Where do people go to find you?

How do people find your businessWhere do you think people go to find your business?

I promise you it’s not the Yellow Pages. In the last three years, I can’t even begin to recall the number of business owners who told me they were giving up their Yellow Page ad. If I had a dime for each, I’m sure I’d have coffee for a year.

So where, then?
One thing that drives business for a lot of people is referrals. People ask their friends and family for advice when purchasing a service or product all the time. This can happen anywhere: in person at a coffee shop, a meeting, an event, or on the phone. Because we’re all crunched for time, it’s happening more and more online through email or on social media. These two platforms are huge in terms of opportunities where referrals flow.

If you’re not being referred or talked about in social media, then you are definitely being Googled. People are finding you by searching Google, Yahoo!, Bing, or some other search engine. That’s why having a presence on the web and being easily found online is crucial for survival today. This applies to all businesses, large and small.

This is the type of stuff we help small businesses accomplish everyday. Contact us if you’d like learn more.

How Do You Find the Top Talent? Sometimes It Finds You

Diamonds in the roughWell let me start by saying that I’m not qualified to talk about this subject.

That’s all. (I can never resist a chance to slip in that line from Devil Wears Prada.)

Being qualified never stopped me before so here goes.

I think the reasons we’ve been able to attract some amazing talent here at Simplfiied Solutions LLC are numerous, but I’ve listed a few below.

1) I like to connect with people online. Hopefully people would say I’m a giver both online and off. I like to retweet, promote others, help others make connections, and refer as much business as I can. This led to a resurfaced relationship with an old friend on Twitter. Wayne Cox and I connected via Twitter after knowing each other in a different business years ago. Wayne is instrumental in our WordPress customizations, email marketing efforts, and our video editing. He is truly a jack of many trades. A pastor of a thriving church plant in Elizabethtown, and a coffee business owner to boot. I think Wayne and I have contests as to who can promote the other more. It’s like Dwight and Andy trading favors on the Office.

2) I am constantly looking for talent and gravitate toward it. The first time I was referred to Josh Starr with Solid Giant Web Design—by my buddy and Louisville HVAC contractor, Rob Benefiel—I said that guy rocks. Josh and I struck up a relationship and partnered on at least five projects last year. When both our lives and businesses settle down, I’m hopeful we’ll do some more work together. I could say the same thing about Louisville photographer Robert Burge. Bobby knows his trade so well. He has done work for large commercial customers like Jewish Hospital, Churchill Downs, and even UK Athletics. He also does wedding photography, shoots for top realtors, and helps us out with pictures for our website content. When Bobby is on the scene he naturally makes people laugh, relax, get serious, or whatever the situation calls for. He directs traffic and keeps everyone on task. He and I are kindred spirits, and we do a decent amount of work together. It’s growing as we speak.

3) I’m not the most humble person, but humility is always on my radar. I like to make fun of myself, and I don’t take “me” too serious. Heck, I refer to myself as a hack. I also hope that I listen and learn from those wiser and more experienced than me. The best example I can think of is how I came to know Jessie Devine, our star copywriter and inbound marketing specialist. Jessie came on board about six weeks ago as our first employee (team member). Jessie and I connected via Twitter and LinkedIn. She had the courage and boldness to point out that I was advertising that we offered “copyrighting services” on our main website. This is an instance where you could actually say, “Bryce, you can’t even spell copywriting.” Yes, folks, I was using the wrong version of the word on my website. Jessie offered up some constructive criticism along with a few compliments. I could have gotten mad, but instead I thanked her for caring enough to tell me. That day I remember thinking, I’d like to hire that gal. Well, we were able to. She is my sounding board on a daily basis. She’s extremely talented at her trade, and she is a straight shooter. What a great addition. I’m careful about the culture we’re building, and I’ve got a great benchmark to build upon.

4) I lean on experts. Proverbs 15:22 says plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. Sure I have a CPA. Yes, my customers are good mentors many times. However, I’m talking about a very close business adviser that I won’t mention yet. He keeps me grounded and guides me along. I cherish our phone conversations, coffee talks, lunches, and Gtalk chats. It’s a major component of what I was missing the first few years. One of my other mentors that I’ve never met is Peter J Daniels. He says good morals is good economics. So God will always have a place in our business. It’s all his anyway. He’s just letting me drive the ship.

So how are you finding the top talent?

Skip the craigslist ads and value humans. Develop relationships. Give. Be humble, or at least try.

Speaking—need a guest speaker at your next event?

Need a speaker for your next event?I was always a shy kid growing up. The kind of kid who hung on his mom’s leg. My mom’s friends still remind me of this 30 years later. Even though I was shy, I wasn’t completely backward. I did play a lot of sports and played most of them pretty well. But still, I never liked the spotlight.

When I was 18, something happened that changed some of that. I went on a high school retreat and at the end—when given an opportunity to address the crowd—I walked up and starting speaking. Wow. Where did that come from? With enough courage, anyone could probably do that once, but the encouragement I received that day kept me moving forward.

