SBX 34: How To Recharge Yourself and Your Business

Feel like you’ve run out of gas, that starting a business is burning you out?  Are you finding yourself avoiding the important things that need to get done in your business?

If you’re experiencing feelings of self-doubt, burn-out, apathy, laziness, and guilt that comes from not doing what you know you should be doing, it’s not a confidence problem… it’s an energy problem. Today we’re going to talk about system recharge.

All of us business owners get burned out at some point.  Some faster than others, but we all experience it.  Starting and growing a business isn’t a steady and predicable experience, like having a routine job.  Sometimes it’s relatively quiet, but other times you have to go full speed ahead for extended periods of time.  Burnout is almost inevitable.  The key is not getting burned out, but finding your own personal way to step back and recharge yourself both physically and mentally.

Gary Shouldis and Mike Monroe

Gary and Mike met in person for the first time, August 13th, 2014 in Charlotte, NC

In today’s show, we talk about burnout and how to figure out the outlets that can help you relax, unwind and recharge your batteries.

Listen and Learn…

  • How to avoid mental exhaustion as you grow your business
  • How to reset the clock and re-energize yourself and your business
  • How focusing on goals can lead to burnout
  • Why you need to find your own personal outlets so you don’t get burned out
  • Why physical activity will recharge you mentally

Action Steps from this episode:

#1. Identify the 5 Things that Get You Recharged.  We’re all different people and we each have different things that give us life when we’re running on empty.  The keys in your identification are (1) be specific (“time with family” = doing WHAT?  Sometimes time with family can be worse than time at work… just sayin), (2) consider all areas of your life (there should be a spectrum here, that encompasses relationship, health, spiritual life… not just movie watching), and (3) actually come up with 5.  As your feelings change, which constantly happens when you’re feeling burnt out, what got you feeling good on Monday won’t make you feel that same way on Tuesday.  Variety is the spice of life for the tired heart.

 

#2.  Redefine what Success Looks Like in Each Area.  So you have 5 things here, let’s not take them to the extreme.  Of course you’re a business owner so you’d never do that.  But if the thing that recharges you is exercise (for instance), let’s be excited about the exercise, and NOT make your recharge contingent on (A) winning a marathon, (B) being a professional (insert sport here), (C) having six pick abs or anything else that requires a mountain of ambition.  Part of what makes something recharging is doing it for the same of doing it.  You don’t always have to win.  Really, you DON’T ALWAYS HAVE TO WIN!  So redefine each of your 5 things to make them, ya know, actually FUN.

 

#3.  Communicate to Others when You Will Be Busy, why You are Busy, and the victories of your busy-ness.  FACT: this will make you way more tolerable to be around when you’re cranky.  But also will create a lot more empathy when you’re missing in action.  Of course if you’re going to communicate to others, you must also cut them the same slack when they say “time for ME now.”  And you must also be willing to tell your business, customers, employees, and your email, “Sorry… not coming in today.”  If Hobby Lobby and Chick-Fil-A don’t need to be open 7 days a week, neither do you.  Sorry, but it’s true.

Links and Resources:

  1. Audible.com – An Amazon company where you can download and listen to audio books on the go.

  2. The Alchemist – a really good and inspirational fiction book.
  3. The Strangest Secret – a short book/audio that can change your life.  Very inspirational.

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SBX 33: How To Keep Focused On The Main Thing For Your Business

Ever feel like you’re working your ass off in your business but when you look back, you feel like you still didn’t accomplish much?

Maybe your not focusing on the right things.

If you own your own business, you know that being super busy isn’t the same as being productive.  You can spend the entire day running from one fire to next and never actually do anything that is moving your business forward.

While it’s ok to have off days, if you feel like you’re having too many of these “off” days, maybe it’s time to step back and refocus your efforts.

You need to figure out what the most important things you should be doing to move your business forward.  Doing one high value activity a day is much better than checking off 20 unimportant tasks off your daily to do list.  It all comes down to knowing what’s important and focusing all of your efforts on them.

It’s making sure you stay focused on the main thing.

And you’re in luck, this is exactly what we are discussing in today’s show.

But before we go any further…

Yes, we’ve been on a mini-hiatus for the past couple of weeks.  Thanks to everyone who reached out, concerned about what the heck happened to us.  We’ve been working together to figure out how to improve the podcast and to make it bigger and better, but you can listen to this the episode for the full scoop.

Mike and Gary-The Small Business Express Podcast

Listen and Learn…

  • Why we often get trapped in the “Urgent but not Important” quadrant when it comes to being productive
  • Why we lose focus and how to get back on track towards your goals
  • Why people focus on the wrong things with their business
  • Why planning and thinking are just as important as doing
  • How to bounce back after an Off Day
  • Why being over productive can actually hurt you

Action Steps from this episode:

  1. Identify what the main thing is.  It all comes down to planning.  Before your day even starts you should know the ONE thing that you must get done that day in order to move your business forward.  Are you the type of person to make a to-do list a mile long?  At the top of that list you should have the most important thing you need to do.  And if nothing else gets done that day?  That’s ok, because you did the one big thing you needed to that will have a positive impact on your business.  Not sure what the most important thing is?  Don’t just do what you are comfortable with or are good at doing, do what is most important for your business.  Think of the thing you have been putting off and are afraid to do, usually that’s the important thing.

  2. Track a daily record for the main thing. Be protective of your time.  Again, be protective of your time.  Especially early in the day when you have to make sure you get the important stuff done.  Don’t worry about your inbox or returning calls.  Ignore casual requests for your time and attention.  You have the 1-2 things you know you need to get done so stay focused on those tasks until they are done.  Keep track of your time and your priority list, but don’t over schedule yourself.  Things will happen that will throw a monkey wrench into your perfectly scheduled day, make sure you leave time to deal with the unknowns or else those curveballs will drive you crazy.

  3. Recover quickly on OFF days.  We all have off days, even off weeks.  These days will throw your perfectly timed schedule for a loop and leave you feeling like you’ll be playing catchup for the next month.  The truth?  It’s not a big deal, in fact, know that it’s going to happen. Sometimes we get so caught up in getting stuff done that we don’t leave time to really think, and that’s where the ideas and breakthroughs happen.  If you start to feel overwhelmed and need to stop, use that time to unwind and do some productive thinking about your life and your business.

Links and Resources:

  1. Dan Kennedy’s No BS Time Management.  Most time management books are BS, this one is worth reading.

  2. How We Chose Our Business Name.  Nice article from the guys at WP Curve that discusses the collaborative process of choosing a name and URL for your business.
  3. Making Things Happen by Scott Belsky.  A good book that teaches you how to become action oriented and super productive by turning your to-do list into a series of projects with specific action steps.  You know how much we love action steps!

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SBX 32: Advanced Website Strategies To Grow Your Business

empire-flippers-justin-cookeWebsite not driving leads like you thought it would?  Maybe you’re focusing on the wrong things.

Every business owner dreams of having a website that prints money for their business, one that just keeps sending leads over and over again.  Yeah, that rarely ever happens.  Building a website that works is hard.  The strategy is easy but the execution is hard.

When building a website, most people focus on the wrong things.  They spend endless hours worrying about the perfect color scheme or the best font for their logo when they should be focused on the most important thing for any business website.

Delivering value.

Yes, build a website that your potential customers find unbelievably helpful and they won’t care that you’re using Helvetic as your title font instead of Mohave.

Don’t get bogged down by distractions, the most important thing to is just get started.  You don’t need to spend months building the perfect website, the more important thing is get it up and start delivering value for your customers.

So how do you do it?

justin-cooke-empire-flippersWell in this episode of The Small Business Express podcast, we are very honored to have the one and only Justin Cooke from Empire Flippers to share his vast online knowledge with us.  Justin is an Expat from California living the island life in the Philippines and runs a really successful online business building, buying and selling websites.

Justin Cooke has been involved with hundreds of website projects and consults with small business owners on how to create websites that drive engagement and leads.  He is also the co-host of a very popular podcast that covers online marketing, buying and selling websites and a load of other insanely useful you should check out.

Listen and Learn…

  • Why small business owners focus on the wrong things when building a website
  • The most important things you need to know when building a website
  • Why the design isn’t that important and how it can cost you business
  • The one marketing channel that is so important but so underutilized by small business.
  • How to quickly and cheaply outsource small web projects
  • Things you need to know to drive website conversions
  • And so much more.  When it comes to building websites, Justin just knows his stuff!

Action Steps from this episode:

  1. Your business website should be designed around customer INTERESTS, PROBLEMS, or PASSIONS.  Your website should be more than just a digital brochure for your business.  It should solve your potential customers problems, answer burning questions and set the stage for building a long lasting relationship with your customer.  The look of the site is less important than the value it delivers to your potential customer.

