Comparing ourselves to others is generally useless. It makes us feel bad, distracts from things we could do, and gets in the way.
One of the questions I’m often asked is “How do you do it all?”
I never know how to answer because all I can think of is the ways I’m failing:
The laundry that sits unfolded.
The takeout we eat because executing marketing strategy is easy but sticking to meal planning is hard.
The times I’m not as present as I’d like to be.
The dust bunny colony that lives under my couch.
The number of times I lose my keys in a week.
The constant push and pull of work and family life.
The number of times I misplace my phone in a day.
The things I want to do and don’t have time for.
So, the reality is that I’m not doing it all.
I’d like to do it all. Some days I even get close, but I’ve found if I zoom through my life “doing it all” and ticking off all those boxes I’m supposed to tick off – at some point I lose myself and become too caught up in living that perfect expectation of my life – and, for me, that’s not much better than being a giant hot mess all the time.
So, here are some things that help me keep my messy, but generally happy, life in order:
Basic Notebook (aka My Brain)
I prefer Wired by Top Flight because I like thicker paper and a strong notebook that will hold together. I bought a cute one from Barnes and Noble that I loved the look of, but it pretty much tries to fall apart every time I use it.
My notebook is my brain. It sounds funny, but it is 100% true. I’ve been using this method since high school and it works for me.
Anything I need to remember or want to learn more about goes in my notebook so I can find it later. Of course, the irony is that once I’ve written it down, I can usually remember it – but my brain (the one in my head) is a busy place, so my paper brain helps keep things from getting lost.
Work Planning Notebook
This is new for me this year, and I’ll likely keep it going because it is handy. All of my work planning and ideas go in this notebook. When I scheduled out 12 months of blog posts, freebies, and emails to my list? I did it in this notebook. Teasing out new pricing and new offers? Yup. In this notebook. It is nice to have everything in one place instead of scattered across my other notebook.
A basic paper calendar. I’ve used the Uncalendar for years, but since I’ve started using a bullet journal I’m not using the Uncalendar planning pages – so I’ll likely switch to a plain, undated month-at-a-time calendar once this one is used up – it will be slightly less expensive and use less paper.
My brain and digital calendars are like oil & water and no amount of emulsification is going to make my brain and a digital calendar work together.
I use my paper calendar to get an overview of my month. Some things are always on my calendar – the day we volunteer at the cat shelter, gym days, and my kids’ D&D game nights, for example. Appointments, client meetings, work commitments, days out with friends, and adventure days (road trips to cool places) are added in as they are scheduled.
Does this mean I carry my calendar everywhere? Sometimes. It also means I can legitimately say “Let me check my calendar and get back to you” instead of overscheduling myself.
I’m kind of new to the whole bullet journal system. It works for me because the set up is a prettier version of what I’ve been doing in basic notebook for years – which means it was easy to adapt.
If you’ve never heard of a bullet journal, you can go here to learn the basics.
I opted not to learn the shorthand and to stick with what works for me.
If you’re familiar with the gorgeous bullet journals – I hate to disappoint you, but mine is not pretty. It is functional and I like to dress with up with washi tape (I may have developed a slight washi tape obsession doing this) and pretty pens (I already had the pretty pen obsession), but at the heart – it is a place for my brain to organize things.
I do love looking at artistic bullet journals before going back to my plain one and drawing a sad lonely flower in the margin…
That is the paper side of how I keep it all together.
What about the digital side? After all, I’m a digital marketing person….
Apps on My Phone
Mile IQ to track mileage.
Pandora for music – I have a Sara Bareilles channel and a Presuntos Implicados channel for working, a Pistol Annie’s channel for when I’m cooking, and a Meghan Trainor channel for hula hooping.
Waze because I have no sense of direction. At all.
DramaFever because I love Korean dramas.
WTForecast for snarky weather updates.
Social media apps – yeah, all of them. No shame here.
iMovie, Spark Video, and FilmoraGo for making videos on my phone – Although I prefer the desktop version of Filmora for videos because the screen is bigger.
