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You Don’t Need Thousands of Followers to Sell Stuff

I was visiting with a guy the other day who is a decamillionaire. No, not one of those kids posing in front of a fancy car, just a quiet older business owner I know from my days of serving on a board of directors for a local bank.

I'm not going to share his real name because he's not someone who enjoys the spotlight, so let's just call him James. There are hints that James has money if you know what to look for, but he's not one of those who flaunts his wealth.

It struck me that James has virtually no social media presence. He's just a highly successful local business owner and an all-around nice guy. It's the same with many successful business owners I know.

I Have Plenty of Followers. That Doesn't Mean It's a Profitable Way to Do Business.

I look at all the gurus out there preaching how to make money online by ramping up your follower counts, getting engagement, posting 100 times a day, and I have to shake my head.

I've racked up tens of thousands of followers and subscribers, hacked posts until I landed on the front page of Reddit…twice, and secured the number one position on Google for a variety of topics.

Twitter Followers
I am pretty good at getting followers. But followers don't necessarily translate into buyers.

Know how much all of that earned me?

Let me rephrase that, do you know how much all of that COST me?

I don't want to think about it…

Giveaways Sometimes Just Mean Giving Away Things

I ran a promo once where I gave away some really nice vacation packages and gift cards as an incentive to join a free workout challenge. It was important to me at the time as a close friend had just passed away from a heart attack, but between prizes and advertising, that single campaign cost thousands of dollars to run.

Even though there were some t-shirts for people to buy to help offset costs, it was a money pit. Worse than that, some people seemed to think it was a scam because so much stuff on the Internet is these days and I had no relationship with them. Eventually, I took away the prizes and stopped promoting it.

The challenge did help encourage several of my friends to get in shape, so from that perspective, it was worth it, but if I were judging it on business results, I'd call it a failure.

That challenge was a masterclass in what not to do if you want to make money. Luckily I wasn't in it for the money, but in retrospect, I probably would have helped more people and made more money just selling our healthy habits course.

To Have a Successful Business, Sell Stuff. Don't Chase Followers.

Having a big following or giving away a bunch of stuff does not necessarily translate to making money.

Yes, giving away stuff can help you get leads, and having a following can build trust for potential clients, but you need to SELL things to have a successful business.

Local business owners everywhere already know this.

My offline business generates enough revenue to pay an entire team very well year after year with zero giveaways and practically no online presence. But I see people making the mistake of thinking if they just keep giving away free stuff or getting more followers that business will turn around all the time.

How Many Followers Do the Businesses You Buy From Have?

Think about the things you buy every day. What was the last purchase you made?

How many followers does that business have?

Do you know?

Do you care?

Sell Things People Want to Buy

What you need to sell are things that people want to buy. Things that will help them, entertain them, or that they need or want.

People go to my coaching page, read all the testimonials, sign up for a free discovery call, and proceed to pay me thousands of dollars to help them with their business.

Here's the kicker.

Many of those customers have never heard of me before clicking on an ad and hiring me on the first call to help their business!

They don't care about how many followers I have; they only want to know if I can help them. Once they fully believe I can help, then they are happy to hire me to help them achieve their goals.

You need to build trust with your potential clients somehow, but you don't need a bazillion followers to sell stuff. It does get easier of course once you have some social proof, but it's not required.

Giving a Stranger Money Seems Silly, Yet We Do it Every Day

Someone commented on one of my posts the other day, “Why would I give a stranger on the Internet I've never met money?”

Think about that one for a minute.

Most people would say they wouldn't give a random stranger on the Internet that they've never met money. That's crazy talk. Right?

Yet we do it all the time!!!

How many times have you walked into a store or found something you liked online and whipped out your wallet to buy it? I wonder how many followers the cashier you just handed your credit card to has?

I just swiped my card at Casey's to buy a drink & a snack a few minutes ago. I have no idea who the owner of Casey's is, or at least I didn't until I googled it and figured out Don Lamberti was the founder. Never heard the name before today, yet I spend hundreds of dollars every month there.

I bought some stuff off Amazon the other day. No idea who that seller is, just know the product had some good reviews. We spend money with strangers every day, yet somehow think as owners people need to know us on a personal level to buy from us.

You Don't Need to Be a Public Figure to Run a Successful Business

In my regular business (which is way more profitable than my coaching and blogging hobby), customers rarely even talk to me these days. They talk to our sales reps who sell them stuff, then our operations and technical team take care of them from there. I'm in the background planning, making sure everything runs smoothly, adjusting processes, hiring & training people, and dealing with exceptions, not on the front lines like I was when I started.

That's the same thing James did to become a highly successful business owner. He got the ball rolling with a lot of hard work selling stuff to people that they wanted to buy, but then gradually faded into the background as he created a real business.

He wasn't running around trying to get followers or tricking people into clicking on a cleverly placed ad to generate a few pennies while the real businesses buying those ads collect the dollars.

Let's Talk More in a Live Webinar

I'll be unpacking all of this live next week and what you need to do to actually sell stuff online in our next business owner's group meeting. You'll get to see me walk one of my clients through setting up an ad to generate leads for her business. And no, that's not a free session, you just got the free stuff. If you want the good stuff, let's chat live.

Don Smith

The Personal Growth Channel founder, Smith also runs a technology company, is a former bank director, and is a business coach. Happily married with five children, he lives in Springfield, Illinois.