We are currently on day 23 of self-imposed isolation/quarantine in the Brown household. For us, that means 3 kids at home (ages 14, 11, and 11), two parents trying to work from home, and one adorable, but giant yellow lab who is on constant patrol at our front window - ready to bark her head off at any passerby from a squirrel to neighbors trying to get some fresh air.
I suddenly have a newfound understanding of why characters in movies are always doing this when they find themselves stranded or imprisoned in some way...
We are surviving much better than Tom Hanks in Castaway at our house and have lots to be grateful for. We are healthy, comfortable, have plenty to eat, toilet paper for at least 2 more weeks, plenty to occupy our minds, and work two parents can do and get paid for out of our home.
That's not to say this isn't hard. I'm an introvert by nature, so being home doesn't bother me in the least. But having everyone home ALL the time is beginning to take a toll. Don't get me wrong - I love my family, but do you have any idea how many times I was interrupted trying to write this post?!
A few days ago, I left the house for the first time in 19 days to go to the drive-thru at Walgreens for a refill. In the past, this was a dreaded errand that I had to squeeze into the myriad of to-dos my schedule demanded.
Not this time...
I even asked my kids if they wanted to come along, like it was an exciting opportunity, LOL!
My daughter couldn't get her shoes on fast enough!
The roads weren't empty - but they were eerily quiet. There was no line at the drive-thru, and I found myself oddly wondering if I should use the glove I brought to hand over our payment and collect my daughter's medicine... or if that looked rude.
Does rude still exist in this weird time of social distancing?
The cashier and I exchanged serious glances while I handed her cash, and she gloved up to take it.
I followed her lead. Gloves were indeed appropriate.
What is the world coming to???
Like many right now- I'm trying to come to terms with living in this giant unknown for the entire world and what that will mean for my immediate family, extended family, friends nearby, friends who live in other states, and in other countries. If I allow myself to go there and think about this for too long, I feel myself spiraling into anxiety from the lack of control.
I do best when I acknowledge these feelings, and move on to immerse myself in a distraction. Right now there are plenty of those in my household, and, I'm lucky to still have meaningful client work. In addition to that, I'm trying to tackle a few marketing items for my own business that I've left on the back burner for a rainy day.
Guess what? Today it's "raining."
In case you need a nudge to get moving on some of the things you've left for for a rainy day, or if you've suddenly found yourself with more hours to fill in your day as a solopreneur or small business owner, take this time to work on boosting your online presence so you and your business are ready, and at your best when things are back to normal.
Because things WILL get back to normal.
5 Things to Do NOW to Boost Your Online Presence in 2020
When is the last time you looked at your Google Analytics?
I'll be totally honest. It had been a while for me. I'll tell you another secret. I HATE math. If you feel the same, or just looking at the numbers and graphs start to freak you out and makes you think you have to do math, let's spin this another way so it feels more interesting.
Google Analytics is trying to tell you a story. It's not just any story. It's YOUR story.
Bonus: You don't have to do math. Google already did it for you! Interested now?
Try not to be intimidated by the graphs and the numbers. Instead, think like a detective and start clicking around. What do you see?
Look for things like how many visitors have been to your site in the last 30 days. See if you can adjust the time frame to tell you how many visitors have been to your site in the last 60 or 90 days. Has traffic gone up or down? Take note of what you're seeing.
If your traffic looks terrible or like it took a sudden nosedive in 2020 - it's very likely you can attribute that in some way to the Corona virus. It's ok. Take a breath and let's keep going.
If you know you had a particular stretch of time last year when biz was REALLY great for you - plug that time frame into your Google Analytics to analyze. Look for things like what pages of your website were getting the most visits, where your traffic was coming from, and how much time on average people spending looking at the top pages of your website. Look for patterns and take note of what you find.
What does this tell you about your story?
If you're having a hard time with this, or don't know if Google Analytics is even set up on your website, here's a great tutorial for beginners, from Google! Jump in there and learn it. We've got nothing but time on our hands right now, and this data is telling you a story with details you need to understand about your business.
Now that you're armed with some knowledge about how your site traffic has been, where people are coming from, and what they're interested in... let's take a look at your website.
If it's been a while, grab a cup of coffee and plan to sit down with a notebook and pen at your computer when you know you have a block of uninterrupted time to think. An hour should do it.
Before you dig in, you need to use your imagination. Close your eyes and try to visualize your ideal customer or client. You can get as detailed as you want.
If the person's image is fuzzy in your mind, that's ok. I'm going to imagine my ideal client is a woman (which isn't a stretch for me, because many of my clients happen to be women).
Now I'm going to think about her problems. What is she struggling with that has sent her to the internet searching for a solution? Is this a problem I can help her solve? If so, how do I tell her I'm the solution? What words she need to hear? Are they on my website in an obvious place?
