Appealing to Event Sponsors

Interested in how to actually appeal to event sponsors? It begins with understanding what value you can provide to the sponsor, from marketing the event to the actual execution. What can you offer the sponsor in exchange for their financial or resource support? Turns out, you can offer plenty they would be interested in. 

This is the final episode for Season 1 of The Defiant Business Podcast, how crazy is that? We’re taking a one week break, but you’ll be so excited when we come back! We’re featuring Jennifer McGinley, CEO of JLM Strategic Communications. She has amazing experience, which led her to share amazing insights and advice!

Here’s the podcast episode:

Or if you’d rather watch the video:

And here’s the transcript:

I am so happy that you’ve decided to join me for the last episode of season 1. That’s right. This is episode 30. Each season has 30 episodes. 

Can you believe that we’re already here? We’ve covered so many business topics and I’m really glad that so many of you have come along for the ride. 

Today we’re going to close this season with a talk about how to appeal to event sponsors. 

Why Would Another Business Sponsor My Event?

How did this topic come up? Well, I was exploring my options to hold a workshop with a friend, and she mentioned that I could seek sponsors for my event to help with the costs. Having an event can turn into something that’s quite expensive. 

I started thinking, “Why would another business pay for my event costs? That’s nice of them, but that’s not business.” It didn’t really make sense. 

So I thought about it and I know that M&T Bank sponsors a lot of business events here in Baltimore, which is close to where I am. I reached out to Rosa Scharf, a small business banker with M&T, because she’s given me such great information in the past. I figured she’d be able to answer this question for me. 

Talking to her gave me a lot of great insight. I asked her what she looks for when she’s looking at potentially sponsoring a small business/business event and what sponsors, in general, would look for. So, I just had to share it with you guys. 

As a side note, M&T Bank in Baltimore is a great example of being part of a community, instead of just in the community. That’s a concept we explored in our conscious consumerism article not to long ago. They sponsor a lot of business events, from educational conferences to pitch competitions.

I know the passion for small business success goes from Rosa to at least as high up as Eleni Monios, the business banking market manager for Baltimore and Delaware regions. And no, they didn’t pay me to say that. I just had a fan girl moment. It seems like organizations who really know their “why” are rarer and rarer these day.

Mutually Beneficial to Your Event and Your Event Sponsor

When you’re approaching sponsors, it’s about presenting your event in a light that shows the sponsor what’s in it for them, and why it’s beneficial for them to sponsor your event.

Access to a Shared Audience

 If you’re looking for event sponsors, besides your number of attendees, you should also consider if your audience is their audience. 

For example, for M&T small-business banking, they would potentially be interested if you have a business or entrepreneur audience. 

Of course, there are other factors as well. Let’s use another example. If your business was more Health & Wellness, then other Health & Wellness businesses could be interested in sponsoring your event. Why? Because your audience is at least a segment of their audience. 

Introduce Them to the Attendees 

Some of the things that you could offer to a sponsor include an opportunity to address the attendees at the beginning of the event. 

You can introduce them to the attendees, and they get some facetime there for their business. They can use any signage and printed materials, and maybe even hand out booklets. 

Thank Your Sponsors and Make Them Feel Included 

You want to make sure that you include your sponsor, and thank them in your opening address to your attendees. You want to thank the sponsors publicly. 

When you set up the event page on Eventbrite, Facebook, or wherever it is that you set it up, you want to include your sponsor there. 

These are all things you can mention to the sponsor. 

An Email List

Another thing that you could consider doing is giving them access to the list of attendees and their emails. However, if you’re a sponsor and you regularly sponsor events, don’t just get the email list and spam people. 

What you want to do is have something of value to include in your emails, something that people will be looking forward to receiving.

With the health & wellness example, perhaps one of the sponsors is a health & wellness food company. 

You’ve put together a fairly exclusive recipe book that you only send to the attendees of events that you sponsor. You will be providing this recipe book to them. What this does is vastly increases the likelihood that someone will open that email, read, and interact with your content.

And inside that content, there should definitely be a page about your business and about your company. 

Now they’ve opened the email and they’ve opened the ebook. They get an opportunity to learn a bit more about your business. They may never have heard of you before the event. 

Pointlessly Lost Marketing Opportunities

I’ve seen sponsors listed on events, but sometimes they aren’t thanked by the event organizer. You never even see them at the event, or maybe they’re not given an opportunity to speak to the attendees. 

All of those seem like lost opportunities to me. Besides, it makes the event way less beneficial for the sponsor. So if you want that sponsor to get any ROI from sponsoring your event, then you need to make sure that you give them the tools to do so. 

Choose Event Sponsors That Interest Your Audience

This is also why it’s important to pick sponsors that are pretty related to the topic of what you’re offering. If it’s not immediately evident why their business is related to what you’re offering at your event, then that’s a great opportunity to have them come up and speak. 

Let’s say I’m doing a business workshop, and a health & wellness company sponsored me. In the beginning, I say “I just wanted to say thank you to our sponsor X company. I want to invite them up to speak”

They’re going to speak for about 10-15 minutes, but one of their specialties is helping entrepreneurs handle stress or helping high-performance business people handle stress. Boom. Lights go off. 

Why they would be interested in sponsoring my event, not to mention anybody who comes to any of my workshops? 

If you relate to my content, you’re probably a high-performing individual who deals with a lot of stress, so now you’re obviously a lot more interested as well. I think that your sponsors can relate to your audience, so it’s not worthless to have them come up and talk. 

Concluding Season One 

So, this is the last episode of season 1. I’m just so excited for season 2! Like I said in a previous episode, Jennifer McGinley of JLM Strategic Communications, a wonderfully seasoned public realtions professional, will be joining us for season 2. She will be featured in multiple episodes because we had a long conversation. 

We’ll get an opportunity to dig deep and go through what she was able to explain to me about PR, and how she’s always approached the industry a bit differently than her colleagues. 

We even talk about steps that you can take as a small business to better position yourself for when you bring in enough money to hire a professional. 

If you don’t follow her yet, you should go find her on Linkedin and Twitter. You’re gonna want to follow her ahead of time because she’s always dropping great content. 

This is the sort of advice that anybody can use, and that’s why I invited her on the show. She’s our featured guest for season 2, and the first guest ever on The Defiant Business Podcast. I promise you, this is information that you’re not going to want to miss. 

We’re Taking a Week Off!

After today’s episode, we will be taking a week off. Over the course of the following week, you’ll be seeing social media posts from me sharing some of our most popular episodes and helping you catch up if you missed any. 

The week after that, we’ll be getting into season 2, and our first episode is going to feature Jennifer McGinley. 

This has been the final episode of the 1st season of The Defiant Business Podcast. Thank you so much for joining me, and I cannot wait to show you what we’ve got for season 2. 

Whirlpool: A User Generated Content Case Study

My marketing class assignment this week is to evaluate a digital marketing campaign by a major brand, and then evaluate their current efforts. Because I published two posts on user generated content this week, I went with Whirlpool’s “Every Day, Care” campaign. This gives me an opportunity to further explore the points I made in this week’s podcast episodes with a real life example with real results. So, let me begin analyzing this user generated content case study.

Whirlpool’s Goal: Change the Way We Viewed Chores

Whirlpool dealt with a lot of customers, but often only when they had complaints (DigitasLBi, Crowdtap, Whirlpool, 2019). Whirlpool products are used to perform tasks most consumers don’t look forward to: chores. At least, I don’t look forward to them.

Interestingly enough, 62% of adults said that the key to a successful marriage was a chore system. It’s easy for one partner to take on more work and become unhappy about it (Klein, Izquierdo, Bradbury, 2016). That makes a lot of sense really, when I think about the arguments I’ve had about chores…

Whirlpool wanted to change the tone of the chore argument, er, conversation. That’s what inspired the “Every Day, Care” campaign. The work a stay at home parent does for their family each day (or working parents who split the duties, etc.) is valued at more than $160,000 (Juneau, 2019). So the value of these chores is huge for a family. Whirlpool wanted to put the focus back on that value.

Whirlpools Campaign Centered Around UGC

Whirlpool used Crowdtap to gather thousands of user generated content (UGC) stories. Why? They knew that no matter what story they told, nothing would be more effective that consumers telling their own stories. Research shows that over 66% of consumers trust UGC more than branded company content.

