Keeping your website from getting lost in the crowd, Chapter 2

Yesterday I wrote about the folks in my tribe who claim they don’t have a story to tell, and thus miss out on a key way to stand out in the minds of the people they most want to reach.

Because I know that 99.9% of you are the type who can better visualize things by seeing examples, I wanted to offer you this jumpstart, which takes you to some unfamiliar and unorthodox places to look for your story. I don’t expect they will all be appropriate for everyone; my hope is that they will warm up the Play-Doh of your mind, make it malleable and flexible, so other stories will come to you more easily.

I also offer a bite-sized coaching session on storytelling for your existing website if you think you’d like a sherpa to help you get started. No pressure though—you’ve got this!

Pick any one of the following, and tell us that story. Be open to others that pop into your mind; I call these “opportunistic stories,” the ones that bubble to the surface when you’re working with memories.

The spark of your work: When I was a kid, I had a pattern that played out repeatedly. I wanted to be good at something, and wanted to be needed for it. So I ended up helping my friends with their math, or helping them train their dog, or showing them how to grow plants. I was shy about it, and they usually had to ask more than once, but it was always there. From those memories, I can see the spark that eventually lit the flame of my work. I wanted to help, and be respected for helping. Can you see any sparks from your earlier years that might have given you a clue about the work you’d one day do?

The first person you can remember helping: A friend tells a story about her 20’s, when she’d somehow found the right things to say, and in the right ways, to a girlfriend in trouble. The words took root and gave this girl the courage to leave an abusive relationship and steer into a life in which she navigated solely by her inner voice. I find that most people in helping professions or heart-based businesses have such a story if they find some quiet and look for it. What might yours be?

The first person who helped you (or the one who’s helped you the most) and how. These kinds of stories can be so energizing and powerful. They don’t have to be a coach or mentor or even a teacher. In one of my favorite books, Martha Beck’s The Joy Diet, she shares a story told to her by an acquaintance. When this woman was a child, her father had taken her to his office one day. His secretary had come out and crouched down to her level to speak to her, looking straight into her eyes. The woman said that no one in her dysfunctional family had ever done this. She felt as though she was being seen for the very first time; she felt as though she mattered, and it changed her right then and there. Who played a role in helping you become the person you are today, or helping you do the work you do today?

How did you learn what you know? Pick one skillset or mindset tool you’re proud of, or pleased to have. Follow the thread back in time to where you learned it. Tell us how you walked—or fell—into it. Tell us why it felt important to do, and how it serves you (and the people you help) now.

The “future me, future them” story: With your work, you’re taking two existing stories—yours and your client’s—and twining them together to create something better. For example, it might be a story from a coaching client who’s always carried guilt or fear, but you’re helping them into a new story where those things no longer block the way. It might be a story about finding ways to create your art as a living, right where it meets someone whose day is lit up by hearing or seeing what you’re creating. Their story is better and so is yours.

What stood in your way? All self-employed people or business owners have had obstacles, ranging from inhibiting fears we’ve had to overcome, all the way up to ugly events that made us want to drink warm vodka right out of a shoe at the end of the day. Perseverance stories show your readers/clients what’s important to you, and by association imply that you will also persevere for them.

The magic-wand skill: What’s something that, if your fairy godmother popped you on the head with a sequined star and granted you a wish, you’d love to know or to be? So many of us think that we have to portray ourselves as completely bulletproof and all-knowing in our business communications. But really, you can be human, and it makes you far more memorable. The first time I admitted publicly that I wished I could write a book but didn’t know how, I was surrounded by people offering support, skills, and encouragement—many of them perfect strangers. What’s a skill or shift in perception you would love to have, and which would make you more of an ally to the people you want to serve?

Are you sure your story’s true? (I thank Byron Katie for this one.) Tell us about a story you tell yourself. This one can be a story you’ve lugged around for a long time, but that—on examination—you can’t be sure is 100% true. Example: For many years I avoided teaching because I just knew I was too shy, and that I’d stumble and stammer and make a complete fool of myself. What I found instead was that, while I am an introvert, I am not shy, especially when it comes to teaching people something I’m passionate about. What do you “know” about yourself that might not be so?

A Big Shift story: When it comes to our work with people, over time we start to get a feel for how interactions are going to go, how people will react to us, and so forth. Every once in awhile, I have an experience that knocks me off my axis and forces me to rethink my well-worn path. These can range from a positive event coming from an unexpected angle (such as a client recently commenting she likes being around my energy) to a very NOT positive event (such as public criticism or social media grumps). Have there been any experiences recently that—welcome or not—led to a productive shift in how you work or with whom?

A vulnerability story: Don’t be super(wo)man. We all have less-than-stellar days in our work lives. Something said or done by a person zings right into a place where we feel we’re less-than, we didn’t react “correctly,” or we’re just missing the mark. Dare to be vulnerable and show/tell your readers what part of yourself you’re working on. There’s tremendous power in this kind of empathetic resonance, and they may feel much more comfortable stepping into a conversation with you.

