In this episode, Stacy sits down with digital marketing consultant and co-founder of Semantic Mastery, Bradley Benner. Before speaking on how to simplify the business model to grow effortlessly overtime, the two discuss the necessity of systems and processes for scaling businesses.
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Welcome to Marketing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them. I’m Stacy Jones, the founder of influencer marketing and branded content agency, Hollywood Branded. This podcast provides brand marketers a learning platform for top experts to share their insights and knowledge on topics which make a direct impact on your business today. While it is impossible to be well-versed on every topic and strategy that can improve bottom-line results, my goal is to help you avoid making costly mistakes of time, energy, or money whether you’re doing a DIY approach or hiring an expert to help.Stacy: 00:28
Let’s being today’s discussion.Speaker 2: 00:31
Welcome to Marketing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them. Here is your host, Stacy Jones.
Welcome to Marketing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them. I’m Stacy Jones. I’m so happy to be here with you all today and want to give a very warm welcome to Bradley Benner, the co-founder and CEO partner of Semantic Mastery, an online SEO and semantic web training and educational site providing proven, real-world results-oriented training in business development tools. He’s also the founder of the consulting firm, Big Bamboo Marketing, where he provides digital marketing solutions for small businesses. Bradley is a self-proclaimed digital marketing addict with a passion for web design, SEO, and social media.
Today, we’re going to talk about why processes, automation, and outsourcing for scaling an online business are a must and how to simplify your business model for rapid growth along the way. We’ll learn what’s worked from Bradley’s experience, what maybe could be avoided, and where people are just missing the mark. Bradley, welcome. Thank you so much for being here today.
Thank you, Stacy, I’m glad to be here.
Well, super excited to have you because scaling is something, as we were talking about before the show, it doesn’t matter the size of your business or how many years you’ve been in business, it affects absolutely everyone. You can approach life as an entrepreneur or a business owner and jump in and try to do too much and it can go sideways. What I’d love to do is start having you talk a little bit about your background, what got you to where you are today, and we can dive right into the conversation.
That sounds great. Once again, I appreciate you having me here. Yeah, so scaling is absolutely something that’s a challenge for all types of businesses no matter what size they are. I’ve experienced that in my own businesses as an entrepreneur for pretty much most of my adult life. I’ve had multiple businesses, and I’ve hit, in several different parts of my businesses, a plateau or a glass ceiling, so to speak, and it’s because of trying to do too many things all at once or not putting processes and systems into place.
A little bit about my background is I got started in digital marketing in 2010 and for the first couple years I really was just learning about SEO, search engine optimization, and how to get stuff to rank in Google because that’s where a lot of traffic comes from, still does today. For the first two years, I really learned how to build simple websites and I got into doing maps marketing and things like that, so essentially local business-type websites and Google maps listings and that kind of stuff, trying to figure out a way to generate leads primarily for contractors.
I’ve got a contracting background. I used to be an electrical contractor, so I feel comfortable in that space and I know how valuable leads are to contracting businesses. But, that goes for just about any sort of local business or even any business period, right? Leads are very, very important. So, I wanted to learn how to generate leads from Google. The first two years I did that, I just built websites on my own that then, once I would get them to rank and start producing leads, mainly phone calls at that point, then I would go contact business owners in that particular industry and that particular area and try to sell them the leads or lease them the assets that I had built, the web properties.
Essentially, it was a results in advance-type of deal. You know what I mean? I would call them and say, “Look, I’ve got leads coming in for your particular products or services in your local area right now and I need somebody to take these leads. Would you be interested?” Once I-
You removed all risk from everyone, basically.
People buying into your purchase, they knew you were going to deliver.
Correct, and that was good for a couple reasons. Number one, if I was to just come right out of the gate trying to sell marketing services, I had no credibility. I didn’t have any portfolio of … Under the normal circumstance, I wouldn’t have had any proof to show that I knew what I was doing and could get results. It would be like, “Hey, Mr. Business Owner, I promise if you just give me a $1,000 a month, in the next three months I will probably get you results.” That’s a terrible way to start a conversation with a prospect.
So, I learned how to generate leads first and then approach the prospect. After about two years of doing that, I had gotten pretty good at it and I was able to get consistent results from the properties that I would build. But, because I dealt mainly with contractors, and I live in Virginia, during the winter months, it would slow down and my revenue would dip because of that. I really wanted to start building more of a reliable and consistent income. So in 2012, after I’d had enough experience and enough of a portfolio to prove that I knew what I was doing and to be credible, that’s when I started my own agency which is Big Bamboo Marketing. That’s essentially an SEO and local marketing agency.
I started to provide my services or offer my services on the traditional client-agency relationship. I built up several different clients from all different kinds of business industries, business verticals, not just contractors, but all different types. Then, in 2013, I actually joined a mastermind, a high-level mastermind with some other marketers and I started an accountability group, a weekly accountability group via Google Hangouts where we would just get together with 10, 15 of us and hold each other accountable, share what was working in our businesses, what wasn’t working and that kind of stuff.
