At 65 years of age, Colonel Sanders received his first social security cheque of $99. He was broke, owned a small house and a beat up car. He made a decision that things had to change. His friends used to like his chicken recipe very much. The fact that this was the only novel idea he had, he decided to act upon it.
He left Kentucky and started his travels to different US states to sell his idea. He would tell restaurant owners that he had a chicken recipe which people liked and he was ready to give it to them for free, in return for a small percentage on the items sold. He got rejections after rejections, but did not give up. In fact, he got over 1000 rejections.
He got 1009 NO’s before he got his first Yes. With that one success Colonel Hartland Sanders changed the eating habits of the whole world with Kentucky Fried Chicken, popularly known as KFC.
(This story comes care of yourstory.com)
It is National Storytelling Week. So my question to you is: what is your business story? By business story, I mean the reason your business exists, how you got started or why you got started. It's the storyline that underpins your brand and your mission.
Everyone has a reason why they started up their business. Some admittedly are more exciting than others. But even if you don't have a very exciting business back story, there are things you can do to transform it into something more memorable.
Before we get into how to come up with a good business story, let's look at why you even need one:
So how do you come up with a good business story? Answer these questions:
Why did you start your business?
Think beyond simply needing to make a living.
What was your background?
Imagine being at a dinner party and someone asks about your life.
Have you had to overcome something significant, experienced a tragedy or hit a major milestone?
Everyone loves a story about people who've hit rock bottom and had to climb there way back up. But you don't have to have hit rock bottom, you may just have had something happen that affected your status quo that led to you starting a business.
For example, an previous client of mine got the idea for her baby and toddler friendly travel company after her 2 year old fell into an unenclosed pool while they were on holiday.
Have you had a light bulb moment or chance opportunity?
Some of our best ideas happen when we're busy making other plans. For example, when I was weaning my baby, I decided to make baby food for a living. While researching the market, I came across a baby food company I'd not heard of. I got hold of them and suggested they could do a better job marketing to mums. They hired me. I went on to set up a PR business helping companies in the parenting sector. That became my business story.
Have you got a terrific customer story you can tell?
Perhaps your business started up because you had a client that you helped and off the back of that awesome work, you set up an entire business. Like I did, with the baby food company.
There are plenty of ways you can tell your story if you think creatively. But what if you just don't have a story?
Sometimes we start up businesses for two very simple reasons: it's what we can do and we need to earn a living. You don't have a brainwave. You don't overcome some tragedy. You don't have to overcome any insurmountable obstacles. In fact, let's make up a story based on the truth behind many small businesses:
Penny - in her 30s - had a nice, normal childhood growing up in the midlands. She had no major family issues and no health scares. She went to college and got a book keeping diploma. She began working at a local business in her home town. In her spare time, she cycled and enjoyed a glass of wine and a chat with her friends. She's just a friendly, bubbly person who is happy to help others. She met a nice bloke, got married and had kids. They're all fine too. Her husband earned a good salary as a manager at a local IT company. They realised that someone needed to be at home with the kids while they were little, and as her husband earned more, Penny decided to stay at home. She volunteered at the pre-school by acting as treasurer and did a little bit of book keeping work now and then for extra cash. She still cycled when she got the chance.
Once her kids go to school, she decides to set herself up as a freelance book keeper so that she can still be there for the kids when they get home but she can actually start to earn some money. She has a think about who might need her services and decides to target the small to mid-size businesses near her. Now she's stuck. She doesn't have a big vision. She doesn't really want to set fire to the world and create a bookkeeping empire. She doesn't have a burning desire to transform the bookkeeping world. She just wants a steady stream of paying customers. How does she market herself? How can she create compelling marketing based on her story? She has nothing to say that makes a good story. Right?
Here's what Penny might do:
How to craft the story
Once you have the nub of your story figured out, it's a case of sitting down and writing it.
No matter who you are, you can craft a story and a brand that reflects the true you and will attract your ideal clients. If you want help telling your story, get in touch. I offer a clarity and / or copywriting packages that will help you get to the heart of your story.
I'd love to hear your story. Share it in the comments below or over on the Campfire Club on Facebook.
I often hear small business owners say: 'I spend so much time marketing my business but it doesn't seem to do anything. I still don't have enough business.'