What’s a story your clients or wish-they-were-clients are telling often? Remember from yesterday’s post when I said I hear people say, “I don’t have a story to tell” all the time? If you start listening with your ear tuned for these kinds of things—in conversation, in consultations/sessions, in workshop comments, on social media—you will start to see common threads. Capture those stories. See where those threads match the things you can offer to help, and use them to weave useful blog posts, articles, and even product offerings.

Share a teaching story about doing things better. I wrote a blog post a few days ago about my struggle to stay in a calm, centered, productive “state of being” by using a traffic light metaphor. I loved the personal responses I received. Many business gurus would’ve advised me to keep up the ruse that I’m always in total control and life’s always perfect, 24/7. Nothing to see here, people! (smile) But those kinds of stories create more self-awareness and self-compassion in the world. If there is something you are doing to make yourself better, stronger, happier, tell us that story. We are all human. You may be surprised at how people resonate with you.

You’re in this world, so you have stories.
Sharing them can help “your people” find, know, like, and trust you.
I hope you will.

Keeping your website from getting lost in the crowd, Chapter 1

This past week, I had a conversation with a man who is struggling to build a business around his coaching work. Now, this is a guy who has a heart the size of Jupiter, as well as great skills and a keen intuition. He’s doing fine but is still working on how to make his work stand out in a field that has—to put this gently—a great deal of competition.

I spoke to him about bringing out more storytelling (as I often do). In a situation like his, it’s naturally important to have a good and clear offering. But it’s also important to help people remember you, and to humanize yourself so people feel comfortable giving your services a try. And in terms of helping YOU be the one who stands out when a potential client is looking for the right fit for themselves, a story is going to take you much further than an alphabet soup of credentials or some massive photos of you staring out at them from every page.

He said something that I hear several times every week: “But I don’t have a story. I wouldn’t even know what to say.”

(Note to all of us: When you hear something that often from people, pay attention. That’s an elbow in the ribs from the universe. Dig into it and explore.)

I hear from people who claim they don’t have any stories to tell about their business, their work, or themselves. In response, I often borrow this response from Lauren Lee Anderson of the branding agency Moonshot: “Just because you aren’t actively telling your story doesn’t mean you don’t have one. If you’re in the world, the world has a story about you.”

Think about the second half of that quote: Imagine there’s an omniscient being, one with really nice penmanship, that’s been tracking your path from birth to where you stand right now with your vocation. Not just the mechanics of it (acquiring skills, deciding on a domain name, etc.) but your inner path as well. She’s got a thick volume—the story of You—documenting the choice points that brought you here: the fears, the excitement, the vision of what your life would be life, the stumbles, the getting-back-ups, and a thousand other things.

Now consider the ridiculous opposite: We did not just appear in our office chair one morning through spontaneous generation, fully formed, complete with the vision, skillset and mindset we needed for our work. Right?

The world has a story about you. That story is in your head and your heart, and bringing it out can help you to connect with more people and grow your work.

Some thought-joggers for those who don’t think they have a story:

  • There’s a story behind why you do what you do. Of the thousands of vocations (or art forms, or services, or products) you could’ve chosen, you clicked into this one at some point, with a sound like placing a jigsaw puzzle piece. How? Why?
  • There’s a story behind how you obtained the skills to do what you do, likely peppered with stops and starts, fears and triumphs over fear, self-doubt, and celebrations.
  • There’s a story behind why you gravitate to certain people as customers and clients and mentors and partners, and not others. Your worldview matters.
  • There’s a story behind why you’re working for yourself (or want to) and not on an assembly line churning out endless widgets or memos or someone else’s dreams.
  • …and so much more.

That’s just a brief topline. Tomorrow I’ll share a list of specific ideas that you might want to explore for yourself. Once you gather these bits of story, you can incorporate into all the ways and spaces in which you tell people about what you do. See you then.

Ten bite-sized things to do now that will reap benefits in 2018

Like many of my clients, my office will take a break this year for rest and reflection. I’ll be away from December 22 to January 3 for my annual year-end retreat. Most emails will wait until I return (apologies in advance for that annoying holiday autoresponder). The phone will go to voicemail. I’ll get more than six hours of sleep per night. And I’ll sink into planning What Comes Next.

It’s a great time of year to make sure our online marketing stuff is working and tidy and ready for a new year. Here are a few things you might consider doing now. If you would like instructions or direction on any of these things, drop me a line and I’ll happily guide you.

1. Make an offline backup copy of your website and store it somewhere safe to be ready in case of emergency. Most sites built by us will have the plugin Updraft Plus Backups installed which makes this a one-click job. Email me if you need to know where to find that.

2. Update your website’s guts (WordPress and all the bits and bobs that make your website ‘go’) to be sure they’re up-to-date and healthy. Those who have a maintenance agreement with us don’t need to worry about this–we will do that for you. For others, when you go into your site’s dashboard, you’ll see the left column littered with red dots indicating what’s out of date. Be sure to back everything up (see 1 above) first.

