The 3 Secrets to Massive
Online Marketing Success


If you’re trying to sell products and services online, you’re probably looking for that one magic key to make your business work.

You buy CDs and DVDs that will tell you the secret.

You subscribe to sites like Copyblogger to study the secret.

You look at mega-successful sites in your market and try to reverse engineer the secret.

After all of this searching, you may be tempted to believe there is no secret. But the secret is real.

Actually, there are three secrets that work together. To be blunt, these three magic success secrets separate the winners from the losers. Master them and you’ll start to move forward. Slowly at first, then you’ll pick up momentum and things will start to move amazingly quickly. No baloney, no tricks. These three secrets are . . .

Success secret #1: Take action

Every year, hopeful entrepreneurs buy millions of dollars’ worth of “how to succeed” or “how to start a business” products. The market isn’t limited to doing business online, but the idea of working at a computer making “six-figure incomes in our pajamas” is especially irresistible.

95% of the customers for these products will spend thousands of dollars, then turn around looking for the next magic pill before their credit card gets a chance to cool off. So are online marketing products all garbage? Are they just hype and spin?

There are some junky products out there, but the truth is that many of them are excellent. The “gurus,” as they’re (not always affectionately) called, have a lot of sound advice to give. Their advice can make you lots of money, if you know the success secret:

You actually have to do something with the advice.

Most customers for “business opportunity” products value the dream more than they do the result. They want to get out of the cubicle, out of their crummy apartment, out of credit card debt. They might even want it desperately. But they don’t take action.

I’m not saying this to be flippant or harsh. It’s not actually all that easy to go from advice to action. If you don’t have a good track record for that, if you’ve spent a lot of time or money on how-to products but never really done anything with it, you may believe you’ll never master it.

That’s BS.

Your new productivity methodology

Get a little notebook. This is your to-do list for your project.

If you’re a content marketer, most of your actions will revolve around creating content, creating products, or delivering services. Be sure and maintain a long list of content ideas, so you’re never at a loss when it’s time to knock out a post or a podcast.

Write down all the actions you must take to get you to the next step. Add more actions as you think of them. Cross them off when you’re done. When the list is a mess, rewrite it.

You don’t need an elaborate system that wastes more time than it frees up. Your system only needs to help you know what to do next.

Work every day (7 days a week, no exceptions), even if some days you only have 15 minutes. Working every day will increase your productivity by spurring your unconscious mind to come up with more ideas. This is helpful for entrepreneurs, and critical for content marketers.

Make a daily habit of one hour of action on your biggest goal. You’ll be astonished at how quickly you start to make progress. Ready, Fire, Aim author Michael Masterson recommends an hour of work on your dream goal every morning, as a way to start your day with a terrific rush of productivity. I’ve been doing just that for the past few months, and I’m starting to get used to the “whooshing” sound as the pieces fall into place. Not only does it work, it feels great too.

You can spend that hour all at once, or divide it into two or three pieces. Make it work for you. And once you develop the hour-a-day habit, you’ll actually find yourself making excuses to do more work on your project.

Success is built on lots of small steps. Start taking them. You’ve built this up in your head to be 1,000 times harder than it is. The fact that you have historically been terrible at getting stuff done is not relevant at all.

Just start taking action. It honestly is that simple.

Success secret #2: Have a plan

The down side of “just taking action” is that if you do a lot of random tasks, you tend to get a lot of random results.

You need to put together a simple, reasonably logical plan. If you want notoriety and attention for its own sake, put together a Paris Hilton sort of plan. If you want credibility and trust from your customers, make it more of a Copyblogger kind of plan.

There’s an old saying that when the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem tends to look like a nail. Fight that kind of thinking as much as you can. Your plan may call for expertise you don’t have, or actions you aren’t very good at. So make some room in your plan to partner with someone else. If you’re great at connecting with customers but lousy at technology, find a partner whose strengths and weaknesses perfectly complement yours. Believe me, that person is out there and wants desperately to work with you.

Making too many plans can be the enemy of success secret #1. Be sure your plan has plenty of room for “actions I will take.”

For most of us, grandiose plans don’t get implemented. It’s great to have spectacular goals, if that inspires you. But put together plans for relatively simple, manageable projects. A dumb, simple little project that gets done is infinitely more valuable than an impressive one that gets 99% done.