Whirlpool gathered more than 44,000 different types of UGC: text, images and video (DigitasLBi, Crowdtap, Whirlpool, 2019). Don’t forget, almost anything a consumer creates can be UGC. Whirlpool took these different pieces of UGC and created a content marketing campaign around them. They created a microsite as the hub of their efforts. The entire digital marketing effort incorporated paid, earned, and owned channels.

Business Impact of Whirlpool’s UGC Campaign

As a result of the campaign, Whirlpool experienced 12% year-over-year unit growth and a 6-6% increase in sales. The consumer view of of the brand also increased, from -.3 to 4.6 on a five-point scale (DigitasLBi, Crowdtap, Whirlpool, 2019).

Whirlpool was able to cause significant change in business metrics by helping their customers appreciate the value of the daily work they did for their families. By reframing the way customers viewed their tasks (which they used Whirlpool and competitor products for).

Did Whirlpool Continue to Ride the UGC Momentum?

After reviewing Whirlpool’s website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, it appears that the campaign success didn’t convince Whirpool to change their social media strategy. Despite the measurable success and impact on revenue significant metrics, Whirlpool’s strategy seems to reflect many mistakes big brands often make.

Facebook

This gives an opportunity to (predominantly unhappy) customers to complain about their product issues. It doesn’t appear that the social media management team is equipped to do more than pass the issue along to customer service. The responses are always canned, and don’t sound like a real person. They would do better to personalize these responses and sound more authentic.

Instagram and Twitter

They appear to use Instagram and Twitter as employee facing channels, promoting content that would likely be relevant to current and potential employees. This is definitely something I wouldn’t recommend at all. There is a lot of overlap in their target demographic in terms of who uses Facebook and who uses Instagram.

I’m seriously shocked that despite the huge success of the campaign, Whirlpool’s current channels don’t have a piece of UGC in sight. Definitely a disappointing end to this user generated content case study.

References

DigitasLBi, Crowdtap, & Whirlpool. (2019). #EveryDayCare – Whirlpool, DigitasLBi and Crowdtap. Retrieved from https://shortyawards.com/8th/everydaycare-whirlpool-digitaslbi-and-crowdtap-2

Juneau, J. (2019, January 15). Study Finds Stay-at-Home Moms Should Earn More Than $160,000 for Caring for Their Kids. Retrieved from https://people.com/parents/stay-at-home-moms-salary-should-be-160000-study/

Klein, W., Izquierdo, C., & Bradbury, T. N. (2016, June 20). The Difference Between a Happy Marriage and Miserable One: Chores. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/03/the-difference-between-a-happy-marriage-and-miserable-one-chores/273615/

Using UGC in Your Content Marketing

Concluding the series we started yesterday, User Generated Content is an incredibly valuable resource that you should incorporate into your strategy. In today’s episode, we go over the difference between reviews and endorsements, and different ways you can use UGC in your content marketing strategy.

Here’s the podcast episode:

Or if you’d rather watch the video:

And here’s the transcript:

Today we’re going to finish the series that we started yesterday about user-generated content (UGC). Yesterday we talked about how UGC is created by your customers or clients. It could be reviews, a video, audio, or text testimonial about how awesome your product/service was. 

When we explored what UGC is, we talked about why it’s important. ⅔ of consumers trust UGC more than they trust branded company content, but you don’t know when UGC is coming and you can’t solicit it. You can ask your customers or clients to create it, but you can’t buy it, so it’s earned. We also talked about the differences between influencer content and UGC. 

If you didn’t get a chance to listen to that episode, I highly recommend that you do. It will be linked right here in the show notes. 

Moving forward, we’re actually going to talk about how you can use user-generated content in your content marketing strategy. How can you turn user-generated content into content assets for your business? 

Why Should You Care About User Generated Content

So the reason why you’d even want to do this ties back to that number I just mentioned, ⅔, or over 66%, of consumers trust user-generated content more than branded company content. 

If you’re wondering, “Is it really that high? Really?” Well, think about it. When you’re on Amazon or another site where you know they have a lot of reviews, what’s one of the first things you do besides finding the product that you actually want? You scroll down to read the reviews from strangers.

So, is it any more of a surprise that UGC on social media would also impact a client’s buying decision? I don’t think so, because I’m one of those people. I will read the reviews of strangers. If many people say the same thing, then that could actually sway my buying decision. 

If enough customers or clients say the same negative thing, I may not buy. However, I may be swayed to buy if enough customers or clients say a positive thing. So it comes out either way.

The Difference Between a Review and an Endorsement

Let’s talk about the difference between a review and an endorsement. 

A Customer or Client Review

A review is something you will typically find on Facebook business pages. You may find it if you sell your product on Amazon, Facebook, or Google.

They are a bit more formal, and a customer leaves that review with the intent of it really being a review. They may use more formal language, depending on whether they feel comfortable interacting with the brand and for service providers or B2B companies in general. 

You may also consider your Linkedin recommendations as reviews, especially if your business is very, very small. In my case, my business is very small, so my Linkedin recommendations are incredibly reflective of my services, my business, the image that I work to portray and the partner that I always attempt to be for my clients. So my Linkedin recommendations are also reviews for me. 

They’re typically freely given. Don’t pay for them. Sometimes influencers and people who blog will say “I was given a free X in order to provide my honest reviews.” Typically that’s what you see. 

You won’t see paid reviews often, but they do happen. And fake reviews are a plague on Amazon, but that could be a whole other episode. 

An Endorsement

So what’s an endorsement? For me, an endorsement is what you see on Facebook, or what you might see on Instagram or Linkedin, if it’s a business product. But, let’s say I’m on Facebook right now and I post a picture. 

So I’ve got a picture of me, my little plastic Groot pot, and it’s got some air plants in it. So cute! I post this picture and I talk about how my husband got it for me. You’ll hear how happy it’s made me, and how I bought these little air plants off of Amazon.

The little Groot pot and the air plants came from Amazon, and I found the perfect thing to put inside of the pot’s head. So now he looks like he has hair. And you know, if you’re like me, you super love Groot, and you see that on my Facebook, you’re like, “Oh my goodness, I have to get a pot for myself too! And those air plants, that was such a great idea.”

So I’ve actually just generated sales for two different companies: the one that sells air plants, and the one that sells the Groot head pot. 

That’s user generated content, but it’s also an endorsement of a product because I’m talking about how happy I am about it. No one solicited me. I only posted it because I wanted to, and I’m sure that now I’ve described it, you’ve seen it all over your social media channels as well. 

Using UGC in Your Content Marketing Strategy

So how can you use UGC in your content marketing strategy? I’ve listed a few ways here. Obviously depending on where your customers or clients leave these reviews and endorsements, you can get really creative. So this is just something to get you going.

Take Screenshots

Take screenshots of UGC of your product/service and share them on social media. It’s almost like you’re creating user content for yourself because when you take that screenshot, people can see it’s a screenshot. They can typically identify which platform it came from, so it just somehow seems a bit more real and authentic. 

Then, you share that on social media and so now you’re just basically quoting somebody via screenshot. 

A Testimonials Page

If you want, you can also copy the text and place it on a testimonials page on your website. 

Maybe if you sell products, you might just call it product reviews

If you have a service business and you’re getting these reviews in a lot of different places, and they’re just all over the place and you’re like, “Man, I wish that review was over here.” Sometimes the best that we can do is create a testimonials page on our website and bring them all there.

Maybe people left you reviews on Upwork, recommendations on Linkedin, Facebook, on your business page, maybe somebody just said something awesome to you in an email. Ask them if you can use it on your website.

And so, we could bring all of those things together on a page and show them simultaneously, or maybe you place some of those testimonials on your homepage as a reason why people should work with you. 

Stylized Graphics

You could also create stylized graphics optimized for the social media platform that you want to use the graphics on. On Twitter and Linkedin you can use the same image size, but on Instagram, the square images are the best option. You could write a post about what this review means to you, or you can tell a little bit more about the product, provide the link to it, as well as tag the user to give them an opportunity to interact with you on the post. 

Send an Email to Your List

We already talked about asking for permission, why you should, and the opportunity it has for you in Episode 28, so make sure you listen to that if you didn’t. 

You could also send an email to your list about the post. 

Maybe these people purchased products in the pat, but they haven’t purchased this product. You should give them a review about it because it would be incredibly relevant to them. 

If you provide services, you should take notes about the services that people buy. 

If you sell products, then that product information should just be loading in there automatically. 

Always Engage with the Customer

And again, you want to connect with your customers: make them feel appreciated, thank them for their opinion, interact with your customer and ask them more in-depth questions. So do not miss this opportunity, especially if you’re a growing business. Capitalize on it. These people already want to talk about you, so they definitely wouldn’t mind talking to you. 

