This Week In Business

Systems 101: Why You Need Them (And How You’re Already Using Them Anyway)

systems-graphic-what-are-systemsWhen I think systems, I think people wearing suits, being filmed in high power meetings in conference rooms, smiling their capped teeth at the camera.

Truth is, we are all already using systems whether we want to or not. A system is a process for doing something. You have a system for checking and responding to email, for example, whether you’ve thought consciously about it or not.

Sometimes people think about systems falling under two categories:

  1. Anything that needs to be done.
  2. Anything that needs to be done by someone who isn’t you.

Most people only start caring about systems when it gets to #2 (you have to tell someone else how to do it). Something about explaining or documenting a process formalizes it and can help you see inefficiencies. Starting off with making systems for scenario #2 makes sense but ultimately, the most effective people we know move on to make systems for #1.

How do you know when something needs a system?

  1. When it isn’t getting done consistently.
  2. When it isn’t getting done well.

Most systems save time and/or money. What if you came up with systems for three things in your life (personal or business) and saved yourself $500 a month or 10 hours a week? That could be game changing.

So as we head into the new year, think about what personal and professional systems you may need.

Step 1: What needs systems in my life?

If you are like me, it’s hard to view your life under the seemingly cold lens of everything being a system. Sam Carpenter’s book (which you can get as a free PDF or audiobook) called Work The System can help. One of my friends made me come up with a list of ten personal systems I needed and ten business ones to get my brain moving in this direction. Here’s my list in case it helps you start yours:

10 Business Systems I Needed:

1) Systems for ordering/purchasing needed supplies (mainly paper, toilet paper, dishwashing liquid, sponges, binders, paper towels, garbage bags, cleaner)
2) System for cleaning off computers: running scans, how often desktops and download folders get cleaned off, when do programs get deleted, etc.
3) system for papers as they come in: do they get scanned, filed? What gets thrown out?
4) System of recycling: Get a bin(s) and figure out how often it gets taken to the recycling place.
5) System for meeting scheduling/changing- Do they need confirmation? Do I need a VA? This is a time suck!
6) System for saving ideas for social sharing/blogs with my team. I use Delicious and Pocket for long term storage. How can our team be sharing post ideas? How can I be helpful in this system without taking away creative freedom?
7) System for paying bills
8) System for checking email (nicole, info, and maintenance)
9) System for editing podcast
10) System for password management (currently two Keepass files, need to be merged and have a mobile component)

10 Personal Systems I Needed:

1) Meal planning system: How can I use a combination of my farm share, the pantry, and what I have on hand to make a combination of easy to deploy (known) recipes and exciting new recipes?
2) House chores system: who does them, when, to what extent.
3) Morning routine (times when I need to be out the door vary. Need to make sure breakfast is eaten, household chores advance somewhat, dog gets some exercise, and I can leave the house somewhat attractive.)
4) Exercise system: How do I get 3-4 times weekly exercise? Scheduling walks with friends has only somewhat been reliable. Should I make it a group thing?
5) Editing/Writing My Book: How can I get new chapters planned, written, edited, collated? Do I have a deadline and if so, what do I do after?
6) Kombucha system: How to take care of scoby, when to bottle, when to feed
7) System for birthdays/events: How to remember these yearly and one off events, how do I keep others informed who’d want to be informed
8) System for getting rid of excess stuff: How often to evaluate possessions, which things get posted to what sales websites, how often to have garage sale or other mass purge event
9) System for cleaning Anchorspace: What gets cleaned, how often, how is space improved incrementally
10) System for nurturing friendships: How often to have in person events? How to build relationships one on one? How to be thoughtful from a distance (texting, cards, etc.)

Once you make yourself have ten each, it’s easier to think of a lot more. Now pick one (maybe the biggest time suck) and start with that. I’m going to use meal planning as my system because I am sitting here realizing I have no idea what I’m eating for dinner so clearly that’s an issue.

Step 2: What is your system now?

Documenting what you do now is illuminating. What you’ll notice is some gaps/assumptions in your list, like I did. (Really? I expect myself to walk into my house at 6 PM, open the fridge, and feel magically inspired to make dinner based on what is in there?)

I spend Wednesday mornings batch cooking (way to go me for at least putting time in my calendar dedicated to thinking about food when the week is half over!) and I have a system of cataloging and trying new recipes with my Pinterest board (you’ll notice there are three boards: Try This Week, Did It Meh, and Did It Loved).

Step 3: What needs to stay? How can this be better?

In my case, here is not in my system for meal planning:

  • when I go grocery shopping
  • a master list of items I keep on hand
  • an inventory control (way to record what I need or will need)
  • how many and what meals get planned (what from ‘Try This Week’ Pinterest board makes the cut? When does each recipe get moved to Did It Meh or Did It Loved boards?)

Step 4: Make a new system.