The reason “back-of-the-napkin” project planning is a cliché is because simple, compact plans tend to get put into action, while 1,000-page strategies to create business empires tend to gather dust.

Keep your project plan in your little notebook. If your plan doesn’t fit into a small notebook, make a smaller plan.

If you want to make a million dollars online, start with a project to make $10. Figure that out, then scale it. It sounds simplistic and even silly, but it works.

Success secret #3: Your secret sauce is you

This is the one that’s going to take #1 and #2 to a completely new level. Success secrets #1 and #2 can make you a decent living. Add #3 to those and you’ll start to create an extraordinary business that supports a meaningful life.

As a content marketer, you’re going to need to create interesting, useful and compelling content pretty much every day you’re in this business. Your blog posts, free reports and email newsletters all contribute to one goal: to establish you as a trusted authority on your topic.

If you’re just going to regurgitate the usual stuff in a lame me-too blog, you’re not going to find too many customers. You’re betting off spending your time surfing or skateboarding — at least with those, you’ll get some exercise and you might meet somebody cute.

You have a unique view of your market’s problems. You have a unique set of techniques and approaches to solve those problems. You have a unique set of experiences to put the problems in a fresh light. Share those unique perspectives in your content.

If you need more expertise to establish yourself as a credible authority, get out and start asking questions. Be a reporter. Look for case studies. Look for real-life examples, even if they’re tiny. Look for lessons in your own life. Make connections no one’s made yet. Bring someone else’s expertise to light in a new way.

If you’re a Franciscan monk, write about the Franciscan monk’s guide to brewing better beer. If you’re a doting parent, write about the toddler’s guide to success. If you’re an indentured servant for a big corporation, write about how to avoid doing all the really dumb stuff your company does.

There will always be people — often thousands of people — who know more than you do. Acknowledge that so you stay humble and open. Then put it to one side and speak up anyway.

Keep whittling down your topic until you’re speaking with an authentic voice about something you genuinely know and care about. Stay curious and you’ll find the path that works for you and only for you.

The real secret

Nearly everyone will read this, feel inspired for about 45 seconds, then go off to hit Starbucks and check out what the hottie on the 2nd floor is wearing today.

But you’re going out at lunch today to pick up your small notebook. As soon as you get back, you’re going to scribble a simple plan and a good handful of actions that will make the plan happen. You’re going to put some thought into how you can execute this plan in your own inimitable way.

You’ll make 10 minutes and take an action today, even if it’s small. Tomorrow morning, you’ll start working for an hour every day, 7 days a week, toward your biggest goal. And just like that, you’ll be on your way to true, meaningful success, however you define it.

Send me a postcard when you’ve reached your dream. I’ll be very jazzed to hear from you.

About the Author: Sonia Simone is Senior Editor of Copyblogger and the founder of Remarkable Communication.

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Reader Comments (84)

  1. says

    This is great advice:

    “You’ll make 10 minutes and take an action today, even if it’s small. Tomorrow morning, you’ll start working for an hour every day, 7 days a week, toward your biggest goal. And just like that, you’ll be on your way to true, meaningful success, however you define it.”

    You have to know what your main goal is, have a plan to achieve it, and then act on that plan. It isn’t really a secret, but it does take work.

    Act on your dream!


  2. says

    “Nearly everyone will read this, feel inspired for about 45 seconds, then go off to hit Starbucks and check out what the hottie on the 2nd floor is wearing today.”

    That’s the big catch for most people. Creating success is like any new habit and according to Dr Maltz (Psycho-Cybernetics), it takes about 21 days to form that new habit.

    I think many people try to cram all their action into one day, don’t see results and quit.

    You gotta keep on keepin’ on!

  3. says

    It’s ALL about follow through. Anyone can have a plan, but it’s doing the push-ups every day that make your arms lose the fat, not thinking about how you’re going to start them next week.

  4. says

    I actually do a weekly plan every Sunday. I write down 3 things I would like to accomplish in the following week and evaluate my accomplishments every week. I try to write down simple stuff I can complete. For example, I have a business providing online accounting software for small businesses. SEO is very important to the success of the website. I would spend 1 hour a day on SEO, whether it is reading articles and commenting on them or writing my own blog posts and articles. I must admit that it is nice to have a “free day” once in a while where I don’t think about work at all. Both my business partner and I find this “free day” to be very refreshing.

