3 lessons from iCon any business can use

The annual Infusionsoft user conference always brings interesting insights around marketing automation and the technology but it’s the non product features that leave a mark.

The first year I attended a pre-conference mixer and met 2 people who had been long time users and attendees. Interested in their experience, my friend Patrick Conley asked “what do you like most about the conference?” and their answer surprised me.

“You’ll find that the people at this conference don’t whine about the economy; they’re get-things-done, whatever-it-takes business owners and that mindset is really rare.”

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Now, I’m paraphrasing because it’s been a few years but that assessment of the attendees proved to be spot on.

In your business think about more than what you’ll learn at a conference from the speakers and expand to understanding the other attendees. While attending the talks is a big part of the experience, your fellow conference goers can add so much to an event!

The second thing iCon has taught me is that inspiration is just the beginning. If you’ve ever been on Pinterest you know this ;) It’s great to get inspired and learn from others but where the magic really happens is implementation. I’ve read many articles that outline the “epiphany junkies” who love to learn and post “oh my stars! this is soooo amazing!” but rarely take action in their own lives.

Business ideas are like that too – how many times have you heard “do a webinar, optimize the follow up sequences with testing, upsell to higher value packages and make millions!” as if it’s just that simple?

In your business when you get inspired ask yourself immediately “How can I put this into action or get a reminder to take action in a few weeks?” so your great ideas don’t go down in history as a list of things that would have been cool to do.

Finally, iCon is a fascinating microcosm of the internet marketing world. There are so many users in attendance that seeing a cross section is amazing. One thing that is definitely awkward is when someone tries to make the rounds and pass out all 500 of their new business cards on the first day.

You simply can’t make meaningful connections with 500 people in 3 days. Instead of trying to work the room, most users focus on fewer, quality relationships. Especially at a conference of peers, you need to isolate before you attend who at the event is your ideal audience. Instead of trying to reach everyone make connections but focus your attention on a smaller segment.

That doesn’t just mean potential clients – look for relationships around speaking engagements, affiliate partners, coaches, support professionals, referral relationships, and those who are hosting the conference.

In your business remember that the best way to maximize the potential ROI of an event is not to carpet bomb the convention hall with your business card but to engage in conversations and relationships that support your goals.

Action Step: What’s the next event, tradeshow or conference you’re scheduled to attend? Take some time today to note who you’d like to connect with at this next event.


How to Use Your Calendar to Create More Time

It’s 2014. Everyone and their mother has a calendar, most of them based virtually. But what no one seems to do is manage their calendar and schedule in a way that creates time, allows for intentional focus and maximizes the results you want to see in your business.

There are a thousand sites for parents to manage childcare, meal planning and soccer practice but very few comparatively for entrepreneurs who experience long stretches of blank days and no idea how to fill them with activity that will actually grow the business.

(Note: yes, most business coaches out there will give you their homework and tell you that listening to audio teachings or filling out worksheets is how to spend your day but, we know better! I’m talking about actual, real life application, getting sh*t done work. And that’s the focus of this article today.)

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Rule #1: Your calendar should reflect you

Anyone who shows you their calendar and says this is the “best way” to do it misses the point. It might be the best way for them but you have to find your own path. So everything I share should be a suggestion and jumping off point. Take these ideas and make them work for you!

Here are some ways to customize a boring digital calendar and my favorite hacks:

  • Use different colors on appointments so you can see at a glance if you’re light on client work or over-scheduled with calls on a given day.
  • Customize your alerts so they don’t interrupt your work flow but do get your attention when the next task is starting.
  • If you take notes during calls set up a webform through Gravity, Google Forms, Infusionsoft or Survey Monkey and add the link to your calendar notes.
  • Always include the contact information for those you’re speaking with so if someone is a no show you can reach out

Rule #2: A schedule you don’t follow is useless

Once Upon A Time I was working a horribly boring desk job. Every morning I would grab some paper from the recycle bin and create a detailed to do list so when I got home I could be so productive – mostly because there wasn’t enough to do at work for 8 hours. When I got home I would promptly ignore the list and do whatever I wanted.

Those lists were a waste of time. Creating a super complicated schedule you ignore is a waste of time.

