5 Key Takeaways on the Road to World Domination

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I had a great time at last weekend’s grandly-named World Domination Summit in Portland, hanging out with lots of smart people and generally getting geeky about online business.

There were tons of ideas floating around, from people at all stages of business.

Some were already very successful, others were just getting started.

But everyone I met was curious, engaged, and asking a bunch of great questions. This was clearly a community united by common values — and those values were woven, formally and informally, throughout the weekend.

Here were five ideas that I ran across again and again throughout the summit. See if you could apply some of this thinking to your own business.

You might not take over the world … but then again, you never know.

#1: Commitment to experimentation

I think we all feel a fundamental shift in business … the dusty 20th-century models are starting to show some serious wear, and the nimble, smart small business is on the rise.

Which means that if you’re trying to follow a well-worn business model, it might work … and it might not.

Instead of looking for guarantees and idiot-proof systems, look for experiments you can try in your business.

Experiment with guest posting. Experiment with new forms of content. Experiment with business models. Experiment with your working environment.

Try something new for 30 days. Take notes.

Do more of what works, and less of what doesn’t work.

Every serious business has to create its own path. You’re not some franchise sandwich shop, so don’t expect cookie-cutter advice to work for you. Instead, stay flexible and keep an open mind.

#2: Make your brain work better

Your business is only as good as your brain.

Getting enough sleep, daily exercise, decent nutrition, and a solid mindfulness practice are all good places to start.

Don’t try to improve everything at once. But as part of your commitment to experimentation, start actively looking for practices that will improve your thinking.

When your mind becomes clearer, stronger, and more compassionate, your business will follow.

#3: Reframe your marketing

You probably aren’t stuck in an old model of traditional advertising. But you might be stuck with old-fashioned ways of thinking about what marketing is … and isn’t.

We’re big fans of traditional copywriting — but that doesn’t have to be delivered in traditional ways.

You might actively hate marketing — and that might be OK. As long as you’re comfortable with talking about what you do, explaining how that benefits customers, and letting customers know what to do next, you’ll do just fine. :)

#4: Cultivate your audience

You might call it a community of True Fans, a tribe, or a global microbrand.

Whatever the label may be, you need to have something to say … and you need an audience who’s paying attention.

The new, nimble businesses need to attract and cultivate an audience, rather than trying to buy it with expensive advertising. That’s why content is at the heart of everything we do.

If we have a “recipe” for business success, this is it:

  1. Have something worthwhile to say,
  2. Use that to pull an audience together, then
  3. Listen to what your audience has to say so you’ll know how to serve them.

#5: Engage your curiosity

The greatest businesses, from Apple to Zappo’s, start with:

What would happen if …?

I caught the premiere of Adam Baker’s terrific new documentary I’m Fine, Thanks … which is all about people who reject someone else’s definition of what they “should” be doing or what the “appropriate” ways to make a living are.

(The film is also absolutely packed with Copyblogger guest writers, carving out new paths and giving out some great advice. Not that I’m proud or anything ….)

When the film comes out on DVD, pick up a copy — you’ll see story after story of normal, ordinary people deciding they were sick and tired of living what someone else decided would be “normal, ordinary” lives.

There are some things we have to put up with, like gravity and the speed limit.

There are lots of things we don’t have to put up with.

Get curious about what you might be able to make happen. Get curious about what “normal” beliefs, habits, and limitations you might be able to just get rid of.

And when you use that to take over the world, drop us a line and let us know all about it. :)

(Hats off to Chris Guillebeau for a putting together a great event!)

About the author

Sonia Simone


Sonia Simone is co-founder and Chief Content Officer of Copyblogger Media. Get more from Sonia on Twitter and .

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  1. Thanks for sharing your lessons Sonia.

    Curiosity is one of the essential things and leads to experiments. I sometimes think that we have gotten too busy with all the complexities of internet and marketing and are forgetting basic things.

    I mean, these lessons are not hidden anywhere, ask any old person and he will tell you same.

    I can’t help but remember this quote of Steve Jobs:

    Stay hungry, stay foolish.

    Thanks again for great post. Retweeted!

    • I agree with that, Ishan. There’s too much emphasis on the new & shiny — business always comes back to the human fundamentals. (But reinvented and reimagined, too — there have been some amazing things created by people who weren’t constrained by the old “shoulds.”)

  2. Thanks so much for writing this! I have been verbally punishing myself for the past few days for missing that event. This softened the blow. A little bit. OK, it didn’t make me feel better at all. In fact, now that I think about it, I feel a smidge worse. But it was a great recap and a great post. So, thanks from all of us that couldn’t be there!!

