Want your marketing to feel potent? Answer this one question.

(I know you, like most entrepreneurs, are a pretty busy person and don’t always have time to read things in-depth. For that reason, I’ve made it simple – if you just have time to skim this post today, read the bold parts and you’ll save 10 minutes!)

If you’re not marketing with gusto, it can often be because you feel you have nothing to say that’s important enough to make it into the world. With all its hectic-ness, your still-small voice in your business may feel like it will be crowded out. You may think to yourself, “I know what will happen, no one will hear me. Why bother.”

Another type of entrepreneur senses that talking about their product or service might come across as sales-y, or downright icky and too self-promotional. So to avoid any negative repercussions… they do nothing.

Both entrepreneurs will see their competitors (who more than likely are no better than they) making traction, gaining momentum, followers, likes, and opportunities.

It can be a frustrating, and (if you don’t curtail it with action) vicious cycle.

Breaking the cycle

So before you trust your assumptions, before you discredit your voice, before you leave an amazing genie in the bottle, I want you to answer one question:

Why did you start your business? Tell them your story

It wasn’t from a selfish desire. You already know that. You know why you began. Let’s start there.  

But more than just think, begin telling your story.

Let’s return to the core of how you’re going to help change your corner of the world through your business. Potent marketing begins with the magic you already possess.
- R

p.s. And if you feel like sharing – and want to show the universe that you’re again marketing – share with me what compelled you to start your business. Email me. Or post it here. Or just share one word.

To (re)start your marketing, first stop these three pitfalls.

It’s not uncommon for business owners to balk at (re)starting their marketing. They’ve taken courses, watched webinars, masterminded, acquired a whole stash of pricey (and an even bigger stash of free) tools, and yet… there’s serious resistance to beginning again.

Feeling (un)stuck

Entrepreneurs often stay stuck in the cycle of never-starting because their go-to solution to spark their marketing is to turn to new tools.

And like a new diet, new tools usually reactivate the spark at first. But then, they lead to even more overwhelm (and frustration) because any new tool requires a strong foundation to work fully.

This reminds me of the business owner who isn’t getting leads. She blames it on not having the interest in doing what she’s already tried. Instead, she turns to Facebook ads. She finds out that there were three conversions for the fifty bucks she spent. And none of them bought a darn thing.

New tool. New promise. Same foundation. Same results.
Cue disappointment and frustration.

So let’s be clear: adding to the pile of to-do’s will not jump-start your marketing.

In addition, the daily business activities entrepreneurs take care of keep marketing from (re)starting strong. These tasks are un-ending: Answering emails. Serving clients. Filling orders. Fiddling with a report or PowerPoint presentation. Picking out computer ink.

So when you find yourself turning to the new tool, a time-management article, or cleaning up your inbox, consider why you’re avoiding re-starting your marketing. Start with your honest reasons and, without judging, as yourself this one question:

In the past, what’s worked to get you to love marketing again?

Is it writing? Is it speaking? Is it having a powerful conversation with someone who “gets it”?

Ready to start

Getting started

Instead of searching for a tool, or getting distracted by busy-work, start with what you already know works for you.

Write something.
Teach someone.
Have that conversation.

You already know yourself. You know what’s worked. Let’s start there. More than just think, begin. We must (must, must!) get you in motion.

And if you’re feeling like sharing – and want to show the universe that you’re once again marketing – share with me what has made you love marketing. Email me. Or post it here. Or just share one word.

Because in marketing, the way we do one thing is the way we do everything.

- Rebecca

p.s. Need help getting into that grove? Don’t have someone with whom to share that conversation? My (zero-cost) Liftoff Sessions may be just the conversation you’re ready to have.

 

Booth Sleuth: make the most of your presence at trade shows, expos, and fairs without losing your mind (or your shirt!)

Have a trade show malfunction or preparing for something in the near-future? Shoot your tradeshow questions to me at Rebecca@Tri-LineMarketing.com and we’ll answer you directly or in an upcoming blog post.

Participating in a trade show, expo, or festival/fair can take significant preparation. It’s like setting up a mini-storefront; often without the commerce.

