The Actual Goal Day

So before, I tried to do too much. This won’t be particularly interesting to anyone, it’s in the “off topic” category. I don’t expect you to care.

Now, I’m trying to create an ideal day from scratch.

The things to do are:

  • Write
  • Read
  • Exercise
  • Prospect
  • Family Time

4:30-7:30 is the ideal “family time.” That’s gotta be locked in .

I can work before and after-without a problem The next thing I need to schedule is vigorous exercise. I need 2 sessions – the morning session 4 miles (for now, walk/jog) and another session in the evening (probably on the eliptical. This is what worked when I cut weight like a fiend in 2001.

So, let’s wake at 5:45 AM. Let’s eat some eggs and drink some water.

Let’s make coffee and let’s be out the door by 6:15 so I can come back at around 7:15 or so to a fresh pot of perfectly brewed coffee.

This takes care of “vigorous exercise.” I should probably remember a pen and paper so I can write what I want. I should probably read at this point, but we’ll see.

From 7:30-9:30 is when I should write and have all of my “personal/marketing/non-clientwriting” done for the day. This will take care of things the way that I’m supposed to write. This is the inbound content stuff, the social media type stuff.  I can also read during this time and that might be a good fit for some times.

From 9:30-12:30 (or so) is when I do my prospecting.  This is a mix of calling people, pitching things, and the rest.  Generally, it’s the process outlined here.  The goal isn’t to get too far caught up in lead follow up.

From 12:30-1:3o0 or so is lunch. With or without family. I can also do a quick “2nd” cardio session here if I feel up to it. If possible, why not read for a half hour.

1:30-4:30 is unstructured, project time, client writing time, whatever. At 4:30, it’s back to the family for 3 hours of phone off, computer off, time. We can hike, do all sorts of things at this time, but I gotta have an alarm at 4:30 that pings and I do my thing.

At 7:30 we put the kids to bed, for good. and they stay in bed.

at around 8pm or so, I read for an hour or so. At around 9pm if I’m out of the reading, I can work on whatever I didn’t get done, but by around 10pm I’m winding down – we can watch a movie, we should exercise again (2 sessions worked last time i needed to cut weight.).

Finally, I’m off to bed at 11:30.

This is doable. It requires some moderation which I don’t do well. This requires that I don’t exhaust myself.

 

Perfect Day

What is your perfect day?

Have you given this much serious, considered, measured, concrete thought? Have you written it down?

I have.  About a million times. I’ve tried and tried. And I’ve never gotten close to living my ideal day. I learned why recently, and I’ll share the reason with you.

Now again, as I said before, I’m not some paragon of success. I’m just me.

I resist regimen. Why  should I be doing X at Y time all the time? What if I don’t feel like doing X at Y time this time? Sometimes things are more important for me. Then I realized:

…my life is out of whack. I’m producing at a high level.

Being allowed to “choose” what I want to do at any given moment hasn’t exactly produced epic results. (I need to lose 65 pounds, for example).

Meditations has changed, more or less, how I feel about things. I’m meant to work, and I’m meant to produce at the highest level I can will myself to. I am doing good stuff right now with more to come.

This morning, I saw what Duct Tape Marketing’s John Jantsch said (love a name with 5 consonant sounds but one vowel).

Yesterday, I was skimming the Wealthy Freelancer because my friend Michael Martine recommended it. Or at least I believe he did. I got it for a song at a collapsing Borders. (I wonder if the writers will be paid for that purchase).

Nice book, really. That and Getting Things Done  should be the required basic training for people starting out. (And yes, DuctTape Marketing or the Referral Engine should be).

Most Freelancers seriously need remedial lessons, largely in entitlement, work habits and manners.  These books are a great start. This is what reminded me of my ideal day again. Maybe, this time I’m ready.

Now, I used to have this complex and convoluted effort. I wanted to do about 300 different things each and every day. I wanted to:

  • Play with my kids
  • Dick with my paperwork
  • Call clients in a ridiculously organized manner.
  • check my analytics
  • post on eleventy seven different blogs.
  • do a craft.
  • Write a novel.
  • Clean my gutters.
  • etc.

