Optimal Morning Routine

Do you really have to get up before the sun to have a great morning routine? No! In today’s episode, I’ll tell you the real key. 

I asked my network which activities were critical to their morning routines, and wow, the response was overwhelming. Instead of trying to detail every activity, I noticed a few themes. Those themes are what I address in today’s podcast episode. 

Here’s the podcast episode:

Or if you’d rather watch the video:

Today, we’re going to talk about the optimal morning routine, which can be something different for everybody. So I asked my network on Linkedin and GirlBoss what a critical part of their morning routine is. 

It’s Not When, but How

This is important because, according to a video Mel Robbins posted on Instagram, it’s not when you get up, but how. So don’t worry, I’m not telling you to get up 4 o’clock in the morning, although that is what I do sometimes. 

She said it was how you woke up. That’s a critical distinction that’s really important, and it’s one that I’ve always held onto. Let’s say you work a swing shift and you don’t start working until 2. Well then, you don’t need to get up at 4 o’clock in the morning. You’re in control of your morning, and you have the opportunity to do the activities that set you up for success. 

If you don’t have 4 children running around in the morning (like I do), and you can get up at 8 o’clock, and still be in control of your morning, then get up at 8. Do it if that’s what you need to feel rested and be at your best for the day. 

Common Themes in the Responses

Something I noticed was that there were some common themes in the flood of responses that I got. If you also answered any of those questions and you’re listening to this episode, I really appreciate it. Thank you. 

Mental Focusing

One of the first things I noticed was that people liked doing some sort of mental focusing activity. 

Meditation, Prayer, Reflection, and Journaling to Start the Day

For some, that was meditation, prayer, or reflection on things that made them grateful. One of the more actively mental things that came up a lot was journaling, which is something I wish I did. For a lot of people, it’s just 5-10 minutes of getting their thoughts out of their brains and onto the paper. That can really do a lot for you. 

Especially first thing in the morning, when you’re still in touch with your dream/creative side, and you just want to word vomit those things out. Journaling is also one of the things that all the most successful people in the world do. 

Planning Out Your Day

Another thing that’s really great for you to do is plan out your day. This is something I put a lot of emphasis on. 

I pick my top 3 priorities for the day. I need to get these 3 things done and if I do, then yay! I try not to beat myself up too much if I don’t get them done, but you’re supposed to identify the top 3 priorities that will move your business forward. 

If you’re an entrepreneur and you’re listening to this, there’s never a day when you get everything on your to-do list done. It’s just not happening. You will reach a point where it’s good enough. Some days we feel like we’ve gotten a lot accomplished and we’ve checked off a lot of things on our to-do list, but that’s not what these 3 priorities are about. 

When you plan out your 3 priorities for the day, it’s supposed to be critical activities. If you have a virtual assistant or something, your top 3 activities should be ones you can’t delegate. They should be the things that you have to do. If you can delegate them, then you should do so, and then find a more critical activity that you have to do. 

Physical Activities to Jump Start Your Day

There Are Countless Ways to Exercise

The other trend that I noticed was doing something physical. A lot of people exercise, which can be done in various ways. I’m not going to unpack that one, but you could be outside, inside, doing yoga, weightlifting, bodyweight exercises, etc. 

Doing anything physical is good for you. I think this is important because, if you’re an entrepreneur or you work from home, you work remotely. It’s really easy to put those things off to the side. These days, what enables many of us to work from home is the computer. 

Right now, as I’m recording this, I’m sitting, and sitting is not the best thing for you. Some people have standing desks and things like that, but the inactivity that many of our jobs and businesses force us into isn’t good for our health. You didn’t start your business to be unhealthy or make your life worse. 

Anything Is Better Than Nothing

Exercise is also something the most successful people do in the morning. I used to be a personal trainer and a fitness competitor. Sometimes, I’d spend 2-3 hours, 6 days a week in the gym, depending on my training cycle. You could do as little as 10-20 minutes of exercise, maybe break it up throughout your day. It’s great for your brain and mood, so go accomplish something physical! 

A Glass of Cold Water

Another thing a lot of people mentioned is that they would drink a glass of cold water first thing in the morning. I have to imagine that’s a shock to the system, and it’s probably very effective! 

Drinking Coffee or Tea

Other people mentioned that they drink coffee or tea. I’m a tea person myself. I really like that cup of coffee or tea in the morning! I can kind of relax before my kids get up. So that’s a part of my routine. 

Immediately Wash Your Face

Something that came up a lot in the GirlBoss community was that some people wash their face immediately; their alarm goes off, they get out of bed and wash their face. I feel like this has a similar effect to drinking the cold glass of water. It kind of shocks your system wakes you up, and then your face is already washed! 

Do Not Check Your Phone

This was a common tip, which I’ve decided to be more firm with myself about as well. Do not check your phone before you’re done with your morning routine. Don’t check social media, don’t check any notifications. 

Apps That Limit Your Social Media Time

It would probably be better if you couldn’t even see the notifications. In my case, my Do Not Disturb is on, but there are also apps that will lock your other applications for you. 

I don’t want to make it sound like all of us are addicted, but sometimes you get on your phone, you’re looking through it, and you’re suddenly like, “What was I even doing?” And you’ve already clicked on a social media just out of habit. That’s what I’m saying! 

You can download an app to help you snap out of it, “Oh, that’s not what I actually meant to do. I wasn’t meaning to check Linkedin right now.” There are apps that lock your phone for a certain amount of time, as well as help remind you of your actual goals. 

So a big key to keeping your morning routine on track and keeping your mood high is not checking your notifications. Just last week, I checked my notifications when I woke up, I saw something that I wasn’t happy about, and it put me in a bad mood for a good portion of the morning. That was before I had gotten through my routine, and I wasn’t prepared to perceive that as soon as I woke up. Whatever it is, it can wait until you’re done with your morning routine. 

Customize According to Your Own Needs

Your morning routine might take 15 minutes or 1 hour, but just make sure you structure it so it sets you up for success. What this might mean for you is mapping out a few activities and doing them for a few days, seeing what fits, seeing what makes you feel, seeing what doesn’t. 

And if it doesn’t work, then you can always swap out the activities that you’re not pleased with, and try out your new routine for a few days. Everybody needs something different. There’s always going to be a lot of variety, and you’re always going to have something to recommend. 

However, an optimal morning routine puts you in the right mind frame, no matter what you’re doing. 

