As a business owner, simply getting things done can be difficult, but getting things done successfully while also care-giving is remarkable. In this episode, you’ll hear from Heather and Alastair as they discuss how “superheroes” manage their time.
Time Management for Superheroes with Heather Steele
Normally at this point I’d list three-takeaway points I took, but I want to go into Heather’s ninja time management skills in more detail, so I’m going to summarise what she said:
20 Minute Sprints
- Every morning she marks in her daily planner the block of time that she knows she will have to herself, typically a 3 hour block in the afternoon
- She breaks that into 20 minute work blocks with 10 minute breaks, so each hour is a 20 minute “sprint” of work followed by a 10 min break, followed by a 20 minute “sprint”, 10 min break again
- If she has 3 hours in an afternoon, that means she has six “20 minute sprints”
- “Parkinson’s Law” says that work expands to fill the time allotted, and it also works in reverse for Heather, she compresses tasks down to fit a lot into 20 minutes
- Sometimes a task will require more than one block, so she’ll give it two or three blocks as needed, but for the most part she gets tasks done in 20 minutes
- Apart from that 3 hour block of 20 minute sprints, she also has a list of tasks she can do on her phone while minding her kids
- Phone tasks includes things like email, social media, slack, etc
- Note she does not let these activities distract her while she is in the sprints
Planning & The 12 Week Year
- For high level planning: she uses the 12 Week Year system, which is based on a book called “The 12 Week Year”:
- The 12 Week Year premise: 12 months is too long an execution cycle
- Shortening a execution plan down into 12 weeks allows you to keep urgency and focus on what matters
- When you use the 12 week year, you typically set 2-4 goals which become projects, and you track those projects with a list of tasks
- People doing 12 week year often share a weekly update with a peer group for accountability, which Heather and I do in a slack group we are in
- If you want to know more about 12 week year, let me know and I’ll do another episode focused on it
- When Heather is in high level planning mode, she gets up at 3am everyday for a week to plan,
- and once a quarter she’ll book a hotel night away for planning.
- She plans out her projects and her 12 week year and the breakdown of tasks for that, which should be executable in 20 minute sprints.
It’s pretty incredible, I’m in awe of how she does it.
The other take-away I want to mention is what she mentioned at the end: recurring revenue. If you can find a way to create a recurring revenue offer in your business, it makes a massive difference and I’ve experienced this myself. For people with limited time, like Heather mentions, it’s even more crucial. I think it’s something to come back to in a later episode as it’s an important topic.
Links mentioned in the show:
Heather is the founder and CEO of Blue Steele Solutions and The Problem Solver Method. Heather started her branding and communications company 10 years ago because she was tired of seeing great companies and great people fail just because they couldn’t clearly communicate their value. Heather’s companies help people create clear, concise, and actionable marketing messages through consulting and branding services and premium Ebooks and templates.
Heather Steele 00:00
So over the years, I’ve kind of learned how to break what I have to do down into pieces that will fit into either 10 minutes here and there as I can sit down at the computer when he’s home, or, you know, the three hour window when he’s actually away and in someone else’s care.
Alastair McDermott 00:26
Hello, and welcome to Marketing for Consultants. This is the podcast that helps independent consultants and subject matter experts to get more clients without having to beg for referrals or make soul-destroying cold calls. I’m your host, Alastair McDermott. And today, I’m delighted to say that my guest is Heather Steele. Now, I met Heather A few years ago, and I am huge fan. In fact, I might go as far as to say, I think Heather is one of those real life superheroes you hear about. She runs a very successful marketing business, she’s constantly putting out great content, new products, and I always watch her social media to see what I can learn from what she’s doing. Her work is absolutely fantastic in its own right. However, when you match that up with the fact that she is simultaneously taking care of a child with severe autism, and she’s doing all of this fantastic work in blocks of 10 minutes at a time, often on her phone. That just takes it to the next level for me. I don’t know how she does it. And so that’s what I’m going to ask her about today. And I just want to make a quick note about the audio. It’s not amazing quality, there’s bit of an echo, but I think that’s very understandable. And I hope that you will stick with it because Heather’s insights and tips and the amazing story are worth it. So the first thing I asked Heather was to tell us the story of how she started her business with a newborn baby under her arm.
Heather Steele 01:38
Yeah, so you know, I’ve always been that person that has several things going on at once. I mean, even in high school, I had like multiple jobs plus school, plus, you know, drumline, and all these other things going on, I’ve always been a very busy person. And so when I started my business, I had done the kind of side gig thing for several years. And then when I had my second child, Travis, on maternity leave, I just decided like, there’s no way I’m going back, it’s a long commute. I don’t really like the people there that much. I don’t have any interest in working with these people anymore. So I’m just going to use my maternity leave to start a business. And so Travis and I went around knocking on doors, setting up meetings, you know, just basically selling me as an outsourced marketing director, and I was able to replace my income within that eight week period. So here in the US, we get nothing for maternity leave. So eight weeks later, when…
Alastair McDermott 02:40
Eight weeks of knocking on doors, with a newborn baby under your arm!
Heather Steele 02:44
Yes! Well in a sling. He would actually go to the meetings with me. So I think it’s really hard for people to look at someone with like a newborn and say no, right? Like, they’re like, Oh, well at least try it out.
