Reflections on My Business After a Year

Everyone wants to be an entrepreneur. Through circumstances I didn’t choose, I started my business in October of 2017. Running your own business, not as a side hustle but as a pay-the-rent hustle, is a burden and a risk. It’s not all just WiFi on the beach and every romanticized photo you’ve seen on Instagram.

It means being serious. It means being self-aware. It’s not a four hour work day, let alone work week. It takes pride and humility. Discipline and creativity. Blood, sweat, and late nights. And tears. Lots of tears. Seriously. Tears.

The short version of this blog post is that I’m glad I did this but it is hard. It has taxed my ego and self worth and I’m learning to separate those triggers. It’s not personal.

Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned in my first year.

Set Boundaries with Friends and Clients

It’s okay to say no. Saying yes too often eats away at your calendar, billable time, and productivity. Plus, if you’re not setting your boundaries, you’ll be resentful. You don’t want that. As a business owner (and sometimes remote worker), you have control over your time. Take it seriously.

And yes, I’ve told friends that Saturdays (by appointment), I’m available for lunch. It’s completely fine with most people who have day jobs. They’ll understand. If they don’t, then it’s their loss. Protect your time with your boundaries. Be clear. You will have people who will test you. They may say you don’t have a “real job” since you work for yourself. This is even more so with remote work. So I have been practiced but firm.

I’ve told clients I will email them between the hours of 8am and 6pm. That is reasonable. Then, I keep myself to those parameters. Setting boundaries, being self aware, and sticking to them helps you respect yourself and others to also respect your time.

Go to brunch. Enjoy your time off. And try not to look at your phone.

View this post on Instagram

Brunch with my girl Stacey

A post shared by Bridget Willard (@bridgetmwillard) on

Specialize Your Work and Client Base — Refer the Rest

“Everyone” is not a client. You won’t sync with everyone. Your personality may not be compatible with a potential customer. They might not be the right kind of business for you and, frankly, you may not be able to serve them well.

I’ve turned down a lot of work this year. I don’t do press releases or resumes. I refer that. I don’t do Pinterest. I refer that. Find out what you do well and quickly. Refer the rest.

I rock at Twitter. I don’t do SEO. I write bios, but not white papers.

Say Yes by Saying No

If you do turn down a job or client, do so by referring. Meaning, “I don’t write press releases but Jen Miller does. Here’s her email.” Then you are still a resource and helpful. If you just say no, you look like a jerk. That’s bad branding. Saying no allows you to say yes to the right things.

Instead of wasting your time with the wrong work or the wrong client, spend time on the things that make you money. For me, that’s Twitter. I don’t make money on Instagram.

Experiment with Pricing

You can experiment with pricing. When I first started managing Twitter, I did it for $250 a month. Then I started this business and started at $1,000 as introductory pricing. Now, that same scope is $1,200. I know the market value because I worked at an agency.

I also discount my work for some of my friends. During my WCLAX talk this year, Alex Vasquez asked me what I do about friends who want discounts. I answered by saying a real friend should pay full price. That said, I’ve discounted work for friends who are clients because it’s my business and I can make that decision. But understand why you are making that decision.

For example, I offered a friend a three month trial at 25% discount. I said, “If you don’t see the results you want, we just stop. We’re still friends. No hard feelings. But if we continue, we go to 100%.” It was a fair price and helped us keep our friendship when we ended the account (temporarily, I might add).

Know Your Cost

I spent a long time in construction accounting so this wasn’t a big barrier for me this year. But yeah, $250 a month for Twitter ended up being minimum wage. Know how much you cost yourself to run your business.

When I started, I reverse engineered my salary, then used that as a basis for my pricing. Create a basic budget so you know what your outgoing costs are. This helps you determine a baseline for your pricing.

It’s okay to take a part-time job.

Yeah. In February, I finally admitted. I can’t keep running out of savings or borrowing from family. It’s time to get a part-time job. It was really hard. I felt like a complete failure. In fact, I had to talk to some of my very good friends about my fears and feelings. I felt like the whole world was watching me fail.

Instead, I met new friends. I love my Serbian family and my work doing office work and marketing at the travel agency. And, it’s helped me travel for work!

I’ve been honest with my boss and she gives me flexibility. We’re both trying to run our own businesses. She’s in year 12 and I’m in year 1. But we need other people.

View this post on Instagram

Just a good hair day — which is rare.

A post shared by Bridget Willard (@bridgetmwillard) on

Cash Flow Can Be a Bitch

Oh man. This one is tough. One of my goals for 2019 is to have a fun bank account and a main bank account for bills and business expenses. I learned this tip from my friend  Robert. My biggest issue with cash flow is overly-optimistic projections. So, I had to borrow money from family and friends a few times. It sucks. It’s depressing. I’ve had my BFF hold my hand while I call to ask for help. But they were all glad to help. People like to help you.

Be Honest and Open with Your Peers

When people ask how you’re doing, tell them. Don’t be a complainer, but be honest. I usually say, “I’m good but can be better.” This gives you an opening. People don’t know you’re taking on work unless you tell them. So, if they ask if I have room for clients, I’ll tell them. Currently, I have two openings. I also tweet about it. Almost all of my work has come from Twitter or WordCamps.

Sometimes You Have to Alter Your Business Model

When I first started, a friend reminded me of my previous skills. So, while I was building my client base, I did collections for my friends for a commission.