What Business Are You In?

What business are you in? What industry are you in? With all of the disruption and innovation going on in practically every industry, you can’t afford not to closely examine your answer to these questions. Marketing myopia is real, and here’s how it affects every business, no matter their size or industry. 

Here’s the podcast episode:

Or if you’d rather watch the video:

This morning, the question I want you to consider is: what business are you in? That might be a bit of an odd question, but I don’t mean what your business name is. Usually, this question can also be restructured as: what industry are you in? I promise that it’s not as easy of a question as it sounds. 

Marketing Myopia 

So today we’re going to be talking about marketing myopia. Myopia is the term for nearsightedness. Marketing nearsightedness or business myopia may also be a good term for this. 

The Railroad Industry’s Downfall 

The classic example is the railroad industry. Basically, they thought they were in the railroad industry or the industry of transporting people via trains. 

But one of those definitions was the key to their downfall. For the most part, the majority of those companies weren’t in the railroad or train industry. They were in the transportation industry. 

If they had positioned their businesses as such, they could have easily invested in other modes of transportation. This is because they wouldn’t have been a train company, but rather a transportation company. That wouldn’t have been odd at all. 

Amazon vs. Banks

Business myopia also keeps companies from being creative and innovative. Why? Because you’re focused on the way that you and your competitors do things. While you may iterate and make certain things better, you’re not necessarily looking for brand new ways to achieve your goals. 

The perfect example of this is banks and Amazon. Amazon has positioned itself to be able to provide loans to small businesses, further integrating themselves into these small business operations. 

Obviously, this is fantastic news for the small businesses who sell through Amazon. Not only does Amazon have the marketplace, but they also have the logistics to function as a 3PL for these businesses. And now, they want to be able to offer small business loans to these companies. 

Banks haven’t necessarily changed the way that they do things. Obviously there’s a reason why they do things the way they do, but they haven’t looked at it the same way Amazon does. 

The Blade and Razor Analogy

I was reading an article on HBR and they were talking about the blade and the razor. The blade is like your primary business mechanism, and the razor is anything that you do to add to the effectiveness of your blade. 

In this case, when banks give out loans, that’s the blades. For Amazon, it’s the razor. Amazon doesn’t even have to be perfect to make it successful. 

Amazon vs. Tech Companies

Another example would be tech companies and Amazon. I know; it always comes back to Amazon. The reason is that Amazon doesn’t appear to have myopia at all. 

Tech companies weren’t regarding Amazon as a serious competitor. However, now Amazon is competing for one of the biggest tech government contracts the United States has ever had! It’s a $10 billion contract for cloud-focused services and products. Amazon has just a couple of competitors left, at this point. 

Amazon vs. Logistics Companies

Another one is logistics companies and Amazon. Logistics companies keep saying the Amazon is not a competitor, and I guess that’s what they feel like pretending. But what we’re looking at is Amazon adding another razor to make the blade of their business more effective. 

What Is Amazon’s Industry?

Their industry is basically customer happiness and satisfaction. That’s what we’re seeing. You could see it in Amazon’s publishing, their ownership of Audible, eBooks, the Amazon Marketplace and Amazon Prime. On top of that, they also create all of their content. 

They’re basically in the industry of customer happiness, and the rest of these businesses need to catch up. You have to shift your focus to how you can best serve your customers. 

Web Design and Mobile App Design

When you look at web design, it’s huge. But mobile app design is also big. Now, businesses that wouldn’t have considered having a mobile app just a few years ago, feel like it’s critical to have a mobile app. 

So if you’re a web design company and you only do web design, that may work out for you in the way that being a specialist can work out for you. But if your business is creating portals through which customers and businesses can interact, then mobile app design would not be a reach at all. 

Through the Lens of Your Ideology and Values

You have to focus on how you can best serve your customer, and pair that with an examination of your ideology and values. 

We talked about discovering your ideology, values, and purpose midway through season 2. When you examine your business through the lens of your ideology and values, new opportunities become apparent and present themselves to you. As long as you have your business blinders off, it allows you to look outside your business and industry, and see what the possibilities are. 

So my business is structured around content, currently primarily written content, but we’re seeing the increase in podcasts and video. I intend on defying the status quo and keeping up. 

Amazon as a Source of Business Myopia

I just want to add a caveat to this entire episode just because I brought up Amazon. Oftentimes, Amazon causes business or marketing myopia in and of itself. This is because companies sometimes think, “Oh well, how can I ever compete with Amazon?” 

You’re not going to be able to compete with them if you’re a small business or even a decently-sized business. You’re probably not going to be able to compete with Amazon in terms of logistics or same-day shipping. You’re probably not going to be able to achieve that without great cost to yourself. 

It’s not always about that. I was speaking with a business owner about this particular issue: how do you compete with Amazon? Well, it’s not about competing with them, but rather how you can differentiate yourself from Amazon. 

How Arbor Teas Won Me over

I order my tea from Arbor Teas. They offer me organic and Fair Trade Certified tea.  I could probably find that on Amazon, but when I get the package in the mail, all of it is compostable and I always get a handwritten, signed note thanking me for my business. 

It makes me feel really good as an individual. I understand what their mission is and how their business functions, which lines up with my values as an individual and business. 

That’s something that Arbor Teas offers me that Amazon can’t. At least not at their size. Arbor Teas isn’t necessarily super scalable, but the fact that the handwritten note is not automated means something to me. It makes me feel valued as a customer. 

So how can you add value for your customers, or make them feel valued in ways that Amazon can’t? That is how you compete with Amazon. 

Types of People at Networking Events

People often bemoan networking events. There are coaches who’s entire premise is “never go to another networking event again!” So what makes me bring it up? We all know that in person interactions are more effective than interactions over the phone. Video comes closer, only because so much of communication is nonverbal. 

If you’ve had a bad experience at a networking event, it’s probably because that event wasn’t for you. It doesn’t mean that all events are bad. You can meet great people and develop long-time relationships. There’s a lot of value in networking events!

When you attend networking events, you need to go with a plan in mind, just like any other type of marketing. This means understanding the sorts of people you will meet at events. 

In this podcast episode, I’ve identified the four types of people you typically run into at events. 

Here’s the podcast episode:

Or if you’d rather watch the video:

I was with a group of fellow creatives and we were talking about pitching. I was actually able to add to the conversation by talking about something I address in the book I’m working on.