So here’s my new meal planning system, which takes what was working and adds in the parts that weren’t.

Ongoing: a piece of paper is kept on the sideboard and as items get used up, Nicole adds them to sheet of paper for weekly shop
Saturday morning: Nicole chooses two recipes to make from the ‘Try This Week’ Pinterest board and three old standby recipes to make considering a balance of breakfast, lunch, and dinner and limited cooking time most days. Nicole archives old recipes based on how good they were.
Sunday afternoon: Nicole goes grocery shopping with master list and preps three meals.
Wednesday morning: Nicole preps remaining three meals.

Step 5: Try and tweak.

It’s hard to do documentation, even if you are being really careful. The key is to try it because there is likely something you are forgetting. For example, it might make more sense for me to prep Tuesday nights between 5 and 6 pm since I have a standing 6 PM happy hour at my house and I’m getting things together for that anyway.

This month, our theme is systems. We create systems to be more efficient, to decrease stress, to make sure things get done, to be able to let others help us, to be able to reach our larger goals, and to be happier. As we head into 2017, it’s a good time to think about systems and what we want to change. We’ll be discussing how to use the internet in some of your systems for getting your favorite (or, ok, just necessary) things done.

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

My Five Favorite Business Books

100startupIt’s no secret that to be a good writer, it helps to be a good reader.
And when I first started this business and time was short, I decided I was only going to read business books (and occasional biography of a business person helped break things up). I now read other things for fun but someone asked me about what my favorite business books were. Here they are in no particular order (with no affiliate links):

$100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau

It’s always great to think in the bootstrapping mindset because at the beginning, you want to spend time and money on everything but can’t. His ‘launch’ checklist alone is worth the price of admission but it is available on his website too: http://100startup.com/resources/launch-checklist.pdf There is an awesome amount of case studies that will make even the most hesitant person inspired to try a business on the side.

Lessons of A Lipstick Queen by Poppy King

Mainly a memoir, this book is about a young woman running a business. In a lot of ways, I saw myself and in a lot of ways, I didn’t. She has a lot of great one liners and her candidness is appreciated because so many people aren’t. It was nice to hear about someone feeling insecure, making ‘bad’ decisions, and otherwise admitting to the things no business owner ever wants to admit. Plus I love learning from people outside our industry in particular.

Your Best Year Yet! by Jinny Ditzler

If you are worried people are going to know you read self help books, this will tip them off for sure. From the clouds on the cover to the exclamation mark in the title, you know you are in for it. I do this goal setting exercise with myself at the beginning of each year (or I guess more accurately, at the end of the current year for the following year). You don’t have to read the whole book; just use if for the questions you are supposed to ask yourself (the book has elaboration on those questions, which is sometimes needed honestly).

Problogger Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six Figure Income by Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett

Written before social media was anything big, this is how to get blog traffic without it. A lot of what he says is still true today. If you want to use a blog as part of your business strategy (and if you want more traffic to your website or to build relationships, you might as well have a blog), this is a great book about the tech, the content, the marketing (though again, the social media piece is missing) and the money parts of blogging.

Jab Jab Jab Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk

The hundreds (literally) of social media case studies are great for showing and not telling. Also a great overview of each social network, its strengths, and its weaknesses. Whether you are just starting with social media or have been doing it for awhile, this will get you thinking. Content is king but context is God indeed! Enjoy all the pictures of actual posts with their own ‘how to do it better’ makeovers, I did!
I’ve certainly read more than this but these are ones I really enjoyed. What five books influenced the way you started your business/career?
Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Your Webinar After: Distribution

When we think of an “event,” most of us forget that they don’t have to be a one time thing. This is especially true if you’ve had the foresight to record them. For instance…webinars!

Not only can you host a webinar live but you can offer it as a replay or even sell it as a course.

You may ask yourself, ok so I have this recording, what are my options for ‘archiving’ or ‘distributing’ my webinar?

CDs

Arguably the most old school choice, you can save your recordings in a physical format (CDs or on a thumb drive). I completely forgot this was something we used to do until I ordered a good course I heard about a few months ago online… and got mailed a binder with notes in it, CDs (that were like DVDs I guess since they played different sections of the course), and a personalized thank you note. It was all very old school but, hey, got the message across.

Podcast

A lot of people don’t realize podcasts do not have to be an exclusively audio format- they can be video, too.

You can chop up your webinar into a series of video podcasts… or if you are going to do multiple (regular) webinars, you can use a podcast format to curate them together.

Note: You can have a one episode podcast… but everyone will wonder.

An example to show that, yes, video podcasts are a thing.

An example to show that, yes, video podcasts are a thing.

A Third Party Course Website

So there are plenty of ‘learning’ websites that people go on to learn skills: Skillshare, Lynda, etc.

