Last fall I created a survey asking people how they interacted with a business’ website and social media pages. My purpose was to help business owners better understand what their customers cared about when it came to business websites and social media pages.
Most of the questions had set responses and participants could select more than once answer. For two questions, the participants could add their own answers. 1,028 people responded over the course of four months (October 2017 to January 2018). My goal was to get more than 1,000 responses. Once I did that, I ended the survey.
I’m not a professional survey designer. Looking back, I can see that my wording could have been clearer in some places and my options more streamlined.
The interpretation I’ll share is my own based on over 16 years’ experience working with small businesses, digital marketing, and website design.
None of the responses shocked me (except maybe how passionate people are about typos – wow), but since I designed the questions, it is possible I missed topics that are important to participants. For example, I didn’t ask about pop-up windows or music/video that plays automatically – yet participants listed both of those as things they dislike in the open-ended question at the end of the survey.
The ages of participants
The ages of participants are mostly clustered in the 31-40 and 41-50 age ranges. This survey was shared primarily via Facebook, so that makes sense. However, I wish all age groups had been better represented.
When You Hear About a Company for the First Time, How Do You Learn More About Them?
Participants were allowed to check multiple boxes.
The options for this questions were:
Go to their website
Go to their social media page
Send an email (using your own email, not a website form) requesting more information
Participants added some variation of:
Check out review sites
Ask friends/family/network about them
The majority of participants seem to go directly to the business website. This makes sense since your website it your “home base” on the internet. It is the ONE place you have complete control over and the place that should best represent you and what you do.
The next most popular response is “Go to their social media page” – this supports something I have believed for quite a while – your social media pages are seen by more than your followers. Someone wanting to learn more about you and your business will be checking out what you are doing in different places.
“Call them” received 10 responses out of 1,028 and those participants spanned most of the age groups.
There were a similar number of responses for “Send them an email – not using a contact form,” and I didn’t ask about emailing using a contact form – I expect it would be higher than 10 or 13, but I’m not sure how much higher because someone just learning about a company may not be ready to talk to them yet.
When You are on a Business' Website, Do You Also Click from Their Website to Visit their Social Media Pages? (Assuming there is a link)
I asked this question because I suspected people did this and was curious about how often they did it.
The options to this question were:
I think it is fair to say that MOST people will visit your social media pages from your website if the option is there. Which, again, points to your social media audience being more than just your current followers. Again, the No (Never) and Sometimes (Rarely) answers spanned nearly all of the age groups.
I’m pointing this out because it is easy to segment things by generations instead of looking at specific user behavior based on multiple factors.
When You are on a Business' Social Media Page, Do You Also Click from Their Social Media Page to Visit Their Website?
The options to this question were:
Again, if it is there and available to click, it seems as if most people hop over to your website to see what is happening there.
This is a great reminder that no part of your marketing exists by itself. It is all connected (or can be) to give your clients and potential clients a better experience.
When Visiting a Business' Social Media Site, What Turns You Off?
The available answers were:
Too many sales posts
Not clear what they offer
Haven’t posted in more than a week
Haven’t posted in More than a month
Haven’t posted in more than 6 months
They don’t post frequently (less than once a week)
Typos in posts
As a human who uses social media and has seen social media posts, I’m guessing none of this is surprising to you. No one wants to feel as if they are being sold to or as if they’ve stepped into an spammy ad.
Posting frequency is a little more varied, and I wish I’d made this question a little more clear. I think it is important to post regularly if you have a business page – especially knowing that your audience may not just be your followers. I also realize that Facebook consistently suppressing business page reach has many business owners wondering if they should abandon Facebook entirely. Social media, like any of your marketing channels, is a piece of the puzzle and not the only place you should show up.
Participants also clearly don’t want to see typos, so proofread your posts and edit them if you catch an error. My best guess is that this refers to many typos over a series of posts and not an occasional typo.
What Makes You Abandon (Leave) a Website?
The available answers were:
You can’t find what you are looking for
Not enough information on the website
Poorly laid out website (too much text at once, giant photos, etc)
Slow to load
Poorly written copy
Bad photos (dark, grainy, poorly composd, clearly stock photos, etc)
As I mentioned above, your website is your home on the internet. It is the place people can learn the most about you.
I think the biggest takeaway from these answers is to make sure your site is clear, easy to navigate, attractive, and loads quickly.
Your users’ experience is most important – give them something that helps build their trust in you and your abilities – not something they have to figure out before they can get to know you.
When Visiting Someone's Website, in Which Order Do You Typically Explore Their Website?
The available answers were:
Home, About, Services, Blog – 43%
Home, Services, About, Blog – 36%
Home, Blog, Services, About – 2%
Services, About, Blog, Home – 3%
About, Services, Home, Blog – 10%
(about 10 responses each)
No typical pattern – depends on business/reason for visit
Never look at blog
Always read About page
What does it mean? It means people click around on your site to learn more about you and what you do. In fact, your About page may be doing more work than you think to tell your story.
So take a look – is it updated? Do you have a current headshot? Does it really say what you want it to say?
Do You Look at a Business’ Reviews?
The available answers were:
No surprise here. Most people will look at reviews about your business.
How Many Bad Reviews Does It Take for You to Question Whether You Should do Business with a Company?
The available answers were:
I read the bad review and decide it if is likely an issue I will run into also.
I don't worry about individual reviews, I look for an overall pattern.
Reviews are HUGE for small business owners and they stress over any bad review.
The good news here is that most people don’t avoid a business because they have one bad review. I also find it interesting, and encouraging, that most people read several reviews and look for a pattern.
It also means that if you have a bad review, addressing it clearly makes the most sense. You can also use it as a chance to make sure there isn’t a pattern problem emerging.
Share What You Would like Businesses to Do on Their Social Media Pages and Their Websites. How Can They Improve Your Experience?
This was an open-ended question.
