Web.Search.Social Marketing Podcast

Meeting With An Unhappy Client

Just recently a client requested a meeting with us because he wasn’t happy with the results of his Google AdWords. We’ve been managing his ads for a while and things have been going well, but during December of last year, everything took a nosedive.

It turned out to be a seasonal issue, and something we see often. But he didn’t know that, so he was worried. The good news is that we have a line of communication open with him, as we do with all our clients, and we’ve kept him apprised of his results all along. So instead of a difficult, confrontational meeting, we reviewed the December results, discussed the issue and made an action plan to go forward.

And everyone went home happy. The point of telling this story is that we received a question from a listener who is currently worried that she doesn’t know what she’s paying her marketing company to do.

And it got us thinking about how even though we go through difficult periods with our clients, even though not all of our efforts succeed, our clients are always in the loop and always know exactly what we’re doing on their behalf. And if you’ve hired a marketing company, then you should, too!

Cheap Marketing?

We once pitched a prospect who was working with another marketing company, paying $19.99 a month. For that price they got a Google analytics report sent to them each month.

That doesn’t do much for a person’s marketing but it was apparently enough for our prospect, who had no interest in paying our fees. In their case, they knew exactly what they were paying for, and thought it was fine.

But if you’re paying someone like us, who charges a minimum $1500 per month investment to act as your marketing department, then you sure as heck want to know what you’re getting - and you want to sure as heck know that it’s making you money.

Don’t be fooled by low monthly costs. Price is not always the best indicator of results. If you’re paying a lot for a little, it’s no better than paying a little for even less! Even if your budget only allows for a few basic services, know what those services are. Know what you can expect and know where your marketing dollars are going.

Where Is Your Money Going?

One of the things we know for certain is that our clients always know what they’re paying for. We send them monthly reports, not entirely different than the ones that the other company sent to our prospect for twenty bucks. But the report is not as important as the context.

We provide the context, which means we let our clients know what the reports mean, and why. We give them the good and the bad, and an action plan for going forward. Sometimes parsing through all of the data is challenging for our clients, so by giving them a summary report, we highlight the key points - and will get into as much depth as they want.

Beyond the monthly summaries, we also send our clients weekly updates. Those are 100% personalized, detailed emails that let our clients know what we worked on the prior week, what went well, what didn’t, and what’s coming next. Sometimes we ask for approvals. Sometimes we ask questions.

So our clients always know what we’re doing. Sometimes they don’t want to know! People who have been working with us long enough sometimes tell us to skip the reports because they probably won’t read them anyway. And our answer is always the same: never!

They can read our reports or not read them if they choose, but the reports are there. For good reason. We never want someone to feel that they aren’t in the loop.

In fact, we need them to be in the loop because we need their input. You can’t hire someone to market your company and then expect them to go away and do it. You’ve got the braintrust that your marketing agency needs. YOU know best about your business, about your clients, about your products and services. Marketing is a collaboration, and your involvement is essential.

If you’re not having regular meetings with your marketing company so you can tell them what you know, it’s time to start!

What If You DON’T Know What You’re Paying For?

If you either don’t know what someone is doing for your money, or if you sort of know but aren’t clear, then simply ask. Sit down and ask questions, as many as you want, as many times as you need.

A company that cares about your business and is truly working on your behalf will be willing to do that. If you do ask, and still don’t understand, then either something is amiss, or you’re just not clicking with that team and it may be time to find a new one.

Know The Players

Sometimes when you hire a company, you may actually be working with more than one company. That’s not unusual but it should be transparent.

For example, our company, Rahvalor Interactive, works with Asano Designs, our business partner’s design company. We handle content, and he handles branding, so we may work with the same client in two different capacities.

The important thing is that you understand that. You don’t want to be surprised one day to find out that you’re not really working with who you thought you were.

Depending on your preferences, you may want to work with one company as your main point of contact and have a second or third company working behind the scenes. That’s ok too, as long as you understand the people involved and their relationships to you.

Some clients want us to play point. That means we do the project management, we send the bills, we handle the communications, and other companies we may collaborate with, from design to IT to sales, all work under our umbrella.

Other clients prefer to work individually with each company.

Either way can work, but they key is first, know who is involved, and second, be sure they’re all collaborating to the benefit of your business.

Check Your Expenses

One of our clients got a renewal notice from his registrar for some other services, and asked us if he should keep them. There were about $1,000 of services that he was literally not using. Either they were services that we were providing so paying for them again was redundant, or they were things that he simply didn’t need.

Of course we told him not to renew, but not everyone bothers to ask. I’ve known plenty of people who have paid for multiple hosting accounts at the same time because they simply never thought to wonder if they needed those services.

Almost all registrars will try to upsell you on something, and sometimes those things seem so obviously necessary (even when they aren’t) that before you know it you’ve added lots of extra fees to your bill for things you didn’t need in the first place.

So before you pay another service fee, ask why. Ask what for. And make sure its doing something for your business!

If you’ve got questions about how we can help you with your marketing, or just want to share your thoughts and stories, get in touch and let us know. We look forward to hearing from you.

Direct download: 0183-do-you-know-what-youre-paying-your-marketing-company-for.mp3
Category:marketing -- posted at: 12:00am EST

Podcasting From A Pool Table

If you’re podcasters or know a podcaster, you probably have also heard stories about how podcasts actually happen. Or more importantly, where they happen. Rumor has it that podcasters are a determined bunch, and when a fully equipped studio does not present itself, will podcast from bedrooms, bathrooms, closets or even cross legged on the floor under a blanket.

Today we’re picking up the mantle and doing our share to keep podcasting real by doing it from the surface of a pool table. It’s a little awkward, propped on pillows so we can get a chair to the right height, and leaning in because the mics are sitting down behind the ledge and a pocket, but we promised you two podcasts a month and darnit, we’re going to give you two podcasts a month.

WordPress 5.0: Should They, Shouldn’t They?

Last episode we promised to discuss WordPress 5.0 and how we (and our clients) felt about the new Gutenberg editor.

Turns out there are at least some people who don’t love the update. And they are pretty vocal. They’ve taken to forums to let their displeasure be known. Some of them have valid points, some just seem to want to complain. Notably, Matt Meullenweg, the manager of WordPress, has responded to the complaints with a pretty stellar diplomacy that does not actually involve apologizing.

In a world where it seems like every negative tweet gets a company to issue a giant mea culpa, we think Matt took a good approach to dealing with concerns without back pedaling.

Ralph and I have a different opinion on one of the complaints we heard a lot: should WordPress have issued this release during the Christmas holidays? I say no, because it’s a supremely busy and stressful time for a lot of people. Ralph says that for him, business slows down in December and if something has to change, that’s the ideal time for him.

The short story, is that business decisions will please some people and make others cranky. So you’ve got to do what’s right for your business, the best you can.

The Rant

Whether or not it was “the right” time for a big WordPress release is open for debate. But we did have some practical experiences that weren’t exactly fun.

If you’re not entirely familiar with the change, WordPress’s “classic” editor was an empty box on the page. You plunked in your text, your images, your links, your short codes, whatever you needed. It had formatting options for headings and lists and all sorts of things, not so different than you might find in a Word document.

The new editor is based on the premise of “blocks”. Each thing you want to put on the page is now its own block. A text block, a photo block, a short code block. Now, instead of one “editor” where you did everything you needed to do, there are an indefinite stack of unique “blocks”. That adds a level of complexity and a bunch of extra steps that I simply did not need.

As someone who has experience using the visual editors of premium themes, Gutenberg is just redundant. If I want to build a page layout, I can do it with the theme widgets, rather well.

If I want a blog post, all I have to do is paste in my content, drop in the images and go.

But now… theoretically… I need a block for the text then a new block for the photo and yet another for a video or a podcast player.

When I first converted my posts to blocks, each paragraph was in its own block. That was ponderous and unnecessary and I didn’t see how that improved either my content creation or my workflow.

Here’s an example of a “why would you do this?” moment. One of the things I’ve heard people exclaim is so exciting is that now you can change the background color of EACH paragraph. But I wonder, how many people need one pink paragraph and one blue one and one yellow one? This doesn’t seem like a selling point to me.

On top of that, some of the conveniences are now gone. For example, keyboard shortcuts don’t seem to work at this point. So we lost productivity for the sake of some oddball layout tools that we could have gotten from about a thousand layout plugins if we wanted to.

How About The Clients?

Turns out they’re not too fond of it either. Now, I realize that change is hard, even if it’s good change. There is some resistance to new things so I’d expect some pushback even under the best of circumstances.

But this time, the complaints poured in. Nobody understood it. Nobody knew why it worked certain ways. Nobody could figure out how to do things they’d been doing for years. Suddenly common things stopped behaving the way they were expected to. And other things stopped working altogether.

So we dealt with the problem by installing the classic editor plugin, which you can do for another two years or so until it gets completely deprecated. Until then, we will continue doing what we know, the easy way. And in two years we’ll figure out what to do then.

If you’ve tried Gutenberg, we’d love to know what you think. Love it or hate it? Has it made your life easier or given you cool new tools? Or did you go right for the classic editor plugin?

Why We Get Up In The Morning

We got an email from Cyndi, our friend and one of the family owners of Simpson & Vail tea, asking us why we get up in the morning. She asked how we keep ourselves motivated doing the same thing day after day.

For me, there are two things that I really enjoy. One is writing, and the other is small business. I enjoy writing in general, which is a big chunk of my job. And I have a soft spot for small businesses and want to help them succeed. So I enjoy being able to do something I enjoy in the service of helping people that I like.

Ralph adds that he also enjoys what we do because it affords us the opportunity to travel and work from essentially anywhere. He also likes people, and the people we work with. He likes meeting the people who use the products and services of those businesses and hearing their stories.

A Tea Story

One of the stories we enjoyed this holiday season was one we helped create. We bought Ralph’s mother a bunch of Simpson & Vail tea for Christmas because we got her hooked after buying her their Advent calendar. She’s really enjoyed it and has even taken to blending her own from bits of leftover flavors.

We suspect she still doesn’t know the Simpson & Vail name because she calls it “the Fancy tea.” It has turned into quite the conversation starter.

We both agree that it makes for a good story that could be used to help market the product, because we bet people can relate to those stories more than they do to the latest sale or product announcement.

And stories can also give you a good reason to get up in the morning! Hearing them from customers can be motivating and have an impact on how you tempt new customers to join your culture.

A Creative Outlet

Besides the enjoyment of what we do and where we do it, I also think it’s important that our jobs provide us with a creative outlet. Everyone needs some creative fulfillment that stimulates their imagination and brains. Sometimes monotony is born when the creativity dies. It’s important to do something that fulfills that role.

Case in point, one of my clients sells plastic boxes. Plain, nondescript plastic boxes. And they only sell them to distributors and in bulk to big companies, so it’s not like something that goes to a consumer for fun things like crafts or storage.

Turns out this strangely “boring” topic is one of the most rewarding, fun projects because it requires a lot of wracking of brains to come up with creative ways to make a clear plastic box sound interesting.

What’s your creative outlet? And why do YOU get up in the morning?

Shoot us a comment, ping us online, and let us know what you think so we can revel in your stories, too!

Direct download: 0182-from-wordress-to-tea-the-good-the-bad-and-the-fancy.mp3
Category:marketing, business -- posted at: 12:00am EST

In Which We Return From The Left Turn We Took After Our Last Hiatus

Last time we met, Fred, it was on the Carbon Based Business Units podcast. That was the podcast we started after a hiatus during which we decided to leave Web.Search.Social and marketing behind, and talk business instead. But then we took another hiatus and sort of… disappeared for a long time.

Without too much ado, we want to let you know that we’ve decided to return to Web.Search.Social because we can’t quit you, Fred, and we apparently can’t quit marketing, either. We have lots to say and lots of thoughts on the matter, and we hope to share our experiences with you so that they can help you grow YOUR business.

In Which We Discover That Nothing Really Changes

We figured that at some point between April of 2017 when we left Web.Search.Social behind, and now, there might have been a lot of changes in marketing. Lots of new stuff, lots to talk about.

And while we certainly have things to say, it turns out that… nothing has changed. The same 10 steps are being written, the same 6 tips, the same old same old. Boring!

Our job is, first, not to bore you. Second (or maybe first, part two…) we want to share our thoughts and experiences with you but never by telling you what you “should” do or “have to” do. There are no secrets here, no roadmaps to perfection.

We’ve got 20 years running a marketing business, and that’s 20 years of experiences, mistakes and even successes that we can share with you.

In Which We Are Reminded That We’re Old

When we first started marketing, Facebook didn’t exist. Twitter didn’t exist. Heck, websites barely existed! But marketing did, and marketing is about people.

So however you do it, marketing is about the people who buy your stuff. You can take advice and listen to what others say and do if it seems to work for them. But don’t let anyone scare you off from taking your own chances, from trying new things, or from straying from the “steps to success”.

In Which We Get Excited About Bandersnatch

Have you seen the new episode of Black Mirror that is an interactive “choose your own adventure?” We thought it was fun, but not everyone did. There were plenty of critics who loved to hate it.

We’d love to know what you think, but in the meantime, have you noticed how the minute someone does something different, people come out of the woodwork to share their opinions on why it was such a terrible idea?

Personally, we don’t think this is any way to run a business. If you spend your life worried about what the critics will say (and they are the vocal ones!) then you’ll never take any risks and never learn anything.

If you want to throw your two cents into the conversation, you’ll just have to listen to the rest and let us know!

Our plan is to release an episode every other week so stay tuned for our next episode when we (or at least the “I” of we) complain about the new WordPress. Let’s just say that I was not as entertained by WordPress’s foray into the new and different as I was by Netflix.

In between, we’d love to hear from you! Jump in to introduce yourself, or reintroduce yourself and tell us what marketing challenges YOU face.

Happy New Year!

Direct download: 0181-in-which-we-learn-that-ralph-and-carol-lynn-are-not-dead.mp3
Category:marketing -- posted at: 12:00am EST

[wsspodcast type="podcast" episode="181" note=""]

Hey Fred, Did You Lose Weight?

You’re looking pretty good after all this time! And it has, indeed, been some time. In fact, it’s been a year and a month almost exactly since our last podcast.

So we jumped back on mic to say hello – and goodbye, but more on that in a moment.

We actually recorded this episode in February but it’s taken us this long to coordinate the release of this last episode with the release of our new podcast… but wait, we’re still not up to that part!

So What The Hell Happened To Ralph And Carol Lynn?

We’ve been asked an embarrassing number of times why it’s been so long since our last podcast, so here’s the short story.

Last March, right after our last episode, our cat died. He was the second of our babies to go – we lost his sister two years ago at almost the same time. And he had been sick for a while, which meant he got a lot of attention and care from us and we spent a whole lot of time with him. We didn’t go out much, because he needed us. In essence, we spent two years of our lives in cat-mode, and when he was gone the house got very, very quiet.

And empty.

And sad.

So we had to deal with that emotionally and it was hard.

In the meantime, we were still growing Rahvalor (our marketing company). And we were working with new business partners on another company, developing a software product. In May, we drove out to Nashville for a trade show where we launched that product. It was a lot of much-needed fun and once we left the sad confines of our house we never wanted to go back.

So we didn’t.

The Adventure

When we returned from Nashville we decided to sell our house and move nowhere. That is, we decided to travel for a bit and see where the world took us.

We planned it meticulously – when we’d get the real estate agent, when we’d put the house on the market, when we’d likely sell and where we'd go next. In the midst of all that we were working on building ANOTHER company, which we’ll talk more about later, so in the midst of planning a move, we were also running three businesses.

And then our meticulous house-selling plans derailed. Instead of following our timeline, we got cash buyers almost immediately and, well, they wanted us out. We had a month to pack up sixteen years of STUFF, get it into storage, figure out where we were going and leave.

So yeah, podcasting was sort of not on the radar.

We missed it. But we missed our sanity, too.

Podcasting While Location-Independent

Since we sold the house and left, we've worked and traveled, traveled and worked. We camped out with family in the Boston area for a bit. Then camped out at the family beach house in Brigantine, New Jersey for a few months while we worked on our businesses. In between we’ve been to Chicago, D.C., Orlando, South Carolina, Georgia, and Franklin, Tennessee.

Running our marketing business along with two startups has been challenging and fun. It's kept us busy, but it's also kept us from podcasting. We've been dying to talk to you again, so we figured out how to do that and be on the road at the same time.

A year later, we’re back, location independent, and recording from our mobile rig. With a little help from friends - well, to be fair, with a lot of help from one specific friend, the amazing Chris Curran of Podcast Engineering School - we bought and set up just the right equipment so we can essentially podcast out of a box.

We don’t have a house and don’t plan to for a while, but that can't stop us now!

Goodbye Web.Search.Social

And now, the grand finale.

But wait! you say. Aren’t you podcasting again?

We sure are. But Web.Search.Social is retiring and we’re moving on.


Because after 180 episodes we feel like we’ve said all we want to say about web, search and social marketing. And in our last few Web.Search.Social episodes we started to talk more and more about business and entrepreneurship, so we decided to rebrand and take things in more of a business-y direction.

That doesn’t mean we won’t be talking about marketing, but we want to talk about more than that. We want to take on doing business – owning, running, managing, dealing with the good and bad.

And so we’ve rebranded and will be podcasting under the new name.

Welcome To Carbon Based Business Units Episode 181

Yes, that’s the name of the new show, and after much debate, we’re starting at episode 181 instead of episode 1. We disagreed on whether it was a new show or just an evolution of Web.Search.Social, and evolution won.

Ultimately we’ll still be us, and you’ll still be you, Fred, and we’ll still be talking with you about growing your business. We want to share our experiences so they can inspire and help you, too.

If you’re wondering why the new name, it comes from Star Trek, where they refer to people as “carbon based units.” Over the years Ralph has referred to me as his “carbon based wife unit” and we’ve extended that to parents and other people, too.

And it just seemed to fit with our belief that if you’re running a business, you can’t separate “work” and “life”. It’s all part of who you are as a whole human. Sometimes you have to run a business while taking care of a cat with cancer, and there’s no line between them. It’s all part of life.

That’s what we want to talk about – the whole thing. How business informs the personal and personal informs the business and how it’s all intertwined.

Join Us – Our Podcast Is Moving!

If you’re on our email list, you don’t have to do anything. You’ll still get updates when new episodes are published.

However, if you’re subscribed to Web.Search.Social in iTunes or some other podcast app, you will no longer receive episodes of our new podcast after this one. You will need to subscribe to Carbon Based Business Units instead, and you can do that by simply searching for the name in your podcast app.

If you’re too excited to wait another second, you can hop on over to our new website right now!

You’ll find the first episode there along with subscription options.

Thanks for coming along on our journey this far, and we hope to see you on the next leg!

Direct download: 0180-the-times-they-are-a-changin-a-new-adventure-awaits.mp3
Category:marketing, business -- posted at: 3:15pm EST

WSS #0179: Ian Anderson Gray On The Business And Personal Sides Of Conference Speaking

The Inside Scoop On Speaking Gigs

Today we’re joined (again!) by our second favorite Brit and Chief Executive Research Dude Ian Anderson Gray because he recently spoke at a conference called Social Media Summit Ireland and we want to hear all about it.

Paid Or Unpaid?

We talk a lot about not doing stuff for free, and that can include refusing to speak at an event if you’re not paid to do it. But there are some pretty big events that don’t pay speakers, and yet they seem to get great speakers every time. How is that possible?

The thing for Ian is not so much what the literal dollar amount is, but the long-term benefits of participating in the events.

Ian says, “It’s all about connecting with other people. You never know what’s going to happen.” Ian has built relationships, engaged in masterminds with people he has met and developed a referral network that has contributed tremendously to the growth of his business.

So even though he didn’t get paid for the event, he did profit from it – not just financially in the long term, but personally, professionally and emotionally. He got a lot of value out of sharing ideas and learning from other people. And, as Ian admits, it was fun!

Fun Is Underrated

Ian says something we agree with wholeheartedly, and that’s that sometimes we all take ourselves too seriously. We do our jobs seriously and take our competition seriously and sometimes lose ourselves in things like process and progress and productivity.

But going to an industry conference can be a great opportunity to meet new people – especially those you may only know online – and have some fun. Sometimes it’s what happens in between the sessions and after hours that makes the biggest impact.

And since we mentioned competition… we also agree that people who work with the competition are far more successful than those who merely compete. In our business, we’ve gotten referrals from people who would be considered competitors, and we’ve referred business to them. Because not every client is right for every person and not every job is right for us – or you.

So even if you’re not attending a conference, it’s a good idea to think about how you can tap into that power to grow your own business, whether through networking, masterminding or just being a good human.

Travel Takes A Personal Toll

This all sounds amazing but it makes us wonder how Ian balances his international speaking with work and family. It’s true that all that travel can be tough. Ian misses Helen (our first favorite Brit) and his kids. He doesn’t want to miss time with them growing up.

It’s also time consuming. All those days and hours he’s travelling are days and hours he isn’t doing any client work.

So Ian has decided to limit his speaking to a certain number per year so that he can do what he loves – teaching and speaking – and still be with those he loves – his family.

We knew that guy was smart!

Why Are You Speaking?

Ian says that you have to be honest with yourself about why you’re speaking. And whether it’s even right for you. But you may not know that unless you actually do it. The day before his first speaking engagement, Ian says he was a nervous wreck. He had no idea why he had agreed to speak in the first place.

But once he got in a groove on stage, he realized that he loved it. He loved making people laugh, communicating and educating. He still gets nervous but he says that if you’re not nervous – if it’s too easy – you probably don’t care anymore and should reconsider why you’re doing it. Being nervous can actually help keep you on your game.

Links & Resources

WSS #0178: Nadia Bracken Brings The Hotness

We Have The Best SuperFreds

Just recently one of our favorite listeners sent us the most amazing gift – a Cuisinart tea brewer that lets us set the perfect temperature for any kind of tea we could possibly want. It’s gotten quite a workout since arriving on our doorstep from the wonderful Nadia Bracken and we don’t know what we did to deserve it, but we definitely appreciate it!

We think we’ve converted her to be a Simpson & Vail fan, too, which is icing on the cake – or honey in the tea, perhaps.

Thank you, Nadia, for bringing the hotness – literally! And while we’re on the topic of tea, don’t wait another second before you try SV’s Beatrix Potter blend. If you like chamomile, this is the perfect treat.

Speaking Of SuperFreds And Tea…

Our friend Cyndi (code name) Chamomile over at Simpson & Vail forwarded us yet ANOTHER email from the same persistent marketer we made fun of on one of our recent episodes. If you missed it, the emails started out as standard automated marketing then got more and more annoying as the sender apologized (rather unapologetically) for persisting.

In this latest installment, the sender helpfully tried to make responding easier for Cyndi, by asking her to respond with a single letter – A, B, C or D – where each letter represented a different response.

A. I’m busy but check back

B. I’m not interested… and so forth

We suggested she respond with “E” – I’m too busy making fun of you to respond!

We Asked, Mike Answered: Does Automated Spam Marketing Work?

In a recent episode we challenged Mike Brooks to find out whether persistent, pushy, obnoxious email marketing works – and why. You’ll have to listen for the full humorous effect but Mike’s answer boils down to: it works because people send out such a massive volume of emails that even if a fraction of a fraction of them turn into money, that’s still a lot of money. Plus if aggressive spam marketing didn’t work, people wouldn’t bother doing it, would they?

Thanks to Ian Anderson Gray for his dramatic reading of Mike’s reply.

You Know Who Else Markets Aggressively? Jehovah’s Witnesses.

They do it via a different medium – door-to-door rather than inbox-to-inbox – but it’s the same concept. Nag, nag, nag until someone reacts.

We’ve been asked to be removed from their list myriad times but somehow they always end up on our doorstep on a Saturday morning trying to sell their brand of faith.

This isn’t a commentary on the faith but rather the way it’s marketed, and that’s aggressively, persistently, with complete disregard for the “unsubscribe” option.

We wonder: does that damage their brand? Who decided this was a good way to market, anyway? And how well is it working out? Maybe it follows the same premise of spam email marketing. Flood enough inboxes and someone is bound to buy. Knock on enough doors and someone is bound to convert.

For Ian, he says that aggressive recruiting is not appealing. Like everything he does, Ian prefers the “relationships first” approach, whether in matters of business or faith.

We’d love to have a Jehovah’s Witness on our podcast to talk about their branding and marketing – would you listen?

Links & Resources

Direct download: 0178-nadia-bracken-brings-the-hotness.mp3
Category:marketing, business -- posted at: 12:00am EST

WSS #0177: The Creative Process Is Not All Rainbows And Unicorns

A Repeat Performance From A Fan Fave

Today we welcome back Christopher Leone who made an appearance on our podcast almost exactly a year ago to talk about his film (or is it TV series?) Parallels. If you haven’t caught it on Netflix, you’re missing some sci-fi fun.

Funny story… we had just been thinking about Chris, whether there would be another Parallels release and what he was up to these days when like a karmic explosion we got an email from him saying that he was working on a book and would love to talk to us.

Likewise! And thus this conversation was born.

A Creative Maniac

Chris has created a LOT. Parallels, which brought us to him, a TV show called the Lost Room, other short films, a comic book, and now he’s working on a young adult fiction novel about a mysterious black orb… but let’s not do any spoilers.

He does so much that we can’t help but wonder how he does it. He’s got a pretty smart answer, which is that he tries to work on only one thing at a time and keep going until it’s done before he takes on another project. For creatives who can easily find themselves starting and starting and starting… the idea to “finish what you started” is pretty good advice!

Getting started on the creative process is fun. So many ideas! So much potential! It’s easy to fall off and look for the new shiny thing as things start to feel like “work”. But more on that in a minute.

Chris The Storyteller

Chris defines himself as a filmmaker. We define him as a storyteller. Sure, he makes films. But he always tells a story. Sometimes that’s through words, sometimes it’s through visuals and sometimes it’s even through sound. Especially when you’re working in a medium like film, your story really does hinge on all these pieces.

Ultimately, whether you’re telling a brand story or composing a film, you can tell it in different ways through different senses.

We want to know: why is he writing a book, especially a young adult novel, considering his filmmaker identity?

Turns out he’s writing a book for the same reason he made a film – because he has a story to tell! But more importantly, it’s a story he wishes someone had written for him when he was a young adult and craving a good sci-fi read.

And don’t let the genre fool you – it’s easy for grown ups to fall in love with young adult fiction, too. Just think Harry Potter and Hunger Games. That’s exactly the kind of story Chris wants to write and we’re confident that he can (and will!)

And Then There’s Marketing

Right now Chris is using Inkshare, a site where authors can work to get their book project funded through fan pre-orders. Once a book gets a certain number of orders, then it will be able to get published through Inkshare. So that helps mitigate the risk of doing the writing, the editing, the cover design, the printing… and then falling flat on orders.

He’s also participating in a contest hosted by The Nerdist and if he wins his book gets automatically funded. (And if you have a moment, be sure to give him some SuperFred love and up his chances of winning by ordering a copy for your favorite kid – or yourself! Just look for the book called Champions of the Third Planet.)

But it still begs the question: how is he getting the word out?

For starters, he already has a fan base so he’s been able to tap into that. He’s also done a lot of social media promotion. Chris says he isn’t doing anything “the traditional way” and that means he doesn’t have a 10-step plan and a 6-month forecast and secret to success. He tries something… and watches to see what works. And then he does that thing.

Ultimately it’s also about the relationships he’s been building along the way. People he’s reached out to, like us, who he can reconnect with and who are happy to host him. Fans he’s engaged with. If you listen to our podcast often enough, this should all sound very familiar by now!

The Creative Process

For Chris, he doesn’t start with a story in his mind. He usually gets a visual that sparks an idea. “A girl is coming out of the woods.” Not a three-act plot but it’s enough that he starts asking questions. Who is she? Why is she there? What’s she doing?

Chris says something fascinating about his own creative process. He says most of the time, it’s not creative.


Well, it turns out that doing creative work is still work. Sure, it can be fun. Having a great idea is fun. Getting started is fun. But after that? It’s all about sitting down and grinding through, getting it done. Putting the words on a page. Editing, fixing, checking your inconsistencies, editing some more.

There’s this myth about creative people that all this stuff just flows. You hang out in your pajamas, on the beach, fulfilling your deepest passions and living the dream! Artists, musicians, authors… they all just hang out sipping sherry or something and everyone wishes for that life.

But doing creative work is not all rainbows and unicorns. Sometimes it’s not fun at all. Sometimes it’s frustrating and head-pounding and boring. Sometimes you hate it and wish you were selling insurance or changing a car tire.

Like most creatives, Chris is a tad perfectionist. We’re often told, “Just write, don’t edit, let it flow then go back later…” Pft. As anyone who has sat down to write knows, you can get hung up on fixing that one weird adjective for… well, a really long time. Chris likes to “get it right” before moving on and sometimes that means getting stuck. But he also says that you have to be aware of when you’re doing something that’s improving your writing and when you’re just changing for the sake of change.

Being creative is tough work!

Everyone Needs An Avatar

Funny enough, Chris has an avatar for his ideal reader, the same way that we talk about having an avatar for your ideal customer. Remember how we said it’s a story he wishes he could have read when he was a kid? Well, his book is a story he’s writing for his ten-year-old self.


Your Action Item

From Chris: Call your parents. Right now. When you’re done, start your creative project. Life is going by. And unless you start now you might still be standing there in a day or month or five years and you will never have reached out for what you want. So whatever that creative thing is, start it.

Links & Resources

Direct download: 0177-the-creative-process-is-not-all-rainbows-and-unicorns.mp3
Category:business -- posted at: 12:00am EST

WSS #0176: Time Sucks, A Yucky Interface And Other Business Conundrums

Please Welcome Our Favorite Brit!

No, it’s not Ian Anderson Gray though he comes in at a close second. It’s Helen Gray, the other half of the amazing Gray team and she joins the Web.Search.Social family as the official voice of our intro.

She’ll now be reading the episode number and has already recorded a bunch for us so we can record and shuffle the release dates without worrying that the episode number is stuck in the live recording.

She’ll also be introducing the Seriously Social Moment and has given us a couple of hilarious bonuses that we’ll throw in somewhere unexpectedly.

Thanks, Helen!

The Delightful Beatrix Potter Tea

We’re featuring a brand new Simpson & Vail tea this month! It’s safe to say we’ve become somewhat of tea snobs. No more bagged junk for us. And we’ve certainly had our pick of the good stuff thanks to our friends over at Simpson & Vail.

This month it’s the Beatrix Potter blend which is an amazing herbal blend of rooibos, chamomile, rosehips, spearmint and lemongrass. Want to guess why we’re featuring this tea? Other than the obvious (it’s delicious).

Because Easter is coming up! And Beatrix Potter, famous for her children’s stories, wrote The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Bunnies… Easter… just seemed to fit.

This is a refreshing treat so try a tin from svtea.com.

PS: Their tins are beautiful. We’ve got a bunch of samples in bags and we’re slowly replacing them with SV tins because the only thing better than tea is beautiful tea!

Your Time Is Being Wasted For You

Today we piggyback a bit on our conversation from two weeks ago about automated emails, but not from the standpoint of how to get them right or wrong. We’re looking at them (and other things) as time-sucks.

The problem isn’t the automated email. It’s the automated email and the automated email and the automated email… and the follow up automated email. It’s the unsolicited email. And the spam email.

And even the spam comments and phone calls and things that force you to pay attention to something other than running your business and making money.

When you get an email, even if it’s spam or unsolicited, you have to do something with it. Even if it’s a few seconds to open, determine it’s useless and delete it, that can add up to a whole lot of seconds in a day.

Ralph got – yet another! – unsolicited email from a company, this one asking him to recommend developers who are looking for a job to their staffing agency. Ralph had a pretty good interpretation of this email: “Stop what you’re doing and do this thing for me for free instead.”

Basically, that guy (or girl? Nobody knows, it wasn’t signed.) asked Ralph to do his (or her) homework.

We suspect that email was spam but spam or not, it still required Ralph to stop what he was doing, process the contents of that email and then choose what to do with it.

Our friend Cyndi Harron of Simpson & Vail fame forwarded a couple of emails she received to help prove the point. Someone essentially sent her a “buy my stuff” email – unsolicited of course – and then followed that up with a “did you read my email?” email followed by a “can you connect me with someone else who will answer my email?” email followed by a “are you still interested in my product?” email.

STILL interested? How about NEVER interested!

It amused us but think about it – that was four or five emails that she had to stop for. Process. Act on. All for nothing.

How many of those do YOU get in a day?

Mike Brooks Gets Homework

We figure that people send these emails out because they have some success rate. We have no idea what that could possibly be when everyone we’ve ever spoken to is wildly annoyed by this type of solicitation. But if persistent, aggressive emails didn’t work, people would stop sending them, right?

So we get Mike Brooks on the case, who is a fan of automated emails (the good kind) and tell him to find out what those stats are. We also want to know if this kind of thing has a negative impact on a brand.

Get busy, Mike!

Your Seriously Social Moment

What do you think about Snapchat? Ian wants to know! At first he thought it was just for teens, or just the new shiny thing. But then he tried it and fell in love with it. He says for him, it’s about sharing ideas and thoughts, telling a quick story and doing it without being a perfectionist.

On the down side, he says it’s not intuitive and the interface is “kind of yuck.” But if you’d like to give it a shot, it could be fun! You can even connect with Ian with his username iagdotme.

Time Is A Slippery Beast

Even when you’re not dealing with nagging emails and minutia, your day can get derailed by bigger issues.

Recently we had just such an issue. Turns out that a number of recurring credit card transactions that we have set up in Quickbooks decided to stop processing. But we never got an error, never got a “card declined” message, never knew anything at all until one day I realized that some of our clients hadn’t been billed for their services. Some for a few months!

And I like to get paid for the work I do, so I contacted Quickbooks support. And they tried to help me, to no avail, so sent me over to merchant services. And they tried to help me, to no avail, finally deciding there was a technical problem that their team needed to look into.

Two days and many, many hours of support later, the issue remains unresolved and I’ll have to check back with their tech team.

Stuff like this happens, and you can’t plan for it. By Murphy’s Law it always happens when you can least afford to spend time dealing with it, but that’s another story.

Sometimes stuff that derails you is even more unpleasant. A death. A health crisis. Our cat was very sick one day recently and we needed to rush him to the vet. Goodbye deadlines.

The question is: now what?

Dealing With Time Sucks

Start by taking stock of the severity of the situation. Are you in red alert mode? Is it something you need to deal with now and fast? Is it something that requires you personally to fix it?

Depending on your answer to that question you can decide what to do next. With our cat, we had to act immediately. And nobody else could do it for us. With the Quickbooks situation, I could meet my deadline then call customer service afterwards.

In other cases, like when I may be having an issue with a vendor, I may ask Ralph to do it. If you’re tied up but someone else has flexibility in their day, don’t be afraid to delegate.

Keep in mind that when it comes to the big stuff, people understand. Be honest about a crisis and let people know what you need, like more time for a deadline, to reschedule a meeting or something else.

And no, you can’t plan for this stuff, but just knowing that things will happen that you can’t plan for is enough. And when they do, cut yourself some slack. Don’t try to do it all or meet impossible obligations and deadlines. Don't stay up all night to make it up. That will catch up with you and can make things worse.

And yes, yes, we do it! Sometimes you really have to pull an all nighter. But do your best not to because a fresh mind and a fresh start will help you think a lot more clearly, especially in a crisis situation.

Big crises are no fun but it’s those insidious little daily distractions that can really eat away at your time. All those spammy, unsolicited emails you have to process in a day, all the crap blog comments, all the selly-sell phone calls.

One way or another they’re in your way and even just hitting the delete button costs you. So be mindful of that stuff. Be aware of the tiny paper cuts that can kill your productivity. Make a plan for how you’ll deal with that stuff, like maybe only check your email twice a day and quickly manage anything that lingers. Perhaps instead of deleting, hit the “spam” button so future similar messages won’t cross your path.

Whatever you do, be aware of these monsters so you can keep them from messing with your day.

Links & Resources

Direct download: 0176-time-sucks-a-yucky-interface-and-other-business-conundrums.mp3
Category:business -- posted at: 12:00am EST

WSS #0175: Warfare Plugins: Saving The World One Share At A Time. A Chat With Dustin Stout And Nick Cardot

Almost Saint Patrick’s Day!

And that means we’ve got the perfect tea for you to try. It’s Simpson & Vail’s Irish Blend – a combination of Indian teas with a dash of Earl Grey and a hint of floral notes. It’s the perfect accompaniment to… well, anything, really. It’s delicious, so visit svtea.com and treat yourself to a tin.

It’s Time For Social Warfare

Our guests today include Dustin Stout, Nicholas Cardot and the Jason Wiser-bot who are the fabulous trio behind Social Warfare Plugins.

Wait… did you ask, “What’s the Social Warfare plugin?” If you did, then you should know that it’s THE social sharing plugin to dominate all social sharing plugins. In fact, for us (and our clients) it’s the ONLY social sharing plugin. It’s beautiful. It works on mobile. It lets you perfectly customize your text and images for different social networks. And it comes with a “frame buster” option, which if you heard our episode on Snip.ly is a thing unto itself.

This isn’t actually a commercial or a pitch. We just love the plugin and have been dying to talk to the guys behind it. We’ve known them online for a while and are glad to finally have them on the show to talk about their entrepreneurial journey.

In The Beginning…

We want to know: how do three guys decide to build a social sharing plugin?

Interestingly enough, they met on Google Plus (win for social media) and hit it off. Dustin shared his frustrations with Nick about how terrible the available social sharing plugins were at the time then mocked up a drawing of what he wanted a social sharing plugin to look like on his site. He brought that drawing to Nick and asked if it could be developed.

At the same time this was happening, Jason asked Nick about a similar problem he was having with social sharing plugins on his own site. Jason shared a few ideas for a better plugin with Nick, who took both Dustin’s and Jason’s ideas and combined them into one – dare we say it – perfect plugin.

Business Roles And Responsibilities

So far this sounds fun. A couple of guys. A social network. A bunch of great ideas and a need in the marketplace. Time to start developing!

Except the thing about starting a business is that sometimes it’s just about the business. You know, that boring sort of business-y stuff that few people like (and those who do are beloved by the rest of us) like shareholder agreements, equity distribution and responsibilities.

Nick says that the shareholder agreement has always been a work in progress and is constantly being revised to fit their needs. For that, you need things like attorneys. And capital. At some point everyone has to contribute to the expense fund, whether it’s for attorneys fees, developers (in their case, Nick was the developer so they didn’t have to hire another), accountants and other costs. There has to be a bank account. There has to be bookkeeping.

Then there’s the matter of “who’s going to do what?”

Unless that’s clearly defined, you could get yourself into some sticky business situations. These boys were smart and made it clear who was responsible for what, right in their shareholder agreement.

Their First Fight

After a while, listening to these guys talk about their great ideas and smart business decisions makes us want to poke the hornet’s nest a little (because you know that’s how we roll.)

So we ask: when did they have their first big fight?

Dustin gives us a nice answer about how they avoid fights by making sure that whenever there is a disagreement or “tie vote” on something, they always defer to the person who has the authority and responsibility in the area they’re discussing.

Still sounds pretty smart to us, and not like much of a fight. So we rephrase the question: what was your most challenging moment?

Dustin comes up with something they disagreed about early on and it turns out to be both relatable and hilariously minor.

As they were building their website and coming up with the benefit points, Dustin wanted to list them as “beautifully responsive” and “lightning fast”… etc.

But Jason and Nick wanted to list them as “lightning fast” and “beautifully responsive.”

The debate over which of the two was more important and should be listed first on the website turned into a heated discussion, followed by market research, followed by a poll on Google Plus, followed by more heated discussion. All over the order of two bullet points.

And yes, we can relate. Sometimes it’s the littlest things that make you dig your heels in on a point.

You Are Not Your Product

One of the challenges we all face is dealing with people who don’t like us, don’t like our product, or experience a problem with our product or service and take it out on us in loud, raging fashion.

The guys have gotten support requests that come across as angry or insulting and they remind themselves that people are not insulting them personally even though it may feel like it. They also take an empathetic approach and understand that the person submitting the support request is, in fact, a person. So they make sure to treat people well – even the angry and insulting ones.

We add that “being a person” goes both ways. Whether you’re submitting a support request or answering one, you’re still talking to a human being on the other end. The internet can make us feel detached but it pays to remind ourselves that the internet is still people.

The Domain Name Challenge

In our last episode we talked about some of the challenges of naming our podcast product, including the fact that even when we came up with a good name, the domain was already taken. So we ask the guys if they had a similar experience because their domain is warfareplugins.com but their plugin is called Social Warfare.

The answer is yes – domains they wanted were taken – but they had an ingenious solution. They named the site and overall company Warfare Plugins (hence, the domain) and plan to use that as the umbrella for the Social Warfare plugin and other, future plugins they have planned. This way they can use one site as their content and marketing hub.

Brilliant! And we can’t wait to see what they’ve got coming next.

A Side Note: We Hate Popups

But they work. Yes, you’ve heard it before but we ask Dustin about the one he uses on his site and what results he’s had. Turns out he hates popups. And don’t we all say that? But apparently we love to hate them because Dustin says his signup rate went up and there was no negative impact on the open rate of his emails. We found similar results when we tried a popup years ago, but we got rid of it because generally speaking people always say they hate them.

Time to rethink that?

Your Action Item

From Nick: learn something new every day. Something REAL that adds to your skillset. Keep improving yourself so you can get better at what you do.

From Dustin: engage your audience with visuals. Don’t worry about not being “creative.” Just go out and create something. Even if it sucks. You’ll get better at it!

Links & Resources

Direct download: 0175-warfare-plugins-saving-the-world-one-share-at-a-time.mp3
Category:business -- posted at: 12:00am EST

WSS #0174: The Challenges Of Naming A New Product Or Business


Naming A Product IS HARD.

We’ve been hinting recently about a podcast tool that we’re developing and one of the first things we set out to do was name it. Four of the partners got together – Mike Brooks, Michael Campasano, Carol Lynn and me – and started brainstorming.

Four months later, here we still are, and our product is still nameless. It’s been a challenging process for lots of reasons and that’s what we’re talking about today because if you’re starting a business or launching a product, you’re going to go through the same thing. We hope our experience can help you.

Different Perspectives

One of the challenges we faced was having four partners involved in the naming, each with a unique perspective. Mike, who is in charge of sales and marketing, wants something with a hook that he can speak from a stage or throw out at a trade show and have it be instantly memorable. Something you can type into a browser and find online even without being told how.

Michael, who is in charge of branding and visual identity, is coming at the naming from a completely different perspective. He sees things in color and imagery and can see how certain words and combinations of words can create compelling visuals.

Carol Lynn wants a good story, something she can tell in the marketing copy, on social media, in interviews and on blogs. Much like Carol Lynn, I want something with a good story behind it, something that is uniquely meaningful.

Somehow we have to get everyone on the same page, and while we’re definitely in the same book, even in the same chapter, we still haven’t agreed on a direction for the name. So in one sense, it’s been challenging. In another, it’s been nice to have the differing perspectives. We have no doubt that when we hit on something, we’re all going to love it.

A Working Title Leads To A Host Of Other Challenges

Early on as we were talking about what the tool would do, Mike compared it to a showrunner. So for a while, that was our working title – Showrunner. It was a fairly literal interpretation, easy to say, easy to remember. But nobody was really convinced.

We also toyed with the idea of naming it after Fred (our audience) and decided that might be too much of an “inside joke.” At first Mike didn’t like that idea. Then he did. At first we loved the idea. Then we didn’t.

On the less literal side, we came up with the name Epodsodic – a play on the word Episode and Podcast. Michael, Carol Lynn and I loved it. We practically had the marketing and logo designed in our heads. Mike brought us back to reality by reminding us of how difficult the spelling would be to explain, and how people were more likely to go to episodic.com, which would clearly not be us.

Remember the part about this being hard?

At the moment we’re still tinkering with the idea of incorporating Fred into the name. We also still like the idea of Showrunner but then the worst challenge of all cropped up…

Domain Squatters Must Die

We definitely haven’t been short on ideas. In fact, we’ve had some pretty great ideas. But where we inevitably hit a brick wall is in finding a matching domain name. We all agree on one thing: we want a domain that matches the product name. And that was one reason we ended up dismissing Showrunner. We thought about DigitalShowrunner.com or ShowrunnerApp.com but ultimately neither of those pleased us.

The problem isn’t that products or businesses already exist under most of these domain names, the problem is domain squatters. These are people who buy up combinations of words and then sit there and wait for people like us who want the domain and are willing to cough up thousands and thousands, or tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Mike calls them a pestilence and even though there’s nothing wrong or illegal about buying as many domain names as you want, there is definitely something that feels unethical about buying a domain you have no intention of using and then waiting for someone who does want to start a business to pay a ton of money for it.

In any case, we (much like most startups) don’t have a ton of money and we’re not going to cough up any thousands of dollars for a domain, so we’ve been back to the drawing board many times just because someone is squatting on the domain.

Your Seriously Social Moment

Ian Anderson Gray says that some automation on social media is good, but you still need to display your humanity. Today he’s got some homework for you, so get busy!

Over the next week, every single day, he wants you to do the following on whatever social network you choose:

  • Ask a question
  • Answer someone else’s question
  • Share one fact about you personally
  • Share what you like doing for fun

You may be surprised by the results!

How To Name A Product (Advice From Non-Experts)

We’re not naming experts but we’re engrossed in the process and we used a few tricks to help us get clarity and come up with ideas. Here are a couple of things we tried.

First, brainstorm! We’re lucky to have five people involved but even if you’re solo, you can still have a great brainstorming session. Invite a friend! Then get a piece of paper and divide it into 3 columns. In the last column, write down what you do. For example, when Mike was naming his company he wrote down “marketing” in the last column.

Then in the first two columns, write words that describe what you do – adjectives, nouns, verbs – whatever says something about that last word. In Mike’s case, he eventually came up with “deliciously explosive” which ultimately became “Nuclear Chowder” – a little bit of ridiculous plus a little bit of interest and a whole lot of visual.

Mike also gave us a homework exercise which was essentially a “fill in the blank” worksheet that required us to write down what our product does – not its features, but its benefits. We had to think about who it is for, what it does and what problem it solves. He calls this our “hook.”

We’ve started the process and we’re currently working on refining that hook. Turns out this naming thing really is hard. And the elevator pitch isn’t any easier! But we’ve been having fun (and mojitos) and we know we’ll end up with something that works.

Introducing… The Podcast Tool

In the absence of a name, we haven’t been able to market our product. We haven’t been talking much about it or building excitement. We haven’t been inviting beta testers or building an email list.

We don’t want to name in haste, nor do we want to miss opportunities to talk about the tool, so we came up with an interim solution. For now, we’re calling it… drumroll… The Podcast Tool. Perhaps most shocking of all, the domain thepodcasttool.com was available! So we snatched that up and now if you want to be a beta tester, you can go there and sign up.

And if you have any ideas, we’d love to hear them. Just don’t squat on the domain!


Direct download: 0174-the-challenges-of-naming-a-new-product-or-business.mp3
Category:business -- posted at: 12:00am EST

WSS #0173: How Do You Make A Niche Business Succeed?


How Can A Niche Business Survive?

That’s the question we tackle with Kate Ahl today, a Pinterest expert who has built a business around working with bloggers on their Pinterest strategy.

And while we enjoy Kate and find her to be a smart and savvy business person, we can’t help but ask, “Does the world really need another Pinterest expert??”

More on that in a minute.

What We Don’t Talk About Today: Pinterest

We’ve done that and so have a billion people before. How to pin, when to pin, why to pin. Promoted pins, boards, repins, graphics. Snooze!

You can swing a rubber chicken and hit Pinterest advice. But what you can’t do is get the inside scoop on starting a business from nothing, taking it from two clients to 45 in less than a year and doing it all without knowing anything about the business you’re about to be in.

That’s Kate’s story and it’s fascinating, with a lot of insight along the way.

It Started With A Frugal Blog

Kate’s husband was out of work. Her three kids were little and needed things like “shoes” and “lunch.” Kate’s family of five was surviving on a thousand bucks a month. Their unemployment benefits had just run out, they were on food stamps and there didn’t seem to be anywhere to turn.

At the time, Kate was helping a friend with her frugal blog (a blog designed around couponing, deals and living on a super tight budget), doing posts and some Facebook promotion. Unfortunately, her friend didn’t have the budget to pay Kate more, but she did make a suggestion that would turn Kate into a business woman…

From Frugal Blog To Brilliant Niche

Just as things were looking pretty dire, Kate recognized a growing trend. Facebook reach had been steadily dropping and bloggers were becoming frustrated with their ability to reach their audiences.

Her friend Angela of the frugal blog suggested working with these frustrated bloggers to help them find alternative ways to promote themselves, specifically by using Pinterest.

Kate thought the idea was crazy. She wasn’t convinced that Pinterest could be used for business. In fact, she didn’t particularly like or understand Pinterest!

But she was in "do or die" mode so she dove in and threw herself wholeheartedly into learning everything she could about how to use Pinterest to drive traffic. At first she was skeptical, but she kept learning and she asked a few people to come along for the ride so she could practice and learn some more.

She started with two clients, who were so happy with the results that they’re still Kate’s clients today.

Even A New Business Needs To Make Money

One of the mistakes we so commonly hear is when new business owners work for free because they’re “building a portfolio” or because they don’t have the confidence in themselves to charge for their services.

The good news is that Kate didn’t fall into that trap. She charged for her services right out of the gate, even while she was still learning. She was completely up front with her first clients about what she could do and how much she needed to be paid for it. And while she wasn’t charging as much as she can now that she’s a real pro, she was smart enough to figure out ahead of time how long certain tasks would take and what kind of money she needed to make so the endeavor would be worth her time.

Oh, and she was also smart enough to track her time to be sure that she was spending a proportionate amount of time for the money she was making. Go Kate!

So How DO You Make A Niche Business Succeed?

Know your audience. It’s just that simple. Kate understood the bloggers’ world. She knew their frustrations. She knew their challenges and problems. She could relate to them and what they wanted to do and she was able to offer them something that made their lives easier and gave them exactly what they needed.

And then she did it very well. So well, in fact, that even though she was still learning, she was starting to get inquiries from other bloggers asking if she would work with them, too. And she was starting to get referrals from happy clients who were telling other people how well Kate understood and helped them.

Kate didn’t invent a product and try to sell it. She didn’t decide on a path and then look for a niche for her services. She crafted everything she did around a niche that already existed, with a service that solved their precise problem.

That’s about as close to a magic formula as you can get.

And then? She raised her rates!

Recognize Your Own Pro Status

Even though we all continue learning and honing our craft, no matter our industry, there comes a point when we’re no longer apprentices and are pretty darn good at what we do. Sadly, we’ve witnessed far too many people undervalue themselves and charge too little for what their time and effort are worth. It’s tough to go from “I’m new at this” to “Pay me lots of money because I’m good at this.”

But if you want to succeed in business then that’s exactly what you have to do at some point. After the learning curve, once the referrals started coming in, Kate had that “ah-ha” moment where everything seemed to click into place. And though it was still a nerve wracking experience, she raised her rates.

And she also said something very interesting. She said, “I wanted to move from being a VA to being an expert. I knew that the amount I charged was going to change how people saw me.”

To that we say… exactly!

Hindsight Is 20/20

Considering how thoughtful Kate was about starting and running her business, we couldn’t help but ask whether she made any mistakes or had a moment of “wishing she knew then what she knows now.”

One of the things she says that she didn’t have was a good system for onboarding and managing clients. Without a good system, she was actually making more work for herself and doing a lot of the same tasks over and over.