  2. Get your email opt-in nailed down along with a reason to opt-in…. and get the SITE UP!. One of the most underused marketing techniques used by small business is building an email list.  An email list is a direct pipeline to your customer and you can reach them anytime you want with very little cost.  Figure out what value you can offer a visitor to your website in exchange for their email.  The offer should be value based (great info or some sort of offer) and related to the product or service you are offering.  The most important thing is to get your site up and start building a list, work out the little things later.

  3. Go back and fix stuff later. SEO, Copy, GET IT UP!.  The number reason small business owners fail online?  They focus on the wrong things.  They delay a website launch for weeks or even months because of not having the right logo or color scheme for the site.  Get the site up as best you can, start driving traffic and building an email list right away.  You can go back and change that shade of grey later on, it’s not that important.

Links and Resources:

  1. Empire Flippers. Justin’s company where you can learn everything you could ever want when it comes to building, selling and buying websites.  Want to fast track a new business?  Buy an existing website with traffic and rankings already in place.  Justin and his partner, Joe “Hot Money” Magnotti have all the resources in place to get you started.  Also check out there podcast, it rocks, it really does.

  2. Fiverr.  Online resource for finding just about any kind of service you can think of for 5 bucks.  There is a lot of junk on there, but definitely a few gems if you take the time to go through them.  Some possible uses would be short video creation, proofreading and other small tasks that can be quickly and easily outsourced.
  3. Theme Forest. You don’t need to spend a bundle of a fancy pants website design,  There are thousands of great looking website theme templates available on sites like Theme Forest that can get you up and running in a day.  The copy on your site and the value you create for your customers are more important than how it looks, though it should look pretty good as well.
  4. SBX Episode 27 that covers common website mistakes that are killing website conversions on your website.
  5. Lead Pages.  Create custom landing pages without knowing a lick of code.  Also a great resource for learning about website conversions.

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SBX 31: When Is It Time To Pivot Your Business

Every business owner eventually arrives at a crossroads with their business where they have to make some tough decisions.  Things may not be going as planned and you feel like you’re just spinning your wheels.  So do you keep plugging along and hope the obvious business problems you face will eventually work themselves out?  Do you pack it in and live to fight another day?  Or do you hang a hard left and take your business in a new direction?

When you start a business you have so much invested in it, both financially and mentally, that it can be difficult to assess your situation objectively.  You’ve probably seen businesses that should have packed in in years before they actually did but you’ve also read of countless stories of entrepreneurs that were on the brink of disaster right before they made their big break through.

So what do you do?

While every business and entrepreneur is different, there may be signs that a change to your business is in order.  Maybe you don’t have to shut down your business, maybe you just need to take it in a new direction.  Sometimes you have to make big decisions to keep your business alive but probably the worst thing you can do is know that things are not right and go on pretending that they are.

Freedom lies in being bold. – Robert Frost

In this episode, our special guest Dan Norris talks with us about his own personal experiences on business startups, knowing when to walk away and how he’s taken his new business WP Curve (learn more about WP Curve in the resources section below) from startup to the buzz of the WordPress community in only a few short months.

Dan Norris-WP Curve

Listen and Learn…

  • How to recognize when you’ve hit a wall or the end of the road for your business
  • Options to consider when you know you need to make changes in your business
  • How pressure and little time can work wonders when it comes to making fast decisions
  • How quick decisions can get your new business off the ground in days, not months
  • How to use content and relationships to quickly grow your new business
  • How a “Service as a Service” business model can be great for recurring revenues
  • And so much more.  When it comes to startups, blogging and WordPress, Dan knows his stuff

Action Steps from this episode:

  1. Recognize when you’ve hit a wall.  Is it a temporary hurdle you have to climb or is it a 100 ft brick wall that may be the end of you?   Take time to evaluate you and your business and if you are still moving in the right direction or toiling away with little progress.  When your target audience knows your business exists but doesn’t care, or maybe you don’t care anymore, maybe it’s time to think about moving onto something that you and your customers will fall in love with.

  2. Brainstorm 3 possible changes. 3 possible pivots… not talking about tear-downs and start all overs, but three possible minor adjustments: maybe it’s a change in customers, a change in product, or a change in scope.  Maybe you don’t need to shut it down, but take it into a new direction instead.  Sometimes even the best businesses need to change if they want to thrive.

  3. Make the decision.  Don’t live in a place of fear.  Spend all the time you need evaluating the situation, but the second you decide on a course of action, go out and start making things happen.  Toiling away when you should be taking action is a sure fire way to die a slow death.

Links and Resources:

  1. WP Curve. Dan’s new startup that provides ongoing WordPress support and quick fixes at a price that any small business or blogger can afford.  Hiring a developer to make changes to your WordPress site is expensive and time consuming, WP Curve makes it as easy as sending an email (24 hours a day) to get whatever fixes and small changes you need for your website.

  2. The 7 Day Startup.  Dan’s upcoming book which is a boot strappers bible on how to launch a business fast and effectively.
  3. Stop Saying You Target Small Business.  A great article that talks about narrowing your ideal customer so you can provide a laser focused message and resources for a specific market.  Maybe we need to change the name of this podcast?
  4. Jing.  Great (and free) tool for recording screencasts on your computer
  5. Skitch.  A great app from Evernote that lets you quickly and easily annotate images and drawings on your computer or mobile device.

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SBX29: Evolution Of Your Thing

The itch to become a business owner happens seemingly out of nowhere. You’re standing in line at Wal-Mart. You’re daydreaming in the fast lane on the highway while other (irritated) drivers pass you on the right. Or you’re in the world’s incubator of great ideas: the shower. When, all of a sudden, you think: “I should start a business.”

Sure, it doesn’t come out quite like that. More of a “I wonder how much extra money I could bring in if I _______.”  Or maybe the seed –which was planted by a friend, co-worker, or family member in the form of a genuine of off-handed compliment– starts to bloom in the recesses of your brain.

As soon as that thought happens once? You’re screwed. It’ll show up at dinner when your wife is talking, while you’re watching AMERICA’S GOT TALENT with your husband, and most of all when you’re trying to fall asleep. Your next move is a big one, as it’ll set you onto a trajectory that could lead to your deepest wish fulfillment, or a never-ending cycle of frustration and overwhelm.

In this episode, Brian McLeod takes us through business owner evolution. This is a must listen to anybody whose on the fence with their big idea.  WARNING: consuming this episode may result in an exceptionally shortened learning curve for an aspiring business owner.

Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.  — Brian McLeod  (Tweet It)

Listen and Learn…

  • The first thing to do when you decide you’re going for it.
  • How to give your budding business your best energy, even if you’re working 9 to 5. (11 minutes ish)
  • What it’s like to be a musician, working sales gigs to support the dream.
  • Why it will feel weird when you actually start to make money.
  • The challenge of being the center of your business and how Brian responded to being the guy that everybody calls for everything. (25 minutes ish)
  • A certain thing that most business owners and freelancers get caught up on when they start to succeed… and how to transition into long-term partnerships.
  • And so much more.  Like his buddy, Kevin, Brian is seriously laugh-out-loud funny.

Action Steps from this episode:

  1. Get Started Immediately.  Don’t just sit on the sidelines.  Don’t do what many people do: “Ready… Aim… Aim… Aiiiiiiiim….”  Get in the game.  Understand that it will be a slow process if you’re working your part time passion around your full time job.  Be sure to preserve your best energy for your part time passion.  Do this by flexing as much creativity in your full time gig as you can.  This keeps your day job fun and light versus burdensome.]

  2. Embrace the Evolution of Your Venture.  How this thing starts will assuredly not be how this finishes.  If you stay engaged for the long-term, one thing will lead to another, which will lead to another, which will lead to another.  Brian’s story is a perfect example: an evening/weekend musician gets into sales, begins working with inventors, starts copywriting with some of the biggest names in the biz, strikes out on his own as a freelancer, and partners with masters to start a production company.  Listen to this episode to hear some of the struggles and aha moments that you are likely to have as you set out on this journey.

  3. Look for Partnerships, Not Customers.  If you’re a service based business, the play is to find the people whom you can serve in a long-term basis.  Swinging from client to client like a monkey looking for the next banana can be unfulfilling and overwhelming.  Instead, engage in long-term consultative selling, where you look to become part of the family.  If you’re a product based business, provide a customer experience that ruins all other businesses.  Being the best spouse ever helps affair proof the marriage.  Listen to this episode for more of Brian’s amazing metaphors as you track with him on his amazing journey.

