SBM 077 : The Plateau, Choosing Opportunities and Letting Go with John Lee Dumas

Today’s Guest

John Lee Dumas is a founder and host of Entrepreneurs on Fire.

This is the 77th session of Smart Brand Marketing.

This was a tough interview. John is almost like a politician and gives very calculated answers and does these super short interviews just to promote himself. I respect the hustle but it makes it harder to create a valuable episode.

He works his ass and has created thousands of podcast episodes, some communities, released a book and the ruthless marketing has done well for him.

From the outside it seemed to me that he hit a plateau and that’s what I chose to tackle in this episode.

John said my assumptions were correct and he is making a lot of changes in 2018.

MY BIGGEST TAKEAWAY: Switch between super hard work and complete relaxation constantly. A few months of each if necessary.

What are you waiting for…. press play


  • Getting shit done
  • How John evaluates opportunities
  • When to take action and how much
  • Method for picking winners
  • What to let go
  • Rules and constraints

What to Do When You Reach the Marketing Plateau?

It’s quite evident that marketing is, like any other field out there, is a ladder. As you learn new things and develop new skills, you slowly go through the ranks of the industry and, hopefully, get the hang of using your best marketing tools and strategies.

But, as with any other field out there, there comes a point in marketing where you will reach its peak and, suddenly, you stop growing and developing as a marketer. This is what is called a plateau and it can be a dangerous place to be in for any marketer.

Why? Because what follows a plateau is a slop and, if you are not careful with your dealings, everything from here on is downhill.

So is there still way to get out of this rut? Short answer, yes, and it all boils down to what you are going to do until the next stage of internet marketing is announced.

What’s the Plateau?

There’s actually no exact definition of a marketing plateau out there because it could be a very vague concept. But, to make things easier for you, look at it through this way.

Imagine that you are playing an extremely difficult videogame. After dying multiple times on levels, you are finally on the last chapters of the game and there right before you lies the biggest boss the game has to throw at you.

Imagine that you have beaten that boss and the end credits are rolling. Suddenly, the realization hits you hard: What Now?

This is your plateau and the same is true for marketing. You have exhausted every channel to develop yourself and, suddenly, you get the feeling that nothing can faze you now and there is no more need to improve yourself since your position in the market is so secured.
But the plateau does have its dangers. In most cases, the problems it can cause you can come in two forms.

  • 1. A Sense of ComplacencyRemember the first part of Rocky III? Picture yourself working so hard to make your marketing strategies work and, surprisingly enough, they did. Of course, you get ecstatic which causes you to create more strategies that also work.

    With enough wins on your belt, however, you start getting complacent as time passes. Soon enough, you start creating half-assed content since you are confident that brand recognition alone will keep engagements at a high. And then, suddenly, here comes this new marketing standard that gives you a Clubber Lang style beat down as it renders everything you know worthless and the skills you developed ineffective.

    This is exactly what happened in the era of marketing before the Digital Age as those marketers who did not even bother to learn a few things about online marketing suddenly found their skills obsolete as the years passed.

  • 2. StagnationSupposed that you are not exactly that reckless and were paying attention to the changes in your market. Suddenly, all your strategies are not bringing in the results you have set for them. And then, slowly but surely, your project starts hemorrhaging money.

    This is what stagnation basically looks like. It’s simply that your business, in its current model, has stopped performing well in the market. In most cases, this is not your fault as there as the quality fo the content you produce, whether good or bad, has remained the same ever since hitting that plateau. It’s just that response for it from your audience is just one big “meh”.

    Not addressing these problems has always proven to be a rather dumb move for many marketers and businesses in the past.

    If you aren’t aware, we are about to enter into the newest phase of online marketing where the focus shifts from data and metrics to more personalized services. In short, being at your plateau at this point of time is not doing you any favors.

What to Do When You’re in the Plateau?

One thing that you have to understand about the Marketing Plateau is that it can’t be avoided. There will come a time when there will be no new developments in sight as far as marketing is concerned and this stagnation can last for weeks or even months. You’d have better chances avoiding a cold than entering into your marketing’s plateau phase.

Since you can’t really avoid the plateau, the next best thing you can do is to make the most of your stay there. Here’s how:

  • 1. Invest MoreTake this tip with a grain of salt since it will be based on one key assumption: that your content is considered good. Simply put, if your content being published has been generating a decent amount of leads for you but is not exactly helping your company grow, then we can assume that a lack of quantity of this kind of content.This is perhaps the bluntest strategy you can use at this point since it sim0ply requires to do more of what you are currently doing. For example, if you are just publishing one blog post per week, then increasing that number to 3 or 4 might work. Just make sure that the quality you currently have is not sacrificed as you increase the volume of your production.
  • 2. Diversify Your FormatOne of the primary reasons why performance for websites start getting stale is that you keep offering the same style of content over and over or talk about the same topics over and over. Even if the content you publish is good, if the message and the delivery are the same, then it won’t illicit the same response in the long term.

