Cover image of The Ellory Wells Show: Actual Entrepreneurs Share Actionable Advice to Help YOU Build YOUR Business!
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The Ellory Wells Show: Actual Entrepreneurs Share Actionable Advice to Help YOU Build YOUR Business!

Updated 4 days ago

Business
Education
Careers
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Helping You Develop, Grow, and Overcome the Obstacles in Your Life

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Helping You Develop, Grow, and Overcome the Obstacles in Your Life

iTunes Ratings

34 Ratings
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33
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This show will get you Super focused

By Nextgent - Aug 21 2015
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Great show, great concept, great leader… thanks Ellory!

This guy is on fire!

By Kary Oberbrunner - Jul 29 2014
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Ellory is a voice of passion and purpose. He brings a needed message for the world.

iTunes Ratings

34 Ratings
Average Ratings
33
1
0
0
0

This show will get you Super focused

By Nextgent - Aug 21 2015
Read more
Great show, great concept, great leader… thanks Ellory!

This guy is on fire!

By Kary Oberbrunner - Jul 29 2014
Read more
Ellory is a voice of passion and purpose. He brings a needed message for the world.
Cover image of The Ellory Wells Show: Actual Entrepreneurs Share Actionable Advice to Help YOU Build YOUR Business!

The Ellory Wells Show: Actual Entrepreneurs Share Actionable Advice to Help YOU Build YOUR Business!

Latest release on Apr 27, 2020

All 225 episodes from oldest to newest

12 Essential Tools for Your Startup Business

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Updated April 2, 2020. While much of the content remains mostly the same, most of the tool recommendations have changed. When I first wrote this, I'd just begun my online business journey. Now I've been in the world of online entrepreneurship for almost 7 years.

If you're like me, you didn't go to business school. You don't have a background in finance, and your parents weren't entrepreneurs.

Want to listen? There's an audio version below

Also, if you're like me, you're building a business one step at a time. You're figuring things out along the way, getting many things right, and other things, well… they're “learning” experiences.

However, unlike me, you may have never worked for a Fortune 50 company. Maybe you haven't managed revenue in the tens of millions but would love to know how it's done.

Ok, I lied. Sorta. I did go to business school, but only for a semester during my freshman year at Baylor. Although I didn't graduate with a degree in business, I did get an education in the real world. While on IBM and Dell's dime, I spent five years learning how to do business on a national scale.

During my years at those companies, I learned about profit and loss. I spent my time figuring out how to sell to current customers and acquire new ones. My “Corporate Education” taught me the basics of how to run the businesses I'm building now.

If you happened to study biology, or art, or creative writing in school, and if you haven't had the benefits of Corporate training, don't worry. This post will provide you with some of the essential business tools the Pros use to build the foundations for their businesses, connect with their customers, increase sales, and scale their startups.

Some of the resources will help you get started, others will make you more efficient, and others still will help you communicate with your ever-growing team (if you choose to have one).

These essential business tools are in these 12 categories:

Content Marketing
Web Hosting
Email Marketing
Social Media
File Management
Sales Funnels

E-commerce
Analytics
Automation
Collaboration
Legal
Client Relationship Mgt (CRM)

While you don't need every one of these tools when you start, having this list and using the tools below will help you scale your startup business.

When it comes to tools, think about efficiency. When working with people, think effective. Systems will help your business scale. Templates can help you get there faster.

These tools are in no particular order other than from beginner to intermediate and advanced.

The beginner tools are ones you need immediately. The intermediate tools will help you grow your site from hobby-blog to income-generating and can probably wait until after you've made your first dollar. The advanced tools are more for when you're ready to hire your first Virtual Assistant or add to your team.

Content Marketing

Update: Instead of giving you 5-6 options, I've narrowed it down to one. This business tool combined with the web hosting tool below makes up the foundation for almost all of my businesses, and I use each almost exclusively.

Sharing your story through blogging and content marketing is one of the best ways to establish your online presence and build your brand online.

And WordPress is the best content management tool to use.

Technically, WordPress is a content management system. To put it another way, WordPress is a free, simple tool that lets you manage all of the content you put online. WordPress is the foundation on which your website is built.

By letting your readers and followers in on your journey, the struggles, the changes, and the highs and lows, you enlist people to your side of the ring. Your audience will be in the fight with you, and they'll be in your corner rooting for you.

Yes, there are millions of blogs out there. And, yes, it's a crowded market. But people still love to read. Though there is power in video marketing, which I use a lot, people are still reading. A lot.

If you create content that's authentic, (occasionally) vulnerable, courageous and with a knack for story-telling, you can change the world with your words.

Additionally, content marketing and blogging are great for SEO. It's great for teaching and sharing. I always recommend blogging to anyone who wants to effectively communicate a message around the world.

Want me to help you grow your blog in var today = new Date() var year = today.getFullYear() document.write(year) ? Then check out my free 30 Day Blog Transformation email course!

Writing is also therapeutic and a great way to organize your thoughts – two very good things for the busy mind of an entrepreneur.

If you're still not convinced blogging and content marketing are good for your startup business, read this.

I started blogging in 2012. I had nothing, and I knew almost nothing. Now, three eight years later, I have thousands of readers, listeners, and followers in over 150 countries. You can do everything I've done (or your version of it) and it all starts with content marketing.

Oh, and if you're going to write anything, whether that's on your website or on social media, you need to use Grammarly to check your spelling and grammar.

Recommended Tools: WordPress, Grammarly

If you'd like more information about our Website/Content Management services, CLICK HERE.

Web Hosting

While you can host your website on free services, owning your digital space is the best way to do it. If you own everything on your site, from header to footer, from the home page to the database, you have more control over your business.

The best web hosting service I've found is GreenGeeks.

After trying, testing, and using several web hosting companies over the last several years, I've chosen to use and recommend GreenGeeks. Whereas a lot of web hosts use older technology, GreenGeeks uses solid-state drives that can be added to and scaled with ease. They've got 24/7 chat support, which I've definitely used, and their team is very helpful.

Related: How to Find the Best Host For Your Business Website

When you use GreenGeeks as your web host, (i.e. where your website is stored), you have total ownership over your website. When you own your site, as opposed to when you get free hosting, no one can tell you what you can or can't put on your site, because you own it.

When you own your website, no one can put an ad, a blog post, or any other piece of content without your approval.

You wouldn't open your own restaurant but give up control over the type of food you serve. So, why would you open an online business if you don't have full control over it?

Free hosting plans do just that – they let you rent most of the space, but not all of it. You can write blog posts and create your content, but oftentimes the header and/or sidebars are rented out to the highest bidder, and you're cut completely out.

While hosting may be your biggest up-front cost when you're first starting, it's a necessary investment to get your online business started properly. Even though you may have to pay for three years upfront to get your best hosting price, you shouldn't have to pay more than $4-6 per month when you get started.

Recommended Web Hosting Tool: GreenGeeks

Email Marketing

Every business needs an email list of customers, prospective customers, and people who've purchased from them.

Everyone I talk to about email marketing says they wish they'd started building their email list earlier in their business. Learn from that advice.

Email marketing continues to be the most cost-effective way to communicate directly with your users, fans, audience members and customers.

Start capturing the email addresses of your visitors from day one. With free tools like MailChimp, you can embed/paste HTML code in a text widget placed on your sidebar and have a subscription form within minutes.

When you're first starting, attract subscribers with opt-in boxes with wording like “Join the Community” and “Stay Connected.” As you gain more experience and further refine your message, start adding opt-in boxes with tools and resource downloads.

Related: How to Create a Killer Lead Magnet that Converts

As your business grows, and you gain more readers, customers, and followers, look at email marketing tools that allow you to use autoresponders, abandoned cart emails, and user tracking. I use ActiveCampaign.

If you're unsure about when you should transition to a paid email marketing service, read this comparison post.

Recommended Email Marketing Tool: ActiveCampaign

Social Media

While email marketing is so awesome, we still can't ignore how prevalent social media is in our lives. Social media, like the internet, is here to stay! While 43% of my traffic comes from search engines, 23% still comes from social sites.

If you're not sharing your content on social media, you're missing the boat. If you're not making content people are interested in and want to share, you're missing out.

Even if you don't have any interest in LinkedIn, maybe your audience does. Maybe you don't have time for Twitter, but your readers do. With tools like Buffer and Hootsuite, you can create a sharable post and send it to multiple networks at the same time.

You can also connect your WordPress install so that it shares your new posts automatically. To enable sharing in your WordPress Settings > Sharing, and install the SumoMe Image Sharer Plugin. Your visitors won't necessarily share your content just because you make it easy to, but they definitely won't share it if you don't make it easy.

Another social media scheduling tool I picked up at the beginning of 2020 was Sociamonials. They had a deal with AppSumo, so I purchased their license with the intention of replacing Buffer, which I did. So far so good, although they might be a little expensive if you're not creating a lot of content or sharing lots of updates.

Your readers want to share content that makes them look smarter, cooler and empowered. If your content helps them feel that way, they'll be more likely to share it.

My best tip is to repurpose your content. If you've got a great piece of content, you should post it on more than one social site and in more than one location. Whenever I share on Instagram, I always share it to my Facebook profiles too – one piece of content posted to two places at once with the push of a button.

Popular Social Media Tools: Buffer (free), SumoMe, Sociamonials

File Hosting

I never store my downloads and giveaways on my site. And you shouldn't either. First, there's no reason to. Second, hosting your files on your website will lower your page load speed, reduce SEO, and negatively impact your user's experience.

However, you still need to host your files somewhere. There are several reasons why I use a file hosting service for my businesses:

  1. If you make any changes or updates to your giveaway, you'll have to re-upload the file in the exact same location or risk broken links.
  2. If you store your ebooks, white papers, checklists, etc., on a service like Box, you don't have to worry about bandwidth issues due to a popular file being downloaded.
  3. Files shared by uploading to WordPress give unnecessary access to your other files in the same folder (not good for premium/paid downloadable items).
  4. With Box Sync, you can sync all of your files automatically to the cloud, which makes it easy to share file URLs from your desktop.
  5. If you have a podcast, you definitely want to use a file hosting service to avoid degraded website performance.

I wrote a post about how I create my own personal cloud and sync most of my files and data across any device. You can read that post here.

Related: Buyer's Guide: Storage Options to Backup Your Business

When you're looking to build your business, try to think about mobility first. Just the other day, I told a friend I don't use any tool or app that doesn't sync to every device I use. It's too much of a hassle to try to remember which device I saved my work too, so I make sure my files are accessible from anywhere.

Click here for more

Whether you want to travel the world and work from anywhere, or not, having the option is nice. Hosting and backing up your files to the cloud makes it possible.

If you want to backup your business in the safest, most secure way, you can find my guide here. For digital note keeping, I now use Microsoft OneNote.

Popular File Hosting Tools: Box (recommended), Amazon S3, Google Drive, OneDrive, OneNote, Build Your Own

Sales Funnels

If you think you'd like to sell a product or service someday, you need a sales funnel. Sales funnels help you to convert prospects into buyers.

Think of your website, and your business, as an actual storefront with people walking by.