  5. Kendal O'Dea says

    There is such brilliance in the simplicity: “Keep your project plan in your little notebook. If your plan doesn’t fit into a small notebook, make a smaller plan.”

    Creating definable, executable goals, achievable one to-do-list item at a time, not only chips away at the larger project, but also provides the continuity and momentum essential to achieving long-term goals. As grand as anyone’s ambitions may be, they can only be realized one day–one task–at a time. The notion of defining goals and action items and writing them down (which increases our accountability to ourselves for executing those items), then following through in eay-to-digest 15 minute increments, is the perfect recipe for sustainable progress toward any goal.

  6. says

    This is some of the most sound and compelling advice I’ve read in a long time. The only thing that stops us is our own thinking – it freezes us from taking real action. Great post!

  7. Dare says

    I found that taking to-do lists is worthless unless you have some short, medium and long-term goals.

    And as for taking action, the best book on the field I’ve seen about this performance management is “The Power of Full Engagement”. I highly, highly recommend it to anyone.

    Even working your best thing every morning is a ritual, and is described detally in the book.

  8. says

    “A dumb, simple little project that gets done is infinitely more valuable than an impressive one that gets 99% done.”

    I love this part.

    Kind of chop wood, carry water …to success.

    Another part of that overnight success syndrome, forgetting that all great things begin with a single step…and then another.

  9. says

    That is also a great guide on how to beat ‘procrastination’. I am starting to work on my plan tomorrow, Monday the latest… Excellent post.

    Too bad the corny picture’s gone, you got me curious to know what it was…

  10. says

    man-by the time I think you have briefly leveled off-you take it to 3 new levels-this post is jaw dropping awe inspiring and head shaking stuff. man-whoa. I gotta go write something-I have been injected with Power with this post!

  11. says

    So true! It may happen fast or be like my project which has taken a year to get a solid picture of. I kept seeing glimpses and shadows, but couldn’t find the info. i needed to put the puzzle together. I have to say that Teaching Sells has been a real catalyst for bringing it about, even tho I am still pretty archaic tech-wise. It is coming, one step at a time.

  12. says

    Instead of taking action, I just read everyone of these posts.

    Stop writing good stuff so that I can get to work!

  13. says

    I was so glad to read your secrets and explanations because that is the path I have been taking and it is great to have it reaffirmed as I am still in the “slow” part of my success growth.

    But through posts like this my motivation and inspiration increases greatly – thanks!

  14. says

    the best blog post I’ve read all week. thanks for this post. I know new commers like me will really benefit from this. specially on taking action and planning to do it one day at a tie realizing that one cannot achieve success in a day.

  15. says

    It is amazing, and I am guilty too, how many people forget to put themselves – the one thing that is unique – out there and make it a part of their business. Thank you for the great tip.

    I am just learning and because I am a newbie – I feel like I may have found a great tool for beginners – hope it is okay to share (this is not an affiliate link) I just liked it so I thought I would share for people looking for marketing tools…
    A friend suggested it and so I am passing it along too. It shows a legitimate way to make money online. It is compiled with help of Michael David McGuire, who came from a huge background in national ad sales and commercials.

    Thanks for the Secrets and Explanations!!!!!

  16. says

    I think the main thing is having a drive for success. Of course these are no secrets people just do not think the easy way. You shouldn’t have to think too hard to know how to become successful. All he had to do is be very very determined that you can make it and then you will do whatever it takes.

  17. says


    This is just what I needed.

    Thanks Sonia. I’m reading a great book by Brian Tracy on goal setting called Goals, but your post here “supercharges” it and gives me some things I can put into action right away (just like you said) while I read it.

    Thanks again!

  18. says

    I don’t like ‘secret’ blogs or ‘number / list’ blogs, but talking about big ideas in small plans and then acting on them everyday is a real key to success.

  19. says

    So true, many become information junkies, instead of just doing it! In this biz you have to take action or nothing will ever happen!

