Welcome to Digital Homesteading.
This collection of resources from 9 Clouds helps you build your business and community.
One year ago, 9 Clouds had a crucial meeting.
We were sitting around a Hyatt Place hotel conference room in Omaha. The night before, we ate sushi and drank too many sakes. Now, it was time to get down to business.
We asked our team: Do you want to focus our services exclusively for automotive dealers?
It seemed like a no-brainer to me. Of course not! How could anyone spend all day, every day, thinking about the same thing? Not me.
Fortunately, my team knew better. They said yes because they wanted to come to work prepared for the work they do. They wanted to answer the phone and know more than anyone who could be on the other line. They wanted to be masters.
Choosing a niche in the automotive industry was the best decision we’ve ever made. We’ve tripled our business, increased our average value per customer, and grown our team thanks to the strategy of focusing on a niche.
These results are not unique. An expert can charge a 20-30% price premium over competitors and still earn business.
What’s more, choosing a niche could have exponential results for your bottom line. A 5% increase in price can result in as much as a 50% improvement in profits!
The best part? You can find a niche too, even if you are not currently an expert.
We knew little about the automotive industry until we started working in it four years ago, but we stumbled upon a model of mastery. This model has helped us achieve first self-mastery and then industry-mastery.
Here’s how we did it.
1. The Model of Self-Mastery
There are two steps to develop mastery. First, self-mastery. Second, industry-mastery.
Self-mastery is the process of growing your own knowledge. No clients are needed — just time and brainpower. Get started with blog posts.
Once we decided to focus on the automotive industry, we needed to educate ourselves on topics related to it.
We looked at inbound marketing and the automotive industry. Topics included Facebook ads for auto dealers, email marketing for auto dealers, search engine optimization (SEO) for auto dealers, and lead tracking for auto dealers.
The easiest way to begin developing self-mastery is by writing relevant blog posts.
Choose a topic area you want to master and the keywords that relate to it. Then, begin to research and write. Aim to write 12 blog posts around your specific topic.
Goal: 12 blog posts
Outcome: Improved SEO and knowledge
With 12 blog posts within a topic area, you have a foundation to build high-value content. Your next step is to write an eBook.
An eBook is a downloadable PDF organizing your blog posts into a comprehensive book of eight to 20 pages. It should teach readers everything they need to know about your topic area.
To download your eBook, web visitors need to give you their name and email address. These email addresses will be the beginning of your lead list — and the beginning of your trust with potential clients.
You will be able to follow up with your eBook readers using emails, other high-value content, and potential business services. Because you are now an expert in their eyes, they will be more likely to turn to you for help.
Goal: One eBook with three sections, each based on four of your blog posts
Outcome: Increased leads and trust with potential clients
Webinars are a great way to connect with a large number of people in a short amount of time. After you have created an eBook, your webinar script is already in place.
Host a series of three 20-minute webinars based on the three sections of your eBook. Every registrant is a potential lead who can be added to your lead list. During the webinar, make sure to offer a poll where attendees can easily click a yes or no button to indicate their interest in talking more about your services.
When the webinar is complete, you are only a third of the way done. Next, upload your webinar video to Speechpad. This service will transcribe your webinar to text for $1 per minute. This text can then be posted as a series of blog posts to further build your foundational text.
Finally, upload your video, and send an email to webinar registrants inviting them to re-watch it using a special password. This private video could be shared in the future with email subscribers to add value to their subscription.
Goal: Three 20-minute webinars every time an eBook is published
Outcome: Increased leads and video content to be used in an upcoming course
The final step of self-mastery is building a course around your content. If you can teach a subject, then you truly understand it.
Building a course is easy using the foundation you already have and a course-building platform like Teachery.
Outline your course in three sections with roughly ten lessons per section. Of the ten lessons, aim to have six video lessons and four textual lessons.
Where do you get these lessons? From your webinar and blog posts, of course!
Cut your webinar video into roughly three-minute segments. You can add your transcript text underneath the video to help people follow along.
If you find holes in your course or sections that are missing key topics, you can either write new content or find text from your blog posts to fill the gaps. Any new content you make can be reposted to your blog and included in future eBooks.
Now you have a course that you can charge for. This course adds an income stream and gives you something to send to leads who cannot afford your services or who want to teach themselves.
Wait, you may say, isn’t this course the exact same thing you have already created?
Yes and no. The course is a summation of your expertise, but it is packaged in an easy-to-follow format. If someone signed up for every webinar and read every blog post, they might recognize the content.
But no one will do that. In fact, people are willing to pay for better packaging to help them more easily learn and develop their own mastery. That’s exactly what your course does.