Alastair McDermott 02:56
So it’s, it’s a recommended marketing tactic.
Heather Steele 02:59
Right? Yeah, it’s pretty effective. So I had a toddler at home and the newborn, and I’m just this crazy person decided to quit my job and start something brand new. And so that was about 10 and a half years ago, a couple of years into the journey, you know, we started to see that things were different with Travis. He wasn’t sleeping well, he wasn’t speaking, we had a lot of aggression issues. Just lots of behavioural stuff going on. And so added into the already complicated, you know, startup world, finding out that we had a child with severe autism. And so that meant lots of therapy, lots of time spent just doing activities with him to help him learn to communicate and get caught up a bit. You know, fast forward to now, and we still have those same struggles, you know, it’s not something that just goes away, you can’t cure it. And so it’ll be a lifelong thing. You know, we’ll care for him for as long as we’re physically able to, he’ll likely never be independent, unless there’s just some complete miracle. He’s never going to live alone, he’s never going to have a job. He’s always going to be someone that has to be cared for. And that has to be under the right kind of care. He’s a, he’s a two-person, kid, suddenly, and I don’t want to paint him in this light of being like this. Crazy, right? But the truth of it is when you have a child with these severe aggression tendencies, and just the lack of ability to sit still mean the kid never stops moving. And so it takes two people and the few hours a day that we have help or we have a centre that we can send him to he goes for three hours a day right now. That’s my work time. And so over the years, I’ve kind of learned how to break what I have to do down into pieces that will fit into either 10 minutes here and there as I can sit down at the computer when he’s home, or, you know, the three hour window when he’s actually away and in someone else’s care.
Alastair McDermott 05:23
I know that on some of the slack channels, you share some revenue numbers and things. I don’t know if you want to do that in this environment, but you’re doing quite successfully in business.
Heather Steele 05:31
Yeah, you know, I did. To be completely honest, you know, I got to a point a couple years ago, where I did overstretch a bit and had more employees than I really could keep up with, you know, I was the primary salesperson. So keeping enough business coming in to support those employees, was fairly difficult. And at the same time, our hours that we had helped with Travis were diminishing. And so it created a situation where we’ve switched from having full time employees to now I work with contractors and virtual assistants, so that my, my revenue can go so much further, and it can come back to my family, which is where ultimately, it needs to be. Because I didn’t start this business to employ people. I started it to solve some problems that I saw in the industry and also to provide income for my family.
Alastair McDermott 06:22
Yeah. So I just want to talk about kind of the development of your business over time. I think you were talking to John Locke, another mutual friend of ours on his podcast, a couple of years ago, you you started, started out with a an intern who was who came on full time, and who was an assistant for you. And then he took on some more interns in content and design. So how, see you went from being, were you ever totally solo? Or did you always have contractors or interns? How did that work?
Heather Steele 06:56
My first about two years, it was totally solo.
Alastair McDermott 07:00
Heather Steele 07:00
I did everything. And of course, you know how it is, when you first start a business, you do everything for people, that wasn’t special. Alright, so I was saying that basically, I was your outsourced marketing department. And so it was a lot of doing everything, the writing the design, the content, the strategy, implementation. Looking back, that was not the best use of my time. But you know, we all have to go through that. So yes, I did over time, hire interns, and train them, kind of in my way of doing things so that I would have people who, you know, started at a lower salary, so that I could bring them in and train them and make sure that they were going to be a good fit before we brought them into a more full time role. Yeah, and then, you know, over the years, it’s also we kind of, it’s like, you start out big doing everything, and then you sort of contract and start to figure out what you’re really good at, and where your services fit in the market and what you need to offer and what you need to take off the menu. And so as I did that, I was able to scale back a bit too, you know, and see that, okay, I don’t actually need a big team, what I need is to hone my focus, yeah, and to do the things that we’re really good at and to figure out systems so that I don’t have to have full time people on a payroll, that’s just, it’s not the right fit for me at this point, in my business in my life. And, you know, if…
Alastair McDermott 08:31
you had three people on payroll, like that’s a pretty significant payroll.
Heather Steele 08:35
The largest I had five people at one point, and then, you know, it’s kind of fluctuated over the years. But right now, there’s no full time people, it’s just me and contractors. I have a great VA team that I work with. And then actually a couple of the people that that did work for me that I was able to help transition out of the business. They’re kind of doing their own businesses now. And so they do some contract work for me as well.
Alastair McDermott 09:01
Excellent. So you help them get set up, you didn’t just say, hey, you’re fired? could look,
Heather Steele 09:05
Right. Yeah, it was definitely a situation of let’s keep you doing some work, where I can, and then referrals and anything I can do to help you transition.
Alastair McDermott 09:17
I love that. We’re in a community where people post updates about what they’re doing. And you seem to be very productive. And I would say that you, you seem to be one of the more productive people that I see on the on the forum, at least. Well, the people who post up what they’re doing and, you know, talks about it in a very intelligent way. And I’m really impressed. And then I find that that you have this kid who needs so much of your time. And that that you’re actually doing this in in small bursts of time here and there. I mean, I find it hard to even contemplate how I would do my own work in those short bursts of time. How do you manage that? How do you like how do you stay focused or like are you some sort of ninja kind of project. How do you do that?
