Why The First Thing in Your New Business is NOT a Website

There’s a reason why the website doesn’t come in until stage three of our ESCAPE Plan process.

If you are not sure what “Stage 3” is here is the sequence of our ESCAPE Plan –

E = Explore – What should you be doing, or not doing, as a business – what will work for you?
S = Serve – who are the people your business will serve – who will be happy to pay for your product or service? Validating that process. (What problem can you solve for them?)
C = Create – Your product or service, and the platform through which people can find you and buy from you. Leadership Authority via a case study. Minimum Viable Website.
A = Amplify – How get yourself known in the wider world so you can reach even more customers – speaking, guesting, the book, paid advertising.
P = Perfect – How you can perfect your processes and systems so you can serve more customers.
E = Expand – How you can leverage your business beyond what you can do yourself.

Many people who are looking to get a new business going, the first thing they say is “I need a website”! They start thinking about SEO and blogging and setting up social media so they can have their little icons on their website, what their logo should look like…

STOP!

If you are just getting started in your new business, maybe even building it up as a side gig until it is making enough money for you to quit your day job, then the website is way down on the list of things you need to be thinking about at the early stages.

Even if you have explored the viability of your business idea, and know who it is you will be serving, your ideas still need to be validated You need to know that your process will deliver the results the client or customer is looking for.  And, most of all, you need proof that it will, and proof that you can convert prospects into paying clients.

People do business with people they know, like and trust. We hear that all the time. Why? Because it is the truest truism in running a successful business.

The ‘trust’ element of that trio is very largely about being able to prove that you can get them results –

This you do by showing them you have already done it successfully for someone else – the Case Study. Without that you are going to run out of customers or clients very quickly.

Where a website WILL help is in the ‘know’ and ‘like’ parts. However, that doesn’t need to be anything but the most basic site to start with. Don’t worry about SEO – no amount of SEO is going to get you traffic at this stage, and even if it did, without the case study and validation of your process and offer, it won’t convert that traffic into paying clients.

All you need is a basic site – we suggest WordPress because it is easy to set up and use – and is likely to be the platform you use for more expansive site when you get to that stage (eventually you will need an assistant and most Virtual Assistants know WordPress).

Most importantly, it is free – at a time when you don’t need to be taking on unnecessary monthly expenditures. The platform and how you choose it deserves a post in its own right – there are a lot of competing choices out there and no end of people who will say you should use “this” or “that” for all sorts of valid sounding reasons – suffice it to say here, we recommend WordPress, hosted on a service that will include a domain name in the price – something like Bluehost.

The point is that when you first start out, no-one is going to find your website unless you send them there. But the people who you do send should be able to find out about who you are, what you are offering, and why you want to do what you are doing.

The ‘why’!

Have some basic content about the problem you are solving so that people will self identify that they are in the right place if they have that problem. Talk about how you can help them.  And, most importantly, have a clear path for them to work with you – even is that is just providing a phone number and email address. That’s ALL you need at the start.

The one nod to technology we do advise you take at that early stage is to install Google Analytics and your Facebook Pixel so you can get information about the people who do visit your site and what they look at on your site in general. Tracking visitor numbers, average time on a page, and bounce rate, is a good habit to get into, right from the start. It will become all the more vital once you really get going.
This does mean creating a business page on Facebook – but, again, just set up the minimum viable business page – the same as the website – you don’t need to be posting regularly – yet.

Once you have validated your process, got a good client case study to demonstrate how effective you are in solving people’s problems, you start generating traffic to a webinar that generates calls, and you have your sales process down – only then should you be looking at upgrading your website, thinking about branding (based on your story), some core content based on the frequently asked questions that your clients ask, or objections they might have; and start looking at how SEO might help that content get found in searches etc.

That is the time you want to think about investing money into that process. Avoid web designers that are all about the design and look of your site – find ones that understand how a potential customer will react when they find the site – what that customer wants/needs to know – how easy is it for them to find the specific content they need – quickly – and how easy is it for them to take the next step towards working with you.

What can you offer for free that will get people on your email list?

Don’t overload them with information – they don’t want information – they want a solution – all content should lead to a call to action.

