The Truth About Your Competition

The Truth About Your Competition

You may have been there before. You’re in an online business group. You’re in the group with mostly those who are B2B consultants. Someone asks a question, is looking for a service provider recommendations or shares an opinion and it’s picked on like the seagulls snapping at the snarky crab on Finding Nemo.

You comment and someone one ups you. Then their friend chimes in. Ohhh, they’re gaining steam. Yet another chimes in, expressing advice that feels like a personal attack. You respond, or not, and one ally quietly clicks your comments LIKE button. You’ve lost this battle, this job opportunity, this online expert bickering match. You feel defeated and log off of Facebook for the rest of the afternoon.

A few years ago in a major international entrepreneurial freedom group, this was me. A girl asked about branding. I attempted to coach her on the spot, asking probing questions to see what was at the core of her inquiry. Another woman chimed in and with seething passive aggression said “the others” don’t know what they are talking about and that all she needed to do was X, Y, Z. I let her know by directly addressing her that she was rude. Her crew pounced and I made a conscious decision to disengage because they obviously needed to be right, to woo this group member and get her to buy in, and for me to die a mini death by supercoach expertise.

It happens a lot on Facebook groups specifically. LinkedIn groups are either overwrought with spam or painfully silent with one dedicated marketer pushing all of their latest blog posts to an uninterested group of people who joined but saw the Lone Wolf and abandoned any interest in participation. Other communities suffer with these same passive aggressive members or expression blatant aggression plus exclusivity or cliques, making outsiders feel unwelcome. The only way around it is not to get involved at or or come in, bow down, and let the in-crowd maintain their position of dominance within the space. Online groups, niche communities, and high school have so much in common.

Like high school, I typically navigate things pretty well without compromising my sensibilities. In the 11th grade, one girl followed me home with a boy and another girl ready to jump me. When I stopped and addressed her, rather than allowing her to pursue me for fight, she paused. I asked her what her issue was?When she responded, I assured her that she needed to check her friends who had stirred up the mess and explained that I wanted no parts in her planned fisticuffs. I explained that I’m about my education, not foolishness, and so she could go on. I wasn’t the one, the two or the three.

Unfortunately, that same girl was killed the next year for doing the same thing to someone more aggressive than she was. Granted, online aggressors won’t meet that same end, but there are some lessons in navigating the steep and competitive marketplace where we find ourselves at odds with similar services ready for a fight, with friends ready to brawl, when we are here all trying to make a living. By understanding the truth of things at the core, we can change our existence and realize that we are NOT the one to be involved in those types of exchanges. We are here for one goal and that doesn’t involve a toss up between you and seeming competitors.

I Used To Be A Hater

I didn’t always have this awareness. I wasn’t always clear that there was no need for me to get involved in the petty tug of wars with people who are just trying to run profitable businesses like I am. In fact, at one time I started to unfollow people who made me feel inferior because of their huge popularity and social proof of massive profits. They had no intention of making me feel bad, I just felt bad because I couldn’t figure out how to get to their level and have the same success as them. So I started to internalize things.

There was one woman who was fair skinned and thin and so to make myself feel better, I would say, “Oh yeah, people WOULD buy from her. She’s fair, thin and more mainstream looking. Nobody will buy from me because I am nearly 6 feet tall, plus sized and wear headwraps, big bracelet-sized earrings and Chuck Taylors.” I felt justified in that conclusion until I saw another girl, brown-skinned and heavier, and I said, “Oh, see. People buy from her because she has pretty branding and she has a cute family. That’s it. If I had a fine husband and a well-dressed baby, I would be successful too.” Then there was the white girl, the Asian girl, the gay white guy, the short heavy church lady with a Jheri curl–anybody–who I fooled myself believing all had advantages over me.

That thinking made me feel defeated with no hope of ever being where I wanted to be in my business. My competitors appeared to be winning. By making superficial differences the reason they won and why I failed, I got to sit on my laurels, feel bad about myself and not see areas where I could improve. It allowed me to sleep all day and watch Rachel Ray with no client interruptions since I had none. It was a blessing and a curse.

Then I realized that there were people looking at me and thinking similar things. I was winning to them. I had successes they never had, worked in the past with clients that they wanted, and had a brand story that they envied. It felt icky when I started to hear what people felt about me. “She has no business getting those opportunities. She just got that because she knows someone from the inside.” People were completely discounting my hard work and making my success about something transient and not about the sleepless YEARS I had when establishing myself as a freelance marketing and creative professional.

It didn’t feel good and I had to start seeing what was really at the core of my negative feelings toward people who had done nothing to me, didn’t know me, and if we were acquaintances, people who had only been kind to me. I was tripping! The truth is some things about what I was doing were just not what the people I was targeting wanted.

Additionally, it started to be clear that some of those I envied struggled in areas that I did well in. Yet the others who looked at me funny saw that I struggled in areas they did well in. Then there were some that just were dope across the board and they just did good and how they served worked undeniably well for them. Still, I had a business that I needed to fix and seeing things from a different perspective changed things for me.

How To Stand Out From Your Competitors

There is a little secret to all of this: There is no competition. Sure there are multiple people our target customers can choose from but each service provider has their thing and they market, price, and deliver it differently. Rather than becoming consumed in how people who offer similar services win, start to focus on how you can market, price and deliver your unique thing in a way that adds value to your buyers.

