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Mistakes I made as a first-time manager

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NEW MANAGER

Contributed by Shawn Johal, business growth coach, leadership speaker and co-founder of DALS Lighting, Inc. He is also an active member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization Montreal chapter. 

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”
–Albert Einstein

It’s almost hard to believe that I have been managing teams for more than 15 years. Time definitely flies!

I had the incredible privilege of being trained at one of the best schools for leadership in the world: Newell-Rubbermaid. As a business, it isn’t necessarily known for a dedication to improving talent, but I can say from first-hand experience they truly care about building each employee into a leader from the get-go.

I received weeks of leadership and sales training, learning from the industry’s best. They challenged me and pushed our entire team to always aim for higher goals.

In today’s fast-paced world, I often come across new managers who have never been trained for their job. The pattern often goes like this:

1. An employee performs very well at their job
2. They are promoted into a manager position
3. They are given a team and told to lead

From there, they are off to the races with an ill-equipped toolbox to learn from their mistakes.

It’s a dangerous game to play. The consequences can often result in poor company culture or a lack of focus and vision. Accountability is hard to come by and goals are either missed or never established in the first place. I don’t blame companies for doing it: We have an almost natural tendency to assume that “A” performers will figure out what to do—and they’ll (somehow) eventually succeed. Sometimes they will succeed, but often they won’t.

Even with great training and mentors, I made my share of massive mistakes as a first time leader. Learn from mine!

From Colleague to Boss

After 14 months in my first role as a sales representative, I was promoted to district manager. Suddenly I had a team of seven reporting to me. Half of them were former peers who worked with me—daily, side by side. Now they were being asked to report to me, and I was being told to lead them.

I decided to take on the “friendly” approach: We were all friends, after all! That failure was an epic one: I was not able to earn any respect and had so much trouble setting expectations and providing feedback. Being liked was too important to me. Ultimately, the friends strategy failed, and I wasn’t able to make the leap from colleague to boss while being a successful leader. Many problems were caused and the first six months were a major challenge.

While I eventually figured out a better way to lead the team, some of the employees left, not wanting to work for a former colleague and friend.

TIP #1:

If you are thrust into a position where you must suddenly manage a former peer, have an honest discussion with them. Set expectations. Be sure to communicate that while it may be an awkward situation, you will do your best to provide leadership and set up your team for success. It’s your team’s choice to respect the roles and perform at a high level.

The Firing Fiasco

There comes a moment in every leader’s life when he or she is forced to fire someone. It is a tremendously difficult moment that often causes anxiety and fear. I certainly felt both emotions when I was faced with this daunting task the first time. I did my best to prepare. I tried to plan in advance what the employee would reply, but things didn’t go as planned.

I came to the meeting with resolve. The problem? I hadn’t practiced what I would say or how I would handle any deviation from what I expected to happen. As always, the unexpected made its presence known quickly.

During the meeting, instead of explaining the reasons for the firing, I simply blurted it out. The approach was insensitive and lacked empathy. My employee began crying wholeheartedly. We were in a coffee shop as we didn’t have local offices. People stared in horror. They were right to do so: The scene was becoming a bad movie. I had unnecessarily hurt someone due to my insensitivity, my lack of planning and my nerves.

TIP #2:

If you are ever put in this situation as a first-time manager, it’s important to be prepared. Understand the facts inside and out. Rehearse what you will say. Write out bullet-point notes and stick to a script, but prepare for a difficult reaction and expect the unexpected.

S.M.A.R.T.

As a young leader, I was obsessed with showing my boss how hard I worked. I wanted to put in the most hours and prove that, by pounding the pavement, I was the best employee in the company’s history. I was wearing 60+ hours per week on my sleeve as a badge of honor. My second boss showed me the error of my ways.

He explained that it was obvious I was trying to show my “incredible” work ethic as measured in hours—which had zero impact on him. He cared only about results and progress—and he wasn’t impressed with me trying to be a machine (all machines break down eventually, after all). He taught me how to value working smarter, not harder. He didn’t care how many hours I worked, as long goals were accomplished.

