build your business

The Power of Building Customer Trust

By Kathy Wilson

Trust is tough to gain, quick to lose. As a business owner every social media post, newsletter or product you put into the world should help your customers learn to trust - and value you. This is essential to your business success and I'm going to show you why.  Let's start with a story to illustrate my point...

As you walk into the Real Fitness Centre, the first thing you notice is a slightly dog-eared black and white photograph. It is a candid snapshot of a smiling 70-something lady with dumbbells in both her hands.

Kim Johnston, who is the gym’s owner and a client of mine, tells me that this is a photograph of her first client Clara; her neighbour who used to suffer from weak knees and immense joint pain.

Clara had tried several fitness centres, and not one of them offered customised workouts that suited her age and fitness level. Because they were already friends, Kim knew that Clara couldn’t afford personalised training so they struck a deal. Kim helped her develop a workout that suited her needs – and Clara would provide Kim with all the Mango-chilli chutney could use.

“It was amazing chutney,” Kim laughs, “and even better, working with Clara gave me the confidence and the motivation of breaking into this niche segment of women’s fitness.”

This single story about Kim, tells me so much about her mission, her values and her motivations. It rings truer than the thousands of likes on her Facebook. Next time I want to recommend a fitness centre to a friend or family, I will think of Kim not only because she’s great at what she does but also because we seem to share the same values.

And that is the lesson for entrepreneurs who want to succeed online.

To work with you, I need to trust you. I need to relate to you. Unlike businesses that were run decades ago, we do not have the privilege of being in the same location or the facility of meeting each other face to face. The unknown face behind the computer and the public profile on social media although informs me of who you are, it doesn't tell me much about you. My reassurance of you comes from what I know about you and who I perceive you to be. Your story is your most powerful tool. Who are you? What do you believe it? Why should I trust you?

Leanne Faulkner, founder of Fortitude at Work, a mental health consultancy shares “ Be brave and tell your story honestly. I think failure has been my greatest success.  If I hadn't really had that breakdown, which my husband calls a breakthrough, I wouldn't be advocating for mental health for small business owners”. She started Fortitude at Work, due to her personal battle with stress in running her first venture, which she had to let go of due to the stress and anxiety of running a business.

The vulnerability in her story makes her relatable and I would feel positive about reaching out to and working with Leanne. Knowing her motivations and her journey will help me to believe that she can truly make a difference to my situation. This is true not just for service based industries but product based as well.

After spending years in the corporate world, Emma, co-founder of Emma and Toms decided to start out on her own venture of fresh juices with the belief “In business, the relationships you develop are really important and treating people fairly and with respect is the way to have good business relationships”.

This is an entrepreneur whose philosophy I buy into and so I would love to buy her products as well. Now, telling your story isn’t always comfortable. But as soon as you enter the online arena a story is being told about you anyway through your posts and videos and updates. An impression is being formed, which can either build or take away from you trust quotient.

So tell me. What story are you telling online?

Kathy Wilson used the power of the internet storytelling to land her dream job as a travel writer. She now builds courses that show others the exact steps she followed to use the power of the online reputation to transform careers.

What Is Bright Shiny Object Syndrome & How Can You Beat It?

By Jenni Syrjala

Your Facebook feed is full of them, as is Twitter, and don’t even get me started on Pinterest. As online business owners, we are surrounded by bright, shiny objects day in, day out. Everyone is selling the latest “must-have” gadget, software or program, and sometimes it’s just impossible to resist… Enter: Bright Shiny Object Syndrome. 

Bombarded by bright shiny objects – you don’t stand a chance!

You know that feeling when you are first starting your business, and there are so many things to learn? Too many to count, in fact! The sheer number of things you need to know to get started is mind-boggling, and you probably haven’t even discovered half of them yet!

In the world of the modern entrepreneur you spend your days being bombarded with Bright Shiny Objects. One post is talking about the Must Have software to take your business off the ground, while the next outlines the benefits of a program that will help you reach seven figures in seven weeks, and a third tells sells you a brand new gadget which you can’t live without if you want your business to be taken seriously.

You can’t seem to focus on what matters – doing the work to grow your business – as all your attention is taken up by all these bright shiny objects promising you a shortcut to financial success and glory. You get bogged down by what ifs and fear of missing out – “what if this is the person or product who will teach me the secret? What if this time I will learn what I need to get my business off the ground?”

Bright Shiny Object Syndrome kicks in, and you find yourself unable to resist. You get sucked in, and you end up spending more money than you are currently making on courses you don’t complete, software you don’t know how to use, and entry to Facebook groups you don’t even like.

