Dealing with the Pressure

So busy lately.

I feel like my startup is in crunch mode.

New accounts, keeping the ones that are still a fit, people joining the team, and steadily building momentum.

But the pressure to deliver builds.

The growth is good, but anything can happen. No time to rest. One piece could be moved and threaten to topple what has been built.

So, I keep my head down. Focused on what’s in front of me. Even if that means you don’t hear from me as much for a while or I share with you at odd times.

We’ve reached a critical phase in our first year and we’re determined to prove ourselves and win respect in the market.

Where are you in your career or business? What steps are you taking to continue your personal or professional growth?

Please let me know in the comments!

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Social Media and Content Marketing Is Not A Quick-Fix Solution

What is the ROI of content marketing and social media? How quickly will it take to start generating leads or sales for my new business?

This is an important subject that frequently comes up and one that I want to address and unpack over a series of posts.

Content marketing and organic social media marketing help a business establish a brand. Branding is the purest form of marketing. And, it’s a long-term investment. You’re putting out value and creating a community of interested followers with the hopes that eventually, you won’t have to do as much selling.

Instead, your audience will come to you.

It will cost less to acquire new customers and strengthen the loyalty of current customers. This usually corresponds to the “top of the funnel” brand awareness and engagement. Or, as marketing nerds call it: “First touch attribution.”

The one caveat is that it takes time to get people to know about, care about, and trust you. It often takes a number of interactions over a period of time before people will pay attention and remember you. The results are cumulative. If you’re a new startup or small business, it’s a good investment to make. But, you also need short-term ca$h flow.

How Do You Do Social Media Marketing for a Boring Business?

What do you do when your business or your client doesn’t have a “story” or anything interesting to share on their blog or social media?

“We sell garbage bags. What are we supposed to talk about?” “Nothing exciting happens here.”

Sure, you understand that stories sell. But, how do you story-tell when you’re in a “boring” business? How do you turn people on when your business isn’t sexy? 💋

My advice:

Go beyond WHAT you do when creating content on social. When coming up with content to share on social media, dig deeper into your WHY — the reason you exist, the problems you solve, and the role you fulfill in the lives of others. 🤔

And, then expand beyond what it is you do for a living. Because the truth is we’re all short on time and attention spans. Your target audience doesn’t want to hear only about you, your industry, or what you do.

They’re interested in themselves and the things they care about.

So, when crafting content, you don’t have to make it all about your business, product, or service.

In fact, you should focus primarily on what will educate, inspire, or entertain the audience. That will give you the attention equity you need before you can ever hope to generate a lead or make a sale. 🌈

It can be as simple as sharing an article about something relevant to your audience and featuring your take on it in the caption.

It might be simple tips, pieces of advice, or short funny clips that relate to your audience’s pain points. 🎥

Your blog, social pages, vlog, or podcast can be the trade journal, TV show, or radio show of your industry. 📺

Regarding the example above, you can feature content that highlights neighborhood heroes who are cleaning up their communities.

Think outside the box and have some fun with it! 😀

Is There a Fine Line Between Follow-Up and Being a Pain in the Ass?

You’re in a meeting or on the phone. You’ve made your pitch and the other party sounds interested. Then, they say: “We’ll be in touch.” They’ll call you (or email or text or DM).

Now, what?

Do you push and not leave the room or hang up the phone until they have signed on the dotted line or paid you the money? I certainly don’t believe in waiting for people to get back to you if you really want the account. But how much time should one give the prospect to decide? In my experience, most people who contact you aren’t actually ‘ready to buy’ just yet.

Is there a fine line between follow-up and being a nuisance?

I find it interesting that I often get so many contradictory responses to this question. Some will say that you’re not doing your job of following up until you’re told how annoying you are. At the other extreme, some are timid and caution against coming off as “desperate.”

I believe in being relentless, but I also believe it can be done tactfully without turning someone off. Do you agree? Disagree?

What are your thoughts?

Branding is Telling Your Story

A storyteller.

That’s what I am.

That’s what I’ll always be.

I didn’t choose that role. It’s something I was born into.

Long before the word, “storyteller,” became a buzzword and way before the whole “marketers are storytellers” thing became a cliche, I was telling stories. Whether it was making up games and writing short stories and manuscripts as a kid or creating content for brands and communicating their message, it’s all from that same place.

While writing is my primary passion, and it may be yours as well, there are many ways to tell a story — Film, pictures, audio etc. We’re living in a time where content creation and distribution is democratized and cheaper and easier than ever before. That also means there’s more competition. But if you’re talented and you’re persistent, and you pay attention to the needs of your audience, you’ll break out of the noise.

So, start that podcast or that blog or that vlog or whatever suits your communication style and start communicating your story — your truth. When you tell a story that has people’s attention, countless opportunities will open up for you in life and in business.

Building a brand is ultimately what will help you differentiate and stand out in a crowded market.

Sell to the Sold: Who am I selling to?

Over the weekend, I had a lively chat with a friend and businessman who is a distributor of snacks, tea, and coffee.

His products are tasty and low-cost and while his sales are decent, he has not done much in the way of branding. Many people consume his goods without being familiar with the name and would purchase similar commodities at a lower price when presented the opportunity.