My life felt like the Like a Boss video (Not safe for work, but catchy as hell).  I was always transitioning. 26 minutes to call clients, then I have to answer e-mails. 32 minutes till lunch. Gotta look busy, Jesus is coming.

Crushed me up. Left me a mess of transitioning nothingness. I was always about to move to the next thing. I was always about to change. I had lots of “urgent priorities.”  I tried lots of things to get to the next level: printed list, near constant Blackberry reminders. (Remember blackberries?)

Fried. Unfocused. Frazzled. Unproductive.

In The War of Art, Pressfield describes one of the tricks The Resistance as something that asks us to do too much so that we burn ourselves out.

None of my “new directions” worked for more than a day or so. I felt momentarily good with each reboot. This time, I’ll do it all. This time, things will be different, better. I got the vital stuff mostly done. But it was despite the productivity mania I’d created, not because of it.

But, see, I have children. They need me. I have a wife that feels overwhelmed by the stress of running our house (and some notion that there’s even more in store than child rearing).

I need more structure. More than I need more output, I need to make time for the right things.

I don’t need to list: 10am-10:30 check email, 10:30-10:45 feed the cat. I need what Covey called “big rocks.”

I do need to block substantial weekly time  out time for 5 things:

  • Vigorous, Intense Exercise (in whatever form)
  • Reading
  • Prospecting
  • Family Time (including mundane, un-glorious household chores).
  • Writing

Everything else will – generally speaking – take care of itself. Urgent emails that cause deals to get done should get answered. I don’t need to schedule time to negotiate details with clients.  

Some stuff just happens. I don’t need to schedule time to write scripts, or even to improve the Simplifilm process (process improvement is often procrastination).  Batchbook, more or less, reminds me to do what I’m supposed to.

I also don’t need to have the approval of people not on our path. Creative work, sales, takes time.  Not money -you can’t bypass this grind with cash. I don’t need to be working from 8am-6pm.  I work more hours in a week than almost everyone I know (Jason being the rule prover). I’m free to set my schedule.

I’ll do another post directly on this, and it’ll be RSS feed only.  When I’m done, I’ll link it here. I will do the best that I can to keep it simple and suchlike.

Generating Leads

It’s not hard to follow up with your best customers. Really. It’s not begging.

Pitching is not begging.

You try to refer customers to other customers when it’s appropriate. You show what competitors are doing. You help.

This stuff you read below might bore you.

But, this stuff is a big the part of reason Simplifilm is four months old and booked out into 2012. (Much of the reason is Jason’s talent, I can never forget that).

This stuff is superior to the Copyblogger-type Content Marketing Methods. And it takes less energy for me.

I’m going to share, more or less, what I do. I use BatchBlue as a CRM, and I’ve used others in the past – Heap, Highrise, etc. I can’t recommends Highrise for this method – they have a kludgey sales-funnel process that is not carefully wrought and doesn’t really do a good job with moving a deal through a pipeline.

This is the basic way I do things:

  • Find & Sort Targets
  • Research and Pitch Targets (show our product to them)
  • Follow Up Systematically
  • Build Meaningful Relationships
I’m tightening this up right now, so I’ll show exactly what we do. I’m not going to spend the time it takes to make a “good story” out of this, this is more or less notes as to how I do things. Your milage may vary

