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. 

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.

Ranking #1 on Google Isn’t as Important Anymore

Yes, I hate to tell you, but ranking #1 on Google isn’t as important as it used to be. Don’t get me wrong, I think dedicated businesses can get there for many keywords. However, there are a lot of other considerations you need to take into account before you pay that SEO company to get you to the “top”.

Here is today’s podcast episode:

And 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 what are we talking about today? Google rankings. They’re not as important as they used to be. I know. And that’s unfortunate, because there’s a bajillion companies out there right now just waiting to spam your email inbox promising to get you to the #1 rank. But are you actually #1, even when you show up that way? That’s the real question. 

Can You Really Be Number One in the Google Search Results?

The Featured Snippet

So, there are a lot of things taking away from search engine rank even when you do have that top spot. The first one that I’d like you to consider is the featured snippet. The featured snippet is that relatively new box that pops up with the answer that you were looking for. You often see it with things like recipes, or when you need a list of something, or if it’s a really simple answer, maybe it’s math or the definition for a word. 

But what it means is that you can get on the search engine results page, see the answer, and you no longer need to click through to go to a website. So the person who is ranked number 1, or number 2, or number 3 doesn’t matter. You’re already looking on the page and you’ve got your answers. 

You just close your phone, close your computer and move on. So even if you are number one, that featured snippet is taking away some of your stuff. 

Featured Videos

One of those things Google has been rolling out is featuring videos. That’s the next thing that we’re going to talk about. 

This will typically pop up with your how-to questions, and those how-to questions used to be some of the easiest phrases to rank for. That’s just not the case anymore because of the video features. 

If I say like the following, Google’s almost certainly going to feature videos from Youtube and other places too answer my question: 

  • “How do I install the Yoast plugin on my wordpress website?” 
  • “How do I plant tomatoes?” 
  • “How do I make jam?” 
  • “How do I milk a goat?”

When people ask how-to questions, they often want to see someone doing it. So those video features pop up right at the top on the search engine. Again, kind of pushing down and making the top ranking webpages not as noticeable. 

The Ads

And then of course, the thing that’s been there since forever. The ads. Ads always show up first, and what do we do? We scroll past them. In episode 19, I talked about ad blindness. 

We scroll past them, but what we’re not scrolling past is the featured snippet. We’re not scrolling past the box of “People also ask”, we’re not scrolling past the video features because they could answer our questions. So we have to give them even a little bit of time to review them. 

Consider, with things like video features, featured snippets, “People also ask” boxes… You are looking at all the things that can push search engine results further down the page. 

Snippets as a Point of Contention

The featured snippets themselves are kind of a point of contention between Google and content creators. You’re thinking “Why? They answer questions, they’re so helpful.” 

They’re a point of contention because what Google is essentially doing is taking content that’s not theirs, copying it, and presenting it on their page. Is that technically most helpful to the user? Sure. Especially for easier questions to answer. 

For something like on my website, if I ever popped up in a featured snippet, people will most likely click through to see the rest of what it is that I have to say, because my topics aren’t math questions, they’re not easy to solve, they’re not recipes. 

But Google is still copying content and presenting it on their website, and they didn’t ask anybody if they could do that. So that’s where the point of contention comes from. Google cares about user intent. It used to be that when somebody entered in something on the computer and they were looking for something, Google took those exact words and that’s what they were looking for. 

Focused on User Intent: The Where and How Matters

I don’t know if you remember… Maybe you’re not old enough to remember and maybe it’s just me, but I would have to type in different approaches to my key word to try to get the answer that I was looking for. If you’re a Millennial or older, you might remember that.

if you’re Gen Z, you’re like “Oh, what are you talking about? Google’s always known what I wanted”. That’s what I used to do. I used to change my search query to try to get what I actually wanted. Google noticed people doing that, and so they changed the algorithms because that way it could focus more on user intent. 

Your Ranking Worldwide

Google accounts for location of the people using their search engine. So, if you’ve been working with a search engine optimization agency and they just told you that you ranked #1 for “small business accounting” in Baltimore, you’re not going to rank #1 for “small business accounting” in New York or Miami. 

Other businesses there are going to rank for that. Even though you could render your services completely online, you do not rank #1 for “small business accounting” all over the world. Even if you do rank #1, where do you rank number one? That’s the next question. 

These search engine optimization agencies would say “Oh, we’ll get you to #1, pay us all this money, we’ll get you to #1”. 