First, people notice the sign in the window; they're interested.

Second, they come inside and try a sample or browse your shelves of what you have to sell; they're involved.

Third, they spend their hard-earned cash on what you have to offer; they're invested.

When people first find your business, they may first want to join your community, receive your updates, or get a coupon for your products. Most likely, unless they've done a lot of preliminary research, first-time visitors won't spend money. A sales funnel… you guess it, funnels people toward a sale.

If this sounds a little weird to you, it's ok. Let me explain.

It's not that you'll have to start going in for the “hard sell,” it's not that at all. But, a sales funnel will help you progress readers from casual observers to clients who've purchased from you.

To create your online sales funnels, you'll need one or more landing pages.

Part 1: The first page or part typically helps you filter people out; it grabs the attention of the right kind of buyers and encourages everybody else to leave.

Part 2: The middle page or part talks to people who are more than interested and who are deciding on whether or not they want to get involved with you, your business, or your products.

Part 3: The final page or part (if you're using a single landing page) is designed to get people to commit or invest, in your product.

The simplest way to create your sales funnel is to use the landing page sets and templates created by ThriveThemes. Just install their templates and change the text to match your products.

Boom. Done.

Recommended Sales Funnel Tool: ThriveThemes Landing Pages

E-Commerce

Update: Within a year after initially posting this, WordPress' parent company, Automattic, purchased WooCommerce. After doing so, they made the WooCommerce + Stripe addon free. Because of this change, that e-commerce solution just makes sense, and it's now what I recommend.

To be a business, you need sales. To make sales, you need a product and a way to accept payment for that product.

Related: Why I Switched My Payment Processor From PayPal to Stripe

Regarding software, you need something displaying your items on the front end and managing the storing and distribution of files on the back-end. Your cart, products, subscriptions, etc., are the front-end. Your payment processors, file distribution, and inventory management are the back-end.

Combine your front-end payment software with a file hosting site like Box on the back-end, and all of your transactions are handled off of your site and the transaction is secured by someone else. And, when you use WooCommerce, you can track your sales via a graphical dashboard inside of your WordPress Dashboard.

After Automattic purchased WooCommerce, I started using that software combination to manage most of my stores. However, if I want to set up single-item sales or subscription services, I use ThriveCart Pro. ThriveCart integrates perfectly with ActiveCampaign, allowing me to add/remove tags, start/stop automation, and even subscribe/unsubscribe users, so those tools work together really well.

These plugins handle almost every aspect of selling your products. They'll display them on a page, allow customers to add them to the cart (front-end), process payment and deliver your digital products to your customers (back-end).

NOTE: Buying and selling online is what allows us to work from anywhere. Every tool you use should make the process simple and fluid for both you and your customers. They should also scale with your business.

Recommended E-Commerce Tools: WooCommerce, WooCommerce Stripe Addon PayPal, Stripe, ThriveCart

Analytics

In order to grow your business, you have to know where your customers are, how they find out about you, how they arrive on your doorstep, and what they do when they get there.

You can see if you're getting search engine traffic or if more of your visitors come from social media sites. Knowing how people are finding your business is helpful because that information tells you where to focus.

If 75% of your social traffic comes from Facebook, you know your audience is on Facebook. You can use that information to help you manage your time, your ad spending, and where you should be the most active.

Conversely, if you know only 5% of your traffic is coming from LinkedIn, you probably shouldn't be spending too much time there. Other tools can even tell you when your audience is online and active.

By the way, it's more cost-effective to reach your audience where they are than to try to build an audience somewhere else.

Traffic analytics can tell you the most popular pages and posts on your site. They can tell you which pages receive the most traffic so you can leverage additional opt-in forms and know what to write about in the future.

Heat map analytics can show you mouse clicks, track how far users scroll down your page, and where users hover their mouse icon on sales pages.

Sometimes the best way to learn about your customers is to just ask (Tweet that!)

Tools like WPForms (although technically form software) can be used as analytics tools to tell you about your customers.

Surveys are also a great, and straightforward, way to understand your audience. Just asking your readers and listeners about their interests is a very simple way to learn how to help them achieve their goals.

In the fall of 2019, using the Surveys Add-on for WPForms, I created a contest for my business, CigarScore.com. I first asked users to nominate their favorite business, then I asked them to vote for the finalists a month later.

By creating this contest, I not only helped to promote small business and increase user engagement, but I grew my email list by almost 1000 people.

Recommended Analytics Tools: Google Analytics, WPForms Surveys

Automation

First off, automation is not a bad word. Automation does not mean you're not supposed to serve your customers. And, automation doesn't automatically mean what you do or what you produce is junk.

I automate everything I can. If you're repeating a task on a regular basis, you need to automate that task. Using a computer to automate the things a computer can do allows you to focus on the things only a human can do.

You should automate processes.

You should not automate human connection and interaction.

Creating systems will allow your business to scale and grow. (Tweet that!)

I automate scheduling with Calendly, social sharing with IFTTT and Buffer (now with Sociamonials). I automate emails with ActiveCampaign's autoresponders. I automate payment subscriptions with ThriveCart.

Anything that can be handled by software should be automated. (Tweet that!)

If I can save 30 minutes a week by automating a task, that's an extra thirty minutes I can spend with my wife, creating resources for my mastermind members, or relaxing.

NOTE: Saving 30 minutes a week adds an entire DAY to your year! (30 x 52 = 1560 minutes = 26 hours)

Tools like IFTTT and Zapier connect two tools, allowing them to communicate with one another.

Popular Automation Tools: Calendly (recommended), IFTTT (recommended), Buffer (recommended), Hootsuite, Zapier

Collaboration

Solopreneurs, like I used to be, rarely need collaboration tools. At least not in the beginning. Business owners with teams, however, need a way to collaborate and communicate with their partners, employees, and team members.

If you ever plan on contracting a Virtual Assistant, or VA, you'll need a way to communicate with them and track their work. If you plan on hiring someone and adding them to your team as your startup business grows, the principle is the same.

The bottom line is, you need to be able to communicate with all members of your team.

Online collaboration tools allow you to use the power of the internet to communicate with people all over the world.

One of the benefits of using a collaboration tool is that you make it easy to give and receive feedback for ideas. You can propose a new project or pitch a new idea, and your teammates around the globe can critique them.

One of the ways I use collaboration tools in my business is to communicate with my spouse. We can keep track of work that needs to be done, track progress and growth, as well as add items to a task list.

The more you have on your plate, the more organized you'll need to become to stay on top of it all.

If you're not quite ready to implement collaboration software in your startup business, you can still get a head start by syncing your documents and files to the cloud via one of the file hosting tools mentioned above. That way, if you need to send a document, you can paste a file URL into your favorite messaging app.

Popular Collaboration Tools: Asana, Slack, Google Drive, Trello

Legal

As your business grows, you may want or need pages for a privacy policy, disclosures and disclaimers, and terms and conditions. You might also need to form an LLC, Corporation, or some other type of legal entity for your business.

If you're tracking visitors or placing ads in your sidebar, you may need a Privacy Policy. You can see my Privacy Policy page at https://www.ellorywells.com/privacy-policy/. I used http://www.privacypolicyonline.com/ to create it. Just fill in your information, click “Generate HTML” and you'll get the code to paste into WordPress.

If you're selling products, offering services, or providing something that could piss somebody off, you should consider a “Terms and Conditions” page. You can see my terms page at https://www.ellorywells.com/terms/.

If you're doing affiliate marketing, you're required by the Federal Trade Commission to have an Affiliate Disclosure. You can copy/paste mine from the bottom of today's blog post.

No need to tell your visitors that your opinions are your own. That's pointless. We already know your opinions are your own, and saying so won't prevent you from getting fired anyway.

If you're forming your business, you might try Legal Zoom. Several of my clients have used their service and have had no problems.

For on-going legal counsel, I've been using BizCounsel.

Popular Legal Tools: Best check with your attorney. Legal Zoom, BizCounsel

Client Relationship Management (CRM)

The more you know about your clients and customers the better off you'll be. If you've ever heard of or been scared off by terms like “Big Data,” this is part of that.

While it's not as scary as it seems, CRM can be complex. However, CRM is simply knowing about your current and future customers. Combine your CRM with your analytics (see above) and you'll know who your customers are, where they come from, and what they do whenever they visit your site.

A good CRM tool will help you track people as they move from “interested in your business” to people who “have bought something from your business.” To put it another way, your CRM can tell you how many people are interested, how many are involved, and how many are invested.

NOTE: With ActiveCampaign‘s site-tracking tools, you can tag people based on interest whenever they visit a specific page on your site or add a product to their shopping cart.

If part of your business includes creating quotes and proposals, you need a CRM tool. If you're working with accounts with more than one employee, you need a CRM tool. If you've got more than one person on your team, you need a CRM tool.

Popular CRM Tools: Salesforce, ActiveCampaign (recommended)

Now what?

Do you need all of these tools before you can get started?

No. Absolutely not!

But, if you're generating any revenue at all, you should consider using at least one tool from every category.

Knowing the tools that can help you scale your startup business is part of the struggle every entrepreneur and business owner faces. Now you should have everything you need to get your business started, and, most likely for a lower cost than you expected!

No more excuses to hold you back. Go do something awesome!

Question: What's your favorite business-related tool?

Click here 12 Essential Tools for Your Startup Business to visit Ellory Wells and leave a comment.

Apr 27 2020

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7 Things Businesses Can Learn From the Downturn in the Economy

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A true but unfortunate fact of life is that we learn more when things go wrong than we do when they go right.

If things work out, we assume we're awesome and move along. But if things go sideways, (hopefully) we stop what we're doing to diagnose the problem and see where we messed up.

Want to listen? There's an audio version below

As we get deeper into the effects on our economy and lifestyle that COVID-19 is having, I thought I'd share some experiences I've had. And, if possible, teach some lessons about managing a business that might help us all survive and thrive and still serve or customers during a downturn in the economy.

Last Thursday, I was driving through Albuquerque, New Mexico, on my way to pick up my wife from the hospital. She works there; she wasn't sick. We'd already discussed ordering take-out from Trombino's, one of our favorite restaurants, which I was about to drive by. As I passed, I was shocked to see that the normally packed parking lot was completely empty.

No cars. Not one.

“Oh, sh*t,” I thought to myself. “I better call to see if they're even open!”

I did. They were. And we got our Italian food.

Social distancing, self-quarantining, and sheltering in place is the new normal. In the last few weeks, our lives have been turned upside down.

Businesses who've avoided change and been stuck in their ways for years, perhaps decades, are now being forced to evolve or die. As of two weeks ago, every business is an online business.

Let's take a look at what we can learn about business from the businesses that're still in business, as well as the ones who've shut their doors, perhaps for the final time.

7 Things Businesses Can Learn From the Downturn in the Economy

1: The Internet Isn't a Fad

Ha, ya; somebody had to say it. Some businesses have behaved in a way that suggests they thought the internet might someday go away. Now the internet is the only way to stay in business.

From online ordering to video streaming to simple communication, everything we do these days involves the internet. As important as being online was two weeks ago, it's even more important today.

