Building business and blogs with extreme value

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Every once in a while, you stumble upon a story or an experience that brings you back to Earth.

Something that reminds you to ask if you’re spending enough time creating extreme value…instead of extreme image.

I struggle with this in business all the time.

In large part, because I have so much fun marketing and copywriting. It’s like a giant puzzle to me. Which is why I was so thrilled to read Maki’s column over at and have the opportunity to touch base with what really matters.

Here’s a guy who launched a blog about making money online (it’s really so much more) and grew it to 10,000 subscribers in the first year. That, alone, is an astonishing accomplishment. For any blogger, in any niche. But, what makes it so much more remarkable is the way he went about it…

Breaking all the rules…

The first thing Maki did was break all the rules about what you need to do to grow a huge readership online. First, he picked one of the single most-crowded niches on the planet to enter. ..with no prior reputation. Conventional wisdom would’ve called this blog-suicide.

But, what’s even more remarkable is what he didn’t do to get from 0 to 10,000 subscribers in one year. According to him, he didn’t:

  • Advertise
  • Guest post
  • Have guest bloggers
  • Flood high-traffic blogs with comments
  • Front-page in social media sites
  • Write daily
  • Write short easy-to-digest posts
  • Rely on social-proof by displaying his feed-count (though there was nothing he could do to block his Alexa rank), or
  • Run contest, promos or any other gimmicky incentive to get people to subscribe.

Heck, other blogs have made their names on the backs of revealing how they built readership using these very techniques.

Instead he, in his own words…”maximized his signal, while minimizing his noise.”

Translation, he turned all the energy that so many others (yes, even me) have spent on marketing to creating highly-differentiated, opinionated, well-researched, full-blown, resource-laden, can’t-miss articles.

In short, he swapped extreme marketing for extreme value.

Can anyone do this, in business, blogging and careers? Honestly, probably not. But, it’s not due to lack of skill, but rather…lack of will.

In blogging, it requires a maven’s voracious interest in knowledge acquisition, a deep desire to share that knowledge and the ability to do it in a way that is clear and compelling enough for others to stop, take notice and stand in line for more.

In business, it requires an investment in time, energy and, many times, the money needed to develop your products, services and processes to a point where they serve the needs of a community so much more effectively than anyone else that, again, people will walk past every competitor on the block or the web for the opportunity to buy yours.

In career-evolution, it requires a level of mastery, confidence and influence that drives you to be seen not as somebody who knows how to get the job done, but someone who knows how to do it better, faster, cheaper and with more ease and likelihood of success than anyone else.

Cultivating the level of mastery needed to deliver extreme value is really hard work.

It’s not that these skills are unattainable by most people, it’s that most people won’t put in the effort to cultivate them on a level that rises to the ability needed to deliver extreme value. Because, it’s really hard work.

And, if that work is viewed and experienced not as a passion-driven pursuit of knowledge and skill, but, rather soul-less work needed to serve a market-need, most people will never put in the time needed to “make” themselves capable of delivering extreme value.

This is especially true when, as I noted my my earlier article on marketing and innovation, there are often so many other ways to get you “most” of the way there that seem to take far less effort. And, this is especially true when, as is my case with marketing and copywriting, you also have a maven’s interest in the art and science of bringing those other ways into the picture.

But, Maki’s success at accomplishing what thousands of others aspire to by delivering extreme value is a potent reminder.

It reinforces the power of not just picking a market where you know demand exists and then spinning your way into serving that market “by any means necessary.”

But, rather picking a market that is not only hungry for great solutions, but that, by its very essence, inspires the effort needed to develop the ability to deliver extreme value to that market through the pursuit of a personal passion.

It reminds me of the need to find work that makes me come alive, build on that energy to become great at it and then leverage that greatness to generate whatever additional “returns on my investment” are needed, beyond the opportunity to engage in the pursuit of a personal passion.

Ponder that!