You ranked number one where? You ranked number one under what context? Google cares about context. So if I look for restaurant reviews and you have a blog that’s all restaurant reviews, is your blog going to come up? 

Probably not, because it’s going to present Google reviews, Yelp reviews, and Travel Advisor reviews before you. Getting to the top rank amongst that competition is almost impossible, unless you have as much money as Google to pour into the endeavor. 

Making the Shift into Topic Clusters

So, if ranking number one is so hard, why are we still doing content marketing? Because content marketers like myself have made the shift to what we call topic clusters. So it’s not just about the one blog post that you’re going to put up. It’s about the five or ten that you’re going to put up about one particular topic. 

We’re going to take a concept, like filing annual taxes, and we’re going to write 5 to 10 blog posts surrounding that topic. They’re all going to link together. Also, they’re all going to link to a main post on filing your annual taxes as a small business. 

What that does is it communicates to Google that you are presenting a comprehensive education on this particular topic. It also allows you to rank for smaller, lower volume keywords that are easier. 

We’re not getting precise Google keyword volume anymore from Google Keyword Planner. These topic clusters can help you get a better idea of the sorts of traffic that you’re getting and where it’s coming from. You’re better able to analyze a topic cluster than you are one single keyword anymore, because Google’s kind of masking the data. 

Clusters, in addition to building your search engine market share, also build thought leadership and credibility for you. By thought leadership, I just mean your perception of authority. So when you present something comprehensive like that to people, they appreciate it. 

Can Giving Too Much Detail Hurt Your Business?

Even if you were to tell me all the ways that I could file my own taxes, I’m still not going to do it. But because I read everything and now I know for sure that you know how to file my taxes, I’m going to contact you, because I trust you. Because you told me already. 

There’s a variety of reasons why you would give that level of detail. One of the biggest ones is that, just because you’ve given that much detail, it doesn’t mean that people are just suddenly going to start doing it and you’re going to lose business. As a matter of fact, you may increase your business. 

Show your mastery of a topic through topic clusters, and worry a little bit less about your Google search engine ranking, especially if your website is new. It’s going to take a while before you get there. 

So, that’s what I wanted to cover with you today. You should not trust those people who say they will make you rank #1 on Google. 

If you enjoyed this episode, I’d appreciate you leaving me a review or a comment wherever that you heard it or watched it. If you’re watching this on IGTV or Youtube – and I will see you next time. 

This has been an episode of The Defiant Business Podcast. Go ahead and leave us a review or a comment and we’ll try to answer your other business and marketing questions in future episodes. 

Case Study: More Than Just a Testimonial

You need to put your client or customers’ success front and center. How do you do that? With an awesome case study that shows how your product or service helped improve their business or life.

What is a case study though? A case study is typically a 1-2 page document that showcases the problem that your company solved. Writers create compelling success stories through interviews, data, and creative writing.

Why do they matter so much? A significant number of B2B marketers (40%), cited case studies as the reason a customer or client moved from the bottom of the sales funnel to purchasing.

Here the podcast episode:

Here is the video:

And of course, here is 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 10-minute daily shot of business knowledge. Now I know you don’t have a lot of time, so we’re going to jump right into it. Today we’re going to be talking about why you should consider creating a case study for your company website. 

What Is a Case Study?

What is a case study? I can promise you that it’s more than just a testimonial from your customers or your clients. 40% of B2B marketers consider case studies to be the most effective piece of content that moves prospects from the end of the buyer’s journey to actually making a purchase. The next most effective tactic after that are in person events. I promise you for an in person B2B event, you’re going to spend way more than you would spend on a case study. 

So that is definitely a huge consideration. If you’re a marketer who sells high-end products or your high-end services, you have to consider that your next most effective tactic would be an in person event. If you’ve ever organized an event, you know how rough those can be and how exhausting it can be. 

Side note: kudos to those of you who have in person events as part of your marketing strategy. 

Not to be Confused with a Medical Case Study

Case study means something completely different in medical terms, and it’s been adopted into the marketing terminology. So when I say case study, I mean it purely in a marketing sense has nothing to do with anything medical. Please do not confuse the two. So a case study is when you analyze a project or product implementation. For marketing purposes, you’re looking to identify factors that led to the success of that project or the product implementation. 

Some people have services and a case study would be more centered around a project. But then others have products that they sell to other companies. And those products, or that implementation of the product or system, would be the subject of the case study. 

Case studies can also be called customer or client success stories. So if you feel like case study is something that’s a little too esoteric for your website, you could definitely title the page where you keep them as “customer success stories” or even just “success stories” by itself. 

