How to Build an Online Business Selling What You Know

Knowledge brand? You? Well, there’s a good chance that you are if the primary commodity in your online business is what’s in your head (read: expertise, know-how, knowledge, etc.). At the risk of sounding like a broken record (yeah, I say this a lot)… no, you cannot build your online business by following the exact path someone else took to get to where you want to be. 

And if you listen real hard, you can prolly hear the sound of the “5 steps to success” gurus  plotting my downfall as we speak.

Mostly because I don’t buy into the BS that’s being peddled around in the industry… like that “you too can build a 7-figure business with almost no effort.” 

I’m gonna tell you the truth: building a knowledge brand is freaking hard.

Like, working 60 hours a week, paying yourself peanuts, and wondering why no one is buying hard.

It’s the Olympics of mental gymnastics and everyone expects you to be the GOAT… and you don’t even know how to do a cartwheel.

It’s the emotional rollercoaster that you didn’t know you jumped on, but you’re about to plummet to the earth and you can’t get off now.

Okay, maybe I’m being a little melodramatic (mostly because it’s just fun to write like that), but the truth is that building a knowledge brand is not as simple as they make it out to be.

And when “they” make it out to be super simple, it tends to make things even harder on those who are just starting out.

So I’m endeavoring to break down the myth that there is an easy-to-follow step-by-step formula for you to follow to build your business.

Because there’s not. #sorrynotsorry

Here’s the thing: Trying to follow a formula to grow your business is actually hurting your business. 

Businesses aren’t formulaic. And neither is marketing.

Sidenote, I’m going to tell you a truth that NO guru wants me to tell you: Most people selling “formulas” have no real and reliable data to back them up. All they’re doing is repackaging the steps they took to make it work for them… steps that they likely just happened into and have no idea what actually made it work for them in the first place.

And the chances that it’ll work the exact same way for you is next to zero.

Listen, you can’t build your knowledge business without understanding WHY and HOW things work in business and marketing.

Instead of an unfounded formulaic approach to business, what you need is to  understand the WHY and HOW of business and marketing in general, your business model, market, audience, and niche. 

Unfortunately, the industry is flooded with “experts” who don’t really understand the why and how behind their success. They just know it worked for them.

And then they sell it to everyone else… not realizing that other people’s business models, markets, audiences, niches, etc. all factor into whether or not it’ll even work for them.

So to stop the madness, I’ve hunkered down and created a process to help online business owners who are building knowledge brands understand the WHY and HOW of their business.

It’s called the BOMTM process and it outlines the seven phases that you’ll go through as you build a successful knowledge brand:

  • Phase 1: The Planner Phase
  • Phase 2: The Builder Phase
  • Phase 3: The Recruiter Phase
  • Phase 4: The Scientist Phase
  • Phase 5: The Banker Phase
  • Phase 6: The Leader Phase
  • Phase 7: The BADA$$ Phase

Wanna catch up? Check out this overview of the 7 phases to learn more about it.

I’ve already covered Phase 1 in another post. So in this post, we’ll be diving into Phases 2 and 3… the Builder and Recruiter phases.

More on that below…

Want to dive a little deeper into the subject? Listen to Bobby discuss the concepts in this post in Episode 279 on the Certified BADA$$ Online Marketing Podcast™!

The following post was taken from the transcript of Episode 278 of the Certified BADA$$ Online Marketing Podcast™.

The Builder Phase: How to Convert Leads and Take Care of Your Online Business Customers

Man with surprised look on his face and his hand to his ear, leaning in to listen more closely and learn how to build his online business knowledge brand.

Once you’ve created your business plan in the Planner Phase, you move on to the Builder Phase.

The problems you’re trying to solve here are:

  • How are you gonna convert people from leads to buyers?
  • How are you going to take care of them after that?

So, the builder phase is about creating your conversion and customer experience machines.

You need to put these systems in place because when people become aware of your brand, two things can happen:

  • They can get on your email list
  • They can buy something from you

When you have these systems, you can nurture your leads and take care of your customers.

But here’s the caveat: you don’t have a scaled product yet at this phase. When I say build something so that they can buy from you, I’m not talking about an online course or something like that. You’re not just ready for it yet.

At the builder phase, you should offer either:

  • One-on-one direct service
  • Buy-anytime, low-touch product, e.g., an ebook or template

Again, this phase isn’t about selling. Instead, it’s about having the foundations set so that you can learn more about the type of knowledge brand or the kinds of solutions that you will offer to help your target audience get unstuck.

You might have heard in the online space that notion that you should create a course because it’s scalable and makes money while you sleep.

Let me just tell you, most of those people are full of it.

The quickest way to get to the point of having an online business that will make enough money and support your lifestyle and give you some financial freedom is to work one-on-one with people. Period. Full stop.

Again, the builder phase is about figuring out what buy-anytime product people can get from you or how they can work directly with you.

How to Build the Foundations of a Knowledge Brand in the Builder Phase

So, what do you need to do in building the foundations of your knowledge brand in the builder phase?

1.   Create a Website

You need to have a website that’s optimized to convert.

I know a lot of people say you don’t need a website anymore and that you only need a funnel.

They’re full of it again.

Your website doesn’t have to be extremely beautiful or fancy. But you need a website that can do some conversion work for you automatically when people come to your website.

  • They can grab a freebie and get on your list.
  • They can buy a product from you.
  • They can start consuming your content.

2.   Create List-building Options

You need to build your email list for your online business, so you need to have list-building options.

You should create some freebies and opt-ins so that people will join your list. This is important because very few people are gonna say, “Yes, I wanna join your email list.”

You need to give them a reason.

