Are you stuck in the subscription service money trap?

As someone who works with entrepreneurs I see the same mistakes coming up again and again. At this point I could easily go down the rabbit hole of hating on GoDaddy. But I’ll just say don’t use them if you can find literally ANY other host. 

But even that ties directly into what I’m going to discuss today. Which is how easy it is to get snowed by great marketing into paying too much for services. 

Over the years my business has spent $1000s of dollars on subscription services that I rarely used and yet paid for month after month for years at a time. 

But because each one didn’t cost a lot, most of these didn’t register. But of course anyone who has cut cable only to find themselves with Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ and a half dozen other streaming services will tell you  – these things add up. And they add up fast. 

The truth is there are a lot of free and cheap options out there that can help you cut down your monthly business expenditures. 

Stock Photos

For years I was paying over $40 a month for a subscription to Dreamstime. I use images primarily for presentation slides and blog posts. 

I like to stay on the right side of the copyright police and so should you. So if you are in the habit of grabbing random images off of Google…stop.

Last year I was working with a client to help him create a webinar. And as I was watching it for the first time the headshot of another speaker – a speaker I knew personally – showed up in his presentation. When I asked this client where he found it, he said that he had just typed “handsome businessman” into Google. 

So where can you find a “handsome businessman” without paying a small fortune every month? Well there are a couple of places out there. But the one I use the most is Unsplash.com. 

It has millions of images – including the one I used on this post! And more importantly it’s free. But do the photographer a solid and make sure to attribute the image correctly. 

Don’t be afraid to go “off-brand”

One of the big reasons you are paying too much for subscription services is because so are most other people. Folks sign up for GoDaddy – even though it’s terrible and expensive – because GoDaddy is great with marketing. 

The same goes for many of the other services you are probably using. 

One of the places I constantly check for innovative “off brand” or discounted technology is Appsumo.com.

Just recently I was able to replace a $25 a month Hootsuite subscription with a lifetime license to a tool called Social Champ for $49. And I actually prefer the tools and user experience of Social Champ to Hootsuite. 

With Appsumo the offers are changing all the time, so it’s good to check back often. But warning – it can be as addictive as any online shopping. So stay focused on what you will actually use vs. what looks really cool. 

Another monthly subscription I was able to ditch was Mailchimp. Again I was paying over $50 a month to occasionally send out emails. However, lifetime access to Sendfox was $99.

Does it have all the bells and whistles of Mailchimp? Nope. But was I using all that functionality? Nope. 

Let’s add all this up

Now it’s time to do some fancy math. How much money will I save this year alone from just switching these services?

12 months Dreamstime subscription @ $49 = $588

12 months of Unsplash FREE

 

12 months of Mailchimp @ $51.99 = $623.88

Lifetime access to SendFox $99

 

12 months of Hootsuite @ $25 = $300

Lifetime access to Social Champ $49

 

No need to grab a calculator. I was able to eliminate $1511.88 worth of subscriptions for less than $150.

What are you paying too much for? And what can be replaced by finding an off brand equivalent? 

It’s time to turn your list into a real community

Are you still sending out a monthly newsletter? How’s your open rate?

According to Smart Insights, across All Industries the average open rates for emails is about 16.97% with a click rate of just below 11%.

But chances are you aren’t even getting those kinds of numbers. And the reason is pretty simple.

Most of the stuff we all send out is crap. 

Coming up with content is tough. So most people only use their email list to send out promotions. And even when they do send out content, it’s basically a re-write of the same article they’ve been writing for years. 

Frankly, it’s a miracle that anyone opens emails!

So let’s shift your thinking about engagement a bit. What if you stopped seeing your list as simply a group of prospects and started treating it like a community?

How do you think that would impact your engagement opportunities and elevate your stature?

That’s the shift that I’ve made and I want to explain how it can work for you.

Back in January I started co-hosting a monthly Global Networking Event for Speakers with Ed Rigsbee. 

As an origin story, it’s not exactly Spiderman. 

In November, I was invited to a virtual networking event that included 1 on 1 networking between attendees. The experience was excellent and I was able to meet and connect with other professionals from across the planet for short conversations. 

The best analogy I can think of is speed dating. Short, private virtual video conversations on a timer. Just enough time for introductions and finding out a bit about each other’s businesses. 

When I spoke to Ed about it, we decided to give it a shot for professional speakers. Soon we’d settled on a platform and started sending out invitations to our lists. 

The results were amazing. Nobody else seemed to be doing this. So we had people signing up from everywhere. It was also incredibly simple to set up and manage. 

The technology for these events is affordable and accessible to everyone. Check it out here. 

