Thu, 17 December 2015
Today's podcast comes to you recorded live from Simpson & Vail in sunny Brookfield, Connecticut. If you've been listening to our podcast then you've heard us talk about tea a lot (usually accompanied by talking about pie a lot) and we've recently developed a love affair with Simpson & Vail teas.
So we thought, what better way to ring out 2015 than by visiting our new friends to talk about tea, what makes a good cup and how they grew their business?
Today's episode is a bit longer than usual but it was a ton of fun so grab a cup and settle in!
A Family Affair
Simpson & Vail is a family-run tea importing company that blends and creates myriad flavors (350 by the last count on their website) from dessert teas like Apple Cinnamon Coffeecake to herbal blends like Currant Explosion.
We spoke with four family members – Jim Sr. (dad), Joan (mom), Cyndi (daughter) and Jim Jr. (son) – plus Connor who is one of the geniuses behind the blends.
Mike Brooks of Nuclear Chowder Marketing joined us as well which makes for quite a cast of characters in this episode!
Did I mention it was a ton of fun?
Mike Makes Us Love Tea
You might wonder, why tea? Well, we've always enjoyed tea, and in fact we have an entire shelf full of various flavors of bagged tea. But Mike loves loose tea and for a long time he tried to convince us that it was the way to go.
And for a long time we weren't convinced. Bagged tea was good. And easy. Loose tea was too complicated. And would take too long to make.
And this might have gone on indefinitely except Mike took matters into his own hands and bought us a couple flavors of Simpson & Vail loose tea.
It took about one cup before we were hooked.
Now if you visit our kitchen, you'll find a huge pullout pantry shelf devoted to nothing but tins of loose tea.
Turns out it's better than bagged – and it's not all that complicated either. But we'll get to that in a minute.
Meet Mr. Tea
Jim Herron Sr., aka Mr. Tea (by my reckoning), originally purchased the business from THE Simpson and THE Vail in 1978. But the company existed long before that. In fact, it's one of the very oldest tea companies in the United States.
How old is it?
Its roots go back to 1929 and if you want the full history you can listen to the podcast or check out their evolution on their About page.
But even more than being the oldest company, it was (and is) the most highly respected. SO respected, in fact, that when we asked Jim why he didn't rename the company to "The Herrons", he said that he thought about it but then realized there was way too much clout in the brand to mess with it.
Here's an interesting tidbit:
The head of Lipton Tea's buying division was quoted in a New York Times article as recommending Simpson & Vail for a good cup of Darjeeling. After her retired, he travelled speaking on the topic of tea and consistently mentioned Simpson & Vail.
Need more proof of the strength of the brand?
When green tea hit the market hard and customers of Lipton, Tetley and Nestle asked for it, those companies (who didn't carry green tea) recommended that their customers shop with…. guess who?
Ok, so the company has some serious cred.
So why do I call Jim Mr. Tea?
Because this guy is a walking encyclopedia of tea. If you want to be fascinated like crazy, you really need to listen to him talk, but I'll highlight some of the things he shared.
Are you starting to understand how much Jim knows about tea? You'd think he was born into it. But he wasn't. And he didn't always have this love affair with tea…
In The Beginning
Jim's entrepreneurial journey is just as fascinating as his knowledge of tea. Turns out he had no particular interest in tea at first. He was in the textile business for some time and travelling a lot. After a while he decided he'd had enough of travelling and wanted to spend more time with his family. He was working hard, and long hours, and decided, hey, you know what? If I'm going to work this hard I may as well work for myself!
It was around that time that a friend and neighbor told him about this business for sale. It was mainly a mail order business at the time and Jim figured he knew all about mail order so he partnered with his friend Dave to buy the business.
By his own admission, he realized shortly after that he didn't know as much about mail order as he thought. And he certainly knew nothing about tea.
But Dave did, and Dave had connections. So Dave took Jim to tea tastings, introduced him to everyone in the business and taught him everything he knew. After a few months Jim bought out Dave's shares and subsequently his wife joined him in the business and later Jim Jr. and Cyndi.
What I find most fascinating about Jim's story is that it's quite the opposite of much of what we hear today about being an entrepreneur. How often do you hear someone say, "Follow your passion!"
"Find something you love to do and make money doing it!"
People are very big on passion and this idea of creating the perfect life.
But Jim went into business for far more practical reasons – and passion came later. He learned to love tea, to love its history, to love its possibilities. And he absorbed everything he could about it, making himself a true expert. He is a master mixologist of tea and dedicates himself to providing the highest in quality tea experiences.
The result? Even if you have never heard of Simpson & Vail before now, if you drink tea there's a good chance it's been theirs. They are one of the largest tea importers in the country and they provide tea to coffee and tea houses, cafés, retailers and even other brands.
A Cool Side Note
In the early days of Simpson & Vail, JP Morgan asked Vail to create a special tea blend for the family. To this day, they carry the Morgan Blend and still provide tea to JP Morgan Chase bank for their Christmas tins.
Actually, Simpson & Vail carries every single one of the original tea blends from the company's earliest days. That says something about quality right there.
What Makes A Good Cup Of Tea?
It starts with the leaves, of course. And even though all leaves come from the same plant, there are quite a few variables that come into play. First-picked leaves are sought after because of course everyone wants to be first! But that doesn't mean they're the best. Much like grapes used to make wine, tea leaves gets better with age.
Leaf quality is also affected by the growing season, temperature and rainfall. Jim doesn't buy leaves picked during monsoon season because they are least appealing. He samples every single tea that he imports and keeps a sample to compare it to the actual product he receives to be sure it's of the same quality.
Ok, so you have great tea leaves. But it turns out you can still brew a nasty cup of tea.
If you add water at the wrong temperature, it can ruin a good cup of tea. For example, green teas need to be brewed at cooler temperatures than black teas or you'll get a bitter result.
