Lousy Implementation Trumps Perfect Planning Anytime

results yoga

Would you rather plan or do?

I once worked with another digital marketing consultant for the same client. He was in-charge of crafting the strategy and plans for everything—from content to lead generation to social media to ads. After two and a half months, we’re still working on spreadsheets and scheduling activities.

All that time was spent on planning and meetings. Internally, everyone was busy. But from the public point-of-view, nothing was happening.

From a business standpoint, this was not a proper allocation of time and money. Here are the top three reasons why you should not spend more time than necessary in planning, and rather, spend it on execution.

Here’s another way to look at it: which will get you more results? Planning your workout or working out?

Reason #1: Planning Is Costly

The first and biggest reason is that planning is an expense. As my favorite management thinker of all time once said, “results are only on the outside.”

If time is spent on internal activities—meetings, politics, bureaucracy, and other administrative tasks—the business won’t get any return from it. That’s why it’s a waste of resources. When you look at the value chain and how it works, you’ll find that this hold true as well.

Yes, planning is important. But spending more time than necessary is not going to be helpful. Remember that the biggest expense of any business is its people.

If everyone spends their limited time on internal issues rather than those that produce value to the business’ customers, there is a great chance that this business will fail.

Key takeaway: Don’t spend unnecessary amounts of time for internal, non-value adding activities. Results come from outside your organization. If you want results, focus on your customers and what will bring value to them. Your customers don’t care about how much time (and money) you spent on planning and spreadsheets and reports.

In our workout analogy, all the research on finding the best workout routines or exercises are time you could have spent doing instead. You could have just gone to the gym, ask a trainer, then do the workout.

Reason #2: You’re Not Learning Anything New

Every industry is different. Every business is different. That’s why to succeed, it’s important that you learn what works for your own business. And you can’t do that with planning. Success can only be achieved through implementation.

You can do all the market research and competitive benchmarking but all those are still plans. What holds true for your competitor won’t necessarily hold true for you. The only way to know for sure is to get out there and execute on what those campaigns and projects are.

This is the main principle behind the lean startup. Spending too much time developing complicated strategies include making a lot of assumptions about the business and the market. But that’s the problem. Those are only assumptions.

The best approach is to test those assumptions and validate if they are true or not. Then, proceed to the next step. This process allows you to adjust your direction every step of the way without waste.

Key takeaway: Instead of making strategy documents that no one understands and reads, go out there and test your assumptions. A 10% growth in the industry year-on-year for the past 5 years doesn’t mean anything to you if you don’t sell a single cent.

In our workout analogy, no matter how well-crafted your plan is, you still have to execute it to get results. What’s more is that you have to learn the basic movements, the correct muscles to use, etc. You can’t learn how to squat or deadlift by reading and watching videos. You still have to do the actual exercise.

Reason #3: Distinguishing Between Planning and Execution Is Stupid

At the start of this article, I asked a question. If you still haven’t found the answer, here’s something that might help you get there:

Planning is waiting for the conditions to be just right.
Doing is starting before you’re ready.

Planning is worrying about perfection.
Doing is realizing that sometimes good is good enough.

Planning is getting all of your ducks in a row.
Doing is figuring it out as you go.

Planning is procrastination.
Doing is building momentum.

Planning is getting permission.
Doing is asking for forgiveness.

Planning is seeking validation to start.
Doing is seeking feedback on the work.

Planning is aiming.
Doing is firing.

Planning is fear masquerading as productivity.
Doing is courage in action.

Laura Click

Separating planning from execution is inherently wrong. For most businesses, planning and doing are two separate activities. Planning is done by leaders and managers while execution is left to the employees and individual contributors.

If you’re one of the companies that have a structure like this, get rid of it immediately.

When you delineate planning or creating strategy from execution, you are making an assumption that those who do, don’t think and plan at all. And as you already know, this isn’t true at all.

That’s also the reason why a lot of plans fail. The plans aren’t executed properly because they were all made from assumptions and not based on reality. The planners assume that what they think matter more than those who do.

Key takeaway: Planning and execution are two sides of the same coin. You can’t separate them from one another as most businesses do. Those who go against this popular convention are the ones who succeed in the market. Plans are useless if not implemented. Individual actions don’t matter if you don’t learn from them. But together, they help steer your business to the right direction.

Different workouts and exercises have different effects on different people. That’s why it’s important that you take the time to do the workout and if you find it’s only causing you injuries or it doesn’t work for you, find an alternative. You can’t know this while watching endless YouTube clips at home.

Over to You

Lousy implementation trumps perfect planning every single time. You get to achieve results by knowing what works and what doesn’t. You get valuable feedback from real customers. You also get to improve along the way.

Planning is good. But doing is better. Don’t spend too much time planning and separating the execution.

Do you think that planning and implementation should be separate? Or are you tired of differentiating between the two?

Either way, I’d love to know what you think.

The Number 1 Mistake People Venturing into Business Make

steps bike

What do you think is the number one mistake entrepreneurs make?

I’ll get to that in a bit. But first, let me tell you about a friend of mine of started a business during the pandemic after the lockdowns started. After doing some initial research, Mark realized there was a “need” in an industry he’s familiar with. He decided to get a domain, web host and created a website in 48 hours. It’s been 3 months since then and he hasn’t sold anything on his website yet. He’s done everything from blogging to SEO to social media, but results haven’t come in.

And then there’s Jane. She also saw a need, but instead of investing on websites and other activities, Jane focused on getting actual orders. She spent time talking to potential customers, getting their interest, asking for pre-orders, and getting paid all before spending anything unnecessary.

And that’s the biggest mistake business owners of all sizes make—not validating their ideas first and spend enormous amounts of money building and launching only to find out no one wants their products/services.

Sales Solve All Problems

Spending money when you have little to begin with is stupid and foolish.

