Why BURNING THE BOAT worked for me
Two years after I quit corporate America to start my business I found myself driving an hour and half each way to a new job. I was getting out of bed at 4:30 AM in order to get my workout in before leaving for work by 6:30 AM. I was missing walking my little girl to the bus stop and giving her an after-school snack, and I was missing a million other things about self-employment. I knew I had accepted a position that was not for me, but I had become desperate.
When I started my company in 2014 business came to me easily. I had leveraged my corporate contacts into work - mostly websites and search engine optimization. We did well during the first year.
During my first years in business I kept in contact with the corporate and IT recruiters that would call on me every once in a while. Because of my skill set I got lots of calls about various jobs in the online marketing realm. Let me be clear - I did NOT want another job. But talking with recruiters was easy. It was fun to think about a large stable income and paid travel. And the conversations were more fun than looking for new clients. I also kept up with the job boards like Indeed - telling myself I was just keeping abreast of what was going on in the market
By mid-2016 all the work that had come my way via my corporate contacts was completed. It was time for me to bring in some new projects. And that's when the trouble started. I am no sales person, and I had trouble balancing networking with maintaining a full load of projects.
Things got bad. I had to let me marketing assistant go. I didn't pay myself for a long time. I didn't send a significant invoice out for about 6 months. I kept doing the work that came my way, but I also kept entertaining conversations with recruiters and looking at job boards. I started working from the couch. I got depressed. I started working from the couch with my computer in the other room. It wasn't productive or fruitful.
I ended up interviewing for a great position with a company that I loved. The owner was a charming, brilliant woman and I wanted to be near her to learn everything she knew. But the job she was offering was an hour and a half away from my house with no chance for a telecommute. And neither the pay nor the benefits were competitive to my last job. This job was not a good fit, and I knew it going in.
But I was desperate and saw this job as my way out. So I took it. I started driving an hour and a half each way to work every day. I traded my entrepreneurial lifestyle for less money and less vacation than I was worth in a bid for security.
Within 2 weeks of getting up at 4:30AM and doing three hours in the car every day I was sick. Like coughing, sneezing, trying not to fall asleep at my desk sick. For a week straight. I couldn't go to my doctor because I had no time off and my doctor was an hour and a half away.
On top of being sick I was a nervous wreck. I knew I was in the wrong situation - and I knew it was only a matter of time before everyone else figured it out.
As soon as I had the strength I sat down with my new boss and we quickly came to the agreement that this wasn't going to work. I immediately felt better.
I hated that I had wasted valuable time, but it was a lesson learned. Here is what I know now : Burn the boat. You have to get in the water and swim.
Imagine trying to swim while dragging your lifeboat with a rope you are holding in one hand. You think you are keeping yourself safe by dragging your lifeboat along for the ride, but you are really wearing yourself out.
Get out of the boat. Let go of the lifeboat. Completely. Fully. Forever. Burn the boat.
For me that meant no more talking to recruiters. No more looking at job postings. I have taken my last job as an employee.
Here's why it helped - Each time I climbed in the lifeboat for a little break the current dragged me further from shore. I climbed in when I wanted to avoid issues. I had a major problem with anxiety and insecurity, and spending time talking to recruiters and thinking about taking a job allowed me to avoid doing things that scared me. Entrepreneurship is scary every damned day. And I wasn't ready to face that reality.
Burning the boat forced me to work out my issues with anxiety and come closer to the entrepreneur I was meant to be.
For you your lifeboat may be your full time job. It may be the sense of security you get from driving Uber on the weekends. Or staying in a relationship provides security but nothing else. It could be a pattern of self talk that you tell yourself is keeping you 'realistic', but keeps you tethered. It could be Facebook - you tell yourself it keeps you connected but in reality it sucks away time and leaves you feeling bad.
I encourage you to think about your lifeboat. What is the thing that costs you time and energy without bringing you closer to your goals. How could you let it go? What would really happen if you stopped allowing it to have your time?
Let it go for a week or a weekend. See what happens. Take stock of how you feel. Notice whether or not you feel lighter, freer, more ready to make your goals happen.
