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Want Your Business to Take Off? Don’t Miss This Step.

After months of careful planning and a nerve-wracking technological learning curve. You are finally ready to launch your dream business.  Once you click “publish” and send out that email … the world (and your life) will ever be the same again

So… you load up that email to all 50 people on your mailing list… and press send…

and then…

crickets.

Sound familiar?  If it does, either you’ve moved past what my mentor calls the “Dream Up Stage” and have discovered what I’m about to tell you – or you are still stuck.  If you are trying to get your business launched and it isn’t getting off the ground… you need to read this post.

Your business will never make it past the start-up stage without one simple thing.

And, that is market research.  Most new business owners are excited to start building so they skip the foundational step of talking with their clients and learning about their needs and problems.

Taking the time to talk to potential customers before putting your offer out there is HARD.  I’ve done it.  I’ve put a ton of time and effort into several launches for my own business without really stepping back to take the time to see what my audience needs.

My first big launch was a huge 12 week class called Tame the Internet Monster.  I covered a different aspect of Internet Marketing each week.  One week was autoresponders, the next e-commerce, then social media.  The pace was exhausting.   I didn’t have many students and the ones I did have didn’t make it to the end of the class .   The class was something I would have liked to have taken – but my clients aren’t me.  If I had truly taken the time to ask and listen I would have learned that quick bites would serve them (and therefore sell much better).   I would have saved a lot of time and money.  And, served my students better to boot.

How to Validate Your Product Idea

So, you are sold on trying to do some market research to make sure that your idea is valid before spending too much time marketing it.  But, you don’t want to spend a lot of time messing around with validation when you want to be making money now.  The good news is the time you spend in this stage is an investment that will pay dividends throughout the life of your business.

The other good news is you can usually validate your business idea pretty quickly without investing a lot of time or money.

Here are 3 steps you can take to make sure that your idea will sell:

  1. Get out there and talk to your potential customers.  Yes, that means you actually have to have a conversation.  One live conversation is worth a dozen survey answers – so this is a great use of your time.  Ask your potential clients about their business, their struggles, what keeps them up at night.  Who have the worked with that they’ve loved  – what annoys them the most about your competitors.  If you make it clear that you are not selling anything.  People are often very willing to help you.
  2. Create an opt-in page for a quick checklist or report addressing the problem your product or service will solve.  If money is an issue, post the opt-in to social media, send it to your list, ask your friends to tell their friends about it.  If you can afford it, run some Facebook or Google ads to an audience made up of your potential clients and see how many opt-ins you get.  Keep tweaking your opt-in page and message until you are satisfied that you are reaching your audience effectively.
  3. Create a Minimum Viable Product and Sell It.  Don’t put a lot of effort (like I did) into creating a huge unwieldy class.  Start very small with something that does not require a lot to create.  Instead of a big class, offer a small e-book or even a paid one on one session covering your topic area.  Instead of a huge membership site, start with a Facebook group.   When you get your first paying customers, you know that you are on to something.

Are you past the “dream up” stage? Want to know YOUR next steps?  Check out this excellent blog post where Todd Herman lays out the perfect steps for you to take at every stage of your business.

Need help implementing your next steps?  There is a wealth of expertise available to you for free as part of the Time Traders Club – a time and expertise exchange for solopreneurs.   Check out Time Traders here.

7 Tips for Creating a Webinar That Will Change the World (and Your Business)

In my last post, I shared a recipe for a quick 10 minute blog post.  I thought I would do a quick 10 minute post to show you how easy this type of post is to do.   I chose a video where fellow Time Traders Club member Ellen Finkelstein was interviewed on RockingYourPath.com’s Fast Action Friday web show. Click here to listen to the whole interview!

ellen_webinar

Want to grow your list quickly?  One of the fastest ways to do this is public speaking.   Which is great, except, it can be difficult to constantly find new audiences to speak for.  Plus, in the beginning, the speaking is usually for free with very limited opportunities to actually make an offer.

Webinars allow you to create your own audience… and to sell your product and follow up.  When I look at the solopreneurs who have created successful business over the past 10 years I’ve been involved online, all of them do webinars — because they work.

Recently, I watched an interview with Ellen Finkelstein where she gave some great tips on how to create a webinar that works.    Ellen is one  of the top 13 Powerpoint MVPs in the country.  While doing her work with her clients and while promoting her own business, Ellen began to realize the power of webinars to really change the course of a business.

Here are 7 tips from the interview for making webinars work for you.  (If you want more tips… click here to register for Ellen’s full length webinar on Highly Profitable Webinars.