If the idea of applying some self-discipline to your calendar makes your inner 3 year old scream “I don’t wanna!” then try an either/or calendar.

Instead of making 9am-10am your “write a blog post” time slot and beating yourself up when your brain isn’t functioning yet, make the 9-10am slot “write a blog post OR play with designs for new program graphics.” Then add a second block of time in the afternoon with the same either/or. You get to decide in the moment what you feel inspired to do but both tasks need to get done.

Rule #3: Outsource aggressively

Now I don’t mean fling tasks at your subordinates like grenades, but instead consider if everything on your schedule is something you have to be doing. Can a VA draft your blog post? Can a project manager deal with those refunds?

Here’s a super simple script for you to use when outsourcing, “Hi NAME, I would like you to start work on THIS TASK today and spend no more than 2 hours. Please check in if you get stuck or at the end of 2 hours. Instructions are in the operations manual HERE. Thank you.”

Notice what’s not in that script: “I’m too busy” “I’m sorry” “Can you please” “Do you mind?” “Could you?”

Now, some level of inquiry is expected if your team member is slammed so feel free to ask, “With your other responsibilities today is this deadline do-able?” and remember you should help your team re-prioritize as needed.

The result of outsourcing is that you have less unimportant work to do which brings me to the final rule.

Rule #4: Make work time intentional

A lot of people assume entrepreneurs are inherently lazy, we get up whenever we want, schlep around in pajamas all day, go out to lunch, and basically have no accountability in our schedules.

And that can sometimes be true.

But here’s how your calendar can actually give you the time to do these things guilt-free:

When you design your time to allow for intentional time off and dedicated work time, you don’t need to feel guilty.

It doesn’t matter if you work from 4-10am or 10pm-1am. The hours you keep will vary, especially as your business and life change. Instead of half working because you’re tired and want a rest but tell yourself that only serious entrepreneurs work 9-5 you can design your calendar to meet your needs.

That’s the biggest thing, instead of following the lifestyle of someone else, you can decide what’s right for you right now. Because the calendar of a new parent who has a colicky baby and product launch is so different than that of a workshop teacher who has sponsor meetings twice a week.

Stop creating your calendar and schedule by default and design it to fit your life. Here are some Action Steps to help you make these decisions:

  1. Do you have commitments at a certain time or time of day? (i.e. picking up kids, early meetings)
  2. What time of day do you feel most productive?
  3. In an ideal day, what kind of breaks would you build in for your sanity?
  4. How many hours (max) do you want to spend on the phone or computer?
  5. What tasks can be taken off your calendar and delegated?
  6. What’s one thing that’s been on your calendar too long and just needs to get done this week?


How do you slice up your “Marketing Pie”

What is this marketing pie and can I eat it?

The “marketing pie” is a term used by business coaches the world over to describe the elements of your marketing strategy. “Slices” of the pie include Content Marketing (like blogging), email newsletters, media, online advertising, social media, YouTube videos, webinars, print advertising, networking events, groups and even more old school mediums like TV and Radio commercials, billboards and bench ads.

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It’s considered foolish to focus on a single slice because your clients don’t just watch YouTube or only read printed materials. There are hundreds of coaches and programs dedicated to helping you dissect the pie and apply it to your business.

What does my own pie look like?

You might be thinking that you don’t really have a lot of marketing going on but most people will find 6-10 marketing activities that they’re doing right now. Your segments don’t have to be elaborate and can range from simple to complex. A free ebook download can go on your pie just as easily as a workshop or event.

The marketing pie doesn’t include programs and products but might include free offers that lead to sales. Understanding what marketing you’re doing now is an important first step because you’ll want to know if a) it’s working and b) if you need to do more or different marketing.

Should my pie change or is it good?

Some people will try to convince you that you need to do all the marketing but for most of us that’s just not realistic. For one, it takes a lot of attention to make sure that things are done well. Also, when you’re using the right mix of marketing something great happens: you get more clients. And those clients need to be served.

Here’s the thing, consistency is more important than being in all places at all times.

As you look at your marketing pie consider if you’re getting results from each segment. If Twitter isn’t bringing you clients or leads then stop spending so much time there or develop a new strategy.