What Does a Case Study Look Like?

When you look at a case study, they’re typically well designed. So you want a graphic designer or somebody who at least knows their way around a Canva. They’re typically one to two pages, and they may or may not have a cover. 

If you do have a cover on your case study, then I would say that your case study should probably be two to three pages: the cover and then one to two pages of main content. 

If you’re going even further and you want this case study to be a lead magnet of some kind, then you might want four pages. You would have the cover, your one to two pages of main content, and then you have the end page. The end page would include your contact information, like social media handles and things like that. If case your case study gets passed around on the Internet, you want to make sure people can easily reach you.  

How Do You Structure a Case Study?

So it typically is set up to introduce the problem and then it moves into the solution that’s selected. And that’s usually the client or customers selecting your company to solve their problem, which was introduced in the first part. So problem, solution, and then outcome. What happened once they chose you and you and you set them up with your services or your products, what happened? The outcome. 

Case Studies are Great Storytelling

What this sets up though is a great story. It often sets up a great story and that’s why case studies are so effective because a client, when they’re at the bottom of the funnel and they’re still with you, that means they’re really leaning towards you.  So we’ve got top of the funnel, we’ve got mid funnel, sorry, we’ve got mid funnel and we’ve got the bottom of the funnel. 

Because case studies incorporate storytelling, it’s something the prospect can use to imagine what it’ll feel like when you’ve solved their problems. the same way that you’ve solved the person or the company in the case study’s problems. That’s why they’re so effective. 

A case study can be that little thing that pushes them. “Okay, yeah, let’s go with this company to solve my issue.”

Use the Client’s Words in Your Case Study

So it typically involves one to two interviews. Ideally you will interview the client, and I don’t really understand how you could do it without interviewing them because you want to use actual quotes, their words in the case study. 

The other person that you’ll want to have interviewed is your project manager or whoever was in charge on that project. So if you’re a very small company, it might be you that needs to be interviewed. But if you have project managers then the project manager on that project will probably be the one who is interviewed. 

What will happen then is that the writer will take their stories and put them together cause you should have a writer work on this. We’ll take them and put them together to create your case study, your customer success story. 

It will be compelling, it will be factual, and those two things together make a great B2B marketing story. 

You also want to include any data points if the client’s able to provide them. And this is difficult. Uh, don’t think that, I don’t understand how difficult. It’s a little bit easier with something like paid advertising because you typically get some metrics that you can use a relatively quickly. 

But in my case, for my industry, content marketing, it takes some time before ROI is shown. So we don’t always have numbers until six to 12 months later, maybe even longer. It just depends. This is not to say your efforts aren’t worthwhile, but you should consider content marketing kind of like your retirement investment account. You don’t have your retirement investment account for one month and then you wake up and it’s got $1 million in it. That’s not the way that it works. 

Case Studies When Results are Intangible

So when I do case studies for services where things are a bit more intangible, we have to dig a little bit deeper and present some of the more immediate results and effects of services rendered. All that takes is some creative thinking. It doesn’t mean that your business is not good for case studies. Your business is excellent for case studies, almost every business is. Not having hard numbers is not a reason not to do a case study. 

How Much Do Case Studies Cost to Have Written?

So big question, how much do case studies cost? It depends. So you may remember the episode we did on how much you should pay freelance writers and our top factors were their writing experience, their industry experience, and sometimes, where they’re located. But the two first two are more important. You could expect to pay anywhere from $1,000 to $1,700 per case study depending on the writer that you’re talking with. 

If you have an opportunity to pay less, I would say be wary. You are potentially dealing with incredibly an incredibly inexperienced writer or somebody who’s not from the United States. So their English may not be 100%. 

Again, it all depends on who your customer, your ideal customer is. If you are outside of the United States and you are in a country where the quality of the English is not necessarily a factor, then you would probably be fine. If you’re outside of the United States and you’re targeting companies within the US, then the quality of English WILL be a factor. 

So it’s nothing against ESL writers. But that is something that many companies within the United States have to consider. 

So how can you use your case studies once you’ve paid all that money for them. No big deal. Well, it’s kind of a big deal, but content repurposing, that was episode 10. If you haven’t listened to episode 10, you need to go back and listen to the episode on content repurposing. 

Ask the client for a video. A video interview just briefly to kind of cover some of the points that they covered in the case study. 

You could also extract quotes from the client and include them in your blog posts. I them on your social media and style them up as a nice little graphic. You can style them and put them up there on your social media. 

