woman with long hair on a porch tossing a ball

CATCH Your Clients (and build your brand) – Without the Overwhelm

When you’re just starting out, it can feel overwhelming.

I get it.

But if you put a plan in place before you start, you can be much more strategic about how you spend your time and money to reach your audience.

I developed the CATCH Branding system as a framework to help you get started and make it easier to remember.

Your mission? Every thing that you do, every piece of content you create should be CATCH-tested so you can focus on getting your message across, and being memorable, to your perfect client.

The CATCH System

C – Consistent Look.

Create a look and feel that people can recognize as you. 

Here is all you need to get started:

  • Create a simple text logo with your name. Put your logo on all the content you create.
  • Write a simple tagline that sums up what you do. 10-12 words max – less is better. Use the tagline in your email signature, your social profiles, your business cards, and on your website.
  • Start your “style bible” which can be just a simple Word document. It should list your two (not six) colors that you use for everything (list the hex color number which will look something like this #ABEBC6), the fonts you use for headlines and the font you use for the body your documents.

Please (please, please) don’t spend weeks or months agonizing over a logo. A simple word logo built in Canva will get you started. Use it everywhere: website, social, email, ads. Start to build name and image recognition – but don’t get bogged down.

I have had to do “interventions” with clients who spent months and multiple rounds of edits and changes rather than getting their business going.

So pick something that you can grow with and start using it consistently.

A – Authentic Voice.

Be honest and open about your area of expertise. Tell people about what you struggle with – and how you overcame problems. Offer help without being condescending. We are all on this journey and all on different parts of the path.

There is the school of “fake it till you make it” and frankly, I am ambivalent about this. 

On the one hand, it can be a boost to your mindset when you act as if you have already achieved. There is real science that says it can be a psychological boost to your performance and success.

But on the other hand, there is also fatigue from your audience. There are w-a-a-a-a-y too many faux successful Internet hucksters who project an image of success. But check behind the curtain and the cars are rented, the house is not theirs, and the women are hired models. Fake it till you make it might not be your best strategy.

What I typically advise is to adopt a mindset of success and expertise – but don’t lie. If it ain’t your Ferrari and you have less in the bank than the average fast food worker, don’t give the illusion that you are more successful than you really are. It not only will come back to bite you (and it will) it will simply not read as genuine to your audience.

If you approach your audience with honesty about your struggles and sincerity around your success, you stand a much better chance of actually gaining the trust of people you want to buy what you’re selling.

So sure, preach the gospel of success, but be honest and open.

T – Targeted Audience.

Know exactly who you are talking to.

Fitness guru? You are not selling to “everyone” you are selling to “people interested in fitness.” But unless you want to compete on a race to the bottom on pricing, you need to dig deeper into who you really serve as your audience.

Let’s go back to you as a fitness expert. Your specific audience might be “pregnant women looking to manage their health” or “18-30 year old males looking for washboard abs” or “experienced marathon runners looking for faster recovery and nutrition guidance.”

All three audiences are interested in fitness. But they are very different audiences with completely different messaging. Know who you are talking to and then help that specific group achieve their goals.

This is probably the #1 mistake that new businesses make. In their push to just sell something, they throw a bunch of different messages and offers out. Rather than make you a versatile business, it dilutes your message and your brand.

Specialists make more than generalists – and typically have an easier time attracting the right clients. 

If you have tax problems, you go to a tax attorney not the woman who is an ace criminal attorney (unless your tax problems go to the criminal…whoops). The tax attorney is also not interested in representing you when you sue the guy who hit you in the parking lot.

Micro-target your audience so that you become the obvious solution to their special problem. You need to be the specialist who can get the job done rather than the generalist who is often stuck with commodity status  – and competing on price rather than value.

C – Creative Content.

Be creative when you are helping your audience. The fitness guy might make some serious videos around proper weight lifting techniques for pregnant women, and also create a Pinterest board with easy-to-use fitness flash cards, some downloadable nutrition guides, or five-day fitness jump-start challenge.

Your audience will consume different content in different ways. It does pay dividends to pick 1-2 social channels and create content.

Note: Yes, I am serious about 1-2 social channels at the beginning of your business. Unless you are hiring a creative team, there simply is not enough hours in the day to run your business – which should be your #1 priority – and create endless content for 4-5 social channels. Go deep on 1-2 channels and nurture your audience rather than scattershot on 4-5 where you will never get traction because your audience does not hear from you often enough.

Content creation can get out of control. It can feel like you’re on the content hamster wheel. That’s why it’s critical to understand where your audience is so your content creation helps with your marketing rather than wasting time and money. And to focus.

The key to sane (and profitable) content creation is to spend the most time and money where your audience is. Your fitness mommies are probably on Instagram and Facebook and may be active on mom boards, healthy family eating, or wellness groups. Your washboard ab young males may also be interested in tech and cars. But you can’t know that unless you talk to your audience and spend time getting to know them. Deeply.

Once you find them, listen. React. Comment. Take notes about what comes up over and over. Answer questions (bonus points if your answer can refer back to your website).

You will also hear exactly how they phrase their problems, wishes, and desires – and you can tailor your message with their language. Not to fool them, but rather to demonstrate that you hear and understand. Customers you can genuinely help find you and put their faith in your ability to solve their problem.

 

Know where your audience is, how they prefer to consume content, and help them achieve their goals with shareable, interesting content.

H – Helping

Reach out to your audience and offer help and guidance. Be the person known for spot-on, kind advice. Give your expertise willingly and often. Offer the helping hand without asking for anything in return. It does pay off in the long run.

Helping can be anything from instructional videos to eBooks to in-person clinics. 

Your “helping goal” is two-fold:

  • demonstrate your expertise and experience in solving problems
  • set you up as the most logical solution when it comes time to hire someone
Ideally, you will refer your potential clients back to your website. Unlike social channels, you control how you interact, the information you collect such as a name and email address, and a deeper understanding of the content that is resonating with your target audience.

Final thoughts…

If you follow the CATCH system, you can laser-focus on delivering your message to the right audience, with a consistent look and feel, and building your reputation as a thought leader in your niche.

Spend some time on the front end using these strategies, it can make the process less confusing and get you launched right.

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September 5, 2017

The simple path to consistent income

The question I get most from clients is how to create consistent income.

I get this from my RE clients, from marketing clients, from entrepreneurs, from creatives…the industry doesn’t matter, the idea of having reliable income does.

Ready for the big secret? 

The path to consistent income comes from consistent marketing.

Not so revolutionary.

Coca Cola, Toyota, Netflix – all of them spend tens of millions a year on marketing. All day, every day, their message is spread across all mediums. They stay top of mind by marketing.

Small businesses don’t have those same financial resources – but they do have the ability to take a page from the big guy’s playbook. 

Sure, the big brands can outspend you all day. But as a small business, you have three big advantages:

  • Small businesses can be more nimble with their marketing – and double down on what is working.
  •  Small businesses can often capitalize on trends before the big guys.
  • Small businesses can focus on specific geographic or demographic information to micro-target their customers.

So how do you create consistency in your marketing?

First: Messaging

Everyone serves a particular client. Really, you don’t serve everyone.

  • Real Estate agents serve people in a small geographic area – and may further specialize in neighborhoods, or types of properties, first-time home buyers or empty nesters.
    While Real Estate agents may network and refer to agents in other areas, their bread and butter are very specific to a small geographic area or type of buyer/seller.
  • A fitness expert serves people who have weight issues, or who are interested in cross-fit or parkour or gymnastics. They may have a local gym serving a small geographic area or do online coaching for postpartum women.
    While some of these customers may fit into more than one category (guys with weight issues who are into cross-fit) typically you want to narrow focus on the problems that are most painful for your customers.
  • A spa serves people interested in health and wellness. They may specialize in certain types of massage or older women athletes or organic products. Their clientele may be traveling to a destination spa or serve locals. Maybe they sell a line of exclusive products.
    But their messaging should speak to their primary client. For women athletes, the spa might want to focus on recovery treatments, sports massage, and wellness around diet and skin products. If their market is organic, the message might be around holistic health and wellness and the benefits of using natural organic ingredients.

These businesses all have a constant need for new leads and business. Some businesses, such as Real Estate have a longer sales cycle with more expensive sales. Some businesses such as the spa rely on small ongoing sales. The gym owner probably relies on a a membership with an upsell around services such as personal training or coaching. 

Once you know precisely who you serve, you need to tailor your message in a way that speaks directly to the problems that your clients have – and the solution you provide that solves that problem.

It’s not enough for the gym owner to talk about how many treadmills he owns, or the hours of the gym. Instead, the gym should be demonstrating success in solving the client’s problem: how they have running clinics to prep for marathons along with specialized services for people who are new to running or are running their 20th marathon. They offer personal trainers who specialize in rehabbing from sports injuries. They have a child center where children can get fit while dad works out on his own.

Understand the pain that your client faces, find a way to solve that, and then tell people about it.

And once you have your message, you need to work consistently so that your business becomes the go-to source for solving the problem. The gym that promotes sports conditioning challenges, marathon preparation, ski season conditioning programs establishes its reputation as the place to go if you are an active athlete rather than just another place to jump on a treadmill.

Most important: stay on message. Be consistent in what you’re telling clients and potential clients. If the gym owner who promotes sports conditioning challenges suddenly starts talking about barre, Zumba, and yoga classes, his target audience begins to see him as a commodity, a gym that tries to attract everyone rather than a place that is catering to their needs as an athlete.

Second: Engagement

Once you know your audience, you need to get in front of them. Consistently.

When I tell clients this, immediately they think I am talking about constantly spending a ton of money on ads. While ads are a component of marketing, they are not the only piece of the puzzle.

Instead, you need to think laterally about where your client hangs out and their interests. The gym owner who wants to attract marathoners could:

  • run specialized clinics in partnership with local shops that sell running shoes and gear
  • promote on social sites around running
  • offer couch-to-marathon training program at the gym pairing new runners with experienced trainers
  • fund raise for a local charity supported by the marathon
  • partner with nutritionists to create healthy diets for both weight maintenance and peak performance
  • offer specialized branded running gear
  • Run an online webinar around planning your training schedule
  • Do an Ask Me Anything (AMA) on her Facebook Group and answer questions online.
  • Track her own progress on Instagram with posts around your marathon training.

These are all ways to think about marketing. It is not just advertising. It is being everywhere that your audience hangs out so that you become the obvious choice when they need to solve their problem.

While advertising will let you get in front of a vertical audience – in a general or a very segmented way. But unless your audience already has some awareness that they have a problem AND that you are an ideal way to solve the problem, it can be a more expensive way to attract your ideal customer. 

Instead, think about all the places your audience is – and how you can get in front of them most effectively.

You need to think about your client’s fears. concerns, and worries. What keeps your client up at night? Are they worried about injury, embarrassment, failure? Engage them on the pain and solve it for them.

Pitfalls to avoid:

#1 Don’t forget: you are selling to and trying to attract customers. Don’t try to sell to your peers. 

This is a big one that businesses sometimes forget. They tailor their messaging and engagement to their peers.

The gym owner might be listening to “industry experts” rather than their clients. They may not focus their marketing to attracting ideal clients rather than just filling their space with bodies.

Real Estate agents might be worried about discount brokers, increasing mortgage rates, or slowing market trends and create content about how to overcome these issues. Your fellow agents might be interested in this, but clients don’t care. Instead, do a deep dive into the neighborhoods you serve – and provide excellent advice and service to your clients.

Spa owners might be chasing the latest trendy thing because “everyone else in their space is doing this.” Instead, understand the needs of their local clients. By listening and focussing on your clients, you might uncover a missing service that other spas are not providing.

#2 To get consistent clients, you need to build awareness.

Awareness is the first rung on the customer ladder. The climb happens one rung at a time.

Rung One: Awareness that they have a problem. 