  20. says

    Thank you for reminding me to not just keep putting more information into my head, but to actually DO something with it. Action is where the results are, and results equal progress :)

  21. NNicol says

    This post reminds me of when I used to do marketing dance clubs and bars. Often time the owners of the bars had no idea about owning a bar, they were self employed contractors with a skill that made them alot of money. Most times than not, their Bar or Club venture did not. In marketing their venture they would take a shot gun approach and try and advertise it as everything to everyone! So every night of the week they had a special thing. I would say look you are a contractor and you do plumbing right. You don’t do carpentry or lay carpet. No would be the answer but I could! (They are always the entrepeneur.) I would say thats fine, but would you advertise that you are the best carpenter in the land and everyone should call you Joe the Plumber over Joe the carpenter? No would be the reply! If you are going to go into a new venture be it entertainment mogul or house building pick one aspect of that business and do that well. Don’t be the everything to everybody!

  22. says

    Sonia, really great advice here. My brother and I go to breakfast and write our action items on a single sheet of paper and cross them out as we go along. When it gets too messy, we just go back to breakfast with another single sheet of paper.

    I look forward to sending you a a postcard in the near future :)

  23. says

    Simple is better and my brother (comment above) can vouch for the fact that our plans get scribbled on, pinned on walls, and highlighted but at least they get done.

    Having someone to be accountable with is great and can really make the difference between action or inaction.

  24. Heather says

    I just got out my little notebook (again) and got clarification on my one big goal while reading this… Getting started right now. Great advice!

  25. says

    Well I actually just started a notebook with my plans earlier this morning! I’ve been working on my goals for a few months now, but the notebook was a new idea and now you gave me a great way to truly utilize it. Thank you!!!

  26. says

    Great stuff Sonia, very inspiring. Cuts through the crap like a laser and reinforces the basic tenets for success.

    I have emailed to our team to help all of us re-focus.

    The best idea in the world ain’t gonna make you a penny until you put it into action!

  27. says


    Thanks for the kick in the a–.

    We’ve all read about the importance of being authentic in hundreds of posts, but this post of yours forced my ears to become authentic. As a result, I think I wrote my first REAL post last night. Thanks to you….

  28. says

    I love the overall simplicity of this post, the bottom line is just take some action and do it. I’m guilty of over analyzing things and not just doing them.

    I’m getting much better though and in return getting a lot more things actually accomplished. Now back to work!

  29. says

    What great advice! My biggest critics (who are my eBay competitors) hate me for offering advice on what to sell, where to get it, how to profit on eBay, etc.

    The biggest problem is that 95% of the people DON’T TAKE ACTION. It is the same as buying a treadmill to los weight, and never getting on the thing. The easy part is reading the advice, the hard part is taking action. Success takes work, dedication, and persistence.

    Thanks for your inspiring words.

  30. says

    I can’t say enough how important it is to begin by writing down a series of steps you are going to take to get your dream up and running. I make myself start with a list and then I promise myself to begin with the first item, working my way to the bottom of the list until it’s all done, or I’m closer to my goal.


  31. Matt Martin says

    This truly is great information. Thank you for the great content and thank you everyone that contributed great tips and ideas in the comments. Web 2.0 FTW = )

  32. says

    Great, inspiring post Sonia. I wrote a plan called ‘getting the new Turner Ink website done’. It’s got 17 points and yep I’m still at number one. But it’s g-r-ad-u-a-ll-y getting done with teeny tiny baby steps. If I hadn’t written the plan and stuck it to the wall I would still be weeping into my soggy cornflakes and would be no further done the line.

    P.s I liked the ‘corny’ air hostess!

  33. says

    Thanks for the great advice
    “There will always be people—often thousands of people—who know more than you do. Acknowledge that so you stay humble and open. Then put it to one side and speak up anyway.”
    Sometimes I lose focus because of this.

  34. says

    Wonderful Article!!!
    I am proof that in time (every day ) you can build a reliable readership and also establish trust with those clients. My clients happen to be fans of literary fiction–being a novelist–but the rules apply just the same. It takes alot of work to establish a reputation online, its not an overnight success.

    I love the site content…thank you so much.

  35. says

    Hi Sonia,

    It’s rare that I leave comments, but your post encouraging action is right on target.