Each business should have a unique value proposition. They are typically around speed, exclusivity, experience, price, availability and location. In a specific space, there may be a handful of businesses offering very similar services–Home Depot and Lowes, Uber and Lyft, Nike and Reebok, Google and Bing–but they “compete” on those unique value propositions. This creates options for buyers and opportunities to choose the experience they want based on the things that are most important to them.

With solopreneurs, the UVP’s are usually around the same things. Maybe you are the only photographer in a five mile radius. Maybe you are the only app developer that offers a paid premium upgrade to unlock more useful features. Maybe you are the only salon owner that is open on Sunday’s. Maybe you are the only graphic designer that uses minimalist design to convey a brands message. There may be others that offer the same service, but your particular mash up of perks will serve a particular type of person in the most effective way.

That very particular person is going to be your target market and you have likely turned blue in the face with the amount of talk there is on the subject. But if you take a look at the clients that you have worked with that were most appreciative of your work, paid the most, were pleasant to work with, paid on time, respected your process and got the best outcomes during their work with you. THOSE are the people that you need to continue to target. Early on you may not know this, but by keeping a running list of client attributes, you can go back and start to pick out who your good people are and what they look like so you can identify and start building relationships with people like them.

For example, I marketed my marketing and creative services to “black women” because that seemed cool since I was a black woman. In looking further at who my greatest experiences were with, they were with boomers who had been in business for decades but who didn’t have the time or the know-how to manage content development, branding, web design and optimization, online advertising and media relations. Did you hear all of that? Many of my “competitors” knew one or a few of these components incredibly well, but would have to pass on the other parts of the work to other people. Like an agency, however, I knew all of these elements and was able to provide a full-service marketing solution in one stop–something that my older, seasoned and often inflexible clients didn’t want to try to figure out or manage by working with several people and personalities.

Your competitor has their target market, the people that benefit the most when working with them. Those usually are NOT the same as your people. I’d written about choosing coaches and the value in working with them and there are coaches that help people who have been in business less than two years, because they only have five years experience. Then there are coaches who have specialized in an industry for 20 years and can coach someone who has been in business 10 years and need help navigating the unique issues that a decade old business deals with. On the surface one could think that they are both business coaches, but on a molecular level, those businesses and the people they help are as different as the fingerprints on our respective hands.

Your competitors are only your contemporaries, peers who happen to coexist in this world at the same time offering products, services, and an experience that could appear to be the same, but that are an incredibly individual. It is going to be a better investment of your energy to work on product development, finding a product-market fit, and working on your user or customer experience than to expend energy and mindspace comparing yourselves to others, bickering with them over differences of opinions and approaches, or a fight for the same clients.

The client that prefers me was attracted to my particular way of being and how I delivered value to them. Sometimes people move from service provider to service provider and they will make comparisons, but whereas that may be a reflection on your service, many times it’s because the person valued another person’s UVP better than yours. It’s the client, not you, who is responsible for the switch. Barring them providing feedback on how you can improve your service so that they can continue to work with you, their assessment can be merely tied to a product-market mismatch.

For all of these reasons, copying branding, messaging and pricing just to match your contemporaries can be an awful business strategy that leads you to an early business grave. With the average rate of business failure annually, you don’t need that kind of help. If my agency solution is priced and marketed the same as the specialist who charges a fraction of my price because she provides a fraction of the service I offer, my business would become unsustainable and I would have to close down. On the other hand, if she looks at my price and thinks, “Oh, she charges more and she’s in marketing so we do the same thing. Let me charge the same.” she fails to understand that with higher dollar amounts, many are expecting a premium service that she might be unprepared to execute. It’s not that a specialist can’t charge premium prices–many times they can based on their specialization–but to do so with no real strategy would be another way to make sure things are mix matched and incongruent.

Beyond those basic business principles, there is a human nature element that must be considered. Like discussions of target markets, pricing, value and branding, the magic of relatability and trust shines through and through. The know, like and trust factor, as it is often referred is what makes for preferences in service providers and customer loyalty. Even a person with a magnificent product or service can turn people off with terrible personalities.

There are some people that simply don’t care for me or my way of doing things and then others who are magnetically drawn to me. Many clients have told me that as an older person, they had met a lot of tech savvy marketing consultants that made them feel dumb. However, I was patient and explained things in layman’s terms, making them feel empowered. For this reason, I’ve had repeat calls from people I’d met and worked with years ago, despite having many other service providers ready and willing to work for them.

How To Deal With Negative People

The woman in the freedom group who asked a question actually did resonate with the aggressive supercoach. What the woman wanted was an easy way out. The supercoach gave her that. My love for being thorough and effective wasn’t the woman’s MO. I should have never engaged supercoach. She was rude, but she had more at stake than I did–a client that she really may have been more equipped to serve. She was willing to fight to the death about it, but understanding that like with my high school bully, this fight wasn’t for me, I was able to disconnect and do other things.

We all have our why for doing this business and for many of us, it is not the be all end all. In some cases, it is and the stakes are high, especially in times of low cash flow, in cases where a business owner has a family they must provide for, and in instances where there are no other income or employment opportunities. When the stakes are incredibly high and there are no other outlets, priorities and diversions, sometimes the pressure and stress rubs off and you have a bad experience.