While this might feel obvious, sometimes clients have been living with their pain or aggravation for so long that it becomes noise in their life that they think they have to live with. Your job is to make them aware that what they are experiencing is a problem so you can nudge them up the ladder to the next rung.

Rung Two: Awareness that there is a solution.

Now that you have made them aware that they have a problem, you have to tell them that there is a way to solve this. There are solutions. This is where your business begins to edge into their consciousness. 

What to avoid: pushing YOUR solution as the only solution. The client is still in the discovery process. It is highly unlikely that they are ready to buy. Just like you don’t get married on the first date, they are still getting to know you and are most likely not ready to buy.

Rung Three: Awareness of you as a business. 

You have now educated them that they have a problem, and that there are solutions to their problem. Now it’s time to begin to introduce your ability to fix their problem. Create awareness that you can uniquely solve their problem.

This is where you demonstrate your skills, abilities, AND your unique connection to their needs and desires. At this point, you can begin to offer solutions – but again, the buyer probably is not quite ready to buy….yet.

Rung Four: Comparison shopping,

The customer is problem-aware, solution-aware, and now is trying to decide between you and the other guy.

This is where you clearly differentiate what you do. 

  • If you have clear competitors, you might set up a comparison table on your site that clearly shows your superiority. 
  • You might offer specific free offers – a training session at your gym, a mini-spa treatment or YouTube video instructions around self-care, a free home value walk through, new homebuyer seminars – that demonstrate your skills AND give potential clients a view into why they should consider your business.
  • You might invite the potential client to a webinar or to a discovery call.
  • You might send information (or maybe a sales rep) to talk with the client.
Once you have potential clients who have shown interest, you have now entered the actual selling phase.

 

[bctt tweet=”Marketing is all about becoming the best solution to the customer’s problem.”]

You know you’ve succeeded when your client tells you “I needed this and you were the first business I thought of.”

Starting a business?

Confused about marketing?

Read my “Business Fast-Start” guides.

black and white image of old TVs, speakers, and records with a lonely Elvis in the center

Social Media for the Rest of Us

“I’m not worthy”
“My opinion doesn’t matter”
“I’m not like other people”
“I’m just shy”
“Social media exposes too much”
“I don’t look/think/feel like everyone else here”

Any of those things resonate with you?

Social media has a lot of layers. To some people, it’s a big ol’ party. They are out, sharing everything from morning to night.

Instagram their breakfast burrito? Facebook Live their wardrobe? Check their boss on LinkedIn? Chat, comment, check-in, snap…Some people’s lives truly are lived online. Everything is an open book, shared, commented on, liked, and upvoted.

That’s not me.

For a very long time, I used Facebook in “lurking” mode. Reading comments by high school friends. Keeping up with old neighbors from afar. I was quite content to observe and not report.

I suspect that there are a lot of people like me.

But I also suspect that many people long to be part of the bigger social conversation – but don’t feel like they belong. They are not sure. Uncertain. Vulnerable. Maybe even fear that people on social would reject them…if they only knew.

If they only knew that I am not as successful as I appear.
If they figure out that I’m not as smart as they think.
If anyone guesses that I’m different.
I can’t let down my guard because…
I have to fake it because that is what everyone expects.
I am different…but I can’t share that.

Social is often the highlight reel of people’s lives. You see the bright, shiny, pretty, perfect part of their lives. You don’t see the struggle with weight that’s behind the swim suit shot. You miss the uncertainty that’s under the congratulations on a win. You don’t hear the vulnerability in feeling that they are not like everyone else – but that has to stay secret. Not wanting to disagree because of what people might think.

I’m here to tell you that everyone feels this way. Yup. Even the Kardashians of the world feel vulnerable, different, not-great, fake, dumb, unsuccessful, imperfect, fat, skinny, out of control, uncertain, loser….I could go on. But you get the picture.

You are not alone.

So what does all this have to do with business?

Even the “big guys” are not as successful, shiny, and happy as they appear. Even the Tony Robbins of the world are only seen in their highlight reel. You don’t see the behind-the-scenes struggle of running their business.

It is human nature to want to present the best side of ourselves. There is nothing wrong with that. Where it can become toxic is when we start comparing our imperfect reality with the perfect, edited highlight reels of everyone else.

I am telling you to wipe the perfection right out of your head.

It’s okay to be different, only half as successful, a few pounds over your ideal weight, stressed from doing it all, uncertain, imperfect. Because that is the true reality for everyone. That is the behind-the-scenes reality that you don’t see…but it’s there. Own that.

What you have to say is still valuable and worthy – even if you don’t feel that way.

I want you to truly believe that your point of view – imperfect, different, left-field, overweight, indecisive, bad-hair day, exhausted, stressed, uncertain – is valuable. In fact it is more valuable than all the buffed, polished, edited, highlight reels.

Different is the thing that sparks the conversation. That makes it valuable, vulnerable, real, connected.

Be willing to admit that you don’t have all the answers and ask for help. There are lots of people waiting with the answers. Be willing to admit that you’re struggling with something personal or in your business. Most people will react with kindness and a (virtual) outstretched hand.

Will there be mean people? Of course. Just like your offline life, there are always going to be people so entrenched in hurting or belittling or making someone feel less because it is their only way to feel important. And just like in your offline life, you have to let your anger and fear go and give them the grace that they are unable to give themselves.

So if you’re online talking up how successful your business is when the reality is that you’re struggling to stay afloat, ask for help, advice, support. There is someone out there who might have that one thing that will make the difference.

Thinking about starting a business? Here are the THREE key questions to ask.

What is the basis for a successful business?

You must like (or love) what you do
You must be great at this (or at least better at it than your client)
Ideally, it’s hard or unpleasant for your client.

#1 You love to do this (or at least learn to like) doing this.

You want a business you can sustain.

You already may know the feeling of having to drag yourself out of bed to a job that you don’t like. Your business is supposed to make you happy that you ditched your 9-to-5, not that you traded one slog for another (with probably less pay and fewer benefits – at least at the beginning).

If you like doing something, it’s also follows that you will be willing to work harder and longer to make it succeed. In fact, Inc Magazine cites it as one of the three keys to success.

So if you’re going into business, be pragmatic with your choices, but choose something that does good for you – and for your clients. And that you can see yourself doing for the long haul. It’s going to take time to build your business. Ideally, it would be nice to actually be happy that it is succeeding and that you get to wake up and do this. Every.Single. Day.

But there is a flip side to all this happiness. Your happy place should be paired with an unmet need in the market. Otherwise it will simply remain a hobby business.

#2 You’re great at this.

People will pay for great skills, especially if it takes training, practice, specialized equipment, or experience. And EVERYONE has something they are great at. Everyone.

The key is matching your skill set with a problem that people need to solve – and are willing to pay to solve. That is the piece that is sometimes missing from the evaluation part of starting a business. Your “really good at” has to align with “customers will clamor to pay for this.” And the more you can narrow down your skills and abilities to align with customer needs, the more you can potentially demand.

For example: If you have a problem with your eyes, you will probably decide to see a specialist eye doctor. Someone whose skills, knowledge, and experience will solve your exact problem. A general practitioner might be able to cure your eye problem. But you have a built-in confidence that the eye doctor’s skills will be better at fixing your particular problem. 

A specialist will command bigger fees and more respect around solving problems.Be a specialist who is great at what you do and you’ll always have clients willing to pay for your knowledge, skills, and experience.

One caution: you may be passionate about something (see #1 above) but not be very good at it. Think about all the bad actors, un-funny comics, and awful paintings you’ve seen. Good at something beats passion every day of the week when it comes to your business. Your skills need to be “pay-worthy” if you want to have a business.

#3 It needs to be hard or unpleasant for someone else. 

The harder and/or more unpleasant, the better your chances of commanding a decent, livable rate. And the more specialized your skill is, the better able you are to serve your audience.

The eye specialist is fully booked because she went to medical school to learn about eyes – she can diagnose eye problems with confidence. If you had a problem with your hips or your chest, she is (probably) not a great fit to get you back in shape. But problems with your eyes? She has the skills.

The mechanic who fixes your car is a whiz at Toyotas and knows exactly how to keep your car running so you can pick up the kids with confidence. If you had a Tesla or a Ferrari, you would probably seek out a mechanic with specific skills around electric vehicles or exotic cars to keep your vehicle carpool ready.

There is a guy around here who makes a living doing…wait for it…dog poop pickups. Yup. He comes to your yard on a schedule and picks up all the dog poop. This is actually a very popular business. Google showed 6 different companies offering a similar service in the Boston area.

The dog poop guy is willing to scour your yard in rain, snow, and the mid-day heat wave for Fido’s crap. While picking up dog poop is not hard, it is unpleasant enough that people will happily pay for his service. 

Regardless of whether you need training (like the eye doctor) or a specialized skill (fixing Teslas) or do something that is unpleasant or inconvenient (picking up dog poop), all these businesses have one thing in common:

They found something that customers value and are willing to pay for.

Test idea for a business

The “friends ask for my help all the time” test for a business.

You are a closet-whisperer.

You read Marie Kondo’s book and fell in love with her methods. They “spark joy” in your life.

Are you good at it?

Better than good. You can quote chapter and verse of of gospel according to Marie.

Your friend’s kitchens and closets are masterpieces of joy after your magic touch.

Is it hard or unpleasant for your customers?

Yes…breaking up is hard to do with all their clutter. You are the master at getting them to part with their excess and feel good about it.

Rather than feel overwhelmed, they feel the freedom of less. All because of you.

You’re particularly good at helping seniors who are downsizing, pairing empathy with a keen eye for what has resale value. 

Is there a way to make money?

Yes. Organizing is a valued skill.

You can do one-on-one consults, create a training class for other organizers, create a line of organization tools and products. You can specialize – empty nesters looking to downsize, city-dwelling new parents – and create your own methods.

There are lots of directions to make this a successful business.

Yes to all three questions. There are lots of opportunities here.

A short warning about MLMs – those “party plan” businesses

I have to stop and preach a little about MLMs. It can feel so attractive when you’re desperate for change to jump onto the MLM bandwagon and start selling Mary Kay or jewelry or Herbalife or any of the thousands of MLM sales “opportunities” that people are trying to get you signed up.

Please, please, please don’t. 

Just no.

MLMs are overwhelmingly a losing proposition. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that over 98% or people who join MLMs not only don’t make any money, they lose money. Often thousands of dollars more than the “training kit” that you need to buy to get started.

Please read more about MLMs in this article. And if you think you finally found the exception to the rule in MLMs I will tell you almost certainly that you have not. The hidden gotchas are there somewhere. 

To sum it up….

Find something that you love (or at least don’t mind doing.

Are you great at it? Be honest here. If you’re not great, can you get great? Take a course, get experience, do an apprenticeship…what can you do to sharpen those skills?

Is it hard for other people? Having a barrier to entry (skills, experience, specialized equipment) help.

Having those three things will at least help you eliminate business ideas that will not make you money.

Ready to launch your business?

Still figuring things out?

Check out these resources to launch with confidence.

little boy in a cape with sunglasses reaching up to sun

Can you be the next Nike, Spanx or Stonewall Kitchen? Hint: YES

What does your new (or not yet) business have in common with Nike, Spanx. Amazon, and Stonewall kitchen?

A lot actually. 😊

Each of those businesses started with someone having a crazy idea and chasing their vision.

(BTW: keep reading to the end to find out one other amazing thing…)

From Fax machines to an underwear empire

Sara Blakely scored too low on the law school admissions test to follow her dream of becoming a lawyer, so she ended up selling fax machines door-to-door.

While the pantyhose smoothed out her panty lines, she didn’t like wearing them in Florida where she lived. Blakely cut the legs off a pair of control top pantyhose and liked the result.

She kept tinkering until she came up with a design. Then she took $5000 of her own savings, developed prototypes, and tried to get pantyhose manufactures interested.

No one would take a chance until the owner of one of the mills, impressed by his own daughter’s enthusiasm for the product, decided to take a chance.