Pull those quotes and place them on different parts of your website. You especially want the ones where they’re talking about how awesome you are. Those can go on your homepage. 

Great for new prospects who are just landing on your website for the first time. So some of the ways that I can think of immediately off the top of my head. 

We are coming to the end of our 10 minutes for this episode of The Defiant Business Podcast. So thank you so much for joining me. If you’ve got any thoughts on case studies, if you think you need a case study, feel free to shoot us a message. We’d be happy to have that talk with you. But until then, I will see you next time.

Top Three SEO Ranking Factors

SEO. Search Engine Optimization. It’s been a buzzword for a long time. If you’re going to run a successful blog for your business as part of your content marketing strategy, then you need to learn about it. I’m sorry, it can’t be avoided. But it doesn’t have to be super hard! There are over 200 SEO ranking factors, but some matter more than others. 

In today’s podcast episode, we’re going over the top three factors that you should worry about (at least once you get the one time factors out of the way). I keep things simple, but you’re going to walk away with some good information!

Here is the podcast episode:

Here is the video:

And, of course, here is the episode transcript:

If you don’t know S-E-O stands for Search Engine Optimization. There are over 200 factors that Google, and likely other search engines, use to rank content. All the tech developments, like artificial intelligence and machine learning, allow search engines to determine high-quality content fairly accurately. So, how can you rank well on the search engine results page (SERP)? With over 200 factors, it’s important to know that some factors matter more than others. And so today we’re going to talk about the top 3 SEO ranking factors.

Why Should You Focus on These Three SEO Ranking Factors? 

The reason why is because if you’re a small business or you’re a larger business with a small marketing team, there’s only so many things you can worry about. So I would much rather you worry about the top three ranking factors if that’s all you’ve got time for. That’s rather than wasting time on some of the less heavily weighted ranking factors. 

Somebody mentioned this on LinkedIn in response to a post of mine. They said that they knew a company that followed the voice search recommendations but didn’t follow basic SEO recommendations for their written content. And obviously that’s kind of backward. Voice search is growing at an amazing rate and it’s definitely going to be something that you have to keep in the back of your mind. Smart voice devices, like Google Home and Alexa, the purchase rates doubled from 2017 to 2018.

We know that that’s going to continue to increase, but you want to make sure that you’ve got your foundation nice and strong, and that’s where these factors come into play. 

What You Need to Know About Voice Search

What do customers purchase when they use their smart home devices? Items like household necessities, electronics, and groceries. Everyday commodities that everyone needs. 

The voice speaker market surged between 2017 and 2018. Smart speaker ownership almost doubled from 21% in 2017 to 41% in 2018. Even more interesting, 74% of smart speaker owners report that they’ve purchased at least one item through their speaker. 42% have purchased three or more items. 

While voice commerce accounts for a small number of total retail sales today, history has shown us it won’t stay that way. 

After all, the first smartphone debuted in 1992 (the Simon Personal Communicator by IBM), and there are millions that can’t remember a time before the world sat in the palm of their hand. 

That means there will soon be a generation that can’t remember a time before they were able to say “Okay Google, order more paper towels.”

Why Does Voice Search Matter for Written Content?

Smart home devices are trying to create a seamless experience. For example, I can ask my Google Home device about Pokemon strengths and weaknesses (I have my kids hooked on Pokemon). My smart device will tell me about the strength weakness combo I’m asking about. But then it also sends a link for the source to my phone. That means I get to go review the information more closely on the source site.

There’s a connection between voice and video too. The goal is to provide the user with the best experience possible.

Some SEO Ranking Factors are One and Done, and Some Are Ongoing

Some of the 200 factors are a one-time fix and then some of them are ongoing. A one-time fix example would be the whole big thing about, “Hey, we’re http and now we’re moving to https.” That was a really big deal, but once you switched over, you were fine. It was done. 

And if you didn’t switch over, then your website got punched in the face for a little while until you fixed it and people stopped getting that alert that your website was insecure. Some factors you don’t have control over. These are the sorts of things, again, that I don’t necessarily want you to worry about.

Things like domain age (how old your website name is), you can’t control. So a website with a domain that’s older typically ranks better. It just depends, but it typically ranks better. But that’s not something you have control over. It’s funny because all of the domains I’ve ever purchased, they were brand new. Nobody else ever had them, so they didn’t have anything on them. 

It’s like a, a teenager out of high school, they don’t have any credit. It’s kind of like that your domain age is almost kind of like website credit if you will. 

