Small Business Guide to Going Online – AIMCLEAR‘s Fireside Chat

Small Business Guide to Going Online

Every Friday our AIMCLEARians host a discussion about what’s on our minds, what we are hearing in the industry, and more. Jump in this week’s discussion with Vice President of Marketing Strategy, Susan Wenograd and Creative Director, Erik Stafford on Small Business Guide to Going Online.

Read Our Friday Fireside Chat

Erik: Hey, good afternoon everyone. It’s, Eric Stafford here from AIMCLEAR with my partner in crime, Susan Wenograd. How are ya?

Susan: It’s a Friday afternoon. We’re almost there, so I am fantastic.

Erik: Nice. Very good. Very good. Today’s topic is small business guide to taking your business online.

And, Susan, there’s a couple of reasons I was really excited about this week’s topic. One of them obviously, is because you and I are friends. We’ve known each other forever. Not only do we get to work together, but we are good friends. And any chance I can get to chat about marketing with you is always really a pleasure for me.

So, I’m excited to be able to join you and do this.

Susan: Thanks, yeah, it’s always fun to chat about this stuff with you too.

Erik: Yep. And then the second reason is that, as coworkers who service the same clients, and also as friends who like to have coffee together and chat and gossip and complain, we do share one thought about what’s happening in the world right now, which is generally a sense of frustration for the smaller, more personal, solopreneurs, entrepreneurs, small businesses, yoga instructors, craft restaurants. And, we’re empathetic because we love them. We love these businesses. We love supporting these businesses. And it’s going to be a long road back, I think, for a lot of these businesses.

And so, anything we can do to help those sort[s] of businesses, hopefully that’s you as you watch this, we’re more than happy to do. So, those are sort of the main reasons I was really excited to do this.

Susan: Yeah. And I kind of feel like, especially with the small businesses, it’s a lot of headlines about how everything’s in gridlock and you know, restaurants are doing takeout and that’s really it. There’s not a lot of discussion around, I think, how to get from point A to point B. You know, I think people just feel a little frozen where it’s kind of like, “Well, we can’t do these things, so we’ll just sit and wait to see what happens and…” These poor small businesses. But you know, one of the things that I know that you and I have been following closely, some of the ingenious ways that businesses have been reinventing themselves and pivoting really quickly to figure out how to take what they have and make it work in the environment they’re in.

So that was the other reason why I was super interested in this topic, because I just think it’s neat to see how creative business owners can be in general. I mean, it takes a certain entrepreneurial spirit to be a business owner in the first place. I mean, it’s not a fun time, but I think it’s interesting and it’s kind of empowering to watch small businesses that just roll with the punches.

They’re like, “Okay, well, that’s how we used to do it. And it sucks, but this is how we’re going to do it now.” It’s like they just kind of figure out how to keep moving forward. It’s interesting to watch.

Erik: Yeah. And, I think it’s necessary now more than ever, right? I mean, we all have seen the news, we know what’s happening. And there’s sort of two ways to look at that. I certainly don’t want to diminish what’s happening. I know that there’s a lot of people right now who are really struggling to find ways to support their family and their staff, their team, you know, and keep their business open. But, for every crisis or roadblock, that can also be perceived as an opportunity.

And I think that, you know, any opportunity you have to finally have the space to start to figure some of this stuff out. You know that there’s opportunity to sell online, no matter if you’re a local business or not. There’s an opportunity to find customers on the internet and engage them and sell them stuff.

And so that’s, you know, probably, I would guess something that’s been on your radar or on your list to figure out anyway. Right? And so, it is challenging for sure. And it is frustrating for sure, but it’s also an opportunity. From an opportunity standpoint, that’s where I get excited. Like you had said, it’s really exciting to me to see our favorite pizza place doing trivia on zoom meetings and hand delivering big bags full of pizzas and cocktails to all their regulars so that they can all get together on a zoom meeting and hang out.

Now, if you’re a barber or if you’re a bar and can’t open just yet, that doesn’t mean that you can’t stay top of mind with your audiences. And it also doesn’t mean that you can’t start figuring out ways to put systems in place to make this stuff happen on the internet for you as well.

Susan: Yeah, I agree. And I know we have kind of a list of things that feed into that, but like what you just talked about, which was kind of the whole creating the content and then streaming and delivering it, and what that looks like.

And I find this topic particularly interesting because in a service-based business, they’re not really in the business of content. You know what I mean? They’re in the business of doing the thing.

Erik: An example might be what, like a plumber?

Susan: Yeah. One of the ones that comes to mind is Annie Cushing’s daughter. She’s a makeup artist and she’s extraordinarily talented, like crazy talented, and she specializes in vintage makeup and hair.

Erik: Oh wow

Susan: You know me, I love that stuff. So, I’m just like, she’s a goddess, right? So normally she does that as an in-person service. And what’s been fun to watch is that she’s pivoted that into live lessons with people. So instead of appointments being booked for her to do it for them, she gets on a call with them and coaches through,

like, makeup artistry and how to do their hair. So it’s like they might not necessarily do it as extravagantly as they would if she was there, but she’s able to talk them through how she does some very basic things so that they’re able to do it for themselves until, you know, she’s available again.

So, I just thought that was so quick. It was such a smart, quick way to pivot what you have. I think for a lot of business owners, they’re just so used to doing the service. They’ve never had to break it down that way. So, from a content perspective, I often wonder about how daunting that is.