Tip 1:  Start with the End In Mind.  If you are doing the webinar to sell a product, have the product created first.  That way, you can  give the audience great value and build the know, like and trust factor.

Tip 2:  Do Your Research Even if you are doing a free webinar – asking for an hour of time is seeking a commitment.  To get that commitment, you need to know your audience and what keeps them up at night (just like you would need to know for a product that you are selling).  The difference is that with a webinar, you want to keep your sign up page short, sweet and to the point.  Also, when selling from a webinar – the webinar is the sales page.  Keep the sales page you send to from the webinar short and sweet – don’t confuse people!

Tip 3: Write a Script and Practice

Practice with the script.  Do a practice recording and see how you sound.  Doing both of these things will make your webinar go more smoothly and you’ll sound more professional.  Ellen uses Zoom for her webinars to create a more personal experience. Even though she is showing slides, you can still see Ellen in the room.

Learn How to Create Profitable Webinars!

Tip 4:  Make Your Topic Clear From The Start

Don’t make your audience guess what the webinar is about.  You’ll lose them quickly.  Make the benefits of what you are sharing clear right from the start.

TIP 5:  Don’t Put Your Script On Your Slides

Yes, you need slides for your webinar – but don’t read from them.  People can read faster than you speak. They’ll read the slide and then lose interest

Make slides visual and attractive. Use a simple title and images that help the learning process and relate to the story emotionally. Picture is worth a thousand words. The brain works visually.

TIP 6: Engage Your Audience

Ask questions of your audience.  Use the chat box or polling feature to get responses.  Answer questions if people have them (if they don’t – make up questions they should be asking… and answer them).  Questions are a great way to engage people.

TIP 7 – Follow Up!

This tip will double your sales off the webinar.  It is very easy to get discouraged when people don’t buy after your webinar – or you just get a few sales.  Keep the follow up going – and you’ll get more sales.   Over half of our sales in Time Traders come on the last day to purchase.

So… there are Ellen’s 7 tips.  Want to learn more about creating a webinar that works for you? Check out Ellen’s free training on Highly Profitable Webinars.

Recipe for a Quick and Easy 10 Minute Blog Post

 

You have a half hour in your schedule to write a blog post, but you can’t come up with anything to write.  You need to get the post done – your virtual assistant is waiting for you in order to get your newsletter done.

Here’s a quick trick  I learned from my mentor, Michele Scism – for getting a blog post up in less than 10 minutes.

And, as a bonus, if you do this right, you can get other people to promote the post for you.

Want to learn more?  Here are the steps.

  1. Consult your message map (don’t have one?  No worries – we’ll be creating this in class together starting on 10/25.  Not in the class?  Sign up here) .  This blog posting method is easy – but it only really works if the content you choose is very on point with YOUR blog message and content.  Choose a topic  that your clients would really benefit from knowing – but that you don’t cover expertly yourself.

  2. Go to You Tube and choose a video that covers that topic.  Ideally the video should be on the short side and be a “how to” video vs. a longer lecture.  You need to be able to watch and digest the video quickly (or it will take you more than 10 minutes to complete!)
  3.  Post the video to your blog (be sure to give a link and full credit to the source) .  Below the video post a summary of what the video says and (IMPORTANT!) how it relates to your audience.  Tell them why you chose that particular video.  Your summary should be at least 150 words long.

Done.  One quick and easy blog post.

Don't Know What To Write?

Learn how to create content boosts customer confidence that you are the expert to solve their problem.  Click here to learn more about my upcoming message mappnig workshop

BONUS POINTS:

The above steps will “get the job done”.  Here are two hints to make it work even better for you.

  1. When you promote the blog post, make no secret of the person whose video you placed on the site,  Tag them in social media. Even write them an email telling them you promoted them.  They might promote that page or something else on your blog.

  2. Post relevant screenshots instead of the video.  This take a bit longer – but it makes for a post that is more likely to help SEO-wise.  I learned this trick from Ryan Diess.

Want to see what a post done this way looks like?  Check out this post I created using a video from Ellen Finkelstein.

Easy isn’t it?   Now, you should be ready to rock and roll on your blogging!  

Of course, the danger in this is posting too much “borrowed” content. You want to have your own point of view. I’m teaching a class starting on October 25 on how to create a message map for your blog.  We’ll be looking at how to find out what your customers need to learn from you in order to buy.  You can sign up for that here.  

