The Hurdle Between Free & Paid

The Hurdle Between Free & Paid

As an indie entrepreneur, if you want to make sales and build a thriving business you need to overcome the hurdle between free and paid.

When we say “free” we mean the stuff you do for free… the content, the social media stuff, the free guides you create as lead magnets.

That free stuff is the first step in seeing if people like what you have to offer. It’s an important step.

But getting those people from interested in free things to purchasing paid things… there’s a huge hurdle between the two.

And a lot of people get stuck on that hurdle.

Many modern entrepreneurs hit this hurdle… some never fully get over it. Don’t let that happen to you. There’s no reason to let that happen to you.

There is a danger here.

The danger is that you spend a ton of time building and executing on a paid product and DON’T make any sales. Some entrepreneurs don’t ever bounce back from that, they give up all together.

Us indie entrepreneurs need all the help we can get — we do everything ourselves! So in this article we’ll show you how to overcome the technical hurdles (like copywriting!) as well as the internal roadblocks like fear of sales and imposter syndrome so you can engage your audience in a healthy flow of value.

With the insights here, there’s no reason why, with a little bit of planning and forethought, you can’t successfully launch your first paid for offering, be it a product or a service.

The hurdle is real.

Here’s what it might look like for you: after successfully offering lead magnet on your website you get inspired to finally put up your “work with me” coaching page.

This happened to Eric, a Fizzle Member who helps people overcome bad breakups.

He made a super effective free 3 week course which a ton of folks signed up for. The feedback he received was excellent — people were seriously getting their lives changed!

So, he felt like it was the right time to offer his coaching services to the audience. He made the page, launched it, promoted it…

… aaaaaaaaaand, CRICKETS. Nothing, not even an inquiry.

The same thing happened to my fellow Fizzle Co-Founder Corbett Barr.

A long time ago, when he was just getting his start in blogging, he started offering consulting on his website for the first time. He didn’t package his service together with solid copywriting at first and nobody bought. (There were a few emails back and forth, but no sales.)

clear the hurdle between free and paidEventually he made some important changes (which some of the points below are inspired by) and the results started coming in. It was a matter of days before he was booked solid.

Switching from “free because I’m growing my audience” to “I need to charge you for that” is a real big pivotal moment in modern business. It can be hard, and there are real risks.

Many of us think the sales are just gonna flow in. Or, at least, we hope they will. And, though that might be motivating enough to get you to try it, if you don’t have a plan for what to do next it can be a crushing thing to feel.

So, I’m glad you’re here to learn, because this hurdle is absolutely leap-able, and unlike a ton of biz-gurus out there, we KNOW that working with any internal fears you have around this is an important part of creating an authentic business.

Seriously, the ideas we’ll help you understand below and the process we lay out are really going to help you.

Switching from FREE to PAID is a hurdle, to be sure, but it doesn’t have to stop you dead in your tracks.

“Switching from FREE to PAID is a hurdle, but it doesn’t have to stop you dead in your tracks.”
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First, we need to talk about when to make the switch

It might be the right time to switch from free to paid for your business right now. Here’s how to tell.

First of all, let’s make sure we’re starting out with a free offering to our audience. Why? Because a free offering helps you hone your hypothesis.

Here at Fizzle we talk a lot about thinking about your business as an HYPOTHESIS. It can be enormously helpful to think of yourself not as a genius, but as a researcher. (This is one of the first mindset shifts in our 9-stage business roadmap.)

By offering a free product in the beginning what you’re doing is testing the first part of that hypothesis in an easy way. If you can’t get someone to signup for something for free then you might have a much more difficult time getting them to signup for something they need to pay for.

Also, making a free opt-in incentive doesn’t have to take that long. Our 7 day email challenge walks you through how to do it in 7 days. At the end of it you’ll have a free offer on your site that really works. Powerful stuff.

Starting with free is great because if you can’t convert people on a free offer you may not be able to convert them on a paid offer.

But sometimes we get that “but things aren’t right yet” feeling, so we don’t take action and create a free offering.

Sometimes this feeling comes from a good spot — we haven’t developed enough “know, like and trust” with our audience to feel confident about how we really help them.

But many of us hold back too long, to be honest. We’re afraid of things “not being perfect,” so we don’t take action, we don’t create our free offering.

Don’t wait to switch to free until everything’s perfect. We only get things working really well by WORKING on them.

You may feel that you “don’t know enough yet” or that you’re “not ready.”

This is wildly common when we’re just starting out in modern business. It takes time to build confidence in our expertise. But remember this:

Being an expert isn’t binary; yes/no. The real question is: do you know enough to help someone right now? If so, then you’re ready.

So, we don’t have to wait until everything’s perfect to create our free offering and start growing our relationships with our audience.

