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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{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Bella February 24, 2014 at

One word: inspirational!

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Marcus Sheridan February 28, 2014 at

Two Words: Thank you!! ;-)

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Jay Baer February 24, 2014 at

Congrats, my friend. Loving the new direction!

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Marcus Sheridan February 28, 2014 at

Thanks my man, I owe much of it to you…seriously.

Looking forward to catching up in San Diego,

Marcus

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Laura Click February 24, 2014 at

Congrats on the new direction, Marcus! I’m excited for you and what lies ahead!!!!

I think in business you have to have vision, but understand that how you accomplish it may evolve or change along the way. I think you’ve encapsulated this perfectly. You just have to start and adjust as you go. Again, congrats!

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Marcus Sheridan February 28, 2014 at

You’re so sweet to stop by and share these words Laura. Thank you!!

And thank you also for all your support over these past few years, it’s truly appreciated :)

Marcus

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Don Stanley February 24, 2014 at

Super excited for you and the growing pride brother! It’s amazing to see the progression and evolution. Seeing what you’ve accomplished to this point, all I can say is watch out world!

And you know Rhino Nation has your back. If we can help the pride out, let us know ;-)

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Marcus Sheridan February 28, 2014 at

You’ve been an incredible support to me Stanley. Thank YOU brother! :)

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Jon Loomer February 24, 2014 at

Love it, Marcus. Thanks so much for being an inspiration for the rest of us. Love the new design, too.

Congrats!

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Marcus Sheridan February 28, 2014 at

You the man Loomer. So excited we’ll be able to hang in a few weeks :)

Marcus

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Darin "Doc" Berntson February 24, 2014 at

Marcus,

LOVE the new look my friend. I remember when you had people voting on your logos last year, was wondering when they would show up.

Now you just need to update your copyright notice in your footer to 2014! LOL’

Doc

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Marcus Sheridan February 28, 2014 at

Indeed I do Doc…let me get on that brother!!

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Ryan Hanley February 24, 2014 at

#roar

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Adam Dukes February 24, 2014 at

As others said, I love the new design. I have been a TSL reader for a little over a year now (I remember spending Christmas in ’12 reading your ebook on my phone on my parent’s deck in Palm Springs). When I got home, I emailed my list letting them now about it. I often mention you in Facebook groups when marketers ask “how do I generate leads for a XYZ company?”

Thank you for the inspiration and all the value you create for our industry. Your blog is one of a few I read as soon as I receive an email.

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Marcus Sheridan February 28, 2014 at

Adam, you are the man brother. I just hope you know how much I appreciate your support and positive words when you come by the site here. It really means so much to me. :)

Hope we’ll catch up IRL in 2014,

Marcus

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mark Peditto February 24, 2014 at

Love it man. Your dedication is evident in all you do. FYI since you don’t check stats anymore i thought you might like to know your page rank for river pools and spas is now a 5. That’s huge considering most if not all manufacturers are sitting at a 2. Your page views stats are ridiculous. Keep up the great work ethic. My new site is finally completed. Check out the Google image of our depot on the footer of all my pages. The street view image coordinates are some of the best photos i have of our facility. This picture widget is really getting some action and lets customers visualize who we are instantly when entering site. Let me know if you have any suggestions. Talk to you soon.

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Marcus Sheridan February 28, 2014 at

Mark, you’re a good dude to me man, and I always appreciate it when you comment here and leave such thoughtful words.

Barrier Reef had a little conference this week and I spoke to some of their dealers—really hoping some actually apply what they learned, but we’ll see.

I truly hope you have a tremendous season and I’ll be checking out the site.

Talk soon,

Marcus

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Hashim Warren February 25, 2014 at

I love sharing your story with anyone who will hear it. I’ve gotten a few people at work to understand content marketing through your case study

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Marcus Sheridan February 28, 2014 at

So glad it has helped you a bit Hashim :)

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Lisa Poff February 25, 2014 at

Love the new look and the great team you have assembled. We’re so excited to be on this journey with you. Congratulations.

