Danny Iny, founder of Mirasee, has a background in blogging, and right away he told me he has a particular slant on the topic… one I probably haven’t encountered before.
But let’s start at the beginning…
When Danny was 15, he quit school to start his first business. His entire adult life (and then some), he’s been an entrepreneur. He’s been involved in the formation of all sorts of businesses. But the stand-out for him was a start-up company that built software to teach kids how to read, something he cares a lot about. He describes himself at the time as young and inexperienced
When the markets crashed in 2008, his business fell apart. He wasn’t sure what to do next.
But years and years of entrepreneurial experience meant he didn’t wonder for too long. He knew quite a lot about marketing, so he built a consulting business to help companies with their marketing strategy and copywriting. He grew that into a six-figure venture within a couple of years. And then he began to think about scaling. He asked himself, “What if I build courses teaching people how to do what I do?”
At that time, Danny was meeting a lot of early stage business owners who really needed help but couldn’t really afford to pay for it… not consulting rates, anyway.
He realized a course might be able to help those business owners.
So he started a blog. Why a blog? He wanted a way to build connections with the people who needed what he had to offer.
At first his blog was called Firepole Marketing, but he rebranded it to Mirasee in 2015. On the blog, Danny wrote about marketing in a lot of different ways, and he started to grow an audience.
How big an audience? Danny said, “Last time I checked, we have somewhere between 50 and 70 thousand email subscribers, and thousands of those people have bought courses from us over the years. I have 30 people working for me. The blog was a core engine that drove that.”
Danny actually studied blogging under Jon Morrow. He talked about Jon’s particular genius versus what other writers are capable of.
“Jon will write an article and it’ll blow down the doors off the internet and you get enormous amounts of traffic. I love Jon. I have a ton of respect for him. But even though I think I’m a pretty strong writer, I haven’t been able to reproduce those results, certainly not reliably, and I’m a better writer than most.
“So doing what Jon does never felt very achievable to me, but I did follow his process. I did get a lot of posts published on major blogs. Doing all that guest blogging, it became a way to build relationships with the people who run those blogs. I teach about a model where you’re climbing up a ladder of relationships with other influencers. I think in my first year I published around 85 guest posts on major blogs, and that drove maybe 1,000 subscribers back to my blog.”
The Power of Relationships
A thousand subscribers is good, but Danny found the relationships he built by writing for those sites and interacting with those other bloggers to be even more valuable.
“I was always very professional and on the ball, and if they asked for something, I’d turn it around right away. I had strong follow-up and I built relationships with them.”
And those relationships turned out to have a big impact. Danny decided to write a book called Engagement from Scratch! He reached out to all the people he’d worked with and contributed to and asked if they wanted to contribute a chapter. A lot of them said yes.
And when Danny decided to develop a training program, he reached out to his connections again and suggested doing a webinar for their audience to share some of the good stuff in his training. And again, he got a lot of yeses.
Danny touched back to what he said about Jon Morrow creating content that attracts a ton of traffic.
“If you can produce a piece of content, like a pure content marketing play that just drives a ton of traffic back to your site, then you’ve got all that traffic and those people can be invited to become a part of your community and you can sell them stuff. You’ve got that whole engine for your business.”
But most writers aren’t able to produce viral content on demand. In that case, Danny said, “You can produce great content and the people who do read it might love you, but it doesn’t get in front of a huge amount of people unless it’s put in front of those people by other people who are influential, people who you have a relationship with.”
Danny’s point is, your blog doesn’t have to be driven by relationships. But for a lot of writers, the leverage that comes with relationships is key. Danny underscored this, saying, “Mirasee went from five figures to seven figures in a couple of years by virtue of the relationships.”
And Danny restated the blog was a core outpost of the business, especially at the beginning. Mirasee is about teaching solid marketing fundamentals that actually work. So Danny began writing about those fundamentals, and he got a lot of traction from guest posting and blogging.
Based on the response of his growing audience, Danny was able to identify a revenue opportunity. He knew what people wanted, so he developed a program teaching his marketing process.
When asked about any particular a-ha moment, Danny talked about how publishing his book changed his list.
“I spent all of 2011 writing guest posts and that got me a base of subscribers, but it also allowed me to build relationships with all these people and I created the book, Engagement from Scratch! The book launched and all the people who were a part of it, they emailed their audience and said, look, I’m in this book. My email list had grown from zero to almost 1,000 that year… and then overnight, it tripled.”
Danny use that experience — growing a list through guest blogging, but also learning to tap into the relationships you cultivate along the way — to create another program.
“I think in the first year, maybe 1,500 people went through that program.”
After hearing how Danny used blogging to grow his business, I asked him, in addition to writing, what skills, character traits and mindsets are useful to someone interested in succeeding as a blogger.
The Root of Growth and Success
Danny said, “It’s hard for me to answer that in a way that is specific to blogging and not business in general because I deal with entrepreneurs and I’ve only ever used blogging as an entrepreneurial tool.
“I think one of the most important things is a bias towards action. The whole process of building a business, including a blogging business… the volume of stuff you produce is important and getting a little bit better each time is important and so the cycle time on those iterations matters a lot.”
Danny explained further: “If you get one percent better with every cycle, and you go through a cycle every two or three days, then that can accumulate to substantial growth relatively quickly. If you get that much better with each cycle, but each cycle takes you a few weeks or a few months, then you’re never going to get there.”
Danny described this as a willingness to skin your knees.
