3 Takeaways: Drift Messaging Experiment & Mixing it up with the Masses

For the past month or so, I’ve been playing around with a Drift messaging box on my blog.

I’ve worked on some other projects very recently, where other people have incorporated Drift into the content or community with some great results, so I was curious what would happen if I added it to mine.

I’ve also (I guess not all that unexpectedly) started to get some questions from folks stopping by the site, chatting with me on Drift, about using Drift – which feels mega meta.
Here are 3 key takeaways about drift messaging that I’ve learned playing with their live chat box – over the last month and change.

  1. There are a lot of weird, wacky and disturbed people in the  world.  If you’ve ever read about the Buddha’s experience using live chat on his site a few thousand years ago, this will not be a surprise to you.  Having a general rosy picture of human nature myself, this was a surprise to me.  In general, because I like to drink and enjoy confrontation, especially after 2am, this really has been more of a feature of using Drift, rather than a bug.   So if you enjoy lobbing cross continental insults at strangers, and find a dearth of opportunities to do so, installing drift on your blog will be a step in the right direction.
  2. From a ROI standpoint, (if I was apt to be measuring it that way) Drift has been a great investment.  (I’m also paying nothing for it – using the free plan – so I guess that just deepens the win)  The truth is,  from a relationship building standpoint,  just over the past month, several of the contacts that have emanated from my Drift chat box have become clients in one form or another.  (several online agency oriented clients – and 1 aspiring author in our self publishing challenge )  These relationships probably wouldn’t have developed as easily without using Drift, so if you are looking for those sorts of results, I can’t recommend Drift nearly enough.
  3. There are a lot of weird, wacky and disturbed people in the world.  Okay, I know this was also takeaway #1.  But it deserves a second mention.  I also find it funny how many people won’t even attempt a proper hello or introduction – they’ll just dive in and get right to the point – no formalities (like “hi!”) required 🙂  Questions like – “how do I write a novel” and “I need to make $7K by tuesday” are much more the norm, rather than the exception.
  4. Lastly, using Drift has built a bridge between lots of the products, or software I’ll  mention on my blog from  time to time….with a lot of these folks reaching out, saying hi, and then cultivating real relationships thereafter, predicated on  that first chat based exchange.  In terms of connecting with vendors, or the actual makers behind the products I use or recommend, having this sort of frictionless opportunity for spontaneous communication has been the #1 benefit to using Drift on my site – albeit, just for a very short while.

If you are looking to deepen relationships with your audience?

Installing some sort of live chat widget is definitely a good idea.

I’m not sure that I’ll keep on using it on this blog, simply because there are only so many people in Canada who I’m willing to trade 3am insults with in a single lifetime- but I’m already looking forward to incorporating Drift (or something similar) into my next community project, and so too should you.

(PS – Pierre in Ontario:  I’ve used your work email address to sign up for every male enlargement product I could find in North America.  Let me know how that works out for you – and keep your chin up – life does get better)

Check out Drift here – all kidding aside, it’s a great way to amp up your productivity (and profitability) with a simple line (or two) of code.

The 5 Words Every Authority Site Owner Needs to Use (Marketing Tips for Launching a Directory)

One of the very common, “Chicken or the Egg” conundrums many authority site and directory owners face when launching a new project is, how to “seed” a site with new members.

If you are bootstrapping a new directory, and don’t have a huge budget to spend on ads, trying to pick that perfect frozen moment in time where there is JUST enough members to start promoting your site, vs shrinking away from advertising it or inviting folks, because…..well, you are embarrassed by the number of members you’ve got right now.

I remember, years ago, and I’ve told this story a few times, but some woman I invited to be part of a directory we were building (a niche I still publish in) told me “you need me more than I need you”.

I remember how off putting hearing that was, especially considering the mediocrity with which I considered her place in the totem pole of importance in the niche, but…..she was right.

In the beginning, you need warm bodies. Full stop. It doesn’t even matter that they’re warm. I’ll take some well chilled, but willing members when I still launch something new, and body count matters as a function of how appealing your new community is, to folks peeking in.

With that out of the way, the one thing that still works wonderfully well in 2017 (and will work, no doubt for years to come) is to invite people by email to join your community.

I’ve tried many different approaches with email, and as a bit of a messaging perfectionist, (and to the frustration of the folks who are responsible for sending my invites) i’ll find myself rewording, rewriting, recalibrating the “invite” in a zillion different ways, often small and subtle, to gauge what appears to amping up response.

The 5 words that I’ve found are MOST powerful for launching a new directory?

“We want to interview You!”

(with the exclamation point – and believe me, as Donald Trump likes to say, before saying something you probably shouldn’t – I’ve tested this as well)

This works even BETTER on an existing list or community, after folks have signed up, (let’s say as a free member or listing) as part of a “premium” agency offer, that can be packaged as part of a brand building service, or back end product, program or promotional package that is higher end and really valuable.

(you can even use a killer design tool like AUTHORAPP to create world class interviews that feature your members, live on the web, can be converted to PDF, and look awesome, even if you are design dummy like me)

The other really compelling combination for email invites, that i’ve found REALLY amps up conversion/opens/interest?