Done wrong, these events can be feel like a frustrating exercise in tolerating the mundane. The opposite of the thriving marketing tactic they appeared to be when you signed up.

To avoid registration regret, and to get the most out of an event as a vendor, here are some seriously helpful hints.

Pack a Brilliant (+ Self-Contained) Differentiator

As early as age six I manned booths for the family business. By eleven, I was running them solo for eight hour stretches.

My siblings and I would go to the extra effort of bringing a bunny or chicken for the table. (The family business is a plant nursery, so animals are all around.) Tucked in an enclosure, the animals were instant draws at street fairs. I didn’t need to hustle or call people over (which is the worst, by the way. No one enjoys that kind of hustle.). Kids would drag their parents and while the kids were mesmerized, I’d engage with the parent. If the parent was mesmerized, I’d engage with the kid.

For us, small animals were a genuine differentiator–they really were our chickens and bunnies–and gave people a taste of chat they would see at the nursery. Bunnies and chickens were also self-contained: meaning, there was no handling, mess, crowding, or other traffic blocking.

Animals aren’t for everyone. You may find that displaying tools of your trade (whether antique or modern) or a time-lapse vignette displaying the results you offer will spark thoughtful conversation.

All Hail the Mighty Flow

The number one way that booth owners miss out is by not preparing for flow. When hosting a table at an event, there is one of you to many attendees. Ensure your booth has enough space to let people in and out. Deep booths are discouraging (to visitors it feels like they’re entering your personal space without permission). And plain tables discourage interest, because they look so… plain.

Width is usually the big constraint at these events. Use height to your advantage with standing/hanging signs or other pieces of interest either behind you or to the left or right sides of your table, set back from crowds. If your event is family-friendly, consider using trunks or low tables to display wares. A treasure chest at kid-height is always a big hit: and it provides a point of interaction for the children, while allowing you to talk with the adults.

Know whether you’ll have a corner booth, or a middle table. Prepare for one-direction or two direction traffic by tilting monitors or boards/displays to the direction of flow. If it’s first-come, first-choice, booth selection process, arrive early and scope out a place near the entrance (when eyeballs are fresh) and away from any blaring speakers.

Capture

With attendees flowing by, how do you capture their information so you’re able to follow up later? Respect, convenience and ease here is the highest priority – in that order.

First, give them a (truly) appealing reason to sign up. They don’t want to hear about special offers… people receive scores of junk emails. Instead, find out what from your usual customers what your big draw is. For one client, it was that they worked with start-ups. So her conversation would lead to an offer of a free consultation for startup businesses. Not everyone was in this group, and they were not suggested to sign up. More is not better, especially if the leads are unqualified (you’re just making more work for yourself later).

Another client I worked with had three check boxes for interests and she’d record their answers.

Have a (mini) VIP Lounge

This is my most-favorite tip, by far. Prepare for interactions with special VIPs. You never know when you’ll get into a promising discussion with a fantastic lead. I always recommend having cold bottles of water easily accessible to offer your VIP - an especially welcome gesture at drying, air-conditioned indoor events where bottles of water cost $6.

Ensure there is a bit of room to your right or left (to the side of the table, not behind it) where you can shepherd your VIP. You never want to put them behind your booth, but an out-of-flows-way place to your right or left allows you to tilt your body towards both your VIP and the passing crowd.

This VIP section also works great for the ongoing chatters who are tying you up when you really need to be interacting with the throngs passing by. Steer chatty charlie to a side and you’ll be able to balance conversation with the passers-by.

Like a Good Neighbor…

Bring extra bottles of water and some fruit or energy bars to warm up to your neighbors. Competitors or not, every solo booth attendant needs to use the facilities. Make a buddy who will watch your purse, bunny, or fliers.

Think your Paper Materials Through Fully

Don’t want your handout/leave-behind/flyer to end up in the garbage? Then for the love of all things holy, DON’T print it on white, letter-sized paper. EVERYONE does that. Pick a different color, a different size, a different shape… anything to stand out so IF an attendee wants to find your information, they can. An easy, low-cost differentiating concept you may want to try is to have your handout match the color of your company shirts. Add the same color accents to your booth for colored branding.