Most of responses centered on:
Be honest and human
Don’t be salesy
Put pricing on your website
Have great images
Offer free things
Have clear information on your website
If you are a brick & mortar, list your phone number, address, and hours
If you are a restaurant, list your menu
Create more interesting social media posts
Be clear in what you offer/your services
After reading over all 1,028 individual responses, the biggest theme I see is that no one wants to be sold to and participants want their interactions with businesses to be pleasant, easy to navigate, and easy to understand.
Why is everyone suddenly so concerned about explaining your privacy options? Four little letters - GDPR - that are causing big changes in the ways companies collect and store your data. GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation and is enforceable only in the European Union – so everything I’m talking about applies to European Union residents, but since the internet is generally accessible to everyone no matter where they are, even companies outside the European Union need to comply or face big penalties. The maximum fine is 20 million Euros or 4% of a company’s annual global revenue – whichever is greater.
Or you can take the workaround several US news sites did today (May 25th, 2018 the first day the GDPR is in full effect) and entirely shut off access to the European Union.
Why does everyone care about the GDPR now? Although it was created in 2016, companies have had until May 25, 2018 to come into compliance. If you want to go deep into what the GDPR covers here is the link to the full text.
What GDPR Does
Ultimately, the GDPR was created to deal with larger companies who don’t have a great track record of behaving like good internet citizens and take too much data, do shady things with the data they have, don’t tell you what data they have, and if they happen to lose any of it…they don’t tell you about that either (I’m looking at you Facebook and Equifax and lots of other companies also).
This is where I remind you that I’m a marketing strategist, not a lawyer, so this is my best interpretation based on what I know about very small businesses – if you have questions, talk to a lawyer who is familiar with compliance issues and the GDPR. I’m also only focusing on a small part of the GDPR, there is lots of information I’m not covering, so to be truly informed and prepared, read more than just this (but I have tried to make it a good primer with resources for small businesses as it applies to email marketing and your website).
Ready to continue? Ok…here we go…
Companies must now clearly state why they are collecting a user’s information, how they plan to use it, and when it will be deleted. They also must give European Union residents the right to have their information completely deleted, corrected, or even moved to another business (even if that business is a competitor).
If there is a data breech, companies have 72 hours to inform those who have been compromised. This is a big change and, again, aimed at those bigger companies who may have been more interested in keeping data breeches quiet than keeping their customers informed.
European Union residents can even determine where & how their information is used – so someone may be ok with a company having their email addresses, but they aren’t ok with the company using that email address to retarget them online later. As you can probably tell, this is a huge change over what is happening now. And, again, these benefits only apply to European Union residents, so if you aren’t in the EU don’t get too excited about having more control over your privacy just yet
How GDPR Affects Small Businesses
But what if you’re a really little guy or gal – do you still need to comply with GDPR? Yes! But, unlike a giant company, you should be able to become GDPR compliant without a lot of work. Why? Because you don’t have much data on people or you are using third parties like MailChimp or Stripe to manage data – you still have to do your part to be compliant where you can, but some things will be out of your hands.
What if you have never sold anything to anyone in the European Union? You still need to comply. Why? Even if someone never buys something from you, they may visit your site (where you, your website builder, or Google analytics collect information via cookies) or sign up for your email list (where your email list provider collects information like their email, name, IP address, and other data). Under GDPR, any data collected that identifies someone counts. Again, this is largely targeted at banks and corporations that have WAY more data on us than just our email address.
It is all about Consent
Let’s Get Specific – Email Marketing
The CAN-SPAM Act from 2003 already covers a lot of email rules that you are (hopefully) already following – like not adding people to your mailing list because you go their business card or found their email online, clearly telling people how to unsubscribe from your email in EVERY email you send, and having their consent before you add them to your email list. If you’ve been following those practices already, then you probably don’t need to send your email list a reconfirmation email.
This is covered in Recital 171:
“Where processing is based on consent pursuant to Directive 95/46/EC, it is not necessary for the data subject to give his or her consent again if the manner in which the consent has been given is in line with the conditions of this Regulation, so as to allow the controller to continue such processing after the date of application of this Regulation.”
If you haven’t always followed best practices and you maybe aren’t sure where some of the people on your email list came from AND you think some of them might be in the European Union? Go ahead and send that reconfirmation email.
What is new? You need a verifiable proof that someone signed up for your email list – which is one of the many reasons using a service like Mailchimp, Constant Contact, Aweber, Emma, or any of the others is a good idea because they display that information within your account.
When someone signs up for your email list, it now needs to clear how, why, and when you will use their information. Mailchimp has already updated its forms to help you stay GDPR compliant. It is an easy guess to say other email services have done the same. BUT – here’s the thing – you now need to check and make sure because you need to use business partners who are GDPR compliant.
Use a double opt-in - where the person signing up for your email list gets a link in their email they must click to be added to your email – it isn’t required, but it is a second step that helps clarify their intention to join your email list. Just be sure to explain that your list uses a double opt-in so they know to look for it – otherwise, they may think they’ve signed up for your email list, but they’ve only done the first part.
What about freebies? There is some uncertainty and I’ve read different options. Everything from never using freebies again to keeping everything as it is now. My interpretation (again, not a lawyer here) is that you need to obtain a second consent to add them to your general email list. Amy Porterfield breaks it down nicely. And, again, you only need to do this is only for European Union residents.
This next piece should be obvious – if someone wants to be removed from your email list remove them completely ASAP. If you use a service like MailChimp and have users on different lists, make sure you remove that user from ALL lists.
Finally, Facebook has some neat advertising tools that allow you to upload your email list to Facebook for more marketing options. Under GDPR, you can no longer do that without explicit consent – again, just when you are working with European Union residents.