Second, he genuinely worried I would burn out and wanted me to care for my mental health. He had experienced burnout in his career and it set him back. Teaching me how to use my time better, while also showing me how to teach the practice to my direct reports was eye-opening. Everyone understood that our culture was based on setting expectations and doing our best to surpass them by always thinking through our actions.

TIP #3

Be clear on what productivity means to you, and learn to measure productivity for your team members accordingly. “Hours worked” will not necessarily be the best key performance indicator. It’s crucial to understand what numbers they need to hit and help them work into that reality. By learning to set S.M.A.R.T. goals (specific, measurable, attainable, timely, realistic), you are setting your team up for success.

As a young leader, mistakes will be made: There is no avoiding it. In fact, we will continue to make mistakes throughout our career.

How quickly you learn from these mistakes will ultimately define your level of progress. Ask for help, ensure you get the right leadership training, and enjoy the process. Leading is both challenging and exhilarating, but the world needs better leaders. Can you be the next great leader? 

Shawn Johal is a Scaling Up Certified Coach currently working with several entrepreneurs and their businesses to help accelerate their growth, while finding personal balance and happiness.

The post Mistakes I made as a first-time manager appeared first on THE EO BLOG.



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Online commerce runs on copywriting. Here’s how to write unignorable landing page copy

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Here's a copywriting template that works for home pages / landing pages. Check Copy Ipsum to see how it looks.

  1. H1 Headline -> Come up with a good headline. A big idea that hints that here is something your reader really, really wants (and can get from you).
  2. Sub-headline -> For example, you may be selling a SaaS accounting tool, but the big message is: "Peace. Of. Mind." So explain here in clear and simple words what your product does and for whom it does it. And clarify the big claim you made in the headline.
  3. CTA button -> Tell the reader what to do next
  4. Add here logos of your biggest clients. Because social proof gives you credibility.
  5. H2 headline ->Now that you grabbed your reader's attention you need to interest them enough to keep reading. The right way to do that is to write a headline that appeals to their selfinterest. So explain here the consumer problem your product solves.
  6. Body copy -> Because you want to generate empathy. So write from the consumer’s perspective. Avoid jargon. Write with your ears, use the same language your target audience uses. And position your product as the solution to the problem.
  7. H2 Headline -> Highlight the number ONE benefit of using your product.
  8. Body copy -> The ONE BIG REASON to buy your product. Be specific and convince the reader why your product delivers the promised benefit. This should be an emotional benefit like, "how does this product make me feel or look?".
  9. Testimonial -> "Place here a real testimonial from one of your favorite clients."- Client name, CEO at Company Name
  10. H2 Headline -> Give the reader a second reason to buy your product.
  11. Body copy -> And also prove them in some way that your product does what you say it does. This benefit is not as big as your number ONE benefit, but it is reason enough to persuade the reader to buy your product. This should be a functional and specific benefit. Like, "saves you $1,040/year", "Saves You 10 Hours a Week", "Lose 40 Pounds in 30 Days", "Learn how to code in 12 weeks." These are just examples, but you get the point.
  12. Testimonial -> "Place here a real testimonial from one of your favorite clients."- Client name, CEO at Company Name
  13. H2 Headline -> Show why your product is remarkable, and what your readers can do with it.
  14. Body copy -> This should be a benefit to the consumer based on a product feature or a physical characteristic that makes your product special. Highlight specifics— facts, special features or anything the reader needs to know to make a decision. Remember this: In 2001, when Steve Jobs introduced the first iPod to the World, he didn't pull it out of his jeans pocket and say, "The iPod. A 5GB MP3 player". He said, "The iPod. 1,000 songs in your pocket."
  15. Testimonial -> "Place here a real testimonial from one of your favorite clients."- Client name, CEO at Company Name
  16. H2 Headline -> Close with a strong call to action persuading the reader to act. For example, if you're selling a SaaS accounting tool a strong call to action is: Restore your faith in accounting.
  17. Body copy -> Remind the reader what's in it for them if they buy your product.
  18. CTA button -> Tell the reader what to do now.