Over the first part of this year, we’ve honed the format a bit. Ed and I talk for a few minutes and welcome folks in – before letting them loose for some networking. 

The goal is to create a community out of what was once just a list. And it’s working!

I’ve connected with speaking professionals  – many of whom I’ve known for years – in a deeper, more personal way. I’ve found out about their businesses and they’ve learned something about mine. 

It’s certainly a lot more engaging than sending out another bland email trying to get people to buy my book (which you can grab right here if you want it!)

Here are some of the things I’ve learned that you should really consider:

  • If you have a list that is feeling a bit tapped out, virtual networking events are a great way to warm it up
  • Make it a regular event. Let folks know when to expect your events (ours are the last Friday of the month)
  • Charge a nominal fee. We started charging $4.99 to cover costs. When we charged $0 more people signed up – but fewer showed up. If folks have a bit of skin in the game, they’re more likely to attend. 
  • Be a gracious host – but don’t hog the spotlight. Ed and I let folks get to the networking quickly. We may include 10 minutes of content. But that’s it. 
  • 2 hours is the sweet spot. Our statistics show that most people stick around until the 90 minute mark. So we leave it open for an additional 30 minutes after that.

So what’s stopping you from doing the same thing with your list? Wouldn’t you feel better knowing that you are inviting people to something they actually want to do?

If you need help figuring it out, just book a free 30 minute call and I’ll explain everything. 

Improve your business results with smarter marketing

Do you want to get rich fast? Well there are lots of folks willing to take your money with a promise of making it happen. Want instant internet success? There are just as many systems designed to separate you from your cash with promises of Google domination.

Like the promise of getting rich quick, most of it is bullshit.

I’ve wasted countless hours running down dead-end strategies with no real results. Paid traffic? Yep. I’ve sent guys on fiverr $20 for thousands of visitors that turned out to be bots.

The honest truth is there are no real shortcuts. Like everything else in life if you want success the best way to achieve it is to put in the work. But that doesn’t mean that the work has to be a slog. In fact you can actually achieve quite a bit without spending your entire day working on your marketing. And I’m going to tell you how to do it.

Have a marketing strategy

It’s really easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of advice on the internet. It’s equally tempting to read something and convince yourself that you should try it. The allure of the shiny new toy is hard to resist. I could walk into Home Depot tomorrow and buy every tool they have in stock. It won’t make me any more successful at building that shed in the backyard if I don’t have a plan or the skills to use them.

The only way that shed is going to get built and not fall down is if I’m using the right tools and I’m working from a set of plans. So what is your strategy? It should always start with knowing who your audience is. Once you know that, figure out what it is that you can give them to make their lives easier. From there start creating content that is going to get them to buy what you’re selling.

Once you have an ideal client avatar use a content strategy that involves ideas and concrete tactics that are going to solve problems those clients have. Then sell yourself as the solution.

That should be the strategy behind all your content.

Create more content

One of the biggest mistakes I see from new clients is they stopped thinking about their website as soon as they paid off their developer. The website just sits there like a brochure on the internet. But it’s just one brochure out of billions. What makes your site different from all your competitors is the content that backs up your expertise; the proof that you know what you’re doing. The types of content you create should definitely include blog articles and videos. And because you know who you are creating it for this process is going to be so much simpler.

But writing blogs and creating video content isn’t a new suggestion. You want a simple hack that incorporates the shiny new thing – that’s why you’re reading this.

So start a simple podcast where you bring on guests who would actually be your ideal clients. If you’re a coach and you work with executives – interview executives you’d like to work with. It’s a 20 minute chat that you might not otherwise get. And when the podcast goes live the interviewee is very likely to share it with their network – which probably includes people in similar positions – who may also fall into the category of your ideal client.

If this is the strategy behind your podcast you don’t even have to worry about how many folks are listening because your goal isn’t to be a number one podcast – it’s to use your podcast as a lead generator.

Recycle your content

At this point you may be thinking – where am I going to find the time to create all this content? That’s a totally legitimate question. You could spend hours each day working on content – when you should be talking to prospects. But the solution is simple. Reuse and repurpose your content across different mediums.

Not everyone listens to podcasts. But if you use a simple transcription service, you can turn your podcast interviews into profile pieces in the style of magazine articles. If you think people like sharing podcasts where they are the star – just imagine how chuffed they’re going to be when you send them an article!

A lot of people will immediately share profiles on social media and feature them on LinkedIn. This in turn gets you in front of more people who could possibly hire you.