When all else fails, talk about the event

Folks come to events like these not because they’re thrilled to be pitched by people standing behind 8′ tables. They come for the education, networking, live music. Limit yourself to checking your phone once an hour, and instead read up on the day’s activities so you can point folks towards what they came to see. And if you have any events or big demo’s scheduled, make sure they’re planned for times outside of the big event. Remember, at Disneyland, the rides close for the parade. Work with the draw, not against.

Bonus Tip: A Late Follow-Up is Better than a Prompt One

I usually recommend that you wait ten days to follow up with leads. Why? Because poor attendees are being barraged by every other vendor at the event for at least a week following the event. You can even poke jest as the situation. One client I worked with said something along the lines of: “Have you stopped feeling popular after the seven thousand follow-up emails from everyone selling everything at ACME Expo? We’re here to tell you you’re still homecoming king/queen in our book!

Also, civil phone calls after this amount of time have passed can be a welcome point of contact, if it makes sense for your resources.

Have a trade show malfunction or preparing for something in the near-future? Shoot your tradeshow questions to Rebecca@Tri-LineMarketing.com and we’ll answer you directly or in an upcoming blog post.

Breaking a Bad Biz Habit (in front of a LIVE audience)

Find yourself sporting an obnoxious habit? The pesky (or even downright rude) mannerism in others that drives you crazy jumps into utter abhorrence when you catch yourself doing it.

Unbearable habits may be a talking mouth (full of food), callous commands to waitstaff, or the maniacal clicking of a pen.

When you’re a business owner, the line between personal and professional is thin and I’m arguing there’s no room for unbearable habits.

As entrepreneurs observing and owning a rude habit in ourselves carries even more weight because the “what ifs” appear magnified. Flaws mess with our livelihood: causing us to lose leads, lose contracts, lose referrals. All the lifeblood of your organization’s success.

So what’s an entrepreneur to do when she realizes she’s got an Unbearable Habit in full effect?

BrokenChain

I decided to break it in front of a brand-new audience. Live.

Let me explain.

Three days ago I admitted to myself I’ve developed the nasty habit of cutting people off in conversation.

My not-listening has been chronic. I was ready to fully face it.

Where I used to go to the place of self-scolding and berating, I’ve finally learned that it’s okay to be embarrassed, but the important thing is how it gets fixed.

Like the other habits I mentioned above, my habit of interrupting is a result of impatience. It’s me. Putting myself ahead of someone else in the conversation line. Because why? Because I’m special? Because I’m smart?

Gag.

And egad.

Egads not just because of the personal implications of losing the privilege of people opening up and conversing with me. Egads because in my profession, as a marketer, I fundamentally must listen to everything in order to hear what’s really being said, and what’s not being said.

How I Broke the Unbearable Habit

In an effort to shock myself into stopping the unbearable habit of interrupting, I walked into a workshop I was supposed to facilitate with one goal in mind: I was not allowed to assume I knew what was going to come out of the mouths of participants.

No premonition. No predicting. My work was to be honest with what I did know (and what I was hired to cover), to show up, to ask questions and then to shut my trap. Listen for whatever miracles or messes that might emerge.

Unattaching from the Unbearable

Going in and un-wrapping myself from managing the conversation was about as comfortable as sitting in a nearby raft watching the Titanic sink.

I walked into a tense meeting room. I could absolutely tell that a lot had been unearthed seconds before I walked in the room and was still being processed by attendees. The facilitator reiterated my suspicions (kudos to her!).

My first (nearly uncontrollable) urge was to say something, anything, to fix the room. To use humor. Of the self-depricating variety, to distract or gloss over something I had no real understanding of.

But rather than give in, I simply introduced myself and took a seat. All placid and calm face-like.

Under the table, I was digging my thumbnail into my index finger, commanding myself to simply sit quietly and listen for the spoken and the unspoken.

My brain screamed “FIX THIS! THEY BROUGHT YOU IN TO FIX THIS!”.

