Web.Search.Social Marketing Podcast (marketing, business)

Podcasting From A Pool Table

If you’re podcasters or know a podcaster, you probably have also heard stories about how podcasts actually happen. Or more importantly, where they happen. Rumor has it that podcasters are a determined bunch, and when a fully equipped studio does not present itself, will podcast from bedrooms, bathrooms, closets or even cross legged on the floor under a blanket.

Today we’re picking up the mantle and doing our share to keep podcasting real by doing it from the surface of a pool table. It’s a little awkward, propped on pillows so we can get a chair to the right height, and leaning in because the mics are sitting down behind the ledge and a pocket, but we promised you two podcasts a month and darnit, we’re going to give you two podcasts a month.

WordPress 5.0: Should They, Shouldn’t They?

Last episode we promised to discuss WordPress 5.0 and how we (and our clients) felt about the new Gutenberg editor.

Turns out there are at least some people who don’t love the update. And they are pretty vocal. They’ve taken to forums to let their displeasure be known. Some of them have valid points, some just seem to want to complain. Notably, Matt Meullenweg, the manager of WordPress, has responded to the complaints with a pretty stellar diplomacy that does not actually involve apologizing.

In a world where it seems like every negative tweet gets a company to issue a giant mea culpa, we think Matt took a good approach to dealing with concerns without back pedaling.

Ralph and I have a different opinion on one of the complaints we heard a lot: should WordPress have issued this release during the Christmas holidays? I say no, because it’s a supremely busy and stressful time for a lot of people. Ralph says that for him, business slows down in December and if something has to change, that’s the ideal time for him.

The short story, is that business decisions will please some people and make others cranky. So you’ve got to do what’s right for your business, the best you can.

The Rant

Whether or not it was “the right” time for a big WordPress release is open for debate. But we did have some practical experiences that weren’t exactly fun.

If you’re not entirely familiar with the change, WordPress’s “classic” editor was an empty box on the page. You plunked in your text, your images, your links, your short codes, whatever you needed. It had formatting options for headings and lists and all sorts of things, not so different than you might find in a Word document.

The new editor is based on the premise of “blocks”. Each thing you want to put on the page is now its own block. A text block, a photo block, a short code block. Now, instead of one “editor” where you did everything you needed to do, there are an indefinite stack of unique “blocks”. That adds a level of complexity and a bunch of extra steps that I simply did not need.

As someone who has experience using the visual editors of premium themes, Gutenberg is just redundant. If I want to build a page layout, I can do it with the theme widgets, rather well.

If I want a blog post, all I have to do is paste in my content, drop in the images and go.

But now… theoretically… I need a block for the text then a new block for the photo and yet another for a video or a podcast player.

When I first converted my posts to blocks, each paragraph was in its own block. That was ponderous and unnecessary and I didn’t see how that improved either my content creation or my workflow.

Here’s an example of a “why would you do this?” moment. One of the things I’ve heard people exclaim is so exciting is that now you can change the background color of EACH paragraph. But I wonder, how many people need one pink paragraph and one blue one and one yellow one? This doesn’t seem like a selling point to me.

On top of that, some of the conveniences are now gone. For example, keyboard shortcuts don’t seem to work at this point. So we lost productivity for the sake of some oddball layout tools that we could have gotten from about a thousand layout plugins if we wanted to.

How About The Clients?

Turns out they’re not too fond of it either. Now, I realize that change is hard, even if it’s good change. There is some resistance to new things so I’d expect some pushback even under the best of circumstances.

But this time, the complaints poured in. Nobody understood it. Nobody knew why it worked certain ways. Nobody could figure out how to do things they’d been doing for years. Suddenly common things stopped behaving the way they were expected to. And other things stopped working altogether.

So we dealt with the problem by installing the classic editor plugin, which you can do for another two years or so until it gets completely deprecated. Until then, we will continue doing what we know, the easy way. And in two years we’ll figure out what to do then.

If you’ve tried Gutenberg, we’d love to know what you think. Love it or hate it? Has it made your life easier or given you cool new tools? Or did you go right for the classic editor plugin?

Why We Get Up In The Morning

We got an email from Cyndi, our friend and one of the family owners of Simpson & Vail tea, asking us why we get up in the morning. She asked how we keep ourselves motivated doing the same thing day after day.

For me, there are two things that I really enjoy. One is writing, and the other is small business. I enjoy writing in general, which is a big chunk of my job. And I have a soft spot for small businesses and want to help them succeed. So I enjoy being able to do something I enjoy in the service of helping people that I like.

Ralph adds that he also enjoys what we do because it affords us the opportunity to travel and work from essentially anywhere. He also likes people, and the people we work with. He likes meeting the people who use the products and services of those businesses and hearing their stories.

A Tea Story

One of the stories we enjoyed this holiday season was one we helped create. We bought Ralph’s mother a bunch of Simpson & Vail tea for Christmas because we got her hooked after buying her their Advent calendar. She’s really enjoyed it and has even taken to blending her own from bits of leftover flavors.

We suspect she still doesn’t know the Simpson & Vail name because she calls it “the Fancy tea.” It has turned into quite the conversation starter.

We both agree that it makes for a good story that could be used to help market the product, because we bet people can relate to those stories more than they do to the latest sale or product announcement.

And stories can also give you a good reason to get up in the morning! Hearing them from customers can be motivating and have an impact on how you tempt new customers to join your culture.

A Creative Outlet

Besides the enjoyment of what we do and where we do it, I also think it’s important that our jobs provide us with a creative outlet. Everyone needs some creative fulfillment that stimulates their imagination and brains. Sometimes monotony is born when the creativity dies. It’s important to do something that fulfills that role.

Case in point, one of my clients sells plastic boxes. Plain, nondescript plastic boxes. And they only sell them to distributors and in bulk to big companies, so it’s not like something that goes to a consumer for fun things like crafts or storage.

Turns out this strangely “boring” topic is one of the most rewarding, fun projects because it requires a lot of wracking of brains to come up with creative ways to make a clear plastic box sound interesting.

What’s your creative outlet? And why do YOU get up in the morning?

Shoot us a comment, ping us online, and let us know what you think so we can revel in your stories, too!

Direct download: 0182-from-wordress-to-tea-the-good-the-bad-and-the-fancy.mp3
Category:marketing, business -- posted at: 12:00am EST

[wsspodcast type="podcast" episode="181" note=""]

Hey Fred, Did You Lose Weight?

You’re looking pretty good after all this time! And it has, indeed, been some time. In fact, it’s been a year and a month almost exactly since our last podcast.

So we jumped back on mic to say hello – and goodbye, but more on that in a moment.

We actually recorded this episode in February but it’s taken us this long to coordinate the release of this last episode with the release of our new podcast… but wait, we’re still not up to that part!

So What The Hell Happened To Ralph And Carol Lynn?

We’ve been asked an embarrassing number of times why it’s been so long since our last podcast, so here’s the short story.

Last March, right after our last episode, our cat died. He was the second of our babies to go – we lost his sister two years ago at almost the same time. And he had been sick for a while, which meant he got a lot of attention and care from us and we spent a whole lot of time with him. We didn’t go out much, because he needed us. In essence, we spent two years of our lives in cat-mode, and when he was gone the house got very, very quiet.

And empty.

And sad.

So we had to deal with that emotionally and it was hard.

In the meantime, we were still growing Rahvalor (our marketing company). And we were working with new business partners on another company, developing a software product. In May, we drove out to Nashville for a trade show where we launched that product. It was a lot of much-needed fun and once we left the sad confines of our house we never wanted to go back.

So we didn’t.

The Adventure

When we returned from Nashville we decided to sell our house and move nowhere. That is, we decided to travel for a bit and see where the world took us.

We planned it meticulously – when we’d get the real estate agent, when we’d put the house on the market, when we’d likely sell and where we'd go next. In the midst of all that we were working on building ANOTHER company, which we’ll talk more about later, so in the midst of planning a move, we were also running three businesses.

And then our meticulous house-selling plans derailed. Instead of following our timeline, we got cash buyers almost immediately and, well, they wanted us out. We had a month to pack up sixteen years of STUFF, get it into storage, figure out where we were going and leave.

So yeah, podcasting was sort of not on the radar.

We missed it. But we missed our sanity, too.

Podcasting While Location-Independent

Since we sold the house and left, we've worked and traveled, traveled and worked. We camped out with family in the Boston area for a bit. Then camped out at the family beach house in Brigantine, New Jersey for a few months while we worked on our businesses. In between we’ve been to Chicago, D.C., Orlando, South Carolina, Georgia, and Franklin, Tennessee.

Running our marketing business along with two startups has been challenging and fun. It's kept us busy, but it's also kept us from podcasting. We've been dying to talk to you again, so we figured out how to do that and be on the road at the same time.

A year later, we’re back, location independent, and recording from our mobile rig. With a little help from friends - well, to be fair, with a lot of help from one specific friend, the amazing Chris Curran of Podcast Engineering School - we bought and set up just the right equipment so we can essentially podcast out of a box.

We don’t have a house and don’t plan to for a while, but that can't stop us now!

Goodbye Web.Search.Social

And now, the grand finale.

But wait! you say. Aren’t you podcasting again?

We sure are. But Web.Search.Social is retiring and we’re moving on.

Why?

Because after 180 episodes we feel like we’ve said all we want to say about web, search and social marketing. And in our last few Web.Search.Social episodes we started to talk more and more about business and entrepreneurship, so we decided to rebrand and take things in more of a business-y direction.

That doesn’t mean we won’t be talking about marketing, but we want to talk about more than that. We want to take on doing business – owning, running, managing, dealing with the good and bad.

And so we’ve rebranded and will be podcasting under the new name.

Welcome To Carbon Based Business Units Episode 181

Yes, that’s the name of the new show, and after much debate, we’re starting at episode 181 instead of episode 1. We disagreed on whether it was a new show or just an evolution of Web.Search.Social, and evolution won.

Ultimately we’ll still be us, and you’ll still be you, Fred, and we’ll still be talking with you about growing your business. We want to share our experiences so they can inspire and help you, too.

If you’re wondering why the new name, it comes from Star Trek, where they refer to people as “carbon based units.” Over the years Ralph has referred to me as his “carbon based wife unit” and we’ve extended that to parents and other people, too.

And it just seemed to fit with our belief that if you’re running a business, you can’t separate “work” and “life”. It’s all part of who you are as a whole human. Sometimes you have to run a business while taking care of a cat with cancer, and there’s no line between them. It’s all part of life.

That’s what we want to talk about – the whole thing. How business informs the personal and personal informs the business and how it’s all intertwined.

Join Us – Our Podcast Is Moving!

If you’re on our email list, you don’t have to do anything. You’ll still get updates when new episodes are published.

However, if you’re subscribed to Web.Search.Social in iTunes or some other podcast app, you will no longer receive episodes of our new podcast after this one. You will need to subscribe to Carbon Based Business Units instead, and you can do that by simply searching for the name in your podcast app.