WordSwag, Spark Post, Canva, and Rhonna for image creation – I prefer desktop Canva, but the mobile version works for quick edits. Spark Post is a nice alternative to Canva (and fewer people use it, so it is a little more unique). WordSwag is great for quick text-based graphics, and I need to spend more time with Rhonna.
Snapseed, VSCO, and eight others for photo editing – I need to spend more time with them, because I usually default to a filter, and these give you far more control.
MOB Nation – an app to find mom-owned businesses near you. I know where most of the ones near me are, but it is nice to know where they are when I travel. #theresaMOBforthat
Skyview Lite – Have you ever been outside at night and wondered what that star was or if that bright star was a planet? This app tells you what is where in the night sky.
Audible – The kids and I are working through Harry Potter right now and loving it. I’m trying to get my podcasts under control, so I haven’t downloaded any books for me to listen to yet.
Podcasts – So many podcasts, so little time.
AllTrails – For finding nearby hiking options and planning adventure days
Chinook Book – Local (Portland) coupon book supporting local businesses.
Instacart – Sometimes I don’t have time to go grocery shopping but, as it turns out, we still need to eat. This solves that problem.
Pokemon Go, Words with Friends, Splendor, Trivia Crack, and Block Hexa – I have a lot of games on my phone – most of them are for my kid (or clients’ kids as needed). The ones I listed are the ones I play with varying degrees of regularity. The kids and I play Pokemon Go together (ok, I play it solo, too), so that’s the most frequently played game.
I also screen shot or take pictures a ton of things I want to be able to remember later. I tried Evernote at one point to organize things but, for me, the simpler the better is what works.
I'm not ever going to be someone who says "We have to get away from tech and then we'll be happy," but I am someone who enjoys going places where there is no cell phone service (as long as I'm not on a deadline!) and doing the whole appreciating nature thing. Forests, mountains, lakes, and places that smell fresh, crisp, and clear are where I like to recharge.
So that’s the way I keep things together – I work with my brain and do things I know work. If digital calendars and storage work for you, then my method probably won’t (and that’s cool, too!)
I work with women to untangle how to manage their marketing and their business in a way that feels right to them as business owners, mothers, and humans.
I’ve worked with women just starting businesses and ones who have run businesses for years. With women who make no income to those making a lot of money (yes, six-figures, but I deeply dislike the way that number has become short-hand for successful). But there are some issues I see over and over again.
Being Afraid to Take Up Space
Fear of taking up space means different things to dfferent people. For some, it is talking about their business on Facebook – I’m not talking about being spammy and making every post about the business. I’m talking about never mentioning it. If you own a business, it takes up a signifigant amount of your life – why wouldn’t you mention it?
For others, fear of taking up space means not even saying “Yes, I do this thing” even when they see someone is looking for their exact service.
Or it might look like winning an award or recognition and being reluctant to tell others about it.
Not Setting Goals Because You're Afraid You Won't Reach Them
Yeah, goals are scary. But goals are direction and your business needs a direction or it will spin around in circles.
The fun part is that YOU get to set your goals. Whether that means income, new connections, items shipped, appointments booked, or maybe something entirely different – you’re the boss of your business so set goals you’re excited to reach not just the ones everyone else is setting.
Not charging the prices you need to charge
Look, I can’t tell you what your price should be. But I can tell you that if you are charging too little you are setting yourself up for frustration and burn out. Been there, done that (more than once because sometimes lessons take time to sink in).
What does it look like to charge the price you need?
It means having time to do your work well rather than constantly rushing. It means having space to build good relationships with your clients. It means covering BOTH your expenses and your time, not just one or the other. It means not negotiating (unless that’s your thing) or finding imaginary discounts to give to potential clients because you’re worried someone will say no.
Not asking for what you want
Yes, having those hard conversations is difficult. Do you know what else is difficult? Putting up with things because it feels easier than speaking out.
As women, we have so much cultural baggage telling us to quietly carry the load and keep things running smoothly – even if it is detrimental to us. Not to mention the part where asking for help is seen as a failure or inability to handle everything we’re trying to do.
When we overlay that lifelong training with running a business, we can find ourselves doing all the work of our business and then some instead of reaching out for help. Be brave – ask for what you want.
