Ep009: Monthly Update, August 2018

Welcome to the first installment of my monthly update, where I’ll pull back the curtain on my business and share with you how it’s going. In this episode: annual goals and planning, podcast promotion (and disasters), and getting some structure and formality in my coaching and training.


Full Episode Transcription:

Hello there, and welcome once again to the Liston.io Show. I, of course, am Liston, and I want to help you build a better consulting business. That is what I am driven to do, whether you’re doing consulting, or professional services, or coaching, or marketing, whatever you’re doing to sell your expertise and help other people. I want to help you build a better version of that.

Now, if you haven’t done it yet, I’d love it if you’d go subscribe to this podcast, so you don’t miss a single episode. You can do that in iTunes, or the pod catcher of your choice, and if you are feeling extra nice and extra dedicated to this mission that we’re on together, I’d love it if you left a review in iTunes. It does help get the word out to other people who would like to co-conspire with both you and me to build better businesses for themselves.

Now, today, I’m going to do something a little bit different. This is the first inline of a new segment I’m going to have on the Liston.io Show. I’ve seen some of my friends do this, and I think it’s a great way to bring other people into the fold of what’s actually going on behind the scenes in my business, and so today I’m going to do my August monthly review. I’m going to tell you what’s going on in my business. I’m going to tell you what’s coming up and what I kind of have my focus on for the next month, and even the rest of the year, and into 2019. I’ll get into that in a second.

But before I do, I do want to let you know that I would love it if you wanted some help with your business, or that you think that you need help with something specifically, like business development, or sales, please go ahead and book a free strategy session with me. If you do, I promise when we’re on the phone, I will give you at least 2.5 useful insights that you could apply to your business immediately. Now, of course it won’t actually be 2.5 insights, that’s just an average, but I do promise it’ll be worth your time. All you have to do to book that is go to Liston.io/strategy, and you can do it right now if you’re interested.

So, for today, as I said, I’m going to be talking about what’s going on in my business, and I really want to start by setting the stage where I am now, how I got here, and then I’ll go into my quarterly goals and the goals for the rest of 2018. So, at the beginning of the year, maybe you know this, maybe you don’t, I pivoted my business. I was doing marketing consulting for clients. I ran a sales training startup for a while, and that was with a partner, and we decided to go our separate ways. And so, in January, I pivoted, and started this version of my business, which now lives at the website Liston.io, and of course thank you for being here listening, so you are now part of it, right. And in doing that, I quickly realized that no one knew me as a coach, no one knew me for my sales prowess in the marketplace, although people I’ve sold to obviously had given me good feedback about how that went, and I’ve done some client work that dramatically impacted their sales. But I was relatively unknown in the marketplace.

And so, the first order of business was just like, talk to everybody who would talk to me, and that went extremely well. That built a great foundation in my business. Of course, that’s very time consuming. My wife would tell you that I work a lot, and it’s true, and the big goal initially for this year was to really reach as many people as possible, and to continue to build awareness, and that was kind of the key metric that I wanted to drive this calendar year in 2018. Revenue, of course, is important, and none of that awareness stuff matters unless I’m getting paid, so that’s actually worked out quite nicely. I’m way ahead of where I thought I would be, but I wanted to kind of set the stage.

So, for my quarterly goal, and actually I would call this the end of 2018, since I’m recording this on Thursday August 2nd, and you’re hearing it on Monday August 6th, or thereabouts. I think it makes sense, rather than stating a quarterly goal right now. I do want to give you the kind of the end of year goal that I foresee for myself, and then I’ll talk about things that I’m going to focus on in August towards the end.