And as much as I wanted to obey the order to fix, I was actually brought in to talk about marketing. Not fix anything else.
Plus if I’d followed the order, I wouldn’t be holding to my goal of not-assuming.

As the workshop lurched forward, the attendees spoke with honesty about marketing. Describing it with words like “coercion”, “manipulation” and “feeling bad”.

Boy did I want to stop them. I wanted to tell them how their perception should be changed, and why, and manufacture results right then and there. The way that I done in a hundred other presentations.

Holding Steady

During the course of the evening all I did was listen. To the bad, the good, and the ugly. My mind was like an Etch-a-Sketch that started to predict where an attendee was heading with her line of talk. And like an Etch-a-Sketch I simply shook it to clear it and to again open up to whatever was said next.

As hard as it was to not predict or manage or smooth over the conversation, I realized that because I was more present, each participant stayed present.

They used one another and the group for management, following the cues of the person before them, and adding their own language about the project’s mission, vision, and what they wanted their end-goal to be.

They also did a tremendous job when their target market came in to the meeting for an initial round of market research.

While many of the questions to the target were leading, the participants were receptive when instead of cutting off or predicting, I let the questions float out and down to the table, reframing them slightly for the target market (more translation than interpretation).

By the end of the workshop, it was apparent that the concept of marketing was something the group were open to re-exploring, with renewed enthusiasm. The same end-goal I usually strive for. But this time it just happened.

Benefits of breaking the habit in front of an audience:

  • I didn’t have to force or manipulate the room into reaching that a-ha. They found it organically, and let their own honest truth and thoughts into the room. And I got to witness it.
  • I talked about 60% less last night than normal. And the same outcome came out. Even better because I didn’t manufacture it.
  • I didn’t have to think it through, didn’t have to manage, and didn’t have to force. And coming home after the workshop I had enough energy to write the first draft of this blog post – something very unusual for me.

Breaking the unbearable habit is going to take ongoing practice, but by practicing bold breaking it in a very public environment is something I know gave me a strong head-start.

What’d you think? Are there any habits you’re breaking? Do you have any creative solutions? I’d love to know.
-RTB

Attentive Space – what is it (and are you giving it to your customers)?

If you stand at your local craft store, as I was doing last Sunday, you’ll witness the pull-down, put-back of product — reflective of people thinking about starting projects. Pot holders kits. Holiday wreaths. Candy molds.

Here they are, in a store (a store, mind you, is by definition a physical place to get sales) evaluating something new. Evaluating whether the new thing will fit into their current (or future) reality. Several people walked away empty-handed.

Does the person behind the counter panic when someone walks away without making a purchase? Do they loathe themselves?

Nope. They ask the customer if they need help, but oftentimes the customer is “just looking” — they’re gathering information around whether (or not) they’re ready to take on something new. It takes a ton of effort to start something new.

If the customer isn’t ready, they let the customer leave. Thanking them to come in.

When and How to Give (Attentive) Space

As you look at your customers coming to you, give them what I call Attentive Space: the freedom to “just look” around and ponder. Customers will do this whether or not you give them the space. They’re going through a complex decision making process of whether they want to start a project – projects that may involve you or your offering.

People likely “just look” by reading your website, your blog, or by looking (or picking up products) at your store or booth at a trade-show or table at a craft fair. All the while, they’re evaluating whether or not you’ll fit into their current reality, and their desired reality.

When and How to Inquire

It’s normal to provide the opportunity for interaction via a contact page.

But if you really want to know if you can help, make sure that your contact page truly reflects the fact that you care (and will get back to them!). There’s little more ridiculous than a contact page that’s neglected and boring… when all of the other parts of a site are well developed. It’s like asking “How can we help?” and walking away, directly, before the customer can form a sentence.

Process, Interrupted

During this time, they’re also being interrupted. At my local craft store, interruptions looked like tugging children, buzzing phones, and the obnoxious overhead PA announcements.

Your customers have emails, text messages, and calls arriving. They may be waiting for their turn in line at the DMV and you’re actually a distraction in someone else’s transaction.