Second, we have to talk about the fears

It’s natural to feel like “I’ve been blogging or podcasting all this time and everything I do I’ve given away for free. Isn’t my audience going to be pissed if I started charging for something?”

Many of us worry that our customers will get mad if we start charging money for things. But experience shows that they almost never do! Even if you get an email or two, the vast majority of your audience only care about how valuable your offering is.

Imposter syndrome is also common; feeling like when you ask people for money they’re going to uncover some flaw that makes you a fraud.

Here’s what I’ve found is the antidote to imposter syndrome: intentionally helping people and watching the results. What’s changed my life more than anything else in my business has been seeing the RESULTS my work has on my customers. It doesn’t take very much time — when you help people and then look for the real results in their life, those results start to convince you of the honest-to-god WORTH of the work you could do for your customers.

It is normal to have some fear of sales when you get started, but you deserve to be compensated for good, valuable, helpful work you do for others.

“You deserve to be compensated for good, valuable, helpful work you do for others.”
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Third, we need to talk about the “Value Ladder”

We need to make sure that our freebie doesn’t undermine the thing we’re trying to sell.

Eric, the Fizzle member I mentioned above, experienced this in my opinion. He made a free 3-week course that kicked ass. And when he offered his consulting to those people nobody bit. Maybe his course satisfied his customers so much they weren’t hungry for more.

Always keep in mind this question: how hungry are your potential customers for the solution you’re offering them? If your free offerings “give the cow away” nobody’s gonna pay for the milk.

This is called that “Value Ladder.” It’s a sense that the offers we make to our customers have a very clear hierarchy of value. The freebie is great and super helpful (and free!), the $ 200 course is excellent and life changing (and worth every penny!).

We need to make sure our offerings (free and paid) work in harmony with each other so that each offer always feels both enticing and clearly “worth it.”

Fourth, we need to talk about effective copywriting

New entrepreneurs have a tendency to make sales pages ineffective. You need to use some kind of tool to get you out of this habit.

Listen, many of us have hangups about money, value and self worth, and the truth is our judgement gets clouded up with this stuff when we write a sales page.

So, we all need a little help getting out of our own minds for a bit and finding EMPATHY with our audience — slipping into their skins, seeing our offer from their point of view so we can focus on showing the important things that might convince someone to purchase.

Copywriting is just writing words to persuade a reader to take action. There’s an art to it. And we’ve got a killer resource for you in the resources section of this article (below) to help you see your offer from THEIR POINT OF VIEW.

Sales pages are often overwrought and ineffective. So it’s important to use some kind of tool to help you focus on what’s important in your message, making your copywriting simple, clear and EFFECTIVE.

The 5-Step process for adding paid offerings

Ok, now that we’ve addressed a lot of the preliminary issues, here’s a simple process you can follow to leap this hurdle and make your transition smooth.

1. Make your free offering work.

Spend enough time on your free offering to feel confident in its ability to convert people. Getting them to even want a free thing, this is the first mini hurdle. If you don’t have a free offering up yet, our 7 day email growth challenge walks you through it.

2. Get feedback on your free offering.

It’s important you get a clear sense of what IS and ISN’T resonating with your free offering. So, we spend a little time collecting feedback about it.

You may be able to get enough feedback through email or survey, asking, for example, what did they learn? What results did they get? What did they like most? What were they confused by? What do they still need help with?

But experienced entrepreneurs know how much more value you can get out of 1 on 1 conversations with potential customers and freebie-downloaders. We’ve got a course that will teach you how to talk to customers.

3. Define what the product will be (and how it harmonizes with the free offering).

Is the product something entirely new or is it growing the existing free offering? Could the freebie become the product and you create a new free offering that’s more specific? Get very clear about the specific problem and the specific outcome for each. If it’s a service, what is the package of the service, because people want to pay for an outcome (not an “hour of your time”). The 80/20 Sketch Sheet in the resources below will help immensely with this.

Common mistake here: defining too broadly or trying to promise way too much instead of narrowing the scope and focusing in on something specific. New entrepreneurs tend to get stuck in the creation process. Start small, clear and focused.

4. Create the product.

This is a whole separate podcast episode and article. For now, we’ll leave it in your hands. Make the product. And I’d encourage you to make a small, quick and dirty version of your product first that you can use as a “beta” version to test and see where customers get confused, lose steam, etc.

5. Write the sales page and create the launch plan.

Everything we spoke about on effective copywriting above applies here. Again, the 80/20 copywriting sketch sheet (below) will help you a ton here because it will help you think through the objections, the results, the payoff, etc. If you’re interested in creating a launch plan, inside Fizzle there’s a course that walks you through it all! Learn more about Fizzle Membership.

“Killer 5-step process for adding paid offerings to your online platform.”
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Writing copy for the web: the 80/20 guide to copywriting for entrepreneurs.