Links and Resources:

  1. Fast Effective Copy, Brian’s copywriting course with industry legend David Garfinkel.  “Seriously the best course on copy I’ve ever seen.  If you’re NOT going to hire a copywriter for your business, then buy this as the ultimate DIY.” -Mike (PS. I’m not kidding. Please reach out to me if you have any questions about it. I was blown away.)

  2. Create the ultimate owner brand.  If you missed this episode, you missed *a lot.*  When you first get into your new business venture, don’t become a cheerleader.  Start with THIS.  You’ll thank me later.

 

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SBX 28: Building Owner Brands

Social media… it is NOT just for your business.  In an age of information and CEO celebrity-hood, customers want to know a little something about the owner of your company (RE: you).  It doesn’t matter if you’re an offline owner, an online owner, or an aspiring owner with a cool idea. Your online profiles are being searched, found, and scrutinized.  The thousand dollar question: are they helping or hurting your company brand?

Here’s an example of an online profile that is doing NOTHING for a business.  Seriously?? There’s nothing of value here… no link to the business… no sharing of this person’s values or thought-leadership… nothing but crickets.  No posts since 2006? I mean, hey, it’s not like Google is a popular search or anything.

(Gary: Mike, you should be ashamed of yourself.)
(Mike: I am.  Ugh.  Feel free to rip me in the comments.  I deserve it.)

Here’s an example of an online profile that’s pretty standard.  Some social proof (a decent amount of followers… did he pay for those?)  Pointing to this online hub and company.  Better than nothing… but how can we do one better?

Simple.  We track down Carisa Miklusak of T-Media and beg for her secrets.  T-Media not only handles social strategies for 8 and 9 figure organizations, they handle the personal brands of some of the world’s most ambitious CEOs. Carisa is a power-user of social media and, in walking her walk, has built a consistent owner brand across 7 social profiles.  (Amazingly enough, she has a kick-butt personal life too.)

WARNING: listening to this episode will inspire you to stop cheer-leading for your business and post less cat videos.  All right, meow?

Social media has created a demanding audience where individuals (customers & partners) want to connect with other people, NOT just a company.  — Carisa Miklusak — (Tweet It)

 

Listen and Learn…

  • The difference between having a social account and building a personal brand.
  • Why nobody wants to be friends with a business cheerleader (gaaah!).
  • 4 reasons why business owners can’t put all their energy into the business brand and ignore their personal.
  • How to get started on building value-based, ROI owner profiles, even if you haven’t cared up to this point.  (Hint: pick the profile that rhymes with Minked-Pin).
  • How to determine which sites you should be on and which sites you can ignore.
  • The power of an interest wheel = determining the periphery of things that your customers care about.
  • The 3 things that people use social media for. (20 minutes into the show.  This is GOLD.)
  • The pseudo-holiday that Ryan Holmes (CEO of Hoot Suite) has turned into an annual tradition.
  • CARISA ON THE SBX HOTSEAT!  Her greatest mistake and biggest AHA! moments as a small business owner… plus the tension between believing in people and hiring.  (With a fantastic TO DO list tip).

Action Steps from this episode:

  1. Explore your WHY.  Think about why you got started on this business endeavor in the first place… THAT is the thing that people care about.  A great owner brand begins with making a shift to value-add, and value-add can only exist in a space of purpose and care. Think about how you want to be viewed in the marketplace and how you would like to be described. Separate yourself from your company, but make sure your personal brand is aligned with your (1) values and (2) thought-leadership.

  2. Craft the Message on Each Profile.  The goal here is to humanize yourself.  Who would your customers like you to be? What type of information do they need when they come knocking on your door?  What kind of resources can you provide to your audience?  A stand-out-from-the-crowd content strategy is born out of putting your customer hat on and engaging in social listening.  In the show, Carisa gives a great tip on how to do this (even if you don’t have a mega-following).

  3. Design the System.  No, you don’t need to be everywhere and no, this doesn’t need to take up all of your time.  Carisa recommends picking 3 platforms.  Having a systems adds an element of predictability to what your persona is going to be sharing or doing.  If your current system is merely broadcasting and/or a one-way conversation, then there is opportunity here.  Listen to the show to hear Carisa’s favorite social media aggregators that will save you lots and lots of time.

Links and Resources:

  1. 5 Tools to Manage Social Media.  #4 is Carisa’s personal favorite.

  2. Carisa’s blog.  And if for some reason you don’t recognize her authori-tay 2 minutes into the podcast, you absolutely will when you read her about page.

  3. 13 Tips to Boost Your Linked-In Profile’s SEO.  It’s not even fair.

  4. Da Vinci Virtual Office Solutions.  A very cool thing for small business owners that Carisa references on the show.

  5. More information on how to be a consultative seller.  With John Jantsch.  Totally congruent with “value-based owner profiles.”

 

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SBX 27: 5 Website Mistakes That Are Killing Your Conversions

When it comes to generating leads and sales for your business, is your website less like Ron Popeil and more like Willy Loman?

Well, don’t feel bad if it is, most business websites are setup to fail from the start.

Your website does not have you, the all knowing business owner, standing by to deliver your magical sales touch every time a new person comes to your website.  Your website is its own standalone salesperson and needs to have all of the right tools to convert casual visitors into hot leads for your business.

So how do you do this?  For starters, you need to know what elements need to be on your website to give it the best chance to convert.  You also need to know that great design does not equal a website that will convert.  Amazon.com isn’t very pretty, but it works like a Mule when it comes to creating sales.  Most people place a higher importance on visual design than on the words on your website.  Great design is nice, but it’s the words that sell.

Come join us in episode 27 of The Small Business Express as we discuss the strategies and elements that go into creating a high converting website.

Listen and Learn…

  • Why most business website suck at converting visitors into leads
  • How to map out your entire website to lead visitors towards your conversion goals
  • What landing pages are and how to use them effectively
  • Why copywriting plays second fiddle to pretty design and why it’s the most important thing on your website
  • What’s a Value Proposition and why websites without one are killing their conversions
  • How to craft every page on your website so it supports your conversion strategy

Action Steps from this episode:

  1. Know what your main goal on the website will be. If it’s to contact you or to download a report, look at your website with a critical eye and see if that’s what the page is setup to do. If not, then start restructuring your website to lead people down that path.

  2. Avoid common conversion killing mistakes. We talked about your value proposition, creating clarity on your website and removing unnecessary distractions. The point is to make the path to conversion as clear and easy as possible, so the when your designer wants to add a beautiful image slider or fancy fonts that are barely legible, tell them , no thank you! Clarity always trumps fancyiness when it comes to converting visitors into leads. Make the path to conversion very easy and very clear.

  3. Create a conversion funnel for your website. Now that you know your goal for the website, you understand what junk needs to be removed and the important elements that need to be put into place, you can create a conversions funnel for your website and start mapping out how each of your important pages are contrubuting to your new conversion strategy.

Links and Resources:

  1. Hemingway App is a great writing tool that Mike likes to use that helps you keep your writing focused and without the fluff.

  2. We didn’t mention it this episode (but have in the past), but the Conversion XL blog is a great resource to learn everything you need to learn about website conversions.

  3. 5 Mistakes That Kill Website Conversions.  A recent blog post Gary wrote about website conversions

  4. Fiverr.com.  Online marketplace where you can get thousands of different tasks done quickly for only $5.  You have to sift through some of the junk, but there are some real gems there is you look.
  5. Mike’s epic interview with the great Kevin Rogers (SBX 25) about using testimonials to turn visitors into customers

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SBX 26: Effortless Selling, How To Sell To Today’s Consumer

Selling just isn’t what it used to be.  Many business owners miss the good old days of straight forward selling, where you give your canned sales pitch, the customer counters, you give them a small discount and a pat on the back……and boom!  Deal closed!

It doesn’t work like that anymore.  Today’s consumer comes through your doors already knowing about your business, what your selling, how much it costs, along with the pricing of your 5 competitors.  They’ve done their research long before they ever contacted you and have a clear idea of what they want and what they want to pay for it.

How do you learn how to sell to this type of consumer?

Easy.  You listen to this episode!  Today we have a very special guest on the show, John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing.  John is probably the most well known small business consultant in the country, offering down-to-earth marketing advice that any owner can implement.  He’s an author, speaker, and podcaster who knows his stuff when it comes to all things small business.

Create something people want to share -John Jantsch (Tweet)

John has a new book coming out in a few weeks called Duct Tape Selling, think like a marketer-sell like a superstar.  We were lucky enough to get an advanced copy and to sit down with John for a power-packed 30 and dig into the meat and potatoes of the book.

Selling to today’s consumer is less about trying to “sell” to them but rather creating so much value that they just want to buy from you.  In this way, every sales pitch becomes a consultation… effortless, pressure-less, and source of fun rather than fear.