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Make The Decision To Live An Epic Life

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Every single one of us has the ability to live the most epic, abundant and successful life.

So why is it that in reality, most people never go on to experience that? Far from living their best life, so many people find themselves so stuck.

This is what we talked about and made breakthroughs on last week in the Package Your Brilliance challenge I hosted with the amazing Gina DeVee.
The challenge was about how you can take your ideas, knowledge and passion and turn them into offers and packages that your ideal clients will love to buy, so that you can build a successful business doing something you love.

At the beginning of the challenge, so many of the women who took part felt like they didn’t deserve to live an epic life – and I know that this limiting belief is so common.

I was so inspired by the transformations we saw during the challenge that in this episode, I wanted to talk to you about:

  • The reason why so many people don’t believe that they deserve to live an epic life.
  • The excuses we all tell ourselves that keep us playing small and hold us back from creating success.
  • How I kept myself stuck for years going round in circles and the realisation I had that changed everything.
  • The new decisions I made and the challenge I created for myself that transformed my life and my business.
  • A simple exercise you can do today to help you condition your mind to create success.
  • Mantras to help you create more abundance and clarity in your life.

If you loved this episode and you know you’re meant to create a successful business and live that epic life, I’m collaborating with the incredible Gina DeVee on a transformational program called Perfectly Packaged.

Click here to dive into the details and join us there >>>

Over 10 weeks, Gina and her amazing team of coaches will help you take your ideas, knowledge and unique brilliance and turn them into a successful coaching or service-based business.

If you’ve got a burning desire to create success, but you feel like you’ve been teetering on the edge of what could be possible; if you want to go on a transformational journey alongside like-minded women with the best mentoring, support and guidance….this program is for you!

Click here to find out more about it and save your spot before enrollment closes >>>

The post Make The Decision To Live An Epic Life appeared first on Female Entrepreneur Association.



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How We Grew Our SaaS Blog Traffic to 30k Monthly Visits in 6 Months [Case Study]

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Hey, r/Entrepreneur!

In the last 6 months, we’ve been able to grow our blog’s search traffic from 500 to 30k monthly visits. This doesn’t count any direct traffic, by the way. And it was meaningful traffic too. In fact, 18% of our sign-ups in the month of August came from our blog, making content our 2nd highest growth channel.

While we’re still very early on this journey, I thought I’d share my learnings so far and how we got here. If you’re a founder getting started with SEO and content marketing, this post is for you. I wish I read it last year.

I'm pasting the content here but if you want to see the full post with all screenshots, check it out here:

How We Grew Our SaaS Blog Traffic to 30k Monthly Visits in 6 Months ⤴️

********

Why are we investing in content marketing?

We identified SEO and content marketing as a key growth channel for us for several reasons:

  1. High keyword search volume for terms related to business phone systems, VoIP, business phone solutions, etc. Thousands of people looking for what we’re building, how can we get in front of them?
  2. High intent. Folks already looking for a solution like ours have higher intent than those who we serve a FB / IG ad. We can convert many of them into customers.
  3. Fresh perspective. A lot of existing content on topics related to business telephony is very dated. We have a chance to become the go-to source for modern companies and folks who don’t want to be stuck in the past. For example, do you really need extensions in 2020? 🙂
  4. Compound impact. SEO is one of the few channels that compounds as you grow.
  5. Create once, distribute everywhere. This has been inspired by Jeff Chang‘s tweet below and holds true to how we think about content. A lot of articles we publish serve the double-duty of creating more value for existing customers and bringing on new customers. For example, we share our 25 business text message templates with all new users as a part of OpenPhone onboarding. It’s also bringing new customers to us via Google Search.

How we grew our blog to 30k monthly visits

Step 1: Started writing on Medium and forums

In late 2017 I set up a Medium account for OpenPhone. I had experience writing on my personal Medium before so it was the easiest way to get started. We hadn’t launched at that time so the handful of posts I wrote on Medium were pre-product and very much experimental.

