During changing times it’s hard not to second guess our instincts, and small business owners need to keep generating customers, as well as respect their bandwidth. In this 3rd part of our talk with Justin Dunham from Ercule, we discuss gated content and how to keep Google loving your website.

Read the Full Video Transcript

Jill McKenna: Thanks everyone for joining us today. I am Jill McKenna. I’m the campaign marketing manager at Ruby. And I’m delighted to be speaking with Justin Dunham today from Ercule. Justin, thanks for joining me.

Justin Dunham:
Hey, Jill. Yeah, it’s great to talk to you today. I am, as you said, Justin Dunham, I started Ercule a few years ago and I work with the team and we are a content performance and SEO agency. So we focus on taking existing content marketing that people are doing and really making it work all the way up and down the content stack, and also optimizing the entirety of our client’s library so that they get the most out of that.

Jill McKenna:
So I just wanted to get your thoughts if you have any about gated versus ungated content at this time and how it’s working. And by gated, if folks don’t use it out there, asking folks to fill out a form or add their email to something in order to gain a piece of content like an eGuide or eBook. How’s that working in this environment and is that changing?

Justin Dunham:
Yeah, so gating is a very complicated topic. I would say a few things about it. Number one: just to get this out of the way, a lot of people are saying, you know, we don’t really think we should be gating our content. And the rationale there is that gating really hinders the performance of your content because all of your best stuff is unfindable by Google. It’s behind a form or somebody doesn’t necessarily want to fill it out, et cetera. And that’s kind of a bummer for all the best content that you worked really hard to produce. With that said, the way that if you did not use gating, you would engage customers, is you have to have a lot of faith and be very strategic that we’re producing the right things, we’re looking at metrics, and ultimately people are coming back and they’re reaching out to us. And that can take time to build and to know that you’re doing the right thing.

Justin Dunham:
So I think gating is kind of slowly going away, but I also think that it’s very understandable why people will be skeptical of not gating content. With that said, if you decide to gate content, there are a lot of things that you can do to make it work way, way better. So number one major thing, and I’d be saying this, even if I weren’t talking to you or talking to anybody, is having a live chat is really helpful for a couple of reasons; number one: if you can engage somebody through live chat, that’s a much more pleasant experience that having them fill out a form and get back to them. And so that could be a really good way to kind of make that experience better.

Justin Dunham:
Number two is when you have that experience with them, you’re typically able to move them through the funnel a little bit faster. You’re not relying on them to do their own education process you’re helping surface the right questions to them. So if you are going to gate content, live chat can really help. If live chat is not a possibility, and with the technology out there today, I have to say I think it is for basically everybody, and you are focused on the form or forms of just what you’re doing now, really the key things are you want to have as few form fields as possible. And there’s lots of technologies out there that can help you reduce the number of form fields you have. And you really need to explain, you need to do this whenever you post content, exactly why the content is valuable, what it’s going to help somebody do, and so on. That transaction of, you fill out a form and you get a content, is something you have to sell just like you have to sell your product later.

Jill McKenna:
Yeah, that makes a whole lot of sense. I hope this doesn’t get us too far into the weeds, but we’re going to see.

Justin Dunham:
That’s great.

Jill McKenna:
Something I’m curious about. I know a lot of young entrepreneurs or small businesses that are really quick growing startups, they build a really dynamic website. That’s very important of course. It’s the front page of their business or the front door of their business. But I also see them get paralyzed by this idea of Google’s algorithm changing and this fear around I’ve built all of this stuff and one day it might not matter. Can you speak a little bit to that fear and how that actually unfolds when it happens?

Justin Dunham:
Yeah. So a couple of things on that. First of all, absolutely justified. Like not absolutely justifying the sense of it’s definitely going to happen, but business owners have a lot of concerns and that could be one of them. And you could say the same thing about Facebook; cost per engagement on Facebook continues to go up. You can say the same thing about Twitter. You can say the same thing about all of these other channels. The nice thing about content is it really helps you build your audience so that you own your audience and get in touch with them without necessarily relying on other channels like that. However, it’s not really in Google’s interest to do that. And realistically, what we’ve seen is for people who are producing the right content, that’s again high quality and is authentic and intended to reach people and help them, we’ve only seen either neutral or mostly positive effects from algorithm changes.

Justin Dunham:
So if you are trying to hack Google, which we never recommend, and a lot of other SEOs do recommend it, we don’t, then yeah you might want to be a little bit concerned about that. But if you’re focused on consistently producing high quality content that comes out of what your value proposition is, that you’re uniquely positioned to provide, number one, probably don’t really need to worry about it because it’s not really in Google’s interest to deprioritize high quality content. Number two, content is an asset that you own and you can redeploy it wherever you want. So we don’t just talk about Google. We also think about social and Slack communities and email. We always tell our clients, you’re going to deploy your content everywhere, not just on organic search. And number three is it’s a good reason to focus on building your audience as quickly as you can, because the audience is something that you own. You can get in touch with them. And content and authority and trust are the best ways that you can do that.

Jill McKenna:
So when does a small business owner know it is time to hire a content creator for their team and when can they still keep using freelance and contract writers? What’s the right threshold there?

Justin Dunham:
Yeah, that’s a really good question. I would say that it really differs for every company. A lot of it depends on how complex the product is. And as a company matures, one of the things that tends to happen is the product gets more valuable, but also more complex and covers more use cases. And there’s lots of other things that at that point is where we see, Hey, we need to have somebody in house because we need to have somebody who has used the product, can talk to everybody and really understands it. So there isn’t one point that I would pick, but I would say the way to think about it is, do you feel like you have freelancers who are empowered enough to talk to customers and talk to people at your company and really understand the product at the level it needs to be understood and it has the potential to be understood at?

Justin Dunham:
And once you get to a point where you start building out these use cases, you start taking on enterprise customers that are larger and other things like that if you’re B2B, that’s again where you start thinking about, maybe I need somebody in house who can really have their whole brain dedicated to this.

Jill McKenna:
Great. That makes perfect sense. But that adds to the question of when does a company then know it’s the right time to use somebody like Ercule or call in a partnership with Ercule and create one? What’s the right point in time or development to start doing that?

Justin Dunham:
Yeah. And so we have the most success with clients who have usually, sometimes they’ll have a freelancer or two, usually having a full-time content marketer [inaudible 00:08:05] is a good time to bring us in. The way Ercule works is that we are meant to be a force multiplier for your content team. So we’ve designed our offerings that it’s extremely efficient, really focused on the fundamentals. Quite honestly, very competitively priced and much more effective than a lot of other solutions out there, agency solutions. And so the way we typically talk to clients is we say, well, you’re making an investment of X in your content. And if you think about the fully loaded cost of your content marketers, and you think about people are working on your website, you think about your demand generation people, put all of that in your content budget. And we come in and we’re a very small fraction of that larger cost, but we tend to increase effectiveness quite a lot, especially given the investment.

Justin Dunham:
So folks usually bring in Ercule when they’ve got, again, smallish content team. We’ve had clients who have a really good freelancer who’s focused. We’ve also had clients who have three, four or five full-time content marketers, and sometimes larger. And then we can come in and sort of answer very specific questions, help with the strategic aspect of things like how do we organize and think about our content plans? And also help with what is our strategy and what’s going to work to make sure distribution is effective. [crosstalk 00:09:23].

Jill McKenna:
All right. Thank you so much Justin. Take care.

Justin Dunham:
All right. Thanks a lot, Jill. It’s great talking. Bye.

Jill McKenna:
Have a good one.

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Content Marketing & SEO

“The marketers who are going to win are building trust and authority with customers and prospects, and the way you do that is through content.” Justin Dunham, Ercule

Interested in hearing more from Justin?

Check out Part One of this interview!

Jill McKenna:
Thanks, everyone, for joining us today. I am Jill McKenna. I’m the campaign marketing manager at Ruby. And I’m delighted to be speaking with Justin Dunham today from Ercule. Justin, thanks for joining me.

Justin Dunham:
Hey, Jill. Yeah, it’s great to talk to you today. I am, as you said, Justin Dunham. I started Ercule a few years ago, and I work with the team. And we are a content performance and SEO agency. So we focus on taking existing content marketing that people are doing and really making it work all the way up and down the content stack and also optimizing the entirety of our clients’ libraries so that they get the most out of that.

Jill McKenna:
Can you speak a little bit to why content strategy is still important or maybe more important than ever, just a really basic guideline?

Justin Dunham:
Yeah, totally. Content strategy is how people are going to distinguish themselves in the new world. A huge percentage of the buyer’s journey, even up until now, I think it’s between 60 and 80%, is offline before your customers talk to you directly, but they’re getting information from the content that you’re putting out there. And that number is only going to increase as more and more of these interactions become partly digital and then completely digital. So an investment in that today is really important.

Justin Dunham:
I’d say another reason for investing in content strategy that’s important is just building trust and authority because all of these new channels are going to get more and more saturated, as they always do. But the marketers who are going to win are building trust and authority with customers and prospects, and the way you do that is through content.

Jill McKenna:
And how have recent events changed long-term planning in this regard, or have they? Do we still want to keep with the same strategies we’ve had before, or is there really new thinking that we want to have in mind for the next two years, three years, four years?

Justin Dunham:
Yeah, well, everybody’s re-planning, of course. And I would say that, again, the major shift that we’ve seen is just on the demand gen side, where are we making our investments? And honestly, a lot of that investment is coming away from live events and more toward digital channels. So the only thing I would say about that right now is the companies who, again, are focused and strategic about how they’re engaging with their customers on digital are the ones who are going to be most successful there.

Jill McKenna:
So you’ve spoken a little bit about events, and I know you guys aren’t obviously an event company, but a lot of your customers do do events. Are there ways that you’re guiding them to think about online events now or reposition themselves to have to pivot over to online events?