Putting a Facebook pixel on your website will ensure that people visiting your site, (and who are Facebook users, which is a LOT of people), will get the ad for the webinar retargeted to their Facebook feed – and so the loop is completed –

Facebook Ads > Webinar > Call
SEO > Website > to Pixel > Facebook Ads

But it is important to understand that there is a sequence to getting to that stage.

So many solopreneurs waste so much time and money by reversing the process and going all out on the technology, the website and the Facebook Ads before they have even validated their business and process. And then, when it doesn’t work, they blame the technology, often just calling-it-quits because they see people making a success of it where they are just failing.

It can work – you just need to follow the plan.

And following the plan is so much easier if you have someone who knows what they are doing, supporting you along the way, and showing you which steps along the path to take and when. It really makes the process quicker and far less stressful.

Hmmmm – now where would you find such helpful people?

Want a step-by-step guide to online business success?

The First of Our Panel of Experts

We are very excited to announce the first five of our core group of experts for our ESCAPE Plan Web Show! We certainly don’t know it all and we want our web show participants to get they help THEY need to make their business a success! We will be announcing more guest experts very soon, but here are the first half of the dream team:

Michele Scism – Sales
We know we needed an expert in sales. The vast majority of solopreneurs struggle with the sales part of what they do. Who better to help our Show Guests than Michele Scism. We have known – and coached – with Michele ourselves for  long time and she is probably one of the main reasons we are doing what we do and how we do it!

Owner of DecisiveMinds.com, she is a third generation entrepreneur and expert in online and offline marketing, pricing, revenue projection, sales, team building and much more. Her mantra she learned from her father – “You don’t own a REAL business unless you can go on vacation and it still makes money.”

Jena Rodriguez – Branding
Jena is one of Michele’s greatest successes and is now a master Brand, Business and Brave Strategist and founder of Brave Masters, Inc. Her commitment is to boosting brand clarity, by helping business owners how to capitalize on their “natural” abilities and package and price their greatest strengths so that they can create a money-making, world-changing brand.

Over the last decade as an entrepreneur, Jena has learned that the ONE thing needed to reach one’s fullest potential in life and in business is BRAVE. Being brave is about saying YES without evidence, moving through fear, and being uncomfortable yet doing it anyways! By getting her BRAVE on, Jena was able to move from charging $89/hour to generating over $1.2 million in revenue over the last four and a half years – and helping her clients do the same! Check her out at www.bravemasters.com!

Joan Pelzer – Social Media
Joan is a Femfessional and force to be reckoned with – our greatest memory is podcasting live on her show from the foyer of a live event we were both attending in Houston – that was fun! Joan’s expertise is ocial media and online engagement with clients ranging from entrepreneurs and small businesses, to a UN-based NGO. She is a dynamic connector with the innate ability to identify, articulate and deploy strategies to optimize a brand.

Ellen Finkelstein – Speaking/Webinars
Ellen is a long term collaborator of ours – we have been guest experts on each other’s webinars many a time! One passion of hers is to help entrepreneurs use presentations and webinars to reach more people. In her business, Change The World Marketing, she uses her experience to help others create client-attracting websites, grow their lists, create products, and deliver powerful webinars. For us, she is providing expertise and help for those who looking to present in person as a speaker, or online via a webinar (Webinars play a big part in the process we teach business owners).

Carol Verity – Websites/SEO
Carol has been helping her clients “Get” digital for over 20 years. She began her digital journey way back when the internet first took hold and ever since she has been designing and building websites, teaching social media and content marketing and generally immersing herself in all the technologies that help us do business on-line.

Her business, We Get Digital, based in London UK, has gained a solid reputation in web design & build and she recently pioneered “SocialSEO”, a blend of Social Media and SEO that really helps businesses climb up the search engine listings.

Interested in getting help from us and our dream team? Check out the application page to see exactly who we are looking for. Remember, there are only 3 places per season, so if you think this might be for you, fill out the application and let’s talk!

Where Creative Business Ideas Get Stopped in Their Tracks

Lately, as part of doing research for our new web show, I’ve been talking to MANY solopreneurs.