No matter where you look, this story holds true, especially for small businesses who don’t have access to capital like tech startups. And if you really look at it, it’s really simple—the purpose of a business is to create a customer. You get revenues (or sales) from customers. If you can’t do that, then you’ll cease to exist as a business.

From Forbes to Entrepreneur to CB Insights, every one of them has a common theme. And that is the business can’t get customers.

00 chart 3

Despite having different industries and offering different products, you’d notice that Jane’s approach is widely different from Mark’s. She follows principles behind bootstrapping and the lean startup.

Instead of spending time and money on things considered a requirement in today’s world, she spent her time getting real customers.

Key takeaway: what’s the next project or business idea you have right now that you want to launch? Make sure you think of getting paying customers upfront, instead of spending on other things.

Quit Making Up Excuses

You don’t need a completed product/service/business before you start selling to people.

When I share this concept with fellow entrepreneurs, they all think I’m crazy. That I don’t understand their business nor their industry. That may be true. But the approach of getting customers first also hold true.

By the time that product is ready to be distributed widely, it will already have established customers. It will have solved real problems and offer detailed specifications for what needs to be built.—Lean Startup

One of the principles of the lean startup is called validated learning. It’s the same thing as I mentioned above. You make sure that you validate your idea and get feedback every step of the way. (I’ll show you how to do this in the next section)

In the original context, startups usually spend years building a product before it gets released. Unfortunately, that is very costly and time-consuming. Remember the infographic above? 42% of startups fail because there is no product-market fit. That means, the startup spent a boatload of money and 2 years building a product that no one wants to buy.

Key takeaway: stop making excuses as to why you have to do build a website first, or hire sales people first, or build a building, complete your online course, or any other excuse. Get the ultimate validation by getting actual customer sales.

Test Your Ideas Using The Stair Step Validation

The goal of validation is to reduce your risk of failure. Early on, you might think that you business is the best and can solve everything. But, without sales, that belief is simply that—an assumption. Unless you get consistent sales, you can’t call that idea successful.

If you’re planning to start a business today, follow this simple 3-step validation. It follows all principles I mentioned above and won’t cost you anything beyond what is needed.

Step 1: Ask for Interest

The first step is to ask if the idea is worthy to pursue.

One of the mistakes first-time entrepreneurs make is to keep their ideas close and not tell anybody about it. But this defeats the entire purpose of validation.

Generating an idea is just the beginning of the process. Creating a sustainable business out of your idea takes a lot of time, effort, and resources, and it opens you up to a lot of risk.—Rani Langer-Croager

No matter how great the idea, you need to execute on it if you want to make it successful. Uber isn’t a unique idea. It’s what taxi operators already do. Someone calls the company to send a cab to wherever you need a ride. But Uber implemented the idea differently.

Going back to validation, if you’re planning to launch a new business, ask for people’s interest first. If people say it’s a stupid idea, then that’s a sign you should not pursue it. If people say it’s interesting or they want to learn more, engage in a dialogue.

The more feedback and insights you get early in the process, the better you can refine your idea. You have more to gain than to lose by sharing your idea with others.

By sharing your idea with people you trust, you might become aware of competitors you did not know about, challenges you were unaware of, or maybe even fundamental flaws in the possible go-to-market strategy. —Hillel Fuld

This step doesn’t have to be difficult. SMS, call, email, WhatsApp, message every one you know if they are interested in this idea of yours.

A simple, “hey, I’m planning on starting a business about ABC. Is this something you’d be interested in?”

If people don’t respond, follow-up. Engage in a dialogue. Find out why they are interested. Find out why they aren’t interested. This will help you refine your idea further. Once you do that, proceed to the next step.

Step 2: Get Buy-in

Getting a yes/no answer in the previous step is easy. By now, you have learned a few things that you originally didn’t consider for your business idea. By engaging in that dialogue, you now have validated whether to pursue your idea or not—without spending anything.

At this point, it’s time to measure that interest. People say things all the time. That’s why the next step is to look at their actions.

Ask for their email and/or phone number so be added to your email list. This way, you can keep them posted on the business idea you are validating.

If you asked for a simple yes/no question in the previous step, this one helps you generate real interest. It’s the same way as lead generation for any business. You ask for their contact information, or more specifically, their opt-in or consent to be sent further communications about the product/idea that you have in mind. You’d then nurture these leads, build a relationship, and increase their trust in you.

Use the same methods as above. Store them in a spreadsheet to keep track of it. By following the two steps above, you have validated your idea and received leads for your business idea—all without spending anything.

Step 3: Pre-orders

The last step is the ultimate validation of any idea—getting customers, i.e. generating sales.

Getting customers isn’t a one-step process. It involves a lot of steps and interactions with your brand before they buy from you.

Take, for example, window shopping. You keep coming back to the same store every other week. After some time, you decide to go for it, you go back to the store, go for the item, buy it, then head on out. If you think that that’s the only customer interaction you should care about, you’re obviously not seeing the big picture.

In our validation example, you’ve already generated interest in the first step. You learned more about problems and issues people are facing. In the next step, you asked for their contact information to be part of your database. This signifies a deeper commitment.

The final step is to get paying customers. No matter how unrefined the idea is, getting actual revenues is the ultimate validation.

Have you read the story of how Zappos started? “He and his co-founders weren’t even sure back in the late 90’s that people would date order shoes over the internet. So they ran a quick test: up goes a website with shoe images taken from manufacturers’ websites, some buy now buttons and watch to see what happens. Cha-ching. Order comes through, one of the guys sprints to the local shoe store, buys the requested shoes at full retail, and then scurries home to ship them out. Did they lost money on every pair of shoes shipped? Yes they did. But did they ascertain whether they had a potentially viable business idea? Yes again. All with zero inventory or fulfillment capabilities.”