We were talking about networking events and how to determine which ones are good for you. I brought up the types of people at networking events. 

Now, most people think that there are 3 types of attendees that you watch out for, but I actually think that there’s a 4th that you should be paying attention to. So let’s talk about some of the typical 3 that most people expect. 

1. Prospective Clients 

Know Them Before You Go

When you go to an event, you’re hoping to meet prospective clients. That’s a given. I would advise you to make sure you know who your prospective clients are before you go. 

Need to develop your buyer personas? Check out this post here.

This is you building your buyer persona. This is the same person that you’d write your blog posts for, that you’d create your website for, that your emails are geared towards. It’s not that other types of people can’t become your customers, but you use this avatar to speak to what you would consider the perfect customer. 

Don’t Try to Make Your Services Fit Everyone

Know who that person is before you go. Why is this important? Because if you’re not selling a product, then you run into the issue of trying to make your services fit the person that you’re talking to. 

In my case, Defy The Status Quo doesn’t offer standalone social media services. If somebody asks me, “Hey Ruthie, do you guys do social media management?” Could we do it? Yes. Do I want us to do it? No. 

I’m clear on that now, but a while ago, I was trying to be too accommodating. I would say, “Oh yeah, we could totally do that!” This was before I got clear on myself and the sorts of clients I wanted. 

You want to make sure that these prospective clients are actually a good fit, instead of trying to make your services fit them. That’s not a good place for your business. It also creates multiple heads that you have to manage. If your still trying to figure out what services you should offer, work on discovering your company ideology and values.

2. People Who Are Not Your Clients

You’re expecting these to be the majority of the attendees; the people who just aren’t a good fit for you and your business. There’s a few different categories or subcategories that these people can fall into, but the one you really have to watch out for is the bad networker. 

The Bad Networker

There are some people who just attend to try and make a sale. Yes, I know it’s a networking event, but networking is about building relationships. I don’t want to sound corny, but the best business people I know go to build relationships. They’re not going to sell. 

Let’s say they’re selling software. Instead of trying to convince me that I need that software, they would be the first to tell me, “Hey Ruthie, this software is actually not a good fit for you, but you could help me.” This is the sort of person I’m looking for. They’re honest with me and consequently, I trust them. Should my business reach a higher level, they’re going to be the first ones I think of. 

The best networkers are the ones that build a relationship and develop that trust. Those are the people you want to stay in contact with. 

The bad networkers just want to make the sale. This is the person who gives you their card multiple times and doesn’t even remember your name. They might interrupt you during your pitch, which I’ve had happen before. 

Just Not a Good Fit

Then, there are some people who just aren’t a good fit. There’s nothing wrong with them, but they’re just not a good fit. They may fall into the third category though.

3. Recommenders 

The thing about recommenders is that you typically don’t know that they are recommenders. They may have fallen into the first bucket of people who aren’t a good fit for your services, but they may contact you later and say, “Hey, I’ve got somebody who was asking about X service. I know that you do that. Should I introduce you?” 

So instead of becoming a person who’s not a good fit for your business, they become a recommender. That’s always great, but you can’t know who those people are. That’s why it’s nice to stay in touch, connect on social media, and do things like that. 

4. Connectors

The connectors are next to prospective clients. I think that connectors are the most valuable. Unlike recommenders, they are typically easy to identify when you know what you’re looking for, especially if you go to an event where people get introduced. 

The Event Organizers

Connectors are typically the event organizers. If they are organizing the event, then they probably know all of the regular attendees. They likely know other event organizers in a particular area, and they could connect you with them as well. 

The Event Sponsors

They also might be event sponsors. Companies who sponsor events typically don’t just sponsor one, so they’ve positioned themselves to know many different businesses in a given area. And of course, that area could be very large depending on the size of the business. So event sponsors could also be a type of connector that you’re looking for. 

Active Attendees 

You should also look at attendees who are at an event, organize other events, or head up organizations that hold a lot of events. 

The value here is more along the business development side of things. This isn’t necessarily relevant to your sales and your marketing. When you connect with a connector and you’ve got a good relationship with them, then they’re more likely to recommend you to the businesses that they know. 

But like I said, it’s hard to identify who’s going to refer you because you don’t know if they’re going to run into a connector. You typically have a good idea of which people they associate themselves with, which people attend their events, and which events the connector themselves attend. 

I feel like the connector is a better type of relationship to have because business development is about strategic partnerships. So it’s to your benefit to develop relationships with connectors when possible because they have more potential to refer businesses to you. 

Industry or Local Influencers 

I hate to use that word because it’s getting watered down. I don’t mean the Instagram influencer, especially when you consider B2B. Maybe they’re someone who writes for Forbes or they do a lot of interviews in your industry. That could be another type of connector to look out for.

Keep in mind the 4 types of people. When you’re looking at an event, you have to consider what type of person is going to attend, and then decide on what your goal is for that networking event. I promise you’re not going to leave with a pocket full of clients at most events, so build that relationship and keep up your social media presence.

Don’t Make the French Digital Tax Mistake in Your Biz

What does the French digital tax have to do with your business? Maybe nothing, but the thought process behind the decision is definitely a mental trap you need to avoid to be a healthy successful business. 

Here’s the podcast episode:

Or if you’d rather watch the video:

So the title of this episode is Don’t Make the French Digital Tax Mistake in your business. 

How on Earth does the new tax hike in France relate to your business at all? 

France Passed a Digital Tax on International Tech Companies

Let’s back up a bit and have some storytime. 

Recently, France decided to levy a 3% digital tax on international tech companies. This upset the United States, particularly because these big tech companies are headquartered in the US. 

Politics between the United States and France got a little heated. The European Union was also trying to figure out what France was doing, and why.  

So, companies had to decide how they were going to respond. Amazon responded by increasing the seller’s fees for e-commerce sellers in France. 

If you live in France and used Amazon to sell your products, you saw an increase in your seller’s fees. Amazon also sent out an email, directly blaming the French government. They didn’t even try to hide it at all! 

This was, of course, much to the dismay of these sellers. Most of them are small. They’re just trying to make a living off of their passions or have an income through Amazon. 

So these sellers have to make a choice: do they want to pass those costs onto the customer, or do they want to eat that profit loss? 

Why Was This Tax Passed?