Within several weeks, a few of us were constantly or consistently the ones that were sharing and most other people were just showing up and consuming, there to listen and to take what we had to share. So, we realized very quickly that what we were sharing was actually more valuable than the host of the mastermind program. So, we decided that we wanted to start our own digital marketing, coaching, consulting, product development-type business so that we could teach our methods to others.
In 2013, we started Semantic Mastery, which is the company that I’m representing today and we started providing … Excuse me … information products, weekly training series, started developing done-for-you services, so digital marketing services for our students and our members and such. At the end of 2013, in October of 2013, we started … Excuse me. I’m sorry. October 2014, so about a year into it, we started our weekly hangout series, which is our weekly Q&A webinar series. It’s hosted on YouTube and we call it Hump Day Hangouts. It’s every single Wednesday at 4:00 PM Eastern and it’s a free series that it’s …
It’s a one-hour-long show. People can come and ask any sort of question about digital marketing that they want and we answer it. We’ve been doing that consistently since October of 2014, so almost four and a half years now. That has been something that’s been huge for us as far as growing our audience, getting our name out there, building our brand, and also providing us with the information from our audiences to what they need, like the types of training that they need and that kind of stuff.
Because we interact with them on a weekly basis and just as you know, with the podcast, consistency is critical. Having that regular consistency and always being there really helped to get our name out there. Our little space, I call it a small corner of the web. Internet marketing for local businesses and local SEO and that kind of stuff, is kind of a small corner of the web, but it’s an important one and I feel like we’ve done fairly well at building a name for ourselves.
It’s certainly a need that smaller businesses truly do need to have to get an understanding of this. That’s awesome.
Yeah, absolutely. Thank you.
All right, you love processes. You are a systems guy, so why are processes and systems really the backbone to making all things work for a company?
It’s a great question. Well, as we started mentioning earlier, scaling. In my own business, as a solopreneur, which I know a lot of people can relate to that. When I got started, as I mentioned, from 2010 to 2012, I was doing absolutely everything on my own. In fact, from even when I started my agency in 2012, I still did everything myself. I would do all the prospecting and sales. I would do all of the fulfillment of the marketing services, all the SEO work, the content production. Everything that had to be done for my clients, I would do because, again, as a solopreneur, I think I felt like nobody could do it as good as me. You know what I mean?
You were the guy! Yeah, you’re the guy. You got it! You’re working. You’re here to serve. You’re delivering and no one can do it better than you.
That’s right, and I was good at what I did. So, I thought that the only way that I could produce the results consistently was to be the one that did them. What happened was I reached a point where there’s only so many hours in a day and I got to a point very quickly, especially when I opened my agency and I started taking on clients, I got to a point very quickly, within a year where I was literally working 14 hours a day, seven days a week, and I couldn’t … Even though the money was good, I had no time to enjoy it. I could not take on any more clients or increase my revenue beyond that point.
So, I had to learn how to outsource or how to build systems and processes and to automate and that kind of stuff. What’s funny is there as a really high-level, weekend seminar for digital marketers that was in Phoenix, Arizona that I paid $20,000 to go to.
Only $20,000. That was it.
Yeah, it was only-
And, it wasn’t worth it [inaudible 00:10:10] now.
Well, the funny part about that story is I picked up a book by Sam Carpenter, I think it is, called Work the System and I bought it on Kindle for $9.99 to read on the flight to Phoenix from Virginia. I read half of it there on the way to Phoenix and then I finished the book on the way back. I got more from that $9.99 book on Kindle that helped me grow my business, than the $20,000 seminar that I went to.
Yeah, it happens.
Yeah, and it was crazy. I love telling that story because it’s funny how something you think is so insignificant can have such an impact on your business and your life, career, whatever. Long story short, that book really taught me that the author, I could relate to what his story was and that was I was saturated. I could not take on any more work. I was always putting out fires so to speak, playing Whac-A-Mole.
Anytime I thought I was going to start expanding into new areas or take on new clients, something would come up and I wasn’t able to. I learned that I had to start letting go and delegating, learn how to delegate work. The only way that I knew how to do that was to start developing processes for my own work. Documenting was I was doing and putting it in a very linear, step-by-step fashion so that I could hire somebody else either in-house or a virtual assistant.
I work as a digital marketer so I do almost everything virtually, so I was able to hire inexpensive labor from the Philippines, for example, or overseas period, that I could then hand my process docs to and my training videos to and have them learn my processes to do it exactly the way that I did them. Because I would just document exactly what I did. It would me be narrating the training video and me recording or typing out on just Google Docs what my processes were in a very step-by-step fashion.
