Wednesday, February 21, 2018

PSA: "Slow" Seasons Don't Exist. Get Your Free "Get Ahead" Checklist!

I don't believe in "slow" seasons. I don't think they exist.


By most people's standards of a "slow season," I am in one now. Being in the niche I am, winter is not my peak season. But I also don't feel as though I am in a lull. I am spending this time doing everything I won't have time for in a couple of months. I have applied for a volunteer teaching position. I have re-organized my follow-up schedule for the next couple of months. I have registered for networking events all the way into the next quarter. I have researched and reached out to companies I have a strong desire to work with in the future. I have confirmed my priorities, on paper and in my head. I have re-connected with friends and family. I have stopped neglecting my own social media, which often happens as client accounts take priority over my time. I have taken on some web design jobs, something I don't often have time for but is a great change of pace creatively and technically. I have started writing an e-book, that's been in my plans for 2 years. I have been brainstorming events I might like to host later in the year.

Experiment. Prioritize. Get prepared. Get Ahead. Grow.


Productivity is not defined only by the monetary value of your work. It is defined by relationships. It is defined by the steps you take towards your goals. We don't just need time to work for our businesses, but also on our businesses and ourselves... When you find yourself in a "slow season" use it - Experiment. Prioritize. Get prepared. Get Ahead. Grow. Re-connect with your network, and tell them what kind of support you'll need later on.


Download my "Get Prepared, Get Ahead" Checklist below:




The Merits of Social Media Marketing and SEO

If you're a business owner entering the Digital Marketing landscape, chances are you've heard a lot of controversial opinions about Search Engine Optimization vs. Social Media Marketing.The reality is that both can be effective, depending on your business and what you're desired result is. The below is an excerpt from a recent email thread with a colleague regarding the merits of Search Engine Optimization and Social Media Marketing, from my perspective and experience:


"In my opinion, SEO is a great tool for people in "need-now" industries. For instance, plumbing, car repair and restaurants. These are businesses that people are looking up because they already have a need for them. SEO allows for them to be placed in front of motivated Leads, with a high likelihood of conversion in a short time frame.


SMM on the other hand, is great for industries that usually require a consideration and planning period prior to a purchase. For instance, home building and interior design. It is also suitable for businesses like clothing companies, breweries and farmers markets, who are looking to become a part of local culture as part of their sales strategy. Social Media gives consumers a convenient and automated way to interact with these companies until they are ready to take action, or between times of action.


Other industries will benefit most from a combination of these, as their sellers come from different stages of the buying process. For instance, animal shelters and debt reconciliation. Start-ups (or any business, really) can also receive valuable market research and demographics info from both or either of these processes.


I design my strategies around the belief that Social Media, and the marketing process in general, should provide multiple layers of value - Exposure. Development of brand culture. Testimonials through client photos, tags, shares and shout-outs. Lead generation. Networking with market partners. Maintaining relations with repeat clients. For those business owners trying to do too much with too little time, we can even integrate some admin processes by subscribing to alerts about upcoming events, training and available contracts.


Once established, Social Media provides sustainability of consumer flow through followers, shares and referrals. It can give your website traffic and engagement a boost. It can give you a networking solution for those without the time to commit to attending multiple groups out of the office. For those pursuing a sense of social responsibility, it can be a great tool for fundraising and empowering events. For those trying to differentiate themselves from the questionable reputation of certain industries (renovation contractors, real estate agents) it can be an amazing tool for education and building trust."


When choosing a marketing service for your business, partner with a consultant you trust to look at what you need now, and what you want to become in the future. No marketing solution will be appropriate for every business or at every stage of business. Your consultant should be open to discussing options with you, and presenting you with the value of each one.


If you ever have questions about your best strategy, or are not sure if what you're already doing really fits with your goals, feel free to reach out to us! We'd love to collaborate to develop your tools for success.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Observations And Lessons From 2 Years In Business

People Make a Difference


When I first started my business, I told no one. I was worried I wouldn't be successful, and felt that not telling anyone would help limit any impending embarrassment over my efforts. Thankfully, I got over myself and realized that nobody was judging me as harshly as I was judging myself... But honestly, what no one tells you about starting a business, is that working from home all day, you become a bit isolated. Having no one to bounce your ideas, concerns and successes off of becomes overwhelming. You might be your own boss, but that doesn't mean you have to carry everything on your own.