But what if it’s not a profile or podcast? There are a few services out there that will actually use AI to create short videos from your informational blogs. Lumen5.com is a great example. You drop in a link to your post and within a few minutes you have a shareable video of that post automatically generated. It’s awesome and you should try it.

Make sure people see your content

Sometimes creating content is heartbreaking. You spend hours crafting a blog, video or podcast and nothing. Not even the person you interviewed shares it out. It can feel like a complete waste of your time. But it doesn’t have to be. Click To Tweet

Sometimes creating content is heartbreaking. You spend hours crafting a blog, video or podcast and nothing. Not even the person you interviewed shares it out. It can feel like a complete waste of your time. But it doesn’t have to be.

There are tools like the Revive Old Posts plugin for WordPress that will take your evergreen content and constantly reshare it onto platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. This can inject new life into what would otherwise be dead content. I’m often surprised when a piece of content I wrote one or 2 years ago suddenly starts getting attention from LinkedIn users.

In these instances it’s often because the resharing tool happened to get the right piece of content in front of the right person at the right time. They liked it and shared it to their network, introducing an entirely new audience to my services through my content.

Evergreen webinars

Before I hung out my own shingle, I was the Marketing Director for a professional speaker/consultant. I remember setting up and promoting webinars on a regular basis. The technology was simple enough. But the timing was tricky.

We would schedule the webinar for a specific time and date and then pray to God that nobody hired him for a paid gig. Then there was the stress of actually getting enough people to register in order make it worth his time.

Fast forward 15 years and that’s not an issue anymore if you create some evergreen webinars. These webinars work in the same way as other webinars – but run on demand.

And because they are pre-recorded you have the benefit of only presenting the best version of you. The service I use is EasyWebinar.com. But there are others out there.

These programs are amazing lead gens because they are always on. I get people from all over the world watching mine. And that not only builds my list – it gives me an opportunity to promote specific services on specific webinars.

Market smarter not harder

Marketing your business can seem like a daunting task. But it doesn’t have to be. With a little bit of knowledge you can simplify the process and get your products and services in front of the right people so that you are constantly keeping your sales funnel active. If you want to talk about how to implement any of this just book some time on my calendar for a no-bs Zoom call.

A much needed shot in the arm for entrepreneurs

If 2020 was the worst year of your entrepreneurial life – you’re not alone. Small business owners took the brunt of the pandemic because we generally don’t have the capacity to go months at a time with zero revenue.

But that’s exactly the position a lot of consultants, trainers and especially professional speakers found themselves in.

But if you’ve managed to make it this far – and can make it just a little further – 2021 might actually be the start of the biggest boom your business is ever likely to experience.

The economic clouds are lifting a little bit more with every shot that makes it into an arm. And the problems you solved for businesses over a year ago are still problems today.

How has Covid 19 Changed the Economy?

First you have less competition. A Yelp study found that 800 small businesses are closing everyday. And according to Fortune Magazine over 100,000 businesses that shut down temporarily aren’t coming back. As long as your business isn’t one of them, the potential upside for you is limitless when things come back online.

But it’s not enough simply to wait it out. You need to start working on your world dominating strategy now. And it begins with a serious re-think of who your customers are going forward.

Some sectors are going to take a lot longer to recover than others. If you hitch your wagon to one of the slow movers, you’re not going to experience the quick recovery that others – with your exact same knowledge and expertise- have over the next 12 to 18 months.

If you want to profit from what comes next you need to re-define who your ideal clients are. Will the type of client you had 18 months still have the budget to pay you 18 months from now?

If the answer is no then you need to redefine your client avatar and adapt your genius and expertise to focus on markets that are both rebounding fast and will need your services.

The second thing you need to realize is that the world has shrunk. With so many organizations moving to remote work, many have finally realized that their pool of potential workers doesn’t have to be within commuting distance of an office. So it’s just as easy to work for a client in Austin as it is to work with a client in Australia. Your skills travel – virtually.

Business Lessons for Thought Leaders

At the beginning of the pandemic the big push was to pivot your business. For many that just meant doing the same thing – only online. But really successful small businesses went further and adapted. And those adaptations are not going away once things settle into whatever the new post-pandemic idea of normal turns out to be.

One of the biggest areas for growth is online learning. Whether it’s webinars, online courses or virtual presentations, organizations still need to engage their workforces. And with the realization that a lot of office space isn’t really needed – they need to be able to deliver that engagement remotely.

Speakers and Trainers who have learned how to properly deliver their live programs remotely via Zoom or other platforms are positioned to make bank over the next couple of years. The pandemic forced a lot of speakers and trainers out of the industry – especially those who buried their heads in the sand and gambled that everything would be back to normal in a few weeks.

