The Two-Step Formula for Building a Six Figure Business Online

by Derek Halpern | Follow Him on Twitter Here

A few years ago, you’d have been CANED for selling stuff from your blog.

You see, at that time, I was running several entertainment sites—and making a killing.

I was pushing massive traffic numbers—I’m talking about millions of pageviews a month—and made GREAT money from ads.

But selling stuff directly to my readers?

I’d have been labeled a heretic.

Then, there was my friend Brian.

The Two-Step Formula to Building a Six Figure Business

He had ads on his site, but I was confused.

He was running a site in a niche that would NEVER generate enough traffic to make money from ads.

So, I asked him:

“Dude, what’s the deal with your site? Those ads will never make you money”

And he responded:

“I’m going to build a loyal audience, and then I’m going to sell them stuff.”

Couldn’t be easier, right?

Step 1: Build an audience

Step 2: Sell them stuff.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Brian Clark is now the CEO of Copyblogger Media (the 37 signals of online marketing), and they generate millions of dollars a year in revenue because he built a loyal audience, and then sold them stuff.

What Does This Mean To You?

Many of you are trying to build a six figure business online.

Some of are you are selling products, others are selling services, and the rest of you are running ads.

No matter what you’re doing though, if you follow this simple two-step formula, you can see some great results.

In the mean time, if you’re looking for ways to build a loyal audience, I’d focus on building your email list.

Want help with building your list?

Check out the “7 High-Converting Places to Add Email Opt-in Forms to Build Your List.

Looking to sell more stuff?

Don’t miss out on “How to Get 1,000% More Sales Online

And now, I’ll pass the mic to you.

How are you implementing this formula in your business?

Leave a comment.

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{ 66 comments… read them below or add one }

Mars Dorian

I have only recently started worrying more about my list – it’s now growing steadily but I always asked myself “What the hell am I going to do with this!”.
Reading blogs like yours gives me a kiick-ass, clear direction ;)

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Derek Halpern

Glad you’re here Mars, and let me know when you get those books we talked about!

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Eric Silva

I’m curious what books? I love reading books!

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Derek Halpern

Resonate and Buzz Marketing.

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Bobby Hewitt

Resonate is a great book, I’m reading it now and almost done. It’s focus is on creating great presentations but the principles it teaches, straight from The Hero’s Journey, (the formula to every successful movie ever made) can be applied to crafting marketing messages and converting more visitors into action.

Trent Dyrsmid

Hey Mars,

Here’s an idea for you…launch some kind of service that you can outsource completely. Today, I just launched an article marketing service that is 100% run by my VAs. I have just mailed my list, so we’ll see how it goes.

Trent

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Jose

I agree 1000%. My online business started as a blog, building an audience, and after a year I started selling some stuff and guess what……people bought it!! I hope I can get to be the “spanish Brian Clark”, hehehehe not an easy task though. It takes much more time, but is definitively worth it. ;)

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Derek Halpern

Hey, don’t get me wrong here. I’d never want to be Brian Clark. I’m much better looking. ha

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Jose

hehehehehe no doubt about it ;)

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Brian Clark

I dunno man, I’ve been working on my tan…

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Jose

hahahaha I have to see that ……

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Derek Halpern

His tan lines?

Jose

by the way Brian…..You Rock!! You are a great inspiration to me ;)

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Ken Faw

Derek,
What you triggered in me is that neither the building of the audience or even the selling of the stuff is ultimately the objective. You have to have an audience if your message will reach anybody, and you have to have an offer worth listening to. Whatever the objective, your “steps” are fundamental.

I catch myself thinking about going from step 1 to step 100 skipping everything in between, and the mechanisms just don’t support that kind of thinking.
–k

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Derek Halpern

Well, you’re right.

A lot of people try to skip steps.

And that’s why I say focus on these two, and only these two, and you’ll be fine.

Get people to know, like, and trust you… and then sell them stuff.

That’s my model for Social Triggers, too.

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Rob

Awesome post!!!

I’m pumped to get my STEP 1 going and start my blog to create my audience :)

I’m looking at a July 1st start date for it so I’m quite pumped…what do you think is a good indication that the audience is ready to buy?

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Derek Halpern

Why waiting so long until launch? Getting a design?

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Graham Lutz

It’s just like the formula for winning in the stock market, Buy Low, Sell High! Two steps and super easy!

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Derek Halpern

Easy enough,right?

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Katie Davis

SO funny I got this blog delivered my inbox today as I just announced my new webinars – I even announced two at one time (what am I, crazy?)! I’m excited and nervous, but have been planning them for a long time. I’ve given these presentations live at conferences, so I know my slides are set (and not boring) but it’s an experiment, as I have no clue as to whether anyone will sign up! I’m offering one as a paid webinar and one free. We’ll see!

