You may have already caught wind that something major is afoot at Anthill.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve watched 200 Anthillians happily rampage through our new global site, in the interests of BETA testing.
That’s right, after 10 years focused exclusively on Australia, we’re introducing our unique brand of business journalism to the world stage.
In this blog post, I plan to share our testers’ feedback… warts and all… what was loved, what was hated… and reveal our entire launch strategy moving forward.
So, what’s the new site called?
Well. It’s called Entrepornography.com. Kinda.
And what was the feedback?
Our testers loved it. They also hated it.
We received emails joyfully reveling in its outrageousness and also thanking us for pursuing a project that was “genuine” and “meaningful”.
But we also received two very heartfelt and thoughtfully prepared objections to the name. (I gotta say, we simply love the way that even our critics are thoughtful, erudite and respectful. Your passion warms my cockles.)
This might seem obvious. Great brands attract and repel. (Richard Branson’s Virgin would have caused outrage in its day.)
Yet, here’s the thing.
There’s only one true way to find out how customers will behave in the real world. And that’s to monitor how they actually behave in the real world.
Running an online business is a lot like doing stand up comedy.
It might seem like a weird analogy but it’s true.
Stand up comedians only get to find out how their audience will react when live on stage, with the blinding spotlight in their eyes.
When launching a new website, most businesses spend months, sometimes years, behind closed doors, attempting to achieve perfection.
Then, when they eventually feel brave enough to share the outcomes of their toils, their audience often behaves in completely unexpected ways.
We believe that if you are not slightly embarrassed about your website, when you launch it, you’re setting yourself up for this kind of rude shock.
That’s why we unleashed 200 BETA testers on the site. These first followers were not only offered a glimpse of the new site, they were deliberately given different messaging and directed to try different things. This is called split-testing. (Or, A-B testing.)
Some things landed with aplomb, others were greeted with silence, some prompted walk outs.
But, like any live act, we watched, listened and have been tweaking with fury… constantly amending our messaging and structure.
A website, unfortunately, is never finished.
Second guessing and focus groups will only get you so far.
We spoke to hundreds of people (before even introducing the site to our testers).
Yet, at the end of the day, here are the real factors that influenced our initial thinking (the good reasons why we gave it the name that we did) and our plans moving forward (how we’re responding to our testers’ exceptional feedback).
Like everything we do, there’s a lesson or two in this for everyone.
I’m about to share some hard truths for anyone in the marketing industry.
Traditional brand building for the online market is a fools game.
If your goal is new business development, unless you have a massive budget, a prominent reputation or have secured a highly searched keyword as your URL (like cars.com), your brand online is almost meaningless. Seriously.
And this is because prospective customers and clients don’t search for brands online (unless they’ve been exposed to expensive advertising or they’ve used it before, in which case they’re not prospective, are they?)
For example, Anthill has a relatively well known brand, built over 10 years. Yet, 40% of our traffic still comes from people searching for answers to their business questions and stumbling across one of our articles or video posts.
Customers and clients (including yours) rarely go searching for you. They go searching for cures.
This is why, according to HubSpot, a website with a blog gets 12 times more traffic and four times more leads than its closest competitor without a blog.
Good blogs focus on customer headaches and not company announcements. They create answers to questions that consumers are actually search for.
I’m not saying that brand is not important. I’m just saying that, online, brands don’t bring in new business. Headaches cures attract customers.
Then, of course, the brand needs to be memorable.
But the real strength of a brand does not come from the wording, font, colours or even for being memorable.
It comes from being consistent.
This is the second reason why brand is not so important online.
Consider this. How many random sites do you visit per day? How many do you remember? You remember the ones that solve a problem and probably give you something for free (usually in return for your email address).
The brand sticks and becomes synonymous with its values… but only when it demonstrates its worth in ways that are consistent with its values.
At Anthill, we don’t need to say that we are ‘edgy’ or ‘experimental’ or ‘irreverent’ or ‘add colour to often dry and uninspiring news’.
These are things that others have said and attached to our brand. These are things we don’t consistently say. We just consistently do.
And some people like it, while others leave us for safer pastures.
Anthill is another name that people loved and hated. But, over time, we took the meaning and changed it.
These are the reasons why we chose the name.