If you’re too excited to wait another second, you can hop on over to our new website right now!

You’ll find the first episode there along with subscription options.

Thanks for coming along on our journey this far, and we hope to see you on the next leg!

Direct download: 0180-the-times-they-are-a-changin-a-new-adventure-awaits.mp3
Category:marketing, business -- posted at: 3:15pm EST

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 #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


Tea Time!

Today's podcast comes to you recorded live from Simpson & Vail in sunny Brookfield, Connecticut. If you've been listening to our podcast then you've heard us talk about tea a lot (usually accompanied by talking about pie a lot) and we've recently developed a love affair with Simpson & Vail teas.

So we thought, what better way to ring out 2015 than by visiting our new friends to talk about tea, what makes a good cup and how they grew their business?

Today's episode is a bit longer than usual but it was a ton of fun so grab a cup and settle in!

A Family Affair

Simpson & Vail is a family-run tea importing company that blends and creates myriad flavors (350 by the last count on their website) from dessert teas like Apple Cinnamon Coffeecake to herbal blends like Currant Explosion.

We spoke with four family members – Jim Sr. (dad), Joan (mom), Cyndi (daughter) and Jim Jr. (son) – plus Connor who is one of the geniuses behind the blends.

Mike Brooks of Nuclear Chowder Marketing joined us as well which makes for quite a cast of characters in this episode!

Did I mention it was a ton of fun?

Mike Makes Us Love Tea

You might wonder, why tea? Well, we've always enjoyed tea, and in fact we have an entire shelf full of various flavors of bagged tea. But Mike loves loose tea and for a long time he tried to convince us that it was the way to go.

And for a long time we weren't convinced. Bagged tea was good. And easy. Loose tea was too complicated. And would take too long to make.

And this might have gone on indefinitely except Mike took matters into his own hands and bought us a couple flavors of Simpson & Vail loose tea.

It took about one cup before we were hooked.

Now if you visit our kitchen, you'll find a huge pullout pantry shelf devoted to nothing but tins of loose tea.

Turns out it's better than bagged – and it's not all that complicated either. But we'll get to that in a minute.

Meet Mr. Tea

Jim Herron Sr., aka Mr. Tea (by my reckoning), originally purchased the business from THE Simpson and THE Vail in 1978. But the company existed long before that. In fact, it's one of the very oldest tea companies in the United States.

How old is it?

Its roots go back to 1929 and if you want the full history you can listen to the podcast or check out their evolution on their About page.

But even more than being the oldest company, it was (and is) the most highly respected. SO respected, in fact, that when we asked Jim why he didn't rename the company to "The Herrons", he said that he thought about it but then realized there was way too much clout in the brand to mess with it.

Here's an interesting tidbit:

The head of Lipton Tea's buying division was quoted in a New York Times article as recommending Simpson & Vail for a good cup of Darjeeling. After her retired, he travelled speaking on the topic of tea and consistently mentioned Simpson & Vail.

Need more proof of the strength of the brand?

When green tea hit the market hard and customers of Lipton, Tetley and Nestle asked for it, those companies (who didn't carry green tea) recommended that their customers shop with…. guess who?

Ok, so the company has some serious cred.

So why do I call Jim Mr. Tea?

Because this guy is a walking encyclopedia of tea. If you want to be fascinated like crazy, you really need to listen to him talk, but I'll highlight some of the things he shared.

  • When he bought the company, it offered 18 teas and 9 coffees. Now they offer 65 coffees and hundreds of teas.
  • A great majority of those teas are custom blends that the family developed over the years.
  • What makes this all quite impressive is that all tea derives from a single plant. That's right, one.
  • The Assam province in India provides nearly 65% of all tea in the world. Its tea gardens take up space approximately the size of the area between New York And Chicago.
  • If there is only one plant, how do we get white, green, black and others? Turns out it's all in the processing. The more moisture you take out of the leaves, the blacker it gets.
  • In fact, there is a broader spectrum than you may think – from white to green, oolong, yellow, red and black.
  • The rest – like herbals – are not really tea at all. Rather, they're called tisanes.
  • Jasmine tea (one of my favorites!) isn't flavored with Jasmine flowers. Dried Jasmine flowers actually have no flavor. The tea gets its flavor because it's grown next to a Jasmine plant and that infuses flavor into it. The same is true for Lychee and Rose Congu.
  • Flavorings are added to tea as well. They're artificial flavorings and in the case of Simpson & Vail they are all chemical-free.
  • Sometimes dried fruits are added to impart flavor – like apple, pear, papaya, strawberry and more – and sometimes they add other ingredients like coconut, lemon and orange peel and cocoa nibs.
  • Some things that are added to tea are purely for aesthetics and don't affect flavor. Dried flowers, for example, don't add flavor but they look pretty cool!

Are you starting to understand how much Jim knows about tea? You'd think he was born into it. But he wasn't. And he didn't always have this love affair with tea…

In The Beginning

Jim's entrepreneurial journey is just as fascinating as his knowledge of tea. Turns out he had no particular interest in tea at first. He was in the textile business for some time and travelling a lot. After a while he decided he'd had enough of travelling and wanted to spend more time with his family. He was working hard, and long hours, and decided, hey, you know what? If I'm going to work this hard I may as well work for myself!

It was around that time that a friend and neighbor told him about this business for sale. It was mainly a mail order business at the time and Jim figured he knew all about mail order so he partnered with his friend Dave to buy the business.

By his own admission, he realized shortly after that he didn't know as much about mail order as he thought. And he certainly knew nothing about tea.

But Dave did, and Dave had connections. So Dave took Jim to tea tastings, introduced him to everyone in the business and taught him everything he knew. After a few months Jim bought out Dave's shares and subsequently his wife joined him in the business and later Jim Jr. and Cyndi.

What I find most fascinating about Jim's story is that it's quite the opposite of much of what we hear today about being an entrepreneur. How often do you hear someone say, "Follow your passion!"

"Find something you love to do and make money doing it!"

People are very big on passion and this idea of creating the perfect life.

But Jim went into business for far more practical reasons – and passion came later. He learned to love tea, to love its history, to love its possibilities. And he absorbed everything he could about it, making himself a true expert. He is a master mixologist of tea and dedicates himself to providing the highest in quality tea experiences.

The result? Even if you have never heard of Simpson & Vail before now, if you drink tea there's a good chance it's been theirs. They are one of the largest tea importers in the country and they provide tea to coffee and tea houses, cafés, retailers and even other brands.

A Cool Side Note

In the early days of Simpson & Vail, JP Morgan asked Vail to create a special tea blend for the family. To this day, they carry the Morgan Blend and still provide tea to JP Morgan Chase bank for their Christmas tins.

Actually, Simpson & Vail carries every single one of the original tea blends from the company's earliest days. That says something about quality right there.

What Makes A Good Cup Of Tea?

It starts with the leaves, of course. And even though all leaves come from the same plant, there are quite a few variables that come into play. First-picked leaves are sought after because of course everyone wants to be first! But that doesn't mean they're the best. Much like grapes used to make wine, tea leaves gets better with age.

Leaf quality is also affected by the growing season, temperature and rainfall. Jim doesn't buy leaves picked during monsoon season because they are least appealing. He samples every single tea that he imports and keeps a sample to compare it to the actual product he receives to be sure it's of the same quality.

Ok, so you have great tea leaves. But it turns out you can still brew a nasty cup of tea.

If you add water at the wrong temperature, it can ruin a good cup of tea. For example, green teas need to be brewed at cooler temperatures than black teas or you'll get a bitter result.

And tea is only half of the equation. The other ingredient in a cup of tea is water. And if yours is full of minerals it will affect the tea flavor. For best results use filtered or bottled water that has fewer minerals.

Jim tells us that he often receives calls from customers who retire from the northeast to Florida, who complain that his teas are no longer very good. But it's not his teas. It's actually the significant change in water from one location to the next. When those customers use bottled water to brew they're in love all over again.

If this is starting to sound too complicated, trust me, I thought the same thing – until I started brewing tea. There are instructions on every package and the rules are fairly simple. Greens and whites at lower temperatures, blacks and herbal at boiling.

Brew a shorter time for small, fine leaves and longer for large or long leaves.

Once you taste the difference you may never buy bagged tea again. If you're like us, you'll even start bringing your own stash to diners and restaurants and asking for a cup of hot water.

"Do No Harm."

Jim has an incredible business ethic. Not only does he want to bring the best in tea to his customers but he has also adopted the motto "Do no harm."

What does that mean?

It means he chooses leaves that are processed without chemicals. His flavorings are all chemical-free. He avoids pesticides and imports all his tea through Germany because it's the only country in the world that inspects 100% of the food products that go through the country. So he knows he's getting the best in quality control.

It also means that all of their teas are gluten free so he can ensure that customers who need those types of products will be safe.

Finally, it means that he doesn't jump on the bandwagon when it comes to trends. Just because something is popular, he says, doesn't make it a good idea. (Now where have we heard that before? Hm…)

Some herbs and flavorings may be the newest, hottest things on the market but if he isn't sure of what impact they will have on his customers' health, he won't use them.

If I could sum up everything we learned from Jim in one sentence it would be this: know your market, test your product and make it the absolute best it can be.

How About Competition?

After our history and business lesson, we switch from speaking with Jim to speaking with Cyndi, who works closely with Mike on their marketing.

And we want to know: is it harder to sell tea now than it used to be? Back in the day when Simpson & Vail was the "It" company, there was very little competition. But now tea is everywhere.

Cyndi says that it might seem counterintuitive but in some ways marketing has gotten easier. Even though the competition was sparse in the beginning, so was interest. Now there is quite a lot of interest in tea and it's growing all the time. One of their most recent new audiences is college students who have been coming in droves to stock up before the new semester.

The interesting thing about this is that their store doesn't have that coffee-shop-college-student vibe you might think "the kids" would like.

It's a little bit like walking into your kitchen at home (but probably decorated a little better, with some pretty fun tea ware.) It's warm, cozy, homey, welcoming. There is tea brewed on the counter and cookie samples, too.

The more I think about it, the more I understand the allure for college students! Who doesn't want that taste of home?

The Literary Line

We talked with both Cyndi and Connor about their newest teas, the Literary line. They have a series of teas named after famous authors, from William Shakespeare to Charles Dickens and we got to taste them all right on the show. If you listen, that's probably the part where there was a lot of slurping and us forgetting what we were saying as we enjoyed the amazing flavors.

Jim Jr. joined us, too, to explain how an actual tasting works, which is a whole lot like wine tasting where you're supposed to sip and spit. We decided to break the rules and drink the cups dry instead, because why waste those delicious teas?!

As for the Literary line, Cyndi recognized the natural affinity between books and tea (one of MY favorite places to be is curled up with a blanket and a book beside a hot cup of tea).

So she picked out a few authors and with the help of Connor they researched the herbs, fruits and flowers that each author either wrote about or had some affiliation with.

For example, their Bronte Sisters tea contains fruits grown in the orchard where the three sisters grew up and Jane Austin's tea is flavored with lilac because that was the one flower she wrote that she couldn't live without.

