Thu, 17 March 2016
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
Direct download: 0179-ian-anderson-gray-on-the-business-and-personal-sides-of-conference-speaking.mp3
Category:business -- posted at: 12:00am EDT
Tue, 15 March 2016
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
Thu, 3 March 2016
A Repeat Performance From A Fan Fave
Today we welcome back Christopher Leone who made an appearance on our podcast almost exactly a year ago to talk about his film (or is it TV series?) Parallels. If you haven’t caught it on Netflix, you’re missing some sci-fi fun.
Funny story… we had just been thinking about Chris, whether there would be another Parallels release and what he was up to these days when like a karmic explosion we got an email from him saying that he was working on a book and would love to talk to us.
Likewise! And thus this conversation was born.
A Creative Maniac
Chris has created a LOT. Parallels, which brought us to him, a TV show called the Lost Room, other short films, a comic book, and now he’s working on a young adult fiction novel about a mysterious black orb… but let’s not do any spoilers.
He does so much that we can’t help but wonder how he does it. He’s got a pretty smart answer, which is that he tries to work on only one thing at a time and keep going until it’s done before he takes on another project. For creatives who can easily find themselves starting and starting and starting… the idea to “finish what you started” is pretty good advice!
Getting started on the creative process is fun. So many ideas! So much potential! It’s easy to fall off and look for the new shiny thing as things start to feel like “work”. But more on that in a minute.
Chris The Storyteller
Chris defines himself as a filmmaker. We define him as a storyteller. Sure, he makes films. But he always tells a story. Sometimes that’s through words, sometimes it’s through visuals and sometimes it’s even through sound. Especially when you’re working in a medium like film, your story really does hinge on all these pieces.
Ultimately, whether you’re telling a brand story or composing a film, you can tell it in different ways through different senses.
We want to know: why is he writing a book, especially a young adult novel, considering his filmmaker identity?
Turns out he’s writing a book for the same reason he made a film – because he has a story to tell! But more importantly, it’s a story he wishes someone had written for him when he was a young adult and craving a good sci-fi read.
And don’t let the genre fool you – it’s easy for grown ups to fall in love with young adult fiction, too. Just think Harry Potter and Hunger Games. That’s exactly the kind of story Chris wants to write and we’re confident that he can (and will!)
And Then There’s Marketing
Right now Chris is using Inkshare, a site where authors can work to get their book project funded through fan pre-orders. Once a book gets a certain number of orders, then it will be able to get published through Inkshare. So that helps mitigate the risk of doing the writing, the editing, the cover design, the printing… and then falling flat on orders.
He’s also participating in a contest hosted by The Nerdist and if he wins his book gets automatically funded. (And if you have a moment, be sure to give him some SuperFred love and up his chances of winning by ordering a copy for your favorite kid – or yourself! Just look for the book called Champions of the Third Planet.)
But it still begs the question: how is he getting the word out?
For starters, he already has a fan base so he’s been able to tap into that. He’s also done a lot of social media promotion. Chris says he isn’t doing anything “the traditional way” and that means he doesn’t have a 10-step plan and a 6-month forecast and secret to success. He tries something… and watches to see what works. And then he does that thing.
Ultimately it’s also about the relationships he’s been building along the way. People he’s reached out to, like us, who he can reconnect with and who are happy to host him. Fans he’s engaged with. If you listen to our podcast often enough, this should all sound very familiar by now!
The Creative Process
For Chris, he doesn’t start with a story in his mind. He usually gets a visual that sparks an idea. “A girl is coming out of the woods.” Not a three-act plot but it’s enough that he starts asking questions. Who is she? Why is she there? What’s she doing?
Chris says something fascinating about his own creative process. He says most of the time, it’s not creative.
Well, it turns out that doing creative work is still work. Sure, it can be fun. Having a great idea is fun. Getting started is fun. But after that? It’s all about sitting down and grinding through, getting it done. Putting the words on a page. Editing, fixing, checking your inconsistencies, editing some more.
There’s this myth about creative people that all this stuff just flows. You hang out in your pajamas, on the beach, fulfilling your deepest passions and living the dream! Artists, musicians, authors… they all just hang out sipping sherry or something and everyone wishes for that life.
But doing creative work is not all rainbows and unicorns. Sometimes it’s not fun at all. Sometimes it’s frustrating and head-pounding and boring. Sometimes you hate it and wish you were selling insurance or changing a car tire.
Like most creatives, Chris is a tad perfectionist. We’re often told, “Just write, don’t edit, let it flow then go back later…” Pft. As anyone who has sat down to write knows, you can get hung up on fixing that one weird adjective for… well, a really long time. Chris likes to “get it right” before moving on and sometimes that means getting stuck. But he also says that you have to be aware of when you’re doing something that’s improving your writing and when you’re just changing for the sake of change.
Being creative is tough work!
Everyone Needs An Avatar
Funny enough, Chris has an avatar for his ideal reader, the same way that we talk about having an avatar for your ideal customer. Remember how we said it’s a story he wishes he could have read when he was a kid? Well, his book is a story he’s writing for his ten-year-old self.
Your Action Item
From Chris: Call your parents. Right now. When you’re done, start your creative project. Life is going by. And unless you start now you might still be standing there in a day or month or five years and you will never have reached out for what you want. So whatever that creative thing is, start it.
Links & Resources
Direct download: 0177-the-creative-process-is-not-all-rainbows-and-unicorns.mp3
Category:business -- posted at: 12:00am EDT
Tue, 1 March 2016
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.
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 EDT