What I’d Do If I Were Starting My Business Today… KDS:049April 27, 2020 April 27, 2020 /
It’s been quite a few years since I’ve looked at what I would do if I were starting my business today.
I recently received an email from a friend and someone I’ve coached in the past asking me what I would do if I were starting out today.
He’s gone through a couple of different transitions in his business since I’ve known him, trying to find his ‘place’ so to speak. He’s always implementing and taking action, so that’s not an issue.
He emailed me about a week ago saying he had taken a break from social media and a lot of the other things he had been doing so he could focus on his business. He said he had gotten caught up in the wrong things and was spending time and energy with things that really weren’t in alignment with who he was (I’m paraphrasing… alignment is everything to me).
His emails completely resonated with me because I’ve been there.
Many of you have heard my story, but for those who haven’t, I’m going to do a recap of my journey and tell you where things really pivoted for me.
I started my business in 2008.
I had spent the majority of my adult working life in retail management which, as much as I enjoyed the companies I worked for, was not what I wanted to be doing long term. I’ve always known there was something else I was supposed to do with my life.
I was widowed in 2003 while still working full time. The next 5 years are a bit of a blur, but I got out of retail, tried my hand at real estate and insurance (both too dry for me), and received a settlement surrounding my husband’s death in 2008 so I had a little bit of a cushion to start my business (it wasn’t anything I could retire on, but it gave me the runway I needed).
I discovered internet marketing and an event in San Francisco in 2006, which was the Real Estate Wealth Expo put on by the learning annex (bizarre fact: Trump was a keynote speaker along with Tony Robbins and Robert Kiyosaki). My friend and I went to one of the scheduled workshops on internet marketing and were hooked immediately. I knew the internet was going to be my ticket out.
From there I dug a little deeper and learned as much as I could.
When I launched my business in 2008 I thought I was going to be an information marketing millionaire.
Late summer in 2008 I discovered WordPress and became “The WordPress Chick”… ignorance is bliss.
I was not a programmer, coder, or to be quite honest, not even that technical (my husband was the computer geek). Before I knew it I was creating websites for a few people locally (some bartered, some paid), and creating content about what I was learning.
It brought money in, but my heart was never really into it.
Fast forward 5 years and I had outsourcers working for me, was doing some coaching, and decided to start podcasting. I started podcasting because I wanted to have more fun in my business. I’ve always loved audio content (had been a long time audiobook listener…er, books on tape), and loved listening to podcasts.
To this day it was one of the best things I ever did.
I found my voice, grew an audience, and created some amazing relationships. My podcast also brought in business: website clients, coaching clients, podcast clients, and traffic.
The outsourcing grew as did my coaching. I had done a course on using WordPress and the Genesis Framework for beginners which did fairly well, but I felt like I was stuck in the time for money trap as well as being a ‘how-to’ person for a market that didn’t want to spend money (that was my perception anyway).
In between this time I launched “Influence Podcasting”, hired Jason Hornung and his agency to help me with Facebook ads, and did fairly well with a complete done-for-you podcasting service. I fully believe in the power of podcasting so this wasn’t a difficult sale. However, it was still service work and I wanted to spend more time creating my own products.
At the end of 2016, I decided I was done with the outsourcing and websites (I had recurring revenue from the outsourcing company but was done managing people). I partnered with a friend and thought we would launch a SaaS product called LeadSurveys. A year and a half later we did launch it but we closed it down two months later. I’ve chronicled that journey on another podcast episode and am proud to say I’m still friends with the person I partnered with on that project. It was a huge learning experience and I have no regrets.
Prior to shutting that down, I had decided it was time to say goodbye to ‘The WordPress Chick” and move to my personal brand. That was in the spring of 2018. I had also created a Facebook group called Content Creators in the summer of 2017 and was having a ton of fun with it, but put zero expectations on what that would look like or how I would monetize it. My only intention was to show up consistently and have some fun.
Creating content had become my sweet spot and I was following the inspiration.
Late summer of 2018 I had an idea for a content planner.
I reached out to my friend and now business partner, Jodi Hersh, asking her if she knew In Design. She said yes and asked me what I needed.
I told her about my idea for the Content Creators Planner and asked her if she’d like to partner on it OR could I hire her. She instantly said yes and I had to ask her which one she was saying yes to. 😉
We went from idea to launching the Content Creators Planner in about 4 months. We had a failed Kickstarter, pivoted to pre-sales off of our website, and in March of 2019 started shipping the first edition of the planner. We also started running ads as soon as possible.
We began with $10 a day and were profitable from day 1.
Life through us both a curveball last summer. Jodi had some health issues to take care of and my Mom got sick and passed away 6 weeks later, which completely turned my world upside down.