Heather Steele 10:02
I wish that I could have like the ability to really just sit down and focus when I need to, it’s really more about discipline for me. So one thing that I do is I have a literal list. And I update this list. Often, it’s a notes document on my phone of desk activities and phone activities, right, so that when I’m literally following my kid around the house to make sure he’s not breaking anything, or to play with him, or push him on his swing, or watch him jump on the trampoline, I can take my phone out and do really productive work from my phone. It’s a very set list of activities of these are the things that my phone will be used for. And then these are the things that my sit down focus time will be used for.
Alastair McDermott 10:53
What are just for interest? What are some of those things like like social media, things like that?
Heather Steele 10:58
I only do LinkedIn and Twitter on my phone, I do not do it on the computer, hey, that’s something I can do on the go. emails, I always check email on my phone. And then I will only save things that need a long response to do from the computer. And that way, when I’m on my computer, and I’m really bad about it, I try very hard to stay out of email when I’m in my work time trying to keep it’s I’m terrible about it. I’m in there all the time. But I know mentally I shouldn’t be.
Alastair McDermott 11:29
Yeah. Okay. See, you’re trying to be really, in that kind of producer mode. When you’re when you’re sitting down at your computer.
Heather Steele 11:37
Yes, yes, I’m slack. So the reason I’m in our slack community so much is because that’s one of the things I can do from my phone. Right? I can be running around the house and chit chatting and updating and asking questions and contributing really easily from the phone. So that’s been a huge feature.
Alastair McDermott 11:57
Do you use dictation much?
Heather Steele 12:00
I don’t I used to. So one of the things with with Travis is he’s very sound sensitive, okay, and so I actually used to he also likes to ride in the car. So we spend a lot of time just driving around wasting gas. And I used to dictate my articles, I did a tonne of blog posts for several years because I could just drive around and and speak them into my phone. But over the years, he’s gotten a lot more sound sensitive. And so mom talking out loud to herself is like the most annoying thing in the world to him. So I can’t do that quite as much anymore. Which is a shame because I don’t type nearly as fast as I can talk. But that is something that that has helped me is using the phone. The other thing that I started doing several years ago is time blocking. So I only allow myself 20 minutes per task, or at least 20 minute blocks. So when I have my day, I wish I had my my planner here, but I blocked out the time that I know I’m going to be able to have to myself. So typically, that’s like one o’clock to four o’clock in the afternoon. That’s my “no kid” time and I can focus, I break that up into a 20 minute 10 minute break 20 minute chunk for each hour.
And then I write in exactly what I’m going to do. So most tasks, I can get done in 20 minutes. If I say I’m going to write an article, and I’m only going to give myself 20 minutes for it, then I will get it done in 20 minutes, right? What is that is it there’s a theorem of this that like any work will swell to fit the amount of time that you allow it. And you can also contract work to fit in the amount of time you allow. So what I can get done in a 20 minute sprint is a lot i can i can get so much done. Now there will definitely be times when I have to take you know two or three slots to get something done if it’s a big project. But for the most part, I can work in those little chunks. I take a 10 minute kind of brain break, switch gears, and then I’m off to another 20 minute task.
Alastair McDermott 14:16
So if you’ve got those 20 minute tasks, at some point, you’ve got to have some some time, some free time for high level planning to plan. Okay, here’s what we’re actually going to do. How do you do that part?
Heather Steele 14:29
That’s typically something that I do very early morning, you know, I’ll set like, especially when I’m coming, I do 12 week years for my planning. And so when I’m coming up on a 12 week year, I’ll have a week straight where I set my alarm for about 3am and I get up and that’s my planning time. Or I’ll take we do kind of trade off with having one night about every quarter that either my husband or I will be off duty. And so I’ll book them hotel room and go spend the night by myself and use that time for planning. It just has to fit into the time that I can allow for it.
Alastair McDermott 15:07
You talked about being you know, all things while people early on in the business, and then you talked about kind of honing things down and reducing the amount of options on the menu. How did you do that? Like, did you start to specialise? Or how exactly did you approach that?
Heather Steele 15:24
I looked at what we do well, and what keeps my heart rate low? Right. So what things are we doing for clients that are making a difference in their business? It’s getting them more leads, it’s growing their business, helping them sell more, it’s helping them feel more confident in their messaging? And then what when I’m putting together the proposal, what do I feel really calm about? Right? Like, I know, the pricing is right, we can deliver this No problem, the customer is going to be extremely happy with what we give them. We have a process in place that’s going to work well. So we’re those two things cross section is what I want to do. There’s some work, for example, we used to do SEO, we outsource pieces of it, we did pieces of it ourselves. And every time I would start a new SEO project, I felt so anxious because there were so many components, so many different ways the process could work so many different things that could go wrong, that could go right that might help the client that might waste their money. And I just finally decided why am I even doing this? Right? Like, why am I offering this service that I don’t even feel good about that? I have tension over? I don’t need that in my life. So we got rid of it.
Alastair McDermott 16:43
Yeah. And I used to sell SEO is the first service I got into business. First thing I was selling, I hated selling it as well. I didn’t like the promise it’s we’ll do we’ll do lots of work. You pay us lots of money, and maybe it’ll work and maybe it won’t. That’s a very cynical view of SEO. Right? That’s, that’s. So yeah, that’s a really great way to go about tuning things out or kind of printing the tree of offerings is, you know, do I feel calm about this? Or do I start to feel stressed about delivering this? I like that. I really like that. So let me just ask you about specialisation, then by the way, do you call it an agency or a firm? Or how do you refer to business?