Be ready for shifts in perception and need. One of the reasons why I love Twitter so much is you can listen to your audience. So one day I saw someone tweet about how much they hate writing their speaker bio. I spontaneously tweeted that I would write a speaker bio for “$25 fast, fast PayPal Cash.” I’ve written over 30 bios and put  my price up to $50.

Build Rest into Your Days

Seriously. I built in the 2:30 nap so much that my dog is trained. When I stop taking 20 minute naps, I get too exhausted. The world won’t stop because you’re unavailable for 20 minutes. I promise. Even if you don’t sleep, lay down, take off your glasses, and close your eyes. You’ll thank me later.

View this post on Instagram

Sometimes you have to schedule a nap for #selfcare.

A post shared by Bridget Willard (@bridgetmwillard) on

Give Back

Besides being a Make WordPress team rep for the marketing team, I was also a co-organizer for WordCamp Orange County for the second year in a row. I volunteered again for WordCamp Los Angeles, too.

I became a recurring donor for 4ocean.com as well as Oxfam and FreeCodeCamp.org. Giving back helps keep your perspective in check.

View this post on Instagram

My @4ocean bracelet just came to #GuruHQ. #PullAPound

A post shared by Bridget Willard (@bridgetmwillard) on

Keep Up Your Own Site

A cobbler’s children have no shoes is unacceptable. The best way to get work is to do work. As a marketer, keeping up my website and social media profiles is important. These are the results that I can show to prospective clients. You may be asked to give case studies or analytics to prove your worth. It’s not for me to share my client’s stats. Discretion is important. But I can show my own. So I do.

Numbers to Date

  • Written over 800 client tweets.
  • Written over 30 speaker bios.
  • My own Twitter account has over 16000 tweets and 5 million impressions.
  • Two keynotes and 8 WordCamps (two overseas).
  • An average of 24 Meetups attended (2-3 a month).
  • One laptop-less vacation.

I’m at over 1300 words and I feel it’s important to share these, thoughts, especially after the feedback I got on Twitter.

More Thoughts – Speed Round

  • Trust your gut. It’s intuition analyzing data.
  • You don’t have to take every client.
  • Ask friends. Have a close circle you can mastermind with.
  • Publish base pricing on your site. This helps manage expectations.
  • Mix recurring and one-off revenue streams.
  • Make sure your social bios say what you do.
  • Keep business cards with you even when at a bar. Never pass an opportunity.
  • Keep going to conferences. Stay top of mind.
  • Partner with your friends.
  • Your value comes through education.
  • Put expiration dates on your estimates.
  • Put terms on your invoices.
  • Follow up with clients.
  • Rely on tech to make things easier but don’t over-automate. I use Freshbooks and Calendly.
  • Discount if you more work but with an expiration (25% for 3 months).
  • Failure is a good thing. I promise. Learn to accept it. Learn from it.
  • Take job interviews anyway. Learn from them.
  • Email people from LinkedIn asking if they want to outsource. Ask them if they’d rather have a vendor than an employee.
  • Stay teachable.

Looking forward to the next 12 months.

I didn’t want to NOT start my business. If I end up failing, it won’t be because of the fear to start. So, looking forward in the next 12 months, I want to start another bank account and put my “fun money” allowance elsewhere. I also want to seriously consider starting a C-corp and putting myself on a salary through a payroll service. I’d also like to add teaching in my business model. I love that moment when someone gets it and they’re now empowered.

Social Media Success: Adjust and Adapt to Change

When it comes to technology, you can always expect one thing: change. When it comes to social media, changes happens at a faster pace. Keep up for success.

Why does social media change so often?

Why does social media change so often? My answer: welcome to tech.

In my talks, I always say the tech changes in 20 minutes so you better keep up. Once you post that tutorial on how to add people to a list, Twitter will change the gear icon into the three stacked dots. It happens. It happens frequently. It happens to us all.

Here are some examples of change:

  • Facebook lists are going away. I know. Many people didn’t even know they existed. I used them. They’re gone. Whatever. Move on. Right?
  • Instagram is no longer in reverse chronological order. Surprise? Not really since Facebook bought them.
  • There used to be “best times to post.” Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram default to a customized feed based upon the user’s behavior. Throw away those best times now.
  • Auto posting from Instagram to Twitter used to be chic. Then Twitter stopped supporting live previews of Instagram links (not surprisingly, after Facebook bought them).
  • Follow Friday (#FF #FollowFriday) was a huge deal on Twitter. Now if you do it, you’re out of touch or have some robot turned on.
  • Twitter changed retweeting — three times — since I signed up in 2007. This is why I prefer the old “RT” way. (Did you know your retweets can be turned off?)
  • It used to be that Instagram’s culture supported 12-20 hashtags per post. This is changing.
  • Instagram used to perform well with short captions. People now accept longer descriptions, stories.
  • SnapChat was copied by Instagram and Facebook with 24 hour “stories.”
  • Avatars used to be 500×500 squares. They’re are now circles within those squares.

I could go on and on but those are just some of the changes I’ve experienced since doing content marketing and social media management since 2009.

Tech changes. Adapt.

This is why it is so important to be a practitioner.

How do you start a social media campaign from scratch?

Starting a social media campaign from scratch is easier than you think. When you start from scratch, you don’t have to relearn changes. You just have to learn the right way (until they change it again).

My advice is to always start small. Use one platform. Use it often and use it well. For example, if you have a new product coming out, decide where your audience is. Pick that social media platform.