And tea is only half of the equation. The other ingredient in a cup of tea is water. And if yours is full of minerals it will affect the tea flavor. For best results use filtered or bottled water that has fewer minerals.
Jim tells us that he often receives calls from customers who retire from the northeast to Florida, who complain that his teas are no longer very good. But it's not his teas. It's actually the significant change in water from one location to the next. When those customers use bottled water to brew they're in love all over again.
If this is starting to sound too complicated, trust me, I thought the same thing – until I started brewing tea. There are instructions on every package and the rules are fairly simple. Greens and whites at lower temperatures, blacks and herbal at boiling.
Brew a shorter time for small, fine leaves and longer for large or long leaves.
Once you taste the difference you may never buy bagged tea again. If you're like us, you'll even start bringing your own stash to diners and restaurants and asking for a cup of hot water.
"Do No Harm."
Jim has an incredible business ethic. Not only does he want to bring the best in tea to his customers but he has also adopted the motto "Do no harm."
What does that mean?
It means he chooses leaves that are processed without chemicals. His flavorings are all chemical-free. He avoids pesticides and imports all his tea through Germany because it's the only country in the world that inspects 100% of the food products that go through the country. So he knows he's getting the best in quality control.
It also means that all of their teas are gluten free so he can ensure that customers who need those types of products will be safe.
Finally, it means that he doesn't jump on the bandwagon when it comes to trends. Just because something is popular, he says, doesn't make it a good idea. (Now where have we heard that before? Hm…)
Some herbs and flavorings may be the newest, hottest things on the market but if he isn't sure of what impact they will have on his customers' health, he won't use them.
If I could sum up everything we learned from Jim in one sentence it would be this: know your market, test your product and make it the absolute best it can be.
How About Competition?
After our history and business lesson, we switch from speaking with Jim to speaking with Cyndi, who works closely with Mike on their marketing.
And we want to know: is it harder to sell tea now than it used to be? Back in the day when Simpson & Vail was the "It" company, there was very little competition. But now tea is everywhere.
Cyndi says that it might seem counterintuitive but in some ways marketing has gotten easier. Even though the competition was sparse in the beginning, so was interest. Now there is quite a lot of interest in tea and it's growing all the time. One of their most recent new audiences is college students who have been coming in droves to stock up before the new semester.
The interesting thing about this is that their store doesn't have that coffee-shop-college-student vibe you might think "the kids" would like.
It's a little bit like walking into your kitchen at home (but probably decorated a little better, with some pretty fun tea ware.) It's warm, cozy, homey, welcoming. There is tea brewed on the counter and cookie samples, too.
The more I think about it, the more I understand the allure for college students! Who doesn't want that taste of home?
The Literary Line
We talked with both Cyndi and Connor about their newest teas, the Literary line. They have a series of teas named after famous authors, from William Shakespeare to Charles Dickens and we got to taste them all right on the show. If you listen, that's probably the part where there was a lot of slurping and us forgetting what we were saying as we enjoyed the amazing flavors.
Jim Jr. joined us, too, to explain how an actual tasting works, which is a whole lot like wine tasting where you're supposed to sip and spit. We decided to break the rules and drink the cups dry instead, because why waste those delicious teas?!
As for the Literary line, Cyndi recognized the natural affinity between books and tea (one of MY favorite places to be is curled up with a blanket and a book beside a hot cup of tea).
So she picked out a few authors and with the help of Connor they researched the herbs, fruits and flowers that each author either wrote about or had some affiliation with.
For example, their Bronte Sisters tea contains fruits grown in the orchard where the three sisters grew up and Jane Austin's tea is flavored with lilac because that was the one flower she wrote that she couldn't live without.
From their research they blended and tasted flavors until they hit on the perfect combination.
In fact, that's how they create all their blends – try, taste and keep on going until they're happy with the result.
That's why I keep referring to them as mixologists. They're the artisans and chefs of the tea world and from the flavors I've tried so far – apple cinnamon, carrot cake, English toffee to name a few – they're spot on.
Cyndi says that people often ask her if she ever gets bored with tea, tea, tea. But as you may be able to guess by now, tea in the hands of Simpson & Vail is never "just tea." The endless possibilities for flavors and blends keeps her job exciting.
And The Marketing?
Since Mike handles their online marketing, we have him jump in to talk about how Simpson & Vail gets the word out about their teas.
In the end, it's not all that different than what we all want to do – tell a great story, create great content and get active on social media to tap into a growing fan base.
Their biggest challenge is educating people because you can't explain the tastes and smells and textures of teas in a catalog or social post or blog, no matter how hard you try. It's just something you have to experience. So the trick is to hook people in, which they do with their photography and delicious-sounding recipes, so people will be eager to try the product and go on to become evangelists.
The real trick, Mike says, is not a trick at all but the most important fundamental of good marketing and that's to be good people. Marketing starts from within the company, not from a blog post or a Facebook photo. You need a strong business with good people and a great story – and Simpson & Vail has both.
The Proof Is In The Cupcake
Sometimes in the world of online marketing we can lose sight of one of the most basic things of all, and that's to have a great product that your customers love. No "unique selling proposition" or "social marketing strategy" in the world can compensate for a poor product.
For Simpson & Vail quality – and their customers – come first.
So much so that they hand craft every tea. And they create flavors that people love. Their dessert line was born out of their customers' desire to treat themselves without all the calories and sugar of dessert. From Red Velvet Cupcake to Strawberry Cupcake and more, healthy eating (and drinking) was one trend they jumped on.
But they take it one step further, too, by hand crafting teas one customer at a time. You can call Cyndi and tell her your favorite flavors and she'll have her master tea chefs make up a blend just for you. And if you like it, it will go into their catalog so you can order it any time you want.
For a minute we lose all sense as we imagine the Web.Search.Social blend and the Ralph & Carol Lynn blend and our 20th Anniversary blend… yes, you get to name the flavor, too!