You know, like when I think about even what we do every day, I’m used to teaching it cause that’s what we do at conferences. But I had to get good at that. Like, I didn’t know how to teach it at first, you know? So, it’s like you don’t know what you don’t know. It’s like you don’t know where people are as far as like, “How basic do I make this?”

You have no idea what they’re going to care about hearing about. And people are, I think, more interested than a lot of business owners give themselves credit for. You know, it’s like for me. I love cooking. I love baking. So like for me, if there’s a local bakery that’s going to do a live stream of how they make their sourdough, I’m totally watching that, but it’s like, I know what it’s like to be so close to the source material that you don’t even know if it’s interesting when you feel like you don’t know what you should talk about.

Erik: Yeah, yeah, for sure. You know what’s interesting, you mentioned baking, so, I think I’ve mentioned this to you, but Christina Tosi from Milk Bar in New York. I learned about Milk Bar and I learned about Christina from watching Chef’s Table and she’s this amazing baker that is from the Midwest and grew up eating all this terrible food: elephants’ ears at the fair and all this, you know, cupcakes and brownies- All the good stuff. And she moved to New York and slaved in basement kitchens for 10 years and learned how to become an extraordinary baker and opened Milk Bar. So now, I live in South Florida. I get to New York once a year, maybe, if I’m lucky, and there’s eight places I want to visit in New York that are just as cool and amazing as hers.

Susan: Yeah.

Erik: Because I’m a foodie, right? So, chances are I’ll be lucky to get there once in my life. Maybe. And I’ve thought about ordering Milk Bar stuff and having it delivered to South Florida, but now suddenly she’s doing a livestream every day at two in the afternoon on Instagram, making things on video, and I’m all in, right?

I’ll watch that with my daughter, and we’ve made two or three recipes now, and they’re delicious and totally unhealthy. I love it, it’s amazing, right? But it’s a perfect example of this being a business that I had not had the opportunity to frequent because I’m not within a 50-block radius.

But now I’m buying Milk Bar stuff on their store and I’m watching her videos. I’m engaging with her content.

Susan: You bring up an interesting point too. If you take it out of the small business thing too, it’s applicable even to the really large ones. You know me, I’m a Disney person. My husband and I got married there. We go back every year. And so, it’s been interesting to watch, for a place that, like their whole thing is creating experiences. And if there’s no people, they can’t create experiences. So yeah. What’s been interesting to see with them is they’re kind of doing the same thing and they’re giving away some of their secrets.

Like they’re giving away their recipes. So you can make your churros at home, you can make their beignets, all is this, not their huge main dishes, but like the stuff that people go as a treat to get at parks that are really popular.

They’ve been openly sharing those recipes now, which has been kind of fascinating for me. So, like, it’s kind of funny to see how- the rules for [this] would normally be very hush hush, because that’s what creates that in-person magic.

Like they’re turning that into shareable content as opposed to kind of keeping it to themselves. So even the, you know, the large businesses are doing it too.

Erik: Yeah. So, I love it. And I think when you look at sort of the myriad of small businesses, like you had said, some of them are service providers, where it’s a plumber or an electrician or a landscaping company or what have you, a roof inspector. Others are more, I guess you could probably classify yoga instructors or personal trainers in that list, but either way, I think it comes down to a couple of key tools, right? And really what that starts with is, how do we take our existing offer and make it something that’s safe in today’s environment?

I think for a lot of businesses, most small businesses, no matter where you sit on that spectrum, that’s going to involve, like you had said, creating content, whether that’s sharing recipes or sharing videos, or it’s going to come down to taking payments online or communicating online.

So, we have yoga instructors that we do classes like this with, and it’s not the same experience. Obviously, my cats climb all over me and it’s hot as hell. I’m on my porch, I’m not in this beautiful yoga studio with sage burning and with quiet music happening. It’s a little different, but it is delivered through zoom or some sort of other video conferencing technology.

And so I would think that to get started with any of this stuff, really, you have to look at some sort of payment processor or some sort of facility that allows you, if you’re a landscaper or a roof inspector, to come out and do an estimate or, or do an examination or audit and share your results without knocking on the door breathing on some, right?

I think, you know, zoom or one of these other sort of video conferences, Google Hangouts, it’s remarkable how much stuff you can do with these tools, right? Not only can we use tools like that to do stuff like this, or do yoga classes remotely, or have a consultation, for example, if you’re an attorney with a client, but you can also use tools like this to record a video of yourself and save it.

And then content that you can share on YouTube or somewhere else, right? You can record a video and transcribe it, and then suddenly if you don’t like writing, you got written content.

Susan: Yup. One of the things that I saw recently, and I think more and more stores are starting to do this, but I thought this was so smart, and I wish I’d saved it so I can actually give credit to where I saw it on my Facebook feed or what store it was, but there was a store that was a retail boutique and they pivoted to make it like a personal shopping experience.

Erik: I love it.

Susan: I was like, that is so smart. People that wanted to shop at their store could book a time on their website and then the owner would take them or find out what it was they’re shopping for and they would just do like a live hangout or a FaceTime and they would go around the store and show them the different things they had.

And I was like, that’s so brilliant. Especially for something like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, or like, so many people are having birthdays right now and you know, in a way, it’s not just from the personal touch thing. But, you know, especially for a few weeks there, and still in some cases, Amazon’s been pretty slow on the draw to get the shipping going because they can’t prioritize, understandably, the essential items over it.