3. Run a malware scan on your home page. Just go to this link and plug in your domain name: https://sitecheck.sucuri.net/

4. Type up a new page with all of your online marketing details on it. This would include the logins & passwords for your website, for the company where your domain name is registered, for your website hosting company, and for your social media logins. Keep a printed copy and give another copy to someone you trust.

5. Change your website’s password (the one you use to get into it to edit). Make sure it registers as “strong” when you type it in…you’ll see what I mean when you do that. Hacking is a huge problem these days, but simple things like this can help avoid 90% of the problems.

6. See how fast–or not–your home page is. Google is getting very touchy about slow home pages, so knowing where you stand is a good start. Visit https://tools.pingdom.com/ and plunk in your domain name. Let it run, then click “Share Result” to share it with your own email address. If you have concerns, forward it to me and we’ll make plans to help it in 2018.

7. Have a friend visit your contact page to send you an email as though they were a client/prospect. If you have a form, have them use that, or just use an email link. Make sure that no glitchy things are keeping people from being able to reach you!

8. Find a few new photos or illustrations: Visit one of the free photography banks like unsplash.com or pixabay.com to find some fresh imagery that better represents where your business is now. This blog post on finding images without pain & suffering might be handy.

9. Revisit who you’re trying to reach with your business. I know that my definition of the perfect client for me has changed significantly since I started my business. Take a few minutes and a piece of paper and sketch out in words the traits of the person most likely to benefit from working with you—and vice versa.

10. Read your home page out loud. Yep, I said that. The best way to make sure your website doesn’t have the personality of a glossy online brochure is to be sure it sounds like you: Human, welcoming, helpful. Reading it out loud (bonus points if you record yourself reading it, then play it back) helps identify where your language is too formal, too stiff, too impersonal.

 


 

Thanks for stopping by!

If you have a small business and this message resonated with you, I’d love to have you keep in touch (in times like these, having a community of people who ‘get’ us can make all the difference between a great day and “I’m just going back to bed”). Here are some ways:

  • I send out a monthly email missive with stuff of interest to people like us – from non-geeky tech tips, to new resources for small businesses and freelancers, to feelgood stories of what’s working out there. Give it a try and see if it’s of interest to you.
  • I’m on Facebook at https://facebook.com/websitesforgood and we have some great conversations there. It’s also a great place to see new writings of all kinds.
  • Think about a free 30-minute consultation with me to tell me what you’re up to, talk through new ideas or directions for your work, or talk about how to better tell your story online.

 

It’s always about listening. Always.

I received a phone call the other day from a local woman who’d heard of me and wanted to work with me. Because I offer a free initial consultation to anyone who’d like to talk about online marketing possibilities, this is a normal occurrence.

The call started at 1:22pm, and ended at 2:51pm. During that time, I was allowed to say about 30 to 40 words in total (and this is not a literary exaggeration).

During that time, she told me what she wanted, what she didn’t want, why she was an expert and others weren’t, what she knew others must think of her, what she wanted them to think about her, and a long list of the interpersonal injustices she’d suffered. She moved on eventually to how awful clients could be, what technology had ruined for her, what had disappointed her about working with “people like me” in the past, and a lengthy treatise on her High Expectations of both people she hired and people she served. I’m sure she took time to inhale in there somewhere.

This is not a normal occurrence.

Did I mention she was a small business consultant hoping to work with women?

Most of my 30 to 40 words were interjected in an attempt to ask questions, but none were allowed to get past the “sentence fragment” stage before being interrupted. I wrote down notes, other questions I’d never get the chance to ask. At some point in the conversation, I muted my phone for a moment so she wouldn’t hear the sound of the ibuprofen bottle rattling.

She asked me exactly one question, at the very end – did I feel I was up to the challenge of supporting her vision?

In a world of short-answer quizzes, my response would’ve been the second-shortest one possible.

Oh, how glad I am to come back to you, my community.

In the book I’m writing, Tell Me a Story: The Power of Storytelling in Building a Small Business That Matters, I encourage people to cultivate the art of story. It’s the single most powerful way to create relationships with new clients, new colleagues, new employees . . . with anyone, really. Story connects more powerfully and more deeply than all the facts and figures you can come up with. What this woman had told me was, basically, a long and rambling version of her story.  But there’s one big caveat:

You have to listen, not just speak.

Even the best storytellers are watching, listening, paying attention. You can’t just endlessly tell your story to clients/partners/the public and expect that people will want to be a part of it. You have to exchange stories with them. That’s the only way to find the common ground where you’ll see how the stories complement one another, and can talk about how you might—together—create a new story that improves both of your lives.

The world doesn’t need any more consultants who only want to talk about their own worldview, and prescribe one-size-fits-all marketing guru advice (at the highest price the market will bear).