One Time Fixes for SEO (for the most part)

  • SSL certificate (Having ‘https’ in your URL)
  • Keywords in your site title
  • Keywords in your Htags
  • Having a sitemap

SEO Factors That Are Out of Your Control

  • Domain age
  • Google crawl speed
  • Competitor actions
  • Algorithm updates

 First SEO Factor: High-Quality Content

So your first top factor is to produce high-quality content. Which is great for me, since I’ll have lots of work. 

Now some people here produce content, and forget the “high-quality” part. That’s a mistake. Google is in Google Docs. It’s on your Google Drive, and it owns YouTube. I mean they’ve got pretty much everything, and they do spell check and whatnot. They have access to all the content that you could ever possibly create. Google knows that high-quality content is preferred, and they’re working these things into their algorithms. 

They know what good content looks like, and you need to make sure that that’s what’s on your website. So people who just put up content before the serious algorithm changes, when the search engine said “Oh, you’ve got content and it ranks for these keywords, good for you.” 

But once the search engine algorithm became sophisticated, they were also looking for quality. You can’t afford to have content riddled with grammar errors or just stuffed with keywords.

Quality Over Quantity Every Time

Well then, all of those sites that put quantity over quality, all of that was a waste. They got penalized by Google and then they got buried. So now nobody will find those websites because Google knows that their users don’t want to see that. You want to put in the work upfront to future proof the content on your site. Quality over quantity, 100% of the time. 

If you’re asking yourself “Oh, this isn’t our best work, should we put it up?” The answer is no, don’t put it up if you know it’s not your best work. Don’t put it up there in front of your clients and your prospects. I’m always of the opinion, one great blog post per month is better than eight crappy posts per month. If you have the team to put out eight awesome blog posts every month, good for you.

But that’s not everybody. Unless you’re outsourcing or you’ve got the internal team and an editor or excellent writers who are also employees, then you’re going to want to ease back. The general recommendation is one blog post per week. But even that, if you know you can’t keep up with one blog post per week and it’s not going to be your best stuff, I would much rather you post one great blog post. We can do something with one great blog post. We can be proud of it. 

Always Think of Your Audience

Let’s say I’m in your social media network, I can share that one awesome post. I’ll be happy to share it. But because I’m sharing that with my network, I can’t share low-quality content.

Also remember that when you’re putting your content into your network, it’s very likely you have people who want to help you. But they don’t want to share stuff that’s no good with their own network.

Focus on value and quality over volume and you will succeed. You can succeed with valuable content even when you don’t post as frequently. The key is to be consistent, whatever that is for you, weekly, monthly, whatever. 

SEO Factor #2: Mobile-Optimized Website

So some of these other ones are a little bit easier, but you want to build a mobile-friendly site. What that means is that it will show up differently on a phone. It’s called a responsive site.

Based on the size of the user’s display, your website will present the content in different ways to make it optimized for mobile. Google does mobile-first indexing. If your website isn’t optimized for mobile, then you’re going to be nowhere to be found. 50% or more of search traffic is on a mobile device.

Like, “Hey, I was in the kitchen, let me look this recipe up.” or “Oh, I just remembered that. Let me look this thing up.” Mobile-first indexing: if you’re not optimized for mobile, you’re not showing up.

You want to be optimized for mobile and it’s not difficult these days. When you’re working with a great web designer, they’ll know. They’ll say “Hey, only responsive websites, that’s all we build.” if I was working with a web designer who was trying to charge me extra for a responsive website, I wouldn’t work with them because web designers who know their stuff are only going to build responsive websites. There’s no point in building anything else anymore. 

This could be considered a more one-time factor, but as you add more photos and video to your website, you need to always consider and test how your content assets appear on tablets and phone. Previewing your content on your phone and tablet is the easiest way to see how your readers will see it.

What About Site Speed as an SEO Ranking Factor?

In my opinion, site speed kind of ties into mobile optimized. When we’re checking out a site on our phones, and it takes too long to load, we move onto the next! I just mentioned checking the appearance of new content assets on your phone. Well, when you put really large photos (I mean the file size), it can slow down your site. Too many of these giant photos, and…. yep, your site slows down.

Here’s what my friend Jason Firch (digital marketing and SEO expert) had to say about site speed:

3rd SEO Factor: Backlinks

The final factor we’re going to talk about is backlinks. 

And what that means is, okay, so you’re a website and I’m a website. You found something really awesome on my website that you want to put on yours. When you link back to my blog post that you found the information on that’s called a backlink, from you to me. 