If you take nothing else away from this podcast and these notes, I want you to remember the care and dedication this company puts into their products. And the next time you visit a website that says something like, "We provide the best customer service…" or "Our products are the highest quality…" I want you to scoff and remember that it's not what you say or how many words you use to say it. The proof is in the cupcake.
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Direct download: 0167-tea-time-with-simpson-and-vail-history-brewing-and-the-entrepreneurial-journey.mp3
Category:marketing, business -- posted at: 12:00am EDT
Tue, 15 December 2015
Our Last Solo Episode of 2015
We're taking a break for the holidays and coming back in 2016 to challenge some more status quo and talk about business and life, with more Seriously Social Moments and plenty of great guests.
In the meantime, we've got 10 ideas for you to use to make your business better in 2016. And stay tuned for this Thursday's episode, which is our last guest episode, recorded live from Simpson And Vail in Connecticut.
A Name Change?
Ralph has been debating whether or not our podcast needs a name change. When we started out we planned to challenge the status quo of web, search and social marketing. And we did! But over time we've evolved to talk more about business in general and even life.
So now we're wondering… does the name of the podcast really reflect what we're about? Should we change it? Or would there be a mass revolt amongst Freds everywhere?
It's up to you, Fred… change the name or keep it the same? And if we should change it, then change it to what?
Ralph suggests "Ralph and Carol Lynn take over the world" which I admit I can get behind, but we want to know what you think.
10 Things To Do To Improve Your Business In 2016, Part 1
1. Work on your customer avatar. Who do you want to do business with? Define that person specifically. Every week Ralph goes to a BNI meeting and many weeks I accompany him. And one of the things we've learned is that we can't walk in and say, "I'm looking for someone who needs marketing."
That can mean different things to different people. And it means very little to anyone but us.
Instead, we may say, "I'm looking to work with a restaurant owner in the Holmdel, New Jersey area who wants to increase lunch time sales."
Get specific about the industry your customer is in, their hobbies, everything. The better you "know" this person, the better you can speak their language and craft your messages around what that person needs.
2. Review and prune your profiles. And not just your social media profiles. Google (and Bing!) yourself and find all of your profiles online. Some may be profiles you created, others may be profiles that have been scraped from information you may not even be aware exists.
Find those and be sure they are current. Make sure they best represent any changes you've been through, whether personal or business, so that people who find you will understand what you're about and what you do. If your profiles are inconsistent then that may be confusing to people or not attract the right kind of prospects.
Speak to people who don't know you. Don't assume you're just talking to customers.
3. Take charge of your website (and your whole online presence). Know whether your site is being backed up and where. Understand where your domain is registered and when it expires. Make sure you have access to all your social logins, your hosting account, your Google analytics – everything that belongs to your business.
Someone else (like your marketing company or IT company) may have set up the accounts for you but you need to keep your own house in order and take charge of the key pieces of your business.
4. Be skeptical. Always ask the question, "Why?" Recently we read a study that said that images with faces were 23% less likely to be pinned on Pinterst than images without faces.
This stat was then turned into an infographic and repeated everywhere. But should you believe it?
When it comes to research, correlation doesn't mean causation. What are the methods used? What, exactly, was studied? How were the conclusions reached and is there enough evidence to support them?
In the case of the Pinterest stat, what industries were studied? Whose customers?
Marketing is complex and it's up to you to test. Planning to run a Facebook ad? Don't take anyone's word for "how to do it." Create your own tests. Try different photos and text. See what works for you.
In our experience, "conventional wisdom" typically takes a back seat to what actually works.
5. Schedule a brain dump every day. We've talked about GTD before and one of the principles is to dump everything out of your brain onto a piece of paper (or into an app if that's your thing.)
Your brain is not a storage device. If you try to remember what you need to do then you'll be busy trying to remember what you need to do… and have less brainpower to devote to actually doing it.
Clear out your mind by writing everything down – from buying toilet paper to writing your blog post – and then you'll be able to use your brain to focus on your actual tasks instead of just remembering them.
Your Seriously Social Moment
Today Ian talks about connecting on LinkedIn. He asks, "Should you connect with people you don't know?"
It's a topic that's widely debated.
Technically, sending a connection request to someone you don't know is against LinkedIn's terms of service. But some people believe in connecting with as many people as possible and growing a large network.
Ian says that's not for him. Social media is about building relationships and quality connections are always more valuable than the quantity of connections.
If you want LinkedIn to work for you then look for valuable connections. Don't just chase numbers.
Improve Your Business, Part 2
6. Invest in a podcatcher. Every since Ralph broke up with iTunes, he's been thrilled with his new app, Pocket Casts. If you listen to our podcast, chances are you enjoy podcasts. So don't let technology get in the way of your enjoyment. Podcasts are about the content. And there's a plethora of content to choose from – whether you're a gamer or a knitter or a history buff.
With a good app you'll have a great listening experience and you can enjoy content that will be good for your business, for your learning, for your spiritual life and for your personal life.
7. Look at how you're spending your time and money. First, you need to be tracking your time. Even if you don't bill hourly, you need to understand where your time is going, where you may be wasting it and where you need to reallocate it.
There may be gaps where you're doing things like cleaning up your computer desktop. And that may be necessary but if you're doing it for hours on a Tuesday, you're probably not working on something that's making you money.
Be sure you understand where you're spending time with clients. You may have a great client who you talk to often but who doesn't contribute all that much to your bottom line. And because of that you don't have enough time left to spend with the client who IS making you money.
If you're keeping track you'll be better able to balance your attention so you're putting it where you need to.
Second, you need to be tracking your expenses. When you get that credit card statement each month, there are probably recurring charges you don't even remember being there. Once a month if you can but once a quarter at least, check your recurring expenses to see what you can't live without, what you can consider ditching and what you can immediately cut out.
Finally, be sure you know what costs you're incurring against client work so you know that you're making enough money to justify your expenses.