The world needs people who want to make a genuine connection. Who genuinely give a damn. Who genuinely want to put their shoulder against the whole bundle of energy that comprises the world, and nudge it up the meter toward Better in some way every day.

This is not hard to do. When was the last time you reached out to the people you serve in the world, and asked them what their current story is? This can take the form of choosing three at random and making a phone date, sending a personal email, or even mailing a handwritten note. (Note: Make it clear you’re not selling anything; you just like making sure you don’t lose touch with a relationship that’s important to you.)

Ask them how things are going for them.
Ask what’s changed since beginning to work with you.
Ask what is working for them right now—what’s feeling right on target.
Ask what their biggest frustration is right now—what’s still out there to be solved.
Ask them to describe a better situation, what improvement(s) look like in their mind’s eye.

Don’t ask what you can do to help just yet.
Don’t try to sell them on anything.
For now, just ask. Just listen. (and take notes)

If you get a response and get the gift of connecting with them, schedule some time to ponder the story they tell you. Is it what you expected? Did you learn anything?

Do this at regular intervals in your work life, and the benefits will be many, including:

  • You will become a clear and compassionate presence in the lives of your clients.
  • You will get a sense of the kinds of products, programs, and offerings they need the most, and can shape your business accordingly.
  • You will feel even more connected to your work, why you do it, and how it adds purpose and beauty to your time here on Earth.

All from just stepping off the to-do list treadmill and taking time to listen intently and purposefully.

If you’d like to know the kinds of things I ask my people, drop me a note any time.


 

Thanks for stopping by!

If you have a heart-based business and this message resonated with you, I’d love to have you keep in touch (in times like these, having a community of people who ‘get’ us can make all the difference between a great day and “I’m just going back to bed”). Here are some ways:

  • I send out a monthly email missive with stuff of interest to people like us – from non-geeky tech tips, to new resources for small businesses and freelancers, to feelgood stories of what’s working out there. Give it a try and see if it’s of interest to you.
  • I’m also on Facebook at https://facebook.com/websitesforgood and we have some great conversations there. It’s also a great place to see new writings of all kinds.
  • Think about a free 30-minute consultation with me to tell me what you’re up to, talk through new ideas or directions, or talk about how to better tell your story online.

Let me know if I can be of help.

 

Your three words: What’s the personality of your business?

I was doing some professional reading the other day, and in the middle of a blog post on productivity this phrase cropped up: “joyful and compassionate tenacity.”

Wow. Ever have one of those ears-perked-up moments? I grabbed up a marker and scribbled it on my dry-erase wall (these are among my favorite creativity toys)

It’s October, and traditionally—through some strange biochemical magic that comes with the change of seasons—it’s the month where I do my deepest thinking about my work, why I do it, and how to do it better. For more typical Octoberish thinking, see my post, Everyone Has a Story: Tell Yours, Ask Theirs, and Everything Changes.

I’ve been test-driving new productivity tools, new ways of structuring my work day, and even new eating schedules to maximize my energy at the right times of day. The world is full of experimentation and possibility in the autumn. I’m focused on learning and growing 24/7   (and that’s almost literal….I often fall asleep while listening to podcasts).

Part of this time has been spent re-shaping the story I want to tell with my business materials, in order to reach and be in conversation with more of the people who need me. And in that regard, the phrase that caught my ear couldn’t be more perfect. It does, after all, have three of my favorite words in it:

Joyful:
I decided a long time ago that my life wasn’t going to be a slog through an endless string of mediocre days. Doing good work, hooking up with others doing good work, and being of service in these weird times—this all puts the fire behind my eyes. So even in the times when I’m exhausted, or the nightly news crushes me like a bug, or things aren’t so picture-perfect in my life, the memory of that fiery joy keeps me putting one foot in front of the other.

Compassionate:
At the risk of stating the obvious, I care a lot about the people in my lives, both personal and professional. I want amazing, happiness-inducing things to happen to them, and for them, because they deserve it. My life is based on kindness and on creating more and more ways to help people know that I see them, I hear them, and I have their back.

Tenacity:
When I was in my 20s, I was about as tenacious as a strand of overcooked linguine. As a self-employed person, though, I had no choice but to start exercising my atrophied tenacity muscle. It was a trudge for a while. I strengthened it bit by bit, resisting the temptation to let a momentary failure, a rough day, or an unexpected obstacle send me to bed early with a steaming mug of self-pity. (By the way, one of the usage examples for ‘tenacity’ in an online dictionary made me laugh out loud: “the sheer tenacity of the limpet.” I’ve never pictured myself as having the willpower of a crustacean…)

Putting them all together in my mind’s eye, I see most of the clients I’ve ever worked with: They believe in what they do, and so they do it with joy. They care deeply about their work and also care about who they do it for. They’ve experienced all the usual bumps and bruises of starting a small business or a nonprofit, but they slap on a bandage and keep on going, because what they do matters so much.

This isn’t just me playing with words (again).  It’s me exploring the story of my own business – the story of why I do what I do.

