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7 Ways to Find a Topical Market that Will Fuel Your Digital Commerce Business
12th November 2014 • The Digital Entrepreneur • Rainmaker Digital LLC

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Before you get down to business online, you need to find the topic(s) and market(s) that can support that business.

And, after answering your questions on digital sharecropping and content curation, that’s exactly what Brian and I get into on this week’s episode of Rainmaker FM.

Listen in and check out the seven-part process for finding the topic market that can fuel your online business …

In this 43-minute episode we discuss:

  • Why you need to “be the market” you’re serving
  • The innovative power of the traditional magazine rack
  • How to achieve niche positioning within a big topic
  • The critical difference between fads and trends
  • Why you shouldn’t fear big competition
  • The right way to conduct audience surveys
  • The minimum viable membership site strategy

Listen to Rainmaker.FM Episode No. 16 below:

The Show Notes

*Rainmaker.FM is brought to you by the Rainmaker Platform, the complete website solution for content marketers and internet entrepreneurs.

The Transcript

7 Ways to Find a Topical Market that Will Fuel Your Digital Commerce Business

Robert Bruce: This is Rainmaker FM, the broadcast that provides you with the knowledge you need to build your own digital marketing and sales platform that works. I am Robert Bruce here with Brian Clark.

Today we’re going to answer a couple of your questions before we get into the main topic, which is seven ways to inexpensively find a topic market that will fuel your digital commerce business. Brian, here’s our first question.

Jane Doe asks, “Is it really that big of a deal to build an online platform on properties you don’t own?” She says she sees lots of successful people doing it in places like Tumblr, Squarespace, Twitter, and Facebook but what’s the true danger here?

Understanding the True Danger of Digital Sharecropping

Brian Clark: We’re still getting this question.

Robert Bruce: How many years has it been?

Brian Clark: I don’t know. The evidence keeps mounting and we don’t have to do anything because you’ve got the big Silicon Valley platforms that are constantly screwing people over. And people still wonder, “But what’s the harm?”

I will say that she included Squarespace. Squarespace is a website suite of tools, so it’s your site, it’s just the way you build it, so I wouldn’t include Squarespace. We distinguish between Squarespace from Rainmaker in that Rainmaker is way, way, way more sophisticated and powerful. Most of the people we’re talking to especially on the topic of membership sites and digital commerce and all this, they’ve graduated beyond Squarespace. But otherwise, I don’t consider that sharecropping.

Robert Bruce: Well, we know the stories of Facebook. And you just brought something about Tumblr this morning to me that I hadn’t heard about yet.

Brian Clark: Facebook of course, did the biggest bait and switch on people ever. They basically let people build audiences there, and you had a lot of bad advice from short sighted social media consultants who said, “You don’t need a website, just build on Facebook.” Effectively, Facebook has changed the rules so many times since that time that it’s ridiculous.

The biggest thing of course is that the audience that you built, you now have to pay to reach. And you’re still missing out on all the value of owning your own media property, which has real value. You can sell a site. You’re not going to sell your Facebook page. No one is going to buy that. They may buy it in conjunction with your overall media business, but no, you’re not going to sell your Facebook page.

I’m still a little perplexed about how entrepreneurs or business people could think that way. There is a huge tide of people, like everything from Cory Doctorow’s new book to most people in the startup world. It’s like, “You’ve got to own your own platform.”

So Tumblr, you know when Yahoo bought Tumblr, they said, “We’re not going to screw you over Tumblr people.”

Robert Bruce: Well, they never do. These companies never do that.

Brian Clark: No, of course not. Well, what did they do last week? They basically decided that Tumblr is going to be a YouTube competitor, so they did a bunch of stuff including resizing the image field on everyone’s post since the beginning of time. It broke all the images, and the response is “too bad.”

That doesn’t happen to you if you own your own property. I think most people get it right now. The fact that some people have this question I think is because they somehow think it’s easier or that it’s a shortcut.

Number one, it’s no easier to build an audience on property you don’t own than one you do. And secondly as Sonia says, “Don’t take shortcuts. They take too long.” You end up getting screwed by the company that you thought was doing you a favor at the beginning because your interests and theirs are not aligned.