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Davina K. Brewer February 25, 2014 at

As someone who’s been with you along the way a few years now, I think you know who you are, always have. It’s maybe what you do, how you do it that’s shifted. From the first time I heard you give a presentation, I knew you’d excel at being a speaker – not just b/c your personality and enthusiasm shines but b/c it’s YOU. When you give a talk, you teach something worth learning. It’s not a blog rehash or sales pitch for your book or biz; it’s real, helpful, practical and usable.

Congrats on the new look, the developing biz Marcus. FWIW I’m sure there’s more good things to come.

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Marcus Sheridan February 28, 2014 at

This was an incredibly kind and thoughtful comment Davina. Really, thank you for it but also for your support over these years. And the way you described the “shift,” yes, that’s exactly it…seems you know me better than me! ;-)

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Craig McBreen February 28, 2014 at

Hey Marcus,

I just wanted to drop in and say Congratulations!

I’ve known you a few short years and it’s amazing to see how you’ve grown. You’re certainly an inspiration to me … and many others feed off your positive energy. (A lightning bolt from the mid-atlantic).

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Ian B March 1, 2014 at

Thank you for sharing your inspiring story. It is always great to hear about someone believing in themselves. A wise man said “you have to believe it then you’ll see it” & “the cave we fear to enter holds the treasure that we seek” Keep up the good work!

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Steve Roy March 3, 2014 at

Marcus,
You are THE man! When we met several years back, I knew it was just a matter of time before you were absolutely crushing it! You inspired me with your wisdom and insight and I have never forgotten the lessons you shared with me.

Keep up your good work, my friend..

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Recensioni Broker Opzioni Binarie March 4, 2014 at

Thank you for sharing your story, it’s was useful information for me.

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Markupcloud March 4, 2014 at

Such a incredible way to express the thoughts. Great Attempt. I had bookmarked your web and wish to receive some more valuabel content soon.

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Sagar March 5, 2014 at

Thank you for sharing your motivational story. such stories where people believe in themselves and do things and gain success are worth listening. Surely you story or your path would inspire many people , especially teh one who are new to this online marketing field.

Wonderful post.

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Mainak Halder March 6, 2014 at

True and great post. I love that you said “I was a small fish in a big pond and for the most part, I was unclear of which way to swim.” – You sound like me! I have been working as a freelancer for past 3 years. Right now I’ve engaged myself in blogging, internet marketing and wordpress blog designing. Because, the earning become limited if I engaged my whole day in writing. Thanks so much for sharing! I think you and I would make good coffee buddies since we seem to approach things the same way. Since distance separates us, I raise a cup of virtual coffee to you! :)

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Marcus Sheridan March 7, 2014 at

Virtual coffee accepted Mainak,good luck on your journey!! :)

Marcus

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Peter Caputa March 7, 2014 at

I just did a search for “inbound marketing seeing the light” and one of your early articles popped up, Marcus. It earned you another link in my blog post today. Funny how that SEO thing works.

I couldn’t agree more that it’s silly to plan too much and that paths taken lead to unimaginable paths in the future!

It’s also cool to hear that you’re measuring your success based on the positive impact you have on other people. Followers and visitors and leads are just a path to that!

Let me know how I can help.

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Korah Morrison March 10, 2014 at

Hello there, You have done an admirable job. I will certainly share it and personally recommend to my buddies. I am sure they will be achieved positive results out of this site. :) Thank you.

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Jake Makere April 2, 2014 at

It is inspiring to see all your hard work taking fruit like that. The part about turning your site into a business is what I aspire to do. Thanks for sharing.

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Jake Makere April 2, 2014 at

Also, I forgot to add. It is easier said than done, and for every 1 successful blog I read, there are probably 10 that has failed, and didn’t survive long enough to write something like this article.

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