That company is called Spanx.

 From a waffle maker to one of the biggest athletic brands in the world.

Nike started with one guy building shoes at his kitchen table.

Phil Knight went out to athletic events and talked to runners. He kept refining and rebuilding until runners were demanding his shoe.

His commitment to making the best shoe meant burning through a couple of his wife’s waffle irons in the process because he was truly bootstrapping at his kitchen table.

From a crappy website with a single product to the world’s largest retailer.

Amazon started with a crappy website selling books.

Jeff Bezos had a vision for a one-stop “everything” shop but started with books. Bezos went all in on the venture, leaving his Wall Street gig to get Amazon up and running.

He had a vision to sell, well, everything, but started with books because it seemed the easiest category for him to break into. Amazon kept expanding as Jeff Bezos added products and refined the system until it became the Amazon we know today.

From farmer’s markets to international gourmet brand.

Stonewall Kitchen started off with founders Jim Stott and Jonathan King selling jams at a farmer’s market in 1991 in Portsmouth, NH.

Stott and King enlisted their family to help them fill jars.

Jim’s 90-year-old grandmother stuck on their signature burlap on top.

Now they sell in 42 countries with lines of foods, cookbooks and home goods. Oh, and they have a cooking school and café at their “mother ship” in York Maine. Well worth the visit, BTW.

Each of these businesses were started by someone using their talents and skills – their superpower.

Each of these businesses chased a vision that their founders had.

–Phil Knight wanted to create the premier running shoe in the world

–Sara Blakely wanted to create undergarments that gave women confidence in how they looked

–Jeff Bezos wanted to make an “everything store”

–Jim Stott and Jonathan King wanted to build a gourmet food empire that started with a family blueberry jam recipe.

 

So I am asking you…what is your superpower?

Don’t you DARE tell me you don’t have a superpower.

I will wait right here until you can tell me just one thing – even if you think it’s a very small thing – that you do better than anyone.

Got something in mind?
Good
We can continue….

You can start a business around your one superpower.
The other stuff, getting in front of your customers, figuring out if what you’re selling is what your audience wants to buy – all part of the process. And EVERY business goes through this.

I can see you in the back, shaking your head and saying, “nope, I can’t do that because _(fill in your own excuse here)”

I am telling you, you can.

In fact, I am on a mission to help women recognize their skills, their knowledge, their life experiences have value. As a business. In their lives. In their community.

Incredible value.
Monetary value.
Leadership value.

I am tired of the world telling women who feel beaten down because everyone around them has told them that they are “just (something)”

Just a mom
Just a big fat failure
Just getting too big for their britches
Just not good enough / smart enough / ambitious enough to chase their dreams.

I want women to be strong enough to grab onto the power and skills they have right now.

Because YOU truly are enough

Right here.
Right now.
This instant.

YOU are enough to
Start a business.
Start changing their lives
Start changing the lives of your families and your community

 

All with the simple vision of yourself as
Important
Powerful

And it does not require that you follow someone else’s idea of what is perfect.

Nope, you get to (in fact you must) do this for yourself if you are going to be successful.

You can work from what you are already good at and make money doing it.

Yes.

And it doesn’t take buying into someone else’s business model, or something weird that you don’t really understand, or some “get rich” thing that all the cool kids are doing.

Maybe they could be a great fit for you.
But probably not.

So can we figure out your greatness?

Figure out the marketable skills you already have (and you do – you just need some help pulling the weeds away to see it)….and get you started on an adventure?

Because (as my very wise friend Seth says….)

Nobody makes your choices but you
Nobody gets to choose who you are but you
Nobody gets to choose who you are NOT but you

Want to figure out how to get started?

It’s actually a pretty simple process.

Step One: What is your superpower that people will pay for?
Don’t you be telling me that you don’t have any superpowers – because EVERYONE has superpowers. Sometimes you need a little help to see your amazing.

Step Two: Who will pay for your superpower?
There is someone out there who needs exactly what you can do for them. You might need a little help finding them – but that’s part of the process.

The other stuff, getting in front of your clients, figuring out if what you’re selling is what your audience wants to buy – all part of the process. And EVERY business goes through this.

We can figure this out. All of it.
Let’s do on this journey to becoming your version of Jeff, Sara, Phil, Jim, or Jonathan.

PS…

Here are the other “amazing things” I promised I the beginning…

Spanx was a side gig for Blakely for the first nine years. She kept her office supplies sales job until Oprah picked Spanx as “her favorite thing” and sales exploded.

Knight worked as an accountant and sold Japanese-brand Tiger shoes out the trunk of his car at track meets while he worked to build Nike.

Bezos’s parents were not thrilled when he decided to leave Wall Street and advised him to do Amazon as a side gig. Bezos refused and went all in.

Stonewall Kitchen’s first big order for 2500 jars from Crate & Barrel in 1993 took a month to fulfill. One. Jar. At. A. Time. The success of this helped them with their first expansion.

PPS…

Your journey is right there….
Nothing is stopping you …but you.

Before You Spend Money on Marketing…Do This (Please)

I know, you hear about the latest shiny thing in marketing and want to dive right in.

It’s tempting to think that the latest thing will be the thing that finally rockets your business to the top. But without a deep understanding of your current marketing, spending on new and shiny is usually disappointing.

Can I beg you to please hit the pause button?

Wait to start on any new marketing or ad spend until you truly understand and can state the following:

  • Your most productive, profitable, and reliable source of leads
  • What it costs you to acquire a lead/prospect/client
  • Are these costs increasing/decreasing?
  • How long does it take to get a lead/prospect/client?
  • If you’re like most business owners, you probably only have a vague idea of what is working and instead rely on your “gut instinct.”

Sorry. Your gut instinct may be costing you time, money, and clients.

If you want to truly understand the best use of your resources, it’s time to do a marketing audit.

I am going to help you do a deep dive audit on your marketing.

A what? Like numbers and accounting?

Well…sort of. And yes.

My clients are surprised when this is the first part of what we do.

But before we start down the path of figuring out what we need to do, we need to figure out not only where we are, but where the holes are. The good news is that the first time is the hardest – and the most eye-opening.

I had one client whose “gut feeling” that one advertising source was too expensive turned out to be wrong. This advertising source is expensive, but the audit showed it to be their most lucrative – delivering $10-$15 in profit for every $1 they spent. The client asked for the audit because they wanted to justify ending this ad spend. Instead, they will now devote more money to this source and less to other, less-lucrative sources.

This is the time where we toss everything onto the kitchen table and sort through it all.

Get yourself a notebook, fire up a spreadsheet, and clear off your whiteboard. Time to dig in.

Let’s dive in and start at the beginning…

  • What is the product(s) or service(s)?

This is where you need to look at your product offerings. Dust out the corners. Rank them in order of most profitable to least profitable, most popular to least popular, legacy and new, growing and stagnant, future and past.

  • Are there entry-level, mid-level, and high-ticket products/services?

Do you offer different levels of different products? Do they produce different profit level? Do high-level products/services require more hands on? More resources? How many clients are you serving at each level? Is there an upgrade path?

  • What is the average client spend?

What do clients spend money on? How long are they with you? Is there a glide path to upgrades?

Collateral

  • Is there a website?

Do you have a website? Is it aligned with your current products/services? Is it updated regularly? Does it convert lookers to leads? Is it fresh and appealing?

  • Are there social profiles?

Does the company (and you) have updated profiles on social media? Which social platforms are most closely aligned with your clients? Concentrate on those platforms first.

  • Is everything up to date and aligned with the current product/service?

Are products/services clearly listed? Is messaging aligned with current products/services? Is it clear who you serve?

  • Logo?

Do you have a logo? Is it consistently used across all platforms and on all collateral? Does it look updated?

  • Branding?

Have you built a recognizable brand? Is the brand tied to a product/service or to an individual? How is the brand deployed?

Client customer profile

  • Who is the customer?

Sure, you can tell me that “Chris Anders is 47 years old and has 3 kids and drives a Chevy and is interested in gaming and professional sports.” But rather than create a limited client avatar, do a deeper dive. Why is Chris interested in your product/service? Career advancement? Pride? What problem do you solve?

  • What are their demographics – age, income, location, needs?

Who is your typical client? Dig deep into who you already sell to. Who buys your entry-level product/service? Who buys your high-end offering? What similarities exist? What differences?

  • Have the demographics changed?

Have your clients changed as you have changed your offerings? Over time? What do you think caused this shift? Pricing? Positioning? Product? Brand awareness?

  • What does the client do for their customers?

Do your clients have clients of their own? Does your product/service impact your client’s bottom line? Is your product/service a profit center for your client?

  • What is the typical time from lead to customer?

From the time your client first becomes aware of you to the first time they buy, how long is the sales cycle? From first sale to upgrade?

  • What does it cost to acquire a customer?

This is often something that is guessed at – or completely unknown. Understanding this is an absolutely key indicator of where and how to proceed with your marketing. From advertising to collateral costs to time to whatever is specialized to your industry, tally up the costs and divide by number of clients.

Is this number declining or increasing?

Current marketing sources

  • Where do you currently advertise?

Industry publications, social, Adwords, print, online listings, pay for influencers, PPC. This is where your spreadsheet comes in handy to tally up the costs.

  • What is the ROI (Return on Investment) of that advertising?

What was the total spent on ads? How many clients did you get from that ad spend? How many leads? How many prospects. Sixth grade addition and division problem but for most clients this is eye-opening.

  • How do you get on the radar of your ideal client?

Where do you get most of your clients? How do they come to know you, like you, trust you? What are your client’s trusted resources for understanding your product/service? Are there other products/services that are on your client’s radar, competing with yours?

  • How long have you been using these marketing sources?

Do you have a history that you can track your results over time? Are they becoming more or less productive for you? What new sources have you tried?

  • What are all the sources of advertising and marketing?

Add these to your spreadsheet. List them all out with all pertinent details of spend, dates, and results.

Current lead sources

  • Where do leads come from now?

Advertising, social, email, website, word of mouth, industry reputation…list them all on your spreadsheet along with the numbers of leads that each source produces. Is this true across all your products/services or do some sources produce better for some of your products/services than other sources?

  • How many leads per month? Are they cyclical?

Break down the spreadsheet leads by month and over years if you have the data. Do you get more leads from some sources at different times of year? Are these lead numbers increasing or decreasing? Are some sources more productive than others?

  • What is the cost per lead?

Is your cost per lead increasing or decreasing? Is the cost per lead different for different products/services? Use the data from your spreadsheet to make these calculations.

Lead nurturing

  • How are leads nurtured?

Once someone expresses interest in you and your product/services (they become a lead), how do you turn them into prospects and then sales? What is your process?

  • Is there a customer list/email list/social list?

Are leads nurtured in some type of automated/semi-automated system? Has is been tested and updated? How are you collecting these leads? What is the typical engagement rate or open rate on your emails?

  • What is the sales funnel?

What does the sales cycle look like to your client? What steps do they go through? Is there an automated sales funnel? What does it look like? Does it take into account all your products/services or it primarily to “get people in the door”?

  • How long does it take from lead to sale?

What is the typical time between lead and sale? Does it vary based on which product/service they ultimately purchase? Has this changed over time?

Putting it all together

After digging through everything. It’s easier to see where things are – and where they are missing. While there are a lot of questions here, there may be some that are more specific to your industry or process. Going through this marketing audit should get you thinking more deeply about your particular sales cycle.

Don’t skip this process.

It is exciting to want to try “new and shiny” things, but you don’t know if the new and shiny is the answer to your problems or just a Band-Aid on a wound you don’t have.

It is critical before you start spending money and time that you understand what is working – and what is not.

Expecting to get new and better results from faulty data is a waste of efforts.

Bottom Line:

  • Put everything on a spreadsheet and work your numbers so you understand what it costs to acquire a customer.
  • Understand where your best customer leads come from and how you acquire them.
  • What collateral do you have (website, social, email lists) and is it aligned with current service/products?
  • How are leads nurtured?