So, for the rest of 2018, what I really want to do is I have a variety of clients now, some of them are starting to wind down, and I’m at the point now where I can see approximately how long people are with me if I have them on a month to month coaching agreement. And I’m going to start to pivot that to either a three or sixth month commitment. I haven’t totally decided yet. I do believe that six months is the right amount of time for people to actually make a full transformation, and now that I’m having some structure in place around my teachings and the knowledge that I have, and the way I think people should go about building a better sales platform, and if they need help with business development, a better marketing platform. Now that I have that structure in place, I do believe that’s going to take three to six months for most people to implement, so I really do want to give people kind of the minimum viable version of working with me. And so, what that means is for the rest of the year, what I’d like to do is acquire 12 new coaching clients, and the reason I’ve arrived at that number is it backs into a revenue goal that I have. I don’t want to get too personal yet. Maybe I’ll warmup to sharing revenue numbers, but it doesn’t feel right at this time.

But anyway, I do want 12 coaching clients, and those coaching clients are going to start with a very highly structured program, and they’re going to culminate in an open ended accountability, kind of a month to month. Maybe I’ll work on a light version of that. I have some ideas for kind of an automated accountability system, which may or may not ever go anywhere. It’s in my head right now. But I’m also starting to have conversations with larger companies. So typically, the fit for my coaching engagements are solo business operators, or the owners of a small business, say 10 or fewer employees, and I’m starting to get leads and have conversations with people who have much larger companies. From 5 and 10, all the way up to 200 or more employees, and those folks need something different. Those folks really need a consulting engagement with me where I’m doing some of the work for them, instead of just with them, or guiding them in kind of a DIY way. And so, to wrap that up, for the end of the year, for the remainder of 2018, my goal is to take on 12 coaching clients and two consulting engagements, which will be much larger in size.

So, my business right now, let me set the stage for what happened since I think it was, yeah, the beginning of July. My business originally started out with me just offering advisory services. You would pay me, and we would meet on a weekly, or every other week basis, and I would give you advice, and we would look at your goals, and I would help you create and environment where you’re more likely to achieve those goals. And of course, I’d give you advice along the way. We’d do some role play. There would be some training involved.

But it was relatively unstructured and open ended. What I decided to do in June was send out an email to some people who were engaged on my email list, and just ask them, “Hey, I’m thinking about creating this online learning experience. Would you be interested in learning about what it might be, and give me some feedback about whether or not you’d be interested in it?” And so, I had people attend a webinar, which I gave privately, and four people bought right off the bat. I ended up with seven students, that’s called consulting sales bootcamp, and I believe that’s just going to be the first part of my coaching program. That’s another topic for another day.

But I think the important thing here is consulting sales bootcamp is an eight week learning experience. It’s not a course, because I meet with everybody weekly, I facilitate these peer group accountability sessions where up to four students meet among themselves, and share what they’re working on, so they can help each other improve. And while it’s going on, and I was clear about this to everybody who signed up, while it’s going on, I’m continuing to produce the content, kind of in real time. And the goal for me is the content will eventually be done, and be firm, and will be there forever, so I can then find new ways to leverage that content, to share that content, and like I said, I really want that content to be the basis and the structure for my coaching engagements in the future, and I think it adds just tremendous value to the level of coaching and the specificity, and the structure that I can add for people moving forward. So, I’m really excited about that.

The feedback that I’ve gotten so far from people in consulting sales bootcamp has been fantastic. They really like the content, they say it’s really helpful. I’ve heard things like this is already paying off for me, I’m already applying things live in my business right now. I’m also hearing things, this was interesting. I heard that one person said some of these concepts are familiar, but I feel like I’m understanding them and applying them for the first time, and that’s really what I wanted to give to people, right, because there’s so much content available in the world, but I find that most of it is done poorly for various reasons, and I find that there are different ways and interesting ways to present material that maybe even some of the best thinkers out there aren’t doing. And so, I think I can have an advantage in that area, so I’m really happy about that.

I’ve also heard from people that the group accountability sections … so, the way the course is structured is once a week, there’s content, and they go watch some videos, and they take a quiz, and they have assignments or exercises associated with that content, and then they meet in these group accountability sections where they talk amongst their peers and offer each other help, and progress together, and see the progress of the rest of their cohort.

