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!
I once heard a CEO tell his sales force, "In the Marines we had a saying - 'pack your shit in a small box'."
I think he was talking about getting past personal issues in order to serve the best interest of the team. Something like that. I'm not really sure. It doesn't matter - that guy was a jerk. He was unceremoniously ousted from the company less than a year later, allegedly for misusing company funds.
As underwhelming as that CEO was in character, he had a point. Pack your shit in a small box. It makes sense. We spend our time and energy on lots of different things, only some of those things serve our best interests.
When it comes to your business, packing your shit in a small box means finding the highest impact priorities, and spending your time only on those. Jim Collins had another way of saying it in Good to Great 'If you have more than 3 priorities you have none.'
This is what my team and I do for companies when I create marketing strategies. We make a comprehensive list of marketing efforts, then we edit, organize, and prioritize. We unpack the mental piles your company has been hoarding, spread them out on the front lawn, and get rid of what you don't need. We pack the 'keepers' into a small, actionable, box.
But how will packing your shit in a small box help you reach your goals? Having a small list of high priority items will focus your efforts on the things that matter. It's like panning for gold. You take a pile of dirt, put it through a sifter, and you end up with a smaller pile that you can take to the bank.
Here are some reasons it could be the best thing you ever do for your business.
A small box is:
There is a mental cleansing that happens when you list out everything you are doing, want to do, know you should be doing, etc. Here is how you and your team can do this:
This activity is a great way to stimulate discussion, build teams, and clean the gunk from the ole mental pipes. But the next steps will help you get even more from it.
Saying "hell yes!" to one thing means saying "no" to a million others. Which means you are going to have to pick priorities here. At the end of this exercise you want to end up with no more than three clear "hell yes!" priorities. So the next step:
I like to call this "identifying the low hanging fruit". Pick the priorities that are ripest based on the most easily attainable, highest impact tasks.
Sometimes you are going to have a hard time identifying just 3 "hell yes!" tasks. I like to rely on a fourth criteria in these cases. Order the tasks by their measure-ability. You can't optimize what you can't measure, so weed out the things that aren't reliably measured.
So you have your "hell yes!" marketing priorities. This is a good start. But there is a lot more to consider.
Your "hell yes!" priorities hold a lot of information about what is important to you. Consider extending them to other areas. For example: if one of your defined priorities is "Facebook promotions that get our customers to come to the store" consider extending that effort. Can parallel efforts be run in Twitter? Can you study the people on Facebook who are responding to your promotion in order to maximize on the traits that cause them to respond favorably to your request? Take a deep dive into these priorities and maximize the impact of your work on these.
Taking a deep dive will have a few benefits. First, you will learn more about your audience. And second, you will learn more about your message. Your deep dive will help you understand your message and priorities thoroughly. Albert Einstein said "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough." Your deep dive will help you understand your product, your message, and the finer discussion points, in a way you couldn't have imagined possible without it.
This is the piece that is going to propel you forward. State some goals that could be served by the small box priorities. Get hyper-focused on those goals. And see if you don't exceed them.
So I want to issue a challenge. It will be simple and beneficial. Let's call it the 5 day "Pack your s#!t in a small box" challenge. Schedule a nice 1- 2 hour slot with your team. Take some time to mentally unpack everything onto the front lawn, sort through it for the most important stuff, and pack that stuff into your small box.
Post your results here, or tweet me at @kellyLCoulter. I can't wait to hear how this goes for you! I'm sure you're going to learn a lot, and exceed some goals along the way.
Learn from my mistakes! Read on...
5 years ago this week I accepted my dream job. I was hired to lead the online team for a high profile, high traffic site, and I was thrilled. Up to that point in my career I had led online marketing (aka: website, email, social) for some major brands, but none with the traffic of the site I was taking on. Further, I was going to have the opportunity to develop my own strategy and hire my own team.
Fast forward 4 years.