I am constantly surprised by the number of clients who truly do not understand what it costs them to acquire a client. Or where most of their clients come from.

But this is critical information. Double down on what is working. Fix or ease off what is not working.

Marketing is a process.

Your “snapshot” should be done at least annually – ideally 2-3 times a year so that you can stay on top of shifts.

Has this article been helpful? Do you have questions? Happy to help you get your marketing sorted and on track.

Eleven Things “The Princess Bride” can teach you about business

When it comes to growing your business, “The Princess Bride” is probably not the first movie that comes to mind. “The Princess Bride,” a fairy-tale about a farm boy turned pirate who rescues his childhood love from the evil prince with the help of a giant and a vengeful swordsman does not seem to be Harvard Business School case study material.

But, you might be surprised by how this film’s scrappy start to fairy-tale ending has lessons that you can apply today to YOUR business.

Here are ELEVEN lessons from “The Princess Bride”

1 – It might take you awhile to really succeed:

The Princess Bride was published in 1973. It was immediately optioned for a movie but one studio after another failed to get it made. Various directors including Richard Lester, Norman Jewison, John Boorman, Francois Truffaut – even Robert Redford – were at some point rumored to direct. Production was on and off for over 10 years until Rob Reiner bought the production rights – with a financial assist from Norman Lear, who gave Reiner his start when Lear directed Reiner in “All in the Family.”

The film was released to theatres in September 1987. It was a modest success at the box office and a critical favorite. It was not until it was released on video a year later that it began its trip to cult classic. Thirty years after its video release, The Princess Bride still attracts new audiences.

2 – You don’t need an all-star cast, but you do need talent:

The relatively low budget of the movie meant that director Rob Reiner, had to recognize undervalued, unknown talent and create a cast of future all-stars. He leveraged a great script and combined it with great casting to create a film that was greater than the sum of its parts.

“The Princess Bride” featured a cast of mostly then-unknowns including Robin Wright, Carey Elwes, Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest, and Wallace Shawn. The best-known cast members (Fred Savage, Billy Crystal, Peter Falk, and Carol Kane) were in cameo roles.

Cary Elwes had a few small roles when he auditioned for the role of Wesley. Reiner knew he had the Errol Flynn-good looks to pull off the role but was concerned that Elwes might not have the comedy chops. Elwes nailed the role when he pulled off a dead-on “Fat Albert” routine.

Cary Elwes as Westley/Dread Pirate Roberts

Robin Wright had a small role in a daytime soap opera at the time she was cast – and beat out nearly 500 other women who auditioned for the role including Whoopi Goldberg, Courtney Cox, and Meg Ryan.

Robin Wright as Buttercup
Mandy Patinkin as Ingio Montoya

Mandy Patinkin was known primarily to Broadway audiences – but director Rob Reiner was such a fan that he offered Patinkin any role he wanted. Patinkin chose Inigo Montoya because he had lost his father to cancer and the role reverberated with him. (Buzz Feed – 43 Inconceivable Facts about The Princess Bride)

Mandy Patinkin was known primarily to Broadway audiences – but director Rob Reiner was such a fan that he offered Patinkin any role he wanted. Patinkin chose Inigo Montoya because he had lost his father to cancer and the role reverberated with him. (Buzz Feed – 43 Inconceivable Facts about The Princess Bride)

3 – Your biggest fans will be your best viral advertising and promotion:

“The Princess Bride” became a word of mouth success because of its fans. They love to quote the film and recite parts of the dialogue back and forth. Fans argue passionately about their favorite characters and scenes. Fans convert friends who have not seen the movie into new fans.

In a nod to Internet popularity, according to director Rob Reiner, Mandy Patinkin (Inigo Montoya) is still asked at least once a day to quote his most famous line: “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

In an interview with The New Yorker, Cary Elwes speculated that if social media had been around at the time the movie was released, it would have been a much bigger box-office hit.

4 – Fan popularity can gain you official credibility:

From its modest beginnings, it has endured to be listed on the American Film Institutes “100 Laughs,” “100 Passions,” and nominated for “100 Movie Quotes” and “10 Top 10” lists.

Fans routinely vote for The Princess Bride for a variety of awards. More fans mean more opportunities to be nominated. The owners of The Princess Bride keep their fans engaged and their fans return the favor by keeping the movie popular.

Since its release on video in 1988, approximately eight “special edition” and behind-the-scenes versions with exclusive content have been released. Short features, cast interviews, varying cover art, and games keep interest high – and fans buying new copies.

There are websites, fan clubs, YouTube videos, Facebook pages, and countless Pins and memes with The Princess Bride themes. You can buy Princess Bride t-shirts, mugs, tote bags, and chocolates. Fan engagement continues to increase.

5 – If you make it memorable, fans will want to take part. Great content (dialogue) rules:

• “As you wish.”
• “Inconceivable.”
• “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
• “Mawwiage, mawwiage is whha bwings us togewether today.”
• “You fell victim to one of the classic blunders – The most famous of which is “never get involved in a land war in Asia” – but only slightly less well-known is this: “Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line”!”
• “Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while.”

What gave The Princess Bride great quote-ability? Great content. The movie is well written with unexpected turns of phrase, sharp observations, and tag lines. All the elements of great content regardless of the media.

Ask any fan, they will probably each have their own favorite scene or quote. Mine is Wallace Shawn and Carey Elwes facing off in the poison cup scene.

Cary Elwes said an Iraq war veteran’s commanding officer used to send his troops off with a wave and a hearty “Have fun storming the castle” to inject a little humor into an otherwise deadly routine.

6 – Competitors can become allies when interests align:

Carey Elwes character, The Dread Pirate Robert aka Westley and Mandy Patinkin, Inigo Montoya, start out as enemies. In one of the epic scenes of the movie, they have a three-minute sword fight. Smartly, the book and movie treats them as equally skilled and gentlemanly. No low blows or anger. When Inigo is defeated, Westley doesn’t kill him (telling him it would be like smashing a beautiful stained glass window) but knocks him unconscious and continues his mission.

When Inigo regains consciousness, he and Fezzik (Andre The Giant ) follow after Westley and rescue him from the Pit of Despair. They take the “mostly dead” Westley to the Miracle Max, the local wizard. Max has no initial incentive to help – in fact he wants to remain uninvolved. Not until he realizes that helping Westley and Indigo can defeat and humiliate the king is he willing to revive Westley.

Westley wants to rescue Buttercup. Montoya wants to find the man who killed his father. Once they realize that the people who stand in their way are teamed up, Westley and Montoya set aside their differences and work toward their separate happily ever afters.

7 – If you are passionate about your quest, others will get on board:

Inigo Montoya has wanted one thing since he was a child: to avenge his father’s death. Westley has wanted one thing since he met Buttercup: to love her forever. Regardless of the obstacles, they both single-mindedly pursued their goals. They did not let Facebook updates or binge watching Game of Thrones derail their quests.

Because of their passion, it is easier for others to follow and become part.

8 – Don’t be afraid to ask for help:

Fezzik (Andre the Giant) had no real reason to help Westley and Inigo – but as unlikely as it seemed, the member of The Brute Squad was enchanted by the romantic quest.

Miracle Max (Billy Crystal) and Valerie (Carol Kane) had no incentive to revive Westley, but they also came to believe in the power of Westley’s love for Buttercup – with the bonus of humiliating and defeating the Prince who had dismissed and humiliated Miracle Max.

9 – Hook them on the story and keep ‘em coming back for more:

What many people forget is that The Princess Bride is actually framed within a story told by a grandfather (Peter Falk in a small role) to a grandson (Fred Savage) home sick from school. The grandson is initially resistant to hearing the story, since he does not think he wants to hear a love story. The grandfather starts reading the story – and soon the grandson is hooked.

When the grandfather offers to stop reading, the grandson begs him to continue. Great storytelling wins – and keeps ‘em coming.

Going back even further to the original manuscript, the book is framed as a retelling of an older folk tale – even though it is new material.

10 – Be willing to step outside your comfort zone. You might be surprised at what is waiting:

The grandson does not want to hear the story until he does. Buttercup does not believe that Westley is still alive and jumps off a cliff, surprised to find Westley following her rolling down the hill. Inigo Montoya does not want anyone to interfere with his mission to kill the six fingered man until he realizes that he and Westley can become an even more powerful team.

As for the actors, neither Mandy Patinkin nor Cary Elweys had any experience sword fighting. They devoted themselves so thoroughly to lessons that the only stunt doubles used were for the somersaults during the fight. It would have been easy (and probably cheaper for the production insurance) if they handed the sword fight off to professionals. Both Elwes and Patinkin have said it was one of the most enjoyable parts of making the movie.

11 – You can want what you want, but you must be prepared.

Westley was a farm boy whose only skill was pleasing Buttercup when he left to seek his fortune. After being captured by pirates, Westley learned the skills that would allow him to reunite with Buttercup: sword fighting, immunity to iocane, hand to hand combat, and the ability to lead people. He became the hero who could defeat the evil enemies keeping them apart – and threatening Buttercup.

Farm boy Westley would have been killed; Dread Pirate Roberts was ready. He had spent years fighting and living the life of a pirate (and becoming immune to Iocaine…) to be ready to overcome the obstacles to win Buttercup.

Inigo Montoya was the son of a swordmaker. He was 10 years old when the six-fingered man killed his father. At 10 years old, he was no match for the older man. When Inigo finally finds and confronts the man who killed his father, he has been preparing all his life. He is an expert swordsman and fighter and can defeat the six-fingered man.

How to apply the lessons of the Princess Bride

QUESTION: How did a 30-year old fairy-tale movie about lost love, a masked pirate hero, sword fighter avenging a murder, a giant, and rodents of unusual size not just survive – but thrive? And why do fans who were not born when the movie first arrived in theatres regularly recite dialogue and attend special midnight theatre showings?

ANSWER: With a couple of not-so-magic ingredients: great content and attention to the fan base.

First: great content.

Whether you are writing a technical manual or an advertisement, your first duty is to create something that not only serves the needs of your reader/viewer, but that delivers an unforgettable experience.

Yes…your user manual should be the very best user manual that your reader has ever held in their hands.

Second: attention to your fans and audience

The fan base attention is unusual in that the fans themselves continue to promote the movie. Sure, the studio helps things along with new releases. The actors don’t avoid their association with the movie. Carey Elwes wrote a book about being on the set and toured for its release.

So…how can you use the lessons of The Princess Bride to grow your business?

Tell Your Story to Stand Out In a Crowded Market

 

10 Steps to Tell Your Story and Stand Out in a Crowded Market

Storytelling gives you a unique opportunity to create a memorable impression when you tailor content, delivery, method, and message to connect with clients – and stand out in your market

There is an art to using stories to connect, convince, and create raving fans. Just like your favorite TV show or book, the way the writer hooks you in is to first attract your attention, then they create a connection.

After they have you, the story moves forward, adding details and layers to keep you engaged. Then, an end, a kicker, a delightful, sad, earth-shattering, matter-of-fact event that brings satisfaction.

People are hard-wired to listen to stories.

There was probably a caveman version of “A guy walks into a bar…”

Stories are a way of sharing. We share our experiences. Facebook, LinkedIn and social media sites are filled with ways that we share our great – and lousy – experiences.

Brands tell stories, too.

A restaurant might tell the story of its founder coming from Italy and working three jobs to save up to build a backyard brick oven because he was hungry for the pizza this mama made in the old country. How he went from baking pies for the neighbors to a 6-chain restaurant that still makes the best a-pizza in the region.

The restaurant website shows photos of the young founder standing in his backyard and behind the counter of his first hole-in-the-wall pizza place – and Instagram photos posted by current customers.

