This is an installment in the Content Marketing 101 series.
In March I attended the South by Southwest conference. In addition to
keeping Brian out of jail enjoying some quality business planning time with Brian, I also met one of my great blogging friends face to face for the first time.
Naomi Dunford of Ittybiz is a genuinely remarkable voice in a sea of sameness. She’s a fantastic example of how content marketing can be used as the backbone of a real business that makes real money.
Naomi distinguished herself at SXSW by refusing to attend a single conference session. Instead, she spent four days hanging out in Austin’s excellent bars and holding court. Because she’s great to hang out with, has a smart business mind, and always had about a hundred brilliant people trying to schmooze her and be her friend, I spent at least as much time at the “Naomi conference” as I did at the real one. And my time was well spent.
At some point I realized I should capture some of this for you guys, so I turned on my MP3 recorder and started asking questions. I’m including this in the content marketing series as a case study of sorts. Naomi’s a great model to see how a real person can use excellent content to create a real business, and make a terrific living doing it.
The following is an edited transcript, mostly to keep things rated PG.
In other words: Naomi curses a lot. A LOT. She’s been edited with those *** thingies, but still… you’ve been warned.
Sonia: Thousands of people try to make a living online, but you just jumped in and did it. What do you think made the difference for you?
Naomi: Balls of steel. Scratch that, what’s steelier than steel? Diamond? Titanium? F***, I wonder if I can buy BallsOfTitanium.com from the iPhone RIGHT NOW. I could sell a sex aid or something, right? S**t, I hate my iPhone, I have no idea how this thing works.
Sonia: Do you press that button there? No, not that one. The other one. I thought those things were supposed to be so user friendly.
Naomi: Another million-dollar idea crushed by technology. OK, what were we talking about?
Sonia:: Balls of titanium.
Naomi: Hm. Yeah, I was quaking inside. Like, terrified. But on the outside, to the public, I was like, f*** it. We’re gonna do it and we’re going to make this mother****r WORK.
I also did not have a backup plan. I did not have a day job. I did not mentally tell myself, “It’s okay if this doesn’t work. You’re still a good person.”
No way. F*** that. If this didn’t work I was going to tar and feather myself. Failure was completely unacceptable and I threw myself into this s**t like my life depended on it. Which it sort of did, come to think of it.
Sonia: When did you know, Holy S**t, this thing is going to work?
Naomi: There were two times. I launched a new marketing package, do you remember that? The IttyBitty?
Sonia: Sure I do. You should have charged more money for it.
Naomi: F*** you. Although you’re right. Anyway, for people who don’t know what I’m talking about, it was two hours’ worth of marketing consulting, targeting a market that was not currently being courted at all.
We sold three months’ worth of consulting in about two hours. That was when I was like, you know, maybe there’s money in the ittybiz market.
The second time was when my first ebook was reviewed by Brian on Copyblogger. A lot of people bought it and I made a lot of money that day. So if you ever let Brian listen to this, thanks Brian.
That’s when I realized that what I was selling could work for a market of strangers as well as friends.
(Editor’s note: (You can read the original Copyblogger review here.) Naomi also wrote a series called How To Make $12,246 in a Day, talking about the experience.)
On some level, I still thought people were buying from me because they were fans. I still didn’t know if my s**t was going to sell to large groups of, you know, real people. Normal people who didn’t feel sorry for me because I did s**t like get my hand stuck in a wine box.
When it did, I knew this thing was going to be good.
Sonia: What’s the best part of your business?
Naomi: There are a lot of cool parts, but I think my favorite is that I’ve been able to provide security for my peeps. I gave my mom a job. I gave my husband a job. I gave my husband’s best friend a job. Knowing that I’m helping people other than just myself is the s**t.
Along the same lines, I’ve donated and raised a lot of money for a lot of causes. Which I know is your thing because you’re a giant hippie.
Sonia: Yeah, I’m still doing the 10 percent thing. Very motivating.
Naomi: That rocks. With Ittybiz we’ve given pretty big sums to Kiva and Heifer. We also did an emergency fundraising drive for a woman who was being stalked by her violent ex-husband. We got her more money in a day than most people make in months. It was pretty f***ing awesome to know that I had enough reach to help real, live, actual people. Not vague concepts of people. People.