The one thing that really struck me was how many great ideas people have for businesses – BUT – at the same time how many were stuck on how to really bring them into fruition.

The problem? The technology. People were either overwhelmed by how much there was to choose from, and therefore were stuck not really knowing what they should be doing and what would be wasting their time and money –

OR they had a good idea about the kind of technology that would work for their business, but were also stuck because they weren’t really sure in what to do with it to make it work.

Everyone has a strong knowledge about the thing they do, but far too many of you are not doing it because you are stuck on business aspects of the business – and especially with technology and marketing.

And, smart, hopeful solopreneurs have a huge target painted in their forehead by the marketing software companies and “gurus”, who all insist that you’ll only be successful if you do MY program. During my conversations, I heard the same story again and again.

“I bought XXX program for $2447 – and the content was really good – but I couldn’t quite “get” it enough to implement it in my business. So, I went to a few of the classes and then just stopped.

A month or so later, I bought another program – and the same thing happened. Then, I hired an assistant but I couldn’t find enough for her to do…

I thought that perhaps I needed my own coach to make all this work – so I invested in a year long program for $15,000. But, I don’t have the team (or the money to hire a team) to implement the coaches’ suggestions.”

Does this sound at all familiar?

What if you had a team that could help you one-on-one for the price of a group program? Normally, you would be concerned about the quality of the help you were getting!

Right now, we are recruiting for 4 business owners have their businesses transformed as part of our web reality show. We need to cover costs (and make sure that our contestants are committed). For $2500 – you get 90 days of working with us collaboratively, to get your business up and running plus help from our growing roster of experts (watch for the first announcement on Thursday), as needed AND exposure to our audience as we share your success story along the way.

Ah, but aren’t you just another one of those gurus, I here you ask?

We’ll no – we very much look at our client’s business and see what they need. We start from the premise that you, as the businesses owner, just wants to get on with what you do, not spend all your time on marketing and admin. Where we are different is that we try to get you running successfully with the minimum amount of fuss. We just do what works for you – in the way YOU work.

We created the web show idea as a way to really show off to a wider audience exactly how we work and how we get people up and running. I’m super excited about the businesses we’re already talking to about taking part.

Will yours be next? Click here for more info.

Are You The One We Are Saerching For?

Over the course of the last couple of weeks we have been having conversations with a number of our long term community members to try to make sure that what we re planning with our web reality show is something that will be useful to solopreneurs, and will be something people want to participate in, whether as a show guest or an audience member, or even as a guest expert (more on that in our next post)

We had a lot of great input from several people and have added to the concept we originally came up with, including a new element of audience participation (Thanks to Ellen Finkelstein for that one!).

The overwhelming reaction has been very positive and everyone is seeing it as something new that no-one else is doing. So it looks like it is all systems go!

In our last post, we asked “Would YOU do this?” And we are now ready to unveil who we are looking for to partake in our first series. So here are the core criteria of who we are looking for:

  • Willing to share your story (the ups and the downs) with our audience as a web show guest.
  • Coachable – willing to focus (and stick with) the plan we come up with to build your platform.
  • Willing to invest your time and money to make your business a success. (We are providing our services at half our regular rate for web show participants).
  • Fun and energetic! We want people to get to know, like and trust you as they get into your story. (Though you are getting solid business help – we want to keep our audience entertained and engaged at the same time).
  • Someone who has a solid business idea but has yet to make the leap of making it happen, OR someone who has started (maybe been trying for 1 or 2 years), but has got stuck and isn’t making any progress.
  • Is this you? Or maybe you know someone who might be perfect for the show?

The application page is now up  and will be open for the next two weeks. We will be choosing a total of 4 participants, the extra one being there in case one of the 3 chosen participants drops out.

We are still open to suggestions, if there are elements you would like to see on the show or you think would make the show better, we’d love to hear them.

In our next post we hope to introduce the first of our guest experts, so check back for that one!

