This week’s guest on The Digital Entrepreneur remains wholeheartedly enthusiastic about captaining her own ship … even if, in her words, it’s a “rowboat” compared to the larger vessel for which she is an Executive VP. She’s spent the better part of this decade teaching savvy business owners how to boost their marketing skills, and in this episode she discusses some lessons she has learned along the way.
She is Pamela Wilson, and she is a digital entrepreneur.
In this 40-minute episode, Pamela and I discuss:
And much, much more … including her answers to my five rapid-fire questions.
Listen to The Digital Entrepreneur below ...
Voiceover: Rainmaker.FM. You are listening to The Digital Entrepreneur, the show for folks who want to discover smarter ways to create and sell profitable digital goods and services. This podcast is a production of Digital Commerce Institute, the place to be for digital entrepreneurs. DCI features an in-depth, ongoing instructional academy, plus a live education and networking summit where entrepreneurs from across the globe meet in person. For more information, go to Rainmaker.FM/DigitalCommerce.
Jerod Morris: Welcome back to The Digital Entrepreneur, the show where digital entrepreneurs share their stories and the lessons they’ve learned so that we can all build better digital businesses. I am your host Jerod Morris, the VP of marketing for Rainmaker Digital, and this episode No. 31. This episode of The Digital Entrepreneur is brought to you by the Rainmaker Platform. I will tell you more about this complete solution for digital marketing and sales later. You can check it out and take a free spin for yourself at Rainmaker.FM/Platform.
On this week’s episode, I am joined by someone who has built her professional life around teaching savvy business owners how to boost their marketing skills. My guest is an award-winning graphic designer and marketing consultant who has helped small businesses and large organizations create big brands since 1987, hint, hint.
In 2010, she founded Big Brand System to show small business owners how a system of strategic marketing and great design makes them look professional, cohesive, and successful. She believes that your business may be small, but your brand can be big. If you’re a regular listener of Rainmaker.FM shows and a reader of Copyblogger.com, then you’ll be very familiar with her and her work.
She’s currently the executive vice president of educational content at Copyblogger Media, where she helps people like you build a strong presence on the web. She is about to become a published author because her book, Master Content Marketing, will be officially released tomorrow. That is Friday, the day after this episode goes live, Friday, October 21st. You can get more information at MasterContentMarketing.com. She is Pamela Wilson, and she is a digital entrepreneur.
Pamela, welcome to The Digital Entrepreneur. How are you?
Pamela Wilson: I am great. I’m thrilled to be here.
Jerod Morris: You’re just back from Digital Commerce Summit, yes? As I am as well.
Pamela Wilson: Yes, have not finished unpacking my bags, but I’m back.
Jerod Morris: I barely finished unpacking my suitcase over the weekend. Man, it was really a great event. You gave a great presentation on developing an interactive community. Was there any one single takeaway for you from the event, from the experience overall?
Pamela Wilson: Overall — and I think we’ll probably talk some more about it — what I loved the most was just interacting face to face with people whose names I knew, whose avatars I had seen. Just to see them face to face, talk, get to know a little bit more about their businesses, and hear their questions — that element of it I just love. It’s my favorite part.
Jerod Morris: That is always the best part of the events, no question — to be able to meet people that we’ve interacted with via email or over Twitter, and being able to put faces with names. Yeah, just to hear everybody’s stories, talk about their individual businesses and projects, that’s by far my favorite part, too.
Pamela Wilson: You have that moment over and over where people are going, “That’s really you,” and you’re going, “That’s really you in the flesh. Yes, you’re a real person.”
Jerod Morris: Yes. Something else exciting happened while we were at Digital Commerce Summit. That is that I got to hold a physical copy of your new book, which I believe is the first physical copy out in the wild, if I’m not mistaken.
Pamela Wilson: It’s funny. This is a new thing for me. This is the first book I’ve ever written. I’m still learning the ropes, obviously. I had set this release date for later this week, but I still am not completely clear on how this happened. The company that’s doing the print-on-demand work started shipping them, despite the fact that, in my file, it says they’re not supposed to ship them until later.
Leslie Staller, who’s one of our long-time customers, showed up at the Summit with a copy of my book. She said, “I have your book. Have you seen it?” I said, “No.” She showed it to me. It was fantastic. It was such a good feeling to see it in real life. Again, it’s that feeling of seeing something in real life, right? Something that’s been virtual.
Jerod Morris: Absolutely, and it looked great. You sent me the proof of what the cover will look like, and it looked great in person. For Leslie, she’ll have a collector’s item forever, the first copy of this book.
Pamela Wilson: She will, and it’s the first book I ever signed as an author. That was kind of cool. Somebody took a photo, and we have photo evidence of the first book I ever signed.
Jerod Morris: Isn’t that cool?
Pamela Wilson: It was very cool. The other piece of it that was neat is that my background is as a publication designer. I did that for decades. Magazines, books, brochures, newsletters — anything in print that was basically taking words, putting them into print, and making them look good — that was what I did for decades, in English and in Spanish.
I did it for a really long time, and I haven’t created a physical product in a really long time. That piece of it was fantastic, too — just to see pages that I had designed all bound together into this object that you could hold. That was such a good feeling.
Jerod Morris: Yeah, now people may be wondering listening to this, why are we talking about a physical book when the show is called The Digital Entrepreneur?
Pamela Wilson: Yeah.
Jerod Morris: The reason why is because a lot of what you talk about in this book, it’s lessons that you have learned along the way as a digital entrepreneur. Plus, you kind of walked through the process of creating this book on the show that you had. It was called Zero to Launch, was that the …
Pamela Wilson: Zero to Book with Jeff Goins.
Jerod Morris: Zero to Book, yeah.