This is also the reason why Kickstarter and Indiegogo aim to solve. Because launching a business is costly and you are not sure whether you’re going to get customers from it, creating a campaign in these platforms is a form of validation. If you meed a certain project goal, aka sales, that means your idea will be funded. That means you have generated interest and people are willing to spend money for it.

All that’s left is execution, which is another discussion by itself, but the point remains is that you can validate your ideas using this stair step model. By asking for interest early, you engage in a discussion with other people about the idea. You get the refine and develop it further.

From there, you move to the next step. You ask for buy-in by asking for people’s contact information and their explicit consent to support you by being part of your list.

Finally, once you pass that validation, the next step is to ask for pre-orders. This way, you are guaranteed that people are willing to spend their money on whatever idea you are developing.

No matter your industry, sales solve all problems. In the context of new businesses, getting feedback early on and getting sales is the ultimate form of validation.

Build Your Own Routines to Enter a Productivity Mindset

coffee routine

What do the top athletes have in common?

NBA Free Throw Routines

From basketball to tennis…

Serving Rituals (Nadal, Federer, Thiem, Djokovic, Murray, ...)

Routines and rituals.

In this article, I’ll share the importance of routines and why you should build one yourself. I’ll tackle some misconceptions about it and, more importantly, how you can build your own routines.

The Importance of Routines

In business, the emphasis on routines has grown a lot over the last few years. You’ll find countless articles showing the routines of millionaires and billionaires.

  • Get up early at 5am
  • Meditate for 30 minutes
  • Exercise
  • Wear the same clothes everyday

Regardless of who is doing them and what are they doing, what matters more is the routine itself.

The point of having routines is to get you into a mindset that allows you to perform at your best. By doing a group of actions together, you get into a rhythm. If you were to list every little action on a checklist, you will already have completed several items on it. It gets you going. It motivates you.

It doesn’t matter when you do your routine activities. What counts is that you commit to doing them — even when you don’t feel like it.

—Kim Beom-su, Chairman, Kakao

This also means you don’t have to follow other people’s routines. What worked for them might not work for you. If it does, then great. But whatever it is, the more important part is you make it yours.

Misconceptions About Routines

Routines and rituals aren’t rigid. At its core, it’s a series of tasks that you do before or after doing something. It gets you in the right mindset. Ready for whatever you’re supposed to be doing.


For the person not doing it, it may seem boring. Weird even. But to the person who’s doing the routine, it’s a personalized experience. It’s something sacred. A ritual.

Routines also don’t have to be elaborate nor take up a lot of time. It can be a series of action like what Nadal or Federer does when they serve. It can be that prayer Karl Malone mumbles each time he shoots a free throw.

This is what makes building your own routines and rituals important. It has to mean something to you.

Benefits of Creating Your Own Routines

There are a lot of benefits of establishing your own routines. Here are my top three:

1. You Enter a Productive Mindset

First, it helps you be more productive by helping you get started with your day or task with the right mindset.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.


You don’t spend your limited energies thinking about what to do next. You just follow your routine and the rest will follow.

Take, for example, how I wrote this post. I had my content calendar but I’m just not into writing the content that was supposed to be scheduled for that day. But, I followed my calendar. I stuck to my routine. And that is to write. I plugged my earphones, played binaural music, and just typed away.

Most people think about morning routines. The waking up at 5am in the morning or meditating for 30 minutes or exercise first thing in the morning.

Personally, my morning routine is drinking a cup of water as I decide on which coffee to drink. I typically have 2-3 bags of different whole bean coffee flavors to choose from. I add water to my kettle, weigh my beans, grind them, and wait for my water to boil. I prepare my brewing equipment. I usually use v60 but if I’m not feeling lazy, I bring out my Aeropress. By this time, my water would have boiled already. I wait a few minutes to get the temperature down.

I pre-heat my equipment and prepare the ground beans. Once the timer rings, I setup another timer for the brewing process. Then as I pour the water, I start the timer. After that, I enjoy my freshly brewed cup of coffee. That’s how I start my day.

I don’t have to wake up earlier than what I’m used to. I don’t have to do anything extraordinary. I just do what works for me and what’s meaningful for me.

2. Create Boundaries in Your Life

A routine helps create boundaries with parts of your day as well. My coffee routine kicks off my day. After I finish my coffee ritual, I head over to my work station and do whatever needs to get done.

For the past couple of months, the first thing on my calendar has always been writing. Unless there’s a client meeting at that time, I spend my mornings writing.

Then, at the end of the day, my routine is simple: I update my bullet journal and list down completed tasks and stuff I need to do the next day. This includes taking a look at my calendar to see if there are important events I need to prepare for like a client meeting or a personal errand.

After this, I pack and clean everything on my desk. I don’t leave my laptop and my notebook on the table. I stack them vertically like books in a library over to the side, including my external keyboard and mouse. The only thing that remains on my desk is my big keyboard/mouse pad.

This means my work day has ended.

3. Helps Avoid Decision Fatigue

The last benefit people often don’t understand that you get to avoid decision fatigue. Ever wonder why high-performing entrepreneurs use the same clothes every single day?

If you keep changing the way you do things, you’ll never get work done. It might feel exciting at first, but soon, you’ll feel overwhelmed with a lot of things happening.

That’s why during times of chaos, people often find themselves writing a list of things to do. It organizes things. You mind now know that if you do the things on this list, everything will return back to normal.

That’s what routines do for you. It brings a sense of calm and peace into your life so you can do what you need to do at your best.

How to Create Your Own Routine: Customized and Personalized for Yourself

There are many ways you can follow to build your own routines. I’m offering a practical approach.

Step 1: Decide on the Routine

Most people obsess about the morning routines. But if you’re like me, getting up at 5 am will hurt you in the long-run. I used to do this but can’t keep up. My circadian rhythm is just different.

Note that every new habit will be dreadful at the start. But after a few weeks, that usually goes away. For example, after years of not hitting the gym, your first two weeks will be painful. But after that, it gets easier despite the intensity of the workouts you do. The most painful will always be that first workout after years of not doing anything.

