This is a guest post from Cindy Bidar, whose online career has spanned multiple specialties, including content and copywriting, marketing and operations management, coaching, and consulting.

When I was first starting out online, I didn't have money for courses or coaches or amazing mastermind retreats. Instead, I spent a lot of time reading blog posts and forum threads (yes, before Facebook groups) and I discovered something important: You can get a great education for free if you're paying attention–and not only to what people are saying, but also to what they're doing.

Step 1: Click Those Ads!

The weirdest things show up in my Facebook feed.

Most times, it's what my husband is shopping for (no need to hide the birthday gifts when Amazon so readily lets the cat out of the bag). That in itself is a great lesson in retargeting.

Sometimes the ads are truly bizarre though. For a while, I was seeing products and services for gym owners. Next came the egg candlers. Then miniature purple outhouses. (Seriously.) All those strange ads made me curious. Why was I seeing them?

One click on those three little dots in the upper right corner of the ad will tell you. Even better, it will give you some insight into how you can target your own ads.

This one is most likely using a “lookalike” audience as well as using my profile information. A lookalike audience is a feature of Facebook's advertising platform that allows you to upload a list of customers or leads. Facebook then takes that list and what they know about the people on it, and uses it to find others who are like them.

Step 2: Opt-In (Even if You're NOT Interested)

Sometimes an offer is truly irresistible. That checklist or worksheet might make creating your sales funnel super easy and nearly painless. A training webinar may reveal a new marketing strategy you never considered. Coupon codes? Always a winner.

But what about those things that are so far outside your interest that they barely even register on your radar? The other day I opted in for a metabolic quiz. Of course I knew that the goal of the ad was to get me to buy some new diet plan or shakes or pills or something. I'm definitely not interested–and still, I willingly gave them my name and email.

Why? Because I wanted to see how the quiz worked, and it turned out to be a fantastic lesson in what's possible, if you have the technology.

Even though I didn't want what they were selling, I now have a new marketing idea and tool to share  with my clients. For a WordPress developer, it might spark an idea for a new plugin. A relationship coach may find a new way to engage with potential clients.

New ideas are everywhere, but if you're too annoyed by marketing messages to notice, you might just miss them.

Step 3: Pay Attention to the Journey

I don't go on vacation just to lounge on the beach or hang out by the hotel pool. I love lunch at the airport or in a small-town diner, and even the empty highway miles that encourage great conversation with traveling companions. Getting there really is half the fun.

And just like road trips, there's more to opting in to a mailing list than arriving at the destination. If you're too focused on that end goal, you might just miss some really educational roadside attractions along the way.

  • Derek Halpern's Social Triggers email list cleverly avoids issues with double opt-in with a very cool confirmation page. (And if you don't click that link in your email quickly enough, you'll get another request. Some may find it annoying. I think it's an amazing use of technology, and I want to know how he does it!)
  • Nicole Dean and Melissa Ingold are all about sexy back ends, so CoachGlue makes an irresistible offer on their download page.
  • I take a different approach on my blog. I want to know what you struggle with most, so I take the opportunity to ask with a simple survey. (Then I use that information to create new content, but that's a story for another day.)

If you aren't sure what to include in your funnel, opt-in to a few. You'll get a good idea of what's working, and what you definitely do not want to do as well.

Your online education isn't limited to ads and opt-in offers either. You can use this technique to reverse engineer member sites, shopping carts, sales funnels and more. Click links in emails to see where they go. Study sales pages and pay attention to the language and imagery that intrigues you.

Then when you're ready to dig deeper, you'll have a good foundation to start with, and more importantly, you'll know what's possible. That foundation will allow you to choose paid courses that will grow your business, rather than waste your time.

About the author: Cindy Bidar's online career has spanned multiple specialties, including content and copywriting, marketing and operations management, coaching, and consulting. She's had the privilege of working with some of today’s most profitable online businesses, and has helped train 7-figure marketing teams and overseen the set up and management of hundreds of marketing and sales funnels.

Through her training programs and one-to-one consulting, she helps her clients scale their businesses by creating automated systems that improve conversion rates, increase sales, and add more profit to the bottom line.

About the Author

I'm all about Content Marketing & Community Building here at Love People + Make Money. I love to collaborate, so never hold back from sharing your ideas with me! - Kelly McCausey

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  1. Great post Cindy! These are all brilliant ideas even for those of us who are spending money on our business education, no matter how long we’ve been I’m business. I think we get jaded and try not to sign up for things after we’ve been doing this for a while. Thanks for the reminder of why we should!

  2. Yes, yes and yes. I used at least one of these when I couldn’t afford to pay for coaching and you are correct, you learn a lot and gain great ideas. Sometimes people who cannot pay think they cannot start but that is not true. You give amazing insight here on how to get some things going even if you cannot afford marketing help. Awesome article!

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