I got ideas for what to write about from the questions I saw folks ask in different forums for startups and small businesses (our target audience).

Ultimately, I didn’t get many views on my Medium posts and put them on hold while we were in YC. It was only once I published about our experience at YC (meta, I know) that I saw the potential of content for OpenPhone. Surprisingly, a good number of folks discovered and signed up for OpenPhone through that post.

At the same time, I contributed to business telephony questions on Quora and Reddit.

While initially posting on Medium and online forums helped refine my writing skills, I wish we would have started with our own dedicated blog from day 1. This way, any content we published would live on our own domain and improve our site ranking. Instead, I contributed to Medium’s SEO.

Step 2: Set up our dedicated blog

In December 2019, we set up our dedicated blog (where you’re reading this post). It’s a simple WordPress blog hosted on WP Engine and with the Contentberg theme.

As you already know by now, I wish we set it up on day 1. Do me a favor and don’t make my mistake. Start writing on your own blog, not on Medium.

Step 3: First content on the blog

As soon as we had our blog ready to go, we had to make sure it doesn’t sit around empty. Besides importing some of the content from Medium, we had to start from scratch.

The first two articles we published were answers to the frequently asked questions from potential customers.

80+% of entrepreneurs use their personal phone numbers for business, which means that most folks get their first business phone number on OpenPhone. I’ve heard a lot of stories from customers who regretted using their personal cell # initially and thought that it would be useful to have them outlined in an article for any prospects we were already talking to. I didn’t want to copy and paste my answers all the time.

This article was inspired by an email I received from an OpenPhone customer. Turns out having your personal cell number easily available online is a very bad idea.

This prompted me to research data removal. I also learned that I had to scrape my own number from the Internet, too.

It turned out that this topic is relevant to other founders so when I posted my post on different forums, I got great feedback. I recently realized our post is ranked #2 on Google for this topic and has brought almost 5k visits in the last 6 months.

Step 4: Basic SEO research

In January 2020 I started trialing SEMrush. It was fun to couple my content instincts (from talking to customers) with insights into what people actually search for.

We started out with a simple principle. What search terms are bringing our competitors the most traffic? Of course, not all traffic is created equal. Some queries have high intent to purchase a solution while others have little to no intent. At this stage, I wanted to understand what others in our space were doing and where we can fit in.

If you’re using SEMrush, you can find this quickly from the Domain Overview section. Just type the URL of any competitor. Here are our current top organic keywords, as an example.

The topic of “voicemail greetings” quickly emerged as a good topic to cover. Several of our competitors like MightyCall, Telzio, and Talkroute had this topic bringing them a lot of traffic. That being said, a lot of the examples in their posts were outdated. We thought we could do better and created our collection of 21 voicemail greetings with text + audio examples for people to download.

Also, since setting up a custom voicemail greeting is a part of the onboarding flow for OpenPhone users, we included the link to this post in our onboarding. 1 piece of content —> multiple use cases.

Step 5: Create a content strategy

By February, we saw glimpses of success. We finished the month at around ~500 visits to our blog. Unlike paid acquisition, content takes time to rank and result in direct ROI. So while I was patient, I knew it was time to get help.

Thanks to Omri Mor (Co-Founder at Routable), I got connected to Taran Soodan who has been working with us on our content ever since.

Taran suggested the following content plan:

  1. Optimize existing posts ranking on the 2nd page of Google for high-volume keywords to quickly improve our search rankings and traffic
  2. Create content comparing OpenPhone with our competitors
  3. Create new content focused on topics relevant to OpenPhone + questions we get from our customers

Below I’ll share with you our exact steps.

1 – Optimize existing content

By March, we already had a handful of posts ranking on the second and third pages of Google for target terms.

We started with a handful of posts, but let’s look at how we optimized our 21 Professional Voicemail Greeting Examples post.

The post provides 21 valuable examples of good voicemail greetings. It’s a great post with lots of actionable examples. Seems like a slam dunk for SEO, right? At its best, it would only rank in the middle of the 2nd page on Google.

So why didn’t it rank even though it provides value? It was missing relevant keywords and didn’t have an intro.