Getting Their Fair Share from Tech Giants

I think there are a couple of motives behind France’s decision to do this. On the surface, it could be that France wanted to get their fair share from these companies, but all they did was pass on that tax to the French sellers. 

Instead of actually getting more money directly from Amazon, the French government would be getting more money from the French sellers who are already paying taxes and probably don’t want to pay anymore. 

The business problem here is applying an overly simplistic solution to a complex issue. We have the habit of doing that in our businesses. 

Setting Things in Motion

Another reason why I think France did this, is to get the ball rolling faster, in terms of addressing the digital tax and everything. 

On the surface, it looks like they were just trying to get their money, so that’s what we’re going to go with. 

The Gaps and Loopholes of International Laws

France is just trying to get their money, so they apply a simplistic solution. 

“We’ll tax the digital tech companies more, so we’ll get more money from them.” Instead, they should’ve just addressed the portions of their tax code that allow for this to happen. 

These companies are huge, with armies of lawyers. They’re not breaking the law, but there are gaps and loopholes around the world that allow any international-type company to pay fewer taxes than what the governments would like. 

Just Like How Amazon Paid $0 in US Federal Taxes

This is incredibly similar to how Amazon paid $0 in US federal taxes last year. Newsflash! I’m a business and I paid more in federal taxes than Amazon did, but I’m not mad at Amazon because it’s not illegal. Amazon can do that, so good for them. If the tax laws were set up in such a way that Amazon couldn’t do that, then they wouldn’t. 

If they did and they were breaking the law, it wouldn’t be splashed over headlines. They’d be trying to hide it. But it’s not against the law. They’re just doing what they’re allowed to do. 

Don’t Fall into the Trap of Simple Solutions

Again, tying this back to your business; when you have serious problems in your business, you cannot apply a super simplistic solution to a complex issue. 

There are No Magic Shortcuts

For example, you might not be getting enough business. Then don’t fall for those marketing funnels, which promise you hundreds of leads every month. 

It sounds incredibly simple, and that’s how they get business owners to pay for it. In all actuality, it probably isn’t simple or doesn’t work for your business. They’ve also likely got it set up so you can’t request a refund or something like that. 

They play on your FOMO (fear of missing out), and that’s what gets you to make the purchase. 

Determine If You Need Help

What if your content isn’t performing? There’s no easy fix for that, but you can start with a careful review. 

Is all of your content not performing or is it just some of it? Is there something wrong with your website? 

Maybe there are issues at play here that you’re not equipped to deal with. In that case, you’d typically bring on someone else. If your content is not performing, you’d bring in a content consultant. If there’s something wrong in your supply chain, you’d bring in a supply chain consultant. While you are equipped to handle your business, you can’t run everything yourself. 

Maybe if it’s a CBD supply chain and you know all about CBD, you know what to do. But do you know everything about the supply chain? No, probably not, because you know all the things about CBD. 

You can’t know everything about everything. That’s why you’d bring on a supply chain consultant to help you understand the complex issue within your supply chain. 

Don’t Uproot Entire Processes Abruptly

Let’s say you’re not getting enough profit. That doesn’t mean you cut all spending. That’s not the solution to not having profit. What you should do is check for excess spending, or money that’s “disappearing.”

As an example, let’s say you work with contractors and freelancers. Now you’re not going to do that anymore. The end. No more freelancers, no more consultants, no more outside stuff. “We’re doing everything in-house.” You say.

Can your business afford to take that hit? Any outsourced work that you’ve got built into your business processes would disappear. That’s not to say that you couldn’t move to an in-house solution, but you can’t just wake up one day and eliminate it without serious business consequences. 

Simple Answers Are Only Simple in Theory 

That’s not to say some problems don’t have simple answers, but even simple answers can be tough to execute in real life. 

So let’s take the answer of yes for the scenario I just described above. Let’s bring everything in-house. Let’s set up a timeline for 6 months, and migrate what we’re outsourcing, in-house to bring costs down. You’d have to take as much time as you need for that. 

Of course, you’d have to determine if this was actually going to bring costs down with a thorough comparison of costs now versus other resource expenditures related to your proposed solution.

Do not apply overly simplistic solutions to complex issues in your business. 

Take a step back if it feels like it’s too much and assesses what’s going on. See if you need to bring on help and move from that point. Don’t just cut off things and throw things away haphazardly, or you’ll end up in the French Amazon position. 

Where Have All of the Great Clients Gone?

Where have all of the great clients gone? It’s a question we ask ourselves at various points in our business growth. Business naturally cycles up and down. But sometimes it’s not natural. Sometimes, we’ve done it to ourselves. I know that isn’t what you want to hear. But it’s what you need to hear. Listen up, and learn the value of marketing and selling consistently. I also give you my top tip for making sure this happens every day. 

Here’s the podcast episode:

Or if you’d rather watch the video:

We’re going to talk about the eternal question of consultants and agencies everywhere. Where have all the great clients gone? Where are all the great clients? I see this question everywhere online. People have asked me this in person too. They feel like the well has run dry, or like everyone else is getting great clients and they’re not. The revenue is low, things are not looking great. Do I need to get a job? Where are all the great clients?

Maintain a Healthy Sales Pipeline

If every single person in your company works on client work, who is working on the business? If you have people who work on client work and the business, you can run into issues. 

This is because many business owners fail to consistently market, work, and follow up on their leads. This causes bottlenecks in your sales pipeline.

Imagine an actual pipeline made out of rubber. It can flex as intake builds up. 

So you have portions of your pipeline that are bulky and clogged up. You have so many people at a particular spot because you don’t help them move to the next step: buying from you or not. (Yes, not buying from you is a step in the process!)

People who aren’t actually going to buy from you clog up your pipeline. You need to get them out, in order to make room and make things move smoothly. If you can do that, that’s great. 

But it’s important to know that failing to follow up is a serious reason why hot leads go warm, warm leads go cold, and then it just doesn’t make sense to follow up anymore. So you have to do it consistently. It’s something you have to build into your routine. 

Devote Some Time to Marketing and Sales Duties

If you’re one of those people with a dual hat, where you work in the business and on the business, then you likely have marketing or sales duties. Cut out the first hour of your day to do something related to that every single day. 

If you say, “I’ll do it after I take care of client work,” you’ll turn around and it’ll be 4 PM, then 5 PM, then 6 PM… Then it’s time to leave, and you haven’t done any of that. 