That could be because they're marketing in the wrong place, to the wrong people, or using the wrong messages and attention grabbing stories. Or they could be too tactical. They see an opportunity and think,' Heck I need to do something for that!' and they cobble something half-heartedly together at the last minute. Funnily enough, it doesn't work. I speak from experience here. I have often seen last minute opportunities (which I could have planned for) and pulled something together at the last minute and lo and behold, tumbleweeds.
For other small business owners, they know that they need to put out regular content but they are stumped as to what they should say. They are all out of creative ideas.
What they need is a strategic plan. And that's not as scary as it sounds. It simply means thinking more carefully about where you want your business to go, who you're trying to reach and how you can help them - and then making sure that whatever marketing you are doing, supports that.
Which is why I will be running an hour-long workshop on Wednesday 17 January at 10am to help you get strategic and focused in your marketing to help your business grow. It will cover:
You will also get (if you haven't already got it) my free content calendar that plots out all the major events, initiatives, awareness days, anniversaries and more throughout 2018. It comes in a pretty to look at version and an easy to print one. PLUS you get my free plan template, which we will use as the workbook for this workshop.
You will leave with a clear sense of where you should be heading. More than that, you will be able to confidently cut out a bunch of stuff you're currently doing if it isn't moving your business forward. Less work with better results. And did I mention that you'll be buzzing with ideas that you hadn't thought of before?
I'd love to have you join me. The cost is just $35 (£25 approximately) which is nothing for an hour of training, advice and super useful documents that go along with it.
If you're a parent, summer holidays have either started or will be soon. Even if you're not, summer is typically a quieter time for businesses as everyone heads off to the beach or drinks their bodyweight in Pimms while burning sausages on a bbq.
This quieter period is a brilliant time to catch up on the big projects you've been planning on doing but haven't had the chance to get to yet. Things like giving your website a makeover, or changing your business direction, plotting out new products or services, creating new marketing campaigns or comms plans for the rest of the year.
While others are sunbathing, you can be plotting out the rest of the year so that come September you are ready to roll!
Some ideas to use the quieter weeks well:
Here's how I can help you over this period:
Clarity - if you want to change your business in any way, whether that's new packages, new clients, an entirely new direction, new messages, I can help you get the clarity you need. I recently helped Juliet, a coach, restructure her packages. This is what she had to say:
"I just wanted to say that I've had time to go through the summary doc in detail and love all the ideas, the ones we discussed and the new ones. And the angles you've suggested for the copy. I'm now in the process of restructuring my services and creating new material. Argh so much to do, but it's fun too and am feeling a lot more positive about the future of the business."
Copy - if you need fresh copy for your website or any of your marketing materials - perhaps a job lot of blog posts or newsletter content for the next few months, I can write this for you. You can lie on the beach while I take care of the words you just can't seem to find. Return to a heap of new content all done for you. Here's how I helped a nutritionist, a new product and a life coach find the words they needed.
Communication - if you are finding it hard to come up with regular marketing updates, I can help you either with one-on-one coaching, or by spending an intensive day with you planning, brainstorming and training, or by writing you a communications plan that you can roll out. Here's what a producer of babywear said after I had a one-on-one strategy day and wrote her comms plan:
"I found the session very useful and feel like you managed to put into words what the brand stands for. I also think we nailed who the target consumer is. Thanks so much for the comms plan and for all your work – looks very comprehensive! I will start reading this evening – excited to get started with it!"
Publicity - a quiet period is also a good time to learn a new skill. So whether you want to spend just £49 and 75 minutes listening to my PR Masterclass on how to get in the press fast, or you want to get an in depth understanding of how to get in the media on an ongoing basis with my Publicity for Solopreneurs course, use the time wisely! I also have a PR Firestarter Kit that gives you the tools to get your story out to the press with minimal effort. Summer is quiet for media too and they are always on the hunt for good stories. Use the lull to get fabulous publicity.
I also have kids on holidays so will have less time available to me so get in touch ASAP if you want my help with any of this before I get booked up. Email me.
I want to tell you a tale of two brands - and my experiences with them - that will explain why some brands can charge a premium. It also shows why some brands are better loved than others and what you can do to improve yours.
Like many busy working mums, I order my food shop online. Contrary to what my children believe, food shopping is not a task that I relish. It is tedious. Not least because you have to do it week after week after week (it's so annoying how everyone keeps needing to be fed, right?) Which is why anything that can make the experience easier will be appreciated.
I have used Ocado for years because they were the first company to deliver to where I used to live. And because I had all my favourite foods saved in the system, it was easier for me to keep going back to them.