Keeping an understanding of stakes can help you brush off weird experiences with contemporaries. Although, some act like aliens from planet Cray-Cray, they are people with similar needs and vulnerabilities. How they deal with them isn’t your problem, but I’ve found it especially helpful to allow people their space to act out and then I either respond diplomatically or only reply with facts and specific requests that will help me get exactly what I need rather than trying to win an argument. Many times there is nothing I desperately need so the stakes aren’t high for me and I can walk away, allowing the person the freedom of acting out all by themselves (or with their clique, because…cliques).

How To Deliver A Superior Customer Experience

At the end of the day, being an entrepreneur is tough work and it’s a lot of trial, error, risk and loss. Adding the layer of worrying about other people only makes things unnecessarily worse. This is where “stay in your lane” makes sense. Work to become more confident in the outcomes that you provide by doing good work and asking for feedback from clients that you love because they will frame advice around loyalty to you and not an agenda to save money or some other excuse. I like to do closeout surveys and ask for testimonials because these open up the opportunity for them to tell you things they may have felt all along. With this, you can make necessary changes that will help you serve them and all future clients better.

Focus on making your clients happy and building a sustainable practice–not on contemporaries, unless they are so exceptional that you hire them to help you. Like Slick Rick says on La Di Da Di, “There is no competition.”

If this shampoo and conditioning session was any indication of my life right now, then I think I’ve finally got it!

If this shampoo and conditioning session was any indication of my life right now, then I think I’ve finally got it!

At the time, I thought this weave was cute.

At the time, I thought this weave was cute.

Life has a way of teaching you things. Every experience, if you look for it–or in some cases, if you create it–has a story. Today’s lesson started as an accident, but became a defining moment of realization about how I have been doing everything in my life. It’s the reason why I ended up shampooing and deep conditioning my hair.

It was 109 degrees today and I had a steak I wanted to throw on the grill. “Let me go in the fridge and grab the meat,” I thought as I snatched the door open. In what seemed like a 300-word essay of thoughts, I saw my last three eggs, thought I should move them, decided against it because I’m so slick I can grab the tenderloin and not disturb the vulnerable cold chicken embryos, palmed my parchment wrapped parcel and knocked the eggs on the floor. I immediately verbally scourged myself.

Juices and berries? Where?

Oops! The eggs need to fix this dry hair.

I grabbed a bowl and tried to salvage what I could because, if the floor isn’t “that dirty”, as I lied to myself, I could fry them and eat them. One must save! “Waste not, want not,” I reasoned, reminiscing on this time last year when income was nonexistent and our borrowed shelf in the pantry where we temporarily resided was bare. My mother pleaded with me not to eat the eggs, claiming toe jam as the culprit of my absolute death if I went on with my plan to cook the eggs. I paused.

What could I do with cracked eggs? Thoughts of uses for eggs poured into my head: Fertilize a plant, egg wash for baking bread, breakfast food, conditioner for hair. Bingo! I found my solution since we don’t have house plants and mom’s toe jam pronouncement prevented me from using the damaged goods for food.

 

The Shampoo and Conditioning

I’ve never been a traditional natural hair girl, blogging and vlogging about the nuances of managing kinky hair without harsh chemicals. Yes, I produced natural hair events and blogged, but I rocked a shaved head at the time, eliminating any need for the routine and product obsession I saw in others. Five or more big chops, endless scissor happiness and 7 years of no relaxers and still am learning about how to manage my hair.

Deep conditioning and cowash

Deep conditioning and cowash

Recently, I observed that my hair did very well with Shea Moisture coconut cowashes and deep conditioners, stretching and wrapping it with teeshirts overnight. I’d made progress. Then, after years of product testing, I noticed that swapping out Motions hair lotion with Monoi oil completed my perfect recipe with Jane Carter Nourish and Shine and Hairobics Hair Oil.

Since I’d shampooed this morning, stretched my hair and wrapped it, it made sense to add the egg and the deep conditioner for some extra healing. I wet my hair, added my concoction and after rubbing it through, flat twisted the sections to allow my hair to continue to stretch as the mixture set in.

After about 20 minutes, I rinsed my hair and cowashed it again to make sure to get the egg out. I rinsed it clean and my hair felt great. I proceeded with a dime size of both the nourish and shine and a dollop of the Monoi oil. I finger combed and noticed something that made me stop and mentally outline this post.

I had one section of 3C hair that stared at me in desirable curl perfection, in a sea of heavenly spiraled 4B hair. Where did that come from? Like, after all these years, my hair has been the bane of my existence and now this managable hair wants to act like it’s always been there? Like although I know I had Rudy Huxtable braids and had thick hair that 1980’s relaxers and heavy-handed stylists burned out, you want to grow back and heal the relationship to what I had with my hair before the trauma? Like now you want to a fall and separate into Instagram worthy coils?

Juices, berries and the Balsam of Gilead.

Juices, berries and the Balsam of Gilead.

This amazement only continued when I decided that instead of using my jumbo wide toothed comb, I would use my Denman knock-off. I am the 30+ woman who would squirm and kick her braider because of tenderheadness. I am the little girl who has been fabled to have run home from the kitchen of the woman who did hair in the house on the corner at night alone to escape the death grips of the woman’s hand with a pressing comb. I am the girl who has permed, weaved or shaved her hair her most of her adult life to avoid dealing with the woes of hair combing.