Step One In Getting Customers: Find and Sort Targets

Our “target companies” are tech companies doing anywhere from 2mm-100mm in business. Obviously we’ll be working with billion dollar companies very soon. Obviously, we’ll be working with the fortune 1000. But, we want to make sure that we can work with people that can swing the hammer quickly. I have leads that I’ll be incubating for 2012 when we’re a much bigger group, but in the mean time, this is what we are doing.
This is a GTD style method – it relies on ubiquitous capture.  I use Google reader’s staring function, Evernote and BatchBook for this.
I’m looking for people that either have a bad demo movie, or that have a need for a good one. I’m looking for startup-type companies, preferably with revenue, funding or both. Our sales cycle for us is 4-10 weeks for people we contact, and it’s much shorter when people contact us.
I use the following lead sources for raw targets. This isn’t in order, and I don’t yet know the “best” way to prioritize this:
  • Google Alerts  (http://www.google.com/alerts)  - I have a few dozen alerts that I look at each day, and try to clear. New websites in specific fields are the way that this works. I use Reader to sort these fast.
  • Competitor research: This is fun. When someone has a new video up, their competitors know. Likewise, if you know of someone that just bought something, call 100% of their competitors.
  • Bigger Tech Companies: This is process oriented.
  • YouTube Searches: I look for well done (using AE/Premiere/Final Cut) demo films, and I rustle down the owner of the account or service and pitch him.  I look for demo films that have technical expertise but don’t sell very well.
  • Twitter -(search.twitter.com) phrases like “recommend after effects” produce 3-5% of my leads or so. I had success early and that might be confusing me. I haven’t “won” on twitter in a while.
  • 2nd Tier Tech Blogs: Everyone reads Tech Crunch, and appearing there will cause the people that show up to be besieged with salesmen. So, I go through my reader and star about 60 blogs. Most of ‘em are 2nd tier tech blogs, but I’m intuitively learning what companies are right for us. I am following up with the ones that we want.  About once a week, I go through and sort for follow up or I “unstar” them in Reader.
  • Existing Customers: Part of the systematic follow ups is the sharing of what we’re doing with existing customers.
We also look for VC Firms and Agencies to reach out to them.  This is also working as well – getting darn near anyone with the means to deal with our work is important. The Agencies are a little tricky to work with, but I think that 2012 will make them the #2 category of business for us.
This has to happen fast. This has to be something you just “do” automatically. Working through your list is what’s important here.
Note: none of them depend on PPC or massive amounts of content creation. Advertising isn’t necessary. A blog supports and confirms that we know something, but it’s not where we generate leads.
The whole process is sorting. I put people in various tags – and I’m developing that more specifically, but the first thing is “unprocessed” then I go into BatchBook and pull that tag and add new tags.
The tags I use (and this will change, and grow. I keep growing and culling tags.)
  • unprocessed
  • aps
  • vcs
  • agencies
  • customer
  • advocate
  • direct response (we deal with direct response marketers.)”
  • 1mm+
  • 10mm+
  • inbound (people that liked and called us first – either on the contact form or whatever)
  • lead
  • dead
  • poor fit (people we don’t want to do business with)
  • Now, let’s also know something else.  We sort More leads doesn’t mean more security.  If we grow like I want, we’ll do as many as 100 productions next year.  We’ll probably have about 60 customers. That’s all we need. We need better quantity.  To achieve that,
I additionally sort people into one of four groups:
  • Inner Circle: 24 people, that’s it. People are in and out occasionally, but these are our favorite customers and clients.
  • Core (Strictly limited to 150 people): These are the people I try to stay in touch with, personally, monthly. I want to know everything they are doing.
  • Friends: A more casual follow up cycle.  This is people that are customers and referral sources.
  • Pursuit: People that I’m really after to get business with.  These are the Amazon.Coms or whoever else that we’d love and will do what it takes to get this work done.
The rest matter, but not as much.

Step Two: Research and Pitch:

Listen, pitching is more “sorting” than begging. Pitching is all about homework and presentation. You do your homework, present to the best people you can, and then see if they are – or aren’t a fit.

You can’t care at all if any client says yes or no. When you do, they own you. You just share what you do and see if they are a fit or not. It’s just that. You’re organizing people. You’re not emotionally involved and no client can ever be allowed to believe that they are your meal ticket.
I look up all the todos, messages and the rest and I create contacts and then I tag them for follow up. I try hard to do this all at once. I often get horrifically distracted, and get excited add call someone. We research them, put the notes in and schedule for follow up. An assistant could do this.
So:
  • Forward Leads into Batchbook.
  • Batch book tags ‘em
  • Research and schedule the Next Actions (broadly speaking, complete contact info, find right person, etc)

When we pitch, or present every day, we don’t have to tolerate imbeciles or assholes. We just move on, or (if you’re me) say something arrogant or curt and make them think they don’t want us. We also take perverse immature pleasure in pitching people then saying no.