Whether you want to believe it or accept it or not, your business is now an online business. And you need to behave accordingly.

If you want to get online, add an online component to your brick and mortar, or update what you already have, here are some resources for you:

2: The Importance of Having Cash Reserves

In my personal life, my wife and I follow the Dave Ramsey plan. We're debt-free, and we keep an emergency fund.

In my business, I do the same thing. I carry no debt, I pay cash for everything, and I keep cash set aside for rainy days. Or rainy weeks. Or months. Hopefully, not for rainy years.

Over the past few weeks, I've seen lots of businesses close because they didn't have cash reserves. After going merely a few days without expected revenue, they closed.

Permanently.

If you don't have cash reserves, you're not only putting your business at risk, but you're risking the livelihood of your suppliers and your employees, and everyone who depends on them.

One thing this decline in the economy has taught us is that good times don't last forever. Also, that nothing lasts forever, so neither will this challenging economy in which we find ourselves. But, keeping cash in the bank can help.

3: The Value of Email Marketing

Social media posts aren't enough to effectively communicate with your customers.

Over the past week, I've seen hundreds of local businesses sharing about their new store hours, the closing of their seating areas and lounges, and even their sales and promotions.

But social media is finicky at best.

On Facebook, if you don't post at the right time, nobody will see your update. On Instagram, if you don't use the right hashtags, your shares will go unseen.

But with email, you can communicate directly with your customers, anytime, day or night.

When your customers are confused or panicking, what would you rather do – post an image on your page and hope people log in and see it, or send an email to a verified email address?

Now more than ever, people are communicating via the internet. Also, now more than ever, social media is filled with confusion and junk.

A well-crafted email from you to your customers can help you communicate clearly and cut through the clutter of Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and every other social media site people are visiting for information.

For my email communication, I use, trust, and recommend ActiveCampaign.

4: Keeping a To-Do List

Regardless of whether you're the owner of a business or if you're just employed by one, I'd bet you've recently found yourself with extra time during your day. Filling that time scrolling “the ‘Book” or “the ‘Gram” might be fun, but it's as much of a waste of time today as it was two weeks ago.

Instead of vegging out or otherwise killing your brain cells, why not be productive?

One thing I learned early on in my voyage of entrepreneurship was to keep a to-do list. For anyone who has a lot to do or who has a lot they want to accomplish, making the most of every minute is key.

After all of the deep cleaning is done, what are you going to do next to help your business not only move forward but to bounce back once the economy rebounds and the quarantines are lifted?

By keeping a “To-Do List” for your business, you and your team always know what they could be doing to help out.

For example, you might want to read 4 Ways to Survive & Serve Your Customers During Quarantine.

Whenever I've finished a project, I always look at m “to-do list” to see what needs to be done next. There's always a video to edit, a podcast to record, an email to write, or a piece of content that needs to be worked on.

Even though things might be slow(er) today doesn't mean you can't position yourself for success tomorrow.

5: You Need Diversification

If you have one job, you have no diversification. If you only have one product, you have no diversification. If you only have one customer, you have no diversification.

In our investment portfolio, we're told to diversify. So, why not do it in our businesses as well?

Of revenue streams

How many different sources of revenue do you have?

In one of my businesses, I offer high-end, one on one coaching and group masterminds. In another, my company builds websites and can maintain them like a virtual IT department. In yet another, I sell ad space and listing upgrades. And, across each, I make affiliate recommendations and earn passive income.

Of customer sets

If you sell to one type of customer, you're vulnerable and could benefit from some diversification. If all of a sudden, your customers can't go outside and can only order online and you only sell via your brick and mortar, you should diversify.

Of product delivery methods

If you own a restaurant, you could bite the bullet and start using Grub Hub or Uber Eats. Yes, you've to pay them a fee, but they might be able to deliver your product in ways you're no able. You could also look at the digital delivery of goods or services. You could offer pickup services like restaurants and grocery stores are doing.

And of products

If government regulation halts the sale of one of your products, you need to diversify. If higher taxes could slow people from buying what's on your shelves, you need to diversify. If you only sell one type of product, you need to diversify and start selling other things.

Challenging times often call for creative solutions. And a creative or novel approach might offer the diversification you need to save your business (or position you for success!).

6: Clear Communication is Crucial

Communication about COVID-19, its effects, its incubation period, its mortality rate, and just about everything else about it has been terrible. People are scared; they're panicking, and they're confused.

Regardless of whether or not we're in the middle of a global pandemic or not, clear communication is crucial if you're going to serve your customers adequately.

When a purchaser has questions, they tend not to buy. When they're afraid or confused, they're also likely to stop spending money.

If you can answer their questions, calm their fears, and effectively communicate your plans, you'll win.

Clear communication also means making information easy to find. Don't hide important updates or bury them on the back page of your website. Put things front and center on your home page so people can find them.

7: The Value of Having an Up to Date Website

Post an update on Instagram, and 15 people will see it. Share an update on Facebook, and you get similar results.

Update the homepage on your website, and everyone who visits will see it!

Over the last eighteen months, I've visited the websites of thousands of businesses while building the database for CigarScore.com. You'd be surprised by how many companies have websites that look like they were built in 1998 and not updated since.

My company, DwizzyWid Media (it stands for Do What You Say You Will Do Media), has been designing and building websites for nearly a decade for our customers. An up-to-date website can accomplish many of the things on the list in this post.

A website can help you collect email addresses so you can communicate directly with your customers. A website can help you diversify your products and can help coordinate the diversification of products and delivery methods. A website is the face of your company and can help you leverage the power and popularity of the internet.

In addition to being a useful communication tool, an up-to-date website also shows prospective buyers that you're still in business.

If your website is current, you're likely still in business. If it isn't, people won't just assume you're still around.

Summary

As I said before, now, every business is an online business. Challenge and opportunity are two sides of the same coin. Smart business owners will use this crazy time to regroup, collect their resources, and make improvements.

If you're serious about positioning yourself and your business for success or curious about ways my companies can help, send me a message through the contact form here.

Click here 7 Things Businesses Can Learn From the Downturn in the Economy to visit Ellory Wells and leave a comment.

Mar 23 2020

16mins

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How I Grew CigarScore from Scratch to Profit in 45 Days

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Speed. Building a business is all about speed of implementation and speed of delivery. Whenever you have a solid idea for a new business or product, the key to success is how fast you can deliver.

Want to listen? There's an audio version below

In the fall of 2018, my wife, Ashley, and I were in Minnesota. We'd be traveling across the country for almost nine months, and we were now freezing our combined asses off in the land of 10,000 lakes.

One afternoon, I was enjoying a rare warm day outside with a cigar while talking to one of my mastermind groups. I mentioned that I wanted to take my website building expertise and somehow apply it to the cigar industry.

Opportunity

One of my friends mentioned that the Where to Smoke app by Cigar Aficionado, along with several other cigar-related apps, had been banned by the Apple Appstore. Apparently, running up charges for microtransactions was okay, but all-natural cigars were not.

My other friends quickly chimed in, “Ya, I've heard about that.” And an idea began to form.

Research

So I went to Google to do a little digging. I started trying to figure out if there was an online directory or some online source I could use to find cigar lounges. While there were a couple, none of them looked to be modern.

So I started searching on Google Maps. I searched for “cigars,” “cigar lounges,” “cigar shops,” and other keywords to see what kind of results I'd get.

I wasn't impressed. If you try to find places that sell premium, hand-rolled cigars on Google Maps, you'll get results showing CBD dispensaries, gas stations that sell Swisher Sweets, and hookah bars, but finding luxury cigar lounges wasn't that easy.

Today's Post

In today's post, I want to share with you eight categories of activities I took to build what is now CigarScore.com, from scratch to profit in less than 45 days.

In the last year, CigarScore has grown to become the largest online directory of cigar lounges in the world. It is visited by thousands of people every month. It has generated revenue for me. It has its own email list. And, CigarScore.com was built by following the eight-week plan I outlined in my 2016 book, Exit Strategy.

Can I share how I did it?

The Exit Strategy Plan

If you haven't already read, Exit Strategy, you can grab it on Amazon here, or for free here.

But to give you an idea of what its readers already know, here is a rough outline of the eight roadmap readers find in Part III.

Week 1: Lay the Groundwork

Start with your business name, then buy the domain and register for a hosting account. Create your branded social media accounts and set up your analytics and tracking pixels. Then write your mission statement.

Week 2: Outline Your Plan

Begin by identifying who your ideal customer avatar is. Outline future content marketing goals. Email your friends and family about your new project. Set up a way to collect email opt-ins.

Week 3: Logos, SEO, WordPress Plugins

Create a basic logo. Identify your search keywords and key phrases. Install WordPress plugins that add capabilities and new features to your website.

Week 4: Create Content

The best way to build a brand and a business in 2019 and beyond is through content marketing. Create the content you outlined and planned in Week 2. Keep creating.

Week 5: Connect with Allies and Future Partners

Your business won't grow in a bubble, so identify strategic connections and start reaching out.

Week 6: Build Your Authority

Research your industry. Study your competition. Anybody can be an amateur, but people want to do business with pros.

Week 7: Understand Your Numbers

Leverage the analytics and tracking data you set up in Week One. Understand your customers and users. Talk to people and ask them what they need.

Week 8: Marketing and Mindshare

After you've built according to a predetermined plan, now it's time to think about how you can get people thinking about you even when you're not talking or marketing directly to them. When people think about you, you win.

If you want more details about how this eight-week plan can help you start, build, or grow your business, be sure you read Exit Strategy. If you'd like to work with me, you can apply here.

How I Grew CigarScore from Scratch to Profit in 45 Days

Now that you know, in general, how I built CigarScore.com into the best place to find and rate where to smoke cigars in the world, let's get into some specifics.

1: Put in the Work

I think we'd all be pretty surprised by how much we can get done if we stop searching for shortcuts and just put in the work.

For the first few weeks, after I realized that nobody had done what I wanted to do, I spent hours looking for shortcuts. I searched for directories I could scrape. I looked for databases that already existed that I could borrow or buy. I invested a lot of time trying to figure out a way for me to not have to do the hard work myself.

Much to my chagrin, I couldn't find what I was looking for. And, anyone who did have any sort of database couldn't be bothered to respond to my inquiries.

Seriously, I tried to find a shortcut, but none existed. So I had to put in the work. Here's how that played out.

I started with cigar lounges I knew of or that I'd visited personally. Since we'd just spent six months in Cincinnati, the very first listing on CigarScore.com was Strauss Tobacconist in Cincy. Then I moved on to major cities around the country. Then I looked at my Google Analytics to see where people were visiting the site from, and I found lounges in those cities next.

Over the next several months, I personally searched for and found almost 1400 cigar lounges, humidors, and cigar-friendly bars and restaurants across the United States. Each listing had to be verified, and that time added up to over 75 hours of hard work I didn't want to do in the first place.

   1400 listings
x 3.5 minutes to verify each listing
————————-
81.67 hours of work

What's really interesting is what came about as a result of me doing the work myself. Had I been able to scrape a listing site or build off an existing directory, I wouldn't be able to claim that “all listings have been 100% verified by a human.” I also wouldn't be able to speak about quality control with confidence.