Being afraid of being “salesy” to the point of never promoting yourself
This is likely the one I hear most often. There is something so fundamentally frustrating to me about the fear women have around being considered “salesy” – especially when I fall into it myself (I’m not even going to pretend to be perfect here).
Picture yourself as an average white dude named Chad – would he have any hesitation to tell someone about his new project or offer? No. He wouldn’t.
Channel your inner Chad and go for it.
Worrying you aren’t hustling enough
This is another Chad issue. There is a “hustle til it hurts” mentality that works for some (and if that’s you – awesome, own it).
Do you know what makes it hard to hustle in your business? A baby who doesn’t sleep through the night, working alternate shifts with your partner to make your dreams happen, caring for a loved one on top of everything else you do, health issues others may not see, and so many other things that Chad “I live on Red Bull and 3 hours of sleep so I can hustle harder” may never have to deal with.
If you’re feeling bad because you’re not hustling as hard as your Instagram feed tells you everyone else is hustling, just remember how many filters there are on Instagram and how much planning goes into those perfect grids. That’s their “best of” reel – you’re not even seeing the outtakes, let alone the whole picture.
Want to be inspired by someone? Great. But don’t let their life keep you from focusing on yours.
Not wanting to admit that you want success and money
Repeat after me “Money is awesome.” Did you feel a little weird? That’s ok. Money can bring up all kinds of issues and baggage – even stuff we didn’t know we had buried!
Expecting to be paid for doing work, even work you love and enjoy is not a bad thing. Having money doesn’t make you a bad or selfish person. It makes you someone who can cover your bills and handle your responsibilities. In no way is that a bad thing. Hint: Its actually a really good thing!
Success and the recognition of your peers, friends, and family? Being proud of what you’ve created and how you run your business? Also not bad things.
Side note: If you are looking at other women and mentally tearing them down for having success, money, or recognition? Stop it. Stay in your own lane. We need women who build each other up and celebrate each other – be that woman for the next person you encounter and see what happens.
Getting Stuck in Your Comfort Zone
I’m a Taurus, so I’m basically terrible at getting outside my comfort zone. I like to dig in and get comfy, but that doesn’t serve me, my business, or the people I want to help.
If you find yourself pulling back from trying new things or putting yourself “out there” – try the smallest step you can take.
Or don’t think about it, and do it anyway. That’s what I did recently when I needed to walk into a new space where I wouldn’t know anyone. I just didn’t think about it until I was there (which is when I thought I was going to throw up in the elevator…but I didn’t, I had a great time, and I got outside my own comfort zone!)
Last week, I gave a presentation about Instagram Stories to the Salem, Oregon chapter of The MOB Nation. Although the talk was designed to be brief, I realized how much I had to share and how little I could cover in the time I had.
When I got home, I decided to put together a quick blog post covering the topics in my talk. But more and more features kept creeping in, and this blog post ended up being much longer than originally intended (which, to be honest, is how most of my blog posts happen)!
So you can look at this as my "everything and the kitchen sink, ultimate Instagram guide for small businesses" or "Gwen hates to leave anything out and wanted to create a complete walk through of Instagram Stories features" - you choice.
First, some background on Instagram Stories - the Stories feature was added in late 2016 and modeled after Snapchat’s Stories (which are now less popular in general because so many have migrated to Instagram's version).
Just like your normal Instagram posts, a photo you want to use for your Story must be on your phone. You can tag other businesses, use hashtags, and mark your location in Stories as well. You can also share your Instagram Story to your Facebook Story - either by sharing each story individually or having it as your default setting.
Unlike your regular Instagram posts, Stories aren’t seen on your normal Instagram feed and disappear after 24 hours. After that 24 hour mark, unless you share the Stories in your Highlights (which I cover at the end of this blog post), only you can see your archived Stories.
The process of adding and creating Instagram Stories is different than your regular Instagram feed. It is also a good idea to think of them as separate entities, that support each other. Your Instagram stories can be more fun, less staged, and more spontaneous than your regular feed. They can also be highly styled and branded using the tools in Stores. It is your brand, you get to decide what it looks like!
