
The Four Hour Work Week is a great example of a book that had its title chosen through relatively inexpensive market research on the Internet.
You can use marketing strategies to help you figure out how to create products, services and books.
“Your book title is marketing. Your book cover is marketing. Who you are as an author is marketing. Everything you do is marketing. When you respond to a fans email that’s marketing. It’s way more than just buying advertisements, or getting an article in the Wall Street Journal” – Tom Corson Knowles
How to Build a Marketing System
First, you have to master how to build an email list because it’s the most powerful way to connect with your customers and increase sales long-term.
You have to be able to get people to give you their name and email address. Your email list will become the foundation of all your future marketing efforts. You have to have an autoresponder.
1. Build Your Email List
Popular autoresponders that are free or cheap include:
- Mail chimp – free for up to 2000 subscribers.
- Constant contact – you can sign up for constant contact and get a 60 day free trial.
- AWeber – you can sign up and get a 30 day free trial.
- Mailerlite – Mailerlite is free for the first 1000 subscribers.
- www.benchmarkemail.com/FreeEdition – is a high quality auto responder offered free for life. The catch is that you can’t import a list from another autoresponder.
2. Build a Website Free
WordPress is a free software that will allow you to build websites with a minimum of technical knowledge.
Most website host providers give you the ability to install WordPress directly with one or two clicks of the mouse.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to building your website with WordPress.
3. Create Your Free Offer
Now that you have your autoresponder, opt in box, and website set up, you have to decide what you’re going to give the visitor to entice them to give you their email address.
Your free opt-in offer needs to be something of great value (in the minds of your potential subscriber) that makes it worth it for them to give up the goods (their email address).
Here are some great free offers to consider creating:
- Give them a downloadable PDF
- Give them a white paper
- Give them an audio file
- Give them a short video training
- Give them a free mini course
- Give them free home-baked cookies
The key is for whatever you give away to have value to your audience and potential subscriber.
If you choose to give away a downloadable report or white paper, the most important thing you need to do is figure out what to call it. What you call your downloadable gift is really important. The title of your offer needs to be so compelling that your audience says “I have to have that.”
You can create a free weekly newsletter as well. Again, the title of your newsletter is the most important thing, because it’s your title that’s going to make your audience want to subscribe to your newsletter.
Psychology tip: People are more likely to give you their email address if you have a negative title rather than a positive title.
If you title the report “10 Mistakes New Authors Make,” more people will want that report then they want a report titled “10 Great Ideas to Sell Your Next Book.” People are wired to avoid pain more than to seek out pleasure.
If you frame your report as avoiding the negative you will get more opt ins for that report.
4. Build a Relationship
Now you have a customer’s email address. The next thing you have to do is build a relationship with that customer. People buy from people that they know, like and trust. You can develop a relationship on social media, but you can develop a much deeper relationship through email.
Walmart and Amazon have a different business model than what will probably work for you. People go to those stores looking to buy items. In order for us to be successful at selling our products we have to build relationships with our customers over time, and email is a great free way to do that.
The way you build a relationship through email is by sending out emails and helping people. Be who you are. Write emails to your list like your writing to a friend. Don’t try to sell something every email.
Building a relationship with your email list is similar to moving into a new neighborhood and trying to make friends with your neighbors. You wouldn’t put a flashing billboard on your house that said, “I’m an author, come over and buy a book from me.” So you shouldn’t act like that with your email list.
“You need to treat relationship building online exactly the way you would treat it off-line and then it will work.” – Dan Hollings
You can also poll or ask your audience questions. Ask them for help with ideas for your latest project. Ask them which cover or title they like better. Get them involved in your creative process. They will be more invested in your success if they’re involved in it.
When you engage your audience you will create a team of evangelists who will sing the praises of your work.
The Chicken Soup for the Soul series is a prime example of how successful this process can be. Jack Canfield who founded the series wrote hardly any of the stories in the series himself. He asked for people to share their stories and he put them out in the marketplace. That is the foundation of Chicken Soup for the Soul’s massive success.
Building a List Works
Building a list does take some time, but you can do a lot in quite a short time if you’re focused. The initial marketing push for The Secret took six months. Just 17 months after the initial launch of The Secret the brand had done over $200 million in sales.
This stuff works.
How to Build Your List
Use Search Engine Optimization to make it easier for people to find you online
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) consists of on page techniques and off page techniques that cause your website to rank higher for certain search terms that your audience is likely to search for.
A great way for an author to do search engine optimization is to go to the website: http://brandyourself.com/ built by a team that are experts in SEO.
Brand yourself utilizes a learn as you do it strategy.
Brand self allows you to sign up and optimize three URLs for free. They’ll try to get you to sign up for more URLs, but if you just focus on optimizing three you will learn the process and you’ll be able to optimize all your pages if you want.
Use Social Media for Free Traffic
There are many social media platforms on the Internet where you can fish for qualified customers.
Each social media platform is like a different fishing hole. And your potential customers are like fish. You need to figure out what type of bait will cause them to click on over to your website, so they can learn about your product.
The secrets to driving traffic from these sites is to figure out what types of people visit these sites, and what bait will attract them to clicking on over to your site.
For example, if you’re going fishing for traffic on YouTube you know what works for that particular fishing hole is a video. So you have to put up a video that engages an audience and tempts them to click on the link to your site.
If you’re going to fish for traffic on Pinterest, over there they have interesting images on topical boards. So you’re going to create topical boards with interesting images that entice your audience to click on over to your website.
If you’re going to fish on Twitter you need to come up with really interesting 280 character thoughts, quotes, or ideas.
The way to figure out how to be successful driving traffic from any of the fishing holes available is to go to a particular site, look for people similar to yourself doing what you’re doing, look at what they’re doing, and see what works. Figure out how you can modify the strategies of others to work for you.