What is User Generated Content?

What is user generated content (UGC)? User generated content comes as text, photo, or video content from your clients or customers. The kind you should get excited about is positive, since you can use it in your marketing. Of course, you should pay attention to anything negative for improvement opportunities.

Why do you care about UGC? Over 2/3 of consumers trust UGC more than branded company content. But you can’t control UGC, so you just have to keep your ear to the ground. 

This is a two part series, so be sure to tune into tomorrow’s episode as well!

Here’s the podcast episode:

Or if you’d rather watch the video:

And here’s the transcript:

Hi, I’m Ruthie, owner of Defy The Status Quo, and you’re watching/listening to an episode of The Defiant Business Podcast, your Monday through Friday, 10-minute- shot of business knowledge. 

Today we’re going to talk about user generated content (UGC). So, what is user generated content? It could be photos, videos, or text posts of a customer talking about your product/service. 

You’ve probably seen these before. We see them all the time on Facebook and  Instagram. I can record myself saying “I just got this Google Pixel 2, and I love it so much! It’s way better than any other phone that I’ve ever had!” And if you’re in the market for a new phone, you should consider getting a Google.” That’s just me saying it as your friend, unsponsored.

Maybe if you hadn’t considered getting a Google phone before, you would consider it now. You know that I really enjoy having awesome technology at my disposal and you trust my review. So even if you choose not to buy it in the end, I prompted you to research it, and you may become a customer at some point in the future. 

Consumers Trust User Generated Content

User generated content is content that companies just can’t buy. And it’s so critical because studies show that over ⅔ of consumers trust UGC over branded consumer content, or branded content from companies. 

This also applies to service-based businesses. If somebody writes a post on Instagram or Linkedin about your services and how great they were, that’s user generated content too.

So just because you don’t sell a physical product, it doesn’t mean that you can’t also benefit from user generated content. Like I said, it’s valuable because over 66% of consumers trust UGC over branded company content. 

The Importance of Authenticity

Another important thing to note is that user generated content that’s created on a cell phone or smartphone, the vertical image is considered more authentic by consumers as well. Landscape photography (the longer, wider version of the photograph) may not actually be to your benefit because it doesn’t look like it was taken on a smartphone. 

In my estimation, the reason why that authenticity is so obvious with vertical images is that for most of us who have a smartphone, we’re typically not too far away from it. So when you or a consumer posts UGC, it helps other people feel like they’re in the moment and part of the experience. And that is exactly what it is. It’s just that person sharing their experience.

Customer Engagement Promotes UGC

We know that either someone really hates something, or they really love it, in order to leave a review. The masses in the middle, who are often just content, won’t leave a review either way. Even if they’re only mildly upset or mildly pleased, they won’t leave reviews. 

So, positive UGC is definitely something you want to keep an eye out for. You won’t see it if all you do is schedule posts to your social media and you never actually check those channels. 

I have people that I’ve followed in the past, especially on Linkedin, whose posts I’d comment and try to engage with to try to help them out too. The reason is that, if I’m talking and I’m asking questions, it gives them an opportunity to show off their expertise. An answer never came.

I realized it was because they only scheduled their posts, and they never actually checked LinkedIn. So I actually unconnected with that person. But again, it was kind of a missed opportunity for them. 

Reach Out Before You Share

One of the rules of etiquette that not a lot of companies follow when using UGC in their own strategy, is that they don’t reach out before sharing. 

Reaching out is actually something I really advise you do. Why wouldn’t you reach out to customers who are obviously ecstatic about your product or service? You’re missing an opportunity to directly engage with a happy customer and get feedback. 

Utilize These Customers’ Feedback

If the person’s willing to post how great your business is onto their social media channels, why not send a message and say “Hey, we saw that you were talking about X product/service, and we were so happy that you were thrilled. We wanted to reshare it on our social media channels. Is that okay?” The customer more than likely is going to say yes, and then you continue that conversation with thinks like:

  • What they liked about the product specifically
  • Ask them about their buyer’s journey
  • How they heard about you
  • What made them decide to choose you

Because they’re already willing to share on social media, they’re more than likely going to be willing to answer those questions. While not empirical data, that is valuable information that you can use as you make refinements to your website, and further hone your buyers’ personas. 

Discover New, Thriving Platforms

This could also alert you to a channel of referral that you weren’t aware of. Perhaps there’s a subreddit where somebody posted about your company, and that’s how that person found your company. Reddit might have never even been a thing that you opened before, but now you know about it because you actually asked the customer. 

So don’t miss out on these valuable market research opportunities. Just because you’ve got a successful product/service doesn’t mean that the market research stops. If you want to stay successful, then you need to keep researching and figuring out what your target market loves about your products and services. 

Responsiveness Inspires Appreciation from Clients

On top of all of that, engagement makes your customers and your clients feel really appreciated and heard in the future. If they do have a problem, it’s more likely that they would probably just respond to that message and say “Hey, this happened. Is there any way you can help me?” 

I actually had that experience with Naked Wines. I order my wine from them and it’s fantastic. However, the first time I got to interact with them directly was not on social media. I was calling their service desk because FedEx had signed for my wine package themselves and left it upside-down on my porch, in the rain, which you’re not allowed to do.

There are many things wrong with that, but it wasn’t their [NakedWines] fault. I was just calling to let them know that their carrier made several mistakes. They were profusely apologetic and I advised them to request something from the carrier in return. They also gave me a $25 credit for my trouble.

I can’t say enough good things about them, especially because of how they reacted in a time when I could’ve been a really upset customer and actually blamed them for what happened. Even though I was very calm, they were extremely apologetic and made me feel like a valued customer. 

Influencer Content Is Not User Generated Content

One last note: don’t confuse influencer content with UGC. Influencer content is purchased. You solicit an influencer to post about your company. This is not the same. Most people, while they do follow influencers, do know that it’s an influencer post.

Not to mention that influencers are starting to be regulated, and there are certain things they have to put in their post to indicate that it is a paid sponsorship. That’s not the same as UGC. UGC is earned. It’s not paid. It’s unsolicited. When you open up a social media platform, it should be a surprise. You didn’t even know it was going to be there. It’s genuine and authentic. 

Influencer posts are often very scripted or, with professional photography, and they don’t come off as authentic. This is especially true for major influencers, but micro-influencers might still have that authentic UGC feel to them. 

But again, even if you engage with micro influencers, do not confuse influence with UGC, which you can encourage your customers to create on your behalf. They may use a certain hashtag or something, but it’s always a surprise. You’re never going to know when it happens, or at least you shouldn’t. 

All right, so that’s been an episode of The Defiant Business Podcast. Thank you for joining me. Our premiere guest is a for season 2. She’s a PR professional, and we were so excited that she agreed to be on The Defiant Business Podcast . You will learn a little bit more about her in the upcoming episodes of this show. Thank you so much for joining me. 

Yes, You Can Grow Too Fast

I know, it sounds like a nice problem to have. But growing too fast can put a strain on your personnel and infrastructure. This is true whether you have a product-based or service-based business. Here’s what you need to do in order to guard against this business-crippling possibility. 

Here’s the podcast episode:

Or if you’d rather watch the video:

And here’s the transcript:

Hi, I’m Ruthie, owner of Defy The Status Quo, and you’re listening/watching an episode of The Defiant Business Podcast, your Monday to Friday, 10-minute shot of business knowledge. So, let’s get into it. 

Today we’re going to talk about growing too fast. Yes, it is actually possible for your business to grow too fast. I’m sure you’re thinking “Ruthie, why are we talking about growing too fast? I’m growing too slow! I want to grow faster.” And it’s because growing too fast can happen quickly. It can happen fast, and it can catch you unaware. 

All of the effort that you’re making right now could result in rapid growth for your business:

  • Marketing
  • Following up on leads
  • Knowing exactly where you need to be in terms of marketing

It could happen in an instant and you have to be prepared. 

Product-Based Businesses

Setting Proper Limits

There are certain things that you should put in place and certain decisions that you should be prepared to make in order to keep your business from failing due to rapid growth. The reason is your current infrastructure. Your current business infrastructure and processes could crumble under the pressure of too many requests or too many new clients. 

So let’s set it up for a B2C or B2B product and service. Let’s say you run a small eCommerce business. My advice to you is to set an “orders cap”, or to make sure that when customers submit orders, it’s a smart program that takes into account the orders that have already been submitted. It should allow you to enter in how long an order takes for processing. That way, you can avoid too many orders all at once. 