I started going to networking events, and approaching people I followed on social media that seemed to have similar business cultures. Over the last few months, I have cultivated a fantastic support system of motivated professionals. Having these people - Some with new businesses like mine, and some with 20+ years of experience - available to me to brainstorm, vent and laugh with has been integral in keeping myself motivated. With their support I gained confidence in pursuing my preferred niche market, re-branded myself to better suit it, and have developed a plan for 2018 that I am irrevocably clear about and confident in.

We hear it all the time, but the people you surround yourself with really do impact your opportunities. It can take time to find the right people, and effort to nurture those relationships - But that support and influence will make your life so. Much. Easier.


Take The Right Risks


I am the kind of person who researches and plans for every possible outcome of every situation. While I have been praised for my confidence and charisma, I have also spent most of my life carrying a steady amount of anxiety and great personal expectation just below the surface. This year was a fabulous opportunity to start letting some of that anxiety go, starting with trusting my gut. The amazing thing is, there hasn't been a single decision my gut instinct has been wrong about.

I've learned that my instincts are way better at judging risk than my conscious. Where my conscious needs research to feel confident in something, my instincts can gather an accurate perception within about 60 seconds.

It was terrifying at first, to make decisions based on a "gut feeling," but these were also the only times I didn't second guess myself, or regret my decision later on. Being in the industry I'm in, research is still a valuable part of my process, but gut instinct will definitely be a permanent part of my equations. I've found I also feel way more confident when presenting to people and businesses now, because I'm not constantly re-evaluating everything I say.

Trust yourself: You've learned more from your experiences than you think you have!


Invest in Soft Skills: Employers, Employees, Educators and Mentors


I think we really need to shift education towards recognizing soft skills. I'm a perfectionist, and I can list my campaign stats, sales milestones, etc. to you all day long. In school, we're taught that these kind of results matter: "Get good scores and you'll succeed." But the fact is that this just isn't true. Many employers now would much rather know about your mindset and motivation for achieving the results you do, than just your performance statistics on their own. Most successful entrepreneurs too, are not successful because of a degree, but because of their personalities and values.

For instance, I know that my two largest contracts so far were not awarded to me solely for the results I had achieved in previous campaigns, but rather on how well I had researched and could defend my ideas, and how I carried myself in front of a room full of people. I earned their investment because they could see I didn't leave a stone unturned or route unchecked, and genuinely committed to their success as being equal to my own. They knew they could rely on me as a partner to do the necessary work, whether that was re-coding a page, creating and targeting content or reminding them of their successes after a rough day in the field.

So many employers and employees complain of a lack of loyalty, but we are taught from a young age that it's what we do on paper that counts the most towards where we're going to end up... We all need to participate in putting value back on natural affinities and traits. Go validate someone today.


Social Media Can Work For Any Business, But Not Any Business Owner


There are avenues one can take for marketing that require an owner to set a budget, approve a design, and then just wait to see what they get out of it. This entire process might take a couple hours or a couple of weeks. Social media is not one of these avenues.

Social media requires commitment. It requires a constant flow of new content and conversation. It requires strategic and confident revision. It requires experimentation. It is a long-term integration in your business plan.

I hear so many internet marketers claim that social media is a no-brainer, that it will work for anybody, that it is your only fail-proof solution to success... But I have to disagree. Ultimately, not everyone wants something intensive and involved. Not everyone has thought about their business goals beyond their next sale. Not everyone enjoys being tied to their brand. Let's be honest, not all of us know what we want to be when we grow up. And for those people, realizing they're venturing out on a long-term path of branding and customer relations can be uncomfortable. Do I think social media presents the most value in terms of customer profiling, accessibility and exposure? Absolutely. But that alone does not make it the right avenue for everybody.

All-in-all, social media is about leveraging the relationship between your brand and customers. And just like any relationship, if you're not committed to putting yourself out there and sticking with it, you're not going to get the best out of it. (Of course, just because my particular services aren't appropriate for someone at the moment, doesn't mean there aren't other ways we can collaborate. I believe there is always a way for business owners to provide value to each other!)



Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Articles To Re-Vamp Your Motivation

We are almost half way through January, which means we are also almost 1/3 of the way to when most people give up on their New Years Resolutions. To help you stay on track, we've compiled a short list of articles on some of the most common Resolutions - We'd love to hear how you stay focused and motivated in the comments!