Because my hands have literally touched every single listing on CigarScore.com, I have invaluable knowledge about the information that I now own.

Had I found the shortcut I'd been looking for, my story might have been drastically different.

2: Software Testing

Through my coaching business, I've worked with lots of business owners and their software. Because of my web design and management company, I've gotten to build and work on websites for businesses in a wide variety of industries. However, none of that prepared me for building CigarScore.com.

CigarScore uses software and connects with APIs I previously did not know existed. Instead of copying and pasting the Google Maps embed code for 1400 listings, the software I purchased taps into the Google API to add a map to each listing, find someone's geolocation, and to provide step by step navigation to every listing on the website.

In addition to Google's API, I had to find listing software that worked with WordPress. After a few different test sites, I finally settled on WP GeoDirectory for my needs.

While GeoDirectory does have directory themes, I still chose to build CigarScore using the FocusBlog theme from ThriveThemes. This allowed me to use WordPress software and a theme architecture with which I was already familiar.

Savvy users will also recognize that I'm using Thrive Leads, Thrive Clever Widgets, and Thrive Architect to build and design all of the pages. Using software I already knew saved me a lot of time. And, by using these plugins and a few others, I can create tailored experiences for my users and place geo-targeted ads for my sponsors.

3: Business Owner Outreach

After I'd built a proof concept and had about 500 unique listings, I started reaching out to cigar business owners. What I found was:

  1. The cigar industry has been slow to adopt the internet
  2. 2% of cigar lounges used a free site from Google
  3. 16% of all cigar lounges had no website at all
  4. 66% of cigar lounges used the word “cigar” in their URL
  5. Less than 25% of all lounges had public email addresses

So, when trying to build an email list by emailing lounge owners, I faced some challenges. However, for the email addresses I did have, I sent cold emails. And, in these emails, I told the shop owners:

A: Who I was
B: What CigarScore.com was
C: Invited them to check out their free listing

What I did not do was try to sell them anything or ask them to pay for something that I had already created for free. I didn't try some “bait-and-switch tactic.” I offered information and an invitation.

I knew that the success of CigarScore.com followed a similar path of success to the one Facebook had early on. The key to success was users; the more people who used the platform, the more valuable (and more successful) it would become. My goal early one, and still is today, was to get as many people using a free platform as possible.

So, to get users, I started with the owners. I sent out hundreds of cold emails to every email address I could find. And, for the lounges with Facebook pages, I sent an individual message telling them I'd created a new listing for them with an invitation to check it out.

Yes, the email and the Facebook messages were similar, but they weren't identical. No, not every message got a response.

4: My Social Media Strategy

The #1 problem most small businesses face is obscurity – nobody knows they exist.

One key thing I've been teaching my coaching and consulting clients over the past several years is the importance of brand recognition. People need to know who you are before they can buy from you.

And, since CigarScore was a new brand in the marketplace, it was an unknown brand as well. I did not buy CigarScore from someone else; I created it and built it from scratch, so I couldn't leverage what a previous owner had built for me.

Additionally, CigarScore had no social presence and no followers. To overcome this challenge and beat back the obstacle of obscurity, I took a four-pronged approach.

First, I created profiles for CigarScore on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You can find each of my profiles by using @CigarScore or clicking the links above.

Second, on Facebook, I “liked” the pages for almost every cigar lounge I could find. After messaging their page from my personal profile, I'd also like their business page. This allowed me to remember if I'd messaged them or not, it gave the business an additional “like,” and it also meant that the message was coming from someone who'd liked their page, which I hoped would increase the likelihood that my message would be seen.

Third, after creating a profile for CigarScore on Instagram, I started following cigar-related profiles and the profiles for the lounges on my growing list. When you follow someone on Instagram, that person gets notified and has an opportunity to follow you back.

Finally, I started a spreadsheet (because that's what I do, lol) of all of the cigar-related hashtags being used on Instagram. I came up with four hashtags I wanted to use with every post (#cigar, #cigars, #cigarscore, and #wheretosmoke) along with a list of eighty-eight other hashtags of varying popularity (from several million posts to just a few thousand). I then began using a random selection of these 88 hashtags along with my standard four on every image I posted.

As of right now, I have less than 300 followers, but that's not bad for a new brand and without showing any girls in bikinis to promote the brand 😉.

5: Partner Outreach

Leveraging the strategy from Week 5 of Exit Strategy, I then began reaching out to future allies and possible partners. While this strategy wasn't terribly effective in the beginning, it did, however, work to get the CigarScore brand out there.

I started off with simple Google searches. I looked for cigar-related podcasts and blogs. I searched for the websites of the big names from social media. And, I started trying to find contact information for the biggest cigar channels on YouTube.

Also, when I reached out to these potential partners, I did not try and sell them anything. What I offered was of benefit to their readers, listeners, and viewers. Since I knew CigarScore was going to be of value to people looking for a great place to enjoy a cigar, that's how I positioned the email.

When we recommend a great resource to someone, that person thanks us, not the person who creates the resource. And that's what I was offering – a chance for my “partners” to recommend something useful to their audience.

But, as I said, this strategy didn't work that well. Many of the people I reached out to never responded. One guy who did respond offered to sell me ad space. Another did add a link on his resources page. But most just “ghosted me,” as the youth say these days.

6: Technical Wizardry

One of the things my company does for all of its clients is search engine optimization or SEO. So, we applied our technical wizardry to CigarScore.com as well.

In addition to submitting all of our sitemaps to Google's and Bing's webmaster tools, we also dove pretty deep into Google's data highlighter tool. What this means is that we took our listing directory and used the structured data highlighter to tell Google exactly what was in our directory.

As I'll tell you more about in the next section, “content is king,” and we've optimized all of our content for SEO too. Not long after publishing this article, I started noticing a lot of traffic coming to the site from Google.

My post about the “Top 10 Cigars Under $10,” ranks so high in search that hundreds of people visit CigarScore.com each month to read it. You can click here to test my SEO efforts. If my post shows up as it does below, that's because of my technical wizardry.

Google search results for ‘best cigars under $10'

And, as a bonus, most of the links on that page are affiliate links.

7: Content, Content, Content

Content marketing is the best and most cost-effective way to start, build, and grow a business. I wouldn't have any of my businesses without the visibility received through content marketing.

As I mentioned in the previous section, every month, hundreds of people search for and find my article on the best cigars under $10. Then they stick around and read more articles or watch my videos on YouTube.

Because of content marketing, I've built an email list with hundreds of people on it. Because of my video content, I have hundreds of subscribers on YouTube. Because of content marketing, CigarScore.com gets thousands of visitors each month.

As I mentioned in #3 above, the more people who visit CigarScore, the more valuable the platform becomes for me, for the listings, and for my growing number of sponsors. And content marketing fuels that growth.

Regarding that content, on the CigarScore TV YouTube channel, I post cigar reviews and unboxing videos. I also repurpose that content for Instagram TV and on the CigarScore Podcast in audio-only format.

Again, the goal is to get brand recognition, so I try to be everywhere.

8: Email List Growth (aka “The Money Is In the List”)

Starting an email list from scratch sucks. It's terrible! However, I started an email list for CigarScore subscribers from scratch. I did not leverage my existing list to boost the numbers for my new business.

However, I did use a lot of the tools listed here.

The foundation for all of my email marketing is ActiveCampaign. I collect emails using forms built with ConvertBox, WPForms and Thrive Leads.

Using ActiveCampaign, I created a single list for all CigarScore Subscribers. Then I segmented that audience into two groups: Cigar Smokers and Cigar Lounge Owners. With this method, I can send emails specifically targeting each group without asking my users to claim a business listing they don't have.

Additionally, using my geo-targeting capabilities, I further tag users based on their state-specific interests. If you visit a listing for a business based in one of my more popular states, you'll get asked if you want emails about updates for those individual states.

Click to visit the store. Here are just some of the shirts I've designed.

I've also grown my CigarScore email list by opening up a merchandise store. When someone buys a t-shirt, sticker, hoodie, or another piece of merch, they get on my email list. And, as a side benefit, all of the items in my store have one of the CigarScore logos on it, which helps to spread the word about what we've built.

Finally, a significant boost to my email list has come in the form of hosting a “Best of” award. While an annual award has done great things for my email list, I've always kept in mind, “Why would a lounge owner care?” If you're not serving your customers, you'll fail.

With that disclaimer said, an award or honor people can vote on is a great way to boost your email list. In the first week, I grew my list 36.78% just by asking people to vote for their favorite cigar lounge, cigar accessory, and cigar-related show.

By adding a simple nomination form built with WPForms connected to ActiveCampaign via Zapier, I've added subscribers, driven tons of traffic to the website, and boosted the visibility of the brand immensely.

How I Made Money

As I mentioned before, the biggest problem faced by small businesses is obscurity. And CigarScore.com was no different.

Listing Upgrades

Obscurity hurts businesses in two areas:

  1. Obscurity hides the existence of your business
  2. Obscurity hides the existence of your products/services

If people don't know your business exists, they can't buy from you. If they don't know about a particular product, they can't buy it.

So, to make money with CigarScore, my customers, in this case, these are the business owners, needed to know what I could offer them.

A visual example of how an Elite listing is different from a Free Forever listing.

Free Forever Listings

It really bugs me when companies offer something for free, get you hooked, and then start charging. I hate it. Customers hate it. And, in my opinion, it's a bad business practice.

So, CigarScore.com offers businesses a free forever listing. In this way, we're very much like Yelp or TripAdvisor, and even Google Maps. Each business gets a free listing because the ultimate end-user that we want to serve is the consumer.

NOTE: This is another reason you need to complete the Ideal Avatar Worksheet for not only your business but for each of your products too. You need to know who you're ultimately serving every time you create something new.

Each business listed on CigarScore.com gets a free listing with basic information. The goal with a free listing is to serve the community, not the business owners.

For free, each business listing gets

  • Business Name
  • Business Address
  • Phone Number
  • Website

Plus, our users can get maps and navigation to each business for free.

NOTE: Regardless of the performance of the website or whatever happens, I know my first priority is to make it easy to find and rate a business quickly. If I fail at this, I don’t deserve to make any money.

Preferred Listing – $5/mo or $55/year

To be honest, the amount of information a user can find on a Free Forever listing is just ok. I use the site all the time, but there's one bit of information I'd really like to have, and that's the business' hours of operation. Most consumers want to know if and when a business is open so they know if they should make the drive.

NOTE: I just realized it didn't take 45 days to make my first dollar. However, the first sale did not cover the cost of the software. It was only after the second sale that I broke even with startup costs (minus my time, of course).

My very first customer for CigarScore.com came on January 15th, 2019, at 9:29 pm. A lounge owner in California found the website but realized his business was not on there yet. Then he created a new listing, added his business' information, and paid to upgrade to a Preferred listing.

A preferred listing includes:

  • Everything from a free listing
  • Plus a direct email link
  • Plus “Open Now” Business hours
  • Plus links to social media

In my opinion, this first level of upgrades makes a lot of sense. The number one thing I need to know when I find a listing is whether or not they're going to be open when I get there.