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Derek Halpern

Smart.

Webinars are a great way to build a business, and a list.

Let me know how they turn out.

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Katie Davis

Just got my first signup! Woohoo! Hopefully more will follow…(though I definitely don’t mind failing…it’s a great way to learn, but I’d definitely rather have a ton of people!)

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Derek Halpern

Very cool.

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Adarsh

The traditional ad based model works well as long as you are willing to be stagnant in terms of online revenue. Scaling is difficult unless you have a number of writers churning out contents like techcrunch or huffington post.

Besides, how can ads can your blog incorporate?

Selling to the online audience is easier than ever now. So why not go with that model?

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Derek Halpern

Did you read the article? It sounds like you didn’t.

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Martin Malden

Hi Derek,

I’m new to Social Triggers (first comment) – so hi! And thanks for the stuff you’re doing on here.

I’ve followed CopyBlogger almost since its beginning (which was about the same time as my beginning) and, as a result, I have pretty much the same approach.

I do have a few affiliate ads on my site, but I’m getting more and more consulting gigs as I build up credibility through my content, so that’s all good – except that consulting is not very scalable.

I’ve been toying with a few ideas that would be more scalable than consulting, but they’re still half-baked at the minute. More work to do there :)

Cheers,

Martin.

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Derek Halpern

Thanks for stopping by Martin.

Brian knows this, but when I met him, I was some kid in college who was making a bunch of money running gossip websites.

He pointed me in the right direction, with regards to salesmanship, and business building, and I’m better for it.

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Robert Brents

Frank Kern said pretty much the same thing several years ago. (And made a fortune implementing it, along with a bunch of other people.) It’s pretty amusing to hear you younger guys “re-discovering” this stuff.

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Derek Halpern

Brian isn’t a younger guy, slow down. Ha ha.

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Brandon Yanofsky

It’s so simple that I should feel insulted.

But it’s so true, so basic, and so effective.

We all lose sight of the big two goals you have laid out here.

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Derek Halpern

Not all of us :-P

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Mike

Two simple steps—very simple steps.

As I chase them the distractions have become huge.

For example, *Build an audience* . . . I continue to fight to stay on track, and not get sidetracked by the latest, greatest, info product that promises super-easy-audience-building in 10 minutes after dinner each night.

Yup, I know that’s not how you build an audience, but those distractions keep on rolling out, and I’ve got the *shiny object syndrome* most days.

Good stuff here Derek. Thanks for keeping us on track.

M

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Derek Halpern

You’re welcome Mike.

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Brad

Derek –

Awesome stuff. I included your video with Chris Brogan and Pat Flynn on my last post.

You’ve done it all in the past couple of months to get subscribers to this blog. You make it look so easy.

- Brad

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Derek Halpern

Even though Social Triggers is new, I’ve been doing this for a while, which is why it’s working so smoothly.

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Dave Doolin

Heh… “14th time is the charm”

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Andrew McGivern

Building a community that will later buy from you is a great marketing strategy. But my question is at what point do you start to promote products or services directly to your community? Is there a critical mass in terms of numbers or is it a certain level of community interaction or participation that is the trigger point for selling.

And once the selling begins, how do you implement it effectively without destroying the loyalty that you’ve earned. Obviously, this could happen if your too aggressive or pushy with your sales pitch. Or the tone of your content could change enough to no longer resonate with your audience so they head somewhere else to participate in someone else’s community.

If it is done tactfully though I think it should work. If you don’t lose the charm that attracted your audience and you promote products your using and really believe in then I think you’ll make $$$ and retain the bulk of your loyal community.

What do you think?

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Derek Halpern

I think you’re right. I do think it’s smart to pitch, but that may not work for every single person.

Right now, I’m not pitching, because my main focus is getting more exposure. It’s harder to get people to share pitches with friends. Content, on the other hand, gets shared.

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Bobby Hewitt

Derek, What if the pitch, done in not a pitchy way, was part of the content? Crafted in such a way that one was not complete without the other and sharing was baked into the value of the content?

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Dean Dwyer

Yo Yo Derek my friend,

I don’t typically comment, but I found the elegance and simplicity of your message very compelling.

With regards to senor Clark, I marvel at how he and his team put a site together. Authority Rules and Premise are put together brilliantly; in fact I would call them pieces of art. Well designed to build a list and sell people stuff.

Would highly recommend people check those out. Well worth the look.

DD

ps…Dallas just beat Miami (GO DALLAS GO!)

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Derek Halpern

Yea, Clark will like that. He tweets about the Mavericks all day.

Me? I’ve never watched basketball.