Crimes of Passion

Last week we talked about where we went wrong in our business, to the point where we literally had to pull the plug because it just wasn’t working. However, the lessons we learned from our 100 interviews in our Paycheck To Passion podcast were still valid as far as being able to help solopreneurs succeed. These lessons were that solopreneurs struggle with 3 things:

1) Not having a concrete plan (or path) to follow
2) Not having people around them who understand what they are going through or trying to achieve
3) Getting overwhelmed by trying to do everything there is to do in a business all by themselves, and thus not ending up doing the thing they went into business to do in the first place.

However, there was a fourth lesson we learned – and learned the hard way – just because you think you have a solution people will want, you need to test that assumption before going all the way down the long path of building it. It turns out that, although our solution to the above problems all solopreneurs face addressed each of the issues, the “fix” (in this case, Time Traders Club), wasn’t how solopreneurs operated – at least not enough of them. The problem was that the solution we came up with was too complicated for most solopreneurs to work.

The problem was that we were passionate about helping people make a living on their own terms, doing something they love to do, by reaching an audience online. Our ‘crime of passion’ was not doing the research to make sure the ‘how’ of what we were delivering was what was wanted.

However, those issues are still very relevant to a lot of solopreneurs out there. We still very much want to help solopreneurs overcome them, by giving them a concrete plan to follow; connecting them with other solopreneurs who understand the unique challenges they are going through; and to help them avoid getting overwhelmed by all that they have to do on a daily basis, by showing them there are other – better – ways to operate than by trying to do everything yourself.

So here’s what we are thinking.

We want to showcase how it can be done in a brand new story-based video podcast.

So many solopreneurs waste years of effort and thousands of dollars on doing the wrong things. As “Solo Biz Hackers” we want to hack passed that wasted effort and get people to the part where their business starts working for them. This is how we help people on a one-on-one basis in our coaching practice.

But we need your help.

We don’t want to make the same mistake as before and go into all the effort of building something only to find it is not what people need.

So this time we are asking first – doing the research – making sure what we offer is what you need.

Check your inbox on Thursday and I’ll go into more detail about our vision for the new podcast, and how you can help us make sure it is something you will want to see happen.

Here’s what happened…

In our last post, Jasper wrote about why we decided to pivot our business away from Time Traders Club. It really came down to two things for us…

Time Traders Club (a time bank for entrepreneurs) sounded better in theory than it was in practice (we weren’t making money at it) and also we ended up becoming coaches in another program and didn’t have the time and energy to essentially start over and do what needed to be done to make Time Traders Club work.

It has been a few months since we made the decision to close down Time Traders Club, and I can now look at what happened with a bit more perspective. There were three reasons that Time Traders Club never took off…

The first one was that we didn’t properly test the idea. When we talked to people about TTC – they were really excited about the concept. We quickly grew our free membership to hundreds of people. There were two issues with that – the first was that we weren’t selective as to who could be in the group. Everyone who joined was great – but we had the wrong balance of people We attracted a lot of people who needed technical help – but few people who had the skills to truly help.

Plus, we were making things really, really complicated. Because we were trading “hours”, we needed a system that allowed people to find people whose skills matched plus track the hours. Because a virtual time bank is a NEW idea, there weren’t systems in place that did this well. We spend thousands of dollars on three different systems, none of them were easy to use for the members. Trades did not happen because they weren’t easy to do.

And, finally, because people joined the group for free help, they weren’t as willing to pay to be part of the group. We didn’t have enough paying members to keep the lights on and we needed to close our doors.

I’ve had plenty of time to reflect since then…. Plus coaching other business owners to success has helped me frame what happened to our business a bit better.

We still believe that knowing how to leverage your skills to make money online is one of the most important skills you can have right now. Being able to make money on your own gives you freedom to live the life you want. We want to help you do that.

And, combining what we learned from Time Traders Club and from coaching clients this past year, we THINK we’ve come up with a better way.

But, we need your help… because we don’t want to get it wrong again.

I’ll let you know what we have in mind next week.

So Where Did We Go Wrong?

Ever since we got together at a coworking space in Albuquerque in the summer of 2013, our mission has been to help people who want to create a living on their own terms by reaching a paying audience online. Over the years we have tried a number of different avenues on how best to achieve that, gradually moving from a virtual assistant type model to more of a coaching model.