Beyond having an owner claim their listing, the Preferred Listing is like a tripwire for this business. Normally a tripwire is a product that costs less than $10 but which provides significant value and serves to convert someone into a customer.

To get a positive ROI (return on investment), a lounge owner would only have to sell approximately 1.5 additional cigars per month to justify the cost of the upgrade. If just one additional user visits a lounge they found on CigarScore.com the upgrade has paid for itself.

A Preferred listing is my tripwire (also called a “loss leader” in the offline world). It gets people in the door and converts users from subscribers to customers. I suggest you have one too.

Premium Listing – $20/mo or $220/year

The second level of upgrade is also the second sale I made just a couple of days after the first one.

A Premium listing includes:

  • Everything from the Preferred listing
  • Plus the ability to add custom bio and information about the business
  • Plus the option to upload custom photos to show people around the business or storefront
  • Plus my team will add Custom Meta-data (Google Description) for listing

Since we're SEO ninjas, the Premium option adds a ton of value. Plus, photos are a HUGE bonus for showing off all of the work someone has put into their store. Additionally, my second customer chose to add a discount code exclusively for visitors who came from CigarScore.

Elite Listing + Website – $504/year + $250 design fee

The final upgrade option offers all of the above plus a single-page website for the lounge that also removes any of our 3rd party ads. We'll cover the hosting, the software, everything. This is truly a turn-key solution for any of our customers who want to outsource their online presence.

Before we move on, do you see how each of these options build on one another? Do you see how these services leverage the experience and expertise I've developed over the past eight years?

When building something new, remember, you do not have to start with nothing; you have tools you can use and expertise you can leverage.

Affiliate Marketing

The next way CigarScore.com generates revenue is through affiliate marketing. I recommend all of the software I use to the business owners on my email list, and those recommendations usually include an affiliate link.

I also have affiliate ads on the website itself. Sometimes I recommend products on Amazon as well.

Affiliate marketing is an easy way to monetize your website if, and only if, you do it right and have the audience to support it. Affiliate marketing leverages the power of numbers – the number of eyeballs and the number of clicks – to make you and the affiliate partner money.

It took me over 30 days to make my first affiliate sale, and I only earned $18.44 for the entire month with only 19 clicks. However, those numbers have increased each month, and now my affiliate ads get 100s of clicks each month.

All that said, your success with affiliate marketing requires you to recommend something your audience wants. In my case, that's discounts on cigars and free shipping.

Advertisers and Sponsors

The third and final way CigarScore.com has made money for me is by offering advertising spots. If a business has created a product that could benefit the users of the site, they can pay to put either a 300×250 ad on the sidebar or a 700×125 ad below the content on every page.

 
In addition to offering paid ads, at this moment, I've also received hundreds of dollars in free products to try and talk about on the CigarScore YouTube channel.

As with affiliate marketing, generating revenue from advertisers and sponsors requires an audience. While affiliate partners typically only pay after a sale has been made, advertisers pay before any sales are made. You might be able to get an advertiser once but to get them to keep advertising, you have to provide results in the form of a positive ROI.

Related: How to get started with Affiliate Marketing

As I told one advertiser, “I want you to pay me forever!” And I mean that. I want to make my advertisers so much money that they never want to stop advertising on CigarScore.com.

And that's it; that's how I made money with a brand new platform in less than 45 days. I sold an upgraded listing, and then I sold another one. Then I started offering affiliate products. Then other businesses started contacting me to promote their products to my growing list of users.

Summary

I've said it once, and I'll say it again, every time I take the steps outlined in Exit Strategy, I get great results. While no plan survives contact with the enemy, and no script can withstand the scrutiny of the consumer, having a proven strategy and a set of time tested tactics is key to success.

As I've outlined above, anybody can take their idea and turn it into a reality if you follow a recipe I've now used and implemented nearly a dozen times for different business models and multiple products.

If you want the 8-week strategy but don't want my entire book, click here to download the Exit Strategy Companion Workbook (it's 100% free).

Click here How I Grew CigarScore from Scratch to Profit in 45 Days to visit Ellory Wells and leave a comment.

Oct 28 2019

55mins

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3 Questions that Help You Qualify Your Customers and Make More Sales

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Have you ever spent time with a prospective customer only to find out they weren't interested in you or your product in the first place?

Master salespeople are also masters at qualifying their customers. By learning how to weed out the tire-kickers, you can spend your time with the people who truly want what you have to offer.

And qualifying questions (and how to use them) is what we're going to talk about today.

Want to listen? There's an audio version (with BONUS content!) below

One of the first things you should do in sales is to learn how to ask qualifying questions. You need to know if the person in front of you or on the other end of the phone is interested in you and your product or if they're just killing time.

Applying Good Sales Technique

Back in college, I was part of the recruitment effort for our fraternity. Baylor had just built a new three-winged, multi-floored, completely-enormous science building, and they wanted to show it off.

Related: How to Increase the Value of Every Customer

The plan was to have each fraternity occupy a separate lecture hall. The freshmen who were interested in pledging (i.e. applying to a fraternity and going through the membership process), had to register with the university and pick up their rush cards. On each card, like a Bingo board, was a spot for each fraternity.

Before the freshmen could make their decision about which fraternity they wanted to join, they first had to get their Bingo board stamped by a minimum number of fraternities.

The purpose of the card was to get young men to meet new people and see what other fraternities were out there. Since my fraternity was smaller than the others, it was nice to have the opportunity to get our message in front of people who might not otherwise see it.

The Weed-Out Process

However, the Bingo card also brought about problems. So they could fill up their cards, the freshmen swooped from room to room, had quick conversations, and left once they got their stamp.

Also at this time in my life, I was working for Dell, back when they had a call center in downtown Waco, Texas. Dell had spent weeks training our sales team not only on the company's products and services but also on how to be better salespeople.

And one of the things we'd learned was how to effectively determine if someone was ready to buy or if they were just looking for more information. Dell had taught me how to effectively use qualifying questions.

So when our lecture hall was empty between throngs of freshmen, I pulled our fraternity members aside and taught them how to ask qualifying questions to determine if someone was actually interested in joining us or if they only walked through our door to get a stamp on their Bingo board.

By asking qualifying questions like those listed below, our current members were able to filter out the stamp-getters and free up their time to focus on the freshmen who were truly interested in the fraternity.

3 Qualifying Questions:

  1. What brings you in today?
  2. What are you looking for?
  3. How did you hear about us?

By asking these easy qualifying questions, the guys who were only there for a stamp were politely handled and shown the door, while the young men who were interested in our mission and our message got the time and attention they deserved.

A Good Qualifying Question is:

  • Open-ended
  • Inviting
  • Un-assuming

When you ask qualifying questions to your audience, you can determine how best to help them. If you ask the right questions, prospects will practically tell you what they need and how you can make a sale. Yes, it'll take some practice, but your efforts will pay off.

As a result of a few minutes of training my fellow members, our fraternity was able to have one of the largest pledge classes we'd had in several semesters.

Buying vs. Being Sold

People don't mind buying, but they rarely want to be sold. However, having the option to buy all of the options is often a good thing. But I'll come back to that.

A couple of months ago, we needed to get our SUV serviced. Nothing major, just the routine oil change and tire rotation, etc. So I drove my wife to work, dropped her off, and headed to the closest Nissan dealership.

When I got on-site, I had a hard time finding the service entrance, so I pulled up in front of a group of sales guys who worked for the Chevrolet dealership owned by the same company. I hadn't even gotten out of my car and I was immediately swarmed.

“What can we get you into today?”

“What kind of payments are you looking for?”

“What's your budget?”

“This new Corvette is nice, isn't it?”

They dove on me like flies at a fall barbeque. Yes, the new Z06 was nice, but I wasn't interested.

I asked where the service place was, and they were of no use. Either they were idiots or they had no desire to help me. They couldn't even tell me that the service department I was looking for was less than 100 yards back the way I came.

Sales Stereotype

I'm sure you've had the same experience. Nobody refers to car salesmen as the pinnacle of selling technique.

Are you doing the same thing?

Are you asking people to buy into you, your ideas, or your mission before they even know who you are and what you're about?

I share the story above to show you one end of the sales extreme – the “in your face,” obnoxious example that you've likely experienced and want to avoid in your business.

Successful businesses understand they need to understand their customers. We must get inside the mind of our prospective clients and learn what they need, what they want, and where they're going for information. That's why defining your ideal client avatar is so important and why content marketing is so effective.

I'd made a wrong turn, and before I'd talked about my needs, before I'd shared what I wanted, and before I'd even showed a single buying signal, the idiots at the car dealership made assumptions about who I was and what I wanted.

If the stooges at the car dealership had asked me, “What brings you in today?” they would have known I was not in the market for a new car, and they could have either gotten back to their conversation or moved on to someone else who was looking to make a purchase.

Side note: there was no one else at the dealership, perhaps because the dealership had earned a “car salesmen” reputation in the community that was off-putting.

When to Ask Qualifying Questions

Now that you know three qualifying questions to ask, let's talk about when to use them

In short, there is no bad time to qualify your customers. You can ask qualifying questions at the beginning, at the middle, and even at the end of your conversation as you lead someone through the sales process.

At the Beginning

As I mentioned in the examples of my fraternity and the car dealership, asking qualifying questions when you first engage with someone is very effective.

By asking questions at the beginning, not only do you invite your prospect to tell you what they need, but you can quickly determine if they're the right customer for you.

But beware, qualifying someone as soon as they get out of the car or walk through your door can be off-putting. You should let someone get their bearings and get a feel for where they are before you swoop in. Heck, at the very least, give them an opportunity to stretch their legs or for their eyes to adjust to the lighting in your store.

In the Middle

Once you've determined someone is in the right place and that they'd be a good fit for your products, your job is not done.

By asking qualifying questions throughout your conversation, you can determine if someone would be interested in cross-sells or upsells you have to offer. Additionally, you can learn more about what the customer wants so you can offer the best possible product to them.

PRO TIP: Whenever your prospect mentions a different product or an upgraded feature, ask them qualifying questions about it. Ask, “What about that appeals to you?” or “What interests you about ____?” A good salesperson is always seeking more information.

At the End

After you've determined if the prospect is interested in what you've got to offer, and after you've figured out how to meet their needs in the best way possible, your job is done, right?

Wrong.

Every good salesperson knows that their job is never done. Everybody buys SOMETHING to go along with what they're buying today. A notebook needs a pen. A movie ticket needs popcorn and a coke. A car needs oil changes and a warranty. Even offline, brick and mortar stores need websites.

Asking good qualifying questions at the end of the sale closes the conversation. Like bookends, great questions open and close the relationship and often show your customers that you care about them beyond just the sale of today.

Summary

Good questions get the customer talking. The more they're talking, the more they're going to tell you about who they are, what problem they have, and what type of solution they're looking for.

A good bit of sales advice is this: let the customer do most of the talking.

Click here 3 Questions that Help You Qualify Your Customers and Make More Sales to visit Ellory Wells and leave a comment.