However, Ocado has two problems. First, if you forget to order your food until the evening, it's unlikely you'll manage to get a delivery slot for the next day - unless you're prepared to wait until 10pm at night. Second, it is more expensive despite claiming to price match. I've been prepared to pay the premium though thanks to the convenience and the fact that they guarantee the food life, rather than giving you a bunch of stuff that is about to go off the day it is delivered (glares at Tesco and Morrisons....).
This week I decided to try Sainsburys online as I'd left it too late to get an Ocado delivery and even my ready steady cook abilities were being challenged (there's only so much you can do with half a bag of cous cous and some baked beans.) As I regularly shop an in store Sainburys and as I have a Nectar card that tracks all my shopping purchases, all of my favourites should be stored in Sainsbury's system. And Sainsburys has a new tool that allows you to import your favourites from another online shopping site. All of which should make it easy. Right?
Except that using the Sainsbury's site is difficult. It's hard to navigate to find the things I want. It's just not intuitive. And once you have things in your trolley and you want an overview of what you've got, it's difficult to get a single view to check what you're missing. If you want to add or delete something in your trolley, the page reloads after each addition, meaning that you have to scroll down to where you were in your list again. You lose your place and it takes an age. As a result, I ended up with two jars of honey and no bread in this week's shop.
But it's not just the IT user interface that is less pleasant with Sainsburys. When you order from Ocado, you get a cheeky text message reminding you that Bob in the Onion van will be with you in the next hour. Just that little message personalises the experience. And when Bob in his onion van arrives, he is smiling and helpful, taking the bags out of the crates, offering to carry them in for you or at least handing them to you. Then he'll ask whether you want to return any shopping bags and will give you a cheery goodbye.
Contrast that with Sainsburys. No text or reminder that anyone is coming. No personalisation. When the unnamed delivery guy arrived he had the crates stacked outside the door and stood back and watched as I wrangled the bags free, even though he could have started to ready the next set of bags as I carried a load into the kitchen. He didn't offer to take old bags and wasn't particularly friendly.
After an Ocado shop, I feel a tiny bit of joy, that hard to name feeling that comes from a pleasant experience and a sense that the world is a friendly place. After the Sainsburys shop, I felt 'meh', just another job ticked off my to do list.
My point is this: A brand isn't what your logo or colour scheme says it is. Your brand is everything that you do - from user experience, to tone of voice use, to quirky additions to friendliness of customer service. And, the easier you make it for people to buy from you, the more likely they are to do it.
If Sainsburys polished up its customer service, made it's online shopping experience more user friendly and added a few clever marketing twists, I'd use it as it's cheaper and it's easier to get a delivery. Hey Sainsburys, I've got some ideas for you if you want them!
You don't need to be a giant supermarket chain to implement ideas that build brand loyalty. Even if you're a solopreneur, if you are battling to differentiate your brand from multiple other similar offerings out there, take a look at the little things you could change to delight your customers and to make it easier for them to work with you. Even a little change could make a huge difference.
If you fancy brainstorming ideas with someone to get clarity on how to differentiate your brand, book my Campfire Clarity session. To make it super easy for you, click HERE to find out more about it or click HERE to email me to set up a free 15 minute campfire chat to find out whether I am really what you need before you commit to buy.
When I started Campfire Communications, I didn't have a big plan or vision for what I wanted it to be. I didn't really know what it stood for. I knew that I wanted to help small business owners tell their stories better. I knew I was good at doing this. And I knew that campfires where a good place to tell stories. So I combined all of that, wrote some web copy, came up with some service packages and started marketing it.
Over time, it's changed and evolved, and I've spent more time thinking about what my business really stands for. And that question is bigger than just 'what problem am I solving'. It's: what do I believe in? What is important to me? What are my values?
And for me it comes down to freedom. I do what I do because I like the freedom to work the way I want to work. And I want to help other people have the same freedom. That could be freedom from a stifling job, a mean boss, financial hardship, having to stay in a crappy relationship because you can't afford to leave, to having the freedom to watch your kids grow up or spend time doing things you love. I realised that I want to help people create businesses that give them the freedom to do all of these things. And while I can't do it all for them, by helping them find, craft and share their stories, I am helping to set them on the path to freedom and living a life they love.
So what does my business stand for? Freedom. How do I demonstrate that? By the very way I work, what I wear, where I work, how I am flexible with clients, the results I get for them and how I'll go out of my way to help them and others even if they're not paying clients.