    • You’ll get there next year, Marc. :)

      Do some great stuff in your business, make great things, and pick up Adam’s DVD when it’s out — you don’t have to go to WDS to have an epic experience!

  3. Sonia,

    Great bumping into you at WDS!

    I walked away thinking a lot about your #3 above. From the pre-WDS emails to the sessions to the way the entire event was run… if you were to look at it through a “traditional” marketing lens, you’d be tempted to write it off as not well done. (It’s certainly not presented or run like any other well-run conference I’ve attended.) But then you’d be missing the genius in the way Chris has built (and continues to build) his audience and brand. Brilliant stuff.

    Hope to chat with you & Brian again soon!

  4. Every business can do pretty well following the tried and true path, but at some point you’re bound to stagnate. That’s when it’s time to take a risk. What are you willing to do to take your business to the next level?

  5. Great ideas from an exceptional writer. Although every businessman is aware of these in one way or another, this particular article has put them in the simplest and best possible words.
    The takeaways are actually prescribed steps to take when a market is saturated and innovation is necessary to expand/increase business!

  6. Thank you for sharing your five recurring ideas. I’ve never had the chance to attended one of the UK based seminars but It must be a fantastic opportunity to brainstorm with like minded people.

  7. Hi Sonia,

    Thanks so much for these tips. I’ve been watching the Twitterverse light up about the conference. Wish I could have attended. It seems that a common theme was the importance of expressing our individuality and creativity in our own unique way. And embracing experimentation as the means to find our voice. It also reminds me of how much we have in common too. This resonates with me right now as I embark on a new blog with my own twist.

    Eating at the same Chinese restaurant twice this week yielded these two fortunes:

    “Express yourself. Now.”
    “Failure is the tuition you pay for success.”

    Seemed an appropriate message of encouragement to anyone working hard out there to find their voice and make a positive difference in the world.

  8. Dee Anne Merriman :

    You just hit on one of the most important keys to marketing success that I sometimes forget about: market research – REALLY knowing your market inside and out including their problems, needs, wants, views, etc. I would REALLY like to know more about how to do this essential to success market research – especially with social media.

    • As Brian likes to say, social media is the greatest market research tool ever invented — and it’s free.

      Watch and listen to what’s bothering your audience, whether that’s on Facebook, Twitter, forums, blog comments … wherever they might be. People are very vocal in social media about their needs and frustrations — you just need to patiently tune in.

    • Market research – and understanding what to do with it and using the marketing mix to your advantage – product, place, price, promotion and PEOPLE :)

  9. I like “#1: Commitment to experimentation Try something new for 30 days. Take notes.” I’m doing this with Pinterest. Right now, I find it to be awkward, messy, and unorganized. I’ll stick with it to ‘test’ the waters. But if I find I’m spending too much time trying to muddle through it, I’ll deactivate my account.

    To piggyback on “#4 Cultivate your audience,” I’m committed to cultivating my ideal client. I signed up for a webinar on ‘how to attract your ideal client’ and look forward to learning new tips and tricks.

  10. Getting rid of assumptions is a full-time gig–because assumptions are unconscious by definition.

    I’ve been writing cinquains (tiny haiku-like critters) for the past month, and space is so limited in those that I have to focus on just one or two lucid, telling sensory details. The idea is to word those few details in a way that implies a whole scene:

    Warm sheets.
    Jen’s naked ribs
    s w e l l , release, s w e l l, release. Her spine:
    a caravan of vertebrae
    dreaming

    It’s been fascinating to inflict these cinquains on friends, then ask them what they see. Kind of a mental optometry experiment. Sometimes they describe more or less what I wanted them to receive, but often I discover the scene’s not nearly as clear as I thought. About 1 in 10 times, somebody will drop a bomb on my frame of reference and blow my mind.

    By the way, “Jen” in the poem above? She’s a cat.

    • Anyway, these little cinquains have been great for challenging my own assumptions AND quietly observing the assumptions of others. Easy to apply to other forms of communication, too: 1.) ask open-ended questions that don’t steer the reader toward any particular answer 2.) listen.

      Every once in awhile there’s a step 3.) watch your assumptions ‘splode; rethink everything

    • “Getting rid of assumptions is a full-time gig” is great.