Bottom Line
Your customer has a process and even when they show up a the place of conversion, they may still not be ready to buy. No one runs around with their credit card above their head, ready to swipe. They’re gathering information and we want to give them the Attentive Space to learn. They’ll thank you for it.

Easily fill your next workshop

Do you ever go to events? To get out of your rut? To learn something new? To meet like-minded people who pep you up and help you spiral upward?

It’s pretty common for entrepreneurs to see the benefits above, and it doesn’t take much time until they want to host an event or workshop to generate new leads. Business owners I meet often have workshops or events on their list of things “I should be doing” for their business.

And absolutely, they can be great avenues for exposure.

If you’ve never hosted a workshop before, or if it’s been a while since your last one, the surprising fact you may not know is that it’s way easier to come up with content than it is to fill the room.

No matter how interesting your topic, you can expect to get about one percent of people who see your free event in a general listing service (in San Diego that’s the SD Reader, the Union Tribune, Craigslist) to sign-up. And 2/3 of those who sign up for a free event don’t show up.

That’s the effectiveness of cold advertisements: .0033% chance you’ll get someone in the door. Or let’s put that another way: you need to guarantee that 10k people to see your event for 33 people to show up. For a FREE event that you’re trying to advertise yourself.

Don’t give up on this tactic, instead find creative ways to have someone else help you fill the room.

Partner with Someone who has a Mouthpiece

Invest in a local organization and after committing to volunteering and getting to know their operation, ask if they’d be comfortable co-creating and co-promoting a topic for you to teach.

Partner with Someone with a Space

Additionally, if there’s a location where your target congregates, consider partnering with them. Learn how you can help educate the bodies they already attract, adding value to their mission, along with gaining experience.

In each of these potential opportunities, you’ll want to make that their audience is has enough similarities to your target market.

To go to a bunch of effort to partner with a local library may not provide you with the audience who is likeliest to buy, as there is a fine line between making compromises with an organization with a qualified audience and talking for free to people who have no need or ability to buy.

Approach these events with a willingness to start at the beginning – we are drawn to restaurant moguls who started out as the dishwasher, right?  So know that sometimes being at an intro event is exactly where we have to start.

The cool thing is that opportunities unfold quickly once our presentation skills are tested and ready and we’re out there in front of people.

Before you EVER work with a marketer, make sure they ask you the RIGHT questions.

There are legions of business marketing companies perched to work with entrepreneurs.

You’ve probably felt it: for any business marketing need you have, a search on Google will provide you with a litany of marketing companies eager to provide a solution.

This is one of the beauties of capitalism. Variety.

As an entrepreneur, maybe you sought a marketing company out, received referrals, or maybe they found their way to your front door (or inbox).

And it’s my hope that you received a great match AND great results.

But sometimes (unfortunately, all too often), things don’t quite work out the way you’d hoped.

With three decades in the small business marketing arena, I think I figured it out.
The simple reason business marketing companies fall short for entrepreneurs is that
they don’t take the time to pre-qualify clients.

Why is Pre-Qualifying Important?

  • Pre-qualifying clients makes amazing business sense, as it’s the foundation of building a relationship (something proven to be the most profitable way to market).
  • Pre-qualifying gives both the marketing company and the entrepreneurs a moment of space to ask important questions, see the whole picture and agree on the best solution/next steps.
  • Pre-qualifying occurs in nearly every business.  Without pre-qualifying, a personal trainer would have you do push-ups without knowing about your back injury.  A contractor would bulldoze your home, not knowing you only wanted a room addition.  The person working behind the counter at your local sandwich shop would put mayo on your sandwich, unaware that you despise mayo.

Pre-qualifying is especially important when tailored solutions are needed.  And most challenges for small business aren’t solved by “set-it-and-forget-it” tools.

Pre-qualifying is about research, investigating, and most of all, listening.

These things take time, and in the rush-rush marketing world, many business marketing companies don’t have time.

They’ve built a business where it’s more efficient (i.e. less expensive) to run on assumptions.