Here's a far bigger example of a company that doesn't just say what it stands for, it has evolved and is living it. And frankly, I applaud it.
Back in 2014, Airbnb went through a rebrand after having a rethink about what it really stood for. Here's how they described it:
In 2007, Joe and I opened our home up to the first Airbnb guests. They booked a place to stay, but they ended up with something more than just an airbed at a slightly messy apartment. They learned our favorite places to grab coffee, ate the best tacos in the city, and had friends to hang out with whenever they wanted. They were thousands of miles from where they lived, and yet they felt right at home. What started as a way for a few friends to pay the rent has now transformed into something bigger and more meaningful than we ever imagined. And what we realized is that the Airbnb community has outgrown the original Airbnb brand. So Joe, Nate, and I did some soul-searching over the last year. We asked ourselves, “What is our mission? What is the big idea that truly defines Airbnb?” It turns out the answer was right in front of us. For so long, people thought Airbnb was about renting houses. But really, we’re about home. You see, a house is just a space, but a home is where you belong. And what makes this global community so special is that for the very first time, you can belong anywhere. That is the idea at the core of our company: belonging.
They introduced a new logo, which they called the Belo, with the intention that it becomes a recognised symbol that represents belonging. The video below explains it.
Three years on, Airbnb has grown massively. It has had to balance this growth while maintaining its purpose-driven ethos and sense of belonging. Everything it puts out reflects its mission, its values and what it stands for. Its most recent Super Bowl ad is another example of how it is tapping into current issues facing the world and wrapping its story into it.
When you land on Airbnb's home page, this is what you see first thing:
Their mission right up front, not tucked away on an About Us page. They could have said: We let out rooms around the world. Instead it is leading with its mission statement. By having a clear vision, Airbnb has a consistent message and story. And this has led to its phenomenal growth.
So my question to you is: What does your business stand for? What is your mission? How is it reflected in your web copy, your marketing and your actions?
As a small business, you may not have the budget to create clever logos or worldwide brand relaunches like Airbnb did. But you can run a purpose-driven business, where your values and beliefs stand front and centre in all you do. People talk about 'authenticity' a great deal. But something is only authentic when you really and truly believe it yourself.
What do you believe in and how are you letting your customers know that? Feel free to share it in the comments below.
If you want help getting clarity on what your vision, mission, values, beliefs and direction your business should have, get my free Campfire Clarity workbook, or book a Clarity Session with me.
Before I start - if you're a scroll to the bottom type person and just want the immediate answer - I'll save you the scrolling hassle. Here's the link you need to click to get the help you need to create an online course.
For the rest of you, let's continue:
Earning passive income is the holy grail for many entrepreneurs. Selling what you know as an online course instead of trading your time for money has huge appeal. You can literally earn money while you sleep.
But while there are countless internet marketers out there telling you how you can make 6 figures and live the dream, is it actually true? How hard is it? Are the numbers they're quoting turnover or profit?
I recently launched my online PR course - Publicity for Solopreneurs. It was a HUGE learning curve for me so I thought I would share what I did, what kind of results I got and some tips if you're thinking about doing this too. I am going to be revealing my actual numbers - not just of sales, but what it cost me to make the course - so that you get a very realistic idea of what's involved. SPOILER ALERT! It's not a 6 figure sum.
Why am I sharing all this confidential info?
Because I strive to be the exact opposite of all the fake success stories out there that leave mere mortals feeling like they're failures. Like air brushing photos to get rid of wrinkles, too many people air brush the truth from their launch success stories. So that's not going to happen here.
Ready? Let's do this.
How I got started
I knew that I wanted to earn passive income. I have a deep knowledge of how to do PR. I knew I wanted to create a course using that knowledge. But I didn't have a clue where to start.
In fact, I had created a course once before, hosted it on a rubbish platform and sold exactly one. (Incidentally, the one person who bought it went on to get amazing press coverage reaching half a million people off the back of it - so I knew what I was selling worked. I was just selling it wrong.)
I recognised that to do this properly I needed help from an expert. As chance would have it, I saw an ad for a free cheat sheet on how to create online courses. So I signed up.
That got me into David Siteman Garland's sales funnel for his course Create Awesome Online Courses (CAOC). A course about making a course. Ironic.