As my confidence grew, the next thing you know I was comfortable giving group presentations in college and even started a career in sales. After a move from one financial services company to another, I found myself speaking to employee orientations, enrollment meetings, and other training events on a weekly basis. I loved it. I followed the work of great motivational speakers like Mark Victor Hanson, Peter J Daniels (he’s a businessman who happens to speak) and Doug Wead. I thought this is something I would love to do.

When I started my business over three years ago, I left a lot of the speaking opportunities behind. Then last year, opportunities started to pop up again. First I did a workshop for a customer, Lowe Chiropractic, on digital productivity. Then I did a series of workshops for Oldham County Chamber of Commerce focused on social media and inbound marketing. This year I just finished speaking at the Staging Experts of Louisville’s monthly meeting at Cort Furniture. I have some more workshops lined up for Oldham County this spring, and we’re open to more engagements.

If you’re interested in having me speak to your group on inbound marketing, social media, digital productivity, or related topics— then contact us and tell us what you’re thinking. If the group is large enough, I’m still at the free level. Of course stipends or gift cards have been nice parting gifts 🙂 Referrals from others. Whatever the case, let’s connect if your group wants to get a jump start on digital (inbound) marketing.

We’ve been cooking up some good things here at Simplified Solutions LLC

Simplified Solutions LLC Cooking up Some Good Stuff

So, I haven’t posted to the blog since we moved into an office in the fall. We’ve been busy though. I have evidence. I’ll share it in this post.

First we moved into the office.

Then we became a Certified Hubspot Partner. Learned a system. Launched a site. Passed a test.

Then we launched a new D.B.A called The Content Squad to use said Hubspot software.

Then we increased our inbound marketing retainers in price and scope.

Then we secured some funding and an amazing business adviser to boot.

Then we hired our first team member. You can read about her here.

Then we began building out the third leg of our business model. It’s a training, coaching, and membership site. You’ll have to wait to hear more about it. It’s a secret. In case you were wondering, the Simplified Solutions leg does WordPress websites, coaching, speaking engagements, and project work. The Content Squad leg does inbound marketing on retainer and uses/sells the Hubspot CMS. It rocks.

I also started a sales development and training program with these sales pros.

So no more excuses. Here we come. Humbly but aggressively.

We’re here to serve and to build a team. We’ll continue to have fun along the way.

P.S. We appreciate your attention and your business.

Outbound Marketing-has the ship sailed?

Want to run a TV ad, a radio spot, a print ad, send a direct mail piece or conduct a telemarketing campaign?

Go ahead, I’ll tune you out but maybe some other demographics will still tune in. You can hope people are paying attention. Then you can hope the people that are paying attention need what you do or sell. Then you can hope the people paying attention, who need what you do or sell, pick you over somebody else.

You’re going against the grain though:

Tivo, DVR, Hulu, Netflix, minimalists canceling cable or TV altogether, people playing video games instead of watching TV, poor TV ratings, diffusion with 8 million niche cable channels, Itunes, Podcasts, Pandora, Satellite radio, radio stations already boring you with too many commercials,  newspaper circulations down, newspapers and magazines going out of business, this thing called Google, people tossing junk mail, people not opening mail, high postage costs, mail delivery being downsized, automated answering systems, caller id, no home phone lines, gatekeepers who are just as busy as the decision makers, information overload, clutter, clutter and more clutter and did I mention people are busy and don’t want to be interrupted.

If you’re just another “me too” business, then I guess you can just keep doing the same old thing until it’s beyond frustrating and beyond budget. Or you could try inbound marketing?

4 things your small business should blog about

At Simplified Solutions, we help people tell their stories online and we use tools like WordPress and Twitter. One of my graphic design buddies gave me the title Chief Storyteller (obviously hacked from Chief Shoe-giver ala Tom’s shoes) when he was designing my latest business card. The title stuck and leads to a grin whenever someone sees it

We get the pleasure of telling the stories of some amazing businesses each and every day. A friend of mine Ron Stuart coined the phrase embedded reporter and it really does communicate what we do. We use new media to assist small businesses who have primarily used word of mouth to grow their businesses. Inbound marketing works well for word of mouth businesses, but not so well for those accustomed to interruption based outbound media. When those businesses use new media it often reminds me of Seth Godin’s book, Meatball Sundae. Your company needs to be built or changed to work with new media. When you simply put new media on top of an old business model you get whip cream and cherries on top of meatballs. Not too appetizing and a waste of money.