What’s so cool about being online is you can look for people who are doing what you want to do. You can find the successful people and model what they’re doing.
When you go to a particular site, beyond looking at what successful people are doing, you also want to look at what the normal standard of behavior for that community is. What’s acceptable in that community? What’s unacceptable?
It’s like the neighborhood analogy again. You’re moving in on this social media landscape, so how can you make sure you’re a good neighbor?
Pro tip: There are two buttons on every social media site that will teach you everything you need to know about how to be successful using that platform. You want to look for the “Help,” “Support,” or the “FAQ” section. The vast majority of people won’t do this. If you do, you’ll be better able to compete then the people who don’t want to put in the time.
Courses are great. But before you invest in a course learn what you can for free on YouTube, google, or blogs like this one.
Free Traffic from Pinterest
We’ll use Pinterest as an example. But it’s important for you to realize that you can do something similar on every major social media platform.
We’ve already established that the proper “bait” on Pinterest are engaging pictures organized on topic specific boards.
If you are an author on Pinterest and you create a cookbook, of course you’re going to create a board about you and your cookbook.
But the next thing you want to do is create boards that will attract an audience who might like your cookbook.
- So you create a board for baking.
- You might create a board for desserts.
- You might create a board for every chapter of your cookbook.
- Or you might create a board for every type of food in your cookbook.
It’s almost like you’re thinking, “What are all the keywords related to my core cookbook? And can I create a number of related boards that will increase the likelihood that the audience I want will find me here?“
Free Traffic from Twitter
What you have to understand about twitter is that people follow you because they want to pick your brain. Why else would they be following you on Twitter?
What you need to do is pre-pick your brain and create tweet sets that can be put into a scheduler and be released over a period of time, without repeating tweets.
If you’re creating a tweak campaign for a book what you want to do is create 10 tweets from each chapter of your book and put them into a tweet scheduler of some kind.
If you’re a nonfiction author or content marketer, Dan recommends that you create tweet sets of 50 tweets or more and schedule your tweets to go out once a week. That way your timeline is always updating with fresh content.
You can’t completely automate social media. There has to be human interaction. Your scheduled tweets are there to fill in the gaps in between your human interaction.
A side benefit to creating tweet sets is that you learn a lot when you create them. Even if you know a lot about the subject, chances are you’re going to have to do some research to create 52 tweets on any given subject. The nice thing is you can always go back to your own timeline and reread the tweets you posted in the past.
“At the end of the day, here’s what’s interesting. You’re never going to know what line in a book will turn a customer on. But that one line may cause them to buy the book.” – Dan Hollings
When you use twitter no more than 20% of your tweets should have links.
This does take some time to put together but you’re setting up a traffic engine that will drive traffic to your online ecosystem perpetually.
Getting Traffic to Your Blog
Most people will simply tweet the title of their blog post once and be done with it. That doesn’t really help you at all. What you should do is create three tweets from every blog post you write and add them to a tweet set, and schedule them.
What this will do is it will drive traffic to your old blog posts. You’ll eventually see that your old blog posts are getting as much traffic as your newer ones. This is a much more effective way to use twitter than people usually do.
The Key to Leveraging Social Media
The key to leveraging any social media platform is to figure out what types of bait your prospects will find intriguing enough to have them investigate your website.
You can fish for traffic anywhere there is a community online. All you have to do is:
- Join the community
- Learn the best standards and practices of that community.
- Come up with “bait” to attract members of your target audience to your website.
- Deploy your bait on a consistent basis.
This does take time, but it’s a surefire way to drive traffic and build an audience.
What you want to do with each piece of content you create is break it down into its constituent parts, and repurpose the information for different venues.
Dan has many real estate clients and they’re always asking him how they can come up with tweets for the properties they sell. And he tells them as soon as they list the house they should come up with 10 tweets about each of the rooms in the house, and 10 tweets about the backyard.
Dan has another client with a health product called the Body Glow. He has a Pinterest board for that product that breaks down all 70 of its ingredients.
If you’re an author you can have a twitter account for each of your books and a twitter account for your author brand. Every book has enough content in it to support its own Twitter account.
The Freemium Business Model
Don’t assume that just because you’re getting something for free it doesn’t have value. There are several companies on the Internet today that are making billions of dollars on the freemium business model.
These companies either offer a free level of service or offer their service free to their users because they make their money with ad revenue (like Facebook).
“The less money you spend on marketing, the more profits you will make. Only marketing with a great Return on Investment (ROI) is great marketing, and the absolute best marketing is totally free and has infinite ROI.” – Dan Hollings
Resources Mentioned in This Interview
Free WordPress Site Builder: http://everythinggenius.com/network
Free Tweet Scheduling: http://socialoomph.com
Free coupons and discounts (some cost money): http://zenclusive.com/
Free Email Reminder System: http://www.nudgemail.com/
Free SEO tool: http://brandyourself.com/
Free Autoresponder Email Marketing Service: http://www.benchmarkemail.com/FreeEdition
Free Web Hosting: https://www.247zilla.com/
Free publicity: http://www.helpareporter.com/sources/free
Free password manager: https://www.dashlane.com/
The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris – a great example of a book title chosen by market research on the Internet.
http://www.leandomainsearch.com/ – a tool to help you find the perfect title for your book. Just type in a couple of words of what your book is about. It will come up with hundreds of suggestions for you. All of the suggestions will be available for you to buy.
Watch the Free Marketing Strategies Video Interview Below:
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Tom Corson-Knowles is the founder of TCK Publishing, and the bestselling author of 27 books including Secrets of the Six-Figure author. He is also the host of the Publishing Profits Podcast show where we interview successful authors and publishing industry experts to share their tips for creating a successful writing career.