MailChimp Tools related to GDPR
Constant Contact information about GDPR
Emma information about GDP
Let’s Get Specific – Your Website
Whether you know it or not, your website is chock full of delicious data cookies…but do you know which ones they are and what they do? Probably not. And that’s one of the issues GDPR addresses. Who is tracking your data, where does it go, is it safe, and what do they do with it?
So, what do you do?
And speaking of website builders, what are they doing to be compliant with GDPR?
What Weebly is doing
Tips from Weebly
What Squarespace is doing
What Wix is doing
What WordPress is doing (note – WordPress is enormous and there are likely all sorts of plugins and options to be aware of. If you need help navigating the best ones for you, I highly recommend Nedra at Blue Deer Forest).
That is a great question, and I’m not sure anyone knows. The GDPR is brand new, far reaching, and complicated.
Should you panic about being compliant? Probably not. You shouldn’t ignore this, but if you are a very small business you also shouldn’t be up all night trying to fix it.
Your next steps:
2) Create a clear cookies policy.
3) Make sure your email signups clearly state why you are collecting the information and what you will do with it.
Will there eventually be a US-version of GDPR? It is entirely possible, so getting things right now may save you time and stress in the future!
When I started working one-on-one with clients to create marketing strategies with them, I didn’t anticipate how frequently pricing and self-confidence would come up. But I have learned that it is something nearly all my clients deal with - and we must addresses it before we can start talking about their marketing strategy!
It comes up so often, I even wrote a blog post about why you shouldn’t apologize for your prices.
I frequently see posts in online discussion groups from new business owners asking, “What would you pay for this product or service?” I understand why the question is being asked, but the process is backwards.
Instead of asking “what would you pay?” they should be asking “how much does it cost me to make this?” and then basing their pricing on that.
Some costs to consider
Cost of materials
How much time it cost you to make it - in my experience, this is the one most people overlook – especially artists and crafters.
How many/how frequently you can reasonably create
Cost of delivery (if applicable)
Business cards & other marketing materials
Rental space – if used to create your product
Misc. marketing costs
Taxes – state, federal, and any local taxes you may have.
Licensing costs (and renewal costs as well)
So when it comes to pricing your work, be aware of those costs!
First I’m going to talk about handmade items and then I’ll cover services.
Let’s say an item you will make costs $20 in raw materials, plus three hours of your time. If you charge $20 for it – you are breaking even on money and losing three hours of time.
If you charge $40 for it, you end up making just over $6.70/hour - which isn’t enough to cover time, licenses, & expenses like taxes, etc.
If you charge $60 for it, you end up making $13.33/hour. Which may be enough to cover expenses, but if it costs you three hours of time to create, how many can you make in a day to sell?
You’ll have similar expenses to the ones listed above, plus (maybe):
Subscription services for your business
On-going training costs/certification
Depending on your business, your service may be something your customer sees first hand – like massage or acupuncture or some other kind of on-going face-to-face service. Which means your customer can look at the hour of time they spent with you and say “it cost that much” and move on.
If, however, your service is slightly less tangible, a customer will have a harder time seeing the value and understanding the price if they only see the end result. It doesn’t mean the value isn’t there, it just means you need to be more clear about communicating what it is and how it impacts your client.
So, if you ask friends, family, random strangers on the internet “how much would you pay for this thing?” they aren’t taking any of the above into consideration. They are thinking about their bank accounts, whether or not the thing/service has value to them in the moment, whether or not they could possibly do it themselves, and many other factors that don’t have anything to do with your work. And, yes, they each have their own money hang ups they may or may not even be aware of.
Someone who says it is worth $30 and someone who says it is worth $75 are both speaking from their experience, budget, and expectations- which is why it is so important to start with your costs first.
So what if you want to charge $80 or $100 or even $300 for your thing?
* Educate your clients. If you only make one version of the items you sell, your clients need to know that. If you only use organic products, your clients need to know that.
* Share the value and perspective you bring.
* Explain things they might not understand - When it comes to handmade items, unless someone has tried to create it, they likely won’t understand the complexities or time involved, and that’s fine.
* Don’t get hung up on what someone else charges because you don’t know their costs any more than they know yours.
* Remember that if the only thing someone cares about is a rock-bottom price, then they probably aren't going to be an ideal client for you.
Under charging comes from a couple of different places – fear, lack of self-worth, being new and not understanding how important proper pricing is, wanting to be “assessible” to many people, and there are usually some other money hang ups in there as well – passed down from our families, media, our culture, and our own experiences.
Its ok to have these hang ups – everyone does. But be aware of what they are and recognize when they are getting in your way.
Happy Price vs. Sad Price - one of my favorite pieces on this topic
List Your Prices (the right way) - "Expensive for a good reason" is my favorite line
10 Things You Shouldn't Say When Pricing Handmade Items - read it
Know Your Worth, and Then Ask for It - Worth watching, probably more than once
You are thinking about creating a little video promoting your business.
Why? Because you know video, especially on social media, is a potent combination of marketing, messaging, and connecting.
Maybe you’ve been in business for a while and you’ve been managing the marketing, the website, and everything else, but you’re tired and frustrated managing it all yourself. You got into business to sell your stuff, not be a creative director and video editor, right? Or maybe your business is brand new and you are excited about the possibilities of launching your business with a strong message and voice.
The next question is how? How do you create a professional, creative, and polished video that shares your business and your vision?
This is one of those times when you need to call in a professional. Just like car selfies and cell phone pictures won’t cut when you need a professional headshot, a DIY video won’t cut it when you want to create a cohesive brand video.
I interviewed internationally-published & award-winning photographer and videographer, Jessica Clark, for this blog post since I’m a fan of her work and her desire to help business owners show up in the best way possible. Jessica and her RedFred Productions team have worked with the Portland Trailblazers, The MOB Nation, OHSU, and Capes & Crowns Foundation among others.
Jessica says it is helpful for business owners to have branding in place as well as a general overall idea of who their audience is before working with her. From there, she works with her clients to fine tune their ideas during story boarding.