Two big events happened in 2017 that fundamentally changed our business plan. The first is that both of us ended up getting hired by a St Louis based Inc 500 company to coach their new Mastery Program clients.

The coaching program to help clients either take a new business to a viable level, or a current business that wasn’t generating enough customers into a viable business – creating a Blueprint Plan to get them there and supporting them through the process of building their leadership authority, creating a funnel, and building the content and process infrastructure they need to create an ongoing semi-automated flow of new prospects.

The second momentous event came a little over a month later when we realized that, after three years of effort, Time Traders Club, our solopreneur knowledge and skills trading site and time bank was just not generating the interest to make it sustainable. We decided that we needed to shut it down and find a new avenue for helping solopreneurs. It was a tough decision – we had put a lot of work into the project over the previous three years, but it wasn’t working.

We thought we had come up with a way to tackle the three major issues that most solopreneurs come up against, which we established clearly over the course of 100 interviews with a wide variety of solopreneurs in our Paycheck To Passion Podcast, the lessons of which led us to writing our book, The ESCAPE Plan: 6 Steps To Leaving The Job You Hate by Creating a Business You Love. Those 3 issues are:

1) Not having a concrete plan (or path) to follow
2) Not having people around them who understand what they are going through or trying to achieve
3) Getting overwhelmed by trying to do everything there is to do in a business all by themselves, and thus not ending up doing the thing they went into business to do in the first place.

We thought our skills sharing/ time bank idea was the solution to help in all three of these areas – helping solopreneurs to operate in THEIR zone of brilliance – but it turned out not be the case.

So where did we go wrong? What did we miss that led us to the wrong conclusions?

Tune in to my next post on Thursday and I’ll outline the lessons we learned … something you might benefit from yourself before you make the same mistakes we did.

Look out for that post in your inbox, or on our blog…

The Easiest Way to Start a Podcast

I just found the coolest podcasting tool … it is ? love at first sight.

I had a podcast a few years back… we went to number one on New and Notable for iTunes… it was fun – but a TON of work…

Besides lining up guests, making sure they had a good mic set up, promoting the podcast, etc. – there was all the set up (getting your feed to work, recording your episode, posting it to iTunes, Pocket Cast, etc. )

It was a TON of work – and eventually, even though we were getting 1000 downloads a week – we decided it wasn’t worth it to continue. 

And, when we decided to cancel our podcast hosting service which was costing us a lot of money, they didn’t have a way to give us the feed, so the podcast ended up being taken off of iTunes.

Recently tho, I found a free smartphone app called anchor.fm which completely simplifies the process.

 It takes about 15 minutes to set up your show… they take care of setting up all your feeds to iTunes, etc.

Once you are all set up, you just record by talking into your phone (the sound quality is awesome). Push done – you can add a background track and publish. The podcast magically goes where it needs to.

You can even interview guests through the app, have people leave messages, etc.

And… it is all free. Such a timesaver.

I’m using it for a quick 4 day per week podcast with a 2-minute business tip – here’s a link if you want to see what that looks like – https://anchor.fm/meredith-eisenberg

Let me know if you decide to do a podcast – I would love to listen 🙂

7 Secret Tools To Generate Traffic-Attracting Blog Post Ideas

Want more traffic to your blog posts? Write better headlines… It’s time to get creative and come up with fresh twists on your ideas that stand out and get noticed amidst all the “noise” online.

You could sit around for hours, painfully attempting to brainstorm and wrack your brain for ideas… or you could get smart, save time and hack your way to attention-grabbing headlines.

Remember: A hack is a clever and ingenious way to solve a problem or overcome a challenge.

Usually a “hack” allows you to do something quicker, and with less energy or brain power, while arriving at a desired (and even better) end result.

So, with the tools below you can easily “hack” your way to more creatively fresh headlines and save your brain!

BlogAbout Title Idea Generator

BlogAbout offers several ways to generate ideas for titles and even a feature to save your favorite ideas into a notebook. Simple and fun with a very nice layout.

