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3 Brand Building Insights From The Founder Of Social Media Examiner

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by David Garland in David's Blog

Michael StelznerNOTE: This is part of a brand spankin’ new series of posts focused on insights, lessons learned, and takeaways from the very best interviews on RISE over the past two years. This is the second part of the series. The first one was marketing lessons from Tim Ferriss. Let me know what you think about the series and if you would like me to keep doing them.

After doing over 200 interviews, sometimes you just know when an interview is going to be awesome (i.e., Seth Godin, Tim Ferriss, Daniel Pink, Gary Vaynerchuk, etc). Other times, some of the best gems come by surprise. I had heard of Michael of course, but I didn’t know his story to the full extent. Michael Stelzner’s interview on RISE is one of those encrusted gems filled with amazing stories and wisdom.

Michael is the Founder of Social Media Examiner (a really cool media platform in case you haven’t checked it out) and has had quite the journey, which includes going from 0 to over $1,000,000 in revenue in less than one year. Yes, that is worth repeating. 0 to $1,000,000 in less than one year. Wow. Michael blew me away with the way he built his company, and here are some of the key takeaways and insights:

1. Leveraging Relationships

The secret sauce of how Michael did this so quickly is actually something that had been years in the making: key relationships with influential content creators (writers, bloggers, etc.). This is how he was able to get some of the top bloggers in the world to write for Social Media Examiner…right from the beginning. It wasn’t a case of building traffic for years and THEN going after the influencers.

Imagine you are Mr. or Ms. Influential Person.

Scenario A: Some random person emails you and asks you to write for his or her site. They tell you it will be the next big thing and you will get tons of exposure and they want you to write one article per month.

Scenario B: Michael Stelzner reaches out to you and asks the same. But, you know Michael. You’ve met him at an event or chatted online. You know him and trust him.

Spoiler alert: Scenario B wins every time. Why? Simple. People help their friends. People help non-pushy people.

Which begs the question: Are you out there building long-term, mutually beneficial relationships – or just pushing your current project?

2. Content + Design = Domination

When it comes to your website, there are really two major elements (well, of course there more minor elements…but go with me here):

  1. Design
  2. Content

If one sucks, there will be trouble. Michael focused on getting the best possible articles (20 a month) and also invested in a slick, unique, usable design that encourages reading, commenting, and sharing. It doesn’t look like a template. It doesn’t look like crap. It is inspired.

Here is the way I like to think about it. Imagine you are having a party and your website is your home. The content is the furniture and entertainment inside the house (and the drinks). The design is the outside of the house including how it is painted, landscaped, etc.

Let’s pretend the house on the outside is awful. There are overgrown shrubs, broken cars on the lawn, and half the windows are broken. Even if on the inside Lady Gaga is ready to perform, most people aren’t stepping foot in there. Bad design scares people away so they won’t watch/read/listen to your content regardless of how amazing it is. Ouch.

On the other hand, you might have the opposite problem. The outside is gorgeous. There are fountains with-non endangered baby seals swimming in them (or something). There are rose petals leading you to the fancy door where a butler greets you. And you walk in and everything is a mess. There are Brady Bunch posters and shag carpeting. There are 7 senior citizens inside dancing to the Macarena. You run for your life (crying). This was a case of good design getting you to the next step, but then ruined by terrible content.

Can you create a complete home that is amazing inside and out?

3. Selling Infrequently

This was super interesting. Social Media Examiner has a LOT of subscribers (over 37,000 email subscribers alone). The subscribers are loyal and engaged. And Michael plans on keeping it that way and is not bombarding them with sales offers and deals too frequently.

While this approach might not be for everyone, it is certainly interesting and works for Social Media Examiner. Here is what he does: only two times a year Michael promotes a virtual event that has a pretty high ticket point. And that is it. Social Media Examiner makes SEVEN figures from the events (and attendees are obviously happy) and spends the rest of the year continually delivering the good (free) content.

It is the ultimate in soft selling. Great free content, great free content, great free content, great free content, pitch for a cool event, great free content, great free content, great free content…the list goes on.

Can every business make all their revenue from selling just twice a year? Maybe or maybe not, but the larger takeaway here is the philosophy of giving a lot more than taking and it coming back around (in a big way).

Sort of like karma…if karma had a business model.

Bottom Line

From relationships to soft selling, Michael Stelzner is the ultimate smarter, faster, cheaper brand builder and someone we can all learn from. How might you implement some of these insights and ideas into your business?

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8 Steps to Turning What You Already Know into a Successful Online Course

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