Justin Dunham:
Yeah, the main way that we are engaging with our customers around events is one of the things that we do for all of our customers is it’s not just about SEO and content performance and conversion rate optimization, all the things that you need to be successful with content. It’s also about helping our customers build a pipeline in their company so that all of the expertise that everybody on their team has can be easily converted and taken out into this more accessible format, which is on something like a blog or something like that.

Justin Dunham:
And events are a really important source of this information. So if you’re running certainly a webinar, but more so I’m thinking something like an online conference or something like that, it’s a great opportunity to promote those talks in advance by linking to them and talking about them in content that you’re producing. And it’s a great opportunity, once those events happen, to take all of the content that is produced in those events, the talks, the panels, other things like that. And then after the event, turn that into blog posts, articles, updating existing content that now needs new information, all sorts of stuff. So a major overlooked value prop from events and especially online events is the content creation possibilities that come out of that beyond the event. In fact in some ways, I would say that for a lot of companies, that is the major value of running events is the contribution to evergreen content that they can create.

Jill McKenna:
I think a lot of people don’t think about that when they make events, that hub and spoke model of what can come from… Even anything, an e-guide, event, a webinar, it creates a lot of your SEO keyword terms for you. And strategically deploy them, then you’re all the better for it.

Jill McKenna:
You did bring up something, you touched on something I was curious about. How do you think about small businesses in collaboration with other small businesses or partnerships? Are there ways that you want to guide your customers to think about thoughtful collaborations at this time and moving forward as things continue to shift?

Justin Dunham:
Yeah, that’s a really interesting opportunity that’s available for people. So I think there’s a few different things. The obvious answer that most SEOs will give you is you should guest post on your partners sites and stuff like that. And I’m going to say something vaguely heretical, which is that guest posts can sometimes be effective. But a lot of the times that we’ve done just straight up guest posting or been asked to do that, it doesn’t have the effect that we’d like to see it have. And there are ways to do it and make it work.

Justin Dunham:
But I will say that there are lots of other opportunities for partnership, obvious things are both of these companies, if you’re partnering with another company, have built an audience. And presumably, that audiences has a similar set of concerns. And so something we talk to our clients a lot about is borrowing audiences, because just building audience is one of the hardest things that you can do as a marketer. Just getting people following you on social, in your email list, in your Slack community, whatever it is.

Justin Dunham:
So that’s how we suggest to clients that they think about these partnerships, is can you borrow an audience, and that can manifest a lot of ways. Like I said, it can be things like we’re doing a joint webinar. It can be things like we’re producing a piece of content together, rather than I’m producing a piece of content for you. So something like a guide that’s co-branded can be really great. And there’s lots of other opportunities, as well as you move down to customer success, even as you move down the sales funnel, to bring partners in the right way and to work together and team up.

Justin Dunham:
And especially also given that for most small and medium businesses, there are so many pieces of technology and other stuff that are being used to be effective. It gives you just a ton of partnership opportunities to find those audiences, get the word out there, help each other, and so on.

Jill McKenna:
I want to backtrack a little bit just because I know a lot of small businesses who are just starting out or are struggling to keep so many plates spinning in the air. What’s the best guidance you have for them, if they’re just considering SEO and keywords, and they’re like, I have to make a list of 200 keywords. What are some basic guidance that you can give to them?

Justin Dunham:
Yeah, I would say first of all, of course it depends on resources. And what we would much rather see is I can put out one very high quality blog post a month on one topic, and that is a great place to start. And so the other thing that we suggest is, as you think about like, oh, we think we want to get more traffic from organic search, yes. Use the content for that, but also think hard about everything you produce. Where else can I use it? If I produce a white paper or I produce… Let’s say I produce a bunch of blog posts. Can I add those blog posts up in six months into a white paper? Can those blog posts be used for my sales reps to reach out to prospects? Can I produce those blog posts by having somebody who works directly with customers do a recording, and then I edit it later? So efficiency in content creation and focus and really using content creatively are three things I think are super important for getting started with that.

Jill McKenna:
If somebody writes a really thoughtful piece of content intentionally for their blog, what are the worst things that you see happen, once they write that piece and put their little baby out there in the world? What are the mistakes that people often make?

Justin Dunham:
The number one mistake I see people make is just doing it once and then forgetting about it and hoping, hey, I produced one really solid thing, and it was updated three years ago. And the thing is that we think it’s really important to think about your content as a library. And so you always want to keep it updated. You could be a small business, you could have 15 or 20 solid posts that you wrote over the space of two or three years that you used customers to write, or you use sales reps to help write, or you build out of a webinar, do all of that, build 15 to 20 high quality things, put them on your site, but then don’t forget about it. And because you’re already communicating with your customers about how to use the product, what updates there are and all of this, every single CEO or director of marketing we’ve talked to has all of this stuff in their head.

Justin Dunham:
So it’s thinking about the entire library as you produced it, keeping it up to date, not just letting it go away. You don’t have to produce a post every week for three years. You don’t need, if you’re a small business, 200 or 300 blog posts. In fact, I’d rather see, again, 15 to 20 really high quality things that get reused, remixed, promoted really well, and then that’s pretty much it. But it’s very hard.

Justin Dunham:
And oftentimes, things like what should the strategy be? Where should we focus? Where should we make our investments? Folks come to us, even if they haven’t engaged us and say… and we can well, here’s our experience with this or with that, or maybe you want to make this trade off. It’s very difficult. But again, the number one mistake we really see is just doing one or two posts and not being consistent.

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Business Unusual: Website Content 101

Reading time:

We all know that simply creating a website isn’t enough to keep traffic coming, and that’s where content creation comes in. In this first or three parts discussion with Justin Dunham from Ercule, we demystify content creation and dispel the belief that creating content needs to be difficult.

Jill McKenna:

Thanks, everyone, for joining us today. I am Jill McKenna. I’m the campaign marketing manager at Ruby and I’m delighted to be speaking with Justin Dunham today from Ercule. Justin, thanks for joining me.

Justin Dunham:

Hey, Jill. Yeah, it’s great to talk to you today. I am, as you said, Justin Dunham. I started here at Ercule a few years ago and I worked with the team. We are a content performance and SEO agency. We focus on taking existing content marketing that people are doing, and really making it work all the way up and down the content stack, and also optimizing the entirety of our clients’ libraries so that they get the most out of them. I’m joined here today by my Sylvia Plath the finger puppet and my Salvidor Dali finger puppet. I’ll try to work them in. I can’t guarantee anything, but I’ll keep them ready.

Jill McKenna:

I’m just delighted. Puppetry and great artists, two of my favorite things. This is the best interview I’ve done. I think that content and SEO are two things that, as small business owners, you can often feel overwhelmed by. It feels a little bit like a wave that’s going to crush you, like you can never do enough, and you’re never keeping up, and it’s never good enough. I think part of that is kind of the unknowns. I think that you all really de-mystify that and that’s a really important thing to be able to do for small businesses.

Justin Dunham:

Yeah. One of the things, and one of the reasons we started Ercule, was that content marketing and SEO are way harder than they need to be for people who are trying to run a business and trying to educate customers and prospects. The way that we approach this is pretty different. A lot of agencies, when folks bring them on, they’ll come in. They’ll take a few months to do a keyword strategy. They’ll take a couple months to do a technical audit. We’ve seen technical audits that are dozens, hundreds of items. Then a lot of that just gets kind of thrown on the client to sort of deal with, figure out.

Justin Dunham:

We started Ercule partly out of frustration with that status quo. The way we really try to focus is on, first of all, the fundamentals. Just to take something like technical stuff, you can go out there and you can find dozens of guides that have hundreds and hundreds of things that you can do, but what we recommend on the technical side, when we work with clients, is we’ll do a technical audit. It’ll take us a week or two and we’ll find lots and lots of things to optimize, but we really try to focus on things that are related to high quality user experience and just related to, “Does Google know what’s on my site?” That’s number one, I think, on the technical side and that’s the easiest to dispatch with.

Justin Dunham:

There are a bunch of high priority items that we try to work with clients on, things like, “Is this site relatively fast? Is the design good? Is the user experience?” All the fundamentals that you would expect, rather than like super long detailed lists of things, but then in addition to that, we really kind of view that technical piece, which is important, as just kind of getting your out of your own way. You don’t want to have it so that your site’s not indexed. You want to make sure that all the great content you’ve produced can actually show up, but what we very quickly pivot to is the right strategy and the right content.

Justin Dunham:

The way we think about strategy, and for folks out there who are watching this video the way you should think about strategy, is what you want to do is you want to find a set of topics. Depending on the size of your business, it can be as few as 20, it can be as many as 50 or 60. Most companies will only be able to focus on three or four at a time. Pick those topics. Pick the things that are relatively high volume, tons of tools out there you can use to figure out search volume, relatively low competition. Lots of tools that you can go out there to see, sort of, where you can just Google each one of them and seeing who’s ranking, but also critically high relevance to your business.

Justin Dunham:

With Ruby, for example, the things that are relevant to the business are topics around live chat, how that helps being able to talk to human, human connection, all that stuff, right, things that your brand is uniquely positioned to talk about and educate your customers on. We sort of started giving this answer because there’s a tsunami of stuff to think about, but our perspective is the technical stuff. It’s not necessarily simple, but there isn’t a lot of it. There’s just a few things you need to focus on and that’s around user experience. Once you get out of the way, our suggestion is always pick topics that you can talk about uniquely that educate prospects and do things that are valuable for them, that don’t have too much competition, but have some volume.

Justin Dunham:

Then you just want to write about that stuff and you want to write good content. A lot of agencies will come in and say, “Hey, we think you should produce 20 articles about such and such,” and they’re fluff. One of the things we do with clients is we actually deliver an outline every week to explain, “No, no, no. Here are the ways, the things you want to talk about, the things Google and your customers want to hear about,” and you create those longer form things. You can do one a week, is a great way to start, picking one topic and then doing one really solid article a week. That’s kind of it in a nutshell, but there’s a lot of extra stuff that people feel like they need to do. It’s really about focusing on those fundamentals, even for small and medium businesses.