You can pick a time of day (morning, night) or an event like after finishing a task. This will depend largely on what you do, that’s why you have to make it your own.

In my case, I have my morning wakeup/coffee routine and an end-of-day routine. The ones I shared above.

Whenever I need to focus on one particular task like writing or analyzing data, I plug my earphones, binaural beats, turn off all notifications and get started.

Whatever you choose, pick one to get started.

Step 2: Answer Your Why

Why are you doing it? Ask yourself that a couple of times.

  • to increase productivity. Why?
  • to get work done faster. Why?
  • so I get to spend time with my family no later than 6 pm.

And so on. Dig deep. This helps you stay motivated.

Step 3: Analyze Your Current Routines

You might not think you have one, but you already have habits that you constantly do.

  • Watching Netflix after dinner until you fall asleep, that’s your routine.
  • Checking your Facebook and Instagram in bed until your eyes hurt, that’s your routine
  • Answering email first thing in the morning, that’s your routine
  • Checking every single notification that pops up on your phone and computer, that’s your routine (i.e. you’re routinely distracted)

Think about what you’re currently doing. Write it down or take note of it.

Step 4: Add or Change

If you’re happy with it and it’s helping you achieve your goals, stick to it. Then ask yourself if you want to add something to it. If it’s not and detrimental, you might want to change it.

In another post, I wrote that in order to keep up with my 30-day writing challenge, I had to change two things:

  1. Wake up 30 minutes earlier — I wake up around 7:00-7:30 am, so I adjusted that to 30 minutes earlier. That’s it. Not 5 am. I’m not going to function at that time.
  2. Spend less time watching Netflix — instead, I used the time at night to read books and other articles.

I need to wake up earlier so that everything is more quiet. I had a full plate at that time with client work. So, I had to cut back on personal leisure if I want to finish that challenge. In order for me to feel refreshed when I wake up, I need to sleep earlier. That means I cut back on Netflix at night.

The reading part came from knowing that my outputs are only as good as my inputs. If I don’t read or take in new information that is useful, my writing suffers. And it just makes it harder. That’s why I make it a point to spend at least an hour reading each day.

What are you currently doing that is helping you be more productive? What are those that prevent you from performing well?

Step 5: Make It Happen

All new things are hard. But as they say, that’s a sign of growth.

This is easy in the first few days. The hardest part is sticking to it even if you don’t feel like it.

Good habits are hard to form but easy to live with. Bad habits are easy to form but hard to live with.

—Brian Tracy

I don’t have any special advice, but really just do it. The more you follow your routine, the more it gets easier. The effect of it comes to you later—you might not notice it but every single time you do your routine, it unconsciously primes your mind and body for what you’re about to do.

It lowers your reliance on willpower and motivation because, as Tynan, the author of Superhuman by Habit, says, habits are “action(s) that you take on a repeated basis with little or no required effort or thought.”

Over to You

Have you ever thought about your own habits, routines, and rituals? Are they helping you achieve your goals or not?

Why not take the time to look at what you do, decide if that’s something you want to keep doing, and figure out how you can improve and perform better.

Chip Away: Progress Over Perfection

progress over perfection

What’s the best way to achieve your goals?

That’s a question that gets various answers but most answers fall into this category: you do it little by little.

Big goals are often intimidating. But if you break them down into small steps, they become easier, more manageable.

  • $100,000 monthly sales: you make a sale $1 at a time
  • Read 50 books a year: finish reading a book each week
  • Lose 20 lbs: lose a pound each week

It works the same for projects.

  • Want to launch an online course? Decide on a course topic first. Then you validate the idea. Then you do something else
  • Want to create a home office? Pick a place, clean the room, does it have a table, etc.

You don’t do a project and you suddenly complete it. You don’t reach your goals that way either.

You chip away at it. One small chunk at a time.

Why Breaking Your Goals Into Smaller Chunks Is Important

There’s no shortage of resources on how to do this, yet a lot of people think it doesn’t apply to them. No matter what field or industry you look at, breaking down projects into smaller milestones is always considered one of the best practices. It’s also often attributed the success of the project or meeting the goal.

The reason why a lot of people fail to achieve their goals is they don’t do this process. They want to meet their sales quotas but don’t break it down to track where they’re at against their targets.

To paraphrase my favorite consultant, Peter Drucker, “what you cannot measure you cannot manage.”

One Way to Achieve Your Goals

I read about this a few months back and started applying it. My goal was to finish reading 12 books this year. The number isn’t as big as others, but it’s my goal. I find that reading books often dive deeper into a topic and get more insights that way. That’s why I pick that as one of my goals this 2020.

Either way, I searched for a way to get some reading done and I discovered an article but I can’t remember where it’s from.

The recommendation there stuck with me and I’ve been following it religiously for several months now.

The idea is to chip away at it one small chunk at a time.

For this example, it was reading books. So, anytime there’s an idle moment, whether that’s waiting in line, getting the car refueled, or simply not knowing what to do next—I read.

It’s the same way with every other goal. You break it down and do it little by little. Instead of constantly scrolling through Instagram or Facebook, which, unless it’s your job, don’t require you to do so every 5 minutes.

Instead, use those moments in time to move towards your goals.

Whether that’s writing a few words every day, or meditating more, or launching an online course, or paying off your debt. Whatever it is, the only way to achieve the outcome you want to happen is by chipping away.

Over to You

When I’m often stuck, I always follow the “next step” principle in Getting Things Done. Whenever you have a big project or goal, ask yourself, “what’s the next concrete, tangible next step?”

Meet your sales quota goal? The next step isn’t selling. It’s gathering the name and email and phone numbers of decision makers. It’s calling them or sending an email.

Want to be fit? The next step isn’t to lose the extra 5 lbs or run a half marathon. You pick up your shoes, pack your workout bag, then go do it.