But for those knowledge experts who invested in adapting their training to an online delivery model there is not only less competition – but also more opportunity.

Let’s say you deliver a live training session to a client with remote workers across the planet, you can also have an automated course based on that live program that you can then license for new hires as an onboarding program.

These types of “courseware” programs can become an amazing source of passive, recurring revenue for years to come.

Automated marketing such as webinar and social media posts are also going to simplify your marketing and push more clients into your funnel.

One of the most successful marketing programs I run are automated webinars. They run 24/7 and demonstrate my expertise – even when I’m sleeping. I have clients that use them to build lists or upsell products such as online courses.

Adaptability is the the great differentiator between experts. Now is the time to adapt your business for what’s coming next. The opportunities are coming. You just need to be prepared when they appear.

How are project managers adapting to a pandemic impacted economy?


The pandemic has changed everything. Entire industries have sprouted up, while others have collapsed. The pace of change – which was already very fast- has only accelerated. And those who aren’t in the driver’s seat are white-knuckled passengers praying that the people in charge can deliver them to some sort of safe harbor.  

Project management is no different. Historically PMPs have played a crucial role in innovation as internal resources guiding projects from inception to completion. They worked for organizations and they got things done. But that role – like so many others is changing. And according to Kimi Hirotsu Ziemski, the founder and CEO of KSP Partnership and Sr. Project Management Instructor at UC Berkeley Extension, project managers need to adapt to change faster than ever before. 

“Project managers got things done,”  Ziemski says over Zoom. “And by doing that, companies were able to achieve their strategic goals and everybody was happy and everybody was wonderful.”

But then came remote working and organizations realized they could find talent, beyond the confines of the four walls of a downtown office building. 

“We probably had the first instances of working with remote team members of any other kind of profession, “ she says. “But since the pandemic, a couple of things have happened. Number one, everybody was suddenly remote. So that put a little bit more stress and pressure on our communication skills and our leadership skills. But also our senior leadership teams were starting to think ‘If we can get coders here, or designers there, we could also get project managers in any of those places also.”

This sudden shift has left a lot of PMs unsure about what the future holds for them as employees. 

“I think it’s accelerated our move to being gig economy workers,” Ziemski says, adding “and as a gig economy worker myself, I had to be my own project manager for everything I’ve done over the last 10 years.”

Ziemski’s firm is a leadership-drive consultancy and coaching firm with a laser sharp focus on project management. It is also the creator of the Conscious Leadership Online Summit.

 “We work with project managers to help them with things that they never really thought they were going to have to do, like interviewing over zoom and being able to project more of a strength from leadership.”

As organizations are increasingly seeing the value of not killing every single project, just because things have gotten crazy, the relationships they have with PMs are changing from that of employee/employer to client/consultant.

And a big part of this requires PMs to see themselves in a different way. “People are having to learn the real value of having a strong, professional, personal brand and understanding the difference between marketing and manipulating.”

“Because you are no longer necessarily going to be employed by the same organizations for long periods of time. Your career may last only seven big  projects. But those seven projects may happen over 10 years.  And there are four months, three months or six months between them when the only project you have is finding your next engagement.”

For a lot of PMs who are used to getting a steady paycheck every two weeks that is going to be a huge adjustment. 

“That’s not something that a lot of my colleagues, my students or my coaching clients are  really prepared for,” admits Ziemski. 

“You have to understand what your value proposition is. You have to understand what you’re putting forward as your true brand and benefit because they (employers) can turn around and find another person in a heartbeat.”

 The new economy is the project economy. PMs need to realize they are selling themselves as much as they are selling their services. 

Find out more about KSP Partnership here and register for the summit here. 

Watch my free online workshop on how Project Managers can adapt to the new business paradigm here.

3D Thinking and Your Recession Recovery

To say that 2020 was “different” might be the greatest understatement of the century…so far. 

With Covid-19 devastating families and businesses around the planet the collective global suffering is likely to impact all of us far into the future. 

But there is an end in sight. And there are opportunities to be had.

James Feldman, CSP helps companies discover new opportunities using their existing resources. And with everything still tight from a year of social and business disruption he seemed like the right person to talk to about how businesses can look beyond just staying alive and actually thrive in the post-pandemic world.

HIs latest book Shift Happens: How to Reinvent Yourself Using 3D Thinking is a toolbox for businesses big and small;  filled with resources, questions, infographics, resources, and more.

It’s designed to help folks create their own recession recovery program.

According to Feldman, who brands himself as the “Nowist”, organizations are stuck thinking about what used to work instead of looking for new ways to adapt. 