So, for any of those kinds of more superfluous things that weren’t essential, it gave small businesses a bit of an edge because it was there, it was in stock. They didn’t have to wait on shipping and they had someone that could help them pick it out. Cause that sometimes that’s the other thing about Amazon is that you don’t really know what you’re going to get.

It’s like, stock photos of whatever this place sells. It’s in a warehouse somewhere. I thought it was super smart for like local businesses.

Erik: We have a friend in Southern California from college whose name is Dave, and he and his wife have a small clothing and jewelry boutique store, and they sell a lot of stuff from India and from Thailand.

They curate mala beads and stuff like that from around the world. They’re doing a bet only show. They created it on Facebook, they’re inviting people, and then they’re going to livestream the event and they’re going to have selfie sticks and laptops and hand them around.

And it’s going to be like a cocktail party. They’re going to show people through, and they’re already doing what you had just said. They’re letting people set up private shopping experiences, and then they’ll take your credit card, they’ll package it all up, and they’ll leave it with a little bow right by their front door for you.

Susan: I feel like for the first few weeks this was happening, I mean, A: I think we were all just kind of stunned, you know, so it’s like everyone was just kind of in this weird… I feel like it was like this two to three week period of just weirdness.

You know, where it’s like everyone was in shock. They were kind of stunned and it was like everyone was kind of holding on to everything cause they didn’t know what to do. And you know, one of the things that I’ve noticed a lot, especially in covering the news over on Search Engine Journal is just like, you know, I read a lot about ad sentiment and stuff.

This is stuff I don’t necessarily write about cause it doesn’t have to do directly with paid media. But I’m just curious to see how people are feeling about advertising. And so, the overriding feeling the past two weeks has been like, “Okay, we get it. You’re in with that. You’re in it with us. Stop with the piano music.”

Like, we are where we are now. Everyone’s kind of gotten through that hump of needing reassurance and they’re just kind of like, “This is just what it is right now.” Right? So, people are starting to get more comfortable, I think, with valuing the fact that there is some normalcy in shopping for regular things that they want.

I think that there’s also a comfort level that makes it right for businesses to do what your friend is doing. So instead of feeling like all that content has to be about, like, “We’re here with you and we’re not going to go anywhere.” It’s kind of like, we all know that. I just want an hour where I feel normal. You know, it’s like, I just want an hour where I can shop for a shirt and just feel normal. It’s like this might be something that feels like a regular thing that I would do.

I feel like that’s also kind of the content perspective. That’s also something that I don’t think businesses should underestimate. I don’t think they should have to feel like they need to keep acknowledging the fact that there’s a pandemic. Everyone knows it. So, it’s like you could almost have permission to go back to doing the thing that you do best.

Erik: Yeah. We get it that it’s challenging times.

Susan: Yes. Or uncertain times.

Erik: Yeah. So I mean, in terms of the technology that a small business might use to be able to do a virtual live show, for example, or a virtual one-on-one shopping experience, or a consultation, maybe if you work in, in coaching or consulting or mental health or whatever that is.

Let’s talk about the technology you might use to be able to create content. Do you have any thoughts there about maybe what are the two or three pieces people might want to look at and start to play with and understand that that’ll really help them with this stuff?

Susan: Yeah, I don’t think people should overcomplicate it.

So, to me, video has always felt very intimidating because I’m a writer by nature. I’m not a camera person. Now I know more about lighting cause I take photos. But even video lighting and all that stuff is pretty foreign to me. So, you know, I think that it feels intimidating. Everyone’s like, “Well I don’t have the tools. I don’t have this. I don’t have that.” The beauty is you have a little recording studio right in here <shows iPhone>, you know? I think a lot of times I’m guilty of this. You get very caught up in feeling like, “Well, what if it doesn’t look the best?” Because we’ve been conditioned for so long. I think part of that’s an age thing too. For those of us that grew up on perfectly produced television shows, in your mind, that’s how content should look. And I still struggle with that. It’s like, you know, to me, I’m like, that’s just how shows look. That’s how things should look. And the fact of the matter is, it’s like that data, that’s not true anymore.

The environment was, and it hasn’t been that way for years. People are very used to live, user generated content. But I think the other part of that is, also don’t get hung up on it because that’s not necessarily what users want to see. It’s like, they don’t necessarily want to see an overly produced commercial. If you are the guy that owns the local roofing company and you’re giving me tips on how to see if I have a leak because I think I might, or you know, whatever it is.

Erik: Right.

Susan: I almost like it more if you’re just you, right?

Erik: It doesn’t have to look like Titanic

Susan: No! It’s kind of funny, I’ve gotten more comfortable with that as I’ve gotten so into Instagram stories because the ones that are grittier and that are not overly produced are the ones that tend to do well.

I think that there’s always this fear that you think that – those local commercials you would see at like 11 o’clock at night in the unsold time slots where it’s like you could tell they record it with something like crappy VHS. It’s like everyone’s afraid that that’s how it’s going to look and they’re going to look less professional.

But the fact of the matter is it almost looks more professional. If you’re confident enough to just turn on a video and say, “This is how you need to check for leaks, I’m gonna show you exactly how to do it.” That goes so much further with people these days. It’s like what you’re saying, how people don’t want the overly polished stuff in their Instagram feed now.

Now it’s starting to trend more towards they want to see day to day life shots. They want real. So, I also think that’s the other piece is when you worry about the technology that you have to do it. It’s like as long as you’ve got a phone and if you’ve got a halfway decent mic where you know they can understand and hear you clearly, you’ve won half the battle.