Sounds familiar. We’re no strangers to starting a business by the seat of our pants and learning some things the harder way. Kate was smart enough (again!) to recognize her limitations and hire a business coach to help her. It just goes to underscore the fact that you don’t have to go it alone. And sometimes you can’t. Sometimes, even when the money isn’t exactly rolling in, it would still be worth your while to get professional help.

But Does The World Really Need ANOTHER Pinterest Expert?

It’s not like Kate is the only Pinterest person on the planet, expert or otherwise. Heck, we’ve had at least three on this show alone, including Alisa Meredith (who was kind enough to introduce us to Kate in the first place!) Jeff Sieh and Cynthia Sanchez.

And Pinterest is pretty niche. So really, when it boils down to it, why would we need another Pinterest person, and how did Kate manage to build a loyal following in a space that already has plenty of experts?

For starters, Kate says, it goes back to understanding the bloggers’ world. She isn’t just “a Pinterest expert.” She’s “a Pinterest expert for bloggers.” That’s pretty niche.

Being that person, the one who understands bloggers, the one who knows how to get results for bloggers, has helped her build a loyal customer base.

She is also the voice of reason in their world. She doesn’t make crazy big promises about making six figure incomes or doubling their traffic in a month. She’s realistic. She guides them individually in a way that helps them grow their businesses and doesn’t sell them formulas. She communicates clearly and prides herself on helping people succeed.

We finally conclude that the world does not, in fact, need another Pinterest person.

But the world does need Kate Ahl.

Your Action Item

From Kate: In your Pinterest profile, make sure you include a link to your opt-in or freebie. It’s one extra way that you can get people to join your email list. While you’re at it, add that link to you Facebook and Twitter profile, too!

Links & Resources

Direct download: 0173-how-do-you-make-a-niche-business-succeed.mp3
Category:business -- posted at: 11:10pm EST

WSS #0172: How Marketing Automation Fails When It Feels Like Automation


How Many F-Words Does It Take To Get To The Center Of A Bad Customer Experience?

We were going to talk about the challenges of naming our new software tool but about half an hour before we were set to record, an interesting thing happened and it incited a bit of a rant. But it’s a rant with a purpose and a good lesson on the dangers of marketing automation.

Grab a cup of your favorite Simpson & Vail tea (we’re loving the Valentine’s Day blend) and get ready.

Rick Carlson Sends An Email

Somehow Ralph got onto an email list for a product called SharpSpring. He didn’t sign up but for whatever reason they’ve been hammering him with marketing email after marketing email, signed from the founder Rick Carlson.

A few days ago Ralph got yet another email that began with an apology – the variety that basically says, “Hey, sorry for bombarding you with emails but here’s another one anyway.”

Ralph finally decided to see what the heck this software was about so he went to the website and 18 minutes later he got another email – with another apology, this time for being “creepy” – letting him know that they knew he’d been to the website, along with a screen shot of his activity.

Yes, it sounds creepy but hey, we know we’re being stalked online, by everyone from Facebook to Google to “random business down the block.” As marketers we like the idea of being able to de-anonymize our website visitors and put a name to the people who may be interested in our services. So we’re not opposed to what the software does.

What we’re opposed to is the way Rick Carlson has chosen to solicit us with it.

Rick Carlson Declines Our Invitation To Market His Own Product

After that last stalker email, Ralph decided to personally reach out to Rick Carlson and invite him onto our podcast to talk about his product. Rick declined, in a rather perfunctory way, followed by eight more paragraphs of pitching his product.

It was that email that finally sparked the conversation we had today.

For starters, we’re not bothered that he declined the invitation. We’ve been turned down before! But we were bothered by the fact that he did it with nary a “but hey, thanks for the offer.” And we were bothered by the continued solicitations that seemed completely oblivious to the fact that we are, in fact, actual humans with whom one might want to have an actual conversation if one wishes to sell their product.

But Rick was too busy with his automated software doing automated things and showed no interest in the humans at the other end. As a result, we have no interest in him or his product and perhaps more importantly, we are interested in telling everyone what a crummy experience we had with him and his company.

Automation Doesn’t Give Someone Permission To Be A Robot

Rick Carlson didn’t actually send any of those emails except one. The only one he sent was the one declining the podcast invitation. The rest were just automated. And that’s ok, but the minute Ralph tried to engage beyond automation, he was met with… more automation.

The net result for Rick Carlson-bot is that he will never make a sale to us. Not only that but we have close relationships with other agencies that we influence, none of which are likely to buy from Rick Carlson-bot.

Perhaps worst of all, Rick Carlson-bot is trying to sell a product in a pretty crowded niche that’s dominated by some big players like Infusionsoft who do know how to do automation – both from the software side and the human side.

A Better Automation Experience

We were solicited in the past by Infusionsoft, another marketing automation software. The difference was that when the folks over at Infusionsoft engaged with us, they spent some time getting to know us. They asked to speak with us so they could learn more about our business. They spent time making it about us – not about the solicitation.

In the end we didn’t sign up for Infusionsoft but what we did do was refer a colleague who signed up. Then we referred our business partner who signed up. And we’d gladly refer anyone who’s looking for that type of software.

Ultimately it’s only partly about the software. In larger part it's about the experience. Anyone can build decent software. Not everyone can treat their customers as human beings that matter.

The Apology Trend

Have you seen this in your inbox lately? There seems to be some new internet marketing “Do This One Thing If You Want Success" course circulating because everyone is suddenly sooooo sorry to bother me and sooooo sorry to send me (yet another) marketing email.

It’s a disingenuous apology, a gimmick, a hollow marketing ploy. Gimmicks plus automation plus lack of human interaction plus aggressiveness equals failed marketing.

Are you doing mea culpas or doing marketing? How about not being sorry. How about doing better marketing that you don’t need to apologize for, even in a fake, gimmicky way.

Your Seriously Social Moment

Ian Anderson Gray is back today to ask: How do you choose the best tools for your business? Last he checked (and if you know Ian, you know he DOES check), he found over 800 (800!) tools for marketing, social and SEO. There are so many it seems impossible to choose! In a prior Moment, Ian suggested that you start by making a list of tasks you need help with. He says there are 5 common things that people want help with when it comes to tools.

  1. A tool to help build a grow your audience.
  2. A tool to help you schedule content easily.
  3. A tool to help you measure and engage with your fan base.
  4. A tool to help you monitor conversations.
  5. A tool to help you communicate with your team and work together.

Ian says that before you invest in a new shiny tool, do your research because it’s the only way you’ll know how well something performs the tasks you need done. And if you need help, he’s pretty much THE tool guy and you can get in touch and schedule some consulting time with him for help.

Even More Lame Automated Marketing

I got my own dumb marketing email just before we started recording this, from someone whose list I didn’t sign up for either. (Just wondering if anyone is still doing permission based marketing these days, huh people??)

Two things struck me as stupid right in the first sentence. The first thing is that the sender said he “noticed that Rahvalor sends out marketing emails regularly.”

Strangely enough, “Rahvalor” hasn’t sent out a marketing email in years. And if you’re wondering “What the heck is Rahvalor?” then that just proves my point. Rahvalor is our company name. It’s how we incorporated in 1999 and who the checks get written to. But for years we’ve done business as Web.Search.Social and almost never mention Rahvalor.

Let’s assume that somehow this random person soliciting me made the connection between Rahvalor and Web.Search.Social. The hilarious thing about that, is just that morning, Ralph and I had a fight… I mean a discussion because we never fight… about the fact that we haven’t, in fact, sent out a marketing email in a long time to our Web.Search.Social list.

The fight… er, conversation… went something like this:

Ralph: Did you send out that marketing email to our list?

Me: No, I was busy.

Ralph: ROAR!

Or at least that’s how I interpreted it and since I’m writing the show notes, I get to tell the story. The amusing part is how five minutes later I got an email from someone telling me how often I send out marketing emails.

That, of course, was followed by the trite apology… “sorry to bug you but…”

How about this: Don’t be sorry for bugging me, just don’t bug me.

You Can Do Automation If You Remember You’re Still Selling To People

Automation can be an incredible tool. It can save you a ton of time, it can help you stay top-of-mind with minimal effort, it can keep people moving through your sales funnel while you run your business and manage your clients.

It can help you effectively find, vet and target people who may be ideal customers.

But it can’t magically replace you. It can’t engage people on a human level. To win customers, to get people to become your fans and advocates, you will always need to be a person.

Oh, and stop being so darn sorry. Don’t be sorry for marketing. Be confident and proud of your marketing. And if you’re doing something you think you need to apologize for, then stop doing it!

Links & Resources

WSS #0171: Your Brand Is More Than Your Logo: On Messaging, Consistency And Your “Why”


A Content Tease

Our guest today is Craig McBreen and the first thing we want to know is: why do we have to wait a week after signing up for his email list before we get our first branding lesson??

He says it’s all about the anticipation but we’re just not buying it because we can’t wait!

Branding: More Than Just Your Logo

Our conversation today wraps around branding – what it is, why you need it and how to think about doing it for your business. Most people typically think of their logo when they think of branding.

Some people just want a really nice website design.

But branding starts long before anything visual happens. So what is branding, exactly?

Craig says that branding is the intersection of passion and knowledge. You take what you love, and what you know, and you create your message and content around that. It’s thinking about who you serve and how you do that. It’s about the language you use and the personality you bring.

Sometimes you talk to other people (like clients, business partners and colleagues) about what your company is and what you do.

Knowing the “what” and the “why” are key to effective branding.

Personal Vs. Business Branding

We pose this challenge to Craig: is personal branding a thing? Isn’t a brand just a brand? “Personal branding” seems to be a buzzword that marketers use to sell just another service to people.

Craig says that while you do have a personal brand, it’s still part of your big-picture brand and you’re not a separate entity. But people often know and use the term so he also uses it to help engage and guide someone through the branding process. But ultimately, it’s about your message, your what and your why.

Good Brand Vs. Bad Brand

Just because you know the why and what doesn’t mean you have built a good brand. You can know all that and still get it wrong. So we want to know what differentiates the good from the bad.

Craig says a good brand has a direct and consistent message that speaks to your core audience. Your language, personality, message and even graphics and colors are consistent across all your content, from your Twitter cover image to your website to your emails and business cards and everything between.

Conversely, a “bad” brand is the opposite. Your message doesn’t speak to your prospective customers. It’s all you, all the time – what you do, your awards, how great you are, instead of about the people you serve. Your Twitter page and Facebook page and website don’t quite mesh or look consistent. You use different language in different places and it’s likely confusing to people.

Bad Branding? Start Here.

If your branding is inconsistent, off-target or non-existent, get help! Find a professional, collect some clients and colleagues, just get people who can help you tell your story properly. Ask them what’s great – and not so great – about working with you. Ask people what they think you do and match that against what you actually do. Notice the language people use, the consistencies and the misconceptions.

Make copious notes. You’ll need to refer to them to help craft a cohesive, consistent and clear message – one that speaks to the right people.

Then from your message, your graphics, logo and other visuals will follow.

Free Consulting!

As long as we’ve got him, we decide to extract some free consulting out of Craig for our own business.

We have a lot going on. A number of different businesses, with different partners and different branding for each. So we want to know how someone like us manages these different entities and avoids a branding nightmare.

The bottom line is that we (and people in our boat) need a concise message that speaks to the ideal client for each brand. Then we need to be sure to design consistently across the board, from colors to words.

In Craig’s case, he has two companies – one that caters to larger clients and one that caters to smaller clients and solopreneurs. His message is specific to each but he’s done a great job creating some overlap so that when people find him they aren’t confused.

Branding Needs To Be Maintained

Your copy is written. Your logo is designed. You’re officially branded! And now you’re done.

But hold your horses – there’s more to it.

If you’ve done branding right in the first place, you’ve got a bunch of notes from all those conversations you had with colleagues, partners and clients and you have a strong message. But over time, your business evolves. And as you add or remove a service, add a new social network, change a bit of your website, it’s very easy for things to get out of synch. A tiny change in tone here, a different color there, and next thing you know you’re looking at branding death by a thousand cuts.

So over time, check back in with your brand, from the language and message to the colors and graphics, and make the tiny tweaks that will keep it sharp instead of sliding into disaster.

More Free Consulting!

We’ve been considering doing a bit of rebranding ourselves. Our focus has shifted a bit and we feel like maybe it’s time for a change. But every time we present the idea to our listeners and fans, there’s a little bit of freaking out. People don’t want us to change, even though we think it might be time.

So we ask Craig: how do you make that change without pissing people off? Just think of the fit people had when Gap changed their logo, the utter outrage. People get very attached to their brands. Is change worth it?

Craig says that he doesn’t think we’ve shifted so much that we need to start from scratch. With a little tweak, maybe a different tagline or adjustment to our messaging, we could bring our brand in alignment without a scary overhaul.

He suggests maintaining our existing branding elements, like colors and even music, but just being mindful of the messaging. And since we’re still us, our language and personality will still be the same.

Who Is Craig McBreen?

We talked a lot about branding, but Craig is still a guy who runs a business and has a family. So how does he make it all happen?

Craig is right in our wheelhouse when it comes to work and life. He’s learned to work on a consistent schedule (even though like many of us he was used to working until all hours of the night), he meditates each day, he focuses on the tasks that need to be done during the day and then he quits and makes sure he has time to live his life, take time for his family and get in some much-needed down time.

He also has a trick up his sleeve, and that’s planning out his daily tasks the night before. That way he doesn’t have to spend time figuring them out first thing each day. He already knows and can get right to them and get them done.

One Last Question. (Or Two.)

All of the branding talk has been fun, but there’s another issue at hand, which is that a brand is nice, but it does you no good unless you get it out into the world. It hardly matters how great your message is unless you get it heard. How does that happen? Especially when there are so many ways to get your message out? Sometimes having so many options, from web to search to social to email and even snail mail, is paralyzing.

Craig says that you don’t, in fact, need to be everywhere. You only need to be where it works for you. If you’re making connections on Facebook, then don’t worry that you’re not on Twitter. If Facebook isn’t happening, then skip it and try LinkedIn. Don’t worry about where you’re not – just focus on where you are and what’s working.

Ok, but what about all the new social networks and marketing channels that keep popping up? Periscope. Blab. Snapchat. Do you sometimes feel compelled to jump on the latest trend before you miss out?

Craig says that he doesn’t have time to jump on every new thing. For him, LinkedIn works. He’s too busy making those connections and running his business to worry about the new shiny object. Take this advice to heart: you don’t need to be trendy either. If you’ve got time and want to try something, or expand into a new market, go ahead. But don’t feel guilty if you ignore the next live streaming service or opt out of the hottest new social network.

Stay focused and you’ll reap the rewards of your efforts.

Your Action Item

From Craig: Stop reading business books. When you quit work for the evening, don’t pick up the latest business book, don’t browse blog posts or inspirational books. The problem is that your brain will start spinning with ideas and you won’t actually relax or sleep well. Your brain needs time to stop. So use your down time to leave work behind and you’ll do wonders for your health and creativity.

Links & Resources

WSS #0170: Website Costs And Dangerous Video Trends


Welcome To The Web.Search.Social Episodic Content Show!

More on that in a minute.

But first…

How Much Should A Website Cost?

We’ve written about this a couple of times and just recently someone wrote to us who had read one of the articles we wrote a few years ago and asked us how those prices compare to today.

The person who wrote in had gotten a quote for $15,000, which she said included a logo, branding, collateral and website. The cost, she said, was twice what she expected so she asked us for our opinion.

Unfortunately we can’t make any kind of educated assessment based on that information because there’s no telling what is included – or not included – in the project.

But we can say that a LOT of things can affect pricing. For example, will someone be doing the copywriting for you, or are you expected to bring your own? What about photography? What type of functionality will you require? A basic contact form? A photo gallery? A membership portal? There are a lot of options and quite a lot of services that can go into building a website.

The job of the person who asked us the question – and yours, if you’re evaluating a proposal from someone to build your website – is to ask a lot of questions so you understand what you’re getting, from the content to the search optimization to the extent of the design services.

Get all the details but be careful not to get TOO many details. Sometimes a proposal can be too specific and box you into a corner. For example, knowing someone will build you a contact form is sufficient. You don’t want someone to specify that it will be a contact form with three fields, because what if you realize you need four?

What’s The Minimum Threshold?

Building a website requires a lot of time and understanding how all the pieces work together. A website is more than a WordPress installation, which just about anyone can do at the click of a button.

You can get a website for $500 if all you want is someone to click the button. But that doesn’t make it a good business website. At a minimum, you’ll be investing several thousand dollars for someone to sit with you to discuss your business needs and goals and to put in the time, strategy and planning required to create a good marketing tool that will help you generate leads and sales.

It’s not really the building that’s as important as all the stuff that comes before. A college student can build a website. It doesn’t take much to put together HTML or install a WordPress theme and a couple of plugins. But it does take quite a lot of expertise and time to figure out how a website will help you reach your business goals, how it will fit into the bigger marketing picture, how it will reach your target customers, help you lead people through your sales process and ultimately serve as the marketing engine it should be.

We go to far as to say that building a website is the easy part.

How Do You Know If You’re Getting A Fair Deal?

First of all, know what you’re getting. Ask a lot of questions so that you understand what’s included in the cost. Make sure it’s in writing!

Secondly, understand how the process works. Will your developer expect you to show up with everything you need, including directives, so he can build what you tell him to? Or will he be the one asking the questions and guiding the process?

Finally, make sure the services you’re getting are services you need. Paying $5 for a service you don’t need is too expensive. Paying $15,000 for services you do – perfectly reasonable!

And if you’re still not sure, we’ll make it really easy on you. If you have a proposal that you're considering, send it to us and we'll let you know whether it sounds fair or gives you enough information to make a good decision. You can email it to us at cl@websearchsocial.com or ralph@websearchsocial.com.

Your Seriously Social Moment

Do you schedule your social media posts? Lots of people don’t like to schedule because they don’t think their content should be going out without them. They want to “be there” to send it. But Ian Anderson Gray has five reasons why scheduling is a good idea.

  1. Scheduling lets you find and share better content. Finding good stuff takes time so if you schedule your posts you’ll have more time to spend finding or creating better content.
  2. Scheduling lets you spend more time working on your business. You may want to spend all day on Facebook but that’s probably not the best use of your time.
  3. Scheduling lets you spend more time offline with the people that matter in your life. You can batch schedule so you don’t have to spend all your time hanging out online waiting for that perfect time to post.
  4. Scheduling frees up your time to have more down time. Go for a walk or do something that recharges your creativity.
  5. Scheduling lets you reach people when they’re actually on social media. You can have content going out nights, weekends or any time when you’re not online.

Remember, scheduling is not engagement. It will save you time and help you be more effective, just remember not to be a robot. Take time to engage, too.

Video Is Powerful. True Or False?

Yep! It can be. It can also be dangerous, maybe even lethal. There are a couple of popular video genres that have sprung up, including prank videos, reaction videos and response videos.

The problem is that people can take them too far. In one series of prank videos, some men walk up to strangers on the street and pick a fight. Then when the person on the street reacts, the pranksters strips down to a thong.

In one of these videos, the person being pranked pulled a gun out, thinking rightfully that they were being threatened and harassed. While we’re not fans of “blame the victim” mentality, we think maybe these guys are asking for trouble and if something bad happens it’s going to be their own fault.

It’s a bit like screaming, “Fire!” in a crowded movie theater.

Let this be a caution to anyone with kids or teenagers. These videos seem to be rather popular and they’re being emulated in many ways.

Licensing Fees For "Reacting?"

In reaction videos, someone shows a video to another person and then records that person's reaction to the video. While this is all on the up-and-up, an interesting thing happened recently. A company called Fine Brothers Entertainment told other would-be videographers that they’d license the “reaction format” for a fee. So anyone who creates one of these types of videos owes the Fine Brothers a licensing fee.

Predictably enough, the internet was outraged. We wonder how someone can insist on a licensing fee for something they didn’t invent and that anyone can do.

It’s a bit like the patent trolls we talked about a while ago who want a licensing fee from anyone who delivers "episodic digital content". Theoretically, anyone who podcasts would be subject to this licensing fee. We'd have to pay up just to be able to put our content online. We wonder how Netflix or HBO or Hulu feel about paying Random Patent Troll for the "right" to post episodes of their content.

So we over here at Web.Search.Social decided that anyone who uses the word podcast owes us a fee. Makes perfect sense, no?

Content Is Getting Boring

The final video genre we touch on is the response video, where someone creates a video talking about someone else’s video.

The whole conversation is a bit baffling and we wonder if we’re entering a brave new world of content creation where there is really nothing much original, where everyone is just piggybacking and pilfering.

So yes, video can be powerful, but we think – especially when it comes to business – that people who create original content will be the ones who stand out.

Links & Resources

Direct download: 0170-website-costs-and-dangerous-video-trends.mp3
Category:business -- posted at: 11:21am EST

WSS #0169: The Power Of Being A Podcast Guest Plus Why And How To Mastermind

Softball Questions?

Today we’re joined by Tom Schwab, whose core service is helping small businesses get their brand and message out by being interviewed on podcasts. We read and listened to a bit on his website about why podcasts are so effective and one of the things he says is that it’s easy to be a guest, because “the hosts ask you softball questions.”

Hm. Someone has obviously never been on THIS podcast. So we immediately throw the conversation out the window and start by challenging him on that premise.


To be fair, Tom qualifies it by saying hosts sometimes ask softball questions. Since that’s not our M.O. we want to know why he chose to be on our podcast.

Turns out he has a whole system in place for just this kind of thing. First he looks to see if the podcast audience matches his ideal audience. He wants to know if the audience will get value from the topics he discusses.

He also looks to see if a podcast has been around for a while so he knows it’s got an established audience. Finally, he checks to be sure the tone of the podcast matches his style.

It sounds good, but we have one more challenge…

Can You Over-Systematize?

About a week before we were scheduled to record this podcast, we stumbled across a page on Tom’s website that talked about his experience on our podcast and what we talked about. Since we hadn’t actually recorded yet, we wondered: does this guy have a time machine?

When it comes to business, Tom has something that turns out to be better. He has a system. The page was not public when we found it. And Tom explained that it’s a template that he will edit after the show with the right details and be able to promote it almost immediately.

It’s prepped with our names, our show, our logo… all Tom has to do is write up his notes and go.

Our challenge is conquered! We’re actually thrilled to have a guest who is so completely on top of his game, ready to help us with the promotion afterwards. We suddenly wish all guests would do this.

Want To Be A Podcast Guest? Get Your Website Ready.

Tom has a video on his site explaining what you need to do if you want to capitalize on your next podcast appearance. He shares five tips to get prepped.

  1. Have a photo of you on your website. When someone listens to you on a podcast, they get a picture of you in their heads. And when they go to your website they should be able to see you in the flesh. And whatever you do, don’t use stock photos.
  2. Have an About Us page. Tom says the About Us page is one of the most visited on a site. We’re not convinced and wonder if people really care about “us” or would rather find out what we can do for them. Tom says that our About Us page is not actually about us – an effective one really is about them.
  3. Be on social media. People expect it. Period. You don’t have to be everywhere, but be where your clients are. And be sure to include social links on your website so people can find you.
  4. Use the footer. Your footer is seen on every page of your website so use it wisely. Absolutely include your business address and contact information so you portray credibility.
  5. Include customer testimonials. We can all say nice things about ourselves. But it’s far more powerful when others say nice things about us. Use a testimonial near every decision point and call to action. Don’t relegate them to the lonely “testimonials” page.

Switching Gears To Masterminds

After the challenges and questions about being a podcast guest, we get to the topic we originally wanted to talk with Tom about: masterminds.

Tom defines a mastermind essentially as a group of trusted, like-minded entrepreneurs that get together regularly to discuss business ideas and challenges. By sharing and helping each other you can all grow your business faster and stronger than you could have alone.

Unlike a networking group or meetup, a mastermind is a group of people committed to each other for the long term. There is a deep trust among members so business can be discussed in confidentiality. Everyone shares and everyone learns.

Be careful not to confuse group coaching with a mastermind. Group coaching involves one leader who shares knowledge and value with the group. But in a mastermind, all members are at different points both a mentor and a mentee.

Trust and commitment are central to a mastermind. It’s a place where you have the freedom to talk about everything from your financials to your systems to your customers. There are plenty of places that you can talk about how great everything is. A mastermind is the place you can reveal your challenges, fears, stresses and frustrations honestly and expect the support and guidance you need. Likewise, you should expect to provide that same support and guidance to the others in the group.

So You Want To Start A Mastermind. Now What?

Tom says that a good mastermind is made up of like minded people who share similar business values, but that doesn’t mean you need a group of similar people. In fact, Tom says, the best masterminds have people from different backgrounds, different industries, even different countries.

Once you’ve chosen your group, you need to decide what your goals are. Why are you in a mastermind? What do you (and the members) hope to achieve?

Set some rules. You need a structure around when you’ll meet and how often. Remember, it’s a commitment. Whether it’s once a week or once a month, everyone should be there. Include an attendance policy that lets people know what is expected of them and how many masterminds they can miss in a given period.

Many masterminds have a “hot seat” where members take turns being the center of attention, so to speak. The member on the hot seat gets to use that meeting to ask questions, share challenges or get help with specific issues.

In our mastermind, we didn’t like the negative connotation of a hot seat so we call ours “the hugs and snuggles seat.”

Most importantly, be ready to be vulnerable. You’ll need to open up and share the things you’re probably used to keeping private. But the group members can’t help you unless they know the nitty gritty details. That’s why trust is so important.

Your Action Item

From Tom: Define who you want your customer to be, and speak to more of those people. Get a picture in your head of who that person is and be specific. You need to know exactly who you’re speaking with. Make all your decisions based on that person – from the emails you write to the podcasts you choose to be on.

Links & Resources

WSS #0168: Storytelling, Productivity And Business Lessons Learned At Gunpoint

Our First Episode of 2016!

Yes, we took a longer hiatus than expected but we’re back, we’re caffeinated and we’ve got lots to talk about.

This is part after-hours and part business so grab a cup of your favorite Simpson & Vail tea and join us as we talk about meditation, the whirlwind and lessons learned from having a gun pointed in our faces.

Why Are We Here?

Since it’s been a while we decided to reintroduce the purpose of our podcast, especially as we look forward to a new year ahead. Since the beginning of our podcast we’ve talked mostly about marketing but toward the last half of 2015 we shifted to talk more about business. And that’s what we want to continue doing in 2016.

We want to focus on business because as an entrepreneur your business is part of your life. It intertwines with your family, your health, your lifestyle. It affects how you think and how you feel and the decisions you make. So ultimately our podcast is about taking on the challenges of having a business and a whole life.

Here's what we don't want to do: give you the same stuff you can hear anywhere. How to get more Twitter followers. What to do about Pinterest or Facebook or growing your email list. We want to dig deep into what makes a business run and challenge common assumptions that can lead you down a dead end or keep you stuck in neutral.

We look at this podcast as part of the journey. We don't know everything. But we keep learning and growing and that's what we want to do with you. We want you to be part of our journey, and we want to be part of yours. Think of this podcast as a conversation between entrepreneurs. We're glad you're listening and we're here to listen if you want to share your questions or stories or challenges, too.

Email, Skype, text, send smoke signals… let us know what your journey is like. Together we can learn and grow together.

Need To Decompress? Listen To The Mystic Show

Before we get started on today’s topics, we want to shout out to our friend Chris Curran who hosts the ever-popular Social Media Unscrambled podcast, and who also has another podcast called The Mystic Show. It’s all about getting out of the whirlwind of your life and business, taking a moment to pause, eliminate the distractions and be calm and tranquil.

Take it from someone whose brain is constantly in a spin – that show is soothing and worth a listen. From the music to Chris’s voice to the topics of conversation, it gives you a little haven in a stormy day.

And Now, Caffeine

There’s no question that caffeine – specifically in the form of coffee – is pretty much central to most business people’s existence.

But what Ralph has found after switching from coffee to tea is that he doesn’t quite need that caffeine jolt anymore to get through a day. He suggests that for many people coffee has become a substitute for sleep.

Is caffeine leading to more people being in the whirlwind? Do you sometimes grab a cup of coffee and find yourself on the go-go-go?

We wonder if feeling amped up is just creating the illusion that we’re getting things done. Remember, busy does not equal productive! “Doing stuff” and feeling wide awake doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being effective.

Letting go of caffeine is hard. It can kind of feel like a detox. You’ll probably think something is wrong because you’re so used to being caffeinated that “normal” will feel like an oddity.

Same thing with sugar. You know how you grab a donut or a handful of M&Ms and you’re ready to go, but a little while later…. YAWN! So you get another candy bar or Danish and you’re energetic again… until the next crash.

Before I ditched sugar a few months ago I was constantly tired. I’d feel great after my chocolate chip pancakes but a few hours later I’d need a nap in the worst way. There’s no doubt that taking better care of myself has completely changed my energy levels and productivity.

Both Ralph and I have also added meditation to our daily routine – fifteen or twenty minutes a day of sitting. Just sitting. Not making notes or washing dishes. Not planning for tomorrow or running dinner menus over in our heads. And that has led to better sleep, which also contributes to feeling better and being better.

Just the same way you can get into a downward spiral of less energy, less motivation and less productivity, you can also get into an upward spiral. The better you are to yourself, the better you are, period.


What do you do to relax? Maybe more to the point, how do you define relaxing?

Sometimes you’ve just got to “waste time.” The kind where you sit on the couch and channel surf for hours. In my case, I spend hours playing Freecell on my phone.

But sometimes you can relax by doing things other than work – anything, really, even if it’s “productive”. The point is to take your mind (and body) away from work and its stresses and do something else.

I actually find cleaning my house relaxing. When I’m completely stressed out the first thing I do is start cleaning. It’s kind of habitual. In fact, one of my most favorite Christmas gifts this year was a new vacuum. Yeah, I’m at that age.

But seriously, running my new, fabulous vacuum over the floor and experiencing that satisfaction of a clean house is very relaxing for me. So as you think about how to spend your “relaxing” time, don’t be afraid to do nothing – or something!

Ralph And Carol Lynn Go To The Movies

We’ve seen a bunch of movies recently – well, to be honest, we see a bunch of movies all the time! But a couple we’ve seen specifically got us thinking about what makes for good storytelling.

First up is The Martian. We both read and loved the book. We had a split decision on the movie – Ralph loved it but I thought it was a drab retelling of a great book.

Next is The Hateful Eight. We both really enjoyed that one. We’re huge Quentin Tarantino fans.

Third is In The Heart Of The Sea. Ralph loved every page of the book. I haven’t read it yet. But we both hated the movie.

Finally, Star Wars. We both very much enjoyed the latest movie and agree that we very much didn’t enjoy the prequels.

So what made the difference between a great story and one we wanted to walk out on?

The answer turns out to be pretty simple. The best stories were a collaborative effort between the director, screenwriter, actors and others on the team. The ones that failed were missing that element.

With Star Wars especially, it’s easy to pick out which films were a collaboration and which ones George Lucas went off to tell on his own. (Hint: the generally agreed-to-be-best movie, Empire Strikes Back, was collaborative. The prequels were not.)

The takeaway? You may not, in fact, be the best person to tell your own story! Does that fly in the face of everything you’ve been told? The thing is, you need to be part of the story and you need to be part of the telling. But if you work on the telling with someone else, you may find that your story becomes stronger.

Collaborating with someone – whether you’ve hired that person or they’re a friend, colleague or someone inside your business – can bring a brand new perspective. Another person can ask questions that bring out new angles and help you see and share your story in a whole new way.

We also recently saw The Revenant. Ralph loved it but I was bored to death. Yet we both agree that it was a visually beautiful movie and well told. Our takeaway? Not all storytelling methods will appeal to everyone. Ralph enjoyed the visual storytelling. I didn’t. So as a business owner you may need to tell your story in different ways to appeal to different people.

Your First Seriously Social Moment Of 2016

Do tools solve your problems? Ian Anderson Gray wants to know!

But he says that before you start looking at tools you need to figure out what you want to accomplish. Make a list of what tasks you want to automate or get help with. Then make a short list of the tools that can help you with your top priorities. Chances are no one tool will fit the bill so you’ll probably find yourself using a selection of tools. But remember, it’s not about the tool – it’s about what the tool can help you do.

Social Gaming…

We’ve recently become addicted? Obsessed? With a game called Ingress. It is an “augmented-reality massively multiplayer online location-based game”, or MMO for short. And since that’s a heck of a mouthful, the easiest way to think of it is as an online, social and worldwide game of Capture the Flag.

The premise is that “exotic matter”, aka XM, is leaking into the world at various portals. The portals are imaginary but they are located at real places, including businesses, markers and places of historical significance.

As a result, humanity has been divided into two factions – the Resistance and the Enlightened. Your job is to visit the portals and take them over for your faction. Once you take over a portal, you can then link portals together to create fields. Whatever geographic area is under your field is then controlled by your faction and that gets you points.

There’s no winning and losing – it’s just a matter of who has more portals and fields and points.

What makes this game unique is that it is truly social. You can’t play it from your computer or your desk. You can only interact with a portal by going to its physical location.

And you can’t be effective at the game by yourself. You will never have the power or resources that you need unless you collaborate with other people.

So it’s been a lot of fun playing and meeting people along the way. By the way, if you want to give the game a shot, ask us for an invitation! You don’t need one, but if you join via our invitation we get in-game rewards (yah!) And in case you were wondering, we play on the side of the Enlightened.

We’ve learned a couple of things as a result of playing the game, not least of which is how to navigate our own town. After years of relying on the GPS to tell us when to turn left or right, we’re finally figuring out where things are and how to get there on our own.

We’re also picking up a lot of history. For example, we learned that our town of Holmdel used to be called Hornet’s Nest.

Funny thing about that history lesson, though. We learned it at gunpoint.

…And Lessons Learned At Gunpoint

After blowing a tire out while playing the game last weekend, we had an even more intense adventure this weekend as we searched for a landmark called the Hornet’s Nest. It was dark, and we were traveling down a rather suburban, narrow and winding road into the middle of nowhere. We could see on the in-game GPS that we were right near the portal we were looking for, but couldn’t quite access it.

So we turned down another even narrower and more winding road that dropped off on one side into a ravine below. A car was coming slowly in the other direction, with barely enough room to pass, so we rolled down our window to ask if it was a one way street.

The woman in the car looked at us and said, “No. It’s my driveway. This is my house.”


She told us to back out and then left. But it was dark and the driveway was narrow, and remember that part about one side plunging into a ravine? So instead of backing out we drove to the top, turned around at the garage and drove out. By then we were completely lost so we pulled over in front of the driveway to get our bearings, when we saw a man jogging down the driveway towards us.

So Ralph rolled down his window and the man proceeded to snap a photo of us, snap a photo of the front of the car, snap a photo of the rear of the car and then pulled out a gun and pointed it at us through the window.

Since we’re still alive to tell the tale, you might guess it worked out in the end but there were a few tense moments as we tried to explain that no, we were not casing his house and were actually playing a game and looking for a portal called the Hornet’s Nest. Which sounds kind of ridiculous when you say it out loud.

Ralph defused the situation by apologizing profusely and agreeing that we shouldn’t have been in the driveway. Ultimately we all sort of chuckled over it and the man asked us for a ride back to his house.

Just to give you an idea of how long this driveway was, we got a whole history lesson on the Revolutionary War and the naming of the town on the way up.

Perhaps the most notable thing about this story is that even as we were staring down the wrong end of the gun, both Ralph and I had the same thought: we totally understood why this guy was pointing it at us. Neither of us thought he was wrong about it or crazy. We knew he was a guy scared by some people hanging out in his driveway who had freaked his wife out only a few minutes ago.

So what does that mean in the grander scheme of things…

Actually, a lot. Plenty of days we find ourselves staring down the metaphorical barrel of a gun. It could be an annoying client. Or a difficult situation. Or a disagreement with a friend or business partner.

And we can choose to escalate, to be confrontational and risk something worse. Or we can put ourselves in the position of the other person, empathize and disarm them.

The next time you find yourself butting heads with someone, try understanding. Try being humble and admitting when you’re wrong. Try an apology. Most importantly, try kindness. It’s one of your most powerful weapons and can disarm even the most savage beast if you try hard enough. Just pretend there’s a gun in your face.

Links & Resources

Tea Time!

Today's podcast comes to you recorded live from Simpson & Vail in sunny Brookfield, Connecticut. If you've been listening to our podcast then you've heard us talk about tea a lot (usually accompanied by talking about pie a lot) and we've recently developed a love affair with Simpson & Vail teas.

So we thought, what better way to ring out 2015 than by visiting our new friends to talk about tea, what makes a good cup and how they grew their business?

Today's episode is a bit longer than usual but it was a ton of fun so grab a cup and settle in!

A Family Affair

Simpson & Vail is a family-run tea importing company that blends and creates myriad flavors (350 by the last count on their website) from dessert teas like Apple Cinnamon Coffeecake to herbal blends like Currant Explosion.

We spoke with four family members – Jim Sr. (dad), Joan (mom), Cyndi (daughter) and Jim Jr. (son) – plus Connor who is one of the geniuses behind the blends.

Mike Brooks of Nuclear Chowder Marketing joined us as well which makes for quite a cast of characters in this episode!

Did I mention it was a ton of fun?

Mike Makes Us Love Tea

You might wonder, why tea? Well, we've always enjoyed tea, and in fact we have an entire shelf full of various flavors of bagged tea. But Mike loves loose tea and for a long time he tried to convince us that it was the way to go.

And for a long time we weren't convinced. Bagged tea was good. And easy. Loose tea was too complicated. And would take too long to make.

And this might have gone on indefinitely except Mike took matters into his own hands and bought us a couple flavors of Simpson & Vail loose tea.

It took about one cup before we were hooked.

Now if you visit our kitchen, you'll find a huge pullout pantry shelf devoted to nothing but tins of loose tea.

Turns out it's better than bagged – and it's not all that complicated either. But we'll get to that in a minute.

Meet Mr. Tea

Jim Herron Sr., aka Mr. Tea (by my reckoning), originally purchased the business from THE Simpson and THE Vail in 1978. But the company existed long before that. In fact, it's one of the very oldest tea companies in the United States.

How old is it?

Its roots go back to 1929 and if you want the full history you can listen to the podcast or check out their evolution on their About page.

But even more than being the oldest company, it was (and is) the most highly respected. SO respected, in fact, that when we asked Jim why he didn't rename the company to "The Herrons", he said that he thought about it but then realized there was way too much clout in the brand to mess with it.

Here's an interesting tidbit:

The head of Lipton Tea's buying division was quoted in a New York Times article as recommending Simpson & Vail for a good cup of Darjeeling. After her retired, he travelled speaking on the topic of tea and consistently mentioned Simpson & Vail.

Need more proof of the strength of the brand?

When green tea hit the market hard and customers of Lipton, Tetley and Nestle asked for it, those companies (who didn't carry green tea) recommended that their customers shop with…. guess who?

Ok, so the company has some serious cred.

So why do I call Jim Mr. Tea?

Because this guy is a walking encyclopedia of tea. If you want to be fascinated like crazy, you really need to listen to him talk, but I'll highlight some of the things he shared.

  • When he bought the company, it offered 18 teas and 9 coffees. Now they offer 65 coffees and hundreds of teas.
  • A great majority of those teas are custom blends that the family developed over the years.
  • What makes this all quite impressive is that all tea derives from a single plant. That's right, one.
  • The Assam province in India provides nearly 65% of all tea in the world. Its tea gardens take up space approximately the size of the area between New York And Chicago.
  • If there is only one plant, how do we get white, green, black and others? Turns out it's all in the processing. The more moisture you take out of the leaves, the blacker it gets.
  • In fact, there is a broader spectrum than you may think – from white to green, oolong, yellow, red and black.
  • The rest – like herbals – are not really tea at all. Rather, they're called tisanes.
  • Jasmine tea (one of my favorites!) isn't flavored with Jasmine flowers. Dried Jasmine flowers actually have no flavor. The tea gets its flavor because it's grown next to a Jasmine plant and that infuses flavor into it. The same is true for Lychee and Rose Congu.
  • Flavorings are added to tea as well. They're artificial flavorings and in the case of Simpson & Vail they are all chemical-free.
  • Sometimes dried fruits are added to impart flavor – like apple, pear, papaya, strawberry and more – and sometimes they add other ingredients like coconut, lemon and orange peel and cocoa nibs.
  • Some things that are added to tea are purely for aesthetics and don't affect flavor. Dried flowers, for example, don't add flavor but they look pretty cool!

Are you starting to understand how much Jim knows about tea? You'd think he was born into it. But he wasn't. And he didn't always have this love affair with tea…

In The Beginning

Jim's entrepreneurial journey is just as fascinating as his knowledge of tea. Turns out he had no particular interest in tea at first. He was in the textile business for some time and travelling a lot. After a while he decided he'd had enough of travelling and wanted to spend more time with his family. He was working hard, and long hours, and decided, hey, you know what? If I'm going to work this hard I may as well work for myself!

It was around that time that a friend and neighbor told him about this business for sale. It was mainly a mail order business at the time and Jim figured he knew all about mail order so he partnered with his friend Dave to buy the business.

By his own admission, he realized shortly after that he didn't know as much about mail order as he thought. And he certainly knew nothing about tea.

But Dave did, and Dave had connections. So Dave took Jim to tea tastings, introduced him to everyone in the business and taught him everything he knew. After a few months Jim bought out Dave's shares and subsequently his wife joined him in the business and later Jim Jr. and Cyndi.

What I find most fascinating about Jim's story is that it's quite the opposite of much of what we hear today about being an entrepreneur. How often do you hear someone say, "Follow your passion!"

"Find something you love to do and make money doing it!"

People are very big on passion and this idea of creating the perfect life.

But Jim went into business for far more practical reasons – and passion came later. He learned to love tea, to love its history, to love its possibilities. And he absorbed everything he could about it, making himself a true expert. He is a master mixologist of tea and dedicates himself to providing the highest in quality tea experiences.

The result? Even if you have never heard of Simpson & Vail before now, if you drink tea there's a good chance it's been theirs. They are one of the largest tea importers in the country and they provide tea to coffee and tea houses, cafés, retailers and even other brands.

A Cool Side Note

In the early days of Simpson & Vail, JP Morgan asked Vail to create a special tea blend for the family. To this day, they carry the Morgan Blend and still provide tea to JP Morgan Chase bank for their Christmas tins.

Actually, Simpson & Vail carries every single one of the original tea blends from the company's earliest days. That says something about quality right there.

What Makes A Good Cup Of Tea?

It starts with the leaves, of course. And even though all leaves come from the same plant, there are quite a few variables that come into play. First-picked leaves are sought after because of course everyone wants to be first! But that doesn't mean they're the best. Much like grapes used to make wine, tea leaves gets better with age.

Leaf quality is also affected by the growing season, temperature and rainfall. Jim doesn't buy leaves picked during monsoon season because they are least appealing. He samples every single tea that he imports and keeps a sample to compare it to the actual product he receives to be sure it's of the same quality.

Ok, so you have great tea leaves. But it turns out you can still brew a nasty cup of tea.

If you add water at the wrong temperature, it can ruin a good cup of tea. For example, green teas need to be brewed at cooler temperatures than black teas or you'll get a bitter result.

And tea is only half of the equation. The other ingredient in a cup of tea is water. And if yours is full of minerals it will affect the tea flavor. For best results use filtered or bottled water that has fewer minerals.

Jim tells us that he often receives calls from customers who retire from the northeast to Florida, who complain that his teas are no longer very good. But it's not his teas. It's actually the significant change in water from one location to the next. When those customers use bottled water to brew they're in love all over again.

If this is starting to sound too complicated, trust me, I thought the same thing – until I started brewing tea. There are instructions on every package and the rules are fairly simple. Greens and whites at lower temperatures, blacks and herbal at boiling.

Brew a shorter time for small, fine leaves and longer for large or long leaves.

Once you taste the difference you may never buy bagged tea again. If you're like us, you'll even start bringing your own stash to diners and restaurants and asking for a cup of hot water.

"Do No Harm."

Jim has an incredible business ethic. Not only does he want to bring the best in tea to his customers but he has also adopted the motto "Do no harm."

What does that mean?

It means he chooses leaves that are processed without chemicals. His flavorings are all chemical-free. He avoids pesticides and imports all his tea through Germany because it's the only country in the world that inspects 100% of the food products that go through the country. So he knows he's getting the best in quality control.

It also means that all of their teas are gluten free so he can ensure that customers who need those types of products will be safe.

Finally, it means that he doesn't jump on the bandwagon when it comes to trends. Just because something is popular, he says, doesn't make it a good idea. (Now where have we heard that before? Hm…)

Some herbs and flavorings may be the newest, hottest things on the market but if he isn't sure of what impact they will have on his customers' health, he won't use them.

If I could sum up everything we learned from Jim in one sentence it would be this: know your market, test your product and make it the absolute best it can be.

How About Competition?

After our history and business lesson, we switch from speaking with Jim to speaking with Cyndi, who works closely with Mike on their marketing.

And we want to know: is it harder to sell tea now than it used to be? Back in the day when Simpson & Vail was the "It" company, there was very little competition. But now tea is everywhere.

Cyndi says that it might seem counterintuitive but in some ways marketing has gotten easier. Even though the competition was sparse in the beginning, so was interest. Now there is quite a lot of interest in tea and it's growing all the time. One of their most recent new audiences is college students who have been coming in droves to stock up before the new semester.

The interesting thing about this is that their store doesn't have that coffee-shop-college-student vibe you might think "the kids" would like.

It's a little bit like walking into your kitchen at home (but probably decorated a little better, with some pretty fun tea ware.) It's warm, cozy, homey, welcoming. There is tea brewed on the counter and cookie samples, too.

The more I think about it, the more I understand the allure for college students! Who doesn't want that taste of home?

The Literary Line

We talked with both Cyndi and Connor about their newest teas, the Literary line. They have a series of teas named after famous authors, from William Shakespeare to Charles Dickens and we got to taste them all right on the show. If you listen, that's probably the part where there was a lot of slurping and us forgetting what we were saying as we enjoyed the amazing flavors.

Jim Jr. joined us, too, to explain how an actual tasting works, which is a whole lot like wine tasting where you're supposed to sip and spit. We decided to break the rules and drink the cups dry instead, because why waste those delicious teas?!

As for the Literary line, Cyndi recognized the natural affinity between books and tea (one of MY favorite places to be is curled up with a blanket and a book beside a hot cup of tea).

So she picked out a few authors and with the help of Connor they researched the herbs, fruits and flowers that each author either wrote about or had some affiliation with.

For example, their Bronte Sisters tea contains fruits grown in the orchard where the three sisters grew up and Jane Austin's tea is flavored with lilac because that was the one flower she wrote that she couldn't live without.

From their research they blended and tasted flavors until they hit on the perfect combination.

In fact, that's how they create all their blends – try, taste and keep on going until they're happy with the result.

That's why I keep referring to them as mixologists. They're the artisans and chefs of the tea world and from the flavors I've tried so far – apple cinnamon, carrot cake, English toffee to name a few – they're spot on.

Cyndi says that people often ask her if she ever gets bored with tea, tea, tea. But as you may be able to guess by now, tea in the hands of Simpson & Vail is never "just tea." The endless possibilities for flavors and blends keeps her job exciting.

And The Marketing?

Since Mike handles their online marketing, we have him jump in to talk about how Simpson & Vail gets the word out about their teas.

In the end, it's not all that different than what we all want to do – tell a great story, create great content and get active on social media to tap into a growing fan base.

Their biggest challenge is educating people because you can't explain the tastes and smells and textures of teas in a catalog or social post or blog, no matter how hard you try. It's just something you have to experience. So the trick is to hook people in, which they do with their photography and delicious-sounding recipes, so people will be eager to try the product and go on to become evangelists.

The real trick, Mike says, is not a trick at all but the most important fundamental of good marketing and that's to be good people. Marketing starts from within the company, not from a blog post or a Facebook photo. You need a strong business with good people and a great story – and Simpson & Vail has both.

The Proof Is In The Cupcake

Sometimes in the world of online marketing we can lose sight of one of the most basic things of all, and that's to have a great product that your customers love. No "unique selling proposition" or "social marketing strategy" in the world can compensate for a poor product.

For Simpson & Vail quality – and their customers – come first.

So much so that they hand craft every tea. And they create flavors that people love. Their dessert line was born out of their customers' desire to treat themselves without all the calories and sugar of dessert. From Red Velvet Cupcake to Strawberry Cupcake and more, healthy eating (and drinking) was one trend they jumped on.

But they take it one step further, too, by hand crafting teas one customer at a time. You can call Cyndi and tell her your favorite flavors and she'll have her master tea chefs make up a blend just for you. And if you like it, it will go into their catalog so you can order it any time you want.

For a minute we lose all sense as we imagine the Web.Search.Social blend and the Ralph & Carol Lynn blend and our 20th Anniversary blend… yes, you get to name the flavor, too!

If you take nothing else away from this podcast and these notes, I want you to remember the care and dedication this company puts into their products. And the next time you visit a website that says something like, "We provide the best customer service…" or "Our products are the highest quality…" I want you to scoff and remember that it's not what you say or how many words you use to say it. The proof is in the cupcake.

Links & Resources

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Our Last Solo Episode of 2015

We're taking a break for the holidays and coming back in 2016 to challenge some more status quo and talk about business and life, with more Seriously Social Moments and plenty of great guests.

In the meantime, we've got 10 ideas for you to use to make your business better in 2016. And stay tuned for this Thursday's episode, which is our last guest episode, recorded live from Simpson And Vail in Connecticut.

A Name Change?

Ralph has been debating whether or not our podcast needs a name change. When we started out we planned to challenge the status quo of web, search and social marketing. And we did! But over time we've evolved to talk more about business in general and even life.

So now we're wondering… does the name of the podcast really reflect what we're about? Should we change it? Or would there be a mass revolt amongst Freds everywhere?

It's up to you, Fred… change the name or keep it the same? And if we should change it, then change it to what?

Ralph suggests "Ralph and Carol Lynn take over the world" which I admit I can get behind, but we want to know what you think.

10 Things To Do To Improve Your Business In 2016, Part 1

1. Work on your customer avatar. Who do you want to do business with? Define that person specifically. Every week Ralph goes to a BNI meeting and many weeks I accompany him. And one of the things we've learned is that we can't walk in and say, "I'm looking for someone who needs marketing."

That can mean different things to different people. And it means very little to anyone but us.

Instead, we may say, "I'm looking to work with a restaurant owner in the Holmdel, New Jersey area who wants to increase lunch time sales."

Get specific about the industry your customer is in, their hobbies, everything. The better you "know" this person, the better you can speak their language and craft your messages around what that person needs.

2. Review and prune your profiles. And not just your social media profiles. Google (and Bing!) yourself and find all of your profiles online. Some may be profiles you created, others may be profiles that have been scraped from information you may not even be aware exists.

Find those and be sure they are current. Make sure they best represent any changes you've been through, whether personal or business, so that people who find you will understand what you're about and what you do. If your profiles are inconsistent then that may be confusing to people or not attract the right kind of prospects.

Speak to people who don't know you. Don't assume you're just talking to customers.

3. Take charge of your website (and your whole online presence). Know whether your site is being backed up and where. Understand where your domain is registered and when it expires. Make sure you have access to all your social logins, your hosting account, your Google analytics – everything that belongs to your business.

Someone else (like your marketing company or IT company) may have set up the accounts for you but you need to keep your own house in order and take charge of the key pieces of your business.

4. Be skeptical. Always ask the question, "Why?" Recently we read a study that said that images with faces were 23% less likely to be pinned on Pinterst than images without faces.

This stat was then turned into an infographic and repeated everywhere. But should you believe it?