How many times have you worked with someone who ran on assumptions?  How many times have you made assumptions, thinking it’d be easier than listening?  And in both scenarios, how many times have you had to go back and fix the errors?  (Example: this is the reason it’s taken 4 years to finish my backyard.)

You can see the perfect storm brewing: a marketing company running on overload (and assumptions), and an entrepreneur who doesn’t know what “right questions” they should be asked by the marketing company.

Maybe you were caught in the aftermath of a storm like that.

Feeling bewildered or confused, a little wary and off-course.

What Questions should a business marketing company be asking me?
(AKA How to know if I’m being appropriately pre-qualified)

Depending on what they offer, a marketing company should ask you some mix of the following things:

  • What are your goals?
  • What have you tried in the past that’s worked?  What have you tried in the past that hasn’t worked?
  • What else are you doing right now, and how is it working?
  • What kind of resources do you have (time, money, energy) to devote to your marketing?
  • What length of time do you have to devote to this facet marketing?  Do you anticipate a quick win, or will your goals take some time to reach?
  • When they ask you these questions, here’s what they should really be listening for:
  • What are your goals?

They should be listening to hear what you want to happen for your business’s marketing and sales.  They should piece together an idea if you’re on the same page philosophically.
What have you tried in the past that’s worked?  What have you tried in the past that hasn’t worked?

This question gives them a bit of your history.  They should be listening to hear about the lessons you’ve already learned, along with your experience with your target market.

What else are you doing right now, and how is it working?

This question is CRUCIAL.  If they don’t ask this, RUN (don’t walk) away.  They need to be respectful of what you’re currently doing and have a very clear understanding of the landscape they are walking towards.

What kind of resources do you have (time, money, energy) to devote to your marketing?

Sure, this might feel uncomfortable for everyone, but this is the only way to understand if you’re looking for a hands-off solution, a hands-on solution, or something in the middle.  This also makes sure that you’re not overlooking some strength you’re carrying in your back pocket that you could fully utilize yourself.

What length of time do you have to devote to this facet marketing?  Do you anticipate a quick win, or will your goals take some time to reach?

The basis of this question is are you looking for a one-time event or an ongoing relationship with the marketing company.
And as you start becoming more aware of this type of questioning, you’ll be inspired to bring your best questions to the table.
While sometimes some of the pre-qualifying is done online by the marketing company, in advance of your meeting.  Sometimes their sales pages will support this process.

But know that as a business owner, it’s in your best interest to ensure that a marketing company is asking you the right questions, listening to your answers and doing due diligence on their end to make sure their product or service really is the best fit for your business based on your goals, target market, history and resources.

Because it’s you’re responsibility to steer the course of your ship and not let anyone, now matter how smart they are or how polished their tools, take the helm.

Knowing you’re being intelligently interviewed and pre-qualified is a great beginning step to ensuring you’re on the path towards marketing success.

Want easier sales? Quit ‘giving it away’ in this one crucial part of your process.

I have a brilliant client who estimated she gave leads six times more attention than what was average in her industry.

SIX times.

When it came to converting leads into clients, she over-delivered in every way you could possibly imagine: from information-packed presentations to laser-targeted follow-up, and incredible, hand-curated research for potential clients.

Yet her phone was quiet. And try as she might, she was converting at an astonishingly low rate.

We operate under the myth that if we go the extra mile, we’ll win the contract, secure the client, make the sale.

Yet, there’s something fundamentally flawed with over-delivering your valuable knowledge in the pre-sale.

The pre-sale process should be about analyzing the needs of your potential client and seeing if you’re a fit. That’s right: it’s about you thinking on behalf of them and being decisive.

Its marketing’s job to convey your value so that you don’t feel the need to ‘prove’ anything during the interactions with the lead.

I suggested to my client to consider giving less in the pre-sale process.

She said it sounded stingy. Penny-pinching. Miserly.

I get it. She wanted to give leads her all, in order to set the stage with a spirit of generosity. But her dismal conversion rate was showing the all she was giving was too much of the wrong stuff.

Leads walk away over-whelmed and under-served. The business owner walks away tired and confused.

It’s inefficient to use your time with your lead proving your smarts. No one pays a professor.