Oct 21 2019

19mins

Play

Everybody Makes Mistakes. Here’s What You Can Do About It

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Everybody makes mistakes. Our flaws are one of the things that make us human. However, if we can minimize our mistakes we'll have better chances of success.

But is perfection the goal? Or, is that homemade look and feel a better way?

Want to listen? There's an audio version below

A couple of Mondays ago, one of my clients called me up. She said she had a personal issue and was wanting to see if I, as a coach, could offer her any advice about dealing with her son and helping with “it.”

I remember watching a college football game a few years ago. It was late in the season, and the rankings had already been established, though not solidified. One of the best teams in the nation was playing one of the worst. Between plays, the cameras would show each team on their sideline, and I noticed something interesting.

Related: 7 Mistakes New Entrepreneurs Make

When I watched the McGregor versus Mayweather fight I noticed it. When I scroll through my Facebook feed, I notice it. When I study the greats to learn how I can get better, I notice it.

And, what “it” is, is what we're going to talk about today.

The Mom

When my client called me up one afternoon, I didn't really know what to expect. She said she had a “personal issue” to ask me about, but, prior to her call, I had no idea what it was or how to prepare.

She told me that she was facing challenges with her son, who was a significant part of their family business. He was in charge of marketing, writing emails, and engaging with their clients on social media. His efforts had helped their company expand beyond their “garage” and grow into a business that generates over $100,000 in sales every year. My client's son has helped their business become a player in their industry, someone to be reckoned with, and who is disrupting the long-entrenched status quo.

But now her son is making mistakes. He's getting sloppy.

The Sports Team

When I tune into sports, which I rarely do, I don't expect to find a lesson on success. But that day I did.

After the play was over and the ball changed hands, the losing team, who was losing by several touchdowns, was acting like most amateurs. They were discussing plays, yelling at one another about the things that were going wrong, and were buckling under pressure.

On the other hand, and on the other side of the field, the winning team behaved like professionals.

But it was the subtle things that stood out to me. I remember watching as one of the players sat on the bench while one of the equipment managers picked the mud out from between the cleats on the player's shoes.

The Professional Fighter

One of the biggest sporting events of 2017 was the boxing match between Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather.

Conor, a multiple-belt-wearing champion of the UFC, was going to face Floyd, who, at the time, held an undefeated 49-0 record. Conor was going to leave the octagon and step into the ring with a world champion who was on the cusp of setting a new record.

The fight started off well. Conor came out strong; Mayweather ducked, bobbed, and weaved, taking a few blows and giving a few as well.

But as the rounds continued, Conor started making mistakes. He was over-exerting himself in a game of endurance. He was dropping his hands and leaving himself open. He was getting arrogant while in the ring with one of the most winning boxers of all time.

The Cost of Mitsakes

Before I go on, I'm not browbeating you about mistakes. I'm also not claiming I never make them. Our mistakes and flaws make us human, and when we can talk about them in the larger context of our stories, they can help us be more relatable to the people around us who aren't perfect either.

Put another way, perfect is boring. It's bland and uninteresting. Our mistakes and flaws give us character and make us interesting.

However, in the case of the mother and son, if you're going to sell a product for $5000, you have be worth $5000. But, before you can prove your worth, you'll be judged by whether or not you look, feel, and sound like $5000.

Character flaws are one thing, but massive errors in judgment and mistakes in your communications show people you don't care enough to check your work.

In the case of the football teams, while the losing team was worried about calling the “right” plays, the winning team was focused on eliminating the mistakes caused when shoes can't get the traction the player needs.

If you're struggling with the basics, fine-tuning your processes doesn't matter and is largely a waste of time.

It's a Fine Line

It's a strange thing, we like homemade and homegrown, but only to a point. We don't like buying things that look TOO homemade or TOO homegrown. We prefer that little bit of spit and polish that's required to make something look professional.

We're ok with buying cookies that aren't perfectly round and we don't mind purchasing things that look hand made. However, we don't want to buy something that looks like it was made by a toddler.

There's a fine line between perfectly flawed and carelessly thrown together.

Success is NOT about Perfection

Success is not about being perfect; it's about making the fewest mistakes.

Perfect is impossible; it doesn't exist. Perfect means that it can't get any better, that there are no flaws, and the best possible product has been created. Perfect does not mean success. Success is the elimination of enough mistakes so that you can outperform the competition.

Note: sometimes the competition is ourselves

At every new level of achievement we want to attain, we have to eliminate more mistakes. When you're first starting to write, spelling and grammatical errors are to be expected. In high school, to achieve a passing grade, you have to eliminate your mistakes and clear a bar that has been raised. In college, the bar is higher. And, for a doctoral dissertation, the bar is higher still.

However, if you want to be a professional copywriter and sell your work and charge companies top-dollar for your words, you have to pass the highest bar yet. At every new level, the margin for error is thinner and thinner, and the tolerance for mistakes becomes less and less.

As I've said before, the level of skill that got you on the team won't help you win the championship. You're good enough to start, but not yet good enough to win.

32

The other day I had lunch with an aspiring author. He wants to go “full-time” as a writer. When he stepped away from the table, I turned to his wife (whom I know very well), and asked her if she thought her husband was good enough.

I then asked her how many high schools there were out there with football teams.

“I don't know,” she said.

“Tens of thousands,” I said.

I asked her about the number of colleges, and we agreed there were not “tens of thousands,” but probably multiple thousands. Then I hit her with the number of professional football teams there were. I told her the number of teams that paid people to play football.

There are 32.

If you want to play at the highest levels, you have to be the best of the best. And, to reach the next level in your business, you have to think like a professional athlete and work on eliminating your mistakes.

Again, success isn't about perfection. At the top, everybody is good. Success is about making fewer mistakes than the other guys.

Click here Everybody Makes Mistakes. Here’s What You Can Do About It to visit Ellory Wells and leave a comment.

Oct 14 2019

13mins

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10 Reasons Your Content Creation Efforts Might Fail

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When it comes to effective content marketing, it's great knowing what types of content to create and things you should do to maximize the impact of your efforts. However, it's also important to understand what not to do and what to avoid.

Having the right ingredients can spur experimentation, but without knowing what you should avoid as well, you might make mistakes.

Want to listen? There's an audio version below

So, to guide you through the pitfalls of content marketing and to help you minimize your mistakes, let's look at ten things that might cause your content marketing efforts to fall flat.

1: Your Audience is Too Broad

As the saying goes, “the riches are in the niches.” But, to help you understand what I mean, let me offer a few examples based on the businesses of some of my clients.

If you're are copywriter, instead of marketing your services as “copywriting for businesses,” narrow your messaging to a specific industry. Focus on being the best copywriter for pool companies or for local restaurants with fewer than five locations.

If you don't yet know where your expertise lies, niche down to something you're interested in or passionate about. If you're unable to narrow your focus to where you can have the most impact, be specific to the industry where you'll at least have the most fun and evolve from there.

2: Wrong Product Offerings

When coming up with your product or service offerings, it's key to sell what your customers want, not what you want. If you worked with the hearing impaired, you probably shouldn't start a podcast. I know that's an extreme example, but extreme examples often most clearly prove a point.

Remember, you are not your customer. Sell what they need at a price point they can afford, not just what you want at a cost you'd be willing to pay.

3: Weak or Unclear Branding

In my earlier days, I struggled with weak and unclear branding. It wasn't until I had a conversation with Mark Mason in mid-2014 that I realized I needed to clarify my message and focus on people who were like me.

As a result of that fateful chat, I began to tweak my branding to focus on people who were miserable at work, who felt undervalued by their company, and who wanted to turn their talents into a business.

Instead of trying to reach all aspiring entrepreneurs with a weak message, I began to speak directly to people who were going through what I'd gone through, and who could relate really well to my story. If you can make the necessary changes to clarify your message to a targeted audience, I promise you'll begin to get improved results.

4: Slow Production Timelines

When you come across a need in the marketplace, how long does it take for you to create a solution?

One of the subscribers to Catalyst Monthly owns several pieces of real estate. If she's at capacity, meaning all of her properties are rented, how quickly could she turn around a new product? In this scenario, her new product might be a new home to rent.

Another subscriber creates email marketing sales funnels. For his business, a new product could be a new type of funnel that specifically targets who've visited a landing page or added a product to a shopping cart.

In business, it's important to be able to react quickly to the changing needs of our customers. If people keep asking for a product you don't have in stock, the faster you can get that product into the hands of the people who would buy it, the faster you'll make money.

We live in an on-demand world – thank you, Amazon Prime – and if you can reduce the amount of time someone has to wait for a solution, you can win.

5: Uninteresting Content

As we've established, you should be creating content to market your products, services, and business. With that said, don't make the mistake I made early on.

I was boring.

Ya, I was boring. I made the error of thinking that in order to be authoritative and to have an impact, that I also had to be aloof and detached from my writing. My writing had no emotion, and because of that, I failed to connect with my readers, listeners, and viewers.

As a result, my blog struggled to take off, and my business faired no better.

Reality television is captivating because people are interesting. On past surveys, responders from my community asked for more personal stories. Your stories and experiences, like the stories and experiences shared on reality shows, will make your content more engaging.

Don't be afraid to take a stand, cause controversy, or take an unpopular viewpoint on current events. Interesting content is shared content.

6: Inefficient Processes

While I was bootstrapping my business in the early years, I was terribly inefficient. Few things were automatic, and none of my software talked to the other pieces of software I used.

When you're starting out, it's important to get everything up and running before you prioritize efficiency. However, as you grow, you'll want to reduce the number of tasks that take longer than they should and eliminate all of the systems that hinder your growth.

If you're looking for a full list of hardware and software that I use, I recommend you check out my tech stack – i.e. the hardware and software that powers my business.

Regardless of what stage of business you're in, to get to the next level, you'll have to become more efficient. You'll have to organize, streamline, and remove any and all snags.

Success at the highest levels usually isn't about who's the best; it's about who makes the least number of mistakes. And, as a side note, the more efficient you are, the faster you're likely to also be at producing things of value.

7: Lack of Partners and Brand Advocates

Yes, you need to be your own customer, and you absolutely MUST be your own cheerleader.

However…

Everything is easier with a team. And, in the world of content marketing, that means people sharing your stuff on social media, affiliates promoting your products, and people with platforms (i.e. blogs, podcasts, etc.) talking about what you're doing.

When your business is small, you're forced to be your own cheerleader. As you grow, hopefully, you'll be interesting, entertaining, and informative enough so that other people will share your content too. These partners and brand advocates can give your content a viral effect.

A tactic you can use to recruit partners and advocates is to interview them on your blog or feature them on your podcast or YouTube channel. Not only will this tactic boost your authority with your audience, but it will bring that person onto your team of people who are willing to share your content.

The more people are talking about you and your business, the faster you'll grow!

8: Limited Distribution

Similar to having partners and advocates, distribution allows you to get your brand and message in front of more people.

Where the tactic above works from you outward, distribution works from the outside in. What I mean is that with great distribution, there are more ways people can discover you (outside-in), while advocates share your content to their networks (inside out).

The power of distribution really hit me when I was on Smart Passive Income with Pat Flynn. After my episode went live, over the next month, I received nearly three dozen notifications from different websites, podcast networks, and other areas where Pat's show was syndicated or distributed.