When it comes to research, correlation doesn't mean causation. What are the methods used? What, exactly, was studied? How were the conclusions reached and is there enough evidence to support them?

In the case of the Pinterest stat, what industries were studied? Whose customers?

Marketing is complex and it's up to you to test. Planning to run a Facebook ad? Don't take anyone's word for "how to do it." Create your own tests. Try different photos and text. See what works for you.

In our experience, "conventional wisdom" typically takes a back seat to what actually works.

5. Schedule a brain dump every day. We've talked about GTD before and one of the principles is to dump everything out of your brain onto a piece of paper (or into an app if that's your thing.)

Your brain is not a storage device. If you try to remember what you need to do then you'll be busy trying to remember what you need to do… and have less brainpower to devote to actually doing it.

Clear out your mind by writing everything down – from buying toilet paper to writing your blog post – and then you'll be able to use your brain to focus on your actual tasks instead of just remembering them.

Your Seriously Social Moment

Today Ian talks about connecting on LinkedIn. He asks, "Should you connect with people you don't know?"

It's a topic that's widely debated.

Technically, sending a connection request to someone you don't know is against LinkedIn's terms of service. But some people believe in connecting with as many people as possible and growing a large network.

Ian says that's not for him. Social media is about building relationships and quality connections are always more valuable than the quantity of connections.

If you want LinkedIn to work for you then look for valuable connections. Don't just chase numbers.

Improve Your Business, Part 2

6. Invest in a podcatcher. Every since Ralph broke up with iTunes, he's been thrilled with his new app, Pocket Casts. If you listen to our podcast, chances are you enjoy podcasts. So don't let technology get in the way of your enjoyment. Podcasts are about the content. And there's a plethora of content to choose from – whether you're a gamer or a knitter or a history buff.

With a good app you'll have a great listening experience and you can enjoy content that will be good for your business, for your learning, for your spiritual life and for your personal life.

7. Look at how you're spending your time and money. First, you need to be tracking your time. Even if you don't bill hourly, you need to understand where your time is going, where you may be wasting it and where you need to reallocate it.

There may be gaps where you're doing things like cleaning up your computer desktop. And that may be necessary but if you're doing it for hours on a Tuesday, you're probably not working on something that's making you money.

Be sure you understand where you're spending time with clients. You may have a great client who you talk to often but who doesn't contribute all that much to your bottom line. And because of that you don't have enough time left to spend with the client who IS making you money.

If you're keeping track you'll be better able to balance your attention so you're putting it where you need to.

Second, you need to be tracking your expenses. When you get that credit card statement each month, there are probably recurring charges you don't even remember being there. Once a month if you can but once a quarter at least, check your recurring expenses to see what you can't live without, what you can consider ditching and what you can immediately cut out.

Finally, be sure you know what costs you're incurring against client work so you know that you're making enough money to justify your expenses.

8. Make a plan that is revenue centric. Not a long term plan, but rather short term goals that are tied to how much money you want to make. For example, if you want to make $100,000 next year, set that goal and then decide how many clients you need to reach that goal. Then go out and start getting those clients.

Lots of times we hear people talking about building their email lists or getting more website traffic. But those things don't pay the bills. Pay more attention to how your actions are contributing to your revenue goals.

If you pay attention to revenue then you may not be so willing to create products in the hope of making money – or giving away freebies in the hope of building a list. Many of those things are haphazard and don't necessarily tie to revenue.

But if you're focusing on whether or not your actions contribute to revenue then you'll start to make better decisions about how to spend your time and efforts.

9. Get offline. This is for the benefit of your business and personal life. If you're taking a break from work, don't play computer games. Don't browse Facebook. Turn the computer and phone off and get into the world. For your business, you need to meet people in real life, whether that's going to a networking meeting, a meetup, or just to meet someone for a cup of coffee.

We get caught up in text-speak where we talk in sentence fragments without punctuation. But in a real conversation you have to listen and respond. Practice your relationship skills. Even something as simple of making eye contact can start to feel foreign if you don't flex that muscle.

You can't build relationships as well or as fast online as you can in real life. It's a lot harder to pretend someone doesn't exist or to think of them as less than human when you're sitting in the same room.

10. GTD the heck out of your life. It's not rocket science. There are very simple steps you can take to improve your focus, be more productive and do more in less time.

For example, Ralph talks about how he shut off all his notifications – all the pings and pongs that distracted him during the day, from email to texts to social media.

Or try the Pomodoro technique, where you work for a specific length of time then take a break for a specific length of time. The idea is to focus on one task. If you implement some simple productivity techniques you can get a ton more done in a lot less time. Break the "big picture" things into tiny, manageable chunks so you can start hacking away at your tasks. Then you'll have more time to spend on your life and less on work.

Links & Resources

Subscribe to be notified whenever we publish new content and to stay in the loop on some new podcasts and other fun stuff that’s coming up.

Direct download: 0166-10-ideas-to-make-your-business-better-in-2016.mp3
Category:marketing, business -- posted at: 9:00am EST

WSS #0165: Get Better! Improve Your Life And Business One Small Action At A Time

Get Better!

Today's guest is Terry Lancaster, who just published a book called "Better! Self Help For The Rest Of Us."

He recently reached out and offered me an advance reading copy of the book, and since I've been a silent stalker of his for some time, I eagerly accepted. I read the entire book in one evening because it was too much fun to put down. Terry has a great sense of humor and a no-nonsense approach to life that I find refreshing.

So I invited him on our podcast to talk about it.

And you may wonder… what does "self help" have to do with business and marketing? Well, don't let the genre fool you. It has everything to do with business and marketing – from how productive you are to how happy you are and a whole lot in between.

This episode (and Terry's book) is just in time for your New Year resolutions (tip: skip them this year and take some of Terry's advice) and perfectly coincides with a lot of what we’ve been saying lately about work-life balance. Or maybe not so much "balance" as "intertwining."

Trust me, you want to hear – and read – this.

Terry Has Actually Lived His Talk

One of the fascinating things about Terry is that his book is essentially based on how he made his life… wait for it… better.

By his own admission he ate a little too much and drank a little too much (more) and one day he thought, wow, I need to do something better with my life.

And instead of setting out to be awesome and rich and beautiful and shiny, he set out to improve something. One step, one action at a time.

He's tired of everyone telling him (and the rest of us) that were not rich enough, not thin enough, not good looking enough. That we don’t have the nicest, whitest teeth or the wealthiest client list or the most perfect 6-pack abs.

The cool thing about Terry is that instead of doing the whole "woe is me" routine, he decided that he didn’t need to be any of those things. He just needed to be better than he was.

His advice?

Be who you are. Only better.

Great, So How Does This Work?

Not only do you not have to strive for perfection but you can be perfectly content with what you have. And that sounds fabulous, but it sounds a little idealistic, too. Doesn't life just suck sometimes? Aren't we sometimes just fat and broke and cranky?

Maybe… but Terry insists that the first step to making your life better is to adopt an attitude of gratitude. Most of us, he says, are busy trying to get from "bad" to "best".

Instead, start by thinking of how good you already have it.

You probably have a roof over your head. If you're reading this, you have internet! And a computer. You're probably not living in a van down by the lake.

So begin to believe that you have it pretty good right where you are now. Be grateful.

And once you stop feeling like you're starting from the worst possible scenario, you can take the next step which is to stop feeling like you have to get to the best possible scenario. You only have to get… wait for it… better.

The Miserable Crowd

Some people like their misery. Some people are comfortable complaining. They will perpetually compare themselves to other people (and find their own lives lacking). They will lean towards pessimism and negativity.

Admit it, you've been there. We all feel disappointment in where we are. We want more.

And a lot of people are prone to complaining instead of gratitude. So I want to know… how do we help those people? The ones who aren't satisfied with their lives? Our friends and family who complain, who feel lacking, who can bring a party down every time someone asks them, "So, how are you?"

These are people we care about and even if we feel grateful, it still makes us feel bad when people we care about feel bad. So what do we do?

Terry is realistic. He says we can't do anything. We have no control over other people, how they feel or behave. The only thing we can control is our own behavior and responses. His advice is simply to live your life in a state of gratitude, work toward the thing you want to be better at and let your joy shine as an example to others.

I have to admit, I completely agree. In fact, it's something I've struggled with, too. When people I care about are perpetually unhappy, I want to help. And there may be practical things I can do to help in difficult times, but as far as changing how someone feels, that's not in my control. And it's not in yours. No matter how much you care about someone, you can't fix their problems or lives.

But what you can do is live yours. Instead of participating in negativity and pessimism, you can lead by example. Instead of indulging people who complain constantly you can live in what Terry refers to as your own joy.

You don't need to convince anyone that your way is right (or better!) You just need to do what you need to do. And the same way that those negative, complaining people can bring you down, you can bring them up – just by existing in their space.

Marketing Is The Problem

Terry says something else that I agree with, which is that the reason many of us are so dissatisfied is because of marketing.

After all, what is marketing if not the pursuit of proving that something is missing and you need it right now! You need that car, those white teeth, that job, those clothes.

And what sells those things is the story of extremes. People who lose a hundred pounds. People who start a business in their basement that gets bought out by Facebook and they become billionaires overnight.

Those stories make us think we want that. We can do that or be that or get that!

But those are extremes.

And nobody tells you the story of the guy who lost five pounds but is super happy about it. Or landed that one awesome new client. That stuff doesn't make the evening news because it's ordinary. But that stuff is also real life.

The sooner we can live our real lives and not the ones we've been told to want, the sooner we will actually be happier and get better at the things that matter.

Getting Past The Abstractions

This all sounds nice, but how do we actually get better? Skip the motivational talks, Terry says. In fact, forget the idea of motivation entirely. Instead, work on building habits.

Do one thing at a time. Choose to run. Choose to make a sales call. Do it today. Then do it the next day. Then keep doing it.

Doing that will build a habit so the action becomes automatic.

By the way, this is totally possible and you can take it from Terry, who has clearly proven that he's made his life better, or you can take it from me because I actually took his advice. Every day, once a day, I do a pushup. That's right, one pushup. I'm not trying to get buff and strong. I'm just trying to do a pushup.

And after two weeks, I've been doing a pushup every day because… I don't know, because that's what I do now. And that's when behavior becomes habit. The cool thing is that after a while I actually will become stronger, even though I didn't do anything especially dramatic.

So your job is to pick something you can do, want to do, to make your life better in some small way.

Then do it.

Don't make it a big goal or a huge challenge. In fact, don't make it a goal at all. Terry says that goals are about outcomes and what we need to do is concentrate on inputs. And the inputs are the behaviors. Once we input the right behaviors, the outcomes (or goals) will follow naturally.

So go ahead, I dare you. Do one pushup, right now. Then do it again tomorrow. After a few days see what happens. I bet you'll just do it. If you're like me, you may even get off the floor eventually! And maybe after that you'll even do two.

The best part is that you'll improve your fitness along the way.

And by the way this goes for business, too. Make that sales call. Now. Then make one tomorrow. Eventually you will improve your bottom line.

What If…

We humans are excuse-making machines. So I pose some excuses… I mean very good reasons… for not doing what I know I need to do to make my life better.

For starters… I've been down the whole "improve your life" road before. I've gotten on good streaks with good momentum. Then something happens. I get tired. It's the holidays. I'm busy. And I stop.

Now I'm off the bandwagon. So… what if I fail? What if I break my streak and stop getting better?What if I do a pushup for 300 days in a row then forget on the 301st and eat a whole pie instead? What do I do?

Terry says forgive yourself. You don't have to be perfect. You just have to start where you are, whether that's at the end or at the beginning of a streak.

Awesome. But what if I've fallen off the bandwagon and I want to start again but my inner critic is telling me I'll never be good enough? It's telling me I'll always be broke or fat or never as smart as everyone else. Then what?

Terry answers this one pretty decisively. Tell your head to shut up.

Just. Stop it.

Everyone has that voice in their head. So just stop listening to it. In fact, Terry says that we have to train our brains the same way we train our bodies. We're pretty used to working out at the gym but how many of us work out our minds?

We're so used to the obnoxious voices that we assume they belong there. But with a mental workout we can learn to distance ourselves from those voices. And that workout is called meditation. The purpose of mediation is not to lead you to a mountaintop in Tibet but to teach you how to quiet the unhelpful narrative in your head and focus on the moment.

Great. I can do a pushup. And I can meditate. But what if I like Oreos? (And I do!) Should I deny myself what I want and call it progress?

Terry is pretty clear on this, too. He says… yes! Deprive yourself! Lots of people like heroine but do we tell them to use it once in a while? Hell no, we tell them stop it!

Oreos (or more specifically sugar) is just as addictive and I hate to agree with someone quite this much, but I know this from experience, too.

Ok, so we're on our way to better health! And if you listened to our last episode you know how that leads to better focus and productivity at work.

But… what if I'm an introvert? And I don't like networking? Or sales calls?

Terry says there are a million ways to connect with people. You don't need to do any one specific thing. Don't be afraid to try things that are outside your comfort zone but ultimately don't make excuses for not doing something.

Apps: Helping Or Hurting?

These days there's an app for everything. Or more accurately there are about a billion apps for everything. Whether you want to exercise more or be more productive, there are apps to help you track and even gamify your tasks.

But is this really a good thing? Are apps helping us track and improve or are they distracting us so we focus more on the app than on the activity?

We don’t have a good answer to this but truthfully only you can judge for yourself. If you use an app that helps or keeps you on track, then use it. But if it ends up as another reason to compare yourself to others (and find yourself lacking) or takes up more of your time than the activity you're working on, it may be time to skip it.

The bottom line? Don't overcomplicate it. Just get up and do something.

Your Action Item

From Terry: When you're done listening to this podcast, take the next 25 minutes to focus on just one thing. Do you want to walk? Meditate? Clear out your inbox? Turn off all the beeps and alerts and focus on one thing for that period of time.

Links & Resources

Find Terry and his book online and as a bonus, if you go to his site during the week between Christmas and New Year's you can download the entire book for free!

Subscribe to be notified whenever we publish new content and to stay in the loop on some new podcasts and other fun stuff that’s coming up.

Are You Up For Nadia's Challenge?

SuperFred Nadia Bracken reached out to us just last week and issued a challenge to listeners and Freds everywhere.

Here's what she said: "I like your show so much because of the action item. It is like I don't have to decide what to do next. I don't have to deal with decision fatigue. You just tell me and I obey."

First of all, we love having someone obey us!

Secondly, we love the challenge that she followed up with, which is to be productive by performing one of our action items every day for the month of December.

We're going to help you by giving you a list of action item ideas right here. If you're like Nadia and you want to obey, choose one item per day and DO IT. Or if you have a better idea, feel free to do your own item.

But that's not all! We need proof.

Every time you perform an action item, we want you to post it online and tell us about it. Post it to Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #WSSup. Or if you're super obedient, take a photo of yourself engaged in the action item and post it on Instagram with the hashtag #WSSup. If you do that, as an added bonus, we'll also allow it to be automatically posted to our Facebook page.

Now, get busy. Post your action item successes and photos.

Just please, no porn!

No, seriously. No porn.

Ralph Stabs iTunes In The Skull

That may sound a bit dramatic but trust me, I live with him. I know how much he hates iTunes.

We've actually both had similar problems recently with iTunes getting out of synch, deleting podcasts we wanted and adding podcasts we didn't, and as a result we've both stopped listening to podcasts as much as we used to.

But Ralph had a bit of an epiphany when he realized hey, you know what? I don't have to use iTunes! And thus began his quest to find another app.

Turns out there is a whole class of apps called "podcatchers" that let you listen to podcasts and Ralph rather vigorously researched and then finally tested out two finalists.

One is called Overcast and the other is called Pocket Casts.

They both have the un-iTunes-like advantage of being completely in synch across devices. So when he switches from desktop to laptop to iPad to phone, both apps always remember precisely where he left off on a podcast.

Each of the apps has some cool perks.

Overcast has a really great notes section where you can see more details and links. It also has a nifty feature where it will remove extra pauses in the conversation and even level out voices so they sound great.

On the down side, Overcast is focused on the mobile app and is not quite as robust on desktop. And you can't create playlists on the desktop version.

Pocket Casts is beautiful, Ralph says, and he prefers its features and interface. But it has a few quirks, too. For starters, when you share a podcast to social media, it doesn't link back to the podcast. Rather, it links to the podcast within the app. That deprives the content creator of the traffic and also doesn't take listeners to the show notes. Plus the share links have Pocket Casts branding instead of pulling your feature image.

There is no playlist option on the desktop version of this app, either.

In the end, Pocket Casts wins for its simplicity and features. And iTunes is dead to us.

Your Seriously Social Moment

This is the last of Ian's miniseries on roadblocks to creativity. But never fear, he'll be back with more social goodness next week!

Today he mentions a book called the War of Art (yes, you read that right). He says the book has been a big influence on him. In it, the author says that if you're doing creative work, you will face resistance. And the battle is usually from within.

The inner voice telling you that you're not good enough. Or that you have other things to do. Or that you're tired.

But Ian says: just start. You have to face the fear and resistance and GO. Keep moving forward and you'll break into the sunlight of creativity.

Forty Three Things But A Pound Ain't One

We've talked about our quest to be healthier, which started in earnest at the beginning of August this year. I visited my doctor in July and I visited him again just this week. And both times he weighed me and in between those times I lost 43 pounds.

The best part about that is that I haven't obsessed about it. I didn't cut out entire food groups like potatoes or meat or butter. I didn't set huge goals and I don't spend hours a day working out.

What I do is eat food. Real food. The only thing I've cut out is processed food, which primarily consists of sugar. And what I do is spend three miles a day on the treadmill. Whether that's jogging, walking or crawling, it's not about how fast or how hard. It's a very simple activity that I do without stressing myself out. In fact, most days I barely break a sweat.

So how does this affect my business?

In a lot of ways, it turns out. For starters, it's given me a lot more energy. I used to be perpetually tired. Sleep until eight, drag through the day, nap at three, dinner then bed. Stairs were hard. Leaving the house was hard. Sometimes just opening the computer was hard.

I feel a lot better now about everyday activities. I can do a lot more because I'm simply not tired and depleted every day.

Another positive effect has been better focus.

Ever have those moments where you open a closet to look for something and forget what you went to look for? So you close the closet and walk away and eventually it comes back to you and the cycle starts all over.

I was doing that constantly. Constantly unfocused. Constantly distracted. Getting anything done was a monumental task.

But my concentration has been noticeably better and I am far more productive and far more efficient, without changing much more than the amount of vegetables I eat in a day.

Turns out when you feed your body, you also feed your mind. Your business is tied into the rest of your life and wellness so ignore one to the detriment of the other.

You don't need giant, lofty goals. You just need to decide what you want to get better at and then do something. Do one thing. And do it now.

Your Action Item(s)

Thanks to Nadia for posting today's Action Item Challenge!

Your action item today is to download this list of action items and do one today. And then do another tomorrow. Keep going for each day through the end of December.

And who knows, you may just keep going after that without our nudging!

Links & Resources


Subscribe to be notified whenever we publish new content and to stay in the loop on some new podcasts and other fun stuff that’s coming up.

The Web.Search.Social Podcast Is Live!

This week we're doing something completely different. In response to a number of people asking us about a past episode where we spoke with BNI director Paul Scharff about networking, we're recording this episode live from one of my weekly BNI meetings.


First, you'll get an idea of how a networking meeting runs so you'll have a little extra ammo if you decide to check out a local networking group of your own.

Second, you can learn a bit more about how to make networking more effective for your business.

We recorded most of the meeting – changed up just slightly for time – so if you listen all the way through you'll hear every group member's "commercial" interspersed by some commentary and a few lessons you can take away.

The BNI Commercials

As part of the weekly meeting every member gets 45 seconds to talk about his or her business and let the rest of the group know how they can help generate leads and sales for that business.

Time is of the essence! If someone goes over the 45 second limit they get dinged and have to wrap it up immediately.

We kept all the commercials in the recording because we thought it would be a great opportunity for you to hear how other people do it – and which were most successful. While we don't comment on all the commercials, you can decide for yourself which were most interesting, which gave you the best idea of what a business is about, which made you yawn and which you could emulate to help you craft your own commercial.

First up:

Nick WestFamily First Funding (residential and commercial mortgages)

Mike GaroneShorepoint Travel (cruise planning and travel related services)

Mike AshGarden State Fire & Security (residential and commercial alarms)

Jay ErivGROUNDS KEEPER (residential landscape design)

Glen KoeddingGreen Sun Energy (solar solutions and emergency generators)

Ed BowenRe/MAX Generations (residential real estate agent)

Ira BernknopfThe Bernknopf Group (accounting and tax practice)

Randy ScorasHolmdel Auto Body (auto repair)

We pause here to talk about the structure of a good commercial, which often includes a component that starts, "Did you know…" and ends with a memory hook so people can easily identify your business.

For example, Randy of Holmdel Auto Body uses the memory hook "you bend 'em, we mend 'em." That makes it fun and easy to remember what Randy does and helps people find him leads.

A good commercial can also include a specific "ask." Some members name a prospect they're pitching and ask if anyone knows that person. You'd be surprised by how often someone knows someone else and can make a personal introduction.

In fact, one of the members recently asked to meet the president of a property management company – and that property management company just so happens to be the one that manages my homeowner's community. In fact, I was having breakfast with the president that day. Not only was I able to make the introduction but I invited the president to attend the weekly meeting.

George LechnerCoastal Air Conditioning (heating, air conditioning and HVAC)

Bill SavageSavage Restoration (water, fire, mold and property damage restoration)

Dan CampbellCampbell Petrie (employee benefit consulting)

Steve BurkeSLB Electrical Contracting (residential, commercial and industrial electrical services)

Staci RoccanovaMikita & Roccanova (residential real estate attorney)

We pause again because Staci is the first woman we've heard from and I want to know how she feels about being in a room full of men. I ask her to talk about how women can overcome their fears of being in the vast minority.

Staci says she was overwhelmed when she first visited our group, because when she joined there were no other females (we have a few more now!) so she decided to bring a male colleague with her. That helped her feel more at ease at first, until she was able to determine that the group was welcoming and warm. She found that in this particular group, she didn't feel like "a woman". She just felt like a businessperson and an equal.

Staci goes on to say that it's important to walk into a room with your head held high.

Carol Lynn agrees. She says that if you behave differently or fearfully then people will pick up on that. But if you expect to be treated as an equal and you walk into a room confidently then you'll have a better experience.

Juan RamosAHR Design Solutions (handyman, home remodeling service)

Another quick pause as Paul Scharff reminds everyone that you have to get a good "feel" for a group. Not all networking groups are alike but you'll get an intangible feeling about whether or not a group will be a good fit for you.

Brian AubryRCP Management (property management for condominiums and townhomes)

Steve MarchiAll Occasion Limousine (personalized limousine service)

Mike LencsakBuhler Auto Truck Group (automotive sales)

Donna OstrowskiAmboy Bank (commercial bank services)

Antimo RussoAntimo Plumbing & Heating (plumbing installation and repair)

Quick pause to talk about how membership works… many people think that only one person of any type of business can be a member in a group. For example, if the group has an attorney, no other attorney can join. But in our group we have 4 attorneys because each of them specializes in a different area of law.

A group could have two photographers, for example, if one specialized in weddings and another in family portraits.

Bill MikitaMikita & Roccanova (certified civil trial attorney)

Randy DrozdProfulgent Technology (IT and computer services)

Hal SodenOliver E. Soden Agency (property and liability insurance consulting and risk management)

Trivia alert! Turns out that Hal is a colleague of friend of the show Ryan Hanley. I didn't know that until one day recently when I told the group about Ryan's book Content Warfare and Hal chimed in that he knew Ryan. Love how networking cements connections!

Mark GabrielLyons & Associates (family law attorney)

John FinneganAtlantic Office Systems (copiers, printers, scanners and fax)

John HarveyDUCTZ (air duct and dryer vent cleaning)

Dave WalkerD. Walker Design (graphic designer)

We mention the idea of a "power partner" here because Dave is a graphic designer and makes a great referral partner for us, and us for him. Our industries overlap and our collective clients often have a need for both of our services.

Bill Kugelman, Powell & Roman (transactional and business litigation services)

Dr. Dennis HupkaBack 2 Health Family Wellness (chiropractor)

Carol Lynn Rivera, subbing for Tim CahillSiding & Windows by Tim Cahill (exterior home remodeling, siding, roofing, windows and doors)

When a member is absent, they can have someone sub for them. One of the members who was off on a hunting vacation asked Carol Lynn to sub, so she read his commercial.

Tony MartinezTapeo Restaurant (Spanish & Portuguese cuisine, private events)

Paul Scharff of Paul Scharff Photography, subbing for Carl FlohsFlo-Dar (kitchen and bathroom design)

Paul was a guest on our podcast twice, once as we mentioned earlier to talk about networking but also to talk about how photography can be used to make you more money.

Featured Presentations

Each week two members get 10 minutes each to speak to the group in depth about their businesses. Today Paul is one of the featured presenters. He isn't a member of our group but he is our regional BNI director and visits on occasion. We were lucky to have him today.

Instead of the usual speaker presentation, I ask a series of questions that Paul fields like the pro he is.

Firs I want to know, why join a networking group? Paul says it will make you more money. Each week you have a room full of people dedicated to listening to what you need and helping you close deals.

What makes a good networking group? Paul says – show up! Be present, participate and listen. And of course, make personal referrals whenever you can.

Paul pays us a compliment when he says that ours is one of the strongest groups in Monmouth and Middlesex counties. He suggests that for all members – in our group and elsewhere – always be thinking about your commercial. Use your fully allotted time and make sure you refine, refine, refine your pitch.

He also clears up a common misconception we hear often, which is that if you don't deliver a certain number of referrals or revenue to the members of the group, you'll be kicked out.

At least in BNI, that is simply not true. There are many ways you can participate in the group, whether through referrals, by being part of the leadership team, volunteering for other tasks, even bringing guests.

After Paul, it's time for Tony to be featured. Tony is the owner of Tapeo Restaurant, which is also the venue for our weekly meetings. He started out as a boy on a farm in Spain, worked for some time in corporate America, opened a cooking school in Barcelona and finally landed in Hazlet New Jersey where he is feeding Portuguese and Spanish cooking to many happy locals.

Tony speaks a bit about his business, the types of services he offers and why we should send referrals his way.

The key to profitable networking is to let the people in the room know how they can go out into the world and be your sales team.

The Wrapup

One of the aspects of the meeting that we didn't record was the roundtable we do at the end where every member has a chance to make a few comments on the meeting, thank other members for introductions or give testimonials.

But it's also one of the most powerful parts of the meeting so we didn't want you to miss out on it completely.

We give our own testimonial to close out the show, by thanking Tony for a great experience at his restaurant. The night before we recorded this podcast, we went to the restaurant to set up the podcasting equipment and afterwards we stuffed ourselves silly with tapas and mojitos.

Now we can recommend the restaurant to people with confidence because we've actually been there and done business personally with Tony. We know from experience that the food is great and that the owner truly will go out of his way to make sure you have a wonderful experience.

And that right there is the power of networking.

Whether you're thinking of joining a BNI or some other networking group, get out there and visit a meeting. Visit two, three and more. Find the group that feels right for you, one where you feel welcomed, one where members are committed to helping each other. One hour a week can make a tremendous impact on your business and your bottom line.

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WSS #0162: In Which We Solve Sexism With Disembodied Heads. Plus, Mike Allton Dies.

The Intro Before The Intro

Our friend Alisa Meredith of the Superheroes of Marketing podcast recently offered a critique of our podcast and said that she would like to know what we're going to talk about before we start.

So based on her feedback we decided to add a short intro before the music, basically a "table of contents" for the podcast so Freds everywhere will know what to expect.

Except for today, when our intro went on for a really long time until we actually remembered to roll in the music.

What do you think? Helpful to know what's coming up or just extra talking?

The Official Web.Search.Social Tea

After experimenting with more teas than we can talk about, we decided that Simpson and Vail wins. They have green and black and oolong and white and dessert teas, all of which add up to more than 350 kinds of deliciousness.

We're on a mission to try them all and in the meantime we've enjoyed the ones we've sampled quite a lot.

Mike Allton Geeks Out On Star Wars

Mike Allton of the Social Media Hat recently wrote a post called This Star Wars Trailer Will Blow Your Marketing Mind. It's full of great content, from Mike's take on what we can learn about marketing from the Star Wars trailers to videos of the actual trailers themselves. It's geek heaven, but I'm concerned that given the upcoming superhero movies that are coming out, along with the scheduled release of the next Star Wars movie, will Mike actually Survive? Or will all this geek goodness make him go supernova?

Alisa Joins Us To Talk Sexism

An article is circulating on social media titled The Thing All Women Do That You Don't Know About. The gist of the article is that women deal with sexism in every aspect of their lives, all the time. And the way they deal with it is to grin, laugh it off and acquiesce to men. The author talks about how as a woman, she is either afraid to anger men by standing up for herself, or in business she is afraid of being considered bitchy – or worse, fired.

Carol Lynn says that she's had many relationships with men throughout her life, from brothers and cousins to friends and colleagues, and never felt marginalized or afraid to speak up.

Alisa says she's had a different experience. Just recently, a guy at her gym was staring at her and she basically told him to stop being creepy. Carol Lynn makes the point that Alisa wasn't afraid to speak her mind. But Alisa says that her confidence has come with age and she probably wouldn't have done the same thing ten or twenty years ago.

Seems like there is a learning curve to dealing with creepy people and that's something we discuss later on.

Who Are These Sexist Men?

Turns out none of us know a lot of sexist men. They're definitely out there but are they the majority? Are they even the vast minority? Or does social media amplify "the squeaky wheel" so to speak?

I wonder what percentage of men treat women in some of the horrible ways Alisa says she's been treated. Alisa confirms that it's a small percentage so we can't help but wonder: is this type of behavior more prevalent on social media than in real life?

Road Rage And Bad Behavior

Alisa says that you might experience road rage toward someone while you're driving and curse them out, but if the same person were walking into the supermarket behind you, you'd probably hold the door for them and say hello.

The point is that when you're detached from people you tend to say and do things you wouldn't normally. Men and women both behave badly online.

Carol Lynn says that social media can magnify the worst of humanity. People will always find something hurtful to say, whatever the context, and they do that by separating people into "other" status. Then they apply a label – whether you talk about someone being a woman, or being gay, or conservative, or Jewish, they will use the label to disparage you. It's not so much a matter of sexism as bad behavior.

So we wonder next, are these isolated cases of humans behaving badly, or does it mean entire segments of the population are being victimized? Is this really the huge problem that it can seem like? Do some creepy people – you know the ones, nobody really likes them – represent the whole?

We don't know the answers. We only have our opinions and perspectives and experiences. But it all ties back to that learning curve that we get to at the end…

Losing Business Opportunities

I've witnessed many women – even young women who are students of my college level web development course – post sexualized photos of themselves online. The consequence is that I've seen women be denied jobs because of the way they represent themselves.

I believe that a company has every right to deny a job to someone who may pose a risk to the reputation of the company. For example, a PR company may not want to hire someone to represent clients online if that person can't even represent themselves well.

Creating Barriers Where We Don't Need Them

When you read and hear this kind of thing online, it's important to understand whether it's one person's experience or an actual widespread problem. I think it's important not to let our negative experiences with some people affect our positive relationships with others.

Teaching Kids To Be Social

Being afraid to speak your mind or being fearful of confrontation is learned behavior. Nobody is born knowing how to deal with all the awkward or unpleasant situations all the time. We learn by being taught, we learn by example. We don't need to teach kids about sexism but we do need to teach them how to be social. The youngest children can learn to speak up, to respect themselves, to be kind and be human.

Yes, figuring out how to treat people and how you want to be treated in return in a learning curve. You figure it out over time, through trial and error and you emulate those around you.

If we can be better examples then perhaps people will learn better social skills – online and offline.

Your Seriously Social Moment

Ian Anderson Gray is back with his series on roadblocks to creativity. Today he talks about how wanting to be liked is sometimes hard to deal with. Let's face it: we all want to be liked. And it can hurt when people don't like us.

But you can combat that and not only make your life better but make your business better.

First, you need to surround yourself with loyal, honest friends. They're the ones who will build you up and provide you with constructive criticism, not negativity or hate.

Second, respond to criticism positively. As a business, even if someone lashes out at you, always respond with respect and kindness. This has been shown to increase customer advocacy.

There's always going to be negativity. But you don't have to succumb to it. Find the support of good friends and implement positive reactions in your business.

Dreamweaver Vs. WordPress

In my college level class I teach students HTML and CSS using the web development tool Dreamweaver. But I was recently debating whether it would be more beneficial to teach them WordPress. As I agonized over the decision, someone posted a related thread on Facebook that really got me thinking. The thread basically expressed a woman's frustration that her daughter was learning Dreameaver.

But after thinking about it I decided to stick with Dreamweaver. WordPress is a platform that already has the fundamentals in place for you, and while it's great for blogs and content management, you don't need to be a web developer to use it. By teaching Dreamweaver I'm giving my students the fundamentals they'll need to build a website, to understand how websites work and even to be able to transition effectively into using WordPress if they need to.

What really cemented my decision was a letter from a former student who wrote that she had great success at her new job because she remembered the HTML she had learned in my class.

For businesses hiring – or students looking to get hired – it pays to understand how web development works, which involves a lot more than clicking "install theme" and configuring a few settings.

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WSS #0161: Free Is A Four-Letter Word: Why It's Worse For Business Than You Think


Today's guest is Blair Glaser and we asked her to be on to continue the conversation about why you should not be giving away your time and services for free. On our last episode on the topic we got a ton of feedback – all of which was from people who are also tired of doing work for free, all of whom agree that enough is enough.

Then not 30 seconds before starting this recording, I got a text from a friend saying that she'd been contacted by a big agency to do some work for them. I was really excited to hear that, until she followed up by telling me that their idea of "working together" meant "you write our blog for free."


Webinar Or Romper Room?

Remember back in the day when the Magic Mirror would look out into TV-viewer-land and see you there? And the hostess of the show would greet a few lucky watchers – Hi Emily, Hi Sam, ooh I see Jenny and Joe…

Well, our guest today mentions that attending one of those free webinars is a little like that. The person hosting the webinar greets one person after the next until it starts to get a bit annoying. Plus, it makes her wonder, "Where are all these people coming from?"

Blair continues by saying what we all know: many of those free webinars are nothing more than an hour-long sales pitch. The lengthy greetings are usually followed by the short pitch, followed by maybe a bit of info followed by the long pitch. It's all pretty slimy and uncomfortable, often not the best use of our time.

If you've ever put on a webinar you know how it can be like pulling teeth to get people to sign up – let alone show up. So how do some people always manage to have gadzillions of people (who they then greet individually in a way that cuts into 10 minutes of your precious viewing time)?

Turns out… and I think I blew Blair's mind a little here… that you can buy software to fill seats for you. Not with actual people, but with names that make it look like there are people. I guess that's the webinar version of social proof, eh?

The longer our conversation goes on, the more we agree: some of these webinars are good, but a lot of them leave us feeling slimed. Kind of gives free a bad name.

Losing Your Authority

Blair makes a great point about how continuing to give away time, products and services (including your valuable content) takes you "out of your authority."

What ends up happening is that we attend the webinars. We subscribe for other people's email courses. We watch the instructional videos. We get all this free stuff that purports to tell us "how to do something." We see very successful people "doing something." And we want to do it, too.

So we follow their plans and blueprints because if THEY are doing well with this methodology, WE can.

But Blair says no.

Blair says that chasing the carrot leads to doing things that don't push you forward on your own path, into your own authority. It doesn't help you find the things that work for you because you're too busy doing things that work for someone else.

The result? Disappointment. Feeling like a failure. Burnout.

Burnout Is Bad

You probably don't need to be told that burnout leads to a host of bad outcomes. It has negative effects on your mental well being, your health and your business.

But worse, perhaps, is after you've put in all this effort to create your free offers and free webinars and free books and whitepapers and courses… and you get a client. But wait… why is that bad?

Because you may end up being so darn happy that your efforts paid off that you aren't even paying attention to whether this client is a good fit for you. And that can lead to bad business and even worse burnout.

You Are Not "In Service"

Blair challenges some serious status quo when she says that there is a myth we’ve been brainwashed to believe, which is that by producing all this free content and doing all this free work, we are "serving people." This idea of being "of service" to people has got us pumping out more and more free stuff.

But that is not our job. It's not yours.

Service and money have to coexist. Blair is a big proponent of the law of reciprocity. She says that you give and you get. In business, you typically give your customers what they want and need – and you get money. Anything less is not business.

A Good Use Of Free

Do you know what standup comedians do? They perform a set at a small comedy club for free so they can test the material out on a live audience and refine it so it'll be ready for the big (paid) gig on HBO or something nice and profitable.

We all agree that this is a great way to think of doing stuff for free. If you're working on a product or service and want to "test" your material out on an audience so you can get feedback and perfect it, go ahead. But again, consider the law of reciprocity: you're giving (free content) but you're getting, too (feedback and an opportunity to improve for your paid gig.)

Pro Bono Is Not The Same As Free

We take a brief detour to discuss doing pro bono work, which essentially boils down to doing stuff for free but it's entirely different than the kind of free we don't like.

Pro bono work is something you choose to do deliberately because you value or believe in what you're doing. In many cases, you actually are "in service" when you do pro bono work.

We do pro bono work for non-profits and for our school district. But it doesn't inhibit our ability to run our business and we don't expect any monetary return.

Still, we get something in return: we get to feel pretty damn good about what we're doing. We get to feed our souls, nourish our values. We get the satisfaction of knowing we're supporting our community.

Blair is pretty adamant about the circle of giving and getting. Whether it's money, emotional satisfaction or something else, you need both ends.

The Gratitude Hangover

Here's a perspective we've never explored and it's this: when you give something away for free, the recipient feels grateful. But that gratitude can turn to guilt if the recipient doesn't hire you or buy from you.

I bet you never considered that your free stuff could be making people feel bad. Now, not everyone has this problem of course. Lots of people are happy to take your free stuff and run. But there are also plenty of us with a sense of gratitude and loyalty who do want to participate in the law of reciprocity and give back to the people who give to us. But sometimes it's not a good fit, and it feels bad not to give back.

Subways During Rush Hour

Blair says that all this free stuff has turned our inboxes into a subway during rush hour. And that leads to the other negative effect on recipients of free stuff: overload. The more free stuff people sign up for the more their inboxes and desktops get cluttered and the harder it gets to process.

And at least for us in marketing, we've noticed that the more free stuff people get, the less they learn. The problem is that so much information contradicts other information. And as Blair mentioned earlier, it's too easy to think you need to try something that isn't for you, just because it worked for someone else.

The problem is the same in other industries where too much information can be confusing. Coaches, consultants, therapists, nutritionists… you may get quite a lot of conflicting information from different professionals so that if you're looking for "the answer" you're only going to get stuck in analysis paralysis.

That doesn't mean one person is right and another is wrong. People may just have different philosophies, approaches, ideas. They may all be valid. But that doesn't mean they are all valid for you or that you have to follow them all. If you plan to work with a professional, pick one that you trust, and go.

Less Free Stuff = More Money

Blair noticed something interesting in her business when she stopped doing free webinars: she had a whole lot more time to do other things. And one of those things was getting out into the world to meet people where she closed more business and made more money.

We had the same experience. When we stopped all the free meetings and free consultations, we started to focus on the things that made us money. And expect compensation for the value we provided.

You can do it too. Want to vet clients through a free 20-minute consultation? Or test out some free content on an audience? Go ahead, but remember the law of reciprocity – you need to be getting something of value in return.

And remember, you have to value yourself, your time and your services before anyone else will.

Your Action Item

From Blair: Have fun. It may seem counterintuitive not to do something "big" but that's the point. If you're feeling overwhelmed or stuck, do something fun, whether it's a fun work project or a fun hobby.

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WSS #0160: Bah Humbug! Christmas, Outrage And Client Gift Dilemmas

Sexism And Tea

Well, they're not related but it sounded interesting, didn't it? Actually, they're both follow-ups to last week's podcasts.

First, we have Chris Curran of Fractal Recording on for a few minutes because as today's sponsor, he showed up live to announce the relaunch of the Social Media Unscrambled podcast. If you haven't listened to it, Chris Curran and David Deutsch talk social media with a sense of humor. It's one of our favorites and according to Chris, they're back, "This time with a point." (Humor, remember?)

While he was here, Chris blamed Ralph for a speeding ticket that he got. Apparently Chris was trying to call Ralph when he blasted by a cop doing 80 miles per hour. Which reminded me of last week's episode with Mojca Mars about sexism, and the fact that I've never gotten a speeding ticket, even though I've been pulled over for speeding more than once. I can't help but wonder if part of the reason I "got away with it" is because I was a cute girl. Men don't seem to be as lucky!

And speaking of last week's episodes, on our After Hours edition we spent some time talking about tea and the different types we planned to try.

Well, we tried a lot over the weekend. Some were from Teavana, and in spite of their delicious-sounding names, the two flavors we tried were 100% horribly undrinkable. So undrinkable that I packed up the box not an hour after I received the delivery and drove to the post office to return it.

We also tried Simpson & Vail tea with much more success. They have some amazing flavors, from Carrot Cake to Charles Dickens (yes, that's a tea flavor) and those were delicious. So far they've all been winners, and I think I developed an almost instant addiction to English Toffee.

Hey, Fred… Christmas is coming. Just saying.

The Sniply Buster

Before we get to our main topic, we read an email from a listener who asked us about the Sniply Buster plugin that we referenced some time ago. If you're not familiar with Sniply, this podcast will bring you up to speed. I wouldn't say we were outraged… ok, we were kind of outraged… but we had a very civil conversation with the founder of the tool, during which we completely disagreed on pretty much everything.

Anyway, the Sniply Buster is part of the Social Warfare plugin so you can get the best social sharing plugin on the market AND a simple way to block people from using Sniply on your site. Go get it.

Bah Humbug!

Speaking of Christmas, that turns out to be the main topic of our conversation today. Well, Christmas and the holiday season in general.

And it all starts with outrage. The outrage begins with a Medium article I read about someone who was shopping and saw a lipstick color called "Underage Red." She then tweeted a photo and said, rather benignly, "How is this a lipstick color?"

She subsequently forgot completely about it. It's the kind of thing any of us would do when we see something curious. What she didn't expect was a series of big media outlets to pick up the tweet and start writing headlines about the "outrage" over this lipstick shade.

This resulted in a whole lot of Twitter flaming and the author's admonition to us to beware of the utterly manufactured outrage that seems to be so prevalent on the internet.

The thing is, nobody was outraged. Nobody cared. Then some media publications that wanted clicks printed some sensationalist headlines and that resulted in the outrage that never existed.

The author cautions us to check the source of the next "outrage" to see if it's a true violation of all things holy or just someone's sad reach for another page click.

Which leads us to Christmas…

Starbucks Is In Trouble Again. Or Not.

You may have heard the "outrage" over how Starbucks is removing Christmas from its stores. Because they changed their cups from "red cup with reindeer" to "red cup."

The endless Christmas products sold, the endless Christmas music played… that doesn't really matter because OMG THEY CHANGED THE CUP!

Now, you might read that and think (as we did)… (and as everyone else that we know and have talked to did)… Who are these crazy people who think a red cup means Starbucks is anti-Christmas? And you might be inclined, as I was, to have an emotional reaction. "That's crazy!" And then go on to list all the reasons why.

But then you might, as we did, come to the conclusion that nobody is actually outraged.

Oh sure, a guy is outraged. A guy is making the rounds on video and TV and talk shows and radio talking about how darn outrageous the whole thing is, how he is going to start a movement to "trick Starbucks into writing Merry Christmas on their cups." (Seriously, that's what he said. You can listen for the clip. He is also planning on carrying his gun into Starbucks from now on because reasons.)

Is he outraged? For real? Who knows. But it sure does get him a lot of attention to be! So it's in his best interest to be as outraged as possible and to appeal to whatever fringe of perpetually outraged people want to go along for the ride.

But we have another opinion. We don't care.

Ralph says it perfectly. He says that we've hit a tipping point where there has been so much of this nonsense that we're collectively starting to feel outrage fatigue. And when this stuff happens we may have that initial emotional reaction but after about four seconds our rational brains kick in and we think, "This is not a thing. Moving on."

A Lesson To Small Businesses

This is not just a conversation about being outraged over outrage. There is something to be learned here and it's this: be careful of the outrage bandwagons you decide to jump on. If you get on social media and start spewing out this kind of thing or taking sides on one side of the outrage fence or another, you could be losing credibility, turning people off and undermining your own marketing messages.

Especially as small businesses, where we as individuals are the faces of our businesses, everything we say is a reflection of our business. So if you want to be outraged, go ahead. Just be careful that you understand the source, that it's an actual issue that you feel strongly about and that you begin a reasonable discourse rather than simply yelling louder than the other guy.

Your Seriously Social Intermission

In part two of his miniseries about roadblocks to creativity, Ian Anderson Gray is back to talk about what's holding us back. We're often held back by a lot of issues – depression, anxiety, fear, doubt. But Ian says you can't let these feelings fester. You need friends, family and support.

And you need to stop being busy. So during this seriously social moment, Ian wants you to stop being so social… online… and start doing it offline. Add time to your calendar for going for a walk. Spend time with your friends or family. Plan time with yourself to contemplate what you're creating.

Put simply: unplug.

Now, Pass The Presents

With the holiday season upon us, it's that time of year when we start thinking about what we should be doing for our clients. Should we send a card? Gift? Expensive gift? Token gift? To whom?

Over the years we've run the gamut from completely ignoring the holidays to sending out really nice gifts.

So what's the "right" thing to do?

It's a tough question, because as much as we might like to send great gifts to every one of our clients, budget is a reality. And when you consider that your cute $20 gift is going to cost $40 once you add in shipping and handling, gifts aren't so practical anymore.

What's a small business to do!

Well, we have a couple of opinions and things to think about. First, what is the purpose of sending gifts to your clients? For us, it's about expressing our appreciation and gratitude. So sending those generic boxed cards with our company named printed in gold foil doesn't do the trick. Sure, we've done that plenty of times. But then we're just another boxed card in someone's very big box of boxed cards, some of which are probably exactly the same except for the company name on the inside.

If our goal is to let people know we appreciate them it doesn't take a lot to do that. You can do that with zero budget. Pick up the phone and call each of your clients to say happy holidays, to let them know you're thinking of them and that you appreciate the business you've done together. That simple personal conversation will cost zero dollars, a few minutes of your time and be much more meaningful than the boxed card and maybe even the expensive gift.

How about emailing your clients? How about offering to meet your client for a cup of coffee? Not to sell… just to be friendly. How about… wait for it… a handwritten note?

There's a lost art to writing notes but they are incredibly powerful because of their scarcity. If you can take time out of your day to personally hand write a note to someone, that means a lot.

We get a handwritten note of thanks from Tammie Rampley every time we order one of her Tramplee Designs bags. We have a collection of bags… and notes… that make those shipments much more memorable and fun.

Ultimately our opinion boils down to this: do something. It doesn't have to cost you a lot of money. It just has to be meaningful to the recipient.

We also suggest that you don't have to do the same thing for everyone. Send an email to some people, write a note to others, take some out for coffee. Send a nice gift to your best clients. And who are your best clients? They don't necessarily have to be your highest paying clients. Someone who is loyal, who you do repeated business with, who you have a great relationship with may be a lot more valuable to you than someone who pays you a ton of money.

Confetti And Streamers

One of my favorite gifts that we ever sent out was a chocolate bar inside a card stuffed with confetti and streamers. We bought our favorite chocolate – a super dark boutique blend – and put it into the card in a large-ish envelope so we could fill it with the confetti. When our clients opened it they were greeting with a big poof of celebration.

We got a whole lot of love back from that gift. People were really excited about it and called and emailed to tell us how much fun it had been to open. Now, that gift actually cost us a decent amount of money because we bought specialty chocolate, but you can take it down a notch with something simpler, or even just go with the card-and-confetti. It's a small thing but it's a lot more fun than a card without confetti! And it will make you stand out just a little bit from everyone else's boxed card.

Your Action Item

From Ralph: when you're writing content, don't quote other people and relate it to your topic. For example, don't quote Herman Melville and then talk about how it reminds you of SEO. Because it doesn't! Don't rely on that crutch to make your point. Give your opinion, say what you need to say but skip the hocus pocus and get to it.

From Carol Lynn: make a list of all the clients who you'd like to show your appreciation for. Depending on how many people make the list, you can begin to assess how to show it. Gifts? Phone calls? Emails? All of the above?

Bonus Item: Email us and let us know the best and worst gifts you've ever sent to clients… and the best and worst gifts you've ever received from clients.

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Direct download: 0160-bah-humbug-christmas-outrage-and-client-gift-dilemmas.mp3
Category:business -- posted at: 12:00am EST

Let's Get This Controversy Started

Today's guest reached out to me a few weeks ago and asked to come on our podcast to talk about social media. But after browsing through some of her content I came across an article she wrote on Medium called Let’s talk about Femtrepreneurshit that caught my attention. I was so fascinated by the topic that I asked her to talk about it instead.

And what is "Femtrepreneurshit"? According to today's guest Mojca Mars (you'll just have to listen for the pronunciation!), femtrepreneurship is a movement of women entrepreneurs and femtrepreneurshit is the ugly consequence. So let's get started offending some people, shall we?

What Is An Entrepreneur?

That's a question we couldn't answer in a hundred podcasts. Seems like everyone has a different idea of what it means, from being a business mogul who buys and sells multimillion dollar businesses to a guy working in his sweats at home.

And maybe it's all that, but Mojca has a simple definition and so do we. For Mojca, it means that she is just a person running a business, getting her own clients, doing her own thing, maybe not with all the fancy business plans and "corporate" pieces in place, but working for herself nonetheless.

For us it means picking up the cat puke. Because as entrepreneurs we get to have the fancy client dinners and produce the shiny new websites but we also clean the toilets and yes, pick up the cat puke. Basically, whatever it takes.

So What's Up With Femtrepreneurs?

Mojca defines femtrepreneurship less as a "women's power" type of movement and more of a spiritual movement and support group. It involves "female entrepreneur" conferences that spring up around – dare I say – "woo-woo" types of behavior (she gives an example of a daily routine that involves filling up a glass of water and making some affirmations while looking into it) and patting each other on the back for doing such a great job.

Ok, so what's wrong with a little woo-woo and back-patting? Mojca feels pretty strongly that these types of events not only exclude men (reverse sexism, hm?) but actual business conversation, too.

Instead of talking about strategy and ideas and money, it's one big female-power support group.

I have to admit, I agree with her point of view on these types of events. If I'm going to a business conference, I want it to be about business. And while there is nothing wrong with support groups, spirituality and even infusing these into your business, there is also actual business stuff that needs attention.

The problem arises when women isolate themselves by being "female entrepreneurs" and not simply "entrepreneurs." We don't need a qualifier. If we want to be considered as equal, as successful, as competent as men, then we need to stop imposing "other" status on ourselves.

Let the hate mail commence.

I Don't Need a Qualifier. Neither Do You.

We don't call men "male entrepreneurs" so why call ourselves "female entrepreneurs?" It's actually condescending. Here's what I hear when someone calls me (or you) a female entrepreneur: "Hey, you did a great job! For a woman."

(Also, if you tell me I didn't do a great job, I won't cry.)

Does sexism exist? Sure. But we women impose a lot of it on ourselves, by hosting "women only" (isolationist) events, by tacking adjectives onto our achievements and by behaving like something other than what we are – people.

Come on, I'm seriously ready for the hate mail.

"Men Are Great People."

That's what Mojca says, and come on, they are. Right?