Jill McKenna:

I love everything you just said. Now I have about nine follow-up questions. We spoke earlier a little bit, a couple of weeks back, and had kind of a warm up conversation to get to know each other. This is not one of the things we went over, but I’m really curious about your position or what your thinking is around letting a brand’s values that they’ve identified drive the content that they produce before they start getting into the weeds of, “What’s my competitor doing?” How do you coach or help companies to do that and to really think about how values play into their content?

Justin Dunham:

Yeah. Before I answer that, and I will answer that in a second, I think there’s a related thing, which is that SEO is important. It drives massive numbers of clicks and lots of discovery, especially for small and medium businesses, but when you produce content, don’t think about it as producing it for SEO. Think about it as producing it for your customers. SEO is going to be one channel, but not the only channel that you’re going to use to get your content out there. You’re also going to have your sales representatives know about your content. You’re going to share it on social. You’re going to reach out to folks who may have done business with you before, or you may want to have them do business with you in the future, for your customer success folks. You’re going to join Slack groups and LinkedIn groups that relate to what you’re talking about and share the content there. That’s the first thing I want to say is that people get really focused on SEO and there’s a lot more to the picture that is about, once you produce the content, getting it out there.

Justin Dunham:

With that said, the question about having your values shine through in your content is incredibly important because, if you think about why you’re running the company you’re running, why you created the technology that you created, something to do with how your company wants the world to be is involved with why that technology was created.

Justin Dunham:

Quite a few years ago I used to work at a database startup that did extremely well. One of their main values and the reason they created the product was because their database was a lot easier to work with and made it easier for people to build apps. That was really important. Content there ended up being about that. Because that’s what developers were also looking for, it ranked well on search. It was responded well and developer communities. We were able to send it out email and have people respond to it.

Justin Dunham:

This idea of when you produce content, the content that’s going to perform well, generally the content that’s going to perform well in SEO is going to embody some of the ideas that you have about how the world works. Not to get super philosophical about it, but it’s going to embody some of the ideas about how you want people to change their behavior. When they changed their behavior in the way that your product enables, then they start to use your product. I think having your brand, your identity, your voice super important, as long as the information is there to help them.

Jill McKenna:

What are you seeing that’s good and bad related to what companies are doing right now related to COVID content and what’s happening socially in the country? Which issues related to content are you seeing companies encounter right now during COVID-19?

Justin Dunham:

Yeah. I think there are a few different pieces here. One is that almost every client that we work with is extremely interested in producing stuff about working from home. That can be really good if it relates to what you’re actually doing. If you are a customer who produces robots for factory automation, probably creating an article about best practices for working from home isn’t going to be all that performant for you.

Justin Dunham:

Also, the thing about content in general, and SEO in particular, is that it’s a long play. It’s really strategic. It’s very hard to take advantage of sort of those types of changes if they’re not directly related to your business. However, clients that we’ve had where working from home is connected, their product enables it, or their product will enable it, or their product helps people do that better, can do very, very well having even general things like remote guides and things like that, but also specifically like, “Hey, here’s how you can use our product to solve this particular problem that you now have.”

Justin Dunham:

An obvious one for us at Ercule is a lot of our clients have had to cut way back on live events and other things like that. When we’re building content and sharing it with our clients, sending calls, obviously we’re talking a lot about, “How can we use organic channels and other ways of leveraging your content to make up that gap?” That’s kind of what we’ve seen that’s sort of successful or not successful around what’s currently going on. A lot of these things are going to require changes on an ongoing basis.

Justin Dunham:

One thing we also see is that clients who are thinking about, “Hey, digital is probably permanently going to be a much more important part of our marketing mix.” We’ve always seen them do better and we expect we’ll continue to see better if they’re able to take a strategic approach to this. Something that we’ve seen that’s also not great sometimes is clients who are kind of like, “Hey, we’re going to cut back on stuff that’s not working immediately.” That’s very understandable in sort of the cash issues that we’re and more companies are having, but we urge our clients not to shortchange that longer term importance of having the right content, keeping it updated, focusing on the value that they’re going to deliver to their customers and prospects.

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Guide: The rise of website chat.

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How customers interact with businesses has radically changed over the last year.

Websites are now less of a luxury and more of a “front door” to businesses both big and small. With this shift, live chat has grown exponentially. Learn more about the benefits of live chat in our guide!

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Jill McKenna:
Hello everyone. I am Jill McKenna. I am the Marketing Campaign Manager here at Ruby, and I’m so delighted today to be speaking with Jehan Noon, CEO and founder of Noon Dalton. Thank you so much for being here, Jehan.

Jehan Noon:
My pleasure.

Jill McKenna:
Do you mind expanding a little bit upon what NoonDalton does?

Jehan Noon:
Yeah. We provide really resources for local businesses to scale their company. And my background was, I worked for Deloitte Consulting for 10 years doing outsourcing for investment banks, started a few companies, needed some back-office support. And I figured if I could do this for banks, I could do this for my company.

Jill McKenna:
Another thing you said that is probably one of the most exciting realizations to come out of all this for me is just for small businesses is the fact that the talent pool now opens up. If we’re all working remotely, we can now look at other markets for talent and really expand the experiences that we’re having on our teams.

Jehan Noon:
There’s different models. So you can go out directly and find someone and hire them, or you can use a third party where they manage in that culture. So that would be where we employ them, they’re full-time employees. Payroll, benefits, all that stuff is taken care of by us. And there’s some advantages and disadvantages. Obviously there’s additional costs, but there’s more service around there where you have your manager, you have places to escalate. Whereas sometimes we’ve heard kind of horror stories of people hiring directly in those where the company sends the computer and then they never hear from them again. So there’s risks and rewards and, and you kind of get what you pay for. It’s definitely going to be cheaper. Our clients are usually 40 to 60% savings than hiring here.

Jehan Noon:
But at the same time, you can knock it out of the park. You can find someone and go direct and they could be with your company. But I would say it’s more on the one-third you can get lucky, and two-thirds, you’re going to go through some trials and tribulations. So I think understanding how do you train virtually. So for ours process documentation is key, training and recording, and then having the person that’s learning that training create those process documents for them to prove to them, yes, the client, that A, I actually understand what was just taught to me, because when you learn by doing and then teaching someone else. That combination of that really advances the training.

Jehan Noon:
There’s going to be mistakes. It’s not a foolproof method, but at the same time, it gets you so much further down the road. =The other thing is having screen-sharing sessions. So Zoom, our best practice is you get on Zoom. The client walks you through step-by-step on their screen. Everything’s being recorded. Then they hand the control over back to us. We go through it because you learn by doing, making those mistakes, clarifying those, and then just incrementally building up. So getting on an eight hour Zoom training call to go through training, not the best use of anyone’s time, because by hour four through eight, the retention is gone. It really breaks it up into digestible chunks, make sure they’re able to do the activities, report back, review. It’s a very iterative approach, but you can spread it out throughout the day where you’re not just jam-packed as well, is kind of what our best practices are to really bring on and onboard virtual staff.

Jill McKenna:
We haven’t talked about this previously, but I’m curious when do you feel like people, what’s the tipping point of when people would want to start researching a company like NoonDalton to work with? When the right time for a business?

Jehan Noon:
I think the, just going through the scenarios of when people reach out, one is they need to scale a team quickly and they have certain budgets that they need to hit. So for instance, I need 10 customer service agents, or I have a big project coming in, we just take all the heavy lifting off of them, say, “No problem. Let’s start out with kind of a trial. Here is one or two staff.” Make sure the proof of concept works and then boom, we’re off to the races. So once we have one or two of them solidified we know what we’re doing, the scaling effort is like clockwork.

Jehan Noon:
The other things are when a client is struggling with, or when they have new job recs. So I always challenged them, “Do you need to have a person you’re paying a hundred to a $150,000 doing activities that maybe can be done for nine or $10 an hour. There’s a lot of overpaid people. They’re not overpaid people. They’re people that are very highly paid to do work that they should not be paid to do. They should be really focused on their core activities, and core activities we define as anything you can train someone else to do in less than a week, isn’t your core activity. You should not be wasting your time on that. So in the quadrant of quick to train and takes up a lot of time, to elevate your local staff, those are things you can push off to draw either local, offshore. The cost savings of offshore is obviously there, but it’s applicable to any, any person in your organization, even within your own company.

Jehan Noon:
And one of the tricks we suggest is going through and saying, asking your staff to look through your outbox from the last two weeks, and then identify are these tasks things that someone else could have done for you if you were to train them in less than a week to do. And that way you’ll actually see some, because you’ll see reports that go out. Did you need to generate that report? Or could you have said, “Hey, due process, or do report one. Send this to so-and-so.” So now you’re more managing versus actually having to get in and doing those.

Jill McKenna:
I’m laughing because I was a small business owner and there are just no truer words then realizing that what you’re doing is not the most time and cost-effective. I’m thinking of small business owners who are so used to cleaning the bathrooms, doing absolutely everything, and they hit that five, six-year point where they’re established and they forget that they can stop doing that. It’s really important.

Jehan Noon:
Yeah. I mean, look at Ruby. We’ve been using you guys since I don’t know, almost since we started. And it is knowing that someone can do it better, focusing on that and just be done with it and know it’s going to be done the best it can be, is a huge relief. And now you can move on to the next task, next task, next task. If you’re busy trying to figure out who’s going to answer your phones or are we losing leads, those are really big, important things. And when you know you can trust someone and it allows you to move the ball forward. And that’s really when a new client comes into us, it’s not going to be perfect no matter what, but do we move the ball forward, and do we get faster and faster as time goes on. If there’s repetitive issues, if there’s exceptions all over the place, things that can be leveraged by other people, I say the easiest are the ones you figure out what’s easiest to train, but also processes that don’t work typically.