When someone doesn’t buy, I just note why, determine if that’s something I should address at the outset, and then you move on.

Pitching is sharing our work with them. Showing the quality of the video and the benefit (higher conversions). We want to get them familiar with us.

A side note – anyone that says “we’ll keep you in mind” is really unlikely to buy. I simply delete the people who say it and examine what I did when the pitch fell flat.

Step 3: Follow Up Systematically

Tricky. We want to sort people into 4 categories:

  • Planning a video
  • Not planning a video
  • Interested in Scheduling
  • Indifferent/Follow up later
In the absence of a yes, it’s assumed that the answer is no. It’s assumed that our best and most respectful pitch is needed.
I am to develop a follow up sequence:
  • Research – get all information in the system about them (name number etc)
  • Cold Email #1: (personal)
  • Send a notecard via mail.
  • Cold email #2: (bulk – carefully wrought about why the videos work)
  • Call: 30 days after.
  • Email (personal, short) every 90 days.
  • Email (newsletter) monthly.
  • Call each 180 days.
  • Mail 2x yearly.
There are other things we can look to do – when occasion arises.
  • Reference them in our blog.
  • Mention them in comments to others.
  • Forward customers to them
  • Send them an article
The people that are “in my inner circle” I follow up with every 2 weeks, at the longest. This could wear them out – and the “inner circle” isn’t the people I intend to sell to, it’s the people I want to be like, network with and be of service to.
There’s a finite amount, then of contacts you can have. The above work is say, 15 minutes per quarter, per person. Let’s say we dedicate 10 hours per week to lead follow up.  With vacations and holidays, there are 120 hours for this in a quarter (12 weeks).  480 contacts then, is as many as you can have and nurture in this way.  We want to be nurturing the people that are clients, or are likely to become clients.
480 high quality clients that were responsive would be enough for nearly any B-to-B business. (Think: the 480 CTOs in the Fortune 500).
There are a few things that we can drop back into a more casual format.
Now, we don’t pitch, we inform. We do it with aplomb and we pay attention to what works, but that’s what we do.
A final caveat: yes, you should try to do a newsletter about every other month. Yes, you should do this when possible because it simply helps people know you and allows you to have the odd chance to connect.

Step 4: Build Meaningful Relationships

Showing yourself as a consistent and solid provider of whatever builds relationships.  Being predictable. Executing a follow up plan. Find ways to help people out.

Call quarterly. Focus on the other person. Be kind. Offer to be of service, ask who good connections are. Ask if there are events to support, tweet or promote.
Show that you’re there, do it all authentically, take as long as you have to to make this work.  Executing step 3 should do it, but pay careful attention to who is important and who isn’t on your list. Let people move from one thing to another.

The Whole Point:

The point of what I do is amassing options. I pile up options all over the place. I can pursue the ones that I like and ignore the ones I don’t like. That’s why I make the calls, I make, that’s why I do what I do. I don’t need to call someone up to reject them. I just let them think I suck at follow up.
Or I like to close too hard at some ridiculous set of terms to chase ‘em away.
A new contact is just that- ginning up options. You’re not obligated to see it through with someone that’s a jerk, and you’re fairly unlikely to if you have amassed options. The point is being able to decide your business.
At no point do I deal with overcoming objections – instead, like Gitomer, we note and prevent objections. You can’t overcome an individual objection but when you hear it a third time, you can hit in in the beginning and build value. You lose dignity when you overcome B.S. objections with hackneyed sales tactics.
I’ll break this down into several pieces soon. This is more or less how I am doing things. Your milage may vary.

Why Bother?

Seven months ago, I was stuck haggling $800 websites with Realtors, mortgage lenders and other staples of the rotary club.