After watching his free video series, he seemed to know his stuff so I decided to take the plunge and buy his course even though it cost $997 (£659 at the time). Sometimes you just have to put your hand in your pocket and pay if you want results. Incidentally, the fact that his sales funnel was effective (it worked on me) and it's what he teaches you how to do too when you launch your course, gave me confidence that it was worth investing in.
Laying the foundations
The thing about buying a course, is that you actually have to do it. So I got stuck in because creating a course was my number one priority for 2016. I began in February by doing market research on what people really wanted when it came to publicity and getting in the press. In CAOC David tells you how to test whether your course idea is a good one and then how to name, price and position your course. It also outlines what type of course content works best and how to plan it all out before you get started.
When I had tried to do this on my own in the past, I skipped all three of these steps and just moved straight to step 4: creating the content.
If you are planning on selling a course, you really do need to do this work first to avoid being very sad down the line when no-one buys it.
In my previous course I thought I was ever so snazzy having some downloadable PDFs and even audio of me reading the PDFs. Sigh. That's because I had no idea how to create videos of my course materials. But I learnt how in the course. Here's what I invested in to make it happen:
Building a website
You may think that after creating all that course content that the hard work was done. But no. That is just the beginning. Now I had to figure out how to get the course online so that people can buy it and access it, without the rest of the world seeing it.
Again, CAOC explained exactly how to do that. There are several ways but I chose a platform that David and his team created (a clever upsell from him but one that was worth every penny). It taught me how to build a wordpress based course website including all the complicated bits like payment systems and membership plug ins. (Cost £330 - this is an annual fee).
Marketing and launching it
So now that you have your course finished and online, you think you can sit back and enjoy it right? Wrong. This is where the REALLY hard work starts. Yes seriously. With my previous course, I got to this point. I had made the course and stuck it on someone else's third party platform and then quietly said: 'Hey everyone, I've got a course. Come and buy it.'
And funnily enough, no-one did. Ok. One person did.
The trick is to build a list. In CAOC you are taught how to start building a list by having a freebie. You then need to keep talking to the people on your list to show them that you know what you're talking about (incidentally, you can be doing this in the background while you are doing all the previous steps).
Once you are ready to roll, you have to create a launch sequence with a series of videos, which then opens up the sales page, which then only stays open for a short period. David goes into all of this in his course.
I found this the hardest part. It requires you to automate your newsletter system and create opt in pages. It was at this point that I decided to outsource and get some technical help. It was money very well spent as it took my Virtual Assistant a few hours and it would have taken me weeks. So my costs for this were:
When I started this process I had 350 people on my mailing list that had been grown entirely organically. By the end I had 750 - so I managed to add 400 people. 750 is still a very small list size for a launch.
I was disappointed in my Facebook ad conversion and I think this is a really challenging area - but it's an area that is new to me so I need to keep tweaking and adjusting it moving forward.
Let's recap. So far I had spent £2600 roughly on getting this course live. Some of the costs - like Convertkit, Leadpages, Wistia, Screenflow and the microphone - I use for other elements of my business so it's slightly unfair to say that they are exclusively for this course, but without them, I couldn't have created the course so they are going into my costs.
I sold the course for an early bird price of £379. This was a ridiculously low price given the amount of content in the course but I wanted to ensure I had some sales. (According to CAOC, pricing low is a no no but I was scared to go too high. Notice the word scared - because launching a course is a scary business so you need to put your big girl pants on).
I sold 8. Total sales of £3032. Profit of £432.
Now given I had worked on this for 7 months, making £432 (which is less than what I charge for one day of my time) doesn't seem like a successful endeavour. Right? I felt like a big fat failure. And you might be thinking that creating a course is a stupid idea.
I went onto the private Facebook group for CAOC users and told them my tale and here is what I was told:
Professional online sellers who have been doing this for years typically get (at most) a 2 to 3% conversion from their mailing list. The fact that I sold 8 off my list of 750 means I had slightly more than 1% conversion, which for a first attempt is actually really good. I was also told by countless people in the group that their first launches achieved far lower sales. But they now make 6 and 7 figures, simply by tweaking and adjusting and learning. The trick: Don't give up. This is just the start.
Here's one example of the many, many comments I got in the Facebook group from fellow course creators:
And so that is what I plan on doing. I am continuing to follow the course advice on what to do once I've launched, how to create an evergreen sales funnel and how to provide excellent value to the people who did buy the course - all of which I am doing.