Are there are goals or big projects that you’re struggling to achieve? In your personal life, or in business? Break it down into smaller chunks.

Lead Generation Case Study: The Promise of 10-20% Conversion Rate

girl waiting desk

This is the beginning of a case study I’m doing in my own website. There aren’t any results yet; rather, I finished implementing the details and that’s what I’m writing about here.

The goal is to get a 10-20% lead conversion rate. As you might already know, conversion rates typically fall under 1%. An improvement to 5% is already big. Getting 10-20% is a game-changer.

Table of Contents
Click on any of these to jump straight to that topic
  1. Tools Needed
  2. How 10-20% Lead Conversion Looks Like
  3. Step-by-Step Guide

Tools Needed

I used a variety of tools to accomplish this. Most of them are free. If you don’t have one, you can follow the links and create an account.

1. ConvertKit

ConvertKit Homepage

ConvertKit is one of the many email marketing software you can choose from. It’s the one I’m using on my website so feel free to use whatever you have.

One of the features the ConvertKit offers that I really like is the ability to use the same form and have it display upon exit intent and triggered by a click. You’ll see this more below.

2. Attract

Attract Create Account

This is one of my go-to tools for creating lead magnets. It’s free. All you need is create an account, choose from the preset templates, then add your content.

All design and formatting is handle by the software. If you’re like me and you want to get results and not worry about design, or wouldn’t want to wait for several days before you can launch a lead magnet, attract is definitely for you.

3. GoViral

The last tool in this entire process is GoViral. It’s also from the same company as Attract.

The purpose of this tool is to get more traffic to your landing pages using a variety of techniques such as getting others to share a pre-written tweet or Facebook post.

Again, you’ll see this in action below.

How It All Works Together

The process goes like this:

  1. A person visits any page on my site
  2. That page will either have a form or a button (from ConvertKit)
  3. If a person clicks the button, a form appears
  4. After filling out a form, they get redirected to a GoViral page to get an extra bonus item
  5. An email will be sent to them with a link (from ConvertKit) to download the lead magnet (Attract)
  6. If they share (or follow) the GoViral page, they get access to the bonus item
  7. Other people will find the shared post/tweet with the link to your original landing page where they can repeat the same process above

It’s a virtuous cycle that allows you to generate leads automatically and employ other people to share your content. And even if they didn’t convert, you’d still get some brand awareness in the process.

Step-by-Step Guide to Create a Lead Generating Machine

Part 1: Decide on Your Lead Magnets

I shared what I did in this post. But I’d like to explain the thought process behind one here.

I’ll take this example of the buyer utility map as it’s one of my top pages and a lot of people are searching for it.

Google Analytics Top Pages Last 5 Months

It’s doesn’t have a big search volume because it’s high-level strategy that a lot of people probably haven’t heard about. Nonetheless, it’s a topic I can add more value. That’s why I chose this article as my starting point.

All I have to do next is create a content upgrade—what’s the next step that people would want to get or learn more about this topic? After some basic searches of my competition in the top 10, most of them are using the same example and describing the same thing.

So, what I did was add something new that people are searching for—buyer utility map examples from other companies so they can see it in action. Currently all articles in the top 10 of Google have one example. I made additional two. I tease this out in the post by having an image that shows you all the pages of the PDF.

buyer utility guide

This is my main lead magnet. Normally, I’d redirect them to a thank you page where they can download the PDF. Yes, that’s a separate page, not a message that appears saying that their PDF has been sent.

The reason is you can add so much more customizations in the thank you page. For example, you can add a video to the thank you page that tells people about the service related to the PDF they just downloaded. Or maybe it’s a webinar about the topic that covers it more in-depth. You get the idea. It’s another way of keeping them on your website and providing more value.

But, I wanted to test out the virtuous cycle I described above. I want to get consistent traffic and leads without me doing anything. So, I setup the next step in the process where they see another lead magnet—a bonus. But this time, there’s no more form.

Sample GoViral Page

If they want the bonus checklist I made, they’ll have to click on the Tweet button (or any other type of share like on Facebook, Product Hunt, email, etc.) I made this as the next step because one of my other growing blog post is about customer focus.

Since the buyer utility map is all about finding hidden opportunities in the industry to better serve your customers, it falls right in. If they click the tweet button, that’s the time they can access the checklist.

In my How to Setup Google Analytics lead magnet, my bonus upgrade after the guide is a list of basic Google Analytics filters you should add.

You see the connection? They have to be connected. That means, you need to focus on creating those lead magnets and content upgrades if you want to generate more leads. If you’ve been getting a lot of leads from your simple newsletter signup, imagine how much more you can convert if you made them more relevant and valuable?

Part 2: Set It Up

Now that you’ve seen how everything flows, I’ll show you how to set it up. In order to do that, you’ll have to do everything in reverse so you don’t go back-and-forth. Here’s how it would look like:

  1. Create the free bonus content (i.e. checklist)
  2. Create a GoViral page for that bonus content
  3. Publish a page where that GoViral content will be hosted (optional)
  4. Create your main content upgrade (i.e. Buyer Utility Map Guide)
  5. Create a form in ConvertKit and setup email delivery
  6. Add the form to your website
  7. Test the entire setup

1. Create the free bonus content (i.e. checklist)

Head on over to Attract and create an account. Click on the Create lead magnet button and you’ll be taken to the template selection. Pick from one of the preset templates:

  1. Resource guide
  2. Checklist
  3. Case Study
  4. How to Guide
Attract Templates

Since this step is for the bonus content, this will most likely be a checklist. For your main content upgrade, it will most likely fall under the resource guide, case study, or how to guide.

Once you have decided, click on choose template.

These are just templates. It’s still up to you to use them. The limitations you’ll see are mainly in the design. This, I believe, is for the reason that most tools (like Canva) offer you unlimited design options that you don’t know where to get started. It might be great for designers, but for people like me who want to get things done as quickly as possible, the limited options is perfect.