This is going to be the time where more millionaires and billionaires are created than any time in our history. Click To Tweet

“Often you find people are in denial and they’re not willing to accept the fact that things aren’t working,” Feldman says on a Zoom chat from his home base in Chicago. “But if they reach that precipice, where do they go?”

“The companies  we’re working with are getting anywhere from a 10x to a 40x lift because often all we’re doing is reordering things, repositioning things.”

Looking for solutions that use existing resources is what Feldman calls “thinking inside the box.” This runs counter to what many of us have been told in the past when it comes to problems solving. 

Most of us grew up with the think outside the box mentality” Feldmans says. “But if we use that illustration of the box, And we’re outside the box. How do we have any clue what’s inside the box – because that’s where the problem lies. So I say go inside the box. See what the components are that make up the problem, separate them, solve them.”

To get to this point, Feldman uses what he calls 3D Thinking to get to the core issues. 

The 3Ds of this approach are Depth, Distance and Determination.

  • Depth is going inside the box to find a solution to a problem people have. 
  • Distance is looking outside to see if there is a market for the solution you want to sell. 
  • Determination is finding the resources to carry it through.

With the advent of a new post-Covid era upon us, Feldman sees new opportunities for those willing to look for them. 

“I say this to everybody,  this is going to be the time where more millionaires and billionaires are created than any time in our history.”

“The playing field has been leveled in almost every industry. You have the opportunity to really go out and reinvent, repurpose, and refocus as you move forward. 

“The barriers to entry are gone. All of the opportunities are laid bare and all you have to do is seize that opportunity and monetize it. And that’s the key, make sure that you’re working on something that people will pay for. Otherwise, it’s just a hobby.”

These are just some of the lessons found in his new book. But it’s not a text you’d pick up and blow through on a weekend. Something Feldman admits.

“It’s like drinking from a fire hose. There’s just so much in it. It’s not something that you sit and read cover to cover because it’s full of things that you’ll want to go out and try right after you read them.”

“It’s sorta like getting a golf coach or a tennis coach. You’re not gonna learn everything at one time.”

How local retailers can replicate what makes them special…online

local retailers selling online

With wave after wave of Covid infections and new variants popping up with increasing frequency, we may be done with the pandemic. But it’s not done with us.  Even if societies avoid full and partial lockdowns challenges for retailers are not going away – at least for retailers not called Amazon.

But while politicians and others beg us to shop local – many retailers are having a difficult time adapting to the new online reality.

A lot of this comes down to three reasons.

  • The misconception that moving online is going to cost a fortune (Spoiler Alert – it won’t)
  • A real fear of the technology.
  • Most retailers look at Amazon as a competitor they just can’t beat.

Let’s take a look at how local businesses can adapt quickly to the environment today and leverage these changes to come back stronger – when the current scourge fades into history.

Ecommerce strategies ranging from free to cheap

First, let’s talk about costs. When I first started my business, it wouldn’t be unusual to charge anywhere up to $10k for a website. Today that number can be as low as $1k or even free if you do it yourself using WordPress.

But just having a site with a phone number on it is not how you are going to thrive. So here are a few tools that will position your business to succeed in whatever business environment comes next.

Now obviously if you have money to burn, you can hire an agency and let them scope everything out for you. But I want to give you tools that range from free to cheap.

If you want to sell online, you’re going to need an online store. This may come as a surprise – but one of the most popular ecommerce platforms on the planet is absolutely free and shockingly easy to set up.

Going online sounds scary for a lot of small businesses. But the reality is that it’s not nearly as complicated or expensive as you may think. And if you get set up now, you will be in a better position going forward. Click To Tweet

WooCommerce works with WordPress. But even if your current site is not built on WordPress – don’t sweat it. It’s really simple to create a subdomain on your site and drop a WordPress/woocommerce site into it. If you can’t do it yourself – your web person should be able to set it up within an hour or two.

The second step is to upload all your products. Hopefully you already have some sort of an inventory system. If so – you’re in luck. Here is a link to a step by step guide to importing a spreadsheet with your inventory into your new e-commerce site.

Now let’s be clear – simply building out an online store will not help you compete against Amazon.

Your local competitive advantage is YOU

When people choose to shop local, it isn’t always about price or even convenience. They appreciate the face or personality of the business. When I was in my 20s I worked in a real used record store(RIP Dr.Disc London). We were local. And even though the HMV across the street was often less expensive, our customers enjoyed coming in and chatting with a staff made up of music lovers and audiophiles.

That still works today. If you want to retain your position as a local seller, you need to make sure that what made you special in the first place still works online. So how can you do this?