Heather Steele 17:22
Depends on the day? I usually say marketing agency, even though that’s a lot more broad than what we really do.
Alastair McDermott 17:32
Right? Do you now have a specialisation? How would you classify or categorise your agency.
Heather Steele 17:38
So I would say that we help b2b service providers, get more leads, and nurture those leads. So everything that we do is kind of built around that. So we do website design, development and content writing, because that’s really key to good lead generation. If the website is poor quality, if the content is not great. Sorry, if you can hear the train in the background. It’s going by it’s taking a really long time to pass.
Alastair McDermott 18:06
Heather Steele 18:07
Right, yeah. But if though, if that website isn’t in shape, then we’re gonna have a really hard time. So we focus on the website. We also do marketing funnels. So we will help with ads from SEO, or social or search ads, and then landing page design, development and content and all of the email drips to help get people back in and engaged. The other thing that we still offer that’s sort of a side service is like a turnkey branding. So very simple logo design. We don’t get into big branding projects. But those are the things that really help to generate more leads for people help them actually see growth in their business. And we just happen to be really good at delivering those things.
Alastair McDermott 18:57
Right. And so you said b2b professional service providers, right? Yes, that’s, that’s your kind of bread and butter. Do you work with other types of companies? Like do you work with retailers or manufacturers or anybody that if they come to you, would you consider it?
Heather Steele 19:13
I probably wouldn’t consider it. Now. I do still have we’ve got like a medical client. We’ve got a couple of manufacturing clients that have just stuck around over the years because we like working with them. So we’re not going to let them go. But no, if someone came to us, especially if they were consumer facing it would be a definite hard No. If they’re in manufacturing or something else b2b that has a good synergy to how we work and that I feel like we could get good results for them. I would consider it but most likely, I would say no.
Alastair McDermott 19:52
Okay, and that’s because you’re, you’re at the stage where you don’t need to take on clients that are not a great fit, and I You know that you can get better results for for your ideal fit clients?
Heather Steele 20:04
Yes, yeah, exactly. You know, I don’t want to, I don’t want to put someone in a position where they feel like maybe there was someone that could have helped them more than we did. And I know where our specialties lie and what we understand and what we don’t understand. So saying no, is the best way that I can protect my business and also protect my reputation and make sure that we’re only doing work that’s really effective for people.
Alastair McDermott 20:31
Right. Let me just ask you more specifically about about some of the work that you do in terms of lead generation? Are you talking about doing things like Facebook advertising or LinkedIn outreach? Or what exactly are you doing there?
Heather Steele 20:44
Yeah, so, Facebook ads, LinkedIn ads, we do some LinkedIn outreach, but I do it pretty differently. I don’t like the typical connect and pitch kind of format. And I am the VA team I work with is great for helping with that. But then the really important piece of it, it’s not so much the mode, right? Like, we do Facebook ads, and we do LinkedIn ads and other social media or Google paid ads, because it’s, it’s a way to get the right message in front of the right people. So the real value that we bring is in writing the messaging that makes people want to learn more targeting what the problem is that a business solves for their clients or their customers, why that problem is so important to be solved, and how they are uniquely approaching it so that the lead that we’re generating is not just kind of a really cold person that maybe didn’t really even raise their hand. Right. I think there’s a lot of lead generation that’s really just more scraping and kind of putting together really cold lists. But instead, it’s having someone raise their hand and say, I really want to know more about that. I’m really interested in that that’s a problem that I have in my business that I desperately need to solve.
Alastair McDermott 22:04
Absolutely. Let me switch gears then for a minute and ask you about problem solver method. Can you tell me a bit about what that’s about? And what was the path that led you to to creating this and what it is and who it’s for?
Heather Steele 22:19
Okay, so the problem solver method came about because every time that we and especially me, right, like I, I went to school for I got an English degree focused in technical writing, like I have a lot of background in writing, I’ve written more words than probably ever wanted to write in my life. But still, every time that I was going to write an email for our list, create a blog post, write an email for a client, write a landing page, anything that I had to write, there was just a ton of time spent, like staring at this blinking cursor, right blank page, just blink, blink, blink, blink, I have no idea what I’m going to say. And I would waste a ton of time and energy just trying to figure out what to put on the page. And so I started to think about well, there’s there’s got to be a formula, right that I can follow, that’s going to fit for any client for myself for them for anything that we’re trying to sell. And then any kind of content, right, so whether it’s a landing page, or an email, any kind of content. And so I started to learn more about how we perceive information as humans, and how we could take our content and make it fit better into that perception mode. Because I think, well, I know, because I did some research on it. But I had the feeling that what we were saying was not being interpreted as well as it could be. And so what I came up with is what I call the problem solver method. And it’s really just a content framework, right? So it’s a series of first say this, then say this and say this. And it works with the way that our brains receive information. Because what happens is most of the time, our our creative thoughts. So let’s just focus on like the header part of a website, right? We always have that kind of one-liner, and then a little description and like a call to action. But a lot of times that one-liner is this really like big idea. And it’s kind of cute, and silly or it’s clever. And it’s very, you know, high thinking, right? It comes from the frontal lobe. That’s where we create that kind of content that’s very, like cute and catchy and take some thinking to understand. And that’s what we would see a lot on websites. And we did it too, right. Like we thought, whoa, we know what we’re doing the sound so good. But it turns out that when someone lands on your website or they’re reading your content for the first time, they are not using this front part of their brain to interpret it.