Are you joyful, compassionate, and tenacious in your work too?
Or are you focused, inquisitive, and creative?
Kind, firm, and solutions-oriented?
Loving, fierce and outgoing?
The words with which you resonate often form the backbone of your story, and the ability to tell your story is one of the most important tools you own.

Want to explore the story of your business, or what you’d like it to be? Drop me a note and let’s talk.

Everyone has a story: Tell yours, ask theirs, and everything changes.

For years, I’ve been asking my clients the same questions as we begin to work together:

What do you do? What are you offering?
Why do you do it? What’s the story that brought you to this spot?
Who do you help by doing it? What’s the story you want to change for the better for that person?

So many people have been through this exercise with me that I’ve long since lost count. But the other day, someone turned the tables on me by leaning forward and asking, “What about you? What’s your story?”  (Well played, madam.)

Me

Picture a cutaway dollhouse view of an average suburban home in the United States. In the kitchen there’s a plate of food on the counter, untouched and cooling. In the living room, you see a computer case, some size 7 heels, and a navy J. Crew blazer on the floor, just shy of the sofa. In the dim hallway light, you see a woman curled up in the fetal position, eyes and fists squeezed tightly shut.

I was that woman on a crisp autumn night in 1998, suffering from acute pancreatitis. As it happens I’d  lay there for another hour, unable to uncurl my body. Eventually, I was able to crawl to the phone and ask my neighbor if she could drive me to the urgent care clinic. Please.

That moment in time was the unlikely genesis of Websites for Good.

Long hours, chronic stress, deep unhappiness with my advertising job, persistent migraines and the over-the-counter medications to deal with them . . . all had conspired to create a perfect storm of pain that night, after weeks of ignoring the warning signs. The young doctor on duty did his due diligence with a battery of tests and a barrage of questions about my health history. He put down his pen, laced his fingers together on the desk and said, “You have to find ways to dial back the stress in your life, or the next time this happens you’ll be seeing me as a diabetic. It’s your choice, really. But I hope you’re willing to do that.”

The next morning, I dropped heavily into my chair, looked around my office and saw it with new eyes. The people I served with my labor barely knew me, let alone my story. The glamorous aspirations I’d followed in order to be in that job couldn’t make up for the fact that it was shortening my life. I didn’t belong there. Life had never intended that for me, at least not for long. So I typed up a letter of resignation, and while I waited for the printer to spit it out, I started concocting a way to make a living that would heal me.

You

In the two decades since then, I’ve talked with hundreds of people—the majority of them women—with the same story. They’ve exited the once-promising but now soul-corroding escalator of corporate life to build a business closer to their hearts. Something that allows life balance.  Something that matters. I’ve helped them to shape their businesses, taught them about online marketing tools, and created websites to get the word out about what they offer the world.  Mostly though, I’ve taught them how to tell their story, and how to gather the stories of the people they serve.

Them

What’s your story?  Being able to articulate why we do what we do is a powerful tool to build a bigger and more engaged audience. Through story—sharing yours, asking for theirs, and creating a new one together—we can begin a long-lasting conversation with people whose values are resonant with ours. They become the ones who follow you and support you . . . who listen to what you have to say, and tell their friends about you.

Because they know your story, and you help articulate theirs, the roots of your connection sink far deeper than any charts & graphs, search engine tactics, or fancy lead generation pages.

Stay tuned in the days and weeks ahead as I explore how you might use story in your online marketing. Most of us are just barely tapping its power, and I’m on a mission to change that.


By the way…

If you’d like to talk about how story might be helpful in growing your business, including some easy retrofits for existing websites, I offer a free 30-minute non-geeky, no-icky-sales-pitch-whatsoever consultation. Request yours through my contact page.

Who Are You Trying to Help? Go Beyond the “Ideal Client” (Meet Jean)

A good website is an invitation to a conversation, where you tell your story, and invite your audience to tell you theirs. Knowing who you’re conversing with has to come first. Have I introduced you to Jean?

Beware of malware scams – SiteLock, HostGator, Bluehost, and the tale of the angry web girl

Sitelock is STILL on my s*** list. Please read the UPDATE to this evolving story at the bottom of the post.

A beloved client forwarded this to me this morning.  It’s an email she received from the “security” firm SiteLock, a (former) partner company of popular website hosts HostGator.com and Bluehost.com.

Hell hath no fury like an angry webmaster who hasn’t yet had her coffee.

Notice the wording:  One or more of the domains you own has malware on it.
Fairly clear, right?  One of her sites is infected with malware…it says so right in black and white.  Bad news, but I’ve never been one to hit the panic button before it’s time.

I calmly went to HostGator’s tech support “Live Chat” to ask them about this.  I pasted the email into the box so the technical support rep could see what I’m contacting them about.  I asked: Is this legitimate? What happens next?