From their research they blended and tasted flavors until they hit on the perfect combination.

In fact, that's how they create all their blends – try, taste and keep on going until they're happy with the result.

That's why I keep referring to them as mixologists. They're the artisans and chefs of the tea world and from the flavors I've tried so far – apple cinnamon, carrot cake, English toffee to name a few – they're spot on.

Cyndi says that people often ask her if she ever gets bored with tea, tea, tea. But as you may be able to guess by now, tea in the hands of Simpson & Vail is never "just tea." The endless possibilities for flavors and blends keeps her job exciting.

And The Marketing?

Since Mike handles their online marketing, we have him jump in to talk about how Simpson & Vail gets the word out about their teas.

In the end, it's not all that different than what we all want to do – tell a great story, create great content and get active on social media to tap into a growing fan base.

Their biggest challenge is educating people because you can't explain the tastes and smells and textures of teas in a catalog or social post or blog, no matter how hard you try. It's just something you have to experience. So the trick is to hook people in, which they do with their photography and delicious-sounding recipes, so people will be eager to try the product and go on to become evangelists.

The real trick, Mike says, is not a trick at all but the most important fundamental of good marketing and that's to be good people. Marketing starts from within the company, not from a blog post or a Facebook photo. You need a strong business with good people and a great story – and Simpson & Vail has both.

The Proof Is In The Cupcake

Sometimes in the world of online marketing we can lose sight of one of the most basic things of all, and that's to have a great product that your customers love. No "unique selling proposition" or "social marketing strategy" in the world can compensate for a poor product.

For Simpson & Vail quality – and their customers – come first.

So much so that they hand craft every tea. And they create flavors that people love. Their dessert line was born out of their customers' desire to treat themselves without all the calories and sugar of dessert. From Red Velvet Cupcake to Strawberry Cupcake and more, healthy eating (and drinking) was one trend they jumped on.

But they take it one step further, too, by hand crafting teas one customer at a time. You can call Cyndi and tell her your favorite flavors and she'll have her master tea chefs make up a blend just for you. And if you like it, it will go into their catalog so you can order it any time you want.

For a minute we lose all sense as we imagine the Web.Search.Social blend and the Ralph & Carol Lynn blend and our 20th Anniversary blend… yes, you get to name the flavor, too!

If you take nothing else away from this podcast and these notes, I want you to remember the care and dedication this company puts into their products. And the next time you visit a website that says something like, "We provide the best customer service…" or "Our products are the highest quality…" I want you to scoff and remember that it's not what you say or how many words you use to say it. The proof is in the cupcake.

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Our Last Solo Episode of 2015

We're taking a break for the holidays and coming back in 2016 to challenge some more status quo and talk about business and life, with more Seriously Social Moments and plenty of great guests.

In the meantime, we've got 10 ideas for you to use to make your business better in 2016. And stay tuned for this Thursday's episode, which is our last guest episode, recorded live from Simpson And Vail in Connecticut.

A Name Change?

Ralph has been debating whether or not our podcast needs a name change. When we started out we planned to challenge the status quo of web, search and social marketing. And we did! But over time we've evolved to talk more about business in general and even life.

So now we're wondering… does the name of the podcast really reflect what we're about? Should we change it? Or would there be a mass revolt amongst Freds everywhere?

It's up to you, Fred… change the name or keep it the same? And if we should change it, then change it to what?

Ralph suggests "Ralph and Carol Lynn take over the world" which I admit I can get behind, but we want to know what you think.

10 Things To Do To Improve Your Business In 2016, Part 1

1. Work on your customer avatar. Who do you want to do business with? Define that person specifically. Every week Ralph goes to a BNI meeting and many weeks I accompany him. And one of the things we've learned is that we can't walk in and say, "I'm looking for someone who needs marketing."

That can mean different things to different people. And it means very little to anyone but us.

Instead, we may say, "I'm looking to work with a restaurant owner in the Holmdel, New Jersey area who wants to increase lunch time sales."

Get specific about the industry your customer is in, their hobbies, everything. The better you "know" this person, the better you can speak their language and craft your messages around what that person needs.

2. Review and prune your profiles. And not just your social media profiles. Google (and Bing!) yourself and find all of your profiles online. Some may be profiles you created, others may be profiles that have been scraped from information you may not even be aware exists.

Find those and be sure they are current. Make sure they best represent any changes you've been through, whether personal or business, so that people who find you will understand what you're about and what you do. If your profiles are inconsistent then that may be confusing to people or not attract the right kind of prospects.

Speak to people who don't know you. Don't assume you're just talking to customers.

3. Take charge of your website (and your whole online presence). Know whether your site is being backed up and where. Understand where your domain is registered and when it expires. Make sure you have access to all your social logins, your hosting account, your Google analytics – everything that belongs to your business.

Someone else (like your marketing company or IT company) may have set up the accounts for you but you need to keep your own house in order and take charge of the key pieces of your business.

4. Be skeptical. Always ask the question, "Why?" Recently we read a study that said that images with faces were 23% less likely to be pinned on Pinterst than images without faces.

This stat was then turned into an infographic and repeated everywhere. But should you believe it?

When it comes to research, correlation doesn't mean causation. What are the methods used? What, exactly, was studied? How were the conclusions reached and is there enough evidence to support them?

In the case of the Pinterest stat, what industries were studied? Whose customers?

Marketing is complex and it's up to you to test. Planning to run a Facebook ad? Don't take anyone's word for "how to do it." Create your own tests. Try different photos and text. See what works for you.

In our experience, "conventional wisdom" typically takes a back seat to what actually works.

5. Schedule a brain dump every day. We've talked about GTD before and one of the principles is to dump everything out of your brain onto a piece of paper (or into an app if that's your thing.)

Your brain is not a storage device. If you try to remember what you need to do then you'll be busy trying to remember what you need to do… and have less brainpower to devote to actually doing it.

Clear out your mind by writing everything down – from buying toilet paper to writing your blog post – and then you'll be able to use your brain to focus on your actual tasks instead of just remembering them.

Your Seriously Social Moment

Today Ian talks about connecting on LinkedIn. He asks, "Should you connect with people you don't know?"

It's a topic that's widely debated.

Technically, sending a connection request to someone you don't know is against LinkedIn's terms of service. But some people believe in connecting with as many people as possible and growing a large network.

Ian says that's not for him. Social media is about building relationships and quality connections are always more valuable than the quantity of connections.

If you want LinkedIn to work for you then look for valuable connections. Don't just chase numbers.

Improve Your Business, Part 2

6. Invest in a podcatcher. Every since Ralph broke up with iTunes, he's been thrilled with his new app, Pocket Casts. If you listen to our podcast, chances are you enjoy podcasts. So don't let technology get in the way of your enjoyment. Podcasts are about the content. And there's a plethora of content to choose from – whether you're a gamer or a knitter or a history buff.

With a good app you'll have a great listening experience and you can enjoy content that will be good for your business, for your learning, for your spiritual life and for your personal life.

7. Look at how you're spending your time and money. First, you need to be tracking your time. Even if you don't bill hourly, you need to understand where your time is going, where you may be wasting it and where you need to reallocate it.

There may be gaps where you're doing things like cleaning up your computer desktop. And that may be necessary but if you're doing it for hours on a Tuesday, you're probably not working on something that's making you money.

Be sure you understand where you're spending time with clients. You may have a great client who you talk to often but who doesn't contribute all that much to your bottom line. And because of that you don't have enough time left to spend with the client who IS making you money.

If you're keeping track you'll be better able to balance your attention so you're putting it where you need to.

Second, you need to be tracking your expenses. When you get that credit card statement each month, there are probably recurring charges you don't even remember being there. Once a month if you can but once a quarter at least, check your recurring expenses to see what you can't live without, what you can consider ditching and what you can immediately cut out.

Finally, be sure you know what costs you're incurring against client work so you know that you're making enough money to justify your expenses.

8. Make a plan that is revenue centric. Not a long term plan, but rather short term goals that are tied to how much money you want to make. For example, if you want to make $100,000 next year, set that goal and then decide how many clients you need to reach that goal. Then go out and start getting those clients.

Lots of times we hear people talking about building their email lists or getting more website traffic. But those things don't pay the bills. Pay more attention to how your actions are contributing to your revenue goals.

If you pay attention to revenue then you may not be so willing to create products in the hope of making money – or giving away freebies in the hope of building a list. Many of those things are haphazard and don't necessarily tie to revenue.

But if you're focusing on whether or not your actions contribute to revenue then you'll start to make better decisions about how to spend your time and efforts.

9. Get offline. This is for the benefit of your business and personal life. If you're taking a break from work, don't play computer games. Don't browse Facebook. Turn the computer and phone off and get into the world. For your business, you need to meet people in real life, whether that's going to a networking meeting, a meetup, or just to meet someone for a cup of coffee.

We get caught up in text-speak where we talk in sentence fragments without punctuation. But in a real conversation you have to listen and respond. Practice your relationship skills. Even something as simple of making eye contact can start to feel foreign if you don't flex that muscle.

You can't build relationships as well or as fast online as you can in real life. It's a lot harder to pretend someone doesn't exist or to think of them as less than human when you're sitting in the same room.

10. GTD the heck out of your life. It's not rocket science. There are very simple steps you can take to improve your focus, be more productive and do more in less time.

For example, Ralph talks about how he shut off all his notifications – all the pings and pongs that distracted him during the day, from email to texts to social media.

Or try the Pomodoro technique, where you work for a specific length of time then take a break for a specific length of time. The idea is to focus on one task. If you implement some simple productivity techniques you can get a ton more done in a lot less time. Break the "big picture" things into tiny, manageable chunks so you can start hacking away at your tasks. Then you'll have more time to spend on your life and less on work.

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Direct download: 0166-10-ideas-to-make-your-business-better-in-2016.mp3
Category:marketing, business -- posted at: 9:00am EST

WSS #0165: Get Better! Improve Your Life And Business One Small Action At A Time

Get Better!

Today's guest is Terry Lancaster, who just published a book called "Better! Self Help For The Rest Of Us."

He recently reached out and offered me an advance reading copy of the book, and since I've been a silent stalker of his for some time, I eagerly accepted. I read the entire book in one evening because it was too much fun to put down. Terry has a great sense of humor and a no-nonsense approach to life that I find refreshing.

So I invited him on our podcast to talk about it.

And you may wonder… what does "self help" have to do with business and marketing? Well, don't let the genre fool you. It has everything to do with business and marketing – from how productive you are to how happy you are and a whole lot in between.

This episode (and Terry's book) is just in time for your New Year resolutions (tip: skip them this year and take some of Terry's advice) and perfectly coincides with a lot of what we’ve been saying lately about work-life balance. Or maybe not so much "balance" as "intertwining."

Trust me, you want to hear – and read – this.

Terry Has Actually Lived His Talk

One of the fascinating things about Terry is that his book is essentially based on how he made his life… wait for it… better.