    For example, if you are known for your short, 500-word listicles, you can write something longer and more detailed. You could also try restricting the way you write your articles or venture into new subjects. You can even invite guest creators to publish their content on the site.

  • 3. Go MultimediaIf you have always been providing written content, then one of the risks you will have to deal with is the fact that people get tired of your content pretty quickly. Sure, text works great for information retention but it does not have that impact that audio and video has. Highly visual media tend to generate the best engagements while also adding some needed diversity in your content lineup. Interactive content? Even more.

    Of course, you can get a bit intimidated by this concept but don’t be. If you think that adding visual media to your content is going to be expensive, it isn’t. Just take a look at Internet memes like the Rickroll. They’re oh-so cheap to create but tend to be the most shareable medium out there right now. You don’t even have to change a lot just to keep them fresh. The trick is in knowing when and how to use them in your content.

  • 4. Look for a New NicheIf your current audience is giving you a lukewarm reception, you should try targeting an entirely different market. If you do so, you open your brand for new marketing opportunities as well as new subjects that you can learn and master. In other words, not only are you reaching out to new segments of the market but you are honing new skills that should help diversify your brand’s expertise.

    The hardest part here, of course, is trying to find your new niche. If you have been catering to the same demographic for a while now, it may be hard for you to find an alternative audience to target. To make this easier for you, try looking at the demographics that your competitors are marketing to. You can even do a bit of research yourself and find out what areas the industry that you are a part of that has yet to be tapped. Either way, you must not limit your brand’s audience to just one segment of the market.

  • 5. Get SyndicatedAssuming that you are already doing any of the strategies above, you must then try improving your presence online, For starters, you can start going into new social media channels and online platforms to add them to your marketing plan.

    Once your presence online has widened, you can start digging back to your library of published content and distribute them to these new channels. Of course, there is the tried and tested method of collaborating with other content creators and online influencers to attract new audiences to your brand.

The key to surviving the plateau lies in mixing and matching strategies and combining them with the tools at your disposal. However, you should not lose sight of your goals as you move forward. Keep in mind your priorities while trying out new things and you should do well while everything else is stagnating.

Letting Go

When in a plateau, sometimes the best strategy for survival is to downsize your operations, If your resources are low, there is a risk to insisting that you operate on the same scope or maintain the same number of marketing channels or paying the same number of people for their work. You have to let go if you want the company to stay afloat.

It’s the hardest thing to do but, like having to gut your first animal to survive in the wild, you have to make some serious decisions if you want to survive. There are a few tips that should make this easier for you like the ones below.

  • 1. Make a ListThis is basic but essential. Make a list of all the channels that you are operating in, the tools that you have at your disposal, and the strategies that are currently active for your sites. Make sure that you have data on these like their monthly performance, web traffic rates, audience engagement, and other important metrics.

    Then slowly arrange them according to their performance with the strategies that are netting you a decent amount of traffic at the top and those that are performing poorly at the bottom. Once done, you will have a good idea as to what to cut off.

  • 2. Remain ObjectiveCleaning house can be hard. After all, you are letting go of people who have helped and worked with you for years. When you have to confront someone with the truth that they are about to be let go, it pays that you remain objective while listening to their questions.

    Be honest at this time but don’t cause panic. If you tell someone that you are laying off because the business is on hard times, it tends to lower workplace moral even if you didn’t intent for that as a consequence. Choose your words carefully and always remind your people that it’s their performance, not their character that is being scrutinized here.

  • 3. Take a HitLastly, make sure that you can convey to your people that the downsizing is also impacting you in some way. For example, since you are downsizing, it would make sense that you should take a pay cut until things turn around. A plateau can be a hard thing to go through so a bit of solidarity with your staff can help them understand that whatever you are doing is going to be the best for the team as a whole.

In Conclusion

A plateau is not the easiest thing to pass through. More often than not, your business is not going to be the same organization wise after passing here provided, of course, that you manage to survive this phase.

However, you have to understand that business plateaus, like their real-world counterparts, are naturally occurring things. If you don’t hit a plateau in your marketing campaigns, then good for you because you are one of the lucky few. However, if you do face one, it would be better that you be creative enough in finding solutions to make your stay there not only comfortable but worth the while.

Do you feel that your business is reaching its plateau online or have you faced on in the past? What other strategies have you used to keep your business afloat as you went through it? Let us know in the comments below.






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If you enjoyed this episode you may also love listening to:

Part 1: Buying Back Time

Part 2: Multiple Income Streams

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