Jehan Noon:
I think we’ve talked earlier about what are the things that really don’t fit. And I would say the hardest would be junior salespeople, because there’s so much shadowing. There’s so much one-on-one time that you need to bring them up so much, and if you’re not physically there or they’re not next to you, it goes very slow and there’s a lot of burnout because the training just doesn’t come. If you have a very easy sales process, it’s not as bad, but if there’s anything part of that.

Jehan Noon:
And the other one is whenever there’s a lot of variability to the activity. So it’s not step one, two, three, four. It’s if step one happens, do these ABCD, and if step one A happens then do like. That’s where you need a lot of experience that it’s very hard to train someone else to do. And those are the things that can be done. They just take a lot longer. And that’s really not the best use to try to get someone up to speed because of the complicatedness of the activity.

Jill McKenna:
That makes a lot of sense. Thank you so much for all your insights. If people want to find out more about NoonDalton, where is your website online and where can they find you?

Jehan Noon:
Yeah, it’s pretty easy, www.noondalton.com and we’re working 24/7. So really, our approach is to understand what you’re looking to accomplish. And one of our keys are no. We like to say no a lot, because we don’t want to go through the hardship of stuff we’ve already done and know either doesn’t work or if you’re not ready for it, it isn’t. So for instance, we get a lot of inquiries about outbound sales. So, “Hey, can you call?” If you’re already doing it, and you already have a process, no problem. But if you’re setting things up for the first time, you’re going to know what’s a good sales call. Do you have recordings? Do you have leads? Do you have connection rates? Because people are like, “Oh, I want 300 dials a day.”

Jehan Noon:
“Okay, well, how many dials do you do?” “Oh, we haven’t done it.” “All right. Then are you are using a dialer? How many hangups?” There’s all these things that you have to hash out before you’re ready to even remotely think that this is going to be successful. And if you don’t have KPIs internally to compare, how are you going to compare someone else externally that doesn’t know your business as well? And that’s where I really push back business owners and people [inaudible 00:10:36] is they need to roll up their sleeves and do it, and then that way it’s a repeatable process to be able to scale and evaluate.

Jill McKenna:
Perfect. Thank you so much. Thank you for your time. Thank you for all your thoughts, advice, and insight. It’s truly helpful, I’m sure, for our community and our customers.

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Jill McKenna:
Thanks, everyone, for being here. I am Jill McKenna. I’m the Campaign Marketing Manager here at Ruby. And I’m so happy to be speaking today with Jehan Noon, CEO and founder of Noon Dalton. Founded in 2009, Noon Dalton is a leading provider of skilled remote teams for businesses and entrepreneurs throughout North America, Europe, and Australia. Noon Dalton offers outsourcing solutions that impact lowered overhead costs and increase productivity. Thank you so much for being here, Jehan.

Jehan Noon:
Thanks, Jill. Appreciate it.

Jill McKenna:
Can you speak a little bit more about what it is that you do at Noon Dalton for those who are only hearing the name for the first time?

Jehan Noon:
Yeah, we provide resources for local businesses to scale their company. And my background was I worked for Deloitte Consulting for 10 years doing outsourcing for investment banks, started a few companies, needed some back-office support. And I figured if I could do this for banks, I could do this for my company.

Jehan Noon:
We went through and found out it worked and it worked so well where some of my friends were asking, “Hey, can my company use it? How can my company use it?” Shifted focus and this was 10 years ago. And now we have almost 400 staff split between India and the Philippines. And we started the company really working virtually. Back then, Blackberries were prevalent. That’s how old we are. And I figured if I can’t work from my Blackberry, how am I supposed to tell someone else how to work remotely, how to really leverage the resources, the skill set of a global workforce. And we were able to really integrate into a lot of small, medium, and now large size companies, helping companies understand how can they right source their team when looking globally. How do you compliment your current staff to be as profitable and productive as possible?

Jill McKenna:
So obviously I’m hearing so many words that are so popular right now, right? Remote teams, remote work, I’m sure you all are experiencing a change in your own business just due to what’s happening in the world in light of COVID. For a team and a company that’s located in several cities and on multiple continents, when we spoke before, you identified that communication is key of course. What are some of the communication best practices, tools, and values that Noon Dalton has adopted?

Jehan Noon:
Yeah, well, we were lucky enough to where all of our clients were remote anyway. So there wasn’t really a big change in we’ve already adapted all our processes and communication styles. So the key difference when we moved 400 staff to work from home in India and the Philippines, that was a challenge, but really the challenge was more around physically getting them into the seats, getting everything operational. Once that was up and running, there’s a few things management style that all the other companies are going to be dealing with as well, but it’s down to communications and how you structure it and really the frequency. And the frequency, we have start-of-day communication, like sign-in reports or in-person huddles. We have end-of-day reports reporting the tasks that you did. Did you struggle with anything? And then we have also weekly summaries and then goal setting for the week, too.

Jehan Noon:
So there’s a layer of reporting that really needs to be there for… You need to over-communicate. And without that, people can feel lost. They can feel like, “Oh, am I doing what I should be doing?” And it’s a new… Well, it’s not new anymore, but it’s a way of life now for people. And they can feel very isolated very quickly. And the other thing is it’s not just work topics. So a lot of people are just like, “Oh, this, this, this, this.” We really try to structure in social time where that’s extracted. Your social time is now your kids bugging you, or trying to figure out when things are open or there’s not that social interaction that people naturally had. So we really try to do fun, interactive things.

Jehan Noon:
And the tools we use is Tickspot, which is a user-generated end-of-day report where they can track your time, where you’re spending your time. That way your manager can go in and say, for instance, our HR was spending too much time on payroll correction. It’s like, oh, well, let’s figure out. And I’m not seeing her do that. I’m not physically there. There’s not as much communication. So without those reporting, things don’t get escalated as easy as they used to. And the one-off conversations, because you physically have to schedule a meeting, you have to find out if they’re available, there’s not just those drop-ins anymore. So it is definitely a different way of doing it. But with the right tools and the right structure, it’s definitely doable. And it’s sometimes actually even more productive because you don’t have people pinging you all the time and you can actually get work done.

Jehan Noon:
And I’ve talked to a lot of our clients, probably talked about 100 over the last two months trying to see what they’re struggling with because not only do we provide them staff, but we provide a strategy on how to have effectively manage their team because we’re on the same team and we’re trying to do the same things they are.

Jill McKenna:
And let me… Oh, sorry, go ahead.

Jehan Noon:
Yeah. Getting back to just some of the tools. So we use Tickspot as one of them. And then we also use Zoom obviously, but that’s more for video conferencing and recording of the trainings. And then Skype or Slack for the chats. And the chats are, we try to have the company-wide and then we try to have kind of social ones where people can have their own kind of little pods or kind of personal ones where it’s not as work-related.

Jill McKenna:
Yeah. And for us, for a company who was not in any way remote before, that’s exactly one of the things that we found, what you had mentioned about there are no more drive-bys, right? People aren’t zooming by my desk. I’m not being pulled into three or four different conversations. And when I am working now as a remote worker, I am able to get way more done in a short amount of time than I was before. It’s pretty amazing.

Jehan Noon:
Yeah. We’ve kind of known that where some of the feedback we would always get is our clients would say, “Hey, when we give the work to you, it just gets done. It gets done on time, et cetera.” Because we don’t have as many distractions as people getting pulled in all different directions.

Jill McKenna:
And I’m just curious, when we had spoken earlier, you mentioned that you yourself and your partners are always on three different continents I think. It’s three different countries, at least. So in that partnership, I think you’ve only been together, is it what, one time in how many years?

Jehan Noon:
Yeah. So if I accumulate all the time myself and my business partner, Edward Dalton, we’ve been probably together for a year out of the over 10 years we’ve been in business. So he’s in London right now, I’m in Denver, our head of operations in the Philippines and we have a head of operations in India. Yeah. So it can be done. It can be done successfully. It’s just a matter of the structure and the execution and just having a great team to be able to fulfill and trust and deliver on the things you need done.

Jill McKenna:
You touched on it before, but I’m wondering if you can speak a little bit more about y’all’s experience about moving to a totally remote workforce due to COVID-19 because you do have this logistic piece that’s very real, what you learned from it and what valuable takeaways you had since this was already, remote work was already a system in place for you all. But this is kind of gilding the lily I’m sure for you all.

Jehan Noon:
Yeah. This has really opened up a lot of other people’s eyes into our world on how we’ve been operating for a very long time. So our biggest challenge was, as we got word of things potentially going awry, is the government shutting everything down. And we’re like, “Oh, could it happen? Maybe.” And then we’re like, you know what? Let’s just plan for it. Let’s get the computers ready, let’s get everything. Let’s test. We have mobile routers. We had all this sort of stuff. We’d send them home with our staff just to test out. Does it work? Does your internet speed work? All this sort of stuff. And then within I think nine hours in India, everyone needed to go home. So it happened like that. And if we hadn’t done that, we would have had 300 people scrambling trying to… It would have extremely affected our ability to deliver for clients.

Jehan Noon:
Luckily we moved everybody in India and the Philippines within two days and zero downtime. And if we hadn’t planned for that, just buying… So desktops, we had desktops, just getting the little wifi adapters to then be able to connect to the router. You couldn’t buy them. They were all sold out at any store. You couldn’t get new laptops, you couldn’t get anything. So luckily we were at the forefront of that and we weren’t in so big of a scale where you couldn’t even get… I know we tried to ship things into the Philippines. It was taking a month, month and a half. So there’s not a lot of options, but that was probably the… Luckily we had a great team to be able to plan for that.

Jehan Noon:
The other thing is work can be done anywhere if the right tech and the staff and the right staff in place. So obviously packing of physical goods, but a lot of the services based activities, it’s just proof that if you have the right training, the right management structure, the right staff, you can do a lot of things. And not necessarily, you can pay for the right type of work to be done because it’s now a really global workforce.