That’s great for me because you just gave me a backlink. You just told Google that I was awesome, and Google pays attention to that stuff. Backlinks are important and this is where guest posting and things like that come in. I believe that was episode 13 that you’ll want to check out in terms of ways to market your blog to generate more business

How Do You Get Backlinks?

Guest posting is one of the ways to get a backlink to your site. Going on podcast interviews is another way, but there’s a lot of ways, a lot of different tactics that you can use. Do what you feel most comfortable with to get out there and build relationships and also end up building those backlinks. They’re incredibly valuable because as I said, they communicate to Google that you’re awesome. So over time the more backlinks a particular page has, it will climb up the search engine rankings

Backlinks are valuable to you, but you don’t just want any backlink. You want valuable backlinks, so you’ll have to go back sometimes and disavow bad links. You can disavow certain links so that way they can’t link to you anymore if they’re spam links, which you definitely don’t want. 

Backlinks also help you build credibility as a professional and as a company. Read more about boosting your company’s credibility through content.

I know I’ve given you a lot to think about in terms of SEO ranking factors. Remember, once you get your one-time (or infrequent) factors out of the way, focus on these top three ranking factors. They can improve or deteriorate over time, each time you post new content on your website.

Customer’s in Control. How Do You Market?

In Season 1, Episode 19, we cover how to market your business when your client or customer controls marketing. You can’t ignore it, so what do you do?

Here’s the podcast episode:

And here’s the video version of this podcast:

Of course, I can’t leave you without the transcription!

Hi, I’m Ruthie owner of Defy The Status Quo and you’re listening to an episode of The Defiant Business Podcast,your 10-minute daily shot of business knowledge. You don’t have a lot of time so I’m not going to waste it. Let’s get to it. This morning we’re going to talk about marketing, but today’s topic specifically is: when your customer’s in control, how do you market? 

So I’ve been making my way through Mark Schaefer’s book, The Marketing Rebellion, great book, available on Amazon. You should check it out if you’ve got your own business. I think the topics that he’s talking about are going to be critical for businesses moving forward, no matter your size. And it’s a serious indicator into how smaller businesses are able to attract such a ferociously loyal customer base. And so one of the key numbers he gives is that 2/3 of your marketing is not done by you.

Most of Your Marketing Isn’t Done by You

2/3 of your marketing is done by your customers. This happens partly because a lot of traditional marketing methods aren’t as effective as they used to be. One of the biggest trends that’s affecting advertising today is what we call a trend called ad blindness. 

You might be thinking “Ruthie, hmm, what’s ad blindness?” When you’re usingGoogle search results, have you ever quickly scrolled past the top entries to get to what we identify as the “real results?” You skip right past the ads right quickly to get to the “real results.” 

You want to see the stuff that people didn’t have to pay to be in the search results for. Sometimes we pay attention to the ads. But most of the time, particularly if we’re looking for an answer to something, you immediately skip past those.

Ad Blindness: Purposefully Skipping Past Ads

Also, when you’re on Facebook, right or Instagram and you see that something is sponsored, you may just bloop just go right past it just because it’s sponsored. You’re thinking “Oh, this isn’t actually content that I want to see.” 

Then there are also people who’ve installed ad blockers on their computers and their phones. And this is because they don’t want to see ads. When you consider one of Netflix’s main attractions, besides the fact that you can binge watch shows, there aren’t any commercials. You can upgrade your Hulu account so you don’t see any commercials. 

This is kind of where we are right now because companies are still putting a lot into advertising. And it’s not to say that they shouldn’t, but they’re not paying attention to what the consumer is saying. The consumer is saying they don’t want to see ads, they don’t want to hear ads.

If You Can’t Control Your Marketing, What Do You Do?

That’s where apps like Pandora come from. You pay a little extra on Pandora. Now you don’t have to hear ads. So if you’ve related to any of those things that I’ve said, then you have probably varying degrees of ad blindness. Even when it’s right there, like a Google ad, we just scroll right past it. 

What’s the key then? It’s not about controlling the narrative anymore, it’s not about controlling the marketing narrative. It’s about contributing to the marketing narrative. The only piece of the narrative that you can control is the minority, the 1/3. So you have to focus on contributing to the ⅔. You want to try and steer the conversation as best as you can, but you’re never going to have complete control over it.

The Internet Empowered the Consumer

I can throw up a website right now reviewing a whole bunch of companies and if what I have to say resonates with people over time, my website’s going to rank. It may rank one day, 10 years from now. It may rank as good as any of the websites that I review. And those companies don’t control me. The basis of my website would be that they can’t control me and that is why I would be popular. 

