Web.Search.Social Marketing Podcast
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?

Links & Resources


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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!

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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.

Links & Resources


Subscribe to be notified whenever we publish new content and to stay in the loop on new podcasts and resources.

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