We’ve created a sketch sheet — a short, actionable worksheet you can print out and fill in — to help you with your copywriting and strategizing. With this sketch sheet you’ll be able to make much more effective copywriting for the web because it teaches you to empathize and see your offer from your customer’s point of view.

To download that worksheet, enter your info here and you’ll get it immediately after the click:

Download the 80/20 Copywriting Sketch Sheet

A deeper look with this podcast:

We’ve talked through all the points of the article above in this podcast 60m podcast episode. If you want to go deeper, this is the thing for you!
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Make a successful, smooth transition to paid offerings

If you’re feeling resistance to this hurdle between free and paid, there’s a lot of good reasons for that. Those emotional things you’re feeling are legitimate, they’re real.

And I’ll just say this: your fear will shrink and your confidence will grow the more you think of it as an experiment, something to work with over time. When we get into that “it HAS to work!” mode, it can really shut down our creativity and courage.

We hope this article and podcast helps. If you have any questions, add them below and we’ll answer what we can.

If you enjoyed the tone of this article, you’ll love the other business training we have in our Fizzle Course Library. To start a free trial and take courses immediately, click here.

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A Quick-Start Guide to Video Content: Become Confident on Camera in 5 Steps

Videos are everywhere. They’re on your Facebook feed, your Instagram wall, and they also come up in search engine results. As a former TV journalist, I know that video is a powerful way to reach people — and being on camera regularly solidifies your connection with your audience. I had the pleasure (sarcasm intended) of
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What You Need to Know About Visual Perception and Website Design

visual perception

There’s no lack of data to suggest how visual-oriented we are as humans. For instance, “90 percent of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000x faster in the brain than text.” Or this:  “65 percent of people are visual learners, and one of the best ways to drive messages home is through visual content.” This data helps explain why visual marketing has really exploded recently, and visual-centric content such as infographics are so popular. Seeing is one of our primary senses by which we intake information and understand the world. Basically, it’s a big deal….

The post What You Need to Know About Visual Perception and Website Design appeared first on The Daily Egg.

The Daily Egg

Simple Tips for a Productive Short Week

How was your long weekend? Or, if you don’t live in the States, how was it watching all your U.S. pals enjoy the long weekend? This was Labor Day week in the U.S., which means about half of my compatriots are running around this morning thinking it’s Wednesday, the other half think it’s Friday already,
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The 10 Pillars of Successful Branding

Ask a new business owner to tell you about their brand strategy and most will stop at their logo, which means they have none. Small business owners consistently overlook the importance of branding and do so at their peril. This problem even persists across large organizations where the understanding and use of a strong brand can get diluted, distorted or miscommunicated. Understanding the role branding plays in your business, the strategies behind it, and the pillars of successful branding will vastly increase your chance of success.

In this blog, you’ll find the 10 pillars of successful branding that marketers can use to establish or re-evaluate their brand.

1. Purpose

Your brand purpose is the meaningful reason behind why your brand exists. To extract your purpose, you need to look at who you serve. Your business solves a problem for someone. Whether that problem is hunger, thirst, a flat tire, the need to get from A to B, or a lack of experience in a particular field, you provide a solution to a problem your ideal customer needs or wants, to solve.

Once your solution fills that void, there is a sense of satisfaction from your audience that evokes an emotion. Even an accountant filing tax returns provides satisfaction. They relieve their clients from the stress of tax responsibility for a year. Identifying the emotion that your client will feel on the back of your solution unlocks the meaningful purpose. Tapping into the impact that may have on their lives (even if just for a fleeting moment) and your brand purpose becomes not about how much profit your business can turn but how many people it can impact.

Take, for example, TOM’s, a primarily online shoe company. They have an online store, you pay with your card, and your new shoes are delivered to your door. Simple. What makes TOM’s different from other shoe companies is their brand purpose. The meaningful reason behind why they exist is to improve lives. For every pair of shoes you buy, TOM’s will help a person in need. Not only does that make the customer feel good about handing over their money, but also every individual working for TOM’s will feel they make a difference in the work they do.

2. Vision

Your vision is where you plan your business to be in the future. Thinking about where you want your company to be is a vital part of brand creation. It is about projecting your brand into the future and painting a picture of your future brand. We tend to do more for others that we do for ourselves. When you go back to the brand purpose and realize that your brand is about impacting other people’s lives, you can be a little more ambitious about the future.

Where do you want to be in 10 years and what does that future brand look like? How large is your expansion plan? Will you be expanding your product offerings? What does success look like for your company? These are all vital questions to ask yourself when building your brand. Your vision should be big enough to inspire but not too big for people (within the brand) to buy into it.

Microsoft’s vision was to put “A computer on every desktop in every home”. This vision was big enough to inspire a movement without being too big for the leadership team to buy into it.