Your customers or clients love to post on social media, which means you need to be where your consumers are in order to have a chance at contributing to the conversation. You see what I’m saying So you need to be where they are. You need to be available to be a part of that conversation.

Social Media Customer Service 

So if your consumers statistically like to post on Twitter, customer service on Twitter is a big deal there. You know, a lot of companies will interact that way on Twitter. That’s where I go. When a website goes down, I go to see if anybody else is saying that it’s down. Like I did the other day about LinkedIn: 

For example, if I have a question for Hubspot, I’ll tweet at them and I know they’ll respond in pretty short order. Maybe even faster than their customer service will respond and they acknowledge that and that’s why they respond on Twitter. 

So whether it’s positive or negative,you should be where they are. If your customers like to communicate on Facebook, if they like to be on LinkedIn, then that is where you should be. You can’t control what your customers or clients say, you can’t control what they say directly, but you do have some control over the customer experience.

You can’t control the way that they interpret it, but you can control various aspects of it. And that boils down to things like product quality. So you want to invest and make sure that your product is the best that it can be. Because when you send off something that doesn’t look nice, if you’re an ecommerce brand or even if you’re a brick and mortar, if your customer walks away from a selling experience with you, with a product that’s subpar, and by subpar I mean not meeting their expectations. 

If it’s less than what they expect, then you can be sure that they’ll let their friends and family know. And that’s part of that 2/3 of marketing.That’s where word of mouth and people communicating about your products come in. 

Post-Purchase Delight: The Marketing Phase Companies Forget

So, and then one piece that companies are often forgetting is the post-purchase phase, the post-purchase marketing. What are you doing for the people who’ve purchased your item to help them out?

So let’s say its a more complex purchase. Maybe something a little more expensive. Just the other day, I was trying to figure out how my riding mower started. My husband’s normally the one who takes care of it. How could I start my riding mower I’ve already purchased? 

What I was able to do is able to go online and Google it and I found videos on YouTube from the brand, from the company that made that mower. 

I found a lot of basic “get started” videos. They supported me through content. I didn’t have to contact their customer service, or thumb through the manual. I just wanted somebody to do a quick video, show me how to start this thing so I could mow the grass. And that’s what I found.

They supported me in the post-purchase phase. And here I am now talking about this positive experience that I had with Cub Cadet. If anybody says “Oh, how do you start one of these things?” I can say, “You can go on YouTube and find their videos.” Now another person can have a positive post-purchase experience.

So they’re essentially turning their customers into evangelists, marketing evangelists. It’s somebody who will pretty much always say something positive about a brand. The way that your product is delivered can also incredibly impact your customers’ experience. So one company that comes to mind for me is Arbor Teas. I’m one of their evangelists and they offer organic fair trade certified teas and it’s all, you know, it’s online and it comes in the mail.

It comes pretty quickly. One of my favorite parts is their packaging. It’s a little box and it’s got their logo on it. But my favorite part is when I open it, I’ve got a handwritten note. Both times that I’ve ordered from them, it’s been signed by the same person, which made me really happy. 

I posted on Instagram about it, I posted on Facebook about it, and I’ve recommended them since to anybody who tells me that they like tea. So by that small,handwritten note, they’ve turned me into one of their brand evangelists. And that’s, that’s marketing that they can’t pay for, but it’s marketing that’s way more powerful than almost anything else that we could do. 

What About The Customer Experience for Services? 

So, and then also considering your customer experience if you provide services. So in my case, freelance content writing, if you provide services, the top complaint from clients is lack of communication. They don’t know what’s happening with their project. They’re not getting updates. They always have to reach out in order to get an update. You should incorporate that communication as part of your process. 

So, that is what I have for you today. This has been an episode of The Defiant Business Podcast, your daily, 10-minute shot of business knowledge. And I’m your host, Ruthie, owner of Defy The Status Quo. And I can’t wait to see you next time.

How do you feel about the “customer controls marketing” concept? Let us know in the comments!

Missing Client/Customer Connections?

Business is getting crowded, which means you have to look for meaningful ways to stand out. You should always be looking for opportunities to create real connections with your customer or clients. 

The inspiration behind this post came from a campaign text I received asking me for another donation. I started considering whether or not I felt compelled to do so. Then I realized, they missed a lot of opportunities to prime me for this question. 

They missed a lot of opportunities to make me want to say yes. Instead, I just asked “Why should I?”