What three things should a business owner know about their business before hiring a professional videographer?
“The first piece of launching a video is determining what the goal or purpose of your film will be. Is it story driven? Product or service driven? Do you want to feature testimonials? The next piece is understanding who your audience is. And, finally, how is this video going to represent your brand?
A clear understanding of the overall budget for the project will also help keep the process moving along because we’ll know what does and doesn’t align with your budget.
Why do you think video is so powerful when it comes to telling a business story?
Still images and headshots are like your signature while film gives businesses an opportunity to present your brand in a larger more impactful way.
Media companies, including Facebook, Instagram and even your local news station continue to shift to showcasing more videos because they recognize that video is eye-catching and in-depth information quickly without needing to browse through links and text. Overall, video just has more impact than words or images.
What questions do you find yourself answering over and over?
Similar to photographers who are asked to turn over all images from a photo shoot, videographers get similar questions about the extra and raw footage we shoot.
If we turned over raw footage there would be several camera angles, raw camera movements, no music, no color correction, no white balancing, no post image edits, no music, and audio files that need to be synced with the footage. Editing all those different elements together is the most important aspect of film making, it is where the story telling pieces together.
You might see my team working for four hours or eight hours – while we’re filming with you. But what you don’t see is the 20-40 additional post-production hours it takes to create a fully realized and finished video.
We’re also asked when someone should make a video. I think the best time really depends on your goals and your business model. If you are launching a new business, then a video makes sense because it puts your brand, whether that is a service or a product, front and center. If your business is offering a new product or service, that’s another great time to make a video.
Does the business owner need to appear on video?
Being in the video is not necessarily required for story-driven film models – those are films with story or campaigns, but it is good to put a face and connection with your brand if it is just a quick description of services.
New business launch videos that feature the owner are a terrific way to “break the ice" in introducing yourself to your community. These videos are often interview based and can also include early testimonials from clients.
What if the business itself isn’t interesting or photogenic?
That is why video is so cool! While still images can give your audience a summary of a "boring or ugly" industry, we can use video to give it a bit of excitement. By focusing on testimonials, the history of the business, or even creating more of a story driven film, we can make a “dull” business much more relatable and entertaining.
What do you wish business owners knew about what you do?
We are story tellers, first. A finished video is a collaborative project with the business owner.
Our films are not created from start to finish. We often we start from the middle, sometimes the end, and work backward. In the editing phase we are able to do the real story telling, small shifts and changes can impact video in a major way.
When an initial investment is made into a video, additional "spinoffs" can easily be created with extra footage and an updated interview or idea. This can match the growth of the business, and you end up with your own personalized stock video for your business.
What is the optimal video length for social media reach?
People have short attention spans, so a video that is one to three minutes long is generally the average viewing time for business videos. To keep a video from being too information packed, we can break them down into shorter, more impactful videos.
I have bad news and good news for you.
First, you’re going to fail. Second, you’ll survive that failure.
In 2008, JK Rowling gave a wonderful Harvard commencement speech. (you can watch it here) The parts about failure are my favorite.
One of my favorite pieces is this:
"You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default."
I love that she acknowledges that failure will happen. You can’t escape failure.
Most of my clients are like me – they are both moms and business owners. The topic of failure is always lurking. Not only do we have all the worries and work that come with owning a business, we also have the added weight of motherhood and all its complicated ideas, history, burdens, and expectations.
What does that mean? Well, it means we can fail at something five times before breakfast and keep going knowing another failure waiting for us around the next corner. It means we keep going because we have our families to take care of and our business to run.
Here’s the neat thing about failure – it gives us a chance to continuously learn and gain more skills. It teaches us things about ourselves and our work we couldn’t have learned in another way.
Sometimes that means we didn’t promote a launch or a sale enough, and we learn that next time we need to start earlier and plan better.
Sometimes that means raising our prices because we’ve learned that burning ourselves out trying to please everyone isn’t good for us, our family, or our business.
However, unless we’re willing to think about why something isn’t working for us, we can’t move forward. We must understand our failures to learn from them.
For Christmas, I bought myself a book called Tribe of Mentors. The book is short essays, in Q & A form, by famous and well-known people. One of the questions is “What is your favorite failure?”
I love this question because it invites us to examine our failures and see which one we like the best. And, to do that, we must reflect on what we learned from different failures and how they helped us grow. Instead of lamenting the path not taken, we get a chance to embrace our growth and celebrate where we are now.
If you think about it, that’s incredibly powerful. Instead of sweeping failures under the rug and never talking about them again, we hold a failure up to the light to see what it was made of and where we went because we lived through it.
Not every offer is going to land. Not every connection is going to work. Some ideas will seem great until they flop. And that is ok! If you hit a dead end, turn around and go a different direction.
JK Rowling’s failure led to her focus on her writing and embrace who she was and what she was meant to do:
"I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged."
Other quotes from amazing women about failure that are worth remembering:
“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” –Maya Angelou
“Just because you fail once doesn’t mean you’re gonna fail at everything.”
“For my first show at ‘SNL’, I wrote a Bill Clinton sketch, and during our read-through, it wasn’t getting any laughs. This weight of embarrassment came over me, and I felt like I was sweating from my spine out. But I realized, ‘Okay, that happened, and I did not die.’ You’ve got to experience failure to understand that you can survive it.”
“It’s failure that gives you the proper perspective on success.”
“Success is most often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable.”
“Failure happens all the time. It happens every day in practice. What makes you better is how you react to it.”
I recently joked that I hate sales funnels. Not only do I hate sales funnels in general, I especially hate the way they are sold as the only option to grow your business.
Just like growing an email list, reaching 100k Instagram followers, or hitting that “six figure income”, sales funnels are promoted as the perfect solution, yet I see them causing more fear, stress, and disconnect for small business owners than actually being helpful.