By his own admission he ate a little too much and drank a little too much (more) and one day he thought, wow, I need to do something better with my life.

And instead of setting out to be awesome and rich and beautiful and shiny, he set out to improve something. One step, one action at a time.

He's tired of everyone telling him (and the rest of us) that were not rich enough, not thin enough, not good looking enough. That we don’t have the nicest, whitest teeth or the wealthiest client list or the most perfect 6-pack abs.

The cool thing about Terry is that instead of doing the whole "woe is me" routine, he decided that he didn’t need to be any of those things. He just needed to be better than he was.

His advice?

Be who you are. Only better.

Great, So How Does This Work?

Not only do you not have to strive for perfection but you can be perfectly content with what you have. And that sounds fabulous, but it sounds a little idealistic, too. Doesn't life just suck sometimes? Aren't we sometimes just fat and broke and cranky?

Maybe… but Terry insists that the first step to making your life better is to adopt an attitude of gratitude. Most of us, he says, are busy trying to get from "bad" to "best".

Instead, start by thinking of how good you already have it.

You probably have a roof over your head. If you're reading this, you have internet! And a computer. You're probably not living in a van down by the lake.

So begin to believe that you have it pretty good right where you are now. Be grateful.

And once you stop feeling like you're starting from the worst possible scenario, you can take the next step which is to stop feeling like you have to get to the best possible scenario. You only have to get… wait for it… better.

The Miserable Crowd

Some people like their misery. Some people are comfortable complaining. They will perpetually compare themselves to other people (and find their own lives lacking). They will lean towards pessimism and negativity.

Admit it, you've been there. We all feel disappointment in where we are. We want more.

And a lot of people are prone to complaining instead of gratitude. So I want to know… how do we help those people? The ones who aren't satisfied with their lives? Our friends and family who complain, who feel lacking, who can bring a party down every time someone asks them, "So, how are you?"

These are people we care about and even if we feel grateful, it still makes us feel bad when people we care about feel bad. So what do we do?

Terry is realistic. He says we can't do anything. We have no control over other people, how they feel or behave. The only thing we can control is our own behavior and responses. His advice is simply to live your life in a state of gratitude, work toward the thing you want to be better at and let your joy shine as an example to others.

I have to admit, I completely agree. In fact, it's something I've struggled with, too. When people I care about are perpetually unhappy, I want to help. And there may be practical things I can do to help in difficult times, but as far as changing how someone feels, that's not in my control. And it's not in yours. No matter how much you care about someone, you can't fix their problems or lives.

But what you can do is live yours. Instead of participating in negativity and pessimism, you can lead by example. Instead of indulging people who complain constantly you can live in what Terry refers to as your own joy.

You don't need to convince anyone that your way is right (or better!) You just need to do what you need to do. And the same way that those negative, complaining people can bring you down, you can bring them up – just by existing in their space.

Marketing Is The Problem

Terry says something else that I agree with, which is that the reason many of us are so dissatisfied is because of marketing.

After all, what is marketing if not the pursuit of proving that something is missing and you need it right now! You need that car, those white teeth, that job, those clothes.

And what sells those things is the story of extremes. People who lose a hundred pounds. People who start a business in their basement that gets bought out by Facebook and they become billionaires overnight.

Those stories make us think we want that. We can do that or be that or get that!

But those are extremes.

And nobody tells you the story of the guy who lost five pounds but is super happy about it. Or landed that one awesome new client. That stuff doesn't make the evening news because it's ordinary. But that stuff is also real life.

The sooner we can live our real lives and not the ones we've been told to want, the sooner we will actually be happier and get better at the things that matter.

Getting Past The Abstractions

This all sounds nice, but how do we actually get better? Skip the motivational talks, Terry says. In fact, forget the idea of motivation entirely. Instead, work on building habits.

Do one thing at a time. Choose to run. Choose to make a sales call. Do it today. Then do it the next day. Then keep doing it.

Doing that will build a habit so the action becomes automatic.

By the way, this is totally possible and you can take it from Terry, who has clearly proven that he's made his life better, or you can take it from me because I actually took his advice. Every day, once a day, I do a pushup. That's right, one pushup. I'm not trying to get buff and strong. I'm just trying to do a pushup.

And after two weeks, I've been doing a pushup every day because… I don't know, because that's what I do now. And that's when behavior becomes habit. The cool thing is that after a while I actually will become stronger, even though I didn't do anything especially dramatic.

So your job is to pick something you can do, want to do, to make your life better in some small way.

Then do it.

Don't make it a big goal or a huge challenge. In fact, don't make it a goal at all. Terry says that goals are about outcomes and what we need to do is concentrate on inputs. And the inputs are the behaviors. Once we input the right behaviors, the outcomes (or goals) will follow naturally.

So go ahead, I dare you. Do one pushup, right now. Then do it again tomorrow. After a few days see what happens. I bet you'll just do it. If you're like me, you may even get off the floor eventually! And maybe after that you'll even do two.

The best part is that you'll improve your fitness along the way.

And by the way this goes for business, too. Make that sales call. Now. Then make one tomorrow. Eventually you will improve your bottom line.

What If…

We humans are excuse-making machines. So I pose some excuses… I mean very good reasons… for not doing what I know I need to do to make my life better.

For starters… I've been down the whole "improve your life" road before. I've gotten on good streaks with good momentum. Then something happens. I get tired. It's the holidays. I'm busy. And I stop.

Now I'm off the bandwagon. So… what if I fail? What if I break my streak and stop getting better?What if I do a pushup for 300 days in a row then forget on the 301st and eat a whole pie instead? What do I do?

Terry says forgive yourself. You don't have to be perfect. You just have to start where you are, whether that's at the end or at the beginning of a streak.

Awesome. But what if I've fallen off the bandwagon and I want to start again but my inner critic is telling me I'll never be good enough? It's telling me I'll always be broke or fat or never as smart as everyone else. Then what?

Terry answers this one pretty decisively. Tell your head to shut up.

Just. Stop it.

Everyone has that voice in their head. So just stop listening to it. In fact, Terry says that we have to train our brains the same way we train our bodies. We're pretty used to working out at the gym but how many of us work out our minds?

We're so used to the obnoxious voices that we assume they belong there. But with a mental workout we can learn to distance ourselves from those voices. And that workout is called meditation. The purpose of mediation is not to lead you to a mountaintop in Tibet but to teach you how to quiet the unhelpful narrative in your head and focus on the moment.

Great. I can do a pushup. And I can meditate. But what if I like Oreos? (And I do!) Should I deny myself what I want and call it progress?

Terry is pretty clear on this, too. He says… yes! Deprive yourself! Lots of people like heroine but do we tell them to use it once in a while? Hell no, we tell them stop it!

Oreos (or more specifically sugar) is just as addictive and I hate to agree with someone quite this much, but I know this from experience, too.

Ok, so we're on our way to better health! And if you listened to our last episode you know how that leads to better focus and productivity at work.

But… what if I'm an introvert? And I don't like networking? Or sales calls?

Terry says there are a million ways to connect with people. You don't need to do any one specific thing. Don't be afraid to try things that are outside your comfort zone but ultimately don't make excuses for not doing something.

Apps: Helping Or Hurting?

These days there's an app for everything. Or more accurately there are about a billion apps for everything. Whether you want to exercise more or be more productive, there are apps to help you track and even gamify your tasks.

But is this really a good thing? Are apps helping us track and improve or are they distracting us so we focus more on the app than on the activity?

We don’t have a good answer to this but truthfully only you can judge for yourself. If you use an app that helps or keeps you on track, then use it. But if it ends up as another reason to compare yourself to others (and find yourself lacking) or takes up more of your time than the activity you're working on, it may be time to skip it.

The bottom line? Don't overcomplicate it. Just get up and do something.

Your Action Item

From Terry: When you're done listening to this podcast, take the next 25 minutes to focus on just one thing. Do you want to walk? Meditate? Clear out your inbox? Turn off all the beeps and alerts and focus on one thing for that period of time.

Links & Resources

Find Terry and his book online and as a bonus, if you go to his site during the week between Christmas and New Year's you can download the entire book for free!

Subscribe to be notified whenever we publish new content and to stay in the loop on some new podcasts and other fun stuff that’s coming up.


Are You Up For Nadia's Challenge?

SuperFred Nadia Bracken reached out to us just last week and issued a challenge to listeners and Freds everywhere.

Here's what she said: "I like your show so much because of the action item. It is like I don't have to decide what to do next. I don't have to deal with decision fatigue. You just tell me and I obey."

First of all, we love having someone obey us!

Secondly, we love the challenge that she followed up with, which is to be productive by performing one of our action items every day for the month of December.

We're going to help you by giving you a list of action item ideas right here. If you're like Nadia and you want to obey, choose one item per day and DO IT. Or if you have a better idea, feel free to do your own item.

But that's not all! We need proof.

Every time you perform an action item, we want you to post it online and tell us about it. Post it to Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #WSSup. Or if you're super obedient, take a photo of yourself engaged in the action item and post it on Instagram with the hashtag #WSSup. If you do that, as an added bonus, we'll also allow it to be automatically posted to our Facebook page.

Now, get busy. Post your action item successes and photos.

Just please, no porn!

No, seriously. No porn.

Ralph Stabs iTunes In The Skull

That may sound a bit dramatic but trust me, I live with him. I know how much he hates iTunes.

We've actually both had similar problems recently with iTunes getting out of synch, deleting podcasts we wanted and adding podcasts we didn't, and as a result we've both stopped listening to podcasts as much as we used to.

But Ralph had a bit of an epiphany when he realized hey, you know what? I don't have to use iTunes! And thus began his quest to find another app.

Turns out there is a whole class of apps called "podcatchers" that let you listen to podcasts and Ralph rather vigorously researched and then finally tested out two finalists.

One is called Overcast and the other is called Pocket Casts.

They both have the un-iTunes-like advantage of being completely in synch across devices. So when he switches from desktop to laptop to iPad to phone, both apps always remember precisely where he left off on a podcast.

Each of the apps has some cool perks.

Overcast has a really great notes section where you can see more details and links. It also has a nifty feature where it will remove extra pauses in the conversation and even level out voices so they sound great.

On the down side, Overcast is focused on the mobile app and is not quite as robust on desktop. And you can't create playlists on the desktop version.

Pocket Casts is beautiful, Ralph says, and he prefers its features and interface. But it has a few quirks, too. For starters, when you share a podcast to social media, it doesn't link back to the podcast. Rather, it links to the podcast within the app. That deprives the content creator of the traffic and also doesn't take listeners to the show notes. Plus the share links have Pocket Casts branding instead of pulling your feature image.

There is no playlist option on the desktop version of this app, either.

In the end, Pocket Casts wins for its simplicity and features. And iTunes is dead to us.

Your Seriously Social Moment

This is the last of Ian's miniseries on roadblocks to creativity. But never fear, he'll be back with more social goodness next week!

Today he mentions a book called the War of Art (yes, you read that right). He says the book has been a big influence on him. In it, the author says that if you're doing creative work, you will face resistance. And the battle is usually from within.