8. Make a plan that is revenue centric. Not a long term plan, but rather short term goals that are tied to how much money you want to make. For example, if you want to make $100,000 next year, set that goal and then decide how many clients you need to reach that goal. Then go out and start getting those clients.
Lots of times we hear people talking about building their email lists or getting more website traffic. But those things don't pay the bills. Pay more attention to how your actions are contributing to your revenue goals.
If you pay attention to revenue then you may not be so willing to create products in the hope of making money – or giving away freebies in the hope of building a list. Many of those things are haphazard and don't necessarily tie to revenue.
But if you're focusing on whether or not your actions contribute to revenue then you'll start to make better decisions about how to spend your time and efforts.
9. Get offline. This is for the benefit of your business and personal life. If you're taking a break from work, don't play computer games. Don't browse Facebook. Turn the computer and phone off and get into the world. For your business, you need to meet people in real life, whether that's going to a networking meeting, a meetup, or just to meet someone for a cup of coffee.
We get caught up in text-speak where we talk in sentence fragments without punctuation. But in a real conversation you have to listen and respond. Practice your relationship skills. Even something as simple of making eye contact can start to feel foreign if you don't flex that muscle.
You can't build relationships as well or as fast online as you can in real life. It's a lot harder to pretend someone doesn't exist or to think of them as less than human when you're sitting in the same room.
10. GTD the heck out of your life. It's not rocket science. There are very simple steps you can take to improve your focus, be more productive and do more in less time.
For example, Ralph talks about how he shut off all his notifications – all the pings and pongs that distracted him during the day, from email to texts to social media.
Or try the Pomodoro technique, where you work for a specific length of time then take a break for a specific length of time. The idea is to focus on one task. If you implement some simple productivity techniques you can get a ton more done in a lot less time. Break the "big picture" things into tiny, manageable chunks so you can start hacking away at your tasks. Then you'll have more time to spend on your life and less on work.
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Direct download: 0166-10-ideas-to-make-your-business-better-in-2016.mp3
Category:marketing, business -- posted at: 9:00am EDT
Thu, 10 December 2015
Today's guest is Terry Lancaster, who just published a book called "Better! Self Help For The Rest Of Us."
He recently reached out and offered me an advance reading copy of the book, and since I've been a silent stalker of his for some time, I eagerly accepted. I read the entire book in one evening because it was too much fun to put down. Terry has a great sense of humor and a no-nonsense approach to life that I find refreshing.
So I invited him on our podcast to talk about it.
And you may wonder… what does "self help" have to do with business and marketing? Well, don't let the genre fool you. It has everything to do with business and marketing – from how productive you are to how happy you are and a whole lot in between.
This episode (and Terry's book) is just in time for your New Year resolutions (tip: skip them this year and take some of Terry's advice) and perfectly coincides with a lot of what we’ve been saying lately about work-life balance. Or maybe not so much "balance" as "intertwining."
Trust me, you want to hear – and read – this.
Terry Has Actually Lived His Talk
One of the fascinating things about Terry is that his book is essentially based on how he made his life… wait for it… better.
By his own admission he ate a little too much and drank a little too much (more) and one day he thought, wow, I need to do something better with my life.
And instead of setting out to be awesome and rich and beautiful and shiny, he set out to improve something. One step, one action at a time.
He's tired of everyone telling him (and the rest of us) that were not rich enough, not thin enough, not good looking enough. That we don’t have the nicest, whitest teeth or the wealthiest client list or the most perfect 6-pack abs.
The cool thing about Terry is that instead of doing the whole "woe is me" routine, he decided that he didn’t need to be any of those things. He just needed to be better than he was.
Be who you are. Only better.
Great, So How Does This Work?
Not only do you not have to strive for perfection but you can be perfectly content with what you have. And that sounds fabulous, but it sounds a little idealistic, too. Doesn't life just suck sometimes? Aren't we sometimes just fat and broke and cranky?
Maybe… but Terry insists that the first step to making your life better is to adopt an attitude of gratitude. Most of us, he says, are busy trying to get from "bad" to "best".
Instead, start by thinking of how good you already have it.
You probably have a roof over your head. If you're reading this, you have internet! And a computer. You're probably not living in a van down by the lake.
So begin to believe that you have it pretty good right where you are now. Be grateful.
And once you stop feeling like you're starting from the worst possible scenario, you can take the next step which is to stop feeling like you have to get to the best possible scenario. You only have to get… wait for it… better.
The Miserable Crowd
Some people like their misery. Some people are comfortable complaining. They will perpetually compare themselves to other people (and find their own lives lacking). They will lean towards pessimism and negativity.
Admit it, you've been there. We all feel disappointment in where we are. We want more.
And a lot of people are prone to complaining instead of gratitude. So I want to know… how do we help those people? The ones who aren't satisfied with their lives? Our friends and family who complain, who feel lacking, who can bring a party down every time someone asks them, "So, how are you?"
These are people we care about and even if we feel grateful, it still makes us feel bad when people we care about feel bad. So what do we do?
Terry is realistic. He says we can't do anything. We have no control over other people, how they feel or behave. The only thing we can control is our own behavior and responses. His advice is simply to live your life in a state of gratitude, work toward the thing you want to be better at and let your joy shine as an example to others.
I have to admit, I completely agree. In fact, it's something I've struggled with, too. When people I care about are perpetually unhappy, I want to help. And there may be practical things I can do to help in difficult times, but as far as changing how someone feels, that's not in my control. And it's not in yours. No matter how much you care about someone, you can't fix their problems or lives.
But what you can do is live yours. Instead of participating in negativity and pessimism, you can lead by example. Instead of indulging people who complain constantly you can live in what Terry refers to as your own joy.
You don't need to convince anyone that your way is right (or better!) You just need to do what you need to do. And the same way that those negative, complaining people can bring you down, you can bring them up – just by existing in their space.
