When it comes to growing an online business, there’s so much to learn. And unlike more traditional fields, where a single college degree might get you through an entire career, digital marketing is constantly changing.
We’re reminded of this every time we stumble onto a cluttered website designed in the early 2,000s. (Just thinking about that makes me want to run a virus scan.)
Fortunately, the internet is full of eBooks and eCourses all about the latest strategies in marketing, operations, leadership, and finance. But these can get expensive very quickly — with some eCourses costing several thousand dollars apiece.
It’s not that this training isn’t worth the investment, but some business owners simply don’t have the budget to purchase them. And others would be better served by putting that money toward activities such as lead generation.
So how can entrepreneurs grow their education and stay on top of the latest trends without spending all their money in the process? Here are four ways to keep learning without breaking the bank.
1. Use this Google hack to pinpoint free articles on any topic.
If you’ve ever scrolled through the sales page for an eCourse and read the Q&A section, you may have stumbled on a question like this:
“How is this information different than what’s offered on your blog?”
If the eCourse was created by someone honest and reputable, the answer probably looked something like this:
“You can find many of these same strategies and techniques scattered throughout my blog. The course saves you time by putting all the information in one place.”
Well organized information can definitely be worth paying for, but here’s a handy Google trick that can allow you to search through all of a blog’s content in less than a second — for free.
Let’s say you want to learn more about marketing on Pinterest. Simply pick a few of your favorite websites, go to Google and search “TOPIC SITE:SITEURL”
For example: Pinterest Marketing SITE:vincentgoh.com
Half a second later, you’ll be looking at all of the website’s indexed pages on that topic.
Pretty cool, right?
2. Turn your heroes into mentors with a simple email.
Full disclosure: This strategy doesn’t work every time, but I’m shocked by how often it does work.
When you have a question about your business and you need an affordable answer, find an email address for a consultant or influencer you respect and try sending them a quick email.
The secret to getting a response is to ask a very specific question. Most experts love talking about what they know and what they do. They just don’t have time to read through complicated emails trying to understand what is being asked of them.
Here’s an email I received recently that I was happy to respond to:
Super short question
I’m trying to decide on an email marketing software. I know Mailchimp has a free tier, but my more advanced blogger friends use ConvertKit. Do you have an opinion on which is better for a newbie blogger? Thanks!
Using this same strategy in my own career, I’ve received responses from several top business coaches. I once got a free answer to a question I was struggling with from a consultant whose paid packages start at $6,000 — talk about a discount.
If you have an online following, another strategy you can try is asking your favorite influencer to do an interview for your podcast or blog. It’s a great chance to ask them questions you personally want answers to; and just like with email, you’d be surprised at how many people say yes.
I have a friend who’s a former New York Times staffer and the author of 4 mass-published books. Due to her expertise in certain fields, she’s even been invited to appear before Congress — twice.
Despite all of her success, she once told me with a chuckle, “I never say no to an interview request.”
3. Learn from what experts do, not just what they say.
The truth is, sometimes the best strategies aren’t found in eBooks or eCourses. Sometimes you learn them by watching what experts are actually doing in their own businesses.
When an entrepreneur you respect is launching a new product, pay attention. Use tools like the Chrome extension “Full Page Screen Capture” to file away sales pages that make you want to pull out your credit card. Create a “swipe” folder in your inbox for emails that really
impress you. Graph out the sales funnels you encounter to see how they’re structured. You can go back and draw inspiration from these examples when you’re working on future projects.
The key to this strategy is figuring out what experiments were a success, so you don’t waste time reverse-engineering a failure. If you aren’t sure, turn to Strategy #2. For example, if you’re thinking about imitating someone’s marketing strategy, and you aren’t a direct competitor, send them an email and ask how it performed for them.
In other cases, the results will be more obvious. SEO is a terrific example. Let’s say you’re a food blogger who wants to write an article about something obscure — like reheating rotisserie chicken. Rather than immediately paying for an expensive SEO course, start by using the Google trick I showed you to find the best blog posts on the subject.
Then, look at a few articles about reheating chicken that are currently having success on Google. List out what they’re doing and look for opportunities to be better.
For example, the current top reheating article has:
- 1,715 words
- 7 images
- 4 tables
- 0 videos
Title: The 3 Best Ways to Reheat Rotisserie Chicken (with pictures!)
Other keywords used in headers: What’s the best way to reheat this leftover chicken, Oven reheating, Stovetop reheating, Microwave reheating
Just like that, you have a clearer picture of what you might need to do in order to compete for similar success. And so far, you haven’t spent a dime.
4. Buy discounted training (Yes, it exists).
Believe it or not, it’s possible to get great eBooks and eCourses at a discount — sometimes even for free.
The course creation platform Udemy regularly offers huge sales on their training.
And similar to the Costco model, you can also save money by buying in bulk. A growing number of “digital bundle” companies are partnering with content creators to curate big collections of discounted educational resources.
For example, Ultimate Bundles is currently offering Grow Your Business Bundle, which features 35 products that usually cost over $18,000 when you add up their individual prices. But inside the bundle, you can get them all for only $497. Their other offers are similar, across different niches.
The win for content creators is exposure, an irresistible offer to give their readers, and commissions on sales. The win for you is access to top training at an unbeatable price.
Several new companies have entered the bundle space this year, and that’s good news for digital marketers who want to save money while learning the latest industry wisdom.
Final thoughts – Should I still spend big money on eCourses?
The right advice at the right time can be career accelerating and even life-changing, but overpaying for educational products is not a smart way to get ahead.
When many entrepreneurs and business owners think about increasing ROI, they focus on the R — the return. But a second (sometimes faster) way to increase your ROI is to get the same return from a smaller investment.
In this article, I’ve shared four strategies you can use to continue your online marketing education at a fraction of the normal cost.
Here’s how I suggest you use that advice.
The next time you find yourself with a question you need an answer to or a skill you need to develop, start by trying each of these four strategies and see if any of them get the job done.
If they do, terrific, you’ve just increased your ROI. If they don’t, you can buy an eCourse or consulting package with confidence, knowing it’s a necessary expense for growing your business — and therefore, a reasonable investment.