You don’t have to get overly concerned about, you know, what you have and always remember that you can redo it. So, if you do a video and you’re like, “Oh, there’s a shadow across my face for half of it,” you can just delete it and do another one. Don’t get so hung up on making it perfect that you wind up doing nothing.

If you’ve got a phone and a halfway decent mic, you’re almost there.

Erik: Yeah. I think that’s such an important point. And, it reminds me of a couple of points that I would share with people who are considering doing video. One of them being that, you know, you had mentioned earlier, Susan: you’ve lived your story. You may not think it’s any big deal or anything interesting or extraordinary, but in our experience working with artists and with art galleries, the story is what sells. People buy the painting. They like to look at the painting. But they also like to know why the artists made the painting or what the painting represents to the artist and the story behind the painting.

I think that’s sort of the same thing with most businesses. We would love to know if your pizza place uses grandma’s secret sauce; tell us about grandma. And, you know, that may not be anything special to you, but your story, people thrive on stories and they love sort of peeking beneath the kimono, right? They like to feel like insiders and know more about, “Oh, Susan, you know so much about this. Where did you start?” Right? So, I would say that, don’t underestimate the value of your story, first of all.

The second thing I would share that I think is super important is that you don’t have to be a black belt to teach white belts. You can be a brown belt as long as you know more than your audience. And as long as you can share from a place of confidence and from authority. I’m not saying fake it, and I’m not saying lie, but I am saying a lot of people get hung up thinking, you know, “Oh, I can’t talk at all about paid ads because I know Susan and she knows 600 times more about it than I do.” Well, you do, you know a lot more about it than I do, but I’ve been doing this for a long time and I know a couple of things, so I certainly can teach it.

I guess the last thing I would say, and I really would be curious for your thoughts on this, is be aware of who you are. And yes, Susan and I would tell you, try and do video if possible because video moves and video has, you know, motion and sound and excitement and energy. But if you’re not comfortable on video, people are going to be able to tell.

If you’re more naturally wired to be a writer, write your content, be happy. And if you’re not a writer, record your videos and get them transcribed if you hate writing. But the key here is to just get moving instead of being overwhelmed, thinking, “Oh, I’m not smart enough to do this. Oh, the quality of this video is not good enough to do this. Oh, my story’s not valuable enough to do this. Oh, I don’t understand the technology.” Pick a platform and start building.

Susan: Well, and I think part of that too is it’s like when we’re talking about being yourself and then also the technology that’s out there, there’s technology that can help supplement the parts that you don’t think you’re necessarily as good at explaining.

I’ve done several webinars for them, but is great. [incorrectly called in the livestream] is another one. They’re premade easy templates where it’s like if you’re making a how to, there’s stuff that exists where you can literally just drop in the video clips where you want to explain it, and let the video do the heavy lifting.If you feel like you’re not explaining it well, or if there’s points you want to call out, it’s like you don’t have to completely rely on yourself. There’s a lot of drag and drop, easy to use tools that are out there that are not extraordinarily expensive.

But I think the other part too is that on the topic of being yourselves, I think some people are like, “Well, I’m not charismatic and I’m not whatever on video,” and like, people don’t always want a Tony Robbins. You know what I mean? It’s like, you don’t have to be the Tony Robbins of roofing for people to want to watch your video. I like gardening, right? Gardeners are not Tony Robbins. They’re not motivational speakers, but that’s not why I watch them. And I’d almost be more put off if they were a gardener that’s overly charismatic. I want someone that has dirt under their fingernails, that’s soft-spoken, and that can help me understand why the hell I can’t grow cilantro. Like, that’s what I want to know, right? And it’s like there is this feeling of kind of like how people expect someone like that to be.

So, it’s also kind of like if you do something where you’re an electrical engineer and you’re helping people with something in their homes and you’re not the Tony Robbins of electrical engineering. That’s not necessarily a bad thing either. You know, it’s like they want someone that’s going to instill trust and they want someone that they know knows what they’re doing. It has nothing to do with your presence and everything to do with the value that you’re bringing.

Erik: That’s like that thing Malcolm Gladwell talks about with thin-slicing, where you look at someone and you immediately get sort of a gut reaction and you’re like, “Nope,” or you’re like “Yep.”

I bought this ceramic smoker thing and we’d been smoking briskets and pork bellies and stuff like that. And I had found Kamado Joe’s online smoker experts, and you go in, it’s like pew, pew, pew, and the videos have a nice logo. And then the guy comes on and he looks like he’s in a studio like Emeril Lagasse or one of these TV chefs. The channel I found, it was like the Oink Brothers, and they’re in their backyard and they had beards that looked like they have ticks and spiders in them. That’s the guys. Those are the guys that I’m going to learn how to grill from.

So, in terms of technology, I really want to make sure that we give people sorta, I don’t want to get bogged down in tactics, but I feel like a lot of people, that’s what they need, right?

So, if you have to build a website. There are places out there like Squarespace or Wix that will allow you to cobble something together. Now with the disclaimer, AIMCLEAR is not going to say that we support those platforms or use them because sometimes they can be tricky to get them to rank in the search engines and maybe they’re not secure, or they’re not the best. Allegedly, hypothetically. I’ll ask Laura about that one. But what I will say is that they do make it pretty easy to get a website online.

I can say that we do have a lot of clients that use WordPress. And I love WordPress because once it’s installed, there’s a ton of different themes that you can choose from to customize the look and feel of your site yourself. And you can pretty much Google “WordPress doing X, Y, Z,” and find an answer.

