It has been 3 years since I’ve been to CaboPress. The last event I attended was in 2019, it was canceled in 2020, and we were less than 2 months away from my daughter’s due date in 2021.
Needless to say, I was excited to go back. Each time I attended, I came home energized and implemented something to help my business grow.
I really needed it this year. But before we get to all that, I want to do a quick recap of years past.
What I Learned from Previous Years
If we look at CaboPress in terms of college, 2017 was my freshman year, and my lasting takeaway was less big picture and more tangible.
I learned about ConvertKit, which has been a huge driver of revenue and growth. Today I think it’s one of the best tools for podcasters to start making money quickly.
In 2018, my sophomore year (so to speak), it was solving the right problem. Those conversations lead me to offer more results-based courses instead of “doing X with Y” courses. That is a lesson I have deeply internalized, and it guides me in each decision I make.
In your Junior year, you start to think about your future1. Well, 2019 set me on the path I’m on today. During a conversation, I was encouraged to do more “done for you” podcasting.
When I got home, I landed my first client and created Ship Your Podcast, which was later folded under Podcast Liftoff.
In May, I decided to focus fully on Podcast Liftoff.
What Made This Year the Best CaboPress Ever?
So what did CaboPress 2022 hold, and what makes it the best one ever? It came down to 3 things:
I’m in the right place for my business. I have my focus and my niche. This gave me a concrete idea to work with during the pool sessions.
I’m not where I want to be. I know I’m only 5 months into a pivot, but going into the trip, I felt like something was missing.
The people were amazing. Yes…the people make CaboPress every year, but this year was different. There was an ineffable positivity that will stay with me for a long time2.
Instead of recapping the talks, which I did in previous years, here’s what I’m doing as a result of CaboPress 2022.
The Easy Stuff
I basically got one easy action item from each talk I attended…some of which are already implemented.
Justin Wise talked about “by the way” marketing — a way to promote your paid services at the bottom of your free newsletter. It was so brilliant and easy to implement that I did it that same day.
During Brian Clark’s session, I realized I could better leverage my biggest audience in a way I not.
I’m going to launch a Facebook challenge thanks to Joy and Drew Bowen, and realized I was grossly misusing my time thanks to Carey Neiuwhof. I’m changing my daily routine because of him.
That includes working out in the morning instead of a long walk with a cigar3.
Finally, thanks to Kronda Adair, I’m going to make what I believe will be a significant improvement to my automated sales emails in ConvertKit.
That’s the stuff I’ve done or am going to do this week.
Then there’s the hard stuff.
The Hard Stuff
The talk that had the biggest impact on me was Mike Killen’s. He had a lot of great insight but he also challenged us to simplify our offerings to one thing.
One thing. That’s it.
Now, I think I made a lot of progress this year by choosing to focus only on Podcast Liftoff. But I definitely could do more.
So I have some hard decisions to make. There are a few projects I haven’t been willing to let go of. Mike made me realize they are ultimately holding me back.
He also said that you can’t sell people what they need until they realize they need it. The fact that I’m in the right place for my business, but not where I want to be helped make Mike’s message stick.
This realization alone was worth the price of admission for me.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the people. Earlier in this post, I used the word “ineffable.” That’s because I’m honestly struggling to find the words to describe how much connecting with the people at this event means to me. It was the perfect mix of old friends and new, and Chris did an absolutely fantastic job curating the attendees and hosts.
I met a lot of new people and we had some incredible conversations4. As soon as I left, I was excited to connect online with everyone I met, and based on the chatter on Twitter, it seems we all felt the same way.
Thankfully, unlike college, CaboPress is not 4 years and out. And hopefully next year, I’ll be invited back.
Because after 2+ years of going to pretty much no events, human connection is exactly what this extrovert needed, and I’m grateful I got to attend an event where that connection was so strong.
That quote is from Master Yoda, as he’s trying to help Obi-Wan Kenobi try to find a missing planet. Obi-Wan let his assumption (“that’s impossible because only Jedi can access this data”) get in the way of the actual answer — which was given to him by a young Padawan.
Similarly, my son Louis, who’s 2 and can only say a few words and sentences, helped reinforce a very important sales lesson for me:
Don’t sell features. Sell the results.
See, I was trying to get my son to abandon the wide-open world of the front yard (and active road), for the safer, albeit less exciting back yard. First, I ask my son if he wanted to go to the backyard (or the platform/product). He said no. What can the backyard offer him that the front yard can’t?
