I started writing for Sumo (then SumoMe) in October of 2015. I started off writing an article here and there, until they contracted me for even more content in December of that year. This past December marked my 2-year Sumo-versary. During that time I’d written and edited over 100 articles on the Sumo blog. And during that time, I did some of my best work to date. I wrote articles that sold hundreds of thousands of dollars of product, collected tens of thousands of emails and helped hundreds of people grow their businesses. I did a lot for Sumo, and in turn, the company did a lot for me. I met and worked with some of the best, hardest working people I’ve ever met. I refined my writing. I learned about writing emails that sell. And most of all, I learned about content marketing in a way that I’d never have been able to if I didn’t sign that contract two years ago. But sometime in the fall, after the content strategy changed yet again at Sumo and after I’d been told to write articles on topics that I was neither interested in, nor knew much about (and ultimately didn’t end up moving the needle), I had a realization… I was officially an “internet marketer”. And I say that in the worst way. This was never a title I wanted to earn, and yet I’d earned it. I was an internet marketer through and through. I was writing marketing articles about internet marketing for internet marketers. The problem with “internet marketers” is they often teach internet marketing without actually having done any of it outside of the marketing space. You can’t give sound marketing advice if you’ve never done it for a non-marketing related business (or, if you had success with a non-marketing related business ten years ago). The best marketers don't talk about marketing. They’re too busy marketing. When I had this realization, I knew something needed to change. By then, I was taking on some content and email consulting clients. With Sumo, Unsettle and momming it up, I only had the capacity for 1-2 at a time. One of those clients was Perfect Keto. When one of the founders, Justin, asked me if I’d be interested in focusing on PK full-time, I initially told him I wasn’t sure. I’d always thought I’d want to focus on Unsettle full-time if I were to leave Sumo. But after I had this realization, I had another: to truly apply my skills in an authentic way that would make a serious impact, I had to do it with a completely unrelated business. One that wasn’t about online business in any way. One that didn’t focus on productivity or entrepreneurship or even general self improvement. And it had to be one that I was interested in. So, in December, I decided to chat with Justin about what he said, and as of January, I stopped writing for Sumo and moved to a Director of Content (and email marketing) role at Perfect Keto. The results you can get applying content and email marketing to an eCommerce business are mind-blowing, especially one that sees the value in these things and is willing to invest in them, and it’s already been incredibly rewarding. But now that I dealt with that side of my work-life, I had to face another ugly truth:
I’m Building Another “Me Too” Blog
I started Unsettle in early 2015 with a mission: to inspire others to look at their work critically. To design their lives around what’s truly important and design their work around their lives. I started off with some amazing momentum. I was inspired and motivated. Lifestyle design was on my mind at all times. My writing attracted readers without much effort. I was doing things differently. I was saying no to pop-ups, to treating subscribers like numbers rather than humans, and to only writing when I was “inspired”. Instead, I responded to every email. I gave people real value and they wanted to subscribe to my email list. I didn’t have to put aggressive email captures in my visitor’s faces to “increase my conversion rate”. I created resources that naturally attracted readers, links, and even mentions from people like Chris Guillebeau and Jeff Goins. I didn’t have to hound bloggers for backlinks to get more traffic or “link juice”. I was doing worthwhile work, and it paid off. But then, I became an “internet marketer”. Welcome Mats crept up on my site. I maintained that they weren’t technically pop-ups, so they didn’t break my commitment to my readers. I stopped answering every email. “I get dozens of emails a day! I can’t keep up,” I told myself. I started writing about the strategies and tactics that worked for me while building Sumo or consulting with my clients, rather than the frameworks behind how to put those things in place and ensure that you’re actually following through. The result?
- My email list started to grow less rapidly.
- My unsubscribe rate jumped: even though I was bringing in more traffic, it wasn’t always the right traffic.
- My open rates suffered – you can actually see them start to downtrend from somewhere around 35% to around 21%, and how many people were clicking on the articles dive-bombed even more.
- The engagement in my Facebook group started to suck
- I began to get fewer emails from readers telling me they liked my work or that I inspired them.
I began to think that maybe this blogging thing is no longer worth it. But what I failed to realize until now is that I strayed from my purpose.
You Are What You Repeatedly Do
They say “you are what you do repeatedly”. I repeatedly did internet marketing with Sumo and my other clients, so I let that influence what I’m doing with Unsettle. Unsettle was never meant to be an internet marketing blog. Yet that’s exactly what I built. Sure, it’s a “good” blog. I write well, I can make one hell of an actionable guide, and my articles are useful. But they don’t belong on Unsettle. At least, not in a vacuum. I became so used to writing tactical articles for Sumo that Unsettle became heavily influenced by that mindset, too. You know that saying “the shoemaker’s son goes barefoot?” The idea behind that saying is that it’s difficult to apply your own craft to yourself. As a coach, I’m always reminding my clients to find what works and do more of it. But I forgot to apply that advice to myself. Sure, blogging about blogging and content marketing works, if you put them in practice beyond your blog and other marketing blogs. But what has always worked better for me — in enjoyment of writing, in sheer numbers — is helping inspire behavioural change. I want you to build your work around your life rather than try to fit your life in around your work. But it’s more valuable to you if I focus less on the tactics and strategies, and more on the frameworks behind them. How long your articles should be doesn’t matter if you haven’t built a writing habit to help you produce. Showing you how to structure and introduction doesn’t matter if you get home from your full-time job exhausted at the end of the day without the emotional energy to write anything, let alone an enticing introduction. There’s a place for the tactical stuff. I’m not going to stop writing about it altogether. But that place is not on this blog. It’s in courses and free challenges and in my coaching programs. Because those are the places you get to when you already have the framework in place to use them. I want to stop “content marketing” and go back to writing useful, inspiring, and interesting articles that give you the framework you need to action the tactics. So here’s what I’m doing about it.
- I’m leaving the marketing writing on the marketing blogs.
- I’m leaving the “content marketing” for Perfect Keto and for content clients.
And I’m going back to what I love — inspiring behaviour change, writing about frameworks, and giving you the tools you need to apply strategies and tactics. If you still want that tactical stuff, I’ll still write about them. That’s fun too, it’s just not what Unsettle’s about. Here’s how to get it:
- Check out my writing at Sumo and Smart Blogger (free).I (used to) publish at least twice per month at Sumo, and periodically at Smart Blogger, too. Sumo recently got rid of their author bios, so you may not be able to tell the article is written by me until you get to the very bottom (if you dig a bit and squint hard you may still be able to see my name), so here are a few of my favorites:
- Join a free challenge. Apparently I love creating challenges. Pick your poison:
- Get on the early notification list for Blogging School.Blogging School is a course I’m in the midst of creating right now that’ll teach you all the tactical stuff about everything you need to know to write a blog that you can get paid for. It’ll give you the tools and strategies to help you become a true “problogger,” showing you exactly how I created content that sold hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of product, gathered tens of thousands of email subscribers and millions of site visits. The best part about this is I’ll show you how I grew the blogs of businesses not in the marketing niche.
And if you want to be part of the better, more authentic Unsettle movement? Get unspammy updates about new articles here and read some posts from the archives to reminisce about what it used to be like in this space and what it’ll be like again. Cool? Cool.