I have done the hard work. Now I have to rinse and repeat.
So if you are considering setting up an online course, here are my top tips:
I know many of my clients have heaps of knowledge, which they could sell as a course but they don't know how to. You could be a cake maker, a soap maker, an HR expert, a yoga instructor, an accountant, an excel expert, a child-care guru, a hypnotherapist, a B&B manager, a writer, a cleaner - whatever you do or know, you could turn that into money. And now you can learn how to do it.
Make 2017 the year you stop selling your time for money. It's time to grow!
If you have any questions at all about my experience of going through this, drop them in the comments below or ask over on my Facebook page.
PS - if you missed my Publicity for Solopreneurs course, hop over here to get my free guide and video series, plus access to the course.
A year ago I wrote this blog about the things I'd learned in my first year of business. Well this week heralds my second business anniversary. So I thought I'd share my learnings from year two. It could be summed up quite simply as -
Here are my learnings:
You have to be brave
In the last year I have launched a new service called Ignite, that took me into the world of design and website building, not my core skillset. I also launched an online course that dropped kicked me so far out of my comfort zone I could scarcely remember where I used to be. And I ran my first ever weekend-long retreat, something I had zero experience in doing. I spoke in front of 30 people. I raised my prices. I said no to clients I didn't want to work with.
All of these things took guts. But the old saying of you can't make an omelette unless you crack a few eggs is true. Doing new things is scary. Putting yourself out in front of others who may judge you is scary. Creating a product that you think will work but you won't really know until you try is scary. Raising your prices and saying no - both scary. In fact there is so much to be scared about it's a wonder any businesses ever thrive.
But I've learnt that you just have to try. If you fail, you've learnt something. And if you succeed, you've succeeded. So you can't ever really fail. You'll always get something out of it.
You have to believe in yourself
I have suffered from a lack of belief and low self-esteem for as long as I can remember. But this year, I decided to start off every day doing four things (as I wrote in this post). One day I literally sent myself a post card that said: I am enough. I stuck it on my office wall and every time one of those aforementioned scary things came up and the self doubt pixies starting pounding my brain, I'd say out loud: I am enough. And you know what? Gradually I started to believe it.
We all compare ourselves to others. It is exceptionally difficult not to. At my recent Campfire Retreat we all had to say one thing that was holding us back, and so many people around that campfire all said the same thing: We're not good enough.
Well sod that. We bloody well are. This has been a major turning point for me this year and while those pesky pixies still linger, I can ignore them more easily now.
You have to constantly learn
When you work in a big company, you get sent on all sorts of professional development courses. When you work on your own, you don't. It's up to you to keep on learning. Do you know what the best way to learn is? By doing.
This year I have learnt how to create a course from start to finish, including the complicated back end membership systems and payment thingies and building the website and how to market it using sales funnels and email automation. And that's just one new product of several I have created this year. To grow, you have to be willing to learn.
You have to outsource
Now I've just said you have to learn, but you also need to outsource. Sometimes other people are just better at stuff than you are. And if there is something that is going to take you weeks and weeks to do and not do well, then outsource it. This year I outsourced design, some website building, email automation & other tech bits to a VA, and my Facebook advertising. I can do all of these things - because I've learnt how. But I know that other people can do them better and I can learn from them as I go along, while freeing up my time.
You have to make connections
I don't really like networking, entering a room of people I don't know and trying to make conversation. But it is through networking that I met the person who helped me get my retreat off the ground. It helped me meet a designer who I could team up with on my Ignite package. And it's opened up a few speaking opportunities for me. I've also really worked hard at making connections with the press for my own business. As a result, I now have a lovely roster of press coverage and contacts I can turn to when I have a story.
Sure you can stay hiding away behind your screen, but I refer you to point one above. You have to be brave. Get yourself out there. Everyone else is feeling the same way. Just be yourself, be helpful rather than salesy and people will be drawn to you. You never know who you might meet and what direction it could take your business in.
You have to invest
When you first start out you try to spend as little money as possible a) because you don't have any and b) because what you're selling isn't proven yet so it's a bigger risk. But there will come a point where you need to invest, whether that's in outsourced help; paying for a course or training or coach of some kind; in a new website or Facebook advertising or whatever.
The old adage of 'you have to spend money to make money' is kinda true. You don't have to break the bank. But think carefully about the help you need and then invest in that. Keep an eye on your profitability but be prepared to make a loss or just break even at first. Remember, not everything you gain is monetary. Often it's the experience and learning that is where the real gain lies.