This part is really important. The average person has the online attention span of a gnat anymore so if you're making your ideal client dig around for answers about why you are the solution - you'll lose her.
If your messaging doesn't feel clear even to you, make a note of it as something you HAVE to fix.
If you're too close to your content (this is often the case for small biz owners), ask a friend to help you or pay someone who can look critically at your site with fresh eyes.
Next let's think about trust. Assuming you have a clearly presented solution that sounds like it answers your client's problem, why should she trust you to deliver the solution, and pay you for it?
If you get stuck - jump back into your own mind for a minute and think like yourself.
What traits do you look for when you're considering doing business with someone new? Make note of these things and be sure your website presents them in an obvious place. If not, make a note in your notebook as something you HAVE to fix.
Do this exercise on EVERY SINGLE PAGE of your website.
When you're done, go back to your homepage and take a minute to look over every single page of your site one at a time for graphics, photos, and fonts. What does the look of your site convey to you? I know it's your baby, but be critical.
Does it look like you've had the same website since 1999? That's ok. Accept it, and make a note of it as something you HAVE to change.
If it looks modern and like a business YOU would do business with yourself- then you're doing great.
Two final tips for this section:
Check your website to be sure it's EASY for viewers to contact you. This sounds like a no-brainer, but you'd be shocked at HOW MANY PEOPLE don't have their contact info splashed somewhere obvious on every single page. It doesn't always have to be in the navigational menu as a "Contact Me" tab. If it's in the footer or in the header- that's great. Just make sure viewers can find it easily from any page of your site. Make it easy for people to contact you!
If you have a date anywhere (like in the copyright of your footer), make sure it says the current year. This will give you an instant credibility bump with your readers. If your footer says 2018 for the copyright- at least change this one teensy detail. It may not matter to you, but it could matter to someone who might REALLY matter to you later, so change it.
Now that you've made notes of what you need to change and you know WHY you need to change them, do it. This is where lots of us can lose our momentum. I know it's hard. Trust me! I feel your pain.
But you know what? I did this EXACT exercise myself last week and got steps 2 & 3 done in one LONG afternoon session. I'm a perfectionist and over analyzer, so if I got it done in one sitting, you definitely can do this.
It's kind of like getting ready for company to come over for dinner or a party. You need to clean house before they arrive, right? Put your head down and get to work. You've got this!!!!
Now that your website is off to a great start (or off your back if you've hired some help), let's talk social media. I know there are TONS of platforms and you're already so busy it's hard to keep up with what you've already got on your plate, but social is important.
Let me tell you why....
Social media today is what websites used to be for companies 10-15 years ago...
Think about that.
If you stumbled upon someone 10 years ago and they didn't have a website, you'd be thinking ...
hmmm... are they still even in business?
It really is starting to become the same for social. More and more people are looking to Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn to see what you're doing and if you're a credible resource. How many followers do you have, how many reviews?
This can feel super overwhelming if you've let social slide because you've been dedicating everything you have to stellar, live customer service. However, if we break social media down into smaller steps and develop a procedure to streamline things, the burden won't feel as heavy.
First of all, you DON'T have to participate on every platform. But you should try to participate wherever your customers and clients are hanging out.
If you're not sure where they hang out - ask them!
If you're not familiar with the platforms, start playing around with Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn to get familiar with them. I would say these are likely your most important platforms - but this can definitely vary by industry, so do your research.
Spy on your competition to see what they're up to. What types of content do they post, and on which platforms? Do you think they do a good job? What haven't they done? How could you improve upon what they've already done with a twist that is all your own? How do their followers seem to be engaging with their posts? How could YOU do better?
Take notes on what you find. Then start planning your own social vision.
Need some help zero-ing in on that vision?
It will help you do something one of my besties (and clients!) says all the time ...
"Work smarter, not harder!" You're exactly right, Karen.
When I'm helping my clients to work smarter instead of harder on social, I encourage them to do two things:
1. Batch PRODUCE Content Whenever Possible. Basically, this just means work ahead instead of waiting till the last minute. You can batch produce content for just about any platform. If you're on YouTube and trying to get ahead of your production schedule right now - take three days to film three different video topics next week instead of just doing one day of filming one topic. Keep this pace up for a few weeks until you feel like you've stockpiled a good amount. Then go back to filming one topic/week. A huge amount of your stress will melt away.
Someone I admire here with regards to batch producing content is another of my besties, Mary. Over Christmas break, she spent some time batch producing content for social for the ENTIRE YEAR of 2020 for her business. When she told me, I was like Whaaaaat?! That's brilliant!!