We realised that we could not risk exposure to a big advertising budget. We could no longer afford a popular search term. We realised that new business online comes from solving headaches. And we knew that this business name would stick in people’s heads long after they had left our site.
We also knew that with ownership of this URL, and all its accompanying social media handles, we could control its meaning.
But, most importantly, by taking control of this URL and all its accompanying social media handles, by offering great content, designed to inspire and inform and genuinely rattle existing ways of thinking, we would be consistent with our values and that is what defines a successful brand.
So, we’re keeping the name… for the news service.
But not for the membership.
“What?! You’re launching two new sites? Holy amaze-balls antman!”
Great businesses don’t operate as a ‘one trick pony’. They employ product ecosystems.
For 10 years, Anthill’s good years and bad were directly tied to the ebbs and flows of the local advertising market.
In early 2013, we reduced our reliance on advertising revenues by introducing the Anthill Academy, our premium membership.
In short, we created a private library of video courses, assembled on the premise that, while opinions are helpful, quality instruction in priceless.
While Anthill has always been about support and promoting innovation, something more is required to compel action.
By distilling the experiences of seasoned business builders into lessons, we could help conquer the biggest barrier to progress; the first step! (And expand our own product ecosystem in the process.)
In other words, while we all might lurve entreporn, progress requires action, a cure to this addiction.
As explained, one reason for choosing entrepornography.com was the painfully obvious one, tied to the reasoning above.
It creates something that would be remembered after someone had found us by random chance (i.e. after searching for an answer on Google, receiving the social media interaction of a fan or some other kind of referral).
It’s my not-so-unusual belief that bland is a sure path to obscurity in any profession. Even conservative professionals, like accountants and lawyers and funerals directors are embracing the need to be different in some way.
(The most conservative decision makers in Australia were those same people responsible for the progressive sixties and seventies. Think about it.)
But the name also has a serious double-meaning.
Like Anthill, Entrepornography.com is intended to be all about encouraging entrepreneurship.
It does this by providing inspiration.
But the rah-rah and fist pumping stops there.
Because inspiration without action is meaningless.
Without action, the consumption of entrepornography becomes little more than an exercise in self-deception, like the purchase of a lotto ticket. It gives aspiring entrepreneurs an excuse to dream. It gives serious business owners an excuse to procrastinate.
It feels like action but, in reality, war stories and homespun lessons lack one essential ingredient.
And that, as you may have guessed, is instruction.
Our initial idea was to call our membership site ITEA or The Institute for the Treatment of Entrepornography.
Despite the initial enthusiasm…
Even the name’s most vocal advocates, when asked, quietly admitted that they weren’t so thrilled about being a member of something that suggested that they might have a problem.
One passionate member stated with great humour that if her husband found the invoice, we would be responsible for paying the divorce fees!
And guess what. They were right.
Of course they were right! (And we were wrong.)
Our premium members don’t have a problem. They the opposite of entreporn addicts! They are progressive, action focused pioneers of change. That’s why they have the savvy to join something like a premium membership site. They are not voyeurs! They are doers!
And this is a lesson that we were able to learn and rectify in the first 28 days.
Thank you testers!
There is one more way to build brand online, other than curing headaches. (It’s the most important lesson of all.)
And that’s through the creation of strategic alliances, by empowering other brands to do your marketing for you.
During the development of entrepornography.com, we spoke with several familiar international brands to discuss how we might work together to help solve their customer needs by creating courses on their behalf.
As you can imagine, this idea was greeted with significant enthusiasm. They would get a free course for customers. We would leverage their massive international databases by offering said free course.
No one blinked at the apparently outrageous name… until it became time to push the button.
At this point, the brand manager of a very progressive international tech behemoth said to me, “Can you give it a name that’s… not so freaky?”
And the statement resonated.
That is what Anthill and our premium membership has always been about.
Our most successful courses focus on topics that… to put simply… are those that freak out business operators, from growing pains to new technology trends to evergreen business dilemmas, like cashflow, getting leads, managing time and dealing with confronting change.
It’s the freaky stuff that causes headaches!
That’s why we have decided to give our membership its new name, The Not-So-Freaky University.
That’s right. Entrepornography.com is the news site. NSFU is our global premium membership.
The purpose of Entrepornography.com is to build traffic and collect leads (i.e. email addresses). NSFU is the monetisation arm.