A candy company proudly boasts of still using the same taffy machine that it bought in 1920. They put the machine right in the window along the boardwalk to show off – and a YouTube video of old home movies showing the taffy machine at work in the 1950’s and 1960’s,

Clothing companies that manufacture in America can tell stories about making heritage designs or cutting edge fashion on Pinterest boards. Car companies talk about luxury and reliability. Stories about founding or traditions or cutting-edge technology on industry blogs.

Real Estate agents could talk about what got them into the business – and their passion for connecting clients with the right home. They can post video tours of their neighborhoods so clients can get the feel of a place. Facebook allows them to connect and answer questions. Tell the story of making a house a home.

Ready to get started?

Let’s look at the 10-step method to stand out in a crowded market.

“Go where the money is…and go there often.”
Willie Sutton, bank robber, 1901-1980
Step One: Define Your Goal

Goal: Turn Lead Into Sales. Increase brand awareness to increase sales.

You won’t get where you’re going unless you have a goal

Let’s say you’re a Real Estate agent. You have a long-term goal of increasing sales (doesn’t everyone?) . Before you plunge into your marketing, take some time to do a business audit and review.

  • How are you going to let your buyer know that you are THE EXPERT in your area? That you know which neighborhoods are great for commuters and which are home to the best coffee shops and bars?
  • What do you want to achieve? Increase your long-term leads? Get some listings immediately? Sell a house that’s been on the market a little too long? Be very specific.
  • If you have more than one goal, put them in a priority order. It’s much easier to focus and be clear when you are working on a single goal.
  • What does success look like? 20% increase in foot traffic? Two more listings monthly? Adding 50 people to your client list? Be very specific.
  • How fast do you want/need to achieve your goal? Want versus need are two different things – and can mean different things to your time/money budget. Set out a timeline for achieving your goal.
  • Do you have a deadline looming? Is your market seasonal? New housing development coming on the market? How does this effect your goal and timeline?

Just like Harry Potter’s quest to vanquish the evil Lord Voldemort, the best stories must have a goal that is achieved in telling the story.

Here is a link to more about SMART planning.

Step Two: Describe Your Customer

For our fictional Real Estate agent, let’s profile our potential customer…

BUYERS

  • Want to be close to transit and shopping.
  • Want access to amenities like gyms and restaurants.
  • May have some challenges around student loan debt.
  • Needs to be close to work.
  • Doesn’t want to “overpay” for the right house
  • Stressed about lack of inventory.
  • May feel overwhelmed by the process.

SELLERS

  • Want to balance preparing the house to show well while not spending a lot of money.
  • May have emotional ties to their home.
  • May be moving because of work or family needs.
  • May be looking at school data to help them decide.
  • Wants a fast, easy, clean closing
  • Wants to get as much money as possible

Everyone – and every brand –
has a story to tell –
but you need to tell the right story to the right audience.

Your marketing probably revealed some additional demographics that help you describe your ideal customer: 30-55, income between $100,000 and $350,000, etc., etc.

All that goes into the sauce to help you tell your story.

Step Three: What Problem Do You Solve?

Here is where you begin to make the deep connection with your customer. Step One set out your goal. Step Two had you define who your product is for. Step Three takes you into the WHY.

Why does your customer choose to work with you over a competitor?

  • Are you quicker, better, cheaper, more desirable than alternatives?
  • Will you make the process as stress-free as possible?
  • Do you take away pain, embarrassment, social consequences?
  • Are you thought of the THE EXPERT in your area, with insider knowledge and the best advice?
  • Do you have a track record of getting the house sold? Of finding the right house for your buyer?

What is your customer’s problem – and how are you UNIQUELY able to solve it?

The keyword in that sentence is UNIQUE. Take time to really figure out your UNIQUE selling proposition (USP in marketing terms).

This is the heart of your story…

Once you really understand the problem that your customer is trying to solve, figure out how you can solve it better – and then work on building your brand story around that solution.

State the problem. Feel the pain. Use your UNIQUE ability to solve the problem.

Step Four: Gather Your Assets

Make a list of EVERYTHING you have related to your company.

Founder’s story.

Did you grow up in a family of Real Estate agents? Work your way through college selling houses? Have you spent your career working with builders to create houses that meet the specific needs of your market?

No better way for buyers and sellers to connect than understanding what drove YOU to become a Real Estate agent.

Customer testimonials and reviews.

There is a LOT of research around social proof. People don’t actually have to personally know a reviewer – buyers will assign a lot of trust to a stranger IF they think that the stranger has nothing to gain from a great review.

If you have been in the business for years – and perhaps worked with clients on multiple transactions, ASK for a testimonial. Most people are happy and flattered.

Market research.

If you don’t already know who your ideal customer is – time to find out. Reach out to your existing customers. If they’re local, take them for coffee or hold an open house. Not local? Engage on social media.

Start the conversation and get to know them. And then figure out the common threads.

Step Five: Figure out the WHERE

Social Media: There is lots of demographic info available that will point you to best places to reach your audience. Young males? Head over to YouTube. Females of all ages? Pinterest. Is your product or service photo-worthy? Get thee to Instagram.

For Real Estate agents, I recommend focussing on Facebook for immediate results. With billions of users worldwide, you can find your audience in your specific geographic area and create engagement.

Blogs/websites: Are there sites which attract your demographic? Audiophiles have review sites. Tech enthusiasts have sites that cater to both broad and narrow subjects. Fashion? Food? Travel? Whatever your customer is interested in, there are sites that feed their passion.

For Real Estate agents, think about all things home related. Builders, aspirational room designs, movers, attorneys – they are all connections to your clients.

Where does your customer hang out?
What blogs do they read?
Who do they follow on Twitter or Instagram?

Conventions/events/trade shows: Do you sell a B2B (business to business) product that benefits from a hands-on demo? Is your product the next big thing at Comic-Con or CES?

If you’re a Real Estate agent, would a booth at a home show be a way to meet your customer? What about a local, town-oriented event for sponsorship?

Partnership/Complementary business: Is there a natural fit with a related business? Are you the peanut butter to another product’s jelly? Is there a mutually beneficial relationship that will make both of you new customers and money? Joint venture? Partnership?

For Real Estate agents, local movers, home builders, attorneys, interior decorators, home improvement contractors, and relocation companies could all be good sources of mutual referrals.

Step Six: Be a BIG FISH in ONE (or maybe two) bowls…um…platforms

Based on what you’ve done in Steps 1 – 5, select one social outlets. If you are really trying to jump-start your business and you have lots of time (and maybe some money for marketing) you can pick TWO. No more.

Based on Willie Sutton’s advice, “go where the money” and customers are.

It’s tempting to want to jump into a lot of areas. How hard can it be to get going on LinkedIn and Instagram and Facebook and start sending out press releases? You figure that more is better when you’re trying to get traction.

And there is the temptation to focus on social media because it’s free, and everything else costs money.

Yes and no.

Even though a lot of social media is “free”, I liken it to getting a car rolling up a hill. Not impossible, but it does take some effort.

Understand that, like getting that car rolling, the first few months are going to take up a lot of resources to keep up with an active presence. The worst thing you can do is be starting and stopping. Whatever momentum you got, you lose when you aren’t consistent.

Go deep on one (or two) social platforms. Post, engage, search out your audience and build your credibility.

Don’t overlook something that will cost you money in the short term if it really is the best place to connect with your ideal customer. Yes, this means social ads.

Create a rich environment with engaged users. Better to be fully committed and successful with two and then expand as you gain attention – and customers.

Remember…this is only a start.
Create a rich environment with content and interactions.
Give yourself a little time to make connections.
Then leverage those connections and add new media outlets one at time.

Social Strategy:

  • Select your social platform(s0 based on where your ideal client hangs out – not where you or your peers hang out.
  • Fill out the profiles completely. Add user photos, bios, profiles, links – whatever they will let you add to beef up your presence.
  • EVERYTHING on any social presence links back to your website “start here” page.
  • Create a business page and/or group and cross-post content from your website to your social accounts to seed the page with content.
  • Join 2-3 groups where your ideal customers hang out and you can be helpful. Post content, answer questions, and be helpful. Always include a link back to your “start here” page.
  • Add a tab/form to sign up for your email list (see Step Five – Email Marketing).
  • Scrub your “drunk with friends” and “kitty playing the piano” posts. Once you engage, you want people to take you seriously.

Here are some social media templates and cheat sheets to get you started.

Step Seven: Craft your story for the platform

Now that you know your customer, know where to find them, and have identified the two areas you’re going to focus on to start, it’s time to map out HOW you’re going to tell your WHY story.

What do you need to tell stories in these outlets? Video, photos, testimonials? Do you already have enough that really tell your story or do you need to create them?

Focus on the HOW and WHY of telling the story.

Be brutally honest here – but also be willing to take a fresh look at what you already have.

  • Can materials be rewritten or repackaged? Can they be combined in different ways?
  • Your goal: use the medium (social media, website postings, video) to create stories that connect.

Some examples:

  • Use YouTube to give a video tour of your neighborhood so prospective buyers get an inside look
  • Pinterest could have boards where you post customer’s before and after photos of prepping a house for sale.
  • Instagram might feature updates of what is new to the market.

Bottom line: using the specifics of the media and the platform, craft the story you want to tell.

Step Eight: Create Content. Lots of Content.

So…let’s recap here.

You have defined your goal. You know who you want to reach and the most likely places to find them. You have picked two story venues to write for and you’ve started to suss out the best way to use these venues to connect.

Now comes the fun part. You begin.

By selecting your story venues, you may spark different ideas about content and production.

If video is part of your storytelling, consider if you will use animation, slide share, video, photos, or some combination. Do you already have these assets or do you need to produce them?

Build your story around your goals (Step One). If you are trying to raise brand awareness, focus on stories that don’t sell directly – founders stories, how-we-do-it, testimonials, tours, and background. Remember your goal is to get people liking and talking about your company.

Go long.
Be consistent and be helpful. Give before you expect to get.
Post a lot.

Get a calendar and add content regularly. Google rewards ranking positions for frequent relevant content.

How often? While there are some variations across industries, research shows that you should be adding new content at least 3-5 times a week.

Google also rewards for quality of content. That in-depth piece on market conditions and forecasts will help your ranking.

Create content that is about your brand – but that also speaks to the larger topic.

BIG SECRET REVEALED: Google also rewards for content from other quality sources that you reference. Example: Let’s say you read a piece in an industry blog about a new environmentally sound way of refinishing floors, you can comment, excerpt, and link to that piece. You get rewarded not only for adding content but linking to a quality source.

Step Nine: Keep the conversation going. Season with social proof.

Whether on you website, social media, or any other venue, keep adding stories. Make the conversation richer. Comment, reply, add details. Post new photos. Add a video comment.

Add social proof.

Open up reviews. Data shows that people will trust perfect strangers who talk about your products. If you have a good product, be brave enough to let the good and the bad fall together. While people trust strangers, they trust the overall reviews when they feel that the reviewers have nothing to gain and are posting honest opinions.

When users comment or ask questions – respond! If one user is asking, many other users might be wondering the same thing.

There is a strong temptation to delete less flattering comments. And yes, there will always be Internet trolls whose sole purpose in life is to try and pick a fight. Defuse what you can, delete anything defamatory or ugly, and let the rest of your customers see the transparency of your process.

Don’t wall yourself off from customers. Be honest, Treat it as a conversation not a confrontation.

Step Ten: Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

When I tell clients that this last step is the hardest, they rarely believe me.

“We’ve done the hard work. We have a system.” And most of the time they do.

But after a couple of months, maybe a week or two slides by without content. You don’t assign someone to take over videotaping customer testimonials after Chris leaves the company. You get busy and a month goes by without posting or commenting on Facebook.

That’s why you have to plan.

Create an editorial calendar for the year. You know your business cycles and industry events. Build your stories and conversations around them. This is not an overnight quick-fix. It usually takes at least 6 months to see any uptick in customer inquiries and sales. Plan the work and work the plan. It will bring success.

Now here’s another helping of secret sauce

Plan for spontaneous opportunities to tell your story.