Sonia: So what’s the suckiest part of your business?
Naomi: I work my f***ing *ss off. Does that count? OK, that’s not really true anymore. I do teleconferences and ebooks — it’s not exactly hard work these days.
Sonia: I don’t know, I think that’s hard work.
Naomi: It’s not digging ditches. Sometimes the thinking part is f***ing hard. Knowing a lot of people count on me making the right decisions is hard.
Also, there’s that point right before you launch a new product — and it happens every goddamned time — when you’re like, “F***! This is the one that’s not going to sell. This is the one that’s going to be absolute s**t. They are going to hate it and then they’re going to tell their friends they hate it and I will be broke and homeless.” Luckily this doesn’t last long, but it’s not a particularly delightful feeling.
Sonia: What’s your favorite copywriting trick?
Naomi: I have lots. Can I just spew them out?
Sonia: Could I stop you?
Naomi: Good point. OK. One, Treat people like they’re f***ing human beings. If you wouldn’t say it to your mother, it probably shouldn’t go on your sales page.
(Editor’s note. Yes, Naomi actually does talk like this to her mother. But always with a lot of love and respect.)
Two, Write your copy like you’re writing a letter or having a conversation. Well, like you’re writing a letter or having a conversation when you’re not hungover and behind on your mortgage. A nice, direct conversation. Be yourself on a good day.
Three, Write to one person. There are only two people in the conversation. You and the dude reading it. Never refer to your reader as part of a group. You are creating a mini relationship. You are WOOING. You are COURTING. The person you are courting does not like to feel that they’re part of some crowd. You don’t go up to a girl in a bar and say, “Many girls just like you feel that…”
Two people. You. The reader. That is all.
What am I up to?
Sonia: Four, I think.
Naomi: OK, Four, Give a s**t. Understand that people spend the majority of their days SCARED S**TLESS. They’re afraid you’re having them on. They’re afraid they’ll never make it. They’re afraid they’re doing it all wrong. They’re afraid of being a failure. They are afraid that the drudgery they’re living through every day will never end. Make them feel better and they’ll be tripping over their cat to get out their wallet.
Sonia: You’re in one of the most competitive topics on the web. Everybody and his brain-damaged brother is selling marketing advice online. Why do people buy your stuff and not someone else’s?
Naomi: Because I’m real. I’m not a guru. I make them feel like they’re normal. I wrote a post called What To Do When You’re Scared Sh*tless detailing how totally f***ing terrified I am on a regular basis. People relate to that.
Also, I try really hard to relate to what people actually want. The average person does not want to make a killing in Pay Per Click advertising. The average person doesn’t want to sell sleazy *ss info products. They want a business they can tell their mother-in-law about. They want their kids to be proud of them. They want to go to bed at night and think, “I did something good today.”
Most internet marketing products don’t address those things. They just talk about money. They address the lowest common denominator of people’s desires. Yes, money is nice. I like having a nice house, I like going on nice vacations, I like having a full time nanny. But, f***, people. Come on. That’s not what it’s all about.
Sonia: Do you ever worry about freaking people out? What do you do when people get uptight about the profanity?
Naomi: I delete the emails. Especially the ones telling me that I’ll never get any customers if I keep up with the potty mouth.
Sonia: What do you think, is it time for the pitch?
Naomi: Hell yeah, bring it on.
Sonia: OK, here’s the drill. Naomi and I have always had sort of a thing. She was one of the first people who came to hang out on my blog, and we just really get each other. Despite a somewhat different profanity level.
Naomi: Don’t f***ing lie, you swear as much as I do when you’re not recording for your nice blog readers.
Sonia: Not as much as you do, come on.
Naomi: Fine, live in denial. I know the truth.
Sonia: Good point. So, can I ask one more question?
Naomi: You can if you buy me another margarita. At which point I will be too drunk to stand up.
Sonia: Done. Is it true people have started calling you “Frank Kern with breasts”?
Naomi: (laughing) Yes, God help us, yes they do. But considering I wear a 36A, I think Frank might fill out his bra better than I do.