This is the first of a series on business models online. We profile some of the most successful online entrepreneurs and delve into where they started, how they monetize and how they have set up their business online.
Who is Marie Forleo and how has she built her business?
Like many aspiring entrepreneurs, Marie Forleo started out working a job for other people. As a business finance graduate she worked for the New York Stock Exchange, followed by stints for magazines. Like other entrepreneurs out there, Marie’s passion lay with building a brand for herself, which has since grown into a multi-million dollar empire. In 2001 Marie started her own business as a life coach, followed by stints working as a hip hop instructor, choreographer and producer.
As with most start-up businesses, Marie’s early days were as a one-woman band where a lot of her focus had to go into generating revenue to make ends meet. She sold a coaching program which has since grown into the hugely successful B-School, a staple amongst many entrepreneurs when they are getting started with online marketing. Since those early days, the one thing that has remained consistent has been her unique branding of putting a refreshing spin on how we do business and personal development.
A pivotal moment for Marie was the realization of the importance of consistency in building a successful business. We’ve talked a lot about following a consistent content plan and that is essentially what Marie has done with her various content endeavors. When she started publishing Marie TV once per week, everyone knew what to expect and when, so her following grew even further. It’s that combination of unique, refreshing content delivered with consistency so that her fan base are eagerly waiting for her next video or blog post.
Giving content away for free (without giving up everything!) is a valid strategy that has worked well for Marie. As a business-building technique, this allows customers to self-select themselves and to already be engaged with her brand by the time they make a decision to purchase.
Branding has been a vital component of how Marie’s business has grown and one thing she has done well is to establish that unique branding right from the outset of her business. Her style is a quirky and refreshing blend of business advice coupled with personal development and a business model which embeds her values at its core. For example, a huge part of Marie’s business is in supporting causes which are close to her heart – each program that she sells helps to support those causes, and thus give her customers the satisfaction of both gaining useful knowledge and knowing that they are helping to make a difference.
An important lesson here is in establishing your unique brand early and remaining consistent to that brand in every business decision, content strategy or public image that you have. It’s a great way to develop and keep a strong following.
Get the word out
In an interview with Forbes Magazine, Marie revealed how, when she first began her business she was funding it from her work as a bartender. Now, you may not relate the two, but Marie used her time as a bartender to connect with people, talk about her business and gather contacts for her email base. As newly-minted entrepreneurs, sometimes we are shy about talking to others about our business, but the fact is, if you won’t do it how can you expect others to?!
Next up, gather as many testimonials as you can and feature them prominently on your website. Marie’s site has a number of customer testimonials on it which really help prospective clients to make an emotional connection. As entrepreneurs we all share similar challenges so to hear about the experience of others is a powerful tool to use.
Fast-forward a few years and Marie has reached a level of recognition such that other well-known entrepreneurs are often found doing the talking for her! She has been interviewed by both Oprah and Tony Robbins, and Sir Richard Branson has not only invited her as a mentor at his Centre for Entrepreneurship in South Africa, but has partnered his Virgin Unite charity with her.
Quality, consistency and a unique perspective for solving the problems of clients – in summary, these have been key factors in the rise of Marie Forleo as a highly successful online marketer…