How To Start And Grow A Blog-Based Business From Thin Air In 2019

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Profits Through Simplicity, How I’ve Simplified My Online Business, And When To Buy New Business Tools

An inside look at product launch hype, evaluating new business tools to buy, and how I’ve personally gone about simplifying my own online business.

As of the time I’m writing this, I’ve been casually watching the launch (or I should say, relaunch) of Samcart. And I’ve been watching some of the people buying it (from inside their Samcart Facebook group). And…

I’ve been shaking my head.

Because some of those people really have no business buying Samcart.

If you’re not familiar with Samcart, it is a third-party shopping cart solution that allows you to create nice looking checkout pages. No doubt, it is a nice tool. But, it isn’t nice for everybody. In fact, I signed up for the trial, spent 2-3 hours testing it out, and ultimately canceled the trial. In my case, it wouldn’t have solved a major problem for my business and yet, it would have actually created more complexity.

But, this post isn’t about SamCart. SamCart is indeed a nice tool. It just happens to be the latest example I’ve seen of people buying stuff they don’t need.

I saw people in the SamCart group who didn’t appear to even have a product to sell yet. But, they still purchased a $99/month shopping cart purely on the hype.

I want to talk to you about my own quest to simplify my business – and how I believe you should go about evaluating things before you buy.

I Speak From Experience…

Over the last few years, I’ve been through my share of tools in my business. I drove up expenses and added more complexity.

For awhile, I used a third-party shopping cart. Years ago, I used 1ShoppingCart. Later, I used Nanacast. In 2012, I moved my email list from Aweber over to Ontraport (then called Office AutoPilot). Ontraport can do SO MUCH stuff that it can be overwhelming. Nanacast had some cool price features that you don’t see in very many places.

Point is, I had complicated my business in the search for something better.

On top of all that, I kept having ideas. 🙂 For awhile, I had a free membership level, for instance. It brought all these new free members into my system, with the expected increase in support emails for login problems and the like. These are people who weren’t even paying me and yet we were fielding support emails. Makes no sense.

Inside Ontraport, I would set up automations for various campaigns or ideas I had at the time. Those automations would sit there and run. Later, we had simply lost track. Profiles had tags assigned to them for things which weren’t even relevant any longer. Sequences would sit there as incomplete and tracking down the “why” on it was quite difficult because Ontraport has a very old-school textual interface that makes marketing automation more difficult than it needs to be.

When I switched to MemberMouse, it was a step in the right direction for me. See, I had decided to refocus the Blog Marketing Academy on the membership site model and to combine things into one program: Blog Monetization Lab. Taking all these separate products and combining them was a step toward simplicity, however the fact that I was on Ontraport brought in another moving part.

See, MemberMouse and Ontraport don’t integrate. So, to connect them, I had to use FuzedApp. Yet another monthly fee for that.

And, over time, we found that Fuzed was generally reliable, but not always. Fairly regularly, we’d have new members not receive welcome emails, or people not get tagged properly. I don’t know whether it was Fuzed or whether it was automations gone awry inside of Ontraport. But, it was annoying just the same.

All amplified by the fact that each one of these tools carried yet another monthly fee. I have no problems with a monthly fee for business tools, but when those tools are causing more frustration than they’re solving, I begin to question things.

My Quest To Simplify My Business

It is great to get ideas. Especially in my business, marketing and business ideas flow like water. And, yes, I see things that other people in my field do and that gives me ideas as well.

But, all these ideas and all these tools meant that my business was beginning to feel unwieldy.

I felt the need to simplify. So, I did.

See, all of our businesses are a collection of systems. A system is just a process – a procedure. It could be automated via software or it could be human-powered, but it is still a system.

Business System

As a business owner, one has to do two things:

  1. Periodically question whether a system is truly necessary.
  2. If any system is not routinely giving you the desired output, you investigate and look for the constraint. What’s holding it back?

I put those two things to work in my business. I went and looked at the things I was doing and the tools I was using to do them.

One of the big constraints was the combination of Ontraport and Fuzed in order to work with MemberMouse. MemberMouse isn’t going anywhere. It is an awesome membership site platform and I have an incredibly good setup with it. Yet, there was a lot of bullcrap tied up with using Ontraport and Fuzed.

So, I decided a change was needed. I wanted less moving parts. I didn’t want to have to use a “middleman” service like Fuzed. Plus, Ontraport was jammed with crap and I determined the best way to clean it up was to simply abandon it. On top of all that, I was paying $297/month for Ontraport, which included both affiliate programs and order processing…. neither of which I needed. So, I was paying for things I didn’t even need and want. And another $39/month to Fuzed just to continue using it.

I went shopping for a new email list host. The linear list-based systems like Aweber or Mailchimp simply don’t cut it any longer. I seriously looked into ActiveCampaign. But, I ultimately decided to switch to Drip.

Drip has all the marketing automation capabilities I want, but is designed to be simple. The interface is FAR superior to Ontraport. The visual designer for creating automations (called Workflows in Drip lingo) simply blows Ontraport away. It works fully with Zapier (something Ontraport has somehow failed to deliver on after all this time). And it works directly with MemberMouse. No “middleman” service or script needed.