[Not in the podcast] Additionally, you can make sure that your interface shows the customer when their order will likely ship based on your current order level. If it tells the customer that the wait is 30 days, and they still choose to make a purchase, at least they’re prepared.

You might be thinking “Oh, in what scenario would that actually happen?” A lot of eCommerce businesses, especially the ones who target women, will use Pinterest as a means to funnel traffic to their store.

This is great because Pinteret’s primary user demographic is women, at around 75% [correction: 81%!]. So, a great place. If you’ve got products for women, you should probably be on Pinterest, but that’s another conversation for another time.

Let’s say you have a take-off for one of your already popular items, and orders flood your store. Boom. Your infrastructure crumbles. What you end up with is a bunch of unhappy customers, because you do not have the people and resources to process their orders in a timely manner. 

The Amazon Effect

The Amazon effect has caused us to expect our products in two days or less. It’s unfortunate for these smaller businesses because now you’re expected to keep up with the Amazon standard. What do you do? 

Bad Reviews Do Not Disappear

Along with that flood of orders and those unhappy customers, the reviews start to pour in and they’re not good. You can kind of see where this is going. They’re like “Oh, I put in my order and they said it’d be there in a week, but it’s already been two weeks and I’m so upset.”

It’s not the customer’s concern and it’s not their fault if you don’t have the infrastructure ready and in place to keep up with the demand for your products. These types of reviews will be incredibly hard to come back from, based on where they’re placed. If they’re placed on Amazon or on Google reviews, those are really hard to come back from.

You can respond to them, but you can’t take them away, so it’s better to kind of set your business up in such a way that you can prevent that. 

Case Study: Death Wish Coffee’s Close Call

How do I know that this can happen? Death Wish Coffee. It’s incredibly hard to find any information on it online. But lucky you, I found a podcast episode that mentions it in the show notes.

Here’s a basic rundown of what happened. Good Morning America did a show on Death Wish Coffee, and their business almost crumbled due to the flood of orders and unhappy customers that they ended up with. The owner didn’t have the staff, packaging, order processes, or capacity to handle the stacks of orders.

The owner, Mike Brown, recruited his friends to help him fulfill orders. He had to fight to get ahead, so it makes a great comeback story. But it’s certainly not an ideal scenario. Could you imagine trying to give refunds for thousands of orders, because you weren’t able to deliver them in a timely manner? 

With Returns, Everyone Gets a Cut. Well, Except You

Now you’ve got all the stuff that you take into account when you’re trying to ship those orders and when the orders are processed. All the payment processing apps and platforms take their cut. Well, when you have to give the refund, you don’t get a cut.

Rather, you don’t get a refund on your cut. Let’s say your product is $15 and the platform deducted a couple of dollars from you before giving you the rest of the money. You still have to refund the full $15. Imagine the thousands of orders. So you got $13, but you have to pay back $15. That’s a lot of money. So you have to keep those things in mind. That’s why an order cap, and making sure you have a smart system in place, is a really good idea if you run a product-based business.

Service-Based Businesses

All right, service business. You’re wondering “Ruthie, really? How are you going to direct this towards a service business?” It’s not as big. I think it doesn’t have the potential to be quite as big with a service business, because service businesses, like myself, work with clients and the business. The buying cycle is typically longer. 

A Surge of Interest Is Not A Surge of Profit 

Let’s say you have a web design agency and you landed a huge client. You did amazing work, so now you’ve got them in your portfolio. You did a case study. You’ve been promoting the case study, and business is pouring in (or at least business interest is pouring in). Everyone wants to work with you. Now everyone in that industry wants you to make their website look amazing too. They want you to bring that energy and turn their business website into something exciting. Because why wouldn’t they? Nobody wants a boring website. 

Decisions Snowball in Number, Complexity, and Importance

But you can’t build proper infrastructure while you’re rushed. So you have to consider if you need more admin people or designers. Do you want to do content in-house or do you want to outsource it? Do you want to offer full web design and content, etc. So then you’d have to consider content in-house or outsourcing content to a partner. 

If you try to do this while rushed, you’ll settle for poor talent or at least talent that wouldn’t be up to your ideal standards if you weren’t rushed. When you’re a small business, and you’re trying to create these sorts of partnerships and bring in new employees, you really need everybody to pull their weight.

The quality of work that you will put out because of these sorts of partners will be lower. Then, that kind of brings your brand image down. You may not be in a position to lose as much money as a service-based business [when compared to a product-based business]. But you could lose a lot in reputation just from one or two bad employees/outsourced partners. 

Learn to Say No or Take Responsibility

So my recommendation to you is to either turn the work away, or be accustomed to talking to these prospective clients, even if you’re full up, and letting them know when you’ll have the capacity to take on their projects.

Don’t tell everyone that you can do their projects right now. That’s our inclination. We want to make our clients happy, but they’re not going to be happy if we’re unable to do a good job. So if you see that business is starting to pick up, what you need to do is project out that calendar. 

Include Employee Assessments

Also, add assessments if you want to hire employees or develop outsourced partners, in terms of your business management and business growth. However, work on those relationships at a pace that allows you to really assess their work, and assess whether or not they’ll fit into your business structure and your business team. 

So I think now you can kind of get it. Yes, you can grow too fast, and it’s not a good problem to have. If you grow too fast, you could destroy your reputation and that will make it almost impossible for you to do business. So keep those things in mind. 

We are coming up on the end of the first season of The Defiant Business Podcast, and we’ll be taking a one-week break. But once that’s over, we’ve got a special guest for you. We’re going to be featuring this special guest throughout all of the next season, periodically about once a week.

I think you guys are gonna love what they had to say. I’ll be revealing more details in the final episodes of season 1. Thanks for being here with me. 

Hourly Fees: Bad for You, Bad for Your Clients

I figured out early on in my business growth that hourly fees are not my friend. Hourly rates tie your services to your hours, something that can be itemized. But your value goes well beyond just those hours. 

This is why you have to get away from charging hourly. Recently, I came to understand that hourly fees aren’t just bad for you. They place you and your client at odds. 

Here’s the podcast episode:

Or if you’d rather watch the video:

And here’s the transcript:

Hi, I’m Ruthie owner of Defy The Status Quo, and you’re listening to an episode of The Defiant Business Podcast, your daily 10-minute shot of business knowledge. You don’t have a lot of time and I’m not going to waste it. 

We’re just going to dive right in, because today’s topic is one that’s a huge point of contention in freelancing and business forums all around the world at anytime of the day: hourly fees, why they’re bad for you and why they’re bad for your client. 

Hourly Fees Are Not Your Friend

Why Hourly Fees Are Bad for Service Providers

In my freelance writing and content-writing career so far, I learned pretty early on that hourly fees were not my friend. So the first part of this episode is going to focus on why hourly fees are bad for you. 

They’re really bad for freelancers, small business owners, consultants, and any type of service provider. And the reason why is because you’re turning your time into a product. As a service provider, your time is your inventory. You don’t want to put a price tag on your time.

The reason why is because not all of your hours have the same value and project rate. I’ve seen this on a lot of forums. Your project rate shouldn’t be how many hours you think you’re going to do. Your internal hourly rate is what the project rate is. So if you have absolutely nowhere else to start, this is a great place to do so. 

Especially if you’re working on a new project, you’re like, “Hey, so I think a project will take x many hours and I’d like to make this much per hour. This is going to be my project rate”.

But you really need to dig in deeper to the value that you’re offering. And you’re like “Ruthie, I don’t know how to calculate the value of what it is I’m offering” Okay. That’s because you need to get clear on the return on investment that your customer or client can expect to see.

That includes looking at things like KPIs, key performance indicators, that measure your success. So again, keep in mind, I’m in content marketing, which means that I can’t prove the ROI sometimes until 6, or 12, or even many more months into the future. So you have to focus on the near future KPIs that you can use to help show your clients the value of their investment. 

Show those near time KPI results gives you time to educate your client on the long-term KPIs as well.

For example, let’s say I was the person who wrote a white paper for your business, which takes 20 to 30 hours to do over six to eight weeks. By outsourcing it, you actually completed the project. Internal company politics didn’t derail it. An employee didn’t lose interest. This project didn’t go to the back-burner because your client work increased when you delegated a white paper to someone.

I was able to help your employees become more productive. How many hours did we save there? Right. I was able to keep this project on track. So even just in the near term, I was able to generate direct cost savings for my client by being the person that took on that project. 