At the time I was up to my ears in client work and couldn't follow in her amazing footsteps. But I CAN do that right now. I don't know if I've got a year of content in me at the moment, but I know I've at least got a quarter that I can squeeze out.
Work ahead! Your future self will thank you.
2. Batch SCHEDULE Content Always. If you're batch producing content, you'll want to take your productivity one step further by scheduling posts in advance. It will seriously reduce your stress load by eliminating the daily panic of "AHHH! I forgot to post something today!"
Get that monkey off your back!
My favorite scheduler for the platforms I work on most with my clients is Tailwind. It's amazing for Pinterest and Instagram. It's more than that actually, I tell my clients it's actually essential to their success on these platforms.
Tailwind fun fact that many people don't know: If you buy it for your Instagram account, you can cross-post your messages (AND edit them) for Facebook! Go get it here for ($119/year). That's only $10/month Skip a Starbucks run once a month and you've made this work for your budget. Work smarter, not harder.
How are you doing? If you're struggling with any of these things, write them down and take a break.
When you're ready to come back, let's start thinking about your personal skill set. When is the last time you did something to further your own personal education in your professional niche?
It's ok if it's been a while. It's possible you might already have an idea as to where you need to work on yourself professionally. Maybe this article even helped you find it!
Take a minute to google skills in your niche that you feel you might be weak on. You don't have to tell a soul, just be honest with yourself and set a goal to conquer that weakness.
Here's a simple plan of attack for you:
1. Take an online course. Lots of course creators have sales running right now so this is an excellent time to work on self improvement. If you don't find a course to expand your knowledge within a skill set you already have, what about learning something new?
If you're not sure what you should learn, spy on your competition! (If you haven't figured it out yet- that's often my go-to for anything. When in doubt - do some research - competitive or otherwise!)
Is your competition offering services that you think your ideal customer would be willing to pay for? If this isn't something you currently offer, what would it take to learn this skill? At minimum, learn enough to provide an educated answer to a client if they ask you about this topic. You don't have to be an expert on it and your client doesn't expect you to be an expert on everything - but you should know what's trending in your professional niche.
2. Consume all the FREE education you can. If you're unable to invest in your skill set financially right now, search for free education. It's everywhere. You'll quickly find that the more you research a particular topic, the more you begin to recognize that the same names keep popping up for the subject matter you're researching. These are the influencers you need to follow! Check them out on all of the social platforms to see what they're up to and what they're teaching. Do they have a podcast, YouTube channel or blog on the topic you're hoping to conquer?
Do what you can to improve yourself during this period of time, and to support the content creators you've come to trust and enjoy learning from.
I've got some plans to finish a couple of courses I bought just before Christmas. When those are done, here are three more on my list from some of my own professional and personal business besties.
The first on my list is one I'll be doing for my own professional development:
These two are for my soul because I need art in my life, these teachers are amazing (and dear friends)!
The Fun Fab Drawing Club ($12/mo) or the Mixed Media Society ($18/mo) from mixed media YouTube artist, Karen Campbell. If you've always wanted to learn how to draw or try mixed media art - zero art experience required.
The Art Lab Association ($12/mo) from Scottish watercolorist, Lucy Brydon. BONUS... Lucy has a gorgeous Scottish accent you'll get to listen to as you relax into the world of watercolor and gouache (a fancy word for opaque paint that is kinda like acrylics).
While you're working on the Five Things You Can Do to Boost Your Online Presence, remember to take some time out for your heart and peace of mind.
In light of what we are all going through as individuals, families, colleagues, and members of our global society, I'm pleased to share the following advice from another dear friend and client, Cheryl Benedict.
Cheryl is a Leadership Consultant, Executive Coach, and expert on the concept of Change & Transition.
She released her first book on the subject earlier this year called The Wisdom of Transition, before knowing how relevant this material would be to each and every one of us living in uncertainty due to Covid-19.
Watch Cheryl's discussion on YouTube, or download her 2-page PDF on her website.
May it bring you peace and strength.
If you feel like you would benefit from speaking with a professional about other ways to cope with the current situation we have found ourselves in, I have two beautiful resources for you who are also cherished friends. Both are lovely professionals (& artists!) offering distance sessions online:
Cyncie recently shared How to Use Nature to Help Center Ourselves in Times of Uncertainty
Stay home and stay well! If you have any questions or need help with anything you are trying to implement marketing-wise, I'm here for you.
Mandi Brown is a Content Marketing Strategist, Copywriter and Owner of Triangle Creative Group near Raleigh, NC.
She is fascinated by buyer behavior and loves helping her clients extend the reach of their amazing content online via strategic digital marketing.
Mandi and her husband have three children including a set of twins and a daughter with special needs.
Email Mandi @ MBrown@trianglecreativegroup.com