You have to keep refining your offer - but keep your brand story consistent
Two years in and I'm still reshaping what it is I actually offer. It is a work in progress. It probably always will be. But what has stayed true is my commitment to my brand story - the concept of the Campfire - the sense of adventure and freedom that comes with that. I'm getting clearer and clearer on my vision and purpose. It's evolving and stretching with me.
When Steve Jobs brought out the first iphone, do you think he decided not to because in the future there would be better versions? Nope. Same goes for your business. Just start. Refine and learn as you go. Tweak it. Sculpt it. Improve it. But do it.
You have to be true to you
It is so easy to get sucked into what everyone else is doing. In the online PR world, for example, almost all of my competitors are hugely feminine in their branding. Flat lay images and inspiring desk spaces with pretty flowers abound. But I'm not a pretty, pink, flowers and high heels person. I wear boots. And jeans and I like going outdoors and cutting to the chase. But the minute you try and copy someone else's style, you lose you. And YOU are what makes your business different and valuable. So figure out who you are and stick with that.
I'm sure there is a whole bunch more I have learnt this year but these are the things that came to mind first. All of them have stretched me. But the good thing about getting stretched (as my Yogabomb friend Lou will know), is you become more flexible, stronger, lean and supple. And that's the kind of business that succeeds.
Were these lessons helpful? What lessons have you learnt? Share them with me below or pop over to my Facebook page. And if you feel you need some help to get clear on where you want to take your business, do check out my new Clarity package, Copy & Canvas Package or try my new Campfire Marketing coach-sulting package.
Onwards! Here's to year 3.
You wake up. It's early. 5.30am. You should be sleeping but something nudged you from sleep to consciousness and your brain has fired straight into thinking mode. It starts with a simple, 'What do I have on today?' and within ten seconds, your mind is skipping through a field of worries, ideas and business related thoughts.
You should of course, shut your eyes, breathe deeply, focus on gratitude. But you don't. You pick up your phone or ipad and decide that there's something really important you need to check out. You head to your preferred social feed, or email, or possibly the news. You read something that triggers some insecurity or idea. Either way, this is the cattle prod that gets you leaping out of bed. You may spend the day buzzing with energy or beating yourself up with 'I'm not good enough' thoughts.
Whichever it is, your mind never stops. You are an entrepreneur.
I had one of those mornings today. Sadly, it wasn't the upbeat kind. I saw something on someone's website that was a really clever idea. But instead of feeling inspired by it, I felt less than. 'Why hadn't I thought of that?' 'Why does everyone else seem to be three steps ahead of me?' 'Am I creative at all if all of these people seem to have better ideas than me?' 'Am I even capable of having an original thought when there are so many people all trying to be original and different?' 'How do I make my mark when it feels like it's all been done before?'
And then my lovely husband brought me coffee and I told him how I was feeling. The poor man is very used to the mental rollercoaster I board every day as a solopreneur. He simply said this:
"Albert Einstein once said: 'If I have seen further than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.' You don't have to have all the original ideas. Just because someone else has done it doesn't mean you can't improve upon it."
And with that he left me alone with my coffee and my thoughts.
The internet has made it easier than ever to set up and run a business. The problem is, millions of other people are doing it too. It can feel as though it's all been done before and you get put off before you even get started, particularly when those other people seem to have it all sussed out and you feel like you're just starting.
If this sounds familiar, here are some tips to navigate self-sabotage and comparison-itis:
I created Campfire Communications to help other small business owners achieve their definition of success, however that may look. I help you find your brand story, write it and teach you how to share it with the world. But more importantly, I want to provide a virtual campfire you can sit around to share your thoughts, questions, highs and lows. I currently do this on my Facebook page, but I'm thinking about turning this into a membership group and would love to get your thoughts on whether this would appeal to you.
If you're able to take my short survey on this, please do. I want to create a space that works for people like you.
For now, keep going. You're doing great.
This month I was contacted by a lovely lady who needed some help turning her idea into a business. She asked if I could help her with her web copy and give her a sense of what her website could look like, although she'd create the site herself - my copy & canvas package.
We had a call. She outlined what it was she did for clients and gave me an idea of what she thought her site should look like. She's an online business manager. She handles all the technical, process-driven, project management back end stuff for successful online entrepreneurs who are helping people transform their lives. Carolyn felt that her website and words should demonstrate what she did by being no-nonsense, process focused, using images like puzzle pieces or cogs, to reflect how she pulls all the different parts of a business together.