3. Mission

Your mission is a statement of intent that encompasses both your company’s purpose and vision. It is a commitment to impact the lives of the people you serve and deliver on what you promise while you are on the path to your future brand. It shifts the paradigm of the vision and mission from what you want to achieve to what you want to give. In living your purpose, your mission becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Brands on a committed mission aligned with their purpose and vision set the tone for a strong working culture. Those who come to work every day and feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves have meaning in the work that they do, which instills happiness. Brands boasting happy people radiate this through their interactions and become known as much for their attitude as the solution they offer.

Starbucks mission statement optimises a commitment that is filtered through purpose with a dash of vision: to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.

4. Values

Brand values are the rules of engagement and the moral compass for the way you do business. If your mission sets in place your overarching commitment in achieving your vision for the future, then your values are the behavioral commitments in your day-to-day activities.

Like all elements of branding, they are internal first and foremost. It goes without saying that your values should be aligned with your purpose, vision, and mission, but communication is key. Communicating core values often internally ensures that everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet and that there is a collective underlying message in every interaction.

People that know us, know what our core values are not because we tell them but because of our actions and behaviors over time. The same is true with brands. It is common practice today to list your core values on a dedicated page of your website, but without the actions to go along with the words they are little more than marketing.

Zappos, an online retailer, demonstrates the possibilities of a brand that lives its core values in the way it behaves. From the way they deal with customers to how they hire talent, all decisions and actions are filtered through their values.

Here are the core values that Zappos lives by:

  • Deliver WOW Through Service
  • Embrace and Drive Change
  • Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
  • Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
  • Pursue Growth and Learning
  • Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
  • Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
  • Do More With Less
  • Be Passionate and Determined
  • Be Humble

How does this impact how their audience sees them? By delivering on these core values they inspire customers, and advocates for life—see for yourself.

5. Position

The position your brand takes in the market comes down to your audience, competition, and differentiators. When you know the finer detail of who your audience is, what they like or dislike, their behavior is of the utmost importance. When you understand what their problems are, then you can begin to understand the best way to appeal to them.

Your competition is likely already serving your intended audience so understanding their appeal, as well as their strengths and weaknesses, allows you to uncover opportunities. Differentiators are why your audience will remember you. What is it that makes you different from your competition? Why should your audience choose you? Even if on paper, your competition is towering over you in term of capabilities, you can always find something that sets you apart and makes you memorable.

When Avis was entering the car rental market dominated by Hertz, they positioned themselves creatively with their tagline, “We’re only no.2, but we try harder.” In doing so, they established themselves in the market and took market share from the competition.

brand pillar- avis

6. Personality

Brand personality should be a reflection of who your audience is and what appeals to them, along with the position you want to take in the market. Your audience wants to see themselves, or the best version of themselves, in your brand so when a brand portrays the personality of their audiences’ aspirations, they resonate on a powerful level.

Take Mercedes as an example. The luxury car company’s personality communicates confidence, sophistication, and exclusivity, which appeal to the aspirations of their audience. Likewise, Red Bull has aligned themselves with extreme sports and project an energetic, youthful, and adventurous personality which appeals their audience’s aspirations.

7. Tone of Voice & Language

Tone and language choices are an extension of your personality and should also reflect your audience. Both have always been important but in today’s content driven era, its importance has been magnified. As people, we might use a different tone of voice and language set with different people, for example, your grandma vs. your best friend. If you reversed your communication and spoke to you grandmother as you would your best friend, chances are, your tone wouldn’t resonate with her. If, as a brand, you want to appeal to 18-24-year-old male skateboarders, the formality, and energy of the language that you use will be different than if your audience is 35-50-year-old female foodies.

When it comes to resonance, we must always trace it back to the source of who we want to resonate with and ask, “What do they want”?

Try to nail down your language and tone of voice, not with rigid rules but with flexible guides. Mozilla uses this strategy and within their guides, you’ll find applicable examples such as; “It’s okay to be clever, but not just for its own sake (or because we’re too in love with our own words).”

Your brand still needs to be authentic so give your personnel the autonomy to be human while directing them with flexible guides.

8. Core Message

Now that you know your audience, position, and personality of your brand, you have the information needed to craft an effective core message the cornerstone of which is your differentiator. In the mind of your audience, you get to be one thing. That one thing is your differentiator and your core message needs to be built around that.

Your core message is underlying and should be incorporated into all forms of communication. You can craft a concise and memorable tagline from this but the core message itself can be up to two sentences.

It should be short enough for internal personnel to memorize, but long enough to be impactful. It can be expressed in many different forms but should always drive home what you want your audience to remember you for.

Geico’s core message is succinct and to the point. It includes who it’s for, what the differentiator is and the benefit to the audience. “15 minutes or less can save you 15% or more on car insurance.”

This double’s down as a tagline with how concise it is but it can be applied and adapted throughout all communication with the underlying message: “we save you time and money when it comes to your car insurance”.