As he lamented the fact that his brand is basically invisible and he lacks a loyal customer base despite the extensive distribution of his goods, I mentioned that social media and Facebook ads, in particular, could help him grow.

“Ah, remind me of what you do for a living?” he asked sarcastically with a smirk. “Listen, you sell to nerds, but, my customers aren’t on social media.”

While it’s true that his largely Orthodox Jewish customer base is less engaged with social media relative to the wider population and many of the more stringent members of his target audience eschew smartphones, he definitely doesn’t have his finger on the pulse. Living in Brooklyn, I can assure you that a wide swath (the vast majority) of his kosher customer base does use smartphones and social media, particularly Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram and they do so with the same gusto as the rest of the population. Not to mention, there are other markets who also enjoy his products, which he could be doing a better job of reaching.

He wasn’t done beating me up. “You understand the virtual business world. In the real business world, people aren’t using this stuff.”

I nodded. “Sure, many businesses get by with minimal social media presence,” I accepted. “But businesses who aren’t building a brand on these platforms will be totally irrelevant in 5-10 years from now and are becoming increasingly irrelevant today.”

“Your sales pitch is terrible,” he mocked.

Ouch. He obviously isn’t able to see the writing on the wall and he doesn’t want to hear the truth.

It’s kind of funny when a business owner acts as if there is a major world of difference between the online business world and the physical one. As if digital marketing is only effective with, as he puts it: “nerds.”

I’ll admit I was surprised to hear this talk from someone under 40 years old. While that line of thinking was understandable in the late 90’s and early 00’s at the dawn of ecommerce or ten years ago when social media was just getting started, it couldn’t be more out of touch with the current times.

Nerds and teens are not the only ones spending an inordinate amount of time using mobile technology. In March of 2017, it was reported that the average US consumer is spending over 5 hours a day on mobile devices.

As I pointed out to him in our brief exchange, people aren’t turning to page 8 to see his ad in a magazine or looking up at billboards or paying attention to TV and radio commercials. Their eyes and ears are glued to one thing — the little smartphone in the palm of their hands. In any other context, say if we weren’t talking about business or marketing, but the state of American youth, he would readily agree.

What kind of world do you think we’re living in? We already live in a virtual world. Thanks to smartphones, the lines between the virtual and the physical are becoming more and more blurry. And, this will only continue as AR, VR, iOT, and audio technology picks up steam. Anyone who is not paying attention to where their customers are increasingly devoting their attention is leaving money on the table and risks getting left behind.

People have options now, which leads to a more divided attention span across multiple devices (laptop, smartphone, tablet, Amazon echo dot, Google Home) and platforms (email, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Alexa, Instagram, review sites, and podcasts) and they can fast-forward or do something else during commercials. The old days of a captive audience willing to hear a pitch from a brand name they do not yet know or trust are gone.

But, I didn’t belabor the point. I was not trying to sell him, because I would never waste my time. I don’t try to sell to people who do not understand or appreciate the value of the service I offer. If the deliverable isn’t something they believe in, and sadly most of corporate America, as well as many small businesses, are still slow to get the memo about the importance of social media marketing, then I don’t waste my breath.

One of the most important rules of sales: Sell to the sold.

Tweet: I don’t sell people on what I do. I sell them on why they should hire me to do it.

It’s counterproductive for me to sell someone on what it is I do. If they are not sold on the service itself, then I can talk until I’m blue in the face, but they will not likely change their mind or, if they do, they won’t stick around for long. However, if they are in the market for social media marketing or content marketing and need the direction of a professional who can help them strategize and execute, now we’re speaking the same language and we can have a conversation. And, it will be a conversation based on mutual respect and understanding, even if it doesn’t lead to a transaction in the short-term. I’ll all for educating the prospect, but I don’t believe in trying to force them to see the value of my industry.

Identify those who would be receptive to the message before you start pitching and don’t waste time on those who don’t even respect what you do for a living. Don’t bother trying to convince them that they need your product or service. First, find out if they have a need or a pain point that you can solve and then respond with your solution. An important part of marketing and communicating with people in general is paying attention to the other party’s needs and responding accordingly.

What are they paying attention to? What do they care about? What are their problems, concerns, or desires?

Listen before you speak.

I think this is one of the most important rules of prospecting and selling.

I Do Things My Own Way and it Works.

I have no time for annoying formats, plugging into formulas, or regurgitating someone else’s process.

This is in part because I simply don’t have the patience to follow along with someone else’s rules and instructions and partly because I like to do things my own way. This is how I’ve been in many areas of life in ways that are both good, and perhaps, bad at times, for as long as I can remember. Might be one reason I didn’t enjoy school.

Of course, I studied the fundamentals of copywriting and I have listened to experts and learned about different headlines and certain words that work etc., but at the end of the day, I spend much more time these days creating than consuming the work of others.  And, experience has shown me that the things I write straight from the gut do far better than things which were written while following a recipe or applying some sort of methodology.

Nowadays, I write more like I speak and I let it flow. So far, the responses have been great. 🙂 I understand that not everyone is going to dig me or my style. Not everyone is going to buy what I’m selling. There is nobody who is for everybody.  What matters more to me is making an impact and connecting with others authentically. Keeping it natural.