Over the course of the conversation, I learn from the tech dude that SiteLock is their partner company. And I learn, in fact, there’s no evidence of malware. The site MIGHT be infected, he says, but no one really knows for sure.  In order to truly find out, my client would need to purchase an expensive malware prevention package from SiteLock, so they can peek inside and see if there’s malware there.  If there is, they’ll charge another fee to get rid of it. Those fees, combined, crept into four figures.

I take a deep breath and count to ten:  So…the email is a sales pitch, designed to frighten my client into purchasing a product?  And the email makes a statement that’s patently untrue?  I point it out to him again: One or more of the domains you own has malware on it.  Why would they say such a thing if it weren’t true?

Hemming and hawing ensue.

I’ll spare you the gory details of my response, which nearly set the curtains ablaze. I want you to think I’m much more patient and kind than I happened to be this morning.

My little dog came to sit next to me and put his head on my knee. You okay? You smell mad. Maybe a walk?

Why am I bothering to tell you this?

Well…aside from being angry about a concerted effort to drum up business by sending good people into a panic about their website?  Good people who might not be terribly techie, or who may be busy…..gosh I don’t know….building their business?  So instead of helping depressed people, doing reiki healing, selling their art, finishing their book, booking new coaching clients, they have to spend their money and life energy dealing with service provider scams—from the very people they are already paying every month to keep their website running.  Infuriating.

In short:  Anyone whose website is hosted with the company HostGator.com, or with Bluehost.com, or with ANY of the hosting companies under the conglomerate parent company EIG, is likely to receive one of these emails soon, if you haven’t already.  I wanted you all to know what this particular game was, so you can watch for it.

To all my clients: Please feel free to drop me an email or a PM if you receive one of these emails. I can be of help deciphering the scare-mongering.

Edited to add: See the comments below the post for some helpful/scary comments made by others. In August 2018, Endurance Group’s CEO and CFO were fined several million dollars for fraud by the SEC related to company subscriber numbers.

Hosting is a personal decision, but for what it’s worth, I have shifted all of my sites to the hosting companies at the top of my Resources page. I’m trying to make a list of the companies that get great customer reviews, give good value, and don’t have anything to do with all of this filth. If you know of others that fit this description, hit “Contact” in the top menu and let me know so I can get them listed.

If you’d like to avoid giving your hard-earned money to scammers like these, here is a recent list of hosting companies owned by EIG, the parent company of Hostgator, Arvixe, Bluehost, and dozens of others, and here is a list of hosting companies owned by Sitelock’s new masters at ABRY Partners . I would only suggest you avoid those if you don’t want to find yourself in the same boat again.

UPDATE AND SUGGESTIONS:

This mess continues to evolve. Sitelock was acquired earlier this year by a private equity firm called ABRY Partners. That was in April, and as we’ve all seen, the blackmail tactics have continued unabated. I have no proof that Sitelock has access to private data from its former EIG sister companies, but my first instinct is to stay as far away as possible from any of them.

Here are some things you may want to try, if you are A) currently paying for website services from a company connected to the above (including sadly ConstantContact.com), and B) aren’t currently locked out of your site:

  1. Consider moving. Seriously, do you want to give your money to people like this? See the top of my Resources page for some hosting ideas. Most of them offer to move your website and email for free if they can, making it SUPER easy to escape. You can also save money by taking advantage of signup pricing.
  2. Immediately change all of your passwords with that company. Go into your account with the company (some, like hosting, may have TWO logins) and change your passwords to something very complicated and VERY different from anything you’ve used elsewhere on the web.
  3. If you use WordPress, immediately have your tech person change your database password for the website. This involves changing it in a couple of places, so it’s best to have a tech-savvy person do this.
  4. Change your password to any website admin areas (like WordPress).
  5. Change your email password as well. Again, make it different from your hosting password(s) and different from anything else you’re using on the web. It’s worth the hassle to avoid being held hostage by scammers and forced to pay them hundreds or thousands to get your site/email/store back.

Contact me if you need help. I sell time in blocks of as little as an hour, and it makes me feel good to help put peoples’ minds at ease, and help them work with service providers that actually deserve their business. I also have a Website Peace of Mind 1-to-1 session where we walk through all of these suggestions together and fix them on the spot.

Take a deep breath. We’ll all get through this together.

The world we live in: How small businesses (like yours) are going to save us all

You know what I love about you guys?

You’re the helpers.

What’s that, you say?

Remember what Fred Rogers (Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood) told us about his mom’s advice?

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping’.”

We live in a world where people find themselves sick, sad, stressed, and angry – and often they don’t even know why. Gee, let me think: Shrill media, addictive technologies, partisan politics, weather disasters courtesy of a changing climate, toxins in our air/water/food, escalating violence and divisiveness, religious extremism…I wonder why we’re sick?

It is a tough row to hoe some days.