Attract Select Presets

You’ll be greeted with a preset selection after choosing the template. They are all similar within each template. Feel free to choose any of these since you’ll be modifying the templates anyway to match your brand.

Every template will have four pages:

  1. Cover
  2. Introduction
  3. Content itself
  4. Call-to-action page

After picking one, click the settings icon on the cover page to get started. You’ll also do this for every page I mentioned above. Expect to do this process 4x—once for each page type.

Attract Page Settings

Two things I’d like to highlight here.

  1. Every page might have more or less options than the image above. But you can see them applied immediately on the page.
  2. In the main contents (after the intro page), you only have to delete the other pages, then click on add page to PDF to make that succeeding page follow the settings. Otherwise, you’ll have to add it to every single page which is a waste of time

Go through the entire page setup. Once you get to the CTA page, my recommendation is to add a pitch to your products/services.

Attract CTA Page

If you’re a coaching business, add a booking session. If you’re a SaaS company, add a link to a trial or demo page. For eCommerce, maybe a category page will work here.

You get the idea. This step is just a way for them to reach you directly.

Now, don’t get lazy here. After doing the work, don’t just link this to your homepage. Make it specific to the contents of this lead magnet.

Once you’re done, hit preview. It’ll open up the PDF in another tab.

Attract Preview and Publish

Check how it looks like. If you need to make changes, do so now. Once everything looks great, hit publish. Keep this tab open then proceed to the next step. You’ll need this link later on.

Optionally, you can download and host the PDF on your own website, but I don’t recommend this because it’s unnecessary and additional work. Plus, if you update the content again, you’ll have to repeat it again.

2. Create a GoViral page for that bonus content

If you haven’t already, create an account and head over to GoViral. Once you’re in, click Create new campaign at the top.

GoViral Campaigns

From there, you’ll see a list of different campaign types. Feel free to explore them. But in my case, I chose the opt-in referral because I wanted to generate more leads.

GoViral Campaign Types

You’ll now see an overview page with a video and detailed explanation of the steps. If you think this is the right type of campaign for you, then click on Create campaign.

GoViral Opt in Referral

In the next page, you’ll go through three steps:

  1. Decide on the call-to-action
  2. Setup your bonus gift including the design
  3. Publish your page

The editor page is split into two parts: the left is where you make all changes while the right-side is the preview.

GoViral Create Campaign Step 1

To get started, choose from the preset templates. Some options are:

  • Share a link on Facebook
  • Share a specific post on Facebook
  • Opt into a Messenger Bot
  • Send a pre-written tweet
  • Upvote a specific post on Reddit or ProductHunt

There’s a lot of options to choose from and it really just depends on what your goal is. Pick one then click on Next Step.

GoViral Create Campaign

Step 2 is about setting up your gift. Get the link from Attract in the previous step and add it here. It’s also here where you can customize the copy and design elements.

As mentioned earlier, you can choose to download the PDF from Attract, upload it on your site, then have people download it there. But that’s adding more to the process and, in case you suddenly saw an error or want to update the PDF in the future, you’ll have to repeat that download/upload process over again. If you let it stay inside Attract, all changes you made will be automatically updated. Of course, you can’t do anything with those who downloaded the files already. But starting that point, everyone will start seeing the updated version.

Pro tip: check the offer view and the delivery view preview so you see what people are seeing. Personally, I sometimes fail to look at the delivery view and noticed it’s still displaying the default placeholders.

Once you’re done, click Finish and you’ll see the publishing options.

GoViral Create Campaign Step 3

3. Publish a page where that GoViral content will be hosted (optional)

You can just take the URL link above, or perhaps add a custom URL. But both will still be hosted on GoViral’s (Growth Tools) domain, not yours. If you want to host it on your own, you click the publish page to my domain and choose the I can edit my site myself.

GoViral Install Code

Copy this code, then head on over your website, and create a new page (or post). If you’re using the Genesis Framework, this shouldn’t be any problem. Scroll down to the Header scripts section then paste the code there.

Genesis Framework Header Scripts

Don’t add anything to the body. It won’t be shown anyway. In my case, I did three things here:

  1. Updated the title of the page
  2. Made the page noindex in Rank Math (I wouldn’t want people to just see this page on search engines)
  3. Updated the URL slug and made it into a child of another page (this is just for my own organization)

Again, this entire step is optional. I’m experimenting a few campaigns hosted on my own and a few ones in Go Viral’s domain. If you want to make it simple and easy, choose to go with GoViral’s URL.

Hit Publish then you’re done. You’ve created the social share component. Now, head on over to Attract to create your main content upgrade.

4. Create your main content upgrade (i.e. Buyer Utility Map Guide)

This is going to be similar to the step above. Choose from one of the options, then start making your lead magnet.

Probably the only thing that would be different is this would most likely fall into a resource guide to how-to guide, as opposed to a checklist. Again, this would depend on a lot of factors and how your site is setup.

In my case, the bonus upgrade is a checklist. Simple one. Just a list of items. But this main one is the meat. So, I chose the template for how-to guide.

Once you’re done, hit publish and you’re done. Get the link then proceed to the next step.

Alternatively, just like in step 3, you can choose to download/upload to your own website, but that’s up to you.

5. Create a form in ConvertKit and setup email delivery

This one involves creating a modal form in ConvertKit. If you haven’t already, you can create a free account here that will allow you to follow along.

I’m not going to go through the entire setup of ConvertKit here, but if it’s the first time you’re signing in, you’ll be prompted with some getting started/onboarding tutorial.

One you’re done, head on over to the Landing pages and forms tab at the top. Then, click on Create New.

New form ConvertKit

You’ll be asked to create a form or a landing page. For this purpose, choose form. Then, in the next page, choose modal.