When the name of your domain, brand or project has a natural value or ego alignment with your audience.

  1. Who do THEY think they are?
  2. How do THEY see themselves?
  3. What sort of ethos, or lens do they look at their chosen field, personal passion or area of expertise, through?


If you can capture that in the email, in addition to the interview invite, you can really get people to not only get super excited about the offer, but they’ll become your BEST site building evangelists as well.

(remember, people will SHARE the interview on social media, often with friends who are professional peers, who will ALSO want to join your community, often want to be interviewed too….and the magic momentum of marketing mojo starts to roll downhill in your favor, and fast)

You can do text interviews with boilerplate questions.

You can do audio interviews, and post just those.

You can use an app like Cassette, and do audio AND text based interviews that are transcribed automatically.

You can use an app like ANCHOR (just released today their interview feature) or TapeACall (an awesome app that costs $10 a year) or, just get super creative, and combine a few of these ideas into one killer PREMIUM offer that makes your agency money…..GROWS your authority site, marketplace or directory, while helping build BUZZ for your audience as well.

 (and turning them into the BEST free traffic source for your site, so you can leap frog that ignominious feeling of shame we all face when launching something new, and the only members are ourselves, Uncle Gene and that fake profile you set up at 3am with your old aol account,  just because, when it comes to body count in your new passion project,  3, really is rarely a crowd, and is always better than 2)


How Many, By When?

One of the best gifts you can give yourself is specificity.

Okay.  That’s not really true.  There are probably other really good gifts you could give yourself.  An African Safari has always been high on my bucket list, but I don’t trust myself in a car full of strangers, a loose fitting convertible top and a hungry lion named Len.

But in terms of business goals, or starting something new, or launching a creative writing project, the only way I know of to really force myself to see things through, is to know 2 things in advance:

  1. How Many?
  2. By when?

It really matters not what your goals are.

  1. How many words written, by what time?
  2. How many emails sent, by what date?
  3. How many books published, modules made or pixels pushed……by when?  (exactly)

I’ll give you a little pro tip when it comes to setting up your “how many, by when” goals….gleaned through much experience and much disappointment.

The only way to truly make this work, is to set the rules up, in a way that YOU can control.  The worst “how many, by when” plans are made with inspired enthusiasm and rely on OTHER people to get shit done.

This rarely works.  And is destined to disappoint.

But on on the stuff YOU control: (word count, emails sent, pushups done, meditation minutes logged or anything else that is firmly and completely inside of our ability to accomplish on our own?)

There is truly no better way to get accountable, and to make powerful progress in the direction of a meaningful goal, than this.

One other quick thought about specificity.

It sells.  People are attracted to specific goals, specific commitments, specific targets, specific outcomes and specific timelines.

Last night I was doing some competitive market research for my newest project, a community style “authority site” and social network for a very specific niche, aimed at developing and growing a very specific business (an online agency serving that specific audience) and trying to see what others who we’ll be competing against are building  in the same space.

I outsourced a “SEO” style report on the top content that is out there now, serving this niche, and being read, shared, clicked, and consumed by folks most likely to want to buy, what we plan to sell.

What was so starkly obvious was the specificity of the top content that we’ll need to compete against to make a move in this market.

Out of the total top 10 – articles, social media posts, youtube videos, etc – almost every one had some sort of specific commitment in the content.

There was, even if not explicit at first blush, some strong sense  of “how many, by when” element to each and every piece.

So think about that for yourself as well.

Your personal goals.

And your business ones, too.

How many?

By when?



4 Reasons to Buy Vantage 4.0 Directory Theme (and 2 Reasons Why You Ought to Wait)

A quick disclaimer:

I really don’t love writing about directory themes for wordpress.

Truthfully, I don’t. But, I get more questions about WordPress directory themes and frameworks than just about anything else these days, mostly on the basis of the 20 some odd posts (and 1 mega series) on building, monetizing and developing authority sites.

Vantage 4.0 FINALLY was released a week or two ago, and I’m getting at least one question per day about whether or not it’s worth buying, or not.

I bought it on the very first day it was available – which was a good thing, considering they pulled it down hours after I clicked “pay” simply due to some issues some old Vantage users (3.X version) were having with the new theme, over-writing the old theme automatically (with the updater) and nuking some sites that didn’t want to convert to the new theme and framework just yet.

So, having had the theme for a few weeks and installing it on several different test sites, (it’s now version 4.01 I believe – and is back on the market for purchase) here are the reasons why I think, from my perspective, buying Vantage 4.0 is a no brainer. I’ll also include, in the interest of fairness, who you ought re-consider as well.

1 – Vantage is the absolute easiest directory theme to install and execute on a new project…..bar none. If you are used to the Listify’s and Listable’s of the world, which ARE in fact really easy to install and get running, Vantage 4.0, much like it’s predecessor (3.X versions) just straight up works out of the box. Payment packages are set up and easy to modify, maps WORK out of the box (no fucking around with all of the various WP manager extensions or search extensions to get your maps working in hour 1) and in general, you install it – and other than adding your Google Maps api credentials, you have a directory up and running and ready for your marketing process in under an hour.