Well I said that I was going to cover things that were free to cheap. 

Many local businesses are currently restricted to “by appointment only” restrictions. So another free tool you should consider is Calendly.

Calendly is an online appointment system used by consultants. But it works just as well for retailers. Even the free version integrates with your Google Calendar. So you can set hours and even limit bookings to 15 minutes.

If you want even more you can connect Calendly to your free Zoom account to have “face to face” conversations with customers via computer. It really is as close as you’re going to get to having someone was right there in the store with you!

You can make recommendations, send links to products via chat and arrange for pickup. How’s that for easy? And so far your investment in e-commerce has cost you nothing.

Now that we’ve covered free, let’s talk about cheap. 

One of the best things to drop onto your site is a live chat option that will let you personally greet visitors – as you would if they just walked in through your front door.

There are literally dozens of options to choose from. But the service I use is Zendesk. It’s $35USD a month and works as your digital welcome to anyone who visits. If your store is closed now – you can monitor this yourself from your phone or even set triggers based on pages or visitor actions and have automated responses.

This is an important investment for your local business as it allows you to bring what is unique and appealing to walk-ins to your online store.

Now let’s go back to our three objections. 

Cost – If you decide to build everything yourself you can get away with a fixed cost of about $35 a month for the live chat. Obviously if you hire somebody like myself to do it for you, you have to pay for time. But even that isn’t going to cost you what it would have even 5 years ago. 

Technology – Between WordPress, Woocommerce, Calendly, Zoom and Zendesk, the implementation and learning curve is not difficult – even if you’re not a techie.

Fear of Amazon – Yes it’s easy to buy from Amazon. But have you ever tried to talk to a real person before you buy? The local advantage is you and your store’s personality. Even during a lockdown you can replicate some of this online and keep your customers coming back.

Going online sounds scary for a lot of small businesses. But the reality is that it’s not nearly as complicated or expensive as you may think. And if you get set up now, you will be in a better position going forward. No more slow snow days or rain days at the brick and mortar because people don’t want to leave their homes.

If you think you might need help with any of this, click on my Calendly link to see how quickly you can get up and running or open a chat!

Increase the engagement of your online course videos for a better ROI

How many times have you heard the expression “you don’t trade time for money”?

So why is it that when it comes to creating and selling online courses most of us are completely stuck in this mindset.

What I mean by this is that we still tend to equate the length of our programs with how much they are worth, instead of the return on investment they promise to the people who pay to take them.

Over the years, I’ve signed up for loads of online courses. And the reality is that I’ve finished very few of them because they took too long or I simply lost interest halfway through (or sooner).

Creating a 10 hour course might seem like it should be worth $10,000. But if your students don’t watch it, they are wasting their money and you have wasted your time.

However if you create a 3 hour course that is filled with practical action steps that folks can implement immediately – they will have a better chance of realizing a return on their investment – even if that investment happens to be $10000!

But even a 3 hour course is too much if it just becomes a data dump.

Who in their right mind wants to sit through a 3 hour virtual lecture? Even 1 hour is often way too long to keep me engaged.

For many thought leaders the temptation is to dive deep into the weeds in order to demonstrate an expertise that people who paid for your program already believe they have.

So the result is overly long presentations that meander into the unnecessary instead of fulfilling the initial promise laid out in the sales page.

Longer videos don’t have the engagement

So what can you do? Well the first thing to do is create bite sized chunks of knowledge that build upon the learnings that came immediately before..

People don’t want to stare at a screen for an hour if there aren’t cats or dragons on it.

According to a study by Wistia measuring video length vs engagement our attention spans are not very long. Indeed after 2 minutes engagement starts to drop off fairly quickly until it plateaus between 6 and 12 minutes at about 50%

But if you can keep your content videos under 5 minutes you can maintain engagement above 55%. That’s a big deal if you are thinking about creating a course made up of, let’s say, 4-60 minute modules.

Increase your engagement and deliver more value

So how do you do this? It’s actually very easy for you to make it easy for your students. Imagine writing down your course syllabus – planning out your content and then, instead of having to do a 60 minute presentation, you only have to take for 3 to 5 minutes on a specific topic within your larger program.

This approach forces you to cut out the fluff and think about your content in a way that is more accessible to your students’ learning capacity.

How does that work?

I’ll give the example from my own online program DIY Marketing for Consultants, Trainers and Professional Speakers.

This course is 9 modules long with over 3 hours of video. But each module is broken down into multiple units that anyone can go through at their own pace.

Make it a challenge!

