Riding the Rollercoaster of Entrepreneurship

Expect the unexpected. That old phrase rings especially true for entrepreneurs. 🛎

One day things are cruising. 🚢 The next, you may be in crisis mode. And then the next moment you may experience unprecedented levels of growth! 📈

Yesterday morning: Closed a new deal and followed up with two leads.

This afternoon: One client still deciding if they are staying or going. Signed a renewal with a current client.📝

This morning: Lost an account and gained a new one in the span of an hour.

Some leads take months of negotiation and nothing happens. At other times, I’ll receive a message or phone call out of the blue and we start right away. 📱 Sure, some will insist on the importance of process and develop a system to minimize the unpredictability. And I’m certainly a fan of having a process. But, at the end of the day, business is business and in the real world 🌎 , not everything can be reduced to a neat little academic formulaic system.

This line of work is certainly not for the faint of heart ❤️ who enjoy stability and predictability. For those who don’t mind or even enjoy the rollercoaster of entrepreneurship, it’s the ride of a lifetime. 🎢 😀 #entrepreneurship

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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.

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.

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. 🙂

If You Want Your Marketing to Work, Go All In & Provide Ridiculous Amounts of Value

Like anything else, marketing is something that only produces returns if you put sufficient time and effort into it.

We all want our businesses to grow. We want customers to buy what we have. We want phone-calls from people who epitomize our “ideal clients.”

But many of us make one of two mistakes:

We either:

A) Invest too little effort into marketing and developing a brand, dismissing it as too costly or time-consuming, hoping that our good work or name alone will somehow get across and attract people to come to us.

This mistake is fatal because what ends us happening is we don’t get the attention we need in a world where attention is increasingly hard to get.

And, worse we spend money and time on marketing, but since we’re going about it “half-pregnant,” and not fully investing our efforts, time, and creativity, the time and money we spent ends up being a waste.

Or

B) We try to rush the sale. If our business is new or our numbers are lacking, we scramble to move prospects and leads to the finish line.

Desperation is a foul smelling cologne. Your prospects can smell it. Furthermore, it causes you to resort to short-term tactics and behaviors.

You end up thinking small and neglect a key part of effective marketing and sales — providing value.

When you become a one-way broadcast machine constantly pumping out promotions and pushing prospects to claim your offers without first providing them any value, it’s clear that you’re thinking primarily of yourself and not about your prospect or customer.

This is a HUGE turn-off. And in our customer-centric world where people’s attention spans have numerous outlets across platforms and devices, that old style of “push-marketing” is increasingly ineffective.

The only way to avoid either of those mistakes is to spend the time and do due diligence to learn about your audience and figure out the best way to provide them value.

Worry less about the sale and focus more on helping the prospect by giving away value — either in terms of content which they find helpful or interesting, educating them and giving them practical advice, or literally giving some product away.

I believe that if you do that, the sales and loyalty will follow.