Despite my deep dislike of sales funnels, I do appreciate a few of the ideas behind them:
Does it help to have an idea of how someone moves towards working with you? Absolutely.
Does it help to map those paths out on paper (or an app if that’s your thing) so you can see where your customers are coming from and what they need? Absolutely.
Can it be helpful to systemize and automate some aspects of your marketing? Yes and yes!
And that’s the end of the list
Does expecting every person to take the same path make sense? Or even three or five or 10 predetermined paths? Not to me.
Why? Far too often, I find that sales funnels are limiting for both the customer and the business owner.
When you set up a sales funnel, you predetermine WHO you will work with and HOW they will work with you. You eliminate flexibility, creativity, and connection.
Does it really help you to reduce customers and potential customers to “pain points”, “prospects”, “targets”, and “conversions”? I don’t think so – I think that moves us farther away from truly connecting with our audience and building a real relationship with them.
Before we get too far into this, let’s look at what a sales funnel is so we are talking about the same thing.
A traditional sales funnel has four segments:
Awareness – make someone aware of you or aware of the problem they have (so you can solve it)
Interest – attract their interest (which shiny new thing do you offer?)
Desire – get them to want to work with you/buy from you
Action – move them to a sale or action
This general outline has been modified and expanded over the years – sometimes you’ll see extra steps or the titles will be slightly different – but the concept is the same.
A traditional sales funnel looks like an inverted triangle as your prospect moves ever closer to the tip or end of the sales funnel, and converts to a customer to finish the sale or the specific action you want them to take. (ugh. I feel like I need a shower after writing that!)
When planning a sales funnel, you usually start with the end result – what do you want someone to do – and then you move backward up the funnel to push someone down towards the bottom of the funnel to make the decision you want them to make.
Again, yes, it makes sense to realize who your best audience is, but does it make sense to completely shut out someone outside that narrow range of your “target audience”? What about someone who, for whatever reason, doesn’t opt in to your sales funnel?
For example, you can have people who are raving fans of you, your work, everything you offer and routinely sing your praises to everyone they meet, but because they aren’t the right client at the right time (or maybe they’ll never be a client), they won’t fit into your predetermined sales funnel box. If someone is a fan, but they aren’t moving to work with you – are they less valuable because they aren’t in your sales funnel.
So let’s look at sales funnels, where I think they fail, and some ways to think outside the sales funnel.
Funnel Problem One – Being Vague and Unfocused
Not everyone in the world is the best client for you – so capturing emails and contact information of people who wouldn’t be a good fit for you wastes everyone’s time.
Think Outside of the Funnel:
Who do you *really* want to work with? What kinds of clients make you happy to go to work in the morning? Those are your people. Don’t try to talk to everyone with a pulse – talk just to your people. They get you, you get them…its a beautiful thing!
Funnel Problem Two - Pestering People:
My biggest reservation about sales funnels is that they have one job – to capture someone and then push them through your funnel grinder. Your client (or potential client) has no control (other than to opt the heck out as soon as possible) – they are just helplessly falling through the process you’ve created.
Think Outside the Funnel:
I don’t believe you build trust by endlessly sending someone emails until they buy (and are then placed in another sales funnel to get them to do the next thing).
Is it a good idea to send someone an email every now and then to remind them that you are still around and available? Absolutely.
Does it help to have a schedule so you don’t forget? Yes.
Does it have to look like 3+ emails every single week? Not so much. Are you really building trust by filling someone’s inbox with “last minute offers” and “do you still like me” emails? No. You are building dislike and distrust – not the direction you want to go in.
If someone joins your email list, they’ve done you are a favor and your job is now to not waste their time. Be respectful of the space you take up in someone’s inbox
Funnel Problem Three – Doing the same thing as everyone else
You’re told that you need to create a freebie, a landing page, an ebook, a webinar, and who knows what else.
Is that something you want to do? Do you have a burning desire to speak in front of people? Then maybe a webinar makes sense for you. Hate video? Then don’t do a webinar!
Do you love to write and share your ideas with others? Then maybe an ebook makes sense. But only if your people would be interested in reading something from you. If not, your time can be better spent elsewhere.
Think Outside the Funnel:
What do YOU want to do? What do you think your audience would enjoy and value? Find the cross-over between what you are excited about doing and what your audience would be excited to see.
This is not a free pass to not do any marketing at all (for those of you who dread all forms of marketing). Instead, it is an invitation to think about which forms of marketing you can at least tolerate
Funnel Problem Four: Not Providing Value
And speaking of webinars and freebies….they are not all created the same. You won’t build trust by creating a lot of hype and promise around something that, frankly, isn’t very good.
Think Outside the Funnel:
You don’t really have to “create” anything, but if you do, make sure it is something you are proud to share.
If most of your webinar is selling your thing…that’s an infomercial, not a webinar. Go back to the drawing board and start again.
If your blog post/pdf/other freebie is something that can be found via any Google search, you aren’t providing value. Dig deeper and earn your audience.
Funnel Problem Five: Not everyone comes from the same place (literally)
If your entire sales/selling process is done via email & internet funnels – you are missing the chance to connect with a lot of people.
Think Outside the Funnel:
Don’t limit your marketing efforts to only one platform or path. Some people will prefer to connect in person, others via email, and still others only via referral. Don’t expect all of your customers to come from one place. Recognize that your clients are individuals with specific needs and not monoliths.
Funnel Problem Six: Not Building an Ongoing Relationship
If you capture someone’s email and shove them through your funnel and they end up buying from you…then what? Or if they “drop out” of your funnel…then what?
Think Outside the Funnel:
Stop seeing people as “prospects” and treat them like real humans. Talk to them, learn more about them, and always look for a way to be useful and helpful.
Let's face it, being visible in your business is scary for many of us.
Saying something, having a position, and being seen can be scary.