If it’s a WordPress plugin, choose Twitter. Start an account. Write your bio clearly. Use a square logo ensuring the logo is clearly visible in a square. Tweet about your product linking to your website. Pin that tweet to your timeline. Tweet once a day in the morning and once after lunch.

With Twitter, a campaign’s success is a ratio of volume. Resist the urge to retweet people who talk about you. Instead reply. Say “thank you.” Respond to questions. Build relationships. This is how to be successful.

How do I create a social media strategy plan?

The first step to creating a successful social media strategy is to plan with a professional. You should have SMART goals with an overarching strategy and agile tactics.

Let’s start by differentiating strategy from tactics.

“Strategy and tactics are both how you will achieve your goals and objectives. Strategy is our path or bridge for going from where we are today to our goal. It’s our general resource allocation plan. It might be to engage industry thought-leaders to become advocates for our product. The tactics then are how specifically or tangibly we will do that. They might include items such direct marketing letters, face-to-face meetings, key talking point scripts and an iPad app.” Rich Horwath

  • What are your goals? Write them down.
  • What do you want out of social media? Write it down.
  • Who is your customer? The answer is not “everyone.” This question takes some introspection and maybe an audit. Who were your last 5 big customers? What do they have in common?
  • Where are your customers? If the answer is Twitter, then start there.

There is no real way to be super specific in a blog post about tactics, which is why you hire a consultant. This is where I mention that you can also hire me as a consultant to put together a plan of action. 

 

How do you create a social media marketing strategy factoring in change?

Any strategy should have flexibility in the tactics to allow for change. It’s the same in social media. Factoring in change in social media means factoring in failure. Social media tactics need room for error and experimentation. Watch the results — but don’t obsess. Look for long-term trends. Ask “what if” often.

In order to allow for tactical changes, you must experiment. I did it with this blog post, even. For the first time, I used “people also ask” as my outline. I never outline my posts. I just write.

That means, as a business owner or corporate officer, whether hiring or outsourcing, you must trust your team. Delegate. Let go. Check in monthly or quarterly. Ask questions. Listen to their answers. Assess. Adjust. Continue.

When it comes to employees, hire someone you trust and then — trust them. Give constructive feedback frequently. It takes time to learn a brand’s voice — or to shape it. Comedians take about four years to find this. It won’t be overnight.

How can social media strategies be improved?

Remember that a social media strategy is a strategy. These are overarching goals, to be contrasted with tactics. You can and should always improve your tactics. Strategies can be reassessed quarterly.

Social media strategies can always be improved but you won’t know how to make the changes unless you monitor trends, assess, and adapt.

A good social media manager won’t be stuck in 2009. As a practitioner, your vendor or in-house employee will know what is best for your industry and your niche.

This is why it’s important to outsource to a professional, who could easily qualify as an in-house Marketing Manager. Anything less is risking the reputation of your brand — something not so easily recovered for a growing small business.

If your social media marketing is stuck in 2009, let’s talk.

 

Do you want results or convenience?

When it comes to our businesses we procrastinate on the things that we don’t like including [insert surprise here] marketing. But if marketing produces results, why do we wait?

The question to you is this:

Do you want results or convenience?

Spend 7% of Your Gross Revenue on Marketing

Budget may be an issue, though you should set aside a good 7% of revenue toward marketing, but it’s not the only excuse. Inconvenience tends to be the leader in the procrastination excuses.

“The U.S. Small Business Administration recommends spending 7 to 8 percent of your gross revenue for marketing and advertising if you’re doing less than $5 million a year in sales and your net profit margin — after all expenses — is in the 10 percent to 12 percent range.” George Boykin

For the sake of an example, if you are a WordPress Developer who charges $1,500 per website, $105 of that should go to marketing your business. This is a conservative investment in your future.

If you do four of those sites a month, $420 should be invested in marketing. To be more aggressive, you’ll have to dedicate a larger percentage of gross revenue.

Spending $420 a month on marketing instead of something else isn't convenient; it's an investment. Click To Tweet

What is convenient?

Pretty much nothing. You’ve heard the saying that nothing worth doing is ever easy? Well, nothing worth achieving is ever convenient.

Does anyone ask rugby players if it’s convenient that they get so dirty or become injured because of the lack of pads? No. Does anyone ask X Games athletes how many bones they broke to be champions? No.

There are plenty of things I do that are not convenient. But I choose to invest in my community, my business, and myself.

Investing in your business is never convenient. Click To Tweet

For example:

  • I drive 33 miles to my closest WordPress Meetup. This takes at least an hour in commute time. I do this one to three times a month. Results: friends, business, and fun. That matters.
  • I worked in Santa Ana for 14 years. It was a 27 mile commute and took an hour. Results: That job helped me launch my career shift.
  • I traveled for work while I was with Thought House (on behalf of Give). I hated travel before. Results: I met people all over the world and many of them have become clients.
  • Attending WordCamps can be expensive (about $1000 is an average budget). Results: I get clients all the time from attending, organizing, or speaking at WordCamps. Also: friends.
  • Blogging takes time and focus. I don’t always feel like writing for myself, especially after doing client work. Results: people continue to read my current and past writing and (guess what?) I get business and referrals. This doesn’t even speak to branding issues. (Would you hire a marketer who didn’t blog?)

I am not even talking about physical or mental fitness either. We all know that being fit is more than looking at magazines and having a gym membership. It’s not any different for your business.

What gets results?

Effort.

Period.

Start.