How not to succumb to the lure of BSO

Your bank balance is suffering, your nerves are suffering and your business is suffering. This has to stop. So here are my 4 tips on how to beat BSO Syndrome:

1.  Why are you doing it?

The first step to recovery is acknowledging that you have a problem, so well done for taking this first step! Now you should try to figure out where this problem comes from. Are you just spending your days shopping for BSOs as a way of procrastinating (procrastaspending) to avoid doing the things you should be doing? Maybe you’re new to business, and it’s a whole new, unfamiliar world for you, and you’re just wanting to be as equipped as possible before you “head out there for real”? Or maybe you’re feeling insecure and experiencing impostor syndrome, and your mind keeps telling you that you have to keep taking courses and signing up for programs and getting certified in all sorts of things before you can really call yourself a writer or a social media expert or a coach, and before you can start charging people for your services.

If this is you, I want to say this: no one is ever ready, so you have to start before you’re ready – otherwise you will never start at all. Oprah wasn’t always Oprah, and the first 100 blog posts or videos or other types of creations you put out there won’t be that great anyway, but if you let your BSO Syndrome stop you from getting started, you will never get there. In at the deep end, I say! That’s where you learn.

2.  Analyse your situation

Sit down and take inventory of where BSO Syndrome has gotten you so far. Write down all the courses you bought and didn’t access, all the books you never read, all the software you never learned how to use – basically anything you regret spending money on or that you can see now you didn’t make the most of. Calculate how much BSO Syndrome has already cost you. Maybe even put the list somewhere visible, so that you can refer to it next time you get close to spending money you shouldn’t be spending.

Next, write a list of all the things you need to learn – they will feel a lot less overwhelming once you get them down on paper. And then go and find free online resources that will teach you how to do those things. The world is full of free webinars, blog posts and newsletters that will teach you pretty much anything from podcasting to website building – all you have to do is go out and find them.

3.  Get a proper overview of your business finances

How much money is coming in? How much of that is going out? Are you making a profit? It is also super important that you keep your personal and business finances separate. Make sure you have a business account (often this can just be a normal account, unless you live in a country with specific regulations regarding business accounts, so avoid expensive accounts when you can!) where all your business income goes and that you charge all business spending to, and pay yourself a salary out of this account. This will help you get a proper overview of how much money is coming in, how much is going out, and what sort of things you are actually spending your money on.

4.  Plan

This is key to keep BSO Syndrome at bay – plan for the things you really want or have to spend money on, and stick to the plan! This is basically a budget for your business. If you know there’s a big conference coming up that you really want to go to, you have to figure out how much that is going to cost you, and how much you have to set aside each month to get that money together – and then check your figures to see if you can really afford it. Remember – having the money and being able to afford something is not always the same thing!

By planning, budgeting and saving up for your purchases ahead of time you can enjoy that business retreat to the Bahamas or that swanky new laptop without having to feel guilty and getting into loads of debt. You can enjoy the experience or purchase so much more, because you know you’ve earned it!

In the shiny world of online businesses the battle against BSO will never end. But if you take these steps to become aware of the problem and prepare for it, the constant assault of shiny must-haves won’t seem as distracting.

Now, over to you: what is the craziest thing you have spent money on when you succumbed to Bright Shiny Object Syndrome? Designer clothes for a photo shoot? A $100 planner? Let’s confess and get it off our chests! Leave a comment below :)

Jenni Syrjala is completely obsessed with personal finance. When her friends stopped returning her calls, she took the hint and decided to stop pestering them with unwanted money advice, and instead become a money coach and speaker.

Jenni specialises in helping female entrepreneurs who have been hit by Bright Shiny Object Syndrome to steer clear of all the temptations that are thrown at us every single day, and to learn how to manage their money in a way that lets them focus on their business and achieve the freedom they so desperately want. She is passionate about teaching women to take control of their finances instead of hiding from them, and to help them see that money doesn’t have to be stressful – it can’t be exciting, too! Connect with her on her site, on Facebook and on Twitter.

Developing a consistent brand

By Jessica Romero

Overwhelm is often inevitable when it comes to developing a consistent brand.

Social media outlets, websites, ad copy, posters, merchandise, infographics, store design, business cards, email signatures, invoices, letterhead, oh my gosh there are a million things!

You have every right to be overwhelmed. The list of brand-able materials is nearly endless.

But here’s the deal. With a little work on the back end, you can eliminate that anxious hair-pulling and consistently create content that captures the emotion behind your business and works together to tell your unique, one-of-a-kind brand story.

So let’s get started first by setting the scene.