Rather than striving to prove your value via a knowledge fest, save your over-delivery for when they hire you.

So we simply channeled her efforts.

Instead of proving credibility during the valuable sit-down time with a potential client, prove it via marketing.

Because your marketing can speak to many (while you’re doing your work, delighting your clients, and taking action on opportunities).

With this client, adding well-written testimonials and beefing up referral relationships were two solutions.

The sales process, then, became about identifying needs, helping her lead identify their challenges and then offering up tailored solutions.

Her conversion rates have since soared and she’s no longer running herself ragged with nothing to show for it.

What my client felt at first pass was stingy, she now understands is economical.  There’s only one of her (that’s not going to change) and we’ve re-distributed her delivery efforts efficiently.

She’s now delivering in a way that’s appropriate for her leads’ knowledge level and is palatable, meaning her lead identifies their need much more effectively (with my client at their side, naturally).

Unsolicited Generosity, Trades from Hell, and Dealing with Bartering

When I was a new-ish business owner, I’d be approached by people (largely people I met at networking events) who’d want to work with me… and they’d want to do a trade.

Why not?, I reasoned. They seemed nice. I wanted the experience. Plus, I thought, maybe they’ll refer me.

The absolute worst experience, though, was with a woman named Wanda.

I’m not sure how it happened. Walking into our meeting, I was under the impression she wanted to learn more about my services. A precious hour and a half later, I walked away being booked to work with her, in exchange for her service. A service I didn’t want or need.

Caution: chance of trade ahead

I was gobsmacked.

I’d been hoodwinked! I’d been had!

I was LIVID. And too scared to do anything about it.

Days later I realized what happened: Wanda offered her service and she was so nice that I felt like if I didn’t accept, I’d risk being insulting and unappreciative.

So I reciprocated.

And it was painful.

All Work is Not Equal

Delivering the services were painful. She wasn’t my right person and we weren’t having the level progress that I normally see with clients.

Again, I was reminded, that committing myself to some one who obviously wasn’t a “fit” with my approach was painful.

Plus it was exhausting.

If your work involves prep time, drive time, re-caps and client communication, you’re ‘trading’ that ON TOP OF the actual interaction. And it’s a sunk cost.

Trades are a time investment in which you cannot do anything else, including generating revenue from paying clients.

As our trade progressed, I began to question my competence (and my sanity).

Halfway through this trade, it dawned on me:

Generosity is a two-way street. To be true generosity a trade needs to be received in the spirit in which it was given.

Someone who doesn’t want what you’re offering but takes it anyway isn’t receiving your generosity.  And you cannot accept someone’s generosity if you don’t want to take it wholeheartedly.

I quickly learned that when it comes to trades, low-investment meant low return.

The whole shebang with Wanda felt like an exercise in white-knuckling and contorting.  I didn’t feel my work was valued. And I didn’t value Wanda’s services, which made me judge myself as unappreciative.

If there isn’t an equal value of services, fundamentally, no one will be doing their best work.

And here’s the kicker: if you’re not doing your best work, you’re not going to be referred the way you want.

I white-knuckled through my time with Wanda. One result from our interaction is that I’ve learned to set strong(er) boundaries.

I’ve learned to put the brakes on my knee-jerk reaction to generosity.

Accepting and reciprocating are no longer my only options.

It’s as simple as preparing for the possibility and taking a breath after the moment someone makes the suggestion.

I’ve practice saying the following with a smile: “I find that trades can get messy, I’d like to avoid any hassle and figure out a better solution. How about…”.

What about you? How have trades served you and where do you steer clear?

From agencies to interns, choose the RIGHT marketing for your small business

I recently got the following question in my inbox:

Q: How does a small business decide when to hire a marketing firm on a part time basis? Full time? Or hire an employee with a marketing degree?

A: When a small business starts to look for outside help, the possibilities seem limitless and the potential costs can appear both over-whelming and uncapped. You’re smart to take a few moments to weigh your options and get more information.

I’m a fan of keeping marketing in-house for as long as it makes sense because you can control, learn, and grow on your terms.

