Derek Halpern is the entrepreneur and master marketer behind Social Triggers, a blog and series of products that give psychological reasons behind why people click, buy, subscribe and more. He is also the creator of many other successful website ventures, one of which attracted more than 1 million page views in a single day, and the founder of Zippy Courses. His hundreds of thousands of followers -- and customers in over 69 countries -- prove he practices what he preaches.
Though Social Triggers may sound stuffy or high-brow, the loud New Yorker delivers his methods and ideas in a simple, memorable, no-fluff format. A subpar student who had multiple iced tea stands as a kid, Halpern is clearly cut from the entrepreneurial cloth. Yet, he spent time working his way up the ladder in a Fortune 100 company, and has tried his hand at multiple endeavors over the years, finding success in each.
His motto? If you want something in life or business, you have to go get it for yourself. Period. Here are the things you should go and get, right now (and how to do it) from my conversation with him.
Seek out the experience you want.
Halpern’s first encounter with online business was clicking on an “Advertise Here” button on a popular blog and crunching the numbers. Suddenly, he had the bug. “He had like five ads. I was like, ‘This is exactly what I'm gonna do.’”
Halpern immediately took action and set up his first site. He tried various sites and landed on pop culture. (Please imagine for a moment Halpern researching celebrity gossip and beauty trends. I find this hilarious.) He started making a steady, substantial income. However, the other shoe eventually dropped, because Halpern didn’t actually care about celebrity gossip or beauty trends. He put that business on autopilot and started soul searching. “I [read] Winning by Jack Welch. And he just talks about how he got into the corporate world and became CEO. And I'm like, 'I'm gonna go be CEO.' So I joined a Fortune 100 company.” Again, Halpern tenaciously took action, getting promoted within his first year.
Stop researching and wondering, and instead take action to get the experience you want, whether that’s revamping your business, changing careers, seeking out a mentorship, apprenticeship, etc.
Though he eventually realized he didn’t want to wait 20 years to work his way up the corporate chain -- and could make more money solo -- Halpern was very successful during his time in corporate America. Again, he took action to get seen in the company.
“I started to go to lunch with everyone in my area. So there's 120 people in the International department, so I just started having lunch with everybody -- secretaries, vice presidents, eventually I'm having with a C-level guy. He's giving me lunch because he heard I had lunch with everybody else and now he doesn't want to feel left out. . . . I realized the power like getting people to know my name.”
Busy influencers and industry leaders won’t come to you, so take the initiative and find a way to connect with them.
Don't assume customers will come to you.
Halpern explained that many entrepreneurs and marketers today make so much great content -- and then wait for people to find it. Each day the internet gets noisier, and your chances of being stumbled upon -- or even for your paid ad being seen -- get slimmer. Think of how you can go and find customers and draw them to you.
Put in the time and energy to connect with journalists and podcasts to be featured in the media. Go to local networking events, digital summits and national conferences. While you’re there, Halpern explained, “Your whole goal is to get your name in front of as many people as possible with hopes of getting them back into your world.”
He said that throughout his entire journey, this one tactic has been what he’s tried to focus in on 100 percent: finding audiences and leading them to his content and products.
“I'm always going and venturing out as opposed to staying in my head and trying to figure everything out.”
Build your own website.
This sounds like old news to seasoned marketers, but it bears repeating, as younger entrepreneurs continue to make the mistakes many have made before them. Don’t build your entire audience on a social media platform.
“You want to build a platform on something you own and control, and the only thing that you really own is your own website, and maybe the email list,” Halpern explained. “I've seen people who spent a lot of time building their Facebook page then [Facebook rolled out] promoted posts and now no one gets reached anymore without paying for it.”
He also added the importance of being memorable. You can build a beautiful, functional website and create amazing content, but if you don’t have a hook that keeps you stuck in people’s mind, you’re in trouble.
“Like with me, you know, I'm loud. I'm clearly from New York. Sometimes I'm yelling . . . But I'm in that bucket and people know how to remember it and that's, right now, even more important than ever before,” he said.
Part of creating your own success is being the master of your own domain, literally your web domain name, and also figuratively -- making sure you’re not building an entire business on the basis of someone else’s product, service or platform.
Always write down your inspiration and ideas.
This particular tactic has really hit home with me as a writer and content creator, especially since my other guests James Altucher, Seth Godin and Jon Acuff brought it up as well. Be intentional and almost obsessive about noticing ideas around you.
“If I'm walking down the street and I see a couple arguing, I'm writing that down. I'm writing down the words that they're using, how they're describing their problems,” Halpern shared. “When I go to write content, I use these stories to share lessons. A lot of people know the power of storytelling [but where they go wrong] is they just tell a story and then they end it. You have to tell a story and it needs to lead to some kind of big revelation or tip that your reader benefits from.” This means you’ve got to be actively logging stories and also taking time to figure out how those stories benefit the people you're trying to serve.
Next, it’s not enough to simply notice, you have to prioritize keeping track of your ideas as well. Halpern logs ideas on his phone; many people use notebooks, journals or even take photos. No matter how you do it, be sure and keep track of all of your inspiration because, as Halpern says, “Always write the stories. Never assume you're going to remember it. I never remember anything.”
This is a powerful tip from Halpern on creating your own momentum and getting off of the ever-spinning content creation wheel.
“Don't be afraid to reuse or rewrite your best ideas. One of my biggest ideas that we started Social Triggers with was the idea that you have to promote your content, not create content. Create one piece of content, promote the heck out of it.” he told me. “A good idea needs to be said multiple times before people remember.”
He explained that many content creators will take a great idea, post or tactic, publish it once and move on. This is a huge missed opportunity. Instead, he says, “Expand on it. Talk about it again, expand on it. Talk about it again, expand . . . . Maybe you write a book about it, make a course about it . . . . When you find one that works, talk about it as much as possible.”
Schedule time for what matters.
Another place to go get what you want? In your calendar, planner and daily schedule. Halpern said there is one best productivity tactic that he can share with people, one that has literally changed his life. “If you want to get something done, you’ve got to calendar it.” If you don’t schedule things into your week, he explained, they simply won’t get done.
Halpern recently lost 30 pounds thanks to this tactic. ”I went from not going to the gym to going three, four, five times a week, all because I would just put it in the calendar for the week in advance.”
He did add that it’s important to make time for the most important work, not actions that feel like work. “If you're going to spend your time doing something, it should have a clear and direct benefit to you in the near term.” Try to spend only 10 percent of your time on long-term “just in case stuff” he said. “Most of your time needs to be spent on doing the thing that's going to impact your life today.”
He added, “And I don't cancel. That's probably the biggest productivity hack that I have.”
Get needle-moving results.
Trying to decide what’s most important? If you want to change your life and business, Halpern says you can take charge and make change happen by focusing on what’s most important. He believes the biggest needle-mover for an online business, possibly any business, is growing your email list.
“Build that email list and treat that email list with the utmost respect because that email list will change your life. The bigger it is, the more money you will make. The better quality it is, the more money you will make.” He went on to explain that he went from zero straight to his to first paid speaking engagement at a $20,000 rate, with no levels in between. He simply had a large enough list with engaged followers who saw his value, so when he sent out a blurb about getting booked to speak, they were ready to pay. Start taking action towards building an engaged list of email subscribers, so you can go get those kind of results for yourself, for speaking or consulting or for the launch of your product.
“I've said this for six years now, I'm probably gonna keep saying it, building the email list can change your life.”
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