Decluttering


Emotional Horcruxes by Shona Fraser of Heartspace Interiors (Burnaby) - http://heartspaceinteriors.com/emotional-horcruxes/

What Could Boxing Day Mean by Stephen Elliott-Buckley of EB Strategy (Vancouver) - http://ebstrategy.org/blog/2017/12/26/6-days-to-2018-what-could-boxing-day-mean/



Goal Setting for Small Business


The Ultimate Guide to Small Business Goal Setting by The Balance - https://www.thebalance.com/the-ultimate-guide-to-small-business-goal-setting-2951416



Soft Skills


Why Self Compassion Beats Self Confidence by the New York Times - https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/28/smarter-living/why-self-compassion-beats-self-confidence.html

Who Is Your Number One by Stephen Elliott-Buckley of EB Strategy (Vancouver) - http://ebstrategy.org/blog/2017/12/30/2-days-to-2018-who-is-your-number-one/

10 Tips to Network With Confidence by the Globe and Mail - https://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/careers/career-advice/10-tips-to-network-with-confidence/article10979390/

10 Networking Tips for People Who Hate Networking by How Stuff Works - https://money.howstuffworks.com/business/professional-development/10-networking-tips-people-hate-networking.htm

17 Tips to Survive Your Next Networking Event by Forbes - https://www.forbes.com/sites/yec/2014/07/22/17-tips-to-survive-your-next-networking-event/#5395d10e7cd4



Personal Branding


Consolidate Your Brand and Posture in 4 Days by Stephen Elliott-Buckley of EB Strategy (Vancouver) - http://ebstrategy.org/blog/2017/12/28/4-days-to-2018-consolidate-your-brand-and-posture-in-4-days/

Personal Branding Tactics That Solo Entrepreneurs Can Leverage by Forbes - https://www.forbes.com/sites/theyec/2018/01/09/personal-branding-tactics-that-solo-entrepreneurs-can-leverage/#20b9b0104267





Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Proactive and Preventative: Don't Stop Marketing When You're Busy



My Father was a very entrepreneurial person, and one lesson he worked to instill in me is to "Never stop looking for work." Just because you're busy now, doesn't mean you will be in 6 months. You can never stop promoting yourself, if you truly want to remain busy.

At a recent networking event, a fellow marketer said to me, "You specialize in construction and real estate marketing? You must not be doing well. Those industries are busy right now, do any of them actually hire marketing people anymore?" When you're busy and have active word-of-mouth, you have consumers as a bonus part of your marketing team who want to share what you're putting out there. Using that momentum by engaging with those raving fans allows all of your efforts to reach farther. In other words, when you're already busy, you can put the same efforts into marketing as when you are slow, but with higher gains.

Take an example from a company I observed a few years ago: At one time, they had a rather decent monopoly on the Vancouver and Burnaby power tool markets. This was around the same time that social media really developed as a streamlined advertising tool. They made the decision to continue with mailed flyers, as these had worked well for them in the past, and neglected both a website and social channels. Their competitors, however, began to utilize Facebook and Twitter to advertise sales. It took less than a year for this company to begin seeing tragic declines in their foot traffic during sale weekends, and the store began running at a deficit. At this point in time, their competition already had a loyal following of raving fans online. This company had yet to steal back any of that loyalty 2 years later, despite having hired an in-house social media manager.

There are two things they did wrong in this scenario: 1) They stuck with what had always worked for no reason other than "it has always worked," rather than continuing to educate themselves and adapt to market trends and consumer habits. 2) When they did try to adapt, it was in desperation, and they failed to spend the time on market and competitor research to see how they could effectively reclaim their territory.

In contrast, a company I worked with earlier this year was enjoying a growing reputation when we began working together. Adding a social media presence to their strategy allowed their less-busy locations to feed off of the portfolios of the more successful ones, and within 5 months over 150 potential prospects had taken action to contact them through social media. There is security (and let's be honest, a touch of prestige!) in having a wait list.

Remember the saying, "Work smarter, not harder"? Staying busy, is easier than becoming busy. Market research is easier when you have active clients to learn from. Strategizing is easier when you have consistent traffic to give you feedback, and you feel secure enough to really listen to it. Don't wait until you're slowing down to consider building your brand. Build your brand when you have a roster of amazing clients who will remember you, and refer you. Sustainable business is successful business.