I mean, some people are great people and some people are not so great people. Gender doesn't have to play a role.

The truth is that some men marginalize women. I have this problem repeatedly: I'll call a vendor and make a request to have something done.

Time goes by… nothing gets done.

I call again and ask for my thing to be done.

Time goes by… nothing gets done.

After a cycle of this I will eventually go to Ralph and say, "Please call this vendor and use the man voice so I can get this done."

And he does. And it does.

This isn't an exaggeration. This is "a thing." It's a really annoying thing.

But on the whole men are, actually, pretty great. I like them. I like their humor and conversations. I like the fact that I can talk about business and not my hair or whether my feelings were hurt by that mean tweet.

I don't want to go to an event that's segregated. I don't want to talk about "women things." I just want to talk about things, whatever they may be.

So my feeling is that if we put ourselves into the world the way we are, if we act like people engaging with people, we'll be a lot better off than being femtrepreneurs.

Why Does Femtrepreneurship Exist?

Well that would require an entire sociological study, but of course we have thoughts. Ralph thinks it may be a "rubber band" effect, a reaction to women being excluded and marginalized. What do you do when you're excluded? You start your own group where you can be included and appreciated. And that's necessary and useful because it can instigate change.

Mojca thinks it's a reaction to fear. Women are afraid to be criticized so they avoid situations where they might be criticized, even if it's constructive criticism. Instead, they retreat to women's support groups that don't address real issues in business.

I agree with both of them. There's no doubt that women have historically not had the same opportunities as men. And there's no doubt that everyone needs to silence the voice of the critic sometimes.

Somewhere beneath all the qualifiers, the reactions, over reactions and under reactions, is a balance of equality where we act and treat each other as people.

Do We Behave Like Women… Or Like We Think Women Should Behave?

Sometimes women temper their behavior because we think that's how we're "supposed" to act. We worry about how we'll be perceived by men. We want to be nice, we want to be liked, we want to be beautiful. So we put out these perfectly Photoshopped photos (no beer bellies for us!) and we sculpt our conversations to fit some perceived notion of what will make us likeable.

Of course, this is not an ailment reserved just for women. Men and women alike often find it challenging to "be themselves" online, hemmed in by their own ideas of what they think people expect of them. We conform to expectations of what a "professional" is or what a "woman/man" is or what a "social media expert" is.

In the end, aren't we just putting those limits on ourselves?

Mojca Will Punch You

Does Mojca try to be "nice?" Does she want to wrap everything in a nice bow for you? Oh hell no. She is not going to be nice just because she is a woman. She is just going to be herself.

If you start a conversation she is going to have it with you. If you say something opinionated she is going to have one right back. Get all up in her face and she will punch you.

She doesn't hold back from being herself. And she considers it one of the advantages of running her own business – she gets to be herself because nobody is tying her hands. She gets clients just the way she is.

Also, she wears a dinosaur onesie.

More Conversation, Please

The way to combat our problems with discrimination and sexism is not to create more problems for ourselves. Creating separate groups, bestowing special titles or statuses on ourselves is only creating a wider gap.

The solution is in talking about these issues and sharing our thoughts and fears. The solution will happen one person and one relationship at a time.

Your Action Item

From Mojca: Prepare five tweets that show your personality. A photo of you or something that reflects the real you – not the "you" that you think other people want to see. Then put them out there! (PS: this is your homework whether you're a man or a woman. Add the hash tag #wssup so we can applaud your you-ness!

And more! Mojca has prepared some goodies for you, including marketing worksheets, resources and a 50% discount on her new Facebook ads book. Link below!

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WSS #0158: After Hours: All Food, All The Time (Plus Gratitude!)

Let's Talk Food, Baby

It's our After Hours episode and today we're really taking the whole Thanksgiving thing to heart. Not only by talking about what we're thankful for but by talking all food all the time. It is pretty much one of our very favorite things on earth, so we get into more about our tea snobbery, honey, apple pie and farm raised meat.

Pies Are Good People

Lately I've been experimenting with pie, in part because I love cooking (and eating) and in part because as we discussed a few months ago on this podcast, we've been aiming to eat healthier. That means less eating out, less processed food. No sugar (ok, how about a lot lot lot less sugar?) and better home cooked food.

But since we can't live without pie, especially this time of year when fall weather makes us think of… well, pie… I've been working on making healthier versions of apple pie that still taste awesome.

My usual recipe is pretty simple. Apples, brown sugar, white sugar, a bunch of spices and lots of butter.

Recently, I found an amazing recipe for pie crust that makes the store bought version taste like soggy, sugared cardboard and even on a slow day only takes me an extra ten minutes to make.

But the pie itself also has a ton of sugar, so what to do?

Well, I started out by halving my usual amount of sugar – from a whole cup to half. And it was still sufficiently sweet.

So I halved it again, down to a quarter cup of sugar.

Still, sufficiently sweet!

You'd be amazed by how little sugar you actually need to sweeten something, especially compared to what the recipes say.

But then I wanted to try something new and use honey instead of sugar. After all, honey is sweet but it's actually better for you than processed sugar.

So just this past weekend I made an apple pie with a quarter cup of honey and no sugar.

The result was surprising. Delicious, but actually too sweet. So next time I'm going to use an eighth of a cup of honey and see how that works out. I'll keep you posted!

The trick is also to find a great apple. I've found that Honey Crisp are amazing. They're naturally sweet and cook up really nicely without oozing juice all over the oven.

I know a lot of people like Granny Smith but I'm not a fan of tart. If you are, you may want to try a little more sugar to balance it out at first.

I also like Gala apples if you can't find Honey Crisp.

Of course, the crust is decadent with little more than flour and about six gallons of shortening, but if you're going to splurge then this is the crust to do it on. By the way, I didn't get to mention it on the podcast but I did cut down the shortening in the recipe by a quarter cup and it still made an amazing crust that was ever so slightly drier to work with but tasted just as good. I think next time I'll experiment with different flour!

The verdict from Ralph is that it was delicious, but he prefers a different type of honey (live and learn).

He also countered my initial statement that "pie is evil" by insisting that pies are good people.

And now you know.

A Gratitude Intermission

We reached out to our listeners last week to ask what they're thankful for. We got some great answers! Here's one we loved.

Angie Fisher of Coaching Success Systems says, "What I'm grateful for - my amazing and powerful team. They have kept my business running while I take a little time off to enjoy my new little one. The second would be the freedom to spend time off with my newborn while still growing a business and delivering priceless support to our clients."

We love that because it perfectly illustrates how we feel about work-life balance and being able to enjoy and appreciate both.

Teas Are Recipes, Too

Just last week we got a box delivered to our door from, as Ralph put it, "the faraway land of London." It was a gift from Ian Anderson Gray who sent us three teas from the Rare Tea Company. We were tremendously grateful for about six seconds then immediately ran for the teapot.

Wow, that's some good tea!

But since Ralph is a full-fledged tea snob, drinking a cup of tea is not enough for him anymore. He likes to blend his teas so he mixes and matches flavors like a master chef.

His current favorite is a Rare Tea English Breakfast with a Tea & Sympathy Seville Orange. In fact, he thinks this perfect union will bring about world peace.

I guess if we're all enjoying a good cup of tea we'd be too busy to hate on anything, right?

Ralph put my tea snobbery to the test with a Jasmine vs. Jasmine experiment. He made me one cup of Jasmine from loose tea we bought at Tea & Sympathy in New York, and one cup he made from bagged tea from Stash Tea.

With one sip I knew which was my favorite. After a whole cup it was clear there was a winner. And it wasn't the loose tea. I far preferred my good old bagged Stash.

Guess I'm not winning the tea snob war. But that's ok because I'm too far into world peace from Ralph's amazing recipe that I don't need to participate in a war.

However, I proudly covet my title of Honey Snob. My parents buy us all our honey because they live near an awesome roadside boutique where they harvest honey from bees that pollenate different types of flowers – pumpkin, blueberry, wildflower, you name it. It's amazing honey and each tastes very different.

Our favorite is New Jersey Pine Barren honey. And my personal fave is Chestnut honey which is amazingly rich and I could eat it out of the jar. If you love honey, try it!

Your Seriously Social Moment: Imposter Syndrome

Today our Chief Executive Research Dude and tea gifter extraordinaire Ian Anderson Gray talks about how being "comfortable" is holding you back and killing your creativity. He says that to reach your potential you have to step outside your comfort zone.

But if you're like pretty much everyone, at some point you feel like you're just an imposter – you're not really as good as everyone else, you don't really know what you're doing… so why bother?

The thing is, everyone feels that way, even the biggest, most influential names you know.

Ian says if you're feeling like this, you're on the right path. Embrace the feeling and think of it as a green light to move forward. Some people may know more than you or do things better than you but nobody can BE you.

A Gratitude Intermission, Take 2

Naomi Bergner says, "I'm grateful that I get to end most of my days snuggled up with my honey and my cat in bed, watching something fun on Netflix."

We love that but we also find it a little creepy because that's exactly how we end our evenings. Fred, are you surveilling us?

Farm Raised Meat For The Win

I developed a bit of an obsession with buying meat from real, actual farms a number of years ago after reading a book called The Omnivore's Dilemma. It's about factory farming vs. real farming the way nature intended.

The purpose of a factory farm is to increase output and decrease cost. Unfortunately that comes at the expense of all things natural. Animals are packed into filthy, disgusting warehouses, raised without access to the outdoors or sunlight, fed diets that nature never intended and pumped full of hormones (to fatten them faster) and antibiotics (to combat the disease that follows from these horrifying conditions and unnatural diets.)

Reading that book affected me so much that I immediately stopped buying factory raised meat and found myself a farm to order meat from. These days my go-to farm is located in the Midwest and I periodically order a bunch of meat and have it delivered.

Eating meat from cows, pigs and chickens raised on pasture (ie: a farm), that live natural lives outdoors, get sun, get a natural diet and are treated well throughout their lives is a completely different experience.

It’s far healthier: since the animals eat their natural diets, they are full of the vitamins and minerals we as humans need. And they're not pumped full of hormones or antibiotics so you don't have to worry about all of that ending up in your body.

It's far more delicious: meat tastes like meat. It's rich and delicious and doesn't need to be cooked to death to kill off bacteria.

It's fare more ethical: animals are treated humanely from birth to slaughter, not crammed into boxes in a warehouse and abused so we can have marbled steaks.

Ok, if you couldn't tell I feel pretty passionately about this. So much so that if we're out of meat, we just won't eat it. There have been times when I've subsidized a waning meat supply with supermarket meat. Over the summer I grabbed a bunch of ground beef from the supermarket because it was cheap and I needed a bunch of it (and I didn't have any).

And I regretted every second of it. It tasted disgusting. Even at 93% lean it was slimy and horrible to cook with. And I felt like I was just participating in a horrible process.

Ralph wants to know: if I'm feeling so ethical, why not stop eating meat entirely?

Good question, and the answer is different for everyone. Some people choose not to eat meat for ethical reasons. For me, I don't have a problem eating meat that is humanely raised and sourced. I look at it as part of nature. We're evolved to be omnivores, so if we respect the animal then I'm ok eating it.

Ralph also wants to know if I'd kill my own dinner.

Honestly, it's not something I'd love to do. But if it was either necessary or presented as a reasonable option, I'd do it. What I would not do is go to the forest with my bow and arrow, shoot a deer and then watch it suffer and bleed out for the next hour. That is no more humane. But if I knew how, then sure, I'd respectfully be responsible for my own dinner.

I Need Eggs!

It's not just meat that is pastured – eggs are, too. If you've never eaten a pastured egg, it may surprise you. The yolk is orange and not the pale yellow you may be used to seeing because pastured chickens eat the diets they're supposed to, so the eggs have the actual nutrients they're supposed to.

I used to buy them but the farm where I got them no longer ships and somehow, in the great state of New Jersey I can't find any local farms where I can pick them up.

I've been on a search for them ever since so if you know anywhere I can order them, please let me know!

A Gratitude Intermission, Take 3

Sheng Slogar says, "I'm thankful for people like you guys and the Triberr team for not discounting the value kids can give (me!). Too many people only see kids' usefulness past babysitting and raking lawns once they hit 18, 19, and 20. After all, people instantly develop every valuable skill possible on their 18th birthday, right? Well I'm sure glad there are the few that don't think so!"

Sheng is 17 and the funny thing is that I didn't realize he was that young for a long time. Of course, knowing didn’t change anything. We think he's great, smart, fun and we thank him for not treating us like grown ups.

What We're Grateful For (The Sappy Moment)

We call out a mere few people who have made our lives better this year and though we'd love to name them all, we'd be here all day. And still miss someone!

So here is a short and very incomplete list of people we love.

Ian Anderson Gray, for his endless support and friendship

Melanie Kissell for her poetry and unwavering friendship

Tammie Rampley for her friendship and for making sure I always have an awesome bag (and for her handwritten notes that made Ralph cry)

Alisa Meredith for her friendship (even if she hates chickens… a non sequitur we'll leave you to wonder about)

Mike Brooks for being there for us 24/7 via text, Skype, phone and smoke signal

Jeff Sieh because he has the manliest beard and that always cheers us up

Of course our families who have been there to support and help us in ways we could never express

And you, Fred! Your comments, your questions, your friendship and input, even your hate mail.

If there's anything we can help you with, let us know.

Carol Lynn's Super Simple Almost Sort Of Healthy Apple Pie

Make the crust! Use the recipe referenced below.

6-7 big apples – peel and slice and stuff them in there! My faves are Honey Crisp and Gala.

The original recipe had ½ cup white sugar and ½ cup packed brown sugar. I've managed to get it down to ¼ cup brown sugar and it still tastes awesome. Or give honey a try.

The original recipe also calls for butter layered into the apples, 2-4 tablespoons depending on your mood. I don't use any these days.

Spices! My preferred spices are a teaspoon of cinnamon and another of Garam Masala. Among other things, it has cloves, nutmeg, cardamom and cinnamon. For me it's a nice way to get a great blend of spices. You can also try a bit of ginger, nutmeg or cloves. They're pretty strong so go light. Mix them as evenly as possible into the apples. If you sweeten with honey you can blend everything in a bowl and it will coat the apples nicely.

Poke some holes in the top crust to let the steam escape.

Bake at 375 for about 50 minutes until the crust is lightly golden and the apples are soft when you poke a knife in.


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Direct download: 0158-after-hours-all-food-all-the-time-plus-gratitude.mp3
Category:food -- posted at: 12:00am EST

WSS #0157: Superhero Sarah The Rebel On Writing For Marvel's Comic Universe. Plus: Legs, Poop And A Tank Top

Today Is All Geek (And Rebel) All The Time

You may recall a couple of episodes ago we called upon the Army of Fred to tweet a few people who we wanted to have as guests on the show. Well, one of those was Sarah the Rebel and thanks to YOUR efforts she's here!

Sarah is an author, podcaster, gamer and all around geek.

But what makes her a rebel? Well, you'll have to listen for the back story but she confesses to not following the "rules" of social media or doing any of the conventional things that your average marketer might tell someone to do. Fits right in with our mantra to challenge the status quo.

The Entrepreneurial Journey Starts With A Bang

We asked Sarah how her journey began and she told us she's been mentally writing a book since she was ten years old and has always wanted to write. But she didn't actually write much for a long time. Instead she moved out to Los Angeles and started working for a video game company, managing writers for a gaming website where ultimately she wanted to write for video games.

And that worked out well for a while until one day she got a call from Marvel to write a book. If you think we're skipping a few steps… we're not. It was just that sudden. According to Sarah there was no gradual buildup toward her dream. One day she was working and the next day she was asked to author Marvel's Agent Carter: Season One Declassified.

What does she attribute her good fortune to? Well, following her passions, for one. Instead of staying on the east coast dreaming about doing something, she saved a little money, packed her bags and took off. For another, she networked the heck out of L.A. She went to events and meetups and connected with people however and wherever she could. Passion plus drive equals fortune.

True story: when Sarah got the call from Marvel, she had a moment to think, "Me? You must be looking for another Sarah."

Sarah Disses Game Of Thrones

We take a brief detour to discuss a comment Sarah made about how she no longer likes Game of Thrones. I think she's lost her mind so I challenge her to explain. And she has a point… she says that it's one thing to read about the craziness and use your imagination, and another to see it in vivid color images on the screen. As a self-described feminist, she doesn't appreciate the violence against women.

When it comes to the last season, I tend to agree. It seems more like a writer sitting in a room asking, "What would George R.R. Martin do?" as opposed to what George R.R. Martin would actually do. Sarah agrees, so we're friends again.

She also says that the book doesn't translate the same way onto the screen so that begs the age-old question: which is better? The book or the show?

After The Shock Settled

Once Sarah came to terms with her imminent fame, she jumped right in. Except what she learned was that when it came to starting such a project, a lot of it involved long stretches of sitting around waiting. She had a list of 80 people (yikes!) to interview and they were typically busy on the set of Agent Carter. Unable to do much but wait, she did. By the time she'd managed to interview everyone on the show, her three month project had dwindled to one, which was all the time she had left to write the actual book.

How did she manage? Well, for a two week period she worked during the day, got home at 8PM and then wrote from then until 10AM when she went back to work all over again. Sleep? Sarah laughed at sleep! Or maybe that was just the hysteria of being awake for two weeks.

Sarah And Marvel Get In A Fist Fight

With a BAM and a POW! Ok, it wasn't as dramatic as all that but she's a superhero, right?

As Sarah reminds us, Agent (Peggy) Carter is a story with a feminist slant. It's a story revolving around sexism in the workplace but the editors of the book didn't want Sarah to say the words sexism or feminism in the book. Ever. And it turned into a problem at some point when Sarah's principles clashed with the editorial staff's requirements. There were things she refused to change and that turned into a bit of a ruckus. No fist fights, though.

In the end, Sarah refused to make the change but the editors made it for her. She assumes they won't be asking her to write again.

But the experience reminded her that she could write and led her to more writing gigs, including writing for video games. As a result she achieved her two big life goals: write a book and write for a video game.

Remember, passion plus drive equals fortune.

Superheroes (And Rebels) Win The Day

Sarah is currently working on her next big thing: a book called Avarice Touched that she's co-authoring with her geek-minded cousin. As of this recording, they're 300 pages in and "not near the end." We anxiously await the publication!

Of course, if this all sounds rather idyllic, Sarah assures us that it wasn't all rainbows and unicorns. She had lot of really tough times, too, from numerous brushes with homelessness to losing friends to becoming very ill. But if her story proves anything, it's that in spite of all the down times, being a creative entrepreneur can be tons of fun.

Your Action Item

Start. Don't feel like you have to hurry up and achieve your goals NOW, especially when things aren't going well and you start to think you're a failure. But as long as you believe in what you're doing, the universe will make sure you get what you're supposed to get out of it. The hardest thing about doing something is... well, doing it. But once you get started it becomes a whole lot easier. So get past that and DO IT. Start. Start now, wherever you are personally and professionally. Take your destiny in your hands and make it happen.

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WSS #0156: You Asked, We Answer: Business, Freebies And Guest Blogging Conundrums

Get Your Graphics On

The Visual Social Media Conference is coming up on November 4 and 5 - it's online and it's live and you won't find a better roster of presenters, including our very own Alisa Meredith, the manly Jeff Sieh, the wonderful Katherine Kotaw, Peg Fitzpatrick, Donna Moritz, Rebekah Radice and more. They've each got a tip, trick or tool (or maybe all three!) to help you market using great visuals.

BONUSRegister with the code WSS and get 15% off the ticket price.

Entrepreneurial Fail

Yesterday was not such a hot day in the realm of our entrepreneurial journey. We were supposed to demo progress on our new software product to our business partners and Ralph worked all weekend to make magic happen.

Instead of magic, Monday happened… and instead of installing the software, Ralph basically blew up the data.

To make matters worse, he says he made a stupid mistake that he never should have made. And in his efforts to fix it, things just kept getting worse.

There was no partner demo. The partners were not happy. And Ralph stewed in a cloud of failure.

Goes to show that no matter where you are in your entrepreneurial journey or how experienced you are, you're going to make mistakes. You're going to have bad days. Sometimes really bad things will happen and you'll get mad at yourself and maybe other people will get mad at you too, but you have to keep on going.

And even though Ralph called himself a failure today, I don't believe in calling yourself or anyone else a failure. I've deemed it a "failure event" but insist that Ralph is not at all a failure.

Also, we learned that pie can help ease the pain. As long as it's served with a side of Oreos.

Giving Stuff Away For Free

Today we take on two questions that listeners asked as a result of our recent "Death to Free" episode.

The first comes from Nadia Bracken and goes something like this:

I don't want to charge for my program but it is expensive to administer. I'm burning through a lot of cash and paying a VA every month. I want to hire someone to help me with social media and content production. You said to tell you when I wanted something to be free. I want it all to be free. What should I do? I am not running a business. Do I have to?

Well, Nadia, there are two key points here.

One is burning through cash.

While giving stuff away is noble and wonderful, it won't pay the bills. If you can fund your freebie and you love giving things away, do it! By no means are we suggesting that giving things away is a bad thing. But if it's costing you more than you're earning one way or another, then something has to give.

If you've got the money, great. You can fund your passion project. If not, you need to earn the money to pay for it or perhaps ask for donations or even crowd fund it.

The second key point is not running a business.

And that is, of course, the context we're referring to. Free stuff is great and we want it, too! But when you're running a business then you need to earn money to support yourself and your business, to pay your staff and bills and to allow you to continue to uphold your obligation to service your paying clients. So no, you don't have to run a business and you can give away your time and products to your heart's content. But if you are running a business then free is not your best friend.

A Seriously Social Moment

Today Ian Anderson Gray wants you to stop saying "thank you" on social media. Funny, coming from a British guy who is confoundingly polite. He is so polite that it took him several years before he enlightened us to the fact that he is Scottish and not Bristish. But who's splitting hairs?

But he has a point. It's become rather rote for us to spit out a "thank you" when someone comments on our post, shares it, tweets it… so rote that it seems to have lost its meaning.

Ian says that instead of an automated thank you, how about a genuine question or a show of support? How about introducing someone to someone else or sharing another idea?

While being polite is important and being grateful is, too, Ian want you to be mindful of being a person. And you can't automate gratitude.

No Return On Guest Blogging

Another listener asked a question related to the same episode about free stuff. We got so much feedback on that episode we're going to revisit it soon.

But for today, Stephanie Parker asked this:

I agreed to be a guest blogger on another blog and it has turned in to me providing way too much free content with little to no traffic back to my site. Any tips on breaking it off without burning my bridges?

Ralph says that people tend to be more afraid of burning bridges than they need to be. If you're doing something for free or doing someone a favor, there's an unspoken understanding that it's not permanent and that if you have other obligations to attend, you may need to stop doing that free thing.

We call this "negotiating with yourself". This is where you have an imaginary conversation in your head about what is going to happen if you say or do something and usually it doesn't bear resemblance to reality.

We both agree that you can extricate yourself by being direct and tactful. Thank the person for the opportunity and let them know that you have other obligations to attend, which includes clients and paid work. Everybody we've ever dealt with like this has been agreeable. And if that person is not agreeable? They've burned the bridge, not you.

A Guest Post Tangent

Stephanie's question led me to wonder, if she's investing so much time in guest posting, why isn't it turning into traffic? Before calling it quits, I suggest there may be a way to capitalize on guest blogging. Of course, it's important to know whether the site you're posting on gets decent traffic. If not, then you probably won't get any either.

But there are other things you can do to improve traffic. One, make sure your name, website and social links and bio are all prominent on the post. Some bloggers put the post under their name then write an introduction to your post, but that doesn't necessarily highlight you. Nor does it highlight your website or information.

Then try to include links within your content that go back to your website. As long as you're not adding affiliate links, ads or other spammy types of links, bloggers are typically amenable to letting you put links in your content to other relevant content. Make it easier for people to get to your site and see what happens.

It should go without saying that your content has to be great. Make it something that someone really wants to read and they're more likely to want more.

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WSS #0155: Know When To Fold 'Em: Recognizing The End Of The Road For Your Business

Geoff Livingston Does A LOT

We met Geoff several years ago at a talk he gave and have been fans ever since. But it's hard to introduce him because he is so multitalented. He ran a PR blog, a branding and marketing agency, is a professional photographer, wrote a business book and two novels (with another in the works to round out his trilogy) and currently has plans to do undisclosed things that he has yet to reveal.

Today we talk to him about two topics: the first is his experience publishing (and his transition from business to fiction, traditional publishing to self publishing) and the second is the sunsetting of his marketing agency (in contrast to pivoting, which we discussed with Chris Curran last week.)

Geoff Can't "Not" Create

If Geoff's experiences sound diverse, he has a pretty simple explanation. "I can't not create," he told us. Whether it's a book or a photo (or undisclosed things… argh!) he sort of gives new meaning to the word creativity.

He talks about his first book stemming from a manuscript he started over 20 years ago (persistence pays off, kids!) and the process he went through to complete it. Part of that included distributing advance reading copies to a few people (I had the pleasure of being one of them) and getting their feedback.

One of the critiques I passed along was that the colloquialisms, meant for a medieval timeframe, sounded a little too modern. Other readers called his writing "too literary." Geoff had to parse through all that and take the good with the bad, incorporate the changes that made sense and keep going.

Much like most of us, he occasionally got stuck in perfectionism. All of us who create know what it feels like to constantly want to tweak and fix and perfect. But Geoff got that book done and a second one, too. He confesses that reading his first novel isn't much fun – he looks back and doesn't like it. But he's learned and grown along the way and is proud of what he accomplished in the second.

It just goes to prove that you may not be perfect but you're always going to improve. So don't get stuck – just create!

Geoff's Advice To Aspiring Authors

We asked Geoff what he took away from his experience that he can share with authors who are thinking about publishing. And he says definitively that it's important to make sure your characters resonate with the audience. You need to make an emotional connection with readers who are so often pulled in a million content directions with plenty of options for entertainment. So you'd better make sure your story and people resonate.

Turns out it's not always the brilliance of the writing, the poetry of the language or even the spelling and grammar. If your story resonates, readers will stick around.

Pivot Or Sunset?

Last week we talked about the necessity of making major changes in your business in order to survive. But Geoff took another path, and that was closing his business down entirely.

Recently we learned that he was shutting down his marketing agency Tenacity5. Through a series of unfortunate events they lost some significant contracts that put a serious dent in their revenue. To make matters worse, it happened while Geoff was in Africa on a photojournalism shoot with limited access to internet. By the time he got home, he knew it was over. Without enough business in their pipeline and their major contracts gone, Geoff no longer had the heart to try to turn the business around.

But there was more to it than financials. The work had not been as fulfilling as he wanted it to be. He called it "tactical" and it wasn't interesting or challenging enough. So without the revenue, and without the emotional investment, Geoff quietly closed the doors.

If that sounds a bit sad, don't worry. Geoff has tenacity! He is already making money through his photography and has more plans (that he wont' tell us!)

We asked Geoff how it affected him personally, especially when he learned the news from abroad. "It sucked. It just sucked," he said. And that about sums it up.

Your Action Item

From Geoff: Read a book by Steve McClatchy called Decide. It's about time management but moreover it's about spending time on the tasks that will bring you results. If you want to create a positive outcome in your world, you've got to make selective use of your time and put the irons in the fire that will make those things happen. Nobody else is going to make them happen for you!

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Direct download: know-when-to-fold-em-recognizing-the-end-of-the-road-for-your-business.mp3
Category:business -- posted at: 12:00am EST

WSS #0154: Death To Free: How To Get Paid For What You Do

First, A Word From Our Sponsor

Do You Wish You Could Use Great Visuals In Your Marketing? But find yourself saying things like, "I'm not a designer!" Or, "Ugh, I don't have time for that."

Well, the excuses stop now. Join Alisa Meredith and Jeff Sieh as they host the Visual Social Media Conference along with a plethora of amazing speakers and guests. You'll learn the tools, tips and strategies you need to take advantage of the power of visuals in marketing.

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Things That Are Not Funny

Last week we had a few days of things that were not fun or funny. At the same time that one of our business partners was in Nashville demoing our new software, we were here in New Jersey making sure everything went smoothly. Except right in the middle of it all I got sick and with no doctors in sight, ended up having to go to the emergency room.

And even though that wasn't fun OR funny, the even less funny part is that while I was there, someone stole our license plates.

That necessitated a police report, a couple of trips to the DMV, a bunch of paperwork and things that were not fun in general.

But there is a bright side. Amidst all the stress, the people we dealt with from the medical personnel to the police officers to the DMV and everyone in between were extremely nice and helpful. So if something bad had to happen, at least it came with great customer service. And in the end having people on our side made a huge difference in our outcomes.

The Myth Of The Internet

Today we want to talk about getting paid and how to do it. But it seems like we're running uphill because there is a myth perpetrated by internet culture that before you can expect to get paid for anything you first have to give away a lot of stuff for free.

This doesn't seem to be a problem in the real world. When a contractor comes to our house he never offers to paint the bedroom for free and then if we like it he'll think about charging us to paint the living room.

So why is this so prevalent on the internet? Well, we're not entirely sure except to speculate that it worked for someone. And that person then told everyone else to do it, and like the echo chamber that the internet can be, everyone just… did.

The thing is, giving stuff away for free did work for a lot of people. We'll call them "the early adopters" because they were giving stuff away long before anyone else thought to do it. And there was a lot less stuff out there and a lot less competition.

Now that content, and especially free content, is so ubiquitous, we're all in a race to the bottom to out-free each other.

A Dangerous Mindset

The more you give away, the more people expect you to give stuff away. So when you finally do politely ask for money, people are outraged! And then we start to feel somehow wrong for asking for it.

People who are the heavy hitters in your industry, I bet they don't run around giving everything away for free. That isn't to say they don't have a freebie, a perk, an offer – but they more often sell.

Giving stuff away also encourages tire kickers. They're just out trolling for free stuff and will probably never pay you. Why should they, when most of anything they could need is free – if not through you, then somewhere else?

Perpetrating a constant stream of free stuff just devalues what you do.

So what can you do?

A Seriously Social Intermission

Today Ian Anderson Gary brings us a question with a perfect tie-in. He asks: when was the last time you checked your vanity metrics? Your Klout score, number of Twitter followers, number of Facebook fans. Admit it, you love those numbers! And we do too, but they are not an end goal.

Would you rather have fans or customers?

Would you rather have an impressive Klout score or customers?

Would you rather have a huge email list or customers?

You're seeing a pattern, I bet.

Keep the end in mind, and if you're running a business, that’s to make money.

Money Is Not A Bad Word

If you're afraid to ask for money then you probably shouldn't be in business. Wanting to make money is not wrong or bad or immoral. You're providing value in exchange for money. It's a fair trade and it's how business works.

The first thing you need to do is accept that or you may want to consider running a charity instead.

Raise Your Prices

We touched on this with Chris Curran last week and it sounds completely counter intuitive, but raising your prices can result in more – and better – business.

Of course we're not talking about arbitrarily raising your prices. We're talking about assigning a price tag that equals the value you provide.

Is that easy to do? Heck, no. We've spent years working on that formula. But start thinking about what you're worth instead of what the other guy is charging.

How good are you at what you do? How much experience and knowledge do you bring? And yes, how much time do you invest?

We're not fans of hourly pricing but there is a practical reality to the time you spend on your work. That could include not just working time but thinking time. There is actually tremendous value in your brain!

And we're talking about selling services because if you're selling a widget there is only so much you can do about price if half the world is selling that widget, too.

But when you're selling a service, YOU are the product and that means your collective years of knowledge and experience and talent. That's worth something. And you have to value it before you can expect someone else to.

Find The Intersection Of What Makes You Money And What You Love To Do

There may be parts of your job that you love but that don't have any real monetary value in the marketplace. And there may be things you hate to do but that make you money. The trick is in finding that place where money and liking your work meet.

Get rid of the rest.

If you try to sell everything you're not going to enjoy yourself and you won't really ever be a master at any of them. It may sound counterintuitive but instead of broadening your services, narrow them down. Focus on the things you're great at.

Sometimes there is a practical reality to business where you need to do things you don't love because you need the money.

But if you don't find that intersection of things you love and things that make you money, eventually your business is just going to be a financial and emotional burden on you.

Follow "Free" With "Buy Me"

We don't want you to give stuff away. But there is merit in the idea of giving away a freebie as an incentive for people to join your email list or follow you. But if you're planning on giving something away or making a free offer, make sure you always have a process and system in place to move people from free to paid.

If you put on a free webinar, be ready to sell something during or after. If you offer a free download for joining your email list, then email those people with your paid offer.

Don't follow up your free offer with another free offer. Choose your freebie carefully and make sure it's only the tip of the sales iceberg.

Build Your Reputation

If you're working in a saturated space (and who isn't these days?) one of the ways you can compete without pouring a ton of time into free thing after free thing is to work hard on your reputation and authority.

And one of the ways you can do that is to get yourself a guest appearance on a podcast. Nay, many guest appearances! Yes, you can guest blog, but there is something very powerful about getting your voice and personality out there in a way that doesn't come across in writing.

Find podcasts in your niche and pitch the producers with your idea. We're always happy to hear from people who have relevant ideas and lots of podcasters are glad to fill their guest rosters.

And one final counterintuitive suggestion… find shows that may not seem like a good fit… and fit them.

Recently I was on a podcast called The Creative Yarn Entrepreneur podcast hosted by Marie Segares. It's a podcast dedicated to home based business owners who create patterns for knitting and crocheting or do crafts themselves.

I can barely thread a needle so why would I possibly have been on that podcast? Turns out Marie wanted me to help her home-based business audience learn more about creating their websites and promoting themselves online.

So while a podcast about yarn may not seem like a good fit on the surface, it turned out to be perfect. Your job is to do some homework and find opportunities, even when it seems like none exist.

A word of warning: don't pitch an insurance podcast on discussing cold fusion. It should go without saying that your topic should be interesting and relevant to that podcast's audience.

Your Action Item

If you feel compelled to give something away for free, email, call, message or smoke signal one of us and let us talk you out of it. More importantly, let us talk to you about what you can do instead.

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Direct download: 0154-death-to-free-how-to-get-paid-for-what-you-do.mp3
Category:marketing, business -- posted at: 12:00am EST

WSS #0153: Pivoting In Business: The Agony, The Ecstasy And The Oreos

An Infinitely Complex Pattern…

…that is self similar across different scales. Admittedly I have no idea what that means but apparently it's the definition of a fractal. As it so happens, we have Chris Curran making a guest appearance today, master podcasting genius behind the podcast production company Fractal Recording.

Chris was very kind to join us, considering we sprung it on him about a half hour before we started recording and didn’t bother to tell him the topic. He's a good sport! And he's the perfect guest for today's topic: pivoting.

To Change Or Not To Change?

Coincidentally (or is it karma?) Chris is going through a major shift in his business at the same time that we are. And much like us, he has gone through this before.

Today we talk about two kinds of pivoting: the voluntary kind where you know you have to change something because of financial reasons or because you're not exactly in love with what you're doing anymore and the involuntary kind where some s#%! goes down and you realize you have to change or die.

Both Chris and we have been through both kinds so we have plenty of notes to compare. Recently, Chris (in his own words) "got screwed over" and royally stabbed in the back by a business partner and that forced a pivot for him. Plus he knew he wasn't quite realizing his vision for his business so when things with his partner went south, he made a major shift.

Interestingly, Chris acknowledges that this pivot has made him profitable for the first time since he started the business.

Change or die, right?

Raise Your Prices, Close More Business?

Chris told us something both fascinating and counterintuitive: he raised his prices substantially and got more clients. Perhaps the most interesting thing is that coincidentally we did the same thing. And we got more business, too.

Yet the idea of raising prices is hair-raising for most small business owners. It was hair-raising for us! After all, when it comes to building websites and doing marketing, there's a developer and a social media ninja guru on every corner. And many of them charge a fraction of what we do.

But after a lengthy analysis we recognized that we were charging too little for the comparable time we invested and value we provided to our clients. We were in a race to the bottom with all the DIYers and "day trippers" (people who work at the supermarket by day and do social media marketing by night because they read a book about it). And we couldn't – shouldn't have even tried to – compete with that.

Chris's story shares the core of ours. We both wanted to attract a higher quality client, one who understands the value of our services and has the means to pay for it. Like Chris, we raised our prices to match our value. The result?

We lost a lot of leads. Lots of people walked out the door and many never even knocked.


We also closed more business with the right people. So, fewer clients but higher value clients. In the end we could invest the time and produce the quality work we wanted and get paid to do it.

And that's something for you to think about as you continue to grow your business. Are you pricing your services commensurate to the value you provide and the experience and knowledge you bring? Or are you undermining yourself by trying to charge the same – or less than – your perceived competition?

Chasing Down The Next Product

One of the key pivots Chris made early in his entrepreneurial life was to evolve from being a life success consultant to being an audio engineer. Now that's a serious shift!

But why?

At the time, he'd been developing products, including courses, webinars and even books. And one of the things he found was that when he released one of these courses or webinars it took off and he made some nice money. But over time fewer people showed up and fewer people bought. So he had to create a new course or a new webinar and when he released the next one, it took off and made money. But the cycle repeated itself and over time interest and attention dwindled.

Chris knew he couldn't sustain a business or a life by constantly trying to release new products as soon as the ones he already created started to wane. And we totally agree. It's exhausting and not entirely profitable to keep chasing down the next thing. A business has to be sustainable and if you spend your life in a constant state of anxiety over "the next thing" that's not only bad for business but for your well being.

Know When To Hold 'Em, Know When To Fold 'Em

All this talk of making changes in business (some of them rather significant) makes us wonder: where's the line between "I need to keep going and make this work" and "It's time to bail out before I sink"?

For each of us it's slightly different. For Chris, he was tired of chasing "the next thing" and wanted to make money. He was out of ideas for how to promote his products and services and essentially stuck where he was. He does say that if you have more ideas for improving then go ahead and try them! But if you're done then you're done and some of that is just instinctually knowing yourself, knowing your limitations and knowing what you want to do.

For us, we've been faced with the decision to bail or not to bail before, most significantly during the financial collapse of 2008. One of our largest clients, a financial service provider during a time when financial service providers were going under every day, went from providing us with a substantial amount of work to cutting the cord instantly.

Ralph and I seriously considered quitting the business and getting jobs. Why didn't we? Well, lots of tangled reasons, in part because we didn't want to (we enjoy running our business too much), in part because like Chris said, we still had ideas for pushing forward, and in part because we were willing to suck it up, tough it out, suffer through it and plan for the day we saw the other side.

For you, the line may be in a completely different place. There's no science behind knowing it's time to take a new path or tough out the one you're on. Just know that every business has to change at some point. And if you're a business owner and entrepreneur, part of your job is to keep your eyes open for the signs, to pay attention to your industry, your clients and your own needs and desires, and decide.

Pivoting: Piece Of Cake Or Pain In The @$$?

We're in our 40s now, so pivoting involves a lot more creaking these days. The hinges are getting rusty. We want to retire one day! So our business changes involve a whole lot more thinking about our end game than it did when we were 20-something.

We're a little more careful, thoughtful. But that doesn't mean we're stopping. We all agree that unless you are ready financially and emotionally to retire then you have to keep going. You have to keep trying. You can't quit! You just have to evolve.

But that doesn't make it easy. There are depressing moments. Frustrating and disappointing ones. You may want to quit. You may, like us, drown yourself in box after box of Oreos.

But as a true entrepreneur you've got something special. You have a certain creativity and an ability to adapt. You wouldn't be here otherwise. You would just be doing "a job", collecting a paycheck and going home.

So even though there are going to be miserable moments that may even make you doubt your own entrepreneurial cred, you'll come up with another idea. You'll set a goal that will spark that passion again. You may succeed this time, or you may fail. But you will keep going!

Your Action Item

From Chris: Look at your personal life, from spiritual to mental, wellness to diet, and see if there are any areas there where you need to pivot. You are a whole human being and your personal life affects your business life. Your interests and hobbies and relationships pivot, too. So see where your personal life may be impacting your business and make some positive changes there.

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WSS #0152: Curating (Your Own) Content And The Fictitious Line Between Business And Personal

Tea Snobs, Unite!

This episode of the Web.Search.Social Podcast begins with Ralph sharing a pet peeve: people who show up in restaurants with their own tea and ask the waiter for a cup of hot water.

Of course, he then confesses to being that person.

Thanks, Mike Brooks!

Mike is also responsible for turning us on to Simpson & Vail and Tea & Sympathy. He brought us a bunch of loose teas that were quite lovely except now we're in a state of "tea-mergency" because we're running rather low. Hint, hint.

There Is Actually Something Good About The Twilight Books

Ok, yes, that was slightly biased. I read the first book of the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer (because I had just finished reading the Harry Potter series and someone told me Twilight was just as great – pft!) and it made me want to kill myself so I wouldn't have to read another word.

Slight exaggeration, I'm still alive – but let's say I'm not a fan. However, Ralph brings up something positive that's not related to the story but to the content itself.

Turns out Stephenie Meyer has a new book called "Twilight Reimagined" which is the same story told with the genders reversed. Edward the vampire becomes Edythe, and Bella the.. the… the deadpan dishrag?... becomes Beau.

Sorry, sorry… I know this is not about the story!

So what Ralph says is that despite the book's detractors (hey, haters gonna hate) there is a hungry audience for this content and Stephenie Meyer does a brilliant job capitalizing on her own content by telling the story with a different spin.

So what does this mean for you, the business owner?

It means you don't have to reinvent the wheel with every piece of content you put out there. You don't have to come up with original content every time. You can repurpose and reimagine an old blog post, and old podcast, an old video.

Take the theme and topic and recreate the content with the same core but a new angle, or a new perspective.

It's Kind Of Like… Curating… Your Own Content!

If you don't already know how we feel about "content curation" then you may want to start hereOr here. Or here.

But this is a good kind of curation, because you've spent a lot of time creating your content. Why let it sit in an archive somewhere?

Bring it out. Freshen it up. Update it. Write like the more experienced person you are. Use the content you've already created and spin it into more and more content.

As an added bonus you can repurpose you own content for different platforms to take advantage of different opportunities. Pick a blog post and switch it up a bit from what's on your blog so you can take it to LinkedIn Publisher or Medium or Google Plus or anywhere.

Let's Get Seriously Social

We're adding a new weekly segment to our podcast called The Seriously Social Moment, a snippet of social goodness contributed by Ian Anderson Gray.

This week he goes all out with five reasons why scheduling (or in British, "sheduling") your social media posts is a good thing. I'll sum them up here and you can listen in for the full effect.

  1. You need to find quality content to share. Scheduling gives you time to find it.
  2. You can spend more time running your business.
  3. You can spend more time offline with the important people in your life so you're not obsessively on social media while you're having a good time with your family.
  4. You have more down time to revive and rejuvenate.
  5. You can reach people when they're on social media – even if you're not.

Ian reminds us that scheduling is a big advantage but that doesn't give us license to be a robot. You still need to take time to engage, but scheduling can save you a ton of time to do it!

It's Just Business

Have you heard this one before?

It's nothing personal. It's just business.

The idea has been bugging me for a while, this idea that someone will behave badly and then tell you it's just business.

First of all, this undermines business. It's just business. As if it's not real. It's not real life. So people think that gives them an excuse to do things they would not ordinarily do, presumably, if it weren't business.

Secondly, all it amounts to is an excuse for bad behavior, whether that's failing to pay you, cheating, lying, undermining you. Hey it's just business.

But there is no hard line between business and personal. If your business fails or is hurt, so are you. If you lose money, that affects you. Unless you can tell your mortgage company, "Hey, it's just business…" then what happens in your business affects you, financially at a minimum, and probably emotionally, too.

Unless you're independently wealthy and investing in businesses solely for the sake of making money, chances are that you are personally invested – not just financially invested – in your business.

So when a deal falls through, when a client gets angry, when someone fails to pay you, when a prospect walks away, you can't detach from that. Yes, we try. We all try to maintain that division so we "don't take it personally."

But what is a business, if not people? There is no ethereal "business entity." There are people. And when other people reject us or cheat us and do it in the name of business, it's personal.

Ralph Learns Young

Turns out Ralph had his first run in with bad behavior in the name of business when he was just a kid. He got a job with a friend delivering store circulars door to door to apartment buildings in the Bronx. They delivered hundreds of circulars and when they were finished, the boss said they had delivered to the wrong buildings and he wasn't going to pay them. But they were smart kids, and they looked up the written parameters of the job and pointed out that the buildings they had delivered to were, in fact, the ones they had been instructed to visit.

But that didn't seem to sway the boss, who never paid them and brushed it off by saying, "It's not personal, it's business. I like you guys…"

Well, of course he did. Who wouldn't like free labor?

Strangely, I never heard this story! Not sure I'm glad I did now, because this behavior is truly reprehensible. What "business" did he think he was dealing with that was separate from the kids doing the actual work?


My thought? If you can behave that way in business then that reflects on you. Personally.

The Line Between Business And Personal

In my opinion, there is no line. Your business overlaps with your personal life. It's all life. If you run a business then it's part of you. Chances are you love what you do, or at least like it, a little!

You probably invest a lot of energy and passion into what you do. So as part of you, the whole person, why do we feel so compelled to draw a line?

I've noticed that people tend to want to keep business "off limits" when they're doing personal things. At the dinner table, for example, have you ever been told to leave business aside because "it's family time now" or something similar?

But I like business. Mine and others. I like reading about it, hearing about it, learning about it, debating and imagining and talking about it. So to not be able to do that because it's "other" is just deleting something that is part of who I am.

So for me, I don't think business is 9 to 5 and everything else is "life." I think there is overlap that we can and should enjoy and appreciate.

Ryan Hanley Brings On The Audio

If you haven't read Content Warfare yet, what are you waiting for? If it's audio, well now you have no excuses. Ryan has begun to release chapters of the book as audio on his podcast and today we bring you the intro because it's such a great story.

He talks about his inspiration and why he got started as an entrepreneur. And I just made that sound super boring and ordinary but I promise you it's not.

It's actually a riveting read – or listen – so I highly recommend you enjoy it one way or another.

I don't blow smoke about this book, and even after reading the intro numerous times it still gives me happy chills.

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WSS #0151: After Hours: Apple Pie, The Martian, Game Of Thrones & Prostates

It's Web.Search.Social's First After Hours Episode!

We're changing up the podcast and hosting an "after hours" episode once a month where we don't talk business or marketing, but rather we talk about "stuff."


Because we – and you- are more than just the day to day of our jobs. We all have lives and interests and that's what makes us whole people. And the other stuff is also what makes us better at our businesses because we can't be all work all the time.

And It Starts With A Rage About The Mortgage Company

In a great example of how business and life bleed together, we recently had a kerfuffle with our mortgage company that forced us to spend time we otherwise could have been working on dealing with their… let's call it incompetence… instead.

Turns out that our mortgage company decided we don't have homeowner's insurance (we do) and to be incredibly helpful they were going to purchase it for us, at a cost four times any reasonable cost we would otherwise have paid, unless we could prove we had our own.

And to prove it, I had to upload our policy documents to their website. Done and done.

Except… not.

Because a month later I got the same letter ("last warning!"). So I called to ask WTF and the rep listened to my story and said, "Oh, we got your documents. We just couldn't read them."

So I tried to re-upload the documents only to get an error message from the website that since I had already uploaded a file, I could not upload another. And that my documents were being processed… and that they would let me know if there were any problems!

Unless they didn't.

Long, F-word-filled story short, the mortgage company contacted our insurance company to ask them to send the documents, but not before I wasted several hours and days dealing with their nonsense.

You may be wondering if it's now resolved. Well, I'll let you know in a week which is when I was instructed to call back to find out.

But There's An Up Side!

Apparently when I'm in a bad mood, I bake. So there is a bright side to days like this, which usually means something delicious.

In fact just this past weekend I baked an apple pie, made my own crust and all. That same day Ralph posted about it on Facebook and our Poet Laureate Melanie Kissell sent me a message with a chuckle saying something like, "I bet you'll bake a pie when pigs fly."

Just wondering if that means people really do think that all we do is work!

In fact, I quite enjoy cooking. It's fun, it's a great de-stressor and it pays off in something yummy.

So Ralph forgives my bad days when I show up after dinner with cake and pie.

Eight Weeks Of Healthy Eating Pays Off

Remember our "take care of yourself" episode? We talked about the importance of making time for your physical and emotional well being, why you need to eat right and even exercise in spite of all the busyness and the fact that exercise is probably not on anyone's bucket list.

Well, believe it or not that was eight weeks ago and since then we've been eating better and at least for me, I've been on the treadmill every day. One of our clients is a hunter/fisherman and he keeps us supplied with some amazing fresh food. I've personally cut out sugar, processed food and most bread and pasta because… well, calories!

So when I baked (and yes, ate!) the apple pie it was so rewarding. As an added bonus I fit into some clothes I haven't worn for… let's just say way too long!

The Seriously Social Moment

We're adding a new segment to our shows each week called The Seriously Social Moment which will be a short snippet contributed by our own Chief Executive Research Dude, Ian Anderson Gray.

This week he talks about a study that shows which social media tools are considered the best of 2015 by their users. So if you're wondering about a tool, looking for a tool, or just thinking you need a better tool, you'll want to check this out.

Stay tuned for more social goodness in the future!

An Awkward Moment

It starts out as we wish Ian a happy 40th birthday but then goes downhill from there. Ralph mentions that after 40, most doctors' visits for men end with a doctor's finger inserted into certain anatomical parts.

Then I go and up the awkwardness by complaining that women have it worse because we get poked and prodded in unmentionable places from the day we turn 15. And men don't have to get their boobs squeezed. TMI?

Books And Movies Up Next! Thank God.

Both Ralph and I love to read and we enjoy movies. We recently saw the movie The Martian and Ralph was elated, but I was meh.

Ralph enjoyed the movie tremendously and thought it complemented the book wonderfully. He enjoyed the interpretation and how they portrayed the characters.

I thought the move lacked the charm and depth of the book.

Ralph argues that it's not a matter of whether the book or the movie is better – they work together to enrich the experience. I beg to differ and say that if I had never watched the movie I wouldn't have missed anything. It was a faithful and interesting adaptation but the book was a much better experience.

We actually disagree wholeheartedly, which doesn't happen often!

Then Ralph brings up Game Of Thrones and how the book and the show are both fantastic and enrich the collective story because you get more out of both than you could out of one alone.

I haven't read any Game Of Thrones but I watch the show on HBO. In fact, I won't read the books until they are all written and published. I've been weird like that ever since I started reading Stephen King's Dark Tower series and there was a 20 year gap between the last two books.

Oh, and I hated the last book so much that I stopped reading Stephen King altogether!

But even though I haven't read Game Of Thrones, I can totally see how the book and the show and even all the supplemental materials would work together to make the story better. The difference is that the world and story is so vast, so complex and so diverse that it's almost impossible to get it all at once.

There's Actually A Business Lesson, Too

Ok, so we said no business, but it all ties together. Ralph says that we can take the lessons of movies and books and apply them to our own storytelling. In simple terms, if you post something on Facebook, for example, you can post something different on Google Plus or Pinterest or elsewhere. You don't have to repeat the same thing from one venue to another, but use each one to enrich your story, instead.

Finally, something we agree on.

Books As TV Shows

We're currently hooked on a show called Zoo, which is based on a novel by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge. It's a terrible, horrible, stupid show but we can't stop watching. We have not read the book but we wonder how it compares. We see glimpses of an interesting story (told badly) and think the book may hold some promise.

So if you've read it and/or seen the show, let us know!

And while you're at it, let us know what you're up to in your after hours. What do you like to do? What are your favorite books and movies? Fill us in!

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WSS #0150: How To Have Your Business And Enjoy It, Too: The One Year Podcast Anniversary Episode

Happy Anniversary!