Click here for the BlogAbout Title Idea Generator

Portent Title Maker

This one is a blast to play with. In addition to headline ideas it explains each piece of the headline it suggests so you understand it learn more about great headlines in the process. Set a timer before you go to this site or you may be there a while…

Click here for the Portent Title Maker

HubSpot Blog Topic Generator

Enter three subjects and get back a week worth of blogging ideas. Comes up with some very interesting titles and is great for business bloggers.

Click here for the Blog Topic Generator

Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer Tool

Will your headline connect with your audience on an intellectual, empathetic, or spiritual level?

Test it out with this tool and see what comes up. Then change a few words and see what difference it makes.

Click here for the EMV Headline Tool

Tweak Your Biz Title Generator

Want a LOT of ideas? Just put a word into this spinner, tell it if your word is a noun or verb, and hit the green button. You’ll get an avalanche of ideas!

Click here for the TweakYourBiz Title Generator

HookLine Dynamic

Take any idea you’ve got and turn it into an amazingly magnetic headline with this tool. Swap words in and out, and watch as the excitement, emotion and empowerment scores update so you can measure your variations against each other to choose the best.

Click here for the Hookline Dynamic tool

The “Get Ideas” Tool

Hidden inside the HookLine Dynamic tool, the little “Get Ideas” button will help you brainstorm some of the most curiosity-driven and magnetic headlines you’ve ever seen. It’s based on the psychology and format behind today’s biggest viral posts, and applies those principles for your audience and subjects.

Click here for the “Get Ideas” tool

Work Less Live More: The Easiest Way To Succeed in Business and Enjoy Life

What a difference a year can make. Last year at this time — I was *stressed*.

And, it wasn’t your normal, works full time, has a business, is planning a bat mitzvah kind of stress.

I was spending a lot of time in tears (literally) and really not feeling well at all.

I wondered why I even was trying to build a business at all… it felt like I had traded the golden handcuff of a corporate job for the electronic monitoring bracelet of slack and social media.

And, because of that, I almost gave up trying. After nearly a decade of helping people create a business that worked for them, I was ready to throw in the towel and get ready for some serious Netflix binging.

But, because of you… I couldn’t do that. My mission is to help smart people make a living (and a difference) by sharing their knowledge with the world. And, given how fast the world is changing, being able to make a living using your skills becomes more and more critical. I couldn’t give that up… but something had to change and fast…

And it did.

I realized that I am not the *only one* who has a busy and full life. I knew many people who made this work for them… Instead of reinventing the wheel,

– I started to listen to their stories. And, take bits of pieces of what they did for my own.
– I got much more intentional about scheduling.
– I learned how to set better boundaries
– I cleaned up my “very complicated” offerings, shut down one of my businesses, and got clear.

The easiest way to get out of the solopreneur stress cycle, is to learn from people who have done just that.

The problem with that is knowing *who* is the real deal – and who is just photoshopping their success. It is hard to know.

That is why I was happy to be asked to be one of the guest experts on Deb Johnstone’s Elevating Entrepreneurs Summit which begins on March 12.

The summit is all about how to create a life that gives you time and freedom – and make more doing it.

The reason I’m excited about this summit is that I personally know many of the presenters including Michele Scism, Belanie Dishong, Giovanna Rossi, Jena Rodriguez and Paul Taubman. They have all built business that change lives and yet allow them the freedom to enjoy their lives too.

(I am pleased as punch that I was chosen to be part of such a cool group of entrepreneurs)

Here’s what is on the agenda:

  • Your personal productivity style, and strategies that will empower you to work less and earn more and therefore, enjoy the time and freedom to do the things you want to do!
  • The unconscious patterns that keep you stuck, and how to stop those patterns—for good—so you can finally break through to higher levels of success.
  • Top secret marketing, public relations and sales strategies to help you stop wasting time as you build more awareness around your brand and increase sales.
  • The very best tools you already have, and how to leverage them to fuel your success and results, day-to-day.
  • And so much more.It is like having a “kitchen cabinet” of talented advisors to help you create a flow state in your business.
    .
    Sign up for the summit here: https://solobizhacker.com/freedom