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 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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Dear website developers, implementors, + SEO consultants: Did you know you don't have to be a superhero at all things? Do what you love + what you're good at, then refer out the rest. You'll be happier, clients will respect you, + you'll have greater success.
I think it's time again, to talk about the "good-fast-cheap triangle." You only get two. And really, I don't even think cheap + good is a thing. You can't have that. Maybe "passable" + cheap… pic.twitter.com/uq1fVQr90L
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.
I have been a marketer for nearly forty years and a social-media dilettante for ten.
Bridget regularly drops insight bombs that amaze me with their insight and direct relevance to the marketing challenges we all face. https://t.co/AwumLJvnDB
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Branding is the practice of creating the look and feel of your brand. Brand marketing is the practice of establishing your image, voice, and persona which identifies and differentiates you from your competitors. #tsomediapic.twitter.com/x52n76rkK1
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.
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.
*Adapted from an article I wrote while working at Riggins Construction and published here.
Getting leads from social media activity is always the barrier — mentally — for people to accept social media marketing as a legitimate part of their marketing tool belt.
Twitter, my favorite of the social media networks, allows you to do so much of your marketing ask: brand awareness, customer engagement, customer service, promotion, discovery and validation, and, of course, sales.
And with sales, I say this. Stop expecting first-click leads.
I say never, but it’s probably an exaggeration. Asking social media to solve your lead-generation problem is short sighted at best.
First of all, it will fail — miserably. Secondly, your focus on leads will cause you to consciously or even subconsciously make decisions out of fear and desperation. Those are almost never good decisions.
Pardon a crude example but to put it bluntly, getting leads without effort is like hiring a prostitute for sex. You may solve your immediate needs but you’ve built no relationship, have poor client expectations, and will only have favors for money. That’s not a realistic view of social media marketing or a good way to build a reputation.
If someone asks me about ROI one more time, why I’ll …
No seriously. When people ask about return from investment (ROI), I think they don’t get it. Because they don’t.
But I’ll break down relationship marketing into three main areas: affinity, discovery, and validation. These principles can be applied to nearly any social network, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll talk about Twitter.
Use hashtags like you would search in the yellow pages to be more successful on Twitter. I suggest geolocation (like #OrangeCounty) and categories like #automotive or #plumber. This allows people to find you — we call that discovery.
Validation is the process by which people check you out after discovering you. This may be an introduction at a Meetup or after they hear you present at a Chamber of Commerce.
People will search for your name and see what comes up. Have you done a search? What are the results?
When a customer discovers you, you are on the path to getting leads from social media. This is part of their journey. The journey to a lead begins with a thousand Google searches. Well, maybe five. You get the point.
How do you optimize the validation process?
You can optimize the validation process by publishing good content that matters to you and your audience.
I shouldn’t post about real estate. Why? Because I’m not a real estate professional or a mortgage broker and I don’t do social media for that industry. Real Estate isn’t bad; it’s not relevant to me.
What is relevant is social media strategy, tips, and WordPress community posts.
Where are these things published? I publish on my blog, I post on Facebook, I tweet, I write posts on Medium.com, I am a guest author for friends, I appear on podcasts and shows, I participate in my industry.
Valuing volunteerism is a two-sided coin. It’s always nice to be appreciated by the nonprofit we serve, but we also need to understand the cost. Volunteerism isn’t without a cost or a value. So in our effort to not just recruit but retain and manage volunteers, how can we have a proper respect?
It really starts with ourselves. We need to understand our personal costs and values.
Do is the new give.
“Do something great.”
Many of us believe in nonprofits and we donate both time and money to support the causes closest to our hearts.
I believe in supporting nonprofits financially and with my time and I’m public with this donation that appears in my sidebar. As a business, I want my clients to know that I also use funds to make this world a better place.
(This is partly why I rant so much about job costing and sample time tracking if you’ve ever spoken to me in person.)
If we don’t understand how we spend our time, it’s too easy to say yes to everything. But at some point, there will be a cost. That could be suffering client work, personal relationships, or health.
Another very easily solved reason is a lack of appreciation. But that’s on the “managing volunteers” side of this conversation.
So, what if our volunteerism had an invoice?
Time is one of the only unsustainable resources we truly have. Our time has both a cost and a value.
Sometimes to gain perspective is to tie our time to a dollar amount. Though it doesn’t speak to all of the value, it’s one way to show others and ourselves that our work, though unpaid, matters.
Maybe if we treated our volunteer work like it was a client, it would give other people a perspective of the worth. To gain a perspective for myself, I ran the numbers on just one of my volunteer efforts.
What if WordCamp Orange County was my client? This would be the invoice based upon my current pricing.
Five months of weekly 1/2 hour meeting:
20 meetings at 1/2 of my rate $75 = $1500
Social media management:
Facebook: $350/mo x 5 = $1750
Twitter basic: $350 x 5 = $1750
Total in kind donation $5,000
Maybe if we treated our volunteer work like it was a client, it would give other people a perspective of the worth.
One of the most difficult aspects of writing powerful digital product copy is the fact that the product is, indeed, digital. Ones and zeros leave quite a bit lacking for our sensory systems and we all know that the number one rule of sales is, “Put the product in their hands.” So, how can you write powerful digital copy? We’ll break it down.