Marketing Is The Problem
Terry says something else that I agree with, which is that the reason many of us are so dissatisfied is because of marketing.
After all, what is marketing if not the pursuit of proving that something is missing and you need it right now! You need that car, those white teeth, that job, those clothes.
And what sells those things is the story of extremes. People who lose a hundred pounds. People who start a business in their basement that gets bought out by Facebook and they become billionaires overnight.
Those stories make us think we want that. We can do that or be that or get that!
But those are extremes.
And nobody tells you the story of the guy who lost five pounds but is super happy about it. Or landed that one awesome new client. That stuff doesn't make the evening news because it's ordinary. But that stuff is also real life.
The sooner we can live our real lives and not the ones we've been told to want, the sooner we will actually be happier and get better at the things that matter.
Getting Past The Abstractions
This all sounds nice, but how do we actually get better? Skip the motivational talks, Terry says. In fact, forget the idea of motivation entirely. Instead, work on building habits.
Do one thing at a time. Choose to run. Choose to make a sales call. Do it today. Then do it the next day. Then keep doing it.
Doing that will build a habit so the action becomes automatic.
By the way, this is totally possible and you can take it from Terry, who has clearly proven that he's made his life better, or you can take it from me because I actually took his advice. Every day, once a day, I do a pushup. That's right, one pushup. I'm not trying to get buff and strong. I'm just trying to do a pushup.
And after two weeks, I've been doing a pushup every day because… I don't know, because that's what I do now. And that's when behavior becomes habit. The cool thing is that after a while I actually will become stronger, even though I didn't do anything especially dramatic.
So your job is to pick something you can do, want to do, to make your life better in some small way.
Then do it.
Don't make it a big goal or a huge challenge. In fact, don't make it a goal at all. Terry says that goals are about outcomes and what we need to do is concentrate on inputs. And the inputs are the behaviors. Once we input the right behaviors, the outcomes (or goals) will follow naturally.
So go ahead, I dare you. Do one pushup, right now. Then do it again tomorrow. After a few days see what happens. I bet you'll just do it. If you're like me, you may even get off the floor eventually! And maybe after that you'll even do two.
The best part is that you'll improve your fitness along the way.
And by the way this goes for business, too. Make that sales call. Now. Then make one tomorrow. Eventually you will improve your bottom line.
We humans are excuse-making machines. So I pose some excuses… I mean very good reasons… for not doing what I know I need to do to make my life better.
For starters… I've been down the whole "improve your life" road before. I've gotten on good streaks with good momentum. Then something happens. I get tired. It's the holidays. I'm busy. And I stop.
Now I'm off the bandwagon. So… what if I fail? What if I break my streak and stop getting better?What if I do a pushup for 300 days in a row then forget on the 301st and eat a whole pie instead? What do I do?
Terry says forgive yourself. You don't have to be perfect. You just have to start where you are, whether that's at the end or at the beginning of a streak.
Awesome. But what if I've fallen off the bandwagon and I want to start again but my inner critic is telling me I'll never be good enough? It's telling me I'll always be broke or fat or never as smart as everyone else. Then what?
Terry answers this one pretty decisively. Tell your head to shut up.
Just. Stop it.
Everyone has that voice in their head. So just stop listening to it. In fact, Terry says that we have to train our brains the same way we train our bodies. We're pretty used to working out at the gym but how many of us work out our minds?
We're so used to the obnoxious voices that we assume they belong there. But with a mental workout we can learn to distance ourselves from those voices. And that workout is called meditation. The purpose of mediation is not to lead you to a mountaintop in Tibet but to teach you how to quiet the unhelpful narrative in your head and focus on the moment.
Great. I can do a pushup. And I can meditate. But what if I like Oreos? (And I do!) Should I deny myself what I want and call it progress?
Terry is pretty clear on this, too. He says… yes! Deprive yourself! Lots of people like heroine but do we tell them to use it once in a while? Hell no, we tell them stop it!
Oreos (or more specifically sugar) is just as addictive and I hate to agree with someone quite this much, but I know this from experience, too.
Ok, so we're on our way to better health! And if you listened to our last episode you know how that leads to better focus and productivity at work.
But… what if I'm an introvert? And I don't like networking? Or sales calls?
Terry says there are a million ways to connect with people. You don't need to do any one specific thing. Don't be afraid to try things that are outside your comfort zone but ultimately don't make excuses for not doing something.
Apps: Helping Or Hurting?
These days there's an app for everything. Or more accurately there are about a billion apps for everything. Whether you want to exercise more or be more productive, there are apps to help you track and even gamify your tasks.
But is this really a good thing? Are apps helping us track and improve or are they distracting us so we focus more on the app than on the activity?
We don’t have a good answer to this but truthfully only you can judge for yourself. If you use an app that helps or keeps you on track, then use it. But if it ends up as another reason to compare yourself to others (and find yourself lacking) or takes up more of your time than the activity you're working on, it may be time to skip it.
The bottom line? Don't overcomplicate it. Just get up and do something.
Your Action Item
From Terry: When you're done listening to this podcast, take the next 25 minutes to focus on just one thing. Do you want to walk? Meditate? Clear out your inbox? Turn off all the beeps and alerts and focus on one thing for that period of time.
Links & Resources
Find Terry and his book online and as a bonus, if you go to his site during the week between Christmas and New Year's you can download the entire book for free!
Subscribe to be notified whenever we publish new content and to stay in the loop on some new podcasts and other fun stuff that’s coming up.
Direct download: 0165-get-better-improve-your-life-and-business-one-small-action-at-a-time.mp3
Category:marketing, business -- posted at: 12:00am EDT
Tue, 8 December 2015
Are You Up For Nadia's Challenge?
SuperFred Nadia Bracken reached out to us just last week and issued a challenge to listeners and Freds everywhere.
Here's what she said: "I like your show so much because of the action item. It is like I don't have to decide what to do next. I don't have to deal with decision fatigue. You just tell me and I obey."