When you blog, you’re going to publish things sometimes that aren’t great. But the way you know a post isn’t great is that nobody notices it. That means the only downside to making mistakes is nobody reacts. It’s not like falling down in front of people. And this is really powerful because you can experiment and grow without worrying about what people think.
Danny clarified that it’s normal to worry about making mistakes. When you look back on our history, even just a hundred years ago, a small mistake could mean death or ostracization. But that’s not the case anymore. The internet gives people one chance after another to succeed.
But overcoming that fear can be difficult. Danny talked a little about how to do that.
“We have this kind of backwards idea in modern Western society that confidence precedes action and success, right? I don’t feel confident, I’m scared, therefore I need to work on my confidence… which is total nonsense. Confidence comes from competence, competence comes from having tried things, some of which were successful, some of which were not. So you need to shift the frame.”
To help with that, Danny suggested determining why what you want to do is important.
“Maybe it’s important because of the people you want to serve, maybe it’s important because of the people you want to provide for, your family, yourself.”
Whatever the reason it’s important to you, focus on that rather than the fear you have about making a mistake.
One of the ways we express our fear is to think of all the reasons something won’t work, all the ways starting a blog might fail. To that, Danny said, “Look, it doesn’t take a genius to find a reason why something won’t work.”
Getting back on topic, Danny turned his attention to building connections with your audience through your blog. He said, “Two very powerful tools are vulnerability and responsiveness. Obviously, your content has to be good, but responsiveness is one of those things that completely changes your relationships.”
You can nurture responsiveness in your audience by including a call to action at the end of the emails you send to your list and at the end of your blogs posts. Ask your audience to interact, to reply with their thoughts and questions, and then answer all of those questions personally and quickly.
When you do this, you’ll start to build a personal connection with your most engaged readers. Danny said, “If a reader hits reply and then you answer back, from that moment until forever, you jump the queue on everyone else who is vying for their attention because you’re not a robot, you’re someone they’ve corresponded with, and that’s huge.”
I asked Danny what his advice would be to beginning blogger looking to make money from their blog, and he opened up on his thoughts about monetizing. He said, “There’s no such thing as making money from a blog. A blog is something that, one way or another, gets people to look at something… a blog is a tool of attention. You need to convert that attention into money. The blog is about lead generation and credibility and your brand. It’s not what you sell.”
Your Blog: A Tool for Earning Attention
Danny talked more about what you can sell, leveraging the attention from your blog.
“It’s important to think about what you want to sell and what people value and what you can deliver… because in the absence of a good answer to that… if you say, well I’ll just put ads on my site, then it’s a lowest common denominator sort of approach. It means you’re going to get pretty much the worst possible return on attention that is imaginable.”
Danny touched back to earning people’s attention and why it’s important.
“A blog is a vehicle for earning people’s attention and with that also comes with a certain amount of trust. I’m paying attention to you because I trust that you have something interesting to say; I trust that you’re credible to some degree. Given that relationship, there is no one in the world better positioned to sell something to those people than you.”
When you rely on ads from third parties, you’re essentially outsourcing the responsibility of figuring out what to do with that attention you’ve earned. That’s just not something that’s going to work as well as all the other options.
Danny likes courses as an offering from blog creators. But courses are difficult to create, and you have to put thought into what you want to build. He said, “I think too often people build courses and start blogs for the wrong reasons.”
He’s encountered a lot of people who just decide to build a course around a topic because they want to. But Danny recommends a different approach.
“Before you start anything, you want to look around at the landscape and ask yourself, is there something missing? Is there something that needs to be taught or explained? Is there a point of view or a perspective that is absent from the market?”
When you find something missing, you find a great opportunity. But if you can’t zero in on something missing, then you’re likely to find yourself competing very directly with someone more established than you. Find a way to differentiate yourself, your blog, your course. That differentiation will help you add value and stand out. You can look at teaching method, pricing, packaging… all those things to figure how you want to set yourself apart.
“You’ve got to find your contribution, and if you don’t have a meaningful contribution, then keep looking.”
Another way to find your unique contribution is to look for an existing angle and then niche it down. “Like the Uber of Dating,” Danny gave as an example.
Danny’s no-nonsense business approach can give you a long-term view of you how to build a successful blog. That big picture approach can serve you very well and help you avoid some of the common stumbling blocks that new bloggers face. So, take Danny’s advice and give some serious thought to how you want to structure your blog, who you want to serve, and why this is important to you. Then you’ll be prepared to move forward with certainty and to navigate any obstacles with confidence.
Editor’s Note: If you want to write your own blogging success story, AWAI now has a program to help you do that. It walks you through picking a topic, coming up with ideas, writing excellent blog entries, building your audience, and earning money from your efforts. You can find all the details here.
This article is part of the Blogging Stories series.
Series Table of Contents:
- A Serial Entrepreneur Shares His Story of Blogging Success
- A Blog – The Ultimate Writer’s Tool
- Blogging Your Way to a Life of Adventure
- Blogging and Business: Harnessing the Power of Attention (This Article)
- How Jon Morrow Launched His Blog with 13,000 Subscribers – and Other Blogging Stories
- Living a Beautiful Life – Blogging Success with Sal O’Neill
- Follow Your Passion – A Blogging Success Story with Carol Bryant
- Building the Life You Want – Holly Reisem Hanna’s Blogging Success Story
- From $700 a month to $3.5 million a year – Sarah Titus and Blogging Success