This title — the Not-So-Freaky University — embraces what we have always been good at… taking the freaky in business and un-freakifying it. It’s about taking common but debilitating problems and offering simple solutions.
It is consistent with our history, our brand values and desires moving forward. It is also optimistic, plucky and reflects our emphasis on fun.
It also sits comfortably as the premium membership extension of Entrepornography.com or as its own independent entity.
So, what happens next?
Of course, we have put together a special launch offer for Anthillians. (We’re nothing if not consistent, right?)
In the not-too-distant future, we’ll be flicking the switch and updating the currency settings.
That’s right. The NSFU will be adopting the US currency as its default.
We will also be setting the monthly membership rate at $47 per user per month. (But not for you.)
Before that all happens, we invite you to join, in Australian dollars, for less than the cost of a foccacia and coke.
Here are are just some of things that the NSFU has unfreakified.
- Want to raise your profile?
- Want to raise angel and venture capital?
- Want to turn your website into a lead generation machine?
- Want to become an A-grade presenter?
- Want to become an outsourcing extremist?
- Want to deliver the perfect pitch and win clients?
- Want to blog for business?
- Want to harness YouTube and video marketing for business growth?
- Want to search engine optimise your website in 30 minutes?
- Want to become known as a key player in your industry?
- Want to know how to write emails that people will actually read?
- Want to optimise your cashflow?
- Want to create videos for the web?
- Want to recruit like a headhunter?
- Want to turn your knowledge into products?
- Want to forge strategic alliances with big players and accelerate growth?
These are just a sample of the courses, online seminars and filmed live events that we’ve distilled into fast, fun and easy to implement online lessons.
Plus, we’re adding more courses all the time.
“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” What rubbish!
To reiterate, we’ve sourced some of the brightest minds and biggest brains from the field of entrepreneurial endeavour and distilled their experiences into fun and fast tutorials, cheat sheets, podcasts and other instructional lessons.
We’ve identified the common headaches and roadblocks of business builders and devised instructional tutorials to help people, just like you.
And we’ve put together a welcome offer that provides unlimited access for a monthly investment of… pocket change.
How much will membership cost if you are an Anthillian?
If you sign up before our launch offer expires, monthly membership will be available to you for only $17.
Yes, $17. It won’t get you a decent haircut, a half-decent bottle of wine, an evening at the flicks, a six pack of imported beer, an HP ink cartridge, a quarter tank of petrol (etc). It’s pocket change.
But it will get you the instruction you need to take your next leap forward. Education needn’t be expensive, right?
Plus, the monthly plan involves no long term commitment. You can cancel at any time and, should we ever increase the rate, you will never pay more. (At least, so long as I own the company.)
How much would you pay to acquire any one of the skills above? More than $17? Hells yeah!
If you’d like to join, just click here.
You’ll be directed to a brief survey, which we’re using to pre-qualify early members.
That’s right. We’re making you work (just a little) for the privilege.
Here’s the link: http://entrepreneurship.com.au/are-you-ready/
If Anthill has ever helped you in any way, consider this.
Aside from the education, here are three sensible reasons to join. (Okay, the third is not very sensible but… who can resist a secret surprise or soiree?)
1. If you have ever attended an Anthill event.
Members automagically score the cheapest event rate. Anthill events range from $90 to $1,800. Save a minimum of 50%.
2. If you have ever participated in an Anthill webinar.
Members get unlimited access to all webinar courses, podcasts and filmed events. (Education on tap.)
3. If you take your business seriously but still like to have fun.
Members score access to surprise treats. We’d like to tell you what they are but… well… they’re surprises and secrets.
And, as above, if you don’t like it, if you’re not getting value, just cancel your membership. We have no lock-in contracts or anything sneaky like that.
So, what’s in a name?
Not much. At least, that’s now the case online. Humans don’t use search engines to find brands. They search to find cures to their headaches, desires, obstacles and aspirations. After that? Be memorable. But, more importantly, be consistent.
How do we plan to practice what we preach? If you haven’t noticed, we’re experimental. That’s one of the ways that we differentiate ourselves. We try things. Then, we share the results. As always, this depends on you.
So, if you have any feedback or observations, don’t forget to leave me a comment.