For example, if you’re signing up for my free training program, BADA$$ Online Marketing UniversityTM (BOMU)TM, you get all the courses but you’re also joining my email list.

If you sign up for my free Privacy Policy template for your website, you’re gonna get it for free, but you’re also joining my email list.

Over time, you’ll create several other freebies and opt-ins, but at this stage of building your knowledge brand, you don’t need a bunch.

One or two are enough. Just figure out what you think is the best option and get it out there.

Important note: You should create your freebies and opt-ins before you start your marketing efforts to generate traffic, such as social media posting and content writing.

3.   Set Up Your Email Marketing System

What do you do next when someone gets on your list?

This is where a lot of people trying to build a knowledge business fall short.

You need to set up the basic components of an email marketing system from the outset. This will make things a lot easier for you.

If you want too long to do it or you don’t put it in place, it’s gonna be a huge pain in the butt.

At the very least, you must have the following email sequences:

  • CATCH EmailIt stands for “Congratulate, Acknowledge the frustration, Tell me about you, Credibility boost, and Hook.” It’s the first email that you’re gonna send to people who join your list. It’s about building connections and establishing credibility by making a good impression and building the know, like, and trust factor.
  • Nurture Sequence – After you’ve sent your freebie with the CATCH Email, you send a nurture email, which is about setting your authority and making your personality shine. It’s about helping your audience get value from your freebie or prompting them to take action.
  • Welcome SequenceIt’s the email that helps your new subscribers get to know you and how you can help them. It’s about getting them oriented into your world.

These email sequences are automated and they’ll help move your audience a step closer to buying from you down the road.

If you don’t set your email marketing system from the get-go, people who sign up on your list will get nothing, and that won’t benefit your knowledge business. You need to bring the people in a meaningful way.

4.   Set Up Your Customer Experience Machine

You also need to think about how you’re gonna deliver your promises, and that’s part of the customer experience machine.

If you’re providing one-on-one services, you have to think about how you’re gonna serve your people. How are you gonna make sure you get the work done and that you communicate with them well?

If you’re selling an ebook, you need to provide a way that people can reach you if they have questions, such as an email address.

You need the system set up beforehand to ensure that your customers will have a good experience with you.

When you’ve got your conversion and customer experience machines set up, you’re ready to move to the third phase.

The Recruitment Phase: How to Build Traffic for a Knowledge Brand

Woman scratching her head wondering how to build traffic for her online business knowledge brand.

At the Recruitment Phase, you’re ready to start building traffic and getting more people to know about your knowledge business.

Honestly, there’s no magic bullet here. It may take some time before you see significant traffic coming your way.

Now, what do you need to do to start generating traffic for your online business?

1.   Create Long-Form Content

Content marketing is crucial for online entrepreneurs, so you need to think about what your content is gonna be. And these are long-form content, not social media posts.

I’m talking about blog posts, podcast episodes, and YouTube videos.

These are the things that will allow you to deliver a lot of value and information to your target customers so that you can build authority.

Your long-form content is what influences your people to start to see that you’re someone they should listen to.

How much content should you produce or how often should you publish them?

For almost every entrepreneur, it should be weekly at the beginning.

2.   Build Your Social Media Presence

You also need to create your social media content, which is a good way to create your online presence and get your brand in front of your target audience.

But note that this is only part of your content strategy and shouldn’t be your main form of content.

That’s because the life of a social media post is short. You’ll post one on your Facebook page but not everyone who follows your page will see it.

If people don’t check their social media accounts frequently, they won’t see your post. By the next day, it won’t be showing up on people’s newsfeeds.

3.   Set Up Paid Ads

When you start posting content on your website or social media, people don’t immediately start coming and joining your list.

It sucks, but that’s the reality. And that’s why you need to invest in paid ads.

Paid ads will help accelerate your traffic generation efforts.

I believe that almost every online entrepreneur should run ads all the time. You may have some breaks, but you need to run paid ads regularly so you can build your list continuously.

Setting up paid ads during the recruitment phase is particularly important because you’re gonna learn a lot from the process. Don’t wait until you’re launching or for any other reason.

When you’re adding traffic that you’re buying, you’re getting information to understand things about your audience.

You’re gonna learn how to get people on your list more effectively and whether your freebies or opt-ins are working or not.

If they’re working, then good. If not, you’ve got to tweak them, make them better, or create something different.

Facebook Ads are the easiest way to get paid traffic, especially when you’re starting out. But you can also do other kinds of ads.

4.   Do Guest Outreach

Guest outreach is another way you can build traffic for your knowledge business.

It’s about getting exposure on other people’s platforms (e.g., podcasts, blogs, coaching programs, etc.) as a guest and getting value by being in front of their existing audience.

And these are the people who have a similar audience as yours. They don’t have to be big names.

When you’re starting out, if you can get on a podcast and get 20 leads, that’s worth your time. It will also help you build up your authority.

Wrapping Up the Building Blocks of Your Online Business

You culminate phases two and three when you’ve done all these conversion and traffic machines set up. When you’ve figured out the right messaging and how to talk to your people.

The big goal here is to get your email list to at least 1,000 people. It’s not a magic number, but it’s a sign that you have enough people to ask about what kind of product you should create. You have enough people who will buy your scaled product when you’re ready to scale.

When you’ve done all this work and built these foundations, that’s when you’re ready to think about scaling. That’s when you move into the next phase, which we call the Scientist Phase.

We’re gonna discuss phase four next week in more depth, so be sure to check back here!

In the meantime, why don’t you join BOMU? It’s absolutely free. We have a course there called the BOM process, which walks through all seven phases. There are also list-building and email marketing courses.

About Bobby Klinck

Harvard Lawyer and Online Entrepreneur

About Bobby Klinck