The inner voice telling you that you're not good enough. Or that you have other things to do. Or that you're tired.

But Ian says: just start. You have to face the fear and resistance and GO. Keep moving forward and you'll break into the sunlight of creativity.

Forty Three Things But A Pound Ain't One

We've talked about our quest to be healthier, which started in earnest at the beginning of August this year. I visited my doctor in July and I visited him again just this week. And both times he weighed me and in between those times I lost 43 pounds.

The best part about that is that I haven't obsessed about it. I didn't cut out entire food groups like potatoes or meat or butter. I didn't set huge goals and I don't spend hours a day working out.

What I do is eat food. Real food. The only thing I've cut out is processed food, which primarily consists of sugar. And what I do is spend three miles a day on the treadmill. Whether that's jogging, walking or crawling, it's not about how fast or how hard. It's a very simple activity that I do without stressing myself out. In fact, most days I barely break a sweat.

So how does this affect my business?

In a lot of ways, it turns out. For starters, it's given me a lot more energy. I used to be perpetually tired. Sleep until eight, drag through the day, nap at three, dinner then bed. Stairs were hard. Leaving the house was hard. Sometimes just opening the computer was hard.

I feel a lot better now about everyday activities. I can do a lot more because I'm simply not tired and depleted every day.

Another positive effect has been better focus.

Ever have those moments where you open a closet to look for something and forget what you went to look for? So you close the closet and walk away and eventually it comes back to you and the cycle starts all over.

I was doing that constantly. Constantly unfocused. Constantly distracted. Getting anything done was a monumental task.

But my concentration has been noticeably better and I am far more productive and far more efficient, without changing much more than the amount of vegetables I eat in a day.

Turns out when you feed your body, you also feed your mind. Your business is tied into the rest of your life and wellness so ignore one to the detriment of the other.

You don't need giant, lofty goals. You just need to decide what you want to get better at and then do something. Do one thing. And do it now.

Your Action Item(s)

Thanks to Nadia for posting today's Action Item Challenge!

Your action item today is to download this list of action items and do one today. And then do another tomorrow. Keep going for each day through the end of December.

And who knows, you may just keep going after that without our nudging!

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WSS #0161: Free Is A Four-Letter Word: Why It's Worse For Business Than You Think

Irked.

Today's guest is Blair Glaser and we asked her to be on to continue the conversation about why you should not be giving away your time and services for free. On our last episode on the topic we got a ton of feedback – all of which was from people who are also tired of doing work for free, all of whom agree that enough is enough.

Then not 30 seconds before starting this recording, I got a text from a friend saying that she'd been contacted by a big agency to do some work for them. I was really excited to hear that, until she followed up by telling me that their idea of "working together" meant "you write our blog for free."

Irked!

Webinar Or Romper Room?

Remember back in the day when the Magic Mirror would look out into TV-viewer-land and see you there? And the hostess of the show would greet a few lucky watchers – Hi Emily, Hi Sam, ooh I see Jenny and Joe…

Well, our guest today mentions that attending one of those free webinars is a little like that. The person hosting the webinar greets one person after the next until it starts to get a bit annoying. Plus, it makes her wonder, "Where are all these people coming from?"

Blair continues by saying what we all know: many of those free webinars are nothing more than an hour-long sales pitch. The lengthy greetings are usually followed by the short pitch, followed by maybe a bit of info followed by the long pitch. It's all pretty slimy and uncomfortable, often not the best use of our time.

If you've ever put on a webinar you know how it can be like pulling teeth to get people to sign up – let alone show up. So how do some people always manage to have gadzillions of people (who they then greet individually in a way that cuts into 10 minutes of your precious viewing time)?

Turns out… and I think I blew Blair's mind a little here… that you can buy software to fill seats for you. Not with actual people, but with names that make it look like there are people. I guess that's the webinar version of social proof, eh?

The longer our conversation goes on, the more we agree: some of these webinars are good, but a lot of them leave us feeling slimed. Kind of gives free a bad name.

Losing Your Authority

Blair makes a great point about how continuing to give away time, products and services (including your valuable content) takes you "out of your authority."

What ends up happening is that we attend the webinars. We subscribe for other people's email courses. We watch the instructional videos. We get all this free stuff that purports to tell us "how to do something." We see very successful people "doing something." And we want to do it, too.

So we follow their plans and blueprints because if THEY are doing well with this methodology, WE can.

But Blair says no.

Blair says that chasing the carrot leads to doing things that don't push you forward on your own path, into your own authority. It doesn't help you find the things that work for you because you're too busy doing things that work for someone else.

The result? Disappointment. Feeling like a failure. Burnout.

Burnout Is Bad

You probably don't need to be told that burnout leads to a host of bad outcomes. It has negative effects on your mental well being, your health and your business.

But worse, perhaps, is after you've put in all this effort to create your free offers and free webinars and free books and whitepapers and courses… and you get a client. But wait… why is that bad?

Because you may end up being so darn happy that your efforts paid off that you aren't even paying attention to whether this client is a good fit for you. And that can lead to bad business and even worse burnout.

You Are Not "In Service"

Blair challenges some serious status quo when she says that there is a myth we’ve been brainwashed to believe, which is that by producing all this free content and doing all this free work, we are "serving people." This idea of being "of service" to people has got us pumping out more and more free stuff.

But that is not our job. It's not yours.

Service and money have to coexist. Blair is a big proponent of the law of reciprocity. She says that you give and you get. In business, you typically give your customers what they want and need – and you get money. Anything less is not business.

A Good Use Of Free

Do you know what standup comedians do? They perform a set at a small comedy club for free so they can test the material out on a live audience and refine it so it'll be ready for the big (paid) gig on HBO or something nice and profitable.

We all agree that this is a great way to think of doing stuff for free. If you're working on a product or service and want to "test" your material out on an audience so you can get feedback and perfect it, go ahead. But again, consider the law of reciprocity: you're giving (free content) but you're getting, too (feedback and an opportunity to improve for your paid gig.)

Pro Bono Is Not The Same As Free

We take a brief detour to discuss doing pro bono work, which essentially boils down to doing stuff for free but it's entirely different than the kind of free we don't like.

Pro bono work is something you choose to do deliberately because you value or believe in what you're doing. In many cases, you actually are "in service" when you do pro bono work.

We do pro bono work for non-profits and for our school district. But it doesn't inhibit our ability to run our business and we don't expect any monetary return.

Still, we get something in return: we get to feel pretty damn good about what we're doing. We get to feed our souls, nourish our values. We get the satisfaction of knowing we're supporting our community.

Blair is pretty adamant about the circle of giving and getting. Whether it's money, emotional satisfaction or something else, you need both ends.

The Gratitude Hangover

Here's a perspective we've never explored and it's this: when you give something away for free, the recipient feels grateful. But that gratitude can turn to guilt if the recipient doesn't hire you or buy from you.

I bet you never considered that your free stuff could be making people feel bad. Now, not everyone has this problem of course. Lots of people are happy to take your free stuff and run. But there are also plenty of us with a sense of gratitude and loyalty who do want to participate in the law of reciprocity and give back to the people who give to us. But sometimes it's not a good fit, and it feels bad not to give back.

Subways During Rush Hour

Blair says that all this free stuff has turned our inboxes into a subway during rush hour. And that leads to the other negative effect on recipients of free stuff: overload. The more free stuff people sign up for the more their inboxes and desktops get cluttered and the harder it gets to process.

And at least for us in marketing, we've noticed that the more free stuff people get, the less they learn. The problem is that so much information contradicts other information. And as Blair mentioned earlier, it's too easy to think you need to try something that isn't for you, just because it worked for someone else.

The problem is the same in other industries where too much information can be confusing. Coaches, consultants, therapists, nutritionists… you may get quite a lot of conflicting information from different professionals so that if you're looking for "the answer" you're only going to get stuck in analysis paralysis.

That doesn't mean one person is right and another is wrong. People may just have different philosophies, approaches, ideas. They may all be valid. But that doesn't mean they are all valid for you or that you have to follow them all. If you plan to work with a professional, pick one that you trust, and go.

Less Free Stuff = More Money

Blair noticed something interesting in her business when she stopped doing free webinars: she had a whole lot more time to do other things. And one of those things was getting out into the world to meet people where she closed more business and made more money.

We had the same experience. When we stopped all the free meetings and free consultations, we started to focus on the things that made us money. And expect compensation for the value we provided.

You can do it too. Want to vet clients through a free 20-minute consultation? Or test out some free content on an audience? Go ahead, but remember the law of reciprocity – you need to be getting something of value in return.

And remember, you have to value yourself, your time and your services before anyone else will.

Your Action Item

From Blair: Have fun. It may seem counterintuitive not to do something "big" but that's the point. If you're feeling overwhelmed or stuck, do something fun, whether it's a fun work project or a fun hobby.

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WSS #0156: You Asked, We Answer: Business, Freebies And Guest Blogging Conundrums

Get Your Graphics On

The Visual Social Media Conference is coming up on November 4 and 5 - it's online and it's live and you won't find a better roster of presenters, including our very own Alisa Meredith, the manly Jeff Sieh, the wonderful Katherine Kotaw, Peg Fitzpatrick, Donna Moritz, Rebekah Radice and more. They've each got a tip, trick or tool (or maybe all three!) to help you market using great visuals.

BONUSRegister with the code WSS and get 15% off the ticket price.

Entrepreneurial Fail

Yesterday was not such a hot day in the realm of our entrepreneurial journey. We were supposed to demo progress on our new software product to our business partners and Ralph worked all weekend to make magic happen.

Instead of magic, Monday happened… and instead of installing the software, Ralph basically blew up the data.

To make matters worse, he says he made a stupid mistake that he never should have made. And in his efforts to fix it, things just kept getting worse.

There was no partner demo. The partners were not happy. And Ralph stewed in a cloud of failure.

Goes to show that no matter where you are in your entrepreneurial journey or how experienced you are, you're going to make mistakes. You're going to have bad days. Sometimes really bad things will happen and you'll get mad at yourself and maybe other people will get mad at you too, but you have to keep on going.

And even though Ralph called himself a failure today, I don't believe in calling yourself or anyone else a failure. I've deemed it a "failure event" but insist that Ralph is not at all a failure.

Also, we learned that pie can help ease the pain. As long as it's served with a side of Oreos.

Giving Stuff Away For Free

Today we take on two questions that listeners asked as a result of our recent "Death to Free" episode.

The first comes from Nadia Bracken and goes something like this:

I don't want to charge for my program but it is expensive to administer. I'm burning through a lot of cash and paying a VA every month. I want to hire someone to help me with social media and content production. You said to tell you when I wanted something to be free. I want it all to be free. What should I do? I am not running a business. Do I have to?

Well, Nadia, there are two key points here.

One is burning through cash.

While giving stuff away is noble and wonderful, it won't pay the bills. If you can fund your freebie and you love giving things away, do it! By no means are we suggesting that giving things away is a bad thing. But if it's costing you more than you're earning one way or another, then something has to give.