9. Brand Identity System

Your brand identity system is a collection of visual elements that work together to form the look and feel of your brand. A logo on its own has very little impact as it is a single visual representation and cannot provide a look and feel for the brand on its own.

The role of the visual identity is to trigger brand recall and a visual identity with numerous distinct visual elements working as a team to create a look and feel has a much greater chance of making that visual connection and triggering that memory.

A brand identity system includes:

  • Primary Logo
  • Secondary Logo
  • Lockup Variations
  • Colour Palette
  • Typography
  • Image Style
  • Graphics Library
  • Brand Style Guide

Take a look at the brand identity system from Tom Kerridge. It boasts a logo, color palette, image style, packaging, typography, all working together to create a unique and memorable style.

Tom Kerridge

10. Brand Expression

As the richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room”. In essence, your brand is your reputation and therefore any interaction with your audience, or brand expression is a building block of your brand.

Whether visually, audibly, or experientially, your brand needs consistency is its expression. Any instances of expression that are off-brand, whether a behavior that is not aligned with values, decisions that are not aligned with the vision or visual expressions that don’t follow brand guidelines, your brand is being damaged.

The key to brand expression is alignment. Every pillar mentioned above needs to be aligned with the one before it so there is a consistent message across every touch point.

The best example of consistency is the king of modern branding, Apple. Since Steve Jobs came back into the fold in 1997, Apple changed its trajectory. Everything was simplified. The purpose, vision, mission, values, personality, language, the tone of voice, core message, brand identity and expression. We all know who they are, we all know what they stand for and whether you are part of the cult following or not, you can’t help be in awe of their brand.

It’s safe to assume that most entrepreneurs start their business in the hope that it will be successful. There are very few who position themselves well enough to give that business the best chance for survival, establishment, and then success. Building a brand from the inside-out that has substance, meaning, values, personality, and visual appeal gives a business a starting point, a future brand, and a vehicle to get there.

I’d love to hear how you’re incorporating these 10 pillars into your own branding. Tell me about it in the comments!


The post The 10 Pillars of Successful Branding appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

Marketo Marketing Blog

Grow with Us This Week on Copyblogger

This week, we have three posts to help you grow in various ways — creatively, financially, grammatically. On Monday, Jerod Morris let us know that Digital Commerce Academy is now open for new students! This is the resource you need if you want to get a digital business off the ground — or make faster
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Email Automation for wedding and event planners

Event planners are multitaskers. From dealing with vendors and booking venues, to responding to the changing needs of clients, there’s a lot to keep tabs on. In an industry where there’s so much to be done and time is at a premium, Email Automation can help.

Rather than manually sending out important marketing emails to your contacts, automated emails allow you to create a single message or series of messages whenever it’s most convenient for you, and then schedule them to be delivered later. Though Email Automation will work for any business, it can be especially helpful for wedding and event planning businesses. Here are four ways that you can introduce automation into your email marketing program:

Welcome emails

Quite possibly the most common type of automated message, a welcome autoresponder is typically delivered immediately after someone signs up for your email list. It introduces your brand and lets new subscribers know what they can expect from your messages. Your greeting should thank new contacts for joining your list and remind them of why they decided to sign up in the first place. Will you offer discounts? Vendor information? Tips on finding the perfect venue? Use the welcome autoresponder to briefly explain the value of your emails and services.

Reengagement campaign

Not everyone who signs up for your email list will end up hiring you — at least not immediately. Don’t let those email addresses gather dust. You can encourage inactive leads to take the next step with an automated series that promotes your services.

Try sending messages that introduce (or reintroduce) your business, offer testimonials from satisfied clients, or link to a case study or landing page that succinctly breaks down the steps in your planning process. If it makes sense for your company, give these prospects an extra nudge by offering a discount or some other premium service. Remember, each email in the sequence should focus on generating interest in your services and getting leads to reach out to you.

Anniversary messages

Referrals and repeat business are the keys to long-term success for any company. So even if former clients don’t currently need your services, it’s well worth your while to continue nurturing the connection you have with them. One great way to maintain top-of-mind awareness is by sending an automated anniversary email. Wedding professionals can set up an email that’s triggered to send one year after the ceremony, congratulating the happy couple. This would also be a great opportunity to encourage a former client to book your services for an anniversary party. General event planners who coordinate annual conferences or celebrations could also set up an email that reminds past clients to book their company for the upcoming year.

Feedback requests

To measure the success of an event and improve your strategy going forward, it’s important to follow up with clients to learn what worked for them and what didn’t. It’s also important to send that feedback request in a timely manner. Email Automation makes it easier to get feedback from clients at a moment when your business and the wonderful experience you created are still fresh in their minds. To get these valuable insights into your performance, create an autoresponder that’s set to deliver no more than a week after your clients’ events. Link to a survey you’ve created, encourage clients to write a review on a site like The Knot, EventWire or Yelp, or send out a call for general feedback.