If there attention is on something that is a natural fit for what you do (news about the effectiveness of music while learning plus your wireless speaker business = opportunity to tell your story) then jump in and create content to piggyback on the wave of attention.

Why Your Audience QUALITY Matters

Your offer may be irresistible – right product, right service, right price – but only if you present it to people who understand its value. You aren’t going to sell the most delicious, perfectly prepared steak to a vegetarian. Right offer to the wrong audience.

What does it look like when you align your business with your audience?

The client journey:

This (real but information-changed-to-protect-privacy) client:

  • sells information products to other entrepreneurs
  • offers a professional service around his skills
  • writes and promotes books around his expertise

The client’s problem:

  • His message was fragmented – three messages for three services
  • His marketing was all over the place – literally. Too many places because of FOMO (fear of missing out)
  • WAY too much time spent working on his marketing meant less time for working on his business
  • He was zigging and zagging trying every new shiny marketing tactic that came along.
  • No traction for his marketing efforts because there was no plan in place for execution and a cohesive message.

The solution:

First, we aligned his offerings around a single message so we could target related audiences.

The offerings were broad enough to meet his professional needs, but tight enough that there was no confusion about who he served.

Next, we focused on making him a “big fish in a small (but lucrative) pond.”

We looked over all the channels where he was marketing and winnowed it down so that he could make a bigger impact in fewer places. And those places were selected based around where his best quality leads congregated.

Once we had messaging and media channels, it was time to create a marketing plan.

We set up the plan around limited release of his information product, a book launch schedule that supports both his info product launch schedule and his done-for-you services, and done-for-you products that were treated as the “limited availability” that they truly were.

He embraced advertising.

We started with a small (read: teeny) budget with a hyper-targeted audience and he was able to grow his audience and profile. With test ads, retargeting traffic, and look alike audiences, we were able to prove the ROI.

We started with the books and built his audience with reviews and offering packages. The book audiences were leveraged to his info product offering. The info product audience was offered done-for-you services if they showed interest in the info product but did not buy.

We tested and tweaked until we had a winning concept.

We reverse engineered his offerings and marketing to align everything toward the sale.

His messaging on his website, sales pages, emails, social media, and even his product, book, and done-for-you offerings were all aligned around making the sale. When we started at the end – conversion – it made it easier to work backwards to lead generation and brand awareness.

Has it worked?

The results took a few months. It was a little scary for him to let go of his old methods – but he quickly saw that he was speaking to better audiences who understood the VALUE of what he was offering.

He gained about 250 new subscribers and improved his open and click through rates.

He also lost and deleted a couple of hundred subscribers – but they were simply taking up space on his list and were never going to buy. This was scary – but the improved attention to his offers and his profile as an expert was worth losing subscribers who were not interested in his offer.

He has a specific plan around his offerings and can spend more time on his business and less time doing random things to move his business forward.

He has planned future offerings – books and info products – to appeal directly to his new audiences. And with this plan, products support and reinforce each other, making it easier to offer upsells and packages.

His plan makes it easier for him to know precisely what he needs to focus on at any time. And with a system in place, he can outsource tasks such as social media posting and graphics with confidence.

So…less stress, better quality leads, and more time for his business.

I won’t lie…getting to this process is work. And yes, you will still need to find the quality audience that is interested in your product or service. You are still starting with an wide audience of people who are unaware of you (and maybe haven’t even defined their own problem yet) and take them through the process with purpose.

why audience quality matters

six steps marketing plan

Six Simple Steps to Create a REAL, Working Marketing Plan

Are you frustrated with your marketing?

Do you feel like you’re always chasing “shiny things” that promise to make your marketing (better, faster, easier, cheaper)? Do you feel like creating a marketing plan is too hard and too complicated?

You’re not alone.

This is one of the questions I get asked about the most. So how can a small business or an entrepreneur do the things they SHOULD do around their marketing without spending ALL their time on marketing?

I have a solution.

I have developed a simple, six-step process that should take you no more than a single day to set up and then about three hours a week to maintain. And this includes a blog, social, and email.

Here is how I approach marketing:

–Marketing is a multi-platform effort. No one thing is going to be 100%.

–Your website, social platforms, emails, and brick-and-mortar all need to be aligned around a very clear, single message.

–You have to spend time, money, or some of both. Nothing is free.

–Unless you are willing to spend big, it will take months not weeks to get traction.

–Be a big fish in a couple of ponds – focus your efforts to get in front of ideal audiences rather than being everywhere. Your message and your business is not a great fit for “everyone.”

–Have a plan – and be willing to execute and stay on track even when it feels like nothing is happening.

Ready to finally get your marketing working for you?

–Set aside one full day or two half days to get this done

–Don’t try to get this done a few minutes at time – you need to get in the “marketing mindset” to be most productive.

–Be ready to toss out what isn’t working – or what is not aligned with your goals and mission. Even though you spent time on them, if they are not pulling you forward, they are not contributing and may be distracting both you and your ideal customer.

Ok…let’s GO!

Step One: What is your goal?

Goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-oriented, and Time-based

–What do you want to achieve? More in-store sales? Foot traffic? Publicity? E-commerce? Greater number of clients served? Be very specific.

–If you have more than one goal, put them in a priority order. It’s much easier to focus and be clear when you are working on a single goal.

–What does success look like? 20% increase in foot traffic? Two more classes monthly? New product line launch? Be very specific.

–How fast do you want/need to achieve your goal? Want versus need are two different things – and can mean different things to your time/money budget. Set out a timeline for achieving your goal.

–Do you have a deadline looming? Is there a new product launch? An annual meeting? How does this effect your goal and timeline?

–Here is a link to more about SMART planning.

Step Two: Mission statement

Craft a mission statement aimed at your ideal client

–Here is a starting point:

I/We are a (describe company) who helps (audience) to (your core business). Our (unique business proposition) allows us to (deliverable).

You might need to tweak the format a bit, but you can see where I am going.

Using that template, here is what my mission statement could look like:

I am a sales funnel marketing company who helps small- to mid-sized businesses to get more customers. My “Turn Leads into Sales” focus allows me to help customers drive more traffic, convert that traffic into leads, and then sell their product or service.

–Write this and then read it out loud (really…use your voice). Keep rewriting and reading until it flows and you really could say this to someone in the time it takes for you to get from the ground floor to the fifth floor. This is called an elevator pitch. 

Refining my pitch from awkward, fill in the blank, to a smooth elevator pitch that I can say out loud:

I help small- to mid-sized companies get more customers by building sales funnels  using email, social, and chat bots that build traffic and turn leads into sales.

Better… but is it too technical?

I help businesses Turn Leads Into Sales with my exclusive marketing system that leverages email and social marketing to get more customers.

This hits all the notes I want: describes my business, adds in why they should be interested, and gives a little information about how we accomplish this.

Put your mission statement front and center.

–Distill it down and use it as your tag line on ALL your social accounts.

–Write it as a mission statement on your website.

–Use it on your email signature (along with links to your social accounts and website).

–Print it out and post it on the wall where customers and employees can see it. Make it poster sized so it’s easy for everyone to see.

–EVERY employee should know it AND understand your mission statement.

–Add it to invoices, letterhead, anything you send out.

Step Three: Update Your Website

I assume you have a website. If you don’t spend a day and get one set up. Here is a post I created about setting one up. It’s not hard and only a little scary.

And before you ask: YES you do need one. Social platforms are not enough.

–Set up an FAQ page on your website that is not only about your business but about your industry. Add to it frequently. Create categories and headings for easy scanning.

–Add a “start here” page to your site. Orient your new users, give them a map and guide them to content that introduces new arrivals to your business. Mission statement is front and center on this page.

–Add a “success story” page where you highlight your successes, customer profiles (get SIGNED WRITTEN permission from any customers that you feature that allows you to use it on your website, publicity, and social accounts and keep it on file). Nothing like social proof.

–Put your mission statement front and center on your website. Visitors should know instantly who you are, who you serve, and what you do.

Step Four: Social

–Pick one or two social platforms – not all. Keep repeating to yourself “big fish, small pond.”

–Select based on where your ideal client hangs out – not where you or your peers hang out.

–Fill out the profiles completely. Add user photos, bios, profiles, links – whatever they will let you add to beef up your presence.

–EVERYTHING on any social presence links back to your website “start here” page.

–Create a business page and/or group and cross-post content from your website to your social accounts to seed the page with content.

–Join 2-3 groups where your ideal customers hang out and you can be helpful. Post content, answer questions, and be helpful. Always include a link back to your “start here” page.

–Add a tab/form to sign up for your email list (see Step Five – Email Marketing).

–Here are some social media templates and cheat sheets to get you started,

Step Five: Email

Daily emails/inquiries

— Create email signatures that include your mission statement, links to social, and (if appropriate) a photo. A face really does ramp up the engagement and remind the recipient that there are real people behind your business.

–Hubspot has a great free signature template

–Outlook builds this into their software. (Create new email > Message > Include > Signature)

–You can add a signature to Gmail using a simple table in Word.

–Every business email you send out should have this signature.

Email marketing

–Sign up for an autoresponder account. An autoresponder email account lets you send out emails to your list on a schedule that you set. Mailchimp lets you have up to 2000 subscribers on a free tier.

–DO NOT try to use your personal or business email account to send out bulk email or manage email marketing. You may end up getting your account suspended.

–Start collecting email addresses so you have a list. An email list simplifies business announcements and connects people.

–Create a simple opt-in form and put it on the front page of your website, and on other pages.

–Ask people on social posts to subscribe to your list. Provide links to make it easy to sign up.

–Most social accounts give you some way to collect email addresses via a tab or form. Your autoresponder may have pre-built forms that you can plug in to your social account.

Email sales funnels

–If you want to use your list for sales, you need to create a plan around the marketing and sales process.

–You will need an autoresponder (such as Mailchimp) to automatically deliver emails on a schedule.

–Write a welcome email for new subscribers telling them about your business, restating your mission, restating your respect for their privacy, and telling them what to expect going forward.

–BONUS: Write 6-10 emails that welcome new subscribers and then lead them down the conversion path to buying your service or product.

Step Six: Create a plan – and execute

Goal:

–Keep your goal from Step One in mind. What do you want to achieve and when do you want to achieve it?

–Constantly reinforce your mission statement. EVERY post, comment, answer, press release should be written through the lens of your VERY SPECIFIC message. Don’t waste time or money with anything off-message.

–Keep your time spent to 3 hours per week.

Website: Once a week – 30 minutes

–Write/post once a week. It does not have to be long. Answer a question once a week and then add the question to your FAQ page. Write about a trend. Talk about the challenges that you face.

–Reference you mission statement in your posts where possible.

Social: Once a week – 15 minutes

–Log in to your one or two social accounts, write a short intro, and post a link to your website post on your social accounts.

–Once a week post something helpful. Post about a question that frequently gets asked, write a short answer, and then ask for input from the community. Dispel a myth about your business. Write about trends or things-you-should-know. Highlight a customer or business success story (with WRITTEN permission). Write a post that you can add to your FAQ page. Write about what is going on this week in your business.

–If possible, commit to a once-weekly FB Live, YouTube channel video, or other video event where you demonstrate something or answer a question on camera. Just 5-10 minutes can convey a lot of information and put a face on your business. Not everyone is comfortable with on-camera, but this builds a lot of traction fast. Casual video is okay – it builds a better, more authentic connection.

Social: 20-30 minutes a day

–Commit to spending about 20-30 minutes daily (really…don’t go down the rabbit hole – 20-30 minutes is plenty) being helpful and answering questions. Set a timer so you don’t look up and two hours have gone by!

–Help people. Seek out questions, write a short answer and then send people back to a longer answer on your FAQ, start here, success story, or a post on your website that references the question/answer.

–Check on posts that you have written and respond back.

–Post lots of images. Images get MUCH higher engagement. Video is even better. Your social activity for the day might simply be a photo and caption of what you’re doing that day. Get signed, written releases from any customers in the photos.