I learned after a few months … It’s funny. The first process that I developed was for building, what I call, syndication networks and that’s essentially Web 2.0 and social media properties that you can syndicate or broadcast your content to, whether it’s from a blog, a YouTube channel, a podcast, whatever the case may be. It’s content amplification really. Syndication networks were a big part of a foundation of my business for my clients as well as I was earning revenue from selling syndication networks, which I was building all myself.
It would take me, which I was really proficient at it, take me five or six hours to build a syndication network. That was one of the first things that I learned how to outsource and develop process docs for, but, as I mentioned before, I had 14 hours a day that I was managing client work. So, when I decided that I was going to learn how to outsource and create these processes so that I can outsource the work and unload it to other people, I literally had to give up two hours of sleep per night.
That’s what I said. I said, “I’m going to give up two hours of sleep per night to work on these process docs until I get it done. It took me four months to get it done and I was like a zombie. What was great about it was once it was done, I hired two virtual assistants full-time, right off the bat, and I handed them those process docs and training videos, and I have never had to build another one of those syndication networks since. That was in 2014 and I still have those two virtual assistants still work for me today.
Semantic Mastery, we actually provide that as a service done for you, syndication networks for our members. And, we’ve got a whole team now that builds them, which is incredible. That’s when I realized the power of building processes and systematizing stuff, outsourcing stuff, and also automation. From there, like I said, I really started trying to develop processes for everything that I could in my business and fortunately, my partners … I’ve got four partners at Semantic Mastery … they’re very process-oriented as well.
We get good at a particular method or whatever it is that we are trying to implement in our business, we learn how to master that on our own first. As soon as we get to a point where we have something that’s repeatable, we can get repeatable results from them, that’s when we build our process around it, try to systematize it and either delegate it or automate it. Then, we move on to the next one.
That sounds so easy and yet I know it’s not. Really that $20,000 seminar got you to read that book that led you to where you’re at today.
That’s correct. Yeah. That’s a good way to look at it. I didn’t think about it that way before-
… but you’re right.
You paid $20,000 to have the opportunity to read the book and to buy yourself the time of that flight.
Yeah. Okay. You made it sound really easy. I just know from doing this myself that it takes a little bit more than just not having two hours of sleep and it also takes, obviously, having people in place that you can count on. It does boil down to just getting everything, at first, written down.
Is that the first step that you would suggest to people to just list and write down absolutely everything that they are doing to get a task done? Is it as simple as writing it or should they be doing video recordings? And, are there any tools they should be using to help them with this?
Great questions. I don’t like to write. I always went to video first and part of that was because I like to just fire up a screencast recording … I use Snagit or whatever, Camtasia, whatever you want to use, but fire up a screencast and then just perform the process that I was going to go anyways. But, I narrate it while I’m doing it. I get very descriptive into go here, click this button, or click this link. Select this from the dropdown. Then, in the next field, in this text field, enter this information.
I narrate like that through the videos so that then, once I’m done with that video, I can go back and upload it to YouTube or whatever the case may be, press play, and then start, basically, transcribing. Or, I could send it to a transcriptionist. Now, to be honest with you, I still write most of my own process docs. I’ve hired transcriptionists in the past to do it, but they don’t quite format them the way that I like them to. Something else that I could outsource was train a VA to do that for me, a virtual assistant to do that for me, but I like to have it done now.
So, I still do produce a lot of my own process docs, but I got really good at doing it and very efficient at it. What I like to do, like I said, first is just to record it and narrate it with a very descriptive narration. Then, I go back and then I just use Google Docs. I’ve tried a lot of the different types of tools out there that can help with the process of creating process docs. Process Street is one of them. There’s a lot of them out there, but I’ve always fallen back to just Google Docs because it’s easy to share and collaborate with my virtual assistants or the people that I delegate it, my team essentially.
Again, we just use YouTube as our hosting for it. It keeps our cost down and it’s just simple and it’s consistent. You know what I mean?
Yeah, and the problem with when we do a lot of things and you upload them to a Dropbox or Box or something along those lines, there’s not an easy way … It gets kind of lost in folders and inside of folders inside of folders sometimes. I get why YouTube would be easier and then I’m assuming that you keep those private. So, it’s login. It’s not a public forum posting to YouTube.
At least unlisted. Typically, what we do is the first step in the process doc will be the training video link and then from that, it will all the actual step-by-step, very linear process. Step one, step two, step three. It’s not an easy process. It might sound easy, but it’s not. It’s tedious and I got to be honest, it sucks. It’s not fun, but it’s necessary.
The thing that I’ve always said, especially to our students who are our members, is if you think that it sucks to create process docs, doesn’t it suck more to have to do that process over and over and over again because you’re too lazy or unwilling to train somebody else how to do it. It is a tedious process, but the benefit is you do it one time and you practically never have to do it again at that point. Does that make sense?