The question is, when does it stop making sense to keep your marketing in-house?

When a small business is looking at outside help, it’s usually for one of three pivot points:

marketing pivot points

  1. Whatever we’re currently doing isn’t working… maybe someone else knows better.
  2. Our marketing worked for where our business was in the past, the trouble is, we’ve outgrown it and need something to take us to the next level. But we’re not sure what.
  3. We are way too busy serving customers and being profitable and we know marketing is important – we just don’t have the bandwidth to stay ontop of it.

Marketing Pivot Point #1: Whatever we’re currently doing isn’t working… maybe someone else knows better.

If your company is in the “whatever they’re currently doing isn’t working… maybe someone else knows better” stage, then it’s time to get a new perspective.

If it’s an issue around a specific tactic, then you may find yourself working directly with a graphic designer, developer, or copywriter.

If you’re looking for tools to be created, you’re not happy with your current flier or business card, website, you’ll be working with a professional who specializes in that specifc tactic.

However if it’s more strategic – if your answer to “what isn’t working” is either “everything” or “I don’t know” then I recommend you meet with someone trusted who can help you untangle what really is the current situation from a strategic standpoint, not from a tactic standpoint.

I’m a strategist (so that’s what I do best) and there are many flavors marketing consultants can also help you decide where you are and what the real challenges are.

It’s important that whomever is helping you with perspective and strategy is asking the questions to help you determine whether what you have on your hands is a marketing challenge, sales challenge, or a process challenge.

A challenge with people not understanding what you do is different that someone not understanding how to buy from you or how to buy from you in the future.

Once you’re clear on the challenge, you’ll want to be smart in building a solution – the solution can likely come from in-house, if you have the talent, or from independent contractors who help you create the pieces. Sometimes your consultant can oversee this. Together you develop a few key systems or pieces to help solve the problem efficiently, getting you to the next level of business – a correlation between your marketing and sales.

Rarely would I recommend an agency at this stage because costs are high and control is low. At this point, you want low costs and high control so that you’re able to efficiently oversee your own process.

Marketing Pivot Point #2: Our marketing worked for where our business was in the past, the trouble is, we’ve outgrown it and need something to take us to the next level. But we’re not sure what.

First, congratulations on getting to this point! It’s not always ever easy.

If you’ve outgrown your marketing and need new pieces developed, you may want to return to who helped you get here before.They already know you and you save time in ramp-up.

If you weren’t happy with them, ask for referrals for a strategist or consultant who can help you outline what is next in your marketing. If you’re looking for a referral, you’re welcome to contact me directly and we’ll see what we can find for you.

If ongoing marketing support is needed – for instance, you’ve correlated that Google AdWords is an important part of your business (aka it works for you), then you will probably still find it less expensive to hire someone indepdent to oversee the process and report back to you.

However, if you have seven or eight of these independent people working for you, it may be time to start looking at bringing in a part-time person to oversee your marketing.

The challenge here is finding a someone who has the individual talents of the different providers at a price point you can manage. Usually, I find what can be taught to a part-time person and pay the provider to train them so that the skill set is now in-house.

I’ve trained in-house marketing coordinators to think strategically, so there’s no limit to what the right candidate can be taught.

Marketing Pivot Point  #3: We are way too busy serving customers and being profitable and we know marketing is important – we just don’t have the bandwidth to stay on top of it.

When this is your challenge, it may be time to get help with making your process become more efficient and the first step is often deciding whether to make your part time person into a full time person or to go with an agency.

Agencies are wonderful options for companies who have more important (and profitable) work to do than run their marketing.

The brilliant shift in today’s world is that there are different types of agencies for different budgets, usually that involves a flat-rate retainer fee for a certain number of service hours, with you paying for any analog (paper) or digital materials developed, or specific services outside of the scope of the retainer.

If you have questions on this process, or are looking for some help navigating, definitely reach out – you’re welcome to schedule a chat with me and we can outline what’s needed, what’s next, and what’s unnessciary for where you are today.

Have a marketing question? Send it to me straightaway on the website or send it to me Rebecca@Tri-LineMarketing.com