And then you talk about things like the customer experience. So when I work with my clients, we communicate a lot, not excessively so. Part of them outsourcing to me is that I am a trusted partner in their organization. They can count on regular updates.

We will schedule regular phone calls to discuss project progress, but they know that there’s not a lot of hand-holding here. Not only am I taking the project off of their hands, I’m taking the stress too. And that’s not a transfer of stress, because I don’t accept unnecessary stress. However, by taking on the project, we’ve helped eliminate some of their stress, and that’s pretty hard to put a value on. But marketing professionals, sales professionals, business professionals can feel it, and they understand. 

So understand the value that you bring to the table. I know that it’s hard, but just because it’s hard doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do it. You’re leaving money on the table by not understanding your own value to your clients. And this isn’t something that you can do and have the sort of successful business that I imagine you’re hoping to bring into your life. 

Punished For Improving

As you get faster, you make less money; you’re punished for improving. Think about it. Yeah, you’re punished for improving.

Let’s say you’re a consultant of some kind. If you offer any type of reoccurring work for them, then you’re going to become more familiar. And if you charge hourly, you’re going to get faster, which means you won’t be charging for as many hours.

Somebody who’s less experienced than you will take longer to do something. They could potentially end up getting paid more than you. Your speed should not be something that ends up punishing you. That’s another reason to stay away from hourly rates. 

That’s why I’m saying, even if you just take your internal hourly rate times the number of hours you think it’ll take you, that is better than actually charging an hourly rate to your clients. 

Hourly rates also encourage clients to pick apart what it is that you’re doing. They want you to account for all of these hours. “This is way more than I thought it was going to take. Why did this happen?”

Those are also things to consider when you’re setting up your project. That’s why you have to account for things like client interaction and project management because you’re not just going tohit the time button. 

People don’t always account for emails. How much time do you spend in Gmail or your webmail client? Probably a little too much.

Are there going to be any regular meetings?

Are there going to be any events that you need to attend?

How much research do you have to do?

Do you normally charge for research? The answer is: you should be if you don’t. 

Why Hourly Rates Are Bad for Your Clients, Too

Why are hourly rates bad for your clients, though? Hourly rates are bad for your clients because it immediately puts you and your clients in a moral/ethical dilemma. 

So, I recently read Million Dollar Consulting by Alan Weiss. One thing that he explained that really resonated with me: You are suddenly at opposition with your client because what’s in your best interest is not in your client’s best interests. And that is not how you want to start out a business relationship.

What this means is that the longer you take on a project, you get paid more, but the less time you spend on a project, the client spends less. So it’s to their advantage, if you take less time. It’s to your advantage, if you take more time. You are immediately butting heads at the outset of a project, whether you know it or not. 

Also with hourly time, the client knows that they’re going to spend more the longer you spend on something. I largely do not prefer hourly work unless there’s a cap. If something has to be hourly, put a cap on it, because you don’t want to be charged for an excessive number of hours.

I prefer project rates when I outsource certain work, or when I create teams for my clients. If we’re subcontracting or creating teams, I still do project rates with them. I’d rather just be able to account for that money, let it go and get what it is I need from this teammate, subcontractor, or contractor that I’m outsourcing too. 

Hourly Fees Do Not Account for Value

So, hourly fees are bad for you and they’re bad for your client for a variety of reasons. Hourly fees are not going to be the way that you successfully scale your business, because hourly fees do not account for the value that you’re delivering to your customers. 

Not to mention hourly fees also limit how high you can go. When you look at something like a blog post, let’s say I charge $1,000 for a thousand word blog post and it takes me three hours to write it. If I say my hourly rate is $100 an hour and it takes me three hours to write it, then I would have to charge $300 by my hourly rate.

But I charge $1,000 based on the difficulty of the topic, the sophisticated nature of the writing, and the audience for which it’s being written. There’s a lot of factors here. So I wouldn’t charge $1,000 if it was a blog post on gardening.

It depends on the topic and industry, audience, sophistication level, and the amount of research and things that’ll have to be done. Not because I don’t know, as I typically stick to industries that I’m familiar with, but because we have to be sophisticated and have sources. 

So, that’s been an episode of The Defiant Business Podcast. I look forward to seeing you again soon. 

The Two Types of Outsourcing

When we use the term “outsourcing”, people typically only think of one kind. There are in fact two types of outsourcing(at least)!

In today’s podcast episode, we’re going to go over the two types of outsourcing, and why one is so much more expensive than the other. AND… why you need both to help run your business.

Here’s the podcast episode:

Or if you’d rather watch the video:

And here’s the transcript:

Hi, I’m Ruthie, owner of Defy The Status Quo, and you’re listening to an episode of The Defiant Business Podcast, your daily source for 10-minute shots of business knowledge. You don’t have a lot of time and I’m not going to waste it, so let’s get into it. 

Today we’re going to talk about the two types of outsourcing. This is information every business owner needs. No matter what type of business you have, or even if you’re not technically the business owner. Let’s say you’re the chief marketing officer, or you’re in charge of the sales department. It doesn’t matter what department you’re in.

Outsourcing is something that most businesses have to consider, because when you’re competing with enterprise-level organizations as a smaller or midsize business, one of your advantages is being lean and agile. And part of what that means is not taking on employees for tasks that you can affordably outsource. Why? Because your business has no obligation, beyond the contract, when you outsource certain tasks. 

Types of Outsourcing

So generally speaking, there are two types of outsourcing, and those are the two that we’re going to talk about today. 

The First Type: Simple but Time-Consuming

The first type is what people typically think of when you talk about outsourcing. It’s the incredibly simple and time-consuming tasks that you shouldn’t necessarily be the one doing. If you’re a marketing officer or the content marketing director in a bigger organization, should you necessarily be the one entering in lead-gen information, or pulling the search engine optimization reports?

Should you be the one inputting the 50 business cards you got from the week-long conference that you just got back from? No, probably not.

And when I say that you shouldn’t be the one doing it, what I mean is: is it the best use of your time? So let’s say it takes an hour. What else could you accomplish in that hour that would generate revenue for your business?

For me, I could outline three or four blog posts, and I could record five or six podcast episodes. Those are outward-facing activities that could generate more business for me. So do I have to necessarily be the person who enters a business card information into my CRM? No, I don’t have to be that person. 

The Second Type: Significantly Complex Tasks

The other type of outsourcing is the one that people don’t necessarily like to use the word “outsourcing” with, so it’s important to consider the connotation of the word. When we say “outsource”, people are typically thinking “Oh, you’re going to take my work and farm it out.”  Maybe you’re expecting to not get great quality work back. And that is not always the case. 

The second type of outsourcing includes complex tasks that you shouldn’t necessarily be the one learning and executing. My best example is the infographic design on one of my blog posts, done by my executive assistant. She is pretty awesome. We worked together to create an infographic to help people create great Linkedin profiles.

I was considering doing the infographic design myself on Canva. After playing around with a template for maybe a minute and a half before I was like “Nope, this is not something I should be spending my time on.”

I can come up with all the points and the content that we need to put in there, and I can help with the tweaking. I can give feedback so it looks exactly the way that I want it to, but this graphic design thing, is not the best use of my time.

In Comes My Expert!

Enter Sylvia, who is my executive assistant. She has awesome graphic design skills and she was able to put to use on this infographic.

We worked back-and-forth to tweak it, and that was a much better use of my time. It would have taken me forever to get everything just the way I wanted it to be in Canva. But because she’s good at what she does, I didn’t have to take the time to learn it, struggle with it, and then finally maybe get something done that I was proud of. It’s very possible that what I came up with at the end wouldn’t have been something that I would have been proud to put on my website. 

That’s the other thing to consider. Not only are these tasks typically more complex and time-consuming, it’s because of someone else’s years of experience that they’re able to execute them better than you.

It’s not to say you couldn’t learn it. It’s not to say I couldn’t learn graphic design, because I could, but I don’t feel that’s the best use of my time. I wouldn’t be working in my area of brilliance. I try to spend as much time as possible working in my areas of brilliance because it makes me the happiest, and generally generates the most revenue for my business. 

Key Differences Between the Two Types of Outsourcing: Costs and Qualifications 

Simple Outsourcing Costs and Qualifications

The first type of outsourcing consists of simple tasks that are typically time-consuming, but easy to learn. They’re typically inexpensive. These are things like:

  • inputting data from one spreadsheet or one type of information format into another
  • pulling stats for something
  • responding to very basic customer service inquiries
  • sending out welcome emails and things like that

It’s all very basic stuff that’s easy to learn. They are typically inexpensive contractors on even the higher-end offering. These sorts of service provider typically have trouble justifying their fees, or they offer other services.