The point is that you need a healthy pipeline for a healthy business. A pipeline cultivates an interest in your business, whether that’s referrals, content marketing, paid advertising, etc. You’re consistently doing it to get people to come into your company and work with you. 

Manage Your Feast and Famine Cycles

A healthy pipeline will also help keep your feast and famine cycles manageable. 

The feast is great. You want your feast cycle to be as big as possible, but you don’t want to ever have a time where you’re earning $0. 

That’s what happens to some small companies, freelancers, solopreneurs, etc. There are times when they don’t know where the next dollar is coming from. 

You don’t want your business built that way, and having that healthy sales pipeline is what prevents that. You will have months that are lower than others, but it shouldn’t be 0. Nobody can live on 0. 

You May Have Too Many Clients

Sometimes it seems like all the great clients are gone, but it could be that you’ve relaxed your marketing and sales because you’ve got a lot of client work. 

You’re in a feast cycle, but don’t let that distract you from the necessary sales and marketing that you need to get done. 

Make Some Uncomfortable Changes

It could also be that you need to do something differently. 

You’re thinking, “Wait, Ruthie, no! This is working so well for me!” And my response would be, “No, it did work well for you, but now you may need to do something different.” 

Maybe what worked to get these types of clients doesn’t work as well now that you’re seeking a different kind of client. Maybe you’ve exhausted all the easiest leads that you could possibly get with this type of client. 

Utilize a CRM

How many people have you added to your CRM recently? If you’re experiencing a famine cycle, you don’t know where your next dollar is coming from. 

CRM is a customer relationship management tool. I use Agile CRM [<— that’s my affiliate link, but if you choose to buy with Agile, the price doesn’t change for you!], and I think they’re great. They’re within the budget for a lot of businesses and they have many capabilities. 

Anyway, if you’re asking what a CRM is, you need to go get one. This is how you keep up with everyone you’ve spoken to. You should be speaking with a lot of people, whether they’re referrals, you meet them at events, or on social media. 

You need to keep track of these people, and you can’t just keep them all in your head. That’s where businesses fail. Something important dies off in somebody’s mind. They forget, they don’t attend to it. You have to get it documented in order to delegate it. 

Add New Linkedin Connections

How many LinkedIn connections have you added lately? You may be saying, “I don’t know. I haven’t really been adding people on Linkedin.” You should be. 

Linkedin is a great place to connect with people, make that initial outreach, and help them get to know you. 

Need to update your LinkedIn profile? Check out our Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile for Business infographic!

Attend Events and Conferences

When was the last time you attended a conference or an event? And if you do regularly attend events in your local area, when was the last time you went to a new one? 

New events typically mean new people. You may be going to events and seeing the same faces all the time. Not that this isn’t great for cultivating and growing relationships. 

You’re seeing people consistently, they get used to seeing you. They trust you, they like you. But you also need to make new relationships and meet new people. 

When was the last time you went to a new event that you typically don’t have on your calendar? I try to do that at least once a month. I can meet new people and make new connections, or see current connections in a new environment. 

If that current connection meets people at the same event, they could introduce me to people that I don’t know yet. This is a great opportunity. New events, new people. You can’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results. 

Strategies Your Ideal Client Would Be Attracted by

If you’ve been doing the same types of marketing and sales, and you’re not getting the results you used to, you need to change it up. This even includes email marketing. 

You’re thinking, “Ruthie, I email new people all the time.” This ties back to my earlier point. Maybe the sorts of clients you’re looking for now have changed. 

Let’s say I need to get a new client. I decide to offer a deal on blog posts. If you commit to 10 blog posts and pay 50% upfront, I’ll give you 2 free. 

That only works with a certain type of customer. If you’ve switched the type of customer that you’re looking more of, then that won’t work for a good majority of them. 

Some clients are not concerned with numbers; they’re concerned with results. So instead of leading with something like that, you need to lead with results. 

Do you see how that would change? I’d say continue doing your email marketing, but you may need to change your email. 

Alright, that’s been an episode of The Defiant Business Podcast, and that’s where all your great clients went. They went somewhere you’re not looking. 

It’s really hard to be in that position where you’re thinking, “No, you’re wrong, Ruthie. The clients are just gone.” They’re not. 

You’re going to have to do something different, and it’s probably going to be outside of your comfort zone. If it doesn’t scare you at least a little bit, you’re not doing enough. 

So get out there, get a little scared, and do enough.

Secondary Customers, Are You Taking Care of Them?

Are you taking care of your secondary customers? That may not be a question you’re ready to answer just yet. Who are your secondary customers, and why should you care? Those are all questions we answer in this podcast episode. 

Here is the podcast episode:

Or if you’d rather watch the video:

Who Even Is Your Secondary Audience?

You may be thinking, “Ruthie, I’m just trying to handle the regular customers that I have. Why are you bringing up this secondary customer?” I promise they’re not magical beings that are hard to get to. You already have them. What’s important is that you recognize them. 

In content marketing, this is called your secondary target audience. Some businesses have more than one target audience, so they may still fall within the primary target audience unless indicated otherwise by your strategist. 

They’re your second most important audience. The primary audience is typically the customer who will spend the most. Your secondary audience may not spend as much or as often, or they may not even purchase at all. 

Why You Should Care About Them

You’re thinking, “If they don’t purchase anything at all, why would I create content for them?” Ah, yes. Now we’ve come to the root of the problem, and I’ve got the answer for you. 

The Case of Product-Based Businesses

So with product-based or businesses or software as a service, it’s a little easier to see why you’d create content for your secondary audience. 

For most products, the secondary audience are services who utilize that product, so you’d create content for services that consult for your product or offer management services. If it’s a software, then offer software management services for your product. 

Hubspot

A great example of this is Hubspot, which creates a ton of content for agencies and consulting firms that specialize in working with Hubspot software. 

There’s a special email list for Hubspot agencies. Hubspot’s even created a partner program with tiers. You can be a silver, gold, platinum, or diamond level. Hubspot lists these agencies and firms on a website, and it directs customers to that website so they can find a consulting firm who can help them if Hubspot themselves can’t. It’s incredibly fascinating. 

Even if you’re not a Hubspot partner agency, there’s also the Hubspot Academy, which is content for customers. But they know that freelancers and smaller consulting firms, much like Defy The Status Quo, use Hubspot and finds value in that content. 