To you, Fred. And to us on the one year mark since our first podcast episode aired. One year and 150 episodes later, we're both thrilled and exhausted.

A year ago we set out with this mission: to challenge the status quo of marketing and encourage you to think differently about what you see, hear and are told – seemingly ad nauseum – in blogs and podcasts and webinars everywhere.

And we think we've accomplished that mission.

Now as we look ahead to another year, we're shifting our mission ever so slightly toward business and entrepreneurship and challenging that status quo.

We want to talk more about how to start a business, sustain a business, manage a business, make money with a business – and yes, market a business – but with a focus on a holistic approach. And that means talking about all the things that go into running a healthy, successful business that you probably don't think about – like your passions, your health, your family and your life.

Business Is About Money

It sounds mercenary but the fact is that you need money. You have bills to pay. You probably want to do some fun things, whether it's putting puzzles together (we just finished our cupcake puzzle!) or traveling.

A lot of the "advice" you get is about tactics with no real end in mind. How many posts can you read about "list building"? Or any tactic? But there's no point to building a list if you don't know what to do with the people on it.

So we want to talk about the "what's next" of business and marketing so you can build, run and sustain a business that supports you, your family and your lifestyle.

And "money" isn't the goal. Money is the thing that can help you reach your goals – like spending quality time with your family and kids and not being chained to your desk.

Our "Unfair Advantage"

In entrepreneurial lingo, our unfair advantage is that we're in the interesting place of being 16 years into running a business but also at the very beginning of starting a new business – both at the same time.

So we have years of experience (and mistakes) behind us and we can speak from that. But we're also in a very real way starting over, and we want to share that journey with you as we grow and explore, make more mistakes and even more money!

How Do You Define Yourself?

There's a lot of lingo thrown around when it comes to talking about "business". There's the ever-present and overused "entrepreneur" that seems to mean "anyone with a computer and no job."

There are "freelancers", "business owners", "solopreneurs" and more.

What are you?

Don't answer so fast – this matters.

To a large extent, being successful is about mindset and if you don't take yourself seriously and don't speak about your business legitimately then nobody else will take you seriously, either.

Often the word freelancer is thrown around to mean "self employed". But it can also be associated with "job on the side."

If you walk into a prospecting meeting and introduce yourself as a freelancer, do you think that confers more or less legitimacy on you?

Think carefully about the vocabulary you use because how you define yourself is how others will define you.

Be serious about running your business.

What Is A Business?

If you're working day in, day out, chained to your desk, you're not really running a business. If the business would fall apart without you, you're not running a business. What you're doing is working a job – just one that you've given yourself.

If you want to run a business then you need systems and processes in place so that the business can keep running without you. It has to be profitable so you can pay yourself and your staff and have money left over to live your life. You have to be able to provide products and services that your audience needs without constantly chasing the next big thing.

We're not saying it's easy. But it can be done. And we'll be here along the way to talk about the ups and downs and to talk with guests about their ups and downs so you can learn and be inspired, too.


We're looking forward to another 150 episodes… and another… and another… and then maybe a vacation…

And we're glad you'll be there for the journey. We're excited to talk about the good, the bad, the ugly and the ants.

We also look forward to continuing to hear your stories, your successes, your failures, frustrations, joys and challenges. Onward!

Your (Marketing?) Action Item

Now that we've shifted our focus a bit, we're not sure that we should be calling this a "marketing" action item, but we aren't quite ready to give it up as a show segment.

So your action item today is to decide what we should call it instead! Plunk your thoughts in the comments or hit us up online.

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WSS #0149: A Puzzling Tale Of Ants, Popcorn And Shareholder Agreements

A Puzzling Episode

Last week we talked about a puzzle that had taken over part of our office and it's still there! We're making progress, albeit slowly, but more importantly the puzzle seems to have become a point of interest for our clients and business partners who visit.

Just last week during a couple of meetings, we were interrupted in the middle of marketing-speak by a client exclaiming, "Hey, I found a piece!" So let this be a fun lesson for you: whether you work at home or in an office, it's not a bad idea to have something for your customers and visitors to play with. Try it!

SuperFred FTW!

Last week we put out a call to you, our readers and listeners, to ping a couple of folks on Twitter who we'd like to have on the show. As of this recording, Sarah Rodriguez and ComicBookGirl19 have both responded to the call of The Army Of Fred and we're currently discussing having them on our podcast.

That leaves us with one holdout: Melissa Hunter. So if you have a moment, let her know we're still waiting to hear from her!

The Ants Go Marching

Before we get into our topic for the day, I wanted to share something that happened to me over the weekend. It's safe for work but maybe not if you're eating lunch.

Friday night we sat down to watch a movie and Carol Lynn had bought me a bag of my favorite kettle popcorn. I ate half the bag then left it next to the couch, figuring we'd be back to watch a movie the next night and it would be waiting for me.

The next day Carol Lynn cleaned up a bit and sealed the bag with a clip and put it back onto the kitchen counter. That night we did indeed watch another movie and I was excited to remember that I had half a bag of popcorn so I grabbed the bag and a bowl, dimmed the lights and the movie started as I crunched and ate, crunched and ate.

At some point I felt like I had a bit of popcorn stuck between my teeth but I couldn't seem to get it out with my tongue because it kept moving around… that's when I noticed that my hand was covered in ants. And the popcorn in the bowl was covered in ants. And the bag was full of ants.

So let's just say I spent the better part of that evening spitting and brushing my teeth and freaking out. We're not sure what to make of this as a lesson, except maybe, "Don’t leave popcorn by the couch" or "Don't eat in the dark."

What I can say is that this shall never be spoken of again.

And Now, The Shareholder Agreement

Yes, we have an actual topic today and it revolves around the very, very beginning of the entrepreneurial journey, namely what happens before, leading up to and during the process of putting together a shareholder agreement (also known as an Operating Agreement.)

This is the agreement that will lay out all the logistics of how your business will be run, how the money works, what the roles and responsibilities are and essentially all the "what happens ifs…"

It All Started With An Idea

Since we're content creators, and we create quite a lot of it, we need to have a really good process that keeps us on track and working efficiently. To help us do our jobs, we built some homegrown tools that made it easier to manage some of the repetitive parts of the process.

But then we realized, hey, if these tools are helping us, wouldn't they also be able to help other people?

And thus our idea was born: let's package and sell the tools we've built so they can help other people with their content creation and promotion process.

You will have your own idea, but if you want to make it a successful idea, it helps to formalize your plans, which is exactly what we did with our shareholder agreement.

Putting The Team Together

In our case, we decided that between Carol Lynn and I we could get some kind of product out into the world – but it wouldn't be nearly as good or as successful as it could be if we found the right people to work on it with us.

So we chose to add a creative director, a director of marketing and sales and a CFO. And we chose to include them as shareholders so that everyone would be incentivized to make a lot of money and cash in.

Now, we could have hired them – but given that we just started the company and we're making zero dollars, and neither of us has a million dollars hanging out in a bank account to pay salaries in the meantime, we opted to go with a partnership.

That made it even more important to have a governing document so that everyone knows what to expect and nobody ends up irritated or confused or angry somewhere down the line when what they thought was happening turned out to be something entirely different.

The point is that "a good idea" is not enough. If you want to bring your idea to life, you need to be sure you have the right team in place and the right agreement to make everyone happy.

Can You Do It On Your Own?

If you can, great! Go ahead and knock it out of the park.

But most people with a good idea need at least some support to make that idea happen. That's where your team comes in – and more importantly, that's where equity comes in.

When we first started, our initial thought was…. Our idea, our money. And we gave a little bit of that to the other people on our team. But the other people on our team had a different perspective. They figured they'd all be contributing to the success of the product just as we would, and wondered why they were only getting a tiny piece of the pie.

And they were right. They each brought a specialized skill that we couldn't do without. So we split everything up evenly and that means everyone has a stake in seeing the business grow.

If you're thinking of partnering up with someone, think long term and think value. Do you value your team? Then you need to show it. The last thing you want is to take the lion's share of profits and disappear on a nice long vacation to the tropics while your team members slave away for a couple bucks, growing more and more resentful and maybe eventually ditching you.

Think Ahead

Our goal in having this conversation is not to make this sound complicated or hard. Our goal is to show you just how not complicated it is. If you've got the right team and an attorney to advise you, this is all a matter of some boilerplate legalese plus a bit of personalized advice depending on what you want and need.

What is more complicated, is ignoring this step up front and finding yourself mired in red tape or worse, being sued somewhere down the line because nothing was clear up front.

Play a little bit of the Devil's Advocate. Ask why, ask what, ask what if. Think of the worst case and best case scenarios and think about what might happen in each. That's what your lawyer is for – to advise you and guide you.

And that's also why you can't hop onto the Internet, grab a strictly boilerplate document and go. It may be cheaper and it may be tempting but you'll miss out on the personalized advice that comes with having a real attorney to advise you.

In our case, we were planning to write language into the agreement that forbade us from selling the business or taking investment money for five years. But our attorney advised us not to bar it but rather to require a unanimous vote of the shareholders before we could do it. Without his advice, we might seriously have limited our options without knowing any better.

A Little Cash Up Front Can Save You A Lot Later

True, attorneys aren't free, but they're worth the short term investment for long term peace of mind. Besides, if you've got partners then each of you will contribute to the cost so no one person has to shoulder the burden alone - that's the point of a partnership. If you're thinking of starting one, ask questions early and ask them a lot. Put the right team in place and then get the legal advice to help you make it official. You will save yourself a lot of stress later!


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Direct download: 0149-a-puzzling-tale-of-ants-popcorn-and-shareholder-agreements.mp3
Category:marketing -- posted at: 4:41pm EST

WSS #0148: A Healthy Discussion About What Ryan Hanley And Carol Lynn's Boobs Have In Common

Today We Talk About Boobs

It's true. But it's also family friendly! Our topic today is about health and how that affects your productivity, creativity and of course your business.

But first…

A Job For SuperFreds Everywhere

There are three people we'd LOVE to have on our podcast so we're bestowing a mission upon you, The Army Of Fred.

The first person is Sarah Rodriguez whose novel "Avarice Touched" is currently available for preorder and is dubbed "a fantasy novel about the corruption of power, the madness of the Gods."

Sounds a little Neil Gaiman to us and we're geeky like that so we want to talk to her!

Hit her up at @sarahtherebel on Twitter and tell her we request her presence.

The second person is Melissa Hunter who had a funny and clever YouTube series called "Adult Wednesday Addams" that we quite enjoyed until it was pulled for copyright infringement. We're a little ticked about that, especially considering that the Wednesday Addams porn movies are alive and well.

Hit her up at @melissaftw on Twitter and tell her we want to chat.

Finally, we want to talk to ComicBookGirl19 (who has no other known name). She does great content about geeky stuff like books and movies and has a Game of Thrones wrapup that we wait for maybe even more than we wait for the next episode of actual Game of Thrones.

Hit her up at @cbgirl19 on Twitter and tell her we want to yell at her for not doing a weekly wrapup this season… I mean, tell her we want to talk about her awesome content!

And Now, Boobs

But really, health.

Today we talk about why it's important to take care of you – mind and body – before you can take care of your business. The conversation starts with a mammogram, which I finally had after years of ignoring my doctor's advice to get one. I mean, who wants a mammogram? Who wants to get half naked with a stranger and have your boobs squeezed and pulled like taffy? Definitely not me.

And yet, wisdom prevailed and I decided to suck it up and go. This summer was my second. And what I discovered is that it was not nearly as bad as I'd made it out to be in my head. It didn't hurt. It was barely uncomfortable. The air conditioning was up a little high so it was colder than I like it to be but otherwise it was two minutes, in, out, done.

All that ado built up in my head for nothing. The good news is that I have a clean bill of health.

But there's a lot more to health than a test once a year.

When You're Busy, What's The First Thing To Go?

Ralph and I took a few weeks off from podcasting because we were SO busy and we had to make some practical adjustments to our schedules.

But the podcast wasn't the first thing to go.

As is usually the case, the first thing we stopped doing was taking care of ourselves.

We stopped exercising. We stopped eating well in favor of eating fast. Over time, we got fatter and out-of-shaper and tireder and unhealthier.

I know we're not alone. We've spoken to plenty of business owners and entrepreneurs who kick health to the curb when time gets tight. We talked to Ryan Hanley on a recent episode about how when he was writing his book, he stopped exercising, didn't eat well and felt horrible.

And so did we. So we decided to do something about it and started getting on the treadmill again, eating better and even taking care of our mental health with time off.

Bad health doesn't happen at once. It sneaks up on you until suddenly you can't quite walk up that flight of stairs as easily as you used to. Or you start to work more and more and get less and less done. Or you crash in the middle of the day and can't get anything done.

Why Are You Working?

I don't know anyone who works for the sake of work. Most of us want the financial freedom to do the things we love, to spend time with the people we love and to enjoy our lives.

But how well can you enjoy your life if you don't have the energy to do it? Or if you're too sick, tired or miserable to do it?

Either now or in the future, you won't have the energy to enjoy the fruits of your labors unless you take care of yourself in the process.

If you don't invest time in your own body, if you don't take time off to recharge your mind you're actually doing yourself harm.

Want To Run A Better Business? Eat Your Veggies.

One of the things we're used to doing is grabbing something sugary and full of carbs for any and every meal.

Bagels, pancakes, muffins, cereal… all that breakfast stuff is common and can be pretty darn tasty but none of it is exactly high in nutritional value and none of it is going to give you sustained energy, mostly because it's a lot of glorified sugar.

Now trust me on this, I'm not anti-carbs. I love a great loaf of bread and a big plate of chocolate chip pancakes. But those things don't give me the energy I need to get through a few hours, let alone a day, let alone a day of work!

On days after I eat pancakes for breakfast I need a nap two hours later. On days when I eat bacon and eggs (sounds fattening, I know, but think of all the protein and nutrients…) I feel great for a long time.

You've heard of "the sugar crash". And it's true. If that's all you're constantly putting in your body, you can expect to function below your ability.

Want to be more productive, feel better, improve your creativity and mood and run a better business? Eat food. Real food. Fruit. Vegetables. Beans. Meat if that works for you. Stuff your mom probably told you to eat.

Your Mental Health Is Just As Important

Take it from us, work work work is not only not fun but it's also not very productive. The more we work, the less we get accomplished. And believe me, I know that when you're busy and you need to get stuff done you want to keep going for just another hour…

And just another one, it's almost done…

And before you know it, 18 hours have gone by, maybe you've skipped lunch, you've surely skipped exercise and your brain is wiped out.

You can't function with a broken brain any better than you can function with a broken body. In fact, studies have proven over and over that the more you work, the less productive you are.

The point is that in spite of how much you think you still need to get done, in spite of the looming deadline, in spite of all the things on your desk screaming for your attention and making you feel guilty for doing anything else, you have to turn it off.

Take time away from work – and in our case, and probably yours – that means stepping away from technology. It doesn't mean turning off your computer and going straight to your iPad. It means disconnecting and doing something that relaxes you and lets your brain unwind.

For us that's reading – real books, the paper kind, the ones that don't ding and beep and send us alerts or tweets or emails.

I also like doing puzzles. And coloring. I like cooking, too, so just imagine the vegetables I can chop while I'm relaxing!

It's Hard

This is not our first rodeo, so to speak. We're currently on a journey back to health after a too-long spell of being rather unhealthy.

And every time we forget to take care of ourselves, it seems to take longer to remember. And it takes longer to get into a groove and make exercise a routine. It's harder to say no to pizza and choose to chop vegetables instead.

Feeling energized and healthier doesn't happen overnight. If you're just starting out and taking better care of yourself, it can take a little time before you wake up feeling better. Getting out of shape doesn't happen overnight – neither does getting back in.

And I can't tell you how to do it, either. What works for me may not work for you. I'm an "all or nothing" kind of person. I need to eat 100% healthy or eat 100% crap. Nobody's advice to "make one small change" has ever helped me.

So you have to find what works for you. Don't try to do something you know you won't. You'll only end up frustrated. Whatever you do, do something.

Your Marketing Action Item

We think we need to rename the marketing action item since it's not entirely about marketing, so if you have any ideas, let us know!

From Carol Lynn: If you want to take better care of your body, start by taking better care of your mind. When you're able to focus clearly, relax and get out of the whirlwind of stress, you will be able to make better decisions about your health and stick to them. Figure out what that relaxing thing is for you, the thing that gets you away from work and doing something you enjoy. Your health – and business – depends on it.

From Ralph: Check out the Pomodoro Technique. It's a method where you work for a designated length of time, like 20 minutes, then get up and do something else non-work related. It's about decompressing all day long. There are a bunch of variations on the technique, so figure out what works for you and then take time out during the day to give your brain a chance to rest and recharge. You'll end up doing more work in less time.

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WSS #0147: How One Man Turned An Internet Marketing Fail Into Relationship Marketing Success

A Trip Into The Coal Mine

Or as close as we're going to get to one! Today we talk to Wade Harman, blogger and digital marketer. But he wasn't always online. Once upon a time he was a coal miner and doing very well. He also put himself through school here he received a Masters degree in cognitive psychology.

Unfortunately, a mining accident left him unable to perform his job anymore. Left with no career, no salary and a family to take care of, Wade did what so many displaced people do: gravitated to the internet as a way to make money. His story is one of the most fascinating things we've heard.

The Kind Of Guy We Complain About

If you listen to our podcast or read our blogs you know that we constantly warn against people who go from "day job" to "social media expert" overnight. They don't know a thing about marketing or social media but they buy a Dummies book, set up a Buffer account and slap a title on themselves.

Wade's story is not entirely different – he went from coal miner to social media consultant. And yet he did it without becoming one of "those guys." And according to him, he most certainly didn't do it overnight. He managed to learn and grow and eventually to build a business on helping people in a completely honest way.

And yet that's not how it all started…

Wade Fell For The Promises To "Make $5,000 In 30 Days"

By his own admission, Wade came to the internet knowing nothing – except that he knew he could make money. Why? Because the ads told him so! So he bought into the promises and started following the advice of people who tell you to set up some landing page with an "offer" and some high pressure psychology to get people to spend money.

Wade ended up spending so much money on these programs that promised to make him rich that if he hadn't he might actually have saved the money and become rich.

But worse, he was following the advice – he set up his own landing pages, created his own offers and used the same tactics to part unsuspecting people with their money.

One of the things that impressed us most during the conversation is that Wade openly admits to lying to people and selling products without providing any value because that's all the advice he was getting – and he believed that was what you're supposed to do.

It takes a pretty brave person to admit that.

The Tide Changes

Turns out that if you don't provide any value, not too many people will buy. And the ones why buy certainly won't come back. Nobody was sharing his blog posts and nobody was paying attention.

Wade wasn't making money and figured he'd better do something different. His wife pointed out the best solution of all. She said, "Wade, you're good at building relationships with people. Why don't you use that?"

From there he shifted his focus to helping people. He figured that if he was just learning this internet thing, other people must be too. So as he learned something new (like how to set up a YouTube channel or a Facebook profile) he would write about it in a way that other people could follow.

And do you know what happened next? People started sharing his blog posts. They started paying attention.

Every Entrepreneur Gets Discouraged

By his own admission, it was a long and tough journey. He didn't exactly go from coal miner to internet superstar with any speed. Along the way he wondered how he would support his family. He was frustrated by the false promises and lack of results.

But Wade says that every entrepreneur faces discouragement and disappointment. It's not a matter of avoiding it. It's a matter of what you choose to do with it.

In his case, Wade chose to learn and try new things – but most importantly to keep on going – and ultimately make it a success.

In Between, Family Still Matters

It happens to the best of us. We're so caught up in running our businesses that the rest of our lives fall by the wayside. Maybe you miss a family dinner. Or skip out on a school event. Maybe you don't have time to play with your kids or catch a movie with your partner.

Ultimately your family life suffers.

Wade stresses the importance of making time for family no matter what. The best thing you can do is set a schedule of work hours and off hours. And that's not to say that sometimes you won't have to work late or slave over a deadline or important project, but if you don't consistently make time for the most important people in your life, you'll be missing a lot more than a deadline.

As Wade wisely, says, "Social media isn't going anywhere." You can shut down, check out and nobody will forget you exist by morning.

Admit Your Mistakes

If there's one thing Wade is not, it's shy about exposing his flaws. In fact, he has built a pretty good following and lots of relationships based on the fact that he is so open and honest.

The premise of this show hinges on him discussing the mistakes he made. He says he's willing to lay it all bare.

And that's not entirely common, especially on the internet where everyone seems to want you to know how wealthy and happy they are. Sadly, we've known people who have touted themselves as successful, with photos of them working from a tropical beach, who have turned out to be frauds. The photos were faked and in reality they were living off food stamps.

But Wade takes the opposite approach. He is all about sharing his mistakes because he believes that good relationships – and good business – are built on transparency.

But Don't Admit Your Mistakes Unless You Mean It

Some people can admit their mistakes and sound genuine about it. Other people share their mistakes and it just seems like a marketing tactic.

We conclude that the difference is intent. If you share your mistakes honestly so that you can build better relationships and help people through your experiences, then your intent is genuine. But if you share mistakes just to prove you've made them, but never took time to reflect on them, it will come across as contrived.

How much you share is up to you – but whatever you choose to put out into the world, do it with honest intent.

Best Quote Ever

Wade's philosophy is pretty simple and if you have the wisdom to follow it, is also pretty powerful: be a hero to one person at a time.

His journey hasn't all been mistakes. Along the way he learned how to provide people with true value. He learned the value of real relationships. He persevered and built a reputation as someone who puts other people as the focus of his attention and kindness.

In fact, Wade is all about people. Even when we digress to talk about when it's a good idea to block people from your life (hint: when they are mean, degrading or taking advantage of you), Wade still struggles with the idea. He is truly focused on being that "hero" to one person at a time.

But don't take it from us. You can connect with him online and see for yourself.

Your Marketing Action Item

From Wade: Try Pinterest promoted pins. For only a few dollars (as low as ten cents per click) you can get dozens of pins and repins. The best part is you don't pay for the repins, just for the initial clicks. You can use this strategy to drive traffic to your site. Be sure to create a great (vertical) graphic. And if you aren't sure when your audience is on Pinterest, try it on a Saturday because that's a pretty popular Pinterest day in general.

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WSS #0146: When Should You Jump On A Marketing Trend?

A Slightly Different Episode Today

Today's podcast is a little different. And by different I mean "we stole it wholesale from Ryan Hanley."

We were having a conversation about Periscope, the hot new player in live streaming, and decided to hop on the mics and talk about it. So Ryan recorded it for his Content Warfare show and we… well, we "borrowed" it. So it's a double release. You can hear it in its original glory on Content Warfare and you can hear our slightly edited version here.

A New Web.Search.Social Title

Today we announce that Ryan is never going to appear again as a guest on the Web.Search.Social Podcast. From now on he is officially on staff, as the Web.Search.Social Content Warrior. We're pretty sure he'll be ok with that title, especially since it pays him one dollar more than Ian Anderson Gray, our Chief Executive Research Dude. That means he'll make a whole dollar!

Ryan Says Periscope Is A Fad. And Then Says It Isn't A Fad.

Ryan recently released an episode of the Content Warfare podcast where he called Periscope a fad. Then we released a podcast saying we agreed. But the honeymoon wasn't even over before Ryan changed his mind. Betrayed!

So today we talk about whether or not Periscope is a fad or can be a good marketing tool. Yes, we've discussed Periscope before but we thought it was worth having the debate with someone who has a different perspective.

There was much yelling and flailing of fists, we bleeped out the worst words, everybody went home pissed…

Ok, so we pretty much managed to have a debate in which we agreed on everything. But that isn't nearly as dramatic.

Either way, we bring different points of view that can help you make an educated decision about whether or not to try Periscope – or any new marketing tool.

Periscope Makes For Great Performance Art

My first experience with Periscope was watching a fight between a girl and her boyfriend where they broke up. The catch is that the guy was completely naked the whole time. Now this was hardly real life, but it was pretty entertaining.

Ryan Says There Are Real Use Cases

Like us, Ryan does not believe that "everyone" should be on Periscope. But you can insert "podcast" or "Snapchat" or any tool or platform and the advice is the same.

All of these tools can be valuable but they are most certainly not for everyone.

One use case Ryan mentions is hosting an "office hours" each day. You can open up Periscope, answer a couple of questions and call it a day. That gives you an opportunity to dial into your audience in a real way.

I think that's a great idea but there are currently better tools for doing something like that. Webinars, Google hangouts and even one of the better new streaming platforms on the block called Blab.

Do "Civilians" Need Real Time Mobile Interaction?

I suspect that outside of us and our marketing community, the average consumer is not sitting around with their mobile phone just waiting for some real time entertainment. And the average business owner isn’t ready to grab a mobile device and start streaming.

Ryan counters by saying that in the insurance industry where he works, most agents are constantly on the go and don't have time to be at their desktop. They'd be just as likely to grab their phone and make use of it as a tool.

What About Real Time Value?

Ryan poses an interesting idea: what if he was at a conference with Marcus Sheridan, renowned marketer, and they were talking about content marketing? Wouldn't it be cool for people to tune in and be part of that conversation in a way they would never otherwise be able to do?

Or what if Carol Lynn and I were talking about our new business ventures and ideas? Wouldn't it be cool if people had an inside view of that and could learn from it in the moment? Unscripted, off the cuff… just real conversations. It sounds compelling.

Too Much Hype

The problem is not Periscope. The problem is hype. For whatever reason, the Internet has decided that Periscope is the thing.

Yet Periscope isn't THE thing. It's just A thing.

Carol Lynn says we collectively like the idea of Periscope because it's voyeuristic and we want to peek into other people's lives. People don't necessarily want value. They just want entertainment.

Why would be people want to watch Ryan and Marcus chat? Because they think some "influencer" magical fairy dust will wear off on them.

Ryan seems to think otherwise and speculates that some of that magical fairy dust can wear off on other people.

But Carol Lynn says definitively: no.

Ryan's influence, intelligence, community and skills won't wear off on anyone just because they're watching a conversation.

That's not to say you can't learn something from listening to other people, but you don't need live streaming to do it. You don't need Periscope to do it. You can do it through any medium.

The biggest problem with the hype is that people feel like they "have to" be on it and that if they don't jump fast they'll be left behind. We all agree that you should only use tools and platforms that fit into your marketing, match your personality and give you a place to do your best work.

Don't Do Something New. Do Something Better.

You are going to be tempted by many new tools. And inevitably someone is going to tell you that surely, this is the tool you need.

But before you try something new, think about ways to make what you're already doing better. If you've got a blog and it's not generating leads, don't jump into live streaming because you think that will be the magic bullet. Get your marketing right and then you'll be able to choose the tools that will help you move your business forward.

Periscope is great for the person who says, "Wow, I've been waiting for live streaming! This is going to be perfect!"

Periscope is not for the person who says, "Wow, there's live streaming? What am I going to do with it?"

Don't back into your marketing. Select the tools that fit with what you're already doing well.

Ryan Likes To Try New Things

Ryan is a doer and a tester. He's been blogging, podcasting and hosting hangouts for a long time. Now he's ready to try something new and see what he can do with it.

We're on board with that idea and if that sounds like you, go for it. But remember, Ryan has been incredibly successful with what he's done in the content marketing world so he's in a great place to experiment.

Ryan Calls Shenanigans

There are a few people that get the buzzer in Ryan's opinion and we agree. One of those types of people are those who tell you what you "have to" do. If anyone tells you that you have to jump on some new tool or trend, you can ignore them with prejudice.

Another type of person who drives Ryan crazy is the one who tells you exactly when and how to do something – like exactly what time of day to post a tweet.

And the third person – who drives us all a little bit nuts – is the one who is suddenly the expert on something that's been around for a week.

Live Streaming Is The Most Seductive Form Of Engagement

Imagine talking to your fans and followers in real time. They're hanging on your every word. You're the hero. They love you. They LOL at your jokes and engage with you.

Who wouldn't want that?

It's intoxicating and all that love can make you feel like you're really doing something productive for your business. But just because you're getting engagement doesn't mean you're making money.

We've known people with a million followers who have had to pack up shop and get a job. Because engagement doesn't equal profit.

It can. But you need to mindful of when you're doing something that's benefitting your business and when you're just building a fan club.


Direct download: 0146-when-should-you-jump-on-a-marketing-trend.mp3
Category:marketing -- posted at: 12:00am EST

WSS #0145: Get More Leads, Customers And Profits With The Nuclear Chowder Marketing Method

A Very Handsome And Delicious Episode

Today we talk to Mike Brooks of Nuclear Chowder Marketing who has just published his first book. It's called "The Nuclear Chowder Marketing Method" and we want to know: what does that mean?

Ralph got a signed copy with some nice words but I did not! Mike blames it on getting old and says he did sign a copy for me but somehow forgot to put it into the envelope to mail it. Uh-huh.

At least I got to edit and proofread the book. Plus I did write the intro, so technically does that mean I have a book too? Hey, I may as well capitalize on all that handsome and deliciousness.

More hilariously, Mike is now being referred to as "handsome and delicious" by other people who have heard us say it a few times.

But if you want the real inside joke, "Nuclear Chowder" refers to "explosively delicious" marketing. Guess it's catching on.

Why A Book?

It started as one or two blog posts and a few weeks later Mike ended up with 190 pages of marketing goodness.

But he didn't really write it to sell it (though selling a few copies wouldn't hurt!) He wrote it for potential clients so they would know exactly how he works. He wants people to know what his methods are and how he can help them grow their business and make more sales.

So what IS the Nuclear Chowder Method?

Mike calls it a "roadmap" or "blueprint" or [insert your buzzword of choice here]. It's basically a process that you can put into practice so that you can earn more business.

What it's not is a get rich quick strategy. There are no tricks and no schemes and no magic. In fact, Mike says it's nothing that hasn't been said and done before. The problem is that too many business owners are running around "trying things" without understanding the fundamentals of marketing. They don't have a process, haven't set up a sales funnel, don't have a marketing system.

And that's what his method will teach you.

Mike doesn't talk in abstractions or concepts. He gives you real, actionable tactics that you can use to build your own strategy. In fact, he has used this method to grow multiple businesses over the year and even turn around a struggling one into a super profitable enterprise.

Skip The Fads

Mike says that no fad will make you money unless you've got the basics in place. If you've listened to our conversations about Periscope you know we completely agree.

The question is not "Should I jump on this trend?" but rather "Does this trend fit into my marketing system?"

If you have a fundamental marketing process then you'll know what fits and what's just a distraction.

Don't Be Afraid To Ask For The Sale

It's a common problem, especially online and on social media. Where some people are all about self-promotion, many are still afraid to actually ask people to buy stuff.

There is a common drumbeat that you're supposed to give stuff away, do things for free, and that's how you build your business.

A lot of people I've been listening to online have been asking the question, "When is it ok to charge for something?'

My answer is: NOW!

Giving stuff away for free is called charity.

But even if you're ok with charging for your products and services, you still have to sell them. You can't be afraid of actually asking for a sale.

Sadly, sales has gotten a bad rap and nobody likes to seem "sales-y". But unless you actually sell, people are not going to buy.

Your Customers Need You To Make Money

Think about it like this: if you don't make enough money then you can't stay in business and that will NOT serve your customers.

Mike tells the story of his martial arts school, how it started out in a gross basement that always smelled like socks and had hard floors.

But as he began to make sales and market the business, they started making more and more money.

So what did they do?

They got a better space. The bought mats so the floors were not hard and nobody got hurt when falling down. In a nutshell, they provided better service to their customers.

None of that would have happened without making more money – and without making more sales.

Content Marketing Is Old News

Now, we're not suggesting it's on the decline, but what Mike is saying is that content marketing has been around for a very long time. The only thing that's changed is the buzzword used to describe it.

It used to be called "writing" or "telling a story".

Writing a blog post to answer your customers' questions is content marketing. Or just… writing.

The point is that you don't need to get overwhelmed by buzzwords. You need good fundamentals and you need to know how to talk to your audience, answer their questions and tell them the stories they'll love so they can connect with you.

Money Loves Speed

This is one of Mike's favorite sayings and one that I have the most mixed feelings about.

The idea is to stop trying to get things perfect and just get it out there. Stop worrying about getting it right and just try something.

And I'm perfectly on board with that. There comes a point when you have to do something. And it doesn't have to be perfect. Unless you get something out there and do it fast, you will be left behind. The longer it takes you to do something, the longer you have to wait to make money.

Don't be afraid to fail.

Where it falls apart for me is when people put things out that are obviously lacking in quality. There are some well-known marketers who make a whole ton of money and don't even bother to proofread their sales letters. The argument goes that if the message is great, the delivery doesn't really matter.

In fact, someone Mike knows gets better results with mistake-ridden sales letters. Go figure.

Call me crazy but I can't get on board with putting out content that isn't polished, even if it makes more money. I think you can have both – polish and speed.

The bigger point is, get your content out there. Make it good, make the message strong but don't obsess about it. Better to get something flawed out there with the potential to make you money than to wait until it's just right.

Content is also the core of SEO

I'll make this easy for you: you can't do SEO without good content.

If you want more, you'll just have to read the book.

Get A Free Book

We're giving away a free copy of the book to the first five people in the United States who post a message on Facebook or Twitter and mention Ralph and Mike with the hashtag #handsomeanddelicious. Get to it!

Your Marketing Action Item

From Mike: buy the book! (Hey, Mike knows how to ask for the sale.)

Links & Resources


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WSS #0144: The Entrepreneurial Journey: It Sucks But It's Awesome, Too


Today we're joined by Dino Dogan, founder of Triberr, who we invited on our podcast and who then took over with a topic of his own. But we were totally on board because Dino wanted to talk about the entrepreneurial journey. Given that we've just started not one but two new businesses, we're loving the topic. If you've ever started – or are thinking of starting – a business, you'll appreciate some of the things we talk about today.

But First, An Announcement

If you've been around reading or listening to our stuff for more than five minutes you know we've always been huge Triberr evangelists. And Ralph has been CTO for a couple of years, but as we take on our new ventures and devote our energy to other projects, it's time for him to step down and focus on our own new projects.

A chapter in our entrepreneurial journey has come to an end. But stay tuned, because we've got some exciting new stuff in the works for content creators. If you write a blog, host a podcast, or produce YouTube videos - that's you!

It's All About The Benjamins

We spoke with a colleague recently who has a lot of great ideas. And she wants to start a business. Multiple businesses. She has a little bit of "take over the world" enthusiasm.

But what we want to know is: how will any one of those ideas make money?

Unless you're independently wealthy and you can keep throwing money at the problem, there are practical realities to running a business.

One of them, of course, is money.

You don't need to be mercenary or evil to think about or want money. You need it to live. To feed yourself and your family. To have a roof over your head. To enjoy some luxuries – including free time!

So while having great ideas is, well… great… you do need to consider how your business will generate revenue.

According to Dino, there are three ways to make money: ads (like big news websites), subscriptions (like your paid account to Hootsuite) or transactions (like most small businesses including restaurants, landscapers, accountants, retailers and more).

You'll need to choose your revenue model from the start, and it can even be a combination.

What Type Of Business Do You Want To Run?

There are two different ways, generally speaking, to approach your business venture.

You can do it with the intent of actually running and owning the business – your business, your rules, your money and investment.

Or you can do it with the intent of getting investment money and inevitably selling it off.

The choice is yours but those two approaches require completely different plans, thinking and strategy.

Once you've got a revenue model and a business model, you've got to take the leap…

Plan, But Don't Stall

Some people jump into business without thinking about how to make money. They have an idea and go with it. That could be a recipe for some very lean days.

Other people think about it – a lot. Maybe too much. They are afraid to make that leap so they stand and stare into that wide open space without taking action.

So if you're working a 9-to-5 and think you're ready to throw your entrepreneurial hat into the ring, plan, but then at some point, leap.

Not Everyone Is Meant To Be An Entrepreneur

Of course, there is the flip side to this conversation, and that's people who love their jobs. They don't want to strike out on their own. They don't want to be "the boss." They want to do their job, collect their salary and live their lives.

And that's great. If that sounds like you then you should never feel like you have to "be an entrepreneur." There can sometimes be a lot of pressure to start your own business, do your own thing. Especially these days when you hear about the latest 12 year old kid who has just struck it rich on YouTube, you may wonder why you couldn't come up with a brilliant idea and do the same thing.

But that's not for everyone. So if you love your job – then do your job!

But Don't Tell Me To Get One

One of the things I heard when I decided to step into business with Ralph was how difficult owning a business would be. How there are no benefits, there's no pension, there's no job security.

And while that's not entirely untrue, it's beside the point.

Yes, starting a business is risky. And exhausting. Fifteen years later, we still work nights and weekends.

And to this day, sometimes people will say to me, "Don’t you wish you just had a job?"

And my answer is always: no.

If you're thinking of starting a business or you own one now, I bet you have heard the same thing. And you can feel free to ignore it with impunity.

It May Be About The Benjamins, But It's Really About The Freedom

I never wanted a 9-to-5 job. As a teacher (in a previous life) I was able to work a more flexible schedule and be creative about what I did. But when, at some point, it stopped being fun… I decided to take the leap into business.

It's been hard, at times absolutely nightmarish, but I wouldn't go back to "a job" even if you… er… paid me.

I now have the freedom to make my own plans, to run the business the way I want to, to be creative, to make the rules. I can take Tuesday off to see a movie even if it means I have to work all day Saturday. But those are the choices I make.

For Ralph, it was about escaping "spreadsheet mentality." The company he worked for was so focused on making money for its investors that they rarely looked past the spreadsheet to the customers they served.

Ralph wanted to control the destiny of his own company and to spend more time thinking about how to serve customers – which ultimately serves the business.

For both of us, it boils down to freedom. Have we give up the freedom to take all weekend off? To quit at 5 without a thought for what we left on our desks? Sure. But our destiny is ours. The money, the success, the customers we earn along the way are ours. And that's important to us.

How Do You Choose A Business Partner?

If you're planning a partnership then you obviously need someone to partner with. And your best buddies are probably not the best option, no matter how many awesome ideas you come up with over beer and burgers.

It may sound counterintuitive but you don't want to partner with someone who has similar interests or skills as you. You want to partner with someone who can complement you.

If you're a great idea person but you can't manage financials for a hill of beans, then you're better off with a financial person on your team. If you're a crack programmer but can't design so much as a red "buy now!" button, then a designer is a great partner for you.

When choosing partners, think about the things you can't – or don't want to – do. Find someone to fill those gaps and who will add value to the business.

Distribute Equity… Well, Equitably.

You may be tempted to keep most of the shares of the business for yourself. After all, it's your idea. Your baby. But when you think about it, you can't have that baby, or nurture it, or help it grow, without your team. Otherwise you wouldn't need them and you could keep the whole business to yourself.

But if you do need them, then their contribution is as important as yours.

Make people invested in the business and motivated to see it succeed. If you're off sipping coladas on a beach because you get paid a giant share, but your partner is slaving away in the office because he's got a teeny bite, that guy is going to get cranky at some point.

And I wouldn't blame him. Everyone wants to feel valued and if you're relying on someone for your success, then value them by giving them an appropriate share in the business.

Ultimately, each person's success is the success of everyone else.

The Difference Between Tech Businesses And Brick And Mortar Shops

If you're starting a technology related business you've got completely different risks than if you were starting a brick and mortar.

For a brick and mortar, you need space, you need to pay rent, and you probably need insurance. You may even need inventory. Maybe that inventory needs warehousing. You might need other things, like vehicles or equipment and you'll certainly need security for your location.

Then there are outside factors to consider. What if other shops around you close? If the neighborhood declines, what does that mean for your business? What about weather? Nearly half of our local clients were wiped out during Hurricane Sandy, never to recover. These factors are outside of your control.

Tech businesses have other risks, primarily revolving around infrastructure, backups and security.

Either way, there are different types of risks to consider, different plans to make. Sometimes you don't know what you don't know, but that's what learning is all about.


In the tech world, an MVP refers to a Minimum Viable Product. That's essentially what you need for launch.

Think about Facebook. When it first launched, it was nothing like what it is today. Over the years it added a lot of bells and whistles, new features and different opportunities for you to sort and filter your connections, find and talk with people, open stores, take payments, donate, advertise and more.

There's no way Facebook could have launched with EVERYTHING. I bet someone, somewhere in a back room had big ideas but you first have to get to "minimum."

And minimum doesn't mean "bad." It simply means the most effective feature set that you can put together so that people will want to use your product and so you can start generating revenue. You iterate from there.

And you can apply the same concept to brick and mortar shops, too. Decide what you need to do to differentiate and compete, then add on.

Ralph talks about a cupcake shop we frequent here in Red Bank, New Jersey. It's a "build your own" cupcake shop. You choose the cake, the frosting, the toppings, the filling.

We visited so many times that we eventually wrote down our favorite combinations and ended up with our own menu items in the store.

It's such a great shop, that you might think you could never open your own anywhere near it.

But if you consider how you can be different, even if you don't have all the bells and whistles, you have a much better shot at making it work.

Maybe you focus your products on gluten free cupcakes. You may not be a fancy shop or have as much inventory as the other shop – candy, soda, ice cream and more – but you have something they don't.

And once you have revenue coming in, you can add to your wares. Add a soda fountain. Add a candy counter. Bring in your next best idea and use the revenue you're already generating to make it happen.

Running A Business Is Great. And It Sucks.

Even if you're a solorpreneur I bet you can't do everything yourself. You may hire a VA, or an accountant once a year for taxes.

There are some things that are outside your skill set that you'd be best handing off to someone qualified.

There may be some things you just don't want to do.

Me and bookkeeping? Sworn enemies.

It would be in your best interest to find someone who can – and will – do the things you can't or won't.

Still, sometimes you have to wear ALL the darn hats. That's a reality of running your own business. If you're just starting out or if you don't have the money to pay a salary, you will end up being bookkeeper and secretary, accountant and cat-puke-picker-upper. All while trying to actually do your job.

Nobody said it was easy!

Adapting And Evolving

There's a subtle difference but here's how I see a business working: over time you have to adapt to changing circumstances, evolve to meet big changes… or die.

We talked to Dino about Triberr, and how as a software platform they are constantly adapting to changes in the rules made by the platforms they tap into, like Facebook and Twitter. Today everything is working perfectly and tomorrow it's not – all because a change in technology means someone has to be quick with a change in programming.

Now take the cupcake shop, for example. A few years ago cupcakes were all the rage. They were such a fad you couldn't go ten feet without seeing another cupcake shop. But the fad died down and even some of the biggest name cupcake shops closed up and went out of business.

But they could have evolved – for example, to a bakery or a wedding cake shop.

It's not unlike what we've done in our business. Fifteen years ago we were doing CD-ROM and corporate Jumbotron presentations. Can you imagine if we tried to do that now? So we had to evolve and do something different.

In fact, starting our new companies is part of the evolution, as we take on more software development projects.

People change. Your customers change. What they want, need and ask for will change. And you have to change what you offer to meet those changes in demand, in the economy or in your industry as a whole.

Your Marketing Action Item

From Dino: Write a blog post or do a video or podcast for one specific person. Literally! You get two benefits out of that. One, you have a much bigger shot at converting someone whose questions and problems you have addressed directly. Two, you get the "fly on the wall" effect where other people are curios to hear what you said to that person's question or how you helped solve an individual problem.

Links & Resources

Direct download: 0144-the-entrepreneurial-journey-it-sucks-but-its-awesome-too.mp3
Category:marketing -- posted at: 12:00am EST

WSS #0143: Google Aliens, Conspiracies And The Truth About SEO

A Visit To Stonehenge

Today we welcome Mark Traphagen of Stone Temple Consulting, whose company logo is shaped after Stonehenge and whose marketing knowledge is rock solid.

Mark explains his job as "failing so you don't have to" – which means trying, testing and collecting data about content and SEO so they can expertly advise clients on what to do and what works. Mark, along with his partner Eric Enge, publish some amazing research that proves just how dedicated they are to the art and science of marketing.

We Ask Mark To Define His Idea Of Transparency

We've been fascinated with this topic for a long time and have asked many guests for their take on both authenticity and transparency.

Mark says that the most successful companies have a stated value of transparency but that they still have to struggle individually with what that means. How much do you disclose, whether practically (about things like financials) or emotionally (about things like failure)?

There's a balance between being personal and being professional. But if you can be more relatable and real, then people will like you and want to be associated with you.

Mark says, wisely, that figuring that out takes wisdom.

Your Résumé Starts Now

Mark says that people who are most successful start building their reputations while they are still in school. And now that your résumé is to a large extent everything you put online, it's important to be mindful of what you put online.

Nothing is private. And everything you do is part of your potential career. Every blog, every photo, every status update. So make it count when it comes to representing who you are.

Are We Sending Mixed Messages?

On the one hand, we tell people to be authentic online and on the other we tell them to be careful of what they say. Where's the line? Do you risk your reputation and your career by being your true self, even if what you say and think is controversial, or do you stick to being "vanilla?"

It may seem pretty easy to draw a line between authentic and inappropriate – no, you should probably not publish that naked, drunk photo of you online, no matter how "real" it is.

But there are plenty of things that you can say and do that will be considered controversial in some circles.

Mark says that as a company it's important to articulate the values that you stand by and that will attract the right kind of customers and the right kind of employees.

Google Aliens Are Conspiring To Destroy Search Results

We could talk about transparency for hours but there are a few things we want to talk about related to SEO so we throw down a challenge to Mark: explain why big brands dominate search and small businesses get squeezed out.

I think it's because of a Google conspiracy but Mark begs to differ.

First of all, he says, conspiracies are pretty hard to keep under wraps. If something were fishy, it would come out.

Secondly, Google's business depends on making searchers happy. If they messed with results, people would not be happy and would not use Google.

Finally, the biggest reason for big brand dominance is their inherent popularity. We recognize brand names. We want brand names we know and trust. So competing with brands like Cabellas or Walmart for a search term like "camping gear", for example, is a pretty futile effort, because ultimately people want to do business with the brands they recognize and trust.

The Good News For Small Brands

Working on your brand and getting people to talk about and share your content is one of the most valuable things you can do in pursuit of SEO.

Mark calls those popular, short terms "head terms" and says you shouldn't be trying to compete on those. But you can certainly compete locally and overall you should be focusing your content on building your brand and being recognizable.

What About That Other Search Engine… What's-It-Called?

Carol Lynn admits to using Bing (mostly for the rewards points and free coffee) and wants to know how close Google and Bing are in terms of search results.

Mark says that Google being Google, anything you do there will pretty much work everywhere else. So you don't have to worry about doing anything special for Bing.

But he does say that you should not discount advertising on Bing. You can get great exposure for less cost with pay per click ads.

Content Isn't About The Links

Google and Bing both say that backlinks (meaning how many sites link to yours) are an important ranking factor. For a long time SEO companies have beaten the backlink drum and much content has been created for the purpose of getting links.

But Google got smart and started devaluing content that doesn't serve any greater purpose.

Mark says that links are important but you shouldn't be creating content with links in mind. You should be building your authority, reputation and trust around your brand. The side effect of authoritative content is links – and business.

The best kind of links, says Mark, are the ones you have truly earned.

The Speed Round

We ask Mark about the importance of building a personal brand and he says that it should not be your biggest priority. If you're building your company brand and reputation then your personal brand will take care of itself.

We also ask Mark about Google Authorship, which was alleged "dead". But even though it's not something we're implementing specifically anymore (via code and various setup steps designated by Google), Mark says it's still relevant.

And it has to do with your overall recognition and reputation. Seems like we've got a theme going on here.

In summary, don't get fixated on an idea or a tactic or a technicality.

Take care of your brand. Choose and stand by your values. Build your reputation through your content. Be the authority that you expect Google to think you are and the rest will fall into place.

Your Marketing Action Item

From Mark: Every month choose 3 people who you are going to make your heroes for the month. Don't choose them randomly. Perhaps look for people who are not well known or well connected but are doing great work and who should be known better. Encourage your audience to follow them, talk about them and what they're doing. Make a concerted effort to make them important. They could be customers, followers on social media, whoever you choose. Help people get to know them better.

Links & Resources


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Direct download: 0143-google-aliens-conspiracies-and-the-truth-about-seo.mp3
Category:marketing -- posted at: 12:00am EST

WSS #0142: The Tale Of The 14 Month Old Invoice

Podcast Short, Take 432

You wouldn't believe how many times we recorded and re-recorded this episode. From changing topics to forgetting to turn on the recorder to somehow being unable to get the intro out in a full sentence. But we made it! And today we're talking about billing.

But first…

A Story We Forgot To Tell About Great Customer Experience

On our last episode we talked about what does (and doesn't) make for good customer experience. And we meant to tell this story but forgot, so here it is…

Carol Lynn's mom was looking for a special type of pizza flour and she called a pizzeria that uses this type of flour to ask if they would sell her a bag.

They said no, she hung up and moved on.

But a few hours later that pizzeria called her back because they had saved her phone number from the caller ID and told her where she could buy the flour.

Carol Lynn's mom was so impressed by how they had gone above and beyond that she went 40 minutes out of her way just to visit and eat at this pizzeria.

And that is an example of fantastic marketing that can't be faked or even planned for.

Billing Gone Awry

I work with a non profit organization and we hired a vendor to perform a service. The vendor completed the service but never sent a bill.

Weeks went by.

At long last, we received the invoice. But the non profit has a certain process for handling invoices that takes approvals and multiple signings so it takes a few weeks for invoices to be paid.

When the check was ready, I dropped it off at the vendor's location and they ended up losing the check.

The worst part is that they didn't tell us they lost the check until weeks later.

So they had to reissue the invoice and it had to go through the whole process again.

It took the vendor nearly four months to get paid for that service.

In the meantime, his cash flow suffered and he was forced to pay out of pocket for the contractors he'd hired.

We Confess To Being Just As Guilty

We're often so busy working for our clients that we forget to bill our clients.

Recently we noticed a job we had forgotten to bill… from fourteen months ago. And we know we're not alone. Plenty of small business owners we know have cash flow problems, not because they don't have enough customers and not because they don't charge enough but because the just don't bill people properly.

The Many Ways Billing Can Go Wrong

If you don't invoice immediately, people may move on and forget. If they're not long term, loyal customers they may conveniently forget forever, even if you finally send them an invoice.

We once delayed in our invoicing and before we got to send the bill, the company went out of business.

Sometimes you give away hours worth of time because you're simply not paying attention.

Sometimes you get into "it only took me five minutes" mentality and you don't bother billing for that because it seems so small. But you might be surprised by how five minutes on top of five minutes can add up to many, many unbilled – and unprofitable – hours.

Give Away Your Time – On Purpose

Sometimes we do things for clients and don't bill them because we choose not to. If it's something small we'll "throw it in." The problem is that when you set that precedent, people come to expect you to do things for free.

The first time you send a bill after you've been doing things "to be nice" you should fully expect an argument. And in your mind you're thinking, "But I did all that other stuff free! Why are you arguing with me now?" And in your client's mind they're thinking, "But you did all that other stuff free! Why are you billing me now?"

If you are going to do something for free, do it on purpose and make sure your customers know you're doing it for free. Set the expectation that it's a billable activity and they should not expect to get it free every time.

Your Marketing Action Item

From Ralph: Make the line between performing a service and getting paid as short and straight as possible. Start by choosing a billing and invoicing software. Throwing an invoice into a Word document doesn't cut it. You need to be able to report on what money is owed to you and by whom. Then have a process and plan for how you handle invoicing and billing from completing your service through putting the check in the bank. If you don't get paid in two weeks, send a reminder. Still waiting four weeks later? Send another reminder. Six weeks? Better call. When you get that check, have a process for how it gets to the bank. Don't leave your cash flow to chance.