So then I ask if he wanted to go on the trampoline (a unique feature of the platform). Again, he said no. Perhaps he didn’t realize what the trampoline was, or what it can do for him.
Finally, I asked him if he wanted to bounce (the results of using the feature), and he said yes.
Don’t sell your product or service by talking about features (or worse, how you made it). Sell what your product or services can do for your customers.
If you’re anything like me, you get super excited about an idea and want to build it right away. But I’m here to tell you that’s not the best way to spend your precious time.
Spend some time validating an idea so you don’t waste time executing a bad one. I know this from experience.
“Oh, it shouldn’t take too long to code this project…probably just a weekend.” Then you actually have to market it.
But if you were only willing to spend two days making it, how much time are you actually willing to spend marketing it?
IF you really want to scratch that itch, don’t spend a weekend. Spend an hour setting up a presale form. Presell the product (course, ebook, whatever). Actual money is a great form of validation.
Even if you want to presell at first, create an email list pitching the idea. “Sign up here to be the first to know.” Then you can spend your time nurturing that list, gathering feedback, and understanding if it’s something worth making.
As Bill Gates said, you can always make more money. Time is the only thing you can’t get back. So spend it wisely.
One of the most enduring lessons in my life comes from a high school Accounting class1 where we learned about opportunity cost. It’s the potential loss you’ll experience when choosing one thing over another.
The concrete example from the class was that if we choose to go to a concert on a Friday night instead of working, the opportunity cost is the wages we’d make. And if we’re paying for the concert out of pocket, it’s lost wages + the cost of going to the concert.
When it comes to out-of-pocket expenses, choosing to go to a concert, or on a vacation, instead of working might be an easier choice for many adults. Those are expenses we don’t mind paying.
But what about when it’s money we don’t want to spend vs. some positive outcome?
Think Beyond Money Out of Pocket
Perhaps that lesson hit especially hard in high school because I was already running my own business, and there was an actual dollar amount assigned to my hours2, for work I enjoyed doing. And I carry that lesson today because 20 years later, that is still true.
But it’s easy to look at the concrete cost and assume that’s a bigger cost. After all, seeing an actual debit from your bank account sticks more than the imaginary dollars you’d make when doing an opportunity cost evaluation.
But, especially if you’re a business owner, you need to think about opportunity cost a lot more, for your bottom line, and for your mental health.
My Miscalculation with Daycare
When my wife was heading back to work after her maternity leave ended in March, we sat down and had to answer the question, “what are we going to do with Abby?”
Teresa (5) is in school 5 days a week. Lou (1.5) is in daycare 3 days a week, covering my wife’s shifts most weeks. But we weren’t sure what do to with 3-month-old Abby.
I decided I was willing to sacrifice some work days to keep her home a little longer, but that we’d put her in daycare closer to 6 months, which is now3.
The miscalculation came in because we decided to drop Lou down to 2 days, and put Abby in for 2 days, because of the cost. I’d still lose 4-5 workdays a month because at the time we didn’t feel we could pay the extra for 3 days per week per kid4.
The extra cost of putting Lou and Abby in daycare so I could work an extra day was less than $150.
Reading that sentence out loud, it should be an easy decision, right? Surely a full extra workday per week would net me more than $150.
But we looked at the cost out of pocket in a vacuum and decided against it.
Luckily, we were able to change it for both kids and they will be in daycare 3 full days per week, I will have full work weeks again.
It’s Important to Consider Opportunity Cost
For much of the last 3 months, I was working with a negative margin. I simply did not have the time to do everything I needed to do for my business, for the kids, and for the household. I tried to cram in work whenever I could, which put undue stress on me and my wife.
And while sometimes you need to do that for a short period of time, I nearly decided to continue that lifestyle for another 3+ years, until all 3 of our kids go to school full-time…over $150 per week.
When you’re weighing decisions, especially as a business owner, you need to consider the opportunity costs — whether it’s for something important like daycare, or evaluating if you should do it yourself vs. paying for a service.
I’m up for my annual optometry appointment, which I without fail make at the exact time my contact prescription expires. See, I wait until the last minute because I don’t like getting dilated. It’s not that I’m afraid of the dilation. But usually, I’m going on a workday and dilation really cuts into my schedule; right now I’m a stay-at-home dad for half the week, so workdays are coveted and rare.