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Cristina

Hi,

this post should be bookmarked and used as a reminder of what one has to do when starting. It’s very easy to forget this simple but important advice. So it’s worth it to read it again from time to time.

Cristina

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Jocelyne

Ah, I love that simplicity.
So much stuff arrives in my inbox daily telling me of the urgency to realize my mistakes and try this way or that to ‘really’ make a difference to my results.
Jeez, I could hyper-ventilate just trying to read through all the stuff.
And here the zen like strategy that is at the heart of it all.
Thanks for the reminder!
Must go and unsubscribe to get some real results. ;)
(but not from here, for sure!)

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Derek Halpern

Smart move!

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Dave Doolin

I’m still having huge issues with selling, and especially with promoting affiliate merchandise. This is in part because I also do consulting work, and it can be perceived (is perceived, actually) as a conflict of interest. In some fields (where I came from, govt, engineering), this is a problem. These are called “kickbacks,” and it’s a felony.

Solution: split the website & blogging stuff completely away from the consulting business, firewall ‘em. Then charge the usual rates for consulting (high $$), with a no-sales policy on that. For the website/blogging, promote everything which seems sensible.

What I’ve been doing up to now isn’t working, so clearly it’s time to shift gears. I’m gonna take this over to 3rd Tribe shortly and see if anyone may have some perspective on it. See you over there, Derek.

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Derek

I’m no lawyer, here, so don’t take my advice on anything related to legal matters, but I have a question: it’s illegal to recommend a product, even if you disclose the fact that you’re getting paid for it?

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Andrew McGivern

Is it unethical and / or illegal even if you have fully disclosed that it is an affiliate link? Or if it is your own material or course that you are selling? I can’t see that being an issue except under very specific circumstances. Certainly, the average blogger or online business wouldn’t be in that category.

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Derek Halpern

I’m confused by that too, for sure. I suppose a lawyer would know best, though.

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Dave Doolin

@Derek, I do know someone who was busted for misrepresenting himself as an engineer. The irony is that he won an award for the project, which was high profile in my area at the time. Which is how he got busted!

It’s actually difficult for me to write about some of this stuff, because I won’t reveal any details. I’d rather be disbelieved than judged indiscreet.

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Dave Doolin

Andrew, you’re correct: the average blogger/marketer isn’t in that category, and full disclosure covers the legal ramifications.

But I’m playing on more than one ball field.

Look at it this way. Suppose you pay me full rate of $100/hr to determine the email marketing software for your business.

Do I:

* Recommend AWeber because I have an affiliation with AWeber?
* Do I recommend Vertical Response because I think Oswald D’Sa is a cool dude?
* Do I recommend Mail Chimp because Michelle or Teresa or whoever gives me a referral fee for customers I send their way?

Honestly, I don’t have what it takes do that. It just doesn’t feel right inside.

Instead, I’ll want to discuss overall business strategy for a couple of hours, get a notion of your audience and their expectation, help figure out goals, and make unbiased recommendations based on that.

Fundamentally, if I’m retained as a consultant, I’m going to put the client’s business interest ahead of my own, because that what I’m selling: unbiased recommendations.

As a civil engineer (two degrees, not practicing), I am pretty sure I’m right about having an affiliate (sweetheart, kickback) deal with providers is bad. Example: If I design a building, my relationship with the client and responsibility to the tenants could be compromised. I could look it up, but I’m also pretty sure such behavior would result in losing your PE license, which is career-ending. As an example, Turkey ostensibly follows a western Uniform Building Code. In reality: http://bit.ly/meaFd8

Again, I could look this, and I’m sure big consulting companies and contractors get away with this all the time, but I don’t have that sort of mojo. So my edge is transparency.

Setting up Website In A Weekend as a separate business with a firewall should let me promote whatever I want (Thesis! Genesis! Woo!), with 1. the usual disclosure, and 2. an upsell to personal consulting as explained above. This gives me transparency in both arenas, and shows where the dividing line is.

Also of note: I’m picking up the consulting as a result of in person networking from people who check out my site *after* meeting me. Most of these people do not understand affiliate marketing. They just want more business presence on the web, asap.

This is the next experiment. If it works, great. If it doesn’t work, I’ll figure out something else.

Thanks for the questions, this has been bugging me for a long time, and I’ll be using these replies in a blog post soon.

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Bill

There’s no doubt Copyblogger’s system works. I was on a forum once where Clark started a thread about something when another forum member shouted out “Brian, I’m buying anything your selling”.

That’s when I clued in that Brian’s methods really work. Image having a following that will buy anything your selling, even if you’re not selling anything at the time.

You’re on the right path Derek and your site looks like a success already.

