Being Useful is Better Than Being Interesting: An Interview with Dan Norris
This is part of our Entrepreneur Interview series.
Rather than tell you what you’re doing right, Dan Norris can help you learn from what you’re probably doing wrong. That’s not surprising considering that Norris himself often learns from his failures and refuses to be deterred by them. In fact, he has spun failure into leverage and has become one of the top names in Content Marketing with a successful WordPress-related business, WP Curve going strong.
We were lucky enough to pick his ambitious brain and discovered he’s generous with his wisdom and has his suspicions that Neil Patel is in fact, a robot.
What People Do, Not What They Say
Why did you start WPCurve?
I was on a miniature animal farm pondering the need to get a job. I’d spent the last 12 months building a business that generated $476 / month in revenue. I always have a lot of ideas but I needed it to be 100% recurring revenue, with a point of difference and I had to launch it within a week.
WP Curve was one of those ideas. I put a post up in a forum asking people if they thought it was a good idea. Most people didn’t. I decided to launch it anyway, having learned that what people say and what they do are 2 totally different things. I had 10 signups from the same forum within 1 week.
Social Is As Social Does
What is the hardest part about being an entrepreneur?
The battering your confidence takes as a result of failing. It’s a lot of fun when everything is going well, but it’s not so much fun when you fail. Confidence impacts every aspect of your life.
I also miss the social aspect of work. I work at home by myself most of the time and I’ve never met my staff or my co-founder. If you aren’t naturally outgoing you get bad habits working for yourself. I’ve started part time coworking and I’m going to travel more in 2014.
Gaining the freedom to be able to do this is the best part.
Who has been your greatest inspiration?
This is a pretty tricky question. I would probably say from a Content Marketing point of view the person I look to most often is Neil Patel. I tell myself he must be part robot, part human. Actually maybe just full robot. Because if he’s not, then I’m totally useless.
List Building vs. List Optimizing
You are quite the busy man, hosting a podcast (Web Domination), manage a great blog at WPCurve, and now you are gearing up to launch a business in one week: ConvertPress.com. Clearly you have established yourself as an expert in the space. How has Content Marketing helped you achieve the success you have reached today?
We launched Content Club in a week, as well!
I sold my web agency business and associated social profiles and blogs. Then In 2012, I spent the whole year building up my online presence from scratch. I built my email list and a business that lost around $1,500 / month. This turned out to be the best thing I could have done.
When we launched the last 3 businesses, they all had immediate traction. We’d built an audience but with my first startup, I wasn’t selling them something they needed. Once we figured out what would be useful to them, our list became our number 1 source of customers.
Traction: What You’re Probably Doing Wrong
What are your top 5 insights in website conversions, specifically around content / copywriting.
Let’s do it this way. If you aren’t getting traction or building a list, here are the most likely reasons.
Your content sucks. It’s boring, written for SEO purposes, it has no unique point of difference, hasn’t had enough time spent on it or care taken with it and it doesn’t solve a problem for your target market.
You aren’t giving away enough. If you are generous with your content people will trust you and they will opt in. You have to give away something useful to get the opt in too. No one wants more emails anymore.
Your optin isn’t relevant. If you write a post on conversions then your optin should be related to conversions. If it’s a download for your top 7 tips on being an entrepreneur, it won’t convert.
You are talking to the same audience by doing most of your content onsite. If you want to grow your list you need new people. The best way to get new people early on, is to do content offsite.
You haven’t reached traction. If you are doing all of the above then perhaps you just haven’t reached the point where your posts can generate traction on their own. You have to force it by asking people to share, replying in forums or blogs, cold emailing people, helping out influencers or doing whatever else you have to do to get it shared by the right people. I still do this. I emailed a very well known startup entrepreneur yesterday and asked him to share my post about launching a business in 7 days. It was a good post that his audience appreciated, so he shared it. He wouldn’t have even known about it if I didn’t email him.
People Value What They Actually Use
Any tips, tricks, or things you have never shared before (that you will for us) that have helped you launch or grow your company?
I’m a massive over sharer, so I’ve probably shared everything before. Here’s one… if you can be ‘useful’, it’s a great hack for content. A blog post that is interesting is great, but how do you know when something is interesting?
Create something that people can actually use and apply to their business - it’s far better. An email optin for a list of top software tools is great but giving away a free plugin that they can install and use will convert 100x better. It’s hard to know what people like, but their behaviour will tell you. If they are using something, then they find it valuable.
About Dan Norris
Dan Norris is a driven and relentless entrepreneur with an obsession for content marketing. His content has been described by Joe Pulizzi, the content marketing godfather himself, as “must read,”. Dan was voted Australia's top small business blogger by Australia's largest business magazine, Smarter Business Ideas in 2013.
His current business, wpcurve.com, provides unlimited small WordPress fixes 24 / 7 for $69 per month. It became profitable in just 23 days, and hit the $100k annual run rate mark in 5 months. You can reach Dan via his blog thedannorris.com