I have heard many an entrepreneur say 'Jump and the net will appear.' My net came in the form of restructuring the way I worked with my clients. Now instead of constantly looking for new projects I focus on the clients I have already worked with. Many of my relationships with clients are now more true consulting relationships. I meet with them every few weeks and I advise them on what to do next. Some of the ideas we come up with are executed by my team, and some they are able to complete using internal resources. It's a rich and rewarding way to do business, and I wouldn't have come to it if I was still thinking about going back to corporate work.
Thanks for spending time with me. Share your comments and thoughts with me in the comments section below. More soon! - Kelly
How to turn your website into a lead generation machine.
Your website has less than 5 seconds to make an impression. If you aren't making the case for visitors to stay and see what you are all about, you can bet your ass they are leaving.
Here's an easy way to tell whether your visitors have a positive impression of you after visiting your site: Do they call you or fill out your contact form after they have been to your website? If not, it's because they aren't staying around long enough to get engaged with your message.
Here are the 2 things your website MUST do for your visitors in the first 5 seconds of a visit.
So clean it up and make it clear. Need help? You know I'm here for you. Schedule a free call with me and let's talk.
Thanks for spending time with me today. Don't forget to like and share this article with other small business owners. It will help them and make you look like a genius!
Spa Website for SkinPro Studio - Serving Cancer and Maternity Patients, and Educating Skincare Professionals
The site was developed in 3 weeks during March 2016.
The site needed to be:
We created a site that tells the story of SkinPro Studio, and makes it easy for customers to do business with the spa.
With a beautiful custom header image.
And we integrated their MindBody scheduling software into the website in a way that looks seamless to customers. Customers can schedule appointments for themselves at the website. The appointments are saved into the spa's scheduling system, and the customer never leaves the SkinPro Studio website.
And here is what Liz Munn, owner of SkinPro Studio, had to say about working with us:
"Kelly developed my website for my new skincare business. I would highly recommend Kelly for any type of website design. She listened to what was important and provided exactly what I wanted. I find Kelly to be knowledgeable, timely, efficient, and effective in her approach. She is a pleasure to work."
Do you love the way this site turned out? Please like and share this post! Your likes and share help spread the word to other marketers and business owners just like you. And if they like it too, you will look smart and savvy for having helped them find it.
Would you like to talk about your site? Schedule a free website consultation today so we can get started.
It's a fact - new content on your website is good for lead generation. Studies show that the more often a company blogs, the more leads it gets through the website. And according to HubSpot, the smaller the company the larger the benefit in terms of website traffic and leads generated.
So how often is often enough? And is there such a thing as too often?
The answer, in part, can be found in your audience. Business-to-consumer companies benefit more from blogging more often.
Increases from blogging 11+ times a month:
• B2B - 3 times more leads than similar companies posting 4-5 times a month
• B2C - 4.5 times more leads than companies who only post 4-5 times a month
I wasn't able to find a number that could be considered TOO often, although I would suspect you have hit that number once quality begins to suffer. Quality content is King - junk content is always junk.
Can't blog 11 times a month? Do what you can. There are cumulative benefits to posting in your blog. Your posts live forever - they remain on your site where they help to increase your search rank and make your site more find-able by your customers.
For more information check out these quality articles on the same topic:
- HubSpot: How Often Should Companies Blog?
- Scripted: How often should you update your blog?
Need more? Schedule a free website evaluation with me. I would love to talk with you about your website, SEO, and online marketing strategy. And please like and share if you learned something - It helps the people you like get the useful information they need, and you will look like a rock star in the process!
Call me crazy, but I believe there are only 3 reasons for marketing your company: to grow, to reduce costs by creating volume, or in preparation to sell the company. In other words, you are not Coke-a-Cola. You are not creating ‘brand awareness.’ 99% of leaders reading this are looking to gain more sales, donations, or participation.
Each week in this 6 part series we will examine a step in creating Marketing Action Plans that drive business. The first step is goal setting. Know where you are going and don’t ever forget it.
Here’s the thing about modern marketing – everything IS measurable. That’s good news for companies AND marketing departments. When we focus on marketing in ways that are tied to results then the marketing department becomes a revenue center. Even print ad results can be measured when they generate a response via phone or online.