    • Ah ha ha, loved the poem! Can relate to my own little lady…

  11. Thank you so much for this well written article. I really liked the things you write about curiosity because it is such an important human quality in online business and in life as general. I came across your blog by a danish writer who recommended this article.

  12. WDS is certainly a special event. It’s not about business development, although that certainly happens. Instead, it’s about filling your soul, being inspired to do great things, and think differently.

    Every time I stop to try to deconstruct the event, I can’t, but at the same time I keep coming back to the idea about doing things differently. Chris runs a very different event, that certainly works for him (as well as the thousand of people that were there). And then how Scott Harrison grew charity: water and how he overcame objections of donors is mind-blowing. I think my biggest takeaway of the weekend this year was that just because that is how everyone else does it does NOT mean that is how you have to do it.

    (And obviously I’m a huge fan of #2, since my entire business is built on the concept. :-) )

    • Indeed. :)

      I think one of the big hurdles people have when they try to become more entrepreneurial is they don’t have those habits of thinking. They’re just habits, they’re not some kind of innate “business owner gene.” Guillebeau & the people he works with do a great job of tilling that soil, imo.

  13. Charles Tutt :

    Your article makes me wonder: does everyone follow some sort of formula or recipe, some of which may work, others not, but copying others just the same? Following advice from writers who themselves are struggling, who regurgitate heretofore failed albeit ‘success sounding’ advice that they’ve read and liked (but hasn’t in fact worked for them)?

    Well, that gives me comfort in that I’m obviously not alone in following the sage advice of ‘guru’ writers (not the only fool in the universe that is). I’ve invested thousands of dollars and hours of my time/life to discover tens of thousands of things that simply don’t work (at least they haven’t for me). I’m REALLY GUN SHY now. I believe almost NOTHING that hypes and shouts “SUCCESS” so, I will simply follow my heart and let ‘success’ fall where it may (or not). I write with a purpose and mission, not as a marketer, salesperson or businessman. Of course I would love to be financially rewarded, but that is not my main goal. So the tired marketing/advertising/copy-writing content models of hype, empty promise and clever phrase intended to deceive, manipulate or otherwise illegitimately (dishonestly) persuade innocent ‘dupes’ to part with their money is totally unacceptable to me as any sort of business or website/blog model.

    What do you think?

    So, to you all: What is the very best model for internet marketing and any/all businesses that use the internet?

    • It starts with my #4 above. I’m fond of saying “Don’t take shortcuts, they take too long.” The “instant business systems” and “money-getting formulas” present themselves as shortcuts, but they don’t take you where you want to go.

      What can you build that the world needs? Build a site, talk about that, contribute, put your audience first, and quit spending money on systems. That’s my answer to your question, fwiw.

      • Hi Sonia, fortunately I haven’t spent anything on systems or formulas – just many hours developing something that I KNOW there’s a market for (and my traffic and subscriber lists have been growing). However, sales are slow so far.

        My question is this – how do you know when a business idea is good but just needs more time to grow and develop… vs. when the idea is a loser and investing more hours into it is just flushing your time down the toilet – you know? Do you have an article about this?

        Sometimes stories like those in the $100 startup are frustrating because the businesses seemed to explode in popularity from Day 1, whereas I’m 6 months in and still experimenting, developing, contributing (just not seeing much financial return). I’m going on faith – and on a hunch – that I can grow my site into something great, but some days I wonder if it’ll EVER be profitable (or if I just need more patience). My audience is loving my content, which is encouraging, but they’re not really buying my paid stuff.

        • I would suggest gathering a group of people who are in your target demographic – NOT your friends or relatives – and presenting your concept to them in detail. Just your own informal focus group – you can garner them from your website and could even do the group via G+ Hangouts for free so it doesn’t matter where they live (unless your product is geographically relevant). You should offer an incentive for the feedback, such as a free product or whatever. If you want them to sign a non-disclosure agreement in advance, that’s fine but in today’s world where ideas are coming up so quickly, I probably wouldn’t bother – ask your attorney.
          When the time is right, and they know what you’re offering, ask them: What would it take for you to buy this? Is this product something that would benefit you and if so, what would you pay for it? You can also get information from them for future planning such as ‘How would you offer this differently?” (sizing, pricing, colors, etc.) You could also ask them if your website presents the product in a way that makes them want to take action. Keep your attitude calm, curious, and grateful for any feedback.
          If you don’t like the answers then you may be trying to sell something that is more what you think others want or need than what they actually want or need. Or you are offering things at the wrong price point. If you need to reduce pricing to sell something, then you have to figure out if that fits into your business model.
          In lieu of this, you could spend some money on an expert on internet start-ups who can help you hone your idea to hit the buyer’s sweet spot.
          You could also enter into a ‘start-up’ competition – there seem to be more and more incubation type groups popping up to support and finance innovators.
          Here’s a more expert take: http://articles.businessinsider.com/2011-03-02/strategy/30017637_1_passion-industries-chad-troutwine