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O. Bachmann

Earlier this year we started a blog, along with social sites like Facebook and Twitter, and building a list. This formula makes perfect sense, I wish I came across it years ago. When people become a fan, follow, or give you their email, they are saying they trust and respect what you have to say. Selling to someone who trusts you isn’t selling at all, it’s a recommendation! Without the the trust, you’re just another used car salesman, and we all know how we feel about them. No offense to any actual used car salesmen :)

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Ana @ Traffic Generation

Yes, the method is really simple indeed. I explained to my readers how I make money from my blog with very subtle ads in only two places of my site. I also keep my email marketing value:marketing ratio to 80:20. Thanks for a great post.

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David Krug

Beautiful and something that all online businesses need to revisit at times. Keeping it simple and focus on Building something amazing is what we should all be striving to do.

Thanks for the reminder!

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Jason

Sounds simple enough, but it doesn’t seem to work out that way.

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patrick

Very true. One of the top ways to generate loyal readers is to communicate with them and treat them like human beings. Having an active community and interacting with them is a great way to grow your business.

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Sean D'Souza

@Jason: Yes it does work out that way. But you can’t turn out crappy stuff. With the web churning out stuff like we all see, there’s a ton of rubbish out there and unless your stuff is great—as in really great, you’re not going to stand out at all.

We started our website (yes, website, not blog) back in 2002, when there was no real e-ecommerce and e-books were something that you just heard about. And back then almost no one sold anything on the Internet (imagine that!). Amazon was still losing money and Google wasn’t making as much. But how did you build your audience? The same way as you do today. You create great stuff, and people will find you.

Admittedly not everyone will find you, but a good deal will if you take the trouble to be found. For every article that got published elsewhere, we’d average about 200 new subscribers. And not just subscribers, but buyers. People who turned to clients and stayed as clients all these years.

I was a cartoonist. NOT a marketer. No one had heard of me. Besides I lived in little ol’ New Zealand (try finding that on the map). But the concept of building a loyal audience has worked and will always work. And you don’t have to go back just to 2005, or 2002. You can go back a whole two thousand years, or even five thousand years. And you’ll find that the people who got listened to were those that built the list and later were able to sell to that list.

Besides it’s important to note that audiences are looking to buy. You and I are looking for great stuff. We’re not sitting around trying to read crappy stuff. We want to find great stuff and the moment we find it, we want more of it.

Sean D’Souza

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Steven Shaw

First….

Wait, no…anyway Derek your emails are always a great read.

They first start off with a great subject line, which pulls me in, then you don’t disappoint with the content either.

That’s the key though, being able to write persuasively as well as having something of value to say.

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J

Good post. It confirms what I have learned from others as a newbie. List building is very important. I think people look at the two steps and think that they are too simplistic. I know when I first read about an email list I thought it would not work but I see now how wrong I was.

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Jim Kukral

Yeah, it’s just like saying “if you want to lose weight, you should diet and excercise”. Right? But the truth is nobody wants to do it the hard way, the right way.

The good news is that for all the people who don’t want to take their time and build an audience to sell to, there are a handful of people like Brian Clark and yourself who can dominate and build lifestyle changing businesses. It’s all about being a doer. Most people want the easy road. There isn’t one.

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rakesh

Building loyal reader is must if you want to sell something online , otherwise all your affiliate efforts will go in vein. Loyal reader comes when you share your experience genuinely and advice them properly.

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Lars Holdgaard

Yet so simple, yet so true. Building an audience is the hard part. Just as Seth Godin talks about: There is a dip. A large dip.

Good post.

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Ru Butler

Hi, interesting thread. Thank you.
I know I am always fascinated to know the journey people/visitors have taken to get to websites, particulary through viral methods. I’m in the UX profession. Therefore I thought you may be interested that I discovered your blog through a link posted by an e-commerce biz owner on Linkedin.
So what? Well it occurred to me this was of particular relevance. Your authority was suggested through someone I respect at a time I was
In the correct frame on mind to learn and network professionally. more so than reading twitter feeds due to the level of noise it creates.
I think it maybe worth tracking goals from this source, I certainly signed-up and added to your list.
Regards Ru
I

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Gustavo Quijano

Hi Derek, Do you think that the strategy of building an audience and selling them stuff, can also apply to a real estate blog?

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ant

Bad ass blog! I automatically unbooked marked all of the other so called seo expert blogs. You’re the man, all of the others just regurgitate the same verbal diarrhoea.

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Stefan

Hey Derek –

Great blog bro. I got a ton of great stuff from the 2 review videos that I watched. Gonna watch them all.

Question for you. What plugin if any do you use to put this little optin forms in all of your content?

Thanks,

Stefan

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