That doesn’t mean that every marketing action can be tied directly to resulting goal behaviors. Certainly there are times when the sale, donation, or participation is the result of a multi-step nurturing process. That’s why its important to define an engagement funnel – it will outline the path from stranger to customer for each priority audience. We’ll talk more about that later in the series.
The over-arching goal for all ads/campaigns, however, will be a measurable increase in sales, donations, or participation. In other words, the goal for a specific ad may be brand awareness, but your goal for the campaign is the measurable increase.
You want the viewer to take notice of your message and DO SOMETHING. And you want that something to move the needle on sales, donations, or participation numbers.
Your Marketing Action Plan goal should state 3 things:
The first step in creating your Marketing Action Plan: Spend some time thinking about your revenue, resources, and plans. Consider ways your company currently generates revenue, and evaluate your plans the future. Also consider your current resources and strengths. Bring your company’s leadership or trusted advisers in, and take their input.
Then, create a document titled “Marketing Action Plan.” Write a short (less than 3 sentences) goal on the first page of your document. Save it somewhere so it will be easy to find. We will continue soon…
Complete this first step as soon as you can. My next article will talk about priority audiences. Knowing your audience helps you understand where to market, what to say, and what to expect.
My next post will talk about your audience. Look for it next week. Until then, please "like" this article using the social links on this page.
Your Chief Marketing Officer has a big job. She works with senior leadership to understand the company's goals, then develops strategies and associated initiatives to move the needle on those goals. On top of that, she leads execution on those strategies and initiatives, and reports on results. Finally, she analyzes the results to optimize successes and plan future initiatives.
And there's more. Today's marketing leaders must have a solid understanding online marketing in addition to traditional marketing techniques. Search optimization, website usability, social media, audience targeting, and email are some of the new proficiencies a CMO has to have. Without a solid grasp of these, opportunities will be missed.
But not all companies have a CMO at their disposal. In the absence of senior marketing leadership, companies may employ a marketing person or team consisting of mid-level professionals focused on executing tasks that come from the CEO or other leadership. Others outsource everything to a firm or firms.
There is real value in having a senior marketing professional sitting between leadership and execution. Only an experience leader can properly ensure alignment between goals, direction, and initiatives. Further, in the same way that marketing and brand touch all parts of a business, marketing leadership should give input on products, plans, and initiatives company-wide.
Whether you plan to use an outsourced CMO for a short period, or long-term, here are some situations in which it's an appropriate solution to consider.
In my opinion, a good outsourced CMO will be focused on finding the highest impact strategies for reaching your ideal customer. This shouldn't include branding or rebranding right away. It SHOULD include strategies for messaging to more customer who resemble or have a personal relationship with your current customers.
CMO outsourcing is a new service my company, Kelly Coulter and Associates, provides to a select few companies. Depending on your needs the cost can be as low as $4500 a month. That's a hell of a savings vs. the $15K or more a full-time, in-house CMO can cost.
And there are others out there. Lots of consultants and firms are offering this service. Google it - you'll see. Whoever you use remember to check references and ask every question you can think of. Get your candidate to meet with everyone he/she will be working with, and make an informed decision.
Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed the article, please click "like" on the Facebook or Twitter link below. And if you learned something new, share it with your friends and network! Your likes and shares help me spread information and ideas to more professionals just like you!
The last call I had in 2015 was with one of my favorite new clients, Bronxville Wellness Sanctuary in New York. I was a little nervous going in to this call because we ran a holiday campaign on Facebook promoting gift cards, and I didn't have access to the part of their system that would show me the sales. So I wasn't going to know the resulting sales numbers until I talked to them.
So, when Stephanie told me not only was the gift card campaign a success, but that their business is up 30% over last year since they started working with me in September, I was floored!
I knew that we were posting the right messages and that we were targeting the people most likely to act on those messages. But I had no idea the strategy had been this effective!
Here is what Stephanie had to say about our work together:
"Since working with Kelly on marketing, social media management and gift certificate campaigns, our business has increased 30%! Kelly and her team are easy, professional and take the time to listen to our vision while also giving us valuable feedback based on their marketing expertise. As a small business, we value this immensely. We are grateful to be partners."
