I am never one to go into a situation without an ulterior motive. I certainly had one (ok two) when I chose Angie Segal for my April web presence deep dive. First, I flat out think Angie is brilliant and I will take any opportunity I can to hang out with her. Second, since I know much of my audience works under a brand that is not their own, I wanted to talk to someone who has created a robust personal brand under a larger corporate brand (in her case ActionCOACH.) On with the show…
Give me an overview of your marketing strategy.
I have what I like to call my “Perpetual Marketing Machine” that runs all the time. I can dial it up or dial it down based on how much bandwidth I have to take on new clients. Right now I am pretty much at capacity so the machine is running, but at low. As I need to though I can easily dial the machine up to attract more new clients. I keep the machine set up all the time. If you turn off your promotion because you are full, you are crazy.
I love this idea of the “Perpetual Marketing Machine”, tell me the elements.
The machine is multispoked…
- Website, I have a website and I am continually driving traffic to it.
- Social media, I have a Facebook and LinkedIn presence that I am continually feeding
- Email marketing, I send a business tip email every week.
- Events, With my partner Ron I run Original Third Tuesday events all over the DC metro area and I attend all sorts of other events where my target audience will be in attendance.
- Cold calls, I do cold calls every week to companies that I have identified as needing services such as mine.
- Public speaking, I try and speak at least 12 times a year.
- My next focus is YouTube. I am working now to start a YouTube channel because I think that is a great way to create quality content. You can make a great YouTube video with just your computer and your phone.
Do you feel at all constrained by the fact that you are promoting your business under the ActionCOACH brand?
I do not feel at all constrained under ActionCOACH to tell you the truth. They aren’t McDonalds where there is a set menu. They are very encouraging of their coaches bringing in their own style and flavor to what we do. I know (and ActionCOACH does as well) that you have to like me and like my style to hire me as your business coach. We don’t have a regimented way of doing thing. I suppose if I was embarrassing the brand they would step in, but I lead my business with integrity so I don’t really see that as much of a constraint.
You do have to use their website template though?
Yes, I do. But their website is great and they are put in the tools I need to promote my business. For instance, a few years back they gave us the option of having a blog. I wanted to do that so they created www.actioncoachangiesegal.com for me and I do my blog there.
I didn’t even realize you had a blog. I knew you had a newsletter but not a blog. How do you promote your blog?
I haven’t yet. Usually what I do with any social media or online presence is I sign up and get comfortable with posting. Only when I think it is lovely and vivacious do I push it out to my audience. That way, when you first run across any of my web outposts, you can see the robust value I bring. I see these people who set up a Facebook page and then immediately ask everyone to like them before even posting any content. How silly! When am I going to really look at your page? When you ask me to like it. That might be the only time I go to look at it. Shouldn’t it have value when you ask me to look?
That brings up an interesting point. I notice so many of my clients have trouble getting started with blogging or social media because when you start out it can seem such a solitary activity. You are putting your heart and soul into this blog or social media channel and it can take a long time to reap any rewards. How have you been able to overcome that frustration?
You know, it was the same way with my newsletter. I wrote that newsletter for a full year before I got any response from it at all. It has brought me a lot of business in the years since but that first year was an echo chamber. You have to realize that all things take time. It is a basic marketing principal that people overlook. You have to be out there, you have to be consistent and you have to plan out your content so you aren’t just winging it every week.
How far in advance do you plan your communications?
The blog and the newsletter are very closely related. The newsletter is based on 52 tips I have for business. It took me a year to write the tips and I repeat them every year and no one notices. There are a few that I have replaced because they were topical for another time (such as when we were deep in the recession) I have replaced those. The others though, are the same topics. I have clients that have been on my list for years and will respond to a tip that I know they have seen multiple times and tell me that it was the best tip I have ever given. With the fundamentals the receiver hears things different at different times based on where they are. The blog is just a longer version of the newsletter. The blog is also a draft of the book I am writing. I feel strongly that when you prepare valuable content, you should get as much use out of it as you can. That is my content secret.
As a small business coach, what do you tell the small businesses you work with on content creation?
Decide on a content schedule you can live with and do not vary from it. That is a huge mistake small businesses make. They decide on a frequency and then they let other things get in the way and they skip their scheduled message. If I know I typically get a message from you monthly and I don’t receive it on a given month, I might think you went out of business. Also, plan out topics for your first ten or so messages. It makes them so much easier to write. Also, when you sit down to write, if you are in the zone, don’t just write one, write three. You then have some you can use later. Doing it every single week can be difficult and you don’t know what will happen. Things come up. Frequency is really important, and consistency is really important. I honestly don’t know if it matters if you send weekly, monthly or quarterly. Just keep it consistent.
Interesting that you say quarterly is ok, I tend to think you really need to communicate monthly at minimum.
Here is the thing, most small businesses are doing no regular communication. Anything is better than nothing. If they have time only for something quarterly, then that is what they should do. Look, I send weekly, obviously I think more is better, but that terrifies most small businesses. The important thing is to pick a frequency they can stick to.
Do you do any paid online advertising like AdWords, Facebook Ads, etc.?
I have done it all… AdWords, Facebook Ads, LinkedIn Ads, I have done it all. The beauty of these ads is that they are so targetable that you can really specify who you want to see them. You know who your ideal client is so you can get very specific about who you want to see the ad, particularly Facebook and LinkedIn. The ad is only going to go directly to your target and you only pay when they click so you only pay if they are interested. I recommend it.
So you have gotten business from paid ads?
Absolutely! The first time I did a Facebook ad I got a client. That amazed me because I had zero expectation of any result. She was looking for a coach and she said I showed up on her Facebook page. I find for my business these ads are very effective. When a customer needs me, they might not know that they need a coach specifically. They are looking for the results that I bring. The ones that are looking are the easiest to convert to customers.
Anything I didn’t ask you that you would like to share?
The bottom line to everything I discussed here is the strategy. Everything that I do works because of the strategy that underlies it. I am not throwing things out there. I notice with so many small business owners when they put content or marketing out there, it is pretty random. Randomness doesn’t work. You need to be strategically watching and planning.
Angie Segal is a business coach for ActionCOACH. Angie is based out of Silver Spring, Maryland, and helps businesses throughout the DC metro area, focusing on Bethesda, Rockville, and lower Montgomery County.