Monday, October 30, 2017

How Social Can Effect Search Engine Ranking


Many people consider SEO and Social Media to be separate entities, but over the years their value has steadily intertwined. When searching for companies through Google and other search engines nowadays, often you will see Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles mixed in with website results.



While Google denies that social media is an official part of their ranking algorithm, social media can help boost many of the factors they do recognize. For instance, it can help give your site credibility via relevant link building, and can make you more easily accessible to Google Spiders, which help to rank websites. One of my Real Estate clients more than doubled their monthly crawls (to over 10,000) and website visitors within 3 months of developing their social media presence, and their search history went from nill, to being included in searches for "Vancouver House For Sale." #goals

In my experience, social media can be particularly effective in improving your search engine ranking when paired with blogging. The more you can convince Google that you are a resource in your field, the more likely you are to rank highly on the search engine. In this regard, quality, educational content is important. Traditional growth-hacking tactics surrounding generic link-building, cliche stock photos and inspirational quotes are going to become irrelevant in this new SEO climate. Google is looking for meaningful engagement - to see that your content is attracting a consistent demographic in relation to certain keywords, and that it is relevant and interesting enough to them to engage them in discussion, have them share it with others in their networks, etc.

I truly believe that Content is going to be King going into 2018. This is not only because it caters to Google's algorithm rankings, but also because it is an incredibly accessible form of SEO. For instance, you don't need extensive coding or back-end programming knowledge, it doesn't involve media releases and you don't need a list of influencers at your disposal. For small businesses, this gives them a way to compete in local markets through simple, streamlined processes and greater exposure.

What are your marketing resolutions for the New Year? Are social media and search engines a part of your plan?

Friday, September 29, 2017

Strive For Engagement, Not Impressions


I am and have always been a huge advocate of strategizing around Engagement, not Impressions or Reach. Why? Because it doesn't matter how many people are seeing your business page, if they're not interested in being consumers of your business. Think of Engagement as a way to measure relevance. If people aren't engaging, you're not reaching the right people. You need to look at what you're putting out there online in comparison to the services you actually offer and what appeals to your ideal customer. If your Engagement Rate is non-existent, that's a clear sign that somewhere along the line there's a lack of harmony within your brand image.

What is Engagement?
Engagement represents the number of people taking an action based on your content. For instance, they may click on a link you posted on social media, or click-through to your Page to view more of your posts. They could like or comment on your post, or share it. Alternately, this can also be an action taken on your Page, rather than on a specific post. They may click through from your Page to your website, send you a message, request contact info or fill out a LEAD form.

What is Reach?
Reach is the number of individuals who viewed your content in a given time frame.
Ie. If two people viewed your content in a day, one of whom viewed your page three times, and the other viewed it twice, your Reach would be two people.

What are Impressions?
Impressions represent the number of times your content was seen.
Ie. If two people viewed your content in a day, one of whom viewed your page three times, and the other viewed it twice, you would have five Impressions for that day.

How do you know if your Engagement Rate is good or not? What is an average Engagement Rate?
Twitter average engagement rates: 0.5% - 1%.
Facebook average engagement rates: 0.5% - 1%.
Instagram average engagement rates: 3.5% - 4.3%.

Engagement rate averages sourced from:

These metrics are probably lower than you were expecting, right? This is where we really get to my point of why engagement is so powerful. Think about a Facebook account with 10,000 followers. They may be a larger competitor than you are, and you may be wondering how on Earth to rival their social media presence. The answer is engagement.

Let's look at the following scenarios:
One account has 10,000 followers, and a Reach of 16,700 people per month. Their posts may not have a lot of substance, but they are frequent. They have an employee who posts multiple times a day to help draw people to their account. This frequent posting creates Impressions, but the lack of relevance of some of the posts keeps their engagement rate at 1.5% of their audience. This means they are generating actual interest from 250 potential consumers each month.

Now, your account has 1000 followers. You're a small business, and you don't have the time or resources to focus on building your follower list. You currently have a Reach of 2500 people per month. Because you have limited time, you are not posting 5 times a day like your competitor, but when you do post, you are posting educational material you feel is truly relevant to your consumers and that reflects your values of customer care. Your engagement rate is 10% of your audience. This means you are generating actual interest from 250 potential consumers each month.

Starting to understand my point? Is your time better spent posting more often, for views, or creating quality content, to ensure relevance to your consumers when you do post?

Have you experimented with either of these methods? Please share your struggles and successes in the comments below!