Totally. And, the problem is that we’ve experienced in our own agency is when it’s word of mouth processes and someone’s training someone and then someone else is training, two years later, I bop back in and I’m like, “Oh, what are you guys doing?” I realize that they’ve skipped things that, to me, were fundamental, super important things to get done along the way just because it didn’t translate in the word of mouth training because it wasn’t written down or on video in black and white for someone to be able to refer to every single time that job changed hands.
Yeah, that’s like playing the game telephone.
It is. It is.
Here’s something else about that. What I’ve learned over the years is when I first started developing process training, I wouldn’t want my virtual assistants or whoever I delegated the work to, whoever was in training, I wouldn’t want them trying to modify their processes. I wouldn’t want them veering off course so to speak. I would tell them, “This is exactly how I want it done and just follow the process period.” That works really well for training somebody initially, but what I found was that once you’ve delegated the work, whoever’s going to be doing that process is usually, typically going to be doing that process over and over and over again to the point where they’re going to find the ways to make it more efficient. To either combine steps or eliminate steps altogether or they will find other tools of things like that that can help them to become more efficient.
Where I was so rigid in the past because I thought my way was the best way and the only way, I’ve learned that if I empower my assistants or my employees or whatever the case may be, if I empower them to contribute to the process, try to streamline and improve the processes, all I ask that they do is when they find something, something that they think is better, then to just approach me with it. Send it to me and say, “Hey, what do you think about this?” I’ll review it and typically, at that point, I’m like, “Wow, that’s amazing. Yeah, let’s go ahead and update the process doc.” Then, I task them to update the process doc so that I don’t have to do it.
What happens is they seem like they’re … They get so much more engaged in the process themselves. I think it empowers them to know that their opinion is respected as opposed to just being like a machine.
Right. No, and that makes absolute sense. Just so you know, if you haven’t done this before, and I know you don’t like writing notes so much, we use a transcription service called Rev, R-E-V.com.
Very familiar with it.
Yeah. For all of you listeners, it has actual higher capabilities than some of the other platforms out there that are a lot cheaper. We also use Temi for transcriptions on calls where we just want to have general notes from what our clients were talking about, but Rev does a little bit more because they actually have a person who gets involved in fine reading everything too. So, that helps.
Yeah. Yeah, as a matter of fact, we transcribe our weekly hangout every single week through Rev. It’s an hour-long, so it can be rather expensive, but we multipurpose our content. Again, I’ve got a whole team that does this for me now, but we take our one-hour weekly webinar series Hump Day Hangouts and because it’s a Q&A, we break out the individual questions and answers. We have a video editor that literally takes the video and breaks out the separate individual YouTube questions and answers and uploads them as separate videos to our channel.
If you go to youtube.com/semanticmastery, we have thousands of videos and it’s insane. We got a graphic … Again, these are all processes that we built so it’s all automated now. We do the webinar and the very next day, we have our content developer, who actually extracts the questions and answers … Well, it gets sent to Rev via Zapier. A zap. So, it automates it.
That’s perfect. You’ve automated that because we still have someone manually sending to Rev. That’s brilliant to use Zapier.
Yeah, it’s great because again, one of my partners, Adam, he was a systems engineer. So, he’s like the automation king. He automates everything. It’s awesome. It gets sent directly to Rev and then Rev transcribes it. Our content marketer, she goes in, and she literally edits the video out to the separate questions and answers and then when we get the content back, she extracts the text format and then puts that in the video description. It uploads to YouTube. Then it gets put as a blog post on our blog, so we have all these individual questions and answers on our blog.
We have a graphic designer that creates the thumbnail image for it, which also becomes the featured image on the blog. It’s just incredible what we’ve built over the years to just automate all this stuff or create systems around it.
Right, and you’re able to profit off of the content that you literally just created one time.
That’s correct, in multiple different formats too.
Yeah, that’s fantastic. That’s great. Congratulations on that because that is something that a lot of businesses do not scale well at all. I talk to other agency owners all the time, and they just look at me dumbfounded because we tape our blogs, we turn them into podcasts, we turn them into ebooks, we turn them into video chats, Quora questions, all sort of other things. And, they just look at me, and their eyes glaze over. They’re like, “You have to have a full team of 10 people to do all these things.” You don’t once you break it down and you have designated roles.
I was writing out what I wanted to talk about today and that was one of the things was … You just mentioned, you hit the nail on the head, you said that when you start to describe how you can take a piece of content and turn it into multiple different formats so that you can use it to generate more traffic from a much larger audience, a much broader audience … Because people consume content in different ways. As soon as you mention that to most companies or businesses, their eyes glaze over like you said, and they’re like … It’s overwhelming.
Really, the key is to master one thing at a time. That’s the key and that’s … Ask me how I know? Because I have tried to do … I think all business owners go through where they become overwhelmed with trying to do too many things all at once. Whenever you try to do too many things all at once, none of them get done well. The goal is to get one … What I’ve learned over the years, and it’s hard as an entrepreneur, I always see opportunity … I’m sure we all do. So, I always think, “Well, I got to be doing this, this, this, and this because it looks amazing and it can do this and this and this.”