Yet this morning, when I looked across the list of people I’ll work with in the coming week, I saw this (you know who you are – and thank you):

  • A coach who helps people navigate, survive, and thrive through the stress of life’s transitions
  • A counselor who helps people find the key to a healthy, vibrant, empowered life
  • An investment fund focused on economic justice, helping those most injured or abandoned by our current system to find dignity and stability
  • An accountant and tax specialist who works with small, family-owned businesses to translate the benefits, risks, and rules of our largely indecipherable tax system
  • A nonprofit whose mission statement is, “No one should have to face cancer alone.”
  • A magnificent, loving healer who helps smooth out the stresses of the world that have settled in our bodies and our energy
  • You, perhaps. Helping in your own way, through imparting wisdom, beauty, comfort, clarity, and support.

Whenever someone approaches me who hopes to work with us, I set up a consultation by video or phone to ask a gentle series of questions. To the untrained ear, it may sound like I’m asking about the nut and bolts of their business, about clients, about services. But from the thousand-foot view, a pattern emerges:

I want to know if they are a helper.

I want to know whether their motivation for doing what they do is something larger than “get rich quick.”

I want to know if their hearts are in the right place.

Do you know what I’ve found, in 99% of the cases? The answers are yes, yes, and yes. It’s surprising, because it’s absolutely not what we read on the news or see on television. Even a cursory glance at characters littering our TV channels over the course of an evening would have us think that homo sapiens are essentially self-centered, materialistic, unfaithful, conniving buffoons (there’s a reason the “spiritual epiphany” story is so popular in modern films and books). Ground into our minds is the anti-mantra, we’re in this alone, and we’d better look out for number one, because no one else is going to save us.

And yet here’s me: Mid-fifties, survivor of violence, no stranger to addictions or to dire financial straits, having not lived a charmed life—and yet crowding all around me is so much good. So many people who are trying to make something better in the world.

That’s why I love you guys.

You are living proof that the media has people all wrong. You make your living by doing good. Bad things happen, but they are dwarfed by the sheer goodness of millions of daily—and largely unnoticed—individual actions. You’re part of a community of helpers, proof positive of the basic goodness in humanity. You create good news. You are the good news.

Thanks.  Keep it comin’.  And if you need a cheerleader, a coach, or a sherpa to help you reach more people, help more people, you know where to find me. Drop me a note and let me know how I can help.

 

 

 

Ditching the pitch, part deux

About a year ago, I published the blog post below.  It was a post I was afraid to write, but to my delight it generated a tremendous number of emails from people saying, essential, “I know, RIGHT?  Oh my gosh, is that the only way I can get my message across??” It stimulated lots of delicious conversations about how to create marketing materials with integrity and with kindness.

I was reminded of it the other day when this happened:

I was online, shopping for a window blind to replace the one that had just given up the ghost. At a particular site I sifted through a few options, was pondering a purchase, and suddenly a popup window completely obscured my view of the page.  It said, almost verbatim, “Join the xxxx mailing list and be the first to learn about our daily deals and special offers!”  So far so good, right?  Not being interested at the moment (hello, I’m shopping) I searched in vain for the little “X” to close the popup.  I learned that the only way to close the subscribe window was with a teensy, barely visible textual link that said, “No thanks, I hate saving money.”

Deep breath.  Count to ten.

Who would actually pay money for the privilege of being talked down to, belittled? Apparently someone is, because they’re still in business. Needless to say, they’ve lost my dollars. (And yes, I wrote to them and told them why.)

If you missed this the first time around, I’d love to know what you think.  Take care.

 


“Can we just stop with The Secret you Need to get XYZThe Successful Women Upleveling Strategies; and The 7 Steps to Having it All? Seriously. Let’s stop that. You’re implying that you know what I need; you have it and I don’t; I’m less-than without it; and only you can open the door.”
http://www.jacmcneil.com/2016/08/30/an-open-letter-to-anyone-running-virtual-summits/

Okay. Picture this:

You’ve just received two emails, each promoting an upcoming workshop. Both sound super-useful. You believe that either one might truly help you ratchet your business or organization up to a better place. You’re thrilled you have the time to attend, but there’s a catch: you can only afford one of them.

One of the workshop promoters ends her email with,

“You don’t want to miss this amazing opportunity to invest in yourself and your amazing business! We won’t offer this again until 2022! We’ll see you there on March 7th!”

The other promoter says,

“We’d love to help you craft a business that supports you and your clients. Does this workshop sound like something you’ve been looking for? If so, we hope you’ll sign up for our next session on March 7th.”

Which do you respond to – which makes you feel like hitting the signup button? Which feels better in your gut?

This isn’t a trick question, and there’s no correct answer. But how my differing clients have responded has provided some food for thought for me this week.

The integrity thing.

I’m into integrity. It’s been one of my favorite words since I was an impressionable kid, and heard it on TV. (Yes, I was that geeky kid who had her own dictionary at 6.)