As an event planner, you understand the importance of organization better than most. Automating emails is a simple way to stay on track as you juggle multiple projects and meet your goals. 

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© 2017, Amber Humphrey. All rights reserved.

The post Email Automation for wedding and event planners appeared first on Vertical Response Blog.

Vertical Response Blog

The Resource You Need to Move Your Digital Business Forward

I love digital business. Nothing else can match it for the freedom, the flexibility, the ability to make a living while only occasionally putting pants on. But. Sadly, it just isn’t true that you can wave your hands around, say a few magic words, and turn the internet into your ATM. The internet has no
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10 Ways to Cut Internet Distractions so You Can Focus on What Really Matters (FS228)

10 Ways to Cut Internet Distractions so You Can Focus on What Really Matters (FS228)

As an independent entrepreneur, your business lives or dies on the progress you make week in, week out. Let’s talk about some EFFECTIVE ways to stay focused on things that matter.

Avoiding distractions is utterly essential to your success, but that little device in your pocket…

yea, that one…

the one with the screen and the apps and the notifications…

that thing is hungry, and all it eats is YOUR ATTENTION.

When you’re scrolling through a Facebook feed or half-a-dozen videos deep into an unanticipated YouTube binge, do you know what’s happening?

Well, I’ll tell you what’s NOT happening: your business ain’t growing and your projects AREN’T getting done.

So, here’s the deal…

… we’re not recommending a puritanical approach to business where modern technology is abandoned. The internet is undeniably powerful for building massively successful online businesses, including our own.

But we must make sure we are using the tool, not the other way around.

“If you work for yourself, make sure you use the internet (and don’t let IT use YOU)”
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As we’ve written before, your humanity is your greatest business asset. Through your humanity, you experience, intuit, empathize and create.

These are the core concepts of business success, and they have little to do with technology, smartphones, or the Internet.

What follows are 11 steps you can take today to break the Internet/smartphone addiction, re-engage with real life, and ensure technology is supporting your business growth, not hindering it.

1. Determine What Really Matters

Before you can focus your efforts, you first need to define what really matters to you and your business.

What are your goals? Who are you serving? What are you trying to achieve? What problem are you solving? Are you tracking vanity metrics or actual key performance indicators? Are you focusing on the right things?

Quite often we use our smartphones to fill-in the gaps throughout the day. When we’re not clear and intentional about what we want to achieve, those gaps can expand out to eat up big chunks of time.

When you’re unsure what achieving your goals will mean to your life, the short term dopamine rush of Facebook will inevitably win the battle for your attention.

Conveniently, negative patterns of behavior can help point the way to your True North. When you find yourself randomly scrolling through a social media feed, it’s a perfect opportunity to stop and ask:“

  • What is it I’m actively avoiding by wasting time in this manner?
  • What is it I’m afraid of or unclear about?
  • What is the important project or goal right now?
  • Why is it important to me? Remind me why this goal/projects matters TO ME.

Often the answer to those questions will be exactly the thing you should be working on — the thing that really matters.

Another way to clarify what really matters is outlined in our productivity and vision live training (it’s free right now), which explores how to use a daily productivity journaling practice to find direction, motivation, and focus.

The training describes a simple process of getting clear about your intention and — this is kind of crazy, but it works — using affirmation and values to FEEL inspired about your project.

Our own Chase Reeves developed this training out of his personal work process and people are experiencing clarity and focus they’ve never had before using these exercises.

So, check that out if you’re interested, because when you know what matters, you’ll be better able to harness your phone to help you achieve those goals.

“When you know what matters your phone will be a tool, not a distraction.”
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2. Consider How Your Smartphone Aids and Hinders Your Work

Much of what we do on our smartphone is the result of mindless habit.

We feel compelled to check our phone whenever we have a moment of free time. We can be on Facebook and scrolling through the newsfeed before we even realize we’re doing it!


So take some time to become mindful and conscious of how you’re using your phone.

Monitor yourself for a day or week. Observe how you use your phone and the Internet. How much time do you spend checking things? How do you react when a new message arrives? Consider how that usage supports or hinders accomplishing what you established as really mattering in the previous step.

You may want to make a list of the apps you use on an average day, how much time you spend on them (Rescuetime can help with this), and whether they’re supporting your work, or distracting you from it.

The next few steps will help you with this, but there’s no substitute for simple awareness of WHAT you’re really doing with your internet and phone.

3. Turn Off Notifications

This Harvard Business Review article about “the cost of continually checking email” notes that several University studies have found refocusing attention on work after being distracted by email can take up to 20 minutes.

In addition, people can lose up to 10 IQ points due to being distracted by email and social media notifications.

The constant bombardment of notifications is not helping us get our work done. Luckily, this problem has a relatively simple solution: turn off your notifications.

