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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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.

Being the Best Isn’t Good Enough

It’s no longer enough to be the best at your craft. If you’re not doing the extra work to communicate to the world, provide value, and build some long-term relationships even if there is no short-term gain or immediate payoff, then I don’t see how you can possibly expect to grow.

To get people to care or appear on the radar of your target market, you need to do a lot of little things besides your regular work, which many of you don’t want to do — Examples: Putting out free content, mentoring, doing free work for influencers, making time to help others and do favors without expectation of getting anything in return.

Be great at your craft. Find as many paying clients or customers as you can. But you also have to do a lot of work that has no immediate payoff. I have been doing much of this work and it’s led to many opportunities, such as referrals, clients and people reaching out because they heard of me or saw my content.

If you’re not willing to do this extra work or view it as beneath your dignity, please understand that a competitor willing to do the work will be more than happy to take your spot. You can rant about it on LinkedIn and in networking groups or among colleagues over a few drinks. But no one is listening and no one cares. Think long-term.

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.

3 Tips for Using LinkedIn to Get a Job

Recently, I was asked what a person can do on LinkedIn to better their chances of getting hired.
I’m more experienced with using LinkedIn to prospect, get sales, and market brands. It’s been over two years since I looked for a job.
Applying what I know about LinkedIn marketing for brands and businesses, the following are 3 tips I shared with her for improving her LinkedIn presence and using it as a tool to network into finding the right career. It comes down three important ingredients, which I call the three P’s: People, Post, and Profile
Besides, applying for jobs:

1. People  

DM all of your connections. We all make connections here, but how many of them do you actually reach out and talk to?

In her case, she has nearly 1,000 connections. Message them and offer them value before asking for anything. See if there are ways you can help them. You’ve all heard that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. So true, in today’s age. Establishing relationships with people is a key part of making progress in any career.

2. Post

Post content every day or at least every week. People get super annoyed at this one. “But I’m so busy!” you wail. But, in a competitive job market, you can’t afford NOT to put yourself out there, share things of value, and differentiate yourself.

Sharing valuable content — even if it’s just your take on a piece of content someone else made — makes you a resource for people, demonstrates expertise, establishes credibility and initiates conversation.

Post short written LinkedIn updates, LinkedIn videos, and LinkedIn articles (i.e. your blog). In a competitive job market, you must get used to doing this work. Otherwise, risk losing the job to someone else who is willing to do it. We must all become personal brands and thought leaders to some extent, even if we rather remain anonymous.

3. Profile

Last, but not least, optimize your LinkedIn profile. For a job seeker, this is most important.

Make sure your bio is sterling and captivating. Include the most up-to-date, relevant info in your resume. I’d even recommend hiring a resume coach. Have a good photo (Literally Google ways to optimize LinkedIn profile and photo).

And, most importantly, feature examples and case studies of your work. As an employer, I’m more interested in seeing what you can do for me right now than reading your resume listing past accomplishments.

So, network with people, post content, and optimize your profile.
Is there anything I left out here that you would advise someone using LinkedIn to get a job? Granted, it’s not something I have as much experience with, so any and all tips are welcome and appreciated. I’ll even include them and give you credit!
Thanks!

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.

Two Tips for Coming Up with Blog Posts and LinkedIn Updates

What do I write about?

How do I come up with things to say in my LinkedIn updates or subjects to talk about on my blog?

My first piece of advice is: Don’t overthink. Just start. 

Most of my LinkedIn updates and even some of my longer form blog posts aren’t planned. I simply started typing and thoughts came to mind.

Sometimes it’s a thought that has been on mind for a while fermenting until the ideas coagulate into a coherent cocktail 🍹ready to drink.

Two tips for coming up with LinkedIn updates and blog post ideas:

1. Jot down your observations as they come to you.

Do this on paper or in the Notes app on your phone. Think about anecdotes and things that come to mind. Train yourself to look for angles in the everyday — questions clients ask you, things you find yourself explaining over and over, revelations and epiphanies as they occur to you, shower thoughts.

Don’t be afraid to test out new ideas or use your blog or LinkedIn update as a public sounding board. This is how you start conversations and build community. Save your comments. Make it interactive. Pose questions and initiate a two-way dialogue with your audience. Bring them into your process and give them a chance to become part of it! 

2. Spend a little time reading other people’s updates or blog posts.

Leave a thoughtful comment on posts that inspire you to provide a response. Use your comment as a springboard and expand on it slightly for your own LinkedIn update.

Now, expand on it further and repurpose that idea into a longer blog post, LinkedIn article, Medium post, or video.

Oh, and by the way, this post is based on a comment which I left in response to a LinkedIn update. 🙂