In this episode, you will learn how today’s best business owners discard the traditional sales tricks and use their personal brand and platform to create sales on a level their competition can’t touch.  Online or offline biz?  This is an episode for you.

Listen and Learn…

  • Why traditional sales tactics don’t work on today’s informed consumer (and what the heck to do instead.  John’s insights here are gold.  Gold, we tell ya!)
  • Why marketing and sales need to become friends, and the reason you need both to sell like a superstar
  • How creating valuable content for your audience will not only attract customers but turn you into an expert
  • How today’s sales superstars are working on their personal brands instead of rehearsing sales scripts
  • What is a platform and how do you build one to supercharge your sales
  • How to leverage the internet and technology to leverage your selling
  • Create a killer blog for your business even if you don’t have a clue what to write about
  • Listening to your customer = the new black (despite what Netflix would have you believe)

Duct Tape Selling

Action Steps from this episode:

  1. Adopt a new mentality about selling. Your job isn’t to beat people with tactics. Your job is to discover how you can better help people. Listening is the best thing for all of us and John drops some very real insights on exactly how to do that. But it all starts with a new mindset.

  2. Sit down and write out the answers to the 20 questions your customers are asking. A great place to get these answers are in your text messages and inbox. HUGE nugget from John there. And now, as you publish these answers, be it in a document, a PDF, audio, ANY technological resource you feel comfortable with — And share these new assets of yours with people that listen.

  3. Put this content out on a platform that you can commit to. Develop the habit of showing up on this platform even on days you don’t feel like it. Like john says, the muscles are developed over time. Driven by a discipline to be useful to your customer, you can sell without feeling like you’re selling.

Links and Resources:

  1. You can pre-order John’s latest book, “Duct Tape Selling” here on Amazon.  If you pre-order, John is offer is great a second book for free and even more if you order multiple copies.  Check out the offers here.
  2. Like OUR podcast on small biz? Well, you’ll like John’s too. Check it out over at The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast
  3. A great article over at the Duct Tape Marketing blog that sums up marketing in a neat little hourglass shaped infographic showing you the entire sales funnel in 7 steps.  It goes deeper than the traditional sales funnel.

  4. How To Truly Listen, a great TED talk on listening from Evelyn Glennie

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SBX 25: How To Make Your Business Standout From The Crowd

You’re rocking out.  Building your business.  Dreaming.  Planning.  Dreaming some more.  And then it happens.  You discover another business doing what you’re doing.  Competition happens, sure.  But THIS other business is further along than you.  Has more customers than you.  And may even look better than you.  What’s going to make you different?

Or maybe it’s an your website… which looks like everybody else’s, reads like everybody else’s, is ineffective like everybody else’s.  What’s one simple change you can make that’ll change everything?

Maybe you just want to stick out to your customers more.  Or increase conversion of your opt-in pages.  Maybe raise your closing percentage or your average customer lifetime value.  Do a better job sharing your company history.  What’s one simple communication you can add to your arsenal to accomplish these things?

ANSWER:  (In case you missed all the hyperlinks above)

You need a sales hook, aka a way to tell your story in 60 seconds or less.  A good sales hook will make you special, memorable, and authoritative.  In this episode of SBX, we are joined by the great Kevin Rogers (seasoned comedian and master copywriter) to share his formula for crafting sales hooks that… well, SELL!

Whether you’re an online or offline business, seasoned veteran or wannabe start-up, sooner or later every USP (unique selling proposition – the thing that makes you different)  is commoditized.  Business owners always point to their product as the driver of their success or failure.  And while product is important, it’s you and your story that can never truly be copied outright.  It’s your story that will build affinity, create an environment ripe for selling, and turn your marketing from a “have to do” into an authentic “love to do.”

“We all surf the web the same way, with our index finger-of-death hovering over the mouse, eager to click away from a bad mistake.  People are begging for you to screw it up so they can move on and go somewhere else.” — Kevin Rogers —

In this episode, you will learn how to package your story in a way that makes you feel awesome… and helps others to know, like, and trust you.  If you’ve been listening to the SMALL BUSINESS EXPRESS for any length of time?

SBX 25 takes the game to a whole new level.  Be ready.

… .. .

(This is Mike writing.  On a personal note, Kevin is one of my favorite people I’ve met in this space.  I feel privileged to know him and can’t wait to spend more time with him.  I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I did.)

(And also?  April 11th was/is Gary’s birthday.  Give him some love with one click.  I love that guy.  Best partner ever… even though I’ve never met him.)

Listen and Learn…

  • How the art of stand-up comedy is completely parallel to marketing your small business.
  • Why stories sell so well (archaeological proof from the caveman days?  Yes.)
  • What Sunday dinner with your in-laws can teach you about building a loyal customer base.
  • The challenge that online and offline business owners have opening up and being themselves (and how to overcome it).
  • Never practice an elevator pitch again.  Instead focus on building your tribe by being known, liked, and trusted (KLT).
  • The step-by-step I S D R formula: how comics use it, how it translates to business owners, and a fool-proof joke that Mike laughs obnoxiously at.
  • How to apply the hook to different businesses, different industries, and different circumstances.
  • The advantage that small business owners have over big corporations (somewhere around the 38 minute mark.  LOVE this.)
  • A simple and easy way for customers to provide you powerful and authentic testimonials (and YES, they do need a little help.  Most people aren’t naturally good at this.)

60-Seconds-Sales-Hook

Action Steps from this episode:

  1. Have the Courage to Tell Your Story in a Vulnerable Way.  Getting personal with your customers is the fastest way to make your business stand-out.  When customers can see themselves in your story, it creates an “us versus the world” scenario.  Kevin makes a key point here: nowadays we’re all running life-style businesses, which means we are allowed to be real, genuine, authentic, and transparent in a way that big corporations cannot.  Telling your story doesn’t mean telling people everything about yourself.  It means proving to your tribe that you understand them.

  2. Write Your Hook Using Kevin’s ISDR Method.  This is the ultimate story formula.  Listen to the podcast for exact details or simply download Kevin’s ebook / pick up the Kindle version.  The formula is simple on the surface but deserves way more explanation than a 4 sentence summary.  If you’re going to write your story, your hook, or your (gasp) elevator pitch without a proven formula?  Be careful that you don’t do what everybody else does and drown people in irrelevant dribble.

  3. Massage Your Hook and Inject it Into Your Marketing Funnel.  You won’t write the perfect hook on the first draft.  Work on it, sleep on it, share it with experts, and find ways to implement it into your sales and marketing.  Great places include any-and-all about pages, testimonials, sales pitches/sales pages, and injected casually into your customer conversations.  Listen to the show to hear some of Kevin’s favorite phrases that you can implement/borrow/steal.  As he wisely advises at the end of the episode: give yourself permission to be an expert.  Frame your story in a way that proves you are as magnificent as you really are.

Links and Resources:

  1. Kevin’s blog — so much more than just a pretty-faced copywriter.  Mike even gave him his own folder in his outlook so he can save valuable posts like this one, which is all about doubling your prices using your bat-signal talent.
  2. Kevin’s book with the FULL STORY of the 60 Second Sales Hook.  If you’ve read this far and still haven’t downloaded it (???) then pick up the PDF version here or the Kindle version/Paper version here.  The forumla is so brilliantly simple, see how a dog uses it to generate “sales” (not kidding).
  3. You mean there’s a Facebook page that actually has some type of value??  Kevin’s fan page is a great place to interact directly with him, especially when you’re going through the process of massaging your hook.  (Be sure to tag @Mike Monroe and @Gary Shouldis in your post – we’re fans too!)

  4. The story of Poopourri — see how telling a good story can sell anything.  Even something as commoditized as poop spray.

  5. The story of Dollar Shave Club — This is virtually a case-study of a successful ISDR formula.  Try and spot each piece!

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SBX 24: How To Not Let Your Business Get In The Way Of Your Life

Is your business taking over your life?

Starting your own business is nothing like working for someone else.  When you have a job, you clock in every morning and clock out at the end of the day.  Both physically and mentally.  With your own business, it’s with you all the time.  All the time!

Having a business means that there are no clear 9-5 boundaries of when you can start and stop your work day.  Of course you can make them, but we all know if something needs to be done now, you have no boss to ignore because he’s with you 24 hours a day.

This is why it’s so important to make sure your business goals are in-line with your life goals.  If those two aren’t in-sync, it can eventually lead to unhappiness with your business and your life.