Robert Bruce: I think one of the things you brought up, is that people miss most often or don’t get or it takes them time to realize, is the idea of building the digital media asset itself. You can’t do that on a sharecropped external third party site, which is because of things like exporting your content and all of that.

There are work arounds for that, but the one thing is the building of value in that asset that you actually own. And for some reason, that just skates across the ice.

Brian Clark: It’s because people aren’t thinking like media entrepreneurs. No media entrepreneur doesn’t own their own intellectual property. That is the asset.

I haven’t had a chance to read Cory Doctorow’s new book, Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free. It’s about how all these platforms are exploiting creators. To a certain degree I’m sympathetic, but it’s our own fault if we don’t control our own platform. That’s why the Rainmaker Platform is our passion. We’re giving you the tools to do things easier and more powerful and better, but it’s still yours.

How Does Content Curation Fit into the Rainmaker Media Content Strategy?

Robert Bruce: Alright, question number two. John Doe asks how content curation fits into the Rainmaker Media content strategy. Since it’s not your own media that you’re publishing, should you use it at all? Should you curate at all?

Brian Clark: You and I have been talking about curation forever.

Robert Bruce: Well, allow me to elaborate just for a moment here. I believe it was late 2010 or early 2011 (I’d have to look at the dates), but somewhere back then I started a little weekly publication called. The Lede. The Lede is now Copyblogger’s podcast.

It was a simple curation play. And I’ve got to say Brian, at the time I got a little flack from you for it. Now to be fair, you had been doing this from the very beginning like so many others. Once in a while, you would post links, but you did it in a much more casual kind of fun way. But what if you look at it as an actual strategy? What if you looked at it as a centerpiece around a whole media operation? What do you think of that?

Brian Clark: Well, back when you first started The Lede, I thought it was an interesting little addition to our original content, and as you know, our original content does so much better. A link post isn’t going to go viral.

Basically what happened since that time is content marketing went mainstream and we’ve got this exponential increase in the amount of content out there. There’s a lot of good stuff out there but who can find it?

I’m really starting to find curation as a primary strategy to be much more appealing. In fact, I’m working on a project that is something I’ve wanted to do for a while and it’s going to be straight up email curation. It’ll be using Rainmaker and the new curation tools that will be coming soon.

I’ve got to say that I’m coming around on it and there are certain things about it that are important. Number one, you’re driving. It’s got to be email, right? If you own the list, number one, does it matter what the content is as long as the audience wants it? Number two, you curate and you summarize. Dave Pell’s newsletter is great. It’s just the most interesting stuff that happened that day. What’s it called?

Robert Bruce: Next Draft.

Brian Clark: Right. But Dave writes his own narrative. It is original content with links. So you’re getting social sharing and you’re getting search value in there.

Robert Bruce: And you’re getting Dave.

Brian Clark: You’re getting a human being with a sense of humor and a perspective instead of an algorithm. That’s the big thing I’m seeing right now. Computers are choosing what you should see. I think there’s a real hunger out there for humans to say, “Hey, here’s what I found and it’s fascinating and here’s what I think.” That human connection works, but the key is email. Dave Pell has a huge audience that subscribes to email, which is the Holy Grail, but he is a curator.

It is doable and I’m going to make myself an example of how to do this. Some people are like, “Well, you’ve already got an existing audience, that’s not fair.” I don’t know. This is what I want to do and it has nothing to do really with Copyblogger. Our friend Chris Brogan tried to change directions and a lot of people resisted. I don’t think it’s a lock that you have an existing audience if you’re going into a brand new area, so we’ll see.

Robert Bruce: Well here’s the other thing about that. We both, you and I, and many of listeners to this show follow a few curated areas, either newsletters or folks doing stuff on third party services like Twitter. One part of that that keeps coming up between you and I, is that we have yet to see a really smart and powerful revenue model applied to it.

Brian Clark: You know what’s interesting to me when I look at that? And I do agree with you. It’s that I’ve got the revenue model.

Robert Bruce: Right.

Brian Clark: It would be membership based. I hate to say that’s the easy part, but it is. What’s interesting to me is whether or not I can find the great stuff. Can I create a voice that is appropriate and engaging for this audience? It’s those types of things you would think some people will say, “Oh, that’s the easy part.” But is it?