Start somewhere. But stop complaining.

It’s your business.

Results require effort. Effort is rarely convenient. Click To Tweet

Why aren’t you marketing your business?

I always tell business owners that they have to care about the future of their business. As a consultant or even their social media manager, I can’t care about their business more than they do.

So, I say the same to you — my audience. I can’t care about your business more than you do.

It’s your livelihood. It’s your future. It’s your passion.

Your business is your passion. Don't put it's future into someone else's hands. Click To Tweet

You should be involved in your business. You should care about it’s direction.

When’s the last time you had a checkup for your body or your vision or your teeth? It’s been a year or less. Right?

When’s the last time you had a checkup for your marketing plan? What worked ten years ago may not work now. What was true in social media last year, may not be true now. Changes in tactics are sometimes required.

Maybe it’s time.

Marketing for WordPress Developers: You are What You Tweet

When it comes to business tools for WordPress Developers, Twitter is one of the best — if you use it correctly. Tweet to build, not tear down.

If you are what you tweet, what shouldn’t you say?

We all have a voice. We all want our voice heard. There’s no way to circumvent the need for love and belonging and acceptance. It’s part of our nature.

And in the WordPress space, we like to take all of our complaints to social media. This can be good and bad.

Firstly, public venting is almost never a good thing. Rather than posting publicly, it is better to use private Facebook groups, SnapChat, and friends to text or call.

Client Shaming on Twitter

As an aside, I’d love to see client shaming die a long, painful death. I’ve seen it in every industry I’ve been in. Twitter is supposed to make you approachable. When people see your tweets shaming clients for not understanding DNS, they will be more afraid to talk to you, let alone hire you.

It’s not the client’s responsibility to understand tech. That’s why they’re hiring you. Right? You deal with DNS and passwords and image sizes and naming conventions day in and day out. The fact that they could even find their passwords was a victory in their own eyes.

Instead, be a bridge. Be a resource. Educate. Empower your clients.

You shouldn’t be annoyed that they don’t understand what you do.

What is a good business use of Twitter?

I wrote about this more extensively, but here are some suggestions:

  • Congratulate friends.
  • Empathize with someone’s personal loss.
  • Share your hobbies.
  • Engage in light banter about red shirts v blue shirts, Croatia v France, Flexbox v Grid.
  • Promote your friends.
  • Tweet at WordCamps.
  • Share blog posts that talk about your services.
  • Educate clients on vocabulary and jargon.
  • Tweet photos from your vacation.
  • Talk about Tiger Woods reentering Golf.
  • Debate LeBron leaving the Cavaliers — again.
  • Share your struggles.
  • Ask for help.

Here are some more thoughts, Tweetable, of course

If you want Twitter to be a safe place, start tweeting safe things. Click To Tweet Are your political opinions helping or hurting your online reputation? Click To Tweet Venting frustration about clients can ward off potential ones. Click To Tweet

 

 

SaaS: The Cost of Doing Business Online

These days you hear a lot of complaining about online costs. People think “online” means “free.” It doesn’t; nor should it. So what is the cost of doing business online? In this post I’ll detail my software as a service expenses to give you an idea.

Software as a Service (Saas)

Software as a Service basically means you can get a service through a webpage. Wikipedia has a better definition. The point is, that digital space has a cost. Software over the cloud has a cost. Clouds are not free.

Traditional Services

Traditional services like accounting and law typically charge retainers and charge by 15 minute increments. We never question this. So why not value our own time?

This also includes monthly, recurring costs like cable (internet provider), electricity (to power and charge the devices you use to get to the cloud), cell phones to work remotely and call clients, as well as a percentage of your mortgage/rent or co-working fees.

This isn’t the place for it, but please. Understand your costs as an agency. Understanding your costs allows you to charge for your value.

My Monthly SaaS Costs

I spend quite a bit of money for cloud-based tools that I deem necessary to run my Marketing Consultancy.

Here are my monthly costs rounded to the nearest dollar:

  • Website Hosting at Pressable $25
  • Postmatic (for content delivery and commenting) $20
  • Dropbox (for website & photo backups) $10
  • Backblaze (backup computer) $10
  • iTunes (cloud storage) $4
  • Hootsuite (manage client social accounts) $15
  • Freshbooks (invoicing clients) $25
  • Canva.com (making graphics) $15

The total amount I spend monthly on things specifically to run my business is $124. Read more SaaS: The Cost of Doing Business Online

Communication is a Science – We Read Live Data

Communication is a science. I’m frankly tired of seeing it categorized as a soft skill as though it’s less important. Of course communication includes data. The trick with communication professionals is that we read and respond to data live.

Are soft skills “hot air?”

Soft Skills Venn Diagram

I saw this Venn Diagram and was offended at best.

Business people (marketing, sales, finance) are not inferior to software developers, engineers, and/or front-end designers. Every specialty has its training and technical side. Let’s respect expertise for what it is — expertise.

I commented on the blog. The author replied:

Thanks for commenting, Bridget. I did not create the Venn diagram, nor do I endorse it or its labels. It is used as a counterexample for classifying data science in an over-exclusive way.

Firstly, the fact that one didn’t create an image doesn’t remove one’s responsibility for it. What if it were hate speech? Why is it acceptable in the tech community to demean soft skills?

To be fair, this diagram and discussion brought something to the surface that I’ve been encountering since I began marketing as a career.

Data Requires Context

Sure. Pour over the data you have in Google Analytics. Make charts. Create ratios. Create forecasting models. That’s needed. I’m not against data.