  1. the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles;
    synonyms: honesty, honor, good character, principle(s), ethics, morals, virtue, decency, fairness, sincerity, truthfulness, trustworthiness, e.g. “no one doubted her integrity”
  1. the state of being whole and undivided;
    synonyms: unity, unification, coherence, cohesion, togetherness, solidarity, e.g. “upholding territorial integrity and national sovereignty”
  1. the condition of being unified, unimpaired, or sound in construction.
    synonyms: soundness, strength, sturdiness, solidity, durability, stability, stoutness, toughness, e.g. “the structural integrity of the aircraft”

Honest. Whole and undivided. Sturdy and strong.

Was that a groovy word to fall in love with, or what?

Fast forward to 1997, when I started daydreaming about a business of my own. I wasn’t sure about the details yet, but I knew I wanted to make something that was breathtakingly honorable, that let me be in tight solidarity with clients, and that was sturdy and stable enough to support me financially.

So here’s what that idealism evolved into: I get to know other businesspeople. I’m honest, whole-hearted, and strong with them and for them. I’m a careful observer of what they need in order to be happy, or happier. I have products and services that might help many of them. I try to articulate those clearly, and then provide paths for the right people to work with me. It’s good, meaningful work that makes me feel good about myself.

Yet increasingly, all around me, I see marketers taking a different tack. And not just taking it themselves, but recommending it to thousands of people as the golden ticket to success.

Is this the only way to succeed?

In a recent newsletter from author John Parkin, he pondered statements like the marketingspeak I began this post with. “We’ll see you there,” “Thank you for your patience,” and “Thanks in advance for signing up” are everyday examples. He saw this use of language as manipulation, and wondered why people couldn’t simply speak more honestly and directly.

I nodded all the way through that newsletter. True, there are folks making a bajillion dollars on products and services with this sort of manipulation. You’ll know them from the 72-point headers shouting at you about what you can’t afford to miss out on. They kindly offer reminders that there won’t be another chance to (insert action), and won’t you be sorry? They sneak in subtle or not-so-subtle rebukes of those who won’t “invest in themselves.”

We all know this type. They’re everywhere. Because it works.

It works because there are human beings out there who see nothing wrong with being spoken to in this way. We are so inured to media manipulation that it may not even register as such. It’s just business, right?

But for me, and for most people in my circles, it’s not.

Ten times out of ten, I prefer consuming goods and services from people who see me as an individual, a unique person worthy of respect, capable of making my own decisions. And pushy salespeople—no matter how famous they are, how many books sold, how many followers, how many “Likes”—are, for me, the face of disrespect.

How many of us have been badgered to sign up for a marketer’s mailing list, only to have them flood our email box with aggressive, loud, bouncy sales pitches daily . . . even several times daily. It’s as though you’re trapped in email hell with a Chatty Cathy saleperson who loves the sound of her own voice, or are stuck standing next to a carnival barker. Let me tell you about this amazing thing!  Can you believe some people would pass this by?  You know you need it/want it/deserve it!  

In the most insidious cases marketers even use their mailing list manager’s tools to track your opens, responses and clicks, so they can—automatically—get up in your grill with nag emails: “We noticed you haven’t signed up for X yet and we’re curious why not…”

For me, it doesn’t get much more obnoxious than that.

Even a marketer’s repeated use of quasi-friendly statements like “Can’t wait to see you there!” (um, no, you might not), “Don’t wait—sign up now!” (can I finish my lunch first?), and “Thanks in advance for joining us!” (seriously?) can push me away from a perfectly good offering.

Why? Because I know these folks don’t see me. They see a prospect, with a pulse and a wallet. They see their almighty List growing by one. They see their PayPal account saying cha-ching as many times as possible in a day, starting with me. They’re on the third jab and they’re looking to land the right hook.

It doesn’t hurt my feelings a bit. But it also doesn’t get my money. It’s business, yes. It’s just one of the faces of business that I don’t feel obliged to support.

Food for thought

  • When you’re out there seeking supporters, buyers, clients, and customers for your business, do you use scarcity or manipulation to “seal the deal?”
  • Do you believe in a vigorously persuasive approach, using language to herd audience members into your solution rather than a competitor’s?
  • Are you tempted to point out the repercussions if they don’t choose to purchase?
  • Is the local online marketing guru trying to convince you that the hard sell is the ONLY way to “not leave money on the table”?

Here’s my two cents: I would offer that marketing yourself with complete integrity—and without manipulation—is a standout skillset that’s beneficial across the board, from attracting the kinds of clients you love working with, to seeing a healthy bottom line.

Your potential clients are intelligent, thoughtful, hard-working, sometimes stressed-out individuals. The carnival barkers are everywhere, so in this noisy world it can be integrity that stands out as courageous, comforting, and convincing.

In an upcoming post, I’ll give some examples of marketers that operate 100% from a place of compassion, interest, and honesty, and who are wildly successful doing it.

Thanks for listening, and remember to be “honest, whole-hearted, and sturdy.”

 

 

We love to help our clients and friends “do well by doing good.”  For more ideas and support (always without the icky sales pitch, pinky swear) leave us a comment below, drop us an email, or join our newsletter list here: http://bit.ly/2vHEELy