I was planning on moving to Boise, ID last fall, but instead moved up to stay with my Dad through the transition (I recently moved to Boise and have been here a month now, right at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic). The Content Creators Planner has, without a doubt, been the inspiration and motivation for me to get through all this.
We hired an ad agency last fall, scaled to $41k in December, and $67k in January. February and March were half that for multiple reasons. We’ve changed ad agencies and are getting everything back on track now (and it’s working).
Which brings me to now… the end of April 2020.
I wanted to share this with you to show that it’s not been a straight line.
It’s been anything but a straight line.
Which brings us (finally) to the topic of this episode, which is what I would do if I were starting my business today.
Before I get into the specifics and tangible things you can do (which I promise I will), things really changed for me when I changed my mindset.
I had been chasing the dream of the internet lifestyle since I started my business. I knew plenty of people who were having huge launches, making tons of money, and for some reason that tipping point eluded me.
My mindset was about that moment as opposed to the journey.
The one “BIG” win.
In 2016 I made a very conscious decision that I was going to focus on fundamentals and mastery.
Tactics are fun, but strategies are what bring in sales. If you understand strategies and have skills, it’s much easier to test and try tactics (and get them to work).
I decided I was going to build a solid foundation for my business based on tried and true marketing strategies.
Best decision ever.
So, here are my recommendations and what I would do.
Get crystal clear on who you serve and the problems you solve.
You have to know who you’re helping and why they need your help. I call this work the ‘intangible’ work that every business needs to take the time to do (but so many don’t). It feels intangible because there’s no direct outcome. Start by understanding your brand and brand story, which you can easily do using tools like Donald Miller’s StoryBrand guide (free to use, click here for mystorybrand.com to fill out your brand script).
The first time you do this it might be difficult, but it will also be eye-opening. I highly recommend reading the book before doing this exercise, or better yet, do it before reading the book and then go back and do it after reading the book.
The analogy of dating is often used in comparison to marketing, and it’s a great example. Most people know or learn what they want in a partner before making a commitment (keyword being most here… we also learn what we don’t want through experience, which is also very true of marketing).
Defining who your ideal customer is also vitally important. There are plenty of tools and resources available to do this. I would also encourage you to go beyond the typical demographics definition of your ideal customer.
Dig into the psychographics of your ideal customer. Personally, I find this much more helpful.
All of this will guide you on the content and products you create.
It makes it much easier when you know who you’re helping and why you’re helping them.
Study, practice, and understand copywriting and direct response marketing.
If prizes were handed out for being stubborn here I would absolutely take first place.
I proudly claimed that I wasn’t good at copywriting. I had a few friends that were and would constantly go to them for guidance.
Here’s the thing though…
You’re not going to get good at something by not doing it.You're not going to get good at something by not doing it. @kimdoyal
This is also something that can feel hard to stick with because it takes a lot of time and practice.
Do it anyway.
Learning this skill is going to help with every piece of your business. Content marketing, email marketing, sales pages, courses, podcasting, video… you name it.
Nothing else will help you increase your bottom line as much as having this skill set.
If you can hire someone to do this for you, great, but make sure you have a solid understanding of it so you can ensure who you are is being well represented. This is something Jodi and I have been adamant about with advertising for the Content Creators Planner.
We don’t do ‘bro marketing’ or make false promises.
There are so many good books, courses, and people out online teaching these skills. Find someone who resonates with you and go all in.
Subscribe and study first, then invest once you’ve started implementing it.
There are a handful of people I trust and follow. They walk their talk and how they do it resonates with me.
Another piece of this pie is investing in paid traffic.
Do it as soon as you possibly can.
Take the time to understand it, learn it, and/or hire someone to do it for you. You can absolutely grow a business without it, but you can also get where you want so much faster by investing in paid traffic. Skip buying all the extra courses and tools, put your money in paid traffic asap (and btw, now is a VERY good time to jump in as costs have come down during this pandemic).
Focus on building your list and property you own.
I’m grateful I fell in love with WordPress early on and understood the power of having your own site and brand (vs. building a brand on social only as an example).
From day one in the message to ‘build your list’ was drilled into me. So I always had an opt-in and email list.
I just didn’t really know what to do with it.
I would email occasionally, tried different formats (the dreaded ‘ezine’, which was novel at the time) and finally found my sweet spot with more of a ‘story style’ email with one call to action, which I implemented after studying how Ben Settle did this for an entire year.
I have slowly fallen in love with writing.
It helps me in all areas of my business because of the thought process required for the different types of content I’m creating.
I don’t think I’ll ever call myself a copywriter, but the process has at least become enjoyable and I’m having fun with the mastery and learning how small tweaks to copy can make a difference in conversions.