Email: Once a week – 15 minutes

–Send out an email to your list.

–Don’t overcomplicate this. Post updates, answer a question that got asked in the shop or online, a write story about what happened this week. A few paragraphs and an occasional photo (If there are customers, get a signed, written release).

–Repurpose content. If you write a post for social or your website this week, use it for your email.

–Pass along an interested article you read or video you watched that relates to your business. Link back and attribute the original source. Write a few lines about why you’re passing this along.

Old-school media: Once a month – 15 minutes

–For brick and mortar businesses that rely on local traffic, building local buzz is just as important as social (and often overlooked).

–For small digital businesses, your job is to get on the radar as a local expert in your field.

–Send out press releases alerting print and television editors about interesting, local stories. Here is a great resource from Hubspot on writing press releases.

–Make it easy for an editor to say yes. Make your pitch timely, include contact info, write a compelling reason that this merits the attention of their viewers/readers. Winning press releases are written from the point of view of what’s in it for the editor.

–Editors get dozens or hundreds of pitches a week. Don’t get mad or set your expectations around your pitch being picked up. You’re getting on their radar so when they have a story or need an expert, you’re the person they think of.

Spend some money, save some time: Achieve your Step One goal faster.

If you have even a small budget ($50-$100/month) you can invest in advertising.

If you are brick-and-mortar and want to raise your local profile, consider advertising locally. What your ideal customer read and view? Local advertisers can give you detailed demographic information. Newspapers will give you bang for a (smallish) buck if your audience is very local. If you can up your ad spend, consider a local or regional magazine or even TV.

For many businesses, their customers come from all over the world – so they need to expand their audience base beyond local marketing. The two biggest online ad platforms Google AdWords and Facebook Ads cover the broadest audience options.

There are lots of places to spend your advertising dollars including Pinterest, Instagram (which is owned by Facebook and shares an ad platform), Twitter, LinkedIn, and Snapchat. Depending on your audience and goals, one of these other platforms might make more sense.

Another creative approach is YouTube ads. If you are not competing in a high-cost keyword market (diet, exercise, making money) you may be able to find cost-effective ads that run on videos that attract your target audience. Here is an article by Hubspot that details the different types of ads and the pros and cons.

Google AdWords

Here is a great how-to post from Kissmetrics about Google AdWords

Pros:

–Great for local businesses as you can dial down the geographic reach

–If you are non-profit, you may be eligible for free AdWords

Cons:

–It can be tough to get the right balance of messaging, audience, and budget.

–It can be intimidating to navigate the AdWords account settings and find the right keywords to target.

–If you are in a competitive keyword business (fitness, diet, relationships, finance, personal improvement, etc.) it can be hard to find a keyword that you can afford AND that reflects your business. Use the Google Keywords Planner to understand trends and get ideas.

Facebook Ads

Here is a great post from Facebook about getting started with Facebook Ads

Pros:

–Great for wide audience reach.

–You can target audiences fairly precisely

–You select your goal and Facebook presents the ad to audiences most likely to take the action you want

Cons:

–You are still part of the firehose that is the average Facebook feed. It is easy to overlook your ad.

–Getting the right balance of messaging, audience, and budget can take time (and money).

–It can be intimidating to navigate the Facebook Ad dashboard.

–While you can be fairly specific about geography, it is not as flexible as you may need it to be and may present ads to people who are not your customers.

Summary:

Understand your SMART goal.

Write a mission statement that defines who you are, who you serve, and what you do.

Update your website so the mission statement is a prominent part. Add Start Here, FAQ, and Success Stories pages.

Select one or two social accounts where your audience hangs out – not your peers.

Start an email list with an autoresponder account and create a short email welcome sequence.

Create – and execute – your three hour a plan

–Post on your website every week.

–Cross-post on your social accounts every week.

–Send an email to your list every week.

–Spend 20-30 minutes a day on your social accounts being visible and helpful answering questions. Point back to content on your site if it is directly relevant. Link back to your “start here” page on your website if you are just making general posts.

–Bonus points if you can do a Facebook Live or add a short video to your YouTube channel.

–Build a relationship with local media by sending out monthly press releases.

Spend money to save time. If you have the budget, a hyper-targeted AdWords or Facebook Ad can drive traffic to your site and help build engagement.

What is your biggest struggle around your marketing?

Comment below – or even better – send me an email and perhaps I can help.

six simple steps marketing plan Pintersest

quality audiences

Quality versus Quantity

For most businesses, it’s not only about the quantity of the leads, it’s also about the quality of the audience.

Today, let’s focus on lead QUALITY.

When I first got started, it was all about the numbers. How many new subscribers, how many views, bounce rate on the website. I was obsessed with getting my numbers right,  And as a “new” business (or at least a seasoned business that was pivoting to serve new audiences), getting raw numbers through the door seemed like a no-brainer.

While I was able to drive traffic, I was not getting the conversions through my funnel. And worse – I kept focussing on numbers because in the back of my head, I kept repeating that old saying about “every NO gets me closer to a YES.”

AND I HATED IT.

Maybe staying on that path of running traffic would have eventually paid off, but I was frustrated and exhausted by low conversion rate. The old way simply was not working. I was not attracting the quality audience that I needed.

There had to be a better way. So I gave up the “marketing high” of driving numbers and began the hard work of searching for the exact audience who could benefit most.

What does that mean?

  • I stopped focussing on QUANTITY and started to concentrate my efforts on finding QUALITY.
  • I put my offer in front of smaller audiences who were much better fits for my products and services.
  • I laser targeted my message to attract only the people I could help.
  • I let go of existing customers who were no longer a good fit for my offerings (THIS was the hardest thing to do).
  • I aligned all my marketing efforts on delivering just a single message.
  • I dumped any content and collateral that was not built around delivering highly-aligned traffic (yes…I did “kill my darlings” and some posts that I really loved to write and that customers loved to read)

Has it worked?

Frankly, it is still a work in progress. But I am in a better place. By focussing on QUALITY of leads I can

  • Build a marketing plan that drives business toward a very specific goal.
  • Help very targeted clients solve problems that drive their businesses forward.
  • Put my services and products directly in front of people who can really benefit.
  • Help clients get the QUALITY of leads they need to drive their business forward
    Identify the exact, targeted audiences to deliver the marketing message.

It was both humbling and exhilarating to feel this freedom. I no longer wasted time trying to convince (read: sell) to audiences who weren’t a great fit.

My experience of “less is more” means two things:

Yes…I still need QUANTITY. I still need to drive traffic. Even great, laser-targeted audiences are not going to all want the product or service offering. No one converts at 100% (not even Apple).

But my QUANTITY needs to start with QUALITY. Throwing an offer in front of big audiences with a generic message just to get numbers through the door is a waste of time and money. Instead, I need to do a better job of listening and responding only to things that I can genuinely help with.

What is your experience with QUALITY versus QUANTITY?

I would love to hear your stories and struggles with targeting your marketing. If there is something I can help with, send me an email or post it in my FB group.

Be brave.

If you are challenged by something, I guarantee that there are many people lurking in the background who are also challenged by your thing.

Want to learn more?

Here are a couple of hand-picked resources to help you on your way to sales funnel greatness.

11 overlooked

Email Funnel

 

So…what is your biggest challenge?

 

desk with keyboard, phone, notebook and pens

24 FREE Tools I Use Every Day

I get this question all the time… what tools do you use to make marketing (easier, faster, better).

Here is a list of 24 tools I use for everything from creating graphics to competitive analysis.

PSSST>>>If you want even more tools (and a handy print out), check out the free printable guide at the end of the article with 30 FREE Tools.

Social Media Scheduling

Buffer. Easy to use. Integrates via plugin with Chrome so it’s really easy to add content to your social accounts. Up to 5 social media accounts are free. Hootsuite offers a free tier that I also use – but Buffer wins because of the simplicity of the Chrome extension. https://buffer.com

HootSuite. I use the free level of the package – three social profiles, basic analytics, scheduling – but will probably have to upgrade to a paid plan at some point. I like the card setup of the dashboard. Pinterest not available without a third-party app. https://hootsuite.com/plans/free

Hubspot Social Media Scheduling Template. Easy to use and forces you to write and plan your social media posts. Excel spreadsheet with tabs for each platform. https://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/33415/The-Social-Media-Publishing-Schedule-Every-Marketer-Needs-Template.aspx

Graphics creation:

Canva. Quick, intuitive, and flexible. Dead simple to download. Tons of built-in templates for social, eBooks, graphics, and general publishing. https://www.canva.com/

PicMonkey. Need more of a Photoshop-type app? PicMonkey lets you edit, add text, filter, crop, and more. A bit of a learning curve, but reasonably intuitive.  https://www.picmonkey.com/

Adobe Spark. A little like Canva with its pre-made templates. Editing an image with their “style suggestion” wheel takes a little getting used to. I find it a little harder to use than Canva, but MUCH more flexible about changes. https://spark.adobe.com

Free Stock Photos:

Pixabay Images that you can use anywhere – even for business – and no copyright issues. https://pixabay.com/

Pexels  I have to admit that this is my favorite site. Seems to be less “stock image” than other sites.  You can sort by “trending” or “new” https://www.pexels.com/

Stocksnap.io I like their search function and their “trending” sort. I try to find images that aren’t trending – who wants to use what everyone else is using?  https://stocksnap.io/

Unsplash seems to have a little different selection than other sites – heavier on the landscape and architecture. Great if you are creating quote of the day images for Pinterest or Instagram. https://unsplash.com/

Burst sorts into categories like Fitness, Fashion, Business, Music that make is easier to quickly find what you are looking for – and discover related images. Hosted by Shopify. https://burst.shopify.com/

Freestocks also sorts by category and tags. Nice selection of food and animals but they have a broad collection in general. http://freestocks.org/

FoodiesFeed is perfect for food-based blogs. Not as large in absolute numbers – but very well curated. https://www.foodiesfeed.com/

New Old Stock are public archive historic photos. Scroll and discover or search (not intuitive – little magnifying glass in upper right). I like stumbling across random photos of people to spice up my blog posts. http://nos.twnsnd.co/

Kaboompics seems to emphasize interiors, architecture, and abstract work. Nice selection of out of the ordinary photos. http://kaboompics.com/

PikWizard has lots of gorgeous food and landscape shots as well as some not-run-of-the-mill people shots doing things besides sitting around tables looking at charts. http://pikwizard.com

Monitoring and Checking the Competition:

Google Alerts: Yup. Google is great at monitoring. Set up the alert on your name, website, social accounts – whatever you want. Fine tune it to hear the news you need to hear. https://www.google.com/alerts

SimilarWeb lets you deep dive into any website and see where they get their traffic, rank, competitors, and more. https://www.similarweb.com/

Google AdWords. Want to find keywords around your product or service? Google AdWords has a Keyword Planner that lets you search for words and key phrases. https://Adwords.Google.com

Google Trends: Find trending topics from Google search. View trends in various industries, by country, or search for the topic of your choice.  https://trends.google.com/trends/

Social Mention: A simple search box does a deep dive into whatever you’re searching for in blogs, microblogs, bookmarks, images, videos, and questions. Your search results show Sentiment (positive, neutral, negative), keywords, top users, hashtags, and users. You can sort by date or source and choose the timeframe to search. http://www.socialmention.com/

Follow A Chrome and Firefox extension as well as a stand-alone app. Follow lets you see the traffic, visitors, marketing and more of any website. Great learning tool to understand how great companies are using the internet to manage and expand their brand.  https://follow.net/

Semrush. Want to see the keywords your competition is ranking for? Links? Ads? Semrush will let you peek under the hood. The free version limits some of your options and number of searches, but for most casual users, the free tier is plenty. https://www.semrush.com/

SpyFu has a lot of the same info as Semrush. The free search bar on the main page gives you the “big picture” results. You need a paid account to dig down. https://www.spyfu.com/

Alexa lets you get a global view of site traffic and reach as well as the “Alexa Rank” of the sites worldwide. No free tier, but you can get a 7-day free trial. https://www.alexa.com/

virtual elevator pitch

(Virtual) Elevator Pitch Your Way to Anyone Using email or social media

Just read a great article about successful entrepreneurs who bootstrapped their way to success using email outreach. This got me thinking about how you could apply these tips more broadly – and recreate a virtual elevator pitch only via email but through social media.