Pamela Wilson: Yes.
Jerod Morris: Zero to Book on Rainmaker.FM, and you are actually doing an episode with us on The Showrunner talking about that experience as well. For folks who are interested in learning more about that experience, you can go to Showunner.FM and learn more about that.
Obviously, for the rest of this episode, we want to dive into the background that gave you a lot of the experience that you talk about in this book, your background as a digital entrepreneur. Let’s dive into that, if you’re good with that. Are you ready?
Pamela Wilson: Yeah, let’s do it.
Jerod Morris: Let’s start out with the question that I always ask our guests to start out. I’m always interested to hear the many varying responses that we get. I’ve always believed that the number one benefit of digital entrepreneurship is freedom — the freedom to choose your projects, the freedom to chart your course, and ultimately, the freedom to change your life and your family’s life for the better. What is the biggest benefit that you have derived from being a digital entrepreneur?
Pamela Wilson: Well, you know me well enough, Jerod, you know I’m kind of a contrarian, right? My answer is going to sound a little bit contrarian, but it’s because I had my own business for almost 25 years at this point. From the beginning, my office was always in my home. That was because, when I started my business, I was a brand-new mom, and I basically just wanted to be where my children were.
Twenty-five years is a long time ago, and back in those days, people kind of looked at you side-eyed if you worked from home. It was like, “Oh, you don’t actually have an office? You work from home” — which is laughable nowadays because the tables have completely turned. I think in a way people are like, “Oh, you have to go into an office? You can’t do your work from home?” Right?
Jerod Morris: We’re the ones laughing now.
Pamela Wilson: I know, seriously. I have seen that whole change happen over the years. I was on the other side of that continuum. Now I’m over here where it’s totally accepted, and it’s almost expected that you work from home, especially in certain fields.
This is the contrarian part — as far as my working environment, I actually have had a lot of freedom and flexibility from the very beginning because I set it up that way. The difference that I have seen since I’ve become a digital entrepreneur and had an online business — which I started in 2010, Big Brand System –for me, it’s been about reach.
Back in the day when my business was offline, I had local clients, I had regional clients, and I had a handful of national and even international-level clients. But the national and international clients were all based regionally. They were people who I could drive to their offices and have a meeting with in person.
One of my clients was the United States Golf Association, which is a pretty big organization nationally. They oversee the US Open. They write the rule book for golf in the US. They were like a 45-minute drive away. I used to go over to their offices, and I produced a publication for them. I had another kind of international client that, again, was based locally. They were a 30-minute drive away.
That’s the difference that I see is I was able to get some reach, but really the clients were all local. The difference now is that I’m helping people from all around the globe. In Authority for example, we have people from all over the place, and we meet with them virtually and help them. I just love that aspect of it.
Jerod Morris: Well, and you kind of started to answer my second question here, which is, I’d love for you to take us back before you became a digital entrepreneur and explain what you were doing, which you did. Really, what was missing that led you to want to make a change and led you to want to start Big Brand System?
Pamela Wilson: Well, I started my career as a designer, but I was always a designer who was interested in marketing. I ended up offering both things, kind of marketing consulting, and then design work. If there was print work involved, I could help to make that happen as well.
For part of my career, I actually was living in South America. I did my work in Spanish. I had my business down there. I just got to this point after almost two decades of doing that where I felt like I had designed everything that there was to design — from business cards to billboards, to magazines, to books, in English and in Spanish. You know what I mean?
Jerod Morris: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Pamela Wilson: I was just like, “I feel like I’ve done it all three times over in two languages.” It just did not have the same kind of challenge for me that it had in the early days. Then I also had this major crisis, and I’ve never told you the story. At one point in the late ’90s, it hit me that all the marketing materials that I was working to help create and bring to life ended up in a landfill. It just hit me like a ton of bricks. All this stuff that I’m helping people to create to promote their businesses, it all gets thrown away eventually.
Jerod Morris: Yeah.
Pamela Wilson: Nobody hangs onto it, right? That realization hit me in the late ’90s, and honestly, it wasn’t until later in the 2000s that I was able to figure out how to change that. That was where online business, online marketing, and content marketing really came into play. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to write Master Content Marketing. I feel like it’s a much better way to market your business. It just feels a lot more like you’re serving the people you want to reach, rather than just pushing messages out at them — which is what the first decades of my career were all about.
The marketing can be so valuable that people actually save it instead of throwing it away. I literally created marketing that would arrive in your mailbox, and you would stand over the garbage and just throw it out. That’s what I was doing for many, many years. They were beautiful pieces. Except for maybe the magazines and maybe some annual reports and books, there were really just a very small percentage of what I was bringing to life was saved and valued.
Now you can even see through social sharing, you can see the online content that people are valuing. People all the time come up to me and say, “You know, I save every email newsletter that you send.”
Jerod Morris: Wow.
Pamela Wilson: That’s unbelievable to me. It’s such a change. I love that element of online marketing and content marketing — that it’s starting from a position of really helping people.
Jerod Morris: Was there a particular eureka or flash-bulb moment when you had that realization about, as you said, all your marketing materials ending up in a landfill? Or was it something that you came to gradually?
Pamela Wilson: No, there was a eureka moment. The thing is, it was in the late ’90s when that realization hit me. It wasn’t, like I said, until almost 10 years later, like 2009, that I figured out what to do about that realization. I basically spent almost 10 years feeling like, “I’m creating future landfill material right here. The best-looking future landfill material that I can possibly create, but that’s definitely where it’s all ending up.”
It just dawned on me. One thing that designers do, and it probably doesn’t happen as much anymore, but when you were a print designer, you had a physical portfolio with samples of all your pieces. I think that’s where it hit me. I was like, “I have a portfolio full of what...