During the pandemic people are finding it even harder to concentrate. So even the above Wistia study may be a bit of a stretch. But there are ways to help your students using micro learning supplemental programs.

I remember back in my university days when I would attend lectures with a professor and then break out into smaller study classes lead by a teacher’s assistant (usually a grad student) who would assign and grade our work.

Recently I’ve created a number of “micro-learning” challenges based on longer programs that were already on sale. The concept was the same as the university model where the longer programs were there to provide knowledge and perspective – while the shorter program acted as the more practical and simpler roadmap to implementation.

For example Ed Rigsbee has a program for speakers to help them sell their services into the association market.

In the “before-times” Ed held a 2-day intensive workshops in Las Vegas multiple times a year. However after Covid shut everything down he created a virtual intensive from previously recorded sessions. Having attended this program myself – his system really is fascinating.

But last month Ed launched his own micro learning program based on this content. The Selling to Associations Challenge: 30 Simple Steps to Dominate Your Niche in the Association Market takes the learning from the larger program and turns it into a 30 day action plan with a single task delivered each day via email.

As one of the purchasers noted in a recent email:

“I’m loving this. The step by step approach takes the overwhelm out of implementing the information from the intensive.”

Ed’s daily challenges are generally less than 3 minutes long and they give a very specific instruction that students need to complete. There are no excuses. Just do the work and he promises they’ll see results.

I’ve done the same thing with my full program with 30 days of short action-oriented videos that each contain a specific direction. You can check it out here.

There’s nothing magic in what we’re doing. Ed, myself and others have simply identified another way to adapt our content to the needs of the people we serve. Attention spans and focus are experiencing a pandemic-induced decline, so we’re making it simpler to implement what we know in our customers’ businesses.

So if you are thinking of creating a program or a supplemental tool to help people execute on your brilliant ideas, all you need to do is stop thinking about quantity of content and start thinking about how you can show real ROI through shorter, more engaging, content and products.

How to make your courses and podcasts more professional

What’s keeping you from creating an online course, webinar or podcast?

We are well into this pandemic. And even if a vaccine were to be released tomorrow, the business of speaking, training and consulting is going to be changed forever. 

If you are one of those waiting for everything to go back to “normal” I hope you have a lot of savings. 

Those who want to keep the lights on during this difficult time and prepare for what comes next are already adapting.

In the past I’ve talked about how you can quickly and easily create online programs and scale fast. 

So why isn’t everyone jumping on the online course and presentation bandwagon?

Well the truth is most of us just don’t think we’re good enough to pull it off – even if we have great content.

There is a great story about how Cary Grant wouldn’t ever watch any of his movies because he didn’t think his performances were that good. I have a soft spot for his screwball comedies and can attest that he WAS THAT GOOD.

Are you like Cary Grant? When you look at your own recorded performances do you cringe at the tics and fillers that creep into your speaking voice?

I know I do. When I recorded my first online course over 5 years ago, I had faith in the quality of the content. It was the performance that made me blush. 

But people liked it and I moved some units. In fact I sold enough that I had no problem creating an updated version at the beginning of 2020. 

When I started doing pre-recorded webinars I got rave reviews for the content and the presentation. But when I look at them, it’s not the content that catches my attention – it’s the verbal gaffes that nobody else seems to notice.

It’s the same with any podcast interview I do. I come on –  and in the moment – I think it’s great. But then I listen to it a few weeks later on my podcast app and I’m embarrassed. 

You are THAT GOOD as well

If you are a content creator you can’t let an obsession with your own deficiencies become the excuse not to adapt your business to what the market wants. 

Easier said than done I know. 

When I present or do interviews my biggest, most notable “tic” is filler words. You know the ones I’m talking about. The ums and ers and you knows. 

I drop them into the conversation effortlessly as I search for the right words to use. It’s annoying and I sometimes think that it makes my stuff sound unprofessional. 

I know I’m not alone in this because I have spent countless hours editing client videos for courses and removing filler words is a tedious nightmare.

The other week I tried an audio/video editing tool called Descript that promised to seamlessly remove filler words for audio and video with just a few clicks. Did it work? It sure did. And if what’s keeping you back from creating videos and audios to help your business shift into a market where virtual is going to be the new normal then you need to try it.

What Descript does is use advanced AI to create a transcription of the video or audio input. Then you can edit the video or audio  – by editing the text!  In my tests I found the transcription to be better than 90% accurate.

There are both free and premium versions. The  “Filler Words” feature— available on the premium version —finds and highlights unwanted words. Then, as if by magic, you can delete them from the video.