First of all, we love having someone obey us!
Secondly, we love the challenge that she followed up with, which is to be productive by performing one of our action items every day for the month of December.
We're going to help you by giving you a list of action item ideas right here. If you're like Nadia and you want to obey, choose one item per day and DO IT. Or if you have a better idea, feel free to do your own item.
But that's not all! We need proof.
Every time you perform an action item, we want you to post it online and tell us about it. Post it to Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #WSSup. Or if you're super obedient, take a photo of yourself engaged in the action item and post it on Instagram with the hashtag #WSSup. If you do that, as an added bonus, we'll also allow it to be automatically posted to our Facebook page.
Now, get busy. Post your action item successes and photos.
Just please, no porn!
No, seriously. No porn.
Ralph Stabs iTunes In The Skull
That may sound a bit dramatic but trust me, I live with him. I know how much he hates iTunes.
We've actually both had similar problems recently with iTunes getting out of synch, deleting podcasts we wanted and adding podcasts we didn't, and as a result we've both stopped listening to podcasts as much as we used to.
But Ralph had a bit of an epiphany when he realized hey, you know what? I don't have to use iTunes! And thus began his quest to find another app.
Turns out there is a whole class of apps called "podcatchers" that let you listen to podcasts and Ralph rather vigorously researched and then finally tested out two finalists.
One is called Overcast and the other is called Pocket Casts.
They both have the un-iTunes-like advantage of being completely in synch across devices. So when he switches from desktop to laptop to iPad to phone, both apps always remember precisely where he left off on a podcast.
Each of the apps has some cool perks.
Overcast has a really great notes section where you can see more details and links. It also has a nifty feature where it will remove extra pauses in the conversation and even level out voices so they sound great.
On the down side, Overcast is focused on the mobile app and is not quite as robust on desktop. And you can't create playlists on the desktop version.
Pocket Casts is beautiful, Ralph says, and he prefers its features and interface. But it has a few quirks, too. For starters, when you share a podcast to social media, it doesn't link back to the podcast. Rather, it links to the podcast within the app. That deprives the content creator of the traffic and also doesn't take listeners to the show notes. Plus the share links have Pocket Casts branding instead of pulling your feature image.
There is no playlist option on the desktop version of this app, either.
In the end, Pocket Casts wins for its simplicity and features. And iTunes is dead to us.
Your Seriously Social Moment
This is the last of Ian's miniseries on roadblocks to creativity. But never fear, he'll be back with more social goodness next week!
Today he mentions a book called the War of Art (yes, you read that right). He says the book has been a big influence on him. In it, the author says that if you're doing creative work, you will face resistance. And the battle is usually from within.
The inner voice telling you that you're not good enough. Or that you have other things to do. Or that you're tired.
But Ian says: just start. You have to face the fear and resistance and GO. Keep moving forward and you'll break into the sunlight of creativity.
Forty Three Things But A Pound Ain't One
We've talked about our quest to be healthier, which started in earnest at the beginning of August this year. I visited my doctor in July and I visited him again just this week. And both times he weighed me and in between those times I lost 43 pounds.
The best part about that is that I haven't obsessed about it. I didn't cut out entire food groups like potatoes or meat or butter. I didn't set huge goals and I don't spend hours a day working out.
What I do is eat food. Real food. The only thing I've cut out is processed food, which primarily consists of sugar. And what I do is spend three miles a day on the treadmill. Whether that's jogging, walking or crawling, it's not about how fast or how hard. It's a very simple activity that I do without stressing myself out. In fact, most days I barely break a sweat.
So how does this affect my business?
In a lot of ways, it turns out. For starters, it's given me a lot more energy. I used to be perpetually tired. Sleep until eight, drag through the day, nap at three, dinner then bed. Stairs were hard. Leaving the house was hard. Sometimes just opening the computer was hard.
I feel a lot better now about everyday activities. I can do a lot more because I'm simply not tired and depleted every day.
Another positive effect has been better focus.
Ever have those moments where you open a closet to look for something and forget what you went to look for? So you close the closet and walk away and eventually it comes back to you and the cycle starts all over.
I was doing that constantly. Constantly unfocused. Constantly distracted. Getting anything done was a monumental task.
But my concentration has been noticeably better and I am far more productive and far more efficient, without changing much more than the amount of vegetables I eat in a day.
Turns out when you feed your body, you also feed your mind. Your business is tied into the rest of your life and wellness so ignore one to the detriment of the other.
You don't need giant, lofty goals. You just need to decide what you want to get better at and then do something. Do one thing. And do it now.
Your Action Item(s)
Thanks to Nadia for posting today's Action Item Challenge!
Your action item today is to download this list of action items and do one today. And then do another tomorrow. Keep going for each day through the end of December.
And who knows, you may just keep going after that without our nudging!
Links & Resources
Direct download: 0164-podcatchers-health-and-business-and-an-action-item-challenge.mp3
Category:marketing, business -- posted at: 1:24am EDT
Thu, 3 December 2015
The Web.Search.Social Podcast Is Live!
This week we're doing something completely different. In response to a number of people asking us about a past episode where we spoke with BNI director Paul Scharff about networking, we're recording this episode live from one of my weekly BNI meetings.
First, you'll get an idea of how a networking meeting runs so you'll have a little extra ammo if you decide to check out a local networking group of your own.
Second, you can learn a bit more about how to make networking more effective for your business.
We recorded most of the meeting – changed up just slightly for time – so if you listen all the way through you'll hear every group member's "commercial" interspersed by some commentary and a few lessons you can take away.
The BNI Commercials
As part of the weekly meeting every member gets 45 seconds to talk about his or her business and let the rest of the group know how they can help generate leads and sales for that business.
Time is of the essence! If someone goes over the 45 second limit they get dinged and have to wrap it up immediately.