The good thing is that today’s guest is an expert at making his business and his life work in harmony with each other.  Our good friend Tal Gur is here to talk about why it’s so important to understand what your life goals are before you start building a business.  Tal’s lived and several countries, has taken multi-year treks across the globe and is still able to run his own business, or should I say businesses, and generate enough income to live life on his own terms.

tal-gur

Listen and Learn…

  • Why your life plan needs to happen before your business plan
  • Why your business is making you unhappy
  • What is a lifestyle business and how can a regular business owner apply the same principals
  • Gary’s business mistake that cost him years of headaches and stress
  • Why delegating is so important if you want to be free from your business
  • How to automate as much as your business as possible

Action Steps from this episode:

  1. Know what your life goals are first – Is travelling the world important to you or is it having the freedom to do things on a whim or to spend time learning a new skill or craft? The first step is to spend time understanding what really makes you happy in life

  2. Does the business you have or want to start in-line with your life goals? If you want to be able to travel the world on a minutes notice, having a brick and mortar retail store with employees may not be the ideal business for you. It could still work, but it might be harder than being say, a consultant or designer who can work remotely from anywhere

  3. Go and take action – Once you’ve decided that your business and life goals are in-line, you can move forward at full speed, knowing that your business wont become a bottle neck for what you what you really want to do in life. There aren’t too many things greater than being able to go to work doing something you really love everyday.

Links and Resources:

  1. You can find out more about Tal Gur here.  You can also check out one of his latest venture, goal software that helps you keep your goals on track.

  2. Want to learn more about creating a lifestyle business?  You can check out Tim Ferriss’s book, The 4 Hour Work Week.

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SBX 23: How To Find The Right Business Partner

The only thing that might be uglier than a divorce is a business partnership gone bad.

Business partnerships can be awesome.  Steve Jobs & Steve Wozniak, Warren Buffet & Charlie Munger, Mike Monroe & Gary Shouldis and Darryl Hall & John Oats are just a few examples of the magic that can happen when two forces combine to create something bigger than one could have accomplished on their own.

When you form a partnership, it should be a 2+2=6 (or 10!) equation.  Both of you should be able to bring your talents to the table and combined, create something bigger than you could have done alone.  That’s the power of a great partnership.

But unfortunately, it doesn’t always result in a happy ending.

Just like divorce rates, partnership breakups are quite common, often resulting  in the ruin (or near ruin) of a business.  When there are fundamental disagreements or serious money issues, the stakes and emotions can get high.  Once great friends can turn on each other and bring the entire company down with them.

So what can you do if you are considering getting into a business partnership?  You listen to this episode of course!

Listen and Learn…

  • Learn the ins and outs of partnerships and how to approach one
  • Why getting into a partnerships with people you really like can end in disaster
  • Partnering with friends or family?  Avoid these pitfalls and avoid ruining a relationship
  • How a conversation before you start a partnership can save your business years later
  • Why you both need to plan for a worse case scenario right from the start
  • Tips for ensuring a partnership breakup won’t destroy the business

Action Steps from this episode:

  1. Who’s going to be responsible for WHAT – how that impacts the partnership.  Know Who’s going to be responsible for WHAT. You need to have a clear understanding as to who is going to be responsible for what roles in the business and it all needs to be put in writing. It’s the only way to keep things fair and to hold each other accountable if one of the partners fails to live up to their responsibilities. Put it in writing and plan for every possible scenario

  2. Complementary People.  Find a Complementary business partner – If both of you love bookkeeping but hate talking to customers, guess what, you should probably rethink the partnership. You want to find someone who will compliment you and add value to the business. When it comes to a partnership, 1 and 1 should equal at least 3 to make it worth getting into.

  3. Make sure you have a shared vision.  Be sure you have a shared vision before you start – If you don’t share a similar vision of what you think the business can become, you’ll be faced with conflicting agendas that will most likely end the partnership as you’ll both be trying to take it in different directions.

Links and Resources:

  1. An article from CNN/Money that talks about the ups and downs of working with your significant other.

  2. A good article by Ryan Lee on choosing a business partner and why not to choose someone like you.

  3. Great YouTube video about The Front Row Foundation, the charity we spoke about at the beginning of the episode. If you want to find out more on how to get involved, contact us here.

  4. We spoke about The E-Myth, by Michael Gerber which is a must read for any entrepreneur.

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SBX 22: Twitter Success In Under 15 Minutes a Day

So much social media, so little time!  Many business owners believe that if they can’t do EVERYTHING, they shouldn’t even try to do SOMETHING.  Which is why we hunted down small business owner and Twitter expert, Mr. Josh King.  As a small business consultant, Josh recognizes the need to keep the social media workload light.  If Twitter is one of the places your target customers hang out?  Then the 15-minutes-a-day Twitter strategy is something you’ll want to have started *yesterday*.

Some background on Josh King (outside of what you can learn about him on his blog).  He is known as “the Tinderbox Consultant,” a brand of endearment whose goal it is to leave every owner smarter, better, and more successful.  His consultant practice (and his Twitter following) is a local one and his strategies contrarian to the oft-held mentality of “build you following, more more more, bigger is better.”  For Josh, Twitter is like a virtual telephone, NOT a virtual megaphone.

A couple caveats about this interview: (1) Gary and Josh engage in exactly ZERO foreplay.  Be prepared to dive right in once the interview starts.  (2) We tried using a new method of guest-recording.  While it came out perfectly in tests, it came out less-than-flawless in the final recording.  You can still hear Josh just fine, but be forewarned. And finally?  (3) This is NOT a podcast about “here’s how to setup your account!  Make your profile look nice!  Make sure you retweet people (duh)!”  This is a strategic right-hook from a guy who knows how to build responsive audiences.

Facebook is the living room of social media, Twitter is the front-yard.  The connections you make on Twitter are unconditional. (Click to Tweet)

Listen and Learn…

  • Josh’s ‘help people first’ strategy and how that’s led to massive word-of-mouth for his business.
  • Twitter strategy in a nutshell: three times per day is the champions way.  Listen for details.
  • How to put a consistent brand out there across multiple channels by creating a master social document.
  • The importance of an editorial calendar for brainstorming and systemization.  Boom.
  • The power of notifications and how to “clean up” at the end of the day.
  • The ambiguity of small business ROI – is my social marketing moving people forward?
  • How starting a business blog has kept Josh sane.

Action Steps from this episode:

  1. Define Success.  Know what the purpose of your time on Twitter is.  In most cases, it’ll be to drive people to your hub (your website) or get them into your store (brick-and-mortar folk).  The surest way to fail is to not know what you’re aiming for. Duh. With the objective clearly defined, you’ll then be able to comparatively measure how one 15 minute strategy compares to another 15 minute strategy.  What interactions / tweets are getting the most response?  To use Josh’s analogy from above: by playing in the front yard, people will want to enter the house.  You don’t need to stand out front begging people to come in.  Twitter (and all social media) is ineffective as a self-promotional megaphone.

  2. Make a Plan.  When you first start out, you’re probably not going to hit it out of the park right away.  But given enough time and patience, water can erode the hardest rock.  15 minutes a day is 60-90 minutes per week, 50-100 hours per year. What is the overall cohesive plan in those 50-100 hours?  Fill in the blanks:

    • The times I will consistently show up on Twitter are _____.

    • 3 ideas I have about what to share are _____, _____, and _____.

    • 3 groups of people I can talk to are _____, _____, and _____.

  3. Build Relationships.  It’s easy to have micro relationships on Twitter.  After all, this is what potential customers WANT: a brand that is interested in them.  Sometimes it’s as simple as following your customers, interacting with those people who retweet you, and tweeting back and forth with influencers.  Listen to the show to hear more about cuddling up to your target market and putting yourself in the forefront of their feed.

Links and Resources:

  1. Josh’s personal blog, his business blog, and his twitter account (again – don’t be fooled by the following).

  2. Some breakout statistics for Twitter users that will make you go “hmm!”

  3. Twitter followers are more likely to buy from you?  Yup, it’s true.

  4. One of Josh’s favorite Twitter tools to keep tabs on your 3x per day Twitter influence.

  5. Find out the best times to Tweet, based on your followers.  This is seriously awesome.

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SBX 21: How To Validate Your Business Idea

Has anyone ever told you, “you’re so great at (insert skill), you should start a business!”

These words, though innocent, have paved the road to more failed business ventures than any recession, depression or economic downturn ever has.

Encouragement from friends and family is great, but before you start a business, you have to dive a lot deeper than that if you want to know if your great idea has a chance at business success.

Most of us business owners fall in love with our business ideas.  You get an idea, fall in love with it and go and start a business.  You assume everyone will have the same excitement for your business idea as you do.  You’re wrong.

Everyone is different and everyone has different tastes.  That’s why some people drive a Mercedes and some people ride a scooter, we all have different tastes and are motivated by different things (I would love to zip around on a scooter, but no interest in driving a Mercedes).  That’s why taking the time to test and validate your business idea before you spend your life savings is so important.