While booking the appointment, I asked the receptionist if I needed to get dilated. I know the answer is yes because it is my first appointment with them since being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, which can affect eyesight. I said my preference if I don’t need it, was to skip it.
She told me I did need to get the back of my eyes checked. They could do the dilation for free, and I’d have blurred up-close vision for 4-6 hours. Or for $39, they could do a digital photo of the back of the eye, which doesn’t affect my vision at all.
Guess how quickly I said yes to the photo.
Understanding the Problem
My optometrist understands a big problem I, and I suspect many of their patience, have: blurred vision for 4-6 hours would absolutely kill the rest of my workday. This is compounded in my case, by the fact that it’s one of 3 days I can actually work during the week.
So they crafted an offer using new technology which offers a better solution: checking the back of my eye without dilation.
It could be that dilation is cheaper so they need to charge more for the photo. But it could be equally likely that the photo is cheaper AND faster, but provides a much more desirable outcome. And they know they can charge for the outcome.
They knew my problem and offered a premium solution to fix it. That $39 gets me 4-6 hours of my workday back. It’s not even a question that I agree to the additional fee.
When you understand your customers, doing things like this is a no-brainer. You identify pain points, big and small, and determine how you can alleviate them, with additional offers.
So as you craft your products, services, and courses, answer this: What pain points can you solve with a small, additional offer?
I’m not much of a marketing guy. For a long time, I’ve taken a Field of Dreams approach to marketing, which I’ve written about quite a bit. And while I know that you need to define an audience and solve a problem, I still struggle with packaging specific offerings.
But this morning, I was listening to Upgrade when host Jason Snell mentioned something that resonated with me. He said that his daughter has been enjoying Yacht Rock. And that when he was growing up, this brand of 70s soft rock used to be considered crappy music. But now it’s been rebranded as “yacht rock,” and people love it.
Yacht Rock invokes a feeling
If I said, “Hey do you want to listen to this playlist I made of 40-year-old soft rock,” you might say, “Nah, that music isn’t for me.”
But when I said, “Let’s grab a beer and listen to my Yacht Rock playlist,” that sounds like a pretty good hang out. It’s relaxing, care-free even.
Apple knows this
Now let’s look at a slightly less ridiculous (less contrived) example: Apple commercials. Back in December, I wrote about Apple’s 2021 holiday commercial, Saving Simon. That commercial, like many of their commercials, invokes a feeling. You don’t even see the iPhone in it. You’re just told it’s shot on an iPhone.
But now you feel that you could capture these beautiful moments, if only you had an iPhone.
Compare that with the latest Galaxy Ultra commercial. Sia’s “Unstoppable” blaring over flashy graphics. And then a feature list, including “4nm processor.” Most people don’t know, nor care, what that means.
But what if instead, they still had the unstoppable motif, but it was a story. The story’s protagonist is a young woman who’s starting a business. She’s taking stellar photos and video to put on her website, which she updates on that HUGE screen.
She’s typing some notes with a person she’s meeting at a coffee shop, showing some of those same photos. Then she brings up a contract, takes the pen out of the phone, and the person signs it right there and then. Maybe they pay by tapping the phone. The commercial still ends on “I’m unstoppable today.”
That probably makes you feel something more than seeing the words, “4nm processor,” right?
Note: Something I think more small business owners and creators should do more is freelancer, so I’ve turned to my friends at GoWP to give us some great advice on what we can outsource!
All business owners and entrepreneurs suffer from the same problem. They have a compulsionto try and do everything themselves and it can be impossible to relinquish control, even over the smallest things.
So how can you find the time to grow your agency and create recurring revenue?
Where does all the time go?
Starting any business requires a ton of planning, long hours, and hard work (cue personal montage to Eye Of The Tiger). It is perfectly normal and almost expected to get started by doing everything yourself and learning as you go.
The thing is that your end goal should never be to continue working that way.
Look at how we have adapted our daily lives to be organized and controlled with apps and tech. We are seeking out assistance in any way we can to allow us to get more done and have time for living.
In our daily lives, we effectively outsource responsibilities and task management to apps. So, why shouldn’t we do the same for our business?
The big worry about outsourcing
The main reason why small businesses are reluctant to outsource is the perceived idea of losing control of different aspects of their business, and the knock-on effect this can have on the quality of work produced.
This is especially a concern when you have an outward-facing company, where your image and brand are everything. However, you can release that fear.