We kept all the commercials in the recording because we thought it would be a great opportunity for you to hear how other people do it – and which were most successful. While we don't comment on all the commercials, you can decide for yourself which were most interesting, which gave you the best idea of what a business is about, which made you yawn and which you could emulate to help you craft your own commercial.
We pause here to talk about the structure of a good commercial, which often includes a component that starts, "Did you know…" and ends with a memory hook so people can easily identify your business.
For example, Randy of Holmdel Auto Body uses the memory hook "you bend 'em, we mend 'em." That makes it fun and easy to remember what Randy does and helps people find him leads.
A good commercial can also include a specific "ask." Some members name a prospect they're pitching and ask if anyone knows that person. You'd be surprised by how often someone knows someone else and can make a personal introduction.
In fact, one of the members recently asked to meet the president of a property management company – and that property management company just so happens to be the one that manages my homeowner's community. In fact, I was having breakfast with the president that day. Not only was I able to make the introduction but I invited the president to attend the weekly meeting.
We pause again because Staci is the first woman we've heard from and I want to know how she feels about being in a room full of men. I ask her to talk about how women can overcome their fears of being in the vast minority.
Staci says she was overwhelmed when she first visited our group, because when she joined there were no other females (we have a few more now!) so she decided to bring a male colleague with her. That helped her feel more at ease at first, until she was able to determine that the group was welcoming and warm. She found that in this particular group, she didn't feel like "a woman". She just felt like a businessperson and an equal.
Staci goes on to say that it's important to walk into a room with your head held high.
Carol Lynn agrees. She says that if you behave differently or fearfully then people will pick up on that. But if you expect to be treated as an equal and you walk into a room confidently then you'll have a better experience.
Another quick pause as Paul Scharff reminds everyone that you have to get a good "feel" for a group. Not all networking groups are alike but you'll get an intangible feeling about whether or not a group will be a good fit for you.
Quick pause to talk about how membership works… many people think that only one person of any type of business can be a member in a group. For example, if the group has an attorney, no other attorney can join. But in our group we have 4 attorneys because each of them specializes in a different area of law.
A group could have two photographers, for example, if one specialized in weddings and another in family portraits.
Trivia alert! Turns out that Hal is a colleague of friend of the show Ryan Hanley. I didn't know that until one day recently when I told the group about Ryan's book Content Warfare and Hal chimed in that he knew Ryan. Love how networking cements connections!
We mention the idea of a "power partner" here because Dave is a graphic designer and makes a great referral partner for us, and us for him. Our industries overlap and our collective clients often have a need for both of our services.
When a member is absent, they can have someone sub for them. One of the members who was off on a hunting vacation asked Carol Lynn to sub, so she read his commercial.
Paul was a guest on our podcast twice, once as we mentioned earlier to talk about networking but also to talk about how photography can be used to make you more money.
Each week two members get 10 minutes each to speak to the group in depth about their businesses. Today Paul is one of the featured presenters. He isn't a member of our group but he is our regional BNI director and visits on occasion. We were lucky to have him today.
Instead of the usual speaker presentation, I ask a series of questions that Paul fields like the pro he is.
Firs I want to know, why join a networking group? Paul says it will make you more money. Each week you have a room full of people dedicated to listening to what you need and helping you close deals.
What makes a good networking group? Paul says – show up! Be present, participate and listen. And of course, make personal referrals whenever you can.
Paul pays us a compliment when he says that ours is one of the strongest groups in Monmouth and Middlesex counties. He suggests that for all members – in our group and elsewhere – always be thinking about your commercial. Use your fully allotted time and make sure you refine, refine, refine your pitch.
He also clears up a common misconception we hear often, which is that if you don't deliver a certain number of referrals or revenue to the members of the group, you'll be kicked out.
At least in BNI, that is simply not true. There are many ways you can participate in the group, whether through referrals, by being part of the leadership team, volunteering for other tasks, even bringing guests.
After Paul, it's time for Tony to be featured. Tony is the owner of Tapeo Restaurant, which is also the venue for our weekly meetings. He started out as a boy on a farm in Spain, worked for some time in corporate America, opened a cooking school in Barcelona and finally landed in Hazlet New Jersey where he is feeding Portuguese and Spanish cooking to many happy locals.
Tony speaks a bit about his business, the types of services he offers and why we should send referrals his way.
The key to profitable networking is to let the people in the room know how they can go out into the world and be your sales team.
One of the aspects of the meeting that we didn't record was the roundtable we do at the end where every member has a chance to make a few comments on the meeting, thank other members for introductions or give testimonials.
But it's also one of the most powerful parts of the meeting so we didn't want you to miss out on it completely.
We give our own testimonial to close out the show, by thanking Tony for a great experience at his restaurant. The night before we recorded this podcast, we went to the restaurant to set up the podcasting equipment and afterwards we stuffed ourselves silly with tapas and mojitos.
Now we can recommend the restaurant to people with confidence because we've actually been there and done business personally with Tony. We know from experience that the food is great and that the owner truly will go out of his way to make sure you have a wonderful experience.
And that right there is the power of networking.
Whether you're thinking of joining a BNI or some other networking group, get out there and visit a meeting. Visit two, three and more. Find the group that feels right for you, one where you feel welcomed, one where members are committed to helping each other. One hour a week can make a tremendous impact on your business and your bottom line.
Direct download: 0163-bni-live-peek-into-the-inner-workings-of-a-real-networking-meeting.mp3
Category:business, marketing -- posted at: 12:00am EDT
Tue, 1 December 2015
The Intro Before The Intro
Our friend Alisa Meredith of the Superheroes of Marketing podcast recently offered a critique of our podcast and said that she would like to know what we're going to talk about before we start.
So based on her feedback we decided to add a short intro before the music, basically a "table of contents" for the podcast so Freds everywhere will know what to expect.
Except for today, when our intro went on for a really long time until we actually remembered to roll in the music.
What do you think? Helpful to know what's coming up or just extra talking?