I signed up for the free 7 day trial to test it out on my latest free online workshop (Work it Like a PRO: How any business can use content to create a micro-media empire). When I used the filler word feature, my presentation went from 45 minutes to 42 minutes. And more importantly it sounded a lot more professional!

How good was it? Well I went back to the course videos from my online program and used the magic editor on all those as well.

I’m not an affiliate or shill for this product. They aren’t paying me to promote it. 

There are loads of other features I’m not going to get into – this isn’t a review blog. But it is certainly something worth checking out as a free trial.

Every day there are more and more tools to help make our businesses thrive in the post-pandemic world. And with each one the excuses to put off moving forward become weaker and weaker.

I’d love to hear what tools you’ve discovered and how they are helping your business transition.

Add a micro-learning product to your mix

man creating an online course

micro-lessons are a great alternative for audiences that are struggling with focus. And offering that tool for a price that works in the current economic climate is also sure to attract some eyeballs.

How’s your focus? If you’re like a lot of people you may be finding it much harder to concentrate than you did before the pandemic.

If you’ve been struggling to focus and be productive, there is good reason for it. The pandemic is stressful. And researchers have observed that the part of our brain involved in decision making, known as the prefrontal cortex, shrinks and becomes more disconnected from other brain areas in response to long-term stress.

If you want to dig a bit deeper into this subject, here’s the article in Nature.

It’s not about the Why. It’s about the How

But I’m not here to talk about the WHY. I want to talk about the HOW. Specifically how you can adapt your business to work in a “high stress – low focus” environment.

When everything first went sideways, I was really quick to adapt my own business from helping folks market their live speaking, training and consulting programs to converting those same programs into virtual experiences.

That meant creating courses using software like WP-Courseware.

Even then I knew from a user experience most people had no interest in sitting in front of a screen for 45 minutes as a disembodied voice took a deep dive into a very specific subject.

So I encouraged my clients to break things down into shorter 3-5 minute units within broader modules.

But this still followed the full-course format we’re all familiar with. You watch, you take notes, you make a plan to implement.

But remember what I said a few paragraphs ago? We are in a time of extreme stress and our brains aren’t firing on all cylinders. So our ability to focus is diminished.

I’m not immune. I signed up for a few courses on Udemy over the last few months and found myself easily distracted by Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Sure the course was playing in the background – but I wasn’t really paying much attention.

So how can you reach the millions of people out there who are just like me? The people who are likely to be your customers? The people who really need your help?

Start thinking small

That’s something I put a lot of thought into. And the answer I came up with was literally right down the stairs from my office.

My wife owns her own fitness company here in Mississauga and she was also able to make a quick pivot to online services back at the beginning of the pandemic. That meant she was running her classes in our living room.

But in addition to running her classes, she created a 30 day challenge where participants were given a single task to complete each day for a month.

The idea hit me like a ton of bricks. What if I could do the same thing for my training? What if in addition to my full length online Do It Yourself Marketing Course, I also had a simplified 30 day challenge with simple action steps?

In essence a series of micro-lessons on marketing that anyone could complete?

Fortunately, the software I use on my site to deliver the full length programs also has a drip feature. So the next step was to map out the 30 days and record the short videos. Surely a daily email with a link to a video of 1-2 minutes is something anyone could follow.

Well when I launched my 30 Day Marketing Challenge I sold a bunch right away. Practical action items for less than a buck a day…what’s not to love?

Obviously, micro-lessons are a great alternative for audiences that are struggling with focus. And offering that tool for a price that works in the current economic climate is also sure to attract some eyeballs.

Last week I helped Ed Rigsbee launch a 30 day challenge based on his Sell Your Speaking to Associations Virtual Intensive. And again – it has sold really well. 30 days of action items is a simple formula that any trainer or consultant can develop and deploy quickly.

Before your get started

Here’s what you need to know to get started:

  • Determine what software you want to use. I use WP-Courseware. It has all the features I need and integrates nicely into any WordPress Site
  • Choose your topic and map out your 30 days. This is obviously easier if you already have some sort of training program. But it can also work if you don’t. If you have a sales training business, map out 30 days of tasks for sales people. If you are a leadership consultant – 30 actions around inspiring staff. You get the idea.
  • Record your first 5 days. What happens if nobody buys your program? This is always a possibility. When I put together my program, I recorded only 5 days worth of content. That way if the program was a bust I hadn’t wasted a lot of time on it.

So there you go, If you want to create a quick product based on your expertise that can resonate with your audience at a time when they need to improve their results – and are having more difficulty focusing for longer programs – micro learning experiences may be the way to go.

If you want help setting one of these up – send me a note. I’d love to talk to you. aidan@shortcircuitmedia.com