Fundamentally, there is no difference between the quality of work you receive from a full-time employee compared to an outsourced contractor. Any reputable outsourcing partner will implement an onboarding process for your business that will usually outline codes of conduct for both parties, and encourage you to inform the contractor of your process.
From here, you essentially have a new member of your team, like any other. The only difference is they are not in the office.
Hiring a full-time employee doesn’t just mean you are paying their salary. It also means that your tax obligations could change, you will need to provide sick days, vacation time, worker compensation, and medical insurance!
That should sufficiently cover the whys and why not’s. Now let’s move on to the what’s.
The 5 functions you should be outsourcing
This will probably be the function you are most looking forward to outsourcing. Why? Because accounting is time-consuming, very complicated, and a bit dull!
If you don’t have the right training or experience, you could potentially be setting yourself up for issues down the line. With the complexity of State and Federal rules, it’s something that is definitely worth outsourcing to experts.
The investment in outsourcing a reliable and experienced accountant is well worth the expense compared with the potential cost of making a mistake!
Another real benefit to outsourcing your accounting is the potential to achieve cost savings. After all, you are working with an expert who can advise you on ways of improving your bookkeeping and ways your business could be eligible for tax reductions or even relief.
In some cases, this can improve your ability to create a stronger scope for the future and better projections that could help you land bigger projects and further investment.
This is the one that you might have some trouble with “letting go” of.
First off, you’re not relinquishing control of anything by choosing to outsource your content marketing. That might seem like an oxymoron, but look at it this way… You are still writing the briefs!
This does not mean giving a stranger the keys to your content with free reign to write whatever they want. Actually, it’s the complete opposite. You will have total control over the entire process, other than the actual ‘creation’ part.
Have you ever found yourself staring at a blank page not knowing what to write?
This is where you can leverage the expertise of professional copywriters and content creators who know how to create content more efficiently.
All you need to do is provide information on your business, brand, and tone of voice. Then you can choose either to provide content ideas or utilize their knowledge—driven by research, this is an important step—to create expertly curated content that is SEO optimized and will result in the lead nurturing and recurring revenue that you are dreaming of. You can even outsource a Podcast creation!
Now that anyone can build a website thanks to superb tools, it’s easy to forget that it also requires regular monitoring and maintenance to ensure that everything is up to date and that you don’t fall victim to hackers and security breaches.
The other side is the maintenance of plugins, add-ons, and site content. There are so many moving parts involved in bringing your customers a superb online experience, and they require constant attention.
Unfortunately, you can’t just update everything because different plugins usually don’t play nicely with each other. This can result in a painfully slow loading experience for your customers which not only reflects badly on your business. It can also have serious ramifications for your search engine ranking.
By outsourcing your website management to professional web developers, you can ensure that your website is performing to its best potential, it is clean and free from malware. Plus, in the worst-case scenario, your site gets hacked, you will not lose all of the valuable content and data you have invested so much time and resources in creating.
Social media management
You might think that this would fall under content creation, but managing your social media accounts is a full-time job.
Your social media presence is one of the best ways to develop a sense of trust with your audience. That is trust in your product or service, and you.
This trust can be built in a number of ways. A primary way is in the content that you create, and offering additional value with informative and educational content that is also fun and engaging—this takes a lot of time to get good at!
But equally, the most beneficial way you can build trust in your business is by engaging with your audience. That can involve replying to a whole host of comments and curating your content calendars to respond to the needs and pain points of your audience.
Outsourcing your social media management will allow you to hold someone accountable for the success of your digital presence. It will save you money and boost your brand image.
A virtual assistant (VA) can significantly improve your productivity by managing your schedule and taking on the more mundane daily tasks like checking emails and answering phone calls. This allows you to focus your time and attention on growing and marketing your business, you know, the jobs that move you forward rather than keep you in one place.
They’re not restricted by normal workday hours because they operate around your schedule. They could even be in a different time zone which you can use to your advantage by assigning a schedule that maximizes output rather than a rigid eight-hour shift.
VA’s work from their own space, so you benefit from more focussed work and dedicated time planning to get the tasks that you need doing, done.
And the best part? If for any reason you aren’t happy with the service they are providing, you can easily end the contract and hire a different assistant!
Because VA’s are essentially self-employed, they have a far more vested interest in ensuring client satisfaction. Their reputation is reliant on providing a top-quality service, which means there is very little room to start slacking and missing deadlines.