This this time I brushed my hair and the hair glided through that baby like the basketball off of Steph Curry’s finger tips. I did an internal praise dance in my heart at what had transpired. Brushing my hair did not hurt!

I Got My Entire Life!

Short hair, don't care.

Short hair, don’t care.

This hair epiphany wasn’t only an indication of me finding the right products and styling routine, it was proof that I got my life. Like Tamar Braxton, “She needs to get her life”-life-gotten. Like, I almost shouted and woke up my mom but I might have been slapped-gotten. Like, Cam Newton just proposed to me and we never had sex and I waited to get the ring and now we are the subject of everyone’s Christian-love-like-Ciara-a’nem memes-gotten. Like I just graduated from Howard University and I have an internship at BET but just had a meeting with the CEO about a job with a $20K sign-on bonus-gotten. My whole life is LIT.

I’m not overreacting, not even a little because if you understood what my life has always been and what it’s shaping up to be, I am very confident that this seemingly small feat is just proof that I’m finally understanding the flow of a happy and

Probably having flashbacks to the press and curl

Probably having flashbacks to the press and curl

abundant life. I’ll share a quick back story that I have battled depression the majority of my life. Even after experiencing business success and knowing what it means to be spiritually focused, I hadn’t grasped what happiness meant. In fact, it was evasive, even with money, accolades and the attention of admiring friends and family.

Things hit rock bottom one year ago when a financial reversal had me moving from pillar to post, with my health-challenged, aging mother. Like God always does, he came through, moving us into a home bigger and nicer than anywhere we’d ever lived and placing me at a dream job with ample pay to land us solidly where we needed to be. Just when I thought I could exhale, the company experienced a downturn and I was let go. The peace of God kept me together the first few days.

The Tenderheadedness of My Life

Head wrap doubling as an I-don't-want-to-comb-this solution

Head wrap doubling as an I-don’t-want-to-comb-this solution

I’ve learned that Jehovah had never left me, even when I slept on the floor in a house filled with weed smoke in the heart of South LA with strange visitors coming in and out. Now, losing the job wasn’t the death of me. The quietness of not having anywhere to go every morning and the calm of not having to go out every day to avoid being in an uncomfortable, unpleasant living situation while working hard to generate income to pull me and mom out of that mess gave time to process the reality of what I’d been through in the previous months.  Add to that, the dream job had quickly become a nightmare of micromanagement, stifling my creative ideas and draining me of energy and motivation. The calm after the storm brought on the winds of a concealed depression.

Only a few weeks after being let go, I’d landed two amazing clients in my business so money was not an overwhelming issue. However, completing my work and being present to deliver my best was becoming harder to do. When the dark feelings began to risk these wonderful relationships, I sought professional help.

The Deep Conditioning

I sobbed uncontrollably when talking to the girl managing the intake for mental health services. “I don’t want to go through this the rest of my life,” I wept. Understanding my concern and the trigger of lingering guilt about the job loss (I learned later that I was just the first of many let go, including key leadership staff), the social worker comforted me by sharing the experience of another woman who went through intensive therapy and was able to return to full-time employment. Her words led me to sign up for a six-month long group therapy program called Dialectical Behavior Therapy supported by individualized therapy and possibly treatment with medication.

I met the group facilitators that same week. They had smiles on their faces, almost like happy cherubs. It was refreshing. One man, had been through the therapy before and he acted as the big brother therapy tutor who helped ease any reservations people had about being there. I learned that many of the other group members weren’t “crazy people” but rather people out on disability from work or who had come from similar traumatic circumstances that brought them down from an otherwise ideal existence.

I later met a seraphim, my individualized therapist. Interestingly her name was Sera. This was a second career for her. She was a high powered East Coast executive who now was sitting before me doing psychotherapy and doling out career advice. She explained what happens in our minds and bodies when we experience prolonged trauma and assured me that with the pattern of unfortunate circumstance I’d experienced in my life that my reactions were normal but that I would indeed recover.

Fast forward, I’m feeling alive, more than I can recall ever feeling over a span of time. The tools that my

Recent afro gloriousness + soul glow

Recent afro gloriousness + soul glow

angels have given me has renewed my joy and productivity and has helped me move through any challenging days. I was given a nod of approval earlier today by Sera, that I had come a long way and was headed toward incredible success and happiness in my life.

She left me with this: “As we have this last appointment, I want to share with you the secret of life.” My butt cheeks clenched because I didn’t know if she was going to drop some mysterious cue-alien-music wisdom or give me a gem. She peered into my eyes and said, “Life is FOR you. Life is for you, Jasmine. It’s not against you. Everything in your life has blessings, even if the circumstances are bad. There is a blessing there and remember, life is for you.”

By repeating this, she was emphasizing that I could look forward to life behind something I can be hopeful and optimistic about, even moving through the extremely difficult times with a focus on the gifts life, and God, still provided me. The intense mental conditioning for a mindful, happy life has relaxed the hard to manage parts and led me to a smooth-as-whipped coconut oil outlook.

Head Wrapped

It’s all setting in. My oversized hand-me-down San Diego State t-shirt is wrapped securely around my head, allowing the creams and oils to do their thing, making tomorrow’s final primping to turn out perfect. I sit here allowing all of the lessons and blessings of my becoming settle in. Sure there will be a few strands that got bent the wrong way while drying, but nothing that can’t be edge controlled into place.