Alastair McDermott 25:03
Heather Steele 25:03
They’re using the little bit at the very top of their cerebral spine. Some people call it the croc brain.
Alastair McDermott 25:11
Heather Steele 25:12
That’s where the content has to pass through first. And that part of the brains job is to say, is this important to survival? Is this a threat. And should I pass it forward to the limbic system, the midbrain and into the frontal lobe to actually be processed so that this human that carries this slushy brain around inside of it can understand it and act on it. So by putting forward these big thoughts, these big kind of silly or creative or clever headlines, we were actually shutting off the perception of the message, immediately, like, checked out done leaving that website, closing that email, that’s not worth me interpreting, because I either don’t understand it, I see it as a threat, or it’s just not going to help me survive. And so the problem solver methods, sorry, this is taking a lot longer to explain than it should. But the problem solver method flips everything on its head. So the very first thing we do is address the big problem that the potential customer is facing. And we just very clearly stated up front. And we make that problem super clear. And then we use our content framework to slowly work into, okay, what’s the this is the problem that we know exists? And then here’s what happens if we don’t solve that problem. So we start to build the stakes, so that that old part of the brain understands that this is really, really important to survival, so that it continues to process that. And then we bring in some of our credibility and value statements. But we do it in a way that’s very non threatening, because the brain also doesn’t like to compete for resources. And so it’s not going to like someone talking about how great they are. So our framework breaks down how to talk about your credibility and your value without being threatening. And then we introduce the solution, right? So it’s actually very far into our content before we’re breaking down. Here’s what we do. And that’s because it’s not until that message gets passed all the way forward in the brain, that someone’s going to actually be able to compute and understand it. And so the framework that we’ve developed, we have a version of it for websites, we have a version for emails, even for social media posts, that just breaks down how to create content that’s going to be not only understood, but also acted on that’s going to make someone go ‘Oh, like my survival instinct is telling me I need this solution. I better click Buy a better click, learn more, I better get put on this. Because if I don’t, life’s going to be a whole lot worse.’
Alastair McDermott 27:55
Right? So this is so when you talk about this, I’m thinking about copywriting frameworks. Like there’s there’s a well known copywriting framework pain dream fix, which is you don’t aim, you talk about the the the dream where people want to reach the result that people want. And then you talk about your solution as in the fix. So it’s kind of something like that. Right. But it’s, it’s, it’s your version that you’ve created through this research? Yeah.
Heather Steele 28:20
Yeah, so it’s our version of that there’s definitely lots of content frameworks out there. There’s things that I think are, are better about ours, just because I put it together. So obviously, I put the pieces that I like in there, right? Yeah. So it gave us internally a way to create content for ourselves and our clients in a really structured way. So that we don’t have that in the blank skiing screen situation, we know exactly what we’re going to say. And we know because we’ve used it for so long, you know, been using this for the past four years now. We know that it’s really effective. And so last year, really when all the businesses started to have to go online, and people were scrambling to put together their websites, I decided that I would create a course in how to actually use this framework for writing your own website content. So we released that last year. And then also released a kind of turnkey website offering where you can take our content course learn how to write your website content in the way that we would. And then we take all of that content and create a turnkey website for you.
Alastair McDermott 29:33
Awesome. So and so this, this, this framework can be applied to something like your website homepage. It can also be applied to other things like blog posts, LinkedIn posts, social media posts, things like that.
Heather Steele 29:46
Alastair McDermott 29:48
Heather Steele 29:48
Yeah. I mean, it’s obviously longer form content is going to let you do a better job using it. But even we have a version that we use for our email drip campaigns, that kind Takes each piece of the framework and spreads it out across a drip campaign. So that again, we’re delivering that message in a way that actually works with human biology with the way that our brains work, and it’s going to be interpreted.
Alastair McDermott 30:12
Yeah. And what you’re talking about here? Do you feel that that is big because you work with professional service providers. And so my experience with those types of businesses, is they tend to be a bit more nuanced that they they tend to need to explain themselves a bit more than, say, a manufacturer or retailer might need to, because a manufacturer or retailer can, you know, put a picture of a product on their homepage, people know what they sell, they know what they do. Is that why is that? Is that the, is that why there’s there’s such a need for this?
Heather Steele 30:50
I think it definitely could be. I think, really, the need for it is more of that a lot of the service providers that we work with, and I’m exactly the same, they struggle to explain their value in a succinct way that makes people want to learn more. Obviously, I struggle with it, because it took me like 20 minutes to tell you what the same thing is. So it’s not an uncommon problem. But you know, it is easier, not easier. It tends to be simpler to describe a widget or a product or something that’s very tangible, and that we’re just used to being around versus describing a service that maybe lots of people offer, but you have a different approach. And how are you different? What’s your value, what makes you a better provider of that service, versus any of your other competitors. And so I think it does help to have a way to distil that information that keeps it succinct, easy for people to understand. And just really consistent too, you know, a lot of times I think, especially, I don’t know why it is with us service providers. But we feel like we have to kind of reinvent the wheel every time we say something about our business, instead of making it a practice of repetition. And so that framework helps bring in that repetition that people actually need to understand what it is that we do, if they’re hearing a different message every single time, it’s delivered in a different way every single time. It’s not as clear. But if we have a nice framework that we can use to tell people what we do, and how it’s going to solve their problems, and why it’s better than another person solution to their problems, then, over time, we become known for that solution. And it makes our jobs of marketing and selling ourselves that much easier.