For a few hundred dollars and a few dozen hours of your time, you can get a pretty good idea of what people think about your idea and if it’s something worth pursuing.  So why do most people ignore this step?  I think first, because they aren’t sure exactly how to test their idea properly, and secondly, they are in love with their idea and are afraid to expose it to criticism.  Big mistake.

Before you go all in, bet the farm and jump in with both feet, take some time to make sure there is interest in what you think the world will fall in love with.

Listen and Learn…

  • How dreaming is great, but not testing is bad.  Very bad
  • How to find the right audience to test your idea with
  • How to get people to take action in validating your business idea
  • How to leverage technology and existing resources to test your idea
  • What actions people need to take in order to get true validation
  • Why crafting the right offer is so important when validating your idea
  • How to get people excited about your idea

Action Steps from this episode:

  1. Assemble you audience. Before you start any kind of testing you want to be sure that you are testing your ideas with the type of person that will be your customer. It’s a big waste of time if you try and pitch your idea to a demographic that isn’t interested. Spend the time doing your research so you have a pretty clear idea of who will want to buy your product or service

  2. Decide how you are going to pre-sell your idea. Are you going to ask ask people to sign up for an email list, make some sort of pre-order action or maybe fill out a contact form for more information. Decide what the mechanism is going to be to validate your idea.

  3. So you have the audience, the plan, now you have to craft the offer and call to action to actually get people to take the action you want. Your offer has to be interesting and there has to be a clear call to action or else it’s unlikely they will take any. Here is where you will be able to get the data to see if your idea has legs

Links and Resources:

  1. The story Mike told about a local bar that pre-sold beer mugs (that came with a lot of free beer!) in exchange for helping to fund the construction of the bar.

  2. We spoke about this company in the podcast that can provide targeted survey participants to test out your idea.

  3. I think we forgot to mention this in the podcast, but Google has a great and cost effective consumer survey tool you can run on your website

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SBX 20: How to Get Customers Coming to YOU

The hardest part of being a business owner is getting people who need you to notice you.  And then, once they notice you, getting them to overcome their natural skepticism and buyers remorse to purchase from you.  *Sigh*  What if there was a way where you could accomplish both without feeling sleazy, salesy, or scummy?  What if this method didn’t cost you an arm and a leg?

It sounds like a bold promise.  But the reality is that thousands of companies use white papers, e-books, reports, and content marketing (note: worst name ever) to get customers coming to them.  You don’t need to go out there and become the world’s greatest blogger.  You simply need to share your expertise with the people that need it.  Many owners scoff at this strategy because it seems unremarkable or too simplistic.  But what’s ordinary to you is extraordinary to others.  So help us out and share your know-how with the world.  Disclaimer: while it may not be a method for immediate gratification?  Creating a report to showcase your expertise is an ethical way to build your brand as an owner worth doing business with.

Every customer has something they’re thinking about before they become a customer. This report is your contribution to the conversation. The *thing* that will get them coming to you.  (Click to Tweet)

Listen and Learn…

  • What is a white paper and how can it benefit your business?  How do these things differ from free-reports, e-books, and all the other “stuff”?
  • The most effective way to get customers coming to you, whether you’re selling digital services or water filtration systems.  This stuff works.  Get the necessary instruction so your biz can start working it!
  • How to narrow down your focus so you’re not overwhelmed by all the things you *could* write about.
  • Why customers will actually be DELIGHTED when you start talking about yourself (versus how they react to companies that just try to sell-sell-sell, push-push-push)
  • Offline or online business: get your hot little content piece into the hands of people who are just looking for a reason to buy.  Gary and Mike share some of their favorite strategies to do just that.

Action Steps from this episode:

  1. Decide the 3-13 things people should be thinking about before they purchase a product or service in your industry. This content piece you’re creating is going to be educational in nature.  People buy from businesses (and business owners) whom they respect, like, and trust.  They should walk away from this content piece RESPECTING your knowledge, LIKING your style, and TRUSTING your business. Educate to dominate. Make it useful and keep it all about your customers by creating advertising that (as Sonia Simone says) “is too good to throw away.”

  2. Decide how you will make your transition. Once you talk all about their problem (“don’t talk to me about your weed killer, talk to me about my crab grass!”), it’s time to speak a little bit about yourself.  You’re not just doing charity work here. You’ve earned it. Keep it short, sweet, and to the point. The goal isn’t to present options and to sell, the goal is to get them to take the next step in your sales funnel. Drive them to take action by offering them an incentive and communicating WHY you’re giving this to them.  More details in the show about how to do this effectively.

  3. Decide the medium of your report and how you’re going to get it in front of people.  Don’t be shy about spending a little bit of money to get your amazing creation in front of the customers who need it.  Make sure you’re being smart about how you’re getting it into people’s hands and you are READY and PREPARED when customers take that next step that you’re asking them to do.  There’s nothing worse than spending time, energy, and money to get somebody’s attention and then not knowing what to do with it once you have it.  Listen to the show to determine some effective ways to get your new report some really great attention.

Links and Resources:

  1. Mike’s latest e-book project (talked about at the beginning of the show).  This no opt-in download “is a handbook for business growth” according to one second-year business owner.  Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or just thinking of putting your hat in the ring, these 15 brief exercises will definitely pop an AHA moment.

  2. If you can’t come up with a sexy title for your next project after reading Jon Marrow’s headline hacks?  It’s possible that you have your eyes closed.

  3. The greatest marketing piece ever created on the subject of water quality for your home.  You’ll have to fill out your info, but it’s worth it to see an example.  Mike has kept this piece of “junk mail” for 5 years and counting.

  4. So you made a cool thing that acknowledges people’s problem and proves that you’re an authority — that’s great!  But your thing is only as cool as people know about it.  If you missed Episode 8 of SBX, then dl it today and catch up on how to make inbound and outbound work together.

  5. Some great digital examples of white papers.  The gang over at marketo does it right!

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SBX 19: How To Get Started In Ecommerce

Have you always wanted to create an eCommerce store for your business but don’t know where to start?

Creating an Ecommerce store, as a stand alone store or to supplement your brick and mortar, can be a great way for a local business to create a much broader reach than a physical location ever could.

So why doesn’t every business do it?

Because creating an Ecommerce store is not like creating a blog or regular business website, the learning curve is fairly steep and if you don’t do it right, it can be end up costing you a lot of money with little return.

In this episode of The Small Business Express podcast, we’ll discuss the basics of Ecommerce and the first steps you can take to get started.

Listen and Learn…

  • If an Ecommerce store is right for you and deciding if you’re ready to take on such a big project
  • An overview of how Ecommerce works and the elements that make up an Ecommerce store
  • The pros and cons of running an Ecommerce store
  • How to look like an online giant despite having an itty bitty storefront location
  • The difference between a hosted and self-hosted Ecommerce solution and which one is best to get started with
  • Great resources to get you started on the road to creating your own Ecommerce store
Adorama camera

This little NYC camera shop was (still is) an online giant in the early days of Ecommerce. Gary purchased his first digital camera online from them.

Action Steps from this episode:

  1. Deciding if ecommerce is right for you.  The first step is to decide if an ecommere store would be a logical step for your business. If you sell products, it probably is a very appealing option, it really comes down to if you understand the work involved and are ready to jump into it with two both feet. It takes a lot of work and fine tuning to get a website to make sales for you.

  2. Decide what kind of shopping cart to use.  When we talk about a shopping cart, we’re talking about the type of software platform you will use to power your eCommerce store. There are two options, hosted and self-hosted solutions. Hosted solutions are shopping carts where they take care of everything for you….from the website hosting, to the shopping cart, to the payment gateway and everything else….it’s an all in one solution. It’s a great way to get started and is usually recommended if you’re just getting started in eCommerce. It’s easy to use, but still very powerful, enough to run a full blown Ecommerce business A self hosted solution is where you install the shopping cart software on your own server and have to provide your own payment gateway, website hosting and everything else that’s needed to power your store. People will usually choose a self-hosted solution when they need a lot more customization than a hosted platform can provide and they have the technical resources to setup and maintain their own online store.

  3. Resources to get started.  If you decide that Ecommerce is something you want to pursue, the first step is to really (really) educate yourself about Ecommerce and understanding how the sales cycle works online and the important elements required for a successful store. You also have to know how to drive traffic and conversions on the site or else the whole thing is a big waste of time.  Check the resource section below for some great places to start.