It has taken years of shaving off bad people and hiding behind the weaves of inauthenticity to get to a place where I can see the blessings of a life spiralling way up. I’m here for it, mindful of it and graciously wrapping myself in this phenomenal realization. And you know what? I’m going to let that keep soaking in.

How To Start Podcasting

How To Start Podcasting

Earlier this year, I set out to start podcasting. It was mostly because at the time I was working as a marketing consultant to a blogger who was also an actress and had the gift of gab. In doing research on how to help her launch her podcast the easiest and get the word out about what she was doing, I decided to do my own.

Granted, if you’ve followed me at all this year, you’ll only see two published calls. Not because I haven’t recorded anything, but because I’m a bit all over the place as I juggle health and family responsibilities. But for those of you MUCH better at balancing work and home life, here’s some tidbits that I can share.

How To Start Podcasting–The Easy Way

If you open your eyes to the world of podcasting, you’ll realize that there is a world of resources available to you. Between Podcast Movement, Entrepreneur on Fire and Pat Flynn, you have some heavy hitters encouraging people just like you to start podcasting. My first dose of trying to learn all the ins and outs of podcasting was on John Lee Dumas live stream telling his EOF listeners how to have the same success podcasting as he has.

The thing was that I didn’t have the resources allocated to do a bang up podcast starting out. Some of the things you will learn about are podcast microphones, audio mixers, editing software and podcast hosting. For someone who is financially strapped or technically challenged, all of that can seem overwhelming. That’s why a lot of folks never start.

If there’s a will, there’s a way, remember?  So here’s my little handy tips for getting started and getting up and running with your podcast.

Format and Topic. The first thing to do is to determine what you want your podcast to be about. What can you consistently talk about, or what kinds of people do you want to interview so that you define a niche for your unique online audio broadcast? For me, I chose a casual interview format where I would talk women who started businesses and found unique success marketing what they are doing. This aligned with my experience as a marketing consultant and a champion for female entrepreneurs. Thinking about your topic and format shouldn’t be rocket science–you just need to find some structure to discuss things you’re passionate about.

Finding Guests. If you’ve chosen an interview format, the easiest way to find guests is to start tapping the relationships you have. If you’re well connected on social media, start reaching out via LinkedIn, Twitter or your personal email contacts and inviting them to interview. Be sure to tell them why you would like them on and how you plan to promote the interview so they see the value to them. I have used my calendar management system to schedule times convenient to the both of us. I followed up with questions and some sort of outline so they know what to expect. I have also shared that they need to dial in by computer with a headset, using Speek.com, because the audio was clearer. Some prefer Skype, especially since they have recording add-ons.

Recording, equipment and editing. The first thing folks jump into is finding the best podcasting microphone. Usually these have high quality audio and plug into your computer for importing the sound into a digital recording software, like your Skype add-on. If you don’t have that, your typical noise-cancelling headset or computers microphone CAN work. It might not be top notch, but you have to start somewhere. Of course, if you can record with a great headset or microphone, absolutely do it because sound quality can make or break your podcast. I hate muffled audio but I’ve had to deal with it for a few of my calls until I could upgrade. I use Adobe Premiere Pro for easy edits, but I already owned Adobe Creative Cloud and knew some basics. There are other sound editors available. To back up a bit, I actually use my phone to record because it has the best sound recording. With that, there are mobile apps that do easy sound editing. From there, I upload via Dropbox and access the audio on my computer where I can do all other editing and file management.

Hosting. Since iTunes is the way to go, you will want to host your audio on a service that can get you to iTunes. Many choose between Libsyn or Soundcloud. Both are moderately priced, but I LOVE Soundcloud. It’s $15/month for the Pro account and unlimited upload (they do it by audio time so if you have six one hour long podcasts, you will blow your free account and need to upgrade to a paid plan). Because I’m early in, I haven’t moved my things on to iTunes, but I’ll share a resource with you a little later on where to go for EXPERT help on this process. What I’ve chose to do in the meantime is share the audio here on my WordPress site as an embed, a very easy process where I just drop the Soundcloud code from my uploaded audio. Others bypass Soundcloud or Libsyn, and by extension iTunes–and host the audio only on their websites using native add-ons. With WordPress, you will have to extend your upload capacity in order to host your audio. I recommend using another service and just doing an embed.

Show Notes and Publishing. Since the show is all audio, some could miss the SEO value by not sharing show notes. Show notes are also great summaries and can pique the interest of people who don’t have time to listen to your entire podcast to figure out highlights or covered topics. I like to include a bit of background on my guest, links to their websites, links to resources we talked about and nuggets of things that make folks want to listen. Some use transcribing services to create a full transcript of the audio and post that below the sound embed. This serves the purpose of giving people an option to read instead of listening and is good for ranking a particular post (in this case a post that includes an embed of the podcast episode and the accompanying transcript that is on your website) in the search engines. You’ll optimize the post with tags and categories just as you would a regular blog post, helping folks find it if they come to your site to look for it.