BUILD YOUR BRAND NARRATIVE     

Every business has a story to tell and a reader to tell it to. You need to dive deep and find your narrative before you can move forward on to any design or copy decisions. (I know, I know. You want to do the fun stuff. We will get there, I promise.)

Ask yourself:

  • What is my company mission?
  • Who is my perfect customer?
  • What do they think about my company? What do they like? What emotion do they feel?
  • How is my company different than my competitors?
  • Where am I reaching my customer?
  • What kind of lifestyle does my customer live? What do they do/wear/buy/talk about?
  • How do I want to fit into the lifestyle of my perfect customer?

Some of these questions may be tough to answer. You may feel compelled to say “my ideal customer is anyone who wants my service/product!” or “I am reaching my customers across every possible social media outlet in order to reach the highest amount of people possible!”

You need to be specific.

My ideal customer is ultra-feminine, social media savvy, up-to-date on lifestyle and fashion trends. She likes the unique, colorful, photogenic qualities of my store’s inventory. She browses my company’s Instagram feed and online store for style inspiration and one-of-a-kind gifts to give her girl tribe. She sees my company’s unique goods in photos across Pinterest and is compelled to shop for products to create the same atmosphere in her life. My company makes her feel understood as a working woman, looking to live an exciting, adventurous, stylish lifestyle that fits her budget and fulfills her needs in her home and closet.

Write down your answers to these questions, keep it nearby. [Bonus points if you turn it into a eye-catching graphic and hang it next to your computer.]

Now it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty.

PLAN + SCHEDULE (for YOUR customer)

You know who you are talking to now, which means that with a little leg work you know:

How to talk to them. + Where to talk to them.

Once again, ask yourself a series of questions, now with your customer in mind.

  • What social media platforms make sense for me to use?
  • What advertising methods make sense for me to use? (Magazines, newspapers, radio, online ads, sponsored posts, etc.)
  • What types of content should I be sharing? (Videos, inspiration quotes, photos, text heavy content?)
  • What style of language should I use? (Are you wanting to follow trends in casual-slang or keep it more traditional?)

When you are asking yourself these questions don’t be afraid to dig around and look at what types of users are where.

Check out this article for some basic information on social media platforms to start.

Don’t be afraid of a little old-fashioned social media stalking. Look at brands you are inspired by. How are they talking to their customers? How are customers responding?

Now you know where you need to be and how you need to present yourself, so you can make a schedule (and stick to it).  In my experience I’ve been most successful working off of two types of schedules.

A Content Rotation: I create a schedule of what types of content I am posting where. This keeps a variety of content flowing through multiple channels. This is a resource that I typically don’t adjust unless I am looking to switch something out or test a new rotation.

For example:

  • Instagram: 1x photo a day – rotate between shared photos, inspirational quotes, client feature, landscape/wide angle image, product feature, person/people photo
  • Facebook: 2x a week – link to website content, featured content or Instagram
  • Newsletter – 1x a week
  • Pinterest – update unique content from website 1x a week

(Note that this does not include exactly what I am posting but rather what type of content I am posting. Also, please note that every business has a content rotation that works best for them. Do some research, decide what works for your company and test it out. Don’t be afraid to change it and test again!)

A Weekly Schedule: Using my content rotation as a reference, I schedule anywhere from 1 week to 10 days worth of content using my weekly content schedule. 

Personally, I keep things pretty traditional and go the pen-and-paper route, but you could easily use a spreadsheet or organization app of your choice.

For my clients who have a heavy Facebook or Twitter use, I schedule everything in advance to post automatically. You can do this with a media managing site like Hootsuite.

Once again. Make a plan, test it out and tweak as necessary. With some time, you’ll find your sweet spot.

So, now we know who we are talking to, how we are talking to them and where we are doing it. As promised, it’s time for the fun stuff – the visuals.

DESIGN YOUR MOOD BOARD

Drumroll please.

You did the dirty work. You made a plan. You wrote your narrative. Now you get to create you brand identity’s visual counterpart.

It’s time to dive into the world of Pinterest, color swatches, design magazines, font books, all the pretty things! You can shop for logos, business cards, packaging and super-stylish supplies for staging your Instagram-worthy photos.

Hold the phone.

You’ve made it this far with me. I know you know what’s coming.

Settle in, take a good look at your narrative from Step #1 and your Content Rotation from Step #2. Take a breath and ask yourself a few questions once again.

  • Who is my perfect customer?
  • What do they think about my company? What do they like? What emotion do they feel?
  • What kind of lifestyle does my customer live? What do they do/wear/buy/talk about?