Related: Beginner's Guide to Twitter

Great marketing won't save your product; it will only make it fail faster. And, distribution works much in the same way. A bad product with great distribution is still a bad product.

However, a great product without great distribution will ultimately only serve a very limited number of people.

9: Outdated or Insufficient Technology

As we get toward the end of our list here, I'm a little embarrassed about how many of these things to avoid start out with, “when I used to do it that way…” I guess it just goes to show that I've been there, done it one way, then learned a better way.

When I first started, I used the cheapest web hosting I could get, a free theme for WordPress, and invested almost nothing in my website. In short, I used (somewhat) outdated (if not poorly maintained) hardware to host my website, and insufficient software (in the form of outdated and free themes) to power my business.

RELATED: How to Choose the Right Hosting Company For Your Website

It was nearly three years before I made any significant investment in the technology that powered my business. Now, although I'm smart about it, I don't hesitate to purchase upgrades that will make me more efficient or that will help me to deliver my products faster.

RELATED: 10 Reasons I Recommend ThriveThemes to All of My Clients

On one hand, “bootstrapping” your business is admirable. On the other, that scrappiness could be hindering your growth and professionalism. At some point, every business has to outgrow the garage.

If you're interested in learning more about the software I use to power my business from anywhere, click here.

Here's the bottom line:

It doesn't matter what YOU like or what YOU want; what matters is what your CUSTOMERS like and what THEY want. I don't care if you don't like technology and refuse to use Facebook or think that the internet is evil. If your customers are there, YOU need to be there.

If you need assistance getting your business online and up to date, I recommend these guys.

10: Lack of Influence

Finally, your content creation business could fail because you lack influence. Perhaps your visitors aren't yet sure if they like you. They may be uncertain whether or not you can solve their problem.

Influence comes from many sources, but the bottom line is that without influence, you won't be able to convince anyone to do anything. Without influence, you won't get people to take action.

Related: How to Get Publicity for Your Brand and Business

One way you can boost your influence is to talk directly to your ideal avatar and speak specifically about a real problem.

When you can describe the problem in a way that creates a crystal clear image in someone's head, people will assume you know what you're talking about, and they'll assume you have the solution.

Sometimes building influence is pointing out someone's pain and bringing it to the forefront of their mind. Like salty snacks at the bar influence drinkers to buy another round, thoughtful messaging can influence your visitors to buy your products.

While missing any one of these won't cause your content marketing efforts to fail, miss too many and you'll struggle unnecessarily.

Don't Ignore This!

The easy thing to do would be to ignore this or write these tips off as “only for Millenials.” Or, “only for online businesses.” Or to say, “I don't do social media.”

But that would be a mistake. Every business is in business to do more business. If you've got a million-dollar advertising budget, you might be able to skip out on content marketing. But, I doubt you do.

Content marketing is the most effective way to grow your business and to get visitors, whether they come to your website or the walk through your door.

If this helps you improve or helps you avoid content marketing fails, drop me a comment below and let me know!

Click here 10 Reasons Your Content Creation Efforts Might Fail to visit Ellory Wells and leave a comment.

Oct 07 2019

20mins

Play

How to Get Publicity for Your Brand and Business

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Would you like to get featured on more media as an expert? If you were interviewed on TV as a leader in copywriting, email marketing, or healthy eating, what would that do for your brand and business?

Like most business owners, if you've ever wondered how to get publicity for your brand or business, read on!

Want to listen? There's an audio version below

Just recently, on a mastermind call, I asked each of my members to teach me something.

Since my clients are often experts in their fields, I thought it would be a nice break from the routine to have them showcase their skills and teach me and the other members a tool, trick, or technique they've used to grow their businesses.

And they didn't disappoint.

Meet Jess

One of my members, Jess Shanahan, is a public relations pro and an expert on how to get publicity.

In just a few short years, she's landing major roles to do consulting work with companies, she's grown her brand and business, and she just started the process of doing a six-episode pilot series for the television and media giant, CBS.

Now, before I share a tip that could backfire or a tactic that might do more harm than good, let me give you part of Jess's backstory.

Jess has been creating content on her websites for years. She has a blog (RacingMentor.com), she's created content on YouTube, and she's lived and breathed her area of expertise every day.

Jess has built a following and a brand, and if you were to find her online, you'd immediately know what she was about – helping and guiding the motorsport industry on how to get publicity for their brands.

It's important to take note of what Jess has done to build her brand in addition to getting on television. If you don't do the groundwork, the next step, at best, won't work. At worst, it could damage your brand, hurt your business, and get you blackballed from future opportunities.

For example, if you were featured as the world's strongest man, but showed up without the ability to step up and prove it, you'd be laughed at, escorted out, and possibly never allowed back.

Your reputation is everything, and that's why content marketing is so effective for building your business. Here is how you can get publicity for your business and be seen as an expert, according to Jess.

How to Get Publicity

Step 1: Define Your Expertise

The first thing you need to do is to pick 2-3 things at which you're an expert. Don't only pick one, and don't pick seventeen, but pick a few areas where you're confident and know you could knock it out of the park when asked questions on the topic.

Make your topics related but not the same. Pick 2-3 things that are complementary and which overlap.

In other words, if someone were to ask you about your areas of expertise, they wouldn't ask you the exact same questions. Ideally, your 2-3 areas of expertise would be related to a product you have in development or one you have ready to sell.

NOTE: If you don't have a 1) website, 2) a way to collect email addresses, and 3) content on your site to market your business, Step 1 above is actually the fourth or fifth step in the process. The people you'll reach out to in Step 4 will absolutely check you out, so you need to have your website home base in order.

RELATED: How to Start a Website
RELATED: How to Get Started with Content Marketing

Step 2: Develop Your Pitch

Now that you've got your areas of expertise dialed in and you'd feel comfortable having a spirited debate on the topic, it's time to prepare your pitch.

Step 2 is to create quick blurb about each of your expertise areas. If you want to get publicity in the most efficient way possible, each blurb should:

  1. state your expertise
  2. highlight your experience
  3. define who could benefit from your expertise

For example, if your expertise was in copywriting like my client Kris, your blurb might look like this:

“Hi Ellory, my name is Suzy, and I'm an expert at helping small businesses improve the content on their websites and in their sales letters through better copywriting. I've been a copywriter for 7 years, and in that time I've helped all sorts of companies, so I'm familiar with what they struggle with. If you're ever in need of a copywriter, I'd love the opportunity to share some of my experience with your viewers.”

Of course, you'd want to tweak that and make it your own, and I'm sure you'd probably come up with something better, but I hope that gives you an idea of what to send someone.

Step 3: Locate Your Target

Now that you have your areas of expertise (and your website, etc.) and your pitch, it's time to find who you'll target.

Here's what PR expert Jess showed me…

First

First, you'll need a Twitter account. It's free and only takes a second to sign up.

HINT: You might even be able to do this next step without an account.

Second

Second, in the Twitter search box, type in #HARO if you're in the United States, #JournoRequest or #PRRequest if you're in the UK. You might have to use a different hashtag for different countries.

After hitting “Enter” to search, you'll get reporters who are using these hashtags to find people to interview. These hashtags are popular with PR people who are working on stories to publish and who are looking for guest experts to interview.

HINT: On the results page, you may need to switch tabs from “Top/Popular” to “Latest/Recent” so you see the most recent tweets from reporters.

Now that you have your search results, start filtering through the list of tweets. You might have to scroll through several to find what you're looking for or reporters who're looking for someone with your expertise, but don't give up!

HINT: If you find someone who is tweeting with these hashtags, you may want to follow them so their future tweets show up in your feed. That way your process will be streamlined in the future.

Third

Once you have a lead, reply to their tweet or send the person a DM (direct message) and ask them if they're still looking for someone to interview. If they are, ask them if you can email them, or send them the blurb you wrote in Step 2.

HINT: Save your Twitter search so you can come back to it quickly.

Step 4: Send Your Pitch

I think the beauty of Jess' strategy is that its low pressure. You're not trying to sell something, you're offering help.

  • If you're a copywriter, you could talk about common mistakes, and how to make sure people write effective messaging.
  • If you're an email marketing expert, you could talk about list building strategies or why it's important to clean up your list.
  • If you own rental properties, you could be an expert on keeping your properties full or how you vet tenants so you get the right people renting.
  • If you own a restaurant, your expertise could be in how local businesses are impacting the economy.

I hope you've found this tactic super-helpful. When Jess told me about using hashtags to find people who were actively looking for experts, my jaw dropped!

If you've found this helpful, consider giving Jess a shout on Twitter, Facebook, or on her website at RacingMentor.com

And, if you use this trick to get publicity for your products, brand, or business, please let me know! Send a screenshot and a link to where you're featured to ellory@ellorywells.com so I can celebrate with you and share your success!

Click here How to Get Publicity for Your Brand and Business to visit Ellory Wells and leave a comment.

Sep 30 2019

19mins

Play

5 Ways to Track, Analyze, and Prioritize Your Ideas

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I bet you've got some really good ideas for your business. I'd even bet that many of them are great ideas!

So, with so many, how do prioritize your ideas and know which ones to pursue, which ones to save for later, and which ideas deserve to be taken out back behind the shed and put down?

Nobody thinks they have bad ideas. I mean sure, we occasionally have an idea that's crazy, stupid, or obviously and hilariously bad, but other than those ideas, all of the rest are great!

Right?

Well, no.

However, it's often difficult to see which of our ideas will make us money and which ones won't. That's why the most successful people have a mastermind group with whom they can discuss their ideas and determine which ones will deliver results.

But, if you don't have a mastermind, here are five things you can do today to help you track, analyze, and prioritize your ideas so you can see the opportunity they hold, and figure out which one you should give your attention to.


5 Ways to Track, Analyze, and Prioritize Your Ideas

1: Focus on Your Goal

Suggesting that you begin with the end in mind might seem obvious, but I'm surprised by how many of my clients come to me with ideas that aren't in line with their overall goal. As an entrepreneur, your time is precious, and pursuing ideas that won't take you closer to achieving your goal doesn't make much sense.

When you have a clearly defined goal, you're able to judge every activity against whether or not that activity will get you closer to achieving it. If you have a list of ideas, begin by noting if each idea will get you closer or further from where you want to be in six, twelve, or eighteen months.

Figure out which stage of business you're in. While this stage could change by time of year, during a product launch, or a variety of other reasons, these stages are generally Acquisition, Activation, Monetization, Retention.

4 Stages of Business

  • Acquisition is when you're acquiring new customers and leads, or when you're driving traffic to your website.
  • Activation is when you're asking those leads to make purchases or take the action you want them to take.
  • Monetization is developing new products, growing revenue, making sales, and closing contracts.
  • Retention is how you interact with your customers after they've paid you money.

A couple of questions to ask yourself are:

  • What stage of business am I in?
  • What action do I want my customers to take?
  • Am I trying to sell something, or is my goal to keep my brand in front of my audience?
  • What will make the biggest impact the quickest?

2: Analyze the Opportunity

If you don't know what you have, you can't figure out what you need or want, right?

