Ivana Taylor is the publisher of DIYMarketers.com, where small business owners get low-cost tools, tips, and strategies to do marketing on about $17 a day. Her popular #BizapaloozaChat is a weekly Twitter chat that teaches about 2 million small business owners each week. She’s also been a contributor to AMEX OPENForum and has appeared on MSNBC.
In today’s episode, we’ll discuss the things we can do to prepare for both positive and negative tectonic shifts. We’ll also discuss marketing to people and selling to an established audience.
How to Prepare for Tectonic Shifts
Tectonic shifts are constantly transforming the business landscape. We often watch as they happen, and then watch as they become invisible. Ivana knew a programmer who said, “You know that technology is working when it becomes invisible.”
For example, the internet is such a big part of our lives, but how much do we think about it? It’s something that we’re used to now. AI is a shift happening right now that one day will become invisible; we won’t think twice about our refrigerators ordering groceries or our computer telling us that we need to send an email about a certain topic.
“The technology is moving a little bit faster than our behavior. So the shift that small business owners have to make—and they’ve actually had to do it with this pandemic on a dime— . . . is to incorporate the digital landscape inside their work,” Ivana said.
Sometimes, like with the COVID-19 pandemic, we don’t see these shifts coming, or if we do, we have very little time to prepare. However, there are some ways we can prepare for circumstances we can’t predict.
1. Think Ahead
The first way we can prepare is by thinking ahead. One way to do this is by asking ourselves, “What if . . . ?” What if a hacker put ransomware on our systems? What if the internet went down? What if someone files a lawsuit against us? What if our payment system went down? What if a new law impacts how we do business?
“As much as you need to prepare for doing your business in a virtual way, . . . you [need] a plan for the things that can go wrong,” Ivana said. We need to think through potential scenarios and make a plan for them. If we do this, we’ll be better able to handle unexpected tectonic shifts when they come.
A word of caution: This kind of thinking can cause us to worry about everything that can go wrong. Unfortunately, it is impossible to prepare for everything. We should prepare for things as soon as we can, but we shouldn’t agonize over how we’re going to prepare for every worst-case scenario; we simply can’t be ready for everything, but thinking through at least some scenarios can help us prepare for others we didn’t think of.
2. Put Money Aside
Another way to prepare for tectonic shifts is to put money aside. This is a great way to prepare for multiple scenarios because money can help us in many different ways. It could pay legal fees in the case of a lawsuit or it could help us buy a new piece of technology that will revolutionize our business.
Ivana said, “I’ve done so many of these podcasts [and] panels . . . during this pandemic, and the one thing I consistently hear is, ‘I wish I had a slush fund.’ . . . I think that a lot more people—I know I [have] for sure—have taken steps in their business to make sure that there’s money there.”
Ivana explained her process for putting aside money. “Every time I put out an invoice, every time that invoice gets paid, 10% to 20% goes off into another account,” she said. This is a great strategy because it gets us in the habit of saving a little bit at a time. We don’t have to put aside half of our savings right now. We can start small, and over time it will accumulate.
3. Sharpen the Saw
In Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, one of the habits he discusses is sharpening the saw. Instead of cutting down a tree with a dull saw, which would take a long time, we should spend our time sharpening the saw. With a sharp saw, we will cut the tree down faster.
To sharpen the saw, we need to reinvest in ourselves by learning something new, developing a new core competency, or by developing skills we already have. Ivana has a client who’s a very successful coach. She tells those she coaches to stay in the step they’re in. Ivana explained, “Instead of doing it all in big things, [do] just one small thing. . . . Pick one thing, double down.”
We can’t sharpen 20 saws at once, so we shouldn’t try to. If we focus on honing one skill at a time, we will be able to develop it faster. The skills we sharpen will come in handy when tectonic shifts happen. We will be able to use our skills to leverage the shifts or navigate unexpected tectonic shifts.
People Make Buying Decisions
Ivana started her career in manufacturing, where there wasn’t much of a marketing budget, and if there was, it was in danger of being cut. They also tended to think that a buying center made the decision, not a person. As a result, the marketing was usually not as effective or pleasant to look at.
“[It has] analogies that make no sense, and it looks like some high school kid did it on their home computer,” Ivana explained. “There’s this assumption that a buying center makes a decision; these nebulous non-humanoids somehow decide very logically that they’re going to buy something. It’s often [decided that] it doesn’t have to be pretty. That never sat well with me. Never, ever, ever. People make buying decisions.”
Ivana taught herself to picture a purchasing clerk who works at a random corporation. He makes purchasing decisions all day long, looking at this ugly marketing. After work, he gets in his car and drives to the grocery store, where he buys toothpaste, groceries, etc. Is he suddenly a different person at the grocery store than he was at the office? No. What happened between the time that he walked out of his office and into the grocery store? Nothing.
“Everyone deserves to have beautiful marketing that connects emotionally to [the] ideal customer,” Ivana said. That’s what it takes to become a priority, to set ourselves apart from the litany of products out there.
Selling to an Established Audience
One of Ivana’s first clients, Bill Jelen, wanted to be there for his kids, build retirement savings, and enjoy his life. In the late 90s and early 2000s, he had a forum with thousands of people on it. Ivana asked, “Do you have relationships with these people? If you gave them something to buy, would they?”
Jelen told her they would buy something from him, so he repurposed the content on the forum and sold it to them in a book. Since then he has written 60 books, crediting his success to that conversation he had with Ivana. He has a great life with his family and a big house.
Repurposing content is a great strategy to get information to people in different accessible formats. Where Jelen’s audience would have had to dig through the forum to find an answer to a question, with a book, they can find it much easier with the help of a table of contents or index. If we have a blog, we should consider turning it into a book. If we have a YouTube channel, we may be able to turn it into a podcast. Repurposing content can help us reach a wider audience.
Ivana explained one important distinction, however. Jelen was able to repurpose content so easily because he already had an established audience. He already had personal relationships with people in that audience. They knew him, liked him, and trusted him, so they were willing to buy a product he put out. It may be harder to repurpose content in the same way he did if we don’t have this kind of audience already.
Ivana recently scrapped her entire email list of 10,000 people because when she was building her list several years ago, she was focused on quantity. She was trying to get the biggest list possible. She didn’t have guidelines or a structure for the content she published, so she wanted to start over with more organization.
Her content has changed since she started, and she’s realized that a lot of those people probably don’t want to be on the list anymore. In addition, she said, “I would rather have 500 people and have 100 or 200 of them be solid than 5,000 people with 200 [solid]. Even though it’s the same number.”
We should ensure we have the right audience, organized content, and that our content and products fit our audience’s wants and needs. Otherwise, they are likely to unsubscribe from our lists or channels. Building a list, finding out what people on the list want, building great products, and selling them to the list is a great monetization strategy.
Thank you so much Ivana for sharing your stories and insights with us today. Here are some of my key takeaways from this episode:
- We should think through potential scenarios and make a plan for them. If we do this, we’ll be better equipped to handle unexpected tectonic shifts when they come.
- We should prepare for things as soon as we can, but we shouldn’t agonize over how we’re going to prepare for every worst-case scenario; we simply can’t be ready for everything.
- Putting money aside is a great way to prepare. We can start by saving 10-20% of what we earn for a rainy day.
- To sharpen the saw, we should reinvest in ourselves by learning something new, developing a new core competency, or by developing skills we already have.
- Everyone deserves to have beautiful marketing that connects emotionally to the ideal customer.
- Repurposing content is a great strategy to get information to people in different accessible formats.
- We should ensure we have the right audience, organized content, and that our content and products fit our audience’s wants and needs.
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