Jehan Noon:
And then the other one is hiring problem solvers, our ops manager in the Philippines was just a rockstar. We had a client that needed high secure phones and a lot of data. The individual that’s been working with him wasn’t within the city limits. So he wasn’t going to be able to go past tanks and borders and all that. So it was intense. He found an apartment downstairs beneath him, rented it out and he had the staff living underneath him to be able to deliver. So there’s just, when you have this kind of scrambling just to get things done, having the right team members is key and being very creative on finding solutions.

Jill McKenna:
Do you have any advice for small business owners or business owners who are really on the fence about kind of leaving their brick and mortar locations or their offices and going virtual and they just maybe don’t feel like they have a good grip on it, or they’re just not sure if that’s the right decision for their team?

Jehan Noon:
It’s really case by case because some people are very old school. They’re like, “Oh, we need to be in here. There’s so much that you miss.” Which sometimes there is, but at the same time, it’s risk versus reward. When you can be virtual and you can hire the top talent and they can still deliver it’s how much has your… And this is running before you’re walking almost where everybody just threw you in and said, “See if you can swim.” And if you see the business maintaining or growing still, then that should be a pretty good indication that there’s a lot more opportunity to restructure and become a lot more, I would say, efficient with your funds because that’s the key right now is your burn rate, your ability to be as profitable as possible to bring back more employees to scale. Cash is king. And when the PPP runs out, there’s a lot of things that slow back down, then how well you can be positioned because as a lot of your competitors go out of business, there’s going to be more opportunity to kind of survival of the fittest.

Jehan Noon:
And I think evaluating if you’re already operating virtually and you’re successfully doing it, challenge yourself and say, “Do I really, really need one of my biggest expenses on my books?” And maybe eventually once you hit certain financial goals, maybe eventually bring it back or bring a portion of it back. But I sway towards the “be as efficient as possible”. Yes, culture will take a little bit of a hit, but the money you save by not having an office, you can throw some pretty cool things. So for instance, you can do Grubhub and order dinner for everybody and they can get on Zoom where you can do events when we can have events again. Just because the office of the old is not going to be the same for at least this year. I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

Jill McKenna:
Yeah. It’s funny, building, we’re a culture-heavy business. And I feel like I actually get more cultural, company cultural activities now than I did before because we’re very mindful about it. And so we’ve built-in trivia nights and just gabbing sessions were especially for us as a creative team to get together and just generate ideas. So it’s actually been pretty great. And that is a question I had about what are the company culture pitfalls that can easily manifest when teams go remote and how do they avoid those?

Jehan Noon:
Yeah. So kind of like the trivia that’s… One of my favorites is a weekly competition in all our staff chat groups that we… I kind of have games because one of them was the best Zoom background. And then another one is to submit your top TikTok dance. Or I’m trying to think of… And then we also do team trivia. So it’s not just an individual one. We’ll team up in the chat groups and then there’ll be different things where then they’re tracking over time. So it’s about maybe five minutes a day. And then the winners typically get a pizza delivered for their family to their home. We’ve done a virtual wine tasting session, and then also management happy hours. So 15, 20 minutes before the end of the day, everybody has a beer or something like that just to decompress because you’re used to going out with some coworkers or whatever. So there’s a lot of coordination that goes into it, but there’s a lot of creativity that comes out of it as well.

Jill McKenna:
I love it.

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Jill McKenna:
Hi, I’m Jill McKenna. I am the Campaign Marketing Manager at Ruby and today I’m so delighted to be speaking with Melissa Barker. Melissa is a Business Coach and Social Media Consultant who has been helping businesses with marketing and sales strategy for over a decade. She’s a trailblazer in the field of social media and the author of the first college textbook. She’s literally written the book on social media marketing. The book is called Social Media Marketing: A Strategic Approach and it’s going into its third edition. Thanks for joining us, Melissa.

Melissa Barker:
Thank you so much for having me.

Jill McKenna:
How are you feeling about posting times and sending times for information? Is that really changing right now?

Melissa Barker:
Oh yeah. All the times that we thought once worked just broke because everyone is from home now. And so that is actually probably one of the biggest takeaways I hope anybody watching this gets is that now is the time to A/B test those times. And so what does that mean? That means posting consistently still at those times and then seeing is it the content? Is it the time of day? Has your engagement changed? And really becoming much more metrics-driven. Also a lot of the native analytics within Instagram, Facebook you can see when your audience is typically most online and so really leaning into that and using that.

Melissa Barker:
But also knowing that this is a strange time and there’s going to be more experimentation needed than ever. Right? So lunchtime is now totally different for a lot of people. Breakfast time, what does that actually look like? Because those were typically the times that we would encourage people to post. Right? You’d post in the morning, you’d post around noon, post around dinner time. But all of that has shifted with everyone being at home so I think that there’s a real need to test those times for your individual case.

Jill McKenna:
I know that we can’t fortune tell the future, we don’t know what’s going to happen. But are there trends or things that are happening now that you see or believe will become new normals for us regarding our social media practice?

Melissa Barker:
Yeah, absolutely. I think the biggest thing is that the standards for content and quality social media content have just raised, like exponentially. Right? When we have so much information, now more than ever, we can’t afford to put out half-baked content. It really has to be timely, it has to be high quality, or you’re going to get unfollowed at this point. And that’s what I’m seeing happen to a lot of different businesses that are still trying to maybe keep their posting schedule, but the quality of the content has gone down. So I think they’re across the board. I mean, it is going to call all of us to create better and to create content that we ourselves would want to consume.

Melissa Barker:
And I think the other piece is that more than ever businesses now have to really listen and we have to inquire about what does our target audience want? We spoke about that a little earlier about the ability to poll and to ask the audience, “What is it that you want to see more of from us?” And so I think there’s going to be a big trend around that and the importance of that and getting feedback about what is being created and not just assuming that we know what people want to hear.

Melissa Barker:
But I think the biggest thing to is that this isn’t necessarily a trend, but this is like a word to the wise, is to really approach this with a sense of curiosity. Treat it like a lab and like an experiment and not get attached or hurt when something doesn’t go the way we think it’s going to with social media more than ever. And treating it constantly as like a scientist that you’re just experimenting and you’re trying to figure some things out. And if we can stay in that mentality, that state of curiosity and approaching it with a little bit of levity and experimentation. I think that’s when we’re really going to see success.

Jill McKenna:
Great. I’m somebody who firmly, and I’m sure you do too, firmly believes that in industries rising tide raises all ships. Right? So are there examples of collaborations that you’ve seen lately that are really working or is there a mentality about collaborations that we should carry now or would like to carry forward that would be really beneficial for all?

Melissa Barker:
Yeah. I think you see this a lot with influencers. Right? That have different brands that they’re working with. I think more than ever you don’t have to be working with influencers or micro-influencers even necessarily, but finding opportunities for collaboration is really, really key. There’s not any specific examples that come to mind, but it is something that I am seeing business owners kind of do naturally. Like commenting on other businesses that they like or acknowledging each other, right? There’s this sense of community and acknowledgement that’s starting to grow and I think that leaning into that is really key. And I think it’s really key not only for selling things or getting your products out there, but for how do you want to navigate in whatever the next phase of all of this looks like. And I think that emphasis on local and community is key and so thinking about what are some businesses that I might want to collaborate with from a social perspective. Maybe running a joint giveaway or contest or just always knowing that you’re going to engage with each other’s content.

Jill McKenna:
I’m curious about influencers since you mentioned them. I know their role has really been changing in social media within the last year. And I’m curious how the role of influencers is playing out during this time of COVID and hopefully when we move into post COVID?

Melissa Barker:
Yeah. I mean what I’ve really been seeing is that actually micro-influencers have been the ones that are being tapped into more and a lot of the strategy around businesses working. Because the larger influencers have, again, a broader audience. They don’t necessarily have a specific target market now associated with them and so I have been seeing many of them, unfortunately, not doing as well during these times and having a broad-reaching approach. And we’re now looking more to like the local micro-influencers and I think that that is the direction things have been going, even pre-COVID was that micro-influencers were becoming a much more important part of doing business.

Jill McKenna:
I was curious about when we’re talking about coming from a place of service, we want to obviously portray our companies for the good works that we do also. But what’s the line right now? We don’t want to be self-aggrandizing, right? We don’t at this time want to be like, “Oh, we’re so great. Look at everything wonderful that we’re doing. Too bad everybody’s suffering.” How do we work those things in now in an integral way and with a balance in mind?

Melissa Barker:
And I think that that’s a great question. I think the biggest thing without being overly self-congratulatory is just reminding people that you are committed to helping. Right? And so the way you phrase is always like, “We are committed. Here is how we are doing it.” So it’s showing action rather than saying, “Hey, we did it.” And I think just kind of acknowledging this is the reason we are doing these things. Right? And coming from a perspective of wanting to acknowledge the importance and encourage others to do the same.

Jill McKenna:
Melissa, you’ve more than answered all my questions. I’m so grateful. And you’re so articulate and succinct that this moved really quickly and we covered a lot of ground, but a lot of great ground. And I’m so, so grateful for you. If people want to find your work online, where can they go?

Melissa Barker:
So the best place to connect with me is melissabarker.com. That is my primary website and if someone is looking for whether that’s small business coaching or to get help with a social media audit or the social media master certification course, all the links are there and I would love to connect with them.

Jill McKenna:
Great. And they should connect with you. Thank you so much. I’m sure we’ll be talking to you in the future again. I’m so grateful for your time. Thank you.

Melissa Barker:
It was so wonderful to be here and loved having these conversations. I think these are really important conversations to be having, especially in light of everything that’s going on. So thank you so much for having me.

Jill McKenna:
Absolutely. Our pleasure.