Alastair McDermott 32:49
So we’ll talk to you about business model for a minute. What you’re selling here is a training course. Right?
Heather Steele 32:57
Yes. So there’s it’s kind of we take in what we do for clients, and then packaged it up into more of a DIY format. So you can take the course to learn how to write in the way that we would write. Yeah.
Alastair McDermott 33:08
And I know, you also create another little training course that you don’t want me to mention about no more cold calling. How to do cold calling better, right?
Heather Steele 33:17
Yeah, yeah. Oh, you can mention it. It’s just not my…
Alastair McDermott 33:21
Yeah. That was one of those you have some free time that you just decided to go and create a whole training course and product ran something, right? Yeah.
Heather Steele 33:31
It was really more practice of once I finally figured out a method.
Alastair McDermott 33:36
Heather Steele 33:36
I figured I might as well pack up and make it available to others.
Alastair McDermott 33:41
So this looks like a pattern. Is this a change of business model for you? Or are you moving more now towards becoming a training provider? Is that something that you want to do in order to scale? Or is this just happenstance?
Heather Steele 33:55
That’s a great question. So we actually we started selling templates and ebooks and small products on our website, probably about six years ago, and it was just sort of something that whenever we would have a workshop coming up that we would create a great worksheet for we just throw it out there, you know, hey, we’ll sell this for 10 bucks, or let’s take kind of a download of how we’ve been doing business for the last 12 months of this is how we’re doing websites, or this is how we’re doing another part of our business. And let’s turn it into an Ebook and put it up on the website and sell it. And so over time, those became a very small stream of revenue, but they became a revenue stream just sort of by accident. We were putting them out there more for lead generation for our services than anything. I just wanted to put a price tag on them so that people understood that there was value giving away things just never really worked for us. And so what we found was happening is that people were organically finding our products. They were down loading our templates and Ebooks, they would get onto our email list, I typically buy, you know, two or three additional products. And then we never really heard from them again, I literally have like two clients that we’ve done significant work with that came through that process of using our products person and then deciding to hire us. And it’s probably a combination of the people that were buying the products probably never really were the right fit for our services. And we just didn’t really pay enough attention to it to do a good job of marketing the services to those people. But now we’re in a situation where I think there’s an opportunity to start to transition out of just being a service provider, and into offering more of these products. Because at the end of the day, as much as I love working with our larger clients, you know, our average business has between 10 and 50 employees. So it’s so small business, but it’s not a solopreneur. It’s not someone who’s just getting started. As much as I love those businesses and working with them. What I’m really passionate about is helping people who are in that solo position, who are maybe struggling a little bit with what they’re trying to do, and helping them find a way to become profitable, to have a business that they enjoy running, to be able to put in place the systems that will work for them, so that they can support their families and reach their financial goals. That’s where I personally want to go. And so I see these products as a way to meet the needs of those people who just honestly can’t afford our services. But then also to start bridging the gap between what I do every day being running the service based business into more helping people at a large scale, figure out how they can do better in their business.
Alastair McDermott 36:55
One thing you mentioned, in a conversation on Slack, you said it’s funny that I can sell a three or 4k service through a $4,000 service easier than a $99 products. Can you can you talk about that and pricing for a minute. I mean, I find pricing is just fascinating. In that, you know, pricing is positioning, and people kind of people will act different ways purely based on the price.
Heather Steele 37:25
Yeah, and you know, I’ll be the first to say I am not a pricing expert. I am very good at making sure that everything that I sell will drive a profit, but my expenses will be covered that the amount of revenue that I’m bringing in leaves plenty of money to pay myself and then also to have a profit for the business. But as far as the psychology of pricing, maybe that’ll be my next research project. But who it is, it’s, it’s fascinating. And I’ll be the first to admit that I really don’t know as much about it as I wish I did. The interesting thing to me, and it’s probably just because it’s the habit of what I’ve always sold is that when I rolled out this course, that I was offering for $299. And then I did a discount to $99 for a while just to kind of experiment with some different price points and very small roll out just to a portion of my list and some, you know, small ad budgets. But I didn’t really see very many sales on that at all, like I could count them on my hands. And the services that we sell. And the turnkey website product just went like crazy. I mean, I sold more than I could keep up with the last two months of last year was when I really made a push that these things were ready to sell. And yeah, so it was interesting that, you know, I think part of it was just happening upon people who I was already connected with that needed those solutions at the right time. But then also just my habits of how I approach the market. You know, basically I’m having to do what we do for our clients for myself now with bringing in a new audience and introducing a new solution to them. And so it was just kind of surprising to me that I was able to sell the high ticket items way easier than than the low ticket items. So…
Alastair McDermott 39:29
Yeah, I found myself personally and I remember I think it was Ryan Deiss from Digital Marketer. I think he was one of the first people I heard say, you know, if you’re creating a product funnel, a sales funnel, have low price, mid price and high price, start with the high price offer first, don’t create the low price offer first with a high price offer and then build the lower ones. I think that is absolutely true. I think you’re working with higher quality clients. Maybe you’re working with people who will get more value from what you do. So it will be of more value for them.