Thanks, Stephanie! We value your partnership, and we are proud to call you clients and friends.
So, you have to be wondering exactly what we did to achieve these fantastic results. If you have ever done a free 20 minute strategy consultation with me you already know that I am happy to hand out free information. Here is the list of work we have done with BWS so far:
So that's the work we have done with BWS so far. And the results have been amazing.
One more thing - this year we will start looking at promoting some of the virtual energy healing services offered by Stephanie at BWS. I have done two virtual energy sessions with Stephanie and - despite the distance between us the sessions were amazing! It was like meditation on steroids. I highly recommend giving it a try!
Questions or comments? Leave them below and I will respond - or Tweet me at @KellyLCoulter. Oh, and if you learned something new from this post I would really appreciate a like and a retweet using the links below.
Maximize what is already working for more sales with less work
Thanksgiving is next week, and with it comes Black Friday and the holiday rush. Before that happens, let's take a look at your plan for December. Have you created a solid plan for increasing holiday sales this season?
It's not too late.
Right now is when you are most likely thinking, "I'm barely keeping my head above water as it is!" With running a business and planning for 2016, who has time to experiment or get creative about the holidays?
Consider trying some new tactics that are proven to get results using your CURRENT traffic. Yep, each of these suggestions works by maximizing on what is already working for you.
These are some tried and true methods for increasing sales with your existing audience. No risky, time consuming traffic generation strategies.
By the way - you guessed it - I can help you implement any of these methods. Email me using the contact form, leave me a comment below, or even tweet me @KellyLCoulter. We will meet to discuss your needs, audience, project, and budget. From there we can identify next steps and do what we need to do to make more sales this holiday. Contact me soon - you are missing sales as we speak!
Did you learn something new? Do me a favor and click the "Like" or "Tweet" button below.
Thanks for spending some time with me! More soon...
This week the state has seen historic rainfall and flooding. In Columbia, SC we have seen 11 dam breaches and at least 15 deaths to date. With evacuations and devastation on the news 24/7, emotions are running high.
So, its no wonder we have seen some epic successes and failures in the ways businesses used their social media accounts and websites to communicate.
Among the Successes
Local news shows, radio stations and their employees
The persistence, dedication, and humanity of local on air personalities, as well as the staff supporting them, has been nothing short of miraculous. They battled through fatigue (working long hours of constantly evolving information), emotion (watching their own friends and family members lose everything while keeping it together for the viewers), and frustration (I can't count how many times I heard Dawndy Mercer Plank tell viewers to just stay off the roads, only to flash to a new picture of another car stuck in water.)
LESSON: Show up and do your best. Best is the enemy of better in these situations - people don't need polish as much as they need information. Drink lots of coffee and do the work until you can go home and take a nap.
Harvest Hope Food Bank (HarvestHope.org)
My new friends at Harvest Hope have done an admirable job keeping eager donors and volunteers informed about needs. But I was even more impressed when I found out that their marketing director started his new job Wednesday, and the state of emergency was declared on Thursday last week. Thoroughly impressive! I am watching for great things from Ash Little at Harvest Hope. In the meantime, continue to donate at HarvestHope.org.
LESSON: Bloom where you are planted. I doubt anyone could have predicted the situation Ash found himself in during his first days at his new job. No one would have blamed him for going home and saying 'hey, let's try again next week...' But he took put his big boy pants on and fielded interviews with local and national news, sought out opportunities to talk about how the community could get involved, and in general made a real difference.
Totino's Pizza and The Totino's Pizza Lady
When this video clip went viral it was her positive attitude, and love for her doggies and Totino's pizza that gave us all something to smile about.
Afterward, Totino's apparently made contact with the Red Cross to offer disaster recovery relief funds. Classy move, and the right way to handle the extra publicity.
LESSON: Make it about helping, not about your brand.
Among the Failures
Companies using paid content promotion inappropriately
Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram now allow advertisers to target ads based on user behavior, geography, and more. This also means ads to specific areas can be TURNED OFF during times like this. Unfortunately, a lot of national brands did not take the opportunity to stop serving ads to us. At times this led to wildly inappropriate content shown in our social feeds during a trying time.