 

How to Get Crystal Clear in Less than 30 Seconds

Yes, 7 days have passed AND the foundational blog is up so goal met!!!   I would have just left it at that, but in my day job with the marketing company, I went to some “sales” training.  It was a LONG day.  One of the things the speaker mentioned really resonated with me… and I wanted to share that with you today.

The thing that gets in the way of your success.

One of the biggest problems I see with my clients and the Time Traders members we coach, is a lack of focus. One day a member will be writing blogs, then she sees a teleseminar is very interested in changing her strategy to You Tube ads.    You Tube Ads are great, but, she didn’t give her first strategy enough time to marinate before picking up the next one.   The truth is…

  • building a community takes time
  • building traffic (especially if you are going after non-paid traffic) takes time
  • creating the systems in your business to really handle an influx of clients takes time.

How much time?  According to our Paycheck to Passion podcast series where we interviewed over 100 successful entrepreneurs, it takes a year and a half to three years before a business really “gets roots” and starts bein successful.  That’s a LONG time when you are being supported just through your business.

Want to know a shortcut?

So… back to the training.

The trainer was talking about how BIG companies that disrupt the industry have something in common.

They are organized around a core question.

For example, Microsoft’s question was “how can we become the intelligence that runs computers worldwide?”.

So, given that core question – everything Microsoft did (and does makes sense).  They created an operating system.  They created Office suite.  They didn’t ever create computers – yet their products are used on most computers. They could grow in many different ways while staying within the frame they created for themselves.

Amazon’s core question was “how can we replace brick and mortar bookstores and become the go to place where people buy books (and later everything)?”

Starbucks might be “how can we become the nation’s “living room” by bringing the Seattle coffeehouse experience to every neighborhood?”

Thinking in terms of a question, rather than a niche is a great way to strike a balance between wanting to grow and try new things and allowing your business to stay focused enough to gain traction with your target market.

Thinking about your question.

What is your question?  If you were to think BIG about the contribution that you and your business make to the world – what would you like to do?  What difference could you make?

Jasper and I thought about the answer for Time Traders Club.  The exercise was both difficult and freeing.   I LOVE learning new things – so the challenge was figuring out how to frame Time Traders Club in a way that allows me to learn and share – but also doesn’t confuse everyone.

After spending some time really thinking about it – we came up with “How can we be the place solopreneurs go when they need support growing a business based on their talents and passions?”  That is a BIG statement – but it also creates boundaries.  Doing a lot of freelance work does not fit in that statement.  Time Traders Club, TimeSaving Templates, Workshops and Coaching fit well. Time Traders Club, TimeSaving Templates, Workshops and Coaching fit well.

What is your BIG question?  (Write it here and we can support you in making it true).

 

 

Getting Eyeballs on Your Website (Goal 1 – Day 7)

If you build it — will they come?  In an ideal world, they would…  In this world of millions of websites, just putting a website up is not going to bring you clients.  If your website is ONLY an electronic yellow pages ad (the only people who arrive – are people who you personally send there), then you can create the site and sit back and relax.   If you want new people to find you from your website you need to do some work!

My last task in getting my very simple site up and running is to prime it for getting traffic.  Yes, this does involve SEO (we’ll talk about that in a minute) but also setting up tracking (so you know what is working).

Is Your Website Working?

How do you tell?  The LONG range answer is – you know your website is working when you are getting clients and making money.

But… (and this is a big but…) your website can be doing its job for a while before you actually sell anything.  Just like fine wine… websites have an aging period.  It takes time for Google to find you and it takes time for people to start to hear about you (it takes over 15 times before potential customers start paying attention).

And, google page rank isn’t a valid measure either – because your page rank can vary wildly depending on who is doing the searching (Google localizes results) and how many other people have sites in your niche.

Measuring Eyeballs 

The first thing you want to measure to see if your website is working is traffic.  In a lot of ways, traffic is your least important metric because traffic rarely turns into money without some sort of further action from your website viewers.

Yet, without those eyeballs, no further action is possible.  To measure the traffic on your site, install Google Analytics.  You can do that by going to http://google.com/analytics and registering your site.  Then, add a google analytics plug in to your site (just search for google analytics in the plug in menu)  Pop in your account number and you are all done.

In addition to just counting visitors, Google Analytics can tell you WHO is visiting your site, what they are looking for, where they are coming from and much more.

Are your eyes beginning to glaze over?  Google Analytics is really useful once you get it set up.  Here is a great article on google analytics for beginners by Kristi Hines that will take you through the basics of account set up and beyond.

