Quarter four is upon us!! This is the home stretch of the year — and it’s not just about business goals to finish this year strong, it’s about setting up a foundation for the following year so you can hit the ground running as soon as the holidays are over… and maybe, accomplish a few goals before it even begins.
For the past six years, I’ve started counting down to the new year in October. It may seem like I’m not “in the moment” but I can promise you that by doing my 10 Weeks to whatever the next year is, I’m actually more present, strategic and mindful of my goals.
The best part? I usually knock a few off before we even hit the holidays.
Why am I telling you this? Well, last year, I used this time to get serious about my brand focus for 2017. And it worked. It worked so well that my company earned multiple six figures this year — our second full year in business. It worked so well that I brought on two new team members, managed dozens of projects and still found time to get a little press along the way. It worked so well that I cleared 10K on Instagram and continue to grow an engaged following that ACTUALLY converts. It worked so well that I found the love (of self), sweat (of hard #werk) and tears (of joy) mantra and ACTUALLY felt what that means for me.
It worked so well that beyond all those tangible success items, I found myself in a whole new way.
This next year, 2018, is a big one for me. It’s my third full year in business and the start of my third decade on this earth. I’ve recently gotten more into the Woo (more on that on my lifestyle blog) and I’ve found that it has helped me burn old stories and break the cassette tapes that no longer served me.
And I found that in the 10 weeks leading up to 2017 last fall.
That’s why I am so passionate about making this quarter count. It may seem like a slower time period — with family, holiday and travel chaos — but that means there are more pockets for YOU to find time to just be. To allow your mind to really go there when it comes to the possibilities that you may have denied yourself in the past.
Here are four things I’ve done in the last quarter of the year to create MASSIVE success in the next year — they may not all be for you but they may be something you can “vix” for yourself and that? THAT is the most powerful thing of all.
The List of 100 Dreams
In 2011, I was 23 years old a little lost. I knew I wanted to change the world — I’ve known that my whole life — but the path to doing that seemed foggy. I purchased the book “What Color is Your Parachute?” I read about one-third of it and then decided I had what I needed and could move on. The most important part for me, at that moment in my life? The List of 100 Dreams. I wrote down everything I wanted to do in this life — including (most importantly) things I’d already accomplished. It helped me put my path into perspective. And best of all? Three months after I did that? I got the biggest job of my career and forged a new path in uncharted territory that led me here. Write the list this fall. Take the time to do it — in a place that makes YOU happiest — and think about what goals you can tackle in 2018. You’ll be surprised by what you’ve done already and how far you’ve come… I know it.
Calm in the Chaos
Meditation is something I committed to at the end of 2016 as well and as we circle back around on this ride we call life, I can tell you I haven’t kept up the practice as I thought I would BUT I did keep the intention. I live in NYC, it is a chaotic city — full of energy, motion and go-go-go. And I love every second of it. The entrepreneur guilt can often feel like that too — am I doing enough — and so meditation was one way I decided to calm my mind. I thought it meant that I had to sit, cross-legged on my couch, clearing my mind of all thoughts. That was not what worked for me — Instead, it’s a daily listen to freevibeoftheday.com, checking my horoscope and walking to my morning workout class without any expectation of what thoughts will pop into my head. Finding the calm in the chaos of my routine helped me stay the course. My advice for you? Find three things that calm you. Learn three new tools in this season to help you stay calm in the chaos and block time to do them every, single week of the first quarter of the new year. Knowing that you have a plan to tackle anything that comes your way IS half of the battle and this is one of the most powerful things you can do.
Healthy Body, Healthy Mind
I’ve had a regular, stable, consistent workout schedule since I’m 17. It has been a constant in my life through ALL of the changes in this defining decade and it is one I am eternally grateful for. I also went gluten- and dairy- free in my 20s. Trying a new food or workout routine is not easy during the holidays but the holidays are a few weeks away — take October to really consider what your “normal” eating habits are and how you can clean them up (or open them up) to give yourself more energy throughout the day. Find small tweaks that work for you. This isn’t something that I can really advise you on BUT I can tell you that paying attention to this — especially in my solopreneur days — helped me through a LOT of ups and downs.
I set goals, a lot. Quarterly goals, daily goals, weekly goals. I am #goalsongoalsongoals all damn day! Goals help me stay grounded and they help ME make the decisions I need to move forward. Each week of the next three months, write down three goals you want to accomplish that week. I find a hybrid of business and personal goals really makes me feel fulfilled so try that to see if it helps for you too. Write them on a post-it and tape them to your laptop or desktop each Sunday. On the following Sunday, block 15-20 minutes to evaluate your accomplishments and another 15-20 to set new goals for the following week. This intention setting allowed me to not only hit my financial goals for this year, but it actually allowed me to surpass them without even thinking about it. Powerful. Stuff.