You are putting yourself out in the world without a net, and you don't know what will happen.
Will someone love it (or me)?
Hate it (or me)?
Will it be good enough (will I be good enough)?
All of that and more can come up because we are doing a new thing and we are outside our comfort zone. If any of the above sound familiar, you aren't alone! Everyone’s comfort zone is different, so while you may be completely comfortable in one aspect, like blogging, you may be completely petrified in another, like public speaking.
I’ve listed two very visible, and frequently scary, ways to be visible – blogging and public speaking. However, there are all kinds of ways to be visible and help your business.
Perhaps you think the only way to be visible to go to networking event after networking event. While that’s an option, being visible goes far beyond meeting new people!
A business can't grow and thrive by using just one of these methods and nothing else, but done together in different combinations? That's effective.
Levels of Visibility to try:
Small ways (you can wear your pajamas)
*Talking about what you do on your personal Facebook/social media page (sharing an insight, experience, etc).
*Sharing a post from your biz page to your personal page.
*Creating a post in a Facebook group.
*Looking for networking events to attend (if you are a networking person).
*Reaching out (emailing/calling) to someone new.
*Emailing/calling a former client (sending a newsletter, etc).
*Replying to a Facebook post, engaging someone in conversation on Instagram or Twitter.
*Updating LinkedIn profile and posting there.
*Making sure your contact informaton is up to date wherever it is listed.
*Writing a blog post.
*Joining directories in your niche.
Medium ways (you probably shouldn't wear your pajamas)
*Taking flyers/info to places it would be well received (if that is something that works for your business)
*Talking about what you do with someone you meet (see end note)
*Using streaming a video to talk to your people.
*Making a how-to video or something else that is useful.
Big ways (definitely don't wear your pajamas)
*Meeting someone new for the first time.
*Going to a networking event.
End note - I don't mean - corner someone and make them listen to your pitch. But make talking about your business a part of your life. It is so easy to separate business life from regular life, but for most of us, our businesses are our passion - we do it because we love it. Talking about what we do keeps it alive and fresh.
If you are like me, you already belong to more than one Facebook group. Why? Groups are a fun and easy way to stay connected with others who share a common interest. They also afford some privacy when it comes to sharing more personal struggles or questions.
In June, Facebook released a new mission statement declaring their focus on community – or more specifically groups.
Some of the neat changes they’ve added to groups:
Easy troll removal
Now you can remove a troublemaker, and all their posts and comments. This is a fantastic tool for groups that can get contentious or attract trolls.
We’ve been able to schedule in groups using tools like Hootsuite for quite a while. However, we didn’t have the option to schedule directly while in our groups until now.
If data around which posts do best and who is most active in your group are important to you, Facebook now gives group admins a way to see these insights.
You can also easily track growth, popular times and days, engagement, see which posts perform the best, who your frequent commenters are, and other demographic information.
Linking a group to a Facebook page
If you your group is an extension of your business, you can now link them together. This lets people in the group know who is behind the group and allows your page visitors to see that you have a group attached to your page (although they can’t see the group posts until they join).
You can now ask potential members questions before they join your group. This is a great way to eliminate spam accounts from joining, as well as learning a little bit more about members before they join.
Now that you know all the exciting options within groups, the next question is:
Should you have a Facebook group for your business?
The answer? It depends on your goals. Let’s look at the pros and cons.
Possible higher visibility
One of the reasons businesses are excited about groups is because they have a higher visibility than Facebook business pages since those posts are treated differently than Facebook business page posts in the algorithm.
A deeper connection to your customers
A private Facebook group can give your customers a deeper connection to you. You can ask questions, create polls, and otherwise work to engage your users to build your own community through your group.
Allows you to offer something special to select people
Within your own Facebook group you can run specials, discounts, and give members sneak peeks – since your group likely isn’t public, you have a little more control over who sees your offers AND you can make your members feel special since they get first looks and behind-the-scenes information.
You’re the boss
If you’re a part of Facebook groups already, you know each admin can set their own rules and guidelines. However, when you run your own group, you can decide what is and isn’t ok within your own group – you get to make the rules!
Choose your own adventure
You decide what you want your group to be! It can be just for VIP clients, open to anyone, or you can even use it to stay in touch with previous clients.
There’s no way around it. If you are including a Facebook group in your marketing plan, you’ll need to devote time to it to help it grow and thrive.
Depending on your group’s topics, you may have the added responsibility of settling issues between group members and dealing with other admin tasks.
More computer time
You may end up feeling more tied to Facebook, and you may feel “on call” more in your work since clients have easier access to you.
If, after reviewing the pros and cons, you think setting up a Facebook group is a clever way to get around Facebook’s business page algorithm, you may be right. For now. But you also need to remember that anything you do on Facebook is done on borrowed space – Facebook still makes the rules and may change the game at any time.
So, how can you use Facebook groups for your business? Here are four examples for made up businesses (and one real life example):
1) Craft related – use your group to encourage community among your crafters. Encourage users to share their projects while also sharing yours.
2) Health related – use your group to offer support and ongoing guidance outside of your business page or email list.
3) Fashion related – use your group to offer early access to new products, crowdsource information and opinions.
4) Food related – build and maintain interest in your product, share recipes, engage users and ask for feedback on new products.
5) Marketing consultant – use your group to share insights and educational links and ideas to help your clients with their marketing (this one is real – my group is called Adventures in Marketing).
A Facebook group isn’t the right option for every business, but if you are willing to put in the work, they can be a rewarding opportunity to create community.
At one time or another, you’ve probably looked at your business and thought “Ok, now what?”
Maybe it was because work stopped coming in. Maybe it was because you realized you were in a rut with no inspiration. Maybe it was because you reached a turning point in your business. Or maybe self-doubt and fear crept up on you when you weren’t looking. Whatever the cause, feeling stuck when it comes to your business isn’t unusual and that stuck feeling will resurface every now and then.