Now it’s time to start looking for visuals that match this. What colors does this customer respond to? What fonts do they enjoy seeing? What textures match their personality?

That ultra-feminine, trendy, working gal I explained back in Step #1. What do you think she would like?

Berry and blush tones. Ivory and pops of black – for power and elegance. Friendly and feminine script font matched with a sharp, simple modern text. Photos that highlight the bold colors and patterns of products, showing personality and creativity. Playful pops of accent colors throughout promotional and printed materials. Fun conversational text and unique hashtags throughout. Nothing too powerful – she wants to relate and feel a sense of joy and friendship with the brand. Keep it casual.

Pull it all together. Like I mentioned before, I’m old school. I create my first mood board with a cork board and push pins (The original Pinterest, if you will.)  You can use Pinterest, create a graphic or whatever works for you creatively. Collect things that make you feel the emotion of your brand.

Take a look into the psychology behind colors and typography. Dig deeper into what exactly the brain is doing.

Once you compile everything, you can start making decisions. If you are working with a graphic designer, let them in on what you did. Convey the message to your team.

Now you can narrow it down. Opinions vary, and every business is different, but I’d say keep your final colors at no more than 3 main colors and 5 accents. For textures and patterns, no more than a few – and make sure they all look good together.

Think about throw pillows on your couch. Would you put every pattern and color you used to represent your business on one couch?

It’s time for the real deal. You’re creating your Facebook profile and cover photo, designing an ad for a publication or deciding what filter to use on your Instagram photos.

Look at your mood board. Look at what you are creating.

Did you stick to your guidelines? Does it look like it belongs?

That’s what makes your brand stick out. That’s what makes your customer stop in their tracks to look further. Everything fits. Everything belongs on that couch.

The road to a consistent, effective brand can be mind boggling, but it doesn’t have to be.

Take the steps to make a plan, do your due diligence and make guidelines for yourself and for your team to eliminate the overwhelm and bring the focus on to the exciting, creative stuff!

Your business is offering something unique that needs to be shared, now get out there and do just that. 

After 4 years of carefully developing her own successful small business in an even smaller town in the USA, Jessica Romero discovered a passion for branding and a love for the little guy (that's you!).  She found that a commitment to a thoughtful, stylish brand strategy can add that "WOW!" factor and create a buzz around a business. She believes every business needs a cohesive, concise, strategic and stylish identity and works with clients one-on-one to develop and maintain websites, social media sites, local event campaigns and more. Learn more at her website or connect on Instagram

Ready to learn how to market your biz like a boss? Our Digital Bravery Ecourse is open for enrolment now!

Top 5 Reasons I Decided To Host A Telesummit

By Sarah Schwab

About 9 months ago, I was trying to figure out what to do next to build my business. I looked at many options, but decided that I wanted to go big! Do something that would make a clear, significant difference in my business. Something that could help achieve my vision and spread my message to a lot of people. 

I decided to host a telesummit.

Have you attended a telesummit before? Ever thought about hosting one? My event is called the Create, Connect and Convert online summit, and you can check it out here. But first, let me explain a little more. 

What is a telesummit?
A telesummit is like an online conference. There is a theme for the summit so it’s clear who it is for and what they will get from it. (Mine is all about creating content that you can use to market your business.) There are a number of speakers who participate in the summit (mine has 20 - one of which is Blog Society founder, Jaclyn Carlson!) who all bring their own expertise to the topic.

Typically a summit will last between 3-10 days, with 1-5 speakers each day. I am just about to launch my summit, and it’s a huge undertaking. So why did I choose to do this?

Here are my top 5 reasons…

1. Reaches A LOT More People Than Anything Else
How many platforms do you know where you can reach over 100,000 people who are warm leads? I was tired of reaching a few hundred or even a few thousand people at a time. Hosting a telesummit allowed me to create a bigger audience than I could have imagined because of the cumulative reach of the speakers involved.

Plus, unlike running ads to a cold audience, people would be hearing from someone they already trust and have a relationship with.  That’s a powerful combination!

2. Creates A Ton Of Value
There is a lot of information in a summit. Each speaker provides tips and ideas that the listeners can implement. They share stories to inspire people and offer resources to help them out.

As a Content Creation Coach, I believe in the power of sharing valuable content. It is how we attract people, build relationships with them, and gain their trust. Hosting a summit is like content creation on steroids! In the end I will have over 12 hours of powerful content. We will share it with a lot of people during the event. Plus it becomes an asset in my business that I can repurpose and use in other ways down the line.