No matter what practices, tactics and tools you use, setting yourself up for success in Quarter Four IS a crucial part of making the BOSS moves you need to succeed in the year ahead. The simplest thing to do? Get a handle on your expenses, write-offs and tax deductions for April — that is one way to understand your accomplishments this year AND how to maximize your success next year.
Brand trust — in everything from e-commerce brands to brick and mortar stores to editorial brands — is gone. Consumers — that is people who buy, click, visit, read and share — are more skeptical than ever. This is a problem ALL brands, businesses and individuals who share content on the many digital platforms face — and yet, it seems like we’re doing nothing to combat it. There are many, many things that can be done but the most important thing YOU can do? Be transparent with your audience every step of the way.
Editorial brands like The New York Times have spent decades refining their reputation. Television news brands, like CNN, ABC, NBC, etc. have done the same. And now? Now we have a generation of consumers — in all age groups and all phases of life — who are skeptical of everything they see, read, share and hear.
Where does that leave us?
These digital tools — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and more — are platforms meant to bring communities together. Like the meeting houses, bonfires and great halls, these platforms have become a place to buy, trade, sell and share.
And as trust in the information presented decreases?
Well, it stands that trust in brands trying to sell in the same arena would also decrease.
And you don’t have to take my word for it — Buzz Sumo recently analyzed over 880 million (yes, with an m) Facebook posts from brands and publishers and engagement is down by 20% — regardless of spending which, for many of these individual entities, increased dramatically over the same period.
As an individual, you may have noticed a downward trend too — and that makes sense because as the algorithm struggles to learn new ways of verifying real vs fake content, individuals and business pages, it puts a clamp on all information.
Organic reach still exists — if you have the right content strategy in place, you should be able to see an increase in reach with a few well-placed tweaks — but it is not the same as it was.
So what are online entrepreneurs to do?
Transparency is your friend
Sharing your success stories, case studies and launch stories is bread and butter of digital brand marketing when it comes to online personalities. The true key here? Is to break it down! Tell your audience how much you spent on Facebook ads, how much you spent with affiliates, where you placed your content and how much time you spent training your audience to be primed for purchase. Share your missteps (because nothing is truly a failure) as lessons learned to move forward.
Be the expert, own your space
Experts are a dime a dozen — but YOU have a unique spin for YOUR zones of genius and excellence. YOU get to decide what content you share and how your audience consumes it. And you get to shine in the darkness of unreliable content (otherwise known as fake news) by providing statistics, data and verified sources. You are a content creator 5% (or less) of the time and a content curator 95% of the time — curate wisely.
Own your missteps — see them as an opportunity
The New York Times prints corrections… every, single news organization in the world prints corrections. Humans are not infallible — we are HUMANS. It’s called Human Error for a reason and the best way to combat the problem of unreliable content on today’s oversaturated content platforms? Think like an editorial team — decide how, when and where you’ll acknowledge your corrections and make it public. Make sure that you’re owning these answers consistently in your messaging. Using a response grid (like the one I offer for free, here) is a great way to stay on top of this day-to-day and across a distributed team.
Every expert will tell you something different about what it means to build a digital business. This quick start guide will help you get the building blocks in place so you can expand as you go along without having to scramble for key assets and systems last minute, allowing you to take full advantage of all the opportunities coming your way.
Understanding what you’re going to talk about is the first part of building a digital brand. What key areas will you “own” as an expert? Will you create a blog or plan to share content on social media? Are you going to train your audience to expect a podcast, video series or to convert to a group program?
Here are a few resources to help you get started:
The Only Branding Cheatsheet You’ll Ever Need
Buzzwords and Your Digital Strategy
3 Content Objectives and 5 Ways to Achieve Them
Content Planning for Entrepreneurs
The 5 W’s and an H of Content Planning
Website or Landing Page — Or Social Media Page
No matter what your hub is, you need a hub to send your new audience to. That hub can be a website, landing page or series of social media profiles.
My advice? Start with a simple website (like these that we’ve created for clients) with a home, about, contact and services page. This allows you to start collecting email addresses quickly (to build your list from Day 1; even if you’re not sending them anything yet, it’s an important digital branding step!) and it will also allow you to employ some of that content planning you’ve been working on — on the About page, think about what you want to own, your why and how you can provide services and products to YOUR ideal client. That will help you start to inform your content strategy AND give you something to share on social media.
If you decide to start with a social media page or profile? Consider where your ideal client hangs out before deciding which one to focus your energies on. And if you’re not building a website at all? Stay off Twitter, you won’t have the content to support a solid strategy and then the brand building efforts there will fall flat.
Social Media Strategy
If you do nothing else when building a digital brand, you MUST reserve your business name (or your name) on all social media platforms. Even if you plan to NEVER use that platform to promote your business, you never know which way the tides will turn so reserve all of your handles on Day 1 to make sure you never, ever have to think about this again!
Then, it’s about deciding where your ideal client hangs out and how many times a day you can reasonably post.