2 – It looks pretty slick. In my view, Vantage 4.0 does NOT look as good, aesthetically, as the WP manager suite of themes (Listify looks better, so does Listable, and so do some of the other Themeforest directory themes – in MY opinion, which of course, is highly subjective) The truth though, is – it really doesn’t matter nearly as much what your site looks like from the public’s perspective. (as YELP! can attest) They want a directory that provides information clearly, quickly and with their obvious intuitions about where what should appear to be accurate…and Vantage delivers this in a really smooth and dare I say….ALMOST sexy way. (much better than previous versions, from the aesthetics side)

3 – There is great “child” theme support and enhancements from the appthemes community to extend the theme in some super cool and creative ways….COMING. The previous versions had some really cool extensions, and some good child themes for improved aesthetics, and I know there are some even better things coming for Vantage 4.0. (as several child theme developers have told me what they have coming in the weeks to come) This means, if you don’t love the “out of the box” looks, there will be some super inexpensive ways to enhance this, using child themes – and plugins too, for enhanced functionality as well.

4 – Vantage is coded in a way that supports WP best practices, and the new version (4.0) supports all sorts of things that you couldn’t do with previous versions. Woocommerce, in particular, is fully supported in this version, meaning you can literally EXTEND your directory with a full marketplace, using Woocommerce functionality. (you can use this to create a SHOP for your directory, or….even more creatively, allow your vendors (listings) to sell THEIR PRODUCTS, on your store, using the WC external product type, with an affiliate link (yours) or as part and parcel of a premium listing package, etc. There are tons of cool ways you can now improve, extend and enhance your directory running Vantage, and this overcomes the biggest challenge I had with previous versions, and why the themes that WERE integrated with WC were more preferable before.

2 Reasons you might NOT want to buy Vantage 4.0 just yet?

1 – I’m not 100% sure I’m in love with their support. I just can’t quite decide yet. I tend to make a little bit of noise, so I do find that I get a pretty good response when I post questions, etc on the blog, or now, in the forum.

But……there is something a bit odd that I can’t quite put my finger on when it comes to how they run their operation, that feels a little bit aloof and even a tad off putting to me. David, the guy who runs Appthemes, seems like he controls a lot of the front facing comments and communication (comments, even when you’ve posted several, are ALWAYS moderated on the blog – and in the forums, there are only a few moderator voices for what appears like it should be a bigger operation) There are also people who have been in the Appthemes forum much longer than me who post things like “I see support still sucks” – which troubles me to read – as in my view, supporting the folks who buy your stuff is the one non negotiable when doing anything online.

Note – there are plenty of forum posts answered well and plenty of people happy with appthemes – I’m just holding off judgement for now – but I know my own intuition is that they aren’t quite as “people friendly” – as many other small software companies are, and I think that’s probably a reflection of their owner, who is probably more comfortable with code than customers.

2 – At this moment, visually, you can include alot more information on Listy/Listable, etc – per the listings themselves. (listing owner icons/logos/featured/etc – are either baked in – or look better, than what is available now on Vantage) There are also some limitations in how listings appear on the directory, the ability to “randomize” listings (like previous versions had) and so forth. There is just a little bit less functionality baked in, at the present moment, than you could achieve with a base install of one of the alternatives.

I also don’t love that REVIEWS (which were standard in Vantage 3.x) are now a premium plugin (CRITIC) that needs to be purchased separately. It’s not expensive ($29 or so) but it feels like removing something critical, only to add it as a fee based option on the upgrade, is an iffy intuition about how to launch something new. I get it though – (the other directories also have premium review plugins) and in fairness to appthemes, the theme itself is LESS today, than if you would have purchased a year or two ago. ($99 vs $69 today)

So in general? I think Vantage 4.0 is pretty awesome, especially if you are total newbie, or are a tech challenged marketing type like myself. (because believe me, the tech AIN’T my strong suit, and everything I know has been learned by sheer brute force neccessity, and a lot of booze)

Check out Vantage 4.0 here.  

And – if you disagree with anything I said above, feel free to let me know in the community comments, by email or anyplace else!

Note: Vantage is running a very special bundle offer to celebrate their 4.0 launch – it’s running until April 21st, 2017, and gives you immediate access to 3 killer plugins you can use to enhance your directory in some really appealing ways – Critic (the review plugin mentioned above 🙂 Coupons, and Stripe integration. You’ve got to buy it before the 21st though to get these thrown in as part of the bundle – AND, if you use my affiliate link (here) – I’ll give you a free email or recorded audio strategy session on directory marketing. (something I only do for my 12 month online agency launch course – which is over $2300 for the year) If you buy Vantage with my link – just email me (ianrhollander@gmail.com) to let me know, I’ll double check with appthemes, and you’ll get the bundled plugins (from them) and an email consultation, OR a recorded audio (I’ll do this based on what you tell me you’d like to achieve with your business) for free, from me. 🙂

Wisdom is knowing I am nothing, #love is knowing I am everything, and between the two my life moves.

– N. Maharaj