  14. Loved your article! Sometimes it’s hard to stay focused when you have a very different ( I like to say creative) vision on how to do things in business. I do agree taking care of yourself & clearing your mind is essential to a successful life & business. Thanks again for the great tips – very inspiring :)

  15. I think what makes No.1 so powerful is that it’s not about believing wholeheartedly what someone says works for them but trying to find something that works for you. Experimentation throughout life is the key to mental longevity.
    If I may be so bold as to add to Simone’s list it would be “Love what you do.” I love writing (though it doesn’t always love me back) so I started a blog four months ago, and I still get a thrill any time I get a comment or more than ten visitors. I might not get to dominate the world but I get to enjoy MY world.

  16. Sound advice! Since the old models are changing, and no one has defined the right solution, there are so many options out there. I love how the internet is really turning into the hive-mind of humanity. You have endless reach, both as a writer and as a reader – you just need to figure out what ‘gives you reach’ and what doesn’t. Thanks for the advice :)

  17. Yes, I resonate with the marketing part. I have an opportunity to attend a conference this fall to connect with people about my book and coaching business. I was considering placing an ad in the program book, and a few friends were encouraging me to do so. But I’d rather spend the ad money on paying for my expenses at the event and creating high-quality materials that I can give out to people for them to take home. In my opinion, that’s much better than a half-page ad sitting inside a program book that no one will read after the event.

  18. As a neuroscience writer, I have to love #2.

    The brain is a writer’s number one asset, but it’s so easy to abuse it. Anyone who has experienced writer’s block knows that panicked feeling of your brain having come to a screeching halt. It’s hard not to reach out for a shortcut—thinking of Diet Coke and Snickers as essential ingredients for productivity and creativity.

    And for whatever reason, the genetics of a writer gets packaged in with the genetics for neuroses, phobias, anxiety, depression. (Alcoholism.) A deadline can set off insomnia, sitting in front of a blank screen for 8 straight hours, and ultimately sleep deprivation. And then we freak when we can’t charge up in the morning—more paralyzing anxiety! I tend to think of a writer’s brain as “special needs.” ☺

    Good sleep, healthy diet, exercise, and mindfulness are critical for the brain, but it’s hard to coax those into habit. It would be nice if there were shortcut drugs to genius, like in the movie Limitless, but they don’t exist. (Although there is a drug called ketamine that gets kind of close, sadly, it’s only accessible if you’re a horse or you’re part of a research study).

    College professors and students are known to take pretty powerful prescription stimulants for brain power. It sort of works, but I’m not convinced that being so stimulated makes for good writing, you know? I prefer the subtle effects of green tea, dark chocolate almonds, and a bit of B-complex to get me through the 10am and 3pm slumps, and probiotics to keep the anxiety at bay.

  19. Sonia — the first two points really hit home with me. When you say “Commitment to Experimentation” I think of some great advice I received a couple years ago . . . “Always Be Testing.” Whether you want to call is testing or experimenting it’s all the same thing. The point is that’s how you grow — “by trying new stuff.” A big reason a lot of online marketers make very little progress is because they are waiting for others to do the testing for them. That is a rut people need to get out of FAST!! Do you own testing. That is how you learn and that is how you grow. Plus, what works for someone else may not work for you.

    As for “Making Your Brain Work Better” — exercise is the key. Vince Lombardi once said “fatigue makes cowards of us all.” The best way to make sure fatigue does not come into play is to get proper rest and exercise. You can’t give your business your best if you do take care of yourself first.

    It’s time for me to get away from the computer. It’s time for a good workout!!

  20. I love #1. It should be a mantra for life. Experiment. I mean isn’t that what life is? But once you see it from that perspective, it eliminates a lot of fears because everything has the potential to succeed – or not – but the failure only come in not experimenting. And the more you #5, Engage your curiousity, the more creative the experiments…and likely the greater the success.

    Great reminder. Thx S.

  21. The best thing on mindfulness I’ve ever read is called the 7 Points of Mind Training. It’s an old Tibetan Buddhist text.