New form format ConvertKit

To distinguish them, here’s a high-level overview:

  1. Inline is where the form is directly with your content
  2. Modal is similar to a popup
  3. Slide in forms show up at the bottom and doesn’t block your screen
  4. Sticky bar stays at either the top or bottom of the page

Feel free to experiment here, but in my case, I chose modal. Next, you’ll see a selection of pre-built templates. Take a look at the closest one you like, then click on choose.

Form Templates ConvertKit

You can upload images, customize the copy, and add more fields. That’s really up to you. But there are two things I want to highlight here.

First, go to the settings tab. Toggle the redirect to an external page then paste the GoViral URL there. If you chose to publish it on your own site (step 3) or decided to go with the GoViral URL (step 2), that’s what you paste here.

Redirect to an external page ConvertKit

Don’t skip this part. If you don’t do this, then new form submissions will just show the generic success message. But since we want that virtuous cycle, you need to add the GoViral URL here.

Next, go to the Incentive Email tab. In the section for “after confirming redirect to:” click the URL then paste the URL of the content upgrade in Attract you made in step 4.

Incentive Email Redirect ConvertKit

Remember, this is the main lead magnet, your content upgrade—not the bonus material.

Lastly, click on the edit email contents then personalize it. This email is normally for confirming email subscribers. So, the default text is written like that. But since we’re using it to deliver the PDF download, you have to edit it to make it look that way.

Incentive Email Copy ConvertKit

If you don’t, there will be a very confusing user experience for your readers. They’ll opt to download a PDF guide to something. Then, they’ll receive an email asking them to confirm their email subscription.

Don’t let yourself be in that position.

6. Add the form to your website

By now, you have your bonus upgrade on a GoViral page. You also have your backend setup to deliver the content upgrade. Now, it’s time to display this to the front end.

I chose modal (or popup) earlier. But if you choose inline or slides, the process will be similar.

Go back to the settings tab and I’ll show you two options you need to configure.

Form Display Options and Trigger in ConvertKit

First, the display options. How do you want the form to be displayed? You are given three options:

  1. Exit intent
  2. Scroll percentage
  3. Timing

Depending on your goals and your “aggressiveness,” this will differ. In my case, I don’t want to appear pushy and mess up the user experience as what most sites do.

So, I chose timing then add a timer for 999. That means they’ll have to spend over 15 minutes on that page before the popup appears. Most websites make their popups appear as soon as the page loads. This is very annoying to me as a user so I don’t want my visitors to experience the same.

I might change it to exit intent in the future. But for now, I only want them to see the form when they want it. That’s why the next step is important. I want my visitors to see the form when they clicked on a button or a link on my website. That’s there the trigger comes in.

Before going into the details, I’ll show you what it looks like on my site first. For example, I added a call-to-action on the buyer utility map post.

Callout for Modal Form to Trigger in ConvertKit

If you click on that link, the modal form will show up.

What Is the Buyer Utility Map Ariel Lim Consulting Grow Your Business

I added it in the middle and at the end of the article.

For some of my posts where I applied the same tactics, sometimes it’s at the beginning (3rd paragraph) and at the bottom. It’s really up to you to find out what’s best. In some post, I have an inline form instead. But, after filling out the form, redirects them to a GoViral page too.

To add the form, you need to add the the code on your website where you want it to display. The lazy way of doing this is add the code on all your pages, but it defeats the purpose.

Head back to ConvertKit and click the embed button at the top of the form you want to add.

ConvertKit Embed Options

You’ll see several options. For the modal popup to work, you need to include the javascript code on the page itself. If you are using inline, then the WordPress or HTML code will work by itself. Copy the javascript code.

ConvertKit Embed Javascript Code

Next, edit the page or post on your website. Scroll to the bottom where you can add the header scripts, then paste it there (which is similar to adding the GoViral code above).

If you’re not using the Genesis Framework, you can still follow the same instructions in this next part but add it to the top of the HTML code.

Adding the javascript code will get your form to behave depending on the display options you chose (exit intent, scroll, or timing). But since I want it to also display when people click on a link, we’ll have to add that code in.

Go back to your form again and copy the code in the trigger this modal with a link by copying the code below. Then, go back to your page/post. From here, you have various options:

  • You can paste it directly on your WordPress Editor
  • Add an HTML block and edit it like that
  • Add some styling around it
Link Trigger Modal in WordPress ConvertKit

You can also use an image then add the link to it. It’s really up to you. But what’s important is you add the code here. Once people click on that link, the form will pop up. Try it out below.

Find Hidden Opportunities in Your Industry

Get this guide on how you can use the buyer utility map to find hidden opportunities in your industry + additional real-world samples from companies. 

7. Test the entire setup

Once you’re done, fill-out the form to see how the entire process looks like.

  • Check of the form is triggering properly
  • After entering your email, do you get the right incentive email
  • Check the link in that email — is it the main content upgrade?
  • After you submitted the form, did it redirect you to the GoViral page?
  • Try the CTA
  • Did it work?
  • Try downloading the bonus content

If everything works, then congratulations. You’ve set everything up properly. Now, repeat the steps for your top 3-5 posts.

Over to You

I’m a huge fan of testing. That’s why I wrote this article to share what I’m working on. One of my best pieces that got featured in Search Engine Roundtable is also about testing—How to Use Google Optimize.

No matter what other experts tell you, they are not guaranteed. Nothing is. You have to test it yourself to find out. That’s why the title for this post is the promise of 10-20% lead conversion rate. I just finished implementing it and only time will tell if my conversion rates increase.

Is there a strategy that you want to implement? Or is there one that you just tried? How was it? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

What Is Referral Traffic

what is referral traffic

Referral traffic is the kind of traffic that comes from other websites. It’s one of the default channel groupings in Google Analytics. Next to organic traffic, it’s probably the next best source of traffic for your website.

Want to learn why?