You can use Instagram Stories to share videos up to 15 seconds, and photos share best if they have a 9:16 aspect ratio (think tall rectangle instead of the square you typically see on Instagram). If your photo isn't properly sized it will either be stretched out and distorted or you can use a pinching motion to force it to be smaller to fit the screen. If you force it to fit the screen, your photo will have black bars on the top and bottom to fill up the blank space.
Since Instagram first rolled out Stories they have added more features and are adding even more options. Why? Stories are incredibly popular and have over 400 million daily users.
How to Post an Instagram Story
Let’s dive into the step-by-step of how to post an Instagram Story and some of the cool features available.
Open your Instagram app. It will open to your Instagram feed.
You can add a Story by tap on the camera icon in the upper left corner or by tapping on your profile photo. It will automatically open your camera so you can grab a quick photo or video.
Let’s look at the options available on this screen:
Normal is the default starting place and this is the basic camera function. To the right of the camera button you’ll see the option to flip the camera and also the option for adding masks and camera effects.
The next option to the right is Boomerang. You can also have this as a separate app on your phone. It takes a series of photos over a couple of seconds to create a short, looped video.
Then you’ll see Focus. This is specifically for taking photos of faces. You’ll get a great photo where the person is the focus!
Superzoom is a fun surprise. Tap on the square to set your focal point. Then tap on the music symbol to select what kind of Superzoom you want. Yes, each type of Superzoom has its own music! Dramatic, Beats, TV Show, and Bounce.
Rewind will play any video you film in reverse – this doesn’t apply to videos you’ve already created and are posting from your phone.
Hands Free lets you record your 15 second videos without having to hold down the record button the whole time.
Going Live On Instagram
To the left of the “Normal” default is where you’ll find your Live video option. You can add face masks here, too. You don’t have a 15 second limit with a live video, so don't feel rushed.
When you go live your avatar in the Stories feed will have a little “LIVE” icon on it to let your followers know you are live. You can also invite someone to join you as a guest on your live video. When you are done, you can save your video to your phone (although you’ll lose your comments and reactions), post it, or delete it.
You can invite someone to join your Live video if they are watching - just like Facebook Live.
Adding Music to Instagram Story
Music lets you add up to 15 seconds of curated music to your Story.
You can search by specific song, mood, or genre. Although there are lots of songs to choose from, you still may not find your favorite quite yet.
Solid Color + Text
Finally, to the far left, is the Type option which allows you to type on a solid color background using several fonts and options.
This is a great option for making announcements or directing followers to your newest blog post. If you have over 10,000 followers you can add a link right in your Story. If not, you'll have to put the link in your bio and direct viewers there.
If you don't like these fonts or color choices, you can use Canva or other graphics app to create your own (I share some app options at the end of this blog post). If you save a template, you'll be able to easily go back and create something new.
Adding Photo Already on Your Phone to Instagram Stories
If you prefer to use a photo already on your camera, tap on the photo square in the bottom left corner (this takes you to the photos you have on your phone).
Once you’ve added a Story, you’ll need to tap on the “home” icon on the bottom left corner to go back to "home" and then tap on the camera icon in the upper left corner if you want to add another Story.
When you add a Story you now have access to several neat functions and options.
Instagram Stories Filters
First, swipe left to add a filter. Keep swiping as there are several options and eventually you’ll be back to the no filter option if you prefer your photo as it is.
You can also take your photo into a photo editing app like Snapseed, VSCO, or Color Story to perfect your photo before sharing.
Ready to add text and effects? Let's go left to right.
Adding Text to Your Instagram Story
.On the far upper left, you’ll see “Aa” – this is where you access the keyboard to add text over your photo.
When you tap “Aa”, you’ll see a screen with a cursor and several colored circles underneath. The circles are your font color options. On the left side is a slider bar - this is where you can adjust your text to be larger or smaller. You can also do this with your fingers using a pinching motion (this pinching motion works for text, gifts, polls, etc - you have a lot of freedom to move things around in Stories!)
You'll also notice the center oval makes another appearance. This is where you can change the text font - Classic, Modern, Strong, Neon, or Typewriter - just like the text only option we covered above.
Depending on which font you choose, you’ll also see a few other options to the left for aligning or highlighting your text. To change the highlight color, just tap on the colored circles (or tap and hold to get access to the color wheel to really customize your highlight color!)
