An Announcement

by Brian on October 16, 2014

I’ve got two items for you today:

  1. the results from a survey of independent consultants and coaches
  2. an announcement

1. Survey Results

A few weeks ago I conducted a quick survey of solo consultants/coaches to find out how they use marketing automation (tools like Infusionsoft, Contactually, MailChimp, Hubspot, etc). The findings from the survey were a big help for the direction of my business (more on that in a sec).

Here’s a report summarizing the results: View The Report

The high-level summary is that I found three profiles of independent consultants (as they relate to their sales/marketing efforts):

  1. Consultants that need help defining their target market.
  2. Consultants that need help finding and converting prospects.
  3. Consultants who understand their target market and how to convert prospects, but need a way to make the marketing/sales process more time and cost effective.

You can checkout the report here: View The Report

2. The Announcement

When I went full-time with my business in 2012, my focus was on leading software projects for companies. That was a pretty broad focus and I worked on lots of different kinds of projects. I did work for different kinds of companies (big, small, across industries), for different departments (sales/marketing, product, IT, legal, finance, etc), doing different kinds of work (management consulting, project management, analysis, technical work, training, etc). I had a blast, but decided about 6 months ago that I wanted to focus my business more. And now I’m excited to announce what that direction is.

The Next Step for Shea Consulting, LLC

My practice is going to focus on helping small and medium-sized businesses build systems that make their sales/marketing efforts more time and cost effective. We’re focusing on Profile #3 from the survey results above. Some details about who we’re helping and how:

  • Who They Are: small and medium-sized service business. Examples include consultants, coaching practices, and independent agencies.
  • Their Strengths: These are businesses that understand their target markets deeply. They know how to convert prospects into clients. They have an existing client base, repeat business and get word of mouth referrals.
  • Their Problem: Their sales and marketing processes take a lot of time and effort. It takes time to find new prospects and it takes time to give those prospects the information they need to make a buying decision. My target customers don’t have a lot of extra time for sales and marketing. They want to convert prospects into clients in a more time and cost effective way.
  • The Opportunity: If these business can convert more prospects more effectively they can: scale their business, raise rates, and get more ideal projects (and fewer non-ideal projects).
  • How We Help: We build marketing systems that simplify how businesses convert prospects. Our clients know what information their prospects need in order to buy. We setup systems that keep track of their prospects and deliver the content prospects need, when they need it. This eliminates a lot of the manual activities associated with sales and marketing.
  • Our Methodology: We believe that the world of technology is way too complicated. There are seemingly endless tools, techniques and best practices in the marketplace. Our job is to simplify that. We work with our clients to understand their business and their needs. Then we choose and implement simple tools that fit their needs and are easy for our clients to use. And we do this in a way that is time and cost effective for small/medium-sized business.

What about your former and current clients that don’t fit into the profile above? Will you still be working with them?

Definitely. I will still be working with my former and current clients, and with word of mouth clients that I can help. The only change here is that I won’t be actively marketing to prospects outside of the target profile above.

Where can I learn more?

If you’re interested in learning more, you can visit sheaconsulting.biz.

In the next few weeks I’ll be building out a lot more information on sheaconsulting.biz. This will include tools to help businesses convert prospects more easily. If you want to receive this content when it’s available you can signup for my email list: Signup here
(Note: this is a new email list. That means even if you receive my blog via email, you’ll need to signup in order to get these updates.)

As always, feel free to reach out if you have any questions or comments:
brian [AT] sheaconsulting [DOT] biz

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Building a presence for your business on social media can feel pretty overwhelming. There’s all the different platforms (Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, your blog, your podcast, etc). And even more daunting: it can feel like the rules on social media are completely different than anything we’ve ever encountered before. There are seemingly endless articles about how to use (and “optimize”, and “hack”, and “leverage”) social media: how often to post, the perfect time of day to post, how to get search engine attention, how write catchy headlines, etc. etc. etc.

There are certainly aspects of social media that make it new and different from other traditional forms of communication. But in general, the rules are pretty much the same.

  • Know and respect your audience.
  • Communicate to your audience where they are.
  • Solve a problem for your audience.
  • Communicate in clear, simple language and in your own voice.