So when we do our embedded reporting, what exactly do “we” communicate:

(“we” is a team approach and collaborative effort- not just ghost blogging)

  1. We write about their story and their uniqueness. If they are just another “me too business” there is not much we can do to spread a boring story.
  2. We write about keywords that customers may use to find them on Google. We do it in a genuine way. We want to fish where the fish are. If we have what they are looking for, then we want to be johnny on the spot.
  3. We do educational marketing. We ask the sales team, the estimators, the marketing folks and the owner; what don’t prospects understand about your service, your process or your product? Then we craft content that educates.
  4. We have fun. We write about fun things. We mix it up a bit. You should too. Humor is powerful. Part of that fun is staging contests, promotions and creating engagement with customers, employees and raving fans of course.

The goal of it all is to make it easy for their product, service, or story to spread. We set up the platforms and (“in praise of slow” via Mitch Joel) create fertile ground for a community to build. This is all pretty new stuff so check back for updates and case studies. It’s part art, part science and part hope into the future. It’s better than hoping into the past though- pretty sure the old stuff isn’t coming back anytime soon. Thinking along the same lines? Contact us to start the conversation.

Linchpin, Rework and your small businesses

After polishing off Rework by the founders of 37 signals and Linchpin by Seth Godin in the past few weeks, I have an even stronger feeling about everyone being a story teller. Your small business or non profit needs all hands on deck. It’s always been a good idea to have all your employees marketing and selling for your business. After all nothing happens until someone sells a product or service right? I love a good cliche. Well if it was remotely true in a world of factories, cogs and the #gotoschoolgetagoodjobwork40yearsandretire mantra, then it’s vital now.

There really is no time to waste. Get your team organized. Let them know that they have a story to tell. The story is the uniqueness of your business. If it’s not unique, interesting or a purple cow (hat tip: Seth Godin once again); then start over with a new vision. Get a new plan. Rework the service. Fine tune the product. Make it remarkable, at least relative to your industry, and then organize your team to be story tellers.

The tools are there now. We can all self publish videos, blogs, pictures, audio recordings and we can all build an audience. No more barriers. That used to be the hard part. Advertising is expensive, even when it’s no longer popular. Even when demand is low. Plus who has the time to interrupt enough people day in and day out. Why not assemble your fans, organize them and let them loose sharing your story with the world- or at least a couple hundred to thousand people. That’ll do.

You can do this yourself if you’re a good listener, learner and have the time. If not we’d love to help, maybe. See it depends. Just like you don’t want just any customer, we’re seeking out remarkable small businesses too. It’s hard to help someone share a boring story. It just won’t spread.

Social Media Workshops for Oldham County Chamber of Commerce

Over the last month and a half I’ve been doing a series of Social Media 101 workshops. Each workshop has been divided into 2 weeks with approximately 10 small business owners, freelancers, consultants or non profit directors. When I was initially contacted by the great folks at Oldham County Chamber they mentioned doing a hands on workshop one time for around 30 small business owners. The workshop evolved into 2 two-week sessions with different groups and it has been a great format.

The format has really worked because it allows me to give the participants the big picture in session one and get their buy in through some real life case studies.  The second session allows us to introduce some tools to make businesses more efficient at managing their inbound marketing. Too many businesses are “doing” social media because someone told them they should. In my experience you can’t do it, but you can commit to it over the long haul. You can’t get better at it if the only reason you’re testing the waters is because someone told you that you should.

So if I had to give those who haven’t been able to attend the cliff notes version- here it is in bullet form.

The concepts:

Inbound Marketing or Digital Marketing whatever you prefer. This includes social media, blogging, playing well with search engines (Google), and content marketing.

The key players:

Chris Brogan

Mitch Joel

Hubspot

Seth Godin

The books to read:

Trust Agents

Six Pixels of Separation

Linchpin

Tribes

Crush It

Rework

The spaces:

Twitter

Facebook

LinkedIN

Youtube

The tools:

Google Reader

Google Alerts

Google External Adword Tool

WordPress or Hubspot CMS

Twitter Search

Hootsuite

Sorry no time to link all these up. Maybe in a follow up post. Just Google them all.

Stop majoring in the minors with your website

If you major in the minors you’ll never get online. You’ll be too focused on the things that matter to you. Which means they probably won’t be the things that matter to your customers.

Do you think your customers are worried about fonts, pop, edge or  padding?

Are they sitting around thinking about your logo? Your header?

Are they consumed with the color of your website background?

Do you think they make their purchasing decisions based on these factors? I say no.

I think the design is very important. I think they want to see something professional, assuming others showed up in their Google search. If you were the only one, chances are they were thrilled that someone local showed up at all.

So stop majoring in the minors and start focusing on bottom line results.

  • Is my site live and can customers and prospects find me?
  • Is the organization and navigation good?
  • Do the graphics work?
  • Can customers and prospects contact you through your site?
  • Can customers and prospects connect with you on social media via your site?
  • Can customers and prospects make buying decisions with the content on your site?
  • Can customers educate themselves on your products or services via your blog?
  • Can customers and prospects learn about you, your team, your company and your uniqueness?

Leave the rest of the stuff to refinement. It’ll give you something to tweak after you launch.