Your material could go on one of these websites to be distributed by these providers. The upside is these sites are already attracting traffic of people who like webinars. The downside (if you are trying to sell something) is your relatively small cut if you are approved as a provider. (Ex: Skillshare is around $1-2/student as I understand it.)

Basically, these websites vet you as a teacher and in exchange for the marketing and customer service, they get a pretty good cut.

udemyteachers

Your Own Website

Your own website will always give you the most options. You can put your webinar behind a login screen or you can send participants/customers a unique download link via email, it’s entirely up to you.

The main takeaway: using your website, you keep more money, you do more of the customer service and marketing, you give your customers the exact experience you want them to have. And you can take the good and bad that goes along with that.

Here’s a video going over the third party option versus the on your website option:

However you decide to distribute your webinar will ensure more people will see it for your efforts. Don’t skip this step, even if you want to.

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Promoting Your Webinar

So you’ve thought about the technology and content of your webinar… Now it’s time to get the people in the ‘door’…so to speak.

Like most events, most of the work is done before the event even happens. Whether you have 5 or 5000 people attend, you do the same base amount of work, so it makes sense to maximize the amount of people who know about (and will potentially attend) your webinar.

Email a ‘save the date’ to your list.

Start with what you’ve got: your customer list. Whether you have an email list, a Facebook group, or any other ‘platform’, it is good to begin getting your friends and customers excited about the event long before the webinar happens.

When they RSVP, allow them to add it to their Google calendar or share it on social media. Getting some initial interest will encourage you to go further.

Make a Facebook event and invite.

I am always surprised at how many people want a direct invite to something on Facebook. Even if publicly posted, people seem to want me to personally invite them to every workshop we do.

Hey, if that makes them come, I’ll take it. If you have a Facebook page or group, make an event and invite away! Ask your friends to pass on the invitation to those who would appreciate it.

Make several ‘teaser’ videos.

If you are going to listen to someone talk, you want to have an idea of what you are in for. So give your webinar audience an idea of what they are in for!

Post a few teaser videos, they can even be a minute or less, to let your prospective webinar attendees get to meet you and know what it’s about. Think of it as a trailer for your webinar.

If you feel bold, ask them to tag any friends who might be interested or RSVP to the event (which of course, you’ll link in each video caption like the smarty pants you are).

Add ‘calls to action’ on appropriate online properties.

Your webinar is going to be the most exciting thing you have going on while you’re leading up to the event. Think of changing things like the homepage of your website or the link in your Instagram profile to reflect this.

Also creating multiple calls to action on each social platform, multiple email sends, and multiple personal invites (online and in real life) will remind people this is coming up. Trust me, they need the reminders.

Consider ads to appropriate audiences.

Let’s say you’re doing a desk yoga webinar. Taking out a targeted ad to human resource managers of mid sized companies as an example audience may be a really smart move for you. Make sure your ad creative (the image you make to go with the promotion) seems specific to that audience only. You want them to feel like you are talking to them.

This may also be a good time to use remarketing data you’ve been collecting from Google and Facebook on your website, making a targeted ad for people who already have ‘met’ you online.

Paid ads have their place and you may find in attracting 100 more people and converting three of them to customers that your ad spend was well worth it.

Seek opportunities to cross promote.

Let’s say you’re doing a webinar on writing for the web. Consider connecting with university writing centers, libraries, and writing groups (online or off) to let them know what is happening.  They may not only promote it within their group but want to otherwise be a part of what you’re doing in your business. We’ve found involving more people, while it does take time, allows not only for a better attended webinar but a more interesting one as well.

You’ve already put in the time to create something interesting and of value for people, so it’s worth the extra time investment to spread the word and get your content in front of the right people. If you need any help/have questions about the marketing, we’re always happy to talk about that sort of thing 🙂 

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Hosting A Webinar: The What

So we’ve talked about the mechanics of hosting a webinar but there is an even bigger question: What will your webinar be about?

Webinars I have seen go by:

As you can see, they range from general to specific, from regular on-demand offerings (ex: every Thursday) to one-time events.

But they all have some things in common: Most webinars are free, interactive, and offer participants a way to learn about something they care about. 

Most people have initial questions about the technology of webinars, which can feel intimidating. But once they realize the setup is doable, most people suffer another round of paralysis.

“What am I going to talk about for 30 to 90 minutes?”

We wanted to give you a couple places to start and a sample outline to frame your thinking.

Answer a question people ask you ALL the time

An example for us may be, “How do I get more people to like my Facebook business page?”

Maybe as I brainstorm, I can think of ten helpful ideas, each with a real life example illustrating the point. Add an introduction and a call to action at the end and that is easily 30 minutes of content!

Feel free to give a disclaimer. For example, you are a lawyer giving an informational session about business structures but can’t advise any individuals in the webinar with what they should do, but you still know enough to be valuable in a general sense.