But data alone isn’t the whole picture. Recently, a client noticed a drop in leads from Yelp. Is it because Yelp isn’t effective? That was the conclusion all too easy to jump to. Yet, what has changed? Quite a lot, actually. We began advertising on Facebook, we launched a new website with regular blog posts, and we started an Instagram account. Yelp isn’t less effective, it’s simply no longer the only star in the sky of data.

Context, a story, matters when interpreting data. That comes with soft skills. Anyone can collect data. But can you ask the right questions to interpret the data?

Brené Brown is now famous for saying, “Maybe stories are just data with a soul” in her TED talk. Stories give context to data. This is what makes data powerful. Otherwise any data can be manipulated for any purpose.

“Figures often beguile me particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: ‘There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.'” Mark Twain

Are soft skills scientific?

They are. This is why behaviorism is a part of psychology. There are plenty of studies that look at inflection, tone, word choice, gestures, facial ticks, and body language. All of this is data. It’s being streamed through our senses and interpreted in real time by our brains.

Soft skills are scientific. We call them soft because it’s hard for us to define.

Those with business, marketing, sales, and communication skills read a different kind of data: it’s human data. It’s behavior and behavior patterns. We analyze body language, inflection, and tone. We decipher patterns and predict behavior in real time in order to adjust the conversation for affinity.

Whether online or in person affinity is key. Affinity leads to loyalty. Loyalty leads to sales. Of course, data is important, but it’s good to be reminded that data is a look at the past, not in the moment. Collected data is the autopsy. Soft skills are the preventive medicine.

“I’ve concluded that that data has the most impact when it’s wrapped in a story. …Data won’t get you standing ovation; stories will. Stories inform, illuminate, and inspire. Tell more of them.” Carmine Gallo, Harvard Business Review

Inspired by:

Engineering Data Science at Automattic

Kari Shea

What a Social Media Manager Can’t (or shouldn’t) Do for You

Social Media Managers are awesome. They’s so awesome, in fact, that they get amazing and quite unreasonable requests. Well, some of the requests are more demeaning than goal setting, but let’s talk about it.

Recently, my friend Carol Stephen wrote a post called “What Can a Social Media Manager Do For You?” In that post she includes items such as research, deciding when to post, and choosing hashtags.

I thought it would be fun to do the opposite.

Here are some things your social media manager should not or can not do:

  1. Care about your business more than you do.
  2. Be a videographer or video editor.
  3. Be a professional photographer or editor.
  4. Be an expert in InDesign, PhotoShop, et al.
  5. Design logos or creative.
  6. Replace a web development agency.
  7. Be a technical SEO expert.
  8. Be an expert in paid advertising.
  9. Write content for your blog.
  10. An API Ninja.

Many social media managers also have some of those skills. Be aware, however, that they are legitimate skillsets in and of themselves.

Outsource and Free Up Your Time

Have you thought about outsourcing social media? It’s a great way to grow your business and free some of your own time. Having realistic expectations helps you value what a social media manager actually does.

A good social media manager will represent your brand online and off. She will post content that has been created by your editorial staff (content creation is another job). She will post photos taken by your team (or professionals you hire) and write captions and add hashtags. Your social media manager will interact with your audience (known as engagement) with your best interest in mind.

A Marketing Manager ($85k+/year) will most likely be responsible for items 2 – 10 and outsource many of the tasks to vendors. A social media manager ($60K+)  bills for the work, not the time, is easy to get a hold of, and has a good account of her own. A Marketing Manager will likely hire a social media manager to work under her.

What kinds of questions can I help you answer or problems I can solve. Let’s roll up our sleeves and do the work.

Dana Marin

How to Market Your WordPress Freelance Business

So, you’re a small agency or freelancer. How do you market your WordPress freelance or small agency? My recommendation is content marketing through creation and distribution.

What is Marketing?

Marketing is using resources to bring your product or service to the attention of your customer (the market). So you have to dedicate resources (time, personnel, and budget) to tell people about your business. What are the best ways to do that? Here are some of my ideas.

Thanks to Cemal Tashan for recording it.

Here are the slides.

Yep. Twitter Works if You Work It.

Anyone who follows me knows how much I believe in Twitter as a B2B relationship marketing platform. An article by Neil Patel “12 Powerful Twitter Marketing Tips [That Actually Work]” came across my way via Robert Nissenbaum. Instead of commenting on his blog, it was suggested that I write my own post. So, here it is.

Set Up Twitter Right – The First Time

“Your Twitter handle has to be recognizable, easy-to-remember, and short enough for people to easily tag you.” Neil Patel

I totally agree. And make your bio something that makes sense. If your grandma doesn’t know what your Twitter bio means, then rewrite it. Think of a city sign or slogan that makes sense.

Well, if you didn’t do it right the first time, there’s no reason why you can’t fix it now. Think generic keywords. A bio is how you are found.

“Incorporate some personality or humor. Don’t be afraid to tell a few jokes or say something original.” Neil Patel

Neil recommends using humor but if it’s too inside baseball, people won’t engage. Show personality, but be careful that you’re speaking to your audience.

Here is my post on how to setup Twitter.

When do you Tweet?

So, Neil recommends tweeting during peak hours. Yet, that is a lot of volume to compete with. That said, people usually check Twitter during the times they take breaks. Think about before work (7:30 a.m.), during lunch (noon), and when they’re sick of sitting at their desk (4:30 p.m.). Read more Yep. Twitter Works if You Work It.