Links and Resources:

  1. Shopify is a hosted Ecommerce solution that makes it pretty easy to create your own online store.  Also check out their blog which has some greater started guides if you’re new to Ecommerce.
  2. Big Commeerce is another easy to use hosted Ecommerce solution that brings together everything you need to get started.
  3. Magento is an open source self-hosted solution.  More difficult to set up and get started but offer more control and options than a hosted solution.  Not necessarily recommended if this is your first Ecommerce rodeo.
  4. Ecommerce Fuel is a great blog (and podcast) that gives you an inside look at what it’s like to start and grow your own Ecommerce store.  The host, Andrew Youderian is a veteran Ecommerce store owner and all round good guy.
  5. Build My Online Store is a great Ecommerce podcast (and blog) with lots of great interviews that covers the basics as well as how to deliver a great online experience to your customers.  Host Terry Lin (good guy) gives you an honest, no-hype look into creating your won Ecommerce store.
  6. ConversionXL is a fantastic blog that focuses on conversion optimization, not only for Ecommerce, but for any website.
  7. SBX Podcast episode 11, traps to avoid when creating a website for your business.
  8. A good article from Digital Aptitude on remarketing and why you should be using it as part of your marketing mix.

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SBX 18 – The Upsell: Getting Your Customers To Buy More Stuff

Congratulations, you made a sale!  But what if it meant more than a monetary transaction that ensured your business could stay open for 12 minutes longer?  What if, instead of saying “you made a sale,” we instead suggested “you solved a problem.”  That certainly puts things in perspective.  And it proves the necessity of upselling at every and any opportunity.  Heck, some might even call it an ethical duty.

Upselling is the process after an initial sale which you use to introduce people to other products that they may find useful.  You go into a department store to buy a pair of pants and, upon the cashier’s suggestion, leave with a belt.  You go to the post office to mail a package and they ask if you want to buy stamps.  Yes, you DO want fries with that.  All examples of great upselling.  And whether your business is offline or online, you must confidently accept that there are more problems that can be solved with a little planning.  And not in a high-pressure or sleazy way, but in a way that creates WIN WIN for everybody involved.

Don’t sell shampoo without giving your customers a chance to buy conditioner.  Whatever your game or gig is, you have an opportunity to do more, help more, serve more by upselling properly.  (Click to Tweet)

Listen and Learn…

  • The power of related purchases, how Amazon does it, and how you can do it too.
  • Why it’s totally ok to be offering other people’s products, offline or online.
  • The best time is now.  How to make an immediate upsell offer that is a total no-brainer.
  • Maybe you’re upselling something a little bigger and need more time to follow-up.  That’s in here too.
  • Coming up with an asking strategy.  The difference between hard sell and soft sell.

Action Steps from this episode:

  1. Decide WHAT You’re Going to Offer.  This might be another product you sell.  Or a product somebody else sells.  The bottom line, however, is that your customers have more than one problem and you have the means to help them.  Most business owners tuck tail and run whenever somebody mentions selling.  Realize your awesome power to help people.  If they’re going to end up buying it anyway, there’s no reason it shouldn’t be from you.  There’s no business that can’t benefit from this.  Brainstorm possibilities like a boss.

  2. Decide WHEN You’re Going to Make the Offer.  Gary speaks relentlessly about making an immediate offer.  Mike regales us with a tale of his knife-selling days (and his oh-so-epic veggie peeler upsell).  The more commoditized a product, the more immediate your response should be.  While immediate is good, if you’re going for a home run (selling a boat to someone who came by to purchase a fishing lure) then be prepared to have proper follow-up in place.

  3. Decide HOW You’re Going to Make the Offer.  Are you going to make a hard-sell?  Ie, a now-or-never type of offer?  These can be effective because they create major urgency, especially if you’re an online business making a one time offer (OTO) after your sales page.  There is tremendous power in consistency, so if you’re not alone or online, make sure everybody who’s touching customers is taught how to be a rockstar at this.  Listen to the show for more tidbits on how to determine the right upsell communication for YOUR business.

Links and Resources:

  1. The manipulation matrix: how to know if your upsell is ethical or not.

  2. Don’t buy this without that: the power behind Amazon’s “recommended products.”

  3. 8 Questions to ask before selling other people’s stuff online.

  4. Commission Junction and Share-a-sale — 2 places for online businesses to find complementary products.

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SBX17 – How To Productize Your Service And Get Paid Faster

Are you a service professional having a hard time getting paid by your customers?  Is cash flow always an issue?

This is something that plagues many freelancers and service professionals. Getting paid on time. You can have a successful business and still get into lots of financial trouble because you’re getting paid so slow after you produce the work and you start running into cash flow problems. On top of that, you spend valuable time chasing after payments when you should be spending that time getting new business or servicing the ones you already have

Turning your service into a product is one way to not only get paid faster (people pay for products up front, services after they are delivered), but to streamline how you deliver your services.

In this episode of The Small Biz Express podcast we discuss:

  • The plight of freelancers and service professionals, getting paid on time
  • How you present your service to your customer will determine when you get paid
  • Why giving your customers too many choices can lead to more dissatisfaction
  • How creating a systematic approach can streamline your delivery and make you more money
  • Mike talks about a great 2003 study about online retailers and pricing
  • How to package and present your product to your customers
  • Gary’s own example of how he turned a service into a product
  • Pricing strategies and if you should present your pricing upfront

Action Steps from this episode:

  1. Turn your service into a product.  The easiest way to do that is by taking your individual service and packaging it with standard pricing, including a pre-formed list of features and options and a set time for delivering the product. If you package it like that, it looks more like product than a service. limit the choices, standardize the pricing and feature set, package it neatly on your brochures and website. The key is not making it where the client is free to take the service in any direction they choose, give them limited choice for a package, if u need more choices, create more packages.

  2. Take a systematic approach to delivering on your product.  Create a process from the work you do.  Don’t try and be everything to everybody.  Take a methodical approach to delivering your work, a step by step process you follow until the project is complete.  With a productized service, you should be able to deliver faster and more efficiently each time you do it.  Your customers can’t derail you with revision after revision, until you’re starting back at square one.  A written plan is essential to delivering efficiently and for training others on executing the system you’ve created for delivering your new product.

  3. How to pitch your new package to clients.  #1 thing is to change your vocabulary. Start refering to it as a product, banks do this all the time when talking about loans, they call it a product, even though it’s a service. Start using language like, “when you purchase package A, you’ll get this….” See, you’re implying they will be buying it before any work will be done. It may sound silly, but if you read consumer phychology, like Dan Airielly’s book, Predictably Irrational, you’ll see how even the slightest changes in presentation can cause massive changes in behaviour. To get an idea, just look just look at headlines….marketers test headlines all the time, they test 2 headlines…headline 2 outperforms headline one by a margin of 10 to 1, by only changing 2 words in the title. Happens all the time.

 

Links and Resources Discussed in this Episode

  1. Built To Sell – Great book that tells the story of the owner of a design company who needs to free his company from the traps many service companies get into so he can sell his business.

  2. Why I Chose “Service As A Service”, a startup chat with Dan Norris of WP Curve

  3. Can Online Retailers Benefit From Comparison Pricing? – Article that discusses the benefits of transparent pricing strategies

  4. Shanora Networks – A nice example of using graphics to explain a systematized process to customers

 

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SBX 16: Cut Down On Administrative Tasks And Focus On Growing Your Business

In the beginning stages of owning a small business, you’re going to be doing everything yourself. Sorry, that’s just the way it is.  As the owner, however, there are places where your time is better spent: things that please customers, things that grow the business today, or things that grow the business tomorrow.  Administration is a necessary evil of every business.  An evil which, unfortunately, doesn’t do any of the above.  It still needs to get done (and done correctly).

The goal is to create systems where it can be done quickly and, when the business is ready, can be done by others.  This episode is all about building that system.  It’s easy to get into a routine of lengthening work days and filling hours with things that don’t grow the business.  The administration of your business is arguably the most essential piece of your operations manual. No matter how new or how small you might be, owners that protect themselves in the administrative department give themselves a competitive advantage from Day 1.

In this episode of The Small Biz Express podcast we discuss:

  • Three simple action steps to create administrative systems that save time, streamline a process, and serve your customers.  (so “simple” that nearly nobody does them.  ugh!)
  • The four areas of your business where administrative stuff occurs regularly
  • Why the administrative piece of your operations manual has to be a living document
  • The power of a three bullet system and how NOT to rethink an entire process from scratch
  • Several processes that are total time sucks, including paying your bills
  • Policies versus guidelines (and why guidelines win every single time)

Action Steps from this episode:

  1. Create a List of All Your Admin Tasks.  Systems require documentation, so let’s start by making a list.  There’s more administrative stuff  than you think so be sure to list through every process.  What are the simplest things that you’re required to do to service your customers?  Be specific.  “Publish articles on my website,” “reply to comments,” and “make security backups”  is way better than “Run my website.”  (By the way, if you’re running WordPress, backing up your website is something that you should automate)

  2. Draw Up Step by Steps on How to Do Each Task.  This is the point where most people stop because they don’t feel like writing a text book.  Well if you don’t feel like writing it, nobody is going to feel like reading it.  So let’s make this super simple: three bullets per task.  Like we always say on The Invisible Boss, you can accomplish 80% of what you need to do with three, well thought out points.  Eventually these three bullets can become more detailed as you bring other people into the fold.  Even as solopreneur, having a step-by-step is really important so you can replicate an experience.  Side benefit: the more times you do something the same way, the faster you get at it.