Since we are all individuals with unique businesses, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to feeling stuck in your business. However, when I asked five fellow business owners what they did when they were feeling stuck in business, some common themes emerged.
Why did I ask these five women for their input? I’ve known them for several years, they each have a different kind of business, and they are experts in their fields as well as being thoughtful people.
Julie Jacob owns Traveling Julie Photography is a Portland family and maternity photographer. She also offers head shots and business photography.
Nedra Rezinas owns Blue Deer Forest. She is a website developer, business coach, and speaker.
Selena Maestas is speaker, coach, and the founder of the Love YOU More Project.
Abbi Wood is a Wordsmith and workshop leader. She helps business owners ensure their “biznality” (she is a wordsmith, after all) shines through in their writing.
Chelsey Craft owns Amethyst Bodywork. She is a Portland massage therapist and doula.
I asked them each a simple question "What do you do when you feel stuck in business?"
Take a break
When you’re feeling stuck, your first instinct might be to quit. You might also find yourself in a worry spiral that keeps you up at night and keeps you from getting unstuck. Instead, consider taking a brief break to clear your head. How you do it is up to you, but planning downtime regularly is vital to running a business and avoiding burnout.
You’ll notice the common theme is self-care and finding a way to temporarily change your view.
Julie says “I take my camera out for a walk. Sometimes just to see what I see, but often with the intention of taking self-portraits. Sometimes I have a plan and sometimes I wing it. Most often I have a plan that then flows and changes as I shoot. Since I’m both behind and in front of the camera, I’m not rushed or shy or concerned about looking weird in a photo. (I lost that worry years ago!) Sometimes the resulting photos are unexciting, but sometimes I'm really proud of them."
“Getting away from the computer. Taking a break from staring at the screen - it could be running errands or going for a walk,” says Nedra.
Chelsey explains “For me, it always comes back to self-care. I take extra time for myself, to nurture my body and soul. My first go-to is Epsom salt baths with some essential oils in a dark room, it helps me reconnect with my heartbeat, the rhythm of life. Getting a pedicure is another favorite. It allows me the time to sit still while also enjoying some pampering while caring for my feet, that take me so many places. Or even something as simple as taking a walk around the block. I find peace in solitude, allowing myself some space to just be and appreciate what is around me.”
Fall in Love Again
Sometimes being stuck is a symptom of burnout or feeling uninspired in your work. It may sound strange, but we’re in a (hopefully!) long-term relationship with our business and that means ups and downs are to be expected. Look at the things that inspire you about your business and what made you decide start in the first place in order to fall in love again.
Julie says “When I do personal, creative projects that I have complete control over, I feel even more exhilarated and excited than I usually do about photography. I think about the giant list of random ideas or visions for things *I* want to shoot. Two summers ago, I came across an incredible location and just had to do a shoot there. So, within two months, I found a model, put together several wardrobe options, and we created gorgeous images.
Last winter, I had a full, complete vision of another nature-based maternity image. I almost did nothing about it, but I had recently started reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, so I forced myself actually make a shoot happen. It did, and it was amazing. After a client shoot last year, I had a ton of more creative ideas, and that same client became a model for me to bring those visions to life in a separate shoot, and I loved it!”
Falling in love also means getting your focus back so you know what to do to move forward.
“Nobody says it better than Nike. 'Just do it.' In the moment, of course, this is easier said than done because the thoughts of overwhelm and daily to-do lists consume your mind. So, you have two choices. One, dive in. Two, take a step back and evaluate. What is the most effective thing for you to do right now? Then do that.
It's easy to fill our days with busy details and short-term successes for quick wins. Where are your long-term wins? Look for those and direct your attention there. I promise you will feel equally accomplished doing something that your future self will thank you for," says Abbi.
One of the more challenging aspects of owning a business is feeling as if we should have all the answers all the time (hint: we don’t). A little self-doubt coupled with the sometimes over-glossy and over-rosy view others present on social media can send us straight into the mud.
Instead of feeling less-than, look for people, books, and podcasts that inspire you.
“One of the most common things I do is listen to podcasts that aren’t about photography. Since I spend so much time either doing photography, editing photos, thinking about photography, I don’t usually like listening to people talking about it.
However, I *love* business/creativity/entrepreneur podcasts! I find that I’m inspired by people’s stories who do different things than I do, and very often it gives me ideas or new ways to think about something—either visions of work to create, or ideas about marketing, or renewing efforts for things like writing and sending newsletters,” says Julie.
Nedra is also a fan of business podcasts. “I listen to "Breaking Down your Business" podcast while running or driving on a regular basis and I get lots of ideas from Jill and Brad. It's been amazing how many eureka moments I get listening to their advice,” she says.
Chelsey explains “I have an extensive library of books that I don't always give the attention it deserves. Choosing a few to revisit helps me get out of my head and put different thoughts in it, which is so helpful when I find myself playing the same record over and over. And on that note, keeping a gratitude journal is invaluable in my life so that I have a tangible thing to touch and see how much I have in my life to appreciate.”
It is also valuable to recognize when feeling stuck is a symptom of a larger issue that needs to be addressed. With my clients, I often see money issues, fear of visibility, and money fears pop up over and over.
Selena says “When it comes to being stuck, it's because we get in our own way. There is something inside of us that tells us, we aren't good enough, aren't smart enough, not "enough" enough.
Our inner critic is based out of our fear or repeating past experiences and our fear of our perceived future. None of it has to do with the NOW.
Your Inner critic, let's call that the EGO, wants you to remain stuck because it's easier. It's comfortable. It's what you know. Pushing forward in business goes against all of that, which causes the EGO to pull harder and scream louder - "Watch out! You don't want to fail!"
Now, no one likes to fail, but it's actually very important for your growth of yourself and your business. If you fail and survive, then you can show your Ego that it's OKAY to make change. It's OKAY to try something new. It's OKAY to move ahead.