The other piece to this is to make sure you are focusing on a property you own.
In other words, your own website.
Should you publish on other platforms?
But your site should be your first priority.
If you’re focused on building a YouTube channel that has massive SEO value as well, make sure you then publish your videos on your own site with supporting content. You can drive people to your site or to YouTube… I would do both.
Sell as soon as you have something of value… even if you don’t feel ready.
I learned this the hard way with The WordPress Chick.
I gave, and gave, and gave, and built a list of freebie seekers. Obviously not my entire list was people who wanted something for free, but I had essentially trained people not to expect anything for sale from me.
I dealt with a lot of imposter syndrome under that brand because I wasn’t a developer or coder. It wasn’t until I got clear on my message that things shifted. I was helping the everyday user with WordPress & marketing. My tagline became “a place where WordPress and Marketing Collide.”
Even if you don’t have your own product or service ready for sale (and for what it’s worth, I don’t know that you ever feel ready until you just pull the trigger), recommend products and services you use. And yes, make sure you’re an affiliate for these products and services you recommend. Affiliate marketing is like icing on the cake with online marketing (I’ve always thought offline businesses were missing out). As an example, it’s cheaper for us to acquire a customer through an affiliate sale than it is through a paid ad for the planner. It’s a win-win for the affiliate and us.
If you’re not a born salesman, making offers to your audience can feel much harder than it is.
You see people teaching people how to sell without being ‘salesy’. No one wants to feel like a used car salesman, but I can guarantee you that you won’t when you’ve put the time and energy into the things I’ve already mentioned. Getting clear on the problem you’re solving and who you’re helping, understanding direct response marketing, and being in alignment with what feels right for you. Which leads me to this next bit of advice.
Trust your gut and stay in alignment with who you are.
My big epiphany in 2016 came about after I had jumped into things too quickly and chased shiny objects.
I had been in a Mastermind for a few years (which I have zero regrets about… it was a great experience and I created some wonderful friendships) but kept trying to make what I was doing fit into what other people thought I was doing or should be doing.
This all came down to not trusting myself.
The things that I loved doing (creating content, podcasting, etc.), were kind of put on the back burner while I tried to find my right ‘high ticket’ offer.
I came pretty close with the podcasting service because I love podcasting, but it still felt out of alignment.
I was trying way too hard at the wrong things.
But… it was all vitally important.
I learned a lot about myself, how I want to feel, and what brings me joy. As I said, I connected with some amazing people who have become dear friends, had some wild adventures, and got to see behind-the-scenes of a lot of different business models. I also LOVED being a part of a Mastermind… and will be launching one later this year with Jodi.
There is SO much value in being around like-minded people who support you and want to see you win.
It all comes down to relationships.
I can honestly say that had I not invested in relationships from day one, I would have given this up a long time ago (O.K., maybe not… but quite possibly).
Whether it’s been friends, mentors, peers, etc., growing my business and the success I’ve had has come down to the relationships I’ve fostered along the way.
Some relationships have come and gone and some I’ve dropped the ball on.
I’m way past being disappointed in people or having expectations of what someone else should do for me. I’ve set myself up for disappointment too many times and I have no doubt that I have disappointed other plenty.
This is also why I choose to focus my marketing efforts on things I can control.
When I ran a virtual summit a couple of years ago I had a handful of speakers who were friends that did nothing to share or promote the summit or even their own session. At the time I was hurt.
Meh. We all have things that happen in our lives that for one reason or another we end up not doing what we said we were going to do.
If I ask someone to participate in something I do it with zero expectations on their part (and personally I’d never run a summit again, but that’s for another episode).
One thing I’ve noticed with entrepreneurs who are running very successful businesses is that they don’t spend a lot of time promoting other people. It doesn’t mean they don’t care or are self-absorbed.
It means they’re focused.
Find what works for you and stick with it. You also get to change your mind and re-evaluate at any time.
This is your business.
It has to feel right for you or it won’t feel right for your customers.
Before I wrap this up, I just want to add in a few last bits of advice:
- Be consistent. This can be hard at times and life can get in the way. That’s O.K., pick up where you left off and keep going
- Be kind. This will pay off more than you can imagine.
- Have fun. This is one of my top priorities. I didn’t get into business for myself to create a job (which it felt like on many occasions).
- Understand that you’re never “done”… there is always more work you can do. Find balance however you need to, but creating and growing a business takes every ounce of who you are. Make sure you feel ‘full’ and don’t force things.
- The journey matters. Let go of the defined outcome. Have intentions and set goals, but stay fluid and flexible
- Stay curious!
And on that note, I’m signing off.
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