Don’t be surprised if you find that your new VA is the most motivated person in your entire team!
Finding the right outsourcing partner
Outsourcing can only be a success if you work with the right outsourcing partner. The ethical code of practice that an outsourcing partner sets, and requires from its team, are what will define the tone of the relationship moving forward.
One of the main reasons why outsourcing can be a better option than freelancing is the level of accountability, and guarantee of high-quality service that you can expect. Meanwhile, you experience all of the benefits of a ‘freelance’ business arrangement. So no fixed contrasts, reduced overheads, and no salaries.
When you are working with a reliable and proven outsourcing partner such as GoWP, you can rest assured that your investment will deliver the recurring revenue you are aiming for.
The gift of time
You didn’t start your business to get bogged down in accounting, creating content, and making updates to your website. You started your business because you had a vision of offering a product or service to people, and you want to continue building your customer base and generating recurring revenue.
Working with outsourcing partners gives you access to wider resources without having to make significant and long-term investments in recruiting additional team members.
It’s time to take control of your time and get back to focusing on growing your business and not just maintaining it.
My daughter is 4 years old and loves Rita’s “Water” Ice1. In the beginning of the school year, we’d celebrate making it to Friday by going there and getting a treat. Of the times we went, there were two that really stand out.
See, usually I come with my son Lou (15 months) in my arms, holding Teresa’s hand, up to the register. I order 3 “water” ices: a kid’s for Lou, a small for T, and a medium, sugar-free, for me.
The first time that sticks out in my mind, the younger woman (I’d guess college) hands me all 3, no tray, no lids, 2 kids in tow. I ask her for a cup holder. She gets it. I ask her for lids. She gets me 2 that don’t fit on the 3 “water” ices. So I struggle holding everything, trying not spill it as I make my way back to my car. I left pretty annoyed because I thought it was clear that carrying literally anything else would be a struggle.
The second time it’s the same situation, except the woman who took my order is around my age or older. She hands me all three in a cup holder, with lids securely fastened to the cups. Getting to the car was MUCH easier this time. I left much happier, because the woman took the time to make sure I wouldn’t struggle.
Understanding Your Customers
If I had to guess, I’d say the second woman was a parent. She’s likely taken her kids to get Rita’s, or ice cream, or anything else, with full hands and little margin for error. She understood what I was experiencing and solved my potential problems.
The first did not, and just handed me the “water” ice as she’d want it: ready to eat, likely with her friends2 at the table dangerously close to both parking spots, and the road.
It made me think about how many people, including myself, might run their business or launch new products and services — without really understanding their customers.
“By Me, For Me” Products Don’t Work
I know this much for sure: certain popular business owners made “dog-fooding” their products so popular that many (again, including myself) internalize this fact: “If I build something for myself, surely other people will want it too.”
But that’s usually not the case, except for when you’re literally the first to market.
Making a product for you, where you write the copy for you, where you’re talking to people just like you, gives you one customer: you.
How to Learn About Your Customers
There are folks a lot more qualified than me who can tell you how to learn about customers through user interviews, surveys, etc. But I know one way to understand what your potential customers want: create content.
If you create good content, you will attract an audience. And when you do that, the audience will ask questions through comments and email. They’ll join your mailing list. Then you can ask them more direct questions.
You can ask them what they are struggling with and what a win for them looks like. Then you can use that language in your copy. You can use the actual words your audience uses to sell your product or service.
WIIFM: What’s In It For Me
I saw my friend Ben use the acronym WIIFM in a tweet recently and had to look it up. It means, “what’s in it for me.” This is what people want to know when they read your marketing copy, press releases, and product/service/partnership announcements. Why should they fork over their hard earned cash to you? What will you do for them?
It’s easy to talk about how you made it, and why you made it, and everything that’s “planned,” and why you want them to give you money. But most people won’t care about any of that. They’ll want to know WIIFM.
So instead of selling features or promises, sell solutions. Sell outcomes. Tell them their struggles today won’t be struggles once they hire you or buy your product.
Then deliver on the promise.
And the only way you can know how to deliver, how to know what’s in it for them, is by understanding your customers. If their hands are full, give them cup holders and secure lids.
They’ll happily give you their money.
Near Philly they call it water ice when everyone knows it’s actually called Italian Ice, but I’ll use my daughter’s nomenclature here. ?
I’m not really faulting her for this, but also, read the room! ?
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