So why would Hubspot create content that would help Defy The Status Quo? Well, Hubspot’s gotten a lot of free publicity from me. I recommend them, I say great things about them. I got to know them as an organization through their content, and I’m confident when I direct people to their website. 

By helping these agencies, freelancers, and consultants become more successful, Hubspot itself becomes more successful. This is because these service businesses direct more people to purchase Hubspot’s software. 

The Case of Service-Based Businesses

This is a little tougher. It’s something you have to find for every single business. With service-based businesses, it may be related industries. 

So if I wanted to create content for one of my secondary audiences… Let’s say web design companies are a secondary audience. Why? Because web design companies may not always have content professionals on staff. 

So I’ve got relationships with web design companies and if they have clients who need content written, they recommend me as one of their go-to content consultants. I’m their secondary audience, and they’re my secondary audience. 

If I write an article on the topic of “the importance of excellent web design and content marketing”, it’s something that I could email to any web design companies I’ve partnered or that I’d like to partner with. 

That’s valuable because they read it, they see that I understand them, and I see how web design fits within content marketing. That’s going to move the needle in my favor in terms of likeability because nobody wants to feel like they’re unimportant. 

Oftentimes, content professionals put a little too much emphasis on content and not enough on good web design. I could write the best content for your website, but if customers look at it and they’re like, “Hey, so 2005 is calling and they want their website design back…”

My wonderfully written content just isn’t going to make it as far as it would if your website is modern, mobile-optimized, and with beautiful brand colors and designs. That’s why I would address my secondary audience of design agencies.

Entrepreneurs as a Secondary Audience

Another secondary audience for me are entrepreneurs, usually service entrepreneurs. These are typically people that I’ve met, who’ve heard me speak, who like my content on Linkedin. They may not have room in their budget to purchase my services or bring me on to consult with them, but they love my content. They share it, comment on it, and they recommend me for marketing opportunities to bigger companies. 

That’s why entrepreneurs are my secondary audience. If you go through my content, you’ll see I do have business management, development, as well as marketing content on my website. That’s because I work with B2B consulting and service companies. But I can take what my primary audience normally delivers to their even bigger clients, and apply it to entrepreneurship. 

That feeds my secondary audience’s need for the knowledge they can appreciate because it may take a different perspective on things. By doing that, I tilt the needle in the right direction in terms of likability. 

People do business and recommend people they like. That’s why you want to create content for your secondary customers. 

So I’m asking you? are you taking care of your secondary customers in your marketing strategy? Are you supporting them the way that they support you?

Under The Microscope: IBM’s Content Cantina

I wanted to try something new on the podcast. There’s a lot to be learned from past campaigns, so that’s what Under the Microscope is about. Once per week, we’ll take a look at a company’s marketing campaign and talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly. This week, I examined IBM’s Content Cantina campaign. This campaign isn’t over yet, but it’s already generated some amazing results!

Here’s the podcast episode:

Or if you’d rather watch the video:

The First Installment of Under the Microscope!

This is a weekly series that I’m calling “Under the Microscope”, in which I select and dissect  a marketing campaign. It might be a content marketing, but maybe not. You get to hear about what made this a great or not so great campaign, as well as my favorite parts, and what I think they can improve on.  

Today, we’re bringing IBM’s Content Cantina under the microscope. This campaign was for IBM’s internal personnel, so I will preface everything I say with the fact that I don’t have access to IBM’s internal content platform. 

I can only talk about what I saw, but with it being IBM, I have high confidence that they’re doing awesome things that I was unable to log into. Yes, I tried. 

Discussing Content and Thought Leadership

A Powerhouse of Content Creation

IBM wanted to change the conversation around content and thought leadership for their internal personnel. I don’t know if you know this, but IBM makes a lot of content. They have multiple websites for different things. 

Part of why they’re able to do this is because they have decentralized their content production. Not all of it funnels up to the top. They’ve got editors, who are the boots on the ground for content, embedded throughout the organization. 

Let’s Rethink Thought Leadership

The tagline for the campaign is: “Let’s rethink thought leadership”. Simple, to the point, and great. 

IBM is considered a thought leader in many industries they’re involved in, so they clearly identified their audience. They were trying to speak to 300,000 internal personnel. 

They wanted to reach those people outside of their typical internal communications channels and inspire storytelling. That’s how they came up with the Content Cantina. 

An Attention-Grabbing Setting

The Content Cantina seems to be centered around videos, which immediately get your attention. It’s a Star Wars-themed talk show. You hear the Star Wars theme playing, and you see the Star Wars setting behind the talk show host, George Hammer, also IBM’s Chief Content Officer. 

That shows that they really know their audience because even if you don’t like Star Wars, you know about it. It’s familiar, but it’s also unexpected. 

George Hammer is a great host. He’s very energetic, does great on camera, and I imagine he’s a great keynote speaker. 

The Results of IBM’s Content Cantina Campaign

Contrarian Marketing Generates Attention

When you look at these campaigns, they often talk about their results. I think that’s fantastic because it gives you an idea of what it can be like when you do something contrarian in your marketing. 

Contrarian marketing is a low key buzz phrase, but it just means that you did something different and caught people off guard. Your marketing is outside the norm of common expectation. You can take inspiration from other people outside of your industry too, and it makes you stand out. 

So that’s what made me notice this campaign. I was like, “Oh wow, Star Wars! That’s fun!” It was an interesting setting to have a conversation about the future of content and how we can advance it. 

Results in Numbers

Anyways, let’s get back to the results of the campaign. 

  • Once they started posting these talk show segments of George Hammer speaking with some incredibly serious thought leaders within the content marketing space, their Linkedin post engagement went up 130%. 
  • Searches for IBM’s content on “Content Marketing” went up 100%. That’s huge, especially when you consider the number of people looking for content marketing! 
  • They noted that campaigns which used their best-identified practices and thought leadership saw a 23% increase in ROI and $5 billion in revenue leads. 

They had likely planned this, which goes back to when I talked about knowing the value of your content. There’s no way that they would’ve been able to easily chart out those numbers if they weren’t clear on their content goals from the beginning. 

It’s Not Over Yet

It turns out that more episodes of the IBM’s Content Cantina are coming, which is so cool! I can’t wait to watch them. 

George Hammer announced on Linkedin that the next 6 episodes are coming out soon. If I were you, I’d go search George Hammer on Linkedin and give him a follow, so you can see the episodes when they come out. I’m interested to see what the second part of the campaign will add to the mix. 