Typically, migrating between marketing automation platforms would be the stuff of nightmares. However, being that 90% of the stuff in Ontraport was now unnecessary, I just let it all die. My list of tags went from probably 150 down to 24. 50 rules in Ontraport dropped to 15. 81 sequences dropped down to 17 workflows. And, instead of spending $336/month to deal with my email list (Ontraport $297 + Fuzed $39), I’m now paying only $149/month to Drip.

I should also mention that I was capped to 100,000 sent emails with Ontraport, unless I paid overages. With Drip, there are no caps.

I also cancelled CoSchedule, which we were using for social media scheduling. Now that I’m focusing on the Redwood Strategy for this blog, we just don’t have as much need for the service. It only costs $10/month, but I didn’t need it. So, buh bye.

I also cancelled Improvely. Nice service, but I found I wasn’t logging into it all that much. So, buh bye.

Which Brings Me Back To Samcart…

I mentioned I evaluated SamCart. I went into it knowing that, if I used it, it would ADD a new piece to the business. Something I’m hesitant to do now.

What attracted me to it was the nice checkout pages, the promised ability to do one-click upsells using Paypal, and the ability to do order bumps.

With my current setup (MemberMouse + OptimizePress), I can create nice looking checkout pages. It does take more time, but I can do it. I have full one-click upsell ability, but not with Paypal. If customers pay with credit card, it is no problem. But, Paypal is a different matter. Lastly, I cannot do order bumps (where you check a box to add a small item to your order before you charge the card).

So, I evaluated Samcart. It is a nice platform. Indeed very easy to use. Also, the statistical reports it provides would make life easier in some ways.

But, it introduced problems for me:

  • I would need to send people off-site to pay, which would mean I cannot do one-click followup sales for logged in members any longer.
  • Transactions in SamCart don’t appear in the transaction history in MemberMouse. This means members will go to “My Account” and not see anything.
  • I was told that the way SamCart adds memberships and bundles to a member’s account is by “comping” it. Essentially, it would appear as if we gave it to them for free. This makes sense since, from MemberMouse’s perspective, we did. But, this creates new complexity.
  • Right now, members can cancel themselves. With SamCart, it doesn’t appear they could.
  • Essentially, the whole “My Account” control page for members would be redundant. No doubt it would cause a lot of confusions.

So, buh bye, SamCart. You’re pretty and all, but you just don’t do it for me.

When To Buy (And Ignore) Cool New Tools

There are far too many people out there who confuse buying new business tools with actually taking action.Click To Tweet

They think that the tool does the heavy lifting. That the tool is the success factor. Almost as if you think that by holding Shakespeare’s writing quill that that makes you a literary master like he was.

But, no.

The tool is just a tool. It is what you do with it that determines whether it makes sense for you or not.

SamCart’s launch marketing was quite misleading, if you ask me. They would use these specific case studies of people who increased their profits with Samcart… then turn around and act as if you’d see the same results just by using Samcart. They even had a “Profits Calculator”. Look at this thing…


Yeah, right.

I plugged in their own starting value of a business doing $5,000/month. I press the button and by implementing the funny-named strategies they say SamCart will just do for you, I can turn that $5,000/month into almost $18,000/month. Just by switching the sales process over to Samcart?

Yeah…. bullcrap. I mean, I understand these numbers are based on a single case study and otherwise just a model, but this whole thing is selling Samcart based on what I think are shallow promises and hype.

Truth is, you need to have something to sell. In fact, if you want to set up those upsells and order bumps, you need several things to sell. The very way you design your product line matters. You need to have people actively buying. NONE of this has anything to do with SamCart.

In short, it is the fundamentals of your business which determines whether SamCart has any chance of doing you any good.

Otherwise, SamCart is like a piano. A virtuoso can make that piano sing, however a student can’t. Same tool… very different result.

So, you must determine whether to buy any business or marketing tool by looking INWARD. Not at their marketing. Ask yourself:

  • Does this solve an immediate problem for me?
  • Can I use it instantly, or am I just collecting it for later?
  • Does using this tool introduce any other complexities?

Acquiring a new tool just because it is better than one you have now doesn’t necessarily make it a good idea. Is your current setup broken? Will there be a high cost (time or money) to transitioning to the new tool? Is it creating more complexity or making things simpler?

If you can’t answer these questions in a definitive way, then err on the side of “don’t buy it”.

You have to be your own compass here. Don’t copy the “gurus”. Don’t buy solely based on the marketing. You need to be grounded in the reality of YOUR business and whether you’re in a position to use that new tool in a way which will make it worth it.

“When Things Seem Like They’re Getting Complicated, Stop And Question Your Assumptions.”

When Things Seem Like They're Getting Complicated, Stop And Question Your Assumptions.Click To Tweet

Great power comes with great simplicity.

Often in life, those people who dive into complexities aren’t necessarily smarter. They’re stalled.

Apple became what they are today because they concentrated on a few products and did it well. Both Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerburg both wore the same basic clothes every single day. Not because they can’t afford better, but because it was simple. Less decisions to be made so they could really excel at their core mission.

People who can make fast decisions are sometimes looked down on by others as simpletons, and society teaches us that it is smart to slow down and ponder the complexities. Academics do this all the time. However, I say academics are usually people who couldn’t do it in real life, so they teach.

Point is… there is power in simplicity.

And especially in business.

It gives you the room to really excel at your core business and not get bogged down in details.

So, aim toward simplicity.