Updated: April 25, 2019
I have an unfair advantage over you and it would be silly of me not to acknowledge it.
You see, I've been building online businesses since 2003.
You might've noticed that I didn't say I've been successfully building online businesses since 2003.
The fact of the matter is for about 13 years I created some good businesses that were really good at something.
The problem was that they never were good at everything.
If you're wondering what everything is, we will get to that in a second.
It wasn't until a couple of years ago (yes, it took me that long) that I finally saw how everything (again, we'll get to this later) worked. I don't just mean creating a successful blog or doing well with affiliate marketing or building an email list.
I mean building and growing a business that you love and your audience loves as well.
I mean a creating a brand from scratch that has a positive impact on the world and something where you can step back and see its trajectory of growth because all of the pieces are working as they should.
This also helped me understand why so many people struggle with blogging.
As I've helped 1000s of people set up and launch their blog businesses there have always been people that follow certain steps but things don't seem to be clicking.
For the longest time, I could just point to their sites and say it was the content. That's the bread and butter of everything.
If the content is whack, you're not on track.
Yeah, I just rhymed something. If this article fails I'm going to fill in for Dr. Seuss.
Always have a back up plan.
Alright, so back to this thing that I'm trying to explain.
When most of us approach learning how to build a business we see things linearly. Everything, we think, is done in steps.
- Come up with an idea
- Launch a site
- Get an audience
- Make money
That is overly simplistic of course but it doesn't make it wrong.
Bloggers tend to figure out how to install WordPress and get a site up. Then they (hopefully) figure out what content to write.
Then they learn Pinterest and SEO.
Then they learn affiliate marketing.
Then they learn email marketing.
How often do you see people talk about how everything is perfect with their site but they aren't getting Pinterest traffic?
Or how they are getting a ton of traffic but people aren't clicking on their affiliate links?
Or how people open up their emails, click on a link and don't buy?
This line of thinking is logical. I'm not going to argue that.
The problem with this line of thinking though is that it leads you to think that there is just one more fix that is needed for the system to work.
There is never just one more fix.
Your business is organic.
There are always moving parts and one tweak to the system is going to have outcomes that you might not expect.
A perfect example would be how some people approach their sales funnels.
Optimization is the key?
So often you hear that sales funnels are all about optimization. Put $1 in and get $5 out.
Again, this is completely logical but what happens when you only focus on converting people immediately?
You forget about the people that you could still help and just can't afford things right now which in turn can hurt your brand's long term prospects because you're constantly searching for new people.
What happens when you optimized a post so well for SEO that it looks like a robot made it?
What happens when you use pop-ups? What happens when you don't use pop-ups?
It's too simple to look at every action you take as simply having an A or B result.
What if you thought of your business not as a machine, but more like an ecosystem.
I think this is the difference between a blog farmer and a business Forrester.
Your blog is a farm
When I said that blogging is dead I was talking about the fact that the blog itself is not a business. But for the sake of this discussion and to avoid confusion, we will focus on the blog itself. The content as that what most bloggers tend to think is the actual business.
The bloggers that I'm talking about are the ones that:
They just want to blog, make ad revenue, and life is content.
I can understand that sentiment.
The problem with this mentality, unfortunately, is that your blog becomes a farm.
You can take days off from the farm but you can't go long without tending to it.
And woohoo boy, you better hope there isn't a drought (of traffic) because then you're scrambling to figure out how you can grow your crops in your toilet.
How many farmers have you met that talk about their wonderful month-long vacations?
I'm not saying I've spoken to a lot of farmers but the ones I have spoken to never talk about vacation.
Every day seems like a new worry about what is going to happen.
It's why people in blogging Facebook Groups tend to freak out when Pinterest or Google make a big change.
Every drop of rain matters to them.
People spend months or years trying to master this one aspect of farming because they see it as their lifeblood.
I've lived that life and I didn't like it very much. It was a necessity when I was starting off and trying to figure this whole thing out but when I realized that life didn't have to be that way, I gave it up.
Forest living is where it is at.
Your Business Is a Forest
Now, I'm not a biologist so this analogy could be completely off. However, it works in my head so I'm going to run with it until someone tells me otherwise.
When a forest is thriving, it means that everything is in balance. Everything serves a purpose.
If you change one aspect of a forest, you actually end up changing ALL of the forest.
If you focus on one tree by giving it most of the water and light, it's going to soak up most of the nutrients around it killing the plant life nearby.
If one animal goes extinct then maybe the seeds and pollen it was distributing stop propagating meaning plants are only in one location. Or maybe the other animals that lived off of that animal lose a food source.