Product is product is product, but selling digital product relies upon copy more than any other kind of product. Let’s take what sells from the physical world and apply it to digital products: the senses. Powerful descriptors, using the imagination to put the customer there, and, of course demonstrating value.
Use the Senses
Powerful descriptors like “new” or “you” speak to the customer. Powerful adjectives help the reader sense the appeal while imagining themselves touching the product. Digital products range from entertainment to tools — music, videos, software, and books. It’s all about how your product impacts their life. Apple does this well, not just with physical products like their iPhone, but with music and TV.
“Focus your copy on the reader. Use the word you more often than your brand and product names.” Kissmetrics
Small business owners wear a lot of hats: founder, CEO, sometimes office manager and janitor. So why do I advocate reading self-help books? There’s a few reasons but they all boil down to leadership — soft skills.
Firstly, I “self-help” has a negative connotation. I call it nonfiction, research, and personal development. Whatever way you look at it, if you have a small business, you have challenges that often lie on the outside of your primary skillset: the reason you built the business.
As a small business owner, you are a leader. Leaders create company culture that works for everyone. Leaders model psychological safety. Leaders understand their own limitations.
How can you possibly be a successful business without first understanding yourself and secondly understanding your team? We haven’t even stared talking about understanding your audience, customers, and potential market.
Leaders Model Company Culture
Company culture is created whether you intend to or not. Intentional company culture provides a path to success. Your small business depends upon you to create culture. It’s almost impossible to create it bottom-up. It comes from the top.
One of the aspects of a small business company culture that is important is vulnerability. Small businesses are a small team. Your team has to look up to you. As a culture, we view vulnerability as weakness. It’s not weak; it’s the opposite. True vulnerability is strength. That strength not only encourages your team to trust you, but it inspires them to try (and fail) as well.
The more vulnerable I have been, the more encouraged I have been to continue to do so — through business connections, mentorship opportunities, and the growth of my own empathy.
“The most transformative and resilient leaders that I’ve worked with over the course of my career have three things in common.
First, they recognize the central role that relationships and story play in culture and strategy, and they stay curious about their own emotions, thoughts, and behaviors.
Second, they understand and stay curious about how emotions, thoughts, and behaviors are connected in the people they lead, and how those factors affect relationships and perception.
The vulnerability that you express creates a safe space. Small business owner, I ask you these questions:
Do you feel safe to fail?
Does your team?
What are the implied or strict consequences of failure?
How is that treated in your company culture?
What kind of atmosphere exists in your stand up meetings or staff meetings?
Do your employees come to you with ideas or concerns?
I can’t answer those questions for you. These are questions that require self-reflection and thought. It may require observation over time and meetings with your management. Successful teams need to feel safe. If your team isn’t bonding, how can that be fixed?
“In Edmondson’s hospital studies, the teams with the highest levels of psychological safety were also the ones with leaders most likely to model listening and social sensitivity. They invited people to speak up. They talked about their own emotions. They didn’t interrupt other people. When someone was concerned or upset, they showed the group that it was okay to intervene. They tried to anticipate how people would react and then worked to accommodate those reactions. This is how teams encourage people to disagree while still being honest with one another and occasionally clashing. This is how psychological safety emerges: by giving everyone an equal voice and encouraging social sensitivity among teammates.” Charles Duhigg, Smarter Faster Better
There is nothing worse than a person who can’t see their own limitations. This is the moral to the story in the Emperor’s New Clothes. We delude ourselves with our own pride and often forget to look at the whole context.
This is another reason why leaders and small business owners should meet and mastermind with people outside of their own industry. Thought diversity is an important component of innovation. What can a manufacturer of tile learn from a computer programmer? How can a battery business learn from solar? The connections we make foster ideas. Confirmation bias is a danger and the first step to protecting yourself is to recognize its existence.
“A modern name for Smith’s insights about self-deception is confirmation bias. Confirmation bias happens when we filter reality through our biases, ignoring evidence that challenges or refutes what we believe and eagerly accepting evidence that confirms what we believe.” Russ Roberts, How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life
If leaders who understand their own limitations, create an intentional company culture with psychological safety, then understanding yourself, your team, and your customers will follow. And with that internal success, external (financial) success is bound to follow.
Publish as regularly as you can. I get busy with my client work and don’t even follow my own advice. But publishing every Tuesday at 7am is a good idea, for example.
The more you can publish, the more traffic you will have. It’s been studied time and again. Once a week is a minimum and four times a week seems aggressive but can be effective. Make sure your posts are worthwhile.
“The small companies that publish 11 or more blog posts per month drive much higher traffic than companies of the same size that publish fewer than 11 blog posts. ” Hubspot
Do you feel overwhelmed? “I don’t want to *&(@%&^$ blog!!!!” That’s why I’ve used the play on words. Don’t cuss, let’s help you get started.
Let’s get you on track.
It’s easy to get off track. We all do.
Here’s a simple worksheet or questionnaire to help guide you.
What are the top 3 questions your company gets from customers?
What are the top 3 things you wish your customers knew about your business?
What new things are happening in your industry that are exciting?
What are three things about your business’ origin story?
Now you have four topics with three answers each. You have 12 potential blog posts. You can write 300-500 words each. Make it simple. Publish one on the first Tuesday of every month.
If you want to step it up, you can publish every other week, but then you will need to find some more topics. Though, I guess, as you write, you will get more ideas from feedback from your employees, customers, and fans.