Get out of the stuckness and into your success.”
Busy lifestyles and juggling, well, everything can also get in our way when it comes to successfully running our business. A little dedicated quiet time can go a long way.
“Giving myself a few hours each week of uninterrupted time gives me time to think about my business and work on internal projects. It's amazing what I can think about and change in that little time,” Nedra explains.
Too often we’re led to believe we need to do it all and do it all by ourselves to be successful. We know that isn’t true, accurate, or even possible, but those voices creep in despite our best efforts.
When you are feeling stuck in business, invite a friend out for coffee to reconnect and get support. This is especially helpful when you ask a fellow business owner out to coffee because you can be sure she needs some support as well!
Nedra says “I reach out to a colleague in person or over the phone. I really enjoying running ideas, problems, and brainstorming with them.”
“Reaching out and asking for help or attending more networking events. Connecting with my people, my tribe, to remind myself that I am not alone is so very comforting and uplifting. We're not alone in this journey and the more we can take care of ourselves, the better we are at helping others. I know it works for me,” explains Chelsey.
Regardless of which method you choose, remember to be kind to yourself. Feeling stuck is almost always a temporary situation. Look at what is going right in your business and which parts make you feel happiest. How can you increase those aspects?
It may also be time to examine your systems, work flow, and look at the things in your business you don’t enjoy or that make you dread doing them. Look for ways to outsource those, if you can. If you can’t outsource them, look for ways to improve either your response to them or looking into training or education to make the processes less miserable for you.
One of the first things I discuss with clients is their pricing. In nearly all cases, their prices are set too low to create a sustainable business they won’t grow to hate.
When I ask how they feel about their pricing, I get a range of reactions:
“They are ok, I guess.”
“I don’t think anyone would pay more.”
“I need to raise them, but I’m scared I’ll lose my clients or no one else will hire me.”
It isn’t unusual for my clients to even be reluctant to talk about their prices!
Why? Why Is talking about our prices and money taboo? Why do we feel the need to apologize? Why shouldn’t we be just as proud of our pricing as we are of the work we do?
Why we aren't our ideal client
Let’s break it down and examine the pieces. First, it is easy to imagine ourselves as our ideal client. After all, we love what we do, right! We’d be a perfect client! But! In most cases, we aren’t our ideal client at all. Take a moment and jot down the differences between you and your ideal client.
As an example, I love SEO and social media, so it wouldn’t make sense to hire someone like me to do what I do because I enjoy it and it is fun. My clients, on the other hand, would rather hand it off to me or have me help them through it.
I’m not a fan of most online courses, but one of my most popular “products” is my Build Your Marketing Muscles (an online course)!
On the other hand, I’m not a very crafty person, so paying an artist for their creation or paying someone to create a costume for my youngest is not only a great way for me to spend my money, it makes my life lighter and less stressful! And I have the added benefit of supporting another small business.
Remembering that we aren't our ideal client, especially when we're starting out and charging too little, is vital. I think it is even more important if we’re already coming from a place of money scarcity and feeling as if any sale is a good sale.
Can you "give back and still have a business?
My clients have good hearts and a desire to reach out to people who couldn’t normally afford their services. This is a wonderful thing, but in many cases, it isn't sustainable and is a fantastic recipe for burnout and exhaustion.
A good client doesn't want you to exhaust yourself! In fact, they need you to take care of yourself because they believe you are good at what you do (after all, that’s why they hired you, right?)
Can you still “give back” and have a business? Absolutely! But consider waiting until your business is stable and you have a clear idea of your boundaries so you can give back in healthy, long-term ways. I give myself permission to offer some free work in the form of consulting here and there, but draw the line at social media management because it is so time consuming.
Yes, I completely understand the desire to make what we do accessible to everyone, but you can't be so kind to others that you are damaging your health & relationships by running yourself into the ground trying to serve everyone.
You don't control someone else's finances
We need to let go of the guilt or responsibility around whether someone can afford what we do or what we sell. If someone can’t afford us, that’s ok! It doesn’t make us a bad person for sticking to our prices just as it doesn’t make them a bad person for not being able to afford what we offer. It just means they aren’t our customer (right now). If what you offer is worthwhile to someone, then they will pay it. If not, it isn't worth it to them and that isn't anything we have control over.
I doubt a Land Rover salesman feels bad that I'm not a Land Rover customer - no matter how much I want one (ok, I don't actually want one, that was just the first car name that came to mind!).
You must cover business costs and expenses
You also need to think about the cost of running your business. Those costs include taxes and expenses and that can really add up! If you aren’t covering those very basic things with your pricing, while still leaving enough left over to live on, you won’t be able to sustain your business. Or you’ll grow to resent it because it costs more money to run your business than you make.
How do you stand firm in your pricing?
Be clear around what you offer and the process. If, like photographers, your work involves a lot of behind-the-scenes action the client may not see you’ll need to be extra clear around the benefits and upfront about the amount of work you do on your own to get the end result the client loves.
Focus on the quality of your work and the benefit to the client.
Believe in yourself and what you bring to your client – not every client will be the right fit, but you can be the perfect fit for the right client.
Practice saying “These are my prices and I’m happy with them.” – yes, you’ll feel silly at first, but that is all you need to say to someone questioning your prices and your value. You don’t need to pull out a spreadsheet, a Venn diagram, and give them an hour lecture on how you arrived at your prices (no matter how tempting it is!)
Finally, and this is going to sound a little out there, but stay with me!
Imagine your business is a tree with deep roots that are well cared for and strong. When someone complains about your pricing, imagine it is like a gust of wind. Imagine your business tree swaying in the wind as the gust of wind passes by.
Neat image, right? No harm to the tree, no harm to the gust of wind – it just wasn’t a good fit right now.
Musings about marketing, social media, and small business.