Blogging (aka building a business) can be difficult because deep down you know you're looking at a whole forest but when you're starting off you're simply looking at the rock covered in moss wondering what you should do with it.
It's also why many people collect courses on business.
One course is never enough even if that course promises to be the end all course.
If you get a course showing your 14 black market, deep dark affiliate secrets, then that's great. You'll optimize that one weird plant in the forest that grows flowers with eyeballs.
You still have a whole damn forest to look after.
It's also why it can feel like some courses are just missing stuff. They cover the topic but not well enough to make you feel confident in taking care of that part of the forest.
Even though DTC has a majority of the courses that you'd need to build a thriving business, there are still gaps that might hold you back if you really want something specific (for example, at the moment there is no course on Instagram).
But it's also why I'll continue to add content to the courses along with resources to the site in general.
I'm still learning myself about how this whole forest works and I already have successful businesses!
I just don't have that balance yet where I can take a couple steps back and let every part of the system do its job to make sure the balance is maintained.
It sometimes feels like one section of the forest is getting all of the light or water while another section is being neglected.
My goal is to be a forrester that can walk through his forest and just make sure everything is humming along nicely. Maintenance is always going to be required but for the most part, with the right amount of maintenance, things will take care of themselves.
I think everyone is capable of sitting down and looking at the individual pieces of the whole system and understanding each piece.
That's not the problem.
The problem is understanding how the whole ecosystem works in unison to create something awesome.
Do you need to understand absolutely everything to see success? Of course not.
I have blogs that are nothing more than just posts and pins going to Tailwind that do over 100,000 pageviews a month.
That sounds fantastic, but the reality is they are severely underachieving.
It's a stark difference between this site that is lucky to get 30,000 pageviews a month but does 10s of thousands of dollars each month.
Why can't all of my rainforests thrive?
Well they can. I just have to tend to them.
The Full Business Ecosystem
Earlier I talked about how I used to create businesses that were good at some things but not all things.
What did I mean?
Well, I could create good content, but I wouldn't be good at promoting it.
I could create a good product, but I wouldn't be good at selling it.
I could design something pretty that had very little substance.
It took me a while to understand all of the intricacies of my forest.
With your online business it looks like this:
- Offers (products or services)
- Tribe (yes, I separate the two)
- Promotion (email marketing, Pinterest, SEO)
- Communication (emails to audience)
In any type of ecosystem, when something becomes oversaturated, the system finds a way to balance itself out for better or worse.
If all of your energy if focused on creating content and zero time promoting it, you get a perfectly balanced no traffic site.
If you spend most of your time promoting content has no value then you get a site with some traffic and no conversions.
To get the result that you want in a system, you have to make sure every part of it is balanced to support the other parts that will allow them to do their job.
On a farm, if I want more crops, then I need to plant more seeds on more land. That means I have to manually do more work if I want things to grow.
In a forest, if I want more animals to live within it then I have to make sure there is enough food and water so there is a balance. I don't have to manually continue to provide food and water but I do have to put the right things in motion to encourage growth.
More importantly, within the right environment my forest can continue to grow and expand on its own. At least it feels like its on its own.
It's similar to DTC's growth. While I spend time nurturing and growing my audience, other people are helping me do that as well by telling their audiences about this place.
More animals come into the forest meaning more seeds and pollen get distrbuted which means my forest grows.
Everything working in harmony and in balance to provide the best environment for each piece of the puzzle.
It starts with a tree
This analogy can easily make you feel overwhelmed. Whenever I come up with a new business idea this is a big problem I have. I see the big picture and often times allow myself to get bogged down with trying to create a forrest in a month.
The reality of it is, a forrest always starts with one tree.
There is nothing with spending a lot of time on that one tree. That one tree can grow tall and support the animals around it.
You don't need 8+ courses or products like me.
You can have one product that teaches one thing that will help one person.
That tree will grow because you will nurture it.
Then you'll plant another tree.
Before you know it, you have a forest.
Nothing wrong with farming
There is nothing wrong with being happy that your blog pays your bills through the advertising on your blog.
Your happy with that and that's how you want to keep things.
I've written this article because I want you to be aware of what else is out there and that you don't have to spend your days chasing traffic or worrying if Pinterest or Google are going to do something stupid.
If you're interested in learning more about creating a forest then you can start with the Free Storyselling Sequences Bootcamp.
If you want to take a further step back and see more of the bigger picture then try the 12-Day Blogging Bootcamp.