Danny Iny is a serial entrepreneur, speaker, blogger, and consultant who, in addition to being the author of several books, including Engagement from Scratch!, the Naked Marketing Manifesto, and the Audience Business Masterclass, is the founder of Firepole Marketing, a marketing program for small businesses.
I spoke with Danny in August of 2013 to learn more about the methodology behind his many professional successes. You will find his top tips below.
A Functional Approach to Legalities
When I asked Danny what legal advice he might give to his fifteen-year-old self as he embarked on his first entrepreneurial endeavors, he responded that first, he would make it clear that he was not a lawyer and that he was not giving legal advice. Then, he would say that entrepreneurs have a tendency to approach legal issues from the wrong angle.
Entrepreneurs would not gain so much from viewing contracts as binding, punitive documents that are guaranteed to spare them from disaster. Unless you have a lawyer and lots of money, contracts are basically unenforceable. If the value of some loss brought about by the breach of a contract is under $20,000, it will likely cost you more to legally pursue the person or business who violated that contract than it would to simply cut your losses.
Danny argues that entrepreneurs would instead benefit from viewing contracts as helpful guidelines that help professionals establish functional terms for a project. When Danny makes a verbal agreement with someone, he has a habit of following up with an email summarizing the terms discussed and asking for corrections if needed. This establishes enough of a rudimentary paper trail to keep him comfortable, plus ensures that both parties are on the same page.
Ultimately, the most binding actions involve doing business with integrity and dealing with others' lack of integrity. Making sure you have a clear, shared vision with others is more likely to set you on the right path than a verbose pile of legal jargon.
The Value of Giving Books Away for Free
Danny sees the old publishing model as being quite outdated. Publishing houses have to charge big premiums to authors to cover the expensive overhead they must maintain to print large numbers of books. Because it is not so common for books to be sold in large volumes these days, authors (not to mention publishers) are earning less and less from traditional publishing deals. Given that publishers are also less willing to do much promotion for little-known authors, writers have very little to gain from the traditional approach to book publication.
In addition to publishing books independently, Danny has adopted the approach (controversial to many) of giving books away for free. Four significant benefits that accompany doing so include:
- The opportunity to distribute a larger number of books (Danny estimates that he can give 15 books away for every book he sells)
- Increased odds that someone might buy one of his independently-published books (should someone start reading one of his books, like it, and prefer to read it in print format)
- The opportunity to establish a relationship with readers by asking for their email addresses in exchange for a free book download
- The opportunity to gain more favorable Amazon.com book reviews for a publication (it helps to ask free ebook downloaders to review the book as a favor in exchange for the free file)
- Higher likelihood of selling products or services related to the book
Getting favorable reviews on Amazon.com is especially important with regard to driving book sales as they play a crucial role in Amazon's book recommendation algorithms.
Though Danny only made around $10,000 in first year book sales from one of his books, he made approximately $250,000 that year through the sale of related services. Many of his customers and clients discovered and gained interest in those services through his book.
Whether you should choose to give away a book really depends on your ultimate goals. Are you trying to build a name for yourself, sell products or services, or build a following online? Chances are you have much more to gain from giving things away for free than you have to gain from charging a fee for everything.
How to Build a Name as a Blogger
His prolificness and success in the blogging world (especially when it comes to guest blogging) has lead many to refer to Danny as the Freddy Krueger of Blogging. With regard to blogging, Danny shared the following insights:
- Guest posts are an excellent means by which one can strengthen one's online reputation
- Blogs are particularly amenable to list posts (e.g. 30 Great X for Y)
- Submitting guest posts to publications at around the same time (which typically means your posts themselves will go live at the same time) can significantly boost others' awareness of your personal brand, as you seem to be everywhere
Advice for Those Selling Ideas and Advice
With regard to consulting, Danny emphasized that great value and competitive edge lies not in providing good answers (which are relatively easy to give), but rather in asking the right questions (which are far more difficult to frame and formulate).
Should you want to be in the business of selling information, as Danny is, he also advises that you start by selling people on how you're going to teach them something that they think is hard but is actually easy to do rather than selling people on how you're going to teach them something that they think is hard (or worse yet, think is easy), but is actually very hard to do. Danny is currently taking the latter approach with his latest venture, Firepole Marketing, and while he is making it work, it isn't easy.
Words of Wisdom on Making Mistakes
When I asked Danny if he knew of any common mistakes entrepreneurs would benefit from avoiding, he suggested I might not be asking the right question. Making mistakes is unavoidable. Danny could write an entire book about all the mistakes he has made.
He has found it far more valuable to follow schools of thought that advocate:
- Failing quickly
- Learning from mistakes
- Making calculated mistakes
- Approaching risks systematically, like hypothesis tests
Many of Danny's biggest "failures" were inevitable. Given his level of experience and the state of the market at a given time, he could have done nothing to prevent certain mistakes from taking place. The important thing is that Danny came away from his setbacks with valuable knowledge. Danny isn't at all opposed to the idea that experts are simply those who have made all the mistakes within a field there are to make.
Danny thinks people measure wealth poorly- typically using the number of dollars one has in the bank as a key metric. What matters more to Danny is that one has earning power. He would much rather be someone in debt with amazing earning power than someone with money in the bank and little ability to create value. The ultimate test is whether someone can make something from nothing.