Monetization. Many folks monetize their podcast by sharing a sponsor message (something Tim Ferriss is awesome at because he makes it so natural and you really trust that he’s only going to bring you the good stuff) or by introducing and concluding each podcast (something you really should also do) and including a directive to visit their landing page where they can sign up to their list and take advantage of some offer. For example, after I play my standard intro  that may include music or me saying my typical greeting, I could say, “Thanks for joining mastHERmind by Ambitious Diva where we talk about all things for inspired  female founders. Find out how to do your business better on social media by visiting TwitterClass.com and learning my secret to how I built my business. Again that’s TwitterClass.com. Let’s get into this episode…” You don’t want to sound forced and it should roll right into what your episode will be about. Every podcast I follow that promotes their stuff does it so smooth that you feel compelled to check it out. From there, they can convert their leads into paying customers. I prefer this method because I don’t have a listenership large enough to make advertising promising and mutually profitable. But I can convert my folks and build my list.

How To Market Your Podcast

When you have a podcast, you should also be marketing it. The great thing is that if you are on iTunes, you have ample opportunity to get in front of new listeners. One tactic that people employ is recording up to ten podcasts and waiting to launch on iTunes until they have that much to upload all at once. What will happen is if promoted properly and your iTunes artwork is attractive (make sure it’s clean, clear and eye-catching without because just plain gaudy and ugly), you will make it to the New and Noteworthy section of iTunes, a list for the best and greatest in new podcasts. My friend Brian Switchow of Ghost Influence shared his podcast with me and asked me to let me know how I felt about it by reviewing it in iTunes. This surely helped him if he contact all the people who had been attracted to him from his previous marketing wins of being featured in major tech and marketing publications. He had an audience in place that he could promote his podcast too ahead of time and this led to his very successful podcast launch.

Also using Brian as an example, he markets his podcast by emailing his list with recaps of conversations he’s had, those started in response to one of his podcasts. If those subscribed hadn’t heard that particular episode, the email and the commentary drives folks back to it. He doesn’t do this all the time, but also because of having his podcast linked in his email footer, we have another opportunity to check it out.

Because of Soundcloud and Libsyn’s social sharing capabilities, you can simply share each episode to your social accounts. I have shared some recordings on Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook. If you couple that with ads, like I see done with the popular Snap Judgement podcast, you will see an increase in new listeners. Of course, that will bring in your need to know how to create compelling ads, but it’s worth it if you delve into the world of social media ads.

Since I like to find every way I can possibly saturate a market, I would even leverage guest blog posts and media relations to bring attention to me and my work. By extension, if I’m heavily promoting the podcast, I’ll drive attention to it. Or, if I have a podcast episode that explains the topic I’m writing about in more detail, I can link to it in my article. I saw this done effectively by Marc Brogdon, the founder of Blabeey app, who published on LinkedIn and included a link to an explanatory podcast. The article wasn’t about his podcast as a whole, but about a topic that he covered. When folks listen to that, they may wish to subscribe for more.

With an interview-style podcast, you can ask your guest to promote the show on their respective networks. Andrea Imafidon and Sattah Jalla of Black Girls Guide to Self Care shared more than anybody I’ve ever done an interview on before. Since my blogging journey picked up by interviewing people in written format, I’d spoken to so many folks who shared their features. The same helps if you have really hyped guests who don’t mind at least sharing the post once on all their networks. Lastly, interviewing on your guests podcasts, blogs or other platforms will give you another opportunity to reach their network and is a great way to form a mutually beneficial content relationship.

Promote each individual episode and find opportunities to engage around it more. Tweeting it or posting to FB daily until the next episode can be helpful for those who may have not caught it the first time around. Using a service like Buffer, Hootsuite or Coschedule can make sharing content repeatedly over a span of days and times much more easy. Try writing different direct response copy or highlighting different portions of the episode in each social media update to get the most out of your shares.

How To Start or Upgrade Your Podcast The Right Way

So this is where it gets good. I am NOT and expert on everything, but I have a SLEW of friends who are! Although there are the resources I shared are AWESOME, I want to point you to someone who hosted a few of my clients on her popular natural hair podcast, Nappturalite Radio. Dawn Yerger has been a friend since 2010-ish when we were in contact about admirable influencers in the entertainment industry with naturally curly hair. She hosted many other guests and influencers in the hair and beauty space and was one of the premier resources for natural hair care and industry news with her Naturalpreneur Center, VIP membership and informative industry teleclasses.

A master of both broadcast media and marketing, she’s partnered strategically, being one of the first people outside of myself in the natural hair and black digital creators (yes, that was a pat myself on the back moment) that I knew who leveraged advanced internet and affiliate marketing and paid membership sites to grow her online influence and profits. So I am happy that she’s here again with her Power Podcast Bootcamp.

I’ve shared what I know about podcasting here but this media powerhouse is in the best position to show you how to expand your reach, influence and income using podcast. You can register for her online bootcamp in two levels, basic and premium (get the webinar and free e-course first so you can see if this is a commitment you’re ready to make) and get four weeks of instruction plus access to bonus material on launching your own profitable podcast. Podcast Webinar 4_2 Twitter (2)

 

 

 

Dawn has put a lot of work and years of success in online broadcasting and entrepreneurial education into this class. I hope you take advantage of it, whether you’re a newbie podcaster or have been doing your podcast the way I have (bootleg) and need to upgrade to a more polished and effective operation. Since not every one of us are Periscope, Blab, Facebook Live, or YouTube-comfortable, audio content might be JUST the thing for us. Learn how to do it right and join millions of other podcasters and digital creators. There’s so much opportunity here–try it and get started now!