Some of the checks were more necessary than I thought.

Seven hours ago, I was haggling a six figure deal with a billion dollar company. It was all the same:

  • What am I getting?
  • When am I getting it?
  • How much does it cost?
  • What happens if I hate it?
Getting good at answering those questions – and preventing the objections is the skill I have.

Right now, our website is a mess, we don’t have a tagline, and we don’t have anything but a 11 month track record. Our website has an Alexa ranking of eleventy five billion.

But, if I don’t screw this up, I’ll earn more money than I ever have. We are booked till Christmas – and scheduling for February.

I’m thinking about formally and correctly putting a website together. We have enough content to work with. I can’t escape the question:  Why bother?  We have the customers we want, and we get the leads we want. We turn down business. We are in good shape.

A tagline is not a business model.

Neither is a blog.

Why bother? I’m getting deals the way I get deals: listen, look, observe, follow up with people. Look at people with bad videos. Call them. Real basic skills. I use Batchbook to track everything, and I just do what I’m supposed to.

I feel like blogging this is just a distraction from all the work that gets videos produced. Blogging is a distraction from working on the process, finding customers, and all of it. Of course it is. 

Creating a tagline is pain. Vanity. We just do the damn work, you know? 6 words to make you feel a certain way about us is a little goofy.

Making a coherent website isn’t hard. It just takes time. There are no shortcuts.

I can burrow my way into KPCB in less time, for way more dough than a website would bring in a year.  The reel is what matters. The reel is good. And I can pick my customers when I call ‘em. (Cold calling, cold e-mailing and lead generation are all ways of generating options. Nothing more).

Plus, when I call out, I am picking my clients. This means I never have to deal with the ridiculous people that believe that they are doing me some favor after they search for “After Effects Production House,” and offer $500 bucks for a minute of work as if that’s going to get me to get out of bed.

So, why bother? It’s a real question. I can’t decide. Will I accumulate more options from having a better website? Or will I have to sort through crap.

Simplifilm: Our Overture Is Written

The Overture of Simplifilm is done.

I think we’ve hinted at the next few movements:

  • Clean up operations (solid process messages, etc)
  • Define what a Simplifilm is (and establish a style)
  • Make lead generation & follow up more automated
  • Work our way up to the clients we want (happening)

We’ve established a beachhead and gotten a happy client base. Most of our clients are in the 2mm-10mm annual revenue range (an educated guess). We make money. Jason and I have more fun working our asses off than anyone has playing World of Warcraft or any other video game skinner box.

There is never drama at Simplifilm. There are no emergencies at Simplifilm. We’ve solved the freelancer dilemma of always having merciless urgent b.s. projects. Everybody waits, and when they can’t they can go down to a second tier provider with availability, if that’s what they want for their business.

When you generate, you needn’t tolerate. Calling people each day seems to others to be begging, I’m simply accumulating good options to execute. Spending hours on detail nobody notices may seem stupid but it’s working for us.

We’re more or less booked till January. Our next trick is to book ourselves out for a year. That’ll happen by the end of this year. Then we’ll consider adding headcount.

I’ve become – personally – a more capable salesperson because I also have to guard Jason’s reputation. It amuses me sometimes to be the  Herb Tarlek caricature. But, the condescending b.s. doesn’t fly with everyone. It’s funny, I know that I have to be careful of Jason, so I do a better job.

Our reel looks great. A few more productions are being released this week (and a few are in the can because Clients aren’t ready yet). We’re on our way to do an absurd volume because of the mania in the tech sector. Even when it subsides, we will do fine.  We know that in 2 years it’ll be harder to do what we’re doing now.

We’ve established ourselves as the “go to guys,” for a sector. People put up with my indolence because of this.

We got recognition from Common Craft, the leaders of our nascent industry. Common Craft! Can you believe that?

We’ve proven that I can sell a little, and write a little. It’s always been obvious that Jason is world class (my only job is carrying his water and I can never forget that.)

Our clients are the best in the world.