And on the other side of that, some companies actually promoted ads to our area BECAUSE of the flood. There are probably ways this could be used appropriately. However, Duke Energy's paid promotion of this tweet asking people to follow them on Twitter in order to be kept up to date on "storm updates, breaking news, " ... AND ... "energy efficiency tips and more." rubbed me the wrong way. The whole "energy efficiency tips and more" piece gives a little clue that they are using the storm as a way to add to their Twitter followers. It just seemed inappropriate to me.
(Pet peeve alert!! Please, don't ever say 'and more' in your marketing. Ever. No really, ever. If there is 'more', please spell it out or leave it alone. 'And more' is a total waste of 8 characters, and it makes you look like you aren't sure what you offer.)
Al Roker's Smiling Selfie on Twitter
If you missed this here it is. Now on some level I get it - he covers a lot of weather and a lot of tragedies. I have a feeling he has become desensitized. But on the other hand - it's really inappropriate. I mean just look at it. THERE IS A CAR IN A RIVER BACK THERE! Damn.
There is a win here. The apology and retreat was handled beautifully. He said it was inappropriate, admitted he was wrong, and left town. He did NOT try to defend himself (which would have just inflamed the situation.) His apology was sincere and timely.
LESSON: When you screw up apologize, don't try to defend your position, and lay low until the tide goes out.
The Columbia Marriott v. Justin Britt
Then there's the Columbia Marriott's public feud with Justin Britt. Oh man.
So Justin Britt shows up at the Marriott in the middle of a mandatory evacuation with partner, kids, and pets in tow. And apparently, he was unceremoniously turned away because of the pets. It seems to me this would have all blown over with the storm except for 2 things:
1 - Justin Britt knows a lot of people, and
2 - the Marriott showed lack of professionalism and truly bad judgement in their public handling of the shit-storm that followed.
I am not going to detail it all out here (truthfully I don't know all of the details), but I have heard that the Marriott deleted posts, shut their social media accounts down, and yelled at the intern that was handling their social media. A Marriott supporter made a post on the Marriott's Facebook page that disclosed Mr. Britt and his family's address and disparaged the impact the flood had on them.
This story resonated with a lot of people. Those people made a lot of posts. So not all of the social media was under the control of the Marriott OR Mr. Britt. But since this is a post about business online content, let's talk about the business's handling of this situation.
LESSON: Train the person charged with posting your online content. Your online content (website, social, email) is the first thing many customers see. In many cases, it will make the first impression, and it will help people decide whether or not to do business with you. Are you really going to leave this up to an intern? Or an assistant? Or your cousins wife? Invest some money in a professional content manager, or get your content manager some training.
LESSON: Don't attempt to control social media by deleting or planting posts. A professional knows you can't control the conversation. You can only show up and be a part of it. Embrace that fact.
LESSON: Apologize (see the Al Roker section...) OK, so there is a whole debate over whether the Marriott did anything wrong in putting policy over people in this situation. Did the manager have the authority to override corporate policy? I don't know. But I know this - a lot of people felt strongly that the decision to turn this family away was wrong. When public sentiment turns against you, you need to look in the mirror. The people turning against you are the people that keep you in business. Who do you really work for? Apologize and get on with your life, already.
South Carolina can be really proud of our handling of the floods as a state. We came together, protected each other, and helped out wherever we could. There was no looting and very few reports of opportunistic crime. Our businesses donated time and money with abandon.
At the end of the day, the internet content mistakes that were made could have been avoided. Businesses, support your social and website content producers with training!
Leave your comments and additions here. And please share this article with others. Let's continue the discussion in order to learn and grow.
Check me out on the newest live streaming platform - Blab
I was recently interviewed for my friend Sarah Thompson's (MoreMoneyMentoring.com) Blab show. She does a live show every weekday at noon EST.
So Blab is kind of the newest thing. And I have to tell you I really loved the show. The format was great. Blab is super easy and engaging. I loved it.
We talked strategy, why you should have one, and how to get one started. Here is the replay:
I would love to hear your thoughts. Tweet at me while you are watching, or leave me a comment below!
Kelly Coulter is a marketing consultant and coach with almost 20 years experience helping businesses win customers online.