The problem is I never get any traction in any one area from spread too thin. So, I’ve learned over the years to just choose one thing, get good at it, master it, systematize it, turn it into a process, delegate it or automate it or both, a combination of both, and then move on to the next piece or component of it.
So, you’re really good at not getting distracted by shiny, sparkly objects.
More so recently. I’ve gotten better at that, but no, I can tell you right now, I’ve had shiny object syndrome, just a terrible case of it just as most people do. But, I’ve learned over the years that does nothing but detract from your business. You know what I mean?
That’s awesome. Okay. You’ve just given some great tools and suggestions on how to start scaling. What’s the next step beyond that of everything that you’ve talked to? What does someone do next?
Well, beyond the process doc, process development. I think the next part is hiring, hiring and training. Then, obviously learning how to manage and that’s a whole other beast to deal with. We’ve actually developed a process for hiring. We call it an outsourcing funnel, and it’s really cool because we basically will set … Most of our assistants are overseas. We’ve got assistants all over the world in different countries and we’ve got employees here in the U.S. as well.
We developed a funnel for hiring where essentially we post a job on whatever platform it is and people come to apply. Then it’s all automated through canned email responses that it gives them specific instructions, sends them to a Google Form, a Google Form that’s a series of tasks that they must complete. Essentially, all I’m trying to do is find out if they can follow directions. Obviously, the type of tasks that we ask them to complete are going to vary depending on whatever kind of job it is that we’re trying to fulfill. Or, fill. Excuse me.
What we do is we end up having them go through two stages of this hiring funnel or these series of tasks in two different stages and it’s really to determine … First of all, it eliminates a lot of the people that are lazy, the tire kickers, so that we only end up with people on … The output side of the second task funnel really are people that are motivated, they’re ambitious, they can follow instructions. If they didn’t follow instructions we’ll know it from their answers on the task that we’ve set forth. At that point, then they’re good candidates for the interview.
I’ve got one of my team members that does all the interviewing now and it’s great because … This is like clockwork. We might get 100 people to apply on the front end to send the first email to request … To apply to the job, excuse me. We might get 100 applicants on the front end, but by the time they get through that first funnel, there’s like 40.
So, it eliminates 60% right off the bat. Then, by the time the second series of tasks, they get put through that … Again, this is all automated. The emails and everything go out just depending on how they came through. Anyways, by the time they get through the second funnel, there might be 15 people left, maybe a dozen to 15. So, it goes from 100 to 40 to like 10 to 15. Then, we end up setting up the interviews.
Very specifically, the process that we have for interviewing is, at that point, we’re looking for communication skills. They’ve already proven they can follow instructions and that they’re ambitious, they want the job, so then it’s really about the interview process. We go through about a 30-minute interview process per applicant, but it’s really just to see how they communicate with us. If it’s a strained communication or if their English is broken, depending on where they’re at … Mostly this is just a text-based interview via Skype or Slack or something like that. But, if it’s forced, if there’s a lot of delay between questions and answers and things like that, then we know that it’s going to be hard to communicate with them as an employee or as a contract employee.
Then, we just end up usually offering the jobs to the applicants that had the best communication skills at that point.
The first part is that, which is hiring, learning how to hire so that you can delegate. That’s hard in itself because, again, a lot of our members have come through and they hear us talk about this … We have a training product specifically that teaches how to build these funnels and everything. They’ll come through and they’ll say, “Well, we hear horror stories,” as I’m sure you have of people that have tried to outsource and they’re just had terrible results. They had virtual assistants that just didn’t show up or did terrible work and all that kind of stuff.
In part, it’s because you didn’t screen them properly on the front end. It’s so time-consuming if you go the traditional route. If you try to screen 100 applicants, you’re never going to find a good one or it’s going to be very difficult to.
Yeah, you’re going to quit before you actually get in and then you’re going to have a smaller pool that you’re looking at. It’s not going to be the top of the top. We have not only gone down this path where we have ended up with non-qualified employees, but the worst of the worst has happened where it’s been … You hire on someone who is a bad employee and all of a sudden it’s a time suck like no other. It’s not always easy getting rid of them. It’s not just a click on oh, they’re gone. Once someone’s with you for a little tiny bit and they’re still not the best one, it’s a zap on your entire system.
Yeah. Yeah, especially when they have access to critical documents and all that kind of stuff. The first step is to really learn how to turn the hiring process into a process, systematize the hiring end of it and then another thing is don’t hire people until you have processes developed.
Yeah, that’s another common mistake we hear all the time is people say, “Oh, that sounds great,” and they go out and hire people. Then, they come to us and say, “Well, I can’t keep ahead of them. I can’t keep them busy. I hired them full-time but I can’t keep them working.” Well, did you have processes in place before you put them to work? Have the processes first. That’s why I recommend doing that.