I’m not there. That’s designed to be mostly an accountability mechanism, but I’m hearing from people that this is really, really helpful and a huge value add for their experience in the program. So, I’m really, really please about that, and I think more than anything, I’m pleased not only that people like it, of course that feels good, but that it’s helpful, and also that everybody in consulting sales bootcamp is actually making progress and keeping up with the pace, because I’m giving a lot of information. There’s something like 40 minutes to an hour of video every single week, and not all the concepts are brand new, but a lot of them require a lot of thought, a lot of them require practice, and so I’m really pleased that people are catching up. So, that’s a big, big deal, and at the time of this recording, I’m halfway through creating all the content for consulting sales bootcamp, so surely, surely in my September update, I’ll be completely done with that content, and I am stoked about that.

So, that brings us now to the podcast, the Liston.io Show. This very place where you’re listening to this now. In my marketing mix, one of the places where I focus the most time and attention in order to build awareness and generate leads is LinkedIn. So, I publish videos there, I have various different campaigns going on where I’m connecting with people, and messaging them, and following up on people who like or interact with my content, and that’s been huge. One thing that LinkedIn does really well is it gives me access to a large audience that I otherwise wouldn’t have access to, and I can go out and continuously build that network manually, right, so I can choose who I’m connected to, or who I’m not connected to, and therefor, to some degree, I get to choose who sees my content in a completely organic way. I don’t have to pay for it, other than the time I’m investing.

The content on LinkedIn that does well, however, is very short form. So, the videos that I publish there are typically two minutes or less, and so that’s about enough time to convey a single idea, which is great, but I really like long form. I like that you’re sitting here listening to this, and it takes a little bit longer, but you get a much richer senses of what’s going on of who I am, about what I have to offer, and I can communicate larger more complicated, but also more useful ideas to you. I can start talking about strategy, rather than a single tactic that you can implement today. I can, on the podcast, talk about how you can change the way you think about your business, rather than go out and try this sales tactic, or ask this one question.

And so, I really wanted to start this podcast for that reason, but also I’ll be honest with you, one of the reasons I wanted to start the podcast was to bring you interviews of actual consultants and industry leaders. So, you’ve heard me so far interview [Blair Ends 0:00:14:08], and Steve Gordon, and Margo Erin interviewed me, and I have some other things coming up with like, Jake Jorgovan and Jonathan Stark that you’re going to get a ton of value out of those, as well.

But I also want to bring real conversations with consultants who are currently either building their business, or have built a big business, or have had an exit, and there are lessons that can be taken out of that. And LinkedIn is not really a place where I can do that, so that’s a very long way of saying I really wanted to do this podcast for a while, it took me a while to get around to it, but here we are. So, my original goal for the launch of the podcast was to get 1000 downloads in the first month. Now, that for my previous podcasting experience was a very ambitious goal, and I nearly hit it. So, today is Thursday August 2nd at the time of this recording. I launched the podcast on July 5th, and to date I’ve had 872 downloads at the time of this recording. So, nearly 1000, not quite.

And here’s what I’ve done to promote the podcast. So, I marketed it to my email list. I marketed the podcast on LinkedIn, so I post these LinkedIn videos, and I also, in the status or the text section of that status update, I post a link where people can listen to select podcast episodes, and hopefully that drives some traffic. It’s really hard to tell how much, if any traffic that’s driving.

One of the big things I did was I ran a podcast giveaway. So, I’m going to come back to that in a second, because it’s worth diving deeply on that topic, and the headline is I royally screwed it up, and I’ll tell you all about that in a second. But the final two things that I did to promote the podcast was a couple weeks ago, I bought an ad on Overcast. So, Overcast is an app that runs only on IOS. So, I have a Pixel XL, it doesn’t run on my phone, but it’s a podcasting app where people can subscribe to podcasts, and manage the podcast that are in their library, and what they offer is ad placements on other podcasts where people can directly click on the ad and subscribe directly from the ad within the app. That’s really powerful, right.

So, I’m advertised originally in the business category, and I’m expecting to buy subscribers for about 350 a piece. It’s still running, so there’s no way to know exactly how that’s going to shake out. But if I had to do that again, I would’ve bought, and maybe I still will buy eventually, in their general category, rather than in their business category, which means I would be shown to all Overcast listeners, and I get way more subscribers, granted they would be less targeted, but I get more subscribers at a lower cost of acquisition for each subscriber. So, I think that’s an interesting place to get subscribers.

