Ask the expert: Does generosity really scale?
Do you think people who give away the stuff in their head away for free are crazy? Dan Norris’ friends did. But ultimately, he had the last laugh.
Content marketing is something many soloists struggle to get their heads around. All the knowledge in their heads is hard-earned, why should they give it away for free? It’s not like people would pay for information they can find via a Google search on the internet right?
Over the past few years Dan Norris has become a worldwide authority in giving away the stuff in his head. He’s also currently putting the finishing touches on his second book: Content Marketing. So we’ve asked him to share his story today and see if he can change your thinking about generosity as a marketing strategy.
In 2012, according to my entrepreneurial buddies, I was ‘all over the place’. I was a bit of a laughing stock in entrepreneurship circles because I was everywhere with my content, but nowhere with my business.
I spent all of my time creating content and putting it out for free. I did podcasts, long detailed actionable posts, guest posts, monthly reports, you name it. People thought I was crazy, and told me I was doing things backwards creating a blog before I had a business.
"I actively reached out to influencers and did everything I could to help them. I became their customer, shared their content, had them on the podcast, linked to them on my blog and added value anywhere I could. "
I built a decent size email list, created 400+ articles, said yes to every podcast interview and read and replied to every email and social media shout out. I was prolific in forums, helping people out and adding value where I could.
I actively reached out to influencers and did everything I could to help them. I became their customer, shared their content, had them on the podcast, linked to them on my blog and added value anywhere I could. I chose guys that I shared the same values with and could relate to. The three guys I looked up to the most were Dan Andrews, Chris Ducker and James Schramko.
Every opportunity I had, I tried to be as generous as possible with my time and my content. When I launched my first book, The 7 Day Startup, I gave the Kindle version away for free for the first week (13,000 people snagged a copy). I reviewed over 350 websites in the comments thread of Pat Flynn’s podcast. I gave away blog posts, ebooks, software, my time, even beer!
The idea of being generous with content and with your time is something I learned early on from entrepreneurs Brendon Sinclair and Adam Franklin. Both these guys ran web agencies that competed with me, but they linked to me on their sites, made time to meet with me and helped me out in the early days. It made me think “Wow, what a cool way to run a business!”.
In the years since 2012, generosity has really paid off for me.
I launched a WordPress support company in June 2013. It is now turning over $90,000 AUD per month with 45 developers around the world and thousands of customers. It started inside a forum that I’d posted hundreds of posts in, and everyone got behind me when it came to launching the business.
I wrote The 7 Day Startup at the end of 2014. It went to #2 in small business on Amazon.com and has been ordered 25,000+ times. People who knew me from consuming the content I’d been providing for free for years helped me out with the production of that book. An editor edited the entire book for free, a marketer worked on it for a month for next to nothing, a designer designed the cover art, all promotional images and formatted the entire book – all for free. I had 1,000 people join a Facebook group to help promote the book when it launched. All of these people came from forums I was active in, or from the community I’d started building through my content back in 2012.
In the last few months I’ve spoken at events in Bangkok, Sydney and the Philippines. Those events were put on by Dan Andrews, James Schramko and Chris Ducker, those people who I looked up to all those years ago and are now good friends.
The values of generosity are now inbuilt into everything I work on.
My next book will be free for the first week, my brewing company is becoming known for transparency and actively engaging with the community. My business now has a dedicated content manager who puts all of our best stuff out for free, reads and replies to all emails and comments and embodies the value of generosity.
Business doesn’t have to be cut throat.
We are all creators.
Generosity is a legitimate strategy. And yes, it does scale.
Have you successfully used content marketing and generosity to grow your business?