    I have a video that people may want to watch on this,
    if interested click on my name link.

    My best to you —

    Mark Hendricks

  36. says

    Sonia & Brian,
    Excellent post on the keys to online marketing success. I find that most of us self-sabotage our online success as well because we hold too many limiting beliefs about our abilities and impose limitations on ourselves.

    Most folks fail to plan and when things don’t work want to blame everyone under the sun instead of taking a look right in the mirror.

    Action, Plan, and YOU. Amen! :-)
    Dali Burgado

  37. says

    I don’t like ’secret’ blogs or ‘number / list’ blogs, but talking about big ideas in small plans and then acting on them everyday is a real key to success.

  38. says

    It’s amazing how after over a year your article stays number 1 in Google, Sonia. That is because your Secrets are simple yet powerful. Thanks for great content and tools!

  39. Sonia Simone says

    Huh, cool, I didn’t realize that we were the #1 position for “online marketing success.”

    This is what Brian means when he talks about SEO springing organically from creating an authoritative site. :)

  40. says

    I love you, your voice. Every single time I read one of your articles I feel . . . good . . . inspired . . . a sense of possibility. You must be a really cool, clear person, and your mother, very proud.


  41. says

    Nice write-up. I always tell people the most important thing to do is have a plan, and to work hard to make it happen. I agree with you 100%. Thanks!

  42. says

    Hi Sonia:

    Your article reminds me of a quote in the game of soccer. “Keep it simple”

    It’s morning, the heck with waiting until lunch time. I am going out to get me a notebook right now!

    Very inspiring and wonderful advice. I am going to cut and paste this into an abbreviated wall sized card.

    So every morning, I will review it as part of my goal statement. You did good Sonia thanks!

  43. says

    Thank you very much. I love the post. It’s very helpful and practical. Hope we all learn effective advice to make money with online business. To be successful in online business, it’s important to learn how to generate backlinks, using social network sites, what to avoid when posting blogs, how forums can lead to sales and customers! Good Luck!

  44. Karl Brisard says

    Just the kick in the ass I needed Sonia great post! It reminds of quote a friend once told me “Somtimes when we over think things, we out smart ourselves” Keeping your goals simple makes them more achievable.

  45. says

    What a pleasure to read actionable advice delivered in an entertaining style. I’m going to repeat “I’m the secret sauce! I’m the secret sauce!” for the rest of the day. :-)

  46. says

    This article is very inspiring. Take Action is my favorite tip. Still will do the rest of your tips. Thanks a lot for this. Will drop you a comment should I become successful someday. :-)

  47. says

    It is not that difficult getting the 10 mins started and turning it into 1 or 7 hours. The biggest hurdle for me is staying focused and just working on the project at hand…..putting aside the temptation to check email or browse something else that just came to mind.

  48. says

    Sonia, I’m reading this while working my way through your Smart People’s Remarkably Simple Business Plan. Not sure if I’m gonna fit all that down into a pocket notepad, but I can definitely record the Next Steps that the Business Plan gives me in there!

    And that Plan’s taking shape well, too! Got a third of the way through it during my lunch break!

  49. says

    Hi Sonia,

    Thanks so much for all the advice and your down to earth ‘get on with it’ attitude. I am one of your total newbie followers who has got on with it (slowly and a bit methodically). Thanks to you and Jennifer Ledbetter got my first project up and running. Grim on kw research and soe – too busy working out wordpress, html text links, hoplinks, blah blah blah!

    But I’ve had the experience so can go back and work on optimising – after a bit more work on understanding how to really drill down – but I’ll keep moving forward and if I falter, will be back here for another dose of “Do something”. So again from the very bottom of my heart, thanks.

    PS: Filled whole journalist note pad with html and css so forget the napkin!
    PPS: It has taken me 3 months of hard work to get this far, so anyone thinking one click moolah can think again.

  50. says

    I know this post was written a number of years ago but it remains utterly relevant .
    I devour every one of your posts and find myself clicking open the links and often have 4 or 5 windows of Copy blogger open at the end of a good read!

    I whole heartedly agree about linking “Just take action” with good planning.

    Someone told me the other day that I was lucky to have time to write! Lucky?? Just solid hard work each day.
    Thanks for the inspiration

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