Bonus is when you have a prospective customer or friend ask you this question in the future, you have a response ready to send them.

Information they can’t get anywhere else

Let’s pretend you’re getting married on an island in Maine. Can you rent portapotties there? Can the church hold 100 people? What is parking like? These questions will involve at least half a day of phone calls… unless you are an area wedding planner or caterer.

If you have informal but useful knowledge, introducing it to people in a webinar is a great ‘social proof’ that can give people the confidence to book your planning service.

Worried about giving away the milk for free? Think of narrowing this down: “Choosing Your Wedding Venue On Mount Desert Island” could not only be well attended virtually but valuable to those attending in and of itself, leaving you plenty of room to still get hired and help them with other things.

A group consulting session

If you feel brave, holding a live Q and A (maybe a brief presentation at the beginning to make sure everyone is starting with the same basic understanding of what you are talking about) can be a great format. You can have people submit questions while registering to get a little prepared but being off the cuff knowledgeable can help your webinar participants with their specific questions while showing you are intimate with your subject matter.

Note: Most people in webinars lurk rather than participate so you’ll really need to encourage people and groom them to send questions in many cases.

Much like structuring a blog post, you want your webinar subject to be specific enough to attract customers but give you enough breathing room to benefit a large group of people. 

If you have a couple ideas, take a quick Facebook or email poll of your customers about which they’d prefer to learn about. Or ask us, we are always happy to give an opinion!

In short, you know something that’s webinar worthy. Now go figure out what it is!

 

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Hosting a Webinar: The Where

It may sound a bit crazy, but I kind of miss the “Back to School” excitement from when I was a kid, perhaps because I have a strange fascination with school supplies (to this day, brand new notebooks and bright sticky notes excite me).

Learning new things has always been fun for me, too, unless we’re talking about complex theories in physics and anything beyond second semester calculus. Fortunately for me, there are plenty of ways for me to keep on learning with the help of online resources.

Webinars are a great way to share information, for educators and students alike. A lot of businesses use webinars as a way to educate people about their products or services, and it can serve as a middle section for the sales funnel. For a more in-depth look at how webinars can help with gaining customers, check out this article from Unbounce and check out our other webinar related posts on this blog.

But, where can you create these webinars? The technology part is what stops most people… but not you of course! Here are some ideas of what technology you can use to record your webinar:

Social Media

Many of the video streaming apps we have discussed (Facebook Live, Periscope, even Snapchat) can work as an informal tutorial of sorts. Although these do not count as “webinars” they are still great ways to offer quick tutorials and other informative content. Our goal with our Tech Thursday and now Ask Us Anything Facebook Live is to answer questions our followers/customers might have.

Google

An equally easy but more formal way to host a webinar is a Google Hangout. All you’ll need are a Google+ profile and a computer or mobile device. Not only can people watch and ask questions in real time, the video will be saved on your Google+ profile for future viewers.

The downside of Google Hangouts is that you can’t make this content exclusive. You can invite who you want but anyone with the link or following your page can jump in and watch.

Extra Credit: Link your Google+ Profile and your YouTube Channel (if you have one) and your Hangout will automatically be published there once you are done recording.

Webinar Software

Webinar services (Anymeeting, GoTo Meeting, Abobe Connect, and others) has a few more bells and whistles than your free options including things like private registration and being able to offer the webinar for replay to those who have registered via email. For example AnyMeeting’s cheapest plan is $70/month or $780/year, and allows you to host 100 people per webinar. All the service options include video broadcasting, PowerPoint and PDF sharing, Live Polls, Live Chat, and Recording Hosting. In the case of AnyMeeting (and many other webinar services), a higher subscription rate offers the same services, but with an increasing number of attendees.

webinarpro

 

There are LOTS of options in this space. What features you want, what integrations you need (ex: for there to be interfacing with Infusionsoft), and how many people you plan to host can help you make the best choice for you.

Your Website

You can also host webinars on your own website. If you already have software built into your site to, say, support a group chat and streaming video, you may be able to do this without using third party software at all. Note: Most websites aren’t built to handle this but there exists learning management software and online course plugins to help your website become a website that can do this.

(If you want a more detailed breakdown of softwares and options, please subscribe to our email newsletter and get it right in your inbox!)

Still feel overwhelmed by buyer paralysis, some questions that will guide your decision:

  • Do you want the webinar to be available to the public or as exclusive content?
  • Do you want people to pay for access?
  • How “polished” do you want it to be? (i.e. livestreamed content that is uploaded “as-is” or something more professional?)
  • How much do you want to pay for a service? (or, how many attendees do you anticipate?)
  • What features do you need versus want?

If you are trying to decide between two pieces of software, check out online demos and attend a few webinars yourself and see what software the presenters use.

Stay tuned for more posts about webinars throughout the month!

 

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.