Web.Search.Social Marketing Podcast
WSS #0179: Ian Anderson Gray On The Business And Personal Sides Of Conference Speaking

The Inside Scoop On Speaking Gigs

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

Paid Or Unpaid?

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

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

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

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

Fun Is Underrated

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

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

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

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

Travel Takes A Personal Toll

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

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

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

We knew that guy was smart!

Why Are You Speaking?

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

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

Links & Resources


WSS #0178: Nadia Bracken Brings The Hotness

We Have The Best SuperFreds

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

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

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

Speaking Of SuperFreds And Tea…

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

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

A. I’m busy but check back

B. I’m not interested… and so forth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Links & Resources

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

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

A Repeat Performance From A Fan Fave

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

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

Likewise! And thus this conversation was born.

A Creative Maniac

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

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

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

Chris The Storyteller

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

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

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

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

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

And Then There’s Marketing

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

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

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

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

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

The Creative Process

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

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

What?

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

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

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

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

Being creative is tough work!

Everyone Needs An Avatar

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

Brilliant!

Your Action Item

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

Links & Resources

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

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

Please Welcome Our Favorite Brit!

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

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

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

Thanks, Helen!

The Delightful Beatrix Potter Tea

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

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

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

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

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

Your Time Is Being Wasted For You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STILL interested? How about NEVER interested!

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

How many of those do YOU get in a day?

Mike Brooks Gets Homework

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

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

Get busy, Mike!

Your Seriously Social Moment

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

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

Time Is A Slippery Beast

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

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

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

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

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

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

The question is: now what?

Dealing With Time Sucks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Links & Resources

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

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

Almost Saint Patrick’s Day!

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

It’s Time For Social Warfare

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

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

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

In The Beginning…

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

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

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

Business Roles And Responsibilities

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

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

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

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

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

Their First Fight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You Are Not Your Product

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

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

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

The Domain Name Challenge

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

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

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

A Side Note: We Hate Popups

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

Time to rethink that?

Your Action Item

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

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

Links & Resources

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

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

 

Naming A Product IS HARD.

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

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

Different Perspectives

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

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

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

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

A Working Title Leads To A Host Of Other Challenges

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

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

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

Remember the part about this being hard?

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

Domain Squatters Must Die

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

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

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

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

Your Seriously Social Moment

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

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

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

You may be surprised by the results!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Introducing… The Podcast Tool

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

How Can A Niche Business Survive?

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

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

More on that in a minute.

What We Don’t Talk About Today: Pinterest

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

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

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

It Started With A Frugal Blog

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

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

From Frugal Blog To Brilliant Niche

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

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

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

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

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

Even A New Business Needs To Make Money

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

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

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

So How DO You Make A Niche Business Succeed?

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

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

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

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

And then? She raised her rates!

Recognize Your Own Pro Status

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

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

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

To that we say… exactly!

Hindsight Is 20/20

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

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

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

But Does The World Really Need ANOTHER Pinterest Expert?

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

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

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

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

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

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

But the world does need Kate Ahl.

Your Action Item

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

Links & Resources

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

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

 

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

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

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

Rick Carlson Sends An Email

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

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

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

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

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

Rick Carlson Declines Our Invitation To Market His Own Product

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

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

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

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

Automation Doesn’t Give Someone Permission To Be A Robot

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

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

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

A Better Automation Experience

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

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

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

The Apology Trend

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

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

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

Your Seriously Social Moment

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

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

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

Even More Lame Automated Marketing

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me: No, I was busy.

Ralph: ROAR!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Links & Resources


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

 

A Content Tease

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

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

Branding: More Than Just Your Logo

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

Some people just want a really nice website design.

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

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

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

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

Personal Vs. Business Branding

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

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

Good Brand Vs. Bad Brand

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

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

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

Bad Branding? Start Here.

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

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

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

Free Consulting!

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

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

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

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

Branding Needs To Be Maintained

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

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

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

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

More Free Consulting!

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

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

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

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

Who Is Craig McBreen?

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

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

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

One Last Question. (Or Two.)

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

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

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

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

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

Your Action Item

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

Links & Resources


WSS #0170: Website Costs And Dangerous Video Trends

 

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

More on that in a minute.

But first…

How Much Should A Website Cost?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s The Minimum Threshold?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Seriously Social Moment

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

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

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

Video Is Powerful. True Or False?

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

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

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

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

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

Licensing Fees For "Reacting?"

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

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

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

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

Content Is Getting Boring

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

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

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

Links & Resources

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

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

Softball Questions?

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

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

“Sometimes.”

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

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

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

It sounds good, but we have one more challenge…

Can You Over-Systematize?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Switching Gears To Masterminds

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

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

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

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

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

So You Want To Start A Mastermind. Now What?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Action Item

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

Links & Resources


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

Our First Episode of 2016!

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

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

Why Are We Here?

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

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

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

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

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

Need To Decompress? Listen To The Mystic Show

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

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

And Now, Caffeine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Relax!

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

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

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

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

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

Ralph And Carol Lynn Go To The Movies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your First Seriously Social Moment Of 2016

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

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

Social Gaming…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…And Lessons Learned At Gunpoint

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

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

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

Whoops.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Links & Resources


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