If you've got the money, great. You can fund your passion project. If not, you need to earn the money to pay for it or perhaps ask for donations or even crowd fund it.

The second key point is not running a business.

And that is, of course, the context we're referring to. Free stuff is great and we want it, too! But when you're running a business then you need to earn money to support yourself and your business, to pay your staff and bills and to allow you to continue to uphold your obligation to service your paying clients. So no, you don't have to run a business and you can give away your time and products to your heart's content. But if you are running a business then free is not your best friend.

A Seriously Social Moment

Today Ian Anderson Gray wants you to stop saying "thank you" on social media. Funny, coming from a British guy who is confoundingly polite. He is so polite that it took him several years before he enlightened us to the fact that he is Scottish and not Bristish. But who's splitting hairs?

But he has a point. It's become rather rote for us to spit out a "thank you" when someone comments on our post, shares it, tweets it… so rote that it seems to have lost its meaning.

Ian says that instead of an automated thank you, how about a genuine question or a show of support? How about introducing someone to someone else or sharing another idea?

While being polite is important and being grateful is, too, Ian want you to be mindful of being a person. And you can't automate gratitude.

No Return On Guest Blogging

Another listener asked a question related to the same episode about free stuff. We got so much feedback on that episode we're going to revisit it soon.

But for today, Stephanie Parker asked this:

I agreed to be a guest blogger on another blog and it has turned in to me providing way too much free content with little to no traffic back to my site. Any tips on breaking it off without burning my bridges?

Ralph says that people tend to be more afraid of burning bridges than they need to be. If you're doing something for free or doing someone a favor, there's an unspoken understanding that it's not permanent and that if you have other obligations to attend, you may need to stop doing that free thing.

We call this "negotiating with yourself". This is where you have an imaginary conversation in your head about what is going to happen if you say or do something and usually it doesn't bear resemblance to reality.

We both agree that you can extricate yourself by being direct and tactful. Thank the person for the opportunity and let them know that you have other obligations to attend, which includes clients and paid work. Everybody we've ever dealt with like this has been agreeable. And if that person is not agreeable? They've burned the bridge, not you.

A Guest Post Tangent

Stephanie's question led me to wonder, if she's investing so much time in guest posting, why isn't it turning into traffic? Before calling it quits, I suggest there may be a way to capitalize on guest blogging. Of course, it's important to know whether the site you're posting on gets decent traffic. If not, then you probably won't get any either.

But there are other things you can do to improve traffic. One, make sure your name, website and social links and bio are all prominent on the post. Some bloggers put the post under their name then write an introduction to your post, but that doesn't necessarily highlight you. Nor does it highlight your website or information.

Then try to include links within your content that go back to your website. As long as you're not adding affiliate links, ads or other spammy types of links, bloggers are typically amenable to letting you put links in your content to other relevant content. Make it easier for people to get to your site and see what happens.

It should go without saying that your content has to be great. Make it something that someone really wants to read and they're more likely to want more.

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WSS #0154: Death To Free: How To Get Paid For What You Do

First, A Word From Our Sponsor

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Things That Are Not Funny

Last week we had a few days of things that were not fun or funny. At the same time that one of our business partners was in Nashville demoing our new software, we were here in New Jersey making sure everything went smoothly. Except right in the middle of it all I got sick and with no doctors in sight, ended up having to go to the emergency room.

And even though that wasn't fun OR funny, the even less funny part is that while I was there, someone stole our license plates.

That necessitated a police report, a couple of trips to the DMV, a bunch of paperwork and things that were not fun in general.

But there is a bright side. Amidst all the stress, the people we dealt with from the medical personnel to the police officers to the DMV and everyone in between were extremely nice and helpful. So if something bad had to happen, at least it came with great customer service. And in the end having people on our side made a huge difference in our outcomes.

The Myth Of The Internet

Today we want to talk about getting paid and how to do it. But it seems like we're running uphill because there is a myth perpetrated by internet culture that before you can expect to get paid for anything you first have to give away a lot of stuff for free.

This doesn't seem to be a problem in the real world. When a contractor comes to our house he never offers to paint the bedroom for free and then if we like it he'll think about charging us to paint the living room.

So why is this so prevalent on the internet? Well, we're not entirely sure except to speculate that it worked for someone. And that person then told everyone else to do it, and like the echo chamber that the internet can be, everyone just… did.

The thing is, giving stuff away for free did work for a lot of people. We'll call them "the early adopters" because they were giving stuff away long before anyone else thought to do it. And there was a lot less stuff out there and a lot less competition.

Now that content, and especially free content, is so ubiquitous, we're all in a race to the bottom to out-free each other.

A Dangerous Mindset

The more you give away, the more people expect you to give stuff away. So when you finally do politely ask for money, people are outraged! And then we start to feel somehow wrong for asking for it.

People who are the heavy hitters in your industry, I bet they don't run around giving everything away for free. That isn't to say they don't have a freebie, a perk, an offer – but they more often sell.

Giving stuff away also encourages tire kickers. They're just out trolling for free stuff and will probably never pay you. Why should they, when most of anything they could need is free – if not through you, then somewhere else?

Perpetrating a constant stream of free stuff just devalues what you do.

So what can you do?

A Seriously Social Intermission

Today Ian Anderson Gary brings us a question with a perfect tie-in. He asks: when was the last time you checked your vanity metrics? Your Klout score, number of Twitter followers, number of Facebook fans. Admit it, you love those numbers! And we do too, but they are not an end goal.

Would you rather have fans or customers?

Would you rather have an impressive Klout score or customers?

Would you rather have a huge email list or customers?

You're seeing a pattern, I bet.

Keep the end in mind, and if you're running a business, that’s to make money.

Money Is Not A Bad Word

If you're afraid to ask for money then you probably shouldn't be in business. Wanting to make money is not wrong or bad or immoral. You're providing value in exchange for money. It's a fair trade and it's how business works.

The first thing you need to do is accept that or you may want to consider running a charity instead.

Raise Your Prices

We touched on this with Chris Curran last week and it sounds completely counter intuitive, but raising your prices can result in more – and better – business.

Of course we're not talking about arbitrarily raising your prices. We're talking about assigning a price tag that equals the value you provide.

Is that easy to do? Heck, no. We've spent years working on that formula. But start thinking about what you're worth instead of what the other guy is charging.

How good are you at what you do? How much experience and knowledge do you bring? And yes, how much time do you invest?

We're not fans of hourly pricing but there is a practical reality to the time you spend on your work. That could include not just working time but thinking time. There is actually tremendous value in your brain!

And we're talking about selling services because if you're selling a widget there is only so much you can do about price if half the world is selling that widget, too.

But when you're selling a service, YOU are the product and that means your collective years of knowledge and experience and talent. That's worth something. And you have to value it before you can expect someone else to.

Find The Intersection Of What Makes You Money And What You Love To Do

There may be parts of your job that you love but that don't have any real monetary value in the marketplace. And there may be things you hate to do but that make you money. The trick is in finding that place where money and liking your work meet.

Get rid of the rest.

If you try to sell everything you're not going to enjoy yourself and you won't really ever be a master at any of them. It may sound counterintuitive but instead of broadening your services, narrow them down. Focus on the things you're great at.

Sometimes there is a practical reality to business where you need to do things you don't love because you need the money.

But if you don't find that intersection of things you love and things that make you money, eventually your business is just going to be a financial and emotional burden on you.

Follow "Free" With "Buy Me"

We don't want you to give stuff away. But there is merit in the idea of giving away a freebie as an incentive for people to join your email list or follow you. But if you're planning on giving something away or making a free offer, make sure you always have a process and system in place to move people from free to paid.

If you put on a free webinar, be ready to sell something during or after. If you offer a free download for joining your email list, then email those people with your paid offer.

Don't follow up your free offer with another free offer. Choose your freebie carefully and make sure it's only the tip of the sales iceberg.

Build Your Reputation

If you're working in a saturated space (and who isn't these days?) one of the ways you can compete without pouring a ton of time into free thing after free thing is to work hard on your reputation and authority.

And one of the ways you can do that is to get yourself a guest appearance on a podcast. Nay, many guest appearances! Yes, you can guest blog, but there is something very powerful about getting your voice and personality out there in a way that doesn't come across in writing.

Find podcasts in your niche and pitch the producers with your idea. We're always happy to hear from people who have relevant ideas and lots of podcasters are glad to fill their guest rosters.

And one final counterintuitive suggestion… find shows that may not seem like a good fit… and fit them.

Recently I was on a podcast called The Creative Yarn Entrepreneur podcast hosted by Marie Segares. It's a podcast dedicated to home based business owners who create patterns for knitting and crocheting or do crafts themselves.

I can barely thread a needle so why would I possibly have been on that podcast? Turns out Marie wanted me to help her home-based business audience learn more about creating their websites and promoting themselves online.

So while a podcast about yarn may not seem like a good fit on the surface, it turned out to be perfect. Your job is to do some homework and find opportunities, even when it seems like none exist.

A word of warning: don't pitch an insurance podcast on discussing cold fusion. It should go without saying that your topic should be interesting and relevant to that podcast's audience.

Your Action Item

If you feel compelled to give something away for free, email, call, message or smoke signal one of us and let us talk you out of it. More importantly, let us talk to you about what you can do instead.

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Direct download: 0154-death-to-free-how-to-get-paid-for-what-you-do.mp3
Category:marketing, business -- posted at: 12:00am EST

WSS #0153: Pivoting In Business: The Agony, The Ecstasy And The Oreos

An Infinitely Complex Pattern…

…that is self similar across different scales. Admittedly I have no idea what that means but apparently it's the definition of a fractal. As it so happens, we have Chris Curran making a guest appearance today, master podcasting genius behind the podcast production company Fractal Recording.

Chris was very kind to join us, considering we sprung it on him about a half hour before we started recording and didn’t bother to tell him the topic. He's a good sport! And he's the perfect guest for today's topic: pivoting.

To Change Or Not To Change?

Coincidentally (or is it karma?) Chris is going through a major shift in his business at the same time that we are. And much like us, he has gone through this before.

Today we talk about two kinds of pivoting: the voluntary kind where you know you have to change something because of financial reasons or because you're not exactly in love with what you're doing anymore and the involuntary kind where some s#%! goes down and you realize you have to change or die.

Both Chris and we have been through both kinds so we have plenty of notes to compare. Recently, Chris (in his own words) "got screwed over" and royally stabbed in the back by a business partner and that forced a pivot for him. Plus he knew he wasn't quite realizing his vision for his business so when things with his partner went south, he made a major shift.

Interestingly, Chris acknowledges that this pivot has made him profitable for the first time since he started the business.

Change or die, right?

Raise Your Prices, Close More Business?

Chris told us something both fascinating and counterintuitive: he raised his prices substantially and got more clients. Perhaps the most interesting thing is that coincidentally we did the same thing. And we got more business, too.