As a part of our efforts to improve our ranking for “professional voicemail,” we ran a search in SEMrush using their Keyword Magic Tool to see which keywords we needed to include in our post. We could see from the below screenshot that we needed to include a few variations of the keyword.

Now that we knew which keywords to use, we updated the post. The original post didn’t have much of an intro section, so we added an intro and incorporated keywords from the research we did with SEMrush. Once we republished the post, we hit the first page of Google within 2 weeks. Within 2 months, we hit the #1 ranking for “business voicemail greeting.” And it’s still at #1.

Does it sound like what we did was really simple? That’s because it was. Content optimization is a good path to pursue because making just a few changes to existing posts that are already ranking can result in faster results than posting new articles.

2 – Create content comparing OpenPhone with competitors

At OpenPhone, we’re building a calling and messaging solution for startups and small businesses. From conversations with our customers, we knew they compared us with services like Google Voice, Dialpad, and RingCentral when making a choice.

We knew we needed to show the advantages of using OpenPhone and how we’re different.

The great thing about comparison pages is that folks searching for alternatives or looking to compare tools generally have high intent.

We know Google Voice is a popular VoIP service given it’s free. But that means it has a lot of limitations when used for business. So we used our blog post to highlight the limitations of Google Voice for folks looking for a better option.

That post ranks #1 for Google Voice alternative and it’s one of our best-converting blog posts right now. We’ve used the same principles to create content for other competitors.

3 – Create new content focused on topics relevant to OpenPhone

Tools like Google Trends, Ahrefs, and SEMrush can make it easy and fun to perform keyword research and see what topics people care about. I like combining that data with the things I learn when talking to customers as prospects. That way, the content we publish is relevant and useful to our target audience.

Here’s the process we use for keyword research when determining new topics for OpenPhone:

  • We check our current search rankings using SEMrush’s Domain Analytics tool. We just typed in the OpenPhone domain to see what keywords we rank for
  • We export the results to Google Sheets so we can create pivot tables and charts to better understand search volumes and keyword difficulties
  • Create a list of keywords we wanted to rank for and group them if they’re related
  • Use the Keyword Magic Tool to find search volumes for keywords
  • Once we find search volumes, add them to SEMrush’s Keyword Manager Tool. Create a list for each specific group of keywords to prevent overlaps
  • Once we have the keyword lists, we use an SEO writing tool like Topic or Clearscope to generate an outline for a blog post
  • Once the outline is ready, you can begin writing. With tools like Topic and Clearscope, it’s very easy to track keyword usage in real-time (aim for an A++ score!)

Step 6: Go beyond SEO to deliver value to your community

While the focus of this post has been on SEO and getting more customers to discover you via Google, you have to keep in mind why you’re creating content in the first place.

For us, it’s all about helping fellow startups and small businesses grow.

Whether we do it by recommending how to set up your SMS workflows or sharing how we use Zapier, we want to make sure everything we put out there helps you succeed.

Creating high-quality and shareworthy content is above all else for us. Only truly useful content can earn backlinks and shares, increasing your SEO juice, and generating more visitors for your blog as a result. So please do let me know if you found this post useful. 🙂

Results

To sum it up, here are our results from February to September 2020. We’ve published 33 articles within this time. That’s 4.7 per month, on average. Our search traffic to the blog went from 500 to 30,000 visits per month. This doesn’t count any direct traffic to blog posts. We didn’t do any paid content promotion. And we didn’t ask for (or pay for) backlinks either.

18% of all our sign-ups for the month of August came directly from our blog. Let’s see what we have in store for September!

Conclusion

When done right, content and SEO can be a huge source of growth for early-stage startups. If you think this channel has a lot of potential for you, start right away. You have to start somewhere so don’t worry about making your first posts “perfect”. They never are. Consistency is far more important. If you can answer a question for your customer or a potential customer, you’ve got a useful piece of content that others might find valuable as well.

Hope you found this post useful. If you start a blog or write a post inspired by this, send it over to me. I’d love to see it!

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