Maybe you put out a job post on Upwork, or you put out to your Linkedin network that you’re looking for some help with data entry work. A virtual assistant responds and she charges you $30 an hour. This is on the expensive side for a virtual assistant. But if she’s usually a virtual assistant for a writer like myself, she might also proofread. Maybe she helps, like how Sylvia goes over my stuff, helps me with drafting my blog posts, does the design for the graphics, and other activities.

She could charge more than somebody who just does data entry. If you’re looking to save money here, what you’re looking for is someone who just does data entry and likely doesn’t live in the United States. Then they would charge lower rates. Again, it’s those tasks that are usually easy to learn but they’re time-consuming, and so you don’t necessarily want to be the person doing them. 

Complex Outsourcing Costs and Qualifications

The difference for the second type is that they’re more expensive. The tasks are more complex and excellent contractors in these fields are often hard to find. Or you know, ones that work well with you are hard to find. So maybe you talk to a lot of web designers, and there were some that looked really good, but they just didn’t mesh with you. You didn’t feel a connection, you didn’t feel like they’d handle your stuff the way that you wanted.

They’re professionals and you would potentially recommend them to other people after your interactions. However, you didn’t feel like they were the best fit for you.

Should You Save the Project?

The other thing to consider is these people might be too expensive. You have to decide whether you should learn how to do this so you can get this project done, or if it’s a project that you can save for when you have the funds to pay for an expert in this field?

Again, looking at something like web design or graphic design, “could I save this project for when I can afford to outsource it?” Maybe it’s something where you’re like “Yeah, I could learn how to do this, but what I would do wouldn’t be as good.” Then perhaps you put that as a goal for your business six months down the road.

“Six months down the road, I’m going to be able to pay a graphic designer to design x types of graphics or x number of graphics. Then we’ll be able to repurpose those on my website.”

Another thing to consider is that when you have the second type of outsourcing, you’re going to want to build relationships. If you do have to search for someone, you don’t want to do it in a rush. You will compromise your standards for what you want to get done, and then the project still won’t turn out the way that you want to.

When you’re ready to look for the more complex type of outsourcing for those harder projects, you want to make sure that you are taking your time and vetting your people. Finding someone for data entry is going to be a lot easier than finding just the right web designers, so that way your website looks exactly the way that you want it to. 

This has been an episode of The Defiant Business Podcast. I’m Ruthie, your host, owner of Defy The Status Quo, and I look forward to seeing you again next time. 

SEO Backlink Image Scam

Today we are going to talk about an SEO backlink image scam. I searched online for it once I unraveled the mystery, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. Nothing online about it. And so I couldn’t resist the opportunity to create an awesome piece of content that explains this scam to people and hopefully helps them avoid being scammed themselves. So let’s get into it.

What Are Backlinks?

First and foremost, what are backlinks? When someone links to your website, that’s a backlink. So you’re a website. I’m a website. I was on your website. I found awesome information. When I went back to produce my own content on my site, I linked to your website or your page as the source for that information.

Backlinks tell Google that a website’s content is valuable and reputable. So that’s why original research always gets a ton of backlinks. Especially if you’ve got research with numbers in it because people love statistics. When we craft our content stories, we can deliver a second solid punch with firm numbers supporting our analysis, our opinion, or just a particular feeling that we’ve had about a subject. 

Backlinks are also one of the top three SEO ranking factors. So more good backlinks mean you’ll rise in the search engines back. Bad backlinks can bring you down by association. It’s kind of like how a man or woman is judged by their friends. A website can be judged by its backlinks.

So what are backlinks? Backlinks are basically Internet street cred. That means the more you have, the better off you are, as long as they’re high quality backlinks. 

Ruthie Bowles, Defy The Status Quo

How Does This Backlink Scam Work?

They’ll target you based on an image that you’ve used on your website. How do they do this? With a reverse image lookup tool. So they’ll upload an image and this tool will spit out all the websites that it can match the image to. 

Then, they’ll send you a message asking them for a backlink to credit them because you took their photo. How dare you! The message likely sounds nonthreatening, which is great because you’ve probably just about lost your mind as soon as you read it. 

And then you paste the link on your site again because you don’t want to be sued. You’re relieved that they were so nice about it. Boom, SEO backlink image scam complete!

It Works Because No One Wants to be Sued

This scam works because you’re relieved they’re not suing you. They could’ve served you with a takedown notice and they can sue you right off the bat for infringing on their copyright. For a real photograph owner anyway. They don’t even have to warn you; they don’t have to ask. 

You’re just relieved that that is not what happened to you. Something like that could totally destroy small business and the scammers are taking advantage of that.

The Message Started an Investigative Process

So my client received the following message: 

Hi, it’s James here from Pickcomfort.com. I’m reaching out because I noticed that you used one of my images in this post [he provided a link to my client’s post]. 
I took this photo in 2014 and it’s copywriter belongs to me and my website. Here it is: [he provides two links that appear to go to his site]. 
Unfortunately you didn’t give me credit for the image. I’d really appreciate it if you were able to add a source link beneath the image, could you do this? 
Thanks, 
James H. 

Investigative Process Step 1: Freak Out and Confirm Your Image Source

Actually, my pre-step was freaking out. I freaked out because I said, “No, this could ruin my credibility!” 

First of all, I only ever use royalty-free images or paid stock photo options, all right? I’m like, “Oh my goodness, please do not tell me that the royalty-free image sites are corrupted or something!” 

I confirmed that this image was taken from Pexels, which guarantees royalty-free images. So if this photo isn’t actually royalty-free, that’s Pexels fault, not mine. “Sue them”, that’s what I’m thinking.

via GIPHY

But at the same time, Pexels entire business strategy is built on this. So why would they run the risk of having any unusable photos in their database? That’s when the scam alerts started going off.

The freak out part of this step is optional. Confirming your image source is not. 

Investigative Process Step 2: Evaluate the Message

So your next step is to evaluate the message that you’ve received. So there were some grammar errors in the message. The big one being a misspelling or improper usage of a word. He put “copywriter” instead of copyright. 

He also signed the message, James H. Well, I mean that’s better than John H., right? But that could be anyone, and he didn’t even include a contact phone number in the message. 

And the links are actually to the site’s media library. So it was www.pick comfort.com/wp-content/. That just means that you’ve uploaded images or media into your WordPress media library. I can upload anything I want into my media library without actually putting it on my site, but it does generate a link for it. 

So you’ll see companies do this sometimes with downloadable content. They’ll put it in the media library. You put in your information to download the ebook, you hit submit, and then you go to the “thank you” page. You can click that link it shows the media that you wanted. 

As I said, you can do that with anything without actually putting on your site, images, videos, documents, audio, all sorts of things.

Investigative Process Step 3: Vet the Company

My suspicions are sufficiently riled up at this point. Now, we must vet the company. I tried to look up Pick Comfort on social media. I also tried using Google and I couldn’t really find them anywhere. 

They didn’t have any social media accounts and only a basic contact form on the website. I also noticed that Pick Comfort actually links its products to Amazon product pages that don’t belong to them. Based on that, I concluded that it’s likely an affiliate site trying to generate revenue. 

Now for the next 48 hours (I think), anything you purchase, not just that item, Pick Comfort, will receive a commission. So now, of course, I have to avoid Amazon for the next 48 hours or else I’m giving Pick Comfort money.

Investigative Process Step 4: How Did They Find My Client?

Next, I needed to determine how they found my client. I’ve pretty much unraveled the method of attack and now I want to know how they even targeted us in the first place. 

They used a reverse image lookup tool. The entire process is free when you consider the images are also free. To duplicate the process, I uploaded the image that we used in our post into the reverse lookup tool that Google provides. I found my client’s blog post after page 5. 

They probably did the same thing and then sent the same message to every match that they could find for that image. All they had to do was change out the URL or the link to each company’s website and they would have a complete message pretty easy.

Reassure the Client and Calm My SEO Spidey Sense

Whew, finally done! Well, kind of. I still needed to reassure my client and confirm my suspicions. The best way to do both was to see if they’ve done this before. The average company will likely just give the backlink because they don’t have the SEO spidey sense.