Before diving right in, make sure you setup your Google Analytics account properly. While it’s one of the most popular web analytics tools, if not configured properly, you could end up making bad decisions because of inaccurate data. Download this guide to set it up properly.

What is Referral Traffic

Referral traffic is traffic from other websites apart from Google’s own search engine. If you clicked on one of links here in this page and it led to another website, my website is counted as a referral traffic in their Google Analytic’s account. And it also works the other way around.

There are two distinctions that need to be clarified here.

First, if you search on Google and clicked on one of those results, you are technically coming from another website (Google’s). But, those searches are tracked under organic traffic. There will be instances when you’ll receive referral traffic from google.com such as those coming from forums or help center, regardless, if your traffic comes from search engines, that falls under organic traffic.

Next, traffic from social media also comes from another website, but because Google Analytics already has a special channel dedicated to it, it won’t be included in your referral traffic.

Importance of Referral Traffic

Referral traffic is a sign of brand recognition and/or successful partnership or collaboration.

Again, referral traffic is traffic coming from other websites. That means they have a link to your website, people clicked on it and landed on yours.

However, most people tend to overlook referral traffic because backlinks have been given so much emphases in the world of SEO. But, what most people don’t realize is that referral traffic from that particular website is an indication of a high-quality and relevant backlink—which should be the gold standard of determining whether a link back to your site is worth it.

Referral Traffic Issues: Two Things You Need to Do

One thing to keep in mind when looking at referral traffic is that it is prone problems. There are two prominent ones that I’ll share here.

1. Referral Spam Traffic

Referral spam traffic are fake hits to your Google Analytics account.

According to Kinsta, the purpose is simple: a spammer has a website they want to boost the search engine rankings for. The spammer sends out multiple requests with fake URLs that link back to the website they want to advertise.

Here’s how it would look like on your GA account if you have one:

ga referral spam

Referral spam isn’t as bad as it used to before since Google has been working on reducing this, but sometimes they still exist. Make sure you add an exclude filter that looks like this:

Google Analytics Referral Spam FIlter

2. Traffic from Development or Staging Site

Another instance where referral traffic might come from is from your staging or development side. You’re going to obviously check a lot of times whether the links are working.

You’d want to exclude both types of traffic because it inflates the traffic in your reports.

How to Increase Referral Traffic

Traffic from other websites is a great source of quality leads. Unfortunately, most people in the marketing industry tend to neglect them because they are caught up in link building opportunities instead.

That said, here are some ways you can do to increase your referral traffic. These aren’t mutually exclusive. You can combine these for bigger effects.

1. Co-Marketing Activities

The main goal of referral traffic is to get traffic from other websites to yours. Hosting online events or partnering for campaigns with other websites or brands help you get referral traffic because they would create several pieces of content on their platform and link back to yours.

Whether that’s a single landing page or several blog posts, people can find you in those posts. I’m not familiar with other industries but in marketing, these are when you’d see two or more brands partner up for campaigns.

CoSchedule and AgileSherpas Co-Marketing Landing Page

2. Guest Blogging

Another way to get referral traffic is via guest blogging, or posting on other websites.

Again, the purpose here is not to get links to manipulate rankings — which is a very controversial issue lately. Rather, guest blogging is a great way to increase your reach and awareness.

If the 3rd party website is relevant and has good readership, then people will find your site. Then, it’s up to your content to get them to stay there and, hopefully, keep coming back.

3. Create Linkable Content

The easiest way to get referral traffic is get other people to constantly talk about you or that thing you did or made. That’s why tools (see below) and awesome content work best to get referral traffic.

For example, I was shocked when I constantly getting a few dozen traffic from my article on how to use Google Optimize. When I looked inside Google Analytics, most of them were coming from referral traffic from Search Engine Roundtable.

4. Build a Tool

Have you ever tried Googling for a tool that lets you do stuff online? Like convert PDF to PNG, or create gif from images.

You’ll noticed that there are a variety of tools that’ll show up on Google. Their output is similar but the rankings will differ every now and then. It’s because more and more tools are being created.

And since they are useful, people are linking to them on their own websites.

Sample SERP for Tools

5. Old-Fashioned PR

Press releases are usually used by big companies or those with full marketing teams. They send PRs to media and news outlets in advance so that on a certain day, all these websites are talking about them which greatly increases your reach.

PRs are used on all stages of a company— from getting funded, launching a new product, to relaunches. The downside ian that since most are coming from media outlets, referral traffic are spikes then suddenly die down.

Unless you get picked up by other sites which focus on your niche or continue to produce evergreen content, then the traffic will be short-lived. That said, the reach might be worth it for your company.

6. Do Something Controversial

What’s a good way to get people to talk about you? Do something controversial.

And it doesn’t have to be negative like sexual harassment cases. It just needs to be something that is not widely accepted like those two examples above.

The underlying principle here is that it has to be inherently good. Unpopular. But good.

Increasing salaries of everyone in the company? Good. Publishing everyone’s salaries so there’s no guessing whether employees are earning enough or not. Good.

What can you do that is widely unpopular but can be a great way to get other websites talking about you?

7. Answer HARO Emails

This is commonly used as a link building tactic, but is a great way to get referral traffic. Think about it. You simply answer emails, and if the journalist (the person who requested for info) likes your pitch, the you’d get cited for their article.

This gives you a high authority backlink and traffic as well. If there’s a good fit, relevance, and readership from the requesting site (big site names are Forbes, Entrepreneur, etc.), then you’ll get a lot of exposure from it.

Over to You

Growing your referral traffic is a great way to increase brand awareness. Digital marketing is so much more than just getting backlinks.

It’s all about providing value to other people—your customers. Focus on serving them and getting your content in front of their eyes without being annoying.

When was the last time you checked your referral traffic in Google Analytics? Are you getting consistent traffic from specific websites? Why not send them an email thanking them for linking to yours. Or maybe enter into a small comarketing campaign with them if it aligns with your goals.

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