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Jill Mckenna:
Hi, I’m Jill McKenna. I am the campaign marketing manager at Ruby, and today I’m so delighted to be speaking with Melissa Barker. Melissa is a business coach and social media consultant who has been helping businesses with marketing and sales strategy for over a decade. She’s a trailblazer in the field of social media and the author of the first college textbook. She’s literally written the book on social media marketing. The book is called Social Media Marketing: A Strategic Approach, and it’s going into its third edition. Thanks for joining us, Melissa.

Melissa:
Thank you so much for having me.

Jill Mckenna:
Well, how do you feel right now about gated versus non-gated content? So meaning, when we ask somebody to do something, we asked them to fill out a form or information before they get to the item that we would like to them to have or experience, how are you seeing companies use gated content well, or is it a time to maybe not be using gated content?

Melissa:
Great question. I think that gated content still plays a very, very important role right now. I think that as long as you are delivering enough free information through your social channels and still making sure that you are having some non gated things, you can drive people to the gated content very comfortably, but no, do not throw out data content right now because we still need leads and we still need a way to stay in contact, and if the content is timely enough and high value enough, you’re still going to see people inputting their information to access it.

Jill Mckenna:
Great. And that is the exact thing I wanted to ask you about. What is the line right now between tasteful social media communication and needful communication? Because businesses, we obviously need to keep people employed. That’s really important to us, that we have employment and that people are solid and grounded. So how can we create mindful communication right now that is not grabby or needy or pushy and how can we walk that line mindfully?

Melissa:
Yeah, I think that’s a great question and a complex question, but I can offer a couple of ideas here. I think the first and foremost is to continue to acknowledge what’s happening in the world, so if we suddenly pretend that this isn’t happening, that people aren’t at home, that people aren’t losing their jobs in our communications, and it’s lots of, “Join us now,” with exclamation points and not having that acknowledgement, is problematic. We don’t need to sit in it, but first acknowledging it in your communications, and tone is everything right now. And I think really being mindful of making the offers that you have really come from that place of service and offering kindness in your calls.

Melissa:
And there’s a way to do that, I think, that is very tasteful, by really focusing on creating safety and being a voice in the community. Also, acknowledging the wonderful things that your employees are doing. So maybe having a little bit more content that is company culture than you normally would, and those sorts of things. Taking photos of the masks that your employees have made and sharing those on social media, and so you’re still aware and present of what is happening, but you can still be talking about your products, talking about your services and selling. I think you can do both, but it’s more important than ever that we show our human side right now in order to remain tasteful.

Jill Mckenna:
You’ve mentioned a couple of times coming from a place of service and how this is really a time to refresh that instinct. Do you have anything else to say about how we can come from a place of service or remind ourselves that our work should be fulfilling that role?

Melissa:
Yeah, absolutely, and so I’ve said this a few times, just [inaudible 00:03:37] anytime I’ve talked to people about social media or social media marketing, is that there’s two things we should always be aiming to do, and that is educating and inspiring. So everything we create should do one or both of those things, and I think that that is how you returned to a place of service, is when the focus is on, how can I give more? And that giving mentality, whether that’s of information, of inspiration, of talking about those intangibles and those benefits that you can really provide to people beyond the physical product, beyond the actual service. And I think that’s how we return is when we always have those two things in mind, education and inspiration, [inaudible 00:04:16] the content that we create, that we are servicing our community in a really big way.

Jill Mckenna:
Great. I know that in our instinct to try and create some levity and some joy, in light of current events, people are doing giveaways. Do you have any ideas or strategies for the way to think about conducting giveaways right now so that we can engage and welcome people and have fun with it, but also be aware and acknowledge that we’re aware of what’s going on?

Melissa:
Yeah. I think having the focus of those giveaways and contests be about drawing up positive stories is a really nice way. The traditional social media giveaway, like comment share, and you’re asking for tags of people and it’s not really adding any community content, but again, coming back to the origins of social media, social media has always been about connecting people. Businesses happened to insert themselves, and so we have to play by those rules, and so I think a really important way to utilize these contests and giveaways is to ask for community story. So instead of commenting and just tagging someone they know, maybe they write a story about why that person should win the giveaway or why this person did something really wonderful in the community, but elicit stories, elicit positive stories as a part of your contest, and that, I think, is really when you’re going to get people to engage in a really authentic way, and also create some joy within the community.

Jill Mckenna:
Speaking of joy, is it a good time for companies to maybe think about entering in to other channels that they haven’t pursued before? I am a person who has found tremendous joy enjoying TikTok during this pandemic time? Is it a good time for companies to think about avenues that they haven’t used before, like Instagram or even YouTube or Pinterest or anything else?

Melissa:
I would say that depends on a few factors. So, the first factor is what is your bandwidth realistically? If you’re a solo business owner who is struggling already with juggling everything, then I would say no, but I do think that if you have the bandwidth, it is a great time to test new avenues, but I would say do it in a very systematic way, not just hopping on and creating profiles on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, if you haven’t previously had them, but start with one, and start by observing what is being done in there before creating, so really observing what is going well. Look at other business owners, see what they’re doing and then mirror the things that you think are really effective. So yes, I think that this is a great time to experiment and A/B test in all sorts of ways, if there is that bandwidth, and if there’s a systematic approach, figure out what are your metrics before you join and what are you hoping to get out of those channels before you begin experimenting.

Jill Mckenna:
Are there platforms for automatically posting or things like Hootsuite that people could be using right now, and if they’re new to it, are there best practices that they should be mindful of during this time?

Melissa:
Yeah. So I think it’s worth noting that some of the platforms have scheduling capabilities already built-in natively. Facebook is a great example. There are definitely a whole host of tools, but to tell you the truth, a lot of those tools negatively impact the algorithm to a degree, and when you’re posting from a third-party service, it’s just not surfaced as often, but if you are someone who is stretched, bandwidth wise, Hootsuite is still my favorite go-to and I think has a lot of the integrations and even the free version, there’s a lot of opportunities there, but I think the biggest thing is to create a schedule for yourself and then either post on that schedule or use one of those tools. For sure.

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In the first of a three-part interview, Jill and Melissa Barker discuss what it means to navigate social media in the time of coronavirus. Read on or watch the video for the full scoop!

Jill McKenna:
Hi, I’m Jill McKenna. I am the Campaign Marketing Manager at Ruby and today I’m so delighted to be speaking with Melissa Barker. Melissa is a business coach and social media consultant who has been helping businesses with marketing and sales strategy for over a decade. She’s a trailblazer in the field of social media and the author of the first college textbook, she’s literally written the book on social media marketing, the book is called Social Media Marketing: A Strategic Approach and it’s going into its third edition. Thanks for joining us, Melissa.

Melissa Barker:
Thank you so much for having me.

Jill McKenna:
Did I miss anything about the work that you do?

Melissa Barker:
No. I think you really covered it all. I also happen to teach courses in social media marketing and the social media master certification, which is specifically designed to help small business owners really master social media during this time.

Jill McKenna:
Oh, perfect. So many businesses who need it I’m sure.

Jill McKenna:
We have worked with you at Ruby, which is one reason I know you, and I’m so grateful that we have. Your work is incredible. Thank you for doing this.

Melissa Barker:
Appreciate that. I’m so excited for our conversation today.

Jill McKenna:
I’ve talked to you earlier this week and I feel like we could have riffed for two hours on what we’re seeing, what we’re experiencing, with me being in marketing and you being in social media, which is a form of marketing, there’s so much to talk about. I know so many of our customers and community members right now have a lot of questions about the right way to approach social media tools, or maybe not utilizing, or could utilize better and ways to grab some of these strategies that are popping up and use them going forward. I did come up with some questions today that I’d love to hear your thoughts on and I know that our community would as well.

Melissa Barker:
Awesome. That sounds great.

Jill McKenna:
I’ll dive in. I went home on March 15th. I know a lot of people went home around the same time and the change and what we were seeing and what we were receiving from journalists, to social media, to events being canceled, it was such a barrage of information and change immediately happening. I’m curious, from your perspective, how do you see that businesses responded on social media once the crisis hits?

Melissa Barker:
I really saw this like outpour, as I’m sure you did too, for calls for support and asks for helping their business. I find that those sort of calls tend to happen a lot when there’s localized crisis and the community always steps in to help support those businesses, but the problem is when it’s something so far-reaching as a global pandemic, when everyone is making those same asks, what we really saw was a lot of compassion fatigue. What I noticed too, was that there is this instinct to throw out marketing 101 and start going live without a strategy, create any type of offering to try and gain support. I think that now more than ever, what needed to happen is that businesses needed to take a moment and really think about how, instead of asking support, can I offer support?

Melissa Barker:
Because when the customers are also being hit with the same crisis, with the same trouble, it’s very hard for them to reach out and the businesses who did do that, I saw a lot of success. Folks who immediately figured out, how can I give back maybe a portion of my profits, or how can I create a really awesome offering that can help people that are going through this very traumatic time?

Melissa Barker:
I saw a couple of, actually folks that were more in the field of service space, people who immediately had to shut their businesses. Estheticians, a great example, who created these kits that were ritual kits to take care of their consumers and launch those immediately and gave 20% of the profit to the Oregon Food Bank. That was one of the main ones. I also saw a lot of business owners start to offer different ideas for self-care and providing information that maybe wasn’t even in line with their business, but things that they were doing for themselves or for their community. That was really powerful. I also saw restaurants who immediately made meal kits for their employees to send them home, even though they couldn’t work anymore. You see that some businesses took this as an opportunity to show up for their employees for their community and not make it about them and make it about being in a place of service.

Jill McKenna:
I want to backtrack a little, because you did say marketing 101 at first, in some ways, went out the window. Can you speak to which 101 components you saw fall off?

Melissa Barker:
I think one of the biggest things is target marketing. A lot of the asks were so general that it didn’t speak to anyone group or it didn’t speak to their audience even. I think making those very specific asks and providing that very specific information still through social media and not trying to make it a broader approach is where we saw a lot of success.