Here’s the link to the Twitter thread I sent to the Senator: https://twitter.com/annaruthus/status/1145126442856067073 

Here’s the podcast episode:

Or if you’d rather watch the video:

Today’s topic is whether you’re missing potential client connections. This is important because today’s world is pretty crowded with businesses. 

What Makes You Stand out?

You really have to concentrate on how you can stand out, and it’s not always what you put out there that makes you stand out. Sometimes, it’s the way that you connect with your customers that that gives you that extra edge that incites brand loyalty. 

We’ve seen this amongst Millennials, and we’re seeing it with Generation Z. A loyalty program or a discount isn’t enough, because everyone can do that. You have to focus on what only you can do. 

If other people see that it works for you, they’ll copy it. There is value in being the first one to do something. Anytime you come up with something only you can do, you’re getting ahead of the game. 

The Inspiration for This Topic: Senator Cory Booker’s Campaign  

This Saturday morning, I received a text message from Senator Cory Booker’s campaign asking if I would be willing to donate more ahead of an FEC deadline. 

This is because I had donated $1, after seeing a Twitter Ad saying that the number of unique donors required for anyone to be on stage had been upped. 

I remembered him being completely disgusted with the director of Homeland Security because he thought she was full of crap. I thought she was full of crap too. 

I decided, “You know what? For all that emotion and passion he showed, I’ll give him a dollar. I don’t even really know anything else about him, but I’ll give him a dollar.” 

So when I got this text message asking me to donate more, I was wondering why. I don’t really know him, and the burden is on me to go find out about it. 

I decided to create a Twitter thread with my advice to them. Yes, this was specifically advice for a political campaign, but if you’ve read my blog post on conscious consumerism, you know that this method of communicating with your clients could be really beneficial for your business. There are many different ways of doing it, especially when you throw in AI, Facebook messenger, and chatbots. But the Twitter thread that I created is about their SMS marketing strategy, which I feel could be greatly improved. 

SMS Marketing Is Extremely Personal

Once I opted in a few days ago, you could’ve asked me if I wanted to learn more about your stances on important issues. You could have asked me which issues are important to me, and you could’ve been collecting empirical data. 

When I donated that $1, that’s exactly what I feel like they should’ve done. They should’ve sent me a text thanking me for my donation, and then they could have asked me which issues were important to me. 

And based on those responses, they could have sent me a set of text messages about them, informing me on Senator Booker’s stance. 

If I said yes to learning more about your position, I could have received texts boiling down your stances in the most personal marketing method possible. 

You could send me resources to learn more about what makes you different compared to the other Democrats running. 

This would have been a great opportunity for him to show me what made him different. He could have done all of this before asking me for more money. That is key. 

If he had made me like him more than just enough to donate $1, and if he had implemented a better plan, I would have been a lot more supportive. I would’ve felt like I could donate more. 

But when I got to the text, I thought, “Why should I?” It’s unfortunate because anyone who’s already donated $1 is primed to donate more. 

Automated Text Messages Have Tons of Potential to Be Beneficial

The point is that if you’ve got a cause surrounding your business and you’ve gotten your client to opt-in for SMS text messaging, you could implement automatic streams of text messages based on what their interests are. 

Because of the short nature of text messages, you have an opportunity to get rid of all the jargon, focus, and make those words really count. 

You Have Someone’s Full Attention

Take advantage of the fact that you have their full attention. You could tweet out the same things, but they might not see your tweets. You could put them on Facebook, but they might not see your Facebook messages. You could even put them in an email, but they might not open your email. 

But we’re automatically programmed to open our text messages. The only ones I don’t open are the school bus alerts telling me that my kid is going to be dropped off late because my kid calls me first. If I didn’t get that phone call, I would definitely open that text. 

Focus on the Opportunities That You’re Given 

The takeaway is that you have to focus on those opportunities. It doesn’t always have to be about SMS text messaging, but that was one example. 

You need to look around and see where you could be missing potential client connections. If you’re missing it, your competitors may be missing it too, which is an opportunity for you to stand out. 

Texting doesn’t have to be spam. When you get someone’s number without being asked, they want to hear from you. Even if you don’t have a big cause surrounding your product, you could still set up your SMS text messaging in such a way that it’s beneficial to them. 

Maybe you could offer to inform them 24 hours prior to any of your events. It may take a few tries, but they are likely to actually show up at your event at least once. Even something as simple as sending a reminder can be beneficial. 

So keep an eye out in your marketing. Let me know whether you’ve missed any potential marketing or sales opportunities!