My team was KILLING it on paper. We had accomplished so much of what we wanted to get done. The site had industry-wide recognition. The team I was leading contained nothing but top-notch, talented, creative, smart, hard-working professionals. Their work product was second-to-none, and I was so proud. But I was deeply unhappy.
OK, so that's not the truth. I was more than deeply unhappy. I was constantly anxious, seriously angry, and deeply depressed. I mean like - couldn't put my makeup on at home because I knew I would cry it off during the commute - depressed. I had a big problem, and I had to do something about it.
Yes, there were some issues at the 'dream job'. But there was an even bigger problem feeding my unhappiness.
For years I had drudged along in corporate America, trading freedom for security, while an entrepreneur drowned inside me. It made me resentful and ugly from the inside out. I tried to fight it. After all, I was living the American dream, right? A good salary. A nice house in the 'burbs. Blah blah blah... So why was it that I couldn't even get excited about a nice vacation at the beach?
When the feedback at work became more about me than about my work product, I knew I couldn't do it anymore. This 'dream job' and its issues were my last straw.
So, one year ago this week I resigned. My husband and I were optimistic, and terrified. There was a lot of pressure on me to make this work - we didn't have a plan B. I needed to make money.
Immediately I got started. I took no time off, working for anyone that would throw work my way, that very next Monday. My goal at the time was to muddle along for a year, then figure it out. I'm happy to say it didn't take me a year to figure out that muddling wasn't going to cut it. And I am also happy to say I have figured some things out.
My main product is, and will remain, strategy creation. I believe that every company should have a documented plan for marketing their brand in every channel they are going to use (website, email, social, billboard, print, etc.) You must understand the audience, probable responses, costs, risks, message, and timing for each type of marketing you are going to do. It's the only way to create a program that makes sense and gets results. So I document that all out for my customers first. (If you have never documented your marketing strategy, let's talk. Here's the link for more info: Strategies that get results.)
Once that is done I either stay on with the client to execute the plan, or train their staff to execute on their own for themselves. This brings me all kinds of marketing work from brochure creation to full website redesign to email marketing campaigns.
Also, I am creating a training course that will teach basic online marketing skills to small business teams. (I have a theory that a large portion of the business Facebook and Twitter accounts in this world are being run by interns and assistants with no social media training. I aim to support those brave souls with some training resources!)
The business plan has changed, evolved, and changed again. I have talked to hundreds of small business owners in my obsessive quest to understand their needs and my place in the business service market. With the help of some seriously talented freelancers, I have done some great work. My clients include government agencies, small and large businesses, and entrepreneurs.
And, I paid myself a salary for the first time this week!
I haven't been in business for long, but I want to tell you what I have learned. If I can give you ideas for your business or save you some learning time, then hot dog! It's been well worth my trial and error.
Value your relationships
Business relationships for an entrepreneur tend to fall into one of three categories: fan, team member, or collaborator.
Fans are the people who are paying attention. They are watching your twitter feed, reading the things you write, paying attention to your product. They may hire you at some point, or they may have already hired you.
Team members are the people you work with. They may be employees, freelancers, or consultants. They are the people who enable you to get your work done.
Collaborators are the people who are doing what you are doing. You bounce ideas off each other and help each other out. You help each other define and shape your businesses.
Here is the point - know who you want in each of those categories. You need all of them. Some people may fall into more than one category, and that's OK. The more excellent these people are, the better your work product will be. Make sure you have super-talented, exceedingly honest, and hyper-motivated people around you. Don't forget - you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.
OK, so here's a big one. You must charge enough that you can happily stay in business. If you aren't charging what you are worth you aren't doing anyone any favors. Clients who hire you at a cut rate won't appreciate you or your work product because they will know they got you on the clearance rack. You will resent your clients because you know you are worth more. And soon you will be back working for the man, and building someone else's dream. If you don't charge what you are worth you won't last.