Yes, you can use multiple fonts and colors on the same photo, and you can also edit text after you’ve created it (but before you publish it). You can even highlight text and select a new color just for that word!
If you press and hold a colored circle, more color options will appear, and you can adjust your text color even more.
But what if you want to color match a specific item in your photo?
Yes, you can do that, too!
Tap on your photo and then tap on the dropper on the far left. Then long press and release on the screen and a color drop will appear. You can drag it around the screen until you find the color you want to use for text. Then release (or tap on the color drop) to bring up the keyboard.
This is perfect when you want a specific branding color or want to really color coordinate your text and image!
This is a fun little trick to give your text a special look.
Highlight the text you want to turn into a rainbow. Then place one finger on the far right of your text and another finger on the far right of the color options and then slowly drag your fingers left.
This one takes a couple of tries to get right.
Instagram Pen Tools
Going back up to the top – the middle option is a pen (or pencil, if you prefer). When you tap on that, you’ll open a new list of options.
Again, going right to left -
The Heart symbol is a crayon-like line.
The eraser is the eraser.
The pen with the stars above it is the neon pen.
The marker is the marker.
The pen is the pen.
On the far left you’ll see a sliding bar – slide it up to make your lines thicker, slide it down to make them thinner.
If you think all you can do with the pen tools is write, you’d be mistaken! There are some neat options hidden here!
You can use the marker or pen to draw a solid box or circle or heart or whatever you like and then place text over the top of that. This is a great option to draw attention to specific text or if plain text just doesn't look right no matter which color you select.
Tap the Pen tool (far left), select a color, and press down anywhere on the screen. This is one of the ways you can make an entire screen one color. The other is using the Type function discussed above. This option gives you more freedom to match you branding colors or do something unique.
Tap the Marker tool (next to the Pen tool) and press down anywhere on the screen and you’ll get a see-through color overlay.
Colors for both can be managed with the color options at the bottom of the screen.
You might be thinking, that’s neat, but why would I want to cover my entire photo?
This is where the eraser tool gets to show off what it can do.
Erase some of the color covering your image to play peek-a-boo with what is underneath!
This would be great for new product teasers or highlighting a specific part of your photo.
Stickers, Tags, and GIFs
On the far left of the main page you’ll see a square with a face. This is where all the stickers and GIFs live.
Tap it to open the menu.
You’ll see several options to choose from and more as you scroll down.
If you swipe right from this screen, you’ll see your recently used tags, stickers, GIFs.
If you swipe all the way to the left, you’ll find some hats and glasses to play with.
Remember that no matter which GIF, sticker, or accessory you choose, you can drag it around your screen, reposition it (even upside down), and make it larger or smaller by using a pinching motion.
You can further customize many of them by selecting them and then tapping on them once they are on your photo. GIFs will typically switch direction and/or show an alternate color.
Location, Mention, and Hashtag stickers have three color options - just tap on the text to make it change color.
Let's dig a little deeper into what the stickers do:
The location can be either a specific place (like a restaurant, park, or business), a city (or county, etc), or even an event (assuming the organizers have set it up). Adding a location hashtag can increase your visibility by putting you in that location's Story for the day.
Location Stories are chosen by algorithm and feature public accounts that have used a hashtag or location. To see what these look like search for a city or hashtag, tap on the result you want, and if there is a Story you'll see a red ring around the avatar. Tap on that to view. It is a neat way to peek into what others are doing - and especially interesting to see a city Story like New York City!
The hashtag sticker is just one hashtag option you have. You can also just type a hashtag (or three) using the keyboard.
The tag sticker lets you tag another Instagram user - they'll get a notification they were tagged in your Story in their messages and can repost the Story they were tagged in into their own Story.
You can also tag someone by typing "@" and their user name - this lets you tag multiple people at once.
Again, these stickers can be make smaller or moved around the screen. You can even make them very small so you still get the benefit of visibility without ruining your photo in the process.
The Music sticker will open the same music option I described at the beginning of the post.
The Time sticker is a quick way to put a time on your Story - tap the sticker once it is on your Story to reveal some other clock options.