Specialize and Refer – Grow Your Network

How do you grow your network? That’s easy: specialize and refer. We all live off of word of mouth, if it’s not your specialty, refer. Right?

I was thinking of writing about this and then saw Rebecca Gill’s tweet. So this post came alive.

Why Specialize?

“Do one thing and do it well.”
“If everyone is your client, no one is.”
“Do it right or don’t do it at all.”

These are the clichés that make up business advice we all know. Okay, the last one was from my mom.

But the point is you can’t do everything – and do it well. Which reminds me of the ‘good-fast-cheap triangle’ tweet my friend Rachelle Wise just sent last week.

Thinking we can do everything is not only delusional, but distracts us from the things that really make us money. We’re in business for a reason, right?

If you’re a roofer, be a roofer. Go horizontal if you want, and do HVAC, but don’t start installing windows.

If you build websites, build sites. Go horizontal and make apps, but don’t start making videos.

Do what you know. Do what you can do well, efficiently, and make a profit.

How do you refer?

Knowing that we should refer and knowing how to refer are two different things. If you refer the right way, you’re still providing a valuable service to the client. It’s not losing business, it’s about being that go-to person, the expert, and the well-connected person.

If someone asks me if I do Facebook Advertising, I say,

“Sorry, John, I don’t do Facebook Ads, but my friend Jason at Thought House does.”

You can either give your client their contact information or write an email to them both. “John meet Jason. Jason meet John. John wants Facebook ads, I told him, you’re the best.”

This way, you’re making an introduction, and keeping your brand top of mind to all parties involved.

How do referrals grow my network?

Referrals work on the human emotions of trust and reciprocity. Firstly, by referring, I am extending my brand to another. I am saying, I trust this person, you can, too. So be careful about referring to people you don’t trust.

Secondly, if you send enough business someone’s way, they will also begin to refer you. That’s reciprocity. Heck, if you are just a nice person, your network will send people your way. I cannot even tell you how many dozens of people have sent others my way in the last four months.

Sometimes, they come in the form of public tweets. I have amazing and generous friends.

Do you refer, Bridget?

I absolutely refer. Firstly, I don’t build websites, I refer people to agencies. And I’ve even agreed to a partnership with Roy Sivan of ARC(CTRL).

I also don’t do Pinterest. I refer them to my very good friend Carol Stephen of Your Social Media Works. I don’t blog. I mean, I can, but I’d be way too expensive. So I refer clients to my friend Jen Miller of Need Someone To Blog. She has a system. She’s efficient. Guess what? She doesn’t do social. She sends me leads.

Do you see how it works?

Be serious about your brand and your focus. Kill the things that consume too much time. Specialize and refer the rest. You’ll never regret it.

rawpixel.com

Twitter is the Best Platform for B2B Marketing: 5 Reasons Why

Twitter is the best platform for B2B marketing. It serves several marketing purposes including brand awareness, public relations, listening, content curation, and relationship building.

Watch the Video Here

Brand Awareness

Brand awareness is high-level, less-tangible, and difficult to measure. It’s almost a word-association game. I say “tissue;” you say “Kleenex.” I say “photocopy;” you say “Xerox.” You want your brand to be able to be associated with your purpose. Recognition of the logo on Twitter because of your presence is a great way for a small business to compete with the bigger operations. The big guys rarely invest in social media.

Public Relations

You have news. People want to know it. Share Promotions, sales, new ventures, employees that join in, partnerships, case studies, etc. Write on your WordPress blog everything relevant to your audience and publish it on Twitter. Every brand has the ability to publish and gain influence and audience.

Listening

Listening is the most powerful thing you can do with Twitter. It’s so important to understand who you audience is and what they want, need, and how they think. This allows you to become a better communicator — meaning, you’re communicating in a way that resonates with them.

Using Twitter Lists to Listen allows you to:

  • Pain points.
  • Correcting personas.
  • Responding.
  • Engaging.
  • Focus Group.

Content Curation

Once you’ve built your lists you now have the tool in place to curate content. People often ask me what tools I use to curate content. I tell them that I’m a People Curator — a People Broker, I say.  I curate content by curating people. It really is that simple.

Relationship Building

All business happens because of referrals and word of mouth. Think of the last time you had a new client. How did you acquire them? Think of the last time you found a new service. Did you search for them online? Google? Yelp? Almost no one does business with a total stranger. Use Twitter to build relationships. You won’t regret it.

I went into depth on relationship building in a few of my talks, most recently at WordCamp Ottawa in July of 2016.

Use Twitter Analytics to Know Your Audience

You blog. But do you know your audience? Do you use Twitter analytics? Do you know how long should your content be? What should the grade level be? Is your well-crafted persona even correct? Let’s look at Twitter’s Analytics to see what kind of information is there.

Too long to read? Watch the Video.

In episode 82 of WPblab, Jason Tucker and I went into detail with Twitter’s own analytics which can be found at analytics.twitter.com.

Audience, Audience, Audience

Influencers need an audience. Businesses need an audience. The truth is that we all have audiences. We all influence someone. With the age of social media, we’re all publishers now. But who is that audience — exactly?

Do you find your audience and write for them or write and then find your audience? Which came first: the chicken or the egg?

Which came first: the chicken or the egg - the audience or the content? Click To Tweet

It doesn’t matter. You have the audience now. It is important to keep their attention.