As a moment ago, you mentioned the telephone method verbally. That’s something else that, kind of a little bit off topic, but I feel it’s important to mention, that one of the things that I experienced in my own business was not being able to be confident in being able to repeat results, specifically for SEO and getting stuff to rank in Google, for example. I would test all different kinds of things, but I wasn’t able to get … I might get results here on one particular property, but the next time I would attempt it, I wasn’t sure what I did to get those results.
I’d test a whole bunch of other things, so it was difficult to build confidence, to know that you get repeatable results. That’s, again, developing those processes, you document everything, then you can identify immediately, “Hey, this worked. All I have to do is repeat this again,” and it turned into a process. Once you have those processes, then that’s when you can decide to start hiring so that you can keep ahead of your virtual assistants or your employees, depending on how you hire them, and then after that, it’s about managing.
Now, that’s something I’ve struggled with too is the actual management part of it. I’m not the best manager in the world. I think there’s leaders and managers or there’s visionaries and managers type thing and I’m more the visionary-
Yeah, you’re a visionary versus an integrator.
That’s a good way to look at it. That’s something that I’ve struggled with, so I’ve learned that I can get people excited about an idea and get them to want to join my team … and I develop all the training for pretty much everything we do … but when it comes to actual management of the team, I’ve learned to remove myself from that process as much as possible because it’s not something I’m good at. That, again, is a whole different beast. I think it takes a special breed to be able to integrate as you just mentioned and manage a team and make sure everything’s running efficiently and smoothly.
Have you read the book Traction?
Correct. Gene Wickman, right?
Stacy: 32:53 Yeah. Gino. Yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s all about visionaries, integrators, and how to actually have the right people, right butts in the right seats in your company.
That’s right. And, one neck to choke and all that.
Correct. Yes. It was eye-opening when I read that book and it makes a big impact on any sized business if you’re actually trying to not go solo. [crosstalk 00:33:19].
I’m so glad you brought that up. That’s really interesting. Gino Wickman, yeah.
My company Semantic Mastery, we’ve actually started implementing that five quarters ago, so it’s been a year and three months. That’s where we really discovered how you have to master not just in process development, master one thing first, systematize it before moving on, but us, as a company, we really were trying to be too many things to too many people. As far as training digital marketing, Semantic Mastery used to teach paper click marketing, social media marketing, video marketing, content marketing, SEO, email marketing. We would teach absolutely everything around the digital marketing space.
It’s just been in the last five quarters that we’ve really zeroed in on being local marketing. We teach now local marketing and how to get results for local marketing because, I can tell you as the lead trainer, it was flat out exhausting for me to try to stay up on the cutting edge of all these different types of methods. I wasn’t being as effective as a trainer, as a teacher, as a leader because I was not getting the results. Again, I’ve learned over the last year and a half really that to get really good at one thing.
That might start with processes, but also, in what you’re doing as your business. What is your primary product or service? Select one. If you’ve got too many products or services, too many options, too many options leads to indecision or not enough action in any one area. So, we really fine-tuned our message. Every single quarter we go through the whole traction process. We have a weekly corporate meeting and we have our rocks and our issues list and all that stuff. Anybody that’s read Traction will understand what we’re talking about.
I think it’s critically important to do that. By the way, that’s not fun either. Going through those processes on a weekly basis and then quarterly we have our main where we set our next quarterly goal and we do everything in 12-week sprints, 90-day sprints, that’s not fun either. That’s a kind of tedious process and it’s flat out mentally exhausting.
Kind of like having a business and not writing out a business plan. We all think, “Oh, we know what we want, but … ” And we say, “Oh, I know what I want with my business. I know exactly where I want to take my business and what my goals are.” Okay, well, then articulate that on paper. Write it down. Then, you see everybody … They stop and say, “This is damn hard.”
It is damn hard. I just went through this exercise. My husband thought, I think, I was a little bit nuts where all of a sudden Friday night, I got supercharged and I grabbed the big Post-it note boards and I took over my home office. I’m like, “I am going to processize our entire agency and make sure that we have everything going.” By Sunday at 2:00 in the morning, I finished.
Those are the types of things, though, that business owners … You can’t. You get stuck in your day-to-day and you can’t actually during your Monday through Friday, or I can’t at least, 9:00 to 6:00 PM in the daytime, actually pull your head out of the business enough to be able to actually think through these things that you’re talking about of figuring out what direction you’re going and where you actually need to have more processes developed so that you can scale.
Yeah, that’s absolutely true. You just made a point. We get bogged down in the day-to-day grind, the daily grind and the minutia of our business and it’s very hard to think at a higher level the because we’re stressed out about putting out fires, playing Whac-A-Mole. You’re right, sometimes it takes removing yourself.