The best part? Our soldiers aren’t on the field yet.  I still do what works – make sure 20-25 people see our work each day.  This gets conversations and orders. I handle both OK.  Not great yet. just OK.

Some people – direct response marketers – I tell to stick it. That’s fun. It’s also stupid and self indulgent and doesn’t serve me.   I will need be more tactful about letting people think they don’t want a Simplifilm.

We haven’t fully established what a Simplifilm is – we’ve seen hints – the metaphor in the Scribe SEO video, the interface heavy Headway Themes video.  We’re going to define this more carefully going forward, and establish our style.  I’ll probably write about it here as it happens (probably more than I should).

The order of things we need to address:

  • Define what a Simplifilm is (internally) and what it’s not
  • Coherent communications bring people in to each part of the process (script, VO, initial reveal)
  • Remake the website (it’s an incoherent, ugly, embarrassing kludge).
  • Create a rate card and a pricing strategy (defining a Simplifilm will inform this – my gut says to offer one thing at one price, about a minute long, and priced around $12k).
  • Schedule the trade shows we want to do (Ad Tech, CES, Affiliate Summit West, Blog World maybe SXSW -I’m oddly proud that I’ve never been.)
  • Figure out what we’re gonna give away and what we’re keeping.
  • Figure out an output schedule for the blog and formalize the lead generation methods I’m using (currently : see crappy video, insult it).
Our first movement is done. Simplifilm can support people with full time income. It wasn’t planned carefully, like everything else I’ve done, it just sort of happened. The prior planning and the ad nauseum business planning was far from a waste.  It’s given me the clarity to do this job.
Planning is more or less BS – no battle plan survives contact with the enemy. This is just a todo list that we more or less need to do.

Made To Stick – Executive Summary Notes

I’m currently reading Made to Stick.  I’ve not gotten to it even though Scott told me to.  Sorry.

I’m also gonna grab the papers referenced by the Studies and read ‘em and report here, so it might take me some time, but this book comes highly recommended and seems to be grounded in academics.

Right now, for every “hard” book I read, I get to read something easy.  Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath is easy to read, and is in the “easy” category.

I’ll be updating this post from time to time – but I’m keeping more real-time notes on the chapters in a google doc found here.

I’ll do this, from time to time with the easier stuff I read when I’m at my desk reading.  Some stuff won’t make sense to do this with.  This will go out in the feed, but not on the main page.

Intro:

  1. Sticky Ideas are simple
  2. Sticky Ideas are Unexpected
  3. Sticky Ideas are Concrete –  Human actions, sensory info, etc REAL things – bird in bush, razor blades in apples.
  4. Credible: It is qualified
  5. Emotions: people must feel something for an idea to stick. as much fat as a ….
  6. Stories Spread Sticky Ideas

I’ll perhaps distill the main chapters and some of the Internet available source materials when possible.

This study  (pdf, tiny font, worth reading) was referenced and was in Marketing Science in 1999. The premise is that most creative ads follow 6 recognizable templates below (marked for the skimmers amongst us all)

SELECT STUDIES FROM MADE TO STICK

Jacob Goldenberg • David Mazursky • Sorin Solomo

The Fundamental Templates of Quality Ads:

  1. Pictorial analogy template: taking a picture of the product and transplanting it to another place or introducing it into extreme places
  2. The Extreme Situation TemplateUnrealistic situations that demonstrate key attributes: Superglue holding a hat to a metal beam.  Variants: absurd alternative, extreme worth, extreme attribute.
  3. Consequences Template: Indicates implications of executing or failint to execute the recommendation advocated in the ad.
  4. Competition Template: Portrays Situations In Which The Product is subjected to competition  with another product out of its class.   (Car vs. bullet)
  5. Interactive Experiment Template: Ether engage (test drive) or imagine (yourself in a Mercury) the situation.
  6. The dimensionality Alteration TemplateManipulates the dimension of the product in relation to is environment: new parameter, multiplication, division, time leap. Example: speed of aircraft used to measure the size of the ocean.