Did you ever wonder what the trick is to making your content go viral? Why do some things catch a person’s attention and compel them to share while others do not? Edward Sturm claims to have the answers to these questions and more. He’s an SEO and content marketing consultant who’s experienced personal success by creating viral videos online. Sturm currently works with big-name companies to teach them the tricks of the trade. He also offers a video series and e-book on his website to help individuals learn how to get the most attention for the content they post online.
Why did you start your business?
In college, my co-producer and I started making videos together. I wasn’t initially good at it, but I taught myself to have an intuition for what people liked and what they felt compelled to share. Over time, I learned how to come up with content that would go viral. We created videos that got tens of millions of views and got us into many publications and on many TV shows.
When I graduated college, I went to work for some faceless corporation, and I hated it. I decided I did not want to do that. I didn’t want to be confined to a box. Corporate life was not for me.
My co-producer and I started making videos for people. One of the coolest ones we did was for Simone Dinnerstein, one of the most renowned pianists in the world. Through family connections, she reached out to us and we made a video series for her for a website called Grand Piano Passion. We also continued to make videos for fun that got millions of views. We realized that we could teach this to people. That’s how our business was born.
How did you get the funds to get going?
We used personal savings. There was low overhead to get started. When we decided to do a PPC (pay-per-click) campaign, we borrowed some money from family and friends.
Have you heard of business credit?
Yes. I don’t have any business accounts, but once I start scaling in the future, that’s something I need to do.
Managing the Business
What’s most challenging about running your business?
My biggest challenge is that I’m endlessly ambitious, and there’s not enough time to fulfill all my ambitions. There’s so much that I want to do. I wake up excited every morning! I get six hours of sleep, which is too much – I wish I could sleep less! There’s not enough time in the day, week, month, year to do everything I want to do. In the future, we’re going to scale, so I need to hire employees to do the things I’m doing now, so I can move on to bigger and better things.
How do you finance your business to manage cash flow or growth?
I have a die-hard belief in myself and what I can accomplish. If we have a hard month, we’ll dip into our savings to pay for the month. We know that what we’re doing has more of a potential for long-term success than short-term. It’s worth the lack of immediate gratification. It’s work that I really, really love doing, so it feels good to do it.
Do you use trade credit from your vendors or suppliers?
No, we don’t use trade credit.
What’s the biggest mistake you made early on?
When we started producing videos for people, we didn’t ask for enough money. We were doing way better work than what we were charging people for.
Also, when we created our product, it was a mistake to pay for PPC to drive traffic to it. We should have focused on list building and SEO from the get-go.
What’s the smartest thing you did in your first year?
We didn’t give up. We were stubbornly hardheaded. We were eager to learn, we were eager to work, and we were eager to take chances.
One of the best things about me is that I’m not afraid to look stupid to get new information. I have the ability to make everyone my mentor. I will ask very dumb questions if I don’t know what something is. Because of that, I learn when other people are too afraid to admit their lack of knowledge.
What’s the most rewarding thing about owning a business?
The most rewarding thing is helping people. We recently gave our product to an old Native American woman who lives on a reservation. She was very poor and could never afford what we charge for the product. She started putting videos on YouTube, inspired by us. I put one of her videos up on our social media site and got it about 10,000 views. It was great to see her joy from getting the product for free and from having traffic driven to her videos. It made me feel good to have helped her.
We give the product away for free to people who can’t afford it because we’re obsessed with “Thank You Economy” ideals. We want to create great relationships with customers for our own benefit, but also because we like seeing other people happy.
What does the future look like for your business?
Our website will get more traffic. I will use what I’m learning about my customers to create really great products for them. I’ll work with more inspiring and disruptive companies. I’ll be part of more industry panels and talk at more industry events. I will create a video more successful than “Gangnam Style” or a viral trend similar to “The Harlem Shake” or the “The Ice Bucket Challenge.”
What advice do you have for someone starting a business?
Don’t be afraid to look stupid. A lot of entrepreneurs shoot themselves in the foot because they’re afraid for people to see them fail, so they don’t do everything they need to do to get a business off the ground. If you’re trying to get a business off the ground, it’s a highly competitive market and you need to go above and beyond. People aren’t willing to do that because they’re not willing to make it known that they’re trying. They don’t want their peer group to see them trying with a business that’s not immediately successful. Don’t be afraid to have people see you fail – Go full force.
This article was originally written on February 12, 2016 and updated on February 15, 2016.