I did buy a second ad with a company called Adknit. Adknit.com. I don’t have an affiliated agreement with them, but tell Chris I sent you. What Adknit allows me to do is get dynamic placement of a one minute podcast advertisement spot that I created. Now, it’s professionally produced, it has some clips of different guests on the show. I talk about what the show’s about. I ask people to go subscribe to the show. And so, I’m expecting, through Adknit, to get something like 500000 impressions, which just means 500000 people will have the ad in the postural. So, after the show that they’re listening, another podcast, after they listen to the full podcast, at the end of it, I’ll have an ad spot that’s a minute long, and that’ll happen 500000 times. There’s no way to know how many people will actually hear it. Of course, it’ll be some subset of 500000, because not everyone makes it through, and then even the people who do, not everybody will continue to listen to my ad, but I have high hopes for that, because I think that could drive. If I even drove 1 in 1000 to subscribe, that would be a significant amount of subscribers. That would be 500 additional subscribers, and of course, if I’m releasing say five episodes minimum a month, that would be what, an additional 2500 downloads.

So, that starts to look like real numbers pretty quickly. So, my goal by the end of the year, I haven’t plotted this out exactly, but my goal for the end of the year would be to about double every month. So, right now, I’d say I’m on track to do say 3000 downloads by the end of the second full month, and then I’d love to get it up to doubling the additional would be 2000, so then I’d go from 3000 to 7000 to 150000, and then it starts to look like some real numbers for the podcast.

So, that’s my goal for the podcast. Now, let me tell you how I totally screwed up a giveaway. So, when I conceived launching this podcast, one thing that was on my mind is I had launched a podcast before, I was really crappy about promoting it. In fact, I don’t know that I promoted it at all. I just kind of published it, and that was it. And not surprisingly, not many people showed up. Funny enough, over the years, I have had people tell me, man, I really miss Buyer Insights Podcast, and I said, “Wow, I didn’t know anybody listened to it,” which is an exaggeration. Of course I know the stats, but I didn’t think anybody would miss it, let’s say.

And so, I wanted to launch the Liston.io Show not with more fanfare, but with more awareness. I wanted to give more people a chance to tune in early, and be part of it as it evolved, and really also give people a chance to give me feedback, so I can evolve it and make it better as quickly as possible. So, taking a cue from my friend Dillon Hay, I thought, well, I’ll do a giveaway. So, what I wanted to do was run a contest where people would sign up, maybe you dear listener participated in the giveaway. Maybe you even won, because five people did win something.

And what does any good marketer do if they’re going to run a giveaway? Well, they don’t want to buy prizes, right. So, I went out, and I emailed some people. I made a list of different software tools that I use, or that I know would be extremely useful for other consultants. And so, I put together an email campaign, I sent it to 16 different people at 8 companies, or maybe 9 or 10 companies, something like that. I tried to do two at each company, but not every one I could find two people. And what I found was, funny enough, sent it to 16 people, 87% of those emails were opened, and 60% replied to me. So, out of 16 recipients, I was able to secure 7 prizes from 7 companies.

Now, one of those was cheating a little bit, because an acquaintance, I wouldn’t say I know him well enough to call him a friend, though he seems like an awesome guy, Sujen Patel did contribute from three of his different products. And so, that was awesome, but I had a call with the CEO of Cloud App, for instance, whom I’d never met, as a result of this campaign. So, I was actually really surprised by how well that went, and at the end of the day, I had seven prizes from seven companies that totaled $8000 in free software. So, I was actually kind of stunned at how well this outreach went to get people to give me some free software, which was amazing, because like, most of them don’t know me. I knew Sujen already, but the other people didn’t know me at all.