I’m also a strong proponent now … I talked about how I worked 14 hours a day, seven days a week many years ago, but now, my weekends, I take them off. Unless there’s something absolutely critical that has to be done, I take the weekends off and I decompress. I’m telling you, I’m so much more effective Monday through Friday now, really Monday through Thursday because even Fridays for me are more lax days. But, Monday through Thursday, I grind and I grind hard. You know what I mean?
Come Friday, it’s more like a half day where I catch up on things that I wanted to do throughout the week that I didn’t get to. Now on Saturday and Sunday, I’m off, and I think that’s really important. Guys, listen. I totally understand if you are in a position where you need to work seven days a week because you’re struggling financially. I get that and do that. Do what you have to do. But, as soon as you can get to a point where …
That’s what we’re talking about here is building processes and systems that will afford you that opportunity, allow you those times to be able … Again, with personnel in place, automation in place, systems and processes, it will allow you to work on your business instead of in your business because you have the work being done without you being the critical component of all of it.
Right. That’s the key. Especially when you are starting off, you are that critical component. Even when you have been in business for a decade, you’re still a critical component when all of a sudden you, as a visionary, have an idea and you start going on a tangent. You’re going to have to go back to square one, build your processes, start scaling and bringing on the right people so that you can add on to that new level of wherever you’re taking your company.
That’s correct. That’s absolutely true.
It never ends. You’re going to have one of those Friday, Saturday, Sunday sessions I just had again sometime in your life.
Okay, what else do people need to know? Where can all of this go wrong with processing? Can you overprocess?
I think so. I think, as I mentioned before, when I first started doing all of that and learning how to delegate and building processes and hiring people, I was very rigid in mentioning … I didn’t want them to veer off course, off of what my training said. I think that’s something that can go wrong because if you don’t allow or empower your workers, your team members, to be part of the process and contribute, then that’s also demeaning to them number one. I think it’s critically important to treat your employees, no matter what level they’re at, very good. Respect them and their opinion.
Now, don’t get me wrong, we have a lot of virtual assistants or contract employees that don’t want to contribute. They just want to follow a process and they just want to collect a paycheck on a weekly basis and that’s perfectly fine. God bless them. We love them and they’re important parts of our business, but we have some that start to surface as the rockstars that really help and try to contribute on a regular and consistent basis and try to streamline things and make things more efficient. Those are perfect candidates, by the way, for promotions to team leaders or project managers and that kind of stuff.
That’s where, again, over time, I learned that my methods might seem the best to me, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the best methods. By listening to my employees, then a lot of the times, the processes could be improved upon anyways. So, I think, yes, things can be oversystematized or overprocessed, especially … Again, that comes down to almost micromanaging. You know what I mean? Let go. That’s the important thing I want to get across to you is just let go and try to …
Because if you’re always micromanaging, you can never macromanage. You can’t think about those higher-level things because you’ll be bogged down in the daily grind. Again, I think that’s something that is absolutely critical not to overdo it and not to over-manage.
Okay. Where do you think technology’s taking us to help us with processes, systematization, and automation?
Well, a couple things. Number one, just like we’re talking here on this … I can see you via video as well, but having the web is amazing. It’s made the world a much smaller place. It doesn’t matter where anybody is, I can communicate with them in real-time and we all know that.
Google Docs, I love Google Docs because we can edit the same document simultaneously and I can see in real-time what’s going on. They can see in real-time what’s going on. Again, I know there’s other tools out there that you can pay monthly subscriptions for that are supposed to streamline all that, but I still use good old Google Docs and good old Hangouts or Slack or Zoom for video communication or even text communication for that matter.
Also, I think the applications out there that can help us automate like IFTTT for example. That stands for if this then that. So ifttt.com for example. It’s free. They have some paid options, but that’s something you can create a lot of what they call applets, which will allow you to automate things like if this happens, then do that, right? So, that’s what IFTTT stands for. That’s actually what my syndication networks were built upon. Then Zapier, zapier.com is another automation platform that’s just amazing. It integrates with just about everything and depending on what subscription level, you can have these multi-step zaps that you can do just absolutely amazing …
Again, my partner, Adam, he was a systems engineer and he has a zap for everything. If somebody sneezes, he’s got a zap that delivers a Kleenex to them.
That’s awesome. Yeah, we use HubSpot as a CRM and also as all of our inbound marketing. But then we also use Monday as our project management system for our company. I realize that we were double dipping and listing things in HubSpot. That’s the worst. That’s the bane of my existence. When I see our team writing something twice in two different places, I want to find a Zapier for it. There has to be. I think I might be like Adam a little bit because I have to find a solution, or have our team find a solution, where it is just stupid in today’s day and age where you would enter something, do data entry in one place, and then do the same data entry in a second place. It’s just insanity.
Yeah, copy-paste type stuff.
Yeah, totally agree. I think the apps that help us automate stuff, and that’s getting better.