 

 

The Right Title Affects Your Brand Strategy

The Right Title Affects Your Brand Strategy

They say, “It doesn’t matter what you call me, just don’t call me late for dinner.” Jokes aside, it DOES matter what people call you. I made a comment in my intro video for Twitter Class about how I stopped calling myself a virtual assistant like I did when I first started out offering marketing support because people minimized my value and what thought should pay.

That being said, there are a slew of people calling themselves the wrong thing. It’s just like wearing a bra that doesn’t fit. You’re leaving stuff out and you need a title that encompasses the full bosom of your experience.

Recently, I’d been using “marketing director” on my online profiles and bios because I didn’t only do content, design, social media, PR, ads or planning. I thought that title fit better than marketing consultant although people grasped it if they were looking to have someone to talk to about the best ways to get the word out about their business. When I was in the market for a job, I tried to stay in the lane for marketing manager, marketing director, communications director roles because of the leadership capacity of them and the qualifications of having to employ a number tools and tactics to optimize a brand message and outreach strategy. However as the founder of an agency, Chief Marketing Officer was appropriate since the expectations around skills aligned most closely with my experience level and success I’ve had. With each change, of course, the responsibility, expectation and pay rate goes up.

When your title actually matches your know-how, you start to see a shift in people’s perception of you as well. You don’t only want people to pay you more. You want to attract the opportunities best FOR you. Like a branding coach who really is best at motivational speaking might feel hard-pressed if they are called upon to execute design and messaging UNLESS they have a team that can do the work for them.

A good example is my friend Teej MediaCoach Mercer At one time, she pushed herself only as a reality TV coach, but now has positioned herself as the Media Maverick since she can advise on how to land any kind of media placement, from reality TV to a daytime news show. Her title and branding put her in place for more consulting opportunities around media and the inner workings of television.

Then there is Anetra Henry-Hunting who people kept hitting up to find them money for free because she called herself a sponsorship consultant. Can you imagine, folks would be like “Oh, you can find me sponsors? I need money so go get it and then I’ll pay you after you get me money.”  As her self-proclaimed advisor and biz bff, I feel that she should be leaning toward a title of Event Marketing Director (corporate side, focused on activations and optimizing the value of sponsorship) or Director of Strategic Partnerships (paid by both sides of the brokered deal).

Do yourself a favor and outline what you REALLY do and have experience in and start using Google, Glassdoor, Payscale, Indeed, Monster, LinkedIn (especially because they will pull jobs based on your current title), to see where you really fall. Once you are clear, use the chosen title in your marketing collateral and especially online considering the SEO-value and searches for a specific title.

Over time, things will shift, titles will change, marketing messages about yourself will adjust. But be very clear on what you do and how you serve so you can position yourself for the success that you REALLY want.

By the way, in calling myself a CMO for hire with along with my team, I will attract more corporate and profitable clients who are already successful but who don’t have the time or know-how to implement an integrated marketing strategy. This is far beyond my original title of virtual assistant.

But, what are YOU going to call yourself?

Do You Really Need A Business Coach?

Do You Really Need A Business Coach?

For the sake of this article, I’ve used “coach” to broadly describe any coach who helps with business or brand strategy and have shared examples of other professionals, service providers and consultants who are not coaches to illustrate points related to identifying whether a reader needs coaching.

I’ve heard coaches say, “Coaches need coaches,” or “She wants people to pay her, but she doesn’t want to pay for someone to coach her.” For that reason, I’ve always felt a little weird about many coaches. Although very qualified and bringing about results for many people, it felt like the going compliant was that people felt they were getting only friendgirl advice that wasn’t worth paying for, coaches weren’t all they were cracked up to be and that coaches themselves promoted the “you needed a coach” idea to make sure they kept a stream of unexperienced entrepreneurs filing in line to pay them.

That is until I started to think really clearly about the very different reasons all of the above is true and all the reasons it isn’t.

Myth: Coaches need coaches.

Why it’s true: There is always someone above us that knows more. There is always someone who can help us where we can’t see the way.

Why it’s false: Every coach doesn’t necessarily need to engage a coach or consultant they don’t want to work with or one that doesn’t deliver the results they need. Every person proclaiming that someone needs to work with them specifically doesn’t understand that everything or everyone ain’t for everybody.

Myth: She wants people to pay her but doesn’t want to pay someone for their knowledge

Why it’s true: Many people only find value in their time and hard-earned knowledge. They minimize another persons value.

Why it’s false: Many people also may not get how a particular coach could help them, especially if the social proof of the coach is minimal or not displayed prominently, or if the sales call fell flat. They may need time and convincing since some people are not impulse buyers and need a bit more. Additionally, after the sales call or following a coach for sometime, the potential client may already know everything the coach does and may need help in an entirely different field to grow their business. For example, although I can’t ever say I know everything, it will be really hard to convince me that I need a social media coach.

Now that those things are out of the way, there is a basic thing that’s happening today that may be making coaching seem like it has no value. There are so many coaches and with no licensing or educational requirements, you may get someone who can help you or you may not. Also there is so much information that is available that the typical client can easily search and find the information they need. The bar is being raised because information that was once limited to MBA’s is abundant.