And so, I thought, okay, great. So, I have this giveaway, I’m going to promote this podcast, it’s going to be amazing, and I was expecting this thing to totally go viral, and have 1000 or more email addresses, but boy was I wrong. So, I use this software called Viper.io, which powered the giveaway. So, by the end of the contest, I had 982 people view that page. I did buy a Facebook ad, and I don’t know, spent 80 or 100 bucks on it to send some people to the page to sign up for the contest, but only 8% of people who saw that page actually put in their email address, and I know I can recognize a lot of the email addresses on that list. And I think there’s a couple ways to interpret that. One is maybe the prize was a little bit too big, and maybe too good to be true.

When I talked to the CEO of Viper, and sort of asked for his help, he told me that he expected for B to B a conversion rate in the 10% range. So, he didn’t think it was too bad. I went into their Facebook group, I asked for some advice on how to improve my landing page, and I got some advice from him and some other people, and uniformly, everything that I did to change the page, when I followed other people’s advice, drove down the conversion rate.

So, quickly, I was feeling like that was a little bit of a waste of time, and so I wanted to avoid that, and be done with it as soon as possible. So, at the end of the day, I got 84 email addresses. Lesson learned. Oh well. It took up, I don’t know, probably 20 hours, so not an insignificant investment of time, but I sure learned a lot along the way.

So, that concludes my retrospective update, like what happened in the last 30 days or so. Here’s what’s on the docket for this month. So, I need help. I’m looking for a kind of partner/consultant to help me with some paid acquisition. I think the two sources of paid acquisition that I’ll be using for direct response are probably Facebook and LinkedIn. Mostly likely Facebook primarily. So, I’m looking for someone who knows what they’re doing, and I’m in some discussions already, but I do believe that in order to drive a little bit more velocity to my business, I’m finally ready to add paid acquisition that can be managed, because I feel like I have lots of other channels dialed in. I’m working on partnerships, I have LinkedIn, I have my email marketing, I have Facebook, I have lots of other things that I’m doing, and so I want now something that has a little bit more control.

I’m also going to be launching a very targeted outbound campaign. I don’t want to fill you in on the details of that yet, but I will be sharing, eventually, how that works. I really don’t know what to expect with the outbound email campaign, because it’s going to be a little bit of a set it and forget it. I will customize the emails, and I’ll do some tricky things with personalization that’ll make it a little bit more interesting for the recipients of those emails, but that’s another thing, is again, I think the theme of August is turning up the heat on that client acquisition. Because like I said, at the top, my goal for the end of the year is 12 new coaching clients and two consulting engagements, and I think I have the consulting engagements probably spoken for already.

The next thing that I’m doing this month is in addition to looking for help on the paid acquisition side, I’m looking for a coach. And so, I’m talking to a few people who I think can help me in a coaching capacity, so they’ll be my coach. I’m a coach who’s getting coaching, I know. But I think the important thing that I’m looking for is maybe not so much accountability, but knowhow, and a partner to brainstorm with, and someone who has some experience setting up a little bit of the marketing automation that I think I’m finally ready for. It’s been seven months of me just really hustling and doing almost everything manually, and I think I have enough leads and enough different properties, and what I call bread crumbs out on the internet for people to find me. So, I think I’m in a position now where I do want to have some sort of automation to bring more qualified sales leads to me.

And then, the last thing I’m going to be doing this month is this feels really strange, because I’ve been pretty reactive in my businesses previously, but I’m planning out all of 2019 in August of 2018. So, I’m looking at adding speaking gigs next year to my marketing mix. I think that’s going to be a critical thing, and it takes a lot of planning and foresight to do that. Also, with the model that I’m running, and wanting time for vacation, and family, and other things, I’m really going to start to plan out all of 2019, and I’m going to actually be on kind of an 18 month planning cycle from now on.

So, that’s what I’m doing this month. I hope this was helpful. I hope you found something insightful about what I said. If you have any questions for me, feel free to drop me an email. And just to reiterate, if you’d like to book a free strategy session with me, I do promise two and a half useful insights. All you have to do is go to Liston.io/strategy. Thank you so much for listening, and I will see you on the next episode of the Liston.io Show. Have a fantastic day. Bye.