Goal: One course with three sections, each with ten lessons of about three minutes each
Outcome: Additional revenue stream for you and a valuable product for leads who can’t afford your services or who are DIYers
2. The Model of Industry-Mastery
Self-mastery will grow your own business, but industry-mastery influences the direction of an entire industry. Your mastery will force other vendors to up their game and improve the work of everyone.
The industry-mastery revolution begins with case studies. Before you can change an industry, you need to show the results of your work. (So yes, you need a client first.)
Get started by calculating your success with a client. Knowing ahead of time that you will create a case study will help you focus on correctly setting up the client’s analytics before you begin.
Once you have data — even if it is just for three or six months — you can start creating case studies. The format is simple.
First, explain who the client is. Then, share what their challenge was. Finally, outline your solution and the resulting data.
This case study can be shared on your blog and/or downloaded as a PDF. Graphics help to clearly share how your work benefited the client.
Also, remember that a case study can focus on a specific aspect of your work. That means you can have multiple case studies for one client to highlight the breadth of your services.
Goal: One case study for every three months of work
Outcome: A link that can be shared with potential clients as social proof
In the early days of building your mastery, you write about an industry and link to others who conduct research within that industry. Once you have established yourself as a master, you are the one conducting that research.
Conduct a thorough, annual study interviewing people who work in your target industry. To do so, create a survey (we use SurveyMonkey), and send it to your leads and customers in the industry. Then, run ads on Facebook to people who work in your industry, inviting them to take your survey. Amazon gift cards work well as a small incentive.
In the end, your report should help you identify people’s successes and challenges in the past year, their needs, and, ideally, the need for your methodology.
In our case, we conducted the State of Automotive Marketing. In this survey, we asked auto dealers what worked and didn’t work for them regarding their marketing efforts.
Additionally, we asked how inbound marketing helped those dealers who used it. Based on our survey, we found that dealers who used inbound marketing were twice as likely to see improved ROI over the past year.
As we continue to spread the results of our survey, we are helping move the entire automotive marketing industry toward an inbound marketing methodology. This shift is especially beneficial for us since we are one of the only inbound automotive marketing companies in the world.
Goal: Research report based on at least 100 responses from companies in your industry
Outcome: PDF report that can be shared, reposted in a series of blog posts, and used to change the trajectory of your industry
Speaking Gigs at Industry Events
Creating original research and self-mastery will set you up for invitations to live events.
Speaking at events is a chance to reach the perfect audience in a personal way. It’s like a webinar on steroids.
We have also found live events to be the best place to find warm leads. When people hear you, especially in person, they trust you and your expertise. When they trust you, they will work with you.
Many industry events require applications. Use your original research as the foundation of your application, or use your most popular blog posts or webinars as your talk. Study your analytics to see which posts get the most views, and you will know which talk you should submit.
Goal: One speaking invitation a quarter (apply for speaking events with a 50% acceptance rate)
Outcome: Increased leads and video to use for promotion
Articles and Books
As you build multiple eBooks and courses, you create the outline of a book.
All of your mastery should fall under one big umbrella, like “automotive marketing” in our case. Within that topic area, you will have more specific areas of expertise, such as Facebook advertising, SEO, and email.
These expertise areas can be chapters of a book or an article that can be submitted to traditional media outlets, such as magazines and newspapers.
Often, your buyers will still keep tabs on their industry through industry-specific magazines or media outlets. Use your expertise that you’ve been sharing digitally to cross over into the paper world.
Better yet, put everything together in one book all about your industry. (In other words, be on the lookout for the Guide to Automotive Marketing down the road!)
Goal: Publication in traditional media
Outcome: Exposure to potential buyers who rely on traditional media
By the time you’ve gone through this model, you are an expert. Along this journey, you have also discovered pain points for customers in your industry.
Build solutions for these challenges. By doing so, not only do you further establish yourself as an expert, you also have a product that you can sell.
In our case, we discovered it was difficult for auto dealers to use marketing automation. Their customer relationship management (CRM) systems were out of date and didn’t connect with application program interfaces (APIs) that marketing automation software offered.
So, we created a simple solution: a “connector” that serves as a bridge between automotive CRMs and marketing automation software.
Our connector helps us do our work better, and we could also sell it as a stand-alone product for other automotive marketers.
Goal: Product that solves a challenge for you or your potential customers
Outcome: Additional stream of revenue that also helps you do your work better
Choose a Niche to Grow Your Business
Choosing a niche was a key moment in the history of 9 Clouds. We have grown because of it and are fast becoming industry leaders thanks to our focus.
You can choose a niche and grow your business, even if you are starting from scratch. Just follow this model of mastery.
Grow your knowledge, and carve out your own place in the world. No one else has your specific experience and skills.
The more you hone these tools and celebrate your mastery, the more you can charge, and the faster your business will grow.