The Official Web.Search.Social Tea
After experimenting with more teas than we can talk about, we decided that Simpson and Vail wins. They have green and black and oolong and white and dessert teas, all of which add up to more than 350 kinds of deliciousness.
We're on a mission to try them all and in the meantime we've enjoyed the ones we've sampled quite a lot.
Mike Allton Geeks Out On Star Wars
Mike Allton of the Social Media Hat recently wrote a post called This Star Wars Trailer Will Blow Your Marketing Mind. It's full of great content, from Mike's take on what we can learn about marketing from the Star Wars trailers to videos of the actual trailers themselves. It's geek heaven, but I'm concerned that given the upcoming superhero movies that are coming out, along with the scheduled release of the next Star Wars movie, will Mike actually Survive? Or will all this geek goodness make him go supernova?
Alisa Joins Us To Talk Sexism
An article is circulating on social media titled The Thing All Women Do That You Don't Know About. The gist of the article is that women deal with sexism in every aspect of their lives, all the time. And the way they deal with it is to grin, laugh it off and acquiesce to men. The author talks about how as a woman, she is either afraid to anger men by standing up for herself, or in business she is afraid of being considered bitchy – or worse, fired.
Carol Lynn says that she's had many relationships with men throughout her life, from brothers and cousins to friends and colleagues, and never felt marginalized or afraid to speak up.
Alisa says she's had a different experience. Just recently, a guy at her gym was staring at her and she basically told him to stop being creepy. Carol Lynn makes the point that Alisa wasn't afraid to speak her mind. But Alisa says that her confidence has come with age and she probably wouldn't have done the same thing ten or twenty years ago.
Seems like there is a learning curve to dealing with creepy people and that's something we discuss later on.
Who Are These Sexist Men?
Turns out none of us know a lot of sexist men. They're definitely out there but are they the majority? Are they even the vast minority? Or does social media amplify "the squeaky wheel" so to speak?
I wonder what percentage of men treat women in some of the horrible ways Alisa says she's been treated. Alisa confirms that it's a small percentage so we can't help but wonder: is this type of behavior more prevalent on social media than in real life?
Road Rage And Bad Behavior
Alisa says that you might experience road rage toward someone while you're driving and curse them out, but if the same person were walking into the supermarket behind you, you'd probably hold the door for them and say hello.
The point is that when you're detached from people you tend to say and do things you wouldn't normally. Men and women both behave badly online.
Carol Lynn says that social media can magnify the worst of humanity. People will always find something hurtful to say, whatever the context, and they do that by separating people into "other" status. Then they apply a label – whether you talk about someone being a woman, or being gay, or conservative, or Jewish, they will use the label to disparage you. It's not so much a matter of sexism as bad behavior.
So we wonder next, are these isolated cases of humans behaving badly, or does it mean entire segments of the population are being victimized? Is this really the huge problem that it can seem like? Do some creepy people – you know the ones, nobody really likes them – represent the whole?
We don't know the answers. We only have our opinions and perspectives and experiences. But it all ties back to that learning curve that we get to at the end…
Losing Business Opportunities
I've witnessed many women – even young women who are students of my college level web development course – post sexualized photos of themselves online. The consequence is that I've seen women be denied jobs because of the way they represent themselves.
I believe that a company has every right to deny a job to someone who may pose a risk to the reputation of the company. For example, a PR company may not want to hire someone to represent clients online if that person can't even represent themselves well.
Creating Barriers Where We Don't Need Them
When you read and hear this kind of thing online, it's important to understand whether it's one person's experience or an actual widespread problem. I think it's important not to let our negative experiences with some people affect our positive relationships with others.
Teaching Kids To Be Social
Being afraid to speak your mind or being fearful of confrontation is learned behavior. Nobody is born knowing how to deal with all the awkward or unpleasant situations all the time. We learn by being taught, we learn by example. We don't need to teach kids about sexism but we do need to teach them how to be social. The youngest children can learn to speak up, to respect themselves, to be kind and be human.
Yes, figuring out how to treat people and how you want to be treated in return in a learning curve. You figure it out over time, through trial and error and you emulate those around you.
If we can be better examples then perhaps people will learn better social skills – online and offline.
Your Seriously Social Moment
Ian Anderson Gray is back with his series on roadblocks to creativity. Today he talks about how wanting to be liked is sometimes hard to deal with. Let's face it: we all want to be liked. And it can hurt when people don't like us.
But you can combat that and not only make your life better but make your business better.
First, you need to surround yourself with loyal, honest friends. They're the ones who will build you up and provide you with constructive criticism, not negativity or hate.
Second, respond to criticism positively. As a business, even if someone lashes out at you, always respond with respect and kindness. This has been shown to increase customer advocacy.
There's always going to be negativity. But you don't have to succumb to it. Find the support of good friends and implement positive reactions in your business.
Dreamweaver Vs. WordPress
In my college level class I teach students HTML and CSS using the web development tool Dreamweaver. But I was recently debating whether it would be more beneficial to teach them WordPress. As I agonized over the decision, someone posted a related thread on Facebook that really got me thinking. The thread basically expressed a woman's frustration that her daughter was learning Dreameaver.
But after thinking about it I decided to stick with Dreamweaver. WordPress is a platform that already has the fundamentals in place for you, and while it's great for blogs and content management, you don't need to be a web developer to use it. By teaching Dreamweaver I'm giving my students the fundamentals they'll need to build a website, to understand how websites work and even to be able to transition effectively into using WordPress if they need to.
What really cemented my decision was a letter from a former student who wrote that she had great success at her new job because she remembered the HTML she had learned in my class.
For businesses hiring – or students looking to get hired – it pays to understand how web development works, which involves a lot more than clicking "install theme" and configuring a few settings.
Links & Resources
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Direct download: 0162-in-which-we-solve-sexism-with-disembodied-heads-plus-mike-allton-dies.mp3
Category:business -- posted at: 12:00am EDT