Maybe you want your caregiver or your co-worker to be able to text you at all times. Maybe you want to be notified if someone posts to your business’ Facebook Page so that you can respond quickly. That’s all fine. But maybe you don’t need to know every time someone likes one of your Tweets or shares a Facebook post.

In our article, “10 Time Management Tips Every Entrepreneur Needs to Know,” we explained how you can use the Eisenhower Method, popularized by Stephen Covey’s book First Things First, to determine the difference between “urgent” and “important” activities. Notifications feel urgent, but they’re almost never important.

You can’t do big things if you’re distracted by small things. Notifications are small things, so shut them down.

(For you Apple users, here’s a helpful article on how to perform a number of notification related tasks on your iPhone/iPad, including how to: remove apps from the notification center, turn off badge app icons, remove notifications from your Lock Screen, and more.)

“The constant bombardment of notifications is not helping us get our work done.”
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4. Move Distracting Apps to Folders and Pages

Everyone once and a while, it’s time for a digital clean up…. Specifically, let’s look at the apps on your phone.

In the same way that cleaning and organizing a physical space like your office or home can help your productivity and mood, so too can digital streamlining.

When you monitored your phone use (see step 2) you almost certainly noticed apps you rarely use. Delete them!

For apps you use frequently, but find distracting, place them within folders. We’re using an “out of sight, out of mind” method here. Just put the apps in a folder where you have to hunt and peck a bit to find it, instead of keeping them front and center all of the time.

Save the main home page on your device for the apps you’ve determined support your efforts, but clear away the rest of the distracting clutter. When you unlock your phone, you should be looking at a collection of apps that reflect what really matters to your business.

“Phone tip: move distracting (but necessary) apps into folders away from your home screen”
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5. Use Focus Tools

If you don’t have the self-control to timebox your day and stick to a schedule, some helpful tools can help support your efforts to stay focused.

Inbox Pause puts new emails on hold, so they don’t appear in your inbox until you are ready for them.

New Feed Eradicator is a Chrome plugin that replaces your entire Facebook newsfeed with an inspiring quote.

Freedom blocks access to websites, apps, or the whole internet for a chosen period of time. sends one email a day to summarize all your newsletters.

Boomerang for Gmail allows scheduled emails to be sent later, come back into your inbox if people don’t respond in X days, and have emails boomerang back to you on a particular day when you can actually deal with it.

(For more email management tools, check out our article, “Email Inbox Management Tips.”)

6. Schedule Social Media Posts

Has this ever happened to you?

You hop on Facebook or Instagram to post relevant content related to your business, but before you have a chance to post, you notice something interesting in your feed. You read it. And then another post catches your eyes. You click through. Suddenly, it’s half an hour later, and you still haven’t gotten around to posting your content.

This scenario has happened to all of us at some point, which is why scheduling social media posts ahead of time can be extremely helpful. By scheduling, you’re able to consistently get your valuable social media content posted, without getting swept up into the black hole of social media time-suckage.

Scheduling a week of posts in advance can be an amazing experience in terms of both the time and mental energy it frees up.

Facebook has a built-in scheduling feature for business Pages.

Later is a fantastic tool that allows you visually plan and schedule Instagram posts, along with other social feeds like Twitter and Facebook.

Edgar and Hootsuite are other good options for social media scheduling.

Getting out in front of your social media posting by pre-scheduling it during a timebox allows you to return your focus to the real work of your business.

7. Timebox Specific Activities and Apps

Another way to manage your apps and prevent distraction is to use timeboxing, the process of assigning specific time slots and durations in your daily or weekly schedule for particular activities.

This can include social media and email. It works as a focus technique, but also a productivity method because people tend to complete tasks quicker when they are assigned a specific timeframe or deadline.

  • Need to tame your Instagram addiction? Only check your feed on coffee breaks.
  • Wasting too much time on Youtube? Limit your video watching to the bathroom.
  • Is email dictating your daily focus by putting you into a constant reactive mode instead of a proactive one? Only check email twice a day.

We’re not party poopers. If watching 20-minute videos of cats being frightened by cucumbers brings joy to your life, by all means, keep watching! But watch during your lunch break or before you go to bed.

You don’t have to stop doing the activities you enjoy. You just have to manage your time in such a manner as to ensure you aren’t distracted from your deep work.

“You can’t do big things if you’re distracted by small things.”
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8. Get Clear on What’s Next

A crucial step in removing digital distractions is making the thing that matters to you (i.e. your work) more important than the potential distractions.

When you love your work and are deep in a flow state, distracting notifications stop being an issue.

In step 1 you identified the big picture of what really matters, but big picture goals can be vague and nebulous, and that’s exactly where distraction lives. Understanding what matters most just isn’t enough. You need to know what specific steps you are going to take right now.