Now let's push that even further. You have to charge enough to make sure there is some money left in your business account after you pay yourself and your team. My friend Sarah Thompson at MoreMoneyMentoring.com calls it the puke test. If you don't feel the chunks rise when you quote a price, you aren't charging enough.
For me, I have no interest in competing with anyone on price. My skill set is unique, valuable, and cultivated over a decade and a half of hard-won experience. I charge based on the value I bring to the organization I am working with. (That being said, I'm still not very good at following my own advice here. Just today, I tripled the price of a strategy, and it should probably even be more.)
Invest in yourself and your business
If you don't charge enough, there will be nothing left over to invest back into the business. You need money for conferences - they are important to your development. You need a business coach. You need courses for you and your team. Make sure you are making this happen. If it's not then go raise your prices. Right now. Stop reading and go do it.
In the immortal words of VanHalen: Jump!
OK, so here is the best part of my little "one year in business" story. I was driving down the road the other day, and I realized I was smiling FOR NO REASON. For the first time in years I felt genuinely satisfied, and even excited. That's right, I am happy!
When I left my job I knew I wasn't going to replace my salary right away. But I also knew I wouldn't be making nothing. So we found a way to make it work, and it's working. I am learning my way through it, my business is growing. This can happen for you.
I don't want to be responsible for anyone making any bad decisions here. So all I can say is this - if you have solid experience and a marketable skill you can make it work. Give it a try. Nobody is going to die if you don't get rich tomorrow. It IS a marathon.
As for me, I know one thing for sure. I no longer have an entrepreneur drowning inside me.
I search Twitter profiles for phrases like "small business owner' and 'entrepreneur' and I start conversations with them everyday. I want to hear their struggles, know what they need for their businesses, and how I can help.
Often in these conversations, I end up talking to a young or early stage business leader about website creation. The website is often the first step to building the business. Sometimes the creation of the website is what is holding them back from starting their business.
The website shouldn't be a stumbling block. It should be the opposite. Once a business has a website in place they have a home base. Somewhere to be found. Somewhere to represent themselves. It's like having a front desk that represents your business perfectly.
So how do you create a great website when you are just starting out? Here are my best pieces of advice.
Be the MVP
Launch what you can afford right now. If you wait till you can afford more, you will miss opportunities to work, learn, and grow.
Start-ups and agile project managers often talk about the concept of an MVP (minimally viable product.) Dream up your ultimate beast of a concept for your website, and then boil it down to the essentials. What is the one thing you want your customers to do/know/experience on your website? Make a website that does that one thing, and, as Seth Godin says, "launch it." (If you need help with this, send me a note - I am an expert at documenting plans and then iterating them over time.)
Some other points to remember when determining the size and budget for your website:
Don't play with design
I like to say that over 80% of a viewer's perception of your online property is completely based on the visual user interface. Respect the aesthetics (look and feel) and user experience (ease of use, intuitive navigation.)
Design, user experience, and website building are 3 separate skills. Some website designers/developers can do them all really well at the same time. And, some really can't. If you are hiring someone to build your site make sure you are clear on where their strengths lie. Check out their portfolio, and know what role they have played in past projects. Don't assume your developer knows how to make your site visually appealing or usable unless you know he/she has done this type of work in the past.
If you are building your site yourself or through someone who specializes in website building find a designer who is willing to finalize visuals of your site. Allow him/her to standardize the graphics, layouts, and fonts. Then get some feedback from potential users on the usability. Watch people use your site, listen to their questions, and use what you see and hear to refine the layout, organization of information, and wording used in your links.
A few more points about design:
Launch it now, update it often
A website is a living, breathing customer service tool. Update your content as often as you can. Base new content on questions, feedback, and changing business objectives. Allow it to reflect your goals, priorities, and company culture today. Tomorrow is another day.
Do you have more to add? Want to add your tips or feedback? Please leave a comment below.
I'm Kelly Coulter. I build websites and online marketing for smart companies. Schedule a call with me >