Heather Steele 40:02
Yeah. And I think I was probably a little jaded, because, like I said, the other products that we created over the years, they just sold themselves, you know, we wrote decent content, I used to have a lot more activity on my website. And so we got great search traffic. And I just never really had to do any work. So I think I was kind of naive and thinking that, well, you know, these courses, I’ll create them. And I’ll actually put some work into promoting them. And it’ll be super easy and
Alastair McDermott 40:32
Build it and they will come.
Heather Steele 40:34
Certainly hasn’t. So that’s kind of what I’m focusing on this year is figuring out do I want to continue with with this focus on products? How does it fit into what I want to do with with kind of my life’s vision? And how the heck am I going to sell?
Alastair McDermott 40:51
What were you doing at that point where, you know, sales were just coming in? What were you doing in terms of marketing and promotion?
Heather Steele 40:58
Oh, well, yeah, the small products that we had on our website for years that we just kind of sell, you know, four or five purchases a day of anywhere from a 20 to $100 product, that all just was kind of magic, organic SEO, and what we’re doing on social media just happened to bring people in. And like still kind of continues just to be a trickle of revenue stream.
Alastair McDermott 41:23
Have you build up a big audience on social media. And as you build up a big email list.
Heather Steele 41:28
not huge aren’t email list is around 5000 people, I keep it pretty pruned. So if people aren’t paying attention, you know, I get rid of them pretty quickly. So it’s not as big as it once was, and what it probably could be. And our social media, you know, that’s never been a huge priority. I’ve always thought more about the quality of what I do there and the quality of those connections and relationships than the quantity. I couldn’t tell you how many people follow us anywhere, or how many connections I have anywhere, because I don’t really care. I would be much happier with having one meaningful conversation, you know, a week than having a million followers that never talked to me.
Alastair McDermott 42:13
Heather Steele 42:15
So yeah, that’s just never been very important.
Alastair McDermott 42:17
I have another couple of questions just about learning from failure and learning from mistakes. Is there any particular failure or mistake that you made that that you can tell us about? What happened? What do you learn from it?
Heather Steele 42:31
Nobody? Yeah, there’s, there’s so many, how do I pick one? You know, I think one of the mistakes that I made was overextending and hiring more people than I should have. And not having the right sales pipeline in place, not having the right plans in place to, to be able to just sustain the business with enough business, without it all falling on my shoulders. Because the last time I had to be selling, you know, the last revenue we had coming in, and that’s a scary thing when you have payroll to make. And so I think, yeah, I should have started with hiring probably some sales people, instead of mouth to feed. Right. So I think I went about that kind of backwards. I’m not a great salesperson. So…
Alastair McDermott 43:25
Have you delegated sales successfully? Has that worked for you?
Heather Steele 43:29
Not really, I had a person that was helping with sales and project management for a while, several years ago, she did a great job. But once she she took another opportunity that was just kind of more the path that her heart was going to take her on. And she’s actually the person that I wrote the cold calling course with. But yeah, once she was gone, it was just kind of like, well, it’s just me, and I don’t really even like it. I don’t really know how to do it. And so that was a huge mistake. And something that I’ve learned a lot from is that you’ve got to have that revenue stream. And you’ve got to have a sales team or a sales person that’s responsible for it outside of yourself before anything else. You know, it’s easy to find contractors to do just about anything, you can find a developer, you can find a designer, you can find a writer, you can find people to do pretty much anything. But finding someone who can sell for you is much more difficult, at least from what I’ve found. And so getting that locked down
Alastair McDermott 44:37
And where to find them, or you’re back doing sales yourself now?
Heather Steele 44:43
Yeah, you know, I do it myself. And I’m very fortunate that after all these years, it’s a it’s a very, very inbound business. I do very little outreach these days. It’s just something that you know, hopefully I won’t have to turn it back on anytime soon. Because it’s much easier for me to have plenty of inbound and be able to just schedule those people out and figure out good solutions for them than to have to be out pursuing new business.
Alastair McDermott 45:13
So you now have, you’ve got your custom projects that you’re doing, you’ve got some products that you’re selling, do you have productized services in the middle or like, are your services very productized already,
Heather Steele 45:28
Are very productize now. They used to be and I think this brings up my, my other example of really messing up and making a big mistake is I used to do everything very custom, you know, whatever problem you have, we can figure out a way to solve it, especially with website development, which I know a lot about, I’m a really good front end person back in definitely need a lot of support. And so I took on a project that was unfortunately, with a very good friend. And so her company that she worked for hired us to create a website that we had scoped out, you know, we understood how it was going to work, we had the right people in place to develop this website. And the wheels just completely fell off. The person who we’ve hired to do a lot of the backend work, just completely flaked out, was completely unreliable. And so I was on the hook for trying to figure out a solution, bring someone in at the last minute to fix the mess, keep everything within budget, and also try to preserve the friendship that was under a lot of stress because of this situation.