Yet the idea of raising prices is hair-raising for most small business owners. It was hair-raising for us! After all, when it comes to building websites and doing marketing, there's a developer and a social media ninja guru on every corner. And many of them charge a fraction of what we do.

But after a lengthy analysis we recognized that we were charging too little for the comparable time we invested and value we provided to our clients. We were in a race to the bottom with all the DIYers and "day trippers" (people who work at the supermarket by day and do social media marketing by night because they read a book about it). And we couldn't – shouldn't have even tried to – compete with that.

Chris's story shares the core of ours. We both wanted to attract a higher quality client, one who understands the value of our services and has the means to pay for it. Like Chris, we raised our prices to match our value. The result?

We lost a lot of leads. Lots of people walked out the door and many never even knocked.

But…

We also closed more business with the right people. So, fewer clients but higher value clients. In the end we could invest the time and produce the quality work we wanted and get paid to do it.

And that's something for you to think about as you continue to grow your business. Are you pricing your services commensurate to the value you provide and the experience and knowledge you bring? Or are you undermining yourself by trying to charge the same – or less than – your perceived competition?

Chasing Down The Next Product

One of the key pivots Chris made early in his entrepreneurial life was to evolve from being a life success consultant to being an audio engineer. Now that's a serious shift!

But why?

At the time, he'd been developing products, including courses, webinars and even books. And one of the things he found was that when he released one of these courses or webinars it took off and he made some nice money. But over time fewer people showed up and fewer people bought. So he had to create a new course or a new webinar and when he released the next one, it took off and made money. But the cycle repeated itself and over time interest and attention dwindled.

Chris knew he couldn't sustain a business or a life by constantly trying to release new products as soon as the ones he already created started to wane. And we totally agree. It's exhausting and not entirely profitable to keep chasing down the next thing. A business has to be sustainable and if you spend your life in a constant state of anxiety over "the next thing" that's not only bad for business but for your well being.

Know When To Hold 'Em, Know When To Fold 'Em

All this talk of making changes in business (some of them rather significant) makes us wonder: where's the line between "I need to keep going and make this work" and "It's time to bail out before I sink"?

For each of us it's slightly different. For Chris, he was tired of chasing "the next thing" and wanted to make money. He was out of ideas for how to promote his products and services and essentially stuck where he was. He does say that if you have more ideas for improving then go ahead and try them! But if you're done then you're done and some of that is just instinctually knowing yourself, knowing your limitations and knowing what you want to do.

For us, we've been faced with the decision to bail or not to bail before, most significantly during the financial collapse of 2008. One of our largest clients, a financial service provider during a time when financial service providers were going under every day, went from providing us with a substantial amount of work to cutting the cord instantly.

Ralph and I seriously considered quitting the business and getting jobs. Why didn't we? Well, lots of tangled reasons, in part because we didn't want to (we enjoy running our business too much), in part because like Chris said, we still had ideas for pushing forward, and in part because we were willing to suck it up, tough it out, suffer through it and plan for the day we saw the other side.

For you, the line may be in a completely different place. There's no science behind knowing it's time to take a new path or tough out the one you're on. Just know that every business has to change at some point. And if you're a business owner and entrepreneur, part of your job is to keep your eyes open for the signs, to pay attention to your industry, your clients and your own needs and desires, and decide.

Pivoting: Piece Of Cake Or Pain In The @$$?

We're in our 40s now, so pivoting involves a lot more creaking these days. The hinges are getting rusty. We want to retire one day! So our business changes involve a whole lot more thinking about our end game than it did when we were 20-something.

We're a little more careful, thoughtful. But that doesn't mean we're stopping. We all agree that unless you are ready financially and emotionally to retire then you have to keep going. You have to keep trying. You can't quit! You just have to evolve.

But that doesn't make it easy. There are depressing moments. Frustrating and disappointing ones. You may want to quit. You may, like us, drown yourself in box after box of Oreos.

But as a true entrepreneur you've got something special. You have a certain creativity and an ability to adapt. You wouldn't be here otherwise. You would just be doing "a job", collecting a paycheck and going home.

So even though there are going to be miserable moments that may even make you doubt your own entrepreneurial cred, you'll come up with another idea. You'll set a goal that will spark that passion again. You may succeed this time, or you may fail. But you will keep going!

Your Action Item

From Chris: Look at your personal life, from spiritual to mental, wellness to diet, and see if there are any areas there where you need to pivot. You are a whole human being and your personal life affects your business life. Your interests and hobbies and relationships pivot, too. So see where your personal life may be impacting your business and make some positive changes there.

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WSS #0152: Curating (Your Own) Content And The Fictitious Line Between Business And Personal

Tea Snobs, Unite!

This episode of the Web.Search.Social Podcast begins with Ralph sharing a pet peeve: people who show up in restaurants with their own tea and ask the waiter for a cup of hot water.

Of course, he then confesses to being that person.

Thanks, Mike Brooks!

Mike is also responsible for turning us on to Simpson & Vail and Tea & Sympathy. He brought us a bunch of loose teas that were quite lovely except now we're in a state of "tea-mergency" because we're running rather low. Hint, hint.

There Is Actually Something Good About The Twilight Books

Ok, yes, that was slightly biased. I read the first book of the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer (because I had just finished reading the Harry Potter series and someone told me Twilight was just as great – pft!) and it made me want to kill myself so I wouldn't have to read another word.

Slight exaggeration, I'm still alive – but let's say I'm not a fan. However, Ralph brings up something positive that's not related to the story but to the content itself.

Turns out Stephenie Meyer has a new book called "Twilight Reimagined" which is the same story told with the genders reversed. Edward the vampire becomes Edythe, and Bella the.. the… the deadpan dishrag?... becomes Beau.

Sorry, sorry… I know this is not about the story!

So what Ralph says is that despite the book's detractors (hey, haters gonna hate) there is a hungry audience for this content and Stephenie Meyer does a brilliant job capitalizing on her own content by telling the story with a different spin.

So what does this mean for you, the business owner?

It means you don't have to reinvent the wheel with every piece of content you put out there. You don't have to come up with original content every time. You can repurpose and reimagine an old blog post, and old podcast, an old video.

Take the theme and topic and recreate the content with the same core but a new angle, or a new perspective.

It's Kind Of Like… Curating… Your Own Content!

If you don't already know how we feel about "content curation" then you may want to start hereOr here. Or here.

But this is a good kind of curation, because you've spent a lot of time creating your content. Why let it sit in an archive somewhere?

Bring it out. Freshen it up. Update it. Write like the more experienced person you are. Use the content you've already created and spin it into more and more content.

As an added bonus you can repurpose you own content for different platforms to take advantage of different opportunities. Pick a blog post and switch it up a bit from what's on your blog so you can take it to LinkedIn Publisher or Medium or Google Plus or anywhere.

Let's Get Seriously Social

We're adding a new weekly segment to our podcast called The Seriously Social Moment, a snippet of social goodness contributed by Ian Anderson Gray.

This week he goes all out with five reasons why scheduling (or in British, "sheduling") your social media posts is a good thing. I'll sum them up here and you can listen in for the full effect.

  1. You need to find quality content to share. Scheduling gives you time to find it.
  2. You can spend more time running your business.
  3. You can spend more time offline with the important people in your life so you're not obsessively on social media while you're having a good time with your family.
  4. You have more down time to revive and rejuvenate.
  5. You can reach people when they're on social media – even if you're not.

Ian reminds us that scheduling is a big advantage but that doesn't give us license to be a robot. You still need to take time to engage, but scheduling can save you a ton of time to do it!

It's Just Business

Have you heard this one before?

It's nothing personal. It's just business.

The idea has been bugging me for a while, this idea that someone will behave badly and then tell you it's just business.

First of all, this undermines business. It's just business. As if it's not real. It's not real life. So people think that gives them an excuse to do things they would not ordinarily do, presumably, if it weren't business.

Secondly, all it amounts to is an excuse for bad behavior, whether that's failing to pay you, cheating, lying, undermining you. Hey it's just business.

But there is no hard line between business and personal. If your business fails or is hurt, so are you. If you lose money, that affects you. Unless you can tell your mortgage company, "Hey, it's just business…" then what happens in your business affects you, financially at a minimum, and probably emotionally, too.

Unless you're independently wealthy and investing in businesses solely for the sake of making money, chances are that you are personally invested – not just financially invested – in your business.

So when a deal falls through, when a client gets angry, when someone fails to pay you, when a prospect walks away, you can't detach from that. Yes, we try. We all try to maintain that division so we "don't take it personally."

But what is a business, if not people? There is no ethereal "business entity." There are people. And when other people reject us or cheat us and do it in the name of business, it's personal.

Ralph Learns Young

Turns out Ralph had his first run in with bad behavior in the name of business when he was just a kid. He got a job with a friend delivering store circulars door to door to apartment buildings in the Bronx. They delivered hundreds of circulars and when they were finished, the boss said they had delivered to the wrong buildings and he wasn't going to pay them. But they were smart kids, and they looked up the written parameters of the job and pointed out that the buildings they had delivered to were, in fact, the ones they had been instructed to visit.

But that didn't seem to sway the boss, who never paid them and brushed it off by saying, "It's not personal, it's business. I like you guys…"

Well, of course he did. Who wouldn't like free labor?

Strangely, I never heard this story! Not sure I'm glad I did now, because this behavior is truly reprehensible. What "business" did he think he was dealing with that was separate from the kids doing the actual work?

Grrrr.

My thought? If you can behave that way in business then that reflects on you. Personally.

The Line Between Business And Personal

In my opinion, there is no line. Your business overlaps with your personal life. It's all life. If you run a business then it's part of you. Chances are you love what you do, or at least like it, a little!

You probably invest a lot of energy and passion into what you do. So as part of you, the whole person, why do we feel so compelled to draw a line?

I've noticed that people tend to want to keep business "off limits" when they're doing personal things. At the dinner table, for example, have you ever been told to leave business aside because "it's family time now" or something similar?

But I like business. Mine and others. I like reading about it, hearing about it, learning about it, debating and imagining and talking about it. So to not be able to do that because it's "other" is just deleting something that is part of who I am.

So for me, I don't think business is 9 to 5 and everything else is "life." I think there is overlap that we can and should enjoy and appreciate.

Ryan Hanley Brings On The Audio

If you haven't read Content Warfare yet, what are you waiting for? If it's audio, well now you have no excuses. Ryan has begun to release chapters of the book as audio on his podcast and today we bring you the intro because it's such a great story.

He talks about his inspiration and why he got started as an entrepreneur. And I just made that sound super boring and ordinary but I promise you it's not.

It's actually a riveting read – or listen – so I highly recommend you enjoy it one way or another.

I don't blow smoke about this book, and even after reading the intro numerous times it still gives me happy chills.

Links & Resources

 

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Have You Read The Story About Marriott International’s “The Envelope Please” Program?

Or more accurately, the stories.

Depending on which one you read it’s either a brilliant move or a complete outrage. Here’s one that I found to be relatively unbiased so you can read it and draw your own conclusions.