Susan: There’s tons of plugins that you can pretty much find, you know. It’s one of those things where it may or may not look perfect, but you can get it installed. It’ll do what you need it to do.

I think that’s the other piece too, is it’s like that’s the other part of platforms. Try not to overthink them; don’t overly anticipate everything you’re going to need. Figure out, for example, if you’re a local store and if you don’t have e-commerce right now and it feels too overwhelming to have to set up all those SKUs and all those product descriptions and stuff and figure it out, what is the information that you’re going to need?

So for example, if you’re a boutique that you’re like, “I’m really just looking to do personal shopping,” then you don’t necessarily need to worry about getting an e-commerce plugin or researching the best platform, or should you be on Shopify. If you’re not going to sell online anytime soon, then just don’t worry about that.

Find the platform that’s going to do what you need to do right now, you know? Figure out what are your next goals for like 60 to 90 days and what’s the platform that’s going to meet those needs perfectly? Like in your example, would I tell people to use a Wix or Squarespace ongoing? No, but if you have no website and you need to get something up fast where people can book appointments, great. Sign up for it for 30 days. If you want to get something that’s gonna be more permanent, you could always build a WordPress one in the background, right? So, it’s like, figure out you need something short term versus something long term.

What do you need it to do in that short-term period of time? I think that’s the other thing from a business owner standpoint, I think it can be hard sometimes to work with marketers because they all have those areas they focus on. So, it’s like if you ask an email marketer or you know, someone that’s an e-commerce person, what that person should do, it’s probably going to be a different answer than what an SEO might tell you. You know?

You really need to figure out for yourself what’s likely to happen in the next 30 to 60 days. Are you likely to be bothering to try and rank for anything in SEO? No. And if you’re a hyper-local business might not even make sense for you anyway, depending on what you do.

So, you kind of have to have a little, you know, perspective, I guess is the word, on if you ask for platform recommendations, who those recommendations are coming from. Because someone else might be like, “Oh, you just build it on Shopify!” And it’s like, yeah, but now you’re paying X dollars per month for a site you technically don’t really own on technology you don’t own and if you’re not planning on selling anything anytime soon, it’s not really doing any good for it to be on there. There’s pluses and minuses to every platform.

Erik: And channel, right? If your business, you know, caters to maybe an older, less technically savvy audience, I don’t care how many experts tell you you should be on Instagram or Snapchat.

I think that you can start to really hone in and slim down, like, “Who is my audience? Where does my audience tend to congregate or hang out on these different channels? And what platforms can I use to get my slightly adapted or tweaked offer in front of them right now?” Like you said, right? I know that some of those quick payment processors like Squarespace or whatever, when you go to the farmer’s market, they just turn the thing around at you and you tap, tap, tap, and plug your thing. They come with the little thing.

Susan: They do, yeah

Erik: So, I mean, you literally could just have that in your shuttered business and tell people, “Oh, you know, you need a roof inspection? Cool. It’s contactless roof inspection. We’re going to give you a time slot. We’re going to come out, we’re going to call when we get there so that you know that we’re here. If you have any questions, call this number and we’ll talk on the phone about it. We’ll do the thing. When we’re done, we’ll call you and let you know we’re done, and then we’ll get together on a zoom call and we’ll go over our results.” And you can do all that.

And it’s the same with restaurants. You can do carry out or curbside. And same with yoga instructors, all you need is an account where you can do what we’re doing right now, only with yoga mats and maybe a little sage.

Susan: Yep. Obviously cleansing. You must cleanse the area.

Erik: I like Sage. We have cats. Our house tends to smell a little weird by the end of the week.

Susan: I think the other part of that too is it’s like, if you know that you’re going to pivot to something that’s more… educationally based. Like in your example, if you need to be able to do closed streaming or if you’re like, “You know what? I am going to create a 60-day yoga challenge and it’s going to be course driven and lesson driven, all that stuff.” There’s platforms that do that wonderfully to where you don’t even have to worry about your own site because I think that’s the other piece of the people are like, “Oh God, how do I put that on a website?” Like, use something like Thinkific or-

Erik: Teachable or Udemy

Susan: There’s a bunch of all-in-one platforms that for like 160 bucks a month, you can make videos. It can drip out to people on a predetermined schedule. They have so many options.

Erik: Some platforms like that that won’t even charge you a monthly. What they’ll do is take a percentage of your sales, so it literally costs nothing to get started.

Susan: Yeah.

Erik: You know, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time, right? So, if you can spend a Saturday building a website, testing out a video streaming platform and testing out a payment processor, right? If Wendy can do it, if your husband, Steve, can do it, right? I mean, anyone can do this stuff, right? Like Wendy can use WordPress and my wife is not technically savvy.

I think that this stuff is totally doable. It’s just a matter of taking the 900 options on your desk and putting 887 of them over here, right?

Susan: And being realistic about what it is you’re going to pivot to in the short term. Let’s say I’m a restaurant and I say, “Okay, well, I already know I’m supplementing with curbside pickup, right? So, I’ve got that going.” Then I think it just becomes a question of, do I do a livestream every Friday for an hour, like showing what we’re making for the weekend that can be ordered? You know, it’s like, so you start walking back from the ordering point where it’s kind of like, “Okay, these are the things around the community that they’re going to order. Do I show them how we make each one? Do I show them what the specials are?” Start walking back from that point of purchase to figure out either, what are the questions they’re asking if it’s something like roofing, you know, like we were talking about if there’s a leak, you kind of have to walk backward into the content piece of either a: what’s just interesting? It’s like with a restaurant, you know, they’re not necessarily gonna teach you how to cook it because you’re ordering it because you don’t want to make it yourself. But it doesn’t mean they’re not interested in how you make it. Right? There’s an interest factor and there’s the education factor. So, which one are you?