A Last Note

I obviously can’t see what they did with this content on their internal processes. But if I was part of that, I’d definitely make video snippets for snackable content, and then gauge serious interest in the various topics. That could serve as inspiration for a white paper or further research. I’m certain they came up with wonderful ways to repurpose this great video content.

Anything to help the 300,000 IBM personnel! However, that’s just me and they’ve got a whole team over there. I’m sure they’re doing wonderful things inside the platform that we can’t see.

Why You Should Read Simon Sinek’s Start With Why

I promise, this is the last episode about your company’s ideology. I couldn’t really conclude this series without recommending Simon Sinek’s Start With Why to you. When you can infuse your “why” into your marketing, sales, and operations, you can create customers for life. In the previous three episodes, we talked about your company ideology. Remember? How your values and purpose must be discovered, not created?

I know I said that I was done with ideology, purpose, and values, but I realized that in order to do a series properly, I couldn’t let this go without recommending one of my favorite business books. 

In today’s episode, I’m going to tell you why you should read Simon Sinek’s Start With Why. He narrates it himself, which is pretty cool. 

Here’s the podcast episode:

Or if you’d rather watch the video:

What This Book Can Help You with…

Putting Theory into Practice

Simon Sinek’s Start With Why is a book that goes into how you can apply your ideology, purpose, and values into your marketing strategy. 

I had the luck of reading this book before I set up my new website, and that was when Defy The Status Quo was born. 

Figuring Out What You’re All About

After I read his book, I really started thinking about what I wanted my company’s purpose to be. What are company values that would allow us to move forward? 

And it’s right there in the name: Defy The Status Quo. It’s about marketing and content, but not necessarily written content. That holds true for my vision of the future and what I want to provide for my clients. But I digress. 

Understanding How Communication Sets You Apart from Others 

After discovering your ideology and purpose, you might be saying to yourself, “Whoa! My mind is blown! I know exactly why my company exists.” 

Well, Simon Sinek talks about how communicating your values and purpose can set companies apart. It’s all about how they use their values, what they consider valuable, and how they use that in their marketing messaging to resonate with their target audience. 

In the last episode about ideology discovery, I said that it’s not a differentiating factor. It’s not something you create, but once you’ve discovered your ideology, you’re clearer on the types of clients you want to attract. 

Infusing Your Marketing Strategy with Passion

You want to make sure you can infuse your marketing messaging with this information, because your values and purpose are the things that you should be passionate about. Your marketing should always have passion.

I think that’s key for B2B service industries. If you decisively say you’re boring, nobody is going to be interested. 

That’s where people start to think, “Oh well, my clients don’t expect content from me. They just want awesome accounting/financial/various services.” The problem with that thinking is that your clients do want content from you. All of them. It’s the age that we’re in now. 

However, the most important thing is how you present that content, because what they don’t want is boring content. So if that’s what you’re going to put out, then yes, they don’t want that. 

But if you can liven it up and speak to them in their language, then they’ll want it. That’s where your ideology, purpose, values, and passion comes into play. 

Notable Criticisms: Excluding Other Companies in Favor of Apple

I will be honest about the book and say that it seems to have a bit of a love affair with Apple. Simon Sinek talks about them a lot, and I get it. 

I know that they’re a great company, ideal for branding. Their customers are evangelists for the brand. I see the lines coming out of Apple stores. 

I know their reach, but Simon talks about Apple a lot in this book. Okay, but what about Nike? What about those people who only wear Under Armour? Or about how Linux users, who are usually diehard users?

I think he could have talked about many other brands, but I felt like he incessantly harped on Apple. So I got a little bored at that part. Every time he mentioned it, I was like, “Yes. I know. Apple, the bite out of the apple. It was great, but what about other companies?” 

So if I were to give him feedback on the book, that’s what I would say. I would have loved to see other companies’ case studies. But if you love Apple, it’ll be great for you. 

I’m not an Apple person, as you might have been able to tell. I don’t hate Apple, but I have Google everything and an Android phone. 

Want to take a deep dive into your company’s ideology?Download our “Discover Your Company Ideology” ebook here.

Start With Why is Definitely Worth the Read

I still think the book is worth a read, even if you only get halfway through. If you’re planning an ideology discovery exercise with your C-suite, then I suggest you all read Simon Sinek’s Start With Why

He has valuable things to say about what makes an enduring company that withstands the technological advancements, as well as consumer trends and concerns. 

The book does a really good job giving everybody some perspective on why these things are important. 

Now, I promise that this actually concludes the series on ideology, purpose, values, and why those things are critical to your company’s future. 

Defining Your Company’s Ideology: Discovery

Your company ideology is made up of your business’ values and purpose. But you can’t create it. It’s a journey of discovery. Once you’ve begun this journey though, you’ll find business decision easier to make. You’ll prevent yourself from making poor business decisions, and you’ll motivate your employees. 

Here’s the podcast episode:

Or if you’d rather watch the video:

In a couple of episodes previous to this one, we talked about the two components that make up your company’s ideology: the values and the purpose. It takes some digging to discover these two things, but once you do, you’ve found your company’s ideology. 

Company Ideology: Not Created, but Discovered

According to an hbr.org article that I read, your company’s ideology isn’t created. Even if you were to hire a consulting company to help you, they’d still be helping you to discover your ideology. 

This entire process is a path to discovery. But once you identify those values and your company’s purpose, it will help you with all internal decision-making issues. 

Guiding Your Business Decision-Making

If any opportunity comes along, you can revert back to whether it holds to your values or serves the company’s purpose. 

No matter your business size, going on this journey helps you stay true to your business. 

If you’re an entrepreneur listening to this, you’ve probably experienced a situation in which you did anything if you got paid for it. Entrepreneurs are very susceptible to saying “yes” when they shouldn’t. Even to the point where it draws them away from their core ideology and what makes them the happiest. 

This can happen in big businesses too. When certain businesses acquire other businesses, sometimes you say, “Oh, that’s, that’s interesting. I wouldn’t have expected them to buy that.” 

It could be possible that the company is attempting to purchase infrastructure or talent to further business goals that are tied to their ideology. 

However, it can also be a sign that they had an opportunity to buy another business, so they did. This could be drawing them further away from their ideology. 

Getting Back on Track!