Jill McKenna:
That makes sense. It is easy to forget when you’re in the heat of it. Also you had mentioned compassion fatigue, there’s so many memes around about getting emails from every single company ever dealt with for the last 20 years. Can you speak about the state of compassion fatigue, for not only the audience, but for content producers and social media managers?

Melissa Barker:
I think you were even the one that mentioned when we were talking earlier about the statistic of what percentage of people now, when they see anything related to COVID, shut down. I think beyond the compassion fatigue for the end client, it’s also the same for business owners too. We’re dealing with this like mutual state of we’re all a little bit exhausted. I think the message here, for small business owners, especially social media managers, is to focus on, instead of the compassion fatigue element and those calls that are more around how can you help me, but really leaning towards how can we provide some inspiration and some relief and create some safety for people, even in a digital space? As you’re scrolling past someone’s content, you can still acknowledge what’s happening in the world, but it doesn’t need to be the focus of all of your content.

Jill McKenna:
That makes sense. I think that our instinct is often to create more. We feel the panic, so we want to do more. I’m curious about, you had mentioned that you saw a real instinct to hit record and start creating videos when COVID kicked off and we all went home, how it’s working for businesses, but how would you also suggest we reconsider that?

Melissa Barker:
I think the biggest thing is that it is working for some businesses. Some businesses are using it very strategically. I would say if there is that feeling, that urge, I need to create content, because everyone’s at home, I would say temper that for a moment and consider instead, what, again, come back to the value. What is the value that I’m going to add to this conversation, because more is not always better. Now more than ever, more is not better, because we are, in this state where we are constantly being bombarded with company content. I think the best thing to do is to think of a live like you would a webinar.

Melissa Barker:
You wouldn’t start a webinar and hit the go button on Go to Meeting or whatever system you’re using without promoting it or without creating a lot of value or getting information from your audience, deciding what actually needs to be out there. I think the biggest piece of advice I have around this is to treat it like you would a webinar’s still. Still do a full social media launch before you go live and poll your audience. There’s so many capabilities with Instagram, with Facebook, where you can ask your customers what they want to hear from you. I think the businesses that are doing that, that are asking for feedback before creating, are the ones who are having a lot of success.

Jill McKenna:
I did want to ask you also, we had talked a little bit about events and how people out of need, understandably, creating events really, really quickly, because they have to move things to online. In that rush to create events, do you have any tips about best practice or things not to forget at this time?

Melissa Barker:
I think the biggest thing is to remember, what is your area or like zone of genius? How can you lean into that, because every business, every brand has their areas where they could give more. Focusing on where can I be adding value and is it timely? More than ever now, we can’t create that evergreen content and those evergreen events, that’s not what’s going to draw people in. It has to be super timely, super related to your zone of genius. I think the other thing is figuring out what happens after the event? How do we continue to either convert or keep them engaged?

Melissa Barker:
Knowing what is your method and what is your CTA, your call to action, for how this event is going to be used. Then also not forgetting, another part of, maybe this is marketing 201, is how do we create urgency around event attendance? That can be either through scarcity or through saying, here there’s only a certain number of seats, or maybe you are creating some little bit of barrier to entry, but we still have to know that there is a psychology still to getting people to attend events through social media and leaning into that and utilizing the countdown features and things that can really drive people into your events, so you’re not creating all this valuable content without people getting to see it.

Melissa Barker:
I think the other thing to note is that, as small businesses right now, seeding participation is really important. Asking your employees, asking your business besties, as I like to call them, to comment and share your content around launching your events, because right now the algorithm is based on engagement more than ever for all the different social media platforms. With so much competition, you need a whole lot more engagement to get your content surfaced.

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Business Unusual: Wellness in Crisis

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In this interview for our Business Unusual series, Ruby’s Jill McKenna talks about wellness in the midst of crisis with Amanda Soares, LCSW.

Jill McKenna:

Hello, I’m Jill. I’m the campaign marketing manager here at Ruby. And today I’m talking with Amanda Soares. Amanda is a mental health speaker, therapist, coach facilitator, and licensed clinical social worker here in Portland, Oregon. Amanda has over 20 years of client experience and specializes in challenging and crisis level circumstances. You can find her work at revolutionarytherapypdx.com. Hi Amanda. Thanks for being here today.

Amanda Soares:

Hi Jill, thanks for having me.

Jill McKenna:

I’m glad you’re here.

Amanda Soares:

You did a great job. That was a mouthful.

Jill McKenna:

I do what I can. I am very grateful you’re here. Our customers, our community, our employees, all of us, just like the rest of the world are going through so much change. In our particular company, we worked from home almost 600 of us within 11 days, which as you can imagine, was a lot of whiplash and as we experienced that, we all really thought about the experiences that our small business owners were having, their families, their loved ones, everybody in the community, and wanted to be able to offer some resources to all of us at this time for understanding what a baseline of normalcy is during a crisis so that we don’t feel so hopefully, bananas and out of control. Although I think that’s the name of the game.

Amanda Soares:

I think one of the most critical pieces is helping people reframe their expectations and also avoiding to be drawn to hold ourselves to January expectations or yesterday expectations or nonacademic expectations. It’s just a setup I think for lack of productivity, feeling useless or worthless and in creating a lot of anxiety and grief for people because those are not the standards of our world right now and it is physically impossible to do so many of the tasks we’re all in a position of having to do right now.

Jill McKenna:

To that point and to the point of emotional resilience but also just dealing with the change in our bodies that comes with so much catechism and trauma. You and I have spoken recently and something that really stuck with me is the idea of paying attention to where anxiety registers in your body so that you can interrupt it, can you speak a little bit to that process?

Amanda Soares:

I think when we are in a constant stress cycle our amygdala is pumping out stress hormones into our bodies and our brains that cause changes in our ability to think in our bodies and again, it’s an individualized process. People manifest that very differently. Headaches, brain fog, inability to concentrate, tightness in the jaw, the back, irritability, sleep problems, eating problems, the recurrence of old trauma. We’re seeing so many manifestations of what that can look like when the body again is flooded repeatedly with those hormones. And it takes the body typically an hour to clear one instance of those types of hormones flooding us, much less constant streaming in fight-flight-freeze stimuli.

Amanda Soares:

So some of the work I do is to really help people notice and tune into those processes as they’re happening in their bodies, so that we can take protective action to put out those fires, so to speak before they harm us. There’s copious amounts of research on the harm that unchecked chronic stress does to our bodies and our brains and a lot of the work I do right now is helping teach people concrete ways to get out of that cycle, get back into their bodies, reduce those hormones and take care of themselves.

Jill McKenna:

Thank you. And something else that we had talked about that dovetails right in with that is the idea of regression right now. When we are going through something so traumatic it raises issues and it raises physiological responses that we maybe haven’t encountered in a very long time or possibly in decades. And so, those being raised again, we suddenly become maybe not our best version of ourselves for our partners, for our families, at work. Are there tools that specifically help in the workplace with that either for employees or employers?

Amanda Soares:

I think regression typically stems from anxiety and that pressure cooker of stress and stress hormones that build up in the body. The best practice to rid the body of them is the fastest way to address the regression. And then the flip side of that might be, are we still using unreasonable expectations about what we’re expecting from people right now? I think it’s a twofold process. Number one, we have to give people the tools they need to address that kind of pressure cooker effect that we’re all experiencing right now but simultaneously we have to make sure our organization’s expectations are realistic for what we want to accomplish and what we’re expecting people to accomplish because I think if we’re holding anyone to the same standards or ourselves to the same operating standards that were completely valid in January, I think we’re missing the mark. And I think we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment and I think we’re setting our employees up for some longterm health problems.

Jill McKenna:

Wow. Are there ideas or tools that you recommend for interrupting anxiety as we do notice it arising in ourselves?

Amanda Soares:

Yes. I tend to teach the notice, interrupt, soothe model. Interrupting being, well, I’ll back up to notice. Once we notice those signs where our body is telling us we’re overloaded, be they physical, mental stomach aches, headaches. For me, it’s the sound of a pen clicking goes from a regular sound to a homicidal impulse. When we catch ourselves and notice and train ourselves to notice that we’re overwhelmed, we’ve got to interrupt that cycle. And that can be something as simple as getting into another room, going to get a glass of water, there’s many small ways we can reorganize our bodies and our brains, but then after we interrupt, we’ve got to take a second to soothe.

Jill McKenna:

How do people know at this time with so much extremity, how do they know that maybe they need a little bit of extra help right now? Maybe some of their normal tools just aren’t cutting it anymore.

Amanda Soares:

I think the first thing I have been advising people to do is check the context. Are you actually having what is a perfectly reasonable response to an intensely stressful, chaotic and frightening situation that we’re finding ourselves in? Check in there, after that, if you find yourself continually thinking, oh, do I need extra help? Has this gone too far? Well, maybe it has and it could be time to reach out to additional resources. Third way is to check in with the people who love you most and who know you best. Ask them for honest feedback, ask them if they are worried about you or if they notice changes.

Amanda Soares:

And then fourth, I think check the regular issues, right? Like, are you eating okay? Are you sleeping okay? Are you using or overusing substances to comfort yourself? Have you fallen back into habits that you know are toxic for you? If those are themes that keep arising for you or really, if you just feel super despondent and it’s not letting up, you’re having recurrent thoughts of self-harm or intrusive thoughts, it’s okay to get extra help right now. A lot of us need it and it’s completely reasonable.

Jill McKenna:

And then finally, are there some favorite recommendations for self-care that you have been suggesting right now?