    I find it really helpful when I’m too distracted or stressed to easily look inwards. Here’s a link: http://lojongmindtraining.com/

    Great post Sonia.

    Ramsay

  22. Sounds like it was a great summit, I agree with the “Commitment to experimentation”. Without innovation and new ideas a business will fall by the wayside. However, I’m still struggling to decide whether fresh ideas or fresh coffee is more important :)

  23. Thanks, Sonia for doing this writeup….I’m bummed I missed the event. I think my favorite take-away is #2, take one thing at a time. That’s very hard to do in the fast paced world of internet marketing, where the rules change just about every week it seems.

  24. Hi Sonia!

    Great post and certainly if you are clear something than you can took right steps to achieve those goals and that’s really a crucial point and some persons give up only they were trying to get fewer things at once. Secondly, experimentation requires the strong will to take risk in any business model and if he managed to get that risk with the right strategy than they are more chances to gain those goals.

    Thanks for sharing very use full information :-)

  25. People love how the internet is really turning into the hive-mind of humanity and people have endless reach, both as a writer and as a reader…. webmasters and bloggers are the most of the internet population who make their brain work :)

  26. I’ve become a big fan of Chris Guillebeau after listening through the audio version of his new book, The $100 Startup, at least three times. I was dismayed to find out that his World Domination Conference was sold out after a week. I guess I need to get on the mailing list…

    It does seem like Portland is becoming a destination city for cool events like this. I was able to get to Donald Miller’s Storyline Conference last year at the Armory Theater (Next to Powells) and really enjoyed the material. Nothing like a great conference to spark creativity…

  27. Archan Mehta :

    Thanks for contributing this fabulous post. I really enjoyed reading it.

    In the new world order, the lean, mean and flat organizational structure is in. Our old, tired, antiquated notions of getting a formal degree or diploma and working for the man are becoming a thing of the past.

    In this new age, you need to develop a global mindset. You need to be able to work smart, not work hard. You need to be able to think on your feet and hit the ground running. You need to look within and look without for solutions.

    Nothing beats the trusted method of trial and error. It is always a risk to learn something new and entrepreneurs know about it. They take success and failure in their stride. Instead of such labels, they focus on the learning experience.

    The name of the game is to keep an open mind and stay flexible and be adaptable. After all, the only constant is change. If you are not willing to change, you and I will end up like the proverbial dinos. Cheers.

  28. Love the tips Sonia. You are bang on about experimentation. What used to work a few years back might not yield the same results now, so it’s absolutely essential to experiment, both in marketing and as well as content creation.

  29. Awesome sauce!

  30. Sonia, great article.
    I’m curious about this World Domination Summit, was it about blogging or online business? Or was it about taking over the world by blogging about blogging about blogging?
    I was thinking about making a blog about making a blog and also a tv commercial about making money with tv commercials. I also have a book in the works: How to make money by telling you how to make money by telling how to make money. The first chapter is about being skilled at something, rather than just a “hype man”. The second chapter is about opening up a store that sells books and dvd’s and cd’s about how to open up a store that sells books and dvd’s and cd’s.
    What do you think so far? ANY advice at all would be great, thanks!
    -Deb

    • Tyler, your attempts at criticism would be a lot more compelling if you had given other readers a URL where people could see what you have ever done to contribute anything to anyone.

  31. I’m reminded of a Ben Franklin quote: “All mankind is divided into three classes: those that are immovable, those that are movable, and those that move.” All these points describe that third class of people. For me, #1 is especially important. Even on a small personal scale, experiments lead to breakthroughs.

    I’m running a 90-day micro experiment right now. Every night, I read at least 20 pages of imagery-rich prose. (Right now it’s The Sirens of Titan.) I highlight any descriptions, metaphors or uses of figurative language that stand out.

    Then, once a week, I take an hour to create as many rich descriptions, metaphors, similies or analogies I can. I’m three weeks in and already seeing improvement. I came up with much more this week than the first week, and it’s of better quality.

    The cool thing about experimentation is that it takes the pressure off. If a weekly practice sessions doesn’t go well, I don’t freak out about it (like I probably otherwise would). Hey, it’s an experiment. I’m just testing whether this nightly reading routine makes it easier to create compelling images. If I sit there and try super hard, or go past an hour, I’ll mess up the data!.

  32. Point 4 is where I got stuck somewhere. Not too sure how to exactly cultivate my community. A lot more to learn here.

    I like Point 5. Asking “What happen if…” opens up so many possibilities and ideas. Just go do it, then we’ll know.