Which brings me to an important question, are you so busy “doing marketing” that you have no idea what marketing is working? Tracking the effectiveness sounds boring until you understand that it’s going to save you a lot of wasted time, energy and money.

Quick Question: Would you pay me $1000 to bring you new clients if you’d already paid me $2000 and I had brought you none? I’m guessing no… but that’s exactly what businesses with under performing ads do every month. Would you go to the local grocery store three times a day looking for fresh squeezed orange juice only to find apple juice and milk and then return three more times tomorrow? No? Then why are you updating your Facebook page so frequently when there are no clients hanging out there?

When you look at your marketing pie and consider how you’re investing your time, it helps to have all the facts.

(This is one area we manage with our clients so they understand where their leads are coming from!)

Action Step: Download the file below to complete your own marketing pie and take some time in the week ahead to assess if this marketing is working the way you want.

Marketing Pie

 

 


Customer Service Skills Your Biz Needs

Top 25 Customer Service Skills

Created by EyeCandy Infographic


Authenticity, Privacy, and Systems

Since 2012 the marketing buzzword that everyone has hung their hat on has been “authenticity” – defined as the art of being yourself and sharing openly through your business without hiding behind a facade.

It’s a great goal, we can all stand to have more honesty and less b.s., especially when it comes to our work. Too many times people pretend there’s nothing wrong, life is easy and it’s a charmed existence. So sharing struggles and challenges and being honest is a step in the right direction.

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But how often does openness cross the line to leaving nothing private? Too often, if you read Facebook. I won’t post examples because everyone has a different idea of what should remain private and what’s fair game. But you’ve probably experienced scrolling through Facebook and thinking “TMI!”

While some people seemingly have zero filter and want the world to know their every thought, meal and decision, for most of us there’s a cringe factor when we share something that’s not authentic but simply oversharing.

Whether you like it or not the way you portray your brand and business online and in person influences how you’re viewed by potential clients, investors, partners and your team. Having witnessed the fallout from a company with a “wide open” policy I can tell you that having no filter can be damning.

It’s not my job to tell you how to set your privacy controls.

The important thing is that you determine your own privacy standards and document them for your business and team.

It’s not enough to say “anything goes” because when you leave the door open you have no control of what goes through it. Can your team share how much you charge clients? At what point you’ll stop collecting a past due balance? What you really think about your JV partners?

Like most things in your business, the only way to ensure uniformity in your policies is to create a system that you follow, without exception.

(It’s up to you if systems are restrictive or simply boundaries. I don’t hate stop signs when they keep idiots from hitting my car at a 4-way stop – the right boundaries in your business can prevent crashes too.)

Start with what you WANT to share by outlining the pieces of your business that are common knowledge or eligible to share. To make this a system simply write a list that you can share with your team. For example,

Sharing Guidelines:

  • Pay rate for VAs – Share with paying clients who would like a benchmark
  • Structure of 6 month program what’s included – share with leads, clients and partners
  • Referrals for accountant, lawyer and webmaster – share with anyone who asks, name and email only
  • Open positions

As you’re creating this list you’ll come across some exceptions or information that you do not wish to share. Start a second list alongside the first:

Do Not Share:

  • Unannounced bonuses we sent to clients
  • Historical pricing for evergreen program
  • My personal address and email
  • Advertising budget and expenditures – unless approved by Owner

If any of these examples has sparked ideas on how you can handle sharing and privacy in your own business then copy and paste this to your own system today.

(It’s sooo easy, Contact.FirstName, to think “I’ll do that later.” Let that thought trigger you to do it NOW.)

You know that we’ve changed as a culture when the question is “what do I not share on Facebook?” instead of “what do I want to share?” Take into account your personal brand, what information is relevant and uplifting and how you show up authentically both in person and virtually.

Action Step: If you’re in our Frustrated to Freedom in 52 Weeks program this is your “Privacy & Sharing” system. You may want to save this information on individual pages too so when you document the bonuses you send to private clients you include a note “this information is not to be shared without permission as it is subject to change.”

For everyone, the easiest way to document this system is creating a Word doc and folder for BUSINESS SYSTEMS.