Remember, most will be happy they aren’t getting sued.  I don’t blame them, especially if they’re just trying to create content and they don’t necessarily have the content marketing and search engine optimization background that someone like me has. So lucky for me, and lucky for you reading this post, I actually found three examples of them succeeding in getting the backlink for images that were not theirs. 

Checking a Site’s Backlinks

So how do you do this first step, check out their current backlinks? What I decided to do was use Neil Patel’s backlink tool.

His Backlinks tool is a free way to check out backlinks for your site or someone else’s site. Ahrefs also has a free backlink checker, which provides more results usually. The only thing you have to do is copy and paste the domain name into the search bar and hit enter and wait for the results. 

If you pay for SEMrush or another type of SEO tool that will let you check for backlinks, then, of course, you could use that instead. But this was the easiest option and it’s free and accessible to everyone. 

Successful SEO Backlink Image Scam Example 1

My first example was a real estate website that wrote an article on how to spruce up your bathroom, which is incredibly important for real estate. Especially when people are coming to view your house. You need to make sure that your bathrooms and especially your kitchen, those two areas look amazing. 

This image on the left, at the bottom, you can see the arrows that I drew. You can see that they hyperlink to pick comfort as the source for this image.

And so what I did in order to find it, I searched “small orchid in bathroom” and I found the image on the right on Unsplash. 

Successful SEO Backlink Image Scam Example 2

I felt that number two was really the nail in the coffin that I needed. The website is a news and trends website. Their article was about why you should wash your hands and sing at the same time. So probably singing happy birthday and washing your hands at the same time. 

This particular image on the left, you can see it says in the caption: “credited to James H, Pick Comfort”, and then Pick Comfort’s URL. Wow. Just put all of it out there. And so what I did was I looked for “bathroom sink” or “running faucet” or something like that. And I found the image on the right on Unsplash.

Now to be honest, after reviewing the website, I don’t feel like this particular image was really on brand. It’s incredibly dark and I feel like they probably should have picked a different one. But I digress. 

Successful SEO Backlink Image Scam Example 3

Finally, I found a gamer website. This actually attests to the accuracy of the reverse lookup tool. As you can see, the image on the left is actually altered. They put logos for different companies in the image. They’re going down the faucet cause the author was talking about leaks in the video gaming industry. 

Instead of putting just Pick Comfort.com, they hyperlinked the text “image source”. But if you click on it, it goes to Pick Comfort.com. So again, I just looked up bathroom sinks and found the image on the right on Unsplash.

So as you can see, these images are royalty-free and the person claiming that they took these photos lying. And that’s the point. And that’s why we go through this exercise of checking and confirming how these things play out. 

Don’t Get Taken in By This SEO Scam!

Make sure that you double-check any communications you receive about your photos or any original content that you’ve created on your website. Do your due diligence upfront when you’re producing content. What I mean by that is to make sure that your photos are royalty-free or you’re using paid stock photo options.

You have to be careful with websites like Flicker. They have great images, but oftentimes they don’t allow for commercial use. Just keep that in mind. If you outsource your content and you have content partners, make sure you vet your partners. You hire them for their expertise. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be aware of their processes, at least a high level. 

When they’re giving you images to use, just ask them where they came from. If anybody does reach out to you about photos, make sure that you can easily present the source. 

If you receive any information about your photos on your website, run them through this process or contact a trusted content professional and ask them to help you determine whether or not this is a scam. You don’t want to have any bad or erroneous backlinks on your site going to someone else that’s not related to what it is that you do. 

Have you heard of this scam before? Has someone reached out to you to get you to place their link as an image source? Let us know in the comments!

How to Handle Slow Periods

Unless you’re an enterprise level company, you’re probably expecting to experience slow periods. Besides the dip in revenue, you’re also just dreading it in general. Slow periods attack a business owner’s confidence. Learning how to handle slow periods can keep your momentum high after a burst of client activity.

Instead of dreading slow periods, I’ve come up with a recommendation for you. You might actually begin to look forward to slower periods. Or at least you won’t dread them anymore!

Here’s the podcast episode:

Or if you’d rather watch the video:

And here’s the transcript:

Hi, I’m Ruthie, owner of Defy The Status Quo, and you’re listening to an episode of The Defiant Business Podcast, your daily 10-minute dose of business knowledge. So, let’s get into it. Today we’re going to talk about how to handle slow periods. 

Slow periods impact every business. The amount of money coming in can be a bit stressful. When it goes up, that’s super great and you’re like “Oh my goodness, I’m so great at this. I’m such an awesome entrepreneur.” Then, the money could dip. It’s not as high as it usually is, not even your average. Maybe it gets really low. No, you aren’t a failure. This is not the worst thing that could happen. It’s usually indicative of certain things and your business process, but it doesn’t mean that your business is bad, you don’t know what you’re doing, or that all of your clients hate you. 

If the money part is really stressful, as in it could break your business, I advise that you check out episode six, which is why you should read the book Profit First. Once I implemented that system, I was a lot more secure in my cashflow, no matter what amount of money was coming in that month. So I really recommend the book. Go listen to that podcast episode and I’m sure that you’re going to want to read it. 

Moving Your Business Forward During Slow Periods

Slow periods come for all businesses, whether you sell products or services, and they’re not always on a typical or predictable cycle. As a writer, I’ve often heard that summer is a slow period, but I haven’t experienced that yet in my business. I’ve had other slow months, but nothing repetitive at this point. 

So it’s what you’re doing during these periods that matters the most. Just because you don’t have a pending deadline, a client’s work to turn in, client meetings to attend, or products moving out of your warehouse, doesn’t mean that there aren’t other business activities that can help move your business forward. The client’s work and everything is one aspect of what you do. 

When you run your own business, there are business activities that you have to do in order to keep the money coming in. If you don’t have any leads in your pipeline, then your business is going to start to fail. Leads typically equal money as long as you can convert them, and money is what keeps your business going. 

The Slow Time List

My advice for every business owner or marketing manager is, if you’re in charge of a department at your company, have a list of things to do during the slow times. Maybe while you’re slammed with work, an idea comes to mind for a great marketing project, a new product or service that you could offer, but you don’t necessarily have the time to develop it right now. Put It on the slow time list. That’s what we’ll call it, the slow time list

That means that you will put it on the list and take some notes if you need to, so you don’t lose your inspiration. Now you have one more task to do. 

What can go on your slow time list? Let’s explore the options. 

Other Marketing Tasks: Blog Posts and Lead Magnets

Some other things that you might consider doing are marketing tasks. And this is one of my top recommendations. So for smaller businesses, when slow periods happen, it’s typically because you got overloaded with client work or customers’ orders, and you stopped marketing as much as you normally do. 

A dip in marketing activity typically leads to a dip in leads and a decrease in client work or customer orders. What you want to do is try to ramp up your marketing to breathe some new life back into your pipeline. This could be anything. 

It could be that you write more blog posts. However, what I recommend is not blasting all of those blog posts out in an inconsistent manner. You should instead trickle them out. So if you normally posted one blog post per month, but you haven’t posted any blog posts for the last three months, put out one blog post per month. 

Schedule them out so you’re kind of secure. If you manage to write six blog posts during a slow month, and you publish one per month, then you’ve got content going out on your site for the next six months. And that kind of alleviates that pressure for you. 

You might also consider creating a new lead magnet for your website, whether you sell a product or a service. In a previous episode we talked about content variety and how different things like Ebooks, case studies, and white papers impact the sales funnel for your leads. 

Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile

If you’ve met me, or you’ve paid any attention to my content in the past, you know that Linkedin is very important to me. Even if you don’t use your Linkedin profile, people will still use it to look you up. So, you want your Linkedin profile to look great. 

  • Does it accurately reflect where you are in your business? 
  • Does it have your tagline? 
  • Is this what you want people to read as they’re researching you? 
  • Does it represent your 8-second elevator pitch, your profile summary? 
  • Does that reflect your 60-second elevator pitch? 

If the answer to any of those questions is no, you should go fix it. Because even if you don’t engage on the business platform, people will use it to look you up, and you want it to present you in the light that you want to be seen in. 

Business Development and Sales Tasks

Other tasks that you can take care of are potentially in your business development, or sales tasks. Follow up on some leads that have gone cold. And what about reaching out to previous clients? Of course, it depends on why they’re not working with you anymore. Reach out to clients you’d like to work with again, or previous clients. 

Look at your network. Maybe now’s a great time to ask people for a couple of referrals like “Hey, I don’t know if you’ve seen my work lately, but things have been going really awesome and I’ve been looking for more opportunities.  Could you give me two names for people you know that you wouldn’t mind sending an introduction email to. Maybe I can send the introduction email and cc you with that person”. If those people like you, I’m sure they’ll come up with at least one name and that gives you a new lead to engage with and speak with. 