3. Builds Your List
Having a large list of potential customers is important for any business, especially those of us who work online. I’ve been growing my list for a while now, and the truth is that I had built a decent following by many standards. But I felt stuck. It was going too slow, and I wasn’t able to break through to the next level. Can you relate? I didn’t want to add a few people to my list, or even a few hundred. I wanted to quickly add thousands of quality leads to my list. Is that a pipe dream? A well-produced telesummit is designed to do exactly that. It has the potential to add thousands of people to your list in a relatively short period of time. Notice that I said “quickly” not “easily!”  It definitely requires a lot of work, but so do other list-building techniques. I decided I was willing to give it a shot.

4. Connects You To Like-Minded People
The main thing a telesummit can do is bring people together. It’s all about connecting with people on both sides of the screen. First, I get to connect with other speakers who share my passion, and bring their own expertise to it. It’s a very collaborative experience, and creates relationships and partnerships that I plan to carry into the future. Plus, everyone who signs up to attend the summit becomes part of the event community. There is a great energy when people come together around a common idea. I believe that truly connecting with people not only grows your business, but it enriches your I get to be in the spotlight.

5. I get to be at the center of all the excitement. 
It’s not about getting attention (okay, maybe it’s a little bit about that). It’s more about positioning myself as a leader in my field. Truly becoming a go-to person, and a respected expert. Hosting a telesummit is big undertaking, but it’s a great way to create connections, build your reputation, and grow your business. Speaking on summits is another great way to get in front of new people and collaborate with others.

What do you think? Is hosting or participating in a telesummit in your future? Interested in checking one out to see what it’s all about? The Create, Connect and Convert Telesummit is starting on April 13th. Our goal is to inspire you to create content, because that is how we spread our message, reach more people, and make a bigger difference. I have a fantastic group of successful entrepreneurs (again, including your own Jaclyn Carlson!) who will share their expertise about creating different types of content, and how they have used it to grow their business. 

Sarah Schwab is the Founder and President of Content Creation Coach. She helps small businesses and entrepreneurs create consistent, compelling content they need to market their business online. She believes in the power of self-expression and creativity to transform her clients’ businesses and lives. Sarah works with clients one-on-one and through online programs. She has created hundreds of blog articles, produced videos, teleseminars, webinars, e-books, and more. Find out more about her approach to online marketing and content creation, including free resources, at www.contentcreationcoach.com

3 Tips for Scaling Your Blog with Collaboration

By Jessica Ruhfus

Collaboration is becoming more and more of a buzz word, but have you ever thought ‘how do I make this work for me?’ There are often concerns about compromising on your brand by introducing another voice, or imbalanced benefits where the two collaborators don’t really get what they want from the effort put in. 

The truth is, collaborations and strategic brand partnerships are necessary (that’s right, I said it!), in order to scale your blog or brand. Why? Because they’re the most effective, budget friendly, valuable tools for tapping into existing communities of relevant people within your target market. 

Before I launch into my tips, I have to mention that there are hundreds of definitions and understandings of the word ‘collaboration’ - particularly in the business space. The way I define them is;

Two brands working together to get awesome marketing exposure, engage their communities and grow their businesses. Collaboration is a marketing tool that should be mutually beneficial and secured with relevant brands to be successful.

Here are my tips for getting what you want and collaborating the right way:

1. Simplify Your Goals

If you go into a collaboration with the goal of world domination and celebrity status, you’re missing a key step - the customer ‘path’. Before you can reach the big end goal, consider how you’re going to get there. It could be building your email list, growing your Instagram presence, building content, selling tickets to an event etc. Your collaboration should work to achieve elements within the customer path.

2.  Follow Through

I’m a big believer in the idea that every point of contact with your brand is extremely important in maintaining your brand identity. From customer service experience through to brand collaborations, make sure you stand by your brand and be transparent. Follow through on promises and treat collaborations as business deals (i.e if it’s not working, don’t be afraid to ditch it!) In kind, make sure you communicate what your goals are to avoid disappointment and ensure your collaborator follows through as well.

3.  Offer Value

Collaboration for the sake of collaboration, or incessant / irrelevant cross promotion will eventually do your brand a disservice. Think about what your audience wants - it’s always something of value. Make sure your collaboration is offering something of value to both audiences; to build trust, familiarity AND engaging brand exposure.

So, what are you waiting for? Get creative with some brand collaborations and watch your community grow!

Collabosaurus is an online match-making platform for brands to source valuable partnerships with other brands. If you want to tap into communities around Australia, and even internationally, Collabosaurus is a go-to tool that makes sourcing and negotiating a strategic collaborations simple. It’s FREE to get started and view your matches.