One great example of a company realigning with their ideology was 3M, who divested themselves of certain parts of their business to get back to what their purpose was. 

Another example that comes to mind is of L-3, a company I used to work for. They had a business component, which was language services for the government, which they packaged up and sold off to the company I ended up working for, CACI International Inc

I have to imagine that had you been a fly in the room where those decisions were made, it might’ve been just that: the language services. 

While a vital service to the government and it did bring in money, didn’t line up with L-3’s vision for the future and ideology. That’s a reason why a company may choose to divest themselves of certain business divisions that they hold, even if those divisions are profitable. 

Authenticity in the Modern Era

You cannot create ideology, because that would be inauthentic. And we are in the era of supremely authentic marketing. If you are not authentic in your marketing, everyone can tell. You have to stay true to yourself.

Your Company Ideology Goes Beyond Simple Ethics

 And keep in mind that it’s a journey, so it’s not something that you do in a day. You want to be an ethical business person. When you look at your values beyond that,  you have to specifically decide what matters to you. 

If You’re a Small Business…

If you’re a small business, it’s fine if your ideology is still evolving in the first few years of your business. You will learn new things about yourself, as well as your business. 

Your ideology should be the beacon that lights the way into your future. It should be something similar to a rallying cry. 

If you’re a solo business, it should be something you can always go back to. That’s the soul of your business. Much like the small business, it will continue to evolve over time.

If You Have Employees…

But if you’re a business with employees, your ideology should be something that lights the fire in your employees. It could serve as a qualifier or disqualifier for new employees. It should tie in with what you want your business to accomplish. However, it should be something that resonates with the right type of employee.

So it’s not like a differentiating factor that you would use in your marketing, but you could be more motivated. Your employees could be more motivated because they believe in your ideologies. 

The results of holding that ideology tightly to one’s chest are that your employees may outperform your competitors’ employees because they truly believe in the ideology that you’ve set. 

Want to take a deep dive into your company’s ideology? Download our “Discover Your Company Ideology” ebook here.

Stable, but Shifting when Necessary

The big thing here is that your ideology should endure, in spite of this ever-changing, technologically advanced world. And if there’s ever any part of your ideology that just doesn’t feel right, then you have to let it go. 

Most entrepreneurs change the way they express their ideology, even if the ideology itself stays the same. The words that you use to express your ideology may change. This change is a great opportunity to help your employees better resonate with your ideology.  

All right, so that’s us wrapping up our series on company ideology. Don’t forget the two key components: your values and your purpose wrapped together, which creates your company’s reason for existing. 

This has been an episode of The Defiant Business Podcast. Go ahead and leave us a comment, wherever it is that you’ve found us. We’d love to have a discussion with you. 

Defining Your Company Ideology: Purpose

Goals, strategies, and tactics all change, but your purpose should stay the same. Today we’re going over the second component of your company ideology, and that’s your company’s purpose. Why does your company exist, beyond wanting to make money? Why is this important? We’ll find out. 

Here’s the podcast episode:

Or if you’d rather watch the video:

Continuing on from our previous episode on defining your company’s ideology, we’re going to move into the second part: purpose.

What Is Your Purpose

Your Purpose is NOT Your Goals

There are two parts to your company ideology: your core values and your purpose. 

Many people confuse the purpose with the goals, but a real purpose should be able to stand the test of time. It may be even last a hundred years, or more. 

Disney’s Future Streaming Platform

Disney is a great example of this. Disney is a 95-year-old company and their purpose is to make people happy. It’s pretty succinct and to the point, isn’t it? 

How you choose to act on your purpose may change, but your purpose itself should not. So if your purpose is clear to you, then business decisions become easier. 

Consider Disney and their goal is to make people happy. Business partners that they choose and other business decisions, like creating their own content streaming platform and pulling their content out of Netflix, make a lot more sense when you tie their values and their purpose together. 

Their purpose is that they want to make people happy. The value is control over the Disney magic. So to continue making people happy and to continue with their value of controlling the Disney magic, making their own content streaming platform just makes sense. 

When your purpose is clear and it’s communicated effectively throughout all of your marketing and your sales materials, then your customers aren’t confused about your decisions either. 

Again, with the Disney example. Disney wants to make people happy. So when they started building theme parks, it wasn’t really all that confusing. Sure, they were capitalizing on all these great and wonderful characters that they had made, but it made sense. It was not confusing to anyone. Whereas if Hewlett-Packard suddenly started making toys, that would be confusing and pretty suspicious. 

Ask Yourself Why

If you’re having trouble with your purpose, you want to start with a service or a product that you offer, and then ask why. Why is that service important? Why is that product important? 

Yes, you want to make money. That’s true. But most businesses still have an underlying purpose. They want to provide something of value in exchange for money. It’s an honest need for many of us. 

Another question you can ask yourself is how your company is drawing the best out of people. That’s what the purpose revolves around. If you didn’t need to work, what would motivate you to continue running and growing your business? What would continue to motivate you to work within the company that you’re in right now? 

If you’re not the owner or a key decision-maker, what would continue to motivate you? What would continue to push you forward? That’s another way to look at purpose. 

Purpose Takes Shape with Time

Purpose and values aren’t necessarily something that you come up with overnight. It’s not going to be a matter of sitting down for a few hours and just writing these things down. 

As a solo business owner, my company’s purpose and its core values are something that I’m still developing. 

Purpose and values may be developing with a company that’s 50 years old. As times change, we have to look at how our purpose and values adapt, how they come to mean something else, or how they’re perceived by our customers or clients. 

They will come to you in time, if you give them the opportunity. So it’s something you want to start churning, but allow those ideas to come to you from your intuition, or wherever you get your inspiration from. 

Want to take a deep dive into your company’s ideology? Download our “Discover Your Company Ideology” ebook here.

Talk It Over with Your Board

If you have an advisory or executive board, this is something that you’re going to want to work on defining with them. Your board may be made up of a marketing expert, an operations expert, a financial expert, information technology expert, etc., and they’re all going to have different perspectives. 

What’s important is that even with those different perspectives, the purpose and the values still ring true. So this is an exercise that you need to go through, but once you do, it’ll be something that you’ll be able to engrain throughout every aspect of your company. 

If your company mission statement and vision are all ironed out and they ring true in your heart, please leave me a comment or shoot me a message. I’d love to hear what it is. But more importantly, I’d love to hear how you came to that conclusion.