Increasing Traffic To Your Site

Once you have a good baseline number of people visiting your site, the next step is to try to increase that number.  There are long, medium and short-term ways of getting traffic to your site.

Long Term  SEO, blogging, podcasts, videos, etc are all LONG term traffic methods.  Unless something goes viral, this is a game of quality content over time increasing your rankings.  The good news is that if you create quality content, you will eventually have a steady stream of new visitors, subscribers and customers without a lot of ongoing work.   The downside, of course, is that these strategies take a while to work.

Medium Term Social media, guest blogging, e-mail marketing work really well in the medium term.  You still need to take the time to build an audience,  But, you are going out and attracting people to your site instead of waiting for them to come to you.    You still need time and patience for the campaign to work, but you can significantly grow traffic to your site in a few months.

Short Term The quickest way to get traffic to your site is to pay for it.   In my work with a Fortune 500 online marketing company, I’ve learned that they rely *mostly* on paid traffic to power their offers.  It is dependable, and if you are sure that people will buy your offer, you can make serious money and grow your list quickly.  And… it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money to start. (Tho, once you know your offer works, the more money you spend, the more money you make). Most people start with Facebook, but be creative.  I’m currently reading an e-book, Shiny Object Lemonade with some very creative paid advertising ideas – including advertising in other people’s newsletters.

You need a good mix of all three methods to grow the traffic to your list.  If you want more ideas for growing the number of visitors to your site, check out this article by Noah Kagan.  I’m going to be using a lot of Noah’s plan when we write our traffic plan for the Time Traders club site.

Next time, I’ll talk about making it easy for visitors to take action on your site.

Does all of this seem overwhelming?  Get help for free by visiting Time Traders Club.  We have experts who would love to give you some help with installing Google Analytics on your site and setting up SEO.

 

Create a Landing Page Quickly with LeadPages

OK – the basic site is up.  The next step is to create a quick opt-in page with LeadPages.  I debated a bit whether to do this step because my Thrive Theme makes it so easy to just include an opt-in form at the top of each page of the site.  You can also have different opt-ins for different categories of posts.

In the end, I decided to follow the plan in Shiny Object Lemonade and create the opt-in.  Here’s a quick video of me putting the opt-in together in 5 minutes with LeadPages (yes, it is THAT easy!)


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Ok… Yeah.. I didn’t exactly cheat – but I did have a lot put together ahead of time – namely the e-mail autoresponder sequence, the thank you page, etc.  And, I chose a *very simple* theme.   Plus, I do opt-in pages all day in my day job…

That being said.  Here are some quick tips you can pick up just by watching the video:

  1. KISS – Keep it simple silly (you are NOT stupid if you are reading this blog!).  My clients and I have found that really simple opt-in pages do the best.  Don’t give people any reason NOT to opt-in.  Tell them what they are getting and that’s it.
  2. Once you figure out the thank you page the autoresponder part – the rest is pretty easy and straight forward.
  3. You CAN do this!!!!

And… if you need help, you can get help at Time Traders Club (where members trade time so they can spend more time doing what they love instead of figuring out LeadPages!)

How did I get here?  Check out my first post for this goal 🙂

 

Create a WordPress Blog in Less Than An Hour (Day 2 – Goal 1)

Well,  I’m still following along with the Shiny Object Lemonade plan to get a foundation site up and running QUICKLY.   The challenge, of course, is to just get something up and running and not make it endlessly complicated.

And, as you can see,  I’m on Day 2 and have a functional site up with an opt-in.  Since I already had a domain name, web-hosting and a Thrive Themes membership and an email autoresponder (Active Campaign) account, getting something decent up took me about an hour.

Of course, there is still more to do… but what I have worked (you are here reading this post after all).

Here is a quick recap of the steps I took. (And, I am amazed at how technology advances and this becomes easier EVERY time I do it… even 2 years ago this would have been a MUCH bigger deal).