Ok, so profound! But this is where you can dive into your analytics and data.

Why do people leave your site? Why do they leave your store? Or, why do they choose to do business with someone else instead of you?

Then, once you've analyzed what you have, it's time to figure out how your great idea plays into it. Or, if it does at all. To analyze the quality of your idea and the opportunity that might come with it, here are a few things you can do.

First, do a S.W.O.T. Test; which stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats.

  • Strengths are factors that increase your chances of success.
  • Weaknesses are reasons your idea might fail – things like the economy, aggressive competition, timing, etc.
  • Opportunities are the upside you might have if the idea works, and ways your idea could expand or lead to other things.
  • Threats are events, people, competitors, technology, etc., that could prevent your idea from working.

After you've done the S.W.O.T. test, see if your idea has been done before. If it has, did it work? Could you do it better or different?

If your idea has been done, don't worry, that just means there might be a market for what you're trying to do. Are you in line with your industry; or are you going against common knowledge and practices?

Finally, ask yourself if your idea will be fun. If not, maybe shelve the idea and work on something else. Or, if the upside is enough, maybe working on something that's not fun for a short time might be worth it.

3: Brainstorm Alternatives

Now it's time to see how your idea stacks up in relation to how it will help you in whatever stage of business you're in. Some ideas will help you acquire new customers. Other ideas will help you maintain relationships with your existing clients and fall under retention strategies.

Acquisition ideas (from my own list) could include:

Activation ideas could include:

  • new email series (autoresponders, automations), (ActiveCampaign makes split testing emails easy)
  • testing coupons (BOGO, discounts, etc.),
  • adding product videos to sales pages.

Monetization ideas include:

Retention ideas include:

  • sending welcome-kits to new subscribers, new renters, or new clients,
  • creating a “start here” email series, (See The Entrepreneur's Dictionary)
  • calling new customers, or
  • sending handwritten cards to clients.

The key through this step is to write down everything. Don't just your ideas yet. Bad ideas are the seeds for good ideas, so don't toss something out because you don't love it yet.

4: Prioritize & Score

Now that you have your ideas listed, categorized and analyzed, and brainstormed, it's time to get deliberate about determining which ideas to pursue and which ones to ditch.

A phrase I've started using with some of my clients is “I.C.E. it.” I.C.E. stands for Impact, Confidence, and Ease, and it's how you'll score and prioritize your ideas.

Impact

Score your ideas based on how much of an impact they'll have on your bottom line and/or on your business today.

Will they generate a lot of profit or a little? Will they keep customers coming back and increase the amount of money they'll spend with you?

For example, adding a premium service to your existing product catalog would be a high impact.

Confidence

Score your ideas based on how confident you are that the idea will work. Are you confident that adding a new lead magnet or adding a new service will get you results?

For example, if you release a new product based on the suggestions and feedback of your existing customers, your confidence would be high.

Easy-ness

Finally, score your idea based on how easy it would be for you or your team to implement it. Building a landing page would be easy for me, it might be difficult for you.

As an example, buying a third rental home might have a huge impact on your business. And, if you buy it in the right location, your confidence in the success of that home would be pretty high. However, the cost of a marketable home in a desirable market might be more money than you have, so it might not be easy to do.

Out of a possible 30 I.C.E. points (10 for each category), a buying a new rental home might get a 25. An idea with a score of 28 should be acted on before an idea with a score of 13.

5: Test & Experiment

After you've gone through this process with each idea, you should have a solid list of things to do to grow your business. Now it's time to test and experiment.

One of my goals and something you could use as well is to implement something we all learned in middle school science class – the scientific method.

With every idea, develop a hypothesis about what you expect to happen. Build your new product, service, landing page, whatever. Validate your work to see if everything is working properly and error free. Optimize with a variant to test effectiveness. Then either scale (because it worked), or abandon (because it didn't).

Finally, evaluate your idea objectively by asking if your efforts made the impact you'd hoped. If they did, were the results appropriate for the amount of time, effort, and energy you put in?

Unfortunately, I’ve had several projects that went well but ultimately didn’t provide results that were worth what I put into it.
One last piece of advice.

Use your efforts to your advantage. As they saying goes, there is no such thing as bad press. If you tried something and it didn’t work (that’s ok!), then create some content around it. Say that you’re trying new things, trying to meet the needs of your customers, or doing everything you can to improve your products. You can be open, honest, transparent, and with the right messaging, your community will love it!

In the comments below, let me know if you use one of these strategies and see success!

Click here 5 Ways to Track, Analyze, and Prioritize Your Ideas to visit Ellory Wells and leave a comment.

Jul 01 2019

27mins

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Why Being Nice is Good For Business

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If you've been following me for very long, or if you've read my book Exit Strategy, you've heard me talk about the importance of “know, like, trust” in business. To really be successful, you need people to know you, like you, and trust that you're producing great quality products and services.

But today, we're going to talk about why you need people to like you, and why knowing and trusting you isn't enough.

Want to listen? There's an audio version below

One of my clients works at a hospital and rubs elbows with doctors, nurses, and administrators every day. In particular, there's a group of doctors she works with and with whom she has gotten to know.

Being “Qualified” Is No Longer Enough

Over the past few years, my client has come to trust the advice each of these doctors, and she trusts that their diagnoses are correct. She has come to know that each doctor cares about the well being of their mutual patients.

But one of the doctors… well, nobody really likes him.

Related: Think your qualifications set you apart? Watch This

So, when the time came for a referral, my client sent the patient to the doctor she liked. When it came time to have a loved one visit the hospital to get some work done, she referred her family member to the equally knowledgeable, equally trustable, but infinitely more likable other doctor.

When my client told me about how she chose to refer her friends and family to a doctor she liked over a doctor she didn't, I knew I had to share the story.

Being Liked Pays Off

After doing some digging, I found that both doctors had similar education, similar experience, and were similarly capable, but one was a jerk. One attracted people to him, the other put people off. And, their businesses were impacted.

In business, rock stars who can treat people like crap and still succeed are rare. When and where they work, those rock stars are either so good that their talent outweighs their negative personality quirks, or they've surrounded themselves with people who can act as insulators to their asshole-ish behaviors.

Remember House, M.D.?

But for most of us, those of us who aren't the Steve Jobs', the Michael Jordans, the LeBron James' – the freakishly good – we can't afford to have people dislike us.

Now, I know we can't make everyone happy. And it's pointless to even try. But, when everything else is equal, it sure is nice to have people on our side and rooting for us.

One thing I do in my business, something that has served me quite well, is to treat every client like I'm going to ask them for a testimonial. And I usually do ask. The best business card is a happy customer. And that is why you need people to like you in business.

Being Nice As a Business Strategy

Now, I'm not saying that you need everybody to like you. You don't need to be friends with your competitors or customers. And, a degree of professional distance is often recommended.

However, wouldn't it be nice to have people in your corner rooting for you and wishing for your success?

I already told you that being nice can have a positive impact on your bottom line, and I showed you an example of being nice as a business strategy. But being nice can also lead to greater connections and new opportunities you might not have otherwise. Nobody likes an asshole, and nobody wants to recommend one to their friends and colleagues.
It pays to be nice, and the payment isn't always or only in cash.

Click here Why Being Nice is Good For Business to visit Ellory Wells and leave a comment.

Jun 24 2019

10mins

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What I Believe – Life, Success, & Entreprenuership

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I thought I'd make a bold move today, and lay out what I believe specifically and my beliefs about life, success, and entrepreneurship. This post might not be for you, or, maybe it's precisely what you need to read today.

Regardless, this is what I believe, and if it resonates with you, then awesome. If not, it's cool, we can still have a beer and talk about it later.

Want to listen? There's an audio version below

To my 1,000 true fans:

1: I believe that everyone should start a business at least once in their life.

When you go through the process of pulling an idea out of thin air and following it up with creation, production, and monetization, something inside you changes.

2: I believe that most people, in fact, don't know what they're doing.

A few weeks ago, I told a sixteen-year-old that she shouldn't listen to everyone she meets. I told her that adults were just kids who'd lived longer and that most of the time, we were just winging it.

3: I believe that we need guides and mentors throughout our entire life.

When we stop growing, we start dying. When we refuse to learn new things, we start losing our mental sharpness. If we choose not to read, we're no better than people who cannot read. Life is an adventure, and sometimes, we need help along the way.

4: I believe the worst things that happen to us can be our sources of strength.

We cannot change the past. However, we can learn from it and make a better future for ourselves. And we can use our past to relate and connect with people who are going through or who have gone through similar situations. It's not our highs that connect us. It's often our lows, and the people we meet there, that help us become who we were meant to be.

5: I believe fear is the biggest killer of dreams.

Just imagine how your life would have been different had you never had to deal with fear. If courageous action was your mantra, what could you have achieved by now? I'm no more courageous than the people I have around me, supporting me, and encouraging me.

6: I believe our friends are our greatest assets and our greatest weaknesses.

When we have great friends, people who motivate and stretch us, we can do and achieve almost anything we set our minds to. If we have friends who are negative and who suck the life out of us, we'll never rise above the limitations they've placed upon us. There are amazing people on the road to where you're going, as well as amazing friends waiting at your destination. Go find them.

7: I believe everything is a choice.

Success is a choice. So is misery. Happiness is a choice; so is sadness. We choose to move forward or we choose to dwell on the past. Everything is a choice, and everything is up to you. Bad things happen, but it's how we deal with it that counts. And, not choosing is a choice. In regards to #6, sticking with crappy friends is also a choice. Cut out bad influences like the cancer they are, deal with the pain, and begin the healing process.

8: I believe most people aren't as miserable as they'd like us to think.

In my first book, Exit Strategy, I shared a story once told to me about a dog who sat on a nail, whimpering. Instead of moving, the dog chose misery. The dog had the power to change his situation but decided to stay where he was. I was that dog from 2012 until January 17th, 2014, and I can recognize the symptoms.

9: I believe we should take more risks and experiment more.

Things are rarely as good (or bad) as we hope (or fear) they will be. Every challenge you've faced in your life up to this point has been a challenge you've overcome. You're stronger and better than you think you are, so don't be afraid to try things you don't think you'll be able to accomplish. If you need help, refer to #3, #5, and #6.

10: I believe we must do what we can with what we have, not with what we wish we had.

Coulda, woulda, shoulda… we can live with regrets and wish things were different, but hoping and dreaming won't do anything for you. You only have what you have, and you'll only ever have what you're willing to go and get. People have achieved more than me with less than what I've had, and the same goes for you and what you have. If we want something, nobody is going to give it to us, but too many people waste time waiting and wishing and wanting.

11: I believe we've wasted enough time already.

Courage doesn't come when you've achieved success. Self-doubt doesn't go away once you've crossed the finish line. You are the solution to your problem and your actions are the method by which you will create success.

Finally…

Our beliefs guide everything we do. What we believe is the foundation for who we are and who we will become.

If you've created a system of beliefs, I'd love to hear about them, so leave a comment below and let me know.

Click here What I Believe – Life, Success, & Entreprenuership to visit Ellory Wells and leave a comment.

Jun 17 2019

11mins

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