I think that if you know that you’re going to go into the content production game, figuring out which of these things is it. If you’re a service-based business, like we talked about earlier, with like vintage hair and makeup, that can be transformed into education.

That’s probably what people are gonna be curious about. Or, “My roof might be leaking, I don’t know, how do I check?” That’s going to be different than something where people are ordering from a restaurant because they don’t want to cook, but it doesn’t mean that they’re not interested in how it’s done.

There’s kind of like the entertainment versus the educational type content. And I think once you make that decision, it kind of helps you back into what are you going to be creating and can you make that a schedule? Can you make it a simple schedule for yourself where you say, “Okay, every Thursday, I’ll do a Facebook live for an hour, showing us prepping and making all the food that we tend to sell on the weekends,” or whatever it is. You know? I think it’s starting from that end point and working back into the stuff, like you said before, where it’s the stuff that you take for granted that just goes into what you do in your job every day. People don’t know that that’s what your job takes. They don’t know that you have to chop 50,000 pounds of celery. They don’t know that. So, I think you have to look at it in a different way.

And I don’t think there’s anything wrong either with asking people, “What are you interested in that we do? What do we do that just seems mystical to you that you’re like, how does this, you know, when this comes out on the plate like this?” There’s a restaurant here, they have the best caramelized Brussels sprouts, and I don’t know how they make, I have tried. I cannot replicate. I’m at the point where I’m like, I’m just going to ask the owners how they do it because it is so good. And if they did a livestream how they make them, I would watch that. Cause they’re so good. I’m like, well what are you putting in them that I can’t figure out that’s so good? Right.

So, I think that there’s nothing wrong with engaging your audience too, to ask those questions. I mean, they’ll be an endless fountain of content ideas for you if you let them be.

Erik: Yeah, for sure. And I think to your point of stepping back from your offer, to figuring out content that supports that offer. You can also step forward from your offer to figure out other ancillary offers that you might be able to make that can help pick up the slack for some of the income that you’ve lost.

If your restaurant is operating at 25% of its normal capacity, or if you’re only doing curbside carry out. It’s very easy to use one of these aggregate warehouses for shipping merchandise. I haven’t used one of these in years, but for a long time it was called Cafe Press. You could basically go and create a free store on Cafe Press and they would let you select a mug, a hat, a tee shirt, a sweatshirt. And you just upload your graphic to it, your design to it, and then you can start selling t-shirts. We have a couple of restaurants here that are doing clothing and merchandise now, and they never did before and it’s all dropship. They never touch any of it. They don’t deal with a merchandise production house here. They’re not getting stuff printed. They literally went on Fiverr and found a graphic designer to build them a questionable t-shirt graphic. And they’re selling t-shirts. But the proceeds go to keeping that business in business. They go to the employees of the business to keeping them and their families fed. And so, it’s something we’re happy to support.

We also have a couple of places here that have started doing do-it-yourself at home kits where they’ll sell you a bottle of tequila, a couple of limes, and their in-house special mix so that you can make all your own margaritas at home or do it yourself.

Susan: There’s a gin distillery that you and I love in Duluth where every time we visit the AIMCLEAR home office there’s a place called Vikre and it’s amazing. It’s amazing. So good. Laura had been telling us that they have curbside pickup and there’s a kit. And there’s a lesson on how to make certain drinks. I think that that’s genius.

And then something you mentioned, that just made me think of what you’re thinking about kind of like, figuring out other things that you can offer. I’m a huge supporter of this dog rescue that’s based in Dallas called Lone Star Dog Ranch. We used to board our dog there. We adopted our dog from there. And I had an industry friend that actually volunteers there now. They’re a family run business. They have a humongous social following cause they’re just amazing people.

And so, the thing is, it’s a family run business. They all work there, and they have no clients right now cause no one’s traveling. So, they don’t have any dog boarding. Qhat they wound up doing in the meantime is the mom, Renee, who runs a rescue and they have their boarding business. There’s been this ongoing thing that she has these amazing chocolate chip cookies and it’s kind of been like this undercurrent where everyone just knows she makes these cookies that everybody loves. Well, she started selling them online. And so, one of the things they did in the meantime is that you can buy cookies and she’s taken pictures, like the whole operation in her kitchen. All the employees now help with cookie production all day. And what’s really smart too is they figured out, part of what makes it fun is that they have a whole pack of dogs that everyone that follows their page, they know all the personalities, they know the dog’s names. When they just started doing, it was by accident, was she has a dog that’s a puppy and it chewed the side of one of the shipping boxes. So, as a joke, they were like, “Inspected by so-and-so,” and they put the dog’s name on it and people lost their minds. They’re like, “I want to order a box of cookies that was inspected by one of the dogs.” Now they take a paw print of each dog and put it on the bottom, and they’re like, “Inspected by Bee,” “Inspected by Tater.”

They take pictures like they’ve been posting online of them, holding the dog and the dog’s with the paw and it has all the ink on it and they’re showing you “inspected by.” It’s like they’ve found ways to tie in things that were almost like folklore in the business.

Erik: The audience will tell you.