Let’s Spitball Here

Let’s presume you know your audience. You’ve been using Twitter or a year or more. You have a blog. You’re publishing content.

Can you use Twitter’s analytics to help shape your content? Yes. And you should.

If you see that your audience is only 33% college educated, that should shape the types of words you use. Perhaps your content should be short form and not long. Check the readability score on Yoast’s SEO plugin or on HemingwayApp.com.

Test. Experiment. Try. Test again. Try.

I test the way I cook — it’s an experiment. It’s not formal. If someone likes it, I continue. If I hate it, I fix it. You can A/B test without heavily relying upon data.

I know what you’re thinking — that a post about analytics should be data centric. But what is data? Without context it means nothing. You can waste hours in Google Analytics or Twitter Analytics studying the wrong thing.

Brené Brown says “maybe stories are just data with a soul.

For example, 57% of my audience is interested in “fresh & healthy” lifestyle. That means I could experiment with writing about how I started using the Asana Rebel Yoga App and posting some of my Yoga photos from Instagram.

Yoga with @julie_freeindeed Dolphin, downward dog. #BridgetDoesYoga

A post shared by Bridget Willard (@bridgetmwillard) on

How will I know if it worked?

Traffic. Comments. (For example, after I started using Postmatic for email delivery and commenting, I’ve gotten a lot more comments. The comments encourage me to write more.) Comments also help give me ideas on what to write about.

You also might see those posts performing well in the Top Tweets of your Twitter Analytics.

How often should I look at Twitter’s Analytics?

I need gimmicks. So first, you need self-awareness. Then you need routine. I have Maintenance Mondays at my house. So I look at Twitter’s Analytics every Monday. For clients, I record data monthly in a Google Sheet. For myself, I go on intuition.

Start. What are you waiting for. You might be surprised.

What is branding and why does it matter to your business?

Branding has an allusive attraction — like a magic word a SEO professional will use that you know is important but don’t fully understand.

Not having a MBA in Marketing myself, I had often pondered this question as well.

What is branding?

Branding is listening to a thirty-year old Michael Jackson song on the radio and recognizing the Eddie Van Halen guitar solo.

Branding is making a decision between using a restroom at a gas station or the restroom at a Starbucks.

Branding is being reminded of your beloved uncle when you smell pipe tobacco with a hint of cherry.

Is Branding A Logo?

Yes and no.

In many ways, branding is the connection of your sensual experiences. When I see a Diet Coke can, I become thirsty. Why? I remember the feel of a cold can in my hands, the sound the can makes when it pops open, the tickle down my throat, and the taste afterward. All of those memories are tied into the Diet Coke logo.

Human history is full of seals, rings, flags, coats of arms, and crests used to distinguish families, tribes, and nations. The human condition is curious; as much as we long for group acceptance, we still desire to be distinct and recognized.

Although the etymology of branding is varied, we can all imagine a rancher using a hot iron to brand his livestock. Each ranch had a distinct logo that made a permanent impression. Though originally intended to distinguish ownership, the logo reflected on the rancher, whether good or bad.

A Logo is Your Behavior

Your behavior as a company will be associated with your logo. In this regard, the branding is the logo and the logo is the brand.

In my presentation, “You Are What You Tweet,” I gave the example that the Caltrop logo had no meaning to me until I met one of their employees, Mark DeSio.

When you have a relationship with a person, the logo has meaning. Click To Tweet

In our day, branding makes a permanent impression, too. These impressions are based upon a person’s experience interacting with your company (brand) and there’s only so much of it you can control. With the introduction of social media, individual impressions gain a much greater audience.

“Every employee is your brand ambassador, your marketer, and the face of your company.” Scott Stratten: The Book of Business Awesome

Case in point. Twenty years ago I went to a pancake restaurant and there were cockroaches crawling on the table. Regardless of how many coupons they offer, how many all-you-can-eat pancake events they hold, I will never go to any of their restaurants again. That one experience made a lasting impression. Their advertising (branding) is no longer effective with me. My experience at their store made a permanent impression (branding).

Big brands, like Diet Coke, are often used as an example because we all recognize them, making the lesson relatable to a diverse audience.

How is online behavior branding?

The question always is: how will that translate for me and my business on social media?

It’s simple. Behave online the way you would want to be perceived. If you want people to think that you’re professional, behave professionally. If you want people to believe you do quality work, produce quality content.

You Have Valuable Advice, Bridget!

$90 of $500 raised

Have you been helped by the content on this site? Lattes are my favorite luxury. 😉

Thank you for being part of my community.

$ 5
Personal Info

Donation Total: $5

*Adapted from an article I wrote while working at Riggins Construction and published here.

Women in Business — It’s about respect.

When it comes to being a woman in business, all I’ve really wanted from my peers (male or otherwise) is respect. I am a highly-motivated person who achieves. As a professional, I have experience. That experience translates into intuition.

I’ve been working in offices for over 30 years from a publisher to a trucking company, churches to schools, construction to tech. All of the businesses I’ve worked in were lead by men.

For the most part I feel that I get along with men. I don’t have the mindset that all men are sexist and I feel that I am fair in how I approach work.

I was inspired chat about this today, so here goes.

How do you get respect as a woman in business?

So how does a woman in business get respect? I’ve found out that I have to demand respect. Sometimes this comes at a cost. It could be personal or financial. Getting respect means setting boundaries and defending them. I struggle with being dismissed. It’s sad but true.