  3. Put Guidelines in Place for Situations That Come Up Out of the Blue.  Policies are a dirty word, according to Gary (and Mike agrees).  It’s important to define your philosophies of handling certain things (like customers, content, finances, etc) because there are dozens of things that come up as an owner that you simply didn’t see coming.  And having philosophical guidelines in place means you can stay consistent with who you are as a company.  For example, if you compete on the basis of customer service and giving people an amazing experience once they purchase from you?  You better have guidelines in place for situations like customer complaints, refunds, defects, etc.  This doesn’t necessarily mean having the response scripted out, although you may go down that road some day. Tasks, bullets, and guidelines are a great start to a full blown admin system.

Links and Resources Discussed in this Episode

  1. More detail on creating an operations manual.  Here’s the big picture if you’re still not convinced that systems are the way to go.  (whaaaat?)  — http://thesmallbizexpress.com/sbx-13-create-operations-manual-business

  2. Ryan’s Lee’s monthly subscription service.  A checklist service for all of your online marketing.  Very powerful for businesses that won’t to get the most traffic to their website.  — http://www.hirejill.com

  3. The ins-and-outs of outsourcing via a virtual assistant.  Great introductory writeup here by the Time Doctor himself.  — http://blog.timedoctor.com/2011/02/22/the-top-6-outsourcing-sites-and-how-to-use-them

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SBX 15: Creating A Killer Business Blog

Every business owner has been told by at least a few people that they need to have a blog.  They tell them a blog will make you a leader in your field, will drive tons of traffic to your website and will increase revenues 10 times over.  Well, maybe not 10 times, but you get the point.

Yes, a blog can be a powerful part of your overall marketing strategy, but most people that start one fail miserably.  Why is that?

It’s because they start a blog for the sake of starting a blog.  It’s because they start with no real aim or purpose in what they are doing.  It’s because they have no clue what they are doing.

If you take the time to learn about a using a blog as a business tool, it can provide one of the best ROI’s out of any of your marketing initiatives.  In this episode of The Small Business Express, we’ll go over how to get started.

In this episode of The Small Biz Express podcast we discuss:

  • How a blog can open up lead opportunities impossible to get anywhere else
  • Why you need a strategy in place before you start or else you’ll waste your time
  • How to shape your content to attract the right kind of leads
  • Creating content is hard, we show you some tricks to make it easy
  • Why you should spend more time promoting your article than actually writing it
  • Creating a system to market your blog posts

Action Steps from this episode:

  1. Start with your goals and develop a strategy.  If you start blogging without an end goal in mind, you’re just wasting your time.  When it comes to business, you need to blog with purpose.  You don’t have time to waste and need to make every article count.  A good strategy will keep you focused and on target and will keep you from just wasting your time.

  2. Decide on what types of content to create.  Creating content is hard.  If you’re not a writer, sitting down every week to write an article can be intimidating.  Having a strategy in place will help guide your content and creating a system of different “post types” will make it easier to write as you’re now using a template format.

  3. What to do after you publish a blog post.  Most big time bloggers will tell you that they spend more time promoting an article than they do promoting it.  If it takes you an hour to write an article, make sure you spend at least an hour promoting it.  This can be via your social media networks, your email list of customers and friends and even using some paid advertising to help give it that little “push” to get your article some traction.

 

Links and Resources Discussed in this Episode

  1. Inbound and Outbound startegies from The Small Biz Express. http://thesmallbizexpress.com/sbx-8-inbound-outbound-marketing-strategies/

  2. Problogger.net How to create the perfect list post. http://www.problogger.net/archives/2008/08/17/10-steps-to-the-perfect-list

  3. Great headline hacks for your blog posts.  http://boostblogtraffic.com/headline-hacks

  4. Stu McLaren’s charity, which is referenced in the show.  Stu is co-founder of Wishlist Member and does a fantastic job of integrating his charity with this internet-based business.  (http://worldteacheraid.org/)

  5. The ultimate charity page site.  No matter what cause you’re trying to support, let these people do the money collecting and distribution for you.  They’re reliable.  They’re the industry leader.  And at 10%, they’re also turning over the majority of donations directly to your charity.  (http://www.firstgiving.com)

 

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SBX 14: How Your Business Can Work With Charities

Serving customers is great.  But as business owners we have the opportunity to do even more for causes, communities, and people the world-over.  Almost everybody nowadays has a favorite charity (or two, or five) and the question becomes: how can you leverage your position as a business leader to (1) support those charities while (2) not alienating any of your customers?  Not only is it possible, it may even be desirable.  Studies have shown that 90% of customers want businesses to tell them what causes they’re involved in.  With the right plan in place, “cause marketing” (as it is not-so-ceremoniously called) can be much just as effective as a high-priced advertising campaign.  But before you start bombarding customers with “hey, wanna donate?” it helps to decide the exact strategy you’re going to take.  As with most things, a little planning goes a long way.

In this episode of The Small Biz Express podcast we discuss:

  • Gary and Mike’s charities of choice, plus all the statistics you’d ever want to know
  • How supporting a cause can give you a slight (but powerful) competitive advantage
  • Telling the story of your involvement in a way that is both meaningful and non-manipulative
  • Some DOs and DON’Ts of collecting money electronically (see the show notes)
  • The grocery store and Petsmart strategy that works wonders for getting donations
  • A variety of different events you can hold (if that’s more your style)
  • Gary’s simple publicity strategy to make sure people know about them
  • Mike’s strategy of making virtual offers to nail down donations

Action Steps from this episode:

  1. Decide what type of fundraiser you’re going to do.  Integrating a fund-raiser with your business is far more effective if it doesn’t disrupt the flow of business.  Translation: if it’s something you’re excited about, your customers will be excited about it.  Three popular methods (that we discuss in this episode) are (1) asking customers for donations, (2) holding out-of-business events, and (3) making offers, such as pro-bono services or discounted purchasing opportunities.

  2. Ask and advertise.  No matter what function you use to raise funds, nobody will know how to get involved unless you ask.  The ask is your opportunity to connect with customers on a deeper level by telling your story and sharing your WHY.  Some customers will be thrilled to support you, others will not be, but even the ones that aren’t will respect what you’re doing if you ask the right way.  Don’t be afraid to do a little advertising either, especially the free stuff like signage on your website and/or store.  Of course your local media is always looking for something to write about and your story is a welcome change of pace from the negative happenings of the world.

  3. Preparation and execution.  You have your WHY, your WHAT, and your HOW.  Now it’s just a matter of showing up.  Follow-thru is always important, but if you’re making promises to people over a charity, make sure to hold yourself to the highest standard of doing so.  If this is your first time attempting something like this, don’t be surprised if you learn (quickly) through trial and error.  Correct and continue.  If your efforts are truly for the good of other people then there’s no way you can fail.  And if your execution is below your standard, you’ll be that much sharper when you try again.

 

Links and Resources Discussed in this Episode

  1. These stats prove the power of cause marketing.  So much so that you might be thinking “Whoa.  I wasn’t thinking of doing this before… but NOW I am.”  Yes.  Yes you are. (http://www.causemarketingforum.com/site/c.bkLUKcOTLkK4E/b.6448131/)

  2. Mike’s charity of choice.  Front Row Foundation gives people with terminal illnesses an opportunity to be celebrities at their event of choice.  PS. Front Row is always looking for qualified recipients.  (http://www.frontrowfoundation.org/)

  3. Gary’s charity of choice.  Kiva is one of the most unique charities in the world in that the money you give them almost always comes back to you.  Outstanding.  (http://www.kiva.org/)

  4. Stu McLaren’s charity, which is referenced in the show.  Stu is co-founder of Wishlist Member and does a fantastic job of integrating his charity with this internet-based business.  (http://worldteacheraid.org/)

  5. The ultimate charity page site.  No matter what cause you’re trying to support, let these people do the money collecting and distribution for you.  They’re reliable.  They’re the industry leader.  And at 10%, they’re also turning over the majority of donations directly to your charity.  (http://www.firstgiving.com)

 

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