You Can’t Market in a Vacuum – Lessons About Observation

So many businesses get tunnel vision, blinders, or myopic in their marketing. They learned what works in 1989 and kept doing it. Observe. Who are your customers — really?

What is a vacuum?

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica:

Vacuum, Space in which there is no matter or in which the pressure is so low that any particles in the space do not affect any processes being carried on there.”

Do we market in a vacuum? Not literally. No. But when we look at data without the context, we are not allowing ourselves to be exposed to alternative data.

What do you mean?

Let’s talk about lunch on a Monday.

I recently had a late lunch / early dinner with my friend Rachel at Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern (and had an awesome margarita). During our lunch we were talking ideas and brainstorming in tornado fashion, as we do.

The topic of data came up. So, I was quoting that saying “lies, damned lies, and statistics” and I added “AND DATA!” I was discussing the idea of context when it comes to data. Read more You Can’t Market in a Vacuum – Lessons About Observation

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

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.

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Why Small Business Owners Should Read Self-Help Books

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.

Soft skills are the social glue that brings together all aspects of any successful business. Click To Tweet

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.

And, third, they have the ability and willingness to lean in to discomfort and vulnerability.” Brené Brown, Rising Strong

True vulnerability is strength -- it encourages your team to trust you and inspires them to try (and fail) as part of the learning process. Click To Tweet

Leaders Create Psychological Safety

The vulnerability that you express creates a safe space. Small business owner, I ask you these questions:

  1. Do you feel safe to fail?
  2. Does your team?
  3. What are the implied or strict consequences of failure?
  4. How is that treated in your company culture?
  5. What kind of atmosphere exists in your stand up meetings or staff meetings?
  6. 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

The best benefit you can offer your company's employees is the freedom to fail. Click To Tweet

Leaders Understand Their Own Limitations

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

Do you dismiss alternative theories and ideas as negative or are you thankful for a differing view? Click To Tweet

What are you reading?

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.

So, what are you reading? What inspires you?

Blog Isn’t a Four-Letter Word

Small businesses should be blogging. Yes. I said it. Blog isn’t a four letter word. Do it. Publish regularly. Let’s talk about how to accomplish this in a realistic way.

Don’t look down on blogging.

It’s not beneath your website or your brand to publish on your website. Companies who educate their customer base win — loyalty, top of mind, affinity, and sales.

If you  have a website, you should have a blog. If you don’t, go back to your website developer and ask for it. (By the way, this is one of the benefits of WordPress — owning your own content.)

I go into more detail on how to create a blog here. I talk more about why you should blog here.

How often should you publish?

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.

  1. What are the top 3 questions your company gets from customers?
    1. ______________________________________________
    2. ______________________________________________
    3. ______________________________________________
  2. What are the top 3 things you wish your customers knew about your business?
    1. ______________________________________________
    2. ______________________________________________
    3. ______________________________________________
  3. What new things are happening in your industry that are exciting?
    1. ______________________________________________
    2. ______________________________________________
    3. ______________________________________________
  4. What are three things about your business’ origin story?
    1. ______________________________________________
    2. ______________________________________________
    3. ______________________________________________

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.

What’s stopping you? Get to it. 😉

Keynote at WordCamp Raleigh: Let’s Talk about Whole Health

I was honored to be the keynote at WordCamp Raleigh where I gave actionable tips to help us all be mindful of our entire health: physical, emotional, and financial.

*Special thanks to Pressable for sending me. They are also my client.

You can’t have a thriving codebase without a thriving community.

What does code have to do with community?

Free and Open Source Software depends upon the community who builds, creates, maintains, supports, translates, and markets it. That means any Open Source project depends upon a volunteer-based workforce.

We all recognize that our livlihoods are somewhat attributed to the ability to use Free and Open Source Software — like WordPress — so we volunteer, contribute, to give back.

What about burnout?

It’s real.

We’ve addressed it before in many ways. So let’s talk about how what a thriving community looks like.

What is a thriving community?

Read more Keynote at WordCamp Raleigh: Let’s Talk about Whole Health