I suggested she flip her thinking.
Instead of having a website that reflected what she did, why not create a site that would demonstrate how working with her would make her clients feel?
Her clients - typically women who tend to have very feminine brands - are overworked, stressed, having sleepless nights. Carolyn takes all that stress away from them. Working with her lets her clients relax, rediscover their love for their business and actually get a full night's sleep. Interestingly, although Carolyn didn't want swirly, girly fonts, she did say that her favourite colour was purple and that if her website had a smell, it would be lavender.
I started with her ideal clients. I thought about the type of websites they had, the imagery they used, the vibe they gave off. I knew that they would be more drawn to something similar in style. These are not process people, so a website using techy type imagery and words would turn them off, not on. I put myself in their shoes. How would I feel? What would calm me if I was stressed out and at breaking point with my business?
The solution was immediately obvious. Lavender. Known for it's relaxation and sleep inducing properties, it is also feminine and likely to appeal to her ideal clients. I used that as the central theme running throughout the site. I sourced free images, wrote the copy and gave a very clear brief as to how the site should be structured.
I asked my designer Meg to create a brand palette to reflect the site that Carolyn could work from. Then we sent her the words, website outline, suggested imagery, a Pinterest board with links to the free images and the style guide.
Within 48 hours of the initial call, Carolyn had her site up and live. She has a business she can now take to market that will appeal to her ideal clients. This is what Carolyn said about the process:
“I contacted Melissa about creating the copy for my website, little did I know that my experience with her would not only completely change my mindset about what my website “should” be like but she was able to also clearly articulate my unique service offering. With one conversation, she created copy and set the tone for my brand in a way that represented me a way that I never could have gotten to by myself.
When she delivered her first draft, I literally sat in my car with tears of joy – she was able to articulate my value in a way that I’ve never been able to do in as succinct a manner. Looking forward to doing more business with her in the future.”
If you are writing copy or creating a new website for your business, follow these tips:
If you'd like the words and design to revamp your business, take a look at the Copy & Canvas options.
Last week I came back from two weeks of holiday. Before I went away, I had decided that I was going to take a real break. No scheduling of tweets, posts or newsletters to make it look like I was still working. No checking in. Just silence from me.
Before I left, I sent an email to my newsletter list telling them exactly that.
And I stuck to my guns.
When I returned I felt as though I had left my work mojo in a Namibian desert. Getting started was hard. I knew I needed to send out a newsletter and crank up the social media marketing again, but I was sorely lacking inspiration. For someone whose speciality is writing, I was lost for words.
Eventually, with no great ideas coming to me, I simply wrote a short email that told my subscribers that I was back and I included a list of the different ways I could help them. Nothing fancy. Nothing super creative, just a list of my services saying that I was available if they needed help.
I hit send and looked at my holiday snaps for a while.
Less than a week after sending that email I have made over £2000 in sales and I am booked solid for the next couple of weeks.
So what's the lesson here? Three key learnings:
1. Be unavailable occasionally
There's a saying, 'Absence makes the heart grow fonder.' This flies in the face of all marketing advice that says you have to keep your visibility up all the time. And it goes against the gut instinct of most hard-working entrepreneurs who are programmed to be always on, always available.
Yes your marketing should be consistent, but making yourself unavailable every now and then makes people realise that they actually need you. It's why people who run successful membership clubs or training programmes only open up enrolment at certain times. So don't be afraid to step away every now and then. Just remember to tell people. Make it a conscious absence rather than a silent disappearing act.
2. Tell people that you're back and open for business
It's easy to return from a holiday or absence and assume that because your 'out of office' is switched off and you're being active on social media again that people know you are available to take on new work. This isn't always the case. Remember, they are busy and may not even have noticed that you've been gone. So tell them that you're back and ready to help them.
3. Remind people of what you do
We are often so busy thinking of clever content that we forget that some people aren't actually all that familiar with what we do. Even those who do know your business well can benefit from an occasional reminder. This can be a very simple list stating clearly what you do and how you can help them. It seems so blindingly obvious, but when last did you let your clients know specifically how you could help them?
So to recap:
1. Tell people you're going away and be properly away
2. Tell people you are back and open for business
3. Remind them how you can help them
Take a look at my services to find out how I could help you.