From Carol Lynn: Have a policy for how much pro bono work you're going to do. Set a limit on how many projects or how much time or how much value you're going to give in a year. Then when your friends or family or a non profit or that really nice guy with a sob story asks you to help them out, you can fall back on your policy. Tell them you can't take on their project because you've already taken one on. Or tell them you can if you've got room for it. But don't wait until you're faced with the decision before you have a plan for how to deal with it. Plan so you won't end up feeling pressured or guilted into performing a free service.

Direct download: 0142-the-tale-of-the-14-month-old-invoice.mp3
Category:marketing -- posted at: 12:00am EST

WSS #0141: Are You Losing The Sale At The Register? How Customer Experience Can Make Or Break Your Business.

Something A Little Different

Instead of writing and reading a blog post today we decided to podcast and then turn it into a blog post. This is the result of something that's been bugging me lately, and it has to do with customer experience and good old-fashioned people skills.

We're Tired! And We Hate Our Jobs!

Ok, not really… we may be tired (sometimes) but we don't hate our jobs. More importantly we don't tell our customers either one of those things.

But there seems to be an epidemic lately of people telling me, their customer, that they don't want to be working, don't like their job, are too tired… or something equally inappropriate.

Two unrelated events got me thinking about how too often marketing stops at the email campaign and at the social post and doesn't extend to the actual human interaction.

The Movie Guy Who Hates People

The other day Ralph and I went to the movies. It was the middle of the day and the theater was pretty empty. I got to the counter and said hello to the guy waiting to help me. But instead of helping me he said, "I've only been here two hours and I can't wait to go home."

It seemed like an odd thing to say but I decided to go along with the conversation. So I asked him if he was having a rough day.

His reply?

"I just can't deal with people anymore."

And as I stood there, cash in hand, just wanting to see a movie, all I could think was, "I'm people."

And my movie-going experience was dampened by this guy basically telling me that he didn't want to deal with me.

The Cashier Who Is Tired

On the very same day I went to Barnes and Noble to buy a book. As I put the book down on the counter to pay for it, the cashier, who said not one word of welcome, yawned and complained about how tired she was.

Maybe on another day this wouldn't have struck me as so rude, but after the disgruntled movie guy, it stuck in my head.

And it got me thinking.

This is not a new thing.

This happens a lot. From clothing retailers to supermarkets, there are a whole lot of people telling me how bad their jobs are, how they can't wait to go home, how they hate people and similar, wildly inappropriate things to be telling a customer.

You Spend Time And Money Getting Leads. But Are You Losing The Sale At The Register?

You're pretty busy blogging and getting your Facebook posts right. You're careful about your Pinterest graphics and you spend time updating your website.

But customer experience doesn't end there. All the marketing in the world can't make up for a poor experience.

I know someone who did all the right marketing. They got tons of leads. But it fell apart at the experience.

Their customers did nothing but complain, rightly so, about being treated poorly. They were yelled at, spoken to rudely, not given the right product or service, not offered help or resolution. So they posted bad reviews online. They complained on Facebook. They emailed complaints.

And every time I saw one of those complaints I would wonder why they were bothering with all this marketing when they couldn't keep a customer for more than five minutes.

Don’t forget that experience is part of your marketing. It doesn’t matter how spot-on your email subject lines are if you aren't making customers happy.

A Perfect Customer Service Experience

If all this sounds a little negative, here's an example of a great customer experience, and it comes from one of our podcast sponsors, Tammie Rampley of Tramplee Designs.

Whenever we order a bag from her, she spends as much time as we need so we can pick exactly what we want. She asks us what we need to carry. She sends photos of fabrics. She sends more photos of fabrics. She never complains that we're taking too long to pick. She encourages us to find the perfect one.

The whole process, right to getting that box delivered on our doorstep, makes us feel like we matter. Then when we open the box, there is a handwritten note inside thanking us for our business.

We don't order bags from her because of her brilliant Facebook posts or her clever Pinterest photos. We order because (besides loving her products) working with her is a delight.

Too many people forget this part of their marketing and get so fixated on "being social" and "getting engagement" that they overlook the simple power of interacting with actual customers.

How You Pick Up The Phone Is Part Of Your Marketing, Too

As a kid, my mom taught me exactly how to introduce myself when I called someone and how to answer the phone when someone called me. It's a matter of basic etiquette.

When I call, I introduce myself, say what I want and who I want to talk to. When someone calls me (in a business context) I answer with a pleasant greeting.

Nothing drives me as nuts as a person who answers the phone and says, "Yeah?" or "What?" or something equally unwelcoming.

It's not that complicated. If you pick up the phone, be polite. Say hello in a way that makes the person on the other end feel welcomed, not wishing they had never called.

I think that a lot of us answer the phone as an afterthought. We don't answer the phone strategically, we just jump when it rings. And we may be in the middle of typing an email or making a note so we're barely conscious of picking up the phone, let alone composing an appropriate reply.

There is a very simple solution: don't answer the phone. When Ralph or I are working, we let calls go to voicemail. Then we return them when we are fully focused on the person at the other end.

Just as you can lose a sale at the register (figurative or otherwise) you can lose a sale with a rude, abrupt, impatient or bored phone reply.

The Email Problem

People tend to be incredibly unhelpful in emails and I think part of the problem stems from how many emails we get in a day. We just want to shoot off a reply and get that email out of our inbox as quickly as possible.

Answering with a one word reply is not helpful. Answering with what I like to refer to an "unanswer" is not helpful, either.

I can't tell you how many times I've emailed a vendor and said something like, "This thing isn't working, can you help?" And I get some version of an unanswer that amounts to, "That thing isn't working."

Not sure what I should do with that but it usually results in half a dozen more emails just to get to zero.

Pay attention to what someone is asking. Give the best response you can. Don't brush it off and breathe a sigh of relief that it's in someone else's inbox now.

It's About Training

We all get tired. We all have bad days. Clients can be a pain. But even if 100,000,000 things go wrong in a day, you still have to be polite and welcoming to that 1000,000,0001st person.

We're not born knowing this stuff and people we hire aren't automatically in tune with our business culture. It's our job as business owners to provide ongoing training, whether it's for a single assistant, an intern or a full staff. Make sure people know how to interact with customers in a positive way. How to answer phones. How to answer emails. How to check out a customer at the register.

Train yourself.

Even if you're a one-person shop you need to keep practicing and reminding yourself that your business is only as good as how you treat your customers.

And by the way, "be nice to customers" isn't exactly actionable. It could mean a hundred things, and different things to different people.

So it's also your job to figure out what that means. How can you and the people who work with you make each customer feel like they are the most important person in the world?

Your Marketing Action Item

From Ralph: Make sure that you're training your staff on how to interact with customers. But do it in a way that's less "top down" and makes everyone feel like they are part of the same team. Ask your employees about their customer interactions – good and bad. Ask what their experiences were, what their problems were, and work together to come up with solutions to improve those interactions.

You don't need to take a "come sit in my office" approach to training. You just need to take the time to talk with people – often – about what's happening and what could be happening better.

From Carol Lynn: Prepare a greeting for when you pick up the phone. It can be as simple as introducing yourself with a polite hello and asking, "How may I help you?" Make people feel welcome. Watch your tone – you can say the same thing but it can come across entirely differently depending on how you say it. Then pick up the phone deliberately. Don't pick up the phone as you're writing an email. Don't pick up the phone while you're doing something else. Put a smile on your face, prepare to focus wholly on the person at the other end then answer politely.

Links And Resources

WSS #0140: On Periscope, Marketing Fads And The Red Herring Of "Engagement"

We're BAAAAAaaaaack.

We planned to take a week off from podcasting and that turned into two weeks but we got a lot done and we're happy to be back so we can finally talk about some of the four billion trillion notes we accumulated in the meantime. Today's topic is fads, trends and the Periscope phenomenon, but first…

Our Youngest SuperFred Ever

Welcome Brayden Scott! He is a brand new baby boy, born at two pounds and the grandson of our SuperFred Poet Laureate Melanie Kissell. He couldn't wait to listen to the podcast so he cut his term short and has proven to be quite a fighter. We've since dubbed him "Baby Beast" (for all the right reasons) and look forward to some worthy stories.

While we're at it, congratulations to Ryan and Lauren Hanley as they prepare for their second child! You can never have too many Hanleys in the world.

Cynthia Sanchez Prepares To Become A Butterfly

Just recently Cynthia Sanchez released the 100th episode of the Oh So Pinteresting podcast, which also turns out to be her last. She's moving on… to bigger, brighter and more amazing things such that our tiny human brains cannot yet conceive. We look forward to her emergence as whatever she chooses to be and do next! Good luck Cynthia, and we have no doubt you will be awesome at everything you do.

On to today's topic…

Ralph Isn't A Fan Of Periscope

He isn't NOT a fan, either.

If you're confused, it's simple: Periscope is a tool. It's not good or bad. It can be either, neither or both. It all depends on how you use it.

If you haven't been hit over the head with this latest-and-greatest tool yet, it's a mobile app that lets you live stream video from your phone. That sounds kind of cool and interesting but at the end of the day… it's just video. And crappy quality video at that.

We play a clip from one of Ryan Hanley's recent podcasts where he says he doesn't quite "get" Periscope. The quality is poor and there are much better ways to do video. For Ryan, Periscope feels like a fad and we agree.

Periscope can be fun and it will have its fans but that doesn't mean you have to turn it instantly into a marketing tool. Maybe we can leave this one for the bored teenagers for now.

The Problem Isn't Periscope. It's FOMO.

"Fear Of Missing Out."

It's an Internet phenomenon where we feel like something is going on out there and we are obsessively worried about being late to the party or out of the loop on the joke. If we don't check our Facebook feed every ten seconds, someone will post the meme that goes viral and we'll be so eight minutes behind the curve.

We are sure that the next shiny tool that comes out must be THE thing and if we don't jump on it, if we don't get in fast and early, we're going to be left behind and miss our golden opportunity.

The problem is that 99.99999999% of the time that is just not true. The other problem is that as people running a business, we're busy.

Our customers are already overwhelmed with the amount of stuff they have to do in a day. Adding one more thing – an untested, untried thing – is probably not the best use of their time and money.

Plus when people jump on these platforms that fast, quality suffers because they don't really have the time to think about how to do it well.

Marketers Can Experiment. Businesses Need To Make Money.

As marketers, we're in more of a position to jump on new stuff because that's our job. We get to try stuff out and see what's new so when our customers ask us about them, we can educate them.

And while neither Ralph nor I are fans of jumping on the latest trend, we understand that marketers may want to check this stuff out. But it's not our job to tell all our customers to jump on the latest trend. If your marketer is constantly pushing trends on you, it may be time to step back and ask some fundamental questions, like: why?

Ralph Disagrees With A Commenter

Ralph recently wrote an article on the topic of Periscope and marketing trends and a commenter (Brian Fanzo) disagreed with his premise and said that if we don't innovate we'll disappear.

The problem is that "innovation" is hard. And expensive. Unless your company has a substantial R&D budget, then leave "innovation" to the marketers and big companies and capitalize on what works.

The other problem is that Periscope is not exactly innovative. It's just streaming video. Focus on the marketing that you're doing that's working and let someone with time and money kick the tires. Then implement the best of what you learn.

We're Stuck In Tools But Missing The Marketing

Periscope is a tool. Maybe it could work for you. But it's still just a tool and that always takes a back seat to strategy. Don't get lost in tools and tactics and overlook the marketing fundamentals: why are you doing this? Who are you doing it for? What value are you providing?

Engagement Equals Currency?

We play another clip from Ryan's podcast where his guest says that engagement is currency and that equals money.

We disagree.

Engagement does not equal money.

Money equals money.

Here's the thing: you can post something online that gets a ton of engagement and makes no sales, or post something online that gets zero engagement and makes great sales.

We give two examples of this in action.

In one example, we talk about someone we know who ran a Facebook ad for an event they were hosting. The ad went bananas. Engagement out the wazoo. Hundreds of likes, massive amounts of shares, lots of comments. Everyone loved the ad.

But who showed up to the event?

Seven people.

And let's just say it was an even that could have held more than seven people.

In another example, we worked with a client on writing a blog post for one specific prospect. Our plan was to address that prospect's questions via blog. The blog got zero comments. But it closed the sale!

Engagement Is Good. It's Just Not The End Result.

We don't want to leave you with the impression that engagement is worthless. Yes, you can build your brand recognition and win fans. Engagement can, in fact, turn into a sale. But it doesn't always. There is no straight line between engagement and sales.

So treat it with care. Be sure that even if you can't draw a direct line, you're closing more business because of your efforts than without them. If all you're getting are comments and share but your revenue is flatlining, no amount of "engagement" can be cashed in to pay the mortgage.

Your Marketing Action Item

From Carol Lynn: Instead of trying a new marketing tool or tactic, think about how you can do what you're already doing – better. If you're blogging, ask yourself how you can write a better blog or provide more value to readers. If you're using Pinterest, ask yourself how you can make your graphics more interesting. Don't start something new. Do something better.

From Ralph: Update your LinkedIn profile so it's current, then connect with everyone you know. But don't just shoot off those generic connection messages. Personalize them based on the context of your relationship. "Hey. We met at that networking meeting…" Or whatever is relevant. Widen your net but make it personal.

Links & Resources


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Direct download: 0140-on-periscope-marketing-fads-and-the-red-herring-of-engagement.mp3
Category:marketing -- posted at: 12:00am EST

WSS #0139: Numbers Can Be Fun! Learn To Love And Manage Your Business Finances

The Word Carnival Strikes Again!

Today we welcome Nicole Fende, yet another member of the infamous Word Carnival (along with prior guests Téa SilvestreMelanie Kissell and (formerly) Clare Price).

The Word Carnival is a group of small business owners and bloggers who get together to share business insights, advice and write on shared topics, and Nicole Fende is the group's official Air Guitarist Profit Diva Finance Rockstar... aka The Numbers Whisperer®.

And today Nicole is here to talk to us about how to make budgeting and financials and all those numbers things that go along with business more fun.

Numbers Can Be Fun

Admittedly I'm not buying it. Numbers mean budgets and spreadsheets and un-fun things. But Nicole insists that she LOVES numbers and when you love something you can make it beautiful to anyone.

So I agree to stick around and give her a chance.

Excel Plays Music

Apparently you can embed music into Excel. This is the first little tip Nicole shares to show that the numbers stuff doesn't have to be all boring and hard. You can even embed graphics. So when your budget balances you can play your favorite song or – in my case – pop up a photo of an Oreo.

Who knew!

Still, Nicole has some convincing to do.

It's About Mindset

Nicole says that people typically approach numbers by telling themselves, "Ugh, I can't do this." (Guilty.)

But with a little effort you can change your mindset so that you think differently about numbers. First, be your own internal editor. You can't keep telling yourself "I can't" or "I don't want to".

Not only that but you have to replace those negative thoughts with something positive.

Think Of A Number With A Positive Emotion Attached To It

Ralph picks the number 37,500 (after he dutifully opens his Excel spreadsheet) because that's how many subscribers we need for our new product (no spoilers yet!) in order to retire in two years.

I go off the reservation and pick 8 because it's the number my dad spun on the carnival wheel to win me the giant blue elephant I've had since I was a kid.

Things get weird for a minute as we ponder pink and blue elephants and by the end we're all laughing, which makes me wonder… are numbers starting to be… fun?

Emotion Changes Behavior Faster Than Logic

Nicole wants you to start your love affair with numbers by picking your own favorite. Make it a good one, fall in love with it and start to change your attitude. Why not leave us a comment below and let us know what YOUR favorite number is and why?

Nicole Likes To Drive Fast

This is something we didn't know, but considering her leather-clad air guitarist nature, we're not surprised.

So she sets up a scenario: imagine we're driving on the Autobahn really, really fast. And Nicole, who's at the wheel, takes her hands off and closes her eyes.

What do we do?

In our imaginary scenario, I yell and Ralph squeals like a girl.

And Nicole says that ignoring your business finances is just like driving with no hands and no eyes. You probably won't crash right away but keep it up long enough and you're going off a cliff to crash and burn.

Numbers are less fun right about now, but Nicole perks us up by assuring us that this will not happen if we begin to take a different approach to our finances.

How Should You Price Your Products Or Services?

Small businesses, especially service providers, struggle to price their services and we know a lot of people who work a lot but don't make a lot because they tend to under price themselves. So we ask Nicole how she advises businesses to price their services.

First, she says, there is always a minimum number you can't go below or you won't make the income you want to make. This is the absolute bare minimum you need to charge to make your business profitable. You can charge more, but you can't charge less.

And that number represents money in the bank – not money that you make. There's a difference!

Revenue Vs. Money In The Bank

Nicole says you could have a billion dollars in revenue and still go bankrupt. Now numbers are starting to sound scary. But Nicole is quick to walk us off the ledge with a pretty simple formula that you can use to figure out how much to charge so you won't end up in the red.

You need four numbers to make this work:

  1. How much do you want to make in a year? Think of how much money you want in your bank account, after you've paid all your bills and expenses.
  2. How many weeks in a year are you going to work? And don't say 52! You need vacation time or believe it or not, you will actually be less productive and make less money. Figure a max of 50 weeks (more if you're serious about your down time!)
  3. How many hours will you work in a week? More than 40 and you're in the same situation as you are without vacation.
  4. What is your productivity ratio? You are not productive (in a billable way) 100% of the time. Sometimes you are doing your own marketing or business administration. Nicole says your productivity ratio is probably around 50% which means that if you take 40 hours a week x 50 weeks in a year and get 2000 hours… you can probably only bill out 1000 of those.

Now let's say you want to make $100,000 in a year, and you're going to work 40 hours a week for 50 weeks. That means you will work 2000 hour but practically speaking you can only bill about 1000 of those hours which means you need to charge $100 an hour to make your bare minimum. And voila! Numbers are kind of fun again.

Sidebar: Nicole Renames Fred

Apparently Nicole's grandfather called everyone George so that's what Nicole wants to call our audience. At this point we're having so much fun that we agree.

Tracking Your Time Is Hard

We try to be super diligent about tracking time, whether it's billable client time or our own business development time. And yet at the end of a day, hours can still go missing. Why??

It's in the gaps – when we get up from one task to put something in a drawer and take a moment before we refocus on another task. Or answer the phone and don't necessarily time it. Or check our email real quick before moving onto another task.

Time is slippery!

Nicole mentions an app Called RescueTime that you can leave running in the background while you work and it will pull stats on where you spend your time. So at the end of the day you can see if 76% of it went towards cat photos on Facebook. And you'll have a better idea of what your actual productivity ratio really is

You Need Breaks

Nicole isn't big on timing breaks so she likes to play a favorite song and give herself the length of the song to chill.

Remember that song you embedded into Excel? Perfect opportunity to listen!

Profit Death By A Thousand Cuts

Death by a thousand cuts is a real thing. It's an ancient method of torture but it can also kill your business. Are you spending a little bit here and a little bit there? That free trial you forgot about that's now billing you… the few bucks you spent on that ebook… or maybe you bought a notebook to record your next great idea and didn't record the notebook as an expense.

It sounds like a tiny thing, but remember – the first paper cut doesn't hurt that much, either. Add them up though and you'll be bleeding cash.

To add insult to injury, if you don't record your expenses diligently, you can't count them as expenses against your income when it comes time to file your taxes. So now you end up paying more taxes!

Nicole shares yet another app called Shoeboxed that will help you track your expenses. Among other things, you can take a photo of a receipt using your phone and the software will pull the information out for you and track it. Things are starting to sound really fun right about now.

Should We Really Be Billing Hourly?

Nicole doesn't like to, and neither do we – the problem is hours are finite. So whatever your hourly rate is, you're limited by how many hours you can work and there's a definite cap on that.

Thinking hourly is a good place to start because it gives you a minimum for what you need to charge.

But think about what you're going to deliver instead, and bill by project.

Just be sure you have a clear contract with clients so they know what they're going to get and you don't end up with scope creep. Ah, scope creep… the bane of everyone's existence!

You Can Customize Yourself To The Poor House

Do you like to give your customers a lot of options? Nicole says that could be a bad idea. It's hard to manage and maintain so many different products and services and doing so can reduce your productivity ratio.

For better profitability, limit your options to specific packages and customizations. Only customize when it's really worth your while financially.

A Problem Of Scale

When you're trying to grow your business, it may seem logical to think you want more and more customers. But scaling up is a lot more challenging than you think.

Ralph tells a story of a hypothetical deli owner. When he makes a few sandwiches at a time, he has a certain process.

But let's say het got an order for 100 sandwiches.

Now he needs to buy products in larger quantities, which means he needs more storage space and more cash to buy them. And he needs more space to lay the bread out to make the sandwiches so he needs a new table. And he needs to train someone to help him make sandwiches.

Nicole calls this "growing into failure." If you grow too quickly, you will sacrifice time (by delivering late), money or quality.

Nicole says you need a plan before you have the problem.

Your Marketing Action Item

From Nicole: Pick an interesting quirk or characteristic about yourself. In Nicole's case it's her laugh (you can't miss it!) Think about how you can use it in your marketing. For example, Nicole has a laugh button on her website. First people have to get to know you and then they have to remember you. What can you be remembered by?

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WSS #0138: BLOG > Throw Some Daggers… At Your Business

Read the article at http://www.websearchsocial.com/138

Direct download: 0138-blog-throw-some-daggers-at-your-business.mp3
Category:marketing -- posted at: 12:00am EST

WSS #0137: BLOG > To Swear Or Not To Swear: Marketing, The F-Word And Other Language Conundrums

Readthe article at http://www.websearchsocial.com/137

WSS #0136: How To Be Successful By Not Following The 7 Steps To Success

It's A Good Time To Be A Comic Book Geek

The Batman/Superman trailer is out and that's one of the things that got us going today. It looks awesome, not to mention that it seems like there's going to be a great story arc.

My long time friend Jay Acey is a super comic book geek who attends ComiCon in full costume. In fact he recently won a best-of designation from Rotten Tomatoes.

And another series, the Suicide Squad, has Jared Leto playing a brilliant version of the Joker.

Looks like we’ve got some movies in our future.

We Add A New SuperFred Title

Last week we got a disgruntled message from my brother in law Kevin who wondered why he didn't get to be named Chief Executive Pride Officer. Rather than battle it out in the Thunderdome, Kevin agreed to a compromise:

Tammie Rampley could keep the title Chief Executive Pride Officer if he got to be the official Chief Executive Mixologist of the Web.Search.Social Podcast.

Since we're pro-anything cocktail, we agree, even though we still think a battle for the title would have been fabulous.

Are You Watching Whiteboard Fridays?

Friend of the show Mark Traphagen and his business partner Eric Enge just did two back to back Whiteboard Fridays. They're hosted by MOZ, an authority in the world of SEO and they have some great (and very understandable) info about SEO.

If you're not watching them already, they're worth adding to your list.

A Very Special Tuesday In July

At 7:49AM Eastern U.S. time on Tuesday July 14th, the craft New Horizons will be traveling the closest anyone has ever been to Pluto. The next 10 hours will be the culmination of nearly 10 years traveling just to get there.

When you think about the vastness of space and the "bigness" of the world and universe, it can help put things in perspective. Sometimes we get caught up in the minutia of our daily lives – that Twitter follower we lost or that ad that tanked – and when we look at it against something as big as the universe, those other things start to seem a lot less huge.

When you're caught up in the day to day drama of your Internet life, reminding yourself that there are things much bigger and with much more magnitude than whether or not your blog post was retweeted, can really help put things in perspective.

And thinking about how the people involved in the Pluto mission have dedicated ten years of their lives – some of them their whole lives – to having a few hours near Pluto, is incredibly inspiring.

The 5 Or 10 Or 12 Steps To Being A Successful Entrepreneur

There is an endless supply of articles telling you what the "most successful" people do. According to many of these, successful people get up early. But not 6AM early – like 4AM when some people are first getting to bed early.

Carol Lynn says that she is not a morning person. She gets most of her work done late afternoon and evening. So to try to fit into that box would not be productive or enjoyable for her. Maybe you can relate.

Lots of these articles say that successful people meditate. But do they meditate to become successful or do they meditate because they already are successful and now have the luxury of taking on those types of activities?

The problem is that these articles may be good at telling you what other successful people do but they are not a formula for you to follow. There is no magic entrepreneurial plan that starts with "get up early" progresses through "meditate" or any series of steps and ends with "and be successful."

Kevin O'Leary Says There Is No Such Thing As Work Life Balance

Kevin O'Leary of Shark Tank recently spoke at a conference attended by a colleague of ours and he was asked about how to achieve work life balance.

His answer was refreshingly uninspiring. He said, simply, that if you're starting a business there is no such thing as work life balance. If you love what you do and you want to grow your business so you can have financial success and freedom later, you need to be willing to work hard for two or three or ten years to make that happen.

We've been there. Sometimes we’re able to take off Fridays and go to the movies. Other times we have to give up weekends and decline invitations to things that might be more fun than work. But we do it because we have a passion to grow our business.

What Does Success Mean To You?

It's impossible to tell people how to achieve success when we can't possibly define success for anyone but ourselves.

For one person, running a business day to day is success. For another, building a startup and getting investors is success. Some people are big on material success – big houses, nice cars. Other people want the fame. Still others want neither and are happy just to work a good day.

Nobody is right or wrong. You have to decide what success means for you then figure out what helps you get there, no matter how many articles tell you to "get up early."

Your Marketing Action Item

From Carol Lynn: Turn off your computer, phone and all digital devices and read a book. Not a business or marketing book. Not on a Kindle or an iPad. An actual book made of paper. If you don't want to buy one, you must have one somewhere in your house, even if it's a children's book. Read it! Don't touch your phone. I know you want to, but take some time even, if it's only ten minutes at a time, to take your mind away from the minutia of business and marketing to think about something else, something bigger, something outside your bubble. Too much focus on work is scientifically proven to make you less creative and less productive. What are you reading? Leave a comment below and let us know!

From Ralph: Make a plan for your entrepreneurial journey. First, make a list of the things that make you most productive. It could be getting on the treadmill or working in a certain coffee shop. Then make a list of the things that make you unproductive. For example, you may love coffee but if you're too amped up after three cups to concentrate, cut it down. Get rid of the people in your life who don't elevate you. Then do more of the things that make you productive and less of the things that don't. Remember, only you can define what success means to you.

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Direct download: 0136-how-to-be-successful-by-not-following-the-7-steps-to-success.mp3
Category:marketing -- posted at: 12:00am EST

WSS #0135: Are You Networking Wrong? How To Be Interesting, Build Relationships And Earn More Business.

Did You Know?

That today we're joined by returning guest Paul Scharff! We last spoke to Paul about photography but today we're taking on networking because Paul is the regional director of our local BNI (Business Network International).

And "Did you know?" is the questions that BNIers ask to help set up the explanation for some aspect of their business that may be important or interesting to other people.

For example, did you know that most people don't really understand networking?

What Is Networking, Really?

Paul says both casual networking (like meeting someone on a park bench and talking business) and structured networking (like attending BNI or another group) is making connections with other people, which over time yield business for you and others.

Who wouldn't want that?

Lot's of people, it seems. Paul says the concept of networking freaks people out and he's right.

By The Way, We're Not Talking About BNI...

That's been my best experience with networking so I reference it, but the conversation is not about BNI. The things we talk about can be applied universally to networking in any group, anywhere.

We're Not Taught Networking In School

If you were going to a dinner party you'd probably look forward to the hors d'oeuvres, but tag on the word "networking" and people freak out.

They think something is expected of them but aren't sure what.

They know they have to talk about themselves but don't know how much.

They know how to have a conversation but suddenly they don't know where to start, end or what goes in the middle.

After this conversation you should feel a lot more confident in your ability to network effectively.

What's The Goal Of Networking?

Here's what it's not: selling your product or service to the people in the room.

Here's what it is: building relationships with the people in the room so they will go out into the world as your sales team and evangelists and bring business to you.

Convinced yet that a networking group can do you some good? Read on...

What Makes A Good Networking Group?

Paul says that before you join a networking group, you should visit many different groups. Not only do you get to talk about yourself and your business for a few minutes but you usually get breakfast out of it!

So if you're out there vetting groups, here are a few things you can look for…

Organization. Is someone in charge? Do people seem to know what they're doing, where they're going and what's happening next or is it just a bunch of people without direction?

Venue. You don't need to dine at the Marriott in order to have a good networking meeting. Paul says a good group can meet in a junkyard in Schenectady in the rain. But he also says you should watch out for distractions. If you're in a diner, even if it's a great diner, and you're constantly being interrupted or battling the noise, that's not a good sign.

Chemistry. Sometimes you just click with a group and sometimes you don't. There's no real reason but if a group doesn't feel right, it probably isn't for you.

I Know A Guy

One of the great things about being part of a networking group is that you get to know more about other great businesses and whenever your friends ask you for someone to paint their house, you can say… I know a guy.

Or if they need someone to help them with their retirement plan you can say… I know a guy.

Need to remodel your kitchen? I know a guy! Need a photographer? I know a guy!

And as part of that group you're one of those "guys" who people refer to their friends and family.

What Makes A Good Networking Meeting?

Paul says the first and most important thing is that you feel welcomed. If you're new to a group and nobody greets you or says hello, that's a problem.

He tells a story of one group he visited on a rainy morning, and before he could even get out of his car, someone showed up with an umbrella to escort him inside. They made him feel like a guest of honor.

Paul also says that structure is good even though it may seem weird at first. One of the things BNI does is give members 60 seconds to talk about themselves and their business. When 60 seconds is up, someone rings a bell. If you're new to BNI that may seem really weird and disconcerting but the point is to keep things fair so everyone has the same amount of time and everyone gets out of the meeting on time.

It's Not About Handing Out Your Business Card

Paul says you might as well hire a drone to drop cards all over the place and you'll get the same effect.

Paul also says that you shouldn't walk into a room and immediately start talking about yourself. Listen first. Ask people about themselves and have a conversation.

Finally, Paul says, have your elevator speech ready. But not only that, have your 2-floor elevator speech ready and your 6-floor elevator speech ready. That way you can pull out one or the other depending on how much time you have or what the circumstance calls for.

It's About How You Pitch Yourself

Don't tell people what you do. Tell people who you help.

Rather than standing up and saying, "Hi, I'm Ralph and I run a marketing company," it would be far more beneficial to tell people, "Did you know that Google recently changed their search algorithm so if your site isn’t mobile friendly it won't show up as well in search? I help people build sites that can be found in search so they don't have to worry about Google or algorithm changes."

Which one do you think will entice someone to want to learn more?

Tell People What Type Of Customer You're Looking For

In my group there is a business owner who cleans ducts. If all he ever says is, "My company cleans ducts," that makes it tough for me to refer business to him. How many people do you know walk around talking about their ducts? Probably not a lot.

But when he says instead, "I'm looking for a customer that has allergies and wants relief," now the pool opens. I know plenty of people with allergies and they all want relief. I had no idea – until he mentioned it – that having clean ducts would help.

By being specific about the customer he's looking for, he gets a lot more business.

Think about how you can make your ask (in networking lingo) specific. It helps to have an avatar that you can use as an example.

Networking Keeps You On Your Game

If you're in a formal networking group you have to do your best. Otherwise you'll be in a room full of people who will never refer you to anyone.

Being in a networking relationship can help keep you on top of your game and performing at your best because you don't want to disappoint the people you see every week.

Find A Power Partner

My colleague who cleans ducts is a great power partner for the guy who steams carpets.

A real estate attorney is a great power partner for a mortgage broker.

But even people who seem like competitors can be a great power team. Think of Paul as a photographer who specializes in commercial photography. He's a great partner for wedding photographers.

The idea is to find someone whose business complements yours so you're more likely to have opportunities to refer business to each other.

You can even team up with direct competition. We know plenty of top notch marketing companies and web developers who we'd refer business to in a heartbeat. Remember, not every client is right for every business, so maybe someone we're not a good fit for would do well with one of our respected competitors.

Should A Networking Group Track Referrals?

BNI keeps track of how much business was passed (in dollars) each year. That freaks some people out but the truth is, it can help motivate you against a goal and be a useful tool to evaluate how well your group is operating.

But, Paul says, that's not the only thing that should be tracked. It's just one metric in your toolbox. Maybe some people don't refer a lot of business but they bring great guests. Maybe some manage the group or after-hours events. There are plenty of ways to measure the success of a group so don't be afraid of the idea of tracking revenue exchange.

In A Nutshell... 

Listen before you talk. Don't obsess over the word "networking", just have a conversation. Be specific about who you help and how. Try out a bunch of networking groups before committing. You're interviewing them as much as they're interviewing you. Make sure the chemistry is there and if not, enjoy your breakfast and move on. Look at networking as a long game and htink of the people in your group as your sales team and evangelists. And remember, always be awesome!

Your Marketing Action Item

From Paul: In the next 48 hours when you run into someone in your day-to-day life, ask them about their business. For example, if you see someone standing in line for coffee wearing an "Al's Electricians" t-shirt, start a conversation. Ask him three or four questions about what he does. Then just listen!

Links & Resources


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WSS #0134: BLOG > Meerkat, Periscope And The Danger Of Jumping On Marketing Trends

Read the article at http://www.websearchsocial.com/134

WSS #0133: BLOG > "Provide Value To Customers," They Say. But What Does That Mean?

Read the article at http://www.websearchsocial.com/133

Direct download: 0133-blog-provide-value-to-customers-they-say-but-what-does-that-mean.mp3
Category:marketing -- posted at: 12:00am EST

WSS #0132: Good Reviews Are Good, But Bad Ones Can Be Better

Say Goodbye To Cranky

We've been a little cranky lately on our podcasts. In retrospect, last week we did an awful lot of complaining about people who complain. Ahem.

So we're back with some positivity. Even if it comes wrapped up in a negative review because it turns out that's what we end up talking about.



SuperFred Shout Out

To my brother Kevin who heard that we named Tammie Rampley the Chief Executive Pride Officer and complained that we should have named him.

So Ralph decides to put them in the Thunderdome to fight it out. I suggest that we can have one pride officer for each color of the rainbow but Ralph isn't convinced.

In the end we decide Tammie's weapon will be the sewing machine and Kevin's will be the cocktail and that will be a battle worth watching.

Ello, There!

No, that's not a typo. Ello is yet another social network that seems to exist solely to be the anti-Facebook.

Neither of us is impressed but Ralph recently saw the "Social Media Bill of Rights" that Ello put out and decided to sign it. Among other things, it said that you have a right to privacy, but as soon as Ralph signed the document, his name was published publicly without warning.

Kind of odd for a social network proclaiming privacy to publicly post its users' information, huh?

The E.L. James Twitter Chat Is The Worst Disaster In The History Of Disasters. Ever.

Or not.

To read the dozen cherry-picked "mean tweets" that every publication printed with hateful glee, you'd think this was the worst thing to happen in marketing and PR since New Coke.

But nobody bothered to mention the large number of positive tweets she received from fans.

Now, look. We're no fans of E.L. James or 50 Shades of Gray (especially because it competes with Ralph's erotic fiction title 49 Shades of Beige) but that doesn't negate the millions of fans she does have.

You can't judge the success of a Twitter chat or marketing campaign based on the people who don't like the business or product.

Of course, positive headlines don't sell. "E.L. James Has a Great Time With Fans" doesn't get as many eyeballs (and subsequently ad revenue) as "E.L. James FAILS. Twitter Chat Complete Disaster!"

So if you're a business thinking of getting out there on social media and afraid of the perpetual nonsense that makes headlines, just remember that it's not you. It's the Internet.

You have to filter that stuff out and do what you do.

Ryan Hanley Gets His First Bad Review

We love Ryan Hanley and his Content Warfare book. He's been on our show three times so that should give you an idea of what we think of him.

But apparently someone disagrees!

Ralph tells a story of his last networking meeting when a member stood up and starting reading negative reviews about his own business.

While everyone looked on in wonder, he went on to explain that while he doesn't like negative reviews and they make him feel bad, each one had some kernel of truth that he could use to improve his business.

Are Negative Reviews Better Than Positive Reviews?

They can be!

If you just sit in the echo chamber of your fans you may never see the flaws and learn how you can improve and perhaps even gain more fans and earn more business.

Positive reviews are good because they let you know what's working but negative ones will show you how to be even better.

Our Bad Review

On last Monday's episode we poked fun at a review we received from someone who said that we talk too much without getting to the point. And that amused us a bit because, well, he's right… and that's ok with us.


And there's a big fat but…

One of our listeners thought we were making fun of the reviewer and sent an email to me saying that wasn't very nice.

And you know what?

She's right!

We were having fun with the review but we totally get how someone could see that as doing the exact thing we say we don't like, which is "being mean" and making fun of people.

That's the value of listening to people when they don't shower you with praise, but instead call you out on your nonsense.

And That's The Value Of A Fan

Yes, real fans shower you with praise and get on board your train wherever it's going.

But real fans also aren't afraid to tell you the truth, even when it isn’t pretty.

Real fans shake their head and forgive your transgressions and they stick around long enough to give you another chance to go back to being awesome.

Don't Be Afraid To Piss People Off

We certainly didn't make that particular reviewer happy but that's ok. On our recent episode with Katherine Kotaw about storytelling, she said that if you haven't pissed someone off then you're not doing it right.

Not everyone is going to like you or what you do.

Ralph Gets Blocked On Twitter

Social media can be tough to navigate because even the simplest statement can be construed as mean or negative without context, body language and tone to temper it.

This past week Ralph got a message from someone that said, "Spam."

Nothing else.

When he looked into it, he noticed that a Twitter automation tool was sending out auto thank-you messages on his behalf. He hadn't realized that this was happening but someone else sure did.

In an attempt to make light of the situation, he commented that spam tastes great on toast. And immediately got himself blocked.

Goes to show that nuance can certainly be lost on social media, especially on Twitter where you're forced to converse in 140 character increments.

It also goes to show that negative feedback (in this case via block) can be useful. It alerted Ralph to a problem that he could fix. We'll have to work on the humor thing next time.

Negative Vs. Negative

You have to recognize the difference between a legitimate negative review that you can use to improve and a negative review that isn't actionable.

In the case of Ryan Hanley's book review, the reviewer commented that he wanted to read a how-to book and Ryan's wasn't it.

In that respect, the review isn't actionable because Ryan never set out to write a how-to book.

On the other hand, someone saying that our automation is annoying is something we can change. Because automation is annoying and that's certainly not something to strive for!

So when it comes to negative feedback, don't go to extremes – you can't pack up your bags and crawl into a cave, but you can't dismiss it, either.

Your Marketing Action Item

From Ralph: Go online and print out all your negative reviews. Then share them with your key staff and find the truth in them. Figure out what's actionable and find the things you can improve on. Or conduct an anonymous survey of your existing customers and ask them to review your product or service. Take the feedback and learn from it and use it to improve your business.

From Carol Lynn: Pick a company that you had a great experience with or you bought a great product from and leave them a positive review online. Let's face it: we're more inclined to complain. When we don't like something we're quick to take it public but not as likely to say the positive. Take the opportunity to shower some praise on someone doing a great job.

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Direct download: 0132-good-reviews-are-good-but-bad-ones-can-be-better.mp3
Category:marketing -- posted at: 12:00am EST

This Episode Gets A Little Sticky!

In a good way… because today we talk with Anthony Thomas, one of the owners of Sticker Mule – a company that manufactures custom stickers for all your marketing needs.

Oh heck, who are we kidding? Forget marketing. Stickers are just fun!

Why Stickers?

One day Anthony wasn't in the sticker business – and the next day he was. So we want to know: why stickers?

Turns out he didn't actually choose stickers. They sort of chose him.

Anthony graduated Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), a prestigious engineering school in New York, with a background in manufacturing. One day he was sitting around with a buddy talking about starting a business and the next day… business!

Anthony turns out to be the "act fast" type rather than a perpetual planner, but we'll get into that in a sec. For now we have another very important question…

Why A Mule?

Mules are humble and hardworking, says Anthony, so it fit with the kind of company they wanted to be. They didn't want to take themselves too seriously and they wanted to have fun. Plus when they say, "Our stickers kick ass!" it sounds even cooler.

It All Started With The Internet

True story: when the whole conversation about starting a business happened, Anthony's buddy wasn't even familiar with the Internet! So Anthony sat down and showed him the ropes.

They explored sites like Zazzle and in Anthony's own words, "I showed him the Internet and the next day he wanted to start our business."

As I mentioned earlier, Anthony likes to move fast and isn't one for extensive planning. He's more of an "act first, repent later" kind of guy.

So they went from Hello Internet! to incorporating a business to finding designers and developers to figuring the rest out along the way.

Move Quickly And Learn As You Go

Anthony says you can learn and improve as you go. He says it's important to have humility and be able to question yourself.

He also says it's better to go for small wins along the way rather than trying to get everything perfect immediately.

Question But Don't Over Question

Questioning is a great idea but what happens when you get stuck in those moments of self-doubt?

Well, Anthony shares a big dose of common sense: while you should always be willing to question yourself and learn, once you make a decision then you just have to live with it and move on.

Or, as Anthony says, "Don't cry over spilled milk."

A First Customer Fail… And Win

Anthony remembers his first customer well. Github, a pretty big name in the tech space, placed an order for 10,000 stickers. Since this was their first customer (and one that had a lot of influence to help get the name "Sticker Mule" out into the market) Anthony and his company decided to fulfill the order for free.

Turns out that was a good idea because it didn't go so well. The quality just wasn't there and Github said… um… well… thanks, but… these kind of stink!

So Sticker Mule fulfilled the order a second time and Github said… um… well… these are kind of… well, to be honest they still stink!

The good news is that the third time was a charm and thanks to a great collaboration between Sticker Mule (who wanted nothing more than to make their customer happy) and Github (who was willing to provide constructive criticism and stick around for the long haul), a batch of perfect stickers was born.

It's been all ass kicking ever since.

Should You Grow Your Own Business Or Look For Investors?

Now that our own company is involved in a couple of startup ventures that you've probably heard me talk about recently, we're really interested in the idea of building a business vs. seeking investor funding in anticipation of selling the business.

Anthony says it depends on where you want to go with your organization.

Do you want to flip it or go IPO? Then you'll need investors. Just remember that you are giving up control of your company to a large extent.

If you want to build your own business and a culture that you want, if you want to be able to grow your team the way you want it to grow, then you don't want investors.

Anthony says he knows a lot of people who have been burned by investors and sadly this is a story we hear again and again.

Good news for Sticker Mule (and the rest of us): they are only interested in building their business and making the world a happy place, one sticker at a time.

What About Marketing?

They don't have social links on their website except for a "tweet us" link on their contact page and there's no obvious way to connect with them online.

So we want to know: how are they doing their marketing?

Anthony says nobody on his team has a marketing background and he wants everyone to do what they love. So they are only doing a very organic type of marketing where they talk about what they do naturally but not with the explicit intent of marketing.

But They Must Market Somehow.

Turns out this "unmarketing" philosophy has been all they've needed so far. They live by the mantra: make people happy.

Anthony believes in giving customers such a great experience that they'll talk about his company and want to refer them and do more business with them.

Customer experience for the win!

Bumper Stickers…. Not Cool

Another true story: in the beginning when they started the business they thought people wanted bumper stickers. Everyone seemed to have one but it turned out… nobody really wanted them.

Next, Sticker Mule got into iPhone skins thinking those would be popular, too.

Except… not.

So what did they learn? People want stickers. And they wouldn't have known that without trying.

Live, learn, test and keep going.

Speaking Of Testing…

Since people weren't ordering skins, Anthony decided to remove them from the site. But strangely enough, their overall conversions dropped.

When he put the skins back, conversions went up again – even though people weren't actually ordering the skins! (Well, some people were, but not enough to account for the big rise in conversions.)

Anthony thinks maybe the skins are what people remember even if they don't buy them. Whatever the reason, they keep the skins as an option.

Don't Overwork Yourself Or Your Team

Anthony believes in making things better for their customers – but also making things better for his own team.

He doesn't believe in overworking people.

Seems to us like Anthony has got the balance of business right – planning but not over planning, thinking but not overthinking, working but not over working.

Stickers. They're Not Just Three Inches Anymore.

Sticker Mule also has giant wall stickers, up to 6 feet! Why? Because people asked for them.

At first Anthony was reluctant to produce them because there's a big difference between a three-inch sticker you slap on your laptop and a six foot one that you mount on a wall.

So they experimented to find the best way to manufacture one that would work well on a wall surface, lay flat and be easy to install.

They changed up the materials a bit and now also provide instructions to help people put them up effectively.

Customers Come First

We ask Anthony how they decide what to do next and he says… whatever is most important to their customers.

I'm sensing a theme here.

Why Use Stickers In Marketing?

Stickers are fun. And face it, the inner kid in you comes out when you see one and you can't help put it somewhere.

As a business owner you can put them in with products when you ship them, you can give them out at conferences – or if you're like us you can give them away because.

Anthony says that if you are willing to put a brand sticker somewhere, that shows a commitment to the brand. And you're more likely to do business with that company.

Plus it goes back to the happiness factor. Anthony is focused on making customers happy and that means a high quality product, a great experience and fast turnaround.

It's working!

And You Can Afford Them

Considering the quality and the fact that you can custom design a sticker for just about anything, the stickers are completely affordable. Even teeny tiny businesses can buy a few, use them in their marketing and see what happens.

Imagine adding that happiness factor to your customers' days.

Your Marketing Action Item

From Anthony: Get over your fears and hesitations and be willing to contact people to promote yourself. Find someone you think would be interested in your product and contact them and ask them if they'd like to try it out.

Make your ask simple and short. If you write a long email they may not read it. But if you write a simple request, there's a good chance people will reply.

Links & Resources


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Direct download: 0131-the-key-to-successful-marketing-happy-customers-and-stickers.mp3
Category:marketing -- posted at: 12:00am EST

WSS #0130: BLOG > What Defines A Perfect Product?

Read the article at http://www.websearchsocial.com/130

Direct download: 0130-blog-what-defines-a-perfect-product.mp3
Category:marketing -- posted at: 12:00am EST

WSS #0129: BLOG > How To Stop Saying Um (And Other, Like, You Know, Filler Words)

Read the article at http://www.websearchsocial.com/129

Direct download: 0129-how-to-stop-saying-um-and-other-like-you-know-filler-words.mp3
Category:marketing -- posted at: 12:00am EST

WSS #0128: You Are What You Think: Pride, Business And The Danger Of Negativity

Today's Episode Is Handsome And Delicious

It's our first official podcast roadshow! This weekend we were in Nowhereville… er, Connecticut… visiting Mike Brooks (the Handsome and Delicious) for some mojitos and business. In between we recorded a couple of podcasts – the Nuclear Chowder podcast coming out in a few weeks, so stay tuned – and this one.

It was great fun for us and we hope you'll enjoy this, too.

We Love Connecticut, Really

There are just so many tall things… roads and trees and stuff. Coming from our condo in New Jersey, it's a whole lot of suburban.

But more than Connecticut, we love Mike Brooks because he cooked us some amazing carnita dinner plus guacamole and a shrimp and chorizo appetizer that I may have eaten most of.

SuperFreds Of The Week

Ralph starts out calling them Superheroes of the week but I decide that is not prestigious enough. So here they are.

Traci The Kitchen Girl (I hear she has an amazing recipe for Brussels Sprouts on her site and in spite of all his cringing and complaining, Ralph agrees to try them if I use her recipe!)

Tina McAllister, Mila Araujo, the folks at Simplexity and Bob Dunn, the WordPress genius behind the BobWP website.

Thank you for your conversation and sharing! If you'd like to connect with them too, you can find their links below.

Alisa Meredith Mails Us A Brussels Sprout

I'll leave it at that. And that's why I love her.

Ian Anderson Gray Is On Notice

Since we can't help ourselves, we continue to talk about food – or in this case beverage – because Mike is a super tea lover and he made us a lovely pot of fresh tea.

He calls it English-style, which is putting the loose tea leaves into a pot, letting it steep and then straining it into your mug.

So we want to know: Ian, as the official British guy of the Web.Search.Social Podcast, is this true? Or are we just doing another Americanized version of the real thing?


This past week was a big one here in the United States. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality and we're happy to celebrate with our friends and family who have long waited for this moment.

We also name SuperFred Tammie Rampley our Chief Executive Web.Search.Social Pride Officer.

She wants double pay but considering the amazing bags she is constantly sending us, we agree. Also, it makes it easy that zero times two is still zero… ahem.

Tammie's new job entails ensuring that the Web.Search.Social Podcast is FABULOUS!

PS: Are you voting for Tammie to win a commercial in the Super Bowl? SuperFred in the Super Bowl FTW!

And The Confederate Flag

This was another big deal this past week as racial tensions over a recent shooting boiled up. And while we're not here to talk politics, Ralph found a great video with some historical context about the flag that is worth learning from.

Plus all these controversial current events lay the groundwork for our next conversation which is about…

Negativity. Ugh.

I'm not the "I will block you" type when it comes to social media, even if you say things I don't like. But for the first time ever, this week I started blocking, unfollowing and deleting people from my life.

Two things happened to drive me to this point.

First, I read a post that Mike wrote about how a lot of people like to complain about how bad the economy is, how terrible things are in our country and how everything is going to hell in a handbasket. Taxes and business problems and WHHAAAAA!

Mike says: stop your bitchin'.

Or maybe I said that. But what Mike really said is that there are opportunities if you stop focusing on the negative. You have to go out and find opportunities if you want them instead of sitting around complaining about what you lack. If you fill your head with things that are terrible and bad and engage in constantly pessimistic talk then that's what you will focus on.

You've heard people say, "You are what you eat"?

Well, Mike says, "You are what you think."

As he has studied what makes people successful, he's found that they all share an optimism that transcends the petty complaints so many people spew every day.

Fast Forward…

Mike's post was the first catalyst. The second was everything that happened this past week as a result of current events.

And the things that have happened have been emotional and caused a lot of emotional reactions.

And that's ok – but where it's not ok is when it becomes everything. 

It's not ok when opinions become hateful and vitriolic. When conversation and debate break down and become name calling, complaining and negativity.

There's a difference between disagreeing and spewing negativity.

If that's you, if you are in a perpetual state of negativity and complaining – consider yourself blocked!

But more importantly…

You Don't Have To Watch The Train Wreck

The 24 hour news cycle is great at keeping the negativity front and center.

But a constant barrage of that can really take its toll on you.

Ralph reminds us of Lena West – speaker, author and social media consultant – who spoke at an event we attended and said that she is focused on building her business, not on crimes, wars, problems and disasters she can't do anything about.

The point is simple but clear: if you fill your brain with all the bad stuff, there won't be any room for the good.

You don't have to listen to it, read it, participate in it or acknowledge it.

Being part of a culture of negativity is incredibly draining. It will suck out your energy, your creativity, your passion, drive and enthusiasm.

And you can opt out.

Constant Optimism Is Draining, Too

We're human and nobody can be positive all the time. Being real is important and that means the good and the bad.

So we're not being idealistic here – we know people (including us!) have our moments of bad days, bad moods and complaints.

So we're not advocating for perpetual optimism, but we do think that when things start to turn down, you have to find your way back to the light or your life and business could be in danger.

Social Media: All The Stuff You Would Never Say In Real Life

It seems like people have developed a sort of social Tourettes when they post online. They say extreme things in hateful ways that they would not say in a room full of people.

I could go on all day on this topic but if you're really interested in joining the debate then I encourage you to listen to our conversation on this podcast.

We all struggle a little bit with where to draw lines and what's ok and not ok when it comes to business (Should you bring your controversial stance into your business? Should you talk politics or religion or [insert delicate topic here] and be willing to alienate people or should you leave it for you personal life?) but it's something worth exploring so you can understand where you stand and take ownership of your position.