Amanda Soares:

My personal favorites have been starting virtual chats with people that you love and care about, who support you, that you can be authentic with, that you can laugh with, cry with, the more people you can include at once the better, because chances are you’ll all take turns. Take time to do the things you love, make sure you’re getting enough sleep, make sure you’re getting, good nutrition for you. Try to move your body, try and not lock yourself in one small space, if you can avoid it. So many of the things that we used to do to cope or get stress relief we don’t have access to right now. So finding ways that have worked for you in the past, finding ways that have soothed you in the past, things that brought you joy.

Amanda Soares:

Taking the time to engage in those things and feeling good. Practicing even small acts of gratitude for things we’ve all had to learn. We’ve all developed a new skill, we’ve all learned or done something we didn’t think we would do and we’ve accomplished it. And I think the most important thing is to remember that you’re surviving. The standard is not am I living my personal best life right now? That’s not what we’re doing. We’re surviving in a pandemic and also trying to get work done at home.

Jill McKenna:

You and I had spoken recently and you were like, “Yeah, the idea of making the perfect bread and all of that BS in the media of what we should be doing with our time is such a tricky conversation to be having with ourselves.”

Amanda Soares:

We exist in a culture that tries to convince us that if we haven’t accomplished some kind of stretch goal or learned French in a pandemic means that I’m lacking somehow. And I encourage people to push back on that and think about what entity that type of insecurity serves because it’s not helpful to us. It’s not helpful for us to apply to live your best life standards at home, under lockdown orders in a pandemic, that’s not realistic. So constantly check-in and ask yourself with the expectations you’re trying to hold yourself to a reasonable. Are they reasonable by January standards or are they reasonable by current standards?

Jill McKenna:

Amanda, thank you so much for joining us today. I’m really glad to be able to draw upon your expertise and to be able to get some ideas for how we can cope with these times. If people want to find you, where can they find you out online?

Amanda Soares:

Thanks for having me Jill. If people want more information, they can look me up at revolutionarytherapypdx.com. Be well.

Jill McKenna:

Amazing. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

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Welcome to the second edition of our equity talk with Katie Augsburger for our Business Unusual series! Watch the video below or scroll down to read the full interview transcription!

Jill McKenna:

I am so delighted to be with my friend, Katie Augsburger, today. I am Jill McKenna. I’m the campaign marketing manager at Ruby, and I’m talking to Katie Augsburger with Future Work Design. Katie is a founding partner at Future Work, and she has over 15 years of experience and is an HR expert and thought leader in the HR space.

Jill McKenna:

Katie, I’m going to let you talk about what Future Work does.

Katie Augsburger:

Hey, Jill. Thanks for having me in my basement. Future Work has been founded by three other women. We focus on strategy, customer experience, employee experience, and we center equity in those conversations and help organizations really rethink how they caretake for their customers and for their employees.

Jill McKenna:

Cool. One question I wanted to ask you is, you had mentioned organizational strategy. Beyond the obvious, which is work from home right now, which everybody’s obviously moving to, what other organizational strategies are you seeing come into play right now with the changing landscape?

Katie Augsburger:

Yeah, so I think, probably in January, everybody was working on their five-year vision and what is our strategy going to be for the new year, for the next three years? And by March, none of that seemed to matter, right? Like your strategy for a lot of organizations kind of got thrown out the window. And really, we shouldn’t let go of what we care about, what we value as an organization, but we should create some flexibility and some endurance and some resilience to change.

Katie Augsburger:

But what we thought was going to be really important earlier this year, is maybe not going to be as important going forward. Like, maybe we’re going to move to a shared desk space. That might not be a feasible thing, but what I am seeing is people starting to put a real focus in their strategy into equity. Focus on equity, focusing on how we create better health benefits. How do we create more robust time-off plans? How do we care for people’s mental health?

Katie Augsburger:

Those things aren’t often part of organizational strategy for a lot of organizations, but right now that’s really highlighted.

Jill McKenna:

To that point, I’m wondering if you can speak about leadership. I know you deal with a lot of leaders. Speaking to about how leadership can reshape performance reviews and performance expectations now to experience success and experience team success, and a shared win in this environment.

Katie Augsburger:

Yeah. Thank you for that question, because I think what is interesting about this moment right now is two things are happening at once. One, we want to really be thoughtful and caretake for people who are having this really difficult human crisis experience that is unlike anything we have ever experienced in our lifetimes and even in our grandparents’ lifetimes, and in many generations.

Katie Augsburger:

So we want to caretake for that and we want to be thoughtful to people about… You know, their productivity is not going to be the same today as it was yesterday. At the same time, organizations are trying to keep their businesses afloat. They’re trying to make sure that their businesses are solvent, that they’re being good stewards of their resources, that everybody that’s onboard is doing important and good work because resources are really scarce right now.

Katie Augsburger:

So sometimes that duality can lock people up in indecision. Like how do I hold people accountable for their role while knowing that at home, they’ve got three little kids and a partner who’s also a nurse or a doctor? It can be very, very stressful.

Katie Augsburger:

So what I ask people to do is to rethink what productivity means in the organization, but to not stop holding people accountable for those roles, but to rethink about what accountability looks like, and to be really clear about what support you can provide as a manager.

Jill McKenna:

I’m sure you see so many different situations with leaders in different situations for their specific company. Are there ways that you see companies right now strategizing to go forward with an altered performance review idea or concept? How are they starting to map that now? How are you guiding them towards that?

Katie Augsburger:

Yeah. I have been moving organizations to have accountability conversations, as opposed to performance reviews. It’s really difficult to measure people’s performance in this moment. Because, to our point, before productivity is just not in the same space. So often the measures that we put at the beginning of the year may not hold right now. But a performance conversation about, “How can I support you in this moment? Where are your areas that you need extra guidance, or me as a manager, removing barriers? What support can you offer others in the organization?”

Katie Augsburger:

Those conversations might be more meaningful right now. When things start to come back on, and the lights come back on in your organization, and you’re back together, that is going to be a better time for these more meaningful, harder performance feedback conversations about where that person can grow and improve. But it’s going to be difficult to do right now because we’re measuring performance based on metrics that might not be reasonable in this environment.

Jill McKenna:

That makes sense. Is there anything else that you felt was very important in any recent meetings you’ve had or any recent discoveries you’ve had with companies? Things that they’ve encountered that they maybe didn’t expect to, or that’s new to them?

Katie Augsburger:

Yeah, there’s a couple things. One, I’m having conversations with organizations that are having difficult choices to make about to retain employees, especially low performing employees, or not. I think that that is a choice an organization needs to be thoughtful about and make, because it’s important for that employee, and that’s important for the business to make that choice thoughtfully. But to know that like, that is okay. It is okay to still have those conversations about whether to retain employees even in this very difficult time.

Katie Augsburger:

And what I mean by that, I want to be really crystal clear what I mean by that, is that we want to guide our decision making with ethics all the time. And if you’re retaining employees who are absolutely not able to perform because they are not skilled in the role or that maybe they haven’t had the behaviors in the role for a long time, and now we’re all working from home and that’s only amplified, that is a reasonable time to have a conversation with that person.

Katie Augsburger:

However, if people are struggling because this is a difficult time and they’ve been a solid employee through their tenure, but this has highlighted new and different issues for them, and there is additional stress that you might not be aware of, that’s not a time for a termination conversation. That’s a time for a performance conversation. How can I support you? What do you need?

Katie Augsburger:

So you can still make tough decisions as an organization, but this is the time to be extra thoughtful, slow down your process, fact find that information, and see what can you offer to employees at their time of most need.

Jill McKenna:

Amazing. Thank you. That’s very thoughtful for right now, and what so many companies are experiencing and teams are experiencing. Thank you. You’re amazing. We have links to you on our website and in the comments section of our social media. You can get in touch with us to get in touch with Katie. You’re the best. Thank you so much.

Katie Augsburger:

Yeah. Hey, Ruby! Love you all.

Jill McKenna:

Oh, thank you. We love you. Thank you, Katie.

Katie Augsburger:

Thank you.

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As a business owner and entrepreneur, your mind is never far from how to keep business churning (and hopefully growing!) month after month. Your success has likely come from your ability to wear many hats and roll with the punches.  That being said, being flexible isn’t enough to guarantee business success. You’re also called to provide consistency in business operations and customer service.

So how do you stay flexible and consistent? 

It’s a tricky balance and one that involves planning ahead to ensure you’re managing the day-to-day project workload without sacrificing the all-important customer experience. 

You don’t need to clone yourself to run a successful business, but you do need a strategy for winning new clients, managing your business on the go, and carving out dedicated time each day to actually go on-site and do your job. 

To help, we’ve put together a few items to consider as you strategize for how you can add more consistency to your business operations:

Customer Expectations

66% of customers say instant, on-demand engagement is a critical decision-making factor when they purchase new goods and services.

Especially with all the changes happening in our day-to-day lives, customers are really needing that extra reassurance that you can help them and their families stay safe during home visits and remodel projects. 

Whether you’re taking extra time to explain all of the new safety procedures you’ve put in place to keep everyone healthy, or figuring out how to incorporate more video consultations and estimates to reduce face-to-face interactions, we know that these things often require additional phone calls and longer discussions as you set-up new bookings. 

Having a strategy to accommodate additional phone time is key.

Balancing Your Home Life

With everything happening, you may find that your schedule is being disrupted by new routines. Whether your normal office is closed and you’re working from home, or you’re handling homeschool responsibilities for the first time, it’s quite possible that finding new ways to maintain consistency in your workday is one of your top priorities. 

Having a strategy to ensure you can meet both family obligations and your business needs is key.

At Ruby, we know you’ve worked hard to build your business, and you can rest easy knowing we take pride in ensuring that every one of your business calls is handled by a friendly, professional customer service expert. So whether you’re on the road, at a job site, or taking a well-deserved break, you’ll rest assured knowing every call is handled by a customer experience expert. 

For more areas you might want to consider as you plan to grow your business, be sure to check out our new ebook written specifically for home service professionals.

Let us know if we can help you in creating consistency for your business. 

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