If you’re only on Facebook, you ARE leaving money on the table, but if you’re just starting out, it is better to be focused so take the time to build a rapport with your community.
All of the resources we have on social media planning can be found here.
No matter what you’re doing, you want to get paid. Whether you’re a side-hustler, a naptime ninja or a weekend warrior, you’re starting a side business and digital brand to get paid. If you’re an influencer, you’ll be using your digital influence to get paid in a variety of ways… but you’re still GETTING PAID! Think about the easiest way for YOU to handle payments. Start by creating an excel sheet for expenses and income tracking so that when tax time rolls around, you’re not wasting valuable time scrambling for receipts and payment records.
A resource to get started:
3 Payment Systems to Rock Your Business
You may not know what types of content you’ll be sending via email but owning an email list is one of the most important parts of building a digital brand. Yes, all of these parts are important, that’s why they’re the building blocks! But having the ability to reach your customers 1:1? THAT is priceless. Always remember, the social platforms that we invest so much time, energy and money into are public (some are even publicly traded) and can go away in an instant. And if they do? How would you connect with your audience? This is something that the Vine influencers dealt with a little over a year ago and it was not pretty. Don’t ever allow yourself to be in this position! Get ahead of it from Day 1 with an email system that suits YOUR needs and can scale with your business.
There you have it! Of course, there are MANY more elements to consider as you build, scale and grow your business and digital brand, but this is a great way to get started.
Instagram is the social media It girl of the moment. It’s a great way to showcase the behind-the-scenes of your business and allows your audience to experience things only YOU can share with them… but it does also have its own unique language, customs and challenges.
If social media is a party, Instagram is the hottest club of the moment. It’s where everyone wants to be and where everyone who is anyone is “seen.” It’s the Meatpacking District of the 90s.
Ok, I get that it’s popular, but what’s the best content to share?
This all depends on YOUR goals.
The best content to share on Instagram is beautiful photos from a Mobile device with filters that work for your audience.
One general tip? Mayfair is the best filter for engagement. Valencia is high up there too.
ColorStory and VSCO Cam are great ways to tap into the filter communities (yes, there are filter communities) and allow you to give your photos a little more pop.
If video is your game, then it’s all about the quick hit. Sixty seconds, no more, no less.
But the best type of content to share on Instagram?
Geo-tagged, authentic content that will engage your audience.
It should be a mix of images, memes/quote cards and videos and should accurately represent who YOU are as a brand.
All in all, it’s about creating a dialogue through images and videos, telling the story of your brand in a way that SELLS.
And when you’re ready to do that, let’s talk. My #InstaGoalsPod Mastermind might be for you, click here to learn more.
Training your audience is an essential part of building your digital brand. It’s about creating a consistent routine for them to follow, one they know and expect. From content to ads, everything you share should be consistent in look/feel, tone and voice. By doing that, you train your audience AND teach them how to do exactly what YOU want them to do, exactly WHEN you want them to do it.
Oprah spoke about the transition from the Oprah Winfrey Show to OWN and said that they audience was trained to watch her at 4pm.
That fact is great for Ellen but wasn’t so great for OWN in its early days.
What the execs forgot was that they had trained the audience to expect Oprah, all the glorious parts of her show, in a daily time slot.
And once that time slot was gone? Well, her fans had nowhere to go.
It’s not always so simple… and it took Oprah decades to get this formula right. In my opinion, as a lover of her, her brand and entertainment TV in general, they have started to figure out how to attract the audience back — by going after the audience where THEY are.
Part of training your audience is consistency, the other part is a deep understanding of your demographic and the fact that your demographic has to grow up too.
Take The Backstreet Boys for example. They’re all pushing 40 but they are active on all social platforms.
When they were popular, social media did not exist!! It wasn’t the powerhouse it is today for artists (I mean, if YouTube didn’t exist, neither would Justin Beiber which could be good, depending on your musical tastes) but that doesn’t mean that their audience isn’t on social.
In fact, their audience is currently THE MOST active demographic on social.
I often find it funny when brands ignore the 13-19 year olds or the 18-24 year olds. They are going to become your coveted 25-54 year olds soon enough — and if you haven’t trained them to know who you are and to understand how to have a conversation with them, how will they even know to look for you?
First Things First
Figure out who YOU are and what sets you apart from others in the space. When creating consistent content that converts, it’s important to consider all of your audiences AND where they hang out.
Get a Seat at the Table
Get in with the demos quickly and efficiently. Challenge them to engage and ASK for what they want. Create ways for them to connect each and every day, several times throughout the day. Make connecting with YOUR brand a must-have part of their day, week and month.
Ask For Feedback
Feedback is essential. Maybe one of your demographics wants content once a week where others want that daily interaction — the only want to know is to let THEM tell you and then create the preferences THEY request.
If you want a brand that stands the test of time, you can’t forget about the things that truly matter → and number one on that list? Your audience. Without them, you’d have nothing and it is important to always remember that.