In fact, when I see people doing a poor job on social media it’s usually not because they haven’t learned enough of the new rules, it’s usually because they’ve forgotten the simple, time-tested rules of traditional communication. Here are a few themes to keep in mind.

Who is my audience?

CNN has ruined social media for most of us. It seems like every time I turn on CNN there is some story about a cat video on Youtube that has 80 billion views. Or some celebrity that did something online and everyone on earth seems to know about it. Those kind of stories suggest that we should be going for *everyone*, for the big numbers. But that is absolutely, 100% the wrong strategy.

Social media, like every other kind of communication, is about knowing your audience. And if you’re an independent consultant, your audience is specific and small, by design. That allows you to talk to them in great detail about the ideas, challenges, themes, inside jokes, and minor annoyances that they care about. As an independent business owner that’s one of your biggest advantages. Don’t throw it away trying to reach everyone.

Where can I reach them?

Recently I’ve spoken with a number of small business owners who are making a push to be on all the major social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram, etc. And almost as soon as they tell me their plans, they talk about how overwhelming it is to try to be everywhere. I don’t blame them. Trying to be everywhere is overwhelming.

Here’s the good news: you don’t need to be everywhere, you just need to be where your audience is.

A few thoughts:

  • A great way to start thinking about where to invest your social media resources is to think about where your audience already hangs out. Is there an active group on Linkedin or Facebook where your audience spends their time? Does your audience read blogs or do they trust more traditional media outlets? Once you know where they currently spend their time, you can begin to craft a focused, manageable strategy.
  • An example: if you have an active group on Facebook, maybe you don’t need to expand to any other social media platforms. Maybe the best strategy for now is to continue to grow an engaged, energized group on Facebook. It takes effort and active participation to keep an online group going (and growing)…doing it in one place is difficult, trying to do it in two places can feel almost impossible.
  • Seth Godin is one of the most popular bloggers on earth. And he has famously made a strategic decision NOT to be on Facebook or Twitter or any other social media platform. He just does his blog. Period. He’s argued that if he got onto a second platform, he wouldn’t be able to do his blog as effectively as he’d like. If that rule works for Seth, it might work for us, too.
  • On a recent episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast, John Jantsch and his guest Bill Caskey outlined a “social media” strategy that requires no social media at all. They argued that today’s salesperson should think about a few of the questions that she is asked most often by her customers. She should pick one of the questions and write a short response to it. Then she should email it to her contacts who would find the answer valuable. Pretty simple.

What am I trying to communicate to them?

When you know your audience, figuring out what problems they’re trying to solve becomes much much easier (the flip-side: trying to solve problems for an audience you don’t understand is almost impossible). Taking a lesson from the Duct Tape Marketing podcast I mentioned above, figuring out what to write about can be as easy as writing down the questions that your clients are already asking you. After Andrew Warner started his popular interview show Mixergy, he was surprised at the question his listeners asked him the most: “What microphone do you use for your show?” So he created a popular post that described the equipment he used for his show. Sometimes it’s that easy.

How can I communicate it to them clearly and simply?

There are lots of great resources out there for how to communicate more clearly. Here’s one of my favorites.

For what it’s worth, the two tips that I’d give to anyone writing content online:

  • Attentions spans are shorter than we think: Keep your writing (or your video, or your podcast) as short as possible. I’ve never heard anyone say: “that post was just too short.” I always hear people say stuff is too long. (as an aside, this post is too long).
  • Writing is harder than we think: Practice, practice, practice.

Think of your social media content the same way you think of a classroom presentation

Most of us are familiar with preparing and giving presentations. And while it can be nerve racking to stand in front of a room full of people and deliver a presentation, preparing the content for a presentation is something that most of us are quite comfortable with. Most good presentations start with the few simple considerations I listed above.

There’s something about giving a presentation that focuses the mind. Standing up in front of a room full of people can be scary. And that gives us real motivation to think about our audience and what we’re trying to deliver to them. While social media doesn’t have the same in-person feedback that a live presentation does, the same basic rules apply. If you focus on keeping your core audience happy, good things happen.

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