Artificial intelligence. That’s being implemented more and more into apps. For example, we do a lot of Google ads. I do for my own agency as well as we do for Semantic Mastery for growing our audience, expanding our reach. The Google Ads platform, for example, has started to build a lot of automation and artificial intelligence in there. There’s automated bidding strategies and things like that.
A year ago, I would have recommended 100% against doing that because I’ve seen budgets get burned through through automated bidding strategies, but now, it’s incredible. It’s gotten so much better. I’ll go in and manually set up an Ads campaign just for the first few weeks to get some data rolling in and then I’ll allow the Google Ads platform to suggest the automated bidding strategies. I’ll say, “Okay, let’s try it,” and it starts getting better results and spending my money more wisely. You know what I mean?
We’re in what’s called the semantic web now and so there’s machine learning and, like you said, artificial intelligence, and that is only getting stronger. It’s almost scary. It’s getting better and better to the point where we can implement those technologies into our business to just improve everything that we do.
Yeah, 100% agree. Okay, so you’ve given our listeners so much valuable advice and me so much valuable advice. I can’t wait for my team to actually listen to this podcast because they’re going to say, “Yes, all of Stacy’s systems and processes, there’s someone else out there in this world who believes in them as strongly as she does,” and who actually does them a lot better, I think. But, how can people learn more? How can they join your whole world, all the offerings that you have, the classes, the tools, the materials? How can people find out more about you?
Well, the easiest thing to do would be we set up a welcome page for your audience. It’s semanticmastery.com/marketingmistakes. That’s with no hyphens. So, again, semanticmastery.com/marketingmistakes. Really, when you land on that page you’ll see that we only offer basically three options depending on what you want to do. We have a free option, which would be to come join our Hump Day Hangouts. That’s our weekly Q&A webinar series that we do every single Wednesday at 4:00 PM Eastern.
It’s an hour long. You can post your questions ahead of time and we’ll answer them so that you can watch them on the replay if you can’t attend live. We absolutely love that. It’s been one of my favorite things of all time. We’ve been doing it for four and a half years now and we’ve only missed one Wednesday in four and a half years and that was a scheduled week off. My whole team loves it. We really, really do enjoy that very much. That has helped us to grow immensely and we like to give back for an hour every week and engage with our audience members. Whether they’re paying members or not, it doesn’t matter. So, we really enjoy that. Hump Day Hangouts is option one.
We also have … We developed a duplicatable process for getting results for web properties, so for getting results from digital assets as a local business or as an affiliate marketer or whatever the case may be, and that’s called our Battle Plan. That’s a very inexpensive product that you can purchase which is a pdf guide that has all of the step-by-step processes on how to get results as well as links resources. We have a store where we provide done-for-you services for a lot of our methods. So, there’s links in the pdf that takes you to our store, to the recommended products and services.
Lastly, we have our Semantic Mastery Mastermind, which is our top-level, basically, mastermind group with a lot of other savvy business owners and digital marketers that are from lead generation companies to SEO agencies to digital marketing agencies and to other business owners. That is our top-level coaching program. Again, when you land on that page, the welcome page for Marketing Mistakes, you’ll see that … Just choose which door is best for you.
That’s awesome. That’s a lot of very valuable information and tools, whether they are free or cost a little dollar here and there. I have a feeling based on our conversation that they’re all extremely valuable in what they give. You seem to be a very giving person, so thank you for that.
Then, are there any last words of advice you have for our listeners today?
Yeah, I just want to reiterate what I said about … And, I’ve learned this over my career now of nine years in the digital … I was an entrepreneur in other spaces prior to digital marketing and I’ve learned over the course of my career that don’t overwhelm yourself, really figure out what it is that you want to do about … If you’re interested in digital marketing, for example, find one thing that you desire, that you have an interest in. Whether it’s YouTube ads or SEO or content, whatever it may be, web design, get really good at that first. Don’t try to overwhelm …
As an entrepreneur, you’re going to think the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. You’re going to be bombarded with opportunity all the time and you’re going to recognize opportunity as an entrepreneur. You’ll want to chase that, shiny object syndrome type stuff. Don’t do it because it will distract. The quickest way to get traction in any business is to focus in on one thing until you get really good at it and then, like we’ve been talking about, systematize it, build processes around it to remove yourself from the process as much as possible so that then you can start working on growing or expanding into other areas as well. Do it one at a time and that’s how you’re going to grow your business the quickest and build the most table business too.
Right. Until everything can actually be done by someone else, you pretty much are holding back your business from growing.
That’s hard, I think, for a lot of business owners to truly grasp and understand. It was a hard thing for me to grasp and understand, but when you see the light, it’s just so freeing. It’s just unbelievable.
Well, Bradley, thank you so much for your time today, I know, again, I got a lot of value from it. I know our listeners are going to get a lot of value from it, so appreciate the time you spent with us. For all of our listeners, we will chat again this next podcast. Until then, have a great week.
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