The Evolution of a Blog, a Brand, and a Business

by Marcus Sheridan

Looking outI strongly feel one of the reasons individuals struggle at times in business, and in life, is because they want to know *exactly* what the future holds. And because of this need to see the future before living the present, it becomes a classic case of “paralysis by analysis,” and nothing great is ever achieved.

When I started The Sales Lion(TSL), I honestly had no idea what it was going to be. In fact, the only thing I knew was that I had an impression that I needed to start a blog where I would talk about some of my thoughts and feelings on the subjects of sales and marketing. It was almost as if the teacher within me was ready to explode, and TSL was the only possible outlet at the time.

But as far as a “business model” was concerned, there was none.

Like every newbie blogger, my goals for this site initially were very simple: I just wanted anyone to read it. I yearned for my first comments. I eagerly anticipated social media shares. I practically lived and died by “numbers” in general—going so far as to check Google Analytics two, three, even four times a day in the first year or two of the site.

After the first 12 months of writing here on TSL ( around 12-1am in the morning due to my other work obligations with River Pools) I don’t think I’d received the first lead, much less earned a single cent from all the work I’d put into it. To say it was slow going would be an understatement. I was a small fish in a big pond and for the most part, I was unclear of which way to swim.

Notwithstanding, I kept swimming.

From Blog to Business

But as time passed and I continued to reflect while writing about the things that were on my mind, the professional path for which I now walk slowly became evident. I realized that if I was going to make a career of TSL, I was going to need to treat it as a business, and the content here needed to reflect that. With this new shift and focus, I finally started to generate leads, and before I knew it I was consulting on a light level with a variety of small businesses, as well as speaking at the occasional conference.

In 2012, after roughly 2.5 years of continuous hard work, things finally started to turn the corner enough that I was able to completely leave my swimming pool company—becoming a silent partner—and turn The Sales Lion into my full time focus. With this focus, I was able to grow my client base, speak at more events, and get a “feel” for what would come next.

Today, with 2014 now here, it appears I’m moving to the next phase of the business, as you may have already noticed by the new header of TSL or by seeing my background on Twitter—both of which are essentially symbolic of the two emerging components of the brand today.

Component 1: The Sales Lion has evolved into what I would consider a “modified digital marketing agency” over the past year.  Currently, we have dozens of clients around the globe where we focus on content marketing, copy-writing, SEO, web page design/conversion, and HubSpot consulting. As you might imagine, no longer is it a one-man gang around here. Although we have multiple members of the team fulfilling different roles, the main two are Rich McElaney (VP of Business Development) and George Thomas (HubSpot COS expert, Lead Designer, and Head of Creative here at TSL). With The Sales Lion, our core goal right now is to create incredible case studies of our customers who, by following sound principles of digital teaching and communication, are able dramatically build their brand, business, and bottom-line. And as I’ve said before, our plan is to share their stories often so as to help other businesses see such success is absolutely possible, no matter the niche or industry.

Along with the site's header, my personal twitter background now reflects both components of the TSL brand today...

Along with the site’s header, my personal twitter background now reflects both components of the TSL brand today…

Component 2: The other side of the developing brand is a personal one—Me. More than ever before, I see my future rooted in speaking and teaching. Whether it’s a content marketing workshop, a conference keynote, or my own hosted event (RGE)—this is the thing, at least professionally, that brings me the greatest joy while potentially impacting many, many people at the same time. The photo you see in the header was taken at a live event and I love it because it seems to perfectly encapsulate the joy I experience each time on stage.

Now granted, there will be some that may not like the new header, the Logo, my photo, etc.—but I’m OK with this. Heck, I’ve gotten tons of flack over the years for standing with a Lion, but just as I felt during that time, today I feel the new header represents where I am as a business, and more than anything , it feels right, which is very, very important to me.

Not only has this visual aspect of the brand changed, but today the things that motivate me are clearly not what drew all my focus 4 years ago upon starting this blog. I’m not driven by social media metrics or blog comments any longer. Google Analytics rarely gets opened. Although I appreciate each of these things for what they are, I find myself today more concerned with numbers that truly matter— the amount of lives I’m (or my company) is able to change.

Looking Ahead

I share this information with you today because I want readers to see the evolution of this blog and company over the course of 4 years and realize that “having a plan” or “knowing exactly who you are” can be seriously overrated at times. In fact, I’m a firm believer in the idea that the only way most of us can see any glimpse of the future at all is if we’re willing to start walking the path, knowing that if we continue on our journey, new trails will appear.

For me, new trails are appearing every day, and for that I could not be happier. Furthermore, I look to the future with a smile. Sure, I may not know where it’s all headed, but I do know I’m going to enjoy the journey.

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