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13 responses

13 responses to “Building business and blogs with extreme value”

  1. […] to my RSS feed. You can also contact me directly and please feel free to do so. Thanks for visiting!This is a great blog post by Jonathan Fields about the real reason to be successful. Beyond the buzz about marketing, to be really successful, […]

  2. Hi – interesting post. I was also surprised when I read that Maki hadn’t followed “the conventional” way of promoting his blog.

    It must also take a lot of faith in yourself to pull off what he has achieved.

  3. Megan says:

    I love Maki’s blog. Interesting how so many people network differenlty. Its always great to get different viewpoints on advertising, marketing and blogging. Thanks for pointing this out to you readers.
    A big Thumbs up


  4. Benson says:

    he certainly did it in a very non-obtrusive and impressive way.

    not many did as impressive as him. another one i can think of is Leo from ZenHabits.

  5. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ Catherine – Yeah, it’s truly amazing what content driven by extreme value can do.

    @ Megan – My pleasure, I’l be doing a lot more “case-studies,” so I figured why not start out by spotlighting Maki’s.

    @ Benson – Yes, Leo has a fantastic blog, too, though, he’s worked social media exceptionally well to land a ton frontpages and traffic.

  6. And ask these “worshiped gods” of yours to do it again and they’ll of course successfully build million dollar empires uneasily shaken, but they can not. They don’t know how.

    They lucked out!

    Skill is great but all is made possible with chance and timing.

  7. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ Seeds for wealth – Thanks for adding in the idea of timing. No doubt, having the right product/service/message and delivering it at the right time to the right market it crucial. You can call this luck, but I look at as more an understanding of market-dynamics and willingness to consistently take changes until “the stars line up right.”

    Though, I have to tell you, if you were looking for examples to support your point about timing and luck…Maki and Leo are actually really bad examples.

    Both entered extremely crowded markets long after they’d been established and, by all outside appearances, completely over-run will far more famous people saying everything that could be said. Conventional wisdom said the ship had largely sailed.

    These regular guys (not worshipped gods) both succeeded largely on the differentiation of their messages, really hard work and some serious networking savvy…not on their fortunate timing. And, in fact, contrary to your point about them being able to do it again…both are.

    In fact, Leo’s new blog on writing has more than 1,000 RSS subscribers…in the first week. And, while Maki’s kept mum on his other ventures, I know he has many other’s going.

    Still, thanks for bringing in the concept of timing and luck. Probably something I should write more on soon.

    Anybody else have thoughts on this?

  8. Shama Hyder says:


    I am a big fan of providing value. (No brainer). But I also think that marketing plays a huge role in establishing our reputation. I would go as far as to argue that providing solid content and value IS the first step in marketing.

  9. Shama Hyder said it all here! So now I don’t have to repeat it!

    “I would go as far as to argue that providing solid content and value IS the first step in marketing.”

  10. mariam says:

    Maki certainly did it differently. Although he didn’t market extensively, he is a social media MASTER. It really gives pause as to building your pillar posts for yourself and promoting it to the right people of influence…

    And honestly, I do think this is the best way to go about it in the long run. It might be a slower process but you work for it instead of instant gratification of contests and what not, only to flame out when the noise is gone and you are left alone to blog to an empty audience.

  11. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ Shama & Corinne – I’m in total agreement, so is Seth G. Providing extraordinary value is, in fact, a critical “marketing” event.

    @ mariam – although Maki didn’t end up on Digg, he did cultivate a substantial social media network outside of Digg. But, his ability to do this was built largely on the extreme value and differentiation of his content. In a way, it gave him social media “street cred.”

  12. Pinny Cohen says:

    I think this is one of those cases where you can step in either box, but you get harmed in you have one foot in each. High value is great, but takes a lot of time to create. High image takes less “thoughtful” effort, and also succeeds. However, when you mix some and some, you tend to have readers who either don’t believe in the extreme value you created, and don’t truly reach high image.

  13. […] Building Businesses and Blogs With Extreme Value This is some brilliant advice for anyone considering starting a side business. Chief among them: what are you going to offer that’s unique? If you can’t answer that, why would the world beat a path to your door? (@ jonathan fields / awake at the wheel) […]