Examine Why Slow Periods Hit When They Do 

The big thing here though is that slow periods happen to everyone. It doesn’t mean you need to throw in the towel, but each time a slow period hits, it’s prudent to examine why. Has income dipped because you went on vacation? Okay, well that’s kind of the cost of going on vacation. Now, you can prepare marketing activities and schedule things out ahead of your vacation, so those things all operate on track. 

When You Work With the Government

If you’re a federal contractor listening to this right now, you are getting  ready to enter the really busy time at the end of the government fiscal year. This is when government agencies and organizations spend a lot of money. You may not be marketing as effectively because you’re busy engaging with your customers. You’re getting in those last minute contracts and single source awards. That means your marketing is not necessarily going to be on point. 

You may see a lot of work from old or previous clients, but you may see a dip in new customer work that comes in. Totally fine. Just make sure that you’re assessing that and understanding the reasons behind your slow periods. 

When You Take Time Off

For smaller businesses like freelancers, e.g. writers, were you sick at all last month? Maybe that would account for your lower marketing activities, which could potentially account for lower leads coming in. 

Once you can understand the reasons behind your slow periods, you tend to feel a little bit better about them. The primary business point to highligh is that consistent marketing and sales activity are the keys to business success. As long as you’ve locked down your services, you’re great at what you do, you make your clients or customers happy, and if you sell products, that your product either meets or exceeds your industry standards, then it’ll be the business side of things that trips you up. 

Learn How to Handle Slow Periods and Increase Productivity

Consistent business activities, your business development (developing strategic partnerships), your marketing activities to bring in new business, and your sales activities so you can close the leads that you get from your marketing activities, are the things that will trip up your business the most. 

You can do this. We all go through slow periods. Post about your slow period on Linkedin and I bet you’ll get a ton of responses.

So, thank you for listening today. It’s been an episode of The Defiant Business Podcast on how to handle slow periods. We’d love to get your feedback on this episode. Please feel free to leave a comment wherever you’ve come into this, whether it’s the podcast on my blog, or a video on YouTube. I’ll see you again next time.

The Importance of Content Variety

Why should you worry about content variety on your website? Well, first of all, people don’t want to see the same stuff over and over. But certain types of content are more effective depending on where your client or customer is at on their buyer’s journey. That’s why we’re going to explore the importance of content variety.

One type of content goes from 73% effectiveness at the start of the journey, and drops to 6% at the end!

Here’s the podcast episode:

Or if you’d rather watch the video:

And, of course, the transcript:

Hi, I’m Ruthie Bowles, owner of Defy The Status Quo, and you’re listening to an episode of The Defiant Business Podcast, your daily 10-minute shot of business knowledge. So let’s get into it. 

Lately, I’ve been talking about the different types of content that’s out there. I focused on the show on two different types that aren’t quite as well-known: white papers and case studies. But I also wanted to talk about content variety, and the importance of content variety.

What I mean by content variety is the different types of content that you create and employ in your content marketing strategy. And the reason why this is important is because research shows us that different types of content have different levels of effectiveness based on the where; where your audience, reader, or lead is in the sales funnel. 

The Sales Funnel: An Inverted Pyramid

So, what’s the sales funnel, or sales cycle? 

The first level of the sales funnel, at the top, is the widest. So think of it as like an inverted pyramid. The top of the sales funnel is typically the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey. The lead, customer, or client is aware that they have a problem, or they come across your top of the funnel content and become aware of the fact that they have a problem. 

The second stage is not as wide as the top, and it is in the middle of the inverted pyramid. That’s considered the consideration stage. Now the lead is considering their options in terms of solving their problem. So let’s take it back to the top. You become aware that you have a physical issue. Your consideration is maybe which treatment or doctor you should seek out based on your research. 

Then we move to the bottom of the funnel. That is the decision stage. That’s when people typically make a purchase decision. They go with a service provider or they purchase a product.

Transforming into the Sales Cycle

As people have started talking about the sales funnel, they’re starting to turn it into the sales cycle. The last portion of the sales cycle, which is added on, is the delight phase. I’m going to do a podcast episode on the sales cycle in order to really go over that in-depth.

The Most Effective Types of Content

At the Top of the Funnel

So what types of content are most effective? 

According to Content Marketing Institutes’ research on B2B content marketing, at the top of the funnel, blog posts are the most effective type of content, at 73%. So 73% of B2B marketers say that blog posts are the most effective for moving people from the top of the funnel to the middle of the funnel. Effective is, by their standard, moving someone from one stage of the funnel to the next.

The next most effective one was podcasts at 57%, which is great. That’s good news for me. 57% of marketers say that this type of content moves people from one phase of the buyer’s journey to the next.

Then ebooks, at 56%. This is interesting, because you can use a blog post to show someone your ebook and get them to download it, if they’re interested in what the blog posts and the ebook have to say. 

So, at the top of the funnel is where you’re going to get most of your leads to come in.

In the Middle of the Funnel

At the middle of the funnel, the clients are trying to evaluate their options. White papers are the most effective form of content for marketers, at 53% of marketers giving them the stamp of approval. 

The next most effective are webinars, which makes sense. Personally, I’ve had bad experiences with webinars, so a webinar for me isn’t a top of the funnel tool. When people are just starting to get to know me, it’s not my ideal. If I’ve been engaged with someone – let’s say I follow Neil Patel or Julia McCoy – and they sent me an email about a webinar that they were giving, I would be more likely to sign up for it because I already trust them. 

So it makes sense to me that webinars are very effective at the middle of the funnel. They represent a more serious constraint on my time, as most webinars are 60 minutes. If I trust you, then I’m more likely to give you my 60 minutes. I’ll have to do a whole podcast episode on webinars as well, so stay tuned for that.

Comparatively, while 73% of marketers said blog posts were very effective for moving people from one stage to the next, only 21% of marketers said the same thing at the middle of the funnel. 

At the Bottom of the Funnel

At the bottom of the funnel, 40% of marketers say that case studies are an effective form of content for moving from one phase to the next. After that, the numbers become pretty disparate. 

The next highest are in-person events at 32%. 

After that, it hits the 20s, and the teens, and the single digits. I think this is probably a reflection of the fact that we aren’t in control of our content marketing, or our customer’s journey. Like I said in a previous episode, we’re just not in control of it. So we aren’t always sure at which point customers convert, buy, or move to the next phase. Keep that in mind as we talk about these numbers. 

Similarly, 73% of marketers said blog posts were very effective at the top of the funnel, whereas 6% of marketers say that they’re effective at the bottom of the funnel. 

The white papers go from 53% vote of confidence to a 14%, which is actually a really big drop. It just really depends on your customer. 

Account for Your Customer’s Preferences

And that’s what I’m going to close with today. The most important thing to know when you think about content variety is covering your customer’s preferences. 

If you’re a successful entrepreneur, you likely don’t have a lot of time, so trying to get me to sign up for your 60-minute webinar is not going to work as well for me. But if you’re saying “Hey, here’s an ebook”, maybe even on the same topic, I’m more likely to download that ebook.

I’m more likely to interact with your content because I can skim an ebook at my leisure. I don’t have to sit down for an hour to listen to you talk. 

This is the same reason why on the website, we put the transcript and the video in the show notes for each podcast episode. I may not always have time to listen to a podcast episode or watch a video, but it doesn’t mean I’m not interested in what you have to say, or the content. So when you give me multiple options in terms of how I can consume your content, it makes it more likely that I will. 

The other thing to consider as well is that some people just don’t like watching videos. Video is the highest increasing content form that’s being created right now, and for good reason. People do enjoy videos, but we don’t always have time for them. 

In my case, I can read much faster than you can talk, so I would much rather read something most of the time instead of you drawing it out through a video. But again, it always depends. It depends on the topic, your client, or your customer. 

Your customer base may prefer video, which means that, while blog posts are great, you should be putting out video as well because it makes it more likely that they’ll interact with your content and absorb what you have to say. 

The Goal of Content Marketing

The goal of content marketing, at least the way I do content marketing, is to build industry credibility and client trust. In order for that to happen, people have to actually take in our content. So if you’re not paying attention to how they like to consume content, you are missing out on the credibility building and trust-building. 

This has been an episode of The Defiant Business Podcast, in which we talked about the importance of content variety. I look forward to seeing you next time.