Poll - Give your viewers something to interact with - a "yes" or "no" or "this" or "that" poll works best because it is short and easy. Swipe up to see the results of your poll while it is live or look for it in your Story archive after it has expired.
Sliding bar - Ask your followers how they feel about something with a sliding bar. You can see who answered and how by tapping on your Story's viewers in the bottom left corner.
Questions - Yes, your viewers can ask you their own questions when you use this option, and you can answer them right in Stories.
Camera - the camera sticker in the stickers section allows you to take a selfie and put it in your picture. If you've ever wanted to superimpose your face over a tree, your dog, or a magazine cover this is your chance!
GIFs and emojis offer a ton of fun options to punctuate and add personality to your Stories.
Deleting a Sticker, GIF, text, etc
What if you realize you are getting carried away with stickers and GIFs and emojis? Or you decide you don't want that text after all? Easy! Just drag it straight down and a little trash can will appear.
Building a Instagram Story
One way to create more interesting Stories is by saving a modified image to your phone and then using that as a base to create the next image. It is a great way to add a little more information on each screen in a fun and creative way.
The save option is on the bottom left right next to the post option.
If you accidentally post before you are ready, you can delete the post by tapping the three dots on the bottom right hand side of your Story image.
This is also where you can post your Story as a post, send it to an Instagram friend, and adjust your Story settings.
This is my Instagram account under my bio you see three circles. These circles are my Story Highlights. Clearly, my Story Highlights are not pretty or well-branded. Check out this account and this account for some spot on branding when it comes to Stories.
As I mentioned waaaay back at the beginning of this post, your Stories are only visible to everyone else for 24 hours. With Instagram's Stories Archive, you can view all of your Stories and put them in a neat little Highlights collection. The two accounts I linked to just above do it in two very different, but effective ways.
Apps That Take You Further
Check out these apps for more options to customize your Stories (no affiliate links, I just like these apps) because they have Story-specific sizes that you can use as a base. It does take extra steps and time, but the benefit is that your Stories can be uniquely you and really stand out!
A Design Kit for a paid alternative ($1.99 with additional in-app purchases, iOS).
Rhonna Designs ($1.99 with additional in-app purchases, iOS)
Word Swag ($4.99, iOS)
Adobe Spark (free) - Similar to Canva and I think it is easier to use on a mobile device
Videos can only be up to 15 seconds in Stories, so you'll need an app like Storeo (iOS, free + paid version) to break longer videos up into 15 second chunks.
We've reached the end of this Instagram Stories guide (thank you to those who are still with me!).
I've probably missed something, but I hope I've given you a good foundation for how to use Stories, and I hope I've sparked some creative ideas. There is so much possibility with Stories and making it what you want.
I don’t know about you, but I hate it when I get in my own way and end up making my life more complicated than it needs to be – especially when it comes to my business.
I’ve worked with enough clients to know I’m not the only one who does this and not the only one who wonders what is happening.
Why do we put off doing a simple task that moves our business forward?
Why would we hesitate to send an invoice for our work?
Why would we continue to put ourselves in frustrating situations?
Of course, there are legitimate reasons for some hesitations and hiccups including needing another piece of information before moving forward, anxiety, not knowing how to talk about what we do, or a little bit of stage fright. But I’m not talking about those situations. I’m talking about the times we know we’re getting in our own way and let it happen anyway.
I’ve been thinking about self-sabotage and the different ways it manifests. For this blog post, I’ve broken them down by Thoughts, Financial, Business, and Personal. I have no doubt that there are many, many more ways self-sabotage can appear, but I wanted to focus on the four I mentioned because these are the ways I see it manifest in my clients’ lives.
I often work with new business owners who are just branching out for the first time or business owners ready to grow their business. They are excited, but nervous, and not sure where their business is going.
I hear statements like:
“I want to be busy, but not too busy.”
“What if I have too much business? Then what will I do?”
“I want to make money, but I don’t need a lot.”
“I don’t want to be one of those people who only cares about making money…”
On the surface, most of these statements sound plausible and worth considering. But if we dig a little deeper, we may find lurking insecurity and self-sabotage.