You can probably imagine that I have an opinion on the matter and I want to share it with you because it was the inspiration for this post, which could sort of be summed up as, “Don’t do stupid things in the name of marketing.”

If you listen to our podcast you may have heard us talking about the recent U2/Apple win/debacle (again, depending on the story you read) because it, too, seemed to engender mixed reactions, from joy to outrage. And while people had mixed reactions to both of these stories, I am comfortable saying that giving people a free album (in the case of U2 and Apple) may not have pleased everyone but it wasn’t a poorly executed marketing idea.

The Marriott, however, was hit with a serious case of the stupids.

If you disagree I would love to hear it (or even if you don’t disagree!) but the gist is this:

Under the pretext of helping the room staff (ie: maids) get “the recognition they deserve” and make more tips, Marriott has instituted a program that places envelopes and “polite reminders” in guest rooms so that guests can easily tip housekeeping.

I find this tasteless.

It also makes me wonder why I need to be responsible for “recognizing” housekeeping. Plenty of people go about their jobs without recognition. When was the last time you tipped the guy who made change at the tollbooth? Or carefully bagged your lettuce at the grocery store? Or noticed or appreciated either one?

I kind of feel like Marriott is pushing their responsibility (ie: pay your staff accordingly and show appreciation) onto consumers. So now on top of turning off the lights to save the planet and using fewer towels for similar reasons, I have to make sure maid service is paid well and knows how much I appreciate that they made my bed. You know, the way they’re supposed to do because it’s their job.

Before you flip out, I tip housekeeping. And my hairdresser. And the car valet and the guy who hangs my coat. And even the annoying lady who hands me a paper towel after I use the bathroom even though I have figured out how to work the dispenser all by myself.

I also think tipping is a stupid cultural convention and should die so that employers are required to pay people a sufficient wage that does not require supplemental income by way of what amounts to random acts of generosity.

I also think it’s idiotic from the standpoint that Marriott is international and tipping is seen as everything from “nice to do” to an outright insult in various countries.

That aside, I resent that Marriott has now made this my responsibility. A thing I used to do out of appreciation and generosity is now something I’m being prodded to do because… marketing. It’s basically a PR ploy. Look how awesome Marriott is for supporting those poor underpaid workers! The ones who do backbreaking labor and go so unnoticed! We feel your pain! We heart you!

As long as someone else pays for it.

Whew. So now that I have that off my chest, how does this affect your small business?

It turns out (surprise!) that stupid self-serving marketing tactics are not the sole domain of the large, ugly corporation.

Even small companies can do self-serving things in the name of marketing. It’s with that in mind that I share three of the most egregious marketing ploys that I see, not just sometimes but over and over and over. So much so that it seems like somehow these stupid ideas have made their way into conventional marketing wisdom as just one of those things you do.

And if you read or listen to anything we say around here, you know how we feel about “conventional marketing wisdom”.

Allow me to demonstrate.

Sending Me A Birthday Present. To You.

If you’re on someone’s email list for long enough you will eventually cross that person’s birthday on the calendar. And then you can expect the Birthday Marketing Email.

The one where the sender tells you it’s her birthday. And then gives you a gift! Because how cool is that? And the gift is 10% off her eCourse. Or a free hour of consulting time when you buy two.

That’s not a gift to you. That’s a gift to her. That’s money in her pocket with a discount to you, otherwise known as a sale.

This is such an incredibly cliché and tasteless trope.

It negates the idea of gift-giving entirely, which is supposed to be about giving, not about expecting something in return.

And if you’re on that person’s email list long enough, her birthday will come around again and you’ll get the same “gift” offer where you are generously offered the opportunity to spend your money. Makes you wonder who’s doing the gift-giving, doesn’t it?

I want to wipe this practice off the face of the earth.

My birthday passed in August. Do you know what I told my email list about it? Nothing at all! Because sometimes you can just not capitalize on every human interaction. Sometimes you can just go about your business of being human.

And how’s this for an idea instead? Give an actual gift!

Last year on my birthday I did tell my email list about it. And I said I would give them a gift because I was so tired of the trope-disguised-as-gift marketing ploy that I decided to turn it on its head.

Do you know what I did?

I gave them an actual gift. No strings. I literally bought a gift for a handful of people. If I had the budget I would have bought a gift for them all but in the end a couple of people went home happy and that ended that.

Some things don’t need to be in the middle of a marketing campaign. And if they’re going to be, then at least be honest about it. Calling your promotional email a gift is just plain stupid.

Sorry if that hits a nerve but if I’m irritated by it, you can bet there are at least a few more of me out there. And I’d venture to say that you can be more creative than to jump on the birthday gift email bandwagon.

This Email.

I get a lot of stupid emails but some stand out above the rest as shining examples of how not to run your marketing. Just recently I received this email:

I've been tracking the success of your website while doing some research on your industry—I'm impressed with your company, but there are some real opportunities for growth that you currently are missing.

The sender went on to offer me… wait for it… online marketing services.

Perhaps with all her research and being so impressed and whatnot she missed the part where online marketing is my business.

Like trying to sell ice to Eskimos in winter.

Granted, this type of thing is really just spam but it’s not so far off from some legitimate marketing emails I’ve received.

They usually start out by telling me how wonderful I am, followed by how busy I must be, and how if only I would read on for a second, there’s an awesome opportunity awaiting me.

Part of the problem is that they are so generic as to be applicable to pretty much anyone in the world.

Dear Carol Lynn,

I noticed you’re breathing today and that reminds me that it would be the perfect time to tell you how great that is so how about buying my utterly irrelevant thing?

The other problem has to do with the “utterly irrelevant” part.

These senders have an email list of say, a thousand people. And all thousand of them get the same exact email with no consideration for relevance. Prospects, leads, customers, they all get tossed into a lump. Hot leads get the same message as cold leads. Good, paying customers get the same message as tire-kickers who only signed up for the free eBook.

When you email to a single faceless, generic group of people it necessitates a single, useless, generic email. Nobody wants to be treated like a demographic. And on the flip side, if you irrelevantly message people too many times you are quickly going to become The Boy Who Cried Wolf.

People will stop opening or reading your emails.

They won’t bother paying attention to you because they’ll know you’re not paying attention to them.

Has this hit a nerve with you? Sorry again but I have to say it… generic sales-y email messages are a dumb marketing idea.

Next time you want to send an email, think about WHO it’s going to. Not “my list”. But who on your list?

Then talk to them as a human being, not as a statistic.

Promotional Stuff Disguised As A Gift.

What’s worse than you asking me to send you a birthday gift (and pretending it's for me)?

You sending me a gift – a mug, a t-shirt, a box of candy – with your logo on it.

It’s called promotional stuff for a reason. Because it’s promotional.

You can effectively use promotional materials in your marketing but calling them gifts is not the way.

Let’s not belabor the point and get one thing straight in case my earlier diatribe didn’t sink in: a gift is only a gift if it’s given with consideration only for the recipient and with no expectation of return. No marketing boost. No sale. Nothing.

If you can’t give a gift without ulterior motive then don’t give a gift. Call it a promotion and move on.

The holidays are approaching and if I’ve done my job here then none of you reading this will send out a Thanksgiving fruit basket or a Christmas box of chocolates with your big, fat logo on it (and business card inside!)

Now, let’s add a dose of reality.

We’re in business, here. And business isn’t about altruism. We’d all be running charities if it were.

So it would be disingenuous to say that gift giving is purely altruistic. Maybe you send a couple of people gifts because you truly have a special relationship with them. But let’s face it, we send our appreciation and we offer gifts as part of building those relationships – the kind you need to build if your marketing (and business) is going to be effective.

So yes, gift giving can be part of your marketing strategy if your intent is to build goodwill, show gratitude and enrich relationships.

But you need to be extremely mindful of that intent and never cross the line into gifts that amount to no more than a sales pitch.

Because that’s just a stupid marketing idea.

So tell me… do you vehemently disagree with anything I’ve said here? Are you feeling a little rant-y because I’ve insulted a tactic dear to your heart, or maybe just one you’ve been guilty of?

We all do dumb marketing things from time to time… but that doesn’t mean we have to do them again! Share your opinion on good and bad marketing ideas - maybe some you’ve tried  and wished you could un-try or others you’ve have tried on you. I look forward to your thoughts!


WSS #0009: Marketing Fails, Bad Blog Posts And The Importance Of Keeping Your Profiles Current

This is Episode 9 of The Web.Search.Social Marketing Podcast, a podcast for small businesses, whether you’re a solopreneur working from your kitchen table or managing a team of 50. 

Today we revisit the U2 “marketing fail” in light of an article written by Web.Search.Social friend Jessica Ann and ask whether it’s really a fail and then we throw our two cents in about a couple of other marketing topics that will help you control and protect your online brand.

In This Episode We Talk About

  • Whether the U2 marketing fail really was and what that means for small business.
  • How marketers are getting lazy with their content and failing to provide real value to their blog readers.
  • Why it’s so important to keep your social profiles current.
  • And more conversation about online vanity and why some people simply refuse to put a photo of themselves online.

Links & Resources

 

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WSS #0008: Porn, Plagiarism And Protecting Your Content With Jonathan Bailey

Have you ever worked hard on a blog post only to find that someone else had pilfered it wholesale and reprinted it on their site without permission from you?

That really burns our buns!

On this episode of our podcast we talk with plagiarism consultant Jonathan Bailey about all types of content and what you can do to protect your intellectual business property.

In This Episode We Talk About

  • Why most people wouldn’t steal your car but have no problem lifting your content.
  • The recent “celebrity scandal” and what that means for privacy and content theft.
  • Whether or not you need a “Copyright” symbol on your site and when you should consider legally registering copyrighted content.
  • How to get your stolen content removed from an infringing site, including how to file a DMCA request.
  • And more interesting topics like music parody and porn!

Links & Resources

Learn more about Jonathan Bailey, the Copyright 2.0 Show and plagiarism issues at plagiarismtoday.com.

Visit copyright.gov for more about your legal protections and to legally file a copyright.

File a DMCA takedown with Google

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WSS #0005: Oh, The Outrage! The Reality Of Trying To Please Everyone With Your Marketing

This is Episode 5 of The Web.Search.Social Marketing Podcast, a podcast for small businesses, whether you’re a solopreneur working from your kitchen table or managing a team of 50. 

Just recently Apple announced a new iOS update and as part of a PR collaboration with the rock band U2, Apple added a free copy of U2’s latest album onto Apple users’ iPhones.

While some of you may be thinking, “Cool, free stuff!” others were outraged by the fact that Apple did something “without their permission”, even if that something was giving away a free album.

Thus opens the conversation in this podcast about good marketing gone bad and when you should and shouldn’t run in to pick up the pieces.

In This Episode We Talk About

  • Whether planting a free album onto an iPhone is as egregious as it sounds.
  • How that applies to small business marketing.
  • One of our biggest email fails ever.
  • When it’s time to rethink a strategy and when it’s time to sit tight.
  • And more ideas about what makes marketing effective or not.

 

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