Alastair McDermott 46:41
Heather Steele 46:42
in at the exact same time this was going on, we were doing a really intensive programme with my son that was taking a tonne of my time. And so being in a situation to have a very good friend of mine, desperate for my time, to get things fixed and on track and to get a project done. And also have my family needing me in a very big way, was just awful. I mean, it was it was not good. And fortunately, we were able to find a developer that just took over the project, they’ve continued to have a wonderful relationship with that company, they’ve done a lot of work together and have just been a perfect fit. And I wish we would have just given them the project to begin with, instead of taking on something that I just didn’t understand enough to step in and clean up the mess.
Alastair McDermott 47:32
Heather Steele 47:33
And so that was a big wake up call that I can’t do these projects, I just don’t know enough about what it takes. And I’m not going to hire someone who is of that skill level. And so if that’s the decision I’m making, I’m not gonna have that in-house person, then I can’t take on those projects. And so that definitely led to a very framework approach to these are the things that we can make a website do and these are the things that we will not.
Alastair McDermott 48:04
Heather Steele 48:05
And that over time has become a you know, more and more structured into this is how the problems that we can solve and then solutions that we can bring to a website and exactly how we will solve them every single time. So it’s consistent approaches, consistent plugins consistent, you know, processes all the way through. And the same thing with the other things we do the the funnel projects are extremely rigid, it’s it’s very, it’s returning over the same thing every single time. We have a framework that works really great for the people that we serve. That’s a big part of why if you know, a retail customer came to me and wanted me to help, I would be like No way, I don’t have a process for you. And you can’t pay me enough to create one. Go to someone who already has that process and can do it really well for you.
Alastair McDermott 48:57
Yeah, yeah. I think a lot of people are in that particular in that early stage are afraid of turning away that kind of client, even though it may not be the best fit. But..
Heather Steele 49:08
Yeah, I think you don’t know what the best fit is for you until you fail a bunch.
Alastair McDermott 49:14
Heather Steele 49:15
Like you have to things wrong before you realise what you’re really good at. And that’s painful, but it’s just part of the process of growing and figuring out where you fit.
Alastair McDermott 49:27
Absolutely. I agree wholeheartedly with that one. I have a couple other questions. And I’m going to start to wrap this up. I know that you’re very passionate about helping people who were in the situation that you were in, but I know some people, some parents who who have kids especially what would you tell them you know, like if they’re feeling guilty about wanting to start their own business, while at the same time they have kids at home who need a lot of time. What would you tell them? People who are in that situation.
Heather Steele 50:03
I would tell them to, first make sure that whatever business model they’re approaching, there’s some sort of recurring revenue opportunity. Because every minute that you take away from being with your family, from being with your child from those responsibilities, every single minute that you’re putting into your business, you better be able to get more and more return on, if you’re putting your finite minutes in and getting finite dollars back. To me, that’s a really bad model. So figuring out a way that you can have a recurring revenue offering, even if it’s not your main offering, but figuring out a way to get recurring revenue going. So that when you’re putting minutes into your business, those minutes are paying you back consistently over time, that’s huge. That’s gonna make you sleep better at night, right, you’re gonna feel like what you did during the day really counted and not just to pay today’s mortgage, but to pay the mortgage into perpetuity. The other thing that I would say is have a number like you need to know and everyone needs to know what number they need to be able to make it right to be able to pay their bills and be on time and all that. But you also have to have a number for the future, you have to know what it’s going to cost you to care for your child for the rest of their life. And having that number and then sort of reverse engineering into your business will help you a lot with figuring out what you need to offer. So that you can work fewer hours, making more money and being able to work towards that financial goal. Because as much as we want to be in a business, that’s purpose driven. And that helps people and it serves a need. Our responsibility is a lot of times a financial responsibility to our families. And keeping that really focused, I think is incredibly important. So that you don’t put a bunch of time and energy and your own, you know, savings into starting a business without knowing when that payback is, what your your income is going to look like, and what your long term income and savings will look like for your child.
Alastair McDermott 52:28
Great advice. And I mean, that applies to everybody. I really like the idea of reverse engineering your financial goals, I have found that very useful. Personally, what I’ve done is I’ve reverse engineered it back to how many calls I need to get on with clients every week. If I get if I can get on an average of 1.2 calls a week with clients, then I should be hitting a financial goal of x. And…
Heather Steele 52:53
Alastair McDermott 52:54
And figuring out what’s what’s your average close rate, like, you know, maybe I’ll close one and two calls, one and two sales calls, you know, things like that. So yep, that reverse engineering, I think is really important. So, Heather, where can where can people go to find out more about the things that you’ve talked about? To get on your email list? Just get more Heather?
Heather Steele 53:16
Yes. So the website is BlueSteeleSolutions.com, you will be inundated with opportunities to sign up for our email list there. And you can also find me on LinkedIn, I spend most of my time there, and it’s just linkedin.com slash Heather Steele.
Alastair McDermott 53:35
Thank you. I’m sure that everybody listening is in awe of what you do and how you do it. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast. I really appreciate it.
Heather Steele 53:45
Thank you for having me.
Alastair McDermott 53:51
So there you have it, folks. That’s what I wanted to have Heather on the show. She is just amazing. So thank you for listening. I really appreciate your time and attention. If you found this interesting, please check out the show notes. It has all the links and bullet point summaries of everything we discussed. That’s linked right where you’re listening to the podcast. And don’t forget to hit the subscribe button. See you in the next episode.