If you focus on not filling up your calendar or not making too much money (and who decides what that is, anyway?), you won’t be focused on finding clients and providing amazing service. You may hesitate to talk about your business out of fear of actually getting the clients you know you want. You may also have unspoken fears around not being able to meet goals you set. After all, if you don’t set any goals you can’t miss any goals, right?
If you feel weird about taking and having money, you will be less likely to value your work and charge accordingly. You may have stumbling blocks around money picked up from family, friends, popular culture, and personal experience that get in your way (its ok, most of us do!)
If you see someone who has money as someone you don’t want to be…then you won’t be working towards finding clients and getting money because you don’t want to turn into someone you won’t like.
And speaking of ways we practice financial self-sabotage, let’s dig a little deeper here.
This is the kind of self-sabotage that has a more clear and direct impact on your bottom line and may include:
Not sending invoices (or not pursuing overdue invoices)
Chronically undercharging for your work.
Not responding to client inquiries/keeping up with email
Not providing the level of care you think your clients deserve (and you want to give them)
I promise you that I’ve done every single one of these things at least once and so have many of my clients.
Two of my examples above are tied up in money stories and self-worth and valuing yourself – but I think they can still be self-sabotage because they can prevent others from wanting to work with you or bring you clients who aren’t the best fit for you.
Not taking care of your customers and not keeping up with email CAN be a symptom of taking on too much, not having enough time overall, and being overworked…BUT it can also be an insidious way for self-sabotage to creep into your routine.
Let’s talk more about taking on too much and being overworked. Why do we do that to ourselves? Sometimes it is simply luck that has us in a season of abundant clients and lots of work. Or maybe it is rooted in fear of not having clients and you take on everything – just in case.
How else do we sabotage ourselves in business?
This kind of self-sabotage can be easy to overlook...until you notice a pattern.
Running out of needed items because you didn’t get around to ordering more
Insisting that you can only work under certain conditions.
Holding back from launching or creating a new service/offer – especially if you could work on it and choose not to.
Trying not to be visible in your business (writing a blog post, posting on social media, etc.)
Running out of ink for printing once is an easy mistake, but if you are consistently forgetting to get ink (or paper or some other basic supply you need), take a look at why. How is it benefiting you to put yourself in that position over and over.
Everyone has a favorite way to work. Whether it is favorite music that helps you get in the groove or a favorite location – when everything aligns, you can get to work in a way that is perfect for you. However, that doesn’t always happen. If you find yourself avoiding work or believing that you can only work during the full moon when the lavender is in bloom…you’re either a werewolf or throwing up barriers.
Putting something new into the world and being vulnerable is a big scary task. When that is a new service, product, or offer it can be easy to keep putting it off until the right time. Again, there may be legitimate reasons to take your time when it comes to launching something new, but if you are stuck around *why* you can’t bring yourself to put it out there…maybe self-sabotage is at work.
Because our businesses can be an extension of ourselves, these business self-sabotages can start to feel intensely personal as they stir up all sorts of feelings and reactions.
Which brings us to my last example of ways we sabotage ourselves – in very personal ways.
You’re here to take over the world, and you can’t do that if you aren’t taking care of yourself.
Not taking time for self-care
Spending so much time “recharging” that you fall behind)
Not eating properly
Not getting enough sleep
As small business owners we’re supposed to run our business (and manage all of the things that make up a small business), take care of our families, practice regular self care, and make it all Instagram worthy so we can show off how we manage it all.
Let’s forget making it pretty, and focus on making it real. Self-care looks like different things to different people – if a massage is what you need, make time for that. If a bath and a book is your thing, go for it. If the best you can do is go for a walk by yourself for ten minutes, do it.
However, if you notice yourself putting off self-care (in whatever form it looks like for you) when you know you can and should do it…you might be working against yourself.
On the other hand, if you find yourself making more time for your latest Netflix binge instead of the work you know you need to do maybe look at what you are avoiding doing and why.
The last two on my list – eating and sleeping – aren’t something you can skip, but you can do it poorly or not enough to the point of making yourself feel run down, tired, and even sick.
Clearly, self-sabotage has many components and pops up in many ways!
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.
Musings about marketing, social media, and small business.