If you had 30 seconds in an elevator with your dream ask, how would you approach them?

Tip 1: Use a compelling, irresistible, gotta-read-this subject line or headline that your intended reader simply can’t ignore.

Get to the point – you really do have limited real estate and time to connect – but make it something that your audience can’t resist.

My additional tip: Segment, segment, segment! What’s important to one reader or group of readers may be vastly different than another. Make your virtual elevator pitch directly to your specific audience.

Example: you are a real estate agent.

A buyer has different needs than a seller. An investment buyer has different criteria than a home buyer. A commercial leasing company has different markets than a residential leasing company. Segment and micro-target your subject line to appeal to that reader.

Understand that a successful virtual elevator pitch will intrigue your prospect – and demonstrate that you understand them.

Tip 2: Ask for advice – who doesn’t want to feel like an expert?

Make it very specific, and targeted exactly to their experience and market.

My additional tip: Understand that you DON’T know it all – but you can find someone else does. Make your virtual elevator pitch to their particular experience.

The more you can niche down the ask for advice to the particular area that the person is known for, the better your chance at success.

If you’re looking for help with a funding decision, ask advice from someone know for putting together or advising on these types of deals. And make the ask specific: don’t ask a VC a general question that you could Google, instead ask them why they chose A over B and whether that makes sense in this situation. This flatters them in two ways: first, you are showing that you understand their very special area of knowledge; second, you did enough research to ask a very specific question.

People LIKE being flattered and asked for advice, but only when it feels like you did the legwork to understand their particular expertise – and your ask is for help they can quickly deliver.

 

Tip 3: Ask for something it’s hard to say no to – get them saying yes to small things.

Sell people on the idea of helping before they actually have to do something.

My additional tip: Understand the magnitude of what you’re asking – and get small wins. Make your virtual elevator pitch easy to say yes to.

Let’s say you are trying to understand the feasibility of a new product. Asking people to take a 2-3 question survey that takes one minute or less AND gives them something (access to results, a report based on the results, early view of a solution) is an easier ask than a 10-minute commitment.

If your pitch is for a survey is to fix a common pain or uncover a better way to do something, you have a better chance. (This assumes that you ALSO followed Tip 1 and Tip 2 and precisely targeted your ask,)

Tip 4: Follow up – no one buys on the first ask.

If you followed Tip 1 – 3, now it’s time to REALLY make things happen: follow up.

My additional tip: Keep making your virtual elevator pitch – but don’t be a pest. 

It’s likely that your subject receives dozens or even hundreds of emails a day. Seeing your name, your well-crafted subject line (which is hard to say no to) DRAMATICALLY increases your chance of them responding.

Check this before you hit send (again):

  • You micro-targeted your audience and have an irresistible subject line
  • You’re writing very specifically
  • You asked for something that’s hard to say no to

Now it’s time for the magic: Follow. Up.

While the money may be in the list, you don’t build the list without persistence. Your pitch should focus on a small win and then build the relationship.

Tip 5: Make the email what you promised in the subject line or headline

My additional tip: (Over)deliver what you promised in the subject line. Once they open your virtual elevator pitch, make it more than worth their time.

Make it:

  • Short: better chance of a response until you’ve built an actual relationship
  • Targeted: specific ask that fits who they are and their expertise
  • Easy to say yes: don’t expect them to do your work – make it a no-brainer for them to help with
  • Amazing: it should be something that appeals directly to why you reached out to them in the first place

Now go write THAT email or social media post and let me know your successful virtual elevator pitch.

 

 

11 overlooked ways to turn leads into sales

11 Overlooked Ways to Turn Leads Into Sales

People buy from people…people they know, like and trust.

Smart entrepreneurs know that customers want to know more about YOU before they buy from you.

To stand out as an authority, a resume or LinkedIn profile is simply not enough. You need a cross-platform marketing approach to demonstrate to your customers your knowledge, your trustworthiness, and how you conduct business. You need to build your personal, professional brand.

And you need to do this while still running your business

Learn more about work-smarter methods to build and cultivate your brand – your “know, like, and trust factor” – without turning marketing into a full-time job.
TURN LEADS INTO SALES.

Tip #1: Use consistent visuals, graphics, and head shots

Visuals register with the brain first – so the first thing a consumer should see is a consistent brand look.

Brand EVERYTHING the same way. Think of Coca Cola or Apple. They look very different – Coke’s red, swoopy logo versus Apple’s Zen bluish silver website. Both are successful. Both send a consistent visual message that goes on all their content. You would never confuse one for the other.

Take a lesson from the big dogs: there should be no confusion about who created the content. Your business name, logo, tagline, and colors should register quickly with the user. Have a GREAT head shot taken – it’s worth hiring a pro for this – and use is EVERYWHERE.

Super-bonus tip: make sure that your logo and name are clickable – and check it on a mobile site to make sure that it does not scale down to the unreadable.

Extra Super-bonus tip: Your logo can simply be your name. Text logos are simple to create with any graphics program. Look at my logo shown at the top of the page. Just text.

Tip #2: Go big in 2 or 3 social marketing channels

Choose your marketing channels based on where most of your customers are already hanging out.

There are lots of demographic studies about age, sex, ethnicity, income, and even intent around marketing channels. What is a marketing channel? Facebook, your blog, LinkedIn, Instagram, guest posting on industry blogs, Snap, Periscope, Pinterest, and YouTube are all examples.

Don’t forget traditional marketing channels

TV, radio, print, and industry publications are an overlooked way to attention and authority. Well-written articles on a closely related topic are often welcomed – and get you in front of your target audience without the pressure of a sales call.

Once you have a track record (and maybe some help), add more channels – one at a time. But make a splash in your chosen ponds first.

Tip #3: Half of all internet traffic is now mobile – is your content?

You spend time (and maybe money) getting people interested in you and what you’re selling. Make sure that whatever content you create is frustration-free across all
devices.

You only have a couple of seconds before a visitor decides to stay and view or bounce away from your content – maybe forever. You got them to your content, don’t chase them off because they have to pinch and scroll.

Mobile accounts for 50%+ of all Internet traffic. Try Google’s free Mobile-Friendly test site to make sure that your content, including all graphics, are easily viewable.

Super-bonus tip: use buttons for important clickable links in your mobile content. It can be frustrating to tap-tap-tap on a text link that just won’t connect with your
fingertip.

Tip #4:  Be the (wo)man with the SMART plan

“Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” — Benjamin Franklin

A marketing and sales plan does not have to be complicated – but it does need to be written – and it needs to be SMART.

Specific – define the goal (new leads, increase in sales)
Measurable – define the quantity (65 leads, 8% sales increase)
Assignable – define who is responsible for exact tasks
Realistic – is the plan realistic? 8% yes – 800% no
Time – set out t timeline for completion – with milestones

Once a week: Review your progress and pick out the ONE THING you want to accomplish next week.

Once a month: Review your progress on weekly goals. Pick out the FOUR WEEKLY THINGS you will do next month.

Once a quarter: Review your progress on monthly goals. Pick out the THREE MONTHLY THINGS you will do next quarter.

Once a year: Review your progress on quarterly goals. Pick out the FOUR QUARTERLY THINGS you will do next quarter.

Tip #5: Ask your audience what they want to know

As Homer Simpson would say “D’oh!”

What better way to deliver EXACTLY what your customers want, and build your “know, like, and trust: factor than by answering the questions that your customers are asking?

Spend your time in your chosen social marketing channels reading what your clients are talking about, answer the question, and refer back to your site.

Ask yourself the following: What posts get the greatest response? Are people confused, opinionated, passionate? That is a sign that you should be creating content around this.

Super-bonus tip: pose questions on social media. “If you were buying (your product), what is the one thing it must have?” “What is the one thing that would keep you from buying (your product)?”

You will get a lot of nonsense answers, but you will also glean some insight into how your customers think.

Tip #6: Promote your content

If you are creating content around your customers questions and needs, it’s time to go back to these same places and talk about solutions to their problems.

Find discussions around your topic, answer the question, and post a response with a link back to your content, telling readers that you have even more on the topic.

Super-bonus tip: add (new) visuals. Graphics or videos increase engagement but up to 200%. There are lots of tools and free websites sites that let you create fast graphics that will make your content stand out.

Extra Super-bonus tip: Participate in the conversation. When someone posts an answer, respond. Comment, ask a follow up question, post a resource. Be engaged.

This does two things: keeps the conversation at the top of the flow (recent active posts generally stay near the top of most social media feeds) and increases your social engagement –which Google rewards.

Tip #7: Content does not have to be original – but it has to be good and relevant

Curated content (content that you have found and passed along) can be just as powerful as original content – with a couple of rules.

First – only use curated content that is really good, reflects your personal and business standards, and adds to the conversation you are having with your customers.

Second – add your commentary or review. Read the content and glean out the relevant facts for your readers. As an expert, tell them why it’s important. Highlight key parts for the skimmers in your audience.

Third – attribute the content to its original creator. No stealing or plagiarizing. Email the original creator to let them know that you are sharing their content. You might get a shout-out from them and access to a whole new audience.

Super-bonus tip: automate your content curation by setting up Google Alerts and Feedly.

Tip #8: Make sure your digital footprints all lead home

Any time you create content, your readers should have an immediate way to click back to your site.

Guest posting? Add a bio section to the post with an invitation to learn more about whatever you just posted about – preferably a link to another specific, related piece of content. (AND add a great head shot – one that you use across all channels)

Should you have a website? While not absolutely necessary, a website gives you a place where YOU control how content is presented AND gives you a place where
you can be intentional about building your audience and your marketing plan. READ MORE IN THIS POST

Super-bonus tip: Create a custom bio for your social media – and refresh it at least twice a year (quarterly is better). Even better, have a couple of custom bios precisely tailored to different audiences.

Tip #9: Create a gotta-have-it-now reason to click over to your site in the form of a
lead magnet.

Lead magnets don’t have to be long or difficult to create.

The best lead magnets solve a specific problem that your business solves for them. The upside? People who click on the lead magnet are self-selecting as your target market. Win-win.

Super-bonus tip: Try different lead magnets for different audiences. Test your results.

Extra-super-bonus tip: Repackage your most popular content. Take three blog posts and make a short eBook. Distill the points in a post down to a cheat sheet. Add visuals and your branding. Eureka! You have a (nearly) ready-made lead magnet.

Tip #10: Create a landing page – or six.

If all your visitors arrive at your home page, you are asking them to figure out what you want them to do next.

Yeah…how is that working out for you – and your customers?

Now imagine you can custom-tailor the experience for your visitors and deliver tailored content rather than a bewildering set of options?

You can when you send them to a landing pages.

While you won’t create a landing page for every piece of brand content, you probably have themes or client audiences that are distinct enough that you can build landing pages around their visit.

Super-bonus tip: Track where your visitors are coming from – and how they engage. Double down on what works.

Tip #11: Take names (and email addresses)

You’re in business to make money, right?

And having a bunch of potential customers to contact who have already expressed interest in you would be fabulous, right?

If you’re nodding along and saying yeah to those questions, then it’s time to step into the wonderful world of email marketing.

Email isn’t scary. I have a Jumpstart Email video series coming up that explains the setup and tips using a free version of Mailchimp and a guide that helps you get started. Sign up on my email list. Seats for the training will be limited; my subscribers get first chance to register!

Super-bonus tip: Tip #9 suggests creating a landing page.
Add an opt-in box and gather email addresses. And watch
your customer lead list grow.