Susan: Oh yeah, absolutely, and they mentioned the cookie orders are slowing down. And she was very honest. She’s like, “So we’re just, we’re trying to figure out what to do.” And everyone was like, “If you guys created a video series on dog training I would buy in a heartbeat,” because they’re very dog whispery like people. They rehabilitate rescues, they understand dog behavior really well. So, they’ve been getting ideas.

If you look in the comments, people are like, “If you did this, I would buy it.” “If you did this, I would recommend it to people.” So, you know, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being vulnerable and telling people, “We don’t know what you want, but we’re here to serve you.” People will tell you exactly how you can help them, if you just ask. I mean, people want to help businesses too. I mean, they’re like, “I would buy this, and I want to support you guys.” There’s nothing wrong with asking your fans for that stuff at all.

Erik: Absolutely. Susan, do you have anything else that you would share maybe with, specifically some of the solo entrepreneurs that we love? People that create homemade goods, people that are working at farmer’s markets, yoga instructors, artists, musicians, who just really, their whole world has changed in the last eight weeks.

Susan: Yeah. It’s gonna sound weird cause, I don’t know. I don’t know if people really know this about me, but I’ve always spoken at conferences a lot. I have always been supremely uncomfortable on camera. It’s kind of interesting to me that I’m telling you like, “Just go live,” because I did not. I was never comfortable on camera.

Erik: You’re an introvert by nature

Susan: I am. In my personal life I’m very much an introvert.

Erik: Which is amazing cause people meet you and you’re so like, bubbly. We would meet up at conferences and have dinner and that would be about the only thing either of us would really do at a conference, besides speak, right?

Susan: Yeah. I mean, by 10 o’clock I’m like, “I’m good. I’m going back to the hotel room. I gotta recharge before the onslaught of extroverting tomorrow.” Right? It was always very foreign to me. And then I’m also very critical and I don’t like myself on camera. I hate hearing my own voice.

Erik: Me too

Susan: I will never watch this video because I will just loathe everything. That’s how I am. Right.

Erik: It’s so interesting. I’m the exact same way, and people tell me I’m so outgoing and not afraid to be on video, but if I were to watch this, I would say, “Look, yeah, the camera adds 15 pounds. How many cameras are aimed at me right now?”

Anyway, sorry to interrupt please.

Susan: What was funny was what cured me of this was this year I flew to San Diego and it was like immersion therapy for me because I filmed five how-to videos for Social Media Examiner. And it was nine hours long. And I’m now friends with the videographer cause I feel like he was my therapist. So, it was like, “This sucks. I don’t like myself on camera.” He’s like, “You’re going to be fine. You’re fine.” So, after forcing myself to do it that whole day. It’s not that I see those videos and I’m like, “Oh, I’m great.” I still am just like, “God, I can’t stand my voice. I hate my mannerisms.” It just doesn’t hold me back from doing that anymore.

I think my advice to business owners, because I’m sure most of them probably feel that way, where it’s they record a video of themselves, like, “I’m not going to post it. It looks terrible.” I can’t stress enough that your perception of yourself is nothing like what- I mean, my palms were sweating when these YouTube videos were going to go live. I know they’ll edit them together great, but I just hate seeing me. And the feedback was so positive that I’m like, “Even when I’m awkward or weird or I lose the words or I talk too fast, or all of those mannerisms about myself that I can’t stand.” Everyone else were like, “But that’s you, and we like you.” It was the weirdest experience. Like, I can’t tell you how cathartically odd this experience was.

There’s two pieces to that. One, don’t underestimate what people are interested in hearing about from you. You know? So, it’s like two, you’re like, “Oh, I teach yoga. What’s the big deal?” I don’t know anything about what it takes to become a yoga teacher. And I think it’s fascinating, right? Don’t underestimate what is interesting about what you do.

And then kind of the other part we talked about earlier is, don’t try and beat anybody else. You know what I mean? Don’t feel like you have to be the Tony Robbins of yoga. You know? It’s like, if you ever, you mentioned Malcolm Gladwell earlier. Malcolm Gladwell, you cannot miss. He is Malcolm Gladwell, right? But his content is amazing. And the thing is, I find his content even more interesting because he’s the one that delivers it. It’s the guy that hosts This American Life. Ira Glass is kind of the most charismatic person in person, but he’s amazing at doing that thing. He’s an amazing storyteller. He’s really good at putting together that content.

Don’t worry about how you feel like you look on video or how professional or not professional it seems. People want the knowledge you have and coming from the way that you deliver it is the part that’s going to be most important and it’s very hard to get over. I am still working on that, but this is the first year I feel like I’ve finally gotten over that hump and it’s just because I made myself do it. That’s the only way you get through it. You’re not going to talk yourself into feeling good about it.

Erik: Susan, this is why you’re amazing and why you’re one of my favorite people.

I think that’s really insightful and I think it’s really honest and I can’t tell you how important I think it is, right? Because the truth is that the way you perceive yourself is not the way others will perceive you. They’re often a hundred percent diametrically opposite, right? Because we tend to be very self-critical.

And it’s totally true. I’ve had a number of people tell me that it’s amazing that I’m not afraid of cameras and that I am really outgoing and charismatic. But when I first started doing videos to promote my first internet business, I would get nauseous before I would do them. And even still, when I speak at Pubcon or other events, I get sweaty palms and I get very nervous and I get very worried that my content is not going to be great and that I’m going to look sweaty or whatever it is.

I worry about all of the things and it’s natural. I think that we all have some of that inside us.