Robert Bruce: We’ll find out. Thank you for these two questions, folks. To get your own question featured on Rainmaker FM, just head over to Rainmaker.FM, drop it into the comments of one of the episode posts there.

Rainmaker FM is brought to you by the Rainmaker Platform, which in our opinion is the best and easiest way for content marketers and online entrepreneurs to build a powerful content driven digital commerce website.

The thing I want to talk about the Rainmaker Platform today for just a minute is landing pages. We all know there are great landing page solutions out there for sure, but as with everything else Rainmaker, these are all integrated into the platform. One place, one price.

In this case, I log in to Rainmaker and with two clicks from the dashboard, I’m immediately given a choice of whether I want to go with one of fifteen beautiful landing page templates there, or whether I want to easily roll my own with the Rainmaker landing page builder. It goes without saying, the templates that we have available to you here are not only beautiful, but they’re tested. Everything you’d expect on that front is there for you. All you need to do is drop in your own copy, hit publish, and get to work.

Of course there are many, many more templates on the way. The point here is that easily built landing pages that actually work are just one small feature within the integrated Rainmaker Platform. If you want to take a look at the whole thing for fourteen days without charge, head over to right now.

Quit horsing around trying to build your website and your landing pages and get back to building your business,

Understanding Digital Commerce: How to “Be the Market”

Robert Bruce: Now, into the main topic for today’s broadcast we go. One of the big questions that comes up again and again and again is around the topic of finding a profitable market. How do you do it? How do you know that it’s potentially profitable and where do you start?

Let’s talk about the headline you’ve come up with here, 7 Ways to Find a Topical Market that Will Fuel Your Digital Commerce Business. Way number one is, “Be the market.”

Brian Clark: First of all, let’s just refresh everyone’s memory when we use this term “digital commerce.” It’s a newer term that we’ve adopted. Essentially it means selling premium content.

As we talked about last week, it’s a little bit more than that. You’re really selling the benefits of knowledge and a complete experience of access to others. It’s also selling yourself and other subject matter experts and all that good stuff. In its simplest form though, what is an area where people will invest in online training or some other sort of member fueled paid content community?

As you mentioned the first one, “Be the market.” Somewhere around 2001 or 2002 I had somehow educated myself in the world of direct response and direct marketing historically and had been applying it to the internet. There was permission based email lists, and all that kind of stuff.

I started seeing opportunities everywhere. You get to that point where you pay attention and you’re like, “Oh, you could do this and that, and that’s how you’d make money.” Right? That’s what I mean when I say monetization is easy for me. What is not easy for me is passion and interest in those things.

There are a million ways to make money and most of them I do not want to do. Sometimes even things that interest me, I don’t want to do. You have to give me a pep talk and then we move on. Right? But you get what I’m saying when it’s like if you’re not interested, if you’re not passionate in something, it is very difficult to do the work, to carry on and to keep going.

Think about it this way, if you want to be the leader of a tribe, you’ve got to be a member of the tribe. How often is it successful for an outsider to come in and take over? Usually it doesn’t work and it rarely works in online communities. So you need to be interested and passionate and you need to be the person with the problem or desire.

Then you can take that leadership role into helping people who are similar to you. That’s very much why I started Copyblogger. People think, “Well, I’m not an expert yet.” But just merely going on your own journey and sharing what you know and bringing people along with you puts you in that role.

Look at Darren Rowse’s story. No one started out as an expert. They just knew a little bit more than the other people. Right? It goes back to the curation thing. Like if you can find this stuff that you are genuinely interested in in your own life, and this project that I’m talking about, it’s where I’m at right now. Just like in 2005, I was at a place that resulted in me starting Copyblogger, so this is a tried and true one for me. From a content standpoint, I’m not saying you can’t just go in ruthlessly and learn everything about a market and own it. You can. It’s just it would be hard for me to keep going.

Robert Bruce: I’d like to add to what you brought up a moment ago, in that I think there’s a road block that people have in their mind by saying, “Yeah, I can’t talk about this stuff. I’m not an expert. I’m not a PhD in XYZ topic.”

I don’t know if you...