Whatever you choose, do it purposefully and without hate.

We Can Disagree Rationally

We disagree with our families. We disagree with our friends. We disagree with clients. Sometimes they are small things but sometimes they're big issues. And yet we don't kick those people out of our lives and we don't expect to change their minds.

We're not saying you have to agree with everything everyone says in order to maintain a relationship but you can disagree with integrity.

Conversation, debate and a willingness to listen contribute to a civil world where we can disagree, we can have passionate beliefs on any side of the equation, and we can still get along.

Your Marketing Action Item

From Mike: Put positive stuff into your head. "Your attitude, not your aptitude, determines your altitude." That's a quote by Zig Ziglar, so go listen to him. Go listen to someone who has a positive influence on your life and let them inspire you. Read something positive, talk with someone encouraging and fill your head with things that give you good energy to be creative and successfully run your business.

From Carol Lynn: Clean up your social streams, especially your Facebook page where it's too easy to read all the mean, complaining, negative things people say. You don't have to make a big deal out of it, just remove those people from your sphere of attention. You don't need to kick them out of your life but you don't need to read or listen to their nonstop downer conversation all the time. Make room for the people who will bring you up instead of dragging you down.

From Ralph: Find a podcast in your niche and then talk to the host about being a guest. You don't have to host your own podcast to take advantage of the audience a podcast can afford you. If you share your ideas and the things that make you unique on other podcasts then you can tap into a lot of potential.

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WSS #0127: Pit Bulls, Pie And Storytelling For Business

A Princess And A Pit Bull Enjoy Some Pie…

And thus begins the story of today's podcast!

That's a whole lot of Ps and I wouldn’t mind a gold star for getting them all out during the intro.

So What Does That Mean?

Today we welcome storyteller perfectissimo Katherine Kotaw of Kotaw Content Marketing. Storytelling isn't just something she does – it's something she is. A storyteller, that is.

Katherine and I bonded over pie (virtually) and somehow every conversation we have begins and ends with one.

And as for the pit bulls, well, Katherine realized that pit bulls are actually quite adorable and charming and snuggly. So she decided to rebrand them as such and figured if she could do that… she could do anything.

Pit Bulls For The Win!

I recommend following Katherine somewhere online (links to find her are below) because you may just fall in love with pit bulls, too. Especially when they are adorned with flowers and tiaras.

If you listen closely you can hear Ivy, Katherine's pit bull princess, snuffling and jingling in the background.

What Makes A Storyteller?

Katherine defines a storyteller as someone who can hear all sorts of random stuff and turn it into something compelling with a beginning, middle and end. A brand storyteller takes all that stuff and makes the person (or company) it's about stand out from everyone else.

Can Everyone Do It?

Actually… no.

Let's throw a little tough love into the fire. Everyone has a story but not everyone is good at telling it.

Take a story and have three different people tell it. We bet it will sound different each time. And this isn't exactly The Three Little Pigs we're talking about… though now that you mention it, I bet you've heard fun versions of that story and not so fun versions.

It really does depend on the telling.

How Do You Know If It's Time For Some Storytelling 911?

Katherine puts it bluntly: some companies need to come to grips with the fact that they stink as storytellers and get someone to help. We agree.

Ralph calls this someone "a muse".

Katherine calls this someone "an extraction specialist".

If you feel stuck – or worse – think you don’t even have a story to tell then that's a good sign you need to get some help.

It may be that you need someone to listen better or to ask the right questions. Or that you need a change of setting or a glass of wine… or pie.

Everyone has different storytelling abilities so rather than trying to go it alone, work with someone who can make you shine.

What If You Don't Have A Story?

Hold on a sec… you read what I said about how Katherine thinks everyone has a story?

That sounds great but… I've met a few people who seem to truly, well, not.

I ask them questions about their business and they all seem to fall flat. These people don't have an origin story or a "big why" or a passion. Maybe they're doing it just for the money. Or they saw an ad for a business for sale and decided to try it because they needed to do something with their lives.

Katherine thinks that if you don't believe you have a story your business will ultimately fail. It's story that helps you withstand the tough times because you'll understand your motivation and fight for your passion.

But I still want to know… what about the guy who is in it for the money? Who doesn't seem to have anything to say about why he started his business except, "Because…"

Katherine says that all good businesses have a story even if they can't articulate it.

Sometimes people think their story is too personal. Or they're afraid people won't like them because of it. Sometimes they just haven't dug down deep enough.

She shares an example of working with a client who didn't think he had a story, was in it "for the money", but found out his story rooted back to his grandfather wanting to start a business. Like Katherine says, you need someone to extract that!

Sharing Vs. Oversharing: Where's The Line?

Some people think our Kim Anami episode about business, sex and relationships was oversharing. Other people loved it.

So where are the lines?

Katherine is not to be stumped on this one, either! She says… wait for it… use your judgment.


Amazing how common sense wins, isn't it?

She says that most people err on the side of under sharing because they're too afraid to get personal. But others seem to spew out any old thought onto social media, which can get them into hot water at some point.

Ask yourself: how much of your story are you willing to own?

Then own it!

Ben Affleck Makes An Appearance

Well, not literally, but it did sound cool to say that. Maybe he should sponsor the show.

We talk about a recent documentary in which it was discovered that one of his ancestors had owned salves. Ben tried to cover it up and you can imagine how well that went.

When it all came out he finally said that he was embarrassed by the whole thing and didn't want to admit it.

Ralph wonders whether this mistake now defines his story or if we can be more forgiving because we are already immersed in his story and we understand that this was just one blip on the radar.

Katherine agrees that for people who are already part of the story, they are likely to be forgiving and understand that one moment does not define a person.

What To Do When The Bad Stuff Gets Out Into The World

Sometimes things get out. Things we didn't plan to share. Sometimes we look bad.

Then what? Do you cover up? Play dead? Tell everyone to go fly a kite?

Actually, Katherine says, take charge. You can't control the story but you can control how you handle it.

You can admit your mistakes, share your thoughts and move on.

Eventually the bad stuff dies down and you can pick up your story again where you want to tell it.

The Responsibility Of The Listener

Ralph wants to know whether people have a responsibility for how they interpret the stories they hear.

Katherine thinks they do have an obligation – to understand the context and to judge it as part of a bigger whole.

I think they're both crazy because… have you met people? I don't think that "take responsibility for how I interpret someone's story" is high on anyone's agenda.

I do think, however, that if we're diligently building our fan base and we're true to ourselves and our audience, people will forgive our transgressions.

What do you think?

Your Story Is Not Linear

Yes, stories have beginnings, middles and ends. But when it comes to business and marketing, people may jump in at any time. So the beginning for one person may be the middle for another. How does this affect messaging when businesses aren't really in control of where someone will start in their story?

Katherine says business owners too often think they have one story, tell it once and are done. But our stories have to keep evolving and we have to keep telling them – everywhere, all the time. It doesn’t really matter where someone jumps in. They'll catch up!

There Will Be Blood…

Or misunderstandings. But blood sounds more dramatic.

Anyway, Ralph tells a story of someone who jumped into the middle of our story and without the proper context, took all sorts of offense.


Actually, Katherine says… oh well. It happens. You just have to keep going, keep telling your story, keep marching.

Don't apologize.

You are going to offend some people. And that's a good thing.

It's More Than Your Origin Story

Lots of times we think of our story as "how I started my business". But there is a whole lot more to it than that.

Katherine says you've got to think about how you want to be known. What will make you memorable?

You can be the person who always has a thoughtful opinion… or the one who is supportive of others, even competitors. You have to decide how you want to be recognized and work to build and grow that every day.

Three Types Of Story

When it comes to baking the perfect marketing pie, there's the written story, there are visuals and then there is social media.

Mix all three together to make some delicious marketing magic.

Writing is not good enough. Your story has to appeal visually, too. And once you've got those two pieces, you need to share, share, share on social.

If you don’t share your story, says Katherine, often and repeatedly – it won't go anywhere.

Does Your Audience Play A Role?

I want to know: does your audience factor into your story? (I'm looking at you, Fred!)

Katherine says yes! (I knew we were kindred spirits in pie.) She is often inspired by what people say and then will tell a story to and about one person, speaking to that one person. It's always better to think of others before your own self interests.

I tell her that our audience has been part of our story all along, helping us tell it and being part of it with us.

When Does Your Story End?


Drops mic.

What Makes A Good Story?

A good story makes you feel like you're there.

A good story makes you want to be a part of it.

A good story makes you feel like you never want to get to the end.

A good story makes an emotional connection with people.

And remember, it's not always about mechanics – it's in the telling.

Ralph Forgets To Mispronounce Katherine's Last Name

In an ongoing bid to annoy Alisa Meredith, friend of the show and host of the Superheroes of Marketing podcast, Ralph set out to mispronounce Katherine's last name (which is pronounced like the "kota" in North DaKOTA).

This apparently bugs Alisa but Ralph forgets and ruins the joke.

Sorry, Alisa.

Your Marketing Action Item

From Katherine: if you want to succeed in business and be happy succeeding, find your story, tell your story and then keep on telling it. And if you've got one, Katherine wants to hear it! Share with her anywhere online. I'm sure she wouldn't mind hearing about your favorite type of pie, too.

Links & Resources


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Direct download: 0127-pit-bulls-pie-and-storytelling-for-business.mp3
Category:marketing -- posted at: 12:00am EST

WSS #0126: BLOG > Should You Run Your Venture As A Business?

Read the article at http://www.websearchsocial.com/126

Direct download: 0126-blog-should-you-run-your-venture-as-a-business.mp3
Category:marketing -- posted at: 12:00am EST

WSS #0125: BLOG > How Much Should A Website Cost? The Older And Wiser Edition.

Read the article at http://www.websearchsocial.com/125

Direct download: 0125-blog-how-much-should-a-website-cost-the-older-and-wiser-edition.mp3
Category:marketing -- posted at: 12:00am EST

WSS #0124: Dirt + Leaves + Sharks = Lawyers (Or How To Start A Business)

Bags For Women… AND Men!

If you're a regular listener you know we talk about Tammie Rampley and Tramp Lee Designs often. Carol Lynn has bags made by Tammie, we've ordered gifts for our mothers… but it wasn't until this week that we realized Tammie not only makes bags for women but she makes them for men, too!

A messenger bag showed up at my door last week with my name on it, a Tardis on the outside and bigger on the inside.

So connect with Tammie and find out how she can custom design a bag for exactly what you need.

Three Star Dude Is Not Going To Be Happy

Last week we talked about someone who left us a three star review of our podcast and who complained that we do too much talking and don't get to the point quickly enough.

After today that review is probably going down to two stars.

Let's Talk Business

Setting up a business, that is.

If you're selling a product or service, are you in business for yourself or are you actually running a business?

The difference starts with the paperwork.

It's a good idea to legally file business incorporation documents, whether that's as an S Corp or an LLC or something else.

By making it "official" you have legal protections you wouldn't have otherwise. For example, you have less liability as a business than you would as an individual. If something goes wrong and you're not incorporated you could lose your home, car or other assets. But if you're incorporated the business takes that burden.

Profit Sharing Vs. Equity Ownership

Thinking of going into business with a partner? Then you have to figure out how you're going to split up the equity.

When you give someone a share of profit, that's nice, but it's easy to dilute profits with expenses. If you pay yourself a gigantic salary you're cutting into the profit that your partner expects a cut of.

If you take a lavish trip to Hawaii (for business purposes, of course) you're cutting into the profit that your partner expects a cut of.

On the other hand, giving someone an actual equity stake in the business means they own a percentage of the business – profits AND losses – and they also get a percentage of the sale of the business.

Put It In Writing

If you plan to "partner up" with someone, don’t expect to do it over a handshake. If it's not on paper then it doesn't count.

What if you or your partner gets hit by a bus? What if you or your partner decides you don't want to be involved in the business anymore?

A legal agreement will protect everyone involved.

Dirt And Leaves And Sharks = Lawyers

If this sounds complicated, don't worry about it. That's what God made lawyers for. With a little bit of dirt and leaves and sharks… voila, you've got someone on your side who knows all the stuff you don't. If you know any lawyers who want to sponsor this show, we're all ears.

Don't Download Free Legal Forms

You have probably seen ads for cheap legal templates and given the cost of real attorneys it can be tempting to drop a couple of bucks on a template. But a template doesn't know you or your partners. A template can't advise you.

Sometimes you don't know what you don't know.

Even If You Don't Have Partners – Incorporate

If you're a solopreneur and don't have any partners you still need to be incorporated. As we mentioned earlier, being incorporated affords you certain legal protections.

It can also help you save on taxes, allow you to put money away effectively for retirement and more.

Partners Can Be More Diverse Than You Think

When you think of a partner you may be thinking of someone who can help you produce the product or provide the service you want to offer.

But partners can have completely different skills that contribute to the overall success of your business.

For example, you may want to partner with someone who is an influencer in your niche and who can help you bring your product or service to market a whole lot faster (and more profitably) than you could do on your own.

You may want to partner with an adviser or a financial person who can take on some of the necessary responsibilities where your skills fall short.

The key is to find people who can strengthen your team – without whom your total success would not be possible.

Vesting. It's Stupid.

It's not a very common practice but it happens. The premise is that you promise someone equity in the business after they've worked in the business for some length of time – usually for free.

It may seem like a good idea to test someone's commitment but it also devalues their participation. Plus a lot can change during their vesting period. What if you sell the business? They get nothing. What if you take the profits and leave? They get nothing.

Just don't do it. Value your team members out of the gate.

Your Marketing Action Item

From Carol Lynn: Do you have an idea for a business, product or service but don't have the skills to execute it? Don't dismiss your idea! Write it down and then write down the short list of people who have the skills you need who may be able to partner with you. Want to build some great bit of software but don’t have an ounce of programming knowledge? Partnering with the right programmer is all you may need to bring your idea to fruition.

From Ralph: Start with the end in mind. Before you start a business or create a product, think about how you're going to sell it, who you're going to sell it to and how much money you think it can make. Put together a spreadsheet of your expenses and the potential revenue based on your target market. Be sure you know who your target market is. You can't sell to "everyone." You need to understand the potential reach of your niche and that will help you decide whether it's worth investing your time, energy and even money in your new venture.

Links & Resources


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Direct download: 0124-dirt-leaves-sharks-lawyers-or-how-to-start-a-business.mp3
Category:marketing -- posted at: 12:00am EST

WSS #0123: Buffoons Need Friends Too And Other Content Marketing Realities

It's The Ryan Hanley Hat Trick Show!

Third time's a charm and this is Ryan Hanley's third appearance on our show. He was on a while ago to talk content marketing, then recently we had him back to talk about his book and ended up spending an hour in an impromptu therapy session talking about the challenges of balancing your personal life with your work. This time he's back to talk about his book for real, which dives deep into content marketing: the hows, whys and what fors.

Is it fate or just a good lottery number that this is also episode 123? If you don't hear from us for a while, don't panic – it just means we're spending our winnings from a villa in Barcelona.

Why Did Ryan Write This Book?

We're curious – not just why he wrote this book from a content standpoint but why he went to such lengths to put out a great looking hardcover and not a much simpler and cheaper eBook.

We learn that Ryan feels a profound responsibility to his audience. Not only to produce the best work but to produce something they can be proud of owning and using.

He also says that content marketing has been "sold wrong" because usually people lead with the tactics and tips. But he says that you need to build your audience first and the tactics will follow.

Success Is More Possible

Here's something telling: Ryan says that if you approach content marketing the right way, success is more possible.

Notice what he didn't say.

Success is yours.


Success is guaranteed.

No, it's just "more possible."

The lack of hype and absence empty promises is one of the many things we love about Ryan.

Carol Lynn Unleashed

Carol Lynn has two copies of Ryan's book and is on her second reading so I let her loose to bombard Ryan with questions.

Of course, the first thing she wants to know if why Ryan mentioned that readers can "rabbit ear" the pages of the book instead of "dog ear."

Ryan is pretty sure he just made that up. But it sounds cool, so we go with it.

Millennials Schlimennials

We challenge Ryan with a topic we recently discussed on our podcast – because of exactly what he says in his book – which is that the only "generations" that matter for content marketing is the connected generation and the unconnected generation.

The unconnected generation doesn't have Internet access (or doesn't use the Internet) and doesn't have smart phones. The only way they know that a product or service exists is by being interrupted – by an ad or a billboard or a commercial.

On the other hand, the connected generation seeks out information. The use the Internet to find what they want, on their own time, in their own way.

This is what makes content marketing so powerful.

Mark Schaefer Wants A Hamburger

In a recent article, marketer and author Mark Schaefer says that sometimes you don't want a relationship with a company. Sometimes you don't want a community. Sometimes you just want a coupon so you can get a cheaper burger.

We agree.

But we challenge Ryan to reconcile that with the idea of using content marketing to create that connection vs. just handing out a coupon.

Ryan wouldn't be Ryan if he didn't dodge that bullet. He quickly lets us know that while that may be true, even a weak connection to a company can mean the difference between a sale and no sale.

We are influenced in some way by the messaging we see over time so even though we don't quite think about it, somewhere along the way something nudged us in one direction or another.

But more importantly, Ryan says that the idea of building community can be overrated. Community building is a tactic – and it's not right for every business. It will work for some, but others just need to send out coupons.

War Is Averted, So We Try Again

Just for fun we decide to see if we can ignite that flame of dissent and throw Mark under the bus a second time.

We want to know: is content marketing really sustainable given Mark's assessment that while content consumption is finite – we only have a certain amount of hours in a day to consume it – the amount of content continues to increase exponentially.

Flat demand, infinite product.

But Ryan is too slick to fall for it. He says the truth – which is that crappy content is doomed. If you want to get noticed you have to produce something great. Every time.

True Fans Are Better Than More Fans

Numbers in and of themselves are not important. It's how many people are your true fans.

And in a twist, Ryan says that true fans don't even have to be customers. They just have to be people who will share your every word and who will advocate for you and refer you when they can.

Case in point about numbers: Ryan has 5,000 people on his email list but 137 people who funded the Kickstarter for his book.

Do the math.

It's not about the size of your list, it's about the true fans.

Be Likable

In all our talk about not worrying about people who don't like you, we want to know why Ryan thinks you need to be likeable.

Of course he dodges that one too because he means that you need to be likeable to your audience.

But never try to get everyone to like you.

Yup. We're on board.

Can A Small Company Compete With Big, Well Known Brands?

Don't lament your Google position, kids. Turns out that as a small, local business you have a big advantage over big brands that offer the same product or service that you do.

You – not them – know your local community. You speak the language, you understand the vernacular, you get their geographical references.

You can easily jump past the big players by being the authority in your small town where you can dominate over a big brand any day.

Also, Mike Brooks may make an appearance in a pink dress and tights. And something about a baton, but we won't give it all away.

Sharing Vs. Over Sharing

We're fascinated by the topic of authenticity so we ask Ryan, what's ok to share and when is it too much?

Ryan says the most reasonable thing (Damn him! We want war! And Internet fights!) which is that it's different for everyone.

You just have to know what you're comfortable being public about.

But – in another classic Ryan Hanley twist – he tells us that authenticity and transparency are NOT the same thing.

You can be transparent but do it in an inauthentic way.

Or you can hold back but be absolutely authentic in whatever you do say.

The key is to be as transparent (share) as much as you're personally comfortable with and be authentic (real) about everything.

People need to believe what you say. And you can fake it, but eventually you will be found out.

What Ryan Learned From A Bartender Named Christopher

In the grand finale Ryan tells us about a bartender in a hotel where he (Ryan) was speaking at a conference.

First we learn that Ryan's favorite drink is a Kentucky Mule. Then we learn that there is such a thing as a copper cup, into which this drink is poured. We also learn that the bartender named Christopher had only one copper cup but that there were three people in Ryan's party.

Not to be deterred, the bartender named Christopher went out and bought two new cups so Ryan and his colleagues could enjoy their drinks the following night.

He went to extensive lengths to please his customers, including things like "making ice by hand" and other such things.

The conclusion? If every business took their job as seriously as Christopher did, they would have some amazing superfans.

Your Marketing Action Item

From Ryan: Find a way to capture ideas wherever you are. Your best ideas won't come when you're sitting in front of your keyboard so make sure wherever you go, wherever you are, you have a way to capture your ideas. The method doesn't matter as long as you do it. Use paper, use an app, use voice recording. Just be sure to do it every time you have an idea no matter what. If you have an idea, snag it and keep it. In other words, take your phone to the toilet.

Links & Resources


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Direct download: 0123-buffoons-need-friends-too-and-other-content-marketing-realities.mp3
Category:marketing -- posted at: 12:00am EST

WSS #0122: BLOG > Don't Believe The Hype! Your Success Depends On It

Read the article at http://www.websearchsocial.com/122

Direct download: 0122-blog-dont-believe-the-hype-your-success-depends-on-it.mp3
Category:marketing -- posted at: 12:00am EST

WSS #0121: BLOG > Are You Unwittingly Telling People You're Boring? Answer This Question To Find Out.

Read the article at http://www.websearchsocial.com/121

WSS #0120: Critique Vs. Criticism And Other Musings

We're Tired!

We recorded this on Sunday after a few weeks of super intensive work, and man, we're bushed. So this is a shorter episode than usual, just the right length for you to get on the treadmill for a good workout.

Why We So Desperately Need A Nap

First of all, since we recorded this on Sunday, we were eager to rest up for the season finale of Game of Thrones.

But mostly we're exhausted because we're starting not one… not two… but THREE new business ventures.

They are all product-based – namely, we're building three products (in this case software).

One is the new Triberr – and thanks to the feedback of some superfans, we've got plenty of plans to include the features YOU asked for.

One is still a super secret so we can't quite talk about it yet.

And one is designed specifically to make the lives of our SuperFreds easier.

It's Still Sort Of A Secret But…

You may know that we produce four podcasts each week. Two are based on blogs we've written and two are full length episodes with rather extensive show notes like this one.

Then we promote that stuff, which includes creating graphics, ads and scheduling.

Oh and we also do client work!

Which leads to the point…

People constantly ask us, "How the heck do you DO all that?"

And the answer isn't that we have figured out cloning (though I wouldn't mind one…)

The answer isn't that we have superpowers (though I might like to move at the speed of light…)

The answer is: efficiency.

And the way we gain efficiency is through a handful of home grown tools that we've developed for ourselves to help us manage our workflows and processes.

And Now We Want To Share That With You

We're in the process of combining all our best tools into one super tool for content creators to help them manage their own content, whether that's a blog, podcast or social shares.

That's about all I can tell you right now but we'll share more as we get closer to unveiling it. In the meantime, let us know if there are any special challenges YOU face when creating, managing or sharing content – whether for yourself or for clients – and we'll see what we can do about making that easier for you.

This Whole Process Is Not Fast Or Simple

We've talked plenty of times about how you can't create a product of real value in two or twenty four or even a hundred hours.

Last week we talked with Cynthia Sanchez about her product – Web Images Made Easy – and how it took her and her partner a year to produce it.

Granted, what we're doing is different in the sense that we're not creating an ecourse or video series – we're actually forming an entirely new business – but there is a lot that goes into it, either way.

We've definitely lost a lot of sleep as we plan and ponder and decide and figure out. So the fact that people STILL cough up $49 or $197 or ANY dollars to watch whatever webinar or read whatever ebook promises to show you how to create a product fast and sell it for a ton of money – well, that just drives me nuts.

They're Only Seeing Dollar Signs

People who sell you the quick fix are just trying to figure out how to put dollars in their pockets.

But let's face it – we ALL think about dollars. We all want to make money. Nobody is doing this to be altruistic. Everyone has to run a business and make enough money to live.

But if you really want to generate revenue then it's about the value you can provide to your customer. That's what will keep them coming back for the long term.

Calling Tammie Rampley!

Ralph needs to talk to you. Email him. Apparently, saying it out loud on the show was the only way he'd remember to say that. So much for GTD, huh? I call shenanigans.

Moving on…

We Got A "Bad" Review Of Our Podcast

Ok, not exactly "bad". It was a 3-star review (out of 5) but still, ouch.

The problem is that the complaint went something like this: Too much chatter, just get to the point and tell me what I came to hear.

For us, the chatter is kind of the point. That, and the marketing stuff. But it all goes together. If we cut that part out we'd lose ourselves in the process.

The other problem is that "the chatter" is one of the things that people most often tell us they enjoy. So… we'll keep the chatter.

We're open to critique but ultimately we decide that this guy probably shouldn't be listening to our show.

You Can Please Some Of The People…

Friend of the show Alisa Meredith was recently on Wade Harman's podcast (an upcoming guest on ours, stay tuned!) and she shared the podcast online. And while plenty of people liked the show, one guy decided that he didn't get the information he wanted out of the show. And he was very loud and very public about that.

Alisa and Wade did the smart thing – they explained that they provided exactly the information they set out to provide and then they ignored his continued, and loud, protestations.

If I had to guess, I'd say this guy is not a good fit as their audience. So it just goes to show that you really can't be everything to everyone at all times.

Please Your Audience. Nobody Else Matters.

We talk a lot about storytelling. You have to tell your story in a way that's meaningful to you and your audience but you also have to accept that not everyone is your audience

Your content has to resonate with people you want to convert, whether you want them to buy from you or read or listen to you or sign up for your email list. The others? They simply don't matter.

An Example Of A Useful Critique

A few weeks ago we learned that we could save a bunch on podcast hosting by reducing our audio file size. And the way to do that is to reduce the quality of the output.

So we reduced the quality, listened back on our laptop and decided we couldn't tell the difference between the high quality (big file) and lower quality (small file).


We saved $40 a month on hosting and that's a big deal.


Sheng Slogar, official Web.Search.Social Watchdog, sent me a message that went something like this: Dude, WTF audio quality?

Turns out he was listening on headphones, where the sound was more obvious, and it sounded pretty crummy.

And I said, DRAT!

So I upped the quality a notch but not quite to the best quality.

Then Sheng messaged me and said something like… Dude, WTF audio quality STILL?

And I said, CRUMBUN!

And ratcheted the quality back up to 100%.

Then Sheng messaged me said something like, Dude, YES!

So that's a critique we took to heart because it mattered to the quality of our show.

The challenge is understanding the difference.

You need to differentiate between a legitimate critique and an unproductive criticism made by someone who just doesn’t like you (or feels like being a troll – of which there are an endless supply!)

Remember You Can Still Get A Discount On Téa Silvestre's Storytelling Soiree

It will be held August 8-9 in Portland Oregon and you can get all the details by visiting the Story Bistro website. If you sign up by July 1 you get a 25% discount on the ticket price by entering the code RIVERAPAL25.

Vote Tramplee Designs!

And don't forget to vote for Tammie Rampley of Tramplee Designs to win a commercial in the Super Bowl! No need to register or enter any info, just click the button. You can do it once every 24 hours.

We're doing it every day so if you can do it once, great! If you can do it a couple times, even better!

Your Marketing Action Item

Actually we copped out today since we really need a nap.

So how about you take one too?

Links & Resources


Subscribe to be notified whenever we publish new content and to stay in the loop on new podcasts and resources.

Direct download: 0120-critique-vs-criticism-and-other-musings.mp3
Category:marketing -- posted at: 12:00am EST

WSS #0119: You Don't Need A Golden Toilet. Or, How To Create And Sell A Valuable Digital Product.

What IS The Right Way To Eat A Cupcake?

Right before we started recording, Cynthia Sanchez, our guest on today's episode, told us about a video she watched about how to eat a cupcake.

We didn't think it was that hard, but apparently someone has now posted the official instructions. And apparently we're supposed to take the bottom off and plunk it on the top so the frosting is in the middle.

Thus follows a debate over crumbs, more vs. less frosting and the right texture for cake. We don't quite resolve everything but do decide that it would probably be a good idea to eat and test a lot of cupcakes.

What do you think?

And Now... Web Images Made Easy

We asked Cynthia to join us today because she has just released a new product. It's an online video course that teaches you the fundamentals of how to create great images for your website, blog and social sharing – even if you're not a designer.

She put this together over a year with her partner Jason Lange and it's 27 video tutorials plus a bunch of templates and bonuses. It teaches you how to improve your images and then shows you how to use some popular image editing tools to rock your visuals.

Since Pinterest is Cynthia's specialty, it makes sense that she created a product to help with images, but that's not why we wanted to talk to her.

What we really wanted to talk about was how to create a product and what goes into it – not just what we've been sold by slick marketers who want to sell their products that purport to "teach you to be rich" or "create your own six figure product in two hours."

This is the real deal and Cynthia shares the experience so if you're thinking of creating a course, book or some other digital product this is insight you can use.

Even if you're not thinking of creating one, maybe this will inspire you to try your hand at some recurring passive income.

It Starts With Your Audience

Unlike much of the advice you have probably heard about how to create a product (ie: sit down, think of an idea, create something then sell the heck out of it with lots of psychology and upsells and affiliate links), Cynthia started by listening to her audience.

And what she heard was that people were frustrated with images. They struggled to create images, didn't know how to make them look good and felt defeated by their lack of designer skills.

And so Web Images Made Easy was born.

It Takes Time

Yes, it took Cynthia and Jason a year but they also both moved across the country during that time, ran their respective businesses, spent time with their families, did speaking gigs and probably even ate and slept.

Still, it wasn't something they did – or wanted to do – quickly.

Cynthia said that a 4-5 minute video could take two hours to produce.

Ah-ha! You say… but if that video had been her product, she could have created it in two hours!

Well, sort of true, but there are things you don't see – like the amount of time it took to come up with a name, find and secure a URL, build the sales page and website, set up the payment processing…

So yeah. It takes time.

It Has Value – All By Itself

If you listen to "the product people" you'll probably learn more than you want to about the psychology of pricing, offers and upsells.

There's the "it's worth eight billion dollars but it's yours today for only $3.99!" trope.

There's the "hey, you bought my $3.99 thing but what you really need is my $500 thing… buy it today only!" trope.

That stuff must work because people buy, but those kinds of slick offers can erode trust and lead people to believe big promises that are quite often under delivered by their 2-hour products.

We decide that Cynthia's product will sell based on its value. Not based on tricks or tropes. People are going to buy it because it's great.

And because Cynthia takes an open, honest and truly people-centered approach to what she puts out into the world.

There's A Boat Load Of Stuff To Think About

Turns out the "creating a product" thing isn't the whole story.

I mentioned a few additional pieces earlier – the URL, sales page, website and payment processing. But there's more!

Do you want affiliate marketers? You've got to decide what you'll give them and set it up.

How will you price it? You've got to choose a strategy (subscription? one time?) and assign an actual price tag.

Will you maintain it? What happens when things change and your product is outdated? You have to decide what investment you're willing to make in improving, editing, updating, etc.

Oh, and how will you sell it? You can't just build a sales page and let it sit there until the masses pour in. You have to get out there and actually promote the thing.

Cynthia and Jason also spent time getting feedback from people before they released their product into the wild. They asked whether it was helpful, whether the messaging was clear, whether it worked technically. And they incorporated the feedback to make the course even better.

That's how you create a product.

You Don't Have To Be Rich If You Don't Want To Be

Ok, admittedly that sounds like a very weird thing to say. But if you run a business, follow your passion, freelance or consider yourself an entrepreneur in any way, there is a tremendous amount of pressure to make a lot of money.

People seem to be in a mad rush lately to get VC funding or be the next big thing bought out by Facebook.

Everyone wants to sell you a product (oh irony) that will teach you how to turn your hobby into six figures or finally be able to work from the beach.

But… maybe we're actually fine working from a condo in New Jersey.

Maybe we don't want to be billionaires but just be able to buy all the X Box games we want.

There is huge pressure to "think big" and if you're not aiming for major cash then you suddenly feel like a failure.

Don't believe the hype!

Don't let anyone tell you what you should be striving for. Don't let anyone define what happiness and success means for you.

Don't believe anyone who wants to sell you a product that makes those kinds of "live the giant dream" promises. Can it happen? Sure. But so can winning the lottery.

Cynthia Doesn’t Need A Gold Plated Toilet

By the end of the conversation we decide we want to own our businesses and products, produce something of value, be proud of what we do, help people… and be able to buy all the X Box games we want.

And drink wine.

Your Marketing Action Item

From Cynthia: The next time you see someone's product for sale, decide whether it's something that can help move your business forward or if it's just a big promise that will put a few bucks in someone else's product. You don't have to try and buy everything – even the inexpensive stuff. If it seems like there's more in it for the seller than for you as the buyer, move along.

From Ralph: If you're thinking a producing a product, think of something that you're doing that's helping you run your business or save time. And then think about how you may be able to package that and sell it to people who do what you do so it can help them too. Dedicate some time to figuring out what your product will do, how it will work, how your end users will use it, what value it has and how you're going to sell it. But in light of our conversaitons about GTD lately, better make this a project.

From Carol Lynn: Buy Cynthia's course! Just do it.

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WSS #0118: BLOG > My Transgender Entrepreneurial Pornographic Pinterest Pledge

Read the article at http://www.websearchsocial.com/118

WSS #0117: BLOG > Stop Asking Me If I Like Your Logo

Read the article at http://www.websearchsocial.com/117

Direct download: 0117-blog-stop-asking-me-if-i-like-your-logo.mp3
Category:marketing -- posted at: 12:00am EST

WSS #0116: Get Out Of The Whirlwind! Learn How To Finally Get Things Done.

This Episode Is Quite Handsome And Delicious

Mondays we typically don't have a guest so even though Mike Brooks (the Handsome and Delicious) makes an appearance, we're not counting him as a guest.

Actually, he's here because today we're talking GTD (Getting Things Done) and since he has been trying to implement it he wanted to hang out and talk with us.

If you need to get stuff done and find yourself thwarted, behind the eight ball, putting out fires, up against a wall, [choose your own harried cliché], then you may find a lot of value in learning more about GTD and hearing what Mike's challenges are, too.

But First!

Before we get into GTD we need your help. The peerless Tammie Rampley, #SuperFred supreme and maker of the most awesome custom purses and bags on the planet, is entered into a contest hosted by Quickbooks to win an ad for her business during the next Super Bowl.

How does she win?

Our votes!

We've bookmarked the page and hope that you will vote for her, too. It's easy as pie – no registration, no need to share your name or email. Just click a button and go.

You can vote once every 24 hours, which is why we've bookmarked the page, and we love her so much that we're going to click that button every day.

If you can vote once, that would be awesome. If you can pop by and vote a few times, that would be SuperFred awesome.

Imagine… a SuperFred at the Super Bowl!

One More Thing…

Our friend Téa Silvestre of the Story Bistro is hosting her 2nd annual Storytelling Soiree this August 8 and 9 in Portland, Oregon. It's two days of fun, food and learning. By all accounts last year's event was a brilliant success so if you need help telling the story of your business, this could be the event for you.

Learn more about it here and if you decide to sign up you can use the Super Secret Super Special SuperFred code RIVERAPAL25 to get 25% off the ticket price. But hurry because you have to sign up by July 1 to get the discount.

Plus a SuperFred Shout Out

We learned recently that our good friend Jason T. Wiser of On Track Tips took a spill from his bike and broke his collarbone. He ended up needing surgery so part of his bone could be replaced with a plate.

In true Murphy's Law fashion, the plate wasn't available and needed to be ordered so he had to wait days before the replacement.

And then – grab a tissue, you'll need it – in a stroke of unrelated fate, an elderly woman fell and broke her collarbone and needed the same plate. So Jason, being the truly amazing person that he is, gave up his plate so the elderly woman could have her surgery immediately.

He ended up having to wait even longer for his.


He's doing ok now and we hope he's up and about quickly, but man. THAT'S a story. And a heck of a guy.

And Now… Getting Things Done

Bet you wouldn't mind voting for Tammie… but you already have a billion things to remember.

Bet you might like a trip to Portland for a little storytelling… but you can't swing two days away from the office.

Bet you'd like to do a lot of things, including spend less time working, less time stressing and more just getting stuff done so you can get on with your life.

Here's the funny thing about that… you can.

If Ralph Can Do It, Anyone Can.

Hey, they're his words. And as the wife who loves him so very much, I can [ahem] vouch for the fact that he is a little [ahem] scattered. And crazy. And [ahem] sometimes I can ask him to do something on a Monday and then ask him again on a Tuesday and then ask him again a week later and then just decide to do it myself because… ARGH!

But here's the miraculous thing. Once he adopted GTD he not only managed to get stuff done but even do it on time and not freak out because he had too much to do.

He Also Got To Inbox Zero.

It's not just a mythical creature like the Flying Spaghetti Monster and Santa Claus (hey, Santa Claus is totally real!)

Inbox Zero is a thing that can be achieved and we've got proof: a listener sent us a really nice email after listening to Ralph's recent post about Inbox Zero and told us how it helped her deal with an organizational nightmare of her own.

The result? She got to Inbox Zero.

Does It Require Chanting And Sacrificial Virgins?

Nope. It may actually be something both much simpler and much worse: discipline.

In fact, that's what Mike Brooks says he struggles with the most, and that's just sitting down and doing it.

It's true. You have to be willing to do the work. But if you are, it really is almost magic.

The 5 (Not So Magical) Steps Of GTD

We're not GTD experts or trainers. There are plenty of those. But we are definite GTD converts so we'd like to share the basics with you and hopefully inspire you to check it out for yourself.

Step 1: Capture

Repeat after me: my brain is a not a hard drive.

If you're hanging out trying to remember stuff, like what you have to do, what you have to do next, where you need to go, what you need to buy… stop it!

Your brain is super good at being creative and getting your job done. What it's not good at is remembering stuff.

The first thing you need to do is a "brain dump" so you get everything – and we mean everything – out of your head and into some sort of collection bucket. That can be as simple as a piece of paper or any app of your choosing.

We like Omnifocus.

Don't organize them.

Don't think about them.

Don't schedule them.

Don't plan them.

Just empty your head.

Need cat litter? Write it down. Have to write a report for a client? Write it down. Forgot to buy your mom a birthday card? Write it down. From work to personal, think MacBeth: OUT, damned stuff, OUT! (Points for being a literature geek.)

Step 2: Clarify

During this phase you ask yourself this one question about each item on your list: Is it actionable?

There are only two possible answers: yes or no.

If it's a well… I kind of have to…

Then it's a NO.

If it's a well, one of these days I should…

Then it's a NO.

If it's an I don't know right now but…

Then it's a NO.

If it's not a definitive yes then it's a no.

Now look at your "no" list and decide what to do with those things. You have options!

If they are not important, are not helping you, are not making you money, moving you forward or otherwise contributing to your life then trash them. You don't actually have to do everything your brain thinks of!

If they're ideas you have half baked or that you want to do maybe someday, incubate them. Let them sit but don't put them into your actionable list yet.

If they're reference material, store them. You know those bookmarks and notes and articles and things you might need? Keep them, but get them out of your brain and inbox and off your to do list.

Great! You're only left with the "yes" pile now.

What to do?

You've got options here, too.

First, decide whether you can do it in under 2 minutes (or under 1 or under 5, whatever works for you).

If you can, just do it. Get it out of your life before it becomes a big thing or before all the little things start to add up.

Next, decide if it's something you can delegate. Sometimes you just have to let go and keep your brain focused on things that only you can do.

Then, defer. If there is anything actionable that doesn't need to be done now, defer it to a later date. Call it sanctioned procrastination. The difference is you're putting it off on purpose.

Finally, decide what the desired outcome of each actionable item is. Use verbs. "A website" is not an outcome. "Launch my new website" is an outcome.

At the end of a project you should be able to decide whether you have achieved the outcome.

Step 3: Organize

This is the part where you take all your actionable items and organize them into projects. Remember, a project starts with a verb so you can decide whether or not you have achieved your desired result.

A project can be as small as one item!

Step 4: Reflect

Once a week, look at everything from a big-picture perspective. Look at your inbox. Look at your projects, your action items, things you deferred or delegated.

See if there is anything you can change to be better. Get a handle on where you are in the flow and where you're going.

Step 5: Engage

Believe it or not, this is the part, five steps later, where you actually get stuff done. Yes, this is the part where you work!

It probably sounds like a lot of work just to get to work, but once you set your system up then you'll be able to do more in less time and stop running around putting out fires.

Lots Of Mistakes

I'll be the first to admit, this system took me a while to "get". I tried, I failed, I went back to my to do lists and project management apps and notebooks.

I did it wrong.

At first, I set up my projects as clients. So I had a project called "Acme Corp."

But what was I doing for Acme Corp?

Well, I had to build their website. And we were designing their logo. And we had to set up their social accounts.

So really, that's three projects with three different outcomes.

At first, I tried to figure out the "how" before I got past the "what". Trying to brain dump and figure stuff out at the same time is a recipe for frustration. Dump, then do.

At first, I would ignore those two-minute things because really, they were so small. I could do them whenever. And I had much more important things to do. Except then the one thing that I could have done in 30 seconds sat on my desk for two months. And even though it wasn't really important, it nagged at my brain taking up space there when it should have just been done.

Mike struggles, too. He's stuck in a chicken-and-egg situation where he feels that if only he could get organized he'd have time to reflect. But if only he reflected, he could get organized. I feel his pain. As I continue to learn and implement this system, my "stuff" list is still a bit of a mess. But I suggested we accept the mess and spend a few minutes each day working toward a better system. You can't learn and change everything overnight.

Get An Accountability Buddy

Finally, we decide that all this sounds great but sometimes you need a boot in the behind. That's why we're designating time together (Mike, Ralph and I) to bran dump and reflect. We'd love to have you join us virtually so if you're learning GTD, give us a shout and let's keep each other on track.

Your Marketing Action Item

From Mike: Looks like Mike wants to keep your inbox full because he's got a few!

First, listen to the Nuclear Chowder podcast episode 85 to find out why your marketing isn't working.

Then, queue up the Road to TED podcast, which he co-hosts with Dino Dogan of Triberr to hear about how people who are NOT public speakers prepare themselves for some major public speaking gigs.

Of course, he says, go learn more about GTD. He's on board!

And last, share your ideas for getting him to be more self-disciplined. Do you have any tips, tricks or ideas that keep you on track even when you're doing stuff you kind of don't want to be doing?

From Ralph: More work! This time it's an either/or (or if you're feeling super motivated, both!)

One: Go to gettingthingsdone.com and check out GTD Connect. Sign up for a month and take advantage of all the great resources and trainings they have there.

Two: Sign up for a free trial at Lynda.com. Besides being an amazing learning resource, you can catch David Allen himself, creator of the GTD system, giving a 40-minute session on GTD.

From Carol Lynn: Before you get started doing any GTDing at all, choose your collection method. Try something – notebooks, paper, index cards, apps, whatever. Find something that works for you, that you can use consistently wherever you are. And don't get stuck on any one idea. If you love paper and that works great for a while but then not so much, leave it behind and find an app. Just keep your stuff in one place as much as possible and make sure it's a place you're happy with.


We've given you a lot of links and resources here but we wanted you to know that these are not sponsored or affiliate links. Everything we're sharing is because we think it can in some way help you and your business. Of course, if David Allen or anyone else wants to pay us a billion dollars to mention them, we'll take it!

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Direct download: 0116-get-out-of-the-whirlwind-learn-how-to-finally-get-things-done.mp3
Category:marketing -- posted at: 12:00am EST

WSS #0115: Rob Beeler Saves Ad Operations From Deadly Nanobots

Ads. It's A Love-Hate-Ignore Thing.

As a consumer you're sick of being bombarded by them. As a business you need them to help you get noticed. For content publishers big and small, they're what keep you in business.

If we want to continue to enjoy free content – and also market ourselves – ads are kind of a necessary evil.

Today we talk with Rob Beeler of AdMonsters about both sides of the marketing coin: the noise ads create but the need they fill for both publishers and businesses.

But I Love Free Stuff!

So do we, but if you're creating content for your business then you understand the amount of work that goes into it. And you understand that you need to make money as a direct or indirect result of that content.

For many small businesses content makes them money by bringing in leads and customers.

For others, advertising itself is a source of revenue.

Without one of those, content creation is just a super time-consuming hobby.

It's Not All Popups And Banners.

The hottest new trend in advertising is "native advertising."

And by hottest new trend I mean something that has always existed but has a fancy new name now.

It used to be called "advertorial."

Now it's called "native advertising" and you'll recognize it in papers, magazines and even on websites and blogs as "sponsored content."

It's caused a bit of a ruckus lately because the internet loves a ruckus, but it's essentially brand-funded content published in someone else's publication.

For example, you may be reading along, learning about the latest earthquake, the recent FIFA scandal and some great news in health that recommends eating whole grains for breakfast. Except that last piece is paid for by Kellogg's.

Sounds Fishy.

Yup, it can be. The problem with sponsored content is that there is a very fine line between creating ad content that blends in without disrupting a reader's experience and creating ad content that's pretending to be news but is really just pushing a product.

Thus, the ruckus… especially about a particular piece placed in The Atlantic that was sponsored by Scientology.

Turns out there were a few problems with that. For one, the advertorial was indistinguishable enough from the regular content that it fooled people into believing it was an article written by the publication.

For another, the comments were moderated so that nothing critical of Scientology was allowed through.

But as Rob points out, perhaps the most egregious error was that The Atlantic has such a superior reputation for excellence that this poorly placed and managed ad has had serious ramifications for the publication's credibility.

John Oliver did a great comedy sketch about the issue that you can enjoy here.

So How Do You Support Content Without Ads?

Good question. So far few people have figured that out. Rob mentions Business Insider as a good example of a company thinking past ads to event planning for revenue generation.

Other publishers have put up pay walls that require a paid online subscription if you want to read their content. Some websites ask kindly that you contribute to their funding if you love the content.

It's a tough nut to crack, but even without the disruption factor, the truth is that on the flip side, businesses need to get their products and services in front of people, and one good way to do that is with ads.

Is The Internet Mummifying Us?

We brought up the question of whether it makes sense to retarget people with ads. You know how an ad seems to follow you across the Internet? You browse a pair of shoes at Zappos and next thing you know those shoes show up on Facebook, Google and everywhere?

That's called retargeting and even the smallest of businesses can set up ad retargeting. But are those really effective, especially since you either don't want the thing or already bought the thing?

Rob says… probably not, but it's so darn cheap to do that it's a pretty good option anyway.

But They're Tracking My Every Move!

No, that's the NSA. Actually, Rob says, ad servers (and businesses) have no idea who you are. You're just a bunch of data.

"Entity who visited Zappos."

Sometimes that data be cross-referenced as you traverse the Internet so you are also "Entity who clicked on ad for Carnival Cruise."

But nobody knows your name or who you are or where you are.

Ads Are Dumb.

Literally. Ad servers and ad technology haven't changed much in 15 years even though the Internet has evolved exponentially.

In spite of the fact that you may feel bombarded with ads on the Internet, TV is still your best bet if you've got a few million lying around. TV ads have a measurably high return, old as the technology is. Yet Internet ads, for all their ubiquity, don't return as well.

In fact, Rob says, mobile ads give you the worst return of all.

Rob thinks the future of mobile advertising will be in great creative, video and even the dreaded sponsored content. The key is to make the experience seamless.

Rob Ponders Starting A Hello Kitty Website

He thinks there isn't any scale there, but we beg to differ. Between Carol Lynn and SuperFred Tammie Rampley, they are bound to keep him in business.

What about Triberr?

One of the components of Triberr is campaigns, where a brand can hire bloggers to write about a product or service and pay them to do it.

We could get paid a couple hundred bucks for writing a post about a product right here on Web.Search.Social.

But what would that do to our credibility?

What does it do to the credibility of the bloggers who get paid to talk about products?

Rob thinks it all boils down to authenticity.

If the content is created in an authentic way, by authentic people who have already earned the trust of their audience then the content can be trusted, even if someone else pays it for.

Sounds true, but still we wonder: if we wrote an article about our favorite contact manager, Insightly, and then we wrote another article that Insightly paid us to write, would they be equally trustworthy in the eyes of our readers?

The good news about Triberr is that content creators have full editorial control so they can write about the good, bad and ugly without needing approval from the brand.

Authenticity plus editorial control can go a long way to resolving a lot of the problems with native advertising.

So What Does The Future Of Advertising Look Like?

Ads are noise, and lots of it. Rob thinks that businesses are just going to have to get more creative and create different experiences.

He mentioned the recent Budweiser "up for whatever" debacle and even though they missed the mark on that one, Rob is glad to see someone trying something different, experimenting and creating new experiences. Next time, though, maybe think it through...

Facebook: Delivering Quality Or Adding To The Noise?

Facebook lets everyone be their own ad operations manager. You can easily create, set up and hyper target ads to people based on geography, interests, gender and plenty more.

Is that better for keeping the noise level down, or is it just making it that much easier to add to the noise?

Good question, but Rob says everything on Facebook is noise, and that's how they generate revenue.

Plus Rob admits to targeting himself with ads, which is kind of weird, but an interesting experiment.

Your Marketing Action Item

From Rob: He's got two for you today!

First, his company is hosting an ad event in New York on June 9, 2015. If it sounds interesting, shoot him an email to rbeeler@admonsters.com and he'll hook you up. No discounts, he says – he'll just get you there.

Second, check your own noise level. Don't believe that everything you do is essential to your consumer. You don't need to bombard people with ads or content and chase them down. More can sometimes be less.

Go for thoughtful, high quality content instead, and that's what will cut through the noise.

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Direct download: 0115-rob-beeler-saves-ad-operations-from-deadly-nanobots.mp3
Category:marketing -- posted at: 12:00am EST

WSS #114: BLOG > 5 Thoughts On Marketing And Productivity: I Am Inbox Zero And You Can Too.


WSS #0113: BLOG > My Crummy Waitress: In Defense Of Poor Customer Service


Direct download: 0113-blog-my-crummy-waitress-in-defense-of-poor-customer-service.mp3
Category:marketing -- posted at: 12:00am EST

WSS #0111: Average Is Over: It's Time For You To Stand Out

Are You A Slacker?

Today we welcome Dorie Clark, an author, speaker, consultant, contributor to Time, Forbes and the Harvard Business Review among other prominent publications… so naturally we asked the most relevant question: Dorie, why are you such a slacker?

It's Time To Stand Out.

Our conversation with Dorie can be summed up like this: the loudest ideas are usually the ones that get heard. Now it's time for the good ones to get some attention.

Dorie is a believer in good ideas and everyone's ability to have one (or maybe two!) In her recently published book Stand Out: How to Find Your Breakthrough Idea and Build a Following Around It, she shares what it means to have a great idea and how you can be known for it.

Average Is Over.

We said it in the title but it's worth repeating. Many, if not most of us, have been taught from an early age that if we work hard we can be successful.

Dorie says not so fast. Nowadays, in a world that is crowded with people just like you, hard work isn't enough. You may do well but the real ticket to success is to be truly known for your ideas.

Whoa, That Sounds Hard.

Admittedly, there's a ton of competition and it's not exactly a piece of cake to get noticed. But don't panic. It turns out anyone can have a breakthough idea – from the VPs and CEOs of a company right down to the IT techs and the guys who run the forklifts.

There are plenty of ideas to be had.

And the really encouraging thing is that breakthrough ideas don't even have to be huge or world-changing.

They just have to be different.

Meet Michael Waxman.

Dorie profiled a number of people in her book but one that stood out was Michael Waxman. He was a guy thrust into a pretty unpleasant situation. His apartment was being converted to a condo and he had to find a new home fast.

So Michael went to a lot of open houses in a short span of time and took super detailed notes so he could keep track of everything.

Then he went online and posted those reviews to a tiny site that nobody much used.

Then an unexpected thing happened. People started asking him to be their real estate agent! Michael had to decline because real estate wasn't his job, but he got so well known for these amazing reviews that eventually an actual real estate agent contacted him and offered to sponsor him if he wanted to get his license.

