Web.Search.Social Marketing Podcast
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

Podjacked!

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.

MVP Is Your BFF

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

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