Susan: The best you can hope for is just to be numb to it. But like I always tell people, I will never watch a video of myself and be like, “Man, I’m awesome. I nailed it.” I will never feel that way. Doesn’t matter how confident you think I look. I don’t actually ever feel that way.

What I can say is that the best I can do for myself is look at it and be like, “Eh, it is what it is.” Like, I’m just numb to it. You know what I mean? It’s like, all the same things still bother me, but I’m just like, “Let it go and move on.” For business owners, I think, especially ones that are used to working behind the scenes, which is most of them. I mean, most of them quietly do what they do every day. It’s weird to expose yourself like that. It is very strange. It’s kind of like, just know that everyone feels that way. No matter how confident they don’t care, they act. They so care. Don’t be intimidated by what you see around you.

Everyone feels that way when they do it. It’s just, they have varying levels of how honest they are about it. So, you know, don’t feel like you’re less than or that what you are showing doesn’t matter. Cause like I said, I still want to know how they make these Brussels sprouts. I know it’s the guy back in the kitchen that thinks that no one cares. I totally care. You know, don’t downplay that side of it.

Erik: Yeah, P.S. He’s making them with honey, just so you know.

Susan: How do you know? You don’t know that.

Erik: That’s how you glaze Brussels sprouts: honey, soy sauce, maybe a little bacon.

Susan: I don’t know man, I don’t know, I don’t know. I might have to ask them next time.

Erik: I’m going to send you my Brussels recipe.

Susan: You do that, I will try it.

Erik: In the meantime, we are close to wrapping up here. Susan, I guess I would ask you, do you have any final thoughts or words of encouragement that you would share with small businesses?

Susan: I mean, I think it’s trite to say, “Hang in there, everything’s going to be fine.” No one really knows how things are going to be.

But you know, I think the one thing that is a benefit in these times, oddly, is that if something like this was going to happen, this is a good time for it to happen in. I mean, I was thinking the other day, I’m like, “Can you imagine if this happened like 30 or 40 years ago?” Where there was no streaming, where there wasn’t the informational ability we have to pivot, like you and I discussed. That just wasn’t there. It’s staggering to think what that would mean, right? It’s like in a way, if it had to happen, at least we have the kind of tools you and I have discussed now where it’s like, “Okay, so in an hour you can have a website popped up and you can be booking appointments to do personal shopping or do these other things.”

So, I feel like it’s a unique time in that you can pivot faster than you used to be able to. But I realize that’s also intimidating, right? So, there’s the good and the bad. It’s there’s all these options to do it, but I think the biggest thing right now is just don’t overthink it. Evaluate quickly what you can do easily that isn’t going to be overly painful and doesn’t feel overwhelming and just start with small steps towards that and don’t feel like you can make a pivot your business overnight.

But, I think, like I said before, there was this few week period of feeling a little paralyzed. It’s kind of time to start being the rolling stone and not gather moss, right? These tools are out there, mess around with them for a couple hours, figure out what feels right to you, what comes naturally.

Start with those things first. Don’t sit still and just wait for it to get fixed. I mean, that’s my part and I’m that way by nature. I’m a rolling stone. I just keep moving. I keep pivoting. I’m a change embracer, so that’s not hard for me to do. I know that that’s not the same for everybody. But I would just say, find the things that you feel comfortable starting to take on and starting to do differently and just begin there.

Erik: Yeah. I love that. I would echo a lot of what you said, and I think it’s really important for people to understand that, you know, a lot of the talk that’s happening around our current situation is that things may never go back to normal. But we don’t know that. We didn’t know this was going to come and happen and we don’t know that that will happen. And it may be that at the end of the summer or at the end of the year or early next year, or whenever that may be there is a vaccine and things are for the most part back to normal.

And so, when that happens, wouldn’t it be nice if you also had suddenly an entire new revenue stream or two or three because you took this time to figure out some of the things that you’ve been putting off because they feel challenging? The other thing I would share as we wrap up that I think is equally important, is that change is inevitable and change is natural. And when you look at companies like Netflix. If you’re as old as I am, you remember, Netflix used to send CDs and DVDs in the mail.

Susan: I still remember who told me about it.

Erik: Right

Susan: I still remember that.

Erik: Yeah. So, I think it’s completely natural for industries to change and markets to change and businesses to change.

And if you’re an entrepreneur, you know, I’ve had a couple of mentors and friends tell me you should expect that this will happen three to five times in your business career, that you will have to make a big shift, a big change. And this is coming from someone who, you know, worked as a marketing director and then launched an internet business and became an entrepreneur and then started a small agency and now works in a really respected and renowned agency.

And so, I’ve been through four or five of these in my life now. And I won’t lie to you and tell you that they were painless and easy and fun. A lot of times it was overwhelming

Susan: That what everyone associates with being an entrepreneur.

Erik: Right, and a lot of times it was overwhelming and terrifying. Um, but I will say that I believe you will get through it and so understand that, that this too will pass.

I think that when you take the time right now to figure these things out and embrace this change, you may be positioned in a much stronger spot when things move back towards normal.

Susan: Yeah, and you may even have a stronger fan base because of it, depending on how you speak to people in the meantime.

Erik: Yep. Cool.

Well, that’ll about do it for us. We hope that you have a wonderful weekend and whether you joined us live or you’re watching the replay, thank you so much for taking the time. We know there’s lots of options out there and we do appreciate it. This is Eric Stafford from AIMCLEAR and Susan, thank you for doing this.

Susan: Bye everybody.

Erik: Bye guys.

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