On the flip side, what many who are trying to go it alone are finding (speaking from experience here) is that it’s not a matter of available knowledge here. There is only so much information that a blog or a webinar geared toward a wide audience can do for your specific business. For example, if I tell you in a class that you should be blogging and that each post should contain SEO keywords and that these should be natural and included in your H2 headings, you can go do it. But the person who already does this is going to look my class content, think it’s wack and walk away. They may need someone who can very specifically look at why their posts or site isn’t ranking and did deeper to give them very specific guidance around site speed or technical aspects of SEO in order to really bring them value. They need expertise geared towards their unique circumstance. On top of that, they may not even know what they need or how to Google the information to fix it.

The specific help they need could definitely come from a coach. However, it could also come from a SCORE mentor or a friend. But the problem coaches are seeing is people coming TO THEM and expecting the information be free because of it readily being available online or because they could go to SCORE or a friend (I hate when someone audaciously says, “Oh, I could just go to SCORE.” WHY DIDN’T YOU?!) What the client may fail to understand is SCORE is government funded so it’s not without cost. It’s just someone else is paying. With the friend who is delivering value based on a relationship that they have with the person, there is still some exchange of value.  The expectation absolutely can not be that because the information is available elsewhere without charge, that it’s outright a coaches job to educate for free.

So it is obvious from requests for information and signing up for coaches offers that people need coaching. They need some kind of specialized information that can help move them from one way of operating into a more successful way of being.  If you are that person, a coach who has experience with your problems can help you and should be compensated the same way as you pay a wholesaler for inventory, or a pilot to fly you across the country although you could technically “drive yourself”.

So how can you find someone that get you where you want to go?

How You Can Pick A Good Coach

As mentioned before coaches come a dime a dozen. But so do shoes and restaurants and you still manage to find the one that is FOR you. Before finding a coach you need to determine:

What you really need? If you need more customers, branding may not be the help you need. Perhaps marketing, advertising or sales is the problem. So think about the source of the problem you have and be aware of what components affect it. Don’t hire a marketing coach for a supply chain issue.

What kind of business do you have and what customers do you serve? It is helpful if your coach has experience in your business and industry. I once needed to help my aunt sell timber and land. The consultant I reached out to specialized in selling land with timber on it. He gave precise information on exactly what to do. The same is true for your business. Although there are coaches that can help a wide range of clients, if they either have been in the industry themselves or have helped people in the industry, they would have a better handle on how to guide you through the things that affect your business.

Another example: I had a client who wanted to blog to help her grow her entertainment career. I could help her grow her blog, but I couldn’t walk her through how to leverage that to book more acting gigs. She needed a talent agent or some other expert to help her there.

What is the value of having this problem solved and how much can you pay to fix it? The other day, I was talking to one of my mentors and he said that he paid a nice chunk for a CPA. Then he said, “But he saved me thousands of dollars at tax time.” That “chunk” was worth is. In another conversation, a consumer electronics CEO told me he paid $25K for his CPA but the value to him was that he wanted to prepare his business for IPO or acquisition. $25K in exchange for millions or billions makes perfect sense.

When you are looking at hiring a coach, you have to what’s at risk, how much each client or product is worth to you, and the lifetime value of those clients or products. If your consultant can help you reach more clients, sell more products, or lower your cost to increase your profit margins over the lifetime of your business, you can start to see things in terms of how much it costs you NOT to have them help you. Word of caution, success is hard to guarantee so it is important for you to know how to quantify performance and success. Then ask a coach to share whether they can at least educate you or put you on the right path to meet your goals. The accountant, for example, can not make sure the exec will get acquired, but she can put him on the path so he is ready when and if a buyout offer comes up and her fee will be well-earned.

Are you committed to the outcome? Coaching can only do so much. At times, I have been completely uncoachable. I’d get information and I’d find every excuse not to do what I was supposed to do. So I also could spot it in clients who found it hard to complete homework or who had mental blocks that wouldn’t see why I’d asked them to do an assignment in the first place. In order to be successful with any coach, you have to do your piece. You have to trust the process and do the work. When you are identifying the best person for you, find out what kind of work you must commit too in order to move you forward. Each style is different, but most of the people that have helped me required me to do some sort of reading, research, planning, exercise or SOMETHING so that I wasn’t just listening and not taking action even if that action was having a service provider do something for me to help me do my coaching homework. Find someone who can put some fire under your butt and hold you accountable.

All Coaching Doesn’t Have To Look The Same For It To Be Successful

Some coaches coach you one-on-one, some do group coaching, some do masterminds, some send you a workbook and make you work through it. Coaching is a very individualized thing and so their style and your response to it will differ. For this reason, you should court your coach to see if their style will work for you.

And still, you may or may not get the results you wanted. Although, I’m not sure if Marie Forleo considers herself a coach, but her program works great for some people and others complain that they lost money on it. The truth is that business depends on so many outside features beyond knowledge, skill or a great product. A business exactly like yours can do something and not have the same success. I see Lyft not having the same success as UBER so I think being honest and understanding the risk will save many of us from feeling jilted if coaching doesn’t have typical results.

There are absolutely ways you can limit risks but they can’t absolutely be eliminated. So it’s worth it to be clear on what you need, be committed to changing your outcome, and finding a coach who is qualified to move you toward your goal.

Already have a coach or have you worked with on in the past? Tell me your experience and share any advice you have for those in the market for one.

Need coaching from a marketing director? Reach out to me via the contact page and we can see if I’m the girl for you.