Deciding you want to lose 50 pounds is an excellent goal, but how are you going to do it? What food are you going to eat for your next meal? What exercise regime are you going to implement? Those details are crucial.

An excellent way to identify the steps you need to take is by working backward from the desired end state. If the desired end state is a sale to a customer, ask yourself, “What needs to happen directly before the sale? And what is the step before that one, and the step before that?” By working your way backward in this manner, you’ll identify what you need to do to get started today.

When you’re confident you know what needs to get done, you’ll be a lot less likely to start itching for the distracting pleasures of the internet.

“When you love your work and are deep in a flow state distractions can stop being an issue (here’s how)”
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9. Create Action Momentum

There’s excitement and energy that comes from stringing together a series of successes, and the more success you have, the more the thing you’re working will become attractive to you.

This is a thing almost all of us experienced. (If you haven’t yet, keep it up, you’ll notice it randomly one day.)

The more you set your intention (step 1: define what’s truly important) and then take action towards that intention, the more “ACTION MOMENTUM” you generate.

And this is a big deal!

Why? Because the whole internet sometimes feels like it’s out to get you. And sometimes the group text is on fleek! (i.e., sometimes group SMS text messages can be exhilarating and fun.)

It’s in this CRAZY DISTRACTING world that we have to try to shepherd our projects into the real world. It’s delicate, it’s feeble, it’s gentle work to keep an idea alive, to keep inspiration and motivation alive.

So, we need all the help we can get!

And this “action momentum” is one of the biggest aids we have. It’s like a powerful wind that always blows when you’re sailing out far enough.

You want to continually move in the direction of doing the work so that you can begin to gain a sense of momentum. There’s excitement and energy that comes from stringing together a series of successes, and the more success you have, the more the thing you’re working will become attractive to you.

It’s like going for a long run: at first, you might feel uncomfortable or unsure of how it is going to go, but then you fall into a comfortable rhythm that turns the previously uncomfortable process into a pleasurable experience.

You want to create that same pleasurable feeling for the business building tasks you have in front of you each day. The more energizing your work, the more focused you’ll become. The magic happens on the ground at worker bee level. When you consistently do the work, momentum becomes the norm.

“Action Momentum: energy that comes from stringing together a series of successful actions”
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10. Continuity Between Projects

As with the period of time in-between smaller steps in a project, there’s also a danger of getting caught in the down time between larger projects.

When you’ve accomplished something big, but aren’t sure what’s next, you can quickly fall back into old patterns of distraction.

At Fizzle we try to have continuity between our big projects. When one project is starting to wrap up, we begin thinking about (and get excited for) the next project.

This is a really important point here. It’s kind of advanced Aikido level stuff. We explain it more in depth in the podcast below.

Knowing what big thing you’re going to be working on next is fantastic motivation to finish up your current project. And that motivation will, like so much of what we have discussed in this article, help keep you focused and distraction free.

BONUS: Take a Digital Detox

If you implement the first ten steps we’ve covered here and still find yourself addicted to time wasting activities online, it just might be time for a digital detox.

When you simply cannot give up the habit of checking your phone, it’s a big red flag telling you it’s time to turn your device off.

Put it away in a drawer. Walk away.

Take a day, or a weekend, to live your life without the internet.

Go outside. Spend time with your loved ones. Take a trip.

Pick up a paint brush or a pencil –— do something with your hands that isn’t scrolling.

When you return to the internet after some healthy time away, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find Facebook, Instagram, Candy Crush, Kim Kardashian’s booty, and your email inbox will be there waiting for you.

We promise the world won’t end just because you put down your phone for a weekend and lost yourself in what really matters.

Go deeper with this podcast episode:

We recorded a lively conversation about these tips and go into a bit more depth on each one. Enjoy! (And subscribe if you haven’t!)

Subscribe (how to)   iTunes   Overcast   Pocket Casts   Stitcher   Google Play   RSS  

A Renewed Relationship with Your Phone

With these eleven techniques, you’ll be able to reframe your relationship with your smartphone and the internet into something healthy and productive.

When you’re excited by your projects, you’ll be less attracted by distracting activities, and when you minimize the distractions, you’ll get all the more excited about your work.

It’s a cyclical process.

You’ll still get that endorphin rush you used to get from checking your notifications, only now you’ll get that rush from checking off items on your ‘To Do List.

When the work you WANT TO DO is more energizing and exciting than your addiction to technology, you’ll be able to pursue your business goals with renewed vigor, engagement, and focus.

And when you’re clear about what’s important, what you need to do next, and how technology can help get you there, there’s no telling just how much progress you’ll be able to make.

“10 Ways to Cut Internet Distractions so You Can Focus on What Really Matters”
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10 ways to cut internet distractions so you focus on what REALLY matters. NEW POST just launched. Link in bio! We all need some help with this stuff 🙂 #productivity #entrepreneur #focus

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