He did. And went on to have a very profitable side career in real estate with zero marketing because he had already built a huge fan and referral base.

Now, if you think about that, writing reviews isn't exactly breakthrough. But the point is that nobody else was doing what he did. And people noticed.

Great, You Have An Idea! Now What?

Having ideas is great. But they won't do you or anyone much good if they stay in your head.

Dorie says that to get noticed you have to do two things.

  1. Create content. That doesn't sound exactly breakthough, either, right? But without content you won't be able to get your ideas into the world where people can see them and recognize you for them. Content makes you discoverable.
  2. Build your email list. This should be starting to sound familiar. Social media is nice but Dorie reminds us that it's not a panacea. Plus the platforms are not yours. Grow your list so you can communicate directly with the people who want to hear from you.

OMG, Do I Have To Be… Self-Promotional?

Oh hell, yes. If you want to be recognized as a leader in your industry, if you want to be the go-to person for something, then you have to get over your hangups right now and understand that not only must you promote yourself but if you're really providing value and sharing great ideas it's your responsibility to share them with the world.

But I'll Sound Like A Self Centered Jerk.

If you listen to the podcast, you probably won't even notice how many times Dorie promotes her book. She does it so consistently and seamlessly that it's just part of the conversation.

I dare you to call her a self-promotional jerk.

Dorie has a solution for those of you who worry about being that self-promotional jerk. Ask yourself this question: is this content helpful enough that someone would want to share with a friend?

If what you've got meets that requirement, then it needs to be shared.

And no, nobody wants to hear you talk about how great you are all the time and listen to your shouts of, "Buy my stuff!" But there is a lot of room to walk between the extremes of zero self-promotion and incessant boasting.

When you share truly helpful and valuable stuff, Dorie says, you aren't being self-centered. You're being other-centered and giving people something they need.

Ok, But What If I Don't Have An Idea?

Go take a shower.


The problem with modern culture – especially American and western culture – is that we are constantly overbooked. We go from meeting to meeting to call to call to task to deadline and never give ourselves the space to think and create.

Without space and without thinking you will never have an idea, let alone a good one.

It sounds cliché but taking a shower or going for a walk is exactly what you need. And it's not because you need to chill out (though you do) but because research has shown that focusing on a problem and actually trying to be creative is a recipe for zero creativity.

But when you do another activity that is kind of rote and mechanical, one that lets you enter a state of "distracted thinking" that's when you can be your most creative.

So maybe for you it's vacuuming the house or walking the dog. But find that simple task and then breathe.

You Can Even Make Your Own Luck.

This is not one of those New-Age-y things about magically manifesting your perfect life just by thinking about it. This is actually borne out by research.

But luck may not be what you think it is.

Turns out, Dorie says, that luck is an attitude. Luck is about sitting back and letting events unfold. It's about being less fixated on something and more open to possibility. It's about curiosity and humility.

If you're a little tired of hearing advice about "reaching out to influencers" but aren't sure how to get on Bill Gates' dinner list, you're in luck! Dorie says that "lucky" people are never looking over the shoulder of the person they're talking to, hoping to find someone more important. Lucky people talk to CEOs and janitors alike and pay attention to people on the periphery. Not just to the typical bigwigs that everyone wants to meet.

Finally, Be As Gay As You Are.

We couldn't help but briefly touch on an article that was the inspiration for our Dorie-fandom several years ago. She wrote it when Anderson Cooper came out as gay and that made news for five minutes before everyone went about their business.

So we asked Dorie: what should we really be sharing online? How much is too much?

And Dorie says that we should get it all out there. That either hiding your identity or covering for something like being gay, or a medical condition, or depression – something that is "not talked about" – is bad for morale, bad for the world and bad for you. Besides, the more you get it out there the less likely that something will be discovered and revealed in a way that you did not choose.

No need to make it a focus, but acknowledge who you are and move on. The more we do that, the less of a big deal it will be – for us and for those who come out literally and metaphorically after us.

Your Marketing Action Item

From Dorie: Dorie was faced with saving making from the moon splitting into two parts, so she gave us two marketing action items!

  1. Try an app called SumoMe. This is actually a correction to what she mentioned in the podcast which was AppSumo (they all start to sound alike after a while… what does that say about their breakthough ideas?) SumoMe lets you set up very nifty popups – not the annoying kind – on your WordPress site so you can start building that email list.
  2. If you've got a thing that you're covering up, whether it's a personality trait, a struggle, something embarrassing or just a thing that isn't talked about – put it out there. Just be who you are. Acknowledge. Move on.

Links & Resources


Subscribe to be notified whenever we publish new content and to stay in the loop on new podcasts and resources.

Direct download: 0111-average-is-over-its-time-for-you-to-stand-out.mp3
Category:marketing -- posted at: 12:00am EST

WSS #0110: BLOG > 3 Things That Will Prevent You From Cutting Your Marketing Budget In Times Of Crisis Or Beheading

Read the article at http://www.websearchsocial.com/110

WSS #0109: BLOG > Marketing To Millennials: Should You, Shouldn't You And What Does That Mean?

Read the article at http://www.websearchsocial.com/109

WSS #0108: Have A Sardine And Let's Get Naked: The Art Of Communicating With Customers

It's Heeeeere!

It's the official Superheroes of Marketing crossover episode! That means Ralph is over at Superheroes of Marketing with Alisa Meredith, and Kelly Kranz is cohosting on the Web.Search.Social Podcast.

So after you're done here be sure to bounce over there and catch another super-heroic episode. Twice the fun and twice the marketing goodness.

Enhance Collaborative Opportunities And Holistically Enable Your Cross Channel Connections

In other words: communicate with your clients! Today we take on the subject of what makes communication effective and what to do when it breaks down. As head of Client Services at OverGo Studio, Kelly has experience with the good, the bad and the crazy.

Technology: Good Or Bad?

Right before recording this episode I got an email from a listener that said, "Have a sardine."

No, she wasn't interested in my dinner menu. She had just become the victim of autocorrect.

That begs the question: now that we have so many methods of communication, from email to Skype chat to social media, phone, video conferencing and more, is that good for us or bad for us?

Kelly thinks its more good than bad and I agree because in spite of the pitfalls, it does give us many options to keep the lines of communication open.

Everyone prefers a different method and it's our job to know what our clients need.

Should You Respond To Clients Immediately?

A down side to technology is the immediacy. People can come to expect you to reply nearly instantly and it can be a problem if you don't.

Kelly likes to be immediate. She says she wants every client to think they are her only client.

I'm on board, but I also think it's easy to set expectations a little too high. And sometimes we have to let clients know that even if they don't hear from us for a whole hour, we're probably not dead and have not taken off to Tahiti with their money.

Old Farts Vs. Young Whippersnappers

Kelly is what marketing people like to refer to as a "millennial". I'm just old. But does that make us so different in how we communicate?

Kelly thinks younger people like to avoid meetings and phone calls when they can. I wonder if it's just a personality thing because even though I'm not often mistaken for a twenty-something these days, I tend to prefer email to voice when I'm someone's client. Sometimes it's just about expediency.

In the end, we can't decide what "young" means anyway. We're all young at heart!

Understand Your Customers

The truth is, everyone is different. Even the same person can be different from day to day. The client who hates phone calls may really, really wish you'd make time for a phone call when the circumstance warrants it.

It comes down to knowing your customers and being aware of the danger for communication breakdowns. If you sense a problem brewing, fix it before it becomes one.

Also, Understand Your Customers!

We love to centralize our communications in a project management system. And though we try to get all our clients on board, there are some who will never click that "log in" button to see all the fabulous information we've put there just for them.

But effective communication isn't about "do it my way". It's about recognizing what your customers need from you and giving it to them.

You have to understand their preferences, their computer skills, their tolerance, and work together to find the best way to communicate.

Getting Everyone On The Same Page

When you're working with a client, how do you make sure that what they think is happening is what you think is happening and is what's actually happening?

Since even technology has not gotten to the bottom of reading minds yet, there are some practical things you can do to be clear.

First, be specific. Let people know exactly what you're doing and when you'll do it by. Take a "this is the next step" approach and lead people along.

Then document it. Even if everyone is crystal clear that doesn't mean they will be in five minutes. Life gets in the way and we don't always remember that next step so write it down. Send a email or for those low-tech clients, write it on a piece of paper so it can be a reference point.

Finally, never end a conversation without an action item. Whether you've had a five minute call or a two hour meeting, somebody is probably expecting something to happen next.

Find out what that is and make sure everyone knows what is expected of them.

My Insurance Guy Must Hate Me

Every year I get a renewal form from my business insurance guy and all I have to do is sign and return it. I usually tell him I'll send it tomorrow.

My poor insurance guy is probably sitting there thinking great, I'm pretty sure I won't see it for two months.

And he'd probably be right.

Yes, I'm a bad client!

This is where consequences come in handy. If my insurance guy said hey, CL, if you don't get this back to me in a week then your insurance will be cancelled, I bet I'd be a little more motivated.

You can use this, too. If you're going to need something from a client, let them know what happens if you don't get it in a timely fashion. Maybe a crucial deadline will be missed. Maybe it will cost something. Maybe you won't have room in your schedule to attend to whatever they're sending.

Everyone needs to be held accountable.

When It Goes Off The Rails

We talked about good communication but sometimes things go wrong. Then what?

Kelly says: kill it with kindness.

And I love that idea.

She has a particularly thorny client who she manages by being super nice. And the one time he opened up and told her a personal story, she sent him a gift to commemorate it.

Ok, so this story had sort of a happy ending. The gift went over well but five minutes later the client was back to being mean.

But I think that's a fringe case. I think most people can be won over with honest and persistent kindness.

Kelly Calls Our Outro "Wordful"

Since Kelly cohosted I asked her to read half of our exit script and that devolved into 20 minutes of hilarity. Lucky for you all but about 30 seconds of that got clipped out but I left in the best-of-the-worst because really, we both just had to go eat dinner.

In all the mayhem and giggling I forgot to tell our audience to go listen to Kelly and Alisa over on Superheroes of Marketing so this will have to do. Go listen! Now! But wait, first…

Your Marketing Action Item

From Kelly: Download an app called Sidekick that integrates with your email.

It will tell you when someone opens or clicks on any emails that you sent to them, how many times they opened it and from what device.

If you work in sales you can see that someone has opened it and quickly pick up the phone to follow up. Whether this makes you seem psychic or creepy, you decide. But it's a great tool to keep an eye on whether your communications are being received and reviewed and to take action either way.

From Carol Lynn: Switch up your communications with a client. Try something different than what you normally do. Email them a lot? Pick up the phone next time. Talk to them a lot? Send a handwritten note. Do something unexpected. Mike Brooks calls this a "pattern interrupt" – get clients to pay attention to you and let them know you're paying attention to them.

Links & Resources


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WSS #0107: Put On Your Social Media Hat: When To Post, Automate And Listen

New SuperFred Shout Out!

Today we have to give props to SuperFred Sheng Slogar who has been on top of things lately when we haven't been. He reminded us when we forgot to add the audio player to our last podcast. He pointed out a mistake in our episode numbering. He noticed that our mobile site was not working as it should have been.

Since Sheng has been doing the work we haven't been, we're thinking maybe "Chief Executive Web.Search.Social Watchdog" fits.

Sheng is also a programmer at Triberr so we already know he's pretty awesome.

Say Hello To THE Social Media Hat.

Before we started recording, our guest Mike Allton was quick to tell us that he is not just any social media hat but THE Social Media Hat, which is also the name of his blog.

Mike loves social media and tools and also wrote a book about how to use Hootsuite, which is more than Hootsuite has done.

Every Time An Infographic Is Shared We Kill A Unicorn

More specifically, every time we share an infographic about "the best time to post to social media" we kill a unicorn. Mike attributes that quote to Stephan Hovnanian but agrees that those are generalizations that should not be taken as biblical truth.

So When IS The Best Time To Post To Social Media?

Much like all of marketing, the answer is: it depends. The best way to determine that time is to test. Fortunately that doesn't have to be complicated.

Start by picking a time. Want to use the "best time" from an infographic? Go ahead. Then post at that time consistently for some period of time – say a week.

After a week, pick a new time to post. Wait another week then compare the activity from your first week to your second. Was one time better than another for getting shares and engagement?

Pick another time and do it again. Keep going until you find your optimal time.

Yes, You Can Post The Same Thing Multiple Times To The Same Network

Except Facebook. Mike posts the same content multiple times each day on Twitter, Google Plus and Pinterest. But he's found that on Facebook his first post gets good engagement and his second bombs.

It could be because of Facebook's algorithm. It could be that the Facebook audience is less tolerant of repetition or because people spend more time on Facebook and tend to see more of what's posted so they get bored of the repetition.

Whatever the case, if you want to promote your blog post, for example, get it out there several times a day on Twitter but once on Facebook.

Mike has a nifty method of reposting. He qualifies a repeat post on networks like Google Plus by calling it a "time zone reshare" or "for the evening crowd".

Don't Follow People Online Who Post Garbage

A few weeks ago we talked to Alisa Meredith, Ian Anderson Gray and Jeff Sieh about how Buffer added Pinterest scheduling. One of the concerns that came up was that now that people can schedule, will pin quality suffer?

We generally lamented the future of Pinterest and the mess it may become but Mike has a different perspective.

He says that the mess is Pinterest's problem – not his. And that he won't be bothered by the mess because he won't follow people who post garbage.

That's a lesson for you, Fred, to be mindful that if you're pinning bad or un-optimized photos or spewing out junk on social media, people will unfollow you.

Should You Be Listening As Well As Talking?


But first let's define what we mean by "listening". We're not talking about responding to people who talk to you (though that is important) but rather, listening for conversations that are not directed at you but may be about you – or your products and services – or products and services like yours.

If people are talking about you but not addressing you directly, you won't get the typical notifications you get when people mention you specifically.

Even if you're not a big brand, you can listen for conversations with keywords that are relevant to your business.

You could listen for complaints about competitors and take the opportunity to offer something better.

So why wouldn't you listen?

Well, most tools are only equipped to listen on Twitter. If your audience isn't there, that isn't so great. And if you're a small, local business then it may not be as helpful, either.

Give it a shot and see what you learn. If it's a whole lot of not much, then cross it off your list. Otherwise, use the opportunity.

Automation: Good Or Bad?

Both! You can't sit in front of your social accounts and post all day. You may not be there at "the best time" to post. So scheduling your posts is a good idea.

But don't automate engagement. Skip the "auto direct messages" and make time to actually engage with people, especially if they engage with you.

Hootsuite: It's A Love/Hate Thing

Let's face it: there isn't another tool out there that has all the features of Hootsuite at such an attractive price point.

And it does do some pretty cool stuff, from letting you set up keyword searches to adding a "geofence" around your terms so you can search only for mentions of the word "hedgehog" for example, within 25 miles of Boise, Idaho.

Pretty cool, huh?

But the interface still drives us a little crazy (we're partial to Buffer) and some of the features are way overkill for a small business.

Mike has a solution, though: use multiple tools! At $10 per month or less for each of these tools, you won't be breaking the bank to use the best of both.

Mike And Ralph Get Nerdish

With the release of the movie Avengers; Age of Ultron, the Batman vs Superman trailer and the new Star Wars trailer, there was more talk than usual about the end of the world and things like Infinity Stones. We're thinking Nick Fury should sponsor this show. Or at least make an appearance.

Your Marketing Action Item

From Mike: Start growing your email list right now. Then when the end of the world comes you can rally the troops to save mankind. OK, Maybe we talked a little too much about the Avengers and Infinity Stones…

Links & Resources


Subscribe to be notified whenever we publish new content and to stay in the loop on new podcasts and resources.

Direct download: 0107-put-on-your-social-media-hat-when-to-post-automate-and-listen.mp3
Category:marketing -- posted at: 12:00am EST

WSS #0106: BLOG > Is Your Marketing Message Clear Or Are You Just Selling Toilet Water?

Read the article at http://www.websearchsocial.com/106

WSS #0105: BLOG > 7 Things Wasting Your Time Instead Of Making You Money

To read the article visit http://websearchsocial.com/105

Direct download: 0105-blog-7-things-wasting-your-time-instead-of-making-you-money.mp3
Category:marketing -- posted at: 12:00am EST

WSS #0104: How Bad Is Your Sales Pitch And Are You Missing The Millennial Boat?

Host Swap!

Originally we planned to do a host swap with the Superheroes of Marketing podcast but due to scheduling snafus and the alignment of Jupiter, we had to postpone that. So we swapped our own hosts instead. Carol Lynn takes on the role of Ralph including the intro, and Ralph takes on the role of Carol Lynn, smoothly commanding the "What Did We Learn?" segment.

Visit Our Sponsor

We've talked about Tammie Rampley and Tramplee Designs before but it's worth repeating: you can get some amazing bags there. We just got a bag we custom ordered for Ralph's mom with a pretty vague directive: she likes cats and she's constantly digging into her bag for something that it usually takes her forever to find.

Tammie ran with that and came up with an amazing bag that I'm debating not giving as a gift... I mean... I can't wait to give the gift! We'll post photos after our moms get their gifts so they're the first to enjoy the surprise.

Shout Out to Tom Richards, AKA Mr. President

We were so excited about our 100th episode that we forgot to give a shout out to our Obama impersonator last week. His name is Tom Richards and we found him on Fiverr, which may not be the best place to get your logo designed but is pretty cool for other fun stuff.

If you haven't heard the intro, go back and listen and if you want to have a little fun with your audio scripts, Tom will deliver fast and brilliantly.

Get My Name Right, Will Ya?

I got a solicitation from someone on LinkedIn that started out like this: "Hi."

That's it. No name, no intro, just a pitch. If you're planning to pitch someone, at least start with their name and do me a favor: get it right! My name is a little more complicated since it's two words but you don't have to look far to figure out how to spell it. It's all over this website, on all my articles, on the podcast, on every social network.

When you can't even take the time to include or spell someone's name correctly in your pitch, it just screams, "Spam!" and only makes people want to delete it.

Beware The "Happy Birthday" Notifications

LinkedIn does it. Facebook does it. Skype does it. You see those notifications prompting you to wish people a happy birthday and it may seem nice on the surface but if you don't really know the person, you could be doing yourself – and the person you're engaging – a disservice.

Sometimes that info isn't correct. Sometimes people don't celebrate birthdays. I wished someone on Skype a happy birthday some three months too late because for whatever reason, it popped up in my messages that day. Fortunately I knew the person and we laughed it off, but that can be kind of awkward otherwise. Not exactly a great relationship building strategy to wish someone a three month late happy birthday.

I've seen people blindly wish someone a happy birthday on their Facebook page after that person has been dead for years.

And The "Congratulations" Messages

It can also be touchy when wishing someone "congratulations on your new job" as LinkedIn prompts you to do. What if that person was just correcting a typo? Or finally got around to adding their job after years working at the company? What if they were downsized and had to take on a crummy interim job? "Congratulations!" doesn't seem so appropriate anymore.

Instead of blindly connecting or spewing out niceties, try engaging with people you have some kind of relationship with. If you don't have a relationship with a person, it's ok to not wish them a happy birthday.

Don't automate your relationships. Be careful about what you say and be real about who you say it to.

Why Marketing To Millennials Is Fiction

Someone recently told me they need to revamp their website so they can tap into the millennial market. If that means making their website mobile friendly, then that's a great idea. But usually when people say that, it means they want to reach "the young people."

We stole a page right out of Ryan Hanley's book on this one: we don't believe there is any such thing as generational divisions. The only thing that matters is whether you're connected or not connected.

If your audience isn't connected then how you market to them will be different. You'll have to rely on snail mail, phone calls, maybe even door-to-door.

But if your audience is connected then whether they're born after a certain year doesn't matter. Your job is to provide a solution to your customer's problem, age notwithstanding.

Should Your Prospects Have To Do Your Marketing For You?

Lots of people put a field on their contact forms that asks, "How did you find us?" It's usually a dropdown box with a bunch of choices and one of them is usually "other".

The other day I left a website that required me to choose from a very long list of options. I opted out and they lost my business.

Ralph says I'm a fringe case. I say I'm busy and I got the same product at another website without having to complete an annoying form.

Be mindful of what barriers you're putting between you and your prospect. And that incudes captchas. It's not your prospect's job to do your marketing nor is it their job to manage your spam.

As for me, I'd rather get 100 spam messages than miss one opportunity.

Guess I'd better get rid of the captchas on our site…

Here's A Better Question

Chances are your customers didn't take a straight path to your door. They may have seen you on Facebook, read your blog, signed up for your email then finally contacted you because of a tweet. So when you ask, "How did you find me?" they probably don't even know.

And that's ok because if you're doing your marketing right people shouldn't remember how they found you. You should just be everywhere they are!

Here's what you should be asking people: "Why did you choose to work with me?" Or even, "Why didn't you choose my competitor?" Knowing what really made their decision can inform your marketing much more effectively.

Your Marketing Action Item

From Carol Lynn: Look at your website forms and ask yourself whether you need all the information you're currently asking for. Examine every field and ask yourself, "Do I need this information in order to respond to this person effectively?" If the answer isn't a definitive yes, remove the field. Make it stupid-simple for people to complete your form. That also means getting rid of captchas and not asking your prospects to do your marketing for you by asking, "How did you find us?" Save it for your second date.

From Ralph: Find a time tracking tool and start tracking your time in as granular a way as you need. Be careful not to micromanage your tracking though, because you can get carried away and start measuring minutia. Find a balance that helps you figure out where you're spending your time, what's making you money and what's not. People are notoriously bad at estimating how long a task is going to take. If you're investing a ton more time than you're billing for, you're losing money.

Links & Resources

Oh, And Stickers!

As part of our 100th episode celebration we gave away 100 stickers and clings and we've still got some left so if you'd like one for your desk or laptop then complete the form on our show notes page and we'll shoot one out to you ASAP. We are only shipping to the U.S. right now.

You'll also be subscribed to receive emails whenever we publish new content. If you're already subscribed, don't worry - your subscription will stay the same.

WSS # 0103: My Family Life Is Suffering Because Of My Business. Now What?

Show Notes

Ryan Hanley is no stranger to the Web.Search.Social Podcast and for good reason: whenever he's on we walk away inspired and ready to take action.

As the host of the Content Warfare podcast and author of our new favorite business book by the same name, Ryan makes every conversation a fluff-free zone. He is also notorious for his love of tangents which may be why we started out thinking we were going to talk about content marketing but ended up talking about entrepreneurship and marriage.

Truth be told, we started on that tangent and forgot to get off it because the conversation was so fascinating.

Do You Work With Your Spouse Or Significant Other?

We've been pretty surprised to learn lately about so many people who run a business with their significant other.

So when we heard Ryan talk about how running the Kickstarter to fund his book, followed by the actual writing of the book, had put a strain on his marriage, we were all ears.

And by the way, if you're thinking, "That's not me. I won’t get anything out of this one," you'd be wrong. There is so much entrepreneurial goodness here that even if the only person you see all day is your cat, you'll still walk away feeling revived.

Apparently, Success Takes Work.

Ryan is a positive person so to hear him talk about how he struggled to balance work and life during a particularly stressful period in his life gives us hope that even the worst of times can be overcome.

You just have to want to overcome them.

Oh, and you have to show up and do the work. There is a time and place for happy, motivational, aspirational talk and a time to roll up your sleeves and do it. Even if you're doing it at 3AM on two hours sleep.

Also, Success Is Scary.

When you do great things a scary thing starts to happen. People start to expect great things from you. That's a lot of pressure!

And if you're successful enough people start to pick apart what you do and say which can leave you wide open for criticism.

Ryan (or in this case Ryan's dad) says don't be afraid. Embrace it and keep on going.

Put Your Family First.

When your life is out of balance it's a lot harder to get your work done and to focus and be productive. Plus, the most important people in your life suffer.

Make sure you designate time for work and time for play. And when you're with your family, be with them. Be in the moment and dial in 100%.

Put Your Health Way Up There, Too.

When you're busy, getting little sleep or traveling a lot you probably aren't thinking about eating your green veggies or hopping on the treadmill. But Ryan is adamant that you can't be at your best or create your best unless you feel good about yourself.

If your muscles are starting to feel a little soggy, make time for regular workouts and not only will you feel better but you'll watch your energy levels soar.

It's Not About Love.

Well, it's kind of about love. But even love can't save a relationship without some other key ingredients. For Ryan these are trust and respect, and we're on board.

Get Excited About Your Work But Remember That It's Work.

Being passionate and motivated is great. But success for Ryan is simple math. It's 90% showing up, 9% doing the work and 1% talent. It's worth repeating: you have to want to succeed.

Your Marketing Action Item From Ryan

We asked Ryan to share how you can balance your family and business at the same time and his answer was real simple: never put your own priorities ahead of your family's.

Get Your Content Warfare Book

In case you're wondering whether it's worth it, it is. We had to get two copies of the book – one for looking awesome on a bookshelf and one for highlighting the crap out of.

Get yours here.

Catch The Content Warfare Podcast

A long time favorite of ours, the Content Warfare podcast is worth listening to again and again.

And if that's not enough Ryan, you can follow him on Twitter @RyanHanley_com or find him on Google Plus.

Subscribe to be notified whenever we publish new content and to stay in the loop on new podcasts and resources.

Direct download: 0103-my-family-life-is-suffering-because-of-my-business-now-what.mp3
Category:marketing -- posted at: 12:00am EST

WSS #0102: BLOG > 10 Things I Learned About Business And Productivity From 100 Episodes Of Podcasting

Read the article at http://www.websearchsocial.com/102

10 Things I Learned About Content Creation From 100 Episodes Of Podcasting

To read the article visit http://www.websearchsocial.com/101

For details about our 100th episode promotion visit http://www.websearchsocial.com/superfred/

WSS # 0100: Celebrate 100 Podcast Episodes And Save Up To $6,000 On Your Marketing

It's Here! 100 Episodes And We're Still Kicking.

When we started this venture in September of 2014 (with thanks to Cynthia Sanchez for kicking us in the butt and getting us off center) we didn't have a particular episode goal in mind. We just knew that we wanted to get going and keep going, as long as we were sharing good info and having fun.

We knew it would be work, we knew we would have fun, but we never could have anticipated so many of the things that have happened along the way. Like you, Fred. Who knew we'd have a loyal and awesome army of Fred? With SuperFreds leading the way? Who knew we'd have the opportunity to talk to so many awesome and diverse people, from film director Chris Leone to plagiarism expert Jonathan Bailey to sex coach Kim Anami... and so many in between?

(If you'd like to meet all of our guests, visit our podcast page and scroll about halfway down.)

We've truly enjoyed the journey and we've enjoyed getting your feedback and questions and even getting to know many of our listeners better. We're looking forward to the next 100!

In The Meantime, It's Still About The Marketing

The thing that kills us is that even after listening to us hammer on so many mistakes that can be avoided, people still tell us horror stories of marketing gone awry. Websites crashing and being lost forever (why no backups?!) "Cheap" marketing providers or web developers disappearing and taking your stuff with them (why no precautions?!) Worst of all, maybe, we hear about people spending money on marketing only to be perpetually wondering why and what the point is (why no results?!)

People, it's time. It's time for a change. If you're suffering through the Disappearing Developer, the MIA Marketer, or experiencing the "what am I spending money on?" blues... it's time to change that right now.

That's Why We've Got A SuperFred Deal Going On.

We're serious about the time being now. So serious that we're going to make this very simple. You sign up for one of our marketing programs on this page before the end of this week (that's Friday the 15th) and we'll discount your program by 20% for 12 full months.

Next week the discount drops to 15%. The week after it drops to 10%. The week after it's gone.

We're so serious that even if you're still feeling muddled and don't know what to do or which direction to take, we're also offering a one-on-one hour long consultation for $250 so you can ask anything. Want advice? Now is the time to get it. Need guidance? Now is the time to get it. And if you decide to sign up for one of our programs after our consultation, we'll credit that $250 to your first month's program so your consultation ends up being free.

Thank You, And Stick Around For The Next 100!

Will you be the next SuperFred and join the ranks of Poet Laureate Melanie Kissell, Chief Executive Friend Manager (and Freduary creator) Colleen Conger, Chief Executive Research Dude Ian Anderson Gray, Chief Executive Of Everything (and creator of the hash tag #WSSup) Jillian Jackson, Chief Executive Digital Content Roving Detective Reporter Tammie Rampley and the rest of the SuperFred army?

Will you make 2015 your best marketing year ever? What are you waiting for? The time to start is now.

Visit Our Sponsor

Check out the always wonderful and talented Tammie Rampley of Tramplee Designs on Etsy where you can choose one of the bags there or send her a request for something custom. We're already on our third order... about to place our fourth and we're delighted every time not just by her craftsmanship but by her service and the total experience.

Your Marketing Action Item

From Carol Lynn: Find out if your website is being backed up. Make sure you know three things: where it's being backed up to, how often it's being backed up and how long the backups are retained. If your website isn't being backed up - or if the backups don't work to protect your business as well as they could - stop what you're doing and remedy that right now.

From Ralph: Interview a few business coaches (good ones sometimes call themselves growth consultants or similar) and find out how they can help you balance your business with the rest of your life. A good coach/consultant will look at your financials and help you find more effective and efficient ways to spend your time and money so you'll have more time to do things you enjoy.

Oh, And Don't Forget The Stickers!

As part of our 100th episode celebration we're giving away Web.Search.Social stickers and clings for the asking. Since our carrier pigeons are on vacation, these are only available for shipping to the U.S. Fill out your mailing info below and we'll get one out to you ASAP.

You'll also be subscribed to receive emails whenever we publish new content. If you're already subscribed, don't worry - your subscription will stay the same.

To get your sticker visit http://www.websearchsocial.com/100

WSS #0099: Better Sex Makes For Better Business


Fair warning folks, this is our first official and very *NOT Safe For Work episode. First there's the subject matter: sex and the marketing of it. Then there are the F-words sprinkled liberally throughout so if you feel weird and uncomfortable about this stuff, you may want to skip ahead to episode 100.

But I hope you don't because as weird and uncomfortable as the whole thing sounds there are some really great takeaways about entrepreneurship and creativity. Plus it was just loads of fun.

So What's The Deal?

Today we talk to Kim Anami, a holistic sex and relationship coach who not only helps people have better sex and reach their full creative potential but also uses a technique she calls Vaginal Kung Fu (yes, weight lifting with your lady parts is actually a thing).

Kim's underlying premise is that when you're not having enough fulfilling sex you underperform in other areas of your life.

Should You Go For It?

No, I'm not talking about sex. I'm talking about putting yourself out there, without diluting or censoring, without self-editing.

We talk a lot about authenticity and being yourself online but there's also the flip side where we wonder, "TMI?"

So while we're all sitting here wondering where do we draw the line, Kim is putting everything out there in a completely fearless way.

Gold star for being herself and for not apologizing for that.

Haters Gonna Hate. Believe In What You Do.

Kim seems to have very few haters and has found that her playful and honest approach wins more fans than not.

But that doesn't stop people from criticizing her for being an attention seeker. Kim's philosophy? Well of course she wants attention. Isn't that the point of marketing?

She also says she doesn’t care what people think about her.

Ok, super big gold star for that because I don't know about you, but I still kind of want people to like me. Ok, no, I really want people to like me. So even though I'm not going to put on airs or create a façade just to win a popularity contest, it still feels kind of crummy when people don't like me or what I say or do.

Here's the trick to dealing with those crummy feelings, so just keep repeating this over and over: when people hate (or just don't like) you, it's not about you. It's a reflection of themselves and their beliefs.

Marketing Is Fun

Wait, what? You mean while we're all over here sweating it out, A/B testing and trying to figure out how to get our 141-character tweet to fit in the status box, Kim is out there enjoying marketing?

That's right! Maybe it's because she's having great sex or maybe she has a mindset we can learn from: enjoy what you're doing, be creative and have fun.

In Kim's words: "If I love it and I'm excited, those are the things that catch fire."

Work Is Important. So Is Play.

Kim may be out there having fun and workshopping from Bali where she spends most of her time, but that doesn't mean she's a slacker. She puts in the time – 16-hour days like the rest of us, working on her ecourses and seminars.

But she has fun and makes sure to take time to enjoy herself. This is something all entrepreneurs would do well to practice. I know how easy it is to get caught up in a project and next thing you know a month has gone by and maybe I've changed my t-shirt.

Don't laugh, you know this has happened to you!

She Still Instagrams Photos Of Her Breakfast

Her photos are just… um… different. Let's just say her breakfast isn't exactly on a plate.

Don’t Force Things When They're Not There.

No, I'm still not talking about sex. The thing about Instagram for Kim is that she really wanted to do it but couldn't figure out exactly how. In fact, she spent two years thinking about it before coming up with her current hash tag.

There are plenty of ways to market your business online and you could go a little nuts trying to keep up with them all. But that doesn't mean you have to. Find something that works and leave the rest until you have a great "a-ha!" moment.

People Say It's All Been Done Before.

You've probably heard this a million times. There is nothing new. It's all been done before.

Doesn't it seem like people just want to suck the creative life out of you? I mean, with an attitude like that, it makes you wonder if there's any option but to live in a state of predictable mediocrity.

Here's what Kim says: The only people who believe it's all been done before are the ones who are doing things that have been done before.

Here's what I say: Nobody has ever done you before. Do that.

Be Bold. Be Brave.

Easier said than done.

If we were all so confident about fearlessly putting ourselves out there, we wouldn't be having a conversation about fearlessly putting ourselves out there.

And maybe not all of us will be as brave or bold or confident but I found that just listening to someone who is was very inspiring. Mostly this is why I hope you won't squee out just because we spend an hour talking about sex. I want you to listen more deeply and tap into the creativity and the passion you hear.

Also, doesn't it seem like there is nothing you can't turn into a double entendre?

Ralph Giggles Like A Schoolgirl. Carol Lynn Gets Flustered.

As much as we were looking forward to this episode, we couldn't help being a little nervous once the conversation got graphic, like, thirty seconds out of the gate.

So yes, we had our giggly moments and by the end I still couldn't make a joke without stuttering through it, but it really was fun and ignited a few of those dozing creative brain cells.

Kim's Marketing Action Item

Take a coffee break.

Ok, so what if Kim's version has nothing to do with coffee? We'll keep these show notes as safe for work as possible and leave it at that. You'll have to listen for the rest.

Find Kim Online

Links & Resources

Subscribe to be notified whenever we publish new content and to stay in the loop on new podcasts and resources.

Direct download: 0099-better-sex-makes-for-better-business.mp3
Category:marketing -- posted at: 12:00am EST

WSS #0098: BLOG > Don't Fire Your Social Media Marketing Company Until You Enter "The Room"

Read the article at http://www.websearchsocial.com/98

Direct download: 0098-blog-social-media-marketing-halo-reach-long-night-solace.mp3
Category:marketing -- posted at: 12:00am EST

WSS #0097: BLOG > Embrace Your Messy Space: Your Creativity Depends On It

Read the article at http://www.websearchsocial.com/97

Direct download: 0097-blog-embrace-your-messy-space-your-creativity-depends-on-it.mp3
Category:marketing -- posted at: 12:00am EST

WSS #0096: Run A Business? Now There's Even More Reason To Be A Pinterest Fan.

Show Notes

Patents and Buffer and Pinterest, Oh my! Those are the big topics of conversation in this episode. We talk about patent trolls and then insert a clip from a conversation with three of our favorite SuperFreds - Alisa Meredith, Ian Anderson Gray and Jeff Sieh - to get their take on the big Buffer/Pinterest news from last week.

But First, A Sponsorship

Our episode today is sponsored by Tramplee Designs where you can buy a purse, bag, clutch or tote that is customized for you. Tramplee Designs offers unique designs for unique women.

Purse creator extraordinaire and SuperFred Tammy Rampley is the mastermind behind the designs. You can purchase a bag from her Etsy shop or send her a request for your own custom design. These are perfect for Mother's Day, graduation, prom, weddings and just every day.

So What's A Patent Troll?

A company called Personal Audio LLC exists solely to attempt to enforce patents related to podcasting, which would essentially require all podcasters to pay them a licensing fee.

If it sounds nuts, well, it is. But their M.O. is to slap you with threat of a lawsuit and hope you'll be unsuspecting enough to cough up the licensing fee rather than the rather large sums of money it would cost to legally fight them.

Fortunately, thanks to a half-million-dollar crowd funding campaign and the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) they've lost a recent case against Adam Corolla's company that leaves their validity in doubt.

A Win For Pinterest Lovers

Last week Buffer announced that you can now schedule pins to Pintrest through their Awesome Plan.

We love Buffer as a scheduling tool and were so thrilled to hear this news that we immediately asked three of our favorite SuperFreds to chime in with their reactions.

Alisa Meredith wonders if this will just lead to a lot of bad images on Pinterest.

Ian gets geeky and laments a lack of IFTTT integration.

Jeff just strokes his beard and looks fabulous.

With A Little Helpful Criticism For Buffer

While we all agree that Buffer is pretty great, what we don't love is their pricing model. Currently, you can sign up for their Awesome plan for $10 a month where you get 12 profiles. The only other option is a Business account for $50 a month where you get 25 profiles.

Hm. Let's do some math… you could buy 5 Awesome plans for $50 which would net you 5x12=60 profiles. Or a Business plan for $50 which nets you a mere 25 profiles.

We're all left scratching our heads wondering how this makes sense.

Carol Lynn Angers The Pinterest Lovers

Carol Lynn dares challenge Pinterest's methods by wondering whether their vertical orientation is backwards, since every other platform uses a horizontal orientation for images.

Alisa is having none of it and makes a good point about Pinterest being extremely popular among mobile users. But it's still challenging to prep your images in a format that works everywhere.

The Pinterest/Buffer Wish list

Alisa wants to be able to add a place to pins when they're Buffered rather than going back to edit the pin later.

Jeff wants stats so he knows what's working on Pinterest and what's not.

Ian wants more social profiles beyond the measly 12 you get in the Awesome plan, without upgrading to the Business plan.

And we want Buffer to rethink it's Business pricing. We also want to be able to schedule blog posts for promotion even if the post isn't published yet, without getting that aggravating "page not found" message.

Your Marketing Action Item From Carol Lynn

Go to your blog posts and look at your headline/feature image. (If you're not using images, start by changing that!)

First, decide if you're using good photography or just some boring, generic overcooked stock photo.

Then look at the photo outside the context of your blog as if you were seeing it on Pinterest. Would someone be able to tell what your blog post is about or be compelled to visit your blog based on that image?

If not, consider adding a text overlay, URL, logo or the title of your post so it helps bring you qualified traffic.

Your Marketing Action Item From Ralph

Think about what marketing challenge you're facing right now. Send an email to ralph@websearchsocial.com and let us know what that challenge is. We're going to answer as many challenge questions as we can on our 100th episode next Monday so consider this your opportunity for some free consulting.

Links & Resources


Subscribe to be notified whenever we publish new content and to stay in the loop on new podcasts and resources.

Direct download: 0096-run-a-business-now-theres-even-more-reason-to-be-a-pinterest-fan.mp3
Category:marketing -- posted at: 12:00am EST

WSS #0112: The Mad Max Rules Of Marketing And Getting Stuff Done

Just. Walk. Away.

Today's episode is a little bit shorter than usual because we just got back from watching Mad Max: Fury Road at the theater and we were pretty psyched. So naturally we needed to come home from eating popcorn and go straight to eating ice cream. Up next week: how to work off the popcorn and ice cream.

Even While Watching The Movie, We Were Still Thinking About Marketing

Apparently Ralph was watching this 2-hour car chase with half his brain and thinking about a client website with the other. What was he thinking?

Well, in the movie, even though there was a ton of action with a ton of people and chaos and sandstorms and arrows and all sorts of things happening, you always knew what was going on. You had a sense of time and space and everything made sense.

Our client's website?

Not so much.

I Just Wanted To Find A Blog Post

Ralph sent me to our aforementioned client's website with this directive: find a specific blog post.

And I couldn't.

So he gave me another: copy our client's bio.

And I couldn't find that either.

The conclusion?

Our client did not follow the Mad Max Rules Of Marketing™.

Ok, So Maybe We Can't Trademark It

We figure the studio might have something to say about that but it sounded cool. And basically it means that in the story of your business, you have to create context for your audience so they know where they are at all times. Whether it's on your website, Facebook page, LinkedIn profile – make sure it makes sense to someone who may be finding it for the first time. You can do that by testing out your content on someone who isn't your target audience who is seeing your content for the first time.

We try that out on my mom. If she understands it (and she's not a marketer or business owner) then there's a good chance someone else will.

Get Your Stuff Done

On another topic… we've been GTD-ing an awful lot around here lately.

GTD (otherwise known as Getting Things Done) is a methodology developed by David Allen and even though he isn't paying us a billion dollars to promote his stuff (he totally should) and has no idea who we are (he really should!), we still think his stuff is amazing and that more people should check it out.

Dump Your Brain

One of the premises of GTD is that your brain is not a storage repository, hard drive or to do list. So if you're carrying stuff around in your brain that you need to remember or do… you're using your brain wrong.

Save your brain for the active, productive, creative stuff. As for the "remembering", get all your stuff down on a piece of paper or into an app.

Just dump it.

You can even dump physical stuff, like paperwork, the bills you haven't paid, the business cards you haven't filed.

Once it's dumped, you can then go back and organize and contextualize.

We didn't get into that part of it (yet!), but if you get used to the brain dump, it's a great start.

Break To-Dos Into Projects And Projects Into Smaller Projects

Lots of your to do items are really projects. And lots of your projects are really a series of mini projects.

Take "build website". That might be on your to do list. But there are soooo many steps that just thinking about tackling it can seem horribly overwhelming.

Make it a project. "Build website."

But even that can be a series of mini-projects. Start with "planning", move into "content development" and so on. Celebrate all your victories along the way and enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes with getting things done.

Hey, Wait A Sec… What's A Project, Anyway?

This might change your thinking. A project is something that has an outcome. Ralph shared an example of a project he added to his list called "Oh So Pinteresting". But what did that mean? Turns out he didn't complete the project on time because there was nothing to complete.

But once he changed the project to "Send screen shots to Cynthia Sanchez for Oh So Pinteresting Podcast" it started to mean something.

Now, you don't even have to know what his project entailed to see a big difference between the noun version and the action-based version.

A project is something with an outcome that you can eventually set to "true".

Did Ralph (eventually) send the screen shots? True!

Project completed.

Your Marketing Action Item

From Ralph: Visit David Allen's site gettingthingsdone.com and buy the 2015 version of his book. Browse the website and get a feel for how GTD works. It may not be for you and that's ok, but just about everyone we've ever shared this with has come away better for it. While you're there, maybe tell David Allen that he is welcome to sponsor our show. Also, check out GTD Connect on the site. It's not free but it's a pretty neat community of people who can help keep you accountable for getting your stuff done.

From Carol Lynn: Create a website test for your site that you'll give to people who aren't your target audience. Come up with half a dozen questions, like, "Find my phone number" or "Find a specific blog post with a specific title." Treat it like a treasure hunt and see how fast people can find the things you tell them to find. If they can, great! If not, it may be time to think about re-contextualizing and reorganizing the content on your website.

Links & Resources


Subscribe to be notified whenever we publish new content and to stay in the loop on new podcasts and resources.

Direct download: 0112-the-mad-max-rules-of-marketing-and-getting-stuff-done.mp3
Category:marketing -- posted at: 12:00am EST

WSS #0095: Knowledge, Research and Content: Is The Medium The Message?

Show Notes

Today we welcome Lisa Gerber of Big Leap Creative, marketer extraordinaire and the holder of the title for Most Articles Shared With Ralph's College Students. Every semester a fresh class of marketing hopefuls is introduced to some of the amazing content that Lisa creates because really, everyone should be reading and learning from Lisa's content.

Why Do We Like Lisa So Much?

Well, that's just one of the questions we ask her, but the answer becomes pretty obvious: Lisa is hot, smart, funny and has great taste in chocolate. She also lives in Idaho, which makes her the first person we actually know who lives in Idaho.

We also cover so much marketing goodness, from content creation to SEO to planning, that you're going to wish this episode was six hours long.

Is Giving Away Your Knowledge A Good Thing?

It may sound counter intuitive but the more stuff you give away, the more you'll get back in return. It's not really a karma thing, it's just good relationship building.

If you share your knowledge with your prospects and customers it will bring in more business for you than if you take a "hoarding" mentality.

Lisa tells us that we have to constantly be thinking about how to help people so that they are more likely to become paying customers in the long run.

Still worried about giving stuff away, especially what you know? Chew on this, then: whether you produce and give away great content or not, some people are never going to hire you. It's not your content, it's you. No offense. And that's not a bad thing! It just means that not everyone was meant to be your customer.

But What About The People On The Fence?

You're probably worried about those people who would have hired you, except they learned so much from your free content that they don't need to hire you anymore.

Well, that's totally possible but there are other possibilities that make giving stuff away pretty compelling.

For starters, those on-the-fencers may decide to use your knowledge and do their own thing with it. Maybe it's fixing their refrigerator. Or installing some software. Or doing some business thing that you really want to be doing for them.

When things get tricky or broken, who do you think they're going to call to get them out of their mess? NOT the guy who kept all his ideas under his hat!

Plus, never underestimate the power of referrals. Someone who turns into a totally competent DIYer thanks to you may still have less proficient friends and neighbors who really need your service. Who do you think they're going to suggest their friends and neighbors call? NOT the guy who was stingy with his help.

Can You Cross The Line And Give Away Too Much?

Sure. But finding the line is a balancing game that only you can play. You need to understand the difference between sharing your knowledge through content, and just plain old "giving away the farm" by way of free consulting and one-on-one time.

Most Marketing Fails Because…

Not because you didn't have the money. Or the time. Not even because you ran a pretty bad ad or said something dumb on your Facebook page.

Most marketing fails because of lack of planning.

Lisa is a big fan of marketing "discovery" and we love that word, too. It means that you don't get started doing a bit of marketing until you've done your research.

And this doesn't have to come in the form of expensive focus groups. Actually, all you really have to do is talk to people.

Talk To Who?

Everyone who touches your business – customers, vendors, suppliers, stakeholders, employees.

Asking the right questions will help you dig deep into what people think about your business, your product or service. It will give you amazing insight into your strengths and weaknesses.

Talking to your customers will help you learn about their lives and the problems they need solved. The funny thing is, you are probably selling a solution but there are lots of times that your prospects won't be looking for a solution because they don't even know what it is. They just know they have a problem. If you can tap into that you can speak directly to their needs.

But You're Still Going To Hate It.

Let's face it: pretty much everybody wants to spend money doing. Not thinking about doing.

Research and planning can be frustrating because it will feel like nothing is happening. There won't be pretty charts and graphs and metrics to show results. It's all this blah blah blah.

But it's the single most important thing you can do to lay the foundation for your marketing success. And in the long run it will help you choose the right places to spend your money for the best results.

Your Helpful Staff Was Very Helpful.

Do you know what that is? It's a direct quote from a testimonial that one of our clients received. Yikes.

Doesn't exactly inspire, does it?

If your testimonials are sounding a bit generic ("Great job!" "I loved working with you." "I'd recommend you to anyone.") it's time to get some new ones. But simply asking your customers isn't enough.

Get someone to interview them and ask specific questions that will get to the bottom of why your customer is so happy. A story with a happy ending sells better than all the marketing copy in the world.

Storytelling Meets SEO

If SEO freaks you out or if it sounds complicated or if you're endlessly obsessed with being on the first page of Google, take a breath.

Lisa reassures us that good SEO is pretty much all about good storytelling. And Ralph decides that instead of talking to our customers' pain points, we should talk to their happy endings.

I thought he had the quote of the day but Lisa one-upped him with this gem: "In brand stories there are no mysteries. Start with the happy ending."

Did we mention how smart she is?

Should You Publish Content On Other Platforms?

In the last stretch we tackle the thorny subject of publishing on other platforms outside of your website – whether Medium, Google Plus or LinkedIn's publisher.

Lisa published an article on Medium that got over 500 comments. Compared to the 14 she got on her own blog, that's a big gold start for Medium!

But what does that mean for your business? We've warned you plenty of times not to build your house with someone else's bricks…

But as we finally conclude, you can build your own house and still visit other people's houses from time to time. Just make sure you bring dessert.

Lisa can't think of any reason not to publish elsewhere, as long as you're including a good call to action.

The bottom line? Go where your audience is.

Lisa Also Saved A Bus Full Of Children.

It was scary. The bus was half on and half off the edge of the George Washington Bridge and about to plummet over. The only thing that could save it was Lisa's marketing action item.

Did she pull through?

If you asked that question, you're obviously not paying attention. Lisa is hot, funny, has great taste in chocolate and…. SMART!

Lisa's Marketing Action Item

Look at your website home page and ask yourself if your marketing copy solves a problem.

She used Evernote as an example – one of our favorite tools. Their selling point is: Remember everything.

They don't go on and on about their amazing product and all the cool features even though you can geotag notes so you know where you were when you took them, even if you live in Idaho.

Evernote makes it about the solution.

So… are you doing a good job of that on your home page?

If not, get busy fixing it!

Find Lisa Online

You can connect with Lisa, read all of her great content, learn from her and even hire her to help you with your marketing.

Links & Resources

If you've got a sec to reheat your cup of tea, take a few minutes to read the articles we reference in this episode.


Subscribe to be notified whenever we publish new content and to stay in the loop on new podcasts and resources.

Direct download: 0095-knowledge-research-and-content-is-the-medium-the-message.mp3
Category:marketing -- posted at: 12:00am EST

WSS #0094: BLOG > Marriage And Business: A Love Letter

To read this article visit http://www.websearchsocial.com/94

Direct download: 0094-blog-marriage-and-business-a-love-letter.mp3
Category:marketing -- posted at: 12:00am EST

WSS #0093: BLOG > Bad Chief, Bad Tribe. How To Get More Shares On Triberr.

Read the article at http://www.websearchsocial.com/93

Direct download: 0093-blog-bad-chief-bad-tribe-how-to-get-more-shares-on-triberr.mp3
Category:marketing -- posted at: 12:00am EST

The title says it all. Today's conversation starts with a question posted to a Facebook group by someone who said…. to paraphrase… "I'm taking over as internet manager for my company and I know nothing about websites, design, etc. Where do I start?"

Wow! Nothing like getting thrown into the deep end of the pool. So on this episode we throw out a lifeboat and talk about exactly that – where to start.

What's An "Internet Manager", Anyway?

Before we even get to the beginning we have to start before the beginning, with what the heck this job title means. It can be interpreted in an IT sense (as in: running the website, making sure it's functional, dealing with the hosting) or in a marketing sense.

So before anyone can get started doing this job, start by finding out what the job responsibilities are.

Ok, It's All About Marketing.

Chances are in this context it's about marketing. Where do we start now?

Well, here's where not to start: with your website. Or with your social networks. Or with pay per click ads. Or with SEO.

The place to start is to identify your goals because you can't really see results if you don't know what results you want to see. Nor can you build a website, create a Facebook or Pinterest account, write an ad or do much of anything if you don't know why.

Don't Confuse Metrics With Results!

"I want more website traffic!"

We hear that a lot. But do you really? What's the point of website traffic if all that traffic doesn’t make you money?

"I want to be on the first page of Google!"

We hear that one a lot, too. But what good is being number one if you're not generating leads or making sales?

You may see where this is going but it's too important to leave to chance: the only numbers that matter are the dollar signs. Traffic numbers, Facebook fans, email subscribers… these things only matter insofar as they are bringing home the bacon.

Great, Gimme Some Leads!

Hold your horses… it's not that simple.

There are short term plays and long term plays. And which you'll tackle goes back to goals. If you need a quick, short term fix then running some strategically planned advertising ca