  1.  Get a Domain and Web Hosting.  I already had this.  But, when I get NEW domains, I just get them from my web host (Hostgator)  because then I don’t have to go through the extra step of hooking the domain up with the web hosting.  Since this is the “Meredith” blog – I picked my name as the URL.  Shiny Object Lemonade does a great job of going through the pros and cons of the different options – but the upshot is think about both what people will be looking for when they find your site AND how you see the site morphing over time   I chose my name to allow me the flexibility to write about ALL the different things I’m up to right now.
  2.  Hook the web host and the domain together.  If you don’t have your website and domain name hosted at the same place, you’ll need to get the nameserver address of your web host (usually you get two  – addresses ar something like “ns145.yourhost.com” and ns146.yourhost.com).  On the web host side of things, you need to add the domain to your hosting account.  In Hostgator, you do this by adding a sub-domain.
  3. Install WordPress Most web hosts have “auto-installers”.  All I had to do is click a button that said “QuickInstall WordPress” and I was in business.   Here’s a quick hint.  When it asks you for an admin name – don’t use admin.  Using admin opens up your site for hackers because it is the default and easy to guess.
  4. Log in to Your Brand New WordPress site and install your theme.  A theme is what make your site look like your site.  And, there are plenty of great themes out there to choose from – including many free from WordPress.  You can find them in the Appearance menu.   Personally, I really like Thrive Themes – the themes are clean and easy to use – plus they make creating opt-in boxes really easy (I’ll get into that more in my next post on setting up the opt-in page.

So..  I spent about an hour and have a brand new website.  Not bad.  I did have a few things going in my favor though, I already had my domain name and mailing list set up. Plus, I’ve created probably close to 50 WordPress sites over the past 10 years or so.  So, it putting up sites comes pretty easily for me even though I don’t consider myself a web developer or designer.

Need some help?  Not everyone can (or wants to) get into putting up websites.  That is part of the reason we started Time Traders Club – so solopreneurs could get affordable (even FREE) help with the things they didn’t want to do in their business (like putting up websites?) and more time helping other Time Traders members with the things that come easy.  Learn more about time traders here.

What’s the Goal Here?

So…

I didn’t really think I would be starting an “old-fashioned” journaly blog anytime soon.  I’ve been a bit overloaded with my day job (after freelancing exclusively for 10 years, I recently took a job as a marketing manager for a Fortune 500 social media agency),  my passion project – Time Traders Club  (a time and skill exchange network for entrepreneurs)  and my full-time job as a mommy/chauffeur to a 13-year-old girl.

But… I felt like I needed some accountability, a “room of my own” (separate from Time Traders which I run with my amazing business partner), and a chance to share what I’m up to with you (so you can see what is working and not make the same mistakes I make).

I was looking for a way to share what I know (which is A LOT) with you in a way that was leveraged – because I already have a full-time job and business.

I got an email yesterday, with an add for a book all about making lemonade out of your shiny objects.  Since I am the queen of the shiny objects AND the book only cost $5.  I decided to buy it and *actually* use it.  How about that…

What to Expect from The Blog

This blog is essentially my lab book.  I love trying new things.  I will try them here – and let you know how they are working.  I’ll be working toward one or two (please hold me to that – I have a tendency to work toward 10 goals at a time!) goals and sharing my progress.  The result, if you want to play, will be a nice roadmap for you to follow as you build YOUR business.  Sound good?  OK, Let’s go.

Goal #1 Build a Functioning “Foundation”Site in 7 Days

In order for this strategy to work, I need a new site.  I also know that this is a potential quagmire for me.  The challenge is to get something that is “good enough” without getting too mired in all the details.   Here are the steps I’m taking:

  1. Choose a domain name (actually this was easy – I’m using MY name for once!)
  2. Getting WordPress up and running on the site.
  3. Planning my post strategy
  4. Adding an opt-in option
  5. Adding an about page
  6. Adding some widgets and making the theme my own.
  7. Adding an email list.

Yep, it really is that simple.  And, I’ve done it before.  I’ll let you know what tools I’m using THIS time to make it easier.

Goal #2 – Build My Mailing List to 5,000 People

This is the BIG goal!   My list is currently around 3,400.  It has grown a lot in the past year, but it is still not big enough to play in giveaways etc.  I am growing really tired of having awesome conversations with people where they invite my on to their give away and then write me back the next day (after talking to their mentor) to say that they feel “out of integrity” including me because I don’t have the magic number. (Tho, I do produce results for the people who see past the arbitrary cut off).

So… list building it is.   My preliminary plan is to promote a webinar we created around Time Traders Club – How to Get ALL The Help You Need In Your Business Without Spending a Dime. and to promote our weekly blog planner templates (see above) and posts. (Time Traders members get access to cool templates – or you can buy them here.).  We are working both angles through Facebook Ads at the moment.  As I find other methods, I’ll try them out and let you know how they work.

So…are you in?  Leave your blog address below (if you’ve got one).  Also, grab the weekly blog template (in the box above), if you are interested in growing your blog with me.

Finally, I would love some shiny object accountability.  Grab the Shiny Object Lemonade book and we can build together 🙂