Things I’ve actually been told:

  • You’re not a writer.
  • You’re just a marketer.
  • You can’t write about [topic]; it’s too technical.
  • You’re an alarmist.
  • You should learn to code and build a website before a developer will respect you.
  • That’s just your opinion.
  • You just work from home.
  • That’s not a real job.

Yeah. It’s not awesome. It sucks. It makes me feel marginalized.

How can you support a woman in business?

Supporting a woman in business means supporting your peers. I am fond of definitions by contrast so let’s go with what not to do.

  • Don’t mischaracterize the concerns of your coworkers or teammates. “She’s mad, upset, etc.”
  • Don’t offer your advice if she didn’t ask for it.
  • Don’t presume she isn’t educated or informed on the topic at hand.
  • Don’t marginalize analysis as opinion.
  • Don’t ask her about her personal life or plans for children in the interview.
  • Don’t interrupt her while she’s speaking. Don’t presume you know what she wants to say. Rian Rietveld

How can you support a woman-owned business?

There are plenty of ways to support businesses, regardless of who owns them. But let’s stick with the gender.

  • Send clients her way via an email introduction — as you would with any of your friends.
  • Send a personalized tweet about them or link to their website.
  • Share about her services and expertise on LinkedIn is awesome.
  • Write a review on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Yelp.
  • Pay her for her advice.

I’m wondering why this isn’t obvious.

The problem with diversity can be tokenization. I find most people want to be treated with respect because of their merit, skills, and talent. Not because they belong to [insert group here].

Thoughts from My Mom

After reading this, my mom gave me a call this morning. She was part of the generation who wasn’t allowed to wear jeans to school, couldn’t purchase birth control, and at the tail end of not having property rights. It’s worth adding her perspective.

She says respect is like inspiration — it’s intangible. It’s invisible. You know it when you have it but you can’t demand it.

It’s completely true and a wise point of view.

How do I want to be supported as a women in business?

As a woman in business, with my own almost a year old, what I’d like to see is emotional support and peer mentoring. And I’ve had this. I know I’m fortunate as this is not always the case.

Alex Vasquez, Jason Tucker, Roy Sivan, Jen Miller, Yvette Sonneveld, Carin Arrigo Hauser, Yvonne C. Williams, Sarah Pressler, John Locke… the list goes on and on.

I believe that if we support one another, regardless of our demographic, things will come our way.

When, however, you have an opportunity to have influence for good, be aware of how you approach it.  The only way to make “things better” is to change your own behavior. That has a ripple effect.

You Can’t Syndicate Results: A Case for Original Content

If you’re hurting for content is syndication really an option? To syndicate may fill blank space but does it produce results?

I’m talking to those small businesses in travel, real estate, and construction industries here — where I see it the most.

What is syndicated content?

Essentially content is syndicated if you, as a small business, sign up for content to be posted on your website that is not original. You can also syndicate yourself by allowing other blogs like B2B Community or Forbes to post your content.

Essentially, if your content marketing company posts the same content on your site as well as all of their other clients, you are paying to be buried in duplicate content. Who wins?

  1. The first site to publish and be indexed.
  2. The Marketing Company selling the content.

I recently posted this Google Search screenshot on my Facebook Page and it sparked an interesting discussion.

Syndicated Content is Duplicate Content
Syndicated Content is Duplicate Content

Comments from my Content Marketing & SEO Peers

“The first person to post wins!” Jen Miller, NeedSomeoneToBlog.com

“I agree with this. I would think that most of the traffic is going to end up at the original post. The original content is going to be generating most of the real value. It makes sense if you’re a huge producer and struggle to get quality content and need to shore up gaps for a large audience, but for anyone small, it doesn’t make sense.” Adam Fout, Blue Steele Solutions

“Syndicated content is the opposite of original, authoritative insights. I get it that people are “heads down”, but find another way to post original stuff if writing is not your thing. Most people in a business vertical have years of knowledge. More comfortable talking about stuff face to face? Record your thoughts and then transcribe it. That gets you close to having an original blog post. Google rewards those who have original thoughts. Some of my clients seem to understand that marketing makes a difference in sales, even if it takes a while to realize the revenue. These are the ones that are showing the most growth. Coincidence? I think not.” John Locke, Lockedown Design & SEO

“Everything is getting so automated. And dilution is certainly what can happen. Google doesn’t like to see duplication, either.” Carol Stephen, Your Social Media Works

“Syndicated content fails to meet a fundamental role of content on your site….show authority. Syndicated content, what I call ‘aggregated’ is good for social media. It can fill in the gaps and be leveraged to build relationships. Aside from that, I would never use syndicated content on my site UNLESS that was the idea of the site. And that is my Pinterest strategy – it’s a collection of content I recommend reading – my recommended reading list!!” Robert Nissenbaum, Tactical Social Media

Only Original Content is King

If “content is king,” then syndicated content is “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” It’s a ruse. You could even be harming your brand by unknowingly having articles published on your site that you don’t agree with.

Syndicated content on your site might feed your ego (Emperor’s New Clothes), but is it producing results? Does this content help new customers find your business? Does this syndicated content elevate your brand? Does this duplicate content give you authority in your fiend? Are you being positioned as an expert? Are you getting new leads through organic searches?

Probably not.

The WPblab Episode

So, Jason Tucker and